Judges Panel 2022

Steve Beal

Award Winner,
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.

Karina Sanchez Huitron

Diageo Global Brand Ambassador for Tequila Don Julio

Karina has been working in the tequila Industry for over 15 years behind the tequila production process, and for most of this time she has been driving tequila training for global teams and leading public relations specialized in the category.

Her degree as a chemical engineer allows her to fully understand the tequila process. While working in the Mexican Tequila Chamber as Public Relations & Promotion Manager for 3 years, Karina had the opportunity to gain deep knowledge in the category globally, and to work together with the main players of the industry (Government and Organizations dedicated to protect and promote the category, trade chambers from all over the world, embassies, global media, Distilled Spirit Council dedicated to oversee spirits in the US, and the 60 tequila brands affiliated with the Mexican Tequila Chamber)

One of the most important achievements during her career was the design, development and launching of the first National Tequila Day celebration in Mexico including the first Tequila Cocktail Week to strengthen Tequila Cocktail trends in On Premise, the creation of the partnership with an ecommerce platform to raise tequila sales during this celebration, and the first Mixology Contest organized by the Mexican Tequila Chamber.

Brigid Mannarino

Director of Growth Marketing, MHW

Brigid Mannarino is the Director of Growth Marketing at leading beverage alcohol service provider MHW. She provides thousands of brands from more than 100 countries with industry news, guidance, and brand acceleration opportunities. Brigid educates the media, industry associations, and conferences on what it takes to successfully launch and operate a brand in the US. She serves on the DISCUS Public Affairs Committee.

Prior to leading growth efforts for MHW, Brigid led marketing agency teams on integrated brand identity and market research. She also served as the Brand Marketing Manager for an ultra-premium craft vodka brand where she created engagement and educational programs for consumers, retailers, brand ambassadors, mixologists, in-house and distributor salesforces, industry associations, and national media. She can personally attest to the power that a competition award, such as LVGSA, can drive for a taste-driven spirit on a crowded shelf or e-commerce site.

Allisa Henley

Sazerac of Tennessee Distiller

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.

Julie Lee

Keeper of the Quaich, Asia 2013
Owner, Or Sileis

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.

Livio Lauro

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.

Víctor M. Martínez Quezada
  • Connoisseur of tequila by the Mexican chamber of tequila.
  • Master distiller by the Mexican academy of tequila and mezcal academy
  • Winner of spirit of excellence at Beamsuntory
  • Master mixology of Buenos Aires Cocktail University of Argentina
  • IAG Sommelier by the Gastronomy Argentinian Gastronomy
  • Global Brand ambassador, corporate Master Mixologist and head chef

In Victor’s Bar & kitchen, having fun while creating dishes of daring flavors is of paramount importance. He is a chef that cares about the details and uses wildflowers and plants that confer a modern identity to his approach. With a thorough knowledge of tequila, he also proposes an authentic Cocktail Bar menu that is highly appreciated by our visitors.

Víctor has perfected his techniques in the countries of France, Belgium and Argentina, but it is here in Mexico where he has developed his recognized cooking style using regional elements and international accents, emphasizing the marriage with Sauza® tequilas.

He has collaborated with the renown chefs Andoni Aduriz, honored as the Second-best chef worldwide by both the Michelin Guide and the Food & Wine Magazine, and Martin Molteni, winner of the Bocuse d’Or Cup.

As a Sommelier and Mixologist, he has developed a state-of-the-art Cocktail Bar menu, merging fresh elements to reveal the notes of each of our brands, which conquer by their aromas and textures. He also creates unique garnishing and edible side-dishes that enhance the presentation of the spirits and reaffirm his innovative approach. Víctor is an audacious chef and mixologist who re-invents himself constantly and delights our visitors through an expression of flavors that are enjoyed with Sauza®.

Colin Asare-Appiah

Senior Portfolio Ambassador Bacardi

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

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.

Sam Filmus
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.

In 2021, Sam and his business partner Chris launched The ImpEx Collection, and Independent Bottling Brand, to showcase exceptional whiskies, rums, mezcals, and more, always keeping in mind that each bottle must offer a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

Sam is excited to return this year as a judge for the Las Vegas Global Spirit Awards alongside other remarkable industry professionals.

Aaron Diec

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.

Judging Process

The 2023 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.