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August 24, 2020

Announcing the Winners of the 2020 New York International Spirits Competition

We’re very excited to announce the winners of the 2020 New York International Spirits Competition. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the beverage industry worldwide, and our competitions have been no exception. Before the pandemic, our judges looked forward to gathering together in the heart of Manhattan to spend the day tasting and evaluating spirits from around the world. When COVID-19 struck, we delayed the competition for a few months, hoping that the world would return to normal in time to continue our competition as planned. It soon became clear that gathering in large groups would not be safe for some time, so we decided to devise a new format for the competition. 

Inside Our 2020 Virtual Spirits Tasting

Behind the Scenes: Our First Virtual Spirits Competition

After much deliberation, we decided that our best option was to design a virtual tasting format, so that each of the judges could taste the spirits in the safety of their own home. Our staff worked in teams of two in the warehouse for weeks before the competition, organizing the submissions and assigning each one a numeric SKU. We received over 1,200 submissions from around the world this year, setting a new record!

Spirits were poured into 2oz sample bottles

The spirits were then organized into panel groups of about 85-100 individual products. Products were then poured into 2oz sample bottles and labeled with their corresponding numeric SKU, in order to preserve the blind tasting format that we have always used to ensure a fair and unbiased evaluation by the judges. 

Our staff then hand delivered these coded samples to each judge, traveling through all five boroughs and New Jersey over the course of three days.  Each judge received a box containing the labeled bottles, as well as a panel sheet indicating the products’ SKU, Category, and Retail Price. 

Cheese board supplied by Cheeses of Europe

The NYISC judges are all working trade buyers from the NYC Metro Area, including restaurateurs, sommeliers, retail spirits buyers, distributors and importers. Their lives and businesses have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well, so in order to say “thank you” to them for setting aside the time to taste and judge our submissions, we also brought them a swag bag full of fun gifts, as well as an exquisite cheese board, supplied by our partners at Cheeses of Europe.

An at-home tasting setup

The judges were instructed to taste the products and to evaluate them based on their category and retail price. The judges assign each product a numeric score on a scale of 1-100, indicating which award or medal they thought the product should receive. The NYISC medals range from Bronze (the buyer would purchase it for their venue) up to Double Gold (the buyer believes it is a phenomenal product for its price range, and would highly recommend it). After the tasting, each judge uploaded their tasting sheets so that Head Judge Adam Levy could tabulate the final results. 

After the initial wave of submissions, we continued to receive and taste additional submissions that experienced shipping delays due to the pandemic and other unexpected factors. We are proud and excited to finally reveal the list of award winning spirits in this landmark year of our competition. We want to thank everyone who submitted a product to our competition this year. Our judges agreed that there was an exceptionally high level of quality across all categories this year, and their decisions were very difficult. We hope to see all of you submit again next year.