Australian gin distillers have once again performed well against stiff global competition at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. I am so proud of our Australian gin distilling industry and the recognition they are receiving on the international stage.
The number of gins entered into the competition increased to 268 entries in 2017 from 197 in 2016 (not including flavoured or aged gins).
This year Australian gins won 2 Double Golds (up from 1 in 2016), 4 Golds (down from 7 in 2016), 11 Silver (same as 2016) and 8 Bronze (up 1 from 2016). That means a total of 26 medals (the same overall result as in 2016).
The state with the most medals was Victoria (7), followed by South Australia and New South Wales (6 each), Tasmania and Western Australia (3 ) and Queensland with one medal.
This is an amazing achievement for our fledgling industry. I can’t wait to see what they do in 2018.
Here are the results:
DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL 2017 (Outstanding; earning top marks from all judges.)
What is the San Francisco World Spirits Competition?
Launched in 2000, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition is considered the most respected and influential spirits competition in the world, with a rigorous judging process involving highly controlled blind-tastings with an expert panel who only receive information on spirit type, ABV and age (where applicable) to remove bias.
It’s been almost 3 weeks since I returned from my first Tales of the Cocktail and some days it’s hard to believe I was really there. I packed so much in to the week, but there was so much more I could have done!
Why did I want to go?
Living in Australia we don’t always get to see many of the industry heavy hitters visiting that often. This was a great opportunity for me to catch up with lots of international people who I’d been dying to meet or interview as well as get some serious learning in at the seminars.
I was planning to make it to Tales last year so had spent lots of time talking to friends who’d been and learning as much as I could about the event, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer scale of the event!
I didn’t see as much as I would have liked, but I fell in love with the architecture, the weather (aside from the humidity!), the bars and the vibe.
Most people think that Tales is one long party (and there is plenty of partying), but the seminar program is an incredibly important part of the week. Philip Duff, the Director of Education for Tales oversees the whole schedule and this year there were 84 sessions to choose from. These ranged from informal tastings to 2 hour seminars on anything from bar management, history, cocktails, cocktail trends, ingredients, culture, all with formidable panels eager to share their wisdom.
Bartending is not a stop-gap job while you make up your mind what you really want to do. It’s a career worth investing in and hundreds of bartenders save up all year to attend these seminars and learn from the best.
It simply wasn’t possible for me to attend every single one, but the ones I did attend were fantastic. My highlights were:
A Great British Discussion on Gin with Ian Griffiths (Dandelyan/White Lyan), Dave Broom (celebrated author of the Gin Manual) and Duncan Macrae (Hendrick’s Global Brand Ambassador)
A lovely informal chat over some delicious Hendrick’s cocktails and plenty of opportunities to ask questions about where the gin boom is heading.
It was really interesting to hear from such a wide variety of distillers. The similarities regardless of scale was illuminating. This seminar will run again (with a different panel) as part of Sydney Bar week.
Why do Cocktail Cultures Develop or Don’t with Mikey Enright, Audrey Fort and George Nemec.
Bespoke Gin & Collaborative Distilling with Cameron Mackenzie from Four Pillars and Emile and Olivier from Gin Foundry.
A great seminar showing all the different ways people are involved in distilling, often without owning a distillery themselves. You can read the seminar here.
Juniper Ascending Parts 2& 3 with Jared Brown (Sipsmith), Desmond Payne (Beefeater), Simon Ford (Fords Gin), Alexandre Gabriel (Citadelle Gin), Arne Hillesland (Distillery 209) and Christian Krogstad (Aviation Gin)
Juniper Ascending was actually a 3 part seminar that ran most of the day. Moderated by Keli River from Whitechapel in San Francisco it was a fascinating journey through the history of gin.
500 years of Juniper Distillation – How Genever changed the way we are drinking today presented by Rutte Distillers with Myriam Hendrickx (Master Distiller), Keli Rivers (Whitechapel San Francisco), Joaquin Simo (Pouring Ribbons NYC) and moderated by Simon Difford (Difford’s Guide).
I wasn’t a fan of Genever until this seminar, having experienced a style made with more malt than botanicals. While not converted away from gin, I gained a better understanding and a new appreciation.
New Orleans is home to some of the most famous cocktails. The Sazerac, The Ramos Gin Fizz, The French 75, Hurricane, Grasshopper, Vieux Carre and more were all invented in New Orleans so I had to visit The Roosevelt for a Ramos Gin Fizz and Arnauld’s French 75 Bar for a French 75 didn’t I?
My first Ramos Gin Fizz had to be at the bar where it was invented yes?
Other highlights included a delightful Dante New York pop-up, Alibi (if you are ever lost at Tales, head here as this is where everyone ends up), and Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar – do what I did and sing yourself hoarse around the piano with your buddies.
There are parties galore all week and if you are lucky enough to score invitations, GO! I was lucky to receive lots of invites, but you have to see Tales as a marathon, not a sprint, so I picked two, the William Grant ‘Party on your Palate’ and the Bacardi Block Party. Both epic. The 200 voice gospel choir at William Grant gave me goosebumps while the sheer scale (a different ‘house’ for each brand) of the Bacardi party blew my mind.
The sense of community around the world of bartending and hospitality is like no other. And nowhere did I feel this so keenly as I did at Tales. Thousands of the industry’s finest; bartenders, distillers, brand ambassadors, brand owners and media descend on New Orleans and it feels like the friendliest place on earth. It’s a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends from all over the world, share ideas and sometimes even come up with ideas to work together.
Even though everyone is on a hectic schedule, people still made time for me. I was thrilled to be able to meet and interview Desmond Payne (Master Distiller Beefeater Gin), Charlotte Voisey (Head of Advocacy at William Grant and Son), Simon Ford (Fords Gin), and Myriam Hendrickx (Master Distiller at Rutte).
I also got to spend time with some of my favourite Aussie bar people on the same side of the bar for a change!
Where to stay
I stayed at the Hotel Monteleone which is where all the Tales of the Cocktail action happens. It is slap bang in the middle of the French quarter and The Carousel bar (yes the bar rotates) is another one of the places most people hang out.
The staff are excellent and really friendly, but if you prefer something a little hectic (the elevators get crazy busy during peak seminar times) then the Royal Sonesta is close by and less frantic. I also went to the newly opened Ace Hotel for a couple of meetings, it’s a little bit further away from the main Tales of the Cocktail action and super-chilled.
Things I’ll do differently next year (if I’m lucky enough to go again!)
Make it out of the French Quarter and take a swamp tour and a river cruise
The prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) has announced the 2016 medal winners, and while several Australian gins have followed up their success in San Francisco, disappointingly none were awarded Gold medals this year.
What is the IWSC
The International Wine & Spirit Competition was founded by wine chemist Anton Massel as ‘Club Oenologique’ in 1969. Massel wanted to create a wine and spirit competition which relied not just on the palates of judges, but also by putting the entries through chemical analysis. The name was changed to the ‘International Wine & Spirit Competition’ in 1978.
The original aim of the Competition was to award excellence to wines and spirits worldwide and this aim remains the same today, with entries received from almost 90 countries.
The Competition is one of the most prestigious competitions and has a dedicated tasting premises and over 400 global experts judging products for 7 months of the year.
Australian gin distillers have been busy creating delicious spirits for some time now and the results of last week’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition highlight the recognition they are getting on the global stage. Here’s some more information on the awards and the medal winners.
What is the San Francisco World Spirits Competition?
Launched in 2000, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC) is considered the most respected and influential spirits competition in the world, with a rigorous judging process involving highly-controlled blind-tastings with an expert panel who only receive information on spirit type, ABV and age (where applicable) to remove bias.
The 2016 panel was made up of 39 industry experts including David Wondrich, Julie Reiner, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Dale DeGroff and Charlotte Voisey.
The number of gins entered into the competition increased from 136 entries in 2015 to 197 in 2016.
Double Gold: Outstanding; earning top marks from all judges.
Gold: An excellent product, meeting very high standards.
Silver: A finely crafted spirit, well above average.
Bronze: A well-crafted spirit that deserves recognition.
When I heard about the Gin 1495 project last year I was intrigued. Juniper has been used in medicine and drinks since the 13th century, but no recipes had been recorded. The discovery of a recipe from 1495 was extremely exciting, but there was talk of limited bottles and only a few people in the world being offered a taste. I crossed my fingers and hoped that a bottle would wing its way to Australia and that I might have an opportunity to taste a little history. Thanks to my friends at G’Vine gin an invitation found its way to me.
The Gin 1495 tasting event was held at Juniper Hall, one of the oldest buildings in Sydney and home to a former English distiller, Robert Cooper, who had been transported to Australia as a convict!
Only 40 guests were invited along to hear Philip Duffy, drinks historian and gin expert, talk us through this extraordinary venture.
Phil first came across the reference to a gin recipe in an out of print book on Jenever. His interest piqued, he began investigating its origin and discovered that the text came from a 1495 cookbook from a merchant’s house in East Netherlands and was part of a collection of Sir Hans Sloane (founder of the British Museum) and that the collection was housed in the British Library.
What do you do when you discover an ancient recipe? Well, in Philip’s case you gather some of the foremost drinks historians: David Wondrich, Gaz Regan and Dave Broom together with Jean-Sébastien Robicquet (owner and founder of Eurowinegate and G’vine gin creator) and recreate it.
The botanicals listed in the recipe were nutmeg (at that time was worth more than its weight in gold), ginger, galangal (similar to ginger), grains of paradise, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, sage, and juniper. The recipe states to use one part botanicals to nine parts wine distillate.
Wine was used as the base as opposed to grain spirit because it was easier to come by. It’s worth remembering that this predates the East India Company being founded, so these spices would have been brought across the silk route, probably by a lone merchant.
Two versions of gin were created from the recipe Verbatim is the exact recipe, while Interpretatio is the same recipe but with the inclusion of some of the more familiar gin botanicals used today that were unavailable then.
Verbatim (42% ABV)
On tasting this screamed “NUTMEG”. It was bold and herbaceous and very spicy. I felt warmed to my toes. One can only imagine the response when the merchant brought this out for his dinner guests. It would have tasted like nothing they had ever tasted before!
Interpretatio (45% ABV)
This version was made with more juniper, citrus and some angelica root. The resulting liquid is very different to Verbatim and more familiar as a gin, with the juniper more noticeable. It’s fresher, but still with herb and spice notes evident.
Only 100 sets of the gins have been produced. They will not be on general sale, but instead have been donated to various museums, spirits collections, archives, and gin institutions around the world. Some of them will also be auctioned off for charity.
It was an experience of a lifetime to taste something so unique and I love that this passion project is such an altruistic one.
In Australia the auction will be raising funds for Wine to Water a A movement dedicated to providing clean water and sanitation to people in need around the world.
If you would like to make a bid to become one of the owners for these rare gins, you can do so here (auction closes on Friday Jul 31st, 7:30pm AEST)