In the world of distilled spirits there are thousands of award shows that you can enter. Each harping greater accolades and greater audiences in attempts to collect your entrance fees for themselves. Everyday there seems to be another gold star from an awards circuit that you’ve never heard of adorning a bottle of whiskey that you’ve never seen before. While they may seem silly and somewhat pointless, consumers do buy with their eyes and these gold awards help may brands stand out on the shelves. These sticker add ons, give consumers confidence that what they are buying is quality. After-all, distilled spirits producers are asking consumers to part with a decent chunk of hard-earned cash, long before they ever get to taste the product, so these awards can be very helpful. So are there awards that are worth their weight in gold?
Unfortunately, today we see more and more of these awards shows hitting the scene where brands are convinced to pay large entrance fees, usually with the promise of at least one medal as long as they enter. That’s actually outlined in the terms and conditions of some of the competitions. So, it should be no surprise to learn that whiskey enthusiasts are caring less and less about the accolades on the bottle, because they are literally a dime a dozen at this stage.
So, in a world where you can almost buy any award you want, are there any competitions worth paying attention to? Absolutely, if you have not already had the pleasure of experiencing the Irish Whiskey Awards, please allow me to introduce you.
The Irish Whiskey Awards is a volunteer awards competition, which is organised by Ally Alpine of the Celtic Whiskey Shop. These awards are unlike any others out there. This is truly the awards ceremony for any brand worth their salt in the Irish market to enter. Receiving an accolade here is a true mark of quality and consumer preference in your brand.
You see, the competition is free to enter for all brands, which removes any financial barriers to entry for small start up brands. Each entrant is given an equal footing and is presented in a blank identical bottle to ensure the judges are tasting all entrants blind. Unlike most other spirits competitions, the judging panel does not consist of six men in a stuffy room, sipping whiskey and pontificating, in-fact the judges of this competition are the consumers themselves. The judging is open for all members of the Irish Whiskey Society, Cork Whiskey Society and the Celtic Whiskey Society to attend. Members are invited to attend a judging panel in one of the 5 judging centres based around the country, throughout the judging process. If you are a Celtic Club Member and cannot attend the judging, samples will be shipped to you. The whiskeys are arranged by entry category and tasted blind.
This means that those who walk away with gold on the night hold the true bragging rights. This is the one competition where the true consumers, who all brands are selling to, are deciding what is and is not the best whiskey in Ireland, in each category.
The results are announced at the awards ceremony themselves, which happens to be taking place tonight (October 18th) in Slane Whiskey Distillery at Slane Castle. The venue was graciously donated by the distillery for the evening and all proceeds of the event will go to benefit Ally Alpine’s chosen charity, Mary’ Meals.
So if you want to know who the real crowd favourites are from the Irish Whiskey Awards are this year, keep an eye on the normal social media channels, using the hashtag #IWA18 to keep appraised.