An up-and-coming West Virginia distillery has been chosen a national finalist in the prestigious Good Food Awards being handed out next week in San Francisco.
Considered the Oscars of the industry, the Good Food Awards reviewed nearly 1,400 entries before selecting Lewisburg's Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin as one of only 184 finalists from 31 states to make the cut for this year's ceremony.
Finalists in nine categories (beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, pickles, preserves and spirits) were chosen based on product quality — as judged through blind tastings — and their approach to environmental and social responsibility.
"We are doing our best to 'practice what we preach' in our own production as well as that of our suppliers," owner and head distiller John Little said of Smooth Ambler's selection. "We take the production of our products very seriously and believe we have made the best choice for us and the consumer."
This year's winners will be announced at a black-tie soiree Jan. 18, followed by a public marketplace Jan. 19 that will feature samples of all honored food and drinks.
Smooth Ambler is West Virginia's only finalist, although 14 honorees come from a Washington, D.C.-anchored "food shed" that covers West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland. In the spirits category, Smooth Ambler is up against organic vodka, gin and a pear liqueur from Oregon, ginger liqueur from Illinois, peach vodka from Utah, limoncello from California, rye from Virginia and whiskey from a handful of other states.
Although I'm not a gin aficionado by any means, I have sampled Smooth Ambler and have to say it's pretty special. Earning a score of 91 (and comments like "it really sings" and "it's perfect") by American Craft Spirits, Greenbrier Gin blends its juniper base with citrus and black-pepper spice to create a crisp, smooth and luxurious finish.
Looks like our West Virginia gin is up against some heavy hitters with fancy flavors in their names. But here's hoping it ambles its way to the top!
After last week's column on New Year's resolutions surrounding healthier eating, I received some interesting information on that very subject from the folks at Calorie Count. Among the most interesting nuggets ...
n Pledging to lose weight is the most popular resolution among Americans, followed by vows to quit smoking and exercise more.