StateWays - January/February 2017

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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StateWays | | January/February 2017 9 company full-time and pursues alcohol ventures as a hobby. He owns no shares in alcohol-related businesses. That's to the point. His goal is an alcohol competition that's as fair and impartial as possible. Products do not receive medals simply for submitting. Of the approxi- mately 600 spirits entered into the 2016 New York International Spirits Competition, only nine won double gold, while 71 won gold, 143 won silver and 120 won bronze. Other competitions are not so stingy with accolades. And Levy has strategically kept the entry fee the same since from day one, $300 per spirit, while the judges he pays only $250. "That's my way of saying that I respect their time, but I don't own their conscience," he explains. GRADING BASIS The judges seem to appreciate the price-focused format and the legitimacy of the process. "This is refl ective of one of our responsibilities in real life," says Scott Rosenbaum, Spirits Strategist for T Edwards Wine and participating spirits judge. As trade pro- fessionals, Rosenbaum and his peers order products based on this balance between price and quality. Before the event begins, Levy instructs judges that a bronze medal means that they would buy a spirit for their business. A silver is for a bottle worth featuring, while gold goes to extraordinary products. Double gold is only for spirits unanimously adored by all judges. Hence the rarity of this award at IBC events, compared with its often-abundant presence at other competitions. Judges grade entries as harshly as they would anything they consider buying in bulk. "Price is one of the most important things in the world of spirits," explains Francis Schott, judge, sommelier, beverage director and restaurateur of Stage Left and Cath- erine Lombardi. "Every year of my life I spent millions of dollars on spirits. If I don't sell those spirits, then they're going to sit and rot in my warehouse." All medals awarded come from joint decisions. After a table of judges has tasted through the fl ight, they compare notes and grades. Final decisions are from group averages or consensus. This format promotes discussion about each spirit, with fl uid decision-making. If a unanimous verdict cannot be reached, judges can send the spirit to another table, where judges there can break the tie. Of course, judges do not know what brands they taste. Should a spirit catch their palate, however, judges are all allowed into the product room after results have been tallied, so that they can fi nd out what was in that memorable pour. After all, these competitions are also about education and discovery. SOMETHING NEW Levy hopes his events also help consumers and trade professionals fi nd new prod- ucts. "The judges will discover things here that they'll use later on," he explains. "I want this to be a platform for that." The competition is willing to accept and judge all manners of spirits. This gen- erates assessment of products that typically are not heavily reviewed. For instance: fl avored whiskey. "It's a style of spirits that can sometimes get looked down upon," Schott says. "But a good competition like this can help give consumers and retailers useful info about fl avored whiskeys." After all, even connoisseurs who may turn up their nose at fl avored whiskeys have to admit that the style has a place and use. Some consumers simply like the style, and fl avored whiskeys will always have utility in cocktails. And like all spirits, wine and beer, they have a place for fair, partial and price-ori- ented grading by trade professionals in the International Beverage Competitions. • All NYICS tasters are trade professionals. Judges grade entries as harshly as they would anything they consider buying in bulk. Spirits are judged in flights of comparable price ranges.

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