March 26, 2009

The San Francisco World Spirits Competiton Results Are In

The 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition was recently held. To quote the website:

"The San Francisco World Spirits Competition is the first comprehensive, international spirits judging ever held in the United States on an annual basis. Founded in 2000 by directors of the San Francisco International Wine Competition, Anthony Dias Blue and Carol Seibert, the Spirits Competition continues each year to grow in entrants as well as stature within the industry. This is a fabulous marketing and promotion opportunity for the top medal winners."

This year, the event was held at the Nikko Hotel in, as you may have guessed, San Francisco. Several judges were in attendance, and had the very tough and very enviable task of tasting and ranking spirits. American whiskey was only one of several segments tasted and evaluated, and the complete rankings can be viewed here. I don't want to regurgitate all the results, but thought a brief review of some bourbons was in order.

Bourbon as a broad category was broken down into Straight Bourbon, Small Batch aged for 10 years or less, Small Batch aged for 11 or more years, Single Barrel aged 10 years or less, and Single Barrel aged 11 years or more. Of note, both Jim Beam Black Label and White Label received recognition, being awared double-gold and gold medals respectively. It goes to show that Beam as a frat-house staple belies its true quality. The Small Batch 10 year results recognized all the usual suspects, including Baker's, Booker's, Knob Creek, and Woodford Reserve. Among the remaining groups, which included 11 whiskies, 6 were a product of Sazerac, which deserves some press.

I like seeing bourbons ranked at competitions like this not because I need someone else to tell me what's good, but because the results spike my curiosity. That subtle differences and nuances between such fine bourbons can be quantified gives me brief pause to appreciate someone else's opinion. Doing so is usually a good exercise.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the Best in Show awards will be published on Saturday, the 28th.


  1. What's your opinion of the results? Did the judges get it right?

  2. The judges did their best to be as objective as possible. If I had done my own independent taste testing, I'm sure my result would have been different. So, did the judges get it right? I'm sure they feel they did, and that's really all that matters. View the results as very educated opinions, and not as a quality mandate.