Not even a pandemic could keep the 11th Annual New York International Spirits Competition from judging and selecting the finest spirits in the world. Though the Covid-19 crisis certainly did not make it easy.
The yearly event — in which trade professionals blind taste products based on price tiers — took place in early August. Rather than gather judges in one location as usual, the 2020 NYISC took the competition to them in virtual form. Boxes containing 85-100 2-oz. samples were hand-delivered to judges throughout New York, Brooklyn and New Jersey.
“I felt that our industry still wanted to function as much as possible during this pandemic,” says NYISC founder Adam Levy, who also runs Alcoholprofessor.com. “The producers wanted to participate and the trade buyer judges were eager to taste, and we just had to find the way to make this happen — and we did it virtually.”
“We were not going to let Covid defeat us,” Levy adds. “Logistically, it was a challenge, and a need for more resources this year. Though I was still excited to run the competition, the trade buyer judges were definitely eager to still take part and try new spirits and reconnect with what they still loved.”
This competition differentiates through price-based blind tasting. Judges assess unlabeled samples a handful at a time, samples that all cost about the same amount. Because judges are industry professionals — retailers, on-premise owners, mixologists, beverage directors, distributors, importers, etcetera — they grade spirits based on whether these products provide quality for the cost. Thus, this competition reflects the needs of the trade.
About 1,200 entries in 2020 represented more than 30 countries and 60 spirits categories.
“The year we had a great representation of spirits from the big companies as well as the small craft producers here in the USA and around the world,” says Levy. “Producers definitely see the value of being in front of a only trade buyer judging panel who are judging the spirits as if buying it for their business by its category and price.”
The competition is also stingier with gold and double-gold awards. Spirits graded as double gold in 2020 include:
CaliFino Tequila Anejo
Cierto Tequila Reserve Collection – Extra Anejo
Cutwater Spirits Tequila Blanco
Tequila Bribbon Reposado
Vamanos Riendo Mezcal
Alexander Grappa Grappolo
Distillerie Fils du Roy #StJean
Plus Oultre distillery Gin de Binche
Restless Spirits Distilling Company Builders Botanical Gin
William Wolf Zuidam Old Genever 3 Barrel Rested
Liqueurs and Others
Casa Cinzano 1757 Vermouth di Torino G.I ROSSO
Ole Smoky Moonshine Mountain Java Cream Liqueur
Vincenzi Bellini Peach
Cutwater Spirits Ginger Beer
Fever-Tree Ginger Beer
Appleton Estate Rare Blend 12 Year Old
Cutwater Spirits Cask Strength Rum
Pinkertons Coconut Rum
Tanduay Double Rum
Smirnoff Infusions Cucumber Lime
The Tides Vodka
10th Street American Whisky STR Single Malt
Barrell Craft Spirits Barrell Dovetail
Compass Box Whisky The Story of the Spaniard
Cutty Sark Original
Dewars 25 Year Old
Eastern Kille Distillery Michigan Straight Rye Whiskey
Egans Irish Whiskey Fortitude
Elijah Craig Bourbon
Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel
Local Choice Boones Bourbon
Redemption Barrel Proof Bourbon
Redemption High Rye Bourbon
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey 1820 Single Barrel Whiskey
Wild Turkey Russells Reserve 10 Year Bourbon
The full list of 2020 NYISC winners is available here.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine.