This competition is one of the backbones of the Proof66 website and concept. We love the fact that it enjoys so many entries and is so big - this year 876 spirits were submitted from 63 different countries (in a financial meltdown, no less!). We love the fact that it tastes blind and uses a sound panel of judges. Nothing is quite so irritating as the reports of the local town fish-wrap getting together and having a vodka competition and awarding some kind of prize on a field of 10 bottles based solely upon their amateur palates.
That's like having a middle-aged man assess the artistic value of a single season of Spongebob Squarepants episodes - it takes the sensibilities of an eight-year-old who has concentrated on the entire corpus of Bikini Bottom to truly understand and opine on the particular intricacies of an episode or season. There's a time and a place for those kinds of amateur reviews - in fact, we foster it here at Proof66 with the Rabble Score - but don't masquerade that stuff as some kind of considered, scientific, statistically significant assessment. (Lots of sibilant S's in that sensational sentence, Si?) In contrast, the San Fracisco World competition uses a panel of twenty-seven professionals, the largest ever for this event.
Another facet of this particular competition that we like a great deal is that the same spirit will be entered over a course of years. When looking over the scores, one can really start to understand the importance and the difficulty in maintaining consistency. Any guy who's tinkered around in the basement can produce a good batch of beer now and again. It's getting that same batch of beer over and over again that is the true art. Very seldom do you see winners repeat in San Francisco; very seldom do you see similar scores from year to year.
Finally, we also love the fact that we see some big-time producers avoiding this competition altogether. They can't take the pressure! We're talking about you Grey Goose Vodka! It's a great way for the Davids of the industry - all the craft distillers out there - to step onto a fair field of combat against the Goliaths of the industry (that's you Skyy Spirits).
Springtime is a very special time of year when the results of San Francisco burst onto the scene, new spirits are crowned, upsets occur, and even while the NCAA college basketball teams are busting brackets, we cocktail enthusiasts look with wonder and awe at the upstarts and the upsets in the spirit world. Who knew that Turkey even made vodka much less a world-winning infused vodka out of a weird fruit that no one had ever heard of before? (Binboa Satsuma Vodka) When was the last time anyone had ever associated fly-fishing in the Pacific Northwest with vodka? (Dry Fly Distilling Company) And, of course, we really get to celebrate the greats in the industry. (The tequila category in this competition may as well become the El Tesoro Tequila category - they own the tequila awards year after year after year.)
Our hearty congratulations to the winners of this year's competition, which we list below. And an extended congratulations to all the medal winners - it is the case that these judges do not have to award a medal of any color to a participant (and they don't!). Even so, the gold medals are prestigious: this year there were 122 double gold medals, 162 gold medals, 298 silver medals, and 175 bronze medals (that leaves a rather large group of 119 unnamed participants that received no medal of any kind). These medal winners are a great way to explore new spirits. We encourage you to peruse the list, expand your horizons, and give us your feedback on these bottles right here at Proof66: be a part of the rabble!
We will be continually updating all of the competition results through the spring (it takes some time!). Please give us your feedback (or correct our errors!) and enjoy the evolution and progress of the spirits industry.