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SF World Spirits Comp

The rum category cleaned up at the latest San Francisco Spirits Competition.  Vizcaya, Cockspur, Rhum JM and Sammy’s Beach Bar all score top honors.


The San Francisco World Spirits Competition held its esteemed judging from March 22nd-25th at the Hotel Nikko in downtown San Francisco. With continued growth in its 12th year, 1,215 premium spirits were submitted from 60 countries, making it another record-breaking year. The San Francisco competition is the oldest and largest spirits competition in the US and the most recognized in the world.  

The largest increase in submissions was from tequila producers, up 33% from last year, while mezcal submissions were up 22%. Bourbon was up 25%, rum 15%, and rhum agricole, pisco, and single malt scotch entries all had significant gains, reflecting current industry trends.

Thirty-three distinguished spirits professionals from across the country were assembled to judge these premium spirits.Tony Abou-Ganim, the “Modern Mixologist”, and the competition’s Director of Judging said, “This competition brings together some of the finest spirits palates working in the industry today. I feel honored that I could once again be a part of this wonderful event.”  This group of industry leaders is directly responsible for purchasing over $100,000,000 worth of spirits each year while the journalist members reach more than a million trade and consumer readers each month.

Taking top honors, The Tasting Panel Magazine “Distiller of the Year” went to Burn Stewart Distillers of Glasgow, Scotland, a scotch whiskey producer, and “Importer of the Year” went to Beam Inc., out of Illinois. This year Mr. Blue gave the “Director’s Award” to William Grant & Sons out of New York for excellence and consistency of its quality products.

“Best in Show – Unaged White Spirit” (and “Best Silver Tequila”) was claimed by Avion Silver Tequila from Mexico ($40) and is imported by Avion Spirits, LLC of New York, while “Best in Show – Aged White Spirit” (and “Best Aged Rum”) went to Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21 Year Solera Rum from the Dominican Republic ($38). “Best in Show – Whiskey” (and “Best Single Malt Scotch”) was awarded to Isle of Jura’s Single Malt Scotch 1976, ($750), imported by Whyte & Mackay Americas. Boulard Calvados XO (“Best Calvados”) captured the overall “Best in Show – Brandy” award ($110) and is imported by Palm Bay International, of Port Washington, New York. The “Best in Show Liqueur” (and “Best Fruit Liqueur”) was given to Grand Marnier’s Quintessence Orange Liqueur, ($799), from Cognac, France.

“This year’s vibrant and talented judging panel, all of whom are experienced tasters returning from last year’s competition, were able to recognize emerging trends in the exciting spirits arena and pinpoint the leaders within each category,” Blue noted. “Mezcal, gin, rye, bourbon and brandy – especially pisco – are exploding in popularity.”

In addition to the premium awards, the top ranking spirit in each category was awarded a “Best” title. In the White Spirits other category winners included “Best Vodka” won by Platinka’s Original Vodka from Belarus ($25); “Best Flavored Vodka” went to EFFEN® Cucumber Vodka from Holland and imported by Beam Inc. ($30); “Best Aquavit” went to Krogstad Aquavit, of Oregon($25). “Best Gin” was awarded to Tanqueray for its London Dry Gin, United Kingdom ($20); “Best White Rum” went to Kinkylux for its White Rum from ASM Liquor in Trinidad & Tobago ($18); “Best Gold Rum” went to Cockspur’s Fine Rum, Barbados ($30); “Best Rhum Agricole” was awarded to Rhum J.M. for its Rhum Agricole Millesime 2001 ($120); “Best Cachaca” was given to Leblon Maison Leblon Cachaca Reserve Especial, Minas Gerais, Brazil ($30); and “Best Mezcal” went to Real Matlatl Mezcal Tobala, Oaxaca, Mexico ($125).

The San Francisco World Spirits Competition also held its annual Packaging Competition at the Hotel Nikko on Friday, March 23rd. Four judges considered the bottle designs and packaging appeal of 165 entries. Clare Kuo of Clare Kuo design, Jim Moonof Jim Moon Design,  Joel Blum, the Competition’s in-house graphic designer, and Kevin Shaw of Stranger & Stranger awarded 31 outstanding packaging designs.   Eleven Double Gold Packaging Awards were given: G&J Greenall for BLOOM Premium London Dry Gin, London, England; Marnier Lapostolle, LLC won for Kappa Pisco, Chile, designed by Ora-Ito; Wylie Howell Spirits LLC for Wylie Howell Corn Whiskey, California; and Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, Maui.

Results in their entirety will be published in this month’s issue of Tasting Panel Magazine.