The American Distilling Institute (ADI), Hayward, Calif., held its ninth annual Craft Distilling Conference from April 1-4 at the Huber Winery and Starlight Distillery, Starlight, Ind. Bill Owens, founder and president of ADI, reported that this year’s event was almost 30 percent larger than last year’s conference. This year’s event featured a focus on whiskey and rum with hands-on distilling classes, distillery tours, a vendor expo and a program of educational seminars.

Seminars included sessions on craft distilling segments including “Whiskies of the World,” “Rum — Made in America,” “The Remarkable Rise of Small-Batch Bourbons” and “Brewers Who Distill” as well as business information such as “Creating Value for Investors,” “Scaling a Micro-Distillery,” “Social Media Marketing,” and “The Gift Shop, Your Hidden Treasure.” The program also included technical presentations and panels that delved into production techniques such as “Mashing & Distillation,” “Small Barrel Realities,” “Maturation in Different Oak Species,” and ”Distillation Systems.”

The Craft Distillers Conference also discussed HR 777, the Small Distillery Excise Tax Act, which was introduced in February 2011. Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York, the bill was written to amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow small-distilled-spirits producers a credit against the excise tax on distilled spirits equal to 80 percent of otherwise applicable tax on the first 65,000 of proof gallons of distilled spirits produced in or imported into the United States. The legislation defines a “small distilled spirits producer” as any person who produces no more than 100,000 gallons of distilled spirits during the calendar year.

The American Distilling Institute was founded in 2003 to promote the burgeoning craft distilling renaissance, according to the association. At the time, 69 craft distillers had been established. Today, ADI has 240 members and projects somewhere between 400 and 450 craft distillers to be in business in the United States and Canada by the end of 2015, it says.

The event also hosted the sixth annual Judging of Artisan American Spirits that included 244 whiskeys, rums and brandies. The contest recognized gold, silver and bronze medal recipients in 13 categories of whiskey, six categories of brandy and six categories of rum. The Bubble Cup Award for Distillery of the Year was given to Peach Street Distillers, Palisade, Colo. In addition, Huber’s Starlight Distillery received the excellence in packaging honor for its brandy.

The following is a complete list of winners from ADI’s sixth annual judging of artisan American spirits:

Best of Class Awards were awarded in the following categories to the listed distillery’s and named product:
- Best of Class Artisan Distilled Whiskey: Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Grainiac 9 Grain Bourbon
- Best of Class Brandy: Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery’s Jepson Old Stock Brandy
- Best of Class Rum: Turkey Shore Distilleries’ Old Ipswich Tavern-Style Rum
- Best of Class Artisan Merchant Bottled: Smooth Ambler Spirits Co.’s Old Scout Straight Bourbon Whiskey

In addition, the contest also named winners based on category, including several segments of whiskey, brandy and rum.

In the clear whiskey category, silver medal winners were the following: Copper Fox Distillery’s Wasmund’s Rye Spirit, Deerhammer Distilling Co.’s Whitewater Whiskey, Tennessee Distilling Co.’s Collier and McKeel Charcoal Mellowed White Dog, and Dark Horse Distillery’s Long Shot White Whiskey. Bronze medal winners for clear whiskey were as follows: High West Distillery’s Honest West Silver Whiskey OMG Pure Rye and Finger Lakes Distillery’s White Pike Whiskey.

Gold medal for best of category in Corn Whiskey was won by Limestone Branch Distillery’s T.J. Pottinger Moon*Shine. Silver medal winners in the category were as follows: Asheville Distilling Co.’s Troy & Sons Moonshine, Colorado Gold Distillery’s Colorado’s Own Corn Whiskey and Dark Corner Distillery’s Moonshine Corn Whiskey. Three distilleries also claimed bronze medals in the corn whiskey category, including Balcones Distillery’s Balcones True Blueings County Distillery’s Kings County Moonshine, Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery’s Corn Whiskey and Pinchgut Hollow Distillery’s Corn Shine.

Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Grainiac 9 Grain Bourbon received the gold medal for the best of category in bourbon. Silver medal winners were as follows: Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Nashville Bourbon and Tuthilltown Spirits’ Hudson Whiskey Four Grain Bourbon. Bronze medal winners in bourbon were as follows: Kings County Distillery’s Kings County Bourbon and Tuthilltown Spirits’ Hudson Baby Bourbon.

For straight bourbon, Colorado Gold Distillery’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey received the silver medal and best of category honor. Ballast Point Spirits also received a silver medal for its Devil’s Share Whiskey, which was followed by bronze medal winners Peach Street Distillers for its Colorado Straight Bourbon.

Golden Distillery’s Samish Bay Single-Malt Whiskey was awarded the gold medal and best of category honors in malt whiskey. Golden Distillery also received the Silver Medal for its Samish Bay Whiskey Reserve. Rogue Ales & Spirits receive the silver medal for its Oregon Single-Malt Whiskey as well. In the malt whiskey category, three companies were awarded bronze medals and are as follows: Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Pils American Malt Whiskey, New Holland Artisan Spirits’ Double Down Barley and Rogue Ales & Spirits’ Dead Guy Whiskey.

In the straight malt whiskey category, Ballast Point Spirits’ Devil’s Share Whiskey took home the gold medal and best in category honor. In addition, Edgefield Distillery’s Hogshead Whiskey and New Holland Artisan Spirits’ Zeppelin Bend straight malt whiskeys were awarded silver medals.

Breuckelen Distilling’s 77 Whiskey received the silver medal and best of category honors in the rye whiskey category. Silver medals also were awarded to the following distillery’s for their rye whiskey offerings: 1512 Spirits’ Aged Rye Whiskey, Corsair Artisan Distillery’s 100 percent Rye and Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Ryemageddon.

Among non-typical whiskeys, Balcones Distillery’s ‘1’ Texas Single Malt was awarded the gold medal and best of category honors. In addition, 1512 spirits’ Signature Poitin received a gold medal. Silver medals were awarded to the following distilleries for their non-typical whiskeys: Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Oatmeal Stout Whiskey, Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Pre-Prohibition American Malt Whiskey, Florida Farm Distillers’ Palm Ridge Reserve, Koval Distillery’s Lion’s Pride, 47th Ward Whiskey, Old Sugar Distillery’s Queen Jennie Sorghum Whiskey and Glacier Distilling Co.’s Wheatfish Whiskey. Bronze medals also were awarded to the following companies: Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Quinoa & Barley Whiskey, Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Triticale & Barley Whiskey, Koval Distillery’s Lion's Pride Millet Whiskey and Middle West Spirits’ OYO Whiskey.

Balcones Distillery’s Brimstone took home the silver medal and best of category honors for smoked whiskeys. In addition, Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Oak Smoked Wheat Whiskey and Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Cherrywood Smoke varieties were each awarded silver medals as well as its Triple Smoke variety that took home a bronze medal in the category. Square One Brewery & Distillery also was awarded a bronze medal for its JJ Neukomm Malt Whiskey.

ADI’s contest also included hopped whiskey, which was won by the following distilleries: Corsair Artisan Distillery’s Citra Whiskey received the gold medal and best of category honors, Spirits of St. Louis’ Hopskey was awarded the Silver Medal and Corsair also took home the bronze medal for its Elderflower Bohemian Whiskey variety. Corsair Artisan Distillery also was awarded a bronze medal in the flavored whiskey category for its Old Punk brand.

In the artisan merchant bottled whiskey category, Smooth Ambler Spirits Co.’s Old Scout Bourbon Whiskey received the gold medal and best of category honors. Also receiving a gold medal was Bull Run Distillery’s Temperance Trader Bourbon. The category’s bronze medal went to Great Lakes Distillery LLC’s Kinnickinnic Whiskey.

The contest also judged several categories of brandy. In the eaux de vie category, Clear Creek Distillery’s Eau de Vie of Blue Plum (Slivovitz) received the silver medal and best of category titles. Bronze medals were awarded to Westford Hill Distillers LLC’s Kirsch Eau de Vie and Peach Street Distillers’ Jack and Jenny Peach Eau de Vie.

For aged-fruit brandies Peach Street Distillers received the gold medal and best of category honors for its peach brandy. The distillery also claimed silver medal honors for its pear brandy. Harvest Spirits LLC’s rare pear brandy received the bronze medal in the aged-fruit brandy category.

Westford Hill Distillers LLC’s New World Aged Apple Brandy was received the gold medal and best of category honors for its apple brandy. Silver medalists in the apple brandy category were as follows: Clear Creek Distillery’s 8-year Eau de Vie de Pomme and Colorado Gold Distillery’s Colorado Gold Brandy. Carolina Distillery LLC’s Carriage House Apple Brandy and Huber’s Starlight Distillery’s Apple Brandy and Apple Jack received bronze medals, respectively.

Gold medal and best of category honors in the grappa category were received by Clear Creek Distillery’s Grappa Muscat. The distillery’s Grappa Nebbiolo also received a gold medal. Flag Hill Distillery’s Graham’s Grappa also received a bronze medal in the grappa category.

In the brandy from grapes category, the following distillery’s were honored: Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery’s Jepson Old Stock Brandy received gold medal and best of category honors, the distllery’s Jepson Signature Reserve Brandy also received a silver medal, and Dakota Spirits Distillery’s Bickering Brothers Neutral Brandy also collected a silver medal.

Several distillery’s received honors for their fruit infusions, including Sidetrack Distillery’s Raspberry Liqueur that was named best of category and gold medal winner in the segment. A gold medal also was collected by Clear Creek Distillery for its Liqueur of Oregon Cranberries. Silver medals were given to the following releases: Huber's Starlight Distillery’s Black Raspberry Infusion and its Raspberry Infusion; Clear Creek Distillery’s Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir; and Bloomery Plantation Distillery’s Cello Cremma Lemma. The category also named the following bronze medalists: Clear Creek Distillery’s Liqueur of Oregon Cassis (Creme de Cassis), Harvest Spirits LLC’s Core Black Raspberry and Apollo Fine Spirits’ Queen Esther Sweet Fire Liqueur.

In the rum segment, ADI honored several distillery’s for their various offerings. Ballast Point Spirits received a silver medal and best of category honors in clear rum for its Three Sheets White Rum. A silver medal was awarded to New Deal Distillery’s Distiller’s Workshop Rum. Three distilleries received bronze medals for their respective clear rums: Dancing Pines Distillery LLC’s Dancing Pines Rum and Bull Run Distillery’s Pacific Rum and Turkey Shore Distilleries’ Old Ipswich White Cap Rum.

Turkey Shores Distilleries’ also collected a gold medal and best of category honors in amber rums for its Old Ipswich Tavern Style Rum. Also honored in the amber rum category were the following distilleries: Desert Diamond Distillery’s Gold Miner Spirits Barrel Reserve Rum as well as Ryan and Wood Distillery’s Folly Cove Rum that each received silver medals. Bronze medalists in the amber rum category included the following: Dancing Pines Distillery LLC’s Cask Barrel Aged Rum, Rogue Ales & Spirits’ Dark Rum, New Deal Distillery’s Distiller's Workshop Rum, Amber and Old Sugar Distillery’s Cane and Abe Freshwater Rum.

Barrel House Distilling Co.’s Oak Rum took home a silver medal and best of category honors in the overproof rum category, which also honored Privateer Rum’s Privateer True American Rum with a silver medal.

Dogfish Head’s Brown Honey Rum received a silver medal and best of category honors for its flavored rum. Duncan’s Idea Mill LLC also collected a silver medal for its Dunc’s Mill Elderflower flavored rum.

In the spiced rum segment, Dancing Pines Distillery LLC collected a silver medal and best of category honors for its Spice Flavored Rum.

Several distilleries collected honors for their Artisan Merchant Bottled Rums including New Holland Artisan Spirits’ Huron Rum, which received the silver medal. The category’s bronze medalists also included: Firefly Distillery’s Sea Island, Java and Sea Island, Spice releases, respectively, and Spirit of Texas’ Pecan Street Rum.