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

 

ADI San Francisco Travel Trip Diary – Day 4: The Judging Begins!

Up until now these posts have been more like a travel diary and have been the source for a great joke to tell people, as I’ve had more likes and follows for these than the ones I write about gin. I’m starting wonder if I’m in the wrong business!

Firstly, lets touch on breakfast. A breakfast buffet is provided and to my delight included potatoes, egg, crispy bacon and maple sausages. Ooderally! It was just what I needed after the heavy night before. That, a big glass of fresh grapefruit and a coffee had me bright as a button and ready to go.

Now it’s time to strap up, belt and braces! Because now this business gets serious as it’s the first day of the judging. Having had some training, I knew what to expect and what was expected from me. The ADI is just great. Running for 14 years it’s the second longest running drinks competition in the US and is strictly for craft distillers producing under 750,000 gallons per year, although a lot of the entries are less than this. Feedback is an important part of the competition with distillers not only hoping for awards but also hoping for feedback that can give them guidance on how to improve their product. Everyone conducts themselves in such a professional manner. I was delighted to approach the table and see everything I needed set out and an ADI pin which I have been wearing with pride. The judges are there to focus on the drinks and each table has a steward that takes and brings anything they need. Big shout out the the stewards! They worked their socks of all day and did an amazing job at keeping everything moving.

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The guys I’m on the table with are just great. Absolutely lovely and a mix of distillers, importers and myself a writer. I was told that the tables are set up very carefully to included people from different parts of the industry that will pick up different things to give insightful feedback and collectively, a well rounded score. Use of the spittoon is important and I used the spittoon with every gin. The event at three days long is a marathon and it’s important to pace your palate and be confident in what you’re tasting. There are even alternate judges provided who can step in to take a flight if your palate needs a break. It’s seen as highly professional to request an alternate judge for a flight as there is a pace to keep and it allows the table to keep moving whilst not losing the quality of the judging.

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It was such an enjoyable day. I was in my element! Panels would pour over the smallest details and debate for some time to ensure everyone was satisfied with the final mark being awarded. The discussions were lively and great fun. The whole thing was wonderful for my confidence. There were moments when I was well in line with score and feedback, equally there were points where I would be controversial to the group, and I did it with conviction. This happened with all the judges at points and there were some great comments on my judging. After the first day I felt like I’d learnt to swim and I could hold my own in the water. Let me tell you, it’s a great feeling.

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Judging from 9 – 6 with a brief lunch in between, I was ready for some dinner. A few of us met up and went to a great little wine shop, called Tiburon Wine about 5 mins from the hotel. It’s run by a lovely chap and has an extensive range of very good wines and seating. We enjoyed a couple of glasses while we were there, one a Pinot Noir from Santa Cruz that was absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous earthy notes on the nose built up for a gentle palate that exploded into a natural raspberry finish. It was really special. After a few glasses, we went to the Italian and shared a few starters including calamari and sausage with fondue. For mains I went for Garganelli with Prosciutto, cream and leeks and once against found myself wobbling joyfully back to the my room. What a day!

Its 7.30AM PST, 3.30PM GMT. The travel diary is all caught up. I’m getting ready, going for breakfast and super excited about doing it all over again!

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!

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Happy January, you lovely lot!