Scoring & Awards

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

  • Based on the sum of the scores from all judges, spirits will be given awards for bronze, silver, or gold.
  • The top spirit in each category (best in class) will also be announced.
  • Judges will also vote for Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year.


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.


 Charlene Rooke

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.


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.

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As Senior Editor and columnist for the LCBO’s Food & Drink magazine, James Chatto has been writing about spirits for 25 years, a subject he also turned to in his book A Matter of Taste. He was spirits and wine columnist for EnRoute magazine for a number of years and has judged many cocktail competitions in Toronto. He is head judge and National Culinary Advisor for Gold Medal Plates and the Canadian Culinary Championships. His most recent accolade was the 2017 Ontario Wine Awards Journalism award.

British Columbia:

Joanne Sasvari is a Vancouver-based independent writer who covers food, drink and travel for publications including the Vancouver Sun, WestJet, TASTE and Destination BC. Certified by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), she writes the weekly Alchemist column for the Westender and has judged numerous cocktail and spirits competitions, including the inaugural Vancouver International Spirits Competition, Grey Goose Pour Masters and Vancouver International Tequila Expo. She is currently the editor of Westcoast Homes & Design, formerly the editor of FLAVOURS magazine and is also the author of the Frommers EasyGuide to Vancouver & Victoria as well as the forthcoming Wickaninnish Inn and Vancouver Eats cookbooks.

Find Joanne on Twitter.


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.


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Over his 25 years in the wine and booze industry, Bill Zacharkiw has garnered a reputation for his irreverent take on the wine world. Whether in writing, on his weekly radio spot on CHOM FM, or in his many speaking engagements, Bill has not strayed from his ideological roots- that wine can be talked about in “real speak,” that wine was meant to be drunk and not idealized, and that no matter how big they may be, every sacred cow should be questioned as to whether or not it should be turned into hamburger.

Find Bill on Twitter 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.