IWSC 2024 Spirits Judging. Judges’ deliberations on Bitters and Liqueurs

Spirit news

Wed 15 May 2024

By Ciaran Griffiths

Our second day of Spirits Judging was all about bitters and liqueurs. Our judges tasted everything from a blue raspberry liqueur to an intriguing custard-pastry based drink, all overseen by Spirits Judging Committee member David T Smith.

I am deeply optimistic about the future of the category, very few entries walked away without a medal which really shows the standard we’re dealing with,” David shared, “it’s a very exciting time for liqueurs with lots of innovation going on. It’s amazing how realistic the flavours that distillers are capturing these days!”

One of the offerings that caught the attention of both David and the other judges was an apple liqueur that was awarded 98 points and a gold outstanding. The judges highlighted the “aromas of apple brandy and cooked stewed apples with a touch of cherry in the background. Overall authentic with pleasing acidity.”

The apple liqueur was a real highlight for me, with some complex calvados spirit notes with some sweetness as well,” agreed David.

The lemon liqueurs were a high-performing category, with almost every single entry winning a medal. “The lemon category was very impressive and consistent across the board, with most entries winning silver and some very strong golds. The classic Limoncellos did particularly well,” shared the judges.

One lemon liqueur was awarded a gold outstanding, with the judges picking out the “fresh and expressive aromas, some tight and acidic lemon, with low sugar but a clean and perfect expression of a lemon.”

Another high-scoring lemon liqueur was praised by the judges for how clean and precise they found it. “Sharp summertime lemon, like a lemon Italian ice. It was zesty and refreshing with a really bright palate,” said the judges.

The bitters category performed well, winning a gold and several silver medals. The judges were impressed with the boldness of several of the entries.

A root beer liqueur was a particular favourite of the judges. “Smells exactly like root beer. Perfectly balanced acidity and sugar. It was authentic and delicious,” exclaimed the panel. “If you want root beer liqueur this would be it.”

The gin liqueurs were very interesting with three strong golds and a very impressive sloe berry gin liqueur,” explained the judges, with almost every gin liqueur entry winning a medal.

The herbal liqueurs scored relatively highly, with a high percentage of gold and silver medals. “Though herbal liqueurs were more of a mixed bag there was a super impressive gold outstanding product with great complexity,” shared the judges, finding that the gold outstanding entry offered a “complex nose with perfect balance and an excellent spicy finish.”

One of the standouts for the liqueurs judging was the chocolate entries. “The chocolate liqueurs were the most impressive with a wide range of chocolate expressions and a particularly great white chocolate product that scored gold outstanding,” said the judges. In fact, all of the chocolate liqueurs won medals, with most being awarded silver or higher.

The panel were also keen to highlight the strong performance of a liquorice liqueur that won gold outstanding. They found this was a true and authentic representation of the style with “classic liquorice on the nose, like the old liquorice coins.”

With a range of high-scoring entries from across all of the various styles of liqueurs and bitters, this was an excellent day. Our judges praised the standard of the whole day, sharing “Overall the level of medals felt very high, with very few no medals. The quality of entries was really superb this year.”

Stay tuned for more Spirits Judging results over the next few days, with results announced on 3 June.