Who decides the best non-alcoholic spirits?
Sometimes it’s all too easy to get bowled over by the number of awards that a drinks brand has won. It’s common practice from the majority of drinks producers to shout about the various accolades they have won for the best non-alcoholic spirits or the best alcohol free drinks.
But who are actually the leading authorities in tasting and assessing the best non-alcoholic beers, wines and spirits? Who has the most meticulous testing process? Whose awards should we pay attention to and which are perhaps less prominent? Fear not, we’ve got you covered with our breakdown of the most respected awards in the biz!
International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC)
With over 50 years of experience under the guise of both the International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) and Club Oenologique, this body now boldly stands out as the world’s largest and most influential international awards company. When it comes to spirits, the IWSC boasts some of the world’s most eminent spirit professionals as judges, including Dawn Davies MW, Joel Harrison, David T. Smith, Marie Cheong-Thong and Olivier Ward.
The IWSC runs an extremely tightly structured, rigorous tasting process. They use the ‘double-blind’ method, which means samples are tasted in pre-poured numbered glasses to ensure the expert judges never see a bottle. Each drink is judged by a whole panel in sync, allowing for group discussions.
Judging panels are made up of a balanced mix of experts from a diverse range of sectors drawn from over 30 countries. The judges assess ~60 samples through the course of the day; this allows judges plenty of time to taste each drink and avoids palate fatigue.
Check out the results from the latest IWSC Low&No Alternative Drinks Awards for 2022, where CROSSIP Dandy Smoke received a Gold Medal with a score of 95/100. We were one of only three UK-based spirits brands to receive a gold medal at this year’s awards!
Bartenders’ Brand Awards
With a slight twist on the IWSC’s approach, the Bartenders’ Brands Awards (BBA) is the only UK on-trade awards judged solely by bartenders. While only in their sixth year, the BBA aims to provide independent and honest reviews for drinks brands targeting the UK bar trade.
The judging process covers the key factors bartenders need to know before making purchasing decisions, namely taste, design and value. Much like the IWSC, the BBA conducts a professional and highly controlled blind tasting process, assessed by over 50 of the UK’s leading bar professionals. Tasting samples are presented by category based on their style, age and origin. Each product is blind tasted and scored on its aroma, complexity, taste and versatility in cocktails where appropriate.
Broadening beyond wine and spirits, the BBA assesses the full back-bar to establish the best non-alcoholic beverage, including beers, ciders and mixers. The BBA are notoriously hard to impress with no gold medals being awarded in 2021 for Non-ABV drinks, but CROSSIP Dandy Smoke still came in strong with a Bronze Medal. Check out the latest results here.
When it comes to accolades that are more mainstream and consumer focused, there’s no doubt that The Independent with their IndyBest platform is top of the list. The go-to for tried and tested product reviews, trend round-ups and buying guides across all categories (not simply the best alcohol-free drinks!), their ratings are valued and trusted by consumers across the country.
When searching for product reviews, all too often you’ll find hundreds of press titles giving their breakdowns or top tens on non-alcoholic beverages. But their “review” has in fact been lifted from the brands’ press releases and the author hasn’t in fact tried the product. While we would never say no to 5-Star Rating, we would always prefer that the reviewer has tried CROSSIP so they get the full unapologetically bold taste and flavour experience!
This is where The Independent is different from the rest! They refuse to include products in their IndyBest Buy Lists unless it has been in their hands for rigorous testing! Check out their latest review of non-alcoholic spirits from November 2021, where CROSSIP Dandy Smoke was rated as the Best Overall Non-Alcoholic Spirit with a score of 10/10 and CROSSIP Pure Hibiscus was the Best Non-Alcoholic Spirit for Fruity Flavours.
San Francisco World Spirits Competition
It may be across the pond, but the San Francisco World Spirits Competition’s (SFWSC) influence truly spreads worldwide! Founded in 2000, each year’s results are closely followed, both by consumers eager for the expert judgements and more importantly by the trade, especially the distributor community.
With judges harking from a wide variety of backgrounds on the West Coast, including bartenders, chefs, brand owners and many more. Blind tastings are again the name of the game, but with a slight twist. Each entry is assessed individually, rather than in direct comparison with other spirits within the same category. This means that SFWSC medal winners stand alone as award-winning drinks in their own right. With five different tiers of medal, this has made it easier to disseminate between good spirits and truly great spirits!