International Whisky Competition®™
Copyright 2010 - 2017 ● all rights reserved.

2017 International Whisky Competition® Tasting Panel

In alphabetical order


Bridget Albert:
- Southern Wine & Spirits, Regional Director of Mixology IL, MN, & KY
- Market-Fresh Mixology Author

Bridget is an advocate for seasonal, fresh recipes with bold flavor. She designs cocktails for top National Accounts. 

Bridget is the co-author of “Market Fresh Mixology”.  She has won numerous awards and honorable mentions in U.S.B.G. and Bellagio classic cocktail competitions.  This includes 1st place at the Tale of the Cocktail Bar Chef Competition, 2nd place at the Bacardi Martini Grand Prix World Finals in Turin, Italy, 3rd place in the Pitu Cacacha Nationals in Las Vegas, and 1st place in the Bellagio Classic Competition.  She has had the pleasure of hosting charity cocktail clinics for a variety of companies, including the Bellagio, Locks of Love, Sky Blue, Cocktail for a Cure, Make a Wish Foundation, Hadassah, Taste of the Nation, and New Leaders for New Schools.  Bridget is the President of the National Charity Foundation of the United States Bartenders' Guild, the world's largest contributor to the cocktail culture.  Currently she holds the position as Regional Director of Mixology at Southern Wine and Spirits of IL, MN, & KY. Bridget is the Founder of the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service IL, KY & MN a program for bartenders that covers the history of all spirits and pre-prohibition cocktails, and the Advanced Mixology Culinary Academy.  Bridget was a featured Mixologist on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America Battle Mango.

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Sir Adam Carmer:
- Owner of the Whisky Attic, Las Vegas, NV
- Owner of Freakin Frog, Las Vegas, NV

 Knighted last year (2014) in Belgium for his body of  work focusing on education Mr. Carmer thereby earned the title of Sir. Adam was honored as the 2013 teacher of the year in the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV where he has spent the last 19 years building students knowledge, specifically in the area of alcoholic beverages. In the mid 1990’s  Adam became Steve Wynn’s first Hotel Sommelier. Looking to add value to Las Vegas and the world he followed his entrepreneurial conscience and opened his own food and beverage establishment. After establishing the first craft beer bar in Las Vegas in 2002 with the Freakin Frog, Sir Adam went on to open the first Whisky only bar in the USA, The Whisky Attic. While operating these venues and continuing his research in alcoholic beverages he developed a number of philosophies and systems. In 2008  Sir Adam Carmer developed a new method of tasting alcoholic beverages. This new discovery of a more advanced hierarchy of sensory perception led to classes, seminars, speeches and a loyal following of people using this new technique. Officially named the Carmer Spirits Tasting Enhancement Method it more commonly goes by the moniker of CSTEM.

Currently Adam spends his time teaching ,consulting and judging and writing about alcoholic beverages.

Sébastien Gavillet:
- Wine Aromas - Le Nez du Vin, COO
- Discovering & Mastering Single Malt Scotch Whisky Author
- International Whisky Guide 2016 & 2017 Co-Author

Sébastien Gavillet is a wine and whisk(e)y consultant and a winemaker with 20+ years' experience in the industry. Sébastien is COO of Wine Aromas-Le Nez du Vin, a world leader in coffee, wine and whisk(e)y sensory education. He is also the Head of the International Whisky Competition tasting panel, a book author, and an entrepreneur.

As a wine and whisk(e)y consultant, Sébastien provides wine/whisk(e)y tasting, blending, and production evaluation services as well as marketing and branding guidance to wineries and distilleries. He educates professionals and corporate clients through seminars and workshops. He advises collectors on acquiring and maintaining their wines and spirits collections. He is also a recurring judge at international wine competitions.

Sébastien developed the new IWC (International Whisky Competition) Medallion rating system and blind tasting procedure, and he designed the WhiskyVibe Tasting App for single malt Scotch whisky enthusiasts. Sébastien also co-founded both SLK Production and Master Barrel; the former produced affordable wines, while the latter is focused on selecting and producing world-class wines and spirits.

Sébastien's published works include Discovering & Mastering Single Malt Scotch Whisky, The International Whisky Guide 2016, The International Whisky Guide 2017, and the upcoming "Petit" Arvine, mon amour. He is also read in more than 180 countries through his blog,

For more info please visit him on LinkedIn or

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Mark Gruber:
- Southern Wines & Spirits, Director of Spirits Education, IL

Mark Gruber has been in the hotel, OFF Premise & ON Premise wine and spirits industry in Chicago for over 30 years.  He is a founding member of the Beverage Testing Institute (BTI) in Chicago, Illinois, and has authored many magazine articles regarding the alcohol beverage industry.  Most recently, Mark contributed to The Art of Distilling Whiskey and Other Spirits (Quarry Books).  He is the author of the “Whiskey” entry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink In America (Oxford University Press).  He frequently travels to mixology conferences and wine and spirit producing regions around the world.  He most recently visited the rum distilleries on Barbados.

As Director of Spirits Education, Mark offers all SWS-IL employees a four part Spirit Fundamentals Class, Bourbon Master Class, and Scotch Master Classes. Mark lectures on a variety of topics at SWS-IL’s Academy of Spirits and Fine Service and consults with SWS-IL employees preparing for the Certified Spirit Specialist exam.  He recently received his certification from the Mexican government’s “AWARD T” Program of the Consejo Regulador del Tequila. 

A Chicago native, Mark has taught both Wine Appreciation and Classic Cocktails classes for over thirty years at his alma mater, Northwestern University.

John Paddon:
- Food & Beverage Consultant, Las Vegas
- Advanced Sommelier, Level III

John has spent 20 years in the hospitality industry that has extended from Concierge at a 5 star, Relais & Châteaux property to computer operations director for a 30 restaurant and hotel group.  In 1997, he turned to the restaurant and beverage industry, which has taken him from world-renowned resort locations to the culinary cities of New Orleans and Las Vegas. Over the years, he has served as beverage manager, bar manager and most recentlythe Director of Wine at Caesars Palace.

John holds certifications from various organizations in Saké, beer, wine, and spirits, but he is most proud of mentoring a vast number of professionals over the years who have moved on to become directors, managers, and owners of their own organizations.  John is currently working with "PowerfulThirst.Com", a new educational/professional growth website for the beverage industry.

John's hobbies are drinking in good company, drinking in new company, finding new watering holes, and finding old watering holes that are new to him.

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Debbi Peek:
- Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois, Director of Mixology

Debbi trained under Master Mixologist Bridget Albert while taking the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service and the Advanced Mixology Culinary Academy. These classes inspired her to compete and win several national and international competitions in Italy, France, Poland, Singapore, Taiwan and St. Martin.

As Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois’ Director of Mixology Debbi designs cocktails for restaurants, bars, hotels and lounges in the State of Illinois in addition to teaching at the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service and Advanced Mixology Culinary Academy. Debbi’s cocktail philosophy is fresh, simple, approachable, yet complex in flavor.

Debbi was honored by the James Beard Foundation as one of the Nation’s Top Female Mixologists in 2008 and was a 2011 nominee for Jean Banchet’s “Best Mixologist” Award. She is a three time National Champion in the I.B.A. World Cocktail Challenge (2007, 2010 and 2011) and was a cast member on Season 3 of the reality bartending show “On the Rocks” The Search for America’s Best Bartender. 

Debbi is on the board of the USBG National Charity Committee, holds the Beverage Chair for Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation-Chicago and is a Certified Specialist of Spirits through the Society of Wine.


Alex Renshaw:
- Founding Partner, Dogma Group
- Mixologist

Alex Renshaw is a founding partner of The Dogma Group. He graduated from Miami University (OH) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing. Alex worked for four years managing multiple sales teams for Frito Lay in Cincinnati, OH and worked in multiple bars on the side. Moved to Chicago to pursue improv comedy and work in a bar. Landed at Sable Kitchen and Bar, learned how to make a proper drink, and never turned back. After 2.5 years with Sable, Alex went on to run DrumBar at the rooftop of the Raffaello hotel in conjunction with being the beverage director for Menin Hospitality (Miami, FL). He is currently consulting on the following projects with The Dogma Group: Presidio, The Dawson, The Gage, and Fernet-Dogma with CH distillery.

Outside of his work with Sable and DrumBar, Alex is a current member of the Tales of the Cocktail Cocktail Apprentice Program (CAP) leadership team. He has helped execute and organize back of the house operations as a CAP for the past 3 years and has joined the leadership team for 2015 Tales of the Cocktail planning.

Accolades include: Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge 2012 - U.S. Finalist Cointreau Ambassador of Libations 2012 - U.S. Finalist 1 of top 10 bartenders to watch in the country 2013 - Beverage Media 30 under 30 culinary influencers 2014 - Zagat 1 of top 10 new mixologists in the country 2014 - Food & Wine Magazine Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) 5-Day Ready 2014 Diageo World Class Midwest Regional Finalist - 2014 Diplomatico World Cocktail Tournament 2015 - U.S. Finalist

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Max Solano:
- Mixologist: Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits of Nevada

Max Solano is a primary mixologist for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada, as well as the Head of Whisky Education and Relations. Solano is an extremely seasoned industry veteran that has become one of Las Vegas’ most exciting, respected and creative mixologists and educators. Max’s expertise on whiskies extends to all major whisky producing countries; their styles, production, brands and laws. In regards to cocktails, his passion for a well-crafted libations extends to all spirits, but he puts a particular emphasis on the whiskies of the world.
Along with having won several national cocktail competitions, and having received many accolades and awards over his years behind the bar, in 2011, he was named Bartender of the Year by the Nevada Restaurant Association and also Best Restaurant Bartender by Vegas Seven Magazine. In 2014, again, he was named Bartender of the Year by Desert Companion Magazine. And, in 2016 he was awarded Best of Show and overall champion at the WSWA’s Iron Mixologist competition. Solano, also, currently serves as a Spirits judge at both the coveted San Francisco World Spirits Competition and New York World Wine & Spirits competitions.

Solano has been featured in many media outlets, including Forbes Magazine, USA Today, Whisky Advocate Magazine, Shanken News Daily, New York Times, Saveur magazine, GQ Magazine, The Tasting Panel, LA Weekly, Imbibe Magazine, Cheers Magazine, Las Vegas Review Journal Vegas Seven Magazine, Today in Las Vegas, Style Magazine, Las Vegas Food & Beverage Magazine, Fox News, ABC’s “The Morning Blend,” “The Valley View” and many more.

Adam R Seger, CCP:
- Corporate Sommelier/Mixologist: IPIC Luxury Movie Theaters
- Mixologist in Residence: The Art Institute of Chicago

An alumnus of Michelin Starred restaurants Chez Julien in Strasbourg, TRU in Chicago and The French Laundry in Napa Valley, Certified Culinary Professional and Advanced Sommelier Adam Seger takes a chef's approach behind the bar, being called appropriately by New City 'The Charlie Trotter of Cocktails' and the 'Grant Achatz of Spirits'.

Dubbed 'Chicago's Godfather of Craft Cocktails' by TimeOut, Seger has helped to spread the reputation of The Windy City's cocktail culture to the international stage, creating cocktails for The W Singapore, Eric Ripert's Cayman Cookout, The Russian Cocktail Club in Moscow and closer to home The 84th Academy Awards Governor's Ball, Oprah's celebration for her 25th season finale and the Reelz Channel's monthly 'IPic Now' cocktail segment shown coast-to-coast on the big screen at Ipic Theatres.

His creations can be found in some of the top bars, hotels and restaurants in the US and Asia. They include HUM Spirit, Rare Botanical Bitters Company's 'Truffe Amere', 'Egyptian Lemon Syrup' and 'Magnolia Shrubbery' as well as BALSAM, the first American wormwood-based Sweet Vermouth since Prohibition that he produces with Master Tea Blender Rodrick Markus and Master Distiller Barry Young.

He is working on his first book "Drink Like You Eat: The Seasonal Cocktail Cookbook" and lives in the heart of Chicago when not traveling to discover new tastes and inspiration.

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Ron Smith:
-Whiskey Aficionado, Beer Expert, founder of

Ron has a genuine love for all types of whisky and he brings a wealth of judging experience to the competition.  As a Master level judge in the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), and with over 20 years of judging and brewing experience, Ron is one of the highest ranking beer judges in the world.  He is also a Certified CiceroneTM, which is a tested and proven beer expert / beer sommelier that focuses more on beer & food pairings and beer serving issues.  Ron teaches a college course in World Beer Styles, Evaluation & Sensory Analysis at Indiana University (IUPUI Indianapolis campus), and conducts private training, exam prep and off-flavor programs for alcoholic beverage distributors, industry personnel, breweries and the general public. 

Ron also leads guided beer-focused trips throughout Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic.  While heavily focused on beer, whisky is never far from Ron’s reach.  Growing up and living in Central Indiana, just a couple hours away from the famed Kentucky Bourbon country, Ron first developed a passion for Bourbon and Tennessee Whisky, but that was just the start of loving anything barrel-aged.  Ron has a deep appreciation for the art and science of barrel-aging, as well as how whisky is made around the world.  Ron has an MBA in Marketing and owns MarketWise Solutions, a small B2B marketing firm in the Indianapolis area.


Agi Toth, DWS:
- Wine Consultant, Tour Director

Agi Toth is a Sommelier, Wine Educator and Wine Writer who holds the internationally acclaimed Diploma in Wine & Spirits (DWS) from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust in London, the certification leading to the Master of Wine.

Her commitment to quality wine education extends to both the consumer in the form of wine events and her peers in the culinary and hospitality professions including the Culinary Training Academy and Art Institute in Las Vegas.

In her efforts to better understand the process of winemaking, she took part in vineyard research and management in Northern California at UC Davis Cooperative Extension working in such notable vineyards as Roederer, Duckhorn’s Golden Eye and Bonterra. It was in the experimental vineyards in Hopland where she made her first wine. 

She has managed wine lists at the Michelin starred Andre’s French Restaurant and the M Resort in Las Vegas as well as the Metropolitan Club in Chicago. Agi regularly contributes to her blog,

International Whisky Competition® ● Copyright 2010 - 2017 ● all rights reserved