SF Days 4-6 – ADI – Judging of Craft Spirits 2020

Last year I was relatively disciplined with writing posts each day. It was easy to find a little time on waking up or going to sleep and it’s really good for my head to help evaluate the experience.

This year it’s been very different. This year I’m returning to friends.

The ADI family are such a fantastic group of people, their knowledge and experience is just extraordinary. And, now I’ve got friends there, there is just too much to talk about and too much fun to be had geeking out over spirits.

So, the last few days have flown by and it’s time to catch you up.

Firstly, the ADI Judging of Craft Spirits was mindblowing, again. The standard of quality of the entries get’s better and better every year. Medalling is one thing, but the real value to the submitter is the feedback. The panels are organised to include a mix of industry types, from distillers, to media, bar owners and distributors. By doing this, the feedback is varied and the final judgement of score comes from all different angles. There is, in fact one of each of these making up each panel. So each spirit is equally covered by these types. Once we’ve scored, we talk. We discuss our score and feedback. Some spirits are quick to agree on, others take time. There was one spirit alone that took a thirty minute debate with several people to score. The integrity of the judges is something that I really prize. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s professional and the passion for the spirits being judged is second to none. I think you need this, because as the 2-3 days of flights comprise somewhere between 50-60 per person, you do need to love doing it to keep the detail of notes flowing until the end. It’s such a worthwhile and wholesome experience.

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Last year I focused on gin. This year I got to try my hand at all sorts of spirits! I tasted gin, barrel aged, whisky, rum, aquavit, crème liqueurs, all sorts! The education I gained from discussing these spirits was a lovely boost to my always growing expertise. That’s the thing with judging, especially at the competitions where the scores and opinions are discussed. It’s always an education. I firmly believe that even the best judges should be open to opinion. Sometimes you can be quite decided on something and then with someone else’s explanation you understand the spirit in a different way. As I like to say, there is always something new to learn, even when you think you know it all. And, it’s that ability to listen and reevaluate with more information that I think is a big factor of being a good judge. Sometimes it can get a little heated in these debates, and it’s important to respect the other judges and their opinions. Something I learnt last year that was a huge boost to my confidence, is that everyone’s opinion is valid at the table. We’re all there because the organisers see something in the way we judge spirits that they can get behind and even if you and someone else on the panel come from different directions, you can always talk it out and settle on a compromise.

The evenings were full of fun. The annual drinks and Uno night was amazing. Everyone chips in to a grazing table and drinks. A ten person game of Uno is quite the feisty experience and it is probably the best night of the bunch for good conversation with the crowd. I missed it last year but was honored to be a part of it this time round.

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The judges all worked together and made excellent progress through the first two days, so the third day was a lot easier and a few of us went for a walk along the seafront. The view of San Francisco and Golden Gate bridge was spectacular and sightings of sea lions and porpoises made my day. After popping into a great little thrift shop near the lodge, I hopped on into my first podcast, discussing RTD’s with industry greats David T Smith, Keli Rivers and the ‘man on the street’ Joe Barber. Eric Kozliks Modern Bar Cart is a fantastic show and if you’ve any interest in spirits I highly recommend you check out what he does here. He’s got a wealth of show’s covering all sorts of topics. I will also share a link to the RTD show once Eric has had a chance to edit out all of my faux pars, of which I’m sure there are plenty.

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Once we had a bite to eat, we judged the grand panel which is the best of the best, all the high medallers. At this stage, it’s a lot easier as we only need to decide on a top three as feedback has already been gathered in the previous round. That said, choosing between the high medallers is a tough choice, even when still in categories, and especially with gins where the spirits can be so very varied. Big plus for me, after we were finished I still had a bit of time to get in the pool and jacuzzi and enjoy some sunshine which I desperately needed to do seeing as I had left such miserable temperatures at home to be there.

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The evening soiree was some next level stuff! Having access to try all of the entries is such a beautifully indulgent thing and the joy of recommending favourites and the shared enthusiasm is wonderful. The glorious reveal of the ‘opening of the spirit room’ was enhanced somewhat with the addition of karoke. Honestly, singing karoke with so many amazing people in a room of seven hundred and fifty odd bottles of spirit is one of the best experiences I’ve had in this industry. I thoroughly hope that this will be a regular thing. Please take note, ADI! It only finished a week ago and I’m already looking forward to next year.

Once again I was careful to stash some RTDs before bed, so once again I got to take a morning dip with a Bloody Mary. Now I’ve done that two years in a row, I’d like to say that it’s a tradition. So after full holiday mode sipping in the morning sun, it was time to head back to the city for some more adventures and drumroll please: to pick up my lost purse!

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World Gin Awards 2020

Yesterday was a great day on the gin calendar, the World Gin Awards final 2020.

Just prior to Christmas I completed judging of the semi finals, some 70 odd bottles that were sent to me at home to judge, score and write notes on. With 900+ entries this year, the judges were all sent different categories, and their scoring helped whittle down the numbers, with the top few of each category making it through to the final. This year the event had moved from it’s traditional home of the Caledonian Club, to the larger premises of Glaziers Hall. Located in London Bridge, the building has a fantastic history, as depicted on the panel below.

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The building itself looks understated but holds some wonderful rooms and still retains some of the old features. It’s a really lovely space, right on the bank of the Thames. There is evidence of the high skill sets from Worshipful Companies in cases inside with an array of wonderful creations that were really interesting to look at.

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For the morning, it was a group of the us who had judged the semi finals. This is the third year I’ve judged and you all become quite good friends through the love of gin. It was great to see some new faces there too! Vanessa Piromallo, of ilGin, an Italian gin blog (go check her out, it’s easy to use google translate), and Mara Veith, of Imbibe, amongst others. Our panel judged four flights, Contemporary, Navy Strength, Signature Botanical and Matured.

We popped over the road to the Mudlark and had wonderful lunch that was very much needed. There’s a lot of variety on the menu, but pies are their speciality. I had a sweet potato, goats cheese and spinach pie which came with a crumbed top, fresh veg and mashed potato. It was glorious. If you’ve got a penchant for pie, I heartily recommend them.

On our return to Glaziers Hall, I was astounded to see so many people arriving for the afternoon judging. Invites went out to those that had entered the competition and there were some 80-90 in attendance to judge the final round. Us judges who had been there for the morning were all given a table to look after, mine was table 8 and we had a flight of matured gin and a flight of Old Tom to judge. There was some great conversation around the table and it was really interesting hearing everyone’s point of view. It was a pleasure to see Pete Lumber of 137 Gin Distillery there. I first met Pete at the Craft Distilling Expo in September whilst I was on a panel discussing gin and the media. He’s a sterling chap. Congratulations on your wins Pete, well deserved! I should also mention my good friend Barb White Grossenbacher of Edelwhite Gin. I met Barb when we were judging at the IWSC in the summer. She’s a lovely lady an won best of Country with her gin, which is absolutely gorgeous.

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Once the scores were submitted, Anita Ujszaszi and David T Smith presented the awards for best of Country. So many winners! And super pleased to have some of them on my table too. There was a wonderful feeling in the room, it’s a really special thing to see the joy of distillers feeling the recognition for all their hard work.

With the awards done, it was time to drink and network. I met a whole host of great people and had a thoroughly good time. The room was booked until 4pm and sadly, my plea for them to play music at 3.30 was politely declined, although I should imagine that was for the best. Afterwards some of us moved on to Bar Swift. Located in Soho, the bar has a great reputation and it’s easy to see why. Their cocktails are incredible. I would recommend the Jaquord, although the Berry Bellini and Negroni were also amazing. They’ve got a great selection, so if cocktails are your thing then they are well worth a visit.

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It was so hard to leave everyone, but I did. I made it home (always a surprise after these events) for 10pm and drank a lot of water before putting myself to bed. Up at 5am, here I am at my desk, quickly putting this little something together, to share with all of you. No rest for the wicked! Thank you so much for having me, everyone at the World Gin Awards, it’s always a pleasure. And to my glorious fellow judges, so wonderful to see you, I hope you’re all feeling ok today and I’ll be seeing you again very soon. Big love x

 

Competition – Win a bottle of Pinkster!

Are you a Pinkster fan? Hopefully so. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s a lovely gin and very well established, taking it’s place in the market long before the boom in fruity ‘pink’ gins. Made with real raspberries, it’s lovely when served with light tonic and raspberry with mint garnish. As well as pioneers of pink, Pinkster are also keen on sustainability which is a hot topic at the moment. They recycle their gin soaked raspberries into their delicious ‘boozy berries’ and ‘gin jam’ and this year they released their ‘bag in a box’ Pinkster on tap. If you’d like to see a little more of what they do then pop across to their website. Whether you’ve already tried it or not, have I got a little treat for you! Read on to see how you can win a bottle.

Pinkster x Debretts 2

Pinkster have recently carried out some fun research with etiquette authority Debrett’s. Debrett’s are a professional coaching company, publisher and authority on etiquette. Established in 1769, they’ve seen all sorts of changes in society and social behaviour. Along with Pinkster, they have produced a fun guide which highlights the challenges of organising a girls’ night out and gives 10 top tips for avoiding etiquette pitfalls. Now I, for one, am not a one to be told what to do. However, I am also very much a one who suffers from foot in mouth. And, at times, a little social anxiety. So, I’d be very interested in seeing what tips it has to offer. So, to celebrate this helpful little thing, I’m running a competition across my social media to win a copy, along with a 70cl bottle of Pinkster gin.

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TEN GOLDEN RULES FOR A GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT, ACCORDING TO DEBRETT’S AND PINKSTER GIN

Phone amnesty, next day social sharing and other etiquette tips

Research commissioned by Pinkster Gin reveals that 83% of British women aged 25-55 find it stressful arranging a group night out. Nearly two thirds (63%) cited finding a date that suits everyone as the most common cause of stress, followed by getting friends to actually commit to the evening (46%).

People constantly on their phones (28%), friends suggesting somewhere too expensive (27%), and disputes over the bill (26%), were revealed as the biggest annoyances on the night itself, together with embarrassing photos being uploaded on social media (20%), too many selfies being taken (15%), and pals bragging about their children (14%).

These research findings have prompted Pinkster Gin join forces with etiquette authority Debrett’s and publish a handbook for taking the stress out of group gatherings.

The Girls’ Guide To Having Fun (In an Orderly Fashion) identifies the top ten party pitfalls and provides advice on how to avoid them.

Will Holt, director of Pinkster Gin, said: “We might be communicating with each other more than ever, but actually corralling and controlling a group of friends seems to be a minefield of social dilemmas.

“In a sign of the times, our research showed that the biggest bugbear on an evening out is friends being glued to their phones, ahead of disputes over splitting thebill.

“As the pink gin pioneer, we’ve fuelled many a girl’s night out and hopefully our practical tips will help ensure that your next get-together is the spirited success it deserves to be.”

Renée Kuo, managing director of Debrett’s said: “The Pinkster poll reveals that arranging a night out with friends can be fraught with challenges and that far from improving communication, our digital devices often hinder it instead.

“We were delighted to work with Pinkster on this new ten-point guide, which offers advice for overcoming a range of etiquette obstacles, including a meandering WhatsApp group, friends paying more attention to their phones than the conversation, and an unwelcome exposé of the night’s events on social media. This all goes to show that etiquette is as relevant now as it’s ever been.”

The guide light-heartedly highlights ten scenarios and how to tackle them:

The Whatsapp Planning Committee – go bold with dates and venues, and spare anyone who couldn’t make the evening a running commentary.

The Contagious Phone-Reach – agree a phone amnesty with devices out of sight at least for the meal, if not the whole evening.

The Unsplittable Bill – if you know certain pals are watching their spending, offer to knock a bit of their share, they can always turn you down if they prefer to keep it equal.

The Not-So Humble Brag – tempting as it may be to engage in one-up(wo)manship if someone starts waxing lyrical about her eldest’s glittering SAT results, simply smile and offer your congratulations.

How do you win? Well, I’ll be sharing this post across my social media platforms. All you need to do is comment underneath, tagging the 3 friends you’d like to enjoy a night with. I’ll be selecting one person to win a 70cl bottle of Pinkster, to get your night started and a copy of the guide to help you plan it.

Rules

  • Competition runs from 7pm Friday 20th September 2019 and closes 7pm Sunday 22nd September 2019.
  • Competition is open to UK residents, 18+ only.
  • Sorry, only one entry per person. If you’re found to be using a duplicate account, your entry will be void, so play fairly please!
  • No purchase required to win this. Simply tag 3 friends on either the Twitte, Facebook or Instagram post sharing this article.
  • Please be aware if you have been tagged, this doesn’t mean you’ve been entered. You’ll need to then tag 3 friends to be entered yourself.
  • Once the competition closes, I’ll select one winner at random. The winner will be announced on Monday 23rd September and I’ll get in touch to request an address for postage.

So, what are you waiting for? Get tagging!

ADI Judging of Craft Spirits 2020 – Registration Open!

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For those of you who remember, I was lucky enough to go to San Francisco earlier in the year to judge for the ADI, in their Judging of Craft Spirits. Luckily for me, they like what I do so I’ve been invited back for next year.

I’ve recently had word that registration to enter your spirit in the competition has opened!

As director of the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits it is my privilege to tell you that registration for our 2020 competition is open. The Judging of Craft Spirits is the oldest and most respected spirits competition dedicated to producers of craft spirits. We accept US and International entries in all classes and categories of distilled spirits, RTDs, cocktail bitters, aperitif & fortified wines from ADI Members as well as non-member small and medium-scale producers.
Medals for both the spirit and packaging are awarded only to those judged worthy of recognition. All entrants will receive written feedback with comments from the spirit judges. And, all entrants are evaluated to see if they meet the standards for ADI’s Certification of Craft Spirits at no additional cost or paperwork. Award winners will receive physical awards as well as a digital renderings of all applicable medals, awards and certifications.
For any international spirit not yet exported to the US we also provide a free online COLA Waiver application which allows you to legally ship samples to our competition that do not have a certificate of label approval from the US Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. December 22, 2019 is the last day to apply for the waiver and all spirits registered before December 29, 2019 will automatically receive our early-bird discount, and save $50/spirit entered.
For more information, please go to www.distilling.com/judging, feel free to contact me directly, or click the link to Enter Today!

As well as this, I’ve had a further email offering discounts for certain spirits.

In addition, we have created a few discount codes for international producers who may not be members of ADI. If you know any international spirits that falls into one of the below categories please feel free to share a discount code with them.
Code Group
2020BNIA Armagnac
2020BNIC Cognac
2020IBRAC Cachaça
2020PISCO Pisco
2020AGAVE Mexican Spirits
These codes discount the entry fee for non-ADI members by $100/spirit, which is in addition to the $50/spirit early-bird discount if producers register before December 29, 2019.

I’ve been donning my judges hat at a few competitions now. And, the ADI Judging of Craft Spirits is one of my favourites. There are a fantastic crowd of industry people there, some top spirit connoisseurs. And, not only is it carried out professionally, but it’s friendly and really fun. I would thoroughly recommend checking out their site and considering entry. They receive entries of many different spirits from all over the world, and last year it was our very own Cotswolds Gin that took the gin title.

If you’ve got any questions, do feel free to ask. And, if I can’t answer, I’ll certainly put you in touch with someone who can.