Food & Drink

The Hard Seltzer Masters 2021 results

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Exhausting seltzers have taken the US by storm and are actually making their mark globally. We hosted our first-ever blind-tasting competitors for the class to find out which manufacturers are main the way in which by way of high quality and flavour.

Hard Seltzer Masters results

In December 2020, main alcohol e-commerce platform Drizly forecast that tough seltzers would acquire larger shelf house within the US in 2021. In October final 12 months, The Drizly 2020 Bevalc Retail Report spoke to greater than 500 adults who managed or owned unbiased alcohol shops, together with retailers each on and off the Drizly platform. In line with the survey, 64% of respondents stated they have been planning to create space for extra laborious seltzers, a class that has stolen the hearts and minds of US imbibers.

Over the previous 12 months, the laborious seltzer development has slowly been increasing abroad. Main laborious seltzer model White Claw launched in the UK and Australia in 2020, whereas superstar names equivalent to rapper Travis Scott and chef Gordon Ramsay additionally claimed their stake within the sector.

International manufacturers have additionally been eager to remain forward of the development by bringing their very own takes on the alcoholic glowing water to market. Among the many manufacturers which have just lately introduced out their very own iterations are: Smirnoff, Loch Lomond, Moskovskaya, Hornitos Tequila, Jose Cuervo, East London Liquor Firm and Brewdog Distilling.

The class’s speedy development means it’s gaining worldwide traction – and solely high quality merchandise will make sure the longevity of laborious seltzers. To check the usual of the merchandise coming to market, The International Spirits Masters hosted its inaugural Exhausting Seltzer Masters final month. Held remotely within the judges’ houses in England because of Covid-19 restrictions, every entry was shipped anonymously by Wine Sorted to ensure the judges have been utterly unaware of what manufacturers they have been tasting.

The tasting was chaired by me, Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Enterprise. I used to be joined over Zoom by David T Smith, spirits author, marketing consultant and co-founder of the Craft Distilling Expo.


The tasting began with an enormous flight of Spirit-Primarily based Exhausting Seltzers, which delivered a lot of standout drinks. One in every of 9 Grasp medallists on this flight was Forrit Botanical Exhausting Seltzer: Peach, Lemon & Mint. This was discovered to be “very refreshing. The lemon provides brightness, the peach fruitiness and the mint coolness.”

Lilo Exhausting Seltzer Cranberry and Rosehip was additionally discovered deserving of the Grasp award, celebrated for its “cranberry tartness on the palate”. Berczy Exhausting Seltzer – Peach & Raspberry additionally collected a Grasp medal on this flight, thanks partly to its “good peachiness” on the nostril. With “jammy flavours from the raspberries” on the palate, the laborious seltzer was loved for not being “overly candy” and with “good steadiness”. Additionally becoming a member of the Grasp medal haul was Mike’s Exhausting Seltzer Raspberry from the Budweiser Brewing Group, described as “fruity, tart and refreshing”.

Among the many extra uncommon flavour mixtures was Grasp medallist Berczy Exhausting Seltzer – Passionfruit & Turmeric. The distinctive mixture impressed the judges, with the spiciness from the turmeric and fruitiness from the passionfruit “complementing one another nicely”. Smith commented on how “imaginative” the flavours have been, and stated the laborious seltzer had “good complexity”.

Jose Cuervo Playamar Grapefruit additionally secured the highest award. The Tequila-based laborious seltzer had “nice steadiness” and was stated to be “vivid and effervescent”, providing “pretty grapefruit flavours with some residual agave”.

One other Grasp medallist on this warmth was 58 Gin Grapefruit Exhausting Seltzer, which was discovered to be “gentle, crisp with traditional laborious seltzer character”.

Dutch producer De Kuyper Royal Distillers additionally impressed with Grasp-winning Surfers Mint & Lime, two flavours that have been “a pleasant refreshing mixture”. Smith stated this tough seltzer delivered a “good steadiness of flavours” with “pretty freshness from the mint”. Tequila-based Volley Zesty Lime took house the highest accolade after impressing the judges by being “very Margarita-esque”, with “crisp lime with agave – very refreshing”.


The Spirit-Primarily based Exhausting Seltzer flight additionally produced 24 Gold medallists. Amongst these award-winning merchandise have been: “gentle, refreshing and nicely balanced” Excessive Water Cucumber and Mint; “easy-to-drink” East London Pomegranate & Vodka Seltzer; Two Days Vodka Raspberry Soda with “jammy raspberry” flavours; “juicy, succulent and candy” Slingsby Spritz Damson & Blackberry; and White Claw Exhausting Seltzer Mango, with “daring, juicy” mango flavours.

The spherical additionally produced 18 Silver medallists together with: Gin 1; Forrit Botanical Exhausting Seltzer: Strawberry, Rhubarb & Ginger; White Claw Exhausting Seltzer Raspberry; and Excessive Water Mango and Peach. Commenting on the colossal opening flight, Smith stated: “I’m actually impressed with the vary of flavour profiles which can be on the market, however I’ll be much more exact: I’m impressed with the vary of flavours which were efficiently executed. That’s actually thrilling for the class. There was stuff in there that I by no means would have thought to place these flavours collectively, they usually labored.

“On a regular basis there are folks doing that, is a plus for the expansion of the class. On a regular basis there are folks pushing boundaries and doing so with nice high quality merchandise, it would solely make the class higher. We’re just a few years into laborious seltzers, bear in mind, so it will likely be fairly thrilling to see what the long run has.”

Within the Fermented Exhausting Seltzer warmth, two extra Grasp medals joined the fold. The primary was awarded to Flying Flamingo – Peach from Pearse Lyons Brewing & Distilling. With its “inviting fruity nostril”, the laborious seltzer was discovered to be “punchy and peach-forward”. “Scrumptious,” the judges agreed. Two Brooks Lime Cooler additionally acquired a Grasp medal on this flight, praised for being “zesty, minty and refreshing”. The expression was additionally described as “gentle and nicely carbonated”.

Six laborious seltzers have been additionally deemed to be deserving of the competitors’s Gold normal. Sundays Cucumber Basil was one of many Gold recipients, described as “recent and leafy with some mineral notes on the end, however general, refreshing”.

Sentz Tangy Raspberry & Lime additionally collected a Gold medal on this spherical, hailed for not being “too acidic” however with “good recent lime and juicy raspberry”. Six Silvers accomplished the flight, together with Pernod Ricard’s Bewiz – Raspberry-Hibiscus-Lime, and Drty White Citrus Exhausting Seltzer.


“It’s comprehensible why sure merchandise use fermented drinks as the bottom for his or her merchandise because of tax causes of their nations,” stated Smith. “When this works, it will probably work simply in addition to utilizing a impartial spirit base, as we’ve seen throughout the highest medal winners in the present day. But it surely does seem to current extra challenges between steadiness, freshness and the spirit base you’re on the lookout for. It felt like generally the best laborious seltzers are those which can be a mix of two flavours, somewhat than one.”

Within the Malted Exhausting Seltzer contingent, one other Grasp medal rose to the problem: Whisp Cucumber & Mint. This expression delivered a “scrumptious mixture of flavours; the cucumber is recent, mint is gentle they usually complement one another completely – a implausible product, excellent for summer time.”

Form Drinks additionally picked up a Grasp medal for its Form – Raspberry & Mint variant. “Mild and sippable”, the laborious seltzer had notes of “recent raspberry” on the nostril, enhanced by “delicate mint” on the palate. Form Drinks additionally secured two Gold medals for its Berries & Hibiscus serve and Citron & Lime. Form – Berries & Hibiscus was “fairly jammy” on the palate, whereas Form – Citron & Lime provided “vivid, aromatic citrus flavours” making it “thrilling, energetic and refreshing”. Smith stated: “There was complexity and sippability within the cans, which is totally key for a tough seltzer. They have been refreshing and also you wished to drink extra of them. I don’t assume you possibly can actually ask far more than that.”

The competitors then progressed to guage laborious seltzers grouped by fashionable flavour teams, starting with Flavoured – Berry. A powerful set of 4 Gold medals have been awarded on this flight, together with to Bud Mild Seltzer Strawberry. “It does precisely what it says on the tin,” the judges famous, after having fun with the product’s “real strawberry flavour”.

ONO Raspberry additionally acquired a Gold for being “not overly candy” with “recent fruity” flavours. Lot 42 Premium Exhausting Seltzer – Blueberry & Lemongrass additionally took house a Gold medal for being “general, superb”. Smith stated he “preferred how the blueberry comes by way of” on the palate.

Brewdog Distilling’s Clear & Press Crushed Black Cherry additionally walked away with a Gold medal, which had a fancy end of “almond and marzipan” to enrich “a lot of black cherry”.

Naughty Water Boozy Seltzer – Cranberry, and Lot 42 Premium Exhausting Seltzer – Huckleberry & Ginger each acquired respectable Silver medals. “The good factor about this flight is when achieved nicely, it’s a really recognisable flavour profile and really straightforward for folks, whether or not they’re judges or not, to go ‘sure, this tastes like what it tastes like’,” stated Smith. “Those that carried out nicely did precisely what they stated they might. It’s constructive for the patron once they comply with by way of on the style.”


Subsequent, the judges progressed onto the Flavoured – Mango warmth, a flavour that had confirmed to this point to be significantly tough to excellent. Nevertheless, Saints Exhausting Seltzer Mango confirmed precisely the way it’s achieved, securing a Grasp medal. The expression impressed with its aromas of “ripe, juicy mangoes” and “spot on” mango flavour on the palate with out being overly candy.

Brewdog’s Clear & Press White Peach & Mango additionally received a Grasp medal. The laborious seltzer had “good synergy between each flavours” and was “made to a really excessive normal – mango is just not a simple flavour to work with”, the judges famous.

“The peach is there, the mango’s there, it’s succulent and juicy, and all good,” enthused Smith. “It’s peach, mango, booze, gentle, refreshing, it ticks all of the bins.”

Bud Mild Seltzer Passionfruit was awarded a Silver medal within the Flavoured – Passionfruit flight, with its “good steadiness of flavour”.

The penultimate flight offered a spherical of Flavoured – Citrus expressions. 4 Golds have been awarded on this flight, together with to “gentle and vivid” Naughty Water Boozy Seltzer – Blood Orange and “very sippable” Saints Exhausting Seltzer Mandarina.

ONO Lime additionally met the Gold-standard check, loved for its “clear, crisp lime notes” and for being “a bit of acidic, however not an excessive amount of”. Brewdog Distilling accomplished the Gold tally on this spherical with its Clear & Press Smashed Cactus & Lime laborious seltzer. Smith stated it was “crisp, refreshing, succulent”. Bud Mild Seltzer Lemon Lime accomplished the flight with a Silver medal.

“To me, citrus is a really pure companion for the laborious seltzer,” famous Smith. “If you simply have glowing water, you would possibly put citrus in there, so it’s a no brainer in all honesty. That stated, regardless of the plain pairing, it isn’t as straightforward to make as you assume – and tough to seize that liveliness, zestiness and vivaciousness with out seeming cloying. One of the best ones stored the freshness of the citrus.”

Within the closing flight of the day – Flavoured – Different – two Grasp medals offered themselves, each made by Amass. Amass Solar Signal acquired the highest award for being akin to an “Aperol Spritz”, with “outstanding mandarin, woodiness and a few spice”.

Amass Faerie Fizz additionally acquired a Grasp medal for its “vivid, aromatic, pretty interaction between the raspberry, the spice of the cardamom and the floral of the jasmine”. “Properly advanced”Amass Surfer Rosso scooped a Gold medal, together with “balanced, straightforward sipper” Naughty Water Boozy Seltzer – Mango & Passionfruit. Moreover, ONO Ginger secured a Silver medal on this flight.


After the preliminary flights had been tasted, there was one set of judging left to finish. To seek out the ‘greatest in school’ laborious seltzer, the judges retasted all 16 Grasp medallists to find out the inaugural Exhausting Seltzer Style Grasp.

Taking the coveted title for 2021 was Whisp Cucumber & Mint, which completely impressed the panel – arguably much more so on its second tasting.

“The usual of laborious seltzers is an efficient normal, however it’s getting higher,” famous Smith. “It’s rising in each phrases of high quality and by way of complexity and innovation.

“The following couple of years will likely be very thrilling to see what comes by way of with laborious seltzers.”

And speaking in regards to the improvement of the class, Smith stated: “We’re beginning to see folks get a bit of extra esoteric. It’s a younger class so there’s a protracted strategy to go but, however it’s extremely thrilling to see this degree of high quality, creativity and innovation in these early levels.”

Click on by way of to the next web page for the whole record of medal winners from The Exhausting Seltzer Masters 2021. 

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