The World’s Top Craft Spirits: 2022 American Distilling Institute International Spirits Competition

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Each year, the American Distilling Institute’s (ADI) International Spirits Competition recognizes the top craft spirits from the US and worldwide. Many foreign craft distillers have used the annual ADI competition to showcase their products and establish a foothold in the critical American market.

The ADI has just released the results of its 2022 spirits competition. Twenty-five spirits won the coveted Best of Class award in their sectors. An additional 94 spirits won Best of Category awards. These winners represent the cutting edge of craft distillation today.

The top-ranked ADI medalists often find they have an advantage in attracting American distributors and retailers to carry their products.

Since 2007, the competition has brought together approximately 50 spirits judges to evaluate submissions from small and medium-sized producers. Both members of ADI and non-members can submit entries.

In addition to the Best of Category and Best of Class awards, entries can be awarded the usual Bronze, Silver, Gold and Double Gold medals.

The Best of Category is awarded to the one spirit judged the best in that particular group of spirits - as in the Best of Category Bourbon or the Best of Category American Single Malt Whisky.

The Best of Class is the highest award given by the ADI. It is reserved for those spirits that won both a Gold and Double Gold medal and a Best in Category designation.

Whiskeys are the single largest category in the ADI International Spirits Competition. In the 2022 competition, there were two domestic whiskeys and one international whisky that garnered Best of Class awards. Sixteen domestic whiskeys and eight international whiskies won Best of Category awards.

The top Best of Class American whiskeys are Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, Nelson’s Brothers Reserve Bourbon and Triple Eight Distillery, The Notch Nantucket Island Single Malt Whisky Aged 12 Years. Both distilleries have been consistent winners in this year’s international spirits competitions.

The Best of Class International Whisky was Paul John, Nirvana, Indian Single Malt Whisky.

The Best of Class Gin is Ironton Distillery, Ponderosa Gin. The Best of Class International Gin is Hernö Gin Distillery, International Old Tom Gin. Old Tom is a sweetened gin that mimics the style of 18th-century British gin.

There were four Best of Class Awards handed out to vodka producers. The top neutral character vodka is Oregon Spirit Distillers, Cascadian Vodka. The top vodka that showed residual-based character, i.e., the influence of the mash bill on its flavor and texture, is Crostwater Distilled Spirits, Vodka.

The Best of Class International Vodka was Vena Spirits Vodka, while the top International Flavored Vodka was Vestal Vodka, Black Cherry Vodka.

Three Agave spirits won Best of Class awards. Borderland Spirits, Mazot Bacanora Blanco took the Best of Class Award for Bacanora, while Haas Brothers, Mezcal Mina Real Blanco took the Best of Class award for Artisanal Mezcal.

Los Magos Spirits International, Sotol Blanco took the Best of Class award in International Specialty Spirits. Although often grouped with Agave-based spirits, Sotol is distilled from the Dasylirion, a plant related to asparagus.

The Best of Class award for International Other Spirits went to Borderland Spirits, Mazot Palmilla. Palmilla is the name given to Dasylirion-based spirits in the province of Sonora, Mexico.

The Best of Class Cognac went to Cognac Planat, Organic VSOP Cognac. The top-ranked American brandy was E. & J. Gallo, Germain Robin California Alambic Brandy.

The Best of Class Sugar Cane Spirit went to Three Roll Estate, Rhum Agricole, while the Best of Class International Sugar Cane Spirit went to Mount Gay Rum, XO Reserve Cask Rum. Sugar cane spirits are an extensive category that encompasses spirits made directly from fermented sugar cane juice and those made from fermented molasses. The latter is a byproduct of sugar refining.

Other notable Best of Class winners were Stoutridge Distillery, Absinthe Prelude and, J & M Spirit Company, Horizon Harvest Select American Rice Koji Spirit. Koji is a filamentous fungus widely used in East Asia to saccharify barley, sweet potato and rice. It functions the same way as conventional mashing or malting to break down complex starches into simpler sugars that can be metabolized by yeast. It is also used to ferment soybeans to make soy sauce and miso.

Four Best of Class awards were given to liqueurs. The Best of Class Award for a Fruit Liqueur went to Spirit Works Distillery, Barrel Reserve Sloe Gin, while the Best of Class award for Herbal/Botanical/Spice Liqueur went to Jack from Brooklyn, Sorel.

The International Best of Class Award for a Fruit Liqueur went to Ron Colon Salvadoreno, Red Banana Oleo, while the International Best of Class Award for Herbal/Botanical/Spice Liqueur went to Drillaud, Orange Triple Sec.

In addition, Ready-to-Drink (RTD) beverages, Wild Leap, Premium Vodka Cocktail Strawberry and Maplewood Brewery & Distillery, Palmer Square Gin Arnold Palmer won Best of Class awards in the RTD category.

The 2022 ADI judging identified a range of small craft distilleries, both domestic and international, that are making outstanding spirits. Many of these spirits will be hard to find, but if you want to experience the cutting edge of craft distillation, they are well worth seeking out.

A complete list of all the 2022 ADI medalists is available on the ADI website.



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