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ADI is very proud that our judging is able to use some of the very best palates in the spirits industry. In 2018, over 40 judges will evaluate US and International entries from all classes and categories of spirits, cocktail bitters, RTD Cocktails, as well as aperitif and fortified wines.

Lead Judge

nancy-fraleyNancy Fraley is a whiskey and rum blender and consultant. She runs a firm called Nosing Services in Berkeley, CA, where she provides custom blending, product formulation services, creation of maturation programs, and sensory analysis for distilleries worldwide. She is also the Director of Research & instructor of blending with ADI. Nancy is creator of the American Craft Whiskey Aroma Wheel, a sensory tool for distillers and whiskey connoisseurs.


Spirit Judges

Steven Beal is one of the most respected whiskey experts in the world. He has worked as a brand ambassador for some of the largest whiskey brands in the world, hosting classes and tasting for consumers and industry professionals. He has been a spirits judge for over 15 years and has worked as a judge in both the US and the UK.

Distiller Dan Farber has been involved in brandy production since the mid-1980s, studying in Cognac and other brandy-producing regions around the world and finally settling near Santa Cruz, CA, to found the Osocalis Distillery. A lover of all spirits, Farber founded Osocalis to produce classically styled brandies. After three decades, he professes to still be a student and continues to study distillation and fermentation around the world. An aficionado of fruit- and grain-based ferments, his real passion is well-aged spirits of all categories. Farber is most definitely a member of and advocate for the Slow Distillation Movement.

Monique Huston entered the beverage/hospitality industry waiting tables at the age of 14. She spent 10 years curating the whiskey collection at the Dundee Dell, in her hometown of Omaha, NE, and countless hours at whiskey distilleries. Huston shifted to distribution, working for Stoller Wholesale in Chicago before becoming Director of Spirits for the Winebow Group.

Gin expert, Aaron Knoll is the author of the spirits blog “the Gin is in” and co-author of The Craft of Gin (White Mule Press, 2013). Knoll’s latest book is Gin: The Art and Craft of the Artisan Revival (London: Jacqui Small, 2015).

Virginia Miller has traveled the world in pursuit of her love of good food and drink. She was the former Vice President of Content/ Senior Managing Editor at Table8 and former editor for Zagat. Miller releases a biweekly newsletter, “The Perfect Spot,” on food and drink around the world. Miller freelances for Food Republic, Liquor.com, Whisky Magazine UK, Drink Me Magazine, 7×7 Magazine, The London Times, Eater, Blackboard Eats and beyond. Virginia has judged countless cocktail contests and sat on spirits panels (including Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards and craft spirits for the Good Food Awards).

Julia Nourney is an independent spirits consultant based in Germany who has been working in the industry for almost 20 years. For the last decade Nourney has been a spirit judge for both IWSC and ADI. Nourney has a fantastic palate and she regularly co-teaches a Nosing for Faults seminar with Nancy Fraley.

After his father’s wine-importing business changed hands, Henry Preiss founded Preiss Imports, bringing some of the best small liqueurs and wines from Europe into the United States, introducing such iconic brands to the U.S. market as Luxardo and Darroze Armagnacs. Henry retired in 2008, only to find that retirement didn’t agree with him. So he founded HPS Epicurean in 2012. With more than 42 years in the business, Henry has one of the most-educated palates in the business.

Historian and former museum curator Matthew Rowley is author of Moonshine! (2007). He is on the editorial board of the forthcoming Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails, contributes to books and magazines and writes at WhiskeyForge.com. His latest book, Lost Recipes of Prohibition, was released in October 2015 and was a finalist for the 2016 James Beard Awards. Find him on Twitter as @mbrowley.

Richard Wolf, Managing Principal of Wolf Consulting LLC, specializes in the beverage alcohol and allied industries as consultant and international broker of bulk bourbon and fine spirits. He is an Advisory Board Member of ADI, and served as Chairman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. As the former VP General Manager at Sazerac Co. (Buffalo Trace Distillery), he was responsible for distillery/bottling operations, organizational transformation, strategic sourcing, and corporate development, leading to exponential growth.

Natasha Bahrami is the owner of The Gin Room, a gin centric bar in Saint Louis, MO. She is dedicated to teaching and creating robust education platforms through The Gin World, a company created to help elevate the category of gin in cities domestically and abroad.

Summer-Jane Bell served as President of the San Francisco chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild and now sits on the National Board of Directors as Secretary. With JVS Imports, she represents a large portfolio of artisanal spirits from across the world. She is co-founder of the photo sharing mobile app, TrophyCocktail. Summer-Jane loves to mentor and teach having presented seminars at numerous USBG conferences and cocktail weeks including Bar Institute, Tales of the Cocktail, and Tales on Tour in Edinburgh.

Trading in silicon chips for copper stills, Todd Buckley is a technologist turned distiller. He has worked at Intel and Microsoft and has been instrumental in producing award-winning gin and vodka. He is founder of Destiny Spirits and Lecturer in Social Media. Follow him on twitter @WADSP.

Martin Cate is one of the more revered bartenders in one of the premier cocktail cities of the world, San Francisco, where he founded Smuggler’s Cove and Whitechapel cocktail bars. Cate is a rum and exotic cocktail expert, a passionate rum collector and a world authority on all things tiki. He conducts educational seminars and judges rum and cocktail competitions across the United States, Europe and the Caribbean.

Paul Clarke is Imbibe Magazine’s Executive Editor and the author of The Cocktail Chronicles: Navigating the Cocktail Renaissance with Jigger, Shaker & Glass. He believes in the importance of a diverse liquid diet. While his heart belongs to spirits and cocktails—his inclinations often lean to bourbon and Boulevardiers—his days (and nights) are peppered with pour-overs and cold-brew, cab franc and cremant, and pilsners and gose— because balance is so important.

Flavorman and the Distilled Spirits Epicenter founder, David Dafoe is one of the country’s foremost authorities on flavor. Recognizing the need for technical innovation in the beverage industry, Dafoe created a company that specializes in the technical side of beverage development. Dafoe champions high quality standards in research and client support.

With over 54 years of experience in all aspects of the distilling industry, Michael Delevante began his career managing the Appleton Distillery in Jamaica. In 1977, he went on to work for McGuinness Distillers and then Wray & Nephew. In 1992, he established Delevante & Associates which has designed and commissioned distilleries in several countries. He has also authored two books and co-authored ADI’s Distiller’s Guide to Rum.

A native of Burgundy, Flavien Desoblin owns two bars in Manhattan: Brandy Library in Tribeca and Copper & Oak on the Lower East Side, which have one of the most comprehensive collections of brandies and whiskeys in the world. He began with a general education (baccalaureate and Sciences-Po degrees) before completing a master’s in the wines and spirits business in Dijon, followed by a diploma in distilling from Heriot-Watt University. Desoblin is a true expert in distilled spirits. He was named Cognac Personality of the Year in 2010, honored in 2013 by the Compagnie des Mousquetaires d’Armagnac and named Keeper of the Quaich in spring 2014.

Jet-set mixologist turned on-trade consultant, New York native Elayne Duff is an accomplished professional with more than 15 years within the beverage and alcohol industry. Elayne has led two successful careers, at two of the largest drinks companies in the world; Diageo, as the head mixologist and first-ever international luxury spirits ambassador and at AB-InBev, as the Global Manager of Training for their brand experience division, responsible for over 350 bars across five continents.   Her dedication has led her around the world teaching and consulting, which she has now consolidated into her own consultancy firm, Duff on the Rocks, crafting on-trade solutions for beverage companies everywhere.

Philip Duff is one of the cocktail community’s best-loved educators. As a renowned expert on all distilled spirits (but especially gin & genever) as well as on mixology and bar operations, Philip is an in-demand consultant to drinks brands around the world. As well as teaching seminars, founding the award-winning craft-cocktail bar door 74 (Amsterdam), owning the Old Duff Genever brand, and serving as director of education for Tales of the Cocktail, Philip regularly appears on TV & in publications as diverse as Esquire, Reuters, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Imbibe and Mixology.

Elana Effrat is Spirits Brand Manager for New York-based Martin Scott Wines, a division of Winebow Group. Previously Effrat has been an ambassador for Rhum Clément and worked with WiskyLive. She served as the buyer for Dry Dock Wine and Spirits.

H. Joseph Ehrmann, better known as H. is the 11th Proprietor of Elixir, San Francisco’s second oldest continually operating saloon. H. is recognized for his role in the pioneering efforts to revitalize cocktail culture in the last two decades. Elixir boasts one of the best whiskey collections in California with over 450 bottles on hand. H.’s industry consultancy (Cocktail Ambassadors) provides leading beverage-focused clients with product development and evaluation advisory, trade education program development and execution, and public speaking services. Lastly, his cocktail event production company (Elixir To Go) produces client entertainment and team building events for corporate and private customers around the country.

Jake Emen is a freelance journalist whose spirits coverage has been published in outlets including USA Today, Whisky Advocate, Maxim, GQ, The Washington Post Express, Vice Munchies, Roads & Kingdoms, Liquor.com, Tales of the Cocktail, Eater, and a range of other publications. He also writes about food and travel, and when he’s not trekking around the world and visiting distilleries, he’s at home tasting and reviewing their latest spirits. Follow his exploits on Twitter @ManTalkFood.

Andrew Friedman, owner of both Liberty and Good Citizen in Seattle, being a great proponent of quality spirits, is looking forward to years of great spirits to come. So much so that he has started Scout Spirits, a distribution company in Seattle featuring craft spirits.

Amanda Garnham has been working as the Press Attaché for the B.N.I.A. (Bureau National Interprofessionnel de l’Armagnac) for the last 14 years, and is heavily involved in raising the profile of Armagnac generically working with journalists around the world. She regularly presents masterclasses in France and the UK and since it’s launch, Amanda has been the lead instructor for the Armagnac Academies and has presented successful classes in China, London, New York and San Francisco, bringing much appreciated, in-depth knowledge about Armagnac to hungry industry professionals internationally. She has been living in the heart of the Armagnac region for the last 20 years.

Arne Hillesland is the head distiller at Distillery No. 209 in San Francisco, CA and he is responsible for developing their gin recipe. He learned his trade almost exclusively on the job with the guidance of a master distiller from Scotland. Hillesland has been distilling No. 209 Gin for over ten years and he is well respected in the gin community.

Originally from Chicago, John David Jeffery studied food chemistry at Michigan State University, performing research and development in their Artisan Distilled Spirits program. He has been the head distiller at Death’s Door Distillery and Santa Fe Spirits, and is now with Bently Heritage Distillery in Nevada.

As Spirit Works Distillery head distiller, Lauren Patz oversees all development and production of the distillery’s range of grain-to-glass spirits, including Vodka, Gin, Sloe Gin, and Wheat and Rye Whiskeys. Spirit Works embraces a philosophy of diligent intentional creativity and strives for integrity and innovation within all their products. When Lauren isn’t on the Distillery floor, you’ll find her taking classes to further her distilling and winemaking knowledge; trying new cocktails and spirits; hiking the nearest mountain with her dog, and playing board games with her friends and family.

Brett Pontoni is Spirits Buyer for Binny’s Beverage Depot, in Chicago, the largest liquor retailer in the Midwest. He has been a supporter of craft spirits ever since North Shore Distillery opened, becoming the first craft distillery in the Chicago area. Pontoni has made Binny’s a destination for craft spirits by dedicating shelving for artisan spirits and by stocking as many craft brands as is possible.

Keli Rivers started bartending in Tokyo’s Roppongi nightclub district and has lived on every continent except Antarctica. A veteran of some of San Francisco’s best cocktail bars, including Hard Water and Devil’s Acre, Rivers is currently the “Ginnoisseur” of the gin-centric bar Whitechapel

Michael Sherwood comes from a family that owned a beer and wine distributorship in southern Oregon. At a tender age, he ascended to the role of bartender at family parties, learning to make a mean Manhattan at lightning speed. While helping make wine at Sineann Winery, he was recruited to manage Rogue Spirits’ rum distillery and design a new distillery/bar/restaurant. Sherwood created his own spirits brand, producing two infused vodkas under the Sub Rosa label.

Donald Snyder has been in the distilling industry for over 12 years. As the Barrel Warehouse Manager at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, Donald was on the tasting panel responsible for approving the ultra-premium bourbons before they were bottled and shipped. While working for MGP in Indiana, Donald was the Barrel Warehouse and Logistics Manager and participated in regular tastings of new and aged spirits. Since leaving the corporate world to help the craft distilling community and start Whiskey Systems Online, Donald has been to hundreds of distilleries and has tasted spirits from across the world.

Peggy Noe Stevens has worked for over 20 years in hospitality and experiential marketing. Stevens is the world’s first Master Bourbon Taster and in 2011, she founded Bourbon Women Association which has over 4oo members in 20 states for “women who are passionate about exploring bourbon and the culture that surrounds it.

Founder of Plethora Brands Co., Brendan Wheatley has advised on design, build-out and developed products for micro-distilleries with an emphasis on barrel aged products. In his 15 years in the industry, he has worked at and with distilleries spanning both coasts and Hawaii with a focus on ecologically sustainable farm to glass production as a value addition to local agriculture.

Lou Bustamante is the author of The Complete Cocktail Manual, and a freelance writer covering bars and spirits for the San Francisco Chronicle, and has contributed to Wine & Spirits Magazine, Tasting Table, Thrillist, and SF Weekly, among others. Bustamante’s beat takes him to the Bay Area’s best bars, but aside from being a prolific cocktail drinker, he has also filled a considerable number of roles within the spirits industry: working at a distillery, recipe & product development, bartending, whiskey label design, and importing 20 tons of whole cooked agave piñas from Tequila, Mexico.

A well known figure in the San Francisco Bay Area cocktail scene and the tiki world, Suzanne Long is one of the only female rum experts in the world. She founded Longitude, a world renowned tropical destination spot serving over 500 premium spirits. With her innovative spin on tropical mixology and expert knowledge of rum, Long frequently presents educational seminars, leads tastings and judges competitions at cocktail, rum and tiki festivals globally. In 2017 she founded Rum Academy, bringing in-depth education on cane spirits to bar teams and consumers alike.

Jennifer Massolo started in the beverage industry in 1994 with Cognac giant, Remy Martin, in her hometown of Vancouver, BC. In 1997, exploring her love for wines, she moved to Santiago, Chile where she spent three years at Concha y Toro, developing their national sales, hospitality and wine education programs. The next few years would bring a growing family and Jennifer’s first move to the U.S.A. where she helped found the Miami International Wine Fair. Since 2012 Jennifer has run The Liquid Projects, a company she founded to support the growth of artisan brewers and distillers.

Having judged numerous spirit and cocktail competitions, Bill Stephens is also the founder of TrophyCocktail, the premier mobile app for cocktail enthusiasts, which includes an all-star expert panel and an international community of users. In early 2018, he’ll be opening the doors on a next generation cocktail bar called Hello Stranger in the heart of Oakland.

Monica Wolf, Managing Partner of Wolf Consulting LLC, has been in and around the bourbon world since 2004, when she interned at Buffalo Trace Distillery during college. She is a board member of the Bourbon Women Association, organizes and plans events on behalf of craft distilleries, hosts bourbon tastings/dinner pairings at her event space in Louisville, Kentucky and is the first ever Bourbon Ambassador at Churchill Downs, the famed racetrack of the Kentucky Derby.