Scoring & Awards

Spirits are evaluated on a point-based system in four categories: nose, palate, and finish, and quality.

  • Based on the sum of the scores from all judges, spirits will be given awards for bronze, silver, or gold.
  • Spirits entered for a second consecutive year which score the same medal will be awarded the medal with distinction, indicating a consistent quality.
  • The top spirit in each category (best in class) will also be announced.
  • The Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year will be awarded to the spirit with the overall highest score regardless of category.


All spirits are judged blind. Judges perform a sensory evaluation of the spirits and enter their perceptions into our scoring system. The judges may consider a particular spirit flight in any manner they deem appropriate. Judges receive only the spirit type, mash bill, and ABV together with a numbered sample bottle. Judging will be distributed and take place over the course of roughly one month.

Judges are selected based on their knowledge and experience with spirits in general, as well as their influence within the industry.


Additional judges will be added in the coming weeks:


Charlene Rooke

Lead  Judge & British Columbia:

Charlene Rooke is a Vancouver-based journalist and Certified Specialist of Spirits who studied small-batch distilling at Moonshine University in Louisville, Kentucky, and Dry Fly in Spokane, Washington. She's a hobby mixologist, Contributing Editor to the LCBO's Food & Drink and writer for the B.C. Liquor Stores' Taste and The Alchemist magazines. She's currently pursuing Wine and Spirits Education Trust certification.


Neal McLennan is the British Columbia-based food editor at Vancouver Magazine as well as the long-standing travel editor at Western Living Magazine. He covers food, wine and spirits for VanMag as well as writing for enRoute, Travel + Leisure and the Globe and Mail.

Find Neal on Twitter and Instagram


Tom Firth is a freelance wine, beer, and spirits writer and consultant in Calgary, Alberta. His work appears in City Palate, Avenue Magazine (Calgary), Alberta Liquor Retailer and Culinaire Magazine as well as online outlets. He is the Drinks Editor at Culinaire, and is the Competition Director for the Alberta Beverage Awards. His formal training includes certification with the WSET and the ISG, and Tom has judged at domestic and international competitions around the world. 

Find Tom on Twitter.

New Brunswick:

Craig Pinhey is a Nova Scotia born beverage writer and consultant. His love of spirits started with Lagavulin while in university in the early 80s. An Engineer by education, Craig worked in Ontario, where he gained his appreciation for local wine and beer in Niagara in the 90s. Returning to the Maritimes in late 1998, Craig became a certified Sommelier and started his new career as a beverage writer in New Brunswick;  his weekly Good Drink column has been running for 15 years. Craig travels the world visiting distilleries, breweries and wineries, writes, runs tastings, and judges national and local competitions. He loves premium rum and local eau de vies.

Find Craig on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.



A National Magazine Award-winning writer, Christine Sismondo is the author of Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History, a history of cocktails and spirits and America Walks into a Bar, A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops. When she’s not working on her new book which will deal with mid-century Toronto bars, she’s writing about spirits and Canadian history for the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and Maclean’s. Sismondo has judged all manner of competitions, including the International Spirits Selection in 2015, held in Guiyang China.  

Find Christine on Twitter and Instagram.

Chris Johns is one of Canada’s most respected food writers. He is the co-author of the best selling cookbook, True North and has written extensively for en Route, The  Globe and Mail, Wallpaper, Toronto Life and various international publications. His work has been translated into three languages and has appeared in the Best Food Writing compilation.

Find Chris on Twitter.

Blair Photo.jpg

Blair Phillips is a lifestyles and spirits writer who is co-authoring the book Canada Distils with Davin de Kergommeaux. (To be published by Appetite by Random House imprint of Penguin Random House Canada). In addition to being the Canadian Contributing Editor for Whisky Magazine, he reviews Canadian spirits for Distiller. He also contributes to newspapers and magazines and is on the jury for both the World Whisky Awards and the Canadian Whisky Awards. Blair was the Canadian columnist for during the TV show’s three year run. He currently lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Find Blair on Twitter.



Rémy Charest is a Québec City–based writer and translator. He has been writing about wine and food since 1997 for publications such as Le Devoir, EnRoute, Châtelaine, Palate Press, Wine Enthusiast and the Quebecor/Sun Media chain of newspapers. He occasionally blogs in French and English about cocktails, wine, food and poetry, and is a regular contributor to Chacun Son Vin/WineAlign, Canada’s most popular wine web site. He has been judging national and international wine competitions since 2009, including the National Wine Awards of Canada and the TexSom International Wine Awards.

Find Rémy on Instagram