The Heartland Whiskey Competition is a biennial, blind-tasting judging event that is sanctioned and supervised by the American Craft Spirits Association. The competition is sponsored by the promotion arms of participating state corn associations. Competition in several whiskey categories is open to craft distillers from all 50 U.S. states and territories. In addition to category competition (e.g., bourbon, moonshine, etc.), “Best of State” awards are given to those states with corn association sponsorship and a “Best of Show” award is given to the highest-scoring whiskey from the “Best of State” awardees.
ACSA delineates specific entry criteria consistent with its stewardship of this and other spirits competitions. The one criterion unique to this competition is that all whiskey submissions must be made from some amount of corn grain. Also in sponsored states, the 2023 competition introduces the Top Farmer-Distiller Award which will be chosen from all categories.
American Craft Spirits Association Announces 2023 Heartland Whiskey
Inaugural “Top Farmer-Distiller Award” recognizes best farm-to-bottle product
CHICAGO, IL (August 29, 2023) – The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) today
announced the top medalists in the 2023 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 fourth, biennial blind-judging event, whiskeys from 20 “Heartland” states competed for Best-of-Show, Best-of-State, Top Farmer-Distiller, along with entries from all 50 states that competed in traditional whiskey categories (e.g., Rye, Bourbon, etc.).
The competition, generously sponsored by state corn marketing associations, took place in early August, in St. Louis, Missouri. ACSA facilitated the judging process and its recent Board President Chris Montana, owner of Du Nord Social Spirits in Minnesota --served as Judging Director. Judges selected from the Missouri and Illinois spirits industry by ACSA were chosen for their knowledge of craft whiskey.
Best-of-Show was captured by Casey Jones Distillery from Hopkinsville, Kentucky for its Casey Jones Single Barrel Original 4 Grain Wheated Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which also earned the top score in the Four Grain Whiskey category.
Top Farmer-Distiller, a new category for the 2023 competition, was captured by Tobacco Barn Distillery of Hollywood Maryland for its Single Barrel Bourbon. Tobacco Barn is owned by Scott Sanders, Sean Coogan and Dan Dawson, the latter of whom operates the farm – family-owned for more than 100 years -- where all of the corn for their winning Bourbon is grown. Many corn farmers own and operate craft distilleries and have won top honors in previous Heartland Whiskey Competitions.
“Corn farmers, through their state corn associations, have supported the U.S. craft distilling industry through this important competition,” stated Margie A.S. Lehrman, C.E.O. of ACSA. “We greatly appreciate their continued support and the fact they supply our members with the best corn product in the world.”
2023 Heartland Whiskey Competition Category Winners
Burton James Whiskey Batch 2 – Rookie Season: Batter Up
B.H. James Distillers
Bottled in Bond
Bottled In Bond Rubenesque
Wood Hat Spirits
Five Stories Single Barrel Bourbon
Northern Row Brewery & Distillery
Handlebar Handcrafted White Corn Whiskey
Old Scotland Road Distillery
Fayette County Fire Red Hot Cinnamon Whiskey
Casey Jones Single Barrel Original 4 Grain Wheated Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Casey Jones Distillery
Star Union Spirits American Corn Series Cabernet Sauvignon
Star Union Spirits
Read to Drink (RTD)
Boot Hill Distillery Whiskey Cola
Boot Hill Distillery
Whiskey Acres Straight Rye Whiskey
Whiskey Acres Distilling Co.
Middle West Spirits Straight Wheat Whiskey
Middle West Spirits
The 2023 competition saw significant growth in the number of participating states and entries which greatly increased competition for medals. Only 12 whiskeys were awarded a gold medal, while 74 received silver, and 47 bronze. “It is important to recognize 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,” states Brent Hoerr, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council chairman. “Corn growers throughout the Heartland, through their participating state corn associations, support these entrepreneurs, many of whom are working farmers and all of whom are our customers.”
The 20 medalists for the Heartland Whiskey Competition Best-in-State trophies will be
Scoring and Medal Criteria
The scoring of whiskeys, with judges hand-selected from the Missouri and Illinois 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. Best Farmer-Distiller was awarded to the whiskey with the top score among all judged whiskeys submitted by Farmer-Distillers. The top scoring whiskeys were judged a final time in consideration of Best in Show distinction.
The American Craft Spirits Association is the only national registered non-profit trade association representing the U.S. craft spirits industry. Its mission is to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers, and membership in ACSA is open to anyone. ACSA is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the eligible voting members of the Association. Voting members must be independent, licensed distillers (DSPs) annually removing fewer than 750,000 proof gallons from bond (the amount on which a Federal Excise Tax is paid).