ADI San Francisco Travel Trip Diary – Day 6: The Grand Panel Party

The final day of judging was a blast.

I was asked to join the review panel which was just amazing! The review pane judging began in the morning, to help judge the spirits that had gone back for well, review. It really shows the integrity of the process, I think. If a spirit is brought to a table and there’s a big difference in the scores, for example if half think it should get a gold and half think it shouldn’t medal at all, it’s sent for review and given to another table for a second opinion. The reviews had been going on through the previous day, with a mysterious flight arriving here and there that we weren’t expecting. Some unaged rums some honey whisky, even some cream liqueurs.

I felt honoured to be on the review panel. I felt like I’d really grown as a judge through the few days and I loved the opportunity to debate the merits of some tricky spirits. The other judges were great, we had a lot of fun and we debated the hell out out everything. Listening to jock jams, we worked our way through a lot of entries, managing to settle on an appropriate score for each one, and an appropriate song for the wait for the next one.

After a brief lunch everyone got together for the grand panel. The best of the best! Flights of the gold winners of each category came through and for these we had to pick the top three. The quality of these entries was spectacular! There were some great ideas, some really well executed too. I’d love to tell you about them but I’m sworn to secrecy for now and I kind of like that.

Another quick break and time to get ready for the evening do and the opening of the spirits room. There was a sizzle of anticipation as we ate and conversed about the day. It was all quite relaxed until a whisper circulated that the gold medallists had been brought through. Within moments, conversations politely fell away and plates were abandoned. “This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. This is why we do this”, I was told. I totally get it. The excitement of seeing what everything is, of finding out who makes your favourites, of discovering the new gems in the crown of craft.

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That’s how night began, I remember. I was in full on kid in a candy store mode. Everyone was getting into everything with such vigor! Showing ones they liked to other judges that hadn’t tasted them. Singing their praises with the same passion they’d done on the panels. The night was a riot!! We all had glasses and just pottered around, looking at things, pouring ourselves tipple after tipple. The back two spirits rooms were opened up an hour early because everyone was just so flipping keen to get in there. 800 entries all available and in some cases to take the bottle. It was great mingling with everyone I’d only managed fleeting conversations with and although I was a little too pickled to get out on the late night cigar walk, I had a wonderful, wonderful time. My only regret is that I didn’t get many photos of people, which was my intention. I need to remember those beautiful faces. But, I was having way too much fun! There have been photos being throughout by the lovely Bill, so when they’re available for viewing I’ll share a few for you. It’s a night I’m going to remember always.

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ADI San Francisco Travel Trip Diary – Day 5: I Am A Sponge

Over breakfast I was told that I’d be moving tables.

The comfortability I’d found on the first day dissipated quickly into nerves. I felt like I’d have to prove myself again. I sound over dramatic, which I am lets be honest, and it was very good to move around and listen to what other people were thinking and where they were coming from with their ideas. I’m just well aware that I’m swimming with some pretty big fish here, and I want to do it right. I shyly pottered through and sat at the the table. The pace had been upped, with us having to feedback much quicker. Also the debating had become more in depth, with several instances of having to come back to a gin that had a varied response, to discuss and agree on a score that was more in line with what everyone thought.

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This is however, very much my first rodeo and I’m well aware that this is a great opportunity to learn as much as possible. I am a sponge. I was constantly listening to all the tables in earshot, soaking up as much as possible. And, I was overwhelmed at the knowledge in the room. It’s a very humbling to be sat around so many experts. On the first day, I met a lovely gentleman, Jeff, who writes on rum and tiki. I clicked when he mentioned that he had got himself an office to get him out of the house because he was “losing all social skills he’d once developed”, by staying at home writing. My eyes widened, “I get you!” I can spend days sat at home in my pants writing, it’s like an addiction. I don’t feel I can leave the laptop if there’s more I can do and before I know it, I can’t even look people in the eye when I’m up the shops for a pint of milk.

Before the first drinks came out on day 1, we went around the room and introduced ourselves. The room is full of people from all areas of the industry. Distillers, bar owners, bar tenders, importers, distributors, writers, all sorts of people. I realised my hands were shaking as the plethora of incredible introductions crept closer and closer to little old me. Suddenly it was my turn and the whole room turned and looked my way. Silence. That sizzle of anticipation. I swallowed, before projecting my voice calmly and smiling as I said who I was and what I did. Smiles and nods, and onto the next. Relief washed over me like I was bare feet dug into sand on the shoreline. I will remember the moment always.

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So, I’ve been doing ok the last couple of days. I reminded myself of this, and I summoned up the courage to sit on the ‘Gin 2’ panel. It’s a great little table! Ben from Seattle based Big Gin, Ollie from Sipsmith and Keli Rivers who is everything a gin judge could aspire to be. Her palate and knowledge of flavour is exemplary! The notes she picks out are mind blowing. I was marvelling all day at her ability to taste, “this tastes wet and…hot, almost plastic, like when you drink water out of a garden hose that’s been in the sun”. I am a sponge. I have been and will keep learning all I can.

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Gins, gins, gins all day and something a little bit interesting at the end as we step in to help on honeyed whiskys, then unaged rums and finally cream liquors. The diversity of flavour here was amazing. It really was a marathon of a day but we got through it. On leaving I met up with the wonderful Lara Victoria and we went for some Italian food at Don Antonia Trattoria. I had spinach and ricotta ravioli in bolognese with garlic and it was out of this world! The service was amazing and the wine was lovely too, another great Pinot Noir from the local area. Great choice Lara!

Another solid 8 hours sleep and I’m up and raring to go. I’m bubbling with joy to be sat with a coffee, writing. Having not long finished a BA and now part way through a MA in writing, I have been spending a lot of time writing because I have too. Writing because I’m stressing over deadlines. The last few days of finding an hour in the morning to write because I want to, has been absolute bliss and I’ll go as far to say it’s re-sparked my love for it. I must find a way to continue this when I get home. I need to remember to find some time to write for love, even when there’s writing for deadlines.

Anyway, today’s the final day! Last gins in the morning, grand panel in the afternoon and the big do in the evening…but I’ll tell you all about those tomorrow. Let me at’em!

Happy New Year! – What’s on in January? A lot, that’s what

Good Morning!

This is an usual post from me, more of an update than a feature. I’ve been getting involved in more and more projects, which I love. However, I have found it gives me a little less time to write large posts. So, one of my new years resolutions is to make a concerted effort to post little and often to keep you all up to date with my shenanigans. I’ll still be writing the larger pieces though, they’re my favourite.

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year! It’s been fantastic to have a few days off with loved ones, and a bit of a rest too. I also hope you enjoyed opening your Drinks by the Dram and Boutique-y Calendars as much as I did! They’ve really upped their game from last year. I’m consistently wowed by new gins. They keep coming, and with such good quality! The possibilities for creation really are endless.

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The next couple of weeks are going to prove rather busy at Ginfluence central. I’m finishing an article for Gin Magazine, judging at the World Gin Award finals and then wrapping up the first assessment of my MA. Needless to say, I’m feeling the pressure somewhat, but it is so very good to be busy.

On the 18th however, I’m going on an adventure.

I’ll be flying out to San Francisco to judge the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits! It’s a great event and I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the fantastic industry people out there (and taking lots of notes for sure!) I’ll also be spending a couple of days either side of the judging to take a look around San Francisco, to learn a bit of it’s literary history and get myself into some gin bars. Top of the list is Whitechapel, although I’ll certainly be heading for others too.

I’ll be there until the 27th, posting updates as I go, rather than writing a large piece when I get back. Please do get involved with suggestions! It’s my first time in San Francisco and although it’s only a short stay, I’d like to squeeze in as much as possible!

#ginfluenceinsanfrancisco

Happy January, you lovely lot!

 

Calling all distillers! – Registration opens for ADI Judging of Craft Spirits Awards

Calling all distillers!

As you may know, I’m heading out to San Francisco to judge in the American Distilling Institutes, Judging of Craft Spirits Awards in January. Excited doesn’t quite cover it.

As their website states, “The American Distilling Institute (ADI) is the oldest and largest organization of small-batch, independently-owned distillers in the United States. Founded in 2003 by Bill Owens, the organization has grown from a few dozen distillers to more than 1,000 paid members. In 2015, more than 1,500 people attended ADI’s 12th Annual Distilling Conference and Vendor Expo, in Louisville.”

Their mission is an admirable one, “To promote and defend the art and enterprise of craft distilling. Through our programs of economic development, academic research and education, ADI generates greater public awareness and appreciation for the quality and variety of artisan spirits and brings greater benefits to the larger society in which we live.”

Have you thought of entering your spirit? Or do you know someone who makes spirits?

Well, I’ve had word that registration is open! The competition is not just open to gin, but lots of other spirits too. In fact, I’ve been given a selection of codes to give a discount on entry for some other spirits. So, if you know of anyone producing Armagnac, Cognac, Cachaca, Pisco and Mexican Spirits then please don’t hesitate to share this with them and do ask them to get in touch. The codes reduce entry fees for non ADI members by $100. Plus, if you enter your spirit by November 19th you get a further $50 off too. Further more, if you are a member of the Gin Guild then you are only charged the price of an ADI member.

I’ve had a little look at the entry notes:

“ADI accepts US and International entries in all classes and categories of distilled spirits, RTDs, cocktail bitters, aperitif & fortified wines from small and medium-scale producers (with maximum annual sales of 750,000 Proof Gallons).”

“All spirits entered will receive written feedback from our expert judges, be considered for awards both for the spirit and the packaging, and be evaluated to see if they 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 digital renderings of all applicable medals, awards and certifications.”

So, for those of you award hunters out there who love blinging up your gin, find out all you need to know and start the registration process here.