Best of the Best

Pasadena’s Stark Spirits gin distillers earn gold and silver medals at an international spirits competition
Published on Aug 18, 2020

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Pasadena’s one and only distillery, Stark Spirits, won major awards for their gin at the 2020 London Spirits Competition, held in London, England this July.

Distiller Karen Robinson-Stark’s Skyline Gin won a gold medal and Dragon Spirits Gin won a silver medal. It was Stark Spirits’ first-ever entry in the vaunted international competition and they were delighted to win such accolades from the birthplace of gin.

“Though many people will say that tea is the national beverage of England, there’s a large percentage who will declare that it’s gin,” Karen said. She had entered hoping to receive helpful critical opinions from the Great Britain experts. She never expected that Skyline and Dragon Spirit would be compared most favorably with England’s “national” beverage.

Karen’s husband and distillery partner, Greg Stark, said the competition this year was a very different event owing to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of judges gathering in small groups at a London venue, bottles of Stark gin which they had mailed to the competition’s headquarters were portioned out provided to judges for tasting. The judges were at their various locations because of the stay at home order. The final results and awards were announced in late July.

According to Stark, the goal of the London Spirits Competition is to award and celebrate the spirits that spirits’ drinkers “actually want to buy,” whether at a retail store or ordering off the menu at a London restaurant.

The competition is sponsored by Beverage Trade Network, a trade association, and event organizer. The London Spirits Competition looks at the elements of the product that contribute to the consumer’s choice: quality first, then value and then the overlooked but critical element of appearance, according to CEO Sid Patel.

A retail consumer is more likely to choose a brand previously unknown to them when it’s packaged attractively, Patel noted.

The judging panel consisted of spirits-industry experts, mixologists well known in London, product managers and commercial buyers. This assures that the winning entries satisfy industry professionals and consumers alike.

Spirits were judged on the basis of three primary criteria – quality, value, and packaging – and then scored on a 100-point scale. Skyline Gin was awarded 92 points. Dragon Spirit was awarded 87 points.

“The Skyline gold medal and the Dragon Spirit silver medal demonstrate that Stark Spirits is making the kind of gin that bar managers and mixologists want to use and that gin drinkers want to drink,” said Stark.

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