Area bourbon receives top honors at national competition

Published 10:22 am Thursday, February 29, 2024

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The Traditionalist Earns One of 16 Gold Medals at National Spirits Competition


The Traditionalist Distillery has announced that their Classic Straight Bourbon Whiskey has earned a Gold Medal at the Annual Judging of American Craft Spirits. 

This year’s competition ranked spirits from across the United States, with The Traditionalist being one of only 16 bourbons in the country being awarded a Gold Medal.

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The Traditionalist Distillery, located with Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery in Spring Valley, is a relative newcomer on the bourbon scene, but an award and recognition like this quickly puts the distillery on the map. The 16 Gold Medal winners were a mix of both established, award-winning distilleries and younger newcomers like The Traditionalist. 

Justin Osborne, of Four Daughters Vineyard and Winery, stands among the many barrels of Traditionalist Bourbon aging in the rackhouse. The Traditionalist Classic Straight Bourbon Whiskey recently was awarded the Gold Medal at the Annual Judging of American Craft Spirits. Herald file photo

The Traditionalist claimed the only Gold and Silver Medals for Bourbon within the state of Minnesota, with only two other distilleries in the state receiving medals in the competition. 

“The gold medal is exciting because you invest so much into making this bourbon and frankly, you don’t know if it will be good or not for several years,” said  Justin Osborne, co-founder of The Traditionalist.” Deep down we knew what we were aging was excellent, but it’s really validating to start seeing the recognition come in from industry professionals. The best part is that we are just getting started, and our bourbon will only get better for years to come.”

In order to be classified as Bourbon, the distilled spirit must be made with at least 51% corn, aged in charred new oak barrels, and made in the United States. Using corn from neighboring fields and grown by the owner, The Traditionalist has a distinct advantage in the bourbon world. Similar to Kentucky, southeastern Minnesota is sitting on deposits of limestone, with the company’s well being drilled directly into limestone. The advantages of making bourbon in Minnesota go beyond that though, with the makings of quality bourbon coming from good corn, good oak and temperature swings. Southeastern Minnesota boasts all of those things. 

The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) is the nation’s only trade association representing the U.S. craft spirits industry. ACSA works rigorously to develop and fine-tune its methodology in order to ensure it continues to be one of the most valuable judging competitions in the industry, creating a scoring card that generates meaningful, detailed feedback for entrants. Spirits were scored on appearance, aroma intensity, aroma complexity, palate concentration, palate complexity, body, character and nature of alcohol, texture, and finish. Finally, each judge was asked if they would pour the spirit for a peer. Scores were submitted, tallied, and averaged, creating a competition based purely on numerical scoring rather than typical collaborative discussions. The judges encompassed a diverse range of spirits experts within the industry. 

The scoring of spirits was based on a 100-point system, with spirits judged on the overall, cohesive impression of the spirit. Spirits were then assigned a medal based on the average score determined by the following benchmarks: 70-79 = Bronze; 80-89 = Silver; 90-100 = Gold.