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Society of Spirits presents – The John Barleycorn Awards

The huntsman he can’t hunt the fox nor so loudly to blow his horn

And the tinker he can’t mend kettle or pots without a little Barleycorn.

—Steve Winwood

In honor of their 10th anniversary, New York City-based design firmSociety Awards wanted to create a special gift. Founder and CEO David Moritz set out to find the perfect gift for his clients. The gift needed to be celebratory, communicate a deep appreciation and match the Society Awards brand’s luxury flair. It didn’t take long for Moritz to recognize that the answer lay in his passion for fine spirits.

Of the project Moritz said “my clients know I’m a fanatic, so I decided to create a link between the quality and innovation of bourbon and my company.” He began reaching out to industry connections with the intention of securing a very special bourbon. This task is very nearly impossible even for people in the spirits industry. Very few distilleries offer any such thing, those that do offer very low volume to an extremely high demand. Moritz connected with Men’s Health Senior Managing Editor and Forbes Contributor John McCarthy to take a trip to Louisville.

The road trip/adventure’s goal: To buy a full bespoke barrel of impossible-to-get-your-hands-on bourbon that could be co-branded. The journey proved successful and the Society Awards 10th Anniversary Bourbon has been very well received. Additionally, the story of this rare journey became a popular article on Forbes.

Beyond being friends and drinking buddies, David Moritz and John McCarthy are two members of an elite team of spirits writers, marketers, and designers that make up The John Barleycorn Society.  The society and its elite team are committed to recognizing and honoring the wide range of writers, designers, professionals and artisans who advance and contribute to the world’s spirits industry.

About The John Barleycorn Awards

The John Barleycorn Awards recognizes the breadth of talent in the spirits industry by bestowing honors in three categories: Taste, Marketing and Journalism.  John Barleycorn is a symbol and reminder to those inside the spirits community and out that we need innovation of these world-class distillers, designers, marketers, and writers who together “cultivate the fertile traditions of the spirits industry.” The John Barleycorn Society members responsible for founding this groundbreaking, comprehensive spirits competition have created a gorgeous new website. was created to give spirits industry professionals a place to show their very best work. Visit the page for specific entry information as well as credentials of the judging panel and images of the gorgeous custom trophy available to winners.

The John Barleycorn Awards are judged in two rounds.  The first round of judging is made up of professional spirits writers skilled in the art of evaluating the taste, quality, and character of fine spirits. The second round of judges consists of marketing professionals trained in the advertising, promotion and marketing of spirits.

All judges are industry experts with lengthy experience. Judging is conducted in New York City over the course of a few days giving judges adequate time to give each entry the time and consideration deserved. All John Barleycorn contest entries are blind-tested and judged at random, not alongside other entrants in their category. This gives each entrant, regardless of distillery or agency size, an equal opportunity for their work to shine. One entrant’s win is not at the expense of another’s exceptional work; instead each highly meritorious entry will be accordingly recognized.

Society Awards Gives back to John Barleycorn’s Highest Achievers

All winners in the Taste category will receive the John Barleycorn statuette, a custom metal trophy that was commissioned from Society Awards by the John Barleycorn Society. The John Barleycorn statuette is a piece of art that reflects the major achievement of this incredible industry honor. No spirits awards program before has offered an award like this. The 11-inch cast metal sculpture is a custom creation from the world-class team at Society Awards located in the midtown manhattan area of New York City.  Society Awards is the world’s foremost designer and the best manufacturer of custom art objects and awards. The brand’s creations are reserved for some of the most recognizable and acclaimed artists, organizations and brands of our time. Their prestigious client list includes the Golden Globes, Emmys, Clio, MTV, AMA and countless others.

The unique custom award they created for the John Barleycorn awards has a triumphant pose, gleaming surface and evokes the world’s most prestigious trophies. And indeed the industry will find this to be one of the most important honors. The hand polished trophy comes in two finishes, available to winners of the respective Silver and Gold honors. Each custom engraved award arrives in a custom gold presentation gift box with a cleaning cloth, care card and certificate of authenticity.

Winners in the Marketing and Journalism categories receive free engraved certificates and the chance to purchase the statuette, while winners of the Taste category are provided with one complimentary copy of the trophy.

The John Barleycorn Society

The John Barleycorn Society was conceived and started by an elite group of spirits professionals who are some of the most notable and influential voices in the industry. These individuals have dedicated years to create this all-encompassing competition that we call The John Barleycorn Awards. The breadth of their experience and knowledge into all areas of the industry is a distinct benefit as it gives the judging of this competition a more fair and wide perspective.

The elegant new website for this competition is of course sleek and beautiful, but that should come as no surprise from a team that has guided the design of some of the most elegant and iconic design in the industry.

Click here to learn about the authoritative professionals that comprise the John Barleycorn Society

The History of ‘little Sir John’ Barleycorn

Why John Barleycorn? What meaning is behind the mysterious name this prestigious spirits competition?

John Barleycorn is the title character of a British folk song and a personification of the important cereal crop barley and of the beverages made from it—beer and whiskey. In the song, Barleycorn suffers the indignities, attacks and losses that follow the various stages of barley cultivation. His quest to find a spirit hailed for both its taste and presentation has been the central focus of works by such writers as Robert Burns and Jack London.

John Barleycorn has been revered for centuries, but today a new wave of marketing from spirits contemporaries is bringing such historical names into the spotlight. It’s part of a trend in the industry to revive the historic moments, figures and styles and couple that history with new tastes. The effect is that the art and appreciation of spirit-making has grown to be more sophisticated and to reach a wider audience than ever before.

Become a 2019 John Barleycorn Contestant

The 2019 John Barleycorn Awards are open and accepting applications until May 5th. That deadline is just around the corner, so hop over to the Barleycorn Awards website and get in your entry for this year’s awards. Click on the link below to submit your entry


If you’re entering the Taste category, don’t forget to send in a sample for judging—either two 750 ml bottles or three 500ml bottles of your winning spirit along with the entry form (you can optionally submit your entry form by mail). For Marketers and Designers in categories like ‘bottle design’, one bottle will suffice to show off your award-winning composition. Also… remember to note that all spirit industry Marketing and Journalism entrants must do so online.

May 5th is days away, don’t miss your opportunity to participate in this prestigious industry awards program. Send in your entry forms and samples now.

What do I win when I win the John Barleycorn Award? I’m glad you asked. Beyond the privilege of having your work before a panel of expert peers and the world’s most sophisticated palates, if you earn a ranking of Double Gold, Gold, Double Silver or Silver you will have the option to get a trophy and extensive marketing opportunities to promote this honor without additional fees.

A John Barleycorn for the Ages

John Barleycorn has emerged as the central figure for this movement. ‘Little Sir John’ Barleycorn has found the spirits industry’s perfect combination of taste and presentation needed to cement and honor his legacy.

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