The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) today announced the winners of the 2019 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 second, biannual blind judging event, whiskeys from 13 “heartland” states also competed for Best of Show and Best of State, and all entries competed in their select whiskey sub-categories.

The competition, which was generously sponsored by state corn marketing associations, took place June 4 at CH Distillery in Chicago, IL. ACSA facilitated the judging process with Board President Chris Montana, owner of Du Nord Distillery, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who served as the Judging Director. Judges were selected by ACSA for their knowledge and experience specific to craft spirits.

Best of Show was captured by Middle West Spirits from Columbus, Ohio, for its OYO Sherry-Finished Bourbon, which also earned the top score in the Bourbon category. Middle West Spirits will be presented their award by the Ohio Corn Marketing Program later this month.

“We are deeply appreciative of the state corn marketing associations for their investment and continued commitment to help craft spirits producers promote and grow their products,” stated Margie A.S. Lehrman, CEO of ACSA.

2019 Heartland Whiskey Competition Category Winners



Crooked Furrow Harvest Blend

Proof Artisan Distillers


Bottled in Bond

A.D Law’s Four Grain Straight Bourbon

Law’s Whisky House



OYO Sherry-Finished Bourbon (tie)

Middle West Spirits


Starlight Distillery Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey (tie)

Huber Starlight Distillery


Corn Whiskey

Boot Hill Distillery Moonshine

Boot Hill Distillery


Four Grain

Middle West Spirits Straight Wheated Bourbon

Middle West Spirits



Driftless Glen 51 Rye

Driftless Glen Distillery



100% Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Grand Traverse Distillery


(Note: For purposes of this competition, all whiskey sub-categories required entries to include some amount of corn as an ingredient.)

The 2019 competition saw significant growth in the number participating states and entries with tougher competition for medals. Only five whiskeys were awarded a gold medal, while 40 received silver, and 22 bronze. “Several of the craft distilleries are also working farms that use the grain they grow to make their spirits so they are deeply committed to their product,” stated Don Duvall, Chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. “On behalf of all the participating corn associations I want to express our great respect and admiration as well as our continued support. While this is a challenging year for farming, we are pleased to see an important customer group grow and prosper.”

The Best of State trophies were awarded to those whiskeys with the highest score in its respective state from all categories. Best of State award was limited to 13 Heartland states, including: ColoradoIllinoisIndianaKentuckyOhioWisconsinMichiganIowaKansasMinnesotaMissouriNorth Dakota and Texas.

2019 Heartland Whiskey Competition Best of State



A.D Law’s Four Grain Straight Bourbon

Law’s Whiskey House



Whiskey Acres Straight Rye

Whiskey Acres Distilling



Starlight Distillery Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

Huber Starlight Distillery



Steeple Ridge Bourbon

Lonely Oak Distillery



Boot Hill Distillery Moonshine

Boot Hill Distillery    



Linkumpinch Bourbon

Dueling Grounds Distillery



100% Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Grand Traverse Distillery



BA,dalen Bourbon

Far North Spirits



Bourbon Rubenesque

Wood Hat Spirits


North Dakota

Crooked Furrow

Proof Artisan Distillers



OYO Sherry-Finished Bourbon

Middle West Spirits



True Blue 100 Proof

Balcones Distilling



Driftless Glen 51 Rye

Driftless Glen Distillery

A full list of winners can be found at the ACSA website: Link

Scoring and Medal Criteria 
The scoring of whiskeys, with judges hand-selected from the Chicago 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 of State was awarded to the whiskey with the top score among all judged whiskeys from that state. The top scoring whiskeys were judged a final time in consideration of Best of Show distinction.

About ACSA 
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).




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