Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some Thoughts On The ADI Craft American Whiskey Competition.

Last week, when I published the results of the American Distilling Institute (ADI) 2010 Craft American Whiskey competition, I wrote that I would post my thoughts on the brouhaha later.

Here are two.

First, ADI's on line bulletin board has been silent on the subject. The ADI has not even posted the results, there or on its primary web site. Nor has anyone on the bulletin board (which is open to the public) started a thread about that or any other aspect of the conference. Odd?

Whiskey Intelligence, a web site dedicated to posting any whiskey-related press release they receive, (I'm not being snarky, that's their mission statement.) has posted last week's ADI email in its entirety here.

Second, ADI with its dysfunctional competition seems to be saying this: "As the collective voice of a new generation of progressive artisan craft distillers, we would like you to actually make, from scratch, the products you enter in the Craft American Whiskey competition. But if you want to go down to the corner store, buy a bottle of Old Grand-Dad, put your name on it and enter that instead, that's cool too."

American Craft Distilling is a young movement. In being critical, I'm not trying to strangle the baby in its crib. On the contrary, I'm trying to convince the baby not to commit suicide.


Unknown said...

Chuck - I was hoping there would be more information released about the tasting that would answer my question, but I'll ask you:

Was Isaiah Morgan Rye from West Virginia included? I've only tried one bottle (and it's from a few years ago), so I can't say anything about how it might have evolved, but it's definitely one of my favorites. I'm curious as to how it might have scored.

Tim Dellinger

Chuck Cowdery said...


I don't recall seeing it, but I only got a brief look at the array of entries. I don't believe any list of the entrants has been made available.

Unknown said...

Chuck, I definitely agree with your perhaps intended point that you'd prefer the products entered are distilled AND finished by the distillery. But let's look at other industries. Many times wineries bring in juice they've not harvested or crushed. In Scotland it frequently happens that barrels from other distilleries are brought in to round out flavors and finish products. One could even argue without that the product wouldn't be nearly as good.

I just posted a review of High West Rendezvous Rye at I wouldn't dare speak for them, but I am sure it's their intention to get to a point where the whiskey they sell is theres and there's alone, but do they not get points for a very bold and creative "rendezvous"?

Obviously the best move for the ADI is to do as it appeared they were, make "sourced" products their own category. I am sure they themselves are wrapping their arms around this quite interesting and new problem.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Thanks for making this post, Jason, because it allows me to make the point that my quarrel is not with High West, not this time anyway. My quarrel is with ADI, which blithely allowed non-craft products to be entered into a craft distilling competition. The contestants were supposed to be "Craft American Whiskeys," but ADI's poorly drafted rules allowed products to be entered that manifestly are not "Craft American Whiskeys." Unless, that is, you consider putting something in a bottle a craft. High West did absolutely nothing wrong. It's ADI that screwed the pooch.

Sam Komlenic said...

Chuck, I am absolutely on board with your take here. I am almost stupefied that ADI never considered this potential outcome when putting together the rules, and the results are pointless because of their shortsighted approach.

High West's sourced whiskeys are of a very high caliber, but shouldn't be on the same table with craft-distilled products (including their own, which did well, too).

I would prefer that ADI own up to the mistake on their site so that we can all learn something from this and move on. They have already noted the inequity and seem to be moving toward a fix, so why not recognize that fact? We all make mistakes, but this one certainly could have (and should have) been avoided to begin with.

I'm sure next year's competition will be more precise, and hence more fair and legitimate.

Unknown said...

I thought about posting over at ADI but decided it wasn't worth it. If there was one set of entries from a bottler (who later will become a distiller) that doesn't invalidate the whole results. The folks that got 2nd (or Silver) in those categories were the Golds, and the 3rds (Bronzes) were the Silvers. And we don't know who was really Bronze in the categories where High West won.

I don't know how many people at ADI (the members) really know the situation. It may be more of that than any conspiracy. But Bill Owens probably isn't going to post about it. The rules probably should say that the bottle must say "Distilled and bottled by so-and-so Distillery".

Hopefully the producers got the tasting notes (which they were supposed to) to help them in their product development/improvement.

Until the "industry" is big enough to support a board, and be a real voice for craft distilling (whatever that is) it'll continue to be Bill's ADI. And it'll continue to be a bit disorganized. Right now the little craft distilleries are just struggling to get going, and stay alive.

Cheryl - Delaware Phoenix

Anonymous said...

Chuck- I will accept some responsibility for the problem at this years ADI judging. I was supposed to be coordinating the judging with Andrew. Andrew sent me the rules months before and asked me to go over them, and I was so busy working on my new distillery that I just skimmed over them instead of giving them the intense review they deserved.

You know I was very vocal about not including that whiskey entry, after you pointed out the issue. But the rules were the rules, and you also pointed out we had to stick with the rules.

Next year I will make sure the rules are very specific, and I will draft your help on that. ;-)>

As for anyone not posting about the contest on the ADI forum. Who of us has time? As one of the two administrators, I was originally asked to help out, because I wasn't so tied up with projects that I was able to keep tabs on things. Now, with an enormous distillery project underway, and consulting to several others, I just try to make sure people don't get too worked up.

Feel free to post on the forum, and I will then add my two cents. I think this problem with the judging and rules is valid, and needs to be addressed.

Jonathan M. Forester