Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival awards announced | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival awards announced

Summit Daily staff report

The fifth-annual Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival featured 30 craft distillers at the sold-out Still on the Hill Grand Tasting, a highlight of the weekend-long event. The public was able to meet the distillers, try the various spirits and vote for their favorite spirit. Many of the distillers made cocktails featuring their liquors so guests could experience how the products can be used.

PEOPLE'S CHOICE

Attendees received poker chips used to vote for their favorite distillery, and Distillery 291, from Colorado Springs, won the coveted People's Choice award.

"We love the creativity and enthusiasm Still on the Hill attracts in such a beautiful, natural setting and are so honored to have our passion for great taste to be recognized by the ultimate taste experts, the spirit drinkers themselves," said Michael Myers, Distillery 291's founder and distiller.

Myers' wife, Erin, echoed his appreciation and said she is thankful for all of their fellow distillers and whiskey lovers who make Still on the Hill such an exciting and entertaining event each year.

"It really is not work when you love what you do, and we are so very deeply humbled by the People's Choice award," Erin Myers said. "It is truly a gift to be rewarded for one's passion, and we look forward to continuing to offer whiskeys with unique character and taste."

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INDUSTRY JUDGING

The festival conducted industry judging in addition to its People's Choice award, rounding out the recognition aspect of the event. In the "Judgment on the Hill," each distillery could enter two spirits into a variety of categories and 21 distinctions were awarded.

The spirits were judged in a double-blind taste test by a panel of industry experts: Tom Fischer, host and producer of BourbonBlog; Nancy Fraley, writer and organoleptic analysis expert; and Eric Watson, international beverage consultant.

The panel bestowed six gold and 15 silver judgments.

One of the gold medals went to 808 Distillery, in Eagle, for Leo's Limoncello, a liquor made from a recipe that came from co-founder Jeff Leonardo's uncle.

"He's Italian and always made limoncello, so when we were starting out, we already had that recipe and took what he had been doing and kind of tweaked it and refined that recipe," said Claude Seeman, president distiller at 808. "What makes ours really unique is that we start with our own neutral spirit which we distill ourselves in small batches."

Seeman and Leonardo were hooting and hollering for the winners as they were announced at the end of the Grand Tasting, Seeman said, and when they heard the name of their own distillery, they cheered even louder, honored to be included with such an elite group of craft distillers.

"We were so busy," Seeman said. "We kept pouring drinks and talking to people there at the event. We went to Still on the Hill in Breckenridge — the festival there was one of the things that first got me interested in craft distilling. And I thought, wow, wouldn't it be cool to get it going and attend the festival there? And to win a gold medal there was really icing on the cake."

The awards were based on the quality of each spirit with regard to taste, smell, integrity and smoothness and not as a ranking of spirits against one another.

"This format of judging helps raise the quality of the emerging craft spirits industry as a whole because our products are being judged on their intrinsic merit," said Jordan Via, master distiller at Breckenridge Distillery.

ABOUT STILL ON THE HILL

This year's Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival was held Friday, Oct. 24, through Sunday, Oct. 26. Breckenridge, founded during Colorado's gold rush in 1859, is no stranger to distilling. Stills kept miners' thirsts quenched during its first heyday, and now Breckenridge is home to the original Still on the Hill event.

The festival included a Poker Run and Bar Mix-off, historic saloon tour and shot glass art on Friday night, which saw Breckenridge hopping. Saturday, revelers cooked with spirits, visited the Breckenridge Distillery open house, filled the Grand Tasting and rocked the night away with the Honey Gitters at the Gold Pan. Sunday was mellower, with hangover brunches around town and historic walking tours for the more ambitious. The festival raised money for the Breckenridge Restaurant Association.

For more information about the event, plus the dates for the 2015 festival, which will be announced early next year, visit http://www.breckenridgecraftspiritsfestival.com.

2014 “Judgment on the Hill” Spirits Awards

Gold

• 808 Distillery Leo’s Limoncello

• CopperMuse Gold Rum

• CopperMuse Vertueux Vodka

• J & L Distillery FYR Cinnamon Liqueur

• Roundhouse Gin

• Snova Vodka

Silver

• Black Canyon Distillery Mayhem Creek Pepper Vodka

• Bone Spirits Moody June American Dry Gin

• Distillery 291 Aspen Stave Rye

• Golden Moon Distillery Dry Curacao

• J & L Distillery Sno Gin

• Mile High Spirits Cuidado Tequila

• Mile High Spirits Denver Dry Gin

• Roundhouse Spirits Imperial Barrel Aged Gin

• Santa Fe Spirits Wheeler’s Gin

• Spirit Hound Distillers’ Gin

• Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey

• Wood’s High Mountain Distillery Tenderfoot Whiskey

• Woody Creek Stobrawa Reserve Vodka

• Woody Creek Vodka

• Wyoming Whiskey