The 2010 American Distilling Institute (ADI) Best Craft American Whiskey competition was held last week at the ADI conference in Louisville, Kentucky. (Actually, most conference activities took place at Huber's Orchard, Winery & Vineyards, just across the river in Indiana. We only slept in Louisville.)
I was one of thirteen judges. Divided into two panels we tasted a total of 65 products. Thirty-five medals were awarded. You can view the results here.
I've linked to Jonathan Forester's posting of the results on his blog because the ADI itself doesn't seem to have posted them anywhere, although they sent them out via email on Tuesday. The results were announced a week ago, on the last day of the conference. In Mr. Forester's post, the statements in parenthesis are his comments, not official statements from ADI. They do not appear on the list emailed by ADI on Tuesday.
Probably because Mr. Forester made his post based on the list released last Wednesday, he did not include the statement from ADI that accompanied Tuesday's email. Since I have not seen it anywhere else on the web, I will reproduce it here.
I will post my thoughts about all this later. All I'll say now is that the account below is essentially how I remember it and I agreed with the decision that was made at that time.
"After the judging had been completed, and the judges were able to view the entries, Chuck Cowdery noted a serious problem: High West, the Best of Show winner, had not personally distilled their whiskey. Several whiskies that were submitted were actually blends of whiskies purchased from outside producers. A discussion immediately ensued as to how to resolve this problem.
"The choices were two-fold: (a) disqualify all of the those entries, or (b) allow them on a one-time basis. Alan Dikty spoke up and observed that no prohibition had been placed on such whiskies in the entry forms, that the entries had been made in good faith, and that the judges had made their decisions in good faith and to the best of their abilities.
"It was therefore unanimously decided to allow the awards to High West to stand but to make it clear in all ensuing competitions the rules would have to be changed.
"Subsequently, Jay Erisman noted that, among very high-end and respected wine merchants, a special class of producer is allowed, the négociant*. It was therefore decided that a special category for négociant whiskies would be created to accommodate these specialty whiskey producers.
"Quite simply, the winners did nothing wrong, and they qualify under the published definition of craft producers, less than 40,000 proof gallons a year. Producers and judges alike played by the rules. To re-write the rules on the spot after the fact would be unfair. Blending is also an art in and of itself and should not be discounted.
"When contacted, High West Distilleries also agreed that the rules changes would create a necessary distinction.
"ADI will find a way to separate, recognize and reward DSPs who produce their products from grain to bottle without discounting craft producers who finish products. Future judging rules will be changed to reflect varying levels of hands-on production by the DSP.
"*A négociant is the French term for a wine merchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers and sells the result under its own name."