Cannon Beach Distillery takes home the gold medal (and more)

<p>Mike Selberg proudly displays his award-winning craft spirits and the awards themselves. The Dorymen's Rum, left, won a bronze medal for silver rums. The Donlon Shanks Amber Rum, right, won both a gold metal and the award for best in class — that is, the best rum in any rum category entered nationwide.</p>

Cannon Beach Distillery is not yet 2 years old and its products are already winning coveted national awards.

At the eighth annual American Distilling Institute Judging of Craft American Spirits, the distillery’s Dorymen’s Rum took home a bronze in the silver rum category.

More importantly, its Donlon Shanks Amber Rum earned a gold medal (which the institute doesn’t always give out), a Best in Category for rum aged under one year and a Best in Class award.

The Best in Class award means that Donlon Shanks beat out every other rum entered in the competition nationwide — no minor achievement, considering that Cannon Beach Distillery competed against highly regarded businesses in California, Colorado and New York in the February competition.

The institute doesn’t divulge how many distilleries enter the competition, but it falls within the hundreds.

This is only the third time a Best in Class award has been bestowed upon a rum.

“I guarantee you anyone producing rum in the U.S. has heard of Cannon Beach now,” wrote 29-year-old Mike Selberg, owner and operator of Cannon Beach Distillery, in an email. “The Northwest is just dominating right now.”

Not very many distilleries produce rum, he noted.

“It’s a developing category ... Everybody’s starting to get into it,” he said. “You’re really going to see rum come in vogue here pretty soon.”

Selberg, who opened his business July 1, 2012, entered his spirits in last year’s competition as well. Though he came home empty-handed, he scored higher than he expected.

He also received very helpful notes. Taking his cues from highly regarded judges, he adapted his recipes and distilling techniques to improve this year’s entries.

“I guess the notes from last year I kind of nailed for this year,” he said.

The Judging of Craft American Spirits is like the Cannes Film Festival of spirit awards: Only small-scale independently owned business can compete.

“I think people would be shocked how many craft distilleries there are in the U.S.,” Selberg said.

Oregon alone boasts over 80 distilleries; Washington just hit 80.

“The people making craft spirits right now are really dedicated people because it’s not a super lucrative business. Most people are in it to make really high-end products and do it for the passion of doing it,” he said. “There’s a lot of energy in the room for the people that win. It’s a big deal.”


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