The Low & No Masters 2023 results
The runaway popularity of low- and no-alcohol ‘spirits’ has led to a huge increase in brands and products entering the sector. And this influx appears to have led to a rise in quality.
The alcohol volume may be low, but the value of the category is staggeringly high. In 2022, the worth of the low‐ and no‐alcohol category exceeded US$11 billion in 10 key markets, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, up from US$8bn in 2018.
The data came from IWSR’s No‐ and Low‐ Alcohol Strategic Study, which looked at 10 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Spain, the UK and the US. In terms of volume, the low‐and-no sector rose by 7% in the regions in 2022. The figures are testament to the ongoing consumer interest in low‐and‐no products.
To kick off The Global Spirits Masters Competitions 2023, three judging panels assembled in London just before Christmas to put the low‐and‐no category through its paces.
The first panel to gather at the Ibis Styles hotel in London Bridge comprised: Antony Moss MW, qualifications director at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET); Joyce Yu‐Hua Chou, translation project manager at the WSET; and Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business and chair of The Global Spirits Masters Competitions, who led the group.
A second team was chaired by David T Smith, writer, consultant and co-founder of the Craft Distilling Expo. He was accompanied by: Evan Prousaefs, bar manager of Sexy Fish in London; and Alan Uresti, head of mixology at Annabel’s Mayfair.
The third group consisted of: Rosie Lees, co‐founder and director of Nineteen94; Sara Jane Eichler, founder of Negroni Club UK; and Matt Chambers, spirits writer and cofounder of the Whisky for Everyone blog, who chaired.
A flight of Low‐Alcohol Serves kicked off the competition, and a Master medal was celebrated. Adnams Smidgin Dry Gin impressed Kiely’s panel with its “intense fragrance of spices and a bit of citrus”. “The flavour holds up very well with tonic, despite only needing a very small amount,” noted Kiely.
Two Silver medals were also awarded in this flight, with one going to Merser Small Rum, and a second to Vegvisir.
The next flight to be sampled was Low‐ Alcohol (6% to 25% ABV). The judges were impressed by Savoia Americano Rosso, awarding a Gold medal. Lees found this to be “rich and aromatic on the nose, nicely bitter and herbal on the palate. Delicious balance of sweetness with a lovely, lingering aftertaste.”
Pernod Ricard collected two Silver medals in this flight for Beefeater Pink Light and Beefeater Light. “This is an interesting category as there is still a decent amount of ABV,” noted Chambers at the end of the flight. “This helps to drive the flavours and aromas – some decent products on show.”
In the Lower‐Alcohol (26% to 30% ABV) round, meanwhile, Beefeater Botanics Lemon and and Ginger walked away with an impressive Gold medal. A large flight of Non‐Alcoholic White ‘Spirit’ (less than 0.5% ABV) delivered a pair of Master medallists.
Anora Group gained two of the three top awards for OP Anderson Original (1891) and OP Anderson Klar. The former entry was found to have “plenty of caraway on the nose”, leading to a “tangy and earthy palate with a slight nutty hint, white pepper and earthy warmth”.
OP Anderson Klar was found to offer “freshly cut dill” on the nose. The palate, meanwhile, was “fresh and vibrant, with dill and hint of liquorice in the background”. Chambers said: “Delicious with a light peppery hit.”
The judges also awarded 12 Gold medals in this heat. Four Pillars Bloody Bandwagon was one of the Gold winners, enjoyed for its “sweet, red‐berry” nose, with a “good level of dryness and complexity on the palate – even when mixed with tonic water”.
Gold‐winning Ceder’s Wild was found to be “complex, with ginger and woody spice”. Smith said: “It mixes well and has good potential with soda, tonic, ginger ale, Coke.”
Seedlip Spice also found favour with the judges, winning a Gold medal. Tasting notes included: “Clove oil, cinnamon, and warming Christmas spices.”
Ten Silver medals completed the flight, including medals for Glory Mornin’ Super Vivid, Lyre’s Agave Blanco Spirit, and Siegfried Wonderleaf.
Commenting on the overall flight, Chambers enthused: “The two ‘aquavit’ Masters show people exactly how to make a no‐ABV product – they should be the benchmark.”
In the following flight – Non‐Alcoholic Dark ‘Spirit’ (less than 0.5% ABV) – three Golds and three Silvers were awarded.
The Gold awards went to: Rebels 0.0% Amaretto Alternative, with its “very intense nose of almonds and marzipan” and “chilli finish”; Siegfried Wonderoak, which had “dark sticky toffee and brown sugar” notes; and Sober‐Rum 0.0%, which had a “hint of nice butterscotch and caramel towards the end”.
The following flight was made up of non-alcoholic apéritifs, all of which were under 0.5% ABV. De Kuyper blew away the judges with De Kuyper Zero 0% Margarita. Uresti founds this to be “fresh and citrusy”, while Prousaefs enthused: “This definitely smells and tastes like a Margarita. A mild spiciness and sour‐sweetness at the end.”
A second Master was awarded to Pallini Limonzero, which offered a “great lemon aroma” on the nose. “Excellent body and lemony taste that resembles limoncello greatly. Slight spiciness at the end, but overall great,” noted Prousaefs.
“Hoppy and citrusy” notes on the nose secured a Master medal for Aperitivø Classicø. Smith said: “There was a nice bittersweet interplay. Good intensity, and with soda it’s Americano‐esque.”
Fruity and floral
And collecting the third Master in this heat was Everleaf Mountain, celebrated for its “herbal, fruity and floral nose”, which gave way to a “lovely tart berry fruitiness, herbaceous backbone and a balanced peppery finish”, as noted by Eichler.
Three Gold medals were also awarded in this flight: “well‐balanced, rounded” Everleaf Marine, “sweet and bitter” Fluère Bitter, and “bright, light and minty” De Kuyper Zero 0% Mojito. Six Silver medals completed the flight.
Uresti said: “There were some amazing products in this flight, and we saw the category not involving too much sugar or acids, but finding a way to balance both.”
Smith was just as excited about this round. He noted: “Some superb products that really encapsulates their alcoholic counterparts, balance of sweetness and sourness.”
In the Non‐Alcoholic Liqueur (less than 0.5% ABV) flight, Silk Cream Liq.eur with Maca Concept from Creamy Creation (B2B) received a Gold medal. Kiely’s panel noted the “vanilla aroma, custard‐like”, and found the palate to be “well‐textured, indulgently creamy, and very good”.
The final flight of the day delivered a large number of Pre‐Mixed/RTD products. Taking the Master title in this heat was Ginger Sour by NIO Cocktails. Chambers enjoyed “earthy crystallised ginger” on the nose and the cocktail’s “tangy, sharp palate with lots of earthy ginger – much better and balanced with ice/chilled; good sour citrus”.
Nine Gold medals gave this round a boost, with winners including: “refreshing, balanced and slightly sweet” De Kuyper Fizzy Watermelon; Fluère RTD Negroni, with “soft bitters, sweet orange” aromas; and “crowd‐pleaser” De Kuyper Fizzy Peachtree, which did “exactly what it says on the tin”.
The flight closed with 11 Silver medals, which included Betty Buzz Meyer Lemon Club Soda, Banks Herbarium and Pink Grapefruit Tonic, and White Tea & Calamansi Cold Brew Nitro Tea.
Lees noted: “A very diverse category, good to see natural flavours and very good to see balance achieved.”
With the tasting complete, the judges reset their palates in preparation for the Taste Master assessment. All of the Master winners were repoured for each judge, who was tasked with choosing their favourite low‐and-no product from the day. With the majority of the votes, The Low & No Taste Master 2023 title was bestowed upon De Kuyper Zero 0% Margarita.
Reflecting on the standard of entries, Moss said: “The message I took from today is that this is clearly still an evolving category. Some were quite successful with a little complexity – but there is still room to create some convincing ‘switch‐outs’ for major spirit categories. One area that requires work is capturing the aromatic complexity of a product, which is clearly very hard. But it’s all moving in the right direction – I’m looking forward to seeing what future developments we’ll see from this relatively new part of the spirits world.”
|Adnams, Southwold||Adnams Smidgin Dry Gin||Master|
|Merser London||Merser Small Rum||Silver|
Low‐Alcohol (6% to 25% ABV)
|Casa Savoia||Savoia Americano Rosso||Gold|
|Pernod Ricard||Beefeater Pink Light||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard||Beefeater Light||Silver|
Lower‐Alcohol (26% to 30% ABV)
|Pernod Ricard||Beefeater Botanics Lemon & Ginger||Gold|
Non‐Alcoholic White ‘Spirit’ (less than 0.5% ABV)
|Anora Group||OP Anderson Original (1891)||Master|
|Anora Group||OP Anderson Klar||Master|
|Pernod Ricard France||Ceder’s Classic||Gold|
|Spirits of Virtue||Pearsons Botanicals, Hibiscus & Rose||Gold|
|Four Pillars Distillery||Four Pillars Bloody Bandwagon||Gold|
|Anora Group||OP Anderson Petronella||Gold|
|Lyne’s Spirit Co||Lyre’s Pink London Spirit||Gold|
|Pernod Ricard France||Ceder’s Wild||Gold|
|Spirits of Virtue||Pearsons Botanicals, Rhubarb & Ginger||Gold|
|Four Pillars Distillery||Four Pillars Bandwagon||Gold|
|Niets Distillery||Botaniets Original 0.0% Gin||Gold|
|Niets Distillery||Botaniets Ginger & Yuzu 0.0% Gin||Gold|
|Sober Spirits||Sober-Gin 0.0%||Silver|
|The Glory Mornin’ Company||Glory Mornin’ Super Vivid||Silver|
|Freespirited Drinks||Rebels 0.0% Gin Alternative||Silver|
|Lyre’s Spirit Co||Lyre’s Agave Blanco Spirit||Silver|
|Rheinland Distillers||Siegfried Wonderleaf||Silver|
|Berliner Brandstifter||Brandstifter Alkoholfrei||Silver|
|Anora Group||Livets Snaps||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard France||Ceder’s Pink Rose||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard France||Ceder’s Crisp||Silver|
Non‐Alcoholic Dark ‘Spirit’ (less than 0.5% ABV)
|Freespirited Drinks||Rebels 0.0% Amaretto Alternative||Gold|
|Rheinland Distillers||Siegfried Wonderoak||Gold|
|Sober Spirits||Sober‐Rum 0.0%||Gold|
|The Social Drinks Company||Sentia Red||Silver|
|Freespirited Drinks||Rebels 0.0% Rum Alternative||Sliver|
|Caleño Drinks||Caleño Dark & Spicy Tropical Non‐Alcoholic Spirit||Silver|
Non‐Alcoholic Apéritif (less than 0.5% ABV)
|De Kuyper||De Kuyper Zero 0% Margarita||Master & Taste Master|
|The Drinks Company||Pallini Limonzero||Master|
|Everleaf Drinks||Everleaf Mountain||Master|
|Vera Spirits||Aperitivø Classicø||Master|
|Everleaf Drinks||Everleaf Marine||Gold|
|Fluére Drinks||Fluère Bitter||Gold|
|De Kuyper||De Kuyper Zero 0% Majito||Gold|
|Everleaf Drinks||Everleaf Forest||Silver|
|Rheinland Distillers||Siegfried Wonderleaf Rosé||Silver|
|De Kuyper||De Kuyper Zero 0% Strawberry Daiquiri||Silver|
|De Kuyper||De Kuyper Zero 0% Pornstar Martini||Silver|
|Freespirited Drinks||Rebels 0.0% Spritz Alternative||Silver|
|Borco‐Marken import Matthiesen & Co||Apice||Silver|
Non‐Alcoholic Liqueur (less than 0.5% ABV)
|Creamy Creation (B2B)||Silk Cream Liq.eur with Maca Concept||Gold|
|NIO Cocktails||Ginger Sour||Master|
|Shadow Public Relations||Betty Buzz Ginger Beer||Gold|
|De Kuyper||De Kuyper Fizzy Watermelon||Gold|
|Salud Beverages||Salud Beverages G&T – Lavender||Gold|
|Fluère Drinks||Fluère RTD Gimlet||Gold|
|Fluère Drinks||Fluère RTD Negroni||Gold|
|Fluère Drinks||Fluère RTD Smokey Margarita||Gold|
|Salud Beverages||Salud Beverages G&T – Lavender||Gold|
|De Kuyper||De Kuyper Fizzy Passionfruit||Gold|
|De Kuyper||De Kuyper Fizzy Peachtree||Gold|
|Salud Beverages||Salud Beverages G&T – Cucumber||Silver|
|Banks Botanicals||Banks Herbarium & Pink Grapefruit Tonic||Silver|
|Shadow Public Relations||Betty Buzz Sparkling Lemon Lime||Silver|
|East Forged||Australian Black Tea & Yuzu Cold Brew Nitro Tea||Silver|
|Shadow Public Relations||Betty Buzz Meyer Lemon Club Soda||Silver|
|NIO Cocktails||Lemongrass Citrus||Silver|
|Fluère Drinks||Fluère RTD Dark Daiquiri||Silver|
|Fluère Drinks||Fluère RTD Mojito||Silver|
|Shadow Public Relations||Betty Buzz Tonic Water||Silver|
|East Forged||White Tea & Calamansi Cold Brew Nitro Tea||Silver|
|De Kuyper||De Kuyper Fizzy Strawberry||Silver|