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.
Co-Chair, World Whiskies Awards USA Division
Maggie Kimberl is the Content Editor of American Whiskey Magazine and the Co-Chair of the World Whiskies Awards. She is a freelance spirits journalist focusing on whiskey culture in the United States, though she considers herself to be 'geographically blessed' to live in the epicenter of the bourbon world, Louisville, Kentucky.
When she's not covering the bourbon beat you can find her browsing through vintage vinyl with her kids or tending to her homegrown tomatoes.
Tracie Franklin is a whiskey educator, public speaker, consultant, and distiller who lives in Washington D.C. In her previous life, she traveled the world performing in theatre productions and now uses those skills to share her passion for whiskey with diverse groups. She has shared her knowledge in numerous publications and on the small screen with the Today Show, CBS This Morning, and Good Day Chicago.
As an educator, Tracie enjoys working with bar professionals, spirits enthusiasts, and curious newbies who want to learn a new appreciation for the vast and delicious world of spirits. She's been featured at events for Drexel University, Google, Peloton, Essence Festival, Beverage Alcohol Resource, Keepers of the Quaich, and Charleston Food and Wine.
She has numerous certifications in Wine and Spirits... and is pursuing her Diploma in Distillation from IBD. She left her role of Glenfiddich National Ambassador to become the first intern in the Nearest and Jack Leadership Acceleration program. An intense educational opportunity which allowed her to travel the USA working and studying with legendary distillers, blenders, biologists and educators. She is a 2020 Icon of Whisky, a 2022 Imbibe 75 Person to Watch, and is in the Dames Hall of Fame for making a lasting impact on the spirits industry. She hopes to help create a more inclusive and colorful spirits industry. Follow her Spirited Adventures on IG @Spirited_Tracie.
Property Mixologist, Fountainebleau Las Vegas
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."
Heidi Milla Anderson
Tequila Educator and Consultant
Heidi Milla Anderson is a Tequila Educator and Consultant in Nashville, Tennessee certified in Tequila Culture through the Tequila Regulatory Council. The deep-rooted history of agave spirits along with her Hispanic heritage impels Heidi to spread what she calls “The Gospel of Agave.” Heidi strongly advocates for authentically made Tequilas; Tequilas respectfully produced from earth to bottle.
Formerly engaged in the spirits industry as a brand ambassador and sales representative, Heidi’s knowledge and enthusiasm for Tequila has been conducive in successfully launching multiple tequila brands in Tennessee. In 2020 she was featured in Tequila Aficionado Magazine, Profiles in Agave Spirits.... In 2022 she was commissioned by Master distiller, Melly Barajas Cardenas to create a series of social media cocktail videos for Melly's brand, Tequila Leyenda De Mexico. Heidi can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube as @LaTequilaMamacita where Tequila tasting reviews, production methods, significance of terroir, customized cocktail recipes and food pairings are featured. She is also cohost of the weekly Instagram live show, @TheTequiladies, featuring interviews with various industry professionals. Heidi also enjoys cooking, song writing and singing. Her self-written parody, Reposado, can be heard on @latequilamamacita Instagram and YouTube.
Mexico Comercial Director for Tequilera Los Alambiques, based in Arandas Jalisco at “The Golden Triangle” for the Agave and Tequila Industry.
Fany is a sixth generation tequilera and agavera. Her family has created award-winning brands like Tapatio, El Tesoro de Don Felipe and Tequila Ocho.
She has been involved in the family business since she was 16. Graduated for Marketing Administration at ITESO University in Guadalajara México. Started at Los Alambiques in 2014.
Tequila Taster Expert. Degree in Técnico Tequilero endorsed by the CITEMATEQ Colegio Internacional de Técnicos y Maestros Tequileros. Making the tasting notes for Tequila Ocho back labels for six years now.
Corporate Bar Manager - Herbs & Rye, Cleaver.
A born and raised Boricua, Joy Figueroa is in the 3rd generation of a hospitality service family. (Wepa!)
Growing up, her family ran the bar Cafe Seda in Old San Juan. From there, she learned bartending at The Ritz Carlton Puerto Rico, and has worked behind the bar all the way from sunny South Beach, Miami, to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands.
After moving to Las Vegas, she worked her way up from a Cosmopolitan barback and has been the Lead Bartender at concepts run by “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro and Chef Lorena Garcia at Chica. She is formerly the Corporate Bar Manager of the award-winning team at Herbs & Rye and Cleaver, led by Nectaly Mendoza. She is now the General Manager of their new, upcoming concept Morning News.
If she had one piece of advice for budding professionals, she says: "Don't ever be afraid of new beginnings or starting from the bottom, because hard work will always be rewarded."
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.
Sake School of America
Certified Master of Sake and Master Sake Sommelier. Toshio is the creator of Sake School of America and English Shochu Adviser Certificate program, and only one in the world to hold Master of Sake (酒匠), Master Sake Sommelier (日本酒学講師), and WSET Sake Educator diploma.
Born in Japan where his family has grown Japanese wine grape, Koshu, for generations, Toshio grew up helping... the business from a young age. Following his college education in the US and employment at an international trading company in Tokyo, Toshio joined Chateraise, a pastry and wine company as Director of Sales. There, he was put in charge of overseeing the personal wine collection of the company's president, which intrigued him to enter the world of wine stewardship and research.
Toshio joined Mutual Trading Company in 2002, where he is Director of Sake Specialist Department in marketing Japanese foods, Sake, and Shochu to the mainstream American trade. With his passion and expertise in Sake, Shochu, and Wine, Toshio aims to further promote Japanese food and Sake cultures to new, international audiences. Since 2010, he has been Vice President & Executive Instructor at Sake School of America. In 2016 he was awarded the industry’s most prestigious title Sake Samurai from Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association.
And recently February 2021, he was appointed as The Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador by Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Honors & Awards:
• 2021 Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
• 2020 Awamori JIbner, Okinawa Awamori Distillers Association
• 2019 Professionnel du Vin, Chaine des Rottiseurs Chevalier de la Societe Mondiale du Vin, Chaine des Rottiseurs
• 2019 Board of Director, Society of Wine Educators
• 2017 Distinguished Service Prize, FBO Japan
• 2016 Sake Samurai, Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association Certification:
• 日本酒学講師 Master Sake Sommelier / Sake Educator, Sake Service Institute (SSI)
• 酒匠 Master of Sake, SSI
• 南部杜氏協会 研究科生 Nanbu Toji Guild Pre-Toji Candidate
• WSET Certified Sake Educator, Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET)
• Diploma Candidate, WSET – Level 3 Wine & Spirits and Level 3 in Spirits (WSET)
• Certified Specialist of Wine, Society of Wine Educators
• Certified Sommelier, Court of Master Sommeliers
• French Wine Scholar, International Wine Guild
• Spanish Wine Scholar, International Wine Guild
• Certified Italian Wine Specialist, North American Sommelier Association
• Certified Shochu Sommelier, SSI
• Citified Beer Adviser, FBO
• Cicerone Beer Server, Cicerone Judge:
• International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC), Spirits Judge
• Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition, Wine & Spirits Judge
• San Francisco World Spirits Competition Judge, Spirits Judge
• San Francisco International Wine Competition, Wine Judge
• Texsom International Wine Awards, Wine Judge
• International Wine Challenge (IWC), Wine & Sake Judge
• CINVE Spain, Spirits Judge
• TAG Global Spirits Awards, Spirits Judge
• Las Vegas Global Wine Awards, Wine Judge
• 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®.
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 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.
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.
Kevin Bratt is the National Wine & Spirits Director at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in Chicago, Las Vegas & Washington D.C., and the Beverage Director for Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago & Schaumburg.
The hospitality industry was a career meant-to-be for Kevin. Growing up north of Seattle in Washington State, Kevin first began waiting tables simply to make ends meet. A football scholarship brought him to Orange City, Iowa, where he attended Northwestern College. During this time, he would frequently make trips up to the Chicagoland area for fun. He quickly fell in love with the Windy City and all it had to offer, especially the growing restaurant scene, and after college decided to make Chicago his new home. Working in the Chicago hospitality industry fostered his passion and appreciation for all things wine and spirits.
In 2000, the iconic Miami restaurant, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab was set to debut in Chicago. In need of a Wine Director, Kevin applied for the position and immediate struck a positive chord with the Joe’s team. In his new role, Kevin worked to break down the usual stereotypes of sommeliers. He wanted the wine program to be fun, approachable, and exciting for the guests – not intimidating or stuffy. Kevin was empowered to explore new products and labels, and break the mold of the standard steakhouse wine list. When Joe’s Las Vegas opened in the Forum Shops at Caesars in 2004, Kevin was promoted to Concept Wine Director, and now oversees the wine and beverage programs in Chicago, Las Vegas, and the newest Joe’s location, Washington DC. He has recently added the position of Beverage Director for Shaw’s Crab House (Chicago / Schaumburg).
Kevin has been actively involved in Wine Service and Restaurant Hospitality for over two decades and is certified by the Society of Wine Educators and the Court of Master Sommeliers. Additionally, he has consulted for several wine programs throughout the Chicago area, many of which have been commended both locally and nationally.
“I love my job,” Kevin states. “It’s wine – it’s supposed to be fun! It requires me to constantly learn and grow, much like the product itself. I want to ensure each one of our guests is happy with their meal, and thrilled with their wine selection. I am continually working to make our wine program a great extension of the Joe’s dining experience.”
Kevin currently resides in Winnetka, just north of the Chicago city limits, with his wife Kameron and their two sons, Jens and Owen. He enjoys being outdoors, whether that’s snowboarding, skydiving, or anything on the water, namely sailing and surfing. When not diving into the wine cellar at Joe’s, you can find him dining around town.
Jake Holshue has been a Head Distiller, Consultant, and Production Manager in the spirits industry for over a decade. Jake currently works for Big Thirst Consulting, as well as serving his second term on the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) Board of Directors where he lead the Education Committee, the Mentorship Committee, and the Consumer Facing Committee.
Beyond his distilling career Jake is an amature pomologist and orchardist, focusing on cider apple production.
Richard Davies is a seasoned business leader and a prominent figure in the global drinks industry. He embarked on his journey in the early 1990s after successfully completing a business and marketing degree in the UK. His initial focus was on the retail side of the alcohol industry, where he specialized in nurturing and expanding small bespoke independent on-premises drinking establishments, guiding them towards successful exits.
With a firm foundation of strong internal values, Richard has earned the trust and respect of his peers, making him a sought-after board member and senior business leader in the drinks industry. Over the course of his impressive 25-year career, he has played a crucial role in helping both UK and international drinks companies. Richard's extensive global personal and business network has proven to be an invaluable asset throughout his career.
As a natural leader with a decisive approach, Richard has effectively led teams to develop and execute growth strategies, maximizing business potential and ensuring utmost customer, brand, and employee satisfaction. He possesses exceptional interpersonal skills, allowing him to forge constructive relationships at all levels and effectively represent stakeholder interests while aligning with company objectives.
Driven by a forward-thinking mindset, Richard currently serves as the founder and master blend developer of Sláinte Irish Whiskey, a venture he leads with passion and dedication. His strategic acumen enables him to navigate risks, establish robust governance frameworks, and build high-performance teams that align with the overarching cultural visions and values of Sláinte.
In addition to his business prowess, Richard is a fully trained cocktail bartender, which he aptly describes as being a 'liquid chef.' This expertise led him to create The World's Most Awarded Rum in 2018, adding another accolade to his illustrious career.
He is also a proud business partner of Liev Schreiber, and together, they successfully launched Sláinte Irish Whiskey in 2022. The brand has rapidly expanded and gained recognition, securing distribution in seven states and winning over 30 international awards.
Richard's commitment to giving back is evident in his specialty of sourcing extremely rare casks of Irish Whiskey for his philanthropic program.
Beyond his professional achievements, Richard is a passionate chef, adding another dimension to his remarkable profile. This unique combination of skills and experiences makes Richard an ideal choice as a judge in the Las Vegas Spirits competition, where his discerning palate and industry expertise are sure to contribute significantly.
With Richard at the helm, Sláinte Irish Whiskey is poised for a promising future with a growing global presence.
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 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.