CHICAGO, Ill. — The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) announced the medalists of the 2021 Heartland Whiskey Competition, which was open to craft whiskeys from all 50 states that incorporate corn in their mash bill (the mix of grains used to make whiskey). In this third, biennial blind judging event, whiskeys from 17 “Heartland” states also competed for Best in State, and all entries competed for Best of Show and in their select whiskey sub-categories.
The competition, which was generously sponsored by state corn marketing associations, took place in late July in Louisville, Kentucky. ACSA facilitated the judging process and its former Board President — Chris Montana, owner of Du Nord Social Spirits, in Minneapolis, Minnesota — served as the Judging Director. The Bard Distillery, in Graham, Kentucky, assisted with pre-competition logistics. Judges selected from the local Kentucky whiskey industry were chosen for their knowledge and expertise of craft whiskey.
Best of Show was captured by Weldon Mills Distillery from Weldon, North Carolina, for its Rockfish Whiskey, which also earned the top score in the Corn Whiskey category. Weldon Mills Distillery will be presented with its award by the Corn Growers Association of North Carolina later this month.
“The state corn marketing associations have supported ACSA and its members to help promote craft whiskey through this important competition,” stated Margie A.S. Lehrman, CEO of ACSA. “We greatly appreciate their continued support and the fact they supply our members with the best corn product in the world.”
2021 Heartland Whiskey Competition Category Medalists:
Blended – High Bank Whiskey War Double Oaked, High Bank Distillery Co.
Bourbon (tie) – Casey Jones Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Casey Jones Distillery & Single Barrel Straight Bourbon, Black Button Distilling
Corn Whiskey – Rockfish Whiskey, Weldon Mills Distillery
Four Grain – Four Grain Bourbon, Detroit City Distillery
Rye – White Rye, Lake House Distilling Co.
Straight – Third Wind Straight Bourbon, Third Wind Distilling
The 2021 competition saw significant growth in the number of participating states and entries, which greatly increased competition for medals. Only eight whiskeys were awarded a gold medal, while 14 received silver, and 25 bronze. “It is important to recognize that craft distillers, an industry that relies on the corn we grow, have sustained their businesses through trying times and continue to improve an already excellent product,” stated Mark Wilson Chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. “Corn growers throughout the heartland, through their participating corn associations, support these entrepreneurs, many of whom are working farmers and all of whom are customers of ours.”
The Best in State trophies were limited to the 17 Heartland states and awarded to those whiskeys with the highest single-product score in its respective state, regardless of category.
The 2021 Best in State Medalists are:
Colorado – Ella Jones Colorado Straight Bourbon, The Family Jones
Illinois – JK Williams Gold Zephyr Bourbon, JK Williams Distilling
Indiana – Straight Rye Whiskey, Cardinal Spirits
Iowa – Iowa Straight Bourbon, Cedar Ridge Distillery
Kansas – Wabash Reserve Bourbon Whiskey, Boot Hill Distillery
Kentucky – Casey Jones Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Casey Jones Distillery
Michigan – Bourbon Finished In Mezcal Barrels, Iron Fish Distillery
Minnesota – Brickyard Straight Bourbon, J. Carver Distillery
Missouri – Monon Bell Bourbon Cask Strength, Still 630
Nebraska- Nebraska Straight Bourbon, Loup River Distilling
New York – Single Barrel Straight Bourbon, Black Button Distilling
North Carolina – Rockfish Whiskey, Weldon Mills Distillery
North Dakota – Crooked Furrow, Proof Artisan Distillers
Ohio – High Bank Whiskey War Double Oaked, High Bank Distillery Co.
Tennessee – 1784 White Tennessee Whiskey, Lost State Distilling
Texas – Garrison Brothers Cowboy, Garrison Brothers Distillery
Wisconsin – Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Driftless Glen Distillery
A full list of medalists can be found at the ACSA website: https://americancraftspirits.org/programs/special-events/
Scoring and Medal Criteria
The scoring of whiskeys, with judges hand-selected from the Kentucky spirits community, was based on a 100-point system with 10 main categories of consideration: Appearance (10 points), Aroma Intensity (10 points), Aroma Complexity (10 points), Palate Concentration (10 points), Palate Complexity (10 points), Body (10 points), Alcohol (10 points), Texture (10 points), Finish (10 points), and Pour for a Peer (10 points). Whiskeys were then assigned a medal based on the average score determined by the following benchmarks: 70-79 = Bronze; 80-89 = Silver; 90-100 = Gold. Best in State was awarded to the whiskey with the top score among all judged whiskeys from that state. The top scoring whiskeys were judged a final time in consideration of Best of Show distinction.
— The American Craft Spirits Association