The American Distilling Institute’s annual Judging of Craft Spirits recognizes the best craft spirits in the United States and around the world.
The competition started in 2007 and brings together about 50 spiritual judges to evaluate contributions from small and medium-sized producers. Both members of the ADI and non-members can submit contributions.
In addition to the usual list of bronze, silver, gold and double gold, ADI’s craftsmanship judgment also recognizes the best in the category and the best in the class. These are the best participants among the gold medal winners.
Gin has been a popular category of spirits among artisan producers, both because gin is suitable for incessant experiments in the combination of botanicals used to taste it and in its production process, but also because, as one producer so succinctly puts it, when it come to gin a craft producer can go from distillation to checking account in 90 days or so.
For a craft distillery looking for cash flows to pay their bills with until their brown spirits ripen, gin and vodka offer quick cash. Gin offers the added benefit that the choice of botany makes it easier to differentiate its gin from competitors. Differentiating vodkas while still possible is harder to do.
Craft Spirits Judging in 2021 awarded best medals to two domestic gin and one international gin. The Classic Gin award went to Pacific Coast Spirits, California Dry Gin, 42% ABV, 750 ml, $ 48. Pacific Coast Spirits describes itself as a “grain to glass craft distiller” and is located in California’s craft brewery Mecca in San Diego.
The term “California Gin” has no legal status, but is used by the distillery to describe “a slightly refreshing American gin with a focus on citrus, coriander and lavender.” The gin uses botanical ingredients from California, resulting in a soft fruit going forward with a pronounced citrus / orange note and just a subtle touch of juniper.
The award for Best of Class Contemporary Gin went to Portland, Oregon-based Aimsir Distilling Company, Aitil House Gin, 45% ABV, 750 ml, $ 35. Aitil means juniper in Gaelic. This is a classic London Dry gin that has a distinct juniper note accompanied by fresh floral aromas of rose, bright citrus notes, fruity notes of raspberry and peach and a crisp, dry finish that is soft and silky on the palate.
In the International Gin category, Best of Class went to Swedish craft distillery Hernö, Old Tom Gin, 43% ABV, 500 ml, $ 300. The company claims to be “the world’s leading and most award-winning craft gin producer.” It started in 2011 and is located in the small village of Dala, on the northern coast of Sweden.
Old Tom style gin refers to the predominantly gin style before the advent of the London Dry style in the early 19th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries, sugar was added to gin to cover defects in distillation and make gin smoother and more tasty.
Hernö’s old Tom Gin is made from the same distilled gin that was used for Hernö Gin, with the addition of an extra amount of Meadowsweet added to the botanists in the distillation. After the gin is diluted to a drain strength of 43% ABV, a small amount of sugar is added to make the gin smoother and sweeter.
This is a juniper-front-gin that offers distinctive floral notes along with juniper berries and very light aromas of pine resin on both the nose and palate.
There were another 12 gins that were awarded best in the category of medals. All three winners of best in class also won their best category group.
Winners include, The Palm Springs Spirits Co., Modern Love Reserve Gin, 46% ABV, 750 ml, $ 35. This is a aged gin that spends 288 days in 228 gallons of barrels of French and American oak that was previously used for Napa Valley Pinot Noir.
The Palm Springs Spirits Company also won a Best of Category for its Modern Love Gin, 45% ABV, 750 ml, $ 32. This is a citrus forward gin that contains bright lemon and lime aromas, along with notes of cassis and black currant.
The Heritage Distilling Company in Gig Harbor, Washington, was also a double winner. That Heritage Distilling Company, Cask Club Reserve, Lemon Blue Berry Gin, 45% ABV, 750 ml, won the Flavored Gin Best of Category category. Heritage Distilling Company, Distiller’s Reserve Navy Strength, 58% ABV, 750 ml won the award for best in the category for Navy-Strength Gin.
The End of Days Distillery in Wilmington, North Carolina won Best in Category in Signature Botanical Gin with its End of Days, Port of Entry Gin, 41% ABV, 750 ml, $ 35.
The Best of Category Awards in International Gin went to a diverse group of distillers ranging from Australia to Canada and from Italy to the UK.
The award for Best of Category, International Aged Gin, went up Quebec Distillery, Trait-Carré 1665, Aged Gin, 40.4%, 750 ml, $ 47.
The award for International Flavored Gin went to Cotswolds Distillery, Cotswolds No. 1 Wildflower, gin, 41.7% ABV, 750 ml, $ 61, while the International Navy Strength Gin award went to Victoria, Australia, Four Pillars Distillery, Navy Strength Gin, 58.8% ABV, 750 ml, $ 39.
Best in Category Award for International Contemporary Gin was shared between four winners: Extra Srl, Gin Taggiasco and Lakospiriti by Lakovic Andrea, La Gass Gin. Both of these gins are Italian and are not yet available in the United States. The other two winners were, Republic of Freemantle, Full Bodied Gin, and Turner Stillhouse, Three Cuts Gin (Distiller’s Release). Both of these gins are Australian and none of them are yet available in the US, although they are available from online suppliers in Australia and the UK.
There were a further 12 gins who won Double Gold and 19 gins who won gold medals at the ADI rating in 2021. For a complete list of the gin medals see the ADI website.
Gin is still one of the fastest growing and most innovative spirits categories in the world. The range of new and exciting gins among the best gins at ADI’s Judging of Craft Spirits emphasizes the excitement and creativity of today’s gin producers.