THE BIG ONE: THE SAN FRANCISCO WORLD SPIRITS COMPETITION
The most influential whiskey awards contest in the world is the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Established in 1980 and run by a group called the Tasting Alliance— a “network of the world’s most trusted and respected spirits professionals”—the SF contest is the oldest and largest competition of its kind in the world, a yearly event where spirits are awarded after being tasted blind. The Tasting Alliance Competitions (the group also runs a New York competition, a Singapore competition, and several other smaller competitions) are considered the most influential for a reason: producing an award-winning whiskey will help a distillery enter the marketplace and stand out in the US and international markets; in addition, the SF competition is a critical next step for any producer to earn recognition in the industry and with consumers.
The whiskey awards (as well as other spirits wards) given at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition are as follows:
- Platinum – These elite whiskey awards go to the very few entries that receive a Double Gold medal for three consecutive years
- Double Gold – Awarded to the entries that receive a gold medal rating by all members of the judging panel; these are among the finest products in the world
- Gold – In this category, award-winning whiskeys are recognized for being near the pinnacle of achievement; these products set the standard for their categories
- Silver – Outstanding spirits that show refinement, finesse, and complexity; these winners (including the award-winning whiskeys) are among the best examples of their categories
- Bronze – Well-crafted spirits that are commercially sound, modestly attractive, and free from significant flaws; the award-winning-whiskeys and other spirits designated as “bronze” represent excellent examples of their categories
Award-winning whiskeys are recognized for standing out in a few respective fields:
- Best of Class – The best example of each spirit type. The Best of Class whiskey awards represent the pinnacle of the world’s whiskey awards competitions
- Best in Show (the competition’s highest honors) – Chosen from the Best of Class winners, these awards highlight the best spirit in each of these five categories: Unaged White Spirit, Aged White Spirit, Whisky/Whiskey, Brandy, and Liqueur
- Distillery of the Year – Recognizes the single distiller earning the most points, measured by the number and level of awards won.In short, the more award-winning whiskeys (and other spirits) you producem the more likely you are to be named Distillery of the Year.
- Importer of the Year – Recognizes the single importer earning the most points, measured by the number and level of awards won
- Director’s Award of Excellence – Honors an outstanding portfolio of quality and diverse spirits; this is one of the more important whiskey awards
OTHER COMPETITIONS: THE ASCOT AWARDS
The ASCOT Awards are an international spirits & spirits-marketing competition (including whiskey awards) created by spirits personality and veteran tasting judge Fred Minnick (who famously loves to wear ascots). These whisky awards, as well as the awards in the other spirits categories, provide a unique opportunity for distillers to have their products recognized through Fred’s popular YouTube channel, as well as on social media, in news articles and newsletters, and at various festivals. The competition’s judges are comprised of spirits and wine writers, publishers, field experts, and various spirits influencers. This event is held in high regard in both industry and consumer circles, and the award-winning whiskeys are celebrated in national publications.
For the competition, producers’ spirits are tasted blindly, judged in over 100 categories, and awarded with one of seven medal categories ranging from Double Platinum to Bronze. Best in Class and Best in Show are the event’s most coveted prizes.
OTHER WHISKEY AWARDS COMPETITIONS: THE NEW ORLEANS SPIRIT COMPETITION PRESENTED BY TALES OF THE COCKTAIL FOUNDATION
The New Orleans Spirits Competition is an international spirit judging competition (including whiskey awards) that is solely focused on bringing wider recognition to the finest beverages and spirits from the best producers across the globe. Presented by the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, each spirit is blind-tasted by a panel of industry experts to ensure integrity and secrecy. The judging panels include preeminent industry professionals, including award-winning bartenders and distillers, decorated beverage writers, and industry luminaries. The whiskey awards and other awards are presented during Tales of the Cocktail, the industry’s largest and most prestigious cocktail conference. The competition is headed by fourteen-year American Distilling Institute coordinator Andrew Faulkner, who made a career designing curriculums and helping burgeoning craft distilleries get their starts. The Tales of the Cocktail Foundation is an international non-profit organization that “seeks to act as a catalyst to educate, advance, and support” the hospitality industry.
The most coveted awards in this competition are the following:
- Spirit of the Year
- Best in Category (including whiskey awards)
- Packaging Excellence
- Other medals are awarded in each spirits category, with the highest honor being Double Gold and other medals ranging down to Bronze. Many award-winning whiskeys will be celebrated among these categories.
RECOGNITION ON THE GLOBAL STAGE: STILL AUSTIN’S AWARD-WINNING WHISKEY
At Still Austin, we’ve been fortunate to produce several award-winning whiskeys (not to mention our gin!) in each of these competitions—and in other, smaller contests as well. Our commitment to sourcing the highest quality, Texas-grown grains along with our team’s ability to mash, mill, distill, and age our products in the dynamic Texas climate have all paid off—with a little help from our legendary Master Blender, Nancy Fraley. Below we’ve listed a few of the whiskey awards our distillery has brought home.
Still Austin “The Musician” Straight Bourbon
- San Francisco World Spirits Competition Double Gold 2021
- San Francisco World Spirits Competition Gold 2022
- Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Spirits of 2022: 94pts
Still Austin Cask Strength Bourbon
- San Francisco World Spirits Competition Double Gold 2023
- San Francisco World Spirits Competition Double Gold 2022
- New Orleans Spirits Competition Gold 2023
- ASCOT Awards Double Platinum 2023
“The Artist” Straight Rye Whiskey
- San Francisco World Spirits Competition Double Gold 2023
- New Orleans Spirits Competition Silver 2023
- ASCOT Awards Gold 2023
“The Naturalist” American Gin
- ASCOT Awards Gold 2022
TASTE OUR AWARD-WINNING TEXAS WHISKEY AT STILL AUSTIN’S DISTILLERY
Ready to savor some of the world’s finest award-winning whiskey? Explore Still Austin’s exceptional range, or plan a visit to our distillery. We’d love to meet you and give you a taste!