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The Low & No Masters 2022 results

Low- and no-alcohol drinks have taken the market by storm, and in the second staging of our Masters competition devoted to them, it’s clear the quality of expressions has risen even higher.

Low & No Masters
The Low & No Masters saw 18 products secure the top Master accolade

Alcohol‐free periods used to be reserved for the likes of Dry January campaigns. However, over the years, consumers’ habits have evolved, and today’s discerning drinkers – particularly younger generations – are increasingly partial to lower‐alcohol, or booze‐free serves. The beverage market is working hard to ensure enough variety to retain consumer interest.

Most recently, Anora Group moved into non‐alcoholic ‘spirits’ with three products: two non‐alcoholic ‘spirits’ and an alcohol‐free canned seltzer. Dutch drinks group De Kuyper also spotted a gap in the market and filled it with a range of zero‐ABV pre‐mixed cocktails. The collection includes a 0% ABV Mojito, Strawberry Daiquiri, Margarita and Pornstar Martini.

Generating a buzz

While new product launches will continue to generate a buzz around the low‐and‐no category, it’s important to determine if the quality of what’s being launched is also apparent. The Low & No Masters set out with a mission to find out which products live up to expectations. The competition, launched in 2021, required three panels of judges to tackle this year’s entries.

The judges gathered at the Novotel Hotel in London Bridge in December to put the entries through their paces. Forming the first panel were Marie Cheong Thong, wine and spirits judge and Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) educator; Nicola Thomson, director of Practical Matters; and Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, and chair of the tasting.

The second panel was headed by Matt Chambers, co‐founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog and the North London Whisky Club. He was joined by Evan Prousaefs, bar manager and assistant general manager of Los Mochis restaurant in London’s Notting Hill, and Sara Jane Davis, freelance spirits writer and founder of Negroni Club UK.

The third panel comprised Sarah Miller, founder of the Gin A Ding Ding blog, and Dimple Athavia, founder of All Things Drinks.

They were joined by Bernadette Pamplin, freelance spirits writer and founder of the Under the Ginfluence blog, who chaired the team. The tasting got off to a splendid start with a Master medallist found in the first flight: Low‐Alcohol Serves. The Cotswolds Distillery collected a Master for Cotswolds Gin Essence, which was “aromatic” with “good texture”, and created a “delightful, uplifted and refreshing” G&T, according to Kiely’s panel.

The Low & No Masters judges
The Low & No Masters judges. Front row (l-r): Melita Kiely, Sara Jane Davis, Nicola Thomson. Back row (l-r): Marie Cheong-Thong, Sarah Miller, Bernadette Pamplin, Dimple Athavia, Matt Chambers and Evan Prousaefs
Tart and fruity

The judges turned their attention to a flight of low‐alcohol options that ranged from 6% ABV to 25% ABV. Three Master‐worthy expressions were enjoyed. The first Master award went to Pinkster Raspberry & Hibiscus Spritz, which was “tart and fruity”. Stablemate Pinkster Elderflower & Raspberry Spritz also secured a Master medal for its “beautiful” nose with “lovely elderflower and white blossoms coming through”. Camela collected the third Master in this heat. The judges were impressed by its “amaro‐like” qualities, and “fruit, spice and bitter” palate.

Two Gold medals were awarded, to Forty‐Five Vermouth Radiant Rose, which was “light and refreshing with tonic water”, and Ricordino, described as “bright and citrusy”. Two Silver medals completed the flight. Prousaefs said: “There have been remarkable leaps in quality in the category in the past year or two. There were some astonishing products that are of superb quality – very impressed.”

The next flight presented to the judges was Non‐Alcoholic White ‘Spirits’ (less than 0.5% ABV). Once again, three products stood out from the rest to bag coveted Master medals. First, a Master award went to OP Anderson Alkoholfri Snaps Petronella.

Athavia said: “Lovely soft and delicate notes of tea and some peppermint, camomile, jasmine. Very elegant.” William Grant & Sons secured two Master medals, one for Atopia – Hedgerow Berries and another for Atopia – Rhubarb and Ginger. Atopia – Hedgerow Berries delivered “lovely tart berries” on the nose and “lots of peppery spice” on the finish. Atopia – Rhubarb and Ginger was “really lovely with tonic”, which “brings out the red fruit notes and ginger coolness”, the judges said.

Tang of ginger

Seven Gold medals gave the flight a boost, with winners including “absolutely delicious” Seedlip Spice 94 and Lyre’s White Cane Spirit, which had a “wonderful rummy nose” and “a tang of ginger on the finish”. A staggering 22 Silver medals completed the round. These included: Clean T Non‐Alcoholic Oaky Agave Spirit, The Stillery Virgin, Grace, Ecology & Co – London Dry, and Ceder’s Rose.

Cheong‐Thong said: “We’ve seen examples of this being done really well today.” Thomson agreed: “There were some very good, definitive big personalities with some of these non‐alcoholic entries. There were some interesting flavour profiles.”

The following flight looked at dark alcohol‐free ‘spirits’. Another four Master medallists were unearthed in the Non‐Alcoholic Dark ‘Spirits’ (less than 0.5% ABV) heat. Lyre’s collected three Master awards. The first went to Lyre’s Italian Spritz, which had a “balance of bitterness and sweetness” with “lots of red fruits, cranberries and a good hit of fresh orange peel”. Lyre’s Coffee Originale also collected a Master medal in this flight. The entry had a “lovely coffee nose” with “chocolate and vanilla” on the palate. Lyre’s Amaretti also nabbed a Master medal, celebrated for being “distinctly amaretto” with its “sweet, nutty palate”.

Dark spirit
The dark alcohol‐free ‘spirits’ subcategory is growing with high-quality expressions

Laori Spice No 02 also won a Master medal in this round. Davis found “loads of buttery vanilla” on the nose and “a hint of cinnamon, nutmeg and marzipan” on the palate. Four Gold medals were also praised during this heat. Gold winners included Rumish, found to be a “good representation of rum”, with “complexity”. Clean R Non‐Alcoholic Golden Spiced Spirit also picked up a Gold, and was particularly enjoyed mixed – “the spice really evolves”, the judges noted. Eight Silver medals completed the flight, including: The High Malt, Opius Nigredo and Rebels 0.0% Rum Alternative.

Stellar selection

The Non‐Alcoholic Apéritifs (less than 0.5% ABV) heat also had a stellar selection of entries. Another trio of top award‐winners were uncovered in this round. Lyre’s Apéritif Rosso secured a Master medal. Cheong‐Thong said there was a “melange of sweet and bitter herbs on the nose, nutmeg, lemon and bitter melon. Lovely complexity and good length – fresh.”

Opius Albedo also won a Master for notes of “fennel and sweetness” on the palate, while retaining a “lovely bitterness and notes of spices, such as cumin and cloves”. The third Master in this heat was presented to Aecorn Bitter. This was found to be “fruity” on the nose and “herbal and woody on the palate” with “gooseberry and incredible depth of flavour”.

Seven Gold medals were awarded in this flight. Gold‐worthy products included Cinzano Spritz 0%, with “aromatic tea, orange blossom and chocolate” aromas. Everleaf Mountain was also deemed to be up to the Gold standard, due to its “slightly saline nose, tart fruit, fresh and green” profile. The flight was rounded off with five Silver medals being awarded.

Thomson noted: “A lot of them did what they were supposed to; you didn’t have to search too hard to see it was meant to be a vermouth or a bitter. In terms of alcohol‐free copies, these were a good selection.” Cheong‐Thong was equally impressed by the round. She noted in particular the vermouth alternatives: “They have tried to get the ‘wine‐ness’ here, and they’ve done it pretty well.”

The penultimate flight of the day presented a range of hard seltzers, a category that seems to be on a continuous upward trajectory. In December, analysis firm Grand View Research forecast that the global hard seltzer market would be worth US$49.4 billion by 2028.

Aperitif
Many brands are tapping into apéritif alternatives to attract health-conscious consumers
Delicious options

The Hard Seltzer flight proved there are some delicious options available on the market, such as the two Master winners from Allendale Brew Company. The producer received the top award for its Ride Mango & Passionfruit hard seltzer, which offered “juicy tropical aromas of mango and passionfruit” and was “well balanced” when sipped. Ride Blood Orange also received a Master after being praised for its “juicy orange, pithy” nose and palate.

Five Gold medals were also enjoyed in this flight, including the “fruity and floral” Sea Arch Rose Sea & T, which also offered “some herbal aromas”. Five Silver medals closed the flight. Davis was impressed by the round. She added: “There were great natural flavours, great consistency; a very enjoyable category.”

The final flight was filled with pre‐mixed and RTD (ready‐to‐drink) expressions. The final two Master medallists of the day came from this round: The Vida Loca Mockarita and Spritzish. The former was described as a “great alcohol‐free Margarita” with its “lime, citrusy tang that resembles the classic”. Master winner Spritzish delivered a “complex palate with bitter notes” and was summed up as “refreshingly good”.

Six Gold medals were also enjoyed: “sweet, complex” Daiquirish; “aromatic, earthy” Saicho Eight Immortals; “sweet, floral” Saicho Jasmine; Lyre’s Classico, which was likened to a “Prosecco Spritz”; and Mocktail Rhubarb & Fennel for its “roasted rhubarb nose and hint of caramel in the background”. The round ended with 11 Silver medals. Thomson said: “This was an interesting flight, although a bit hit and miss at times. The ones that did well had really defined their flavour profiles.”

With the initial round of tasting completed, the judges took on the task of selecting the first Taste Master of the year. After resampling all the Master winners, the ultimate title of Low & No Taste Master 2022 was bestowed upon Lyre’s Italian Spritz.

Overall, the judges felt there was marked improvement across the low‐and‐no category, and were left optimistic about the category’s future. “The quality has never been better, and I think producers are trying a lot harder to make quality products,” noted Cheong‐Thong.

“It’s a new category still, so it does tend to be quite polarised at times. But those who are doing well are doing extremely well. I hope to see more products and more care in making them. The hard seltzers were amazing – it’s going to be an interesting one to watch.”


Low-Alcohol Serve

Company Product  Medal
The Cotswolds Distillery Cotswolds Gin Essence Master

Low-Alcohol (6% to 25% ABV)

Company Product  Medal
Ginmeister (Pinkster Gin) Pinkster Raspberry & Hibiscus Spritz Master
Ginmeister (Pinkster Gin) Pinkster Elderflower & Raspberry Spritz Master
RTF Distillers Camela Master
Drinks of Manchester Forty-Five Vermouth Radiant Rose Gold
RTF Distillers Ricordino Gold
RTF Distillers Kalyx Silver
Fraction Drinks Quarter G/N Silver

Non-Alcoholic White ‘Spirits’ (less than 0.5% ABV)

Company Product  Medal
Anora Group OP Anderson Alkoholfri Snaps Petronella Master
William Grant & Sons Atopia – Hedgerow Berries Master
William Grant & Sons Atopia – Rhubarb and Ginger Master
Clean Co Clean V Non-Alcoholic Spiced Apple Spirit Gold
Bôtan Distillery Juniper Garden Gold
Diageo Seedlip Spice 94 Gold
Lyre’s Lyre’s White Cane Spirit Gold
Clean Co Clean G Non-Alcoholic Crisp Dry Botanical Spirit Gold
MeMento MeMento Blue Gold
Anora Group OP Anderson Alkoholfri Snaps Klar Gold
Lyre’s Lyre’s Agave Blanco Spirit Silver
The Stillery The Stillery’s Virgin Silver
Lyre’s Lyre’s Pink London Spirit Silver
Salcombe Distilling Co New London Light – First Light Silver
Pernod Ricard Ceder’s Crisp Silver
Diageo Seedlip Garden 108 Silver
Beyond Drinks Laori Juniper No 1 Silver
Anora Group OP Anderson Alkoholfri Snaps Original Silver
Ish Spirits Ginish Silver
Pernod Ricard Ceder’s Rose Silver
Clean Co Clean G Pink Non-Alcoholic Crisp Dry Botanical Spirit Silver
Clean Co Clean G Rhubarb Non-Alcoholic Crisp Dry Botanical Spirit Silver
Diageo Seedlip Grove 42 Silver
Clean Co Clean T Non-Alcoholic Oaky Agave Spirit Silver
Bôtan Distillery Private Collection – Hanami Blend Silver
William Grant & Sons Atopia – Spiced Citrus Silver
The Stillery The Stillery Virgin Silver
Vera Spirits Aromaticø Silver
Ovant Grace Silver
Ecology & Co Ecology & Co – London Dry Silver
Bôtan Distillery Citrus Spice Silver
Ecology & Co Ecology & Co – Asian Spice Silver

Non-Alcoholic Dark ‘Spirits’ (less than 0.5% ABV)

Company Product  Medal
Lyre’s Lyre’s Italian Spritz Master & Taste Master
Lyre’s Lyre’s Coffee Originale Master
Lyre’s Lyre’s Amare’ Master
Beyond Drinks Laori Spice No 02 Master
Ish Spirits Rumish Gold
Lyre’s Lyre’s Orange Sec Gold
Sober Spirits Sober-Rum Gold
Clean Co Clean R Non-Alcoholic Golden Spiced Spirit Gold
Sakura Fresh Japan Ron Oscuro Silver
Opius Opius Nigredo Silver
Lyre’s Lyre’s Absinthe Silver
Lyre’s Lyre’s Dark Cane Spirit Silver
Freespirited Drinks Rebels 0.0% Rum Alternative Silver
Sakura Fresh Japan The High Malt Silver
Lyre’s Lyre’s Spiced Cane Spirit Silver
Ovant Royal Silver

Non-Alcoholic Apéritifs (less than 0.5% ABV)

Company Product  Medal
Lyre’s Lyre’s Aperitif Rosso Master
Opius Opius Albedo Master
Diageo Aecorn Bitter Master
Lyre’s Lyre’s Italian Orange Gold
Pernod Ricard France Cinzano Spritz 0% Gold
Everleaf Drinks Everleaf Mountain Gold
Nona Drinks Nona Spritz Gold
Gimber UK Gimber Gold
Vera Spirits Aperitivø Classicø Gold
Lyre’s Lyre’s Aperitif Dry Gold
Freespirited Drinks Rebels 0.0% Aperitif Alternative Silver
Vera Spirits Aperitivø Herbal Silver
Diageo Aecorn Dry Silver
Everleaf Drinks Everleaf Forest Silver
Diageo Aecorn Aromatic Silver

Hard Seltzers

Company Product  Medal
Allendale Brew Company Ride Mango & Passionfruit Master
Allendale Brew Company Ride Blood Orange Master
Allendale Brew Company Ride Tropical Guava Gold
Anora Group Say Alcohol Free Seltzer Lime & Mint Gold
Sundays Hard Seltzer Sundays Hard Seltzer Mango Passion Fruit Gold
Allendale Brew Company Ride Black Cherry Gold
Sea Arch Drinks Sea Arch Rose Sea & T Gold
Mark Anthony Brands International White Claw Natural Lime Silver
Mark Anthony Brands International White Claw Black Cherry Silver
Mark Anthony Brands International White Claw Raspberry Silver
Mark Anthony Brands International White Claw Mango Silver
Allendale Brew Company Ride Persian Lime Silver

Pre-Mixed/RTD

Company Product  Medal
Mocktail Beverages The Vida Loca Mockarita Master
Ish Spirits Spritzish Master
Ish Spirits Daiquirish Gold
The Mocktail Club Mocktail Rhubarb & Fennel Gold
Saicho Saicho Eight Immortals Gold
Saicho Saicho Jasmine Gold
Lyre’s Lyre’s Classico Gold
AF Drinks AF Apero Spritz Gold
Lyre’s Lyre’s G&T Silver
Lyre’s Lyre’s Dark N Spicy Silver
AF Drinks AF Classic G&T Silver
Lyre’s Lyre’s Amalfi Spritz Silver
Mocktail Beverages Sevilla Red Sansgria Silver
NIO Cocktails UK Virgin Bitters Silver
AF Drinks AF Cucumber G&T Silver
Ecology & Co Ecology & Co – Asian Spice & Citrus Soda Silver
Mocktail Beverages Scottish Lemonade Mockscow Mule Silver
Mocktail Beverages Karma Sucra Mockapolitan Silver
AF Drinks AF Dark & Stormy Silver

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