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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Awards

We join ADI for the Judging of Craft Spirits!

What’s it like to lead a panel at one of the world’s most renowned spirits competitions? Our editor Kristiane Sherry reports back from Tiburon, near San Francisco, after taking part…

What’s it like to lead a panel at one of the world’s most renowned spirits competitions? Our editor Kristiane Sherry reports back from Tiburon, near San Francisco, after taking part in the American Distilling Institute’s 2019 Judging of Craft Spirits.

The skies are always blue in Tiburon. At least it seems that way when the American Distilling Institute (ADI) crew is in town. The cluster of impeccable houses directly across the Bay from San Francisco is peppered with independent restaurants, bars and quirky stores, sandwiched between the water and the dramatic Northern California hills. It’s relaxed, the air is crisp and clean, and it exudes a laid-back elegance. In short, it’s the perfect place to taste spirits.

I was thrilled last June when I received an invitation to join ADI’s Judging of Craft Spirits. The annual event celebrates excellence in distilling, with entries open to those who produce less than 750,000 litres of pure alcohol a year (although in reality, most participants make waaaayyy less than that). Both American and international distillers take part, and the spirits span almost every category you can think of: whiskies, gins, rums, agave spirits, vodkas, liqueurs, brandies, plus ready-to-drink cocktails, fortified wines and more! The result? Hundreds upon hundreds of spirits to be assessed, an army of stewards, a team of organisers and administrators and judges galore. And I was more than happy to lend my palate.

San Francisco Bay

Tiburon. It’s pretty. That’s San Francisco over the Bay looking gorgeous

I arrived at The Lodge at Tiburon on the Sunday afternoon, set for a series of briefings. After the warmest of welcomes from Eric Zandona, ADI’s director of spirits information, and David T Smith, lead steward, we got to grips with a practice flight of vodkas, a palate-aligning exercise, if you like. Everything was poured in a back room, brought through by the amazing stewards and identified only by a code on a label on the stem of a glass. It was 100% blind and tip-top secret. And it immediately became apparent just how rewarding evaluating each sample with my fellow judges would be. Distillers, bar consultants, writers, bartenders and more, from across the US and beyond. The volume of collective expertise in the room was incredible. Roll on the three days of judging!

I can’t disclose exactly what we judged or what panels others were on, but I will say for the first two days I chaired panels with a vast variety of spirits. We tasted literally everything. It was challenging at times – some spirits properly split the panel; cue lively debate, much geekiness and an array of views – but each and every spirit was genuinely assessed on its own merits, before the group discussed each one, gained consensus and awarded medals (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Double Gold) accordingly. But this wasn’t just about assigning awards. Each entrant receives detailed written feedback, so every judge was required to write up their thoughts and provide comment, constructive criticism and encouragement. This wasn’t just about tasting – a significant amount of work went into this evaluation aspect. It’s easy enough to say that you do or don’t think a spirit is at a certain quality level – but you must also give the reason why. And delving into the ‘why’ with so many genuine experts made for a thoroughly rewarding experience!

There’s all sorts of spirits to be assessed

Day Three took on an entirely different flavour. First up, I joined a review panel; here, spirits which had some discrepancy in their scoring (David T Smith and crew use a handy algorithm to see if a panel of judges’ scores were especially variable) were re-tasted to ensure an absolute fair hearing, and other outliers were given a second bite of the cherry. This is where things got really interesting. The discussion got even geekier, and every aroma note, flavour, texture and feeling was unpicked, along with how it got there, and whether or not it should be. By the end my mind and palate were both exhausted – but happily so.

Then it was time for the grand panels! Every spirit awarded a Gold or Double Gold medal was re-tasted to find the best in category. And wow! This was A Treat (capitals intended). Imagine getting to taste the best of the best craft spirits in the world. Yes, it was still serious decision-making, but the smiles on my fellow judges’ faces as we worked our way through the flights said it all. These spirits were GORGEOUS (capitals really intended here). And it was a privilege to get to pick out the very finest.

So, what were the highlights? What were the key learnings? Well, the Judging of Craft Spirits results haven’t been announced yet, so consider these lips sealed. But there was a big difference between judging a competition solely focused on craft spirits compared to other panels I’ve sat on. Why? The level of experimentation was off the chart. So many producers were trying brave and exciting things – sure, the results weren’t always knock-it-out-the-park incredible, but many, many spirits were up there. And it was so exciting to spend time sussing out exactly what’s going on. Then, the overall quality level was a pleasing surprise. In other competitions there might only be one small ‘craft’ sub-category, but here there was wall-to-wall interest and intrigue right across the board. ‘Craft’ has never meant sub-standard or second best, but those myths are now being well and truly busted.

ADI judging whiskeys

Whiskeys!

Finally, the top highlight? Getting to meet and work with so many incredible people from right the way across the industry, from distillers and production consultants to bartenders, brand ambassadors, writers, journalists and more. Thanks to ADI for an ace few days, and cheers to my fellow judges, stewards and everyone involved for making it so brilliant!

Top tips for evaluating spirits

Fancy trying your hand (taste buds?) at judging? Give it a go at home with our super-quick guide!

• Start clean. It sounds super simple, but make sure your palate is clean (water is essential!), you’re not wearing fragrance and you’ve not used especially aromatic soap. ADI gave us fragrance-free soap for the week so the tasting room was as neutral as possible.

• Go slow. Take your time. If you’re assessing a spirit you’ll want to look at its appearance, nose, palate and finish. This can take a good while. Don’t rush, take your time and enjoy!

• Look back. Aromas and flavours in a spirit can be traced back to loads of production factors. Think about how your spirit was made. Raw materials? Processing techniques? Post-distillation finishing? Is what you see, nose or taste consistent with this? Consider these points to help you evaluate your spirit.

• Spit it out. Got loads of spirits to taste? Don’t be afraid to use a spittoon. And sip, don’t gulp (obviously). On a similar point, adding water to a spirit after you’ve first nosed and tasted can make a world of difference when you’re trying to pick out aromas and flavours.

• Write it down. Chances are, if you’re taking the time to fully examine what a product looks like, its aromas, flavours, texture and finish, you’ll want to keep a record of it. Have a notepad or laptop to hand so your hard work isn’t forgotten!

ADI judging

Note-taking = essential!

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Master of Malt wins at the 2019 Drinks Retailing Awards

Exciting news just in as Master of Malt adds another gong to its already groaning trophy cabinet (we do actually have a trophy cabinet). Forget the Oscars, Baftas or Cigar…

Exciting news just in as Master of Malt adds another gong to its already groaning trophy cabinet (we do actually have a trophy cabinet).

Forget the Oscars, Baftas or Cigar Smoker of the Year, they cannot compare with the sheer glamour of the Drinks Retailing Awards which took place last night at The Dorchester in London. The great and good of the business were out in their best bib and tucker to celebrate excellence in flogging booze.

According to Martin Green at Drinks Retailing News, the judges looked at “retailers’ strengths and weaknesses in the digital sphere” as well as using data from Nielsen and polling 2,000 consumers through YouGov. Green went on to say: “To be nominated for a Drinks Retailing Award is a tremendous achievement, and to win one is a stamp of the ultimate quality.”

It was a hard-fought contest, but we are delighted to tell you that Master of Malt won Online Retailer of the Year beating off some tough competition. This is the first time we have won this category since 2013 five years of hurt, never stopped us dreaming. Presenting the prize was Joe Fattorini off ITV’s ‘The Wine Show’ and representing MoM were Nick Murden and Jake Mountain.

They partied responsibly long into the night.

 

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MoM scoops TWO trophies at UK Social Media Comms Awards 2018

We’re delighted to announce that we did the double at the UK Social Media Communications Awards 2018 – #WhiskySanta claimed Best Social Media Campaign, while this very blog was named…

We’re delighted to announce that we did the double at the UK Social Media Communications Awards 2018 – #WhiskySanta claimed Best Social Media Campaign, while this very blog was named Best Blog!

Last night we attended the UK Social Media Communications Awards 2018 at the Montcalm Marble Arch, where the best and most innovative use of social media (and, well, communication) across all industries was rewarded with shiny trophies. Your fave online retailer was among the winners. Twice. Oh yeah.

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Another shiny eCommerce Awards trophy for Master of Malt!

We headed up to London last night for the 2018 eCommerce Awards, and came back with the Best Food & Drink eCommerce trophy in our mitts! For the third year…

We headed up to London last night for the 2018 eCommerce Awards, and came back with the Best Food & Drink eCommerce trophy in our mitts!

For the third year in a row, we’ve donned our finest, most snappiest garb and headed for the annual eCommerce Awards in London, once again taking place at the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square. The evening was hosted by actual wizard Ben Hanlin, so we thought we’d be lucky to escape without being turned into (finely-dressed) frogs. However, we did make it out without being transmogrified, and we made it out with a bloomin’ trophy in our hands – the Best Food & Drink eCommerce trophy to be exact!

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A Delightful Duo of Drinks Business Awards!

Your pals at MoM Towers scooped up a fantastic pair of trophies from the Drinks Business Awards 2018 – #WhiskySanta claimed Best Social Media Campaign, while our very own Guy…

Your pals at MoM Towers scooped up a fantastic pair of trophies from the Drinks Business Awards 2018 – #WhiskySanta claimed Best Social Media Campaign, while our very own Guy Hodcroft was named Spirits Buyer of the Year!

The Drinks Business Awards 2018 winners were announced last night, and we just happened to pick up a pair of trophies. Well, we won them. We didn’t just steal some trophies that… You get the idea. Anyway, yes, we’re thrilled about these two stunning trophies to add to our trophy cabinet!

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Master of Malt named Best Online Retailer 2018 by British Bourbon Society!

We’re utterly delighted to have been named the Best Online Retailer by the British Bourbon Society for the second year in a row! Sometimes getting back up and running after…

We’re utterly delighted to have been named the Best Online Retailer by the British Bourbon Society for the second year in a row!

Sometimes getting back up and running after a long bank holiday weekend can be a bit of a mission. Lucky, there was some news waiting for us this morning to get everyone back in high spirits – we’ve been named Best Online Retailer by the British Bourbon Society!

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#WhiskySanta named Digital & Social Media Campaign of the year!

Drinks International has recognised our very own #WhiskySanta as the Digital & Social Media Campaign of the year in the Drinks Marketing Challenge 2018! Ho! Ho! *Ahem* Enough of that….

Drinks International has recognised our very own #WhiskySanta as the Digital & Social Media Campaign of the year in the Drinks Marketing Challenge 2018!

Ho! Ho! *Ahem* Enough of that. I’m already on my extended beach holibobs you see, and I don’t want to blow my cover! Of course, it helps that my beard falls out every New Year like a reindeer’s antlers, only to grow back bigger and better when the season becomes suitably festive once again. That’s one thing Tim Allen got right, at least.

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Master of Malt picks up Icons of Gin Online Retailer of the Year 2018!

About last night… if you follow our social channels you’ll know we had a rather exciting evening. We’re incredibly proud to announce we’ve been named Gin Magazine’s Icons of Gin…

About last night… if you follow our social channels you’ll know we had a rather exciting evening. We’re incredibly proud to announce we’ve been named Gin Magazine’s Icons of Gin Online Retailer of the Year 2018!

This is a big deal for us, and the whole team is beyond thrilled. It was the inaugural Icons of Gin competition and we were up against some big names, so this means a lot.

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Master of Malt scoops Icons of Whisky ROW Online Retailer award!

Exciting news for a Tuesday – we’re beyond thrilled that Master of Malt has been named Online Retailer of the Year 2018 by Whisky Magazine at its Icons of Whisky…

Exciting news for a Tuesday – we’re beyond thrilled that Master of Malt has been named Online Retailer of the Year 2018 by Whisky Magazine at its Icons of Whisky Rest of the World stage!

The Icons of Whisky awards take place throughout the year in regional ‘semi-final’-equivalents, ahead of a big global grand final extravaganza.

This is the sixth time in seven years that we’ve been named Icons of Whisky Online Retailer of the Year – Rest of the World by Whisky Magazine – a feat we are super proud of. (We’ve also gone on to claim the global crown five times, in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017. Needless to say, anticipation among the team is reaching fever pitch to see what 2018 may bring!)

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A double win for Master of Malt at the Digital Entrepreneur Awards 2017!

Last night we were absolutely delighted to be named Online Retailer of the Year at the Digital Entrepreneur Awards for the second year running – so you can imagine our…

Last night we were absolutely delighted to be named Online Retailer of the Year at the Digital Entrepreneur Awards for the second year running – so you can imagine our jubilance when moments later we were named Digital Business of the Year Medium – Large!

It was high-fives and Champagne all round at Plaisterers’ Hall in London last night, and for good reason. A double win at the Digital Entrepreneur Awards (DEAs) is not to be sniffed at – they’re the longest-standing national tech awards in the UK, and they exist to champion outstanding technology businesses across all sectors (not just retail). They’re huge!

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