Exceptional, Alternative, Fashionable and Unusual at the WSA – Trends & Tips 2019
Gin: Soaring for the fourth year
Just as it should be, shortly after the registration deadline for the WSA 2019, we were already overbooked. Our gut feeling was that the zenith of 2018 with 80 products had been far exceeded. However, once the products had been entered into our database for tasting, came the (not so) sobering news that over 90 gins had been entered. Looking at the last four years, the trajectory of this legendary juniper drink has been simply amazing. For us it meant nearly two whole days of ‘gin work’. But what has changed? The New Western Style Gins are clearly trending, with producers hoping to hit the mark when it comes to contemporary taste and fully explore the playground of gin making. But what does that mean for WSA tasting?
New Western Style Gin is defined as follows: Botanicals become less distinct in the aromatic base with the juniper component, which in comparison to the London Dry Gins does not have to be dominant. Thus a juniper-heavy NWS Gin belongs in the group of London Dry Gins. But in which tasting group should an NWS Gin be placed, when there is not even a hint of juniper? The spectrum from a little juniper and a hint of juniper in an NWS Gin is terribly difficult to differentiate and assess fairly. For the tasters this was a real challenge, which was due to clearer definitions and a long briefing. The results are hard, but fair – a small downside for the submitters and consumers was that there was only one double gold medal awarded in the category of New Western Style Gins.
A variety of chocolate liqueurs
A small, yet exquisite number of chocolate liqueurs was served to the WSA tasters in various flavours. They all had one thing in common: in their taste they are exceptionally well styled and also very diverse (from banana to chilli to mint) in their scent and aroma concepts. Here there is real competition between the liquid and solid forms. Of course, we favour the liquid spirit form of this seductive product.
Is there anything else other than smoked malt whiskies?
Originally, smoked malt whiskies or Islay whiskies were used for blending. However, there has been a noticeable trend towards smoked malt for years. Nearly all the new submitted whiskies at the WSA 2019 showed very strong smoked malt components. Making whiskies for ‘advanced tastes’ is fine, of course, but if the product is ‘overdone’, the quality indicator starts to move in the wrong direction and drinking pleasure suffers.
Wood in all its variations
In the ‘wood trade’, a principal distinction is made between new barrels and so-called ‘second allocation’, in which a product such as bourbon, red wine, Madeira, port wine, sherry … has already been stored. There is also a difference in the toasting grade of the barrels – they vary from lightly toasted to charcoaled, for example, for bourbon.
A Japanese distillery produces wooden barrels from northern Japan, which are shipped to Jerez, where they are filled with sherry for a while. After a defined period, the barrels are returned to Japan and filled with whisky there. This is definitely the finest kind of second allocation.
In general, however, the more often a barrel is filled, the less the aroma is transferred into the barrel’s contents. Storage times of the products are much longer than with a new barrel. Thus the optimal point of maturity can be about 15 years. Barrels that are too old only give a spirit a very ‘exhausted’ aroma. Sensorially, this tone is then very dry and very green – more like lovage.
There are distilleries which only use new wood and those which, for whatever reason, always work with used ones. But it would be a help if a whisky described as “Single Malt with Sherry Finish” could also be sensorially recognised as such!
In the ‘Korn’ sector, the Sasse Distillery works a lot with new barrels, e.g. from American oak, but also with used barrels such as Bordeaux, bourbon, etc. It is sometimes quite difficult to find the correct classification for the different barrel flavours – it is in any case not only a pleasure, but also a very good sensory exercise.
Oxidised fruit liqueurs
The quantity of submissions in the liqueur sector increases noticeably every year at the World Spirits Award. In 2019, however, a real novelty could be recognised with the fruit liqueurs: many products had to be judged as flawed because the fruit juice used or indeed the entire product had an oxidised touch, which is an absolute no-go with fruit liqueurs, and sensorially inacceptable.
Award Celebration 2019 at “Le Bolle di Nardini” in Bassano del Grappa
An absolute highlight of the WSA 2019 was the award ceremony at the distillery grounds of the traditional distillery, Le Bolle di Nardini. It is Italy’s first grappa distillery and, in 2019, celebrates the company’s 240-year jubilee. The futuristic glass objects at the Nardini Park are not just absolute eye-catchers, they also depict the production of grappa in an incredible way. They symbolise the production process from the grape to the fermentation all the way to the finished product.
“World Spirits TV” – World Spirits Tasting Videos starts on July 1, 2019
Mastermind Wolfram Ortner is already working meticulously on the implementation of the concept “World Spirits Tasting Video” with the centre stage right in the WOB distillery in the Nock-Land. TV stands for “Tasting Videos” as well as for “Television”: the videos are both offered to TV stations and published on YouTube.
In April 2019, the first 20 episodes will be filmed and will be aired in German and English. In the form of a relaxed conversation (15 minutes) the video will cover knowledge on selected themes as well as technical information on production, which will be rounded off with the presentation and sensory analysis of three products.
Wolfram Ortner will invite new conversation partners to the show each season – either speaking in German and dubbed in English or vice versa. For example: In a Gin episode, we will talk about the production of the premium spirits, discuss different styles such as London Dry Gin, New Western Style Gin or Slow Gin and then sensorially ‘deconstruct’ three products. In addition, a botanical (herbs, spices) is presented in each episode with a technical question (e.g.: What is “astringency”?) answered in depth. Of course, the producers of the individual gins will also be presented in words and pictures.
Music is also important here – during the recording, artists will give live performances that go well with the topic of the day. Viewers can expect to see highlights of visits from fellow distillers and celebrities as well as some of Wolfram Ortner’s fellow retired skiing colleagues. The target group for World Spirits TV are those who are interested in spirits, distillers, journalists and all those to work in industries related to spirits and gastronomy.
The individual episodes of the “World Spirits Tasting Videos” can be viewed on the website world-spirits.tv and worldspirits.tv.
WSA Spirits Finder, in the Apple Store and Play Store: Search app for spirit lovers and professionals
The World Spirits Award is known amongst experts as being the highest quality spirits award in the world. You now have the possibility to access the results directly, all the way back to 2008, using the WSA Spirits Finder. The WSA app (in German and English) has the following functions, which are available free of charge:
- WSA Spirits Finder
- WSA Spirits Calculator
- WSA Website
Detailed information on the approx. 3,500 spirits – from A for Asbach Uralt to Z for Zwack Unicum: producers around the globe, from manufacture to industry (with direct links to the websites), products ranging from absinthe, Armagnac and Moutai to tequila and plum distillates (some with photos). You can select distilleries, restrict your search to medals or WSA years, choose a special brand or a special product, and much more. This comprehensive data pool is based on the results of the professional jury at the annual World Spirits Award. The app also includes verbal descriptions of brand-name products and the exact number of points they received (maximum 100 WOB points), meaning that it offers in-depth information on the price/performance ratio.
The Spirits Calculator is primarily designed for the catering and hotel sector, but can also be used by private individuals and professionals to calculate prices. It is basically a pocket calculator with modern technology and functions, which, in just a few steps, enables you to calculate spirits per portion – at the bar, in a restaurant, in a café or wherever else you might be. It doesn't matter which country you want to calculate your spirits in – this service tool includes all the important variables. The core function is the absolute calculation and not the percentage calculation of spirits. You can also enter the net income per portion and in doing so, as well as the costs such as service charges and VAT, you can also receive a customer-friendly price, which you can also print.
In addition, as a registered user you will also have access to the protected area on the World Spirits website, where you can find information from the spirits world which is hidden from non-users.
The WSA motto is “Simply the Best in Spirits!”. And, with the new WSA app, you will become part of the community who are sure to benefit from our life's work in spirits, always a ‘spiritual’ step ahead.
The WSA Spirits Finder at world-spirits.com
The official “World Spirits” website is equipped with helpful features – one highlight, besides the Online Guide and the Spirits Calculator, is the Spirits Finder, a database with the results of all the annual WSA products that have been tasted. The tool makes searching for producers or products simple, and also shows comparisons of the results of each product at different tastings. All functions are identical to those in the app.
WSA at its limits
The WSA 2019 found itself once again at the limit of its capacity – more samples could not have been seriously assessed by the quality jury and organiser. Nearly 550 products were registered – participants with nearly 60 samples had to be put off until 2020. From 1st August 2019 registration will begin again – with the deadline of 1st November.
Coffee & cigar distillates
“World Spirits” is also known as a trendsetter and motivates the distillers of fruit brandies to produce harmonious accompaniments for coffee and cigars. With the “Zwetschke Reserve 2002 fassgelagert” (damson, cask-aged) in the cigar distillates group, Franz Tinnauer has created the perfect accompaniment to a cigar. For coffee, the especially mature “Lauerzer Kirsche 2005” (cherry) from the Swiss distillery Arnold Dettling is in a class of its own.
World Spirits. Barbara Ortner
Untertscherner Weg 3. 9546 Bad Kleinkirchheim. Austria
Tel. 0043-4240-760. Fax: 0043-4240-760-50.
Press contact & press texts and images for download (free of charge)
“World Spirits Press Centre”:
World Spirits. Wolfram Ortner. Untertscherner Weg 3. 9546 Bad Kleinkirchheim. Austria
Tel. 0043-4240-760. Fax 0043-4240-760-50
In the Press Centre, journalists will find information on the participants and all results (rating and description) as well as hit lists and country statistics for the 2019 Award (available from 22 March)!
© Wolfram Ortner, World Spirits, www.world-spirits.com