Spirits Judge & Brand Ambassador
Steve Beal is a very familiar figure to both the consumers who enjoy them and those in the trade who make and spirits. He has earned the respect of everyone he meets with his endless energy and passion for all things distilled and whisky in particular.
Before his retirement from corporate life, he served as fulltime official brand ambassador for some of the world’s iconic whisky brands. Many have come to consider him the unofficial brand ambassador for the category of whisky as a whole.
He is regarded as one of the top distilled spirits experts in America. For most of his whisky career, Steve was one of the spirits giant Diageo’s original Masters of Whisky and Sr. Master of Whisky for DIAGEO Spirits on the US West Coast at the time of his official retirement in 2015.
2017 – Became Chairing Judge for the International Wine & Spirits Competition, UK, the world’s oldest and largest blind tasting competition where has served as a panel judge for seven years.
2016 – He was honored with Life Membership – Lifetime Achievement Award by US Bartenders Guild at the Spirited Awards at Tales of The Cocktail in New Orleans.
2015 – Became Chair the Judging for the World Whiskies Awards for the Americas for Whisky Magazine. He also judges the World Whiskies Awards in the UK
2015 – He was inducted into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame together with Al Young of Four Roses Bourbon and Bill Samuels of Makers Mark.
2010 – He was created "Keeper of the Quaich", an honor bestowed only upon the elite of the Scotch Whisky industry. Fifty-two individuals from around the world were welcomed at Blair Castle in the heart of the Scottish Highlands for induction into the Keepers of the Quaich.
2000 – He became a founding judge for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, a position he continues in to this day.
In addition to his former role as Master of Whisky, Steve is also known as a writer, chef, and broadcast personality. He judges for the American Distilling Institute, the American Craft Spirits Association, and the Ambrosia Spirits Awards in Mumbai.
He currently serves on the management committee of the US Bartenders Guild Master Mixologist program and is one of its founders.
Steve makes his home in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. He is a graduate of Oxford University and the University of Arizona. He holds a Master of Divinity Degree from The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, California and is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church where he also serves in a voluntary capacity as assisting priest at San Francisco’s nearby Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill. He also volunteers his time working with the City’s homeless.
Julie Lee has been working in spirits industry for more than 20 years, and is still passionate about every part of it. She doesn’t see whisky as a western commodity, by localizing it in the market, this drink will form a new and characteristic drinking culture in the local market. Julie is the person who has been playing the role until this day. Unlike the conventional role of brand ambassador, Julie considers the crucial element of localizing whisky is “palate”. She is the founder of Asian Palate Association, and the owner of Or Sileis, an independent whisky brand tailor-made for Asian market. She fully elaborates her cultural and professional background to select and produce whisky which Asian consumers can easily connect to their drinking experience and memory of food.
In addition, Julie would like to introduce this Asian palate to western drinkers as well. She became the first Chinese female keeper of the Quaich in Asia in 2013, which is a great milestone of her career. Her profession gains great recognition, and enables her to start being a judge in International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) London / Hong Kong, and International Spirituosen Wettbewrb (ISW) Germany, and many other international competitions. She is the key influencer of whisky in Asia.
Spirits making is a fine craftsmanship, Julie believes there is science behind the craft. In order to improve her knowledge of spirits making, she took the course of general certificate in distillery which organized by Institute of Brewing & Distillery, and received the qualification eventually. Now she is officially a professional distiller, since she has the full knowledge which contains all the perspectives of the industry. They involve with physics, chemistry, biological technology and distillery management.
Julie still have a great vision and ambition of being a great messenger of spirits, and she will continue playing this role in different forms.
Senior Director of Sales - Resort Spirits at Southern Wine & Spirits
Livio Lauro started his beverage career more than 25 years ago in Southern Italy at the famous Club Valentino, and later at the cocktail-centric Dolce Vita; both located on the beautiful island of Ischia in the heart of the Mediterranean.
The recipient of several prestigious awards in international cocktail competitions, Livio was recognized in 2002 for passing the final Capo Barman AIBES exam, the most prestigious testing series sanctioned by the Italian Bartenders Association.
Livio is widely recognized as one of the most instrumental figures in the resurgence of the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) and is the founding President of the Guild’s Master Accreditation program which is the premier national testing body for bartenders in the United States.
His seminars are routinely featured at major beverage trade shows and are recognized as being both innovative and trendsetting.
Since 2001, Livio has been employed by Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits in Las Vegas and works alongside the foremost distillers and beverage importers in the world.
Livio also works with many of the most recognizable hospitality corporations by assisting them in the development of successful and profitable Beverage initiatives.
Livio owns some 400 vintage and modern books on mixology, hospitality, alcoholic beverages, and drinking culture, he’s incessently passionate about his research on these topics.
Livio is also the author of the Liquid Legacybook and the co-author of The Twelve Cocktailsand The Beverage Engineer.
Lead Bartender, Venetian Resort Cocktail Collective
As the lead bartender at The Dorsey inside The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, Juyoung Kang has become an industry icon by working her way up in the ever-expanding world of bartending.
Kang began her career in her hometown of Philadelphia, shortly before making her way to Los Angeles, where she worked at prestigious luxury resorts including The Peninsula Beverly Hills and Thompson Beverly Hills Hotel.
In 2017, Wine Enthusiast named Kang on its list of "40 Under 40 Tastemakers," and was nominated by Eater Las Vegas as "Bartender of the Year." In 2015, she was the Nevada Restaurant Association's "Bartender of the Year" and, in 2014, won recognition as GQ and Bombay Sapphire's "Most Imaginative Bartender."
Beverage Consultant & Bar Design at Barman One LLC
A world-renowned mixologist, spirits industry educator and icon of cocktail culture, Francesco Lafranconi has won some of the world’s most prestigious cocktail competitions.
Along with the Bacardi-Martini Grand Prix World Final and John White Course in Singapore (both involving the I.B.A.); He is the recepient of the Bartender Hall of Fame Award from Bartender’s Magazine, the Raising the Bar Award from Cheers Magazine, Mixologist of the Year Award from Nightclub and Bar Magazine, Spirit Professional of the Year from Santé Magazine, Tales Of The Cocktail’s Golden Spirit Award and Best In Show at the Iron Mixologist Competition sponsored by Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Of America.
He also contributes his mixology expertise to national publications which include the Robb Report's Magazine: Host Guide, as well.
His proudest achievement is founding the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service in 2000. The 12-week education program has trained over 1,000 beverage professionals and imbued them with the same enthusiasm he brings to every cocktail.
He is also the proud inventor of the bar workstation known as The Racetrack, which is poised to revolutionize the beverage industry.
Formerly founder and managing partner of MR. COCO, a visionary cocktail lounge located at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Under Francesco’s leadership, MR. COCO provided guests with a modern luxury experience, with consummate classic and signature cocktails, well-paired dishes, intimate world-class musical performances, and unmatched levels of service, raising the bar for cocktail culture in Las Vegas and beyond.
Francesco, previously to MR. COCO, served as Executive Director of Mixology and Spirits Educator for Southern Glazer Wine and Spirits of America.
His extensive knowledge and passion for his craft have made him a hit with his A-list celebrity clientele, world-class corporate clients, world renowned Michelin star chefs, national restaurant chains, international hotel companies and the thousands of people who’ve attended his seminars and live events around the world.
His distinguished career also includes tenures at the helm of some of the world’s leading hotel bars—The Gleneagles in Scotland; The Palace Hotel in Gstaadt, Switzerland; The Intercontinental Hotel in Cologne, Germany; and Harry’s Bar and Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy.
Francesco is a an honorary member of the United States Bartenders Guild (U.S.B.G.) and founding member of the U.S.B.G. Master Accreditation Program.
Since 2010, Francesco has been a member of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. He owns the Level 1 Sake Certification by the Japanese Sake Council and he is also an International Cognac Ambassador appointed with Gold Diploma by the B.N.I.C. (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac).
In March 2015, he also graduated from the Luis Ayala’s Rum University.
As a consummate connoisseur and industry ambassador who is passionate about sharing his knowledge with everyone he meets, Francesco is known worldwide for his catchphrase, “We’re not drinking, we’re learning.” ®
Allisa is a born and raised Tennessean with a passion for all things whiskey. She is especially passionate about Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon. She has worked in the spirits industry for over 16 years. During this time, she has worn many hats including brand marketing, ambassador, educator, and distillery & warehouse operations. She was the first Diageo operations person recognized as a Master of Whiskey. Through her hard work and dedication, she became the Distiller of George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey.
In 2016, she started working for Sazerac of Tennessee as Distiller. She will be an integral part of developing a new Tennessee Whiskey and other fine Tennessee spirits for this new distillery.
She travels the country sharing her industry experiences and knowledge. She can uniquely discuss the business from the distillery and maturing operations side as well as from the marketing and customer perspective. She continues to share her experiences in tastings, seminars, representing women in whiskey and by hands on education in a distillery setting.
Allisa has a B.A in Business Administration from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and M.B.A. from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN.
Nationally known spirits educator, trainer, consultant, and spirits judge, Robert Gonzales is the San Francisco-based Northern California Market Manager for PKGD Group.
Initially a bartender, Robert learned the production and distribution side of the industry while working alongside the top individuals in tequila, whiskey, and other spirits sectors.
Early in his career, Robert furthered his education by spending 5 years traveling North America and the Caribbean fulfilling demands for spirits education and craft mixology. Robert has consulted on hundreds of bars and restaurants, trained thousands of bartenders, and led thousands of consumers in a variety of symposiums, workshops, and seminars on behalf of Diageo, Beam Suntory, and Wine Warehouse.
Keeper of the Quaich 2018
Sam Filmus is the passionate and approachable president of ImpEx Beverages (an Importer of fine spirits from around the world) and JVS Imports (a California Distribution company). He has done what many of us aspire to in life, take a passion for something and turn it into a career.
Sam received his Whisky Certification from the University of the Highlands and Islands Moray College early on in his career but to him his true education came from the real world and the things he has learned along the way. He was bestowed the honor of being inducted as a Keeper of the Quaich in 2018, a lifetime achievement well respected by many in the industry. Even with this title, you will find Sam to be both humble and willing to share his knowledge with anyone who will listen. What’s most important to him are the creators he works with and the consumers he serves. Passion drives his business: passion for sharing stories, connecting with people, and filling glasses with beautiful spirits.
After decades as an importer and distributor, Sam realized that he could go even further to share his love of fine spirits with the world. In 2021, The ImpEx Collection launched as a way to showcase exceptional whiskies, rums, mezcals, and more, always keeping in mind that each bottle must offer a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
Now in this, his next chapter in his spirits journey, Sam is happy to join other remarkable industry professionals as a judge in this years' Las Vegas Global Spirit Awards.
Award Winning Writer and Consultant
Tobias Gorn is an award winning drinks and cigar writer and consultant based in the UK. In 2003, he began his career in the drinks industry and rose to become the sommelier of a Michelin star rewarded establishments and veteran of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
Over the last decade, Gorn has dedicated his main attention to fine wine, whisky, gin and Cuban cigars. He enjoys judging for number of competitions and he’s also an enthusiastic clay pigeon shooter, official shooting instructor, coach and referee.
Director of Spirits Information,
American Distilling Institute
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Eric Zandona is Director of Spirits Information at the American Distilling Institute, a staff writer for Distiller magazine, and he also runs the website EZdrinking.com.
In addition, Eric has authored, edited and contributed to six books on distilled spirits, including The Bourbon Bible, and The Tequila Dictionary.
Eric serves as a "Tequila Jockey" for Tequila Aficionado's web-series Sipping off the Cuff, and regularly speaks about spirits before consumers, producers, and regulators, both in the US and Internationally.
In 2017, Eric began a year long residency in Oaxaca drinking, and learning about Mexican gin, rum, whiskey, and agave spirits. Today, he and his family live in Vancouver, Washington.
In 2018, Eric was a shortlist nominee for the International Wine and Spirits Competition's Spirits Communicator of the Year Award, and in 2019, the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation’s 13th Annual Spirited Awards Committee selected The Bourbon Bible as a Top 10 Nominee for Best New Book on Drinks Culture, History or Spirits.
Founding The Perfect Spot in 2007, Virginia Miller is the West North America Chair for The World's 50 Best, has been Zagat SF editor, SF Guardian restaurant critic and Table8 National Editor/VP of Content.
Published in over 60 international publications, she regularly covers dining, restaurants, travel, spirits, cocktails and bars globally at Distiller Magazine, Liquor.com, Bob Cut, American Whiskey Magazine, The Bold Italic, Time Out, Gin Magazine, Where Traveler, Google’s Touringbird, Food Republic, Whisky Magazine, Thrillist, Cocktail Lovers, Alaska Airlines, to name a few.
She’s visited over 11,000 restaurants and 20,000 bars around the world. She leads drink classes, judges for many cocktail competitions and on many international awards panels in dining, spirits, cocktails and bars, including The World’s 50 Best, SF World Spirits Competition, IWSC (spirits) in the UK, Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, a lead spirits judge at American Distilling Institute (ADI) and Whiskies of the World, Good Food Awards, and more.
As one of the spirits industry’s most well-known and liked pioneers and trendsetters, Colin Asare-Appiah, Trade Director Culture and Lifestyle and winner of the 2016 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for “Best American Brand Ambassador”, has been making waves and setting industry standards since he first got his start in the industry over three decades ago.
Born in Ghana and raised in the UK, Colin began on this path as the original cocktail guide for BBC’S “The Good Food Show” with Anthony Worrel Thompson and started consulting on a myriad of spirit brands, truly immersing himself in all things spirit and cocktail right at cusp of the craft cocktail revolution.
From there, at the age 22, Colin co-founded the bar school, London Academy of Bartending along with industry professionals Douglas Ankrah, Richard Hargroves, Alex Turner and Andrew Chan-sing with the goal of teaching everything they had learned to rising bartenders, colleagues in the industry and beverage companies.
Due to its immense success, the business morphed into a bar and was globally recognized as LAB, has become a renowned and benchmark establishment in the industry.
Since then, Colin has worked with numerous spirit brands, celebrity chefs, cocktail bars and industry experts across the globe. He managed the bar at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Babington House and starred in his own show “The Cocktail Kings” on the DISCOVERY Channel where he and a co-presenter travelled around the world creating bespoke cocktails to reflect their destinations. The show is still being aired in Asia and South America.
In his current role, Colin is in charge of fostering brand advocacy for the Bacardi USA Brand Portfolio, building brand loyalty and elevating the bartending community as a whole through brand focused educational programming, events and seminars. His expertise and spirits knowledge has been featured in Imbibe, Complex, WSJ, TIME and Cocktail Lovers Magazine to name a few. Colin currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and sons.
Joseph V. Micallef is a judge and commentator on food, wines, spirits and travel. He is also a historian, best-selling author, keynote speaker and syndicated columnist. As a journalist and former war correspondent he has written on an eclectic mix of topics from wines, spirits and travel, to military history and world affairs. For 30+ years he was the CEO and Senior Producer of a media company.
Joe has also been a judge for a variety of international wines and spirits competitions, including the International Wines and Spirits Competition, World Drinks Awards, American Distilling Institute Craft Spirits Awards, and the Irish Whiskey Awards. Along with judging, he spends his spare time making wine in Oregon.
He holds the Diploma in Wines and Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (London). He is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Council of Whiskey Masters. The Advisory Board’s two dozen members are widely considered the leading experts on whisky in the world.
His recent books include, Scotch Whisky: It’s History, Production and Appreciation, World War I: A Concise History (part of a 12 episode made for television documentary), and Islamic State: Its History, Ideology and Challenge. Additional books on Tequila and on Italian Wines are forthcoming.
Joe is also an opinion columnist for Military.com where he writes about national security and international affairs, and a contributor to Forbes where he writes about wines, spirits and travel to the dusty corners of the world. In addition to writing, he is also the International Editor for the Irish Whiskey Magazine.
He has spent more than 20 years judging wines and spirits and lecturing and writing about them, and looks forward to many more.
Along with her siblings, nieces, and nephews, Jenny comes from a long line of top tequila producers as she is amongst the 3rd generation of her family's very well respected and award winning tequila distillery in the highland region of Jalisco.
In addition to having been born into the tequila business and learned directly and extensively from her father, grandfather, and older siblings, Jenny studied for a Master's Degree in tequila processes at La Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara where she further advanced her knowledge and skill level.
Today she is heavily involved in the tequila business and a master taster of agave spirits in her current role as the Director of Operations of La Alteña Distillery.
Founder of Tian Beverage Distributor LLC in Las Vegas, Nevada presenting the premier Asian-centric beverage portfolio featuring sake, baijiu, shochu, awamori, beer, wine, and other spirits.
Advanced Sake Professional, WSET Wine, Spirits, and Sake specialist with over 20 years in hospitality, food & beverage. Experienced in all aspects of restaurant service from front line service to management to butler services in luxury hotel resorts.
Aaron has spent the past 12 years in beverage distribution working at Wirtz Beverage and Southern Glazers Wine and Spirits, the two largest beverage companies in Nevada.
With direct influence and knowledge of the Asian product categories, Aaron has built respectable portfolios, sales execution, created restaurant menus, conducted staff trainings of all sizes, and hosted tasting events via Bottles & Boxes LLC in support of the local and hotel restaurant scene, community, and charities.
Notable feature in the Las Vegas Japan Times, also mentioned on Poured Inc for beverage industry professionals, and various social media platforms.
The 2021 Global Spirit Awards Judges Panel is a group of highly experienced & decorated men & women, with tremendous and diverse spirits and mixology backgrounds.
The panel we have assembled perfectly fits the high level of quality and visibility that we wanted for our inaugural panel.
The judging process, itself, is conducted as a 100% blind tasting process from the early rounds all the way through the sweepstakes rounds.
As each entry is received, it is catalogued in our system and put into its most appropriate sub-category. During the competition, all the spirits in their respective and specific sub-categories are sampled together as flights, carefully evaluated from color to finish, and scored by each one of our spirits judges on that that flight.
Then, scores for each spirit are tallied. The few spirits that have the distinguished honor of being scored the highest will move on to our sweepstakes rounds.
In the early afternoon of September 16, those highest scored spirits will be judged again to crown the Best of the Show categories.
On October 12, a worldwide press release will be sent out announcing all the winners as well as the overall Best of the Show winners. That announcement alone will be viewed by millions of people around the world in the industry as well as consumers in the public.
Each winner will also receive a one of kind medal, and a complete digital media kit including links to press releases, and multiple file format artwork for their use.