2016 ACSA Awards or "Dreams Manifest"

This year's American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) Convention was held in Chicago at the Palmer House Hilton and it was a great event.  Tons of informative speakers and topics, good companies offering useful products at the expo, but the best part is always getting to know the other distillers from all around the country.  And how better to get to know people than with booze-fueled mingling!?  And the best part is that these are the people who make all the great craft spirits!  This is the industry group for the American craft spirits industry, basically everyone who isn't Jim Beam.  If I remember right, there were over 200 distilleries from all over the United States.  Awesome to meet and talk with people who are doing exactly what I'm doing and hear all their unique stories, challenges, and successes.  I got to meet the actual guys (and ladies!) who actually make some of my favorite craft spirits.  Very cool just from that aspect... I got to talk with some guys who've played a big role (whether they know it or not) in my personal story.  First and foremost: Orlin Sorenson from the fantastic Woodinville Whiskey Co in Washington.  I did a short 'apprenticeship' with Orlin and his partner Brett back when I was first getting started.  At the conference, after his presentation with Jeff LaHue of Independent Stave Co (MO proud!) on the results of their long term barrel aging study, I got to talk with Orlin and it was really cool for me to meet with him now as, if not really equals, at least peers.  I also got to talk with John Jeffries, of Sante Fe Spirits now, but I first met John when he was a graduate student in the distilling program at Michigan State where I took a workshop on distilling when I was first getting into this thing.

Now, I left the trading world to start this distillery because I wanted to make the BEST damn spirits I can. To grow it into a world renowned institution that is respected and loved (and enjoyed!) all over the globe and eventually on interstellar colonies. I want to be a 21st Century Liquor Baron. And at the same time, I never imagined or hoped that I would see the greatest heights of this distillery. I want it to continue to grow even greater long after I'm gone.

But the best part of these early years is that I get to write what will be the history of StilL 630. I am single-handedly creating the legend of company founder. Through my blood, sweat, and tears, through countless hours of passionate labor, and with my sales manager Adam Larkin beating the pavement relentlessly, we are building this company, this brand. And so each little success along the way is a great milestone and cause for celebration. 

And once in a while in life, our hard work is rewarded and we are blessed to achieve bigger successes. Which brings me to Wed night and the American Craft Spirits Association's awards....

You can read a little about my trials and tribulations just getting my products entered into the judging HERE.  But without making this a novel, I'll summarize the awards by saying that they were broken down into 5 categories: Vodka, Gin, Brandy, Rum & Whiskey.  (The medals are awarded on a point system, so that's why there can be multiple recipients)  The full results from the 2016 American Craft Spirits Awards can be found HERE.

Our first ever brewery collaboration (with Alpha Brewing Co) won us a Bronze Medal for our ALPHA ISBA!  We also won Bronze Medals for our Soulard Island Rum and Soulard Island Smoked Honey Rum!

We won Silver Medals for our S.S. Sorghum Whiskey and RallyPoint Maple Sunset!

And then, we won a GOLD medal for our Double Barrel RallyPoint Rye Whiskey!!

I was ecstatic.  Going into the competition, I kept telling myself that I was really being greedy imagining that we'd win any medals, let alone top the three medals we won LAST YEAR.  But it turned out to be a damn good thing that I drove to Louisville in that snowstorm back in January, because that ensured that Soulard Island Rum and RallyPoint Maple Sunset were entered... and obviously won us additional Bronze & Silver medals!  But to come away with SIX medals was incredible!  It proves that last year wasn't a fluke, and that our spirits are legitimately great!

I couldn't believe it. Incredible. And indescribably rewarding and validating and reaffirms my belief in the righteousness of chasing your dreams.

And even better, we weren't the only Missouri Distillery to receive medals that night!  Square One Brewery & Distillery, Woodcut Spirits, and Tom's Town Distillery all took home hardware!  Which is awesome because I know these guys, we're friends, so I love seeing them succeed too!

But after the medals, the judges broke the classes down into categories (ie. Whiskey-wheat/single malt/bourbon/rye/liqueur)  And these were based strictly on taste by the judges.  And Double Barrel RallyPoint Rye Whiskey was named BEST RYE WHISKEY!!!

But then, somehow, it got better.  They picked an overall best spirit from each class (vodka, gin, brandy, rum, whiskey).  ACSA2016Awards-AnnouncementVideo

DOUBLE BARREL RALLYPOINT RYE WHISKEY WAS NAMED "BEST IN CLASS - WHISKEY"!!!   This award was something I'd coveted from the first convention I went to years ago.  I promised myself that someday I would win it.  As I sat down to dinner that night, I saw the Best In Class awards sitting on the stage and I renewed my vow again.  Having no idea that this dream would be mine in a couple hours!

It was an incredible evening and I still am trying to digest it.  I can't stress enough how much of an honor this award is.  To me, it's validation of my passion, the payoff of years of relentless hard work, the sacrifices our family has made to chase this dream.  I could not be more grateful.  And tasting through all the great spirits entered into the contest (which we did after the awards ceremony) it's an even greater honor because there are lots of people around the whole country making some fantastic craft spirits.

But there can be only one... BEST WHISKEY!!

Don't misinterpret, we still have a VERY long way to go to achieve my vision. The mountain still looms ahead.  Now I'm going to do my best to use this award to help grow the company so we can bring our fantastic spirits to more people in more places.  And to do that means to grow.  So hopefully this is just the beginning of the next great chapter in StilL 630 history!

And with God as my witness, I'm going to manifest my dreams.

So cheers to outrageous success and to bigger and better things to come!

~David Weglarz