The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) announced the top medalists in the 2023 Heartland Whiskey Competition, 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, and Top Farmer-Distiller, along with entries from all 50 states that competed in traditional whiskey categories.
The competition, 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
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
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, greatly increasing competition for medals. Only 12 whiskeys were awarded a gold medal, while 74 received silver and 47 bronze.
The 20 medalists for the Heartland Whiskey Competition Best-in-State trophies will be announced by their respective state corn associations and listed on the ACSA and Heartland Whiskey Competition websites, along with all medalists from the competition.
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. Top Farmer-Distiller was awarded 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.