Ferndale business awarded gold medal at World Spirits Competition

san francisco world spirits competition 2018 gold medal source Sui Generis Spirits LLC
San Francisco World Spirits Competition gold medal. Source: Sui Generis Spirits, LLC.

A Ferndale business man says he may have stumbled upon the next big thing in the world of liqueurs and judges at a recent worldwide competition agree.

Sui Generis Spirits, LLC President Chet Holstein says he received an email from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC) Executive Director Anthony Dias Blue letting him know his company’s debut liqueur, Kuma, had been awarded a gold medal for liqueurs in their annual blind competition.

According to Holstein, Kuma is a liqueur made from macerated turmeric root. The process is call post-distillation maceration he explained in an email. “We take high proof Grain Neutral Spirit (GNS) with an alcohol content of 92-95%. Then we macerate or cold-steep our raw, all natural and organic ingredients in the GNS. The ethanol extracts flavors, colors and other components of our ingredients from the raw material.”

The SFWSC 2018 judging took place April 13th through the 15th. The competition has been held annually since 2000. According to SFWSC Founder and Executive Director Anthony Dias Blue, the 3-day competition is “the largest and most respected competition in the US.” This year, 40 judges tasted and scored several thousand entries from around the world, awarding bronze, silver, gold, and double gold medals for the best. Holstein said there were over 2000 entries in the competition.

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Holstein said he has “messed around a bit” over the past few years creating home-brewed and other post-distillation liqueurs by putting plants into vodka or Everclear. He has no formal training but said, “I would credit 20 years of bartending and my Sommelier Certification and Diploma.”

But he gives luck more credit when it came to creating Kuma. “I made it deliberately and put a lot of thought into what I wanted the result to be, but that Kuma actually turned out so perfectly… I don’t know, it feels lucky,” he said. “Someone told me it was as if my subconscious used my career experience and worked out all the details, presenting them to me as a random stream of ideas. Like little me was on my shoulder saying, ‘Hey I bet dried grapefruit peel would add something cool.’ ”

kuma turmeric liqueur
Kuma turmeric root liqueur. Photo courtesy Sui Generis Spirits, LLC.

Kuma first appeared at the Ferndale Haggen store on October 3, 2017. It is now available at several other Haggen locations, Community Food Co-op locations in Bellingham and nearly 20 bars and restaurants including Outlaws Saloon in Ferndale and The Willows Inn on Lummi Island.

Holstein says he is not done yet. “We have several other recipes we’re developing, a couple of which are complete but not yet in production,” he explained. “Future products will only involve ingredients that are not already being used.”

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Originally from Lynnwood, Holstein moved to Bellingham with his wife, Tinna, in 2003 and then to Ferndale in 2010. He most recently worked in the Wine, Beer and Spirits Department at the Ferndale Haggen and before that was the maître d’ & sommelier at The Steak House at The Silver Reef Casino for 7 years.

Holstein is planning to set up a production facility with equipment to produce larger amounts of Kuma while also expanding their product distribution.