The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2011

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Another Amazing Year In this issue of THE TASTING PANEL you will find the results of the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The biggest event of its kind in the United States, the SFWSC began eleven years ago. Back then, we were excited to have almost 300 entries. Since that first judging the competition has grown every year. This year 1,106 different products were entered, up 8% from 2010. These entries were scattered over 82 categories. Bottles arrived from 61 countries around the world. We are pleased the SFWSC is recognized worldwide as the most prestigious and important competition of its type in the nation. This year, for the first time, the judging was spread over three days to accommodate the large number of entries. Thirty-three prominent spirits industry leaders convened at the Hotel Nikko San Francisco. Chief Judge Tony Abou-Ganim, the “Modern Mixologist,” accurately captured the excitement when he said, “The weekend brought together some of the finest spirits palates working in the industry today.” Entries to the San Francisco World Spirits Competition are a microcosm of current spirits trends and the judges, most of whom are participants in the cocktail revolution that is taking place in cities all across the country, were quick to recognize these market tendencies. The huge increase in gin entries yielded a dramatic new spirit awarded the sweepstakes for best white spirits. The new, hot trend for mezcals produced a sweepstakes winner, the Distiller of the Year and a pile of Double Gold medals. In whiskey, the grow- ing ascendency of rye highlighted another sweepstakes triumph from a strong field. Vodka, which was up in submissions to 240 entries, a 7% increase, was double-judged: Each entry was tasted by two different judging panels, who then compared notes. Quality was remarkable. Gin grew by a whopping 61%, and bourbon gained 36%. In addition to growth in mezcal, there was a bump in pisco as well. This year’s results show that spirits are most definitely in a golden age that displays no sign of ending. In fact, the status of spirits seems to grow every year. The huge popularity of cocktails as well as the bars that concoct them, along with the proliferation of home bars, has ramped up demand for spirits of all types. As a result the market is able to support an extraordinary range of products. The judges were extremely impressed by the outstand- ing quality of what they tasted. I look forward to another exciting year of growth and discov- ery. This fall, the annual Tasting Panel Tour will visit fourteen cities to show the top winners of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (and the San Francisco International Wine Competition, which is being held June 17-19) to local trade and press. Look for the schedule of dates in future issues of the magazine. This year’s Gold and Double Gold winners are listed on pages 35–51. / the tasting panel / may 201 1 PHOTO: CATHY TWIGG-BLUMEL

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