The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Record entries in the 2021 NZ Spirits Awards

Judging is underway for the 2021 NZ Spirits Awards, with a panel of 20 judges tasting a record number of local and international spirits over three days.

Now in its third year, entries for the awards numbered 347 over seven categories, with gin being the largest category.

“There are a lot of New Zealand distilleries entering new spirits this year,” says Carla O’Neil, General Manager Auckland of Avenues Event Management, the company that runs the NZ Spirits Awards. “It’s been a real mixed bag.”

The Shout NZ Editor Charlotte Cowan with Cameron Douglas MS and Tash McGill

The entrants are judged by one of five panels, each with four judges – a mixture of bloggers, distillers, mixologists and other beverage experts, including The Shout NZ‘s spirits writer Tash McGill and Cameron Douglas MS.

On the third day of judging, the top six in each category will be tasted again to determine the trophy winners. Each category has two trophies up for grabs – Best Overall and Best New Zealand – and they will handed out at the awards dinner on June 25.

Mikey Ball, hospitality expert, owner of Ballin’ Drinks and NZ Spirits Awards judge, says the cool part about the NZ Spirits Awards programme is that it’s still very young.

“There’s a lot of changes as we go through,” he says. “We might be like, ‘hang on a second, does this belong in this category?’ and then if it does or doesn’t, we have to understand how we change our judging.

“So it’s nice to understand that there will be new categories coming up as we go on but there’s definitely been some fun, cool spirits.”

But, as with any tasting, Ball says there can be some disappointments.

“Every year there’s something and generally it’s not necessarily because the product is bad for any reason – it might be down to a bottling fault, for example.

“So there’s usually ways of double tasting those to make sure they are exactly as they say on the packet. We try to judge as diplomatically as possible.”

Sue James from Distilled Spirits Aotearoa says next year’s competition is set to be even bigger.

“We will definitely need more judging panels,” she says.

Make sure you subscribe to The Shout NZ‘s newsletter to hear more about the 2021 NZ Spirits Awards, including medal winners and live action from the awards evening.

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