From high-end restaurants to your favorite bars in town or having friends over at home, a great cocktail or drink is a prerequisite. Whether it is a nice bottle of tequila or a go-to gin brand for your G&Ts to a brand you swear by for house parties, the spirit options are endless today. So how exactly does one choose which brand to go with? What are the points to consider before promising your allegiance to a particular spirit for years to come?
The annual USA Spirits Ratings competition answers all of these questions for you and more. It goes above and beyond to bring spirits that will be a great addition to a retailer's shelf, a restaurant or bar's drinks menu, or to your at-home catalog.
Why choose the USA Spirits Ratings as your benchmark?
All the spirits that enter the USA Spirits Ratings are judged on three main parameters of quality, value and packaging. Unlike any other spirits judging competition in the world, USA Spirits Ratings understands the importance of the price of a bottle and how it looks to customers, in addition to how it tastes. The competition considers these as two very important aspects of how drinkers choose what drink to buy.
The judges' attention is on the quality of a spirit, where they emphasize how the spirit looks to the drinker, its taste and aftertaste. This process is done with a blind tasting which allows the judges to determine the spirit’s drinkability. Next comes the value of a spirit. The objective here is to understand how well the spirit is priced compared to the value it provides. It is pretty simple, not all the spirits priced high are as good and neither are lower priced spirits bad. This is what the competition wants to assess and showcase.
The final part of the judging process is the packaging of the spirit. The first interaction we have with any spirit is the way it looks. The shape and texture of the bottle, its design and its label are all very important aspects when it comes to how a buyer perceives a spirit when buying a bottle. If these factors aren’t in sync, there are high chances that the bottle won’t be picked from a shelf.
How are brands rewarded?
The spirits that manage to score well on these three factors are awarded the standard gold, silver and bronze medals. Along with these three medals, special medals are in place to reward the finest spirits at the competition. The categories of awards include Spirit of the Year, Gin of the Year, Best Spirit by Value, Best Spirit by Packaging and more. A special award is also given to the distillery that brings the best ensemble of spirits to the judges.
During the 2020 edition, the Barr Hill Gin from Caledonia Spirits was recognized as the Spirit of the Year scoring a complete 100 from the judges. The score also brought it a gold medal along with Gin of the Year, Best in Show by Country award, Best Spirit by Quality. Barr Hill Gin also played a big part in bringing Caledonia Spirits the Distillery of the Year award.
Who are the judges that rate the spirits?
With such a detailed judging process in place, the people who judge the spirits have to be credible experts of the industry. The judging panel at the USA Spirits Ratings consists of a leading panel of top-level spirits buyers with current direct commercial buying responsibility. The panel includes top mixologists, buyers, spirits consultants, and experts who are also directly involved in the development of new spirits brands or buying spirits for commercial resale.
This year's list is drawn from leading retail chains, wholesalers, distributors and on-trade groups across a variety of channels and disciplines including casual and fine dining or the hospitality industry. The judging panel includes Tim Marson MW (Senior Spirits Buyer at Wine.com); Jeff Feist (Category Lead- Spirits & More at BevMo); Mark Berge (Liquor Buyer at Superior Grocers, Los Angeles); Ivy Mix (Co-owner at Fiasco! Wine and Spirits, Brooklyn) and many more.
The judges bring to the table their expertise, developed from years of working in the industry, knowing what a consumer wants at on and off-premise stores. Their unwavering passion for their craft and love for the trade sets them apart. Any list of recommendations from each of them is definitely one to place your bets on.
This year’s edition of USA Spirits Ratings is scheduled to take place on July 25, with all the safety protocols in place. The judges will come together to give us a list of the best spirits in the world in 2021.