Craft Spirits November 2020

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Cane Consciousness Sustainability and social awareness are prevailing principles within the craft rum business. BY JEFF CIOLETTI



MEMBER SPOTLIGHT Agents of Change Whether they’re fighting for the rights of craft spirits producers or pivoting in a pandemic, Southern Distilling Co. cofounders remain nimble. BY JON PAGE


Distilling Politicians Craft Spirits Producers Drawn to Elected Office BY JON PAGE




The District’s distillers brace for a pandemic winter. BY JEFF CIOLETTI


Sugar cane at Koloa Rum Co.


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Editor’s Note




Recent releases from Kings County Distillery, Storm King Distilling Co. and more


Very Merry Cocktails and more



Cocktail Critters Donates 5,000 Masks to Support Hospitality Industry



Flavorful concoctions from Crater Lake Spirits, Southern Distilling Co., Silverback Distillery, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery and One Eight Distilling.



The Election’s Impact on FET Relief

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New initiatives aim to increase underrepresented groups’ participation in distilling industry

Five Process Issues Affecting Alcohol Yield With Tips for Prevention

Strengthening Diversity

The Proof is in the Process



SALES & MARKETING 56 The Hard Sell

The pandemic has thrown up all kinds of obstacles for the day-to-day job of selling craft spirits. Yet some have found creative ways to get around them. BY ANDREW KAPLAN


RETAIL: OFF-PREMISE 66 Shelf Important

Distilleries experiment with various efforts to shift focus from on- to off-premise during the pandemic. BY JON PAGE


A Crystal Clear View at the Future of Spirits Packaging


Material Handling Buyer’s Guide

The Glass Packaging Institute updates us on all things bottles.

See the latest warehouse solutions from top suppliers.



Miracle Returns Amid Pandemic

Off-Premise On the Rise

Christmas-themed pop-up bars forge on for seventh season.

A Spirited Tea Time Distillers are looking to different tea varieties to bring a boost to spirits while consumers have their cups at the ready. BY JOHN HOLL


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CRAFT SPIRITS MAGAZINE C EO, A M E R I C A N C R A F T S P I R I T S A S S O C I AT I O N | Margie A.S. Lehrman, E D I TO R I N C H I E F | Jeff Cioletti, S E N I O R E D I TO R | Jon Page, M E D I A S A L E S CO N S U LTA N T | Ashley Guillermo, A RT D I R EC TO R | Michelle Villas CO N T R I B U TO R S | Kate Bernot, Colin Blake, Lew Bryson, Patrick Heist, John Holl and Andrew Kaplan AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION O P E R AT I O N S A D M I N I S T R ATO R | Teresa McDaniel, E D U C AT I O N CO O R D I N ATO R | Kirstin Brooks, M E M B E R O U T R E AC H M A N AG E R | Carason Lehmann, ACSA ADVISORS M E E T I N G S A N D LO G I S T I C S | Stephanie Sadri, HelmsBriscoe S T R AT EG I C CO M M U N I C AT I O N S | Alexandra S. Clough, GATHER PR L EG A L | Ryan Malkin, Malkin Law, P.A. P U B L I C P O L I C Y | Jim Hyland, The Pennsylvania Avenue Group ACSA BOARD OF DIRECTORS, 2020-2021 P R E S I D E N T | Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (VA) V I C E P R E S I D E N T | P.T. Wood, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery (CO) S EC R E TA RY/ T R E A S U R E R | Jeff Kanof, Copperworks Distilling Co. (WA) EX OFFICIO EAST Maggie Campbell, Privateer Rum (MA) Ryan Christiansen, Caledonia Spirits (VT) Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek (VA) Jessica J. Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA) Tom Potter, New York Distilling Co. (NY)

CENTRAL & MOUNTAIN Gina Holman, J. Carver Distillery (MN) Colin Keegan, Santa Fe Spirits (NM) Thomas Mote, Balcones Distillery (TX) Amber Pollock, Backwards Distilling Company (WY) Colton Weinstein, Corsair Artisan Distillery (TN) P.T. Wood, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery (CO)

PACIFIC Dan Farber, Osocalis Distillery (CA) Jake Holshue, Rogue Ales & Spirits (OR) Jeff Kanof, Copperworks Distilling Company (WA) Molly Troupe, Freeland Spirits (OR)

Thomas Jensen, New Liberty Distillery (PA) ACSA PAC Stephen Johnson (VT) ACSA PAST PRESIDENTS 2 0 1 9 -2 0 2 0 | Chris Montana, Du Nord Craft Spirits 2 0 1 7-2 0 1 8 | Mark Shilling, Treaty Oak Brewing and Distilling Co. 2 0 1 6 -2 0 1 7 | Paul Hletko, FEW Spirits 2 0 1 4 -2 0 1 6 | Tom Mooney, House Spirits CRAFT SPIRITS MAGAZINE EDITORIAL BOARD Eli Aguilera, Lew Bryson, Alexandra Clough, Sly Cosmopoulos, Dan Gasper, Dr. Dawn Maskell For advertising inquiries, please contact Ashley Guillermo: For editorial inquiries or to send a news release, e-mail P.O. Box 701414, Louisville, KY 40270 • 502.807.4249 © 2020 Craft Spirits Magazine is a publication of the American Craft Spirits Association.

Where Science Meets Art Yeast, Nutrients, Enzymes and Bacteria

Our single source philosophy provides the highest quality ingredients, tailored technical service and education, and industry leading experience to support your needs. Your spirits are our passion, your needs are our motivation. Contact us to learn more today. Š 2020

Editor’s Note

SILVER LININGS, SANS PLAYBOOK I promise I won’t use the word “pivot.” But there’s no denying that there’s an overarching spirit of adaptability within the craft spirits industry and we’ve seen that play out in so many different ways throughout the combination rollercoaster/tilt-a-whirl/haunted house we call 2020. And that’s happened in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. In early November—at the tail end of the week that wouldn’t end (you know which one I’m talking about)—I paid a socially distanced visit to Stone Barn Brandyworks in Portland, Oregon (yes, I got on a plane, don’t judge me), the Rose City’s smallest distillery. I’d been there on a couple of occasions in the Before Times and distiller Andy Garrison has always been kind enough to let me disrupt his day, show me around and let me sample a few of the eaux de vie and whiskeys he’s been working on. This time was no different, except we stayed the requisite six feet away from each other, with half of our faces obscured by masks (except for a series of five-second spurts of masklessness when I had to sip from the Glencairn glasses.) Much had changed since the last time I set foot in the distillery about a year and a half ago—the facility, like so many of its peers, was closed to public tours and tastings. But, somewhat weirdly, Garrison told me he’s been as busy as ever. Even though Stone Barn has been facing the same uncertainty and vastly diminished market that every other distillery was experiencing, it had managed to find some silver linings. Not only was Garrison enjoying the solitude of working fully sequestered in the distillery, he’s been spending much of his time keeping up with a rush of contract distilling orders. Portland, of course, is near quite a few well-regarded wineries and cideries and many of those turned to Stone Barn to distill their surplus fruits for use in products like fortified wine and pommeau, or to age as their own bespoke brandies. And, back in my neck of the woods, Washington, D.C. distilleries have been finding their own small silver linings. I spoke with Reed Walker of Cotton & Reed for my D.C.focused Distilling Destinations piece in this issue, and he’s been counting his blessings. It’s certainly been a hard year

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for him and most other producers in the District and the rest of the country, but he touted the good fortune of his geography. Over the summer there was enough unused outdoor space adjacent to the distillery to open a fully permitted patio that was spread out enough to accommodate roughly the same number of consumers that fit in the Cotton & Reed tasting room pre-pandemic. And, the distillery is fortunate enough to have a landlord that’s allowed the business to move the same amount of seating into some unoccupied warehouse space to make it through the winter. I’m not saying every distillery, or even most distilleries, have access to the same opportunities that Stone Barn Brandyworks and Cotton & Reed have, but the majority have the same scrappy drive, ability to adapt and instincts to recognize and capitalize on the silver linings—however substantial or modest—within their own businesses. Most people who know me will likely tell you that optimism and I aren’t exactly best friends. But I’m definitely having an uncharacteristic bout of it now. It could be that the year’s longest week finally ended or that I’m writing this on the day that Pfizer announced a possible COVID-19 vaccine with 90% efficacy. But I’m going to just let the emotion wash over me. It’s probably a bit premature to say that we’re turning a corner. But I think that corner is finally in sight. Hopefully this time next year we’ll know if I was right.

Jeff Cioletti Editor in Chief


Thank You, Sponsors! Arglass

In an industry largely focused on products that require long production runs, we offer the glass container market a superior alternative based on our three principles: flexibility, efficiency and sustainability. Arglass will transform the glass container market in the United States by creating a network of next-generation manufacturing plants that will be at the same time flexible, efficient and sustainable.

Fisher & Company

Fisher & Company is the leading investment bank adviser to artisan spirits, beer and wine brands. Fisher has advised on some of the most important merger, acquisition and strategic investments partnerships among American Craft Spirits Association members in recent years.


Since 2001, ISTS has offered costeffective, solid expertise in safety training, consulting and management services. We make workplaces safer, employees ready and compliance uncomplicated. ISTS has extensive experience working with the spirits industry, so our safety programs are totally customized to address the specific challenges for your site.

The Barrel Mill

Malkin Law

Berlin Packaging

BPS Glass

FIVE x 5 Solutions

Glencairn Crystal

Berlin Packaging is the only Hybrid Packaging Supplier® of plastic, glass and metal containers and closures. We supply billions of items annually along with package design, financing, consulting, warehousing and logistics services for customers across all industries. Berlin Packaging brings together the best of manufacturing, distribution and incomeadding service providers.

FIVE x 5 Solutions believes that software should scale with you. We’re more than a service provider: we’re a committed partner in your distillery’s success, and take pride in providing the most complete solution for your growing operation. We take your business as seriously as you do.

Malkin Law focuses on serving the needs of the alcohol beverage industry. We regularly assist with licensing, review of industry specific agreements, trade practices and navigating state laws. Malkin Law is also honored to be Legal Counsel for ACSA.

The Barrel Mill is one of the most respected cooperages in the industry, with a history in lumber dating back over a century. By combining old-world craftsmanship with state-of-the art equipment and technology, we deliver the best wine and spirit barrels for many of the leading craft brands.

BPS Glass has grown to achieve a global reach that benefits its customers and allows business models to thrive by offering a global connectivity in all the services it provides.

Glencairn Crystal is a leading manufacturer of bespoke crystal and glass. For over three decades, this family business, based in Scotland, has gained an international reputation for fine crystal and glassware. Best known for the creation of the Glencairn Glass, the official glass for whisky.

Midwest Custom Bottling

Founded in 2008, Midwest Custom Bottling seeks to serve small customers and provide them with custom bottling solutions that fit their needs. We can find a solution to bottle your exclusive product, whether that entails a uniquely shaped bottle design or a low volume specialty test run.

Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

Thousand Oak Barrel Co. manufactures barrels to age and serve your spirits. All products offer a variety of options for customizing and branding with your personalized design.

Moonshine University

Moonshine University is the nation’s premier educational distillery, bringing together specialists from every facet of the industry to provide education, training and professional services to start-ups and existing companies. Moonshine University is housed next door to sister company Flavorman, an international custom beverage development company.

Top Shelf Logistics

Top Shelf Logistics is a best in class freight provider focused solely on the spirits industry, providing clients industry proven sustainable domestic transportation capacity, service and value. Utilizing our singular multi-modal platform we collaboratively develop, implement and manage logistics solutions for craft and heritage distilleries, distributors, producers and upstream vendors.

The American Craft Spirits Association would like to thank all of our annual sponsors and our key supporters of education. We are grateful for all of your support throughout the year. Cheers!

Briess Malt & Ingredients Co.

Since 1876, we’ve been supplying the highest quality malts in the industry. We’ve distinguished ourselves by developing the most extensive line of specialty malts made by any malting company in the world. We provide everything from malts to pure malt extracts, brewers flakes and filtering aids.

Brooks Grain

Brooks Grain has supplied distilling grains to the industry for over 50 years. The family owned and operated business proudly offers the highest quality bulk and bagged grain as well as all the expertise you need to make your distillery a success!

BSG Distilling

As the craft distilling industry grows, BSG Distilling has been focused on supplying distillers with the best ingredients from around the world. Today, the craft distilling market trusts BSG Distilling to deliver the finest ingredients at competitive prices, without sacrificing customer service.


Private, passionate and dedicated to premium grain neutral spirits, CIE is redefining the concept of craftsmanship in spirits. Through its partnership with local farmers, global food safety standards and attention to organoleptics, look no further then CIE for world class quality in bulk or packaged form.



Grandstand is a leading printing and branding company that provides custom decorated glassware, apparel, promotional items and creative services. For more than 30 years, we’ve helped businesses large and small simplify their efforts, conserve time and differentiate their brand.

Park Street

Park Street delivers productivityenhancing and cost-saving back-office solutions, advisory services, working capital, compliance management, export solution, integrated accounting and human resources management solutions to more than 14,000 alcoholic beverage brands from the U.S. and around the world.



We are a global network of experts providing integrated design, engineering, construction and professional services to clients and communities. We bring a history of innovation and thoughtful expertise to craft the optimal solution for every project or program, regardless of size or market.

Saverglass provides for premium and super-premium spirits, still & sparkling wines and craft beers. Recognized for its innovation, its glass-making expertise and the quality of its glass, products and designs, Saverglass is the partner of choice for brand creators, craft makers and the largest wine and spirits groups worldwide.


Independent Stave Co.

We’ve been in this industry for over 100 years, during which time we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a great barrel to age great spirits. Our R&D team and account managers have hundreds of barrels currently in experimentation. Partnering with distillers, we think outside the box to develop new products that push your vision forward.

Supercap has been producing closures for spirits since 1999. We are present in the United States with a great sales network with partners and agents, thus being able to help and advise you in the choice of the best stopper for your spirits.


Tapì is an international group specializing in the design and production of miniature packaging design masterpieces. Our closures are based on cutting-edge functionality and technology, with an exclusive style that elegantly showcases each product.


Signature Spirits, a division of Ultra Pure, is the leading independent supplier of bulk spirits in the U.S. and has the largest selection of alcohols stocked across its nine warehouses. We supply approximately 1,000 distilleries and brand owners with virtually every type of alcohol from all over the world.

Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) is the national trade association representing the wholesale tier of the wine and spirits industry. It is dedicated to advancing the interests and independence of wholesale distributors and brokers of wine and spirits.

Whiskey Systems

Whiskey Systems Distillery Management software is a complete production tracking, cost accounting, inventory management and audit-ready compliance reporting system that’s tailored to the unique needs of distillers. Making, blending or bottling, Whiskey Systems handles any process and any spirit type. Unlimited users, affordable options and best in class support.


Lew Bryson has been writing about beer and spirits full-time since 1995. He was the managing editor of Whisky Advocate from 1996 through 2015, where he also wrote the American Spirits column, and reviewed whiskeys. He is currently a senior drinks writer for the Daily Beast, and also writes for, American Whiskey and Bourbon+. He is the author of “Tasting Whiskey” (Storey Publishing, 2014) and the just-released “Whiskey Master Class.” He’s also written four regional brewery guidebooks.

Colin Blake joined the Moonshine University team in 2012. With history as a researcher and writer for spirits and cocktails, he is the director of spirits education at Moonshine University, which is the first custom built educational distillery in the U.S. Blake uses his background in film production and comedy to make expertly curated courses with entertaining presentation. Blake was also one of the co-creators of Stave & Thief Society, the only industry-backed bourbon certification program.

Patrick Heist, Ph.D., is well known in the beverage alcohol industry for problem solving skills relative to the microbiology and biochemistry of fermentation. Dr. Heist cofounded Ferm Solutions, Inc., a provider of yeast, fermentation products and technical services to hundreds of distilleries in the U.S. and worldwide. In 2013, Dr. Heist, along with his business partner Shane Baker, cofounded Wilderness Trail Distillery, which is currently one of the fastest growing premium bourbon whiskey distilleries.

Andrew Kaplan is a freelance writer based in New York City. He was managing editor of Beverage World magazine for 14 years and has worked for a variety of other food and beverage-related publications, and also newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @andrewkap.

Kate Bernot is a reporter covering beer, food and spirits. She was formerly an editor at The Takeout and DRAFT Magazine; she now regularly writes for Good Beer Hunting, Craft Beer & Brewing and other publications. She is a certified beer judge and lives in Missoula, Montana, with three backyard chickens and a well-stocked bar cart.

John Holl is a journalist covering the beer industry. He’s the author of several books including “Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint” and “The American Craft Beer Cookbook.” He is the co-host of Steal This Beer, a podcast and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wine Enthusiast and more. John has lectured on the culture and history of beer and judged beer competitions around the world.

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SAVE THE DATE JULY 25-27, 2021





New Spirits

Garrison Brothers Distillery, the first legal whiskey distillery in Texas, announced the 2020 release of its limited-edition, highly-anticipated Cowboy Bourbon. This uncut, unfiltered bourbon comes from barrels hand-selected by the distillery’s master distiller. Those barrels are then set aside for several more years for further maturation and the liquid is bottled at caskstrength—this year’s batch clocks in at 133.9 proof. Cowboy Bourbon has become known as the crown jewel of Garrison Brothers’ Texas bourbon family, hence the hand-dipped, gold wax seal.

Tattersall Distilling launched its bottled 70-proof Manhattan. It starts with Tattersall’s Straight Rye Whiskey, made from 100% Minnesota-grown rye and aged in charred American white oak barrels, blended with Tattersall Italiano-Style Liqueur, sherry and aromatic bitters. The cocktail highlights the smooth, subtle spice backbone of its Rye Whiskey, complemented by sherry and Tattersall’s house-made liqueur and bitters.

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Chemist Spirits of Asheville, North Carolina, has released two new products. Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin is an 84-proof collaboration with Biltmore Winery. The spirit is handmade in Asheville, aged in Biltmore wine barrels and finished with fresh petals from the estate’s heirloom rose gardens. The distillery also released its Founders Reserve Single Malt Whiskey. At 113.2 proof, it was crafted in a local partnership with Riverbend Malt House. The spirit features light and dark toasty Munich barley malts. Aged in charred American Oak barrels, this is a deep Scottish red ale, blended cask strength, single malt whiskey.

Storm King Distilling Co. of Montrose, Colorado, released the first of its first straight whiskies. Colorado Straight Rye Whiskey (90 proof) and Colorado Straight Wheat Whiskey (84 proof) launched at the end of the summer and both expressions are 100% rye and wheat, respectively. The Straight Wheat Whiskey is a blend of red and white wheats. As a family-owned business and one that takes pride in the provenance of its products, Storm King has made it a priority to work with Colorado farmers in making a true, 100% Colorado whiskey. All of the grain for all of the distillery’s whiskies comes from Whiskey Sisters Supply in Burlington, Colorado.


New Spirits

Sweet Amber Distilling Co. has announced the launch of BLACKENED American Whiskey’s Cask Strength program, debuting with 110.7-proof Batch 106. The limited edition expression features the same finest, hand-selected blend of bourbons and ryes in the original with a higher proof and is sonicallyenhanced. Launched in 2018 in collaboration with Metallica and late Master Distiller Dave Pickerell, BLACKENED is a blend of North America’s finest bourbons and ryes.

Watershed Distillery of Columbus, Ohio, announced the release of a Holiday Bourbon Bundle, featuring Watershed Bourbon, Barrel Strength Bourbon and bottled Old Fashioned. Watershed also added a massive new size of its bottled bourbon cocktail to the spirits lineup. Bottled Old Fashioned has always been ready to pour and enjoy, but now with the latest release of a 1.75-liter bottle, it is bigger and better for gifting and sharing after a long year.


JK Williams Distilling of Peoria, Illinois, announced its first releases, which tap into recipes that date back a century. The 90-proof Gold Zephyr Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a smooth bourbon barrel-aged in small batches for four years. And 90-proof Stormy River High Rye Whiskey is a rich, flavorful whiskey with spice and hints of apple blossom honey and dried dark fruit towards the finish.

In honor of those who served, Eight Oaks Farm Distillery of New Tripoli, Pennsylvania, released Veterans Cut, a singlebarrel, four-year-old, 100-proof bourbon whiskey to honor veterans. On July 28, 2016, Eight Oaks Farm Distillery barreled bourbon with a plan to hold a special release in the future. This bourbon barrel was signed by dozens of veterans from around the country who visited the distillery over the years.

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New Spirits

Kings County Distillery of Brooklyn, New York, announces the release of the first in a series of rare single barrel whiskeys, to coincide with its 10th birthday celebrations. The first of these will be Kings County Distillery’s 7 Year Single Barrel Bourbon. Distilled in July 2013 and bottled at 107 proof, this barrel saw 34% angel’s share and spent its career in the greenhouse-like upstairs aging room in the Navy Yard distillery. Barrel forward and full of dry spice, this is the most traditional-flavored bourbon from Kings County.

Dallas-based whiskey producer Oak & Eden has announced the re-release of its beloved 90-proof Bourbon & Vine. Crafted in collaboration with Marker Cellars Winery in the Texas hills, Bourbon & Vine begins with Oak & Eden’s four-time gold medal winning Bourbon whiskey before it is finished inside the bottle with a Cabernet Sauvignon-steeped French Oak spiral-cut piece of wood.

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Lost Lantern, an independent bottler of American whiskey, announced four single casks to its initial release lineup. These consist of whiskeys produced by some of the finest distilleries in the United States. The following single casks—along with the previously announced American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1—are now available: Cask #1, Santa Fe Spirits New Mexico Single Malt; Cask #2, Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon Whiskey; Cask #3, New York Distilling Co. Straight Rye Finished in an Apple Brandy Cask; and Cask #4, Ironroot Republic Texas Straight Corn Whiskey.

After selling through its initial, limited run of product in 48 hours, Widow Jane Distillery of Brooklyn, New York, announced the expanded release of 91-proof Decadence, Widow Jane’s signature 10-year bourbon, blended in small batches and finished in American oak barrels that held Upstate New York’s Crown Maple artisan maple syrup. Crown Maple makes its home in the Hudson Valley, a short drive from the legendary Rosendale Mines where Widow Jane harvests limestone-rich water to proof its whiskies. The maple syrup barrel finish delivers a rich, creamy-smooth and slightly sweet mouthful of whiskey that includes a faint maple note.


ACSA and CRAFT SPIRITS magazine present the

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Entries Due Nov. 13

New Spirits

New Riff Distilling of Newport, Kentucky, hopes to start a new holiday tradition with the launch of its Winter Whiskey, a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey made with malted oat and chocolate malt. Reminiscent of a chocolate oatmeal stout, this addition to New Riff’s lineup is made up of 65% corn, 20% malted oats, 7% pale ale malt, 5% steel cut raw oats and 3% chocolate malt. Winter Whiskey is bottled in bond without chill filtration at 100 proof, and aged at least four years.

Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. of Purcellville, Virginia, is launching its 80-proof Peach Barrel Select Rye Whisky. With a limited availability of approximately 540 bottles, this 100% Virginia rye whisky was aged in Catoctin Creek’s charred new oak barrels and then finished for over one year in peach brandy barrels from its Short Hill Mountain Peach Brandy.

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In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Santa Fe Spirits of Santa Fe, New Mexico, announced a new limited release to its whiskey lineup. The 100-proof Sherry Cask Finished Colkegan (Colkegan PX) started as two 53-gallon Colkegan barrels. Both were new American oak and had been aging for over three years when their contents were transferred to two Pedro Ximénez sherry barrels for an additional year. Colkegan is known for its smoke but in this expression the distillery says there are subtle hints of wood from the sherry butts and sweetness from the Pedro Ximénez are more dominant.

Spirit Hound Distillers of Lyons, Colorado, recently released a Colorado Bourbon Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel aged for three years on American oak barrels. In conjunction with the release of this 90-proof spirit, the distillery auctioned off two commemorative bottles of bourbon with burned “wildfire” labels to benefit the Lyons’ Fire Protection District and the efforts to control the recent fires in Northern Boulder County.


New Spirits

Round Turn Distilling, the Biddeford, Maine-based makers of award-winning Bimini Gin, have released a new coconut-flavored expression, Bimini Coconut. Using the same base distillate known for its unique flavor profile of soft juniper, hops, and grapefruit, natural coconut flavor is added through the process known as “fat washing.” At 94 proof, Bimini Coconut is available exclusively in MA, ME, CA, and NY with a suggested retail price of $34.99 for a 750-mL bottle.

Virginia Distillery Co. of Lovingston, Virginia, recently released the second batch of its American Single Malt whisky in the Courage & Conviction product line. The second batch of Courage & Conviction is dedicated to Dr. Jim Swan, who passed away in 2017 following a 40-year career supporting the science of distilling as a chemist, professor, researcher and author. Dr. Swan consulted for a number of distilleries around the world, including Virginia Distillery Co., and had a special interest in warm climate whiskies. Dr. Swan was the man behind Courage & Conviction: the distillate, the casks and the maturation strategy.


Happy Raptor Distilling of New Orleans announces the release of its newest rum, the 83.2-proof 504Bananas Foster. Inspired by the iconic New Orleans dessert, 504Bananas Foster is handcrafted in the Crescent City at the distillery’s historic Central City location. Created from 100% Louisiana molasses, Happy Raptor’s newest rum is an infusion of real banana, cinnamon, vanilla, and spices and includes no artificial ingredients.

Boardroom Spirits of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, expanded its portfolio with three new offerings. The 64-proof Vanilla Vodka is produced using Boardroom’s signature premium vodka and infused with only natural, real ingredients such as Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans and a hint of cane sugar for balance. Boardroom also released two vodka-based ready-to-drink bottled cocktails: Blueberry Blush and Spiced Vanilla Peartini.

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Imbiber’s Bookshelf

The Curious Bartender’s Guide to Rum

Very Merry Cocktails: 50+ Festive Drinks for the Holiday Season


Author: Jessica Strand Publisher: Chronicle Books Release Date: September 2020

Tristan Stephenson Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small Release Date: August 2020 The Curious Bartender’s Guide to Rum explores rum’s remarkable history from its humble origins to its status as life-blood of the Royal Navy and its love affair with Cuba. Discover its darker past, with tales of devils, pirates and its reputation as the revolutionary spirit. Now this fabled drink is in the midst of another revolution, transforming from uninspiring grog to premium product. In this entertaining primer you’ll learn how rum is made, from the science of sugar cane and molasses to distillation and unique aging techniques. Next, Tristan’s mixology skills will help you master jazzed-up versions of the Mai Tai and Mojito, perfect a Planter’s Punch, and keep you on trend with Brazil’s famous Caipirinha and Batida cocktails, made with rum’s sister spirit, cachaça.

The Essential Cocktail Book Author: Peter A. Morgan Publisher: Peter A. Morgan Release Date: October 2020

This book is the perfect companion for both cocktail enthusiasts or expert mixologists. Here, you will find everything you need to know about cocktails, from information about the different spirits to the best ingredients to spice your drinks up. Everything about this book is designed for guiding you through each step of the perfect cocktail preparation. You will find precise information about the calories, carbs and sugars of each drink. The detailed step-by-step preparation process is easy to follow. All the ingredients are listed both in U.K. and U.S. measurements based on the quantity recommended by the best bartenders in the world.

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Author Jessica Strand has just the book to help everyone prepare for the holidays. This book has something for every holiday occasion, whether a kid-friendly cookie party, an elegant New Year’s Eve soirée, or a cozy night in for two. Recipes range from timeless classics and classics with a twist, to party punchbowls and zero-proof libations. Make and enjoy seasonal drinks like Hot Buttered Rum, the Holiday Bellini, ‘Tis the Season Sangria, and Foamy Mexican Hot Chocolate. With just the right amount of Christmas kitsch, this is an essential collection for cocktail enthusiasts, holiday hosts and anyone who loves the holiday season.

Gin (Object Lessons)

Author: Shonna Milliken Humphrey Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Release Date: November 2020 Gin tastes like Christmas to some and rotten pine chips to others. Through Gin, Shonna Milliken Humphrey situates the spirit within this complex cultural history; where early medical textbooks treated it as a healing agent although early alchemists claimed gin was a path to immortality—and also Satan’s tool. From its harshest proto-gin distillation days to the current trendy beverage that is sure to play a part in many people’s Christmas celebrations, gin plays a powerful role in film, music, and literature-one that is arguably older, broader and more complex than any other spirit.


Industry Update

COCKTAIL CRITTERS DONATES 5,000 MASKS TO SUPPORT HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY Honolulu-based Cocktail Critters announced plans to donate 5,000 cocktail-inspired face masks to various restaurants and bars around the world as they continue the reopening process. The startup apparel brand has partnered with Healthy Hospo and Field Trip NYC and numerous food and beverage industry groups to help distribute the masks across the United States, United Kingdom and nine countries in Asia. More than 500 bars and restaurants were chosen to receive their colorful, animal and cocktailthemed masks to help businesses affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “The resilience and support among the food and beverage industry has been astounding, and it is my goal to help any business I can to sustain that spirit through these tough times,” explained Mitchell ‘Kai’ Lum, founder of Cocktail Critters. “Throughout the pandemic, my goal is to donate a total of 10,000 masks to hospitality employees around the world. Our next donation of 1,000 masks will be distributed along the East Coast of the United States by our friends behind Mover & Shaker and we’re donating another 1,000 through Food Fest Live.” When Lum started donating masks in June, he funded the project 100% out-ofpocket. Now, 20% of Cocktail Critters proceeds are used to produce and distribute masks for donation. Lum has already donated or is in the process of donating 7,000 masks total with a goal of donating 10,000 masks by the end of 2020. If you are a bar or restaurant in need of masks for your staff, please reach out to “I saw an immediate need to help the hospitality industry during this pandemic, and jumped at the chance,” Lum said. “Our main focus is now donating high-quality, reusable masks so that bars and restaurants can continue to reopen—as safely as possible for staff and patrons—around the world. We all have to do our part.”

OHIO BECOMES SECOND STATE TO MAKE TO-GO COCKTAILS PERMANENT Ohio recently became the second state in the U.S. to permanently grant distilleries, bars, restaurants and more the right to sell cocktails to go. The shift comes after Gov. Mike DeWine signed Ohio House Bill 669, which had previously been approved by both of Ohio’s General Assembly chambers. This summer, Iowa was the first state to permanently allow the sale of cocktails to go, which until that point had been a temporary measure in the states that permit it in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new law allows services like DoorDash and Grubhub to deliver cocktails, so long as they have the proper permits. An earlier version of the Ohio bill included the allowance of direct-to-consumer shipping of finished products, but that allowance was removed. “We were really pushing for home delivery of finished goods and we got cocktails, which is nice,” says Ryan Lang, co-owner of Middle West Spirits in Columbus and former president of the Ohio Distillers Guild. “It certainly helps distilleries like ourselves and others that have those platforms. Anything is positive and we all need it right now. Anything we can do to help the industry in the state of Ohio is wonderful.”


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Industry Update

GLENCAIRN INTRODUCES COLORFUL GLASSES TO CELEBRATE 20TH ANNIVERSARY To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Glencairn Glass, Glencairn Crystal Studio has introduced a new core range of colored glasses. Following the huge popularity of the limited edition black Glencairn Glass last year, whisky fans world-wide will now be able to purchase the Glencairn Glass not only in black but also in blue, red, green and shimmering gold alongside the original clear glass. Available both individually or as a full tasting set of six glasses, the new range of colored glasses has been carefully selected and created to provide visual impact in the hand and on the bar. It has also been designed to be used in, and to enhance, the blind tasting experience by disguising the color of the whisky. This year the iconic Glencairn Glass celebrates its 20th anniversary. Since its creation by the award winning Glencairn Crystal Studio in 2000, it has shot to fame as the definitive whisky glass around the world today, with more than 3 million being sold each year, across 140 different countries in all seven continents including Antarctica. “We were blown away by the massive success of our limited edition black Glencairn Glass last year which sold out almost immediately,” said Scott Davidson, new product development director and son of Glencairn Crystal founder, Raymond Davidson, in a press release. “So in response to public demand, our 20th anniversary gift to loyal fans of the Glencairn Glass across the world is the introduction of this colorful new range, which is here to stay. Not only are the colored glasses a fun addition to any drinks cabinet, tasting your dram blind is the perfect way to develop your senses and to learn all about the wonderful world of whisky”. The new range of colored Glencairn Glasses can be purchased individually at £8 each, or in a presentation box featuring the full color

range tasting set of five glasses plus the original clear glass at £60. Available at The Glencairn Crystal online store and then also from other retailers later this year. For more details about Glencairn Crystal Studio and The Glencairn Glass visit and

WEST FORK WHISKEY CO. EXPANDS DISTRIBUTION NATIONALLY WITH E-COMMERCE LAUNCH West Fork Whiskey Co. of Indianapolis is taking its products national with the official launch of its e-commerce site. The award-winning Old Hamer brand will be available to consumers in 31 states. Last year, West Fork resurrected the historic Indiana whiskey brand Old Hamer. And after 150 years, the uniquely corn-forward whiskey will be sold nationwide. Products available online include, Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 80 Proof; Straight Bourbon Whiskey, cask strength; Straight Rye Whiskey, 90 Proof; Straight Rye Whiskey, cask strength; and the recently released Cold Hamer bourbon canned cocktails available in two varieties, Snapback and Highball. “West Fork remains focused on creating great Indiana whiskey with 100% local ingredients from grain to glass,” said Blake Jones, co-founder at West Fork Whiskey Co. “And we are excited for the opportunity to take this product national and introduce other people to the high-quality whiskey we know that we make.” Along with the e-commerce site, West Fork is launching its Old Hamer products throughout Tennessee. Consumers can now find Old Hamer whiskey in select major retailers in Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee, with more states expected to be added by the end of the year. Via the online shop, Old Hamer products are also available to ship to Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Visit to buy online. In addition to the Old Hamer brand, West Fork has its own line of Indiana whiskeys and products available for purchase online and in the tasting room.

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Industry Update

BLACK BUTTON DISTILLING EQUIPS THREE MILLION NEW YORK STATE VOTERS WITH HAND SANITIZER Rochester, New York-based Black Button Distilling, the city’s first grainto-glass distillery since Prohibition, donated more than 1,600 gallons of FDA approved hand sanitizer to the state of New York in an effort to help maintain safe poll sites throughout the state for the presidential election. Equivalent to over three million hand washes, Black Button Distilling’s contribution was distributed at polling sites across the state. At the height of the pandemic, Black Button Distilling halted production on its award-winning craft spirits and converted its facility to address the more pressing community need of manufacturing ethanol-based hand sanitizer, with more than 10,000 bottles donated to local schools, hospitals, small businesses, non-profits, grocery stores and more. “Our community needed us, and there was no question we were going to do all we could to help,” said Jason Barrett, president and head distiller. “Today, our entire staff is proud to enhance our commitment to community safety by working to help ensure that every New Yorker who desires to vote in-person can feel safe and confident in doing so.” A portion of the 8,200 bottles went directly to New York City to accommodate the state’s largest voter sector, which, for the first time ever, turned Madison Square Garden into a polling site to accommodate social distancing for the masses. With Black Button’s donation, poll workers who gave their time to ensure that the most fundamental of American rights is protected had a safer environment. Additionally, those attending polls to exercise their right to vote in-person had access to safety precautions that have become a daily necessity in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Industry Update

MOONSHINE UNIVERSITY WELCOMES 30TH CLASS OF DISTILLERS Moonshine University, the nation’s premier educational distillery, welcomed its 30th class of 6-Day Distillers. Taking place in October, the course marked a significant milestone for the Louisville, Kentucky-based facility whose graduates have gone on to launch 178 distilleries worldwide. What began as a modest 5-day course has since evolved into a comprehensive, hands-on 6-day experience that exposes attendees to the realities of opening a distillery—from laying the first brick to getting a finished product on the shelf. To date, Moonshine University has received students from all 50 states, three U.S. territories, and 49 countries, with nearly 50% of its 6-Day Distiller grads in the industry within two years of coming through the course. “Our mission has always been to advance the industry by training the next generation of distillers,” said Colin Blake, director of spirits education. “The successes of our graduates, along with the world-class reputation MU has garnered over the years, are confirmation that we’re on the right track.” The course, which is the only to be endorsed by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, operates under the mantra of “show, don’t tell.” In addition to hands-on distilling and an extensive sensory library, attendees benefit from learning directly from experts in every facet of the industry. Networking receptions throughout the week allow students to gain valuable connections, while exclusive field trips to a cooperage, distillation equipment manufacturer, and local craft distilleries provide additional opportunities for engagement. “Before Moonshine University, there were very few training or educational opportunities for the craft sector,” said founder David Dafoe. “Attempting to Google their way into the business not only threatened the success of would-be craft distillers, but the integrity of the industry as a whole—Moonshine University has since provided a solution.” As the current COVID-19 crisis continues to disrupt the spirits

industry, the role of resources like Moonshine University are now more important than ever. In light of these challenges, the distillery school has continued providing support by adapting the way it runs courses, reducing capacity of in-person classes, and introducing CDC-recommended safety and sanitation procedures. It has also begun offering a series of free and paid webinars for those unable to travel.


Dallas-based Oak & Eden has officially announced the recent and pivotal addition to their team of James Campbell, SVP of sales and national Accounts. After 27 years in numerous and varied leadership roles within the E&J Gallo Winery and Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, Campbell brings a proven track record of success and is duly equipped to lead Oak & Eden as it scales nationally. “The track record of success and yet-unrealized massive potential of the Oak & Eden brand within an already progressive and dynamic whiskey category was extremely enticing to me,” said Campbell. “With four patents secured on a brand that features unmatched innovation within the industry, national industry accomplishments on its resume, and a key lineup of national partners taking a significant position with Oak & Eden, the brand is poised for unprecedented growth across all channels.” In just three years, Oak & Eden has secured distribution in 21 states across the nation and has done so with key partners such as Meijer, Walmart, Total Wine & More, Spec’s, Club Corp and many more. “We have established the brand of Oak & Eden as an emerging market leader in the craft spirits segment,” said Joe Giildenzopf, cofounder and CEO of Oak & Eden. “We recognize that there is room for monumental growth and we believe that there is no one more fitting to help us achieve our path to scale than James Campbell.”

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Industry Update

WATERLOO GIN GROWS EXECUTIVE TEAM TO SUPPORT U.S. EXPANSION Dripping Springs, Texas-based Waterloo Gin has appointed new executive members to its leadership team to support its expansion across the U.S. as it begins operating separately from the Treaty Oak Distilling brand. Waterloo Gin was founded 11 years ago with the goal of creating a gin that truly captures the terroir and culture of the Texas Hill Country by utilizing ingredients that abundantly grow in Texas— lavender, grapefruit and pecans—to bring a sense of place to the spirit. Since then, Waterloo Gin has become one of the most awarded craft gins made in America. With the new leadership team in place, Waterloo Gin will look to elevate new product launches and drive continued growth in 2021 and beyond. “The team we’ve put together to lead Waterloo Gin is nothing short of best-in-class; they’re well-equipped to power the brand forward with a focus on transparency, innovation and quality,” said founder and CEO Daniel Barnes, who has spent the last 15 years focusing on beverage flavor development for brands including Waterloo Gin, Treaty Oak Distilling, Starlite Vodka, Waterloo Sparkling Water, Mighty Swell Cocktails and Canteen Vodka Soda, among others. “While Treaty Oak Distilling and Waterloo Gin will remain aligned as small-batch, hand-crafted Texas spirits, Waterloo Gin’s development of its own


personality and consumer set will position our gins for growth in the years to come—especially as the category continues to gain popularity throughout the U.S.” Waterloo Gin and Treaty Oak Distilling have historically seen crossover between selling and marketing activities and distribution; however, as Waterloo Gin prepares to expand into markets across the U.S. and launch new products, this new division and structure will allow the newly-appointed Waterloo Gin executive team to focus on the brand’s individual strategic vision, personality and consumer set. Jenny Simmons, who brings vast expertise and 16 years of sales experience in the alcohol beverage industry, is taking on the role of national vice president of sales for Waterloo Gin. Prior to joining the team, she served as regional manager for Milestone Brands, where she helped build the Dulce Vida brand by managing distributor relations in Texas and launching new products in the RTD category. Simmons was also a part of the original sales team that launched Deep Eddy Vodka in 2010; there, she led brand strategy, programming, distributor management and sales for both retail and the on-premise. Erin Rea, who is taking on the role of vice president of marketing for Waterloo Gin, joined the team at Treaty Oak Distilling and Waterloo Gin in 2019; since then, she’s focused on trade and digital marketing for both brands, as well as brand development for Waterloo Gin. Prior to joining the team, Rea spent nearly 20 years in the industry developing beverage concepts and programs for a range of properties, executing nearly a dozen restaurant openings, working in product development, sales, and marketing for spirit brands including Campari and The Family Coppola, and, early on, beginning her Interested in career as a bartender. In her new role, Rea will focus on our classified ads? bringing Waterloo Gin’s story Contact ashley@ to life, building awareness and connecting with trade americancraftspirits. and consumers across the org for more country. The Waterloo Gin distilling information. team is led by director of gin research and development Courtney Dymowski. Waterloo Gin currently offers three expressions: Waterloo No.9, the brand’s flagship expression made in the New American style, which has become one of the most awarded craft gins made in America; Waterloo Antique Gin, which is aged in first-use, mediumchar, white oak barrels; and Waterloo Old Yaupon Gin, which is the brand’s take on an Old Tom gin. Fans can learn more about Waterloo Gin at

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Industry Update

ORGANIZERS CANCEL VINEXPO NEW YORK DUE TO ONGOING RISKS OF COVID-19 Diversified Communications and Vinexposium, organizers of Vinexpo New York announced the exhibition scheduled for February 3-4, 2021, at Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Center, has been cancelled, due to the ongoing risks of COVID-19 and the uncertainty surrounding the lifting of travel restrictions and bans on large gatherings. The trade-only event will resume in 2022 with the goal of reuniting the industry while providing a more safe, productive, and enjoyable inperson gathering in accordance with state, city, and venue guidelines. “As show organizers of an international trade event which draws thousands of attendees from across North America and exhibitors from all corners of the world, it became evident that a live event of our kind would not be possible in February,” said Beckie Kier, event director of Vinexpo New York. “We are now planning for the 2022 edition, while continuing to support our industry members with resources and tools to help them conduct business during these challenging times.” Since this year’s edition, held March 2-3, show organizers have produced free monthly webinars focusing on the outlook within the community and featuring industry leaders. Most recently the Vinexpo New York team launched a new five-part educational series in partnership with the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. The series focuses on strategies and resources for brands looking to enter and expand in the U.S. market. Kier added, “While we are disappointed that we must wait to meet again in person, we believe this decision is in the best interests of our community and partners. We look forward to producing a successful and safe event in 2022.”

“In light of the pandemic situation and its current spread, it is a reasonable and wise decision to cancel this most awaited event in New York. It is an unfortunate step backwards, but I have no doubt that the rebound will be much higher in 2022. Together with the team of Diversified Communications, we are already looking forward to it and I have a lot of hope for the future,” concluded Rodolphe Lameyse, CEO of Vinexposium. More information regarding the 2022 event will be announced in the coming months.



Montanya Distillers, a craft rum distillery and Certified B Corporation located in Crested Butte, Colorado, is now available in select Whole Foods Market stores across the Western U.S. from Colorado to California, and Washington to Arizona. The stores will carry Montanya Distiller’s Exclusiva and Platino. Whole Foods Market stores join the growing list of other locations where Montanya is found including online retailer Spirit Hub, select locations of Trader Joe’s and Target, as well as regional liquor stores such as Argonaut Wine and Liquor in Denver and Beverage Depot in Dallas. “Whole Foods Market is known for quality products and ingredients so this partnership is perfectly aligned with our values,” said Karen Hoskin, Montanya Distiller’s owner/founder. “Ingredients, responsible sourcing, and environmental advocacy are all things we’re passionate about and Whole Foods Market stores focus on these as well. This is an exciting way for more people to discover what we’re all about while helping make our American craft rum more accessible.” ​Montanya Distiller’s Platino is a light rum, barrel aged giving it a unique smoothness. The flavors prominent in Platino include biscotti, cream soda, cardamom, coffee, vanilla, and pepper. ​Montanya Distiller’s Exclusiva is barrel aged for three years. It has a dry, tannic finish and a complex flavor profile as cinnamon meets red wine, honey meets vanilla, without overwhelming with sweetness. Both rums have only three all-natural ingredients: non-GMO sugar cane, mountain spring water, and the tiniest touch of Colorado honey (less than .04% in every bottle) to bring out the rum’s natural flavors.

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Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. of Purcellville, Virginia, announces its new partnership with N10 Bourbons Limited, a national American whiskey distribution company based in the U.K. The full lineup of the craft distillery’s most popular expressions, Roundstone Rye 80 Proof, Roundstone Rye 92 Proof Distiller’s Edition, and Roundstone Rye Cask Proof, are now available throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. All products are single barrel pot-stilled whiskies made from 100% rye. Special barrel selections and limited releases will also be available in the future. “I am extremely happy to be partnered with N10 Bourbons Ltd in the U.K.,” said Catoctin Creek general manager and co-founder, Scott Harris. “The U.K. is one of the most important markets in Europe for American whiskey, and we are thrilled to be partnering with a distributor who specializes solely in American whiskey. That will give our brand the focused attention it deserves.” Catoctin Creek will initially be available at Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange, and other fine retailers throughout the U.K. The arrangement between Catoctin Creek and N10 Bourbons is a new relationship for both companies. Barring any unforeseen problems with COVID-19, Harris hopes to make a trip to the U.K. in 2021, which will include visits to various retailers, bars and restaurants to introduce the brand to the market. Harris adds, “Further, I would like to thank the work of the Virginia Department of Economic Development, who has tirelessly promoted Virginia spirits in the London market, and were instrumental in bringing us together with N10 Bourbons Ltd.”


Industry Update

CALEDONIA SPIRITS UNVEILS ALL THE BASICS COCKTAIL KIT With the holiday season approaching, Vermont-based Caledonia Spirits has launched its Barr Hill All The Basics Cocktail Kit. Priced at $95 (with free shipping) on, the cocktail kit makes a great gift for anyone building a home bar. Equipped with a beautiful, stainless steel array of bar items—including two shaker tins, a four-prong Hawthorne strainer, a two-sided jigger and a bar spoon—this classic kit is perfect for any cocktail enthusiast. As part of the kit, Barr Hill beverage director Sam Nelis has included a curated cocktail recipe book and digital access to his Intro to Cocktails class, which breaks down the cocktail kit, demonstrates how to use each item, and walks the user through creating the perfect Bee’s Knees and Old Fashioned cocktails at home. Known across the country for its flagship spirit, Barr Hill Gin, Caledonia Spirits widely distributes three super-premium spirits that are each made with raw northern honey. Its solar-powered distillery in Montpelier, Vermont, is home to a world-class craft cocktail bar that is managed by Nelis and his team of expert bartenders. Caledonia Spirits has a strong passion for mixology, and with this special cocktail kit, the distillery has taken its love for craft cocktails and channeled it towards the in-home bar experience.


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Industry Update

MILAM & GREENE WHISKEY EXPANDS DISTRIBUTION ACROSS THE COUNTRY Milam & Greene Whiskey, is expanding its distribution across the country, with the award-winning Milam & Greene Triple Cask Straight Bourbon, Milam & Greene Port-Finished Rye, and Milam & Greene Straight Single Barrel Bourbon hitting shelves in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Washington D.C. and Wisconsin. These whiskeys will be rolling out nationally online during the holiday season for shipment across the country. “Clearly this has been an incredibly challenging year for craft distilleries,” says Heather Greene, CEO and master blender of Milam & Greene Whiskey. “We completely threw our business plan out the window in mid-March and had to pivot our business strategies after the closure of our taproom and bars and restaurants in Texas. We first produced free hand sanitizer, and then quickly restructured our staff, and marketing and sales plans to set up new channels to get our whiskey to consumers in places where it is in demand outside of Texas.” Under the direction of master distiller, Marlene Holmes, Milam & Greene Whiskey distills using a 300-gallon copper pot still in Blanco, Texas as well as in continuous stills in Holmes’ home state of Kentucky. The team travels to Kentucky to distill using its own mash bill, yeast recipe, and distillation processes. The whiskey is matured in both Kentucky and Texas. In addition to distilling on-site and off-site, the team blends, batches, sources, finishes and hand-bottles bourbon and rye whiskey to age to maturity in the unique Texas climate.

SPIRIT HUB EXPANDS DELIVERY TO NORTH DAKOTA AND NEW HAMPSHIRE Chicago-based Spirit Hub, an online platform to shop for craft spirits from hundreds of independent distilleries, announced its expansion to North Dakota and New Hampshire. Effective immediately, consumers throughout both states can now purchase hard-tofind craft spirits from Spirit Hub’s carefully curated collection from independent distilleries around the world and have them delivered straight to their doors. Spirit Hub now serves North Dakota and New Hampshire from its distribution and retail center outside of Chicago. North Dakota’s estimated 473,000 people over the age of 21 and New Hampshire’s estimated 951,000 people over the age of 21 can now choose from more than 1,300 small-batch craft spirits manufactured by 200+ independent distilleries, available for purchase through the company’s website, mobile app or phone. At checkout, customers select their preferred date and time of delivery with available options as early as the next business day. Since launching in Illinois in April of 2019, Spirit Hub has built a digital platform that brings customers closer to the craft spirits culture. With a focus on education and personalization, Spirit Hub features personal stories on partner distillers.


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lew's bottom shelf


Something that comes up pretty regularly when booze writers get together is The Next Big Thing (TNBT). Flavored vodka was still The Big Thing fifteen years ago, whiskey is very much The Big Thing now. (To be clear, I’m talking about the U.S. market; European and other North/South American markets vary quite a bit from ours.) But we all want to be the person who accurately predicted TNBT, and when, and why. Pretty much as soon as whiskey became TNBT, we started thinking about what would replace it, even before it really got to be Big. It’s how we are. The most common guesses for TNBT have been popping up over the last 10 to 15 years. • Flavored Whiskey. Fireball, some tiny distillery’s apple pie moonshine, and everything in between. Fireball alone qualifies as a Big Thing. But they’re a variant of whiskey, so it’s just more of that Big Thing. And no writer really wants it to happen. • Rum. Rum’s been the supposed TNBT for a long time. But there hasn’t been the universal rising tide that floats all the rum boats, like whiskey’s seen. There’s no clear definition, and unfortunately rum, for some people, has connections to slavery and colonialism that are becoming more problematic. • Brandy. My bet. It’s a delicious brown spirit, cognac is already popular with a solid segment of the market, and it has a coherent story with no skeletons in the closet. But … there are no brandy cocktails as popular as Old Fashioneds or Martinis (except in Wisconsin). Fruit brandy confuses some drinkers, who expect a stronger (and probably sweeter) fruit flavor. • Tequila. Another strong candidate. Still some supply issues, but producers are getting a handle on that. Great popular cocktails coexist with a strong tradition of neat consumption. There is an image of drinking it to get crazy drunk, which might have to be overcome. And it’s not a lot of help for American craft distillers.

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• Gin. Gin is very big in Europe, of course; the base of numerous classic cocktails; and quick to make compared with brown spirits. But Americans have been resistant to a gin revival, so it’s always an uphill slog until the lightning strikes. It still could happen, but it’s a surprisingly dark horse. • Aquavit. Just kidding. Does it have to be one of these? No, of course not, they’re just the most likely. But why not all of them? The Next Big Thing might be already happening in parallel with whiskey’s time at the top. It’s you, the craft distillers. Even though it may not seem like it, at just this moment in COVID-spiked time, small local distillers are riding a surge of interest, and quickly becoming an acceptable mainstream choice. There are still plenty of factors in your favor, even as you struggle to keep your head above water. I know that sounds crazy, maybe even insulting, but consider the reasons why things are bad. It’s because things are bad for the hospitality business, your main customers; things are bad for your own tasting room, a solid source of cash. It’s got nothing to do with your products, your packaging, your marketing. It sucks for everyone. But if you can make it through, the pandemic is potentially a turning point. Almost everyone I know is doing what they can to support small local businesses, because we’re at home, and we’ve rediscovered our communities. My local market has expanded their sourcing of local foods, the neighborhood coffee shop has added locally roasted beans and a local kombucha, and our weekly farm market has expanded. You’re local, you’re small, you have unique products: You are that niche! And your products are better. Everything craft distilled is simply better than it was as the industry gains experience, as the aged spirits get more months in the wood. Craft spirits are showing up on best-of lists with mainstream spirits, finding their forte in cocktails. People want to find you, and the long months of full or semi-quarantine have broken

Everything craft distilled is simply better than it was as the industry gains experience, as the aged spirits get more months in the wood. Craft spirits are showing up on best-of lists with mainstream spirits, finding their forte in cocktails. them out of insisting on ‘their’ brand. They’re experimenting more, and there you are … The Next Big Thing. Make the most of it. Focus on the appeal, play up how you belong where they are and go deep in your backyard. Think about athome cocktails, bottled cocktails, co-marketing with another local ingredient; even a local brewery for a boilermaker. If you’re bigger already, lean in on where you’re from and what makes it great. And when this is finally over, you’ll be known, and accepted, and in the shopping cart. There’s always a silver lining. Find it, and turn it to gold. ■

Lew Bryson has been writing about beer and spirits full-time since 1995. He is the author of “Tasting Whiskey” and “Whiskey Master Class.”



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WHAT’s Stirring

DRINKS TO SAVOR FROM ACSA MEMBERS Hazelnut Chai Hazelnut Espresso Vodka from Crater Lake Spirits in Bend, Oregon, is a perfect holiday and wintertime spirit. The distillery paired it with chai to evoke a warm holiday spice scent, a cozy-up-tothe-fire feel, and a subtle-sweet flavor that will appeal to many palates. Pictured hot, this cocktail can also be served chilled. Ingredients 1 1/2 ounces Black Scottie Chai concentrate 2 ounces Crater Lake Hazelnut Espresso Vodka 4-5 ounces hot water Splash of half & half or non-dairy milk Directions Mix the chai concentrate with hot water, then add the Hazelnut Espresso Vodka and cream to taste. Top with whipped cream and caramel drizzle.

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The Fig Old Fashioned This cocktail from Afton, Virginiabased Silverback Distillery is a warm hug of timeless taste. This cocktail is made from simple ingredients to elevate the at-home cocktail routine. It is perfect with any Silverback Distillery bourbon. Ingredients 1 1/2 ounces of Christine Riggleman Reserve Bourbon or Blackback Straight Bourbon 1 tbsp of fig preserves Splash of lemon juice 4 dashes of Old Forester Hummingbird Bitters Directions Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice, stir for 30 seconds and strain into a rocks glass over ice.

Rosemary’s Baby This cocktail from One Eight Distilling of Washington, D.C., is designed to work as a to-go cocktail. It features the distillery’s District Made Barrel Rested Ivy City Gin, which spends several months in a combination of ex-bourbon and charred, new American oak barrels. Ingredients 2 ounces District Made Barrel Rested Ivy City Gin 1 ounce rosemary simple syrup 3/4 ounce oz Dolin Dry Vermouth 1/2 ounce lemon cordial Directions Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel.

In the Woods The vision for this cocktail from Wood’s High Mountain Distillery in Salida, Colorado, was cultivated in an underground bar in the heart of London. Sitting there, sipping a single malt, Wood’s cocktail chemist, Taylor Howell, was captivated by her surroundings … the aromas of cigar smoke, dewy mosses and aged whiskey. Missing the high mountain comforts of Wood’s Distillery, which she calls home, In the Woods was born. Ingredients 1 1/2 ounces Wood’s Tenderfoot Whiskey 1 bar spoonful of organic Canadian maple syrup Housemade orange bitters Housemade molasses bitters House bitters (similar to Angostura bitters) Thyme Orange peel zest Oak woods chips, smoked

Ol’ Sap This is another cocktail from One Eight Distilling that works well as a to-go cocktail. This recipe features District Made Straight Bourbon Whiskey, the first bourbon made from grain to glass in D.C. since Prohibition. Ingredients 2 ounces District Made Straight Bourbon Whiskey 1/4 ounce maple syrup 1/4 ounce simple syrup 2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters 2 dashes Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters Directions Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir. Serve on the rocks and garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel and spritz with zest of an orange peel.

Directions Beginning with the glass (preferably a 16-ounce snifter), add four 1-inch ice cubes. Slap a sprig of thyme to release oils and add to glass. Spritz glass with orange peel zest and add to glass. Drizzle the inside of the glass lightly with maple syrup (one ring of drizzle around the top will do). Oak smoke the glass heavily, cover with a coaster and set aside. Add the Tenderfoot whiskey, spoonful of maple syrup and all bitters to a yarai mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain the cocktail into the snifter, then smoke the glass a second time. Cover the glass with a coaster, swirl and slowly remove the coaster to present.

Bourbon Cider This recipe from Southern Distilling Co. in Statesville, North Carolina, let’s the distillery’s Southern Star Standard Bourbon shine with a little help from hard cider. Ingredients 1 ounce Southern Star Standard Bourbon 2 1/2 ounces hard cider 1 ounce honey simple syrup Nutmeg and/or cinnamon Apple slices for garnish Directions Add bourbon and honey syrup to glass. Pour hard cider and ice; stir. Sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon and garnish with a slice of apple.


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ACSA Affairs

Q&A: GINA HOLMAN OF J. CARVER DISTILLERY A founding partner, distiller and manager at J. Carver Distillery in Waconia, Minnesota, Gina Holman was recently elected to the American Craft Spirits Association’s Board of Directors, serving the Central/Mountain Region. We recently checked in with her to discuss upcoming initiatives for ACSA and J. Carver.

and Convention Committee and can’t wait to discuss the relevant topics that interest you which are affecting our fast-changing industry. I ask you to encourage fellow distillers to join ACSA and I look forward to the day when we can raise a glass together in Louisville, Kentucky, in July 2021.

ACSA: As a newly elected board member, what are your top priorities for the coming year? Gina Holman: I am grateful for the opportunity and honored to serve the members of the American Craft Spirits Association. My top priorities are to focus efforts with our State Guild Committee leadership across the country to educate and persuade our elected officials in Congress to permanently reduce FET this year. Our state guild members are a vital voice to communicate the data that shows the FET reduction in 2019 allowed craft distillers to add new jobs, improvements and upgrades made to tasting and cocktail rooms that bolstered local tourism, benefiting small business and restaurants, while others invested in equipment to expand capacity which improved economic growth in other industries in our communities. COVID-19 has changed the landscape for so many including our craft spirits industry. ACSA members and craft distillers have proven our industry has grit, determination and a unified voice to get FET reduced permanently so our industry can continue to grow during these challenging times. I will stay informed on the proposed changes to Dietary Guidelines. I am passionate about education and look forward to working with the Education Committee

Can you tell us a little more about the importance of ACSA working with state guilds? I have been honored to be ACSA Guild Committee Co-Chair with P.T. Wood this past year, working with state guild leaders to make many phone calls, which secured a hard-fought, one-year extension of our reduced FET last December 2019. Just two weeks ago, I was thrilled to see many of the same state guild leaders who wanted to make a difference for our craft spirits industry and made it a priority to actively participate in the virtual ACSADISCUS Public Policy Conference. The virtual fly-in was an incredible opportunity for state guild leadership to be briefed on the importance of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, while encouraging distillers to discuss with their elected officials and staff members other public policies affecting our industry in our own individual states. We have much work left to do this year. It’s more important now than ever for us to share our unique distillery stories and I’m grateful to ACSA for supporting our members and inviting them to participate on the Craft Spirits Live segment and to receive invaluable information with the free ACSA Webinars. These programs have been instrumental for members to learn and share their successes

and challenges. ACSA is connecting our member-driven industry so we can learn from each other, continue to innovate, encourage, and share ideas. When questions arise, the ability to ask straightforward questions on how to get started in this industry is the most important step. Are there any new products coming soon from J. Carver that you are particularly excited about? Indeed. J. Carver has spent six years exploring and celebrating the bounty of Minnesota grains, fruits and botanicals and has forged community relationships with farmers and barrels coopers from right down the road. J. Carver is proud to be putting Minnesotabarreled spirits on the map with our awardwinning line of bourbons, ryes, and wheat whiskeys, brandies, barrel gin, specialty liqueurs, and now, we are proud to announce the launch of two different whiskies distilled from a single malt.

THE ELECTION’S IMPACT ON FET RELIEF The Presidential election is complete and Joseph R. Biden Jr. is the President-elect of the United States. That much we know. The composition of Congress, however, is still somewhat up in the air. The Democrats will retain a majority of the House and it is likely that Nancy Pelosi will continue as Speaker of the House. In the Senate, there is a slight possibility that the Democrats could gain an advantage thanks to run-off elections to come in Georgia. Whatever happens, both Senate leaders, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), are very active supporters

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of our craft beverage bill. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), author of S. 362 (the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA)), will remain a key player in the Senate, either as Chairman of Senate Finance (the tax writing Committee) or top Democrat. The new top Republican on Senate Finance will be Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID). Sen. Crapo is not a co-sponsor of the craft beverage bill. What does this mean for craft spirits and a lower federal excise tax (FET)? A Biden presidency will certainly mean a major tax bill in 2021. ACSA is hopeful that this could be a vehicle to make permanent

the CBMTRA. There will also likely be a major COVID-19 stimulus bill either in the lame duck session or in the new Congress, which will get seated in early January, before the Presidential Inauguration. In the meantime, we hope to make the extension of FET relief part of a COVID-19 stimulus bill or a spending bill before the end of 2020. Along with other alcohol trade groups, we are tentatively planning a Day of Action in early December to contact members of Congress. Please stay tuned as we prepare to forge on in this fight for craft spirits producers.


Q&A: JESSICA LEMMON OF CART/HORSE DISTILLING Jessica Lemmon is an owner and distiller for Edinboro, Pennsylvania-based Cart/Horse Distilling, which she founded in 2016 with her husband John Fetzner. Lemmon was recently elected to ACSA’s Board of Directors, so we checked in with her to discuss upcoming initiatives for ACSA and her distillery. ACSA: As a newly elected board member, what are your top priorities for the coming year? Jessica Lemmon: Given the current state of affairs, I think keeping up with the federal excise tax (FET) reduction and any possible funding for COVID relief is extremely important this year. I was extremely impressed how the ACSA board rallied when it came to the hand sanitizer situation and shutdowns, and keeping everyone legal and educated in swiftly changing environments. Between fire drills, my focus is also on the Safety Committee and getting involved in crafting information for both large and small distillers when it comes to best practices for their facilities. Distilling is in your blood, right? Tell us about your family’s distilling roots. Nothing like starting with the punchline! It’s true, alcohol is in my blood. When we first came to the idea of starting a distillery, it was inspired by the way so many of the big brands in Kentucky evolved from family farms. In my family the history always revolved around our farm, as it’s been passed down for over a century now. Each generation made their mark

on it in a different way. What we didn’t know was that wasn’t the only family business back in the day! When my husband and I decided to float our grand idea of an estate distillery to my parents, there was a big pause. “Well ... I suppose we should tell you ...” Turns out my other great-grandfather was a Prohibition-era moonshiner, best known for selling his high quality applejack to the revenuers when they came up to go fishing on the lake. When my parents inherited his house, they found the pot and hat stashed in different parts of the basement, original creosote from wood firing it and all. He would make cider at his mill in the “gully” and stash the bottles down in the creek until the drop was made … allegedly! He probably never imagined that his greatgranddaughter would strike out to start the first LEGAL distillery in the county! Tell us a little more about Cart/Horse. How did the name come about? Cart/Horse came to be out of the desire to control our own destiny and be our own bosses while reviving the century farm. We both have diverse skill sets that wrap in wonderfully in all aspects of the craft. Our shop is a true mom-and-pop business at this point. My husband likes to joke that we make progress through “brute strength and ignorance.” In the early days, that wasn’t too far from the truth. We bootstrapped our facility and built out equipment as we went, with a lot of upcycling, creative problem solving and sweat equity. Since we were unable to do the full-

ACSA PARTICIPATES IN GLOBAL BAR WEEK In October, ACSA, along with seven member distilleries, participated in BCB Brooklyn’s first ever Global Bar Week. Originally slated to take place in June at the Brooklyn Expo Center, the organizers pivoted to a virtual experience. Bar Convent Brooklyn united with Bar Convent Berlin, BCB São Paulo, and Imbibe Live for an entire week to create a global show. More than 200 exhibitors and over 6,800 attendees from 77 countries were able to connect through virtual showrooms and learn during the education sessions. Thanks to the following distilleries for joining: Backwards Distilling Co., Cardinal Spirits, Corsair Distillery, Distillery 291, Garrison Brothers Distillery, Round Turn Distilling and Wiggly Bridge Distillery.


fledged estate distillery, we instead partnered with the local farmers—many of which have done business with my family for generations. What are your best-selling spirits and/or the ones you’re most passionate about? Any new releases on the horizon? It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for botanical blends. I have the most fun concocting herbal creations, both new- and old-style. Our best-selling spirit to date is our Root Digger, a traditional style root beer liqueur. Before distilling was even an idea, we would go out in the early spring and dig the roots for our favorite ‘spring tonic.’ As the distillery evolved, I adapted the recipe and brought it in as a feature—soon people were lovingly threatening to steal it right off of the bar. That’s when it became pretty clear that we should put it into real production. Since then, we’ve racked up a couple of awards for our effort.

ACSA SEEKS FEEDBACK VIA ANNUAL SURVEY OF VOTING MEMBERS Each year, the American Craft Spirits Association checks in with you—our members—to determine how we can better assist advancing your business interests. We know this year was challenging. Besides the physical and emotional toll of the novel coronavirus, its economic toll was staggering for most who were compelled to close tasting rooms. Hand sanitizer production provided a lifeline for many while state executive orders for DtC opened a new channel for others. FET relief was and continues to be fought with uncertainty as to its continuance. All in all, it was a year of many unknowns and constant change. We recently emailed a member survey to all ACSA voting members. If you have not already completed the survey, please find it in your email and take 5-7 minutes to complete this short survey to help ACSA understand how we can best serve you and our craft spirits community. The deadline to submit feedback is Nov. 25. For questions, contact

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Koloa Rum Co. hopes to become totally self-sufficient— depending only on the cane grown on its farm.

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Consciousness Sustainability and social awareness are prevailing principles within the craft rum business. BY JEFF CIOLETTI


ow come we never have these discussions about gin?” It’s an interesting—albeit rhetorical—question that Privateer Rum president and head distiller Maggie Campbell raises as we ponder sustainability and social-consciousness issues within the rum space. And she has a point. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find that virtually every spirits category has some degree of socially problematic origin story or an environmental history that’s less than ideal. But such conversations seem to be more prevalent within the realm of sugar cane-based distilling. At least part of the reason for that, Campbell contends, is that the modern rum industry is still very much a part of the regions—particularly in the Caribbean—whose resources and peoples had historically been exploited. “It’s very visible in rum because it’s still made there,” Campbell says. “[But with gin], are you kidding me, it’s colonialism in a glass—it’s enslaved spice labor. Nobody ever asks where the spices in

our gin are from.” But the traditional point of production for gin is quite removed from the ingredient sourcing location. “[There’s] that separation because we think of gin as British, it whitewashes away the reality of what’s in the glass,” Campbell says. “Rum is still made in the Caribbean and I think that’s why it’s more apparent—which is good because we talk about it and we deal with it to a degree that is so much more intelligent, thoughtful and engaged than any other spirits I’ve ever had a toe in, including whiskey and gin.” Sustainable sourcing, overall environmental impact, ethical industry practices and socioeconomic issues, therefore, have long been a part of the conversation within the rum space, perhaps longer than it has in other categories. On the eco-impact side, the land required to grow cane and the fuel required to create the heat needed to convert raw sugar cane into a fermentable medium often are cited as

“Everyone here, to a large extent, is very careful about how they use the land. There’s a saying in Hawaii: ‘Mālama ʻĀina: Take care of the lands.’ The ancient Hawaiians were completely self-sustaining. They existed on what they could produce and catch from the ocean.” —Bob Gunter of Koloa Rum Co. C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

key concerns. “Harvesting sugar cane is still largely a manual operation, unlike the harvesting of wheat and other grains used in other spirits,” says Chris Budzik, a market analyst at IWSR. “Another contributing factor is that a significant amount of the world’s rum is produced in less developed countries with lax environmental regulations.” Oil is still the dominant fuel used in Caribbean distilleries, which compounds issues of sustainability. “Most of the boilers I have seen in person [there] run on oil,” notes Campbell. “And a lot of the waste is not accounted for the way it is here.” However, she cautions, North Americans have the luxury of having a much different concept of sustainability than those in many traditional rum-producing regions. “When you’ve been oppressed for so long, trying to bring systems like that online is really hard,” Campbell offers. But producers in regions that have greater access to greener fuels and systems—particularly U.S. craft distilleries—should be exploring more sustainability opportunities as much as they can. The boiler at Ipswich, Massachusetts-based Privateer, for instance, runs on natural gas. “I’m trying to always be cleaner,” Campbell says. Environmental stewardship and social responsibility have always been in the DNA of Montanya Distillers in Crested Butte, Colorado. The Certified B Corporation is 100% wind-powered and it offsets its carbon

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production. It also uses a bottle supplier that’s certified Cradle to Cradle, a globally recognized standard that measures products based on material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness. Montanya also actively promotes diversity and social justice. “For me, I’ve always been motivated not so much by having a good marketing tale to tell or a good differentiating element, but more because it’s part of my own personal commitments,” says Montanya founder and owner Karen Hoskin. “It lets me go to work and sleep at night.” More important than storytelling is truth telling, Hoskin asserts. And that means being transparent even when the news isn’t always good. “We set a goal in 2018 to be zero waste by 2020 and we have not made it and we have

talked about that publicly, why that has been hard, what pieces of the puzzle we failed on and what we do instead,” Hoskin says. “So, okay, plastic was a big challenge for us in bars and restaurants, so we’re pivoting toward working with a plastic offsetting partner. If we can get rid of our own plastic, then we can work with partners getting rid of plastic, kind of like what we do with carbon.” Still, the distillery has managed to reduce its landfill-bound waste by 75% and the waste generated at brand education events by 100%. And, Montanya reported that it offset 55 metric tons of carbon emissions in 2018. But it’s really the sourcing of raw materials that sets rum apart from other spirits categories, especially when the conversation is about sustainability. “Part of the issue is that sugar is this really faceless commodity bought and sold on this

global market and very few people have any awareness of, so [sugar suppliers] can get away with it very easily,” notes Campbell. “I think the average American has absolutely no idea how the sugar market works, where sugar comes from and honestly could not find out where the sugar in a bag in their house comes from. And it could come from 80 different countries in one bag.” Privateer is fortunate enough to be able to source a single-origin molasses—in this case, from a supplier in Guatemala—which is a rare position to be in within the distilling industry. “A lot of molasses, for the most volume of rum made, can be from anywhere, it changes all the time,” Campbell says. “They’re buying in bulk on the global commodities market— they’re not buying from a farm, so they can’t even tell you what the mill’s policy is. They’re very, very divided from the farm, from the

“I think the average American has absolutely no idea how the sugar market works, where sugar comes from and honestly could not find out where the sugar in a bag in their house comes from. And it could come from 80 different countries in one bag.” —Maggie Campbell of Privateer Rum Maggie Campbell of Privateer Rum

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cutter and from the miller.” Campbell is also very conscious of what kind of impact Privateer’s suppliers have on their own communities. Where sugar cane comes from, where it’s processed and where its waste goes should be top of mind for rum producers, she says. “And,” she asks, “does it sustain the local communities there in a meaningful and helpful way or is it extractive of the communities there? Are [the companies] extracting from the local communities to build their own personal wealth?” Privateer’s sugar supplier, Campbell notes, is very active with providing food security for not only its workers, but for the entire village in which it operates. Montanya sources 100% family-grown, non-GMO cane from a co-op of cane growers within a 50-mile region in Louisiana, near Lake Pontchartrain. When it’s harvested in the fall, it travels only a few miles to the Lula-Westfield sugar mill in Belle Rose, Louisiana, where it’s pressed and turned into unrefined sugar and molasses. From there, the unrefined sugar and molasses head, in separate 1-ton totes, directly to Montanya. The raw materials never see a refinery or enter the commodity market. Hoskin and her team know everyone in the chain of custody, from the land owners to the growers, to the harvesters to the millers. Those distillers, like Montanya, that source their cane from within the United States are obviously limited to very few regional options. It’s not like grain, which can pretty much grow in most North American climates. And even in the areas where cane can grow, some states are more conducive to responsible trade practices than others. Louisiana is definitely one of the former. “We are a very ingredient-focused rum distillery and when I think ‘sustainable sourcing,’ I think labor practices and carbon footprint,” says Reed Walker, co-founder and CEO of Cotton & Reed in Washington, D.C. “In the world of rum production, and specifically sugar cane harvesting, there are a lot of issues with very poor working conditions. We see it all over the world, including the Caribbean, Central America and even Florida. This is something that we dug into and as a result, opted to source the majority of our molasses from Louisiana.” Walker notes that much of the cane harvesting in Louisiana is performed mechanically, so there isn’t as much of a need for lowwage labor to do it manually. Outside the U.S., there are also stark contrasts from country to country. Walker points to Nicaragua and Costa Rica—two Central


Reed Walker of Cotton & Reed

American nations that are physically located adjacent to each other, but economically and politically, they’re many miles apart. “Costa Rica has a slightly better, stronger, mechanized economy and better labor [practices] and minimum wage laws that are enforced. Political stability makes a big difference.” Across the Pacific, Hawaii once had a vast, thriving sugar industry, with a commercial legacy of about a century and a half, long predating the archipelago’s entry into the U.S.

as the 50th state. Bob Gunter worked in the sugar business there for many years before he launched Koloa Rum Co., the first licensed distillery on the island of Kauai, in 2009. The fact that the local cane industry “holds a place in my heart,” Gunter says, is one of the things that motivated him to become a rum producer. “[Sugar] was a huge industry and a very important industry in Hawaii for 150 years,” notes Gunter. “In terms of the demographics that we have here today, it’s what made

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Hawaii what it is today, which is this rainbow of different ethnicities and cultures. They all came at different points in time to work in and sustain the sugar industry. Obviously it provided employment, it provided for the wellbeing directly and indirectly for the majority of people in Hawaii, vis-à-vis company stores and medical clinics.” Though the sugar industry was, as Gunter says, “the heartbeat of Hawaii” for generations—not only in terms of growing and processing cane—it became nearly impossible for Hawaiian sugar companies to compete on the global commodities market, especially when many of the competing regions paid low wages and offered no benefits for their workers. And tourism eventually became a much more lucrative industry for Hawaii, so the reliance on sugar diminished significantly. There was also a major effort among plantation owners to diversify their crops beyond cane to try to remain profitable, but that, too, proved difficult. “Eventually we saw that there would be no agricultural industry here to speak of that would sustain a lot of people,” Gunter recalls. “As an employment opportunity sugar and agriculture in general began to disappear. So some of us were not happy with that and we wanted to do whatever we could to support our agriculture industry and, in doing so, preserve open space and important agricultural land.”

His goal when launching Koloa was to support the local cane industry by consuming as much sugar and sugar derivatives as possible. But 11 years later, there’s not enough of an industry to speak of to fully supply Hawaiian rum producers with enough raw materials to operate. “So now we’re forced to bring it in from the mainland by the container load,” Gunter notes. It’s a reality for most products— food, agricultural or otherwise—consumed by the population of an archipelago that’s nearly 2,500 miles from the continental portion of its own country and nearly 2,000 miles from any other continent. Roughly 90% of such products come from outside Hawaii, which not only makes the cost of goods much more expensive, but does a number on any industry’s carbon footprint. But for the past four years, Koloa has been working on its own cane cultivation project, supplementing the supply it gets from the mainland with crops the distillery grows itself. The plan is for Koloa to become totally selfsufficient—depending only on the cane grown on its farm. Gunter estimates that that would require between 250-300 acres of Koloa’s own crop. Right now, the farm is growing about 18 acres’ worth, so there’s still a considerable way to go. But what it is growing is 100% certified organic. “Everyone here, to a large extent, is very careful about how they use the land,” Gunter says. “There’s a saying in Hawaii: ‘Mālama ʻĀina: Take care of the lands.’

Rum by the Numbers Premium-plus Revenue +9.3%

Premium-plus Volume +7.2%

Total Revenue -0.4%

Total Volume -0.7%

U.S. Rum Growth (2019) Premium-plus Revenue +10.7%

Premium-plus Volume +9.6%

Total Volume +1.9%

Total Revenue +3.3%

Global Rum Growth (2019)

Premiumization is boosting the rum business worldwide, with double-digit gains in revenue globally and more than 9% in the U.S. And that’s an opportunity for craft. Source: IWSR

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The ancient Hawaiians were completely selfsustaining. They existed on what they could produce and catch from the ocean.” Now, getting the rest of the country and the rest of the world to make “Mālama ʻĀina” part of their everyday ethos is really the key to a sustainable future in rum—and in every industry. Taking care of the lands—and, by extension, the people—is something few should be opposed to, though there are still so many minds left to change. But the leaders in the craft rum segment know it can be done. Just ask Montanya’s Hoskin. Her team this year managed to get retail behemoth Whole Foods to rethink its adult beverage business. “One of the things that I had been doing was trying to convince Whole Foods that they can’t have a separate philosophy about alcohol from the philosophy they have about food,” Hoskin reveals. “Alcohol should reflect a commitment to non-GMO, proper-supplychain spirits companies. And they said, ‘You’re right,’ so we got a major deal with Whole Foods that started in September.” Twenty-five Whole Foods locations in the states of Washington, California, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada are now carrying Montanya’s Platino and Exclusiva rums. And for those who still argue that taking a stand on environmental stewardship and socially conscious business practices is too costly an endeavor, it certainly hasn’t hurt Montanya’s growth prospects. So far in 2020—a year that’s been incredibly challenging for everyone in the business—Montanya has grown its wholesale sales by 44%. Hoskin expects the Whole Foods deal to drive the company’s end-of-year sales even farther. Distillers like Hoskin, Privateer’s Campbell, Cotton & Reed’s Walker and Koloa’s Gunter succeed because they look well beyond public relations when living up to their respective philosophies on sustainability. “There’s what is ‘SustainableTM’ for marketing and sustainable [in terms of] what-isactually-helpful,” Campbell says. “Switching your boiler to natural gas from oil would be huge, but you’re going to go to an American bartender and bragging that you spent, like, a million dollars to put your boiler on natural gas and that’s not very sexy with them.” Something perceived as more “sexy” would be putting in a windmill or putting in a solar panel—even though neither would generate the same level of earth-friendly benefits. “Was that actually the best environmental impact or was it the most marketable impact?” Campbell explains. “Is it boardroom sustainability or is it on-the-ground sustainability?” ■


“For me, I’ve always been motivated not so much by having a good marketing tale to tell or a good differentiating element, but more because it’s part of my own personal commitments. It lets me go to work and sleep at night.” —Karen Hoskin of Montanya Distillers C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

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ACSA Member Spotlight

AGENTS OF CHANGE Whether they’re fighting for the rights of craft spirits producers or pivoting in a pandemic, Southern Distilling Co. co-founders remain nimble.


t the outset of creating Southern Distilling Co. in Statesville, North Carolina, Pete and Vienna Barger planned on producing their own spirits and offering contract distilling services to others. What they didn’t expect is that they would become agents of change for craft spirits in their state. That change came about in 2019 when North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law SB290, which dramatically loosened restrictions on producers of distilled spirits. For starters, makers of craft spirits can now sell cocktails and unlimited bottles from their distilleries. As the president of the Distillers Association of North Carolina, Pete was instrumental in pushing for the legislation, and as a former board member, Vienna recalls fighting for similar legislation in the early 2010s. “At the time there was not a lot of faith or belief that we, as this small organization, could make a difference, but we kept at it,” says Vienna. “We engaged a professional lobbyist and we grew. As people were joining the association, and we were really able to speak with one voice, it gave us a whole different leverage in being able to impact change.”

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Of course, COVID-19 disrupted some of that progress, but Southern Distilling’s business continues to thrive. Hand sanitizer production was an initial help when the distillery shut down its tasting room as the pandemic struck. “We were looking at laying off upwards of 10 people just on that side of the house, but we were able not to lay anybody off,” says Pete. “We transitioned all those people on to our bottling lines into the production side of the house. [We] actually ended up hiring an additional 20-plus folks and kept those folks through the worst part of the pandemic on the bottling line producing sanitizer.” In the months that followed, a previously planned expansion continued at the distillery. Six new fermentation tanks arrived, so did a new bottling line. And then, the Bargers say, the strangest thing happened. “Things started to get really busy on our contract distillation side—not just on the sanitizer,” says Pete. “I still don’t really have a great explanation for that. The best I can figure is that people had more time to pursue passions, think about projects that had been shelved. … That whole contract production side has just really taken off in a way that it

had not in years past. That’s everything from bulk whiskey in barrels all the way through some pretty esoteric co-packing and product development projects.” Meanwhile, the distillery continues to produce and grow its own line of Southern Star products. Launched in 2017, the lineup includes its White Whiskey, an unaged wheated bourbon whiskey; Standard, Single Barrel and Cask Strength versions of its High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey; Double Rye, a blend of straight rye whiskeys; and 10-Year Reserve High-Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey. One of the distillery’s most acclaimed products is Double Shot Coffee Bourbon Cream Liqueur. The initial intention, says Vienna, was to create a cream liqueur that wasn’t too sweet. “It’s such a subtle coffee [flavor] that a lot of folks will say it doesn’t even carry through as coffee,” she says. “People call it a grown-up chocolate milk. It has been a huge success for us and has actually taken us into distribution in other states outside of North Carolina earlier than we had originally intended because we had folks that were very eager to have it.” Currently, Pete is most excited by South-




Vienna and Pete Barger

ern’s recent release of Double Rye. “We’ve never been anything other than transparent about the fact that we’ve used sourced products for those 5- and 10-year products,” says Pete. “We’re at the point now where we’re beginning to [use] our own ryes and bourbons. The Double Rye is really the first of that. We grew the rye, we distilled that here, we aged that here, we blended it here, and then we bottled it. It’s a 100% inhouse creation.” Looking ahead, the Bargers are also excited to start releasing new in-house creations in 2021 that harken back to Statesville’s preprohibition distilling roots. As for SB290, in addition to allowing unlimited bottle sales from distilleries, it paved the way for in-store tastings of spirits and several other changes that created more equity between wine, beer and spirits. The question from distillers was simple: if the system is good enough for beer and wine, why isn’t it good enough for spirits? “We just said, ‘Hey look, there’s a successful system,” says Pete. ‘“It’s already been setup in North Carolina for 20 years. We just want to be able to do what they can do, that’s all


we’re asking. We just want equity. We want to do what they can do.’ That really resonated. It made sense to people.” In the leadup to the legislation, Vienna says Pete’s relationship-building skills proved essential. She says he and the Distillers Association of North Carolina helped break down barriers between previously contentious groups. “It took a long time to get there but it really was very strategic, careful, and a lot of endurance building those relationships and being able to resolve differences and resolve problems that really got us to that point,” says Vienna. And as for 2020, despite all its tests and uncertainties, Southern Distilling is in a good position. The distillery is growing and continuing to bring on more people. “We’ve addressed some real threats and challenges head on,” says Pete. “We’ve built the strongest team that we’ve ever had. People are really enjoying what they’re doing. Despite the challenges, despite a lot of the negative things that are going on in the country right now, people are genuinely happy to be here right now. That’s really gratifying and not what we expected.” ■

“We’ve addressed some real threats and challenges head on. We’ve built the strongest team that we’ve ever had. People are really enjoying what they’re doing.” —Pete Barger of Southern Distilling Co.

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Distilling Politicians Craft Spirits Producers Drawn to Elected Office BY JON PAGE


mber Pollock’s election night mirrored that of millions of Americans. The co-founder of Wyoming-based Backwards Distilling Co. closely followed many races and frequently refreshed her phone as results trickled in across the state and country. But Pollock was much more than a casual observer in one race, in which she was elected to a seat on the Casper City Council. With her election, Pollock joins a handful of

active distillery owners who are also serving in public office. On the city level, P.T. Wood of Wood’s High Mountain Distillery is the mayor of Salida, Colorado; in nearby Buena Vista, Amy Eckstein of Deerhammer Distillery is a town trustee; and Jay Nolan of Rush Creek Distilling is the former mayor of Harvard, Illinois. Distillers also walk the halls of Congress. In Virginia, Denver Riggleman of Silverback Distillery is the outgoing U.S. representative for the commonwealth’s fifth district, while

Dean Phillips, who previously served as the president and CEO of Phillips Distilling Co., recently won re-election in Minnesota’s third congressional district. Spirits have ties to the executive branch, too. George Washington was a distiller (that tradition is carried on at George Washington’s Mount Vernon) and although he is a non-drinker, President Donald Trump once hawked Trump Vodka, even if it was produced overseas.

“You have to be communicating with your elected officials because so much of what we do relies on the way laws are written and the way regulation is carried out.” —Amber Pollock

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Amy Eckstein

Craft distillers across the country have been forced to fight for structural change. They don’t have the option not to be involved in politics. Wood says that operating a craft distillery requires a certain agility that makes distillers well-suited for politics. “Probably the number one thing is the ability to turn on a dime,” says Wood, who is also the vice president of the American Craft Spirits Association. “You may be sitting there doing sales one minute and sweating a copper pipe the next, and fixing a pump and then you’re out doing customer service in the tasting room and trying to balance your employee personalities. If you have a tasting room, those folks are completely different from the production folks in the back and their personalities don’t always mesh, so there’s tons of balancing and ability to


shift your focus on a dime.” Pollock isn’t surprised that a growing number of distillers are answering the call of public office. Voters are drawn to candidates who are small business owners and craft distillers across the country have been forced to fight for structural change. They don’t have the option not to be involved in politics. “We operate in an industry where we have to be very proactive,” says Pollock. “We can’t really just rely on systems as they are because they’re not really built for our industry. We’ve really had to go—at all levels—to government [officials] and regulators to really forge a path and a structure that will support our industry.

… You have to be communicating with your elected officials because so much of what we do relies on the way laws are written and the way regulation is carried out.” Pollock says the link between operating a distillery and politics crystalized for her soon after she and her family started Backwards Distilling. Although the process piqued her interest in politics, she was somewhat hesitant to run for council as recently as this summer. Time was one factor. In addition to her responsibilities at Backwards, Pollock is the vice president of the Wyoming Distillers Guild, she serves on ACSA’s board of directors and she is the president of ENGAGE, a grassroots

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organization of 18- to 35-year-olds aiming to strengthen the longevity of Wyoming. She filed to run at the last minute and expected to withdraw. But when no other like-minded candidates came forward, Pollock remained in the race. Other than participating in media interviews and candidate forums— and spending about $250 on yard signs—she didn’t heavily campaign for votes. “I felt like I’ve been doing that this whole time, in a way,” says Pollock. “Being super active in my community and being super present is a type of campaigning. I was just hoping that would speak for itself rather than me trying to go door-to-door during a pandemic to tell people what I’m looking to do.” The strategy paid off, as Pollock received the most votes in the race for two seats in her ward. As her four-year term begins, she’s hoping to keep her focus on issues that directly affect her community. “Not everything has to be red versus blue,” she says. “We need to just talk about the real issues that we have here and how we address them as a community.” That was part of what drew Eckstein earlier this year to run for town trustee in Buena Vista, a mountain town of about 3,000 people. “It’s not about being political,” says Eckstein, who started Deerhammer with her husband Lenny. “It’s about generally trying to do what’s in the best interest of this town.” She says that running a business has helped her develop many traits that prove helpful in her work with the town. “When you own a business you look to stay ahead of the curve, that’s with whiskey, everything,” says

The Riggleman family

Eckstein. “The first step that the business has taught me is really being able to read the curve and then of course you have to make a decision. Once you see what’s coming, how do we adapt? How do we want to grow?” As a member of Congress, Riggleman could not avoid partisan political issues. As the Republican nominee in 2018, he won the seat with 53% of the vote, but wasn’t on the ballot this year. He was censured by local party leaders in 2019 not long after officiating a samesex wedding ceremony for two Republican supporters. The local Republican committee chose to determine the 2020 nominee via a convention, rather than a primary election. That convention was held at a church near the home of challenger Bob Good and was the only place delegates could cast a ballot in a district that stretches from northern Virginia to the North Carolina border, according to ABC News. Riggleman describes himself as a fiscal conservative who is “more socially liberal than most Republicans.” He believes his independent streak has helped Afton-based Silverback, which also has a location in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. “Our distillery welcomes everybody,” says Riggleman. “I don’t care—everyone’s money spends. The thing is that we’re a safe space for everybody. I try to keep politics out of the distillery because I think everybody wants to help. It’s just you have a different set of solutions. We’re not tribal. Everyone is friends at Silverback and we can have reasonable discussions about what we think is right or wrong.”

Riggleman served in the Air Force and founded a federal contracting company, but spirits led him into politics. Riggleman and his wife, Christine, opened Silverback in 2014, where Christine is the CEO and master distiller. Their daughters also play key roles at the distillery. Lauren Riggleman Weller is the assistant distiller and general manager; Abby Riggleman is the media director and general manager for Silverback’s Pennsylvania location; and Lilly Riggleman is the distillery’s data manager. “ Without [Christine] we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” says Denver. “Believe me, I’m fighting for everybody, but it was fighting for my wife’s dream that led me into politics.” He has pushed for deregulation of alcohol laws in the state and is a staunch critic of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. He says that his experience starting other companies, including Silverback, helped give him a thick skin when it comes to politics. “Most of the stuff that you’re dealing with isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about who’s paying who or what block some regulator has to fill in so that he can go home and have dinner with his family or her family,” says Riggleman. “That’s really what it comes down to and you get a very thick skin. That’s why even now, with the awfulness that I’ve gone through for the past two years, it’s not going to stop me from moving forward. And actually I sort of enjoy being politely confrontational. I think you have to have people that aren’t afraid to tell the truth and to spit facts.” Although his term in Congress will soon

“I sort of enjoy being politely confrontational. I think you have to have people that aren’t afraid to tell the truth and to spit facts.” —Denver Riggleman

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end, Riggleman is considering a run for governor, either as a Republican or an Independent. “I’m strong [on the] Second Amendment but I also believe that everybody should be happy and the government should stay out of people’s bedrooms,” says Riggleman. “I think what I am is an American, and I think the twoparty system is failing the United States. If I do run as a Republican, it’s going to be a very Independent-minded Republican.” In Salida, Wood was re-elected to his second two-year term as mayor in 2019. He may run again for a third-term next year, and says he has no intention of running for statewide office. He is an avid outdoorsman who moved to Salida decades ago to be a river guide. His resumé also includes time as a kayak sales representative, a pizza shop owner and a homebuilder. The purchase of a prominent plot of land that would later become a city open space with trails paved the way for Wood to become the chair of Salida’s planning and zoning commission, where he said he was one of the louder voices against the previous mayor and his administration. “I didn’t think that they were leading the town in a positive direction,” says Wood. “Being a guy that believes in being part of things that you’re passionate about, [running for mayor] seemed like a natural fit.” Being the mayor while also running the distillery and serving as ACSA’s vice president may seem like a lot of responsibilities, but Wood embraces a hectic schedule. “I find that the more I have to do, the more efficient I am at doing it. If I’m not super busy I procrastinate really bad at getting stuff done. It’s super useful to stay busy.” As for which is harder, running a distillery or working as an elected official, distillers interviewed for this story had various opinions. Only months into her term as a town trustee, Eckstein says distilling is more difficult. Riggleman says starting a distillery from scratch is harder than being a Congressman. He says being a Congressman is “the best thing I’ve ever done, but it’s the worst job I’ve ever had.” Wood, who guided his distillery and his city through the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, says it depends on the day, but ultimately his mayoral duties are the toughest. “At the distillery I’m the boss and at the city I have 5,000 bosses, so obviously that’s a little bit more challenging,” he says. “And I don’t just get to make the decisions. I have to build consensus and do my best to make sure that these diverse opinions are heard and respected and ideas good, bad or indifferent are weighed and measured equally.” ■


“At the distillery I’m the boss and at the city I have 5,000 bosses, so obviously that’s a little bit more challenging.” —P.T. Wood

P.T. Wood

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Distilling Destinations

Washington, D.C.’s Big Chill The District’s distillers brace for a pandemic winter. BY JEFF CIOLETTI


ow that the presidential election is over, Washington, D.C. is turning its attention to the transition—in the weather, that is. The nation’s capital has become one of the country’s great epicenters of craft distilling activity, but as the cold season looms and the pandemic approaches its first anniversary, many spirits producers are anxious about what the next months will bring. “It’s a dark winter,” says Todd Thrasher, the veteran bartender whose Potomac Distilling Co. produces his namesake Thrasher’s Rum. “We’re definitely down.” Given Thrasher’s resume, the distillery’s focus since it opened in late 2018 has been largely on-premise—the channels hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis. “Because of my background in bartending, my whole business model is on-premise,” Thrasher says. “We’ve had to pivot a bit to find a new strategy because restaurants aren’t really purchasing a lot of stuff. With everything I hear about retail now, people are less likely to try something.” Located on D.C.’s revitalized waterfront district The Wharf, the distillery was created to be a destination for locals and tourists alike. The facility also houses its Polynesian-style bar, Tiki TNT, which was closed for months at the outset of the pandemic. Tiki TNT has since reopened for outdoor and limited indoor seating and the distillery recently resumed tours. There have been some silver linings for Thrasher during the varying levels of closure and reopening that have come with COVID-19.

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“I did use the time during COVID to get better at distilling because we weren’t in such a rush to move things around,” he says. “Of all the bad COVID gave to us, it actually gave me more time to spend with the still and try new things.” Over in the Union Market area of the District—a collection of old warehouses and former industrial spaces that have been transformed into restaurants, bars and the sprawling namesake foodie magnet of a market—rum distillery Cotton & Reed this summer benefited from being able to move much of the capacity of its tasting room—a full cocktail bar—outdoors. “We opened the patio just a couple of months ago and it was a lifesaver,” says Cotton & Reed co-founder and CEO Reed Walker. “As the hand sanitizer business cratered, opening the patio was the lifeline that we needed.” Of course, now that we’ve entered the late fall and things are starting to get chilly in D.C., those, like Cotton & Reed, with patios face the dilemma over whether to completely close their outdoor spaces or invest in pricey propane-powered heating lamps. Fortunately for Cotton & Reed, it doesn’t have to choose. Its landlord is granting the distillery access to an adjacent empty warehouse that satisfies all local social distancing protocols. “It’s a very open, high-ceiling warehouse where there’s plenty of room to maintain a significant amount of distance between tables, with huge double doors,” Walker explains. “We’re licensing it as a patio—you can’t really

call it indoor. It’s a warehouse with three doors and a roof, which is a little easier to heat [than a patio].” Visitors will be warm enough, thanks to electric space heaters, versus those much more cost-prohibitive propane lamps. “Propane is very expensive and it really puts a lot of pressure on restaurants on revenue to justify the extra cost,” Walker points out. “We don’t really sell expensive food items and our average check size is so small, that propane would make a significant dent in our profitability. Electric, radiant heat doesn’t put off a lot of heat, it warms the air.” The much-more-spread-out space will accommodate the same number of people—40 to 50—that fit in the tasting room prior to the pandemic and the same number that could enjoy the patio over the summer. “We are very, very lucky and super appreciative of our landlord for granting us this opportunity,” Walker says. Cotton & Reed is located just outside of Ivy City, the post-industrial neighborhood that has become the District’s unofficial distillery row, home to Republic Restoratives, One Eight Distilling, New Columbia Distillers, Don Ciccio & Figli and, until recently, Jos. A Magnus & Co. (which relocated to Michigan this year). One Eight, unlike Cotton & Reed, doesn’t have access to a substantial amount of outside space or an adjacent facility to compensate for the closure of its tasting room. Its ample square-footage is concentrated indoors, not only with its roomy bar area on


The wide-open warehouse space will enable Cotton & Reed to continue to serve socially distanced consumers in-person through the winter.


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the ground floor, but its wide-open events space upstairs. “We don’t really have nice patio space, just out on the parking spots with picnic tables and umbrellas—it’s not pleasant,” says One Eight Distilling co-founder and head distiller Alex Laufer. “D.C. is still reporting a fairly high rate of [COVID-19] transmission from bars and restaurants, in addition to social gatherings and travel. We decided to put the brakes on anything in-person until, hopefully, things improve this winter or maybe a little [later] than winter.” One Eight Distilling, like so many others in the industry, continues to hurt from the lost tasting room revenue—especially since most people expected the novel coronavirus to be at least somewhat under control by now. “It’s always a great piece of revenue to have people in the door for [a] cocktail,” Laufer says. “Prior to the pandemic we invested a fair bit in the [events] space. We were gearing up for a busy events season that has just been put on hold and that’s unfortunately [forced us to] lose a lot of our staff, all across the

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board—our bartenders, one of our distillers … even our sales folks we’ve had to lay off.” Laufer reveals that One Eight is down to a full-time staff of four. The distillery was able to resume non-handsanitizer-related production in July and has been distilling continuously ever since. One Eight also has had some success with its virtual experiences, after a bit of trial and error. The format Laufer and his team have found to work the best is a monthly open-tothe-public tasting where consumers can buy tasting kits, including four, 50-mL bottles, at the distillery and follow along at home through the online guided tasting. The distillery also has been leading such events for private virtual gatherings—corporate happy hours, birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties, etc. “It’s not as good as having people in person to engage,” he says, “but it does allow us to reach people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to the distillery if there wasn’t a pandemic.” In the era of COVID, it’s all about the little wins. ■

“Of all the bad COVID gave to us, it actually gave me more time to spend with the still and try new things.” —Todd Thrasher of Potomac Distilling


News from the Nation’s Capital Here’s what’s happening at many with some of D.C.’s top spirits producers. One Eight Distilling: The Ivy City-based distillery recently released Untitled Whiskey No. 18, a blend of its straight District Made Rye Whiskey and a barrel of the finest 14-year-old highrye bourbon from its rickhouse. It also soon will release its first widely available liqueur—the distillery previously made one exclusively for chef Jose Andrés’s Barmini. Co-founder and head distiller Alex Laufer describes it as a high-proof concoction with spices like turmeric and cardamom and sweetened with honey. Don Ciccio & Figli: Known for its Italian-style liqueurs, Don Ciccioo & Figli this fall released a pair of bottled RTD cocktails: Negroni Classico and Negroni Blanco Oro. Republic Restoratives: The maker of Rodham Rye, Borough Bourbon, Civic Vodka and Chapman apple brandy is offering pickup, delivery and shipping for its spirits—each bottle of which comes with a free bottle of its hand sanitizer (Republic Restoratives was one of the earliest craft distilleries to pivot to making sanitizer when the pandemic first hit). Cotton & Reed: Its core rums—White Rum, Mellow Gold Bourbon Barrel Rum, Dry Spiced Rum, Allspice Dram and PX Dark Rum, as well as its mixers and sanitizer, are available for sale from its front window four days a week. The temporary tasting room is moving from the patio to the adjacent warehouse space for the winter. Potomac Distilling/Thrasher’s Rum: Distillery tours have resumed, TuesdaySaturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., every half hour on the half hour. Each 20-minute tour is $18 per person, which includes a taste of Thrasher’s White Rum, Green Spiced Rum, Spiced Rum, Coconut Rum and Gold Rum, as well as a Thrasher’s Rum cocktail. Founding Spirits: The farmer-owned micro-batch distillery is part of the restaurant Farmers & Distillers in downtown D.C. This year the restaurant is offering made-to-order Thanksgiving dinner to go (because COVID), with which consumers can purchase cocktails to go.


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human resources

STRENGTHENING DIVERSITY New initiatives aim to increase underrepresented groups’ participation in the distilling industry. BY KATE BERNOT

Years ago, Chris Montana recognized a pernicious problem in the craft distilling industry. It was clear to him in 2016, when Montana looked around the ACSA’s convention in Chicago and realized that of the roughly 800 attendees in the room, his was the only Black face. The founder and owner of Du Nord Craft Spirits in Minneapolis also noticed that women were underrepresented, especially women in production roles at distilleries. Initially he was reluctant to champion the issue of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) within the craft spirits industry. “As a Black man, the last thing I ever want to do is be the guy talking about the importance of diversity. … I want people to support me because of the craftsmanship [of my product], not because of who I am,” Montana says. He realized, though, that he needed to serve as a role model for other Black distillers and as an advocate for the diversity he wanted to see within the industry. He decided to run for the ACSA Board of Directors, and subsequently served as its president from 2018 to summer 2020. During that time, he spearheaded the creation of the organization’s Strategic Plan, which included a diversity statement and a diversity internship program through the Spirits Training Entrepreneurship Program for Underrepresented Professionals (STEPUP) Foundation. The goal, Montana says, is to create an industry that’s open and welcoming, and whose

members reflect the demographics of America at large. ACSA does not have demographic data on its membership, so it’s impossible to say where its baseline numbers are. But Montana and current ACSA president Becky Harris, of Catoctin Creek in Purcellville, Virginia, say the industry is lacking in representation for women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities. The STEPUP initiative not only aims to attract more talent from underrepresented groups, but to help those professionals advance in their careers. “You have to put your thumb on the scale and not assume we’ll naturally get there,” Montana says. “Because if we could have got there naturally, we’d be there already.” He’s encouraged by ACSA members’ support for STEPUP, which has the goal of launching two candidates into the program this year. STEPUP is just one of several initiatives the American distilling industry has created this year with the goal of attracting, retaining and benefiting from the voices of diverse talent. Diversity in Food & Beverage Pledge The nonprofit group Diversity In Wine & Spirits—which will rebrand as Diversity in Food & Beverage in 2021—launched a Diversity in Food & Beverage Pledge this fall. The pledge is customizable and flexible, designed specifically for small and midsize

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companies. Each company decides what its unique diversity goals will be, commits to a self-audit after one year, and then shares the results publicly. The goal, says Diversity In Wine & Spirits’ director of operations Elan Glasser, is transparency and accountability, and to share successful strategies with other companies. Diversity In Wine & Spirits also provides scholarships and professional development grants, and is in the process of creating a diversity index to help companies quantify their DE&I efforts. “If you don’t know the scope of your problem, how can you fix it?” Glasser says. “We have to have numbers to track improvement and changes, and to compare sectors and companies.” The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling Launched in July, the nonprofit Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling (MJF) has already raised $170,000 towards its programs, with the goal of advancing technical education and facilitating career opportunities for people of color within the brewing and distilling industries. Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and the MJF board’s inaugural chair, says he especially welcomes more engagement with the distilling industry; much of the foundation’s interaction thus far has come from the brewing side. Going forward, the MJF’s Nathan Green Scholarship Award for Distilling will fund accredited distilling technical courses for people of color, and provide them personalized mentorship with industry professionals. The MJF held its first board meeting this fall, and has begun connecting people of color to possible employment and training opportunities. Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative This partnership between the Jack Daniel Distillery and the Nearest Green Distillery kicked off in June with an initial combined


“That mantra of changing the face of whiskey, that’s always been driving me. My hope and dream is in 10 years that I’m looking at an industry that is more supportive and more diverse because of the opportunities I’ve taken and those I’ve created for other people.” —Tracie Franklin

Tracie Franklin

pledge of $5 million. That money helped create the Nearest Green School of Distilling at Tennessee’s Motlow State Community College, developed the Leadership Acceleration Program (LAP) for apprenticeships, and established the Business Incubation Program (BIP), all with the goal of advancing African Americans in the whiskey industry. Tracie Franklin, the former national ambassador for Glenfiddich, is the first participant in the Leadership Acceleration Program. This fall, she traveled across the U.S. to gain production experience at various distilleries as she took courses in chemistry and other relevant sciences. “That mantra of changing the face of whiskey, that’s always been driving me,” Franklin says. “My hope and dream is in 10 years that I’m looking at an industry that is more supportive and more diverse because of the opportunities I’ve taken and those I’ve created for other people.” STEPUP Diversity Internship Program As current ACSA president, Becky Har-


ris is part of the seven-member board that will guide the STEPUP initiative through its inaugural round of internships. The plan is to tailor each program to a candidate’s professional interests, whether that’s production or opening their own distillery or working for a wholesaler. “The end game here is not to increase the knowledge of people of color about the distilling industry; it’s to increase their participation in the distilling industry,” she says. “I think there will be a lot of demand for these candidates because we’ve already had a couple people on our committee who are like, ‘We’d hire them right away.’” STEPUP’s shortterm goals are to select and launch its first group of interns, and to create a sustainable funding model for the program. After that, Harris says the first group of interns will offer ideas for continually improving STEPUP. “When you reach out with intent and integrity to people of color, the LGBTQ community, and women, you’re starting a conversation about what they want,” she says. “It shows we’re paying attention.” ■

Becky Harris of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co.

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sales & marketing

THE HARD SELL The pandemic has thrown up all kinds of obstacles for the day-to-day job of selling craft spirits. Yet some have found creative ways to get around them. BY ANDREW KAPLAN

As any craft spirits salesperson will tell you, their job is always rife with challenges on a good day. But the pandemic has brought with it a whole new set of problems. How do you sell your products to a bar, restaurant or store that has been forced to either temporarily shut down or substantially scale back? And how do you do it while sticking to social distancing requirements that have turned what is usually a high-touch job into an often cold and distant one? Common sales practices before the pandemic have now been temporarily shelved. “Nobody is doing ‘work withs,’” says Laura Kanzler, a regional sales manager for Hotaling & Co. in San Francisco, referring to when a craft spirits salesperson sets out with their distributor to visit accounts together. “We’re not sitting in the same car with someone, we’re not getting the same types of introductions to people that we once did. We are doing a lot more on our own, solo.” Add to that the extra burden capacity restrictions have placed on being able to visit accounts, and the inconveniences of having to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer and social distance during a visit or tasting. Despite such new challenges, the sales forces of some craft spirits producers and distributors have found ways to navigate this new normal. But it has taken a lot of flexibility, making good use of the latest technologies, and perhaps ironically given social distancing requirements, figuring out a way to maintain a human touch with accounts despite it all. “Our industry as a whole has definitely had a tough time, and the future is very uncertain and the horizon is especially unclear,” says Chris Schmid, director of wine and spirits for the Elkridge, Maryland-based Prestige-Ledroit Distributing Co. “We’re all working these environments that are much more ambiguous nowadays. “Part of what’s been the hardest part for all of us,” he continues, “is the uncertainty that so many of our industry peers and colleagues in the on-premise trade are facing. With that in mind, we’re not looking to go back to normal, we’re looking to kind of create a new

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normal, one that’s better for everyone, on- or off-premise, and our team.” Keeping in Contact One of the biggest challenges craft spirits salespeople face during the pandemic is how to adjust to health restrictions and new social norms that lay obstacles in the way of a cornerstone of any good sales relationship: the personal connection. “Connecting with people is so important in sales and without being able to shake someone’s hand or talk to them face to face you have to create new and different ways to connect,” says Erin Hayes, partner and director of sales and trade advocacy for Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon. “Our industry is very relationship-driven,” adds Prestige-Ledroit’s President Michael Cherner, “so the people that you once would have hugged or fist-bumped or given a handshake to when you arrived, there’s now a distance between you and that person. So, what you would have sort of shared a drink or a taste over has changed. The way that you have to present to the buyer is different.” He continues, “Whereas a year ago this time of year people would be talking about the start of the football season and maybe on Monday morning talking about how the game went that weekend, I think the first line out of any salesperson’s mouth in this environment is, ‘How’s your family doing?’” It is also no longer as easy to just drop in on an account as capacity restrictions have many setting strict times each week for salespeople to visit, if at all. A lot more preparatory work is required. “Do your research before cold calling an account,” advises Hayes. “A phone call or an email asking about what works for the account will go a long way. Everyone is just trying to survive and keep themselves, their co-workers and employees safe. Be mindful and respectful of that.” “When this first happened, our team was our number one priority,” says Schmid, of PrestigeLedroit. “We wanted to ensure that our entire team was able to remain employed and able to

comfortably and safely do their job. So, we had them in the virtual world—staying in contact using email with their buyers and the people that they would regularly communicate with. Reaching out to them and trying to present new product or also just checking on the wellbeing of a lot of the people in our markets.” Many report that the tone they have been using to sell has also had to adjust to this new environment. For one thing, a softer touch has become more appropriate. Kanzler notices she has had to rely a lot more on emotional intelligence. “It’s using that human, empathetic touch,” she says. “Not going in and immediately asking about how your products are doing or how business is doing but asking how they’re doing as human beings. ‘How’s your family? How are you? Are you ok? Is your team healthy? What can we do to support you? Can I buy you a coffee?’ Focusing on that because I think we all were feeling a little bit raw as humans.” She says this has been especially important with on-premise accounts, which have been hit the hardest during the pandemic. “It really is a light touch with the on-premise right now,” she says. Hayes agrees. “On-premise is most certainly in a more dire situation in most markets across the country, especially the independently owned bars and restaurants,” she says. “Most of them are getting little to no support from the government and with capacity limitations, legislation not allowing to-go alcohol/ cocktail sales as well as regulations requiring the purchase of food with alcohol, we are seeing places not able to adapt.” As a result, she says, “Trying to ‘sell’ to anyone right now is incredibly sensitive. I think part of what I do well in this role comes from my years of running bars and restaurants. You have to know how to read the room, so to speak. There are places that are able to move through premium spirits right now and there are folks who are keeping costs tight. Now is not the time for the hard sell. It’s the time to support everyone we can so they can survive to thrive again once this is over.”


Erin Hayes

Laura Kanzler


Kanzler likes to think of it as playing the long game. “You have to pace yourself and pace your sales goals,” she says. “So if my overall goal is to make sure I hit a certain number of cases a year with a customer but this month is a really bad month for them, then I have to be aware of that and I have to creatively come up with a way to hit that number with someone else, somewhere else.” Industry consultant Robin Robinson also suggests striving for brevity in sales pitches. “If you’ve got less time in front of somebody, you have to have a tighter narrative and something that’s more compelling,” he says. “You can’t be saying the same thing over and over again. The strongest things are still the truth about your brand, what I call the ethos.” Virtual Connections To get around all these new obstacles in the physical world, many salespeople have come to rely more than ever on the virtual one. If they are unable to arrange any time to be physically in front of a buyer, many are doing the next best thing—leaving them a kit of samples or packets of information about the distillery that they can go through when they have time. “It’s definitely been a new challenge to not be able to sit with someone face to face to tell the story of Westward and walk them through our portfolio of whiskies,” says Hayes. “Engag-


ing virtually has become the new normal and we have done some really incredible things that way. I can drop a sample and set up a time to talk to the buyer via Zoom while they taste. It feels almost like an in-person tasting.” Virtual tastings have also helped Kanzler support her hard-hit on-premise accounts. “We’ve been finding creative ways to engage with their community,” she says, including a virtual happy hour tasting with one on-premise account a couple of times a month via Zoom. “People will get a to-go cocktail and a snack and a sampling of these products from their favorite bar that are on the menu. And a bunch of people like me will be on there, talking about the cocktail, talking about the product, answering questions,” she says. And Robinson says there are other creative approaches as well. “I know someone who designed the store window for them,” he says. “Small brands that said, ‘Tell you what, we want to spend a little bit of money, we don’t have a lot, but how about if I come in and do a unique design for you as opposed to sending it out to some third-party design company?’ The retailer got something out of that.” A Work in Progress The pandemic will eventually come to an end. Until it does, these experts advise setting realistic expectations and focusing on reasonable gains.

Robin Robinson

“We’re still figuring it out,” says Kanzler. “We know that, like everyone else, things could change tomorrow. So we’re just going to be flexible and do what we can while we can do it. It’s worth recognizing how hard our jobs have all been through this time and we’re all still going. It has not been easy for anyone. But we’re still here, we’re still doing it and we’re going to get through it.” She continues, “I call them your ‘patience pants.’ You have to put on your patience pants, you gotta kinda take a deep breath and also check in with yourself and your team. And make sure you’re all emotionally, mentally in an okay space. Because in sales we get told ‘no’ a lot. It’s part of it, but now it’s a lot more of a struggle to finally get a ‘yes.’” ■

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Raw Materials

A SPIRITED TEA TIME Distillers are looking to different tea varieties to bring a boost to spirits while consumers have their cups at the ready. BY JOHN HOLL

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While often considered bookends to a drinking day, there is trend steeping into the craft spirits industry where distillers are infusing tea into everything from gin, to vodka, and rum. It is a natural progression, spirt makers say, as consumers are looking for new flavors to enjoy and can often find comfort and confidence in the familiar. In many ways this makes sense. The hot toddy, a combination of whisky, rum, or brandy, with hot tea, and a bit of honey remains a popular cocktail and cold remedy, so placing tea right into the bottle not only saves a step but also unlocks a whole host of flavor potential. Paul Hletko, the founder and distiller at FEW Spirits in Evanston, Illinois, has been experimenting with tea for a few years now and says distilling with tea just “makes sense.” “You get interesting cool flavors and it presents very interesting challenges with spirits, and from a creative standpoint that is cool,” he says. “It’s a very versatile thing because there are so many different teas to choose from, different palates and textures. What we’re doing is playing around with flavors, and then focusing on the flavors, sometimes fruit, sometimes spice, that call to us. Tea is another tool in the arsenal.” FEW currently has two tea-infused spirits on the market. Its Immortal Rye is a cask-strength rye that is brought to proof with cold extracted Eight Immortals oolong tea, a specially blend that is grown at an elevation of 2,000 feet above sea level and picked by hand. The company says the inclusion of the tea brings out peach, dragon fruit, and honey flavors. It was intended to be a one-time thing, Hletko says, but the consumer reception led to subsequent releases and the rye becoming a regular product. However, using a rare tea, like the Eight Immortals, has led to a supply issue and the company looking at other options. Where supply is unlikely to become an issue is with Earl Grey tea, which the distillery uses in its Breakfast Gin.

“It’s a very versatile thing because there are so many different teas to choose from, different palates and textures.”

—Paul Hletko of FEW Spirits C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

The marketing material calls it the “stately way to start your day,” and that it’s “here to go with your pancakes.” Purists have pointed out to Hletko and the company that Earl Grey is actually an afternoon tea. “Maybe it’s not fully representative of the cultural aspect [of the tea style] but we’re primarily looking at flavors, said Hletko, and the Earl Grey works. It is derived from bergamot, and so the gin, served with a lemon peel, is a suitable garnish. Consumers, faced with seemingly endless choices and a growing number of local spirits options, are always looking for something new. Craft distillers, who more often than not have an eye towards tradition, are also keen to experiment and to bring new customers into the fray with familiar flavors that can excite and intrigue. Still, distillers warn it is not simply enough to take a tea and blend it with a spirit of choice and expect it to do well. Abby Titcomb, the head distiller at 3 Floyds Distilling Co. in Munster, Indiana, says she is beginning to experiment with different teas and thinking about the spirits they might best pair with. “I want to make new things and I enjoy thinking up wild shit, but whatever we put out it can’t be something people buy one bottle of because they are curious and then it gathers dust in the back of a bar. We need something that brings them back to buy another bottle and more after that,” she says. Cuppings are the ideal way to try different teas, experimenting with different kinds of tea from green and white, to black, oolong, and Pu’er are great ways for distillers to taste flavors experience aromas, and let their creative minds wander to what might ultimately work for an infused spirit. For Titcomb, she finds rum an interesting spirit candidate because of its ability to handle tannins from the tea and sweetness for balance. Barrel aging tea-infused whiskey could also be an option, she muses, because of the sugars in the wood. A key to success is not rushing into something too quickly, she says. Not having a full understanding of all the components before bottling and releasing a spirit can have consequences. “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should,” she says. Titcomb also says that, if created and released, or while still in the research and development state, these kinds of spirits get a boost from bartenders who can demonstrate their own creativity and hopefully get new customers into the fold. COVID-19 has obvi-

ously put a crimp in that collaborative process, but there remains hope for the future. Thanks to the popularity of tea-flavored fermented malt beverages, like Twisted Tea from the Boston Beer Co., it stands to reason that ready-to-drink cocktails featuring tea also have some runway with consumers. Barry Young, distiller and co-founder at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, says he has seen success with two tea-infused brands, one based on a dirty Arnold Palmer and the other on a Moscow mule. Both are packaged in 200-mL plastic flask bottles. For the Arnold Palmer homage, he says they wanted to create a “classic drink that would go well in the summer, especially in selling to golf courses directly, for players coming in. Our whole goal is that I love those flavor profiles and you can build on it. It’s perfect to drink alone but you can add some components to it.” For those thinking about teas in spirits, education is key. Young says that as an ingredient it is “pretty forgiving for the most part until you do mass quantities, like we’re doing 50-gallon brew kettles of tea at a time so it’s a little more challenging. Everything is done by weight and things have to be meticulously timed with teas. There’s a sweet spot. Depending on the tea you get a bitter [taste] if you go too long. It’s something that I’m really meticulous about, the timing of everything that we do when we’re brewing tea because you can really mess something up.” Jon Page contributed to this report. ■

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Technically Speaking

THE PROOF IS IN THE PROCESS Process Issues Affecting Alcohol Yield With Tips for Prevention BY PATRICK HEIST, PH.D. AND COLIN BLAKE

GRAIN QUALITY It all starts here, folks—good quality grain should be visually pleasing and contain the proper moisture (~14%) and starch content (>65%).

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If the grain is too moist, not only are you paying grain prices for water, but you might also experience issues in storage or milling. The starch is what contains the fermentable sugars, so an appropriate starch content is required for good alcohol yields. Further, you want to make sure your grain is not discolored or particulate. It should be free from excess foreign material (cobs, stover, etc.) as well as insects. Milling and processing of the grain is also important to yields, but for the sake of brevity, let’s assume we are starting with a properly milled grain flour. INCOMPLETE STARCH CONVERSION The cooking and mashing process is where the complex polysaccharide starch is enzymatically converted into fermentable sugars. Excellent starch conversion is key to getting a good yield and is dependent on factors like grain quality, cooking temperature and time, and having the enzymes required to break down the starch. For example, complete gelatinization of corn starch requires 175-185 F for one and a half to two hours. Enzymes such

as alpha and glucoamylases are present in the malted grains, but commercial preparations are also commonly added. It is also important to remember that enzymes are sensitive to temperature—sustained temperatures over 195 F can denature the enzymes, which often occurs when there is an issue with starch conversion. FERMENTATION ISSUES Fermentation is the part of the process where yeast consume fermentable sugars—like glucose and maltose—to produce ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. Of course, there are a bunch of different things that can screw up your fermentation. We already talked about grain quality and starch conversion—so what else can go wrong? The fermentation process requires a good distiller’s yeast strain capable of finishing off the available sugars and maximizing alcohol production. Parameters like temperature and pH are also important for successful fermentation. The yeast gives off heat from metabolism, so the fermenters must be cooled to prevent



When you look at the process for making distilled spirits, there are certain criteria that must be met to get good alcohol yields. First, let’s define the term yield as it pertains to making alcohol. Alcohol yield is the amount of alcohol produced (normally expressed in proof gallons) per unit of feedstock. For grain-based fermentations, it would be the number of proof gallons of alcohol produced per bushel of grain. Good quality grain and an optimized process should get you over 5 proof gallons of alcohol per bushel of grain. Here, Colin Blake and Patrick Heist, Ph.D., of Moonshine University, discuss the top areas of the distilled spirits production process that can affect yield and tips for how to prevent those losses. For simplicity, we will focus on grain-based distillates, but these can apply to other feedstocks like sugar, agave, honey, and molasses.

overheating. Depending on the yeast strain, a good target temperature range for fermentation is between 85-95 F. pH is a measurement of the acidity and will normally decrease over the course of fermentation. Grain-based fermentations will normally start somewhere close to pH of 6 and finish in the low 4s to upper 3s. Abnormal pH drops can be an indication of microbial contamination and is discussed below in more detail. MICROBIAL CONTAMINATION Microbial contamination is a very common means by which alcohol yield is affected. Overgrowth of bacteria and/or wild yeast competes with the distiller’s yeast for sugar and nutrients. This results in production of organic acids instead of alcohol, which can reduce the pH of the mash and create a toxic environment for the yeast, greatly impacting alcohol production. In addition to lower alcohol yield, serious bacterial contamination scenarios can result in increased residual sugars, which pose the risk of burning onto distillation and stillage equipment. The consequences of this are more frequent preventive maintenance. Contamination with unwanted microbes is almost always a function of inadequate cleaning and sanitation. The area most often implicated in microbial contamination events is the piping and pumps between the mash cooker and the fermenter. This is compounded if there is an external heat exchanger. In addition to cook and fermentation vessels, these areas must be cleaned thoroughly to avoid serious contamination issues. DISTILLATION Up to this point, we have done a great job selecting good quality grains, the cooking process resulted in excellent starch conversion, we provided a clean environment for fermentation, kept our temperature in line and the yeast consumed all the sugar and made as much alcohol as we can expect from the amount of grain we used. I am assuming we are in the clear as far as yield is concerned? Not quite. We all know what happens when we ASSUME things, right? Just because we did a great job making the alcohol, doesn’t mean we are going to do a great job recovering it in distillation. The most likely distillation issue resulting in lower alcohol yield is leaving behind alcohol in the stillage. The stillage is the grain and water left over after the alcohol has been removed from the distiller’s beer. It should be relatively devoid of any residual alcohol (if the stillage


To get a quality product and excellent consistency from batch to batch, you’ll need to pay close attention to every detail—grains, cook temperatures, enzymes, cleanliness, yeast strain and distillation equipment. is 0.1% ABV, we wouldn’t be too worried). In a column still, any alcohol left behind in the stillage is referred to as base loss—and arguably could also be referred to as the Angus Share. You must ensure the proper temperatures and conditions for removal of alcohol from the finished beer. Beer feed rate, top and bottom column temperatures, beer temperature/ preheating, doubler temperature, and steam rates are among the many important aspects of distillation that can affect yield. Pot stills can also have issues with leaving behind excess alcohol in the stillage. Having quality and functional distillation equipment is also important to avoid yield losses in distillation. BALANCING QUALITY & FLAVOR We have just begun to scrape the surface of all the things that can affect alcohol yields in grain-based distilled spirit production. Aside from alcohol yields, you can imagine how any of these lines of inquiry might also affect other important aspects of what makes a great distilled spirit—namely, flavor. Take these same points across various bourbons and whiskies, vodka and single malts, and then things can get much more

complex. For example, as discussed above, bacterial contamination can cause a reduction in alcohol yield, which is perceived as a bad thing; however, it has also been argued that contamination with certain bacteria can improve the flavor—so which is more important? Having great flavor or alcohol yields above 5 proof gallons per bushel? Answer: Both. You want to have a great-tasting product and optimize alcohol yields. It’s all a balancing act. To get a quality product and excellent consistency from batch to batch, you’ll need to pay close attention to every detail—grains, cook temperatures, enzymes, cleanliness, yeast strain and distillation equipment. WHAT’S NEXT? Overall, this comprehensive list provides a summary of the first places you would want to look when troubleshooting a process issue; but if you’re looking to get more advanced in diagnosing potential production problems, then consider taking the twoday Fermentation Workshop at Moonshine University. You can also work with partners like Ferm Solutions, which can advise on and supply quality enzymes and distiller’s yeast for your unique operation. ■

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A CRYSTAL CLEAR VIEW AT THE FUTURE OF SPIRITS PACKAGING The Glass Packaging Institute updates us on all things bottles.

In honor of our Inaugural Craft Spirits Packaging Awards, we reached out to Scott DeFife, president of the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI)—the trade association that represents the nation’s glass bottle suppliers and sponsor of our Awards—to address some of the major trends and issues within the glass container space, heading into 2021. How has the pandemic impacted the glass packaging industry and how do you expect it to continue to impact it in 2021? Scott DeFife: Glass manufacturers and recyclers quickly responded to the societal and economic effects of the pandemic. The manufacturing industry was quickly deemed an “essential business,” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. GPI’s member companies have since met the challenge and rising demand in the food and beverage industry, as a critical part of the supply chain. A significant increase for in-store grocery purchases in 2020 has given the glass packaging industry a unique opportunity to remind the general public of the long-term sustainability of glass packaging for food and beverages. One major hurdle the packaging industry faced as a response to the pandemic was the halt of bottle redemption (a.k.a. “bottle bill”) programs in the 10 deposit states. The abrupt pause to these programs prevented consumers

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from returning their glass bottles, jars and other containers to retailers and caused a backlog in communities across the country. With the majority of the industry’s recycled glass coming from these programs, GPI led a rapid response with other material packaging partners to return these programs to operational status in a safe and expeditious manner. This issue also served as a reminder to the larger packaging industry that recycled glass is absolutely critical for the production of new and sustainable glass products. The challenge presented also brought forth the need for investment to improve the overall recycling infrastructure, to expand upon the current collection systems, and improve the resiliency of the bottle deposit system and increase the quality of glass and all other recyclables collected in single-stream systems. As we move toward 2021, I believe that the glass packaging industry will remain a top supplier of packaging materials for grocery stores and that consumers will continue to turn to glass for their safe and sustainable packaging needs. What are packaging suppliers doing to reduce their carbon footprints? The number one way to reduce carbon footprint with regard to glass is the increased use of recycled glass in the manufacturing

process. Recycled glass is always part of the recipe for glass, and the more that is used, energy costs at the plant are decreased, along with greenhouse gas emissions. It is truly a win for both the company and the environment. The glass industry is also investing in a new generation of efficient furnaces, and glass companies also continuously seek ways to offset transportation-connected emissions, throughout their supply chain routes and in partnership with their customers. What are the greatest opportunities for spirits producers? Glass container manufacturing companies have placed an emphasis on flint (clear) glass, production, as they continue to broaden packaging options for spirits companies, and there are new printing and decoration technologies coming online. For American craft spirits producers, your North American glass manufacturing suppliers are domestic, nearby and ready to meet your bottling needs. GPI member companies have also moved in recent years to more flexible and tailored production lines, enabling them to switch out bottle molds to provide unique options for spirits customers. All of the major multi-state producers have robust spirits lines, and the scheduled opening of the Arglass Yamamura glass container plant in Georgia by the start


Raising your spirits

Scott DeFife of the Glass Packaging Institute

of the new year reflects the continued strength of glass, increased demand and options available to spirits producers. The ability for craft spirits companies to purchase unique bottles directly from glass manufacturing companies of all sizes enables them to get their product to market quicker and improves their overall supply chain efficiencies. Craft spirits producers have taken a significant hit this year. Do you see that affecting their investment in packaging innovation or do you expect them to double-down on innovation because it’s more critical than ever to stand out on the shelf? We have seen an incredible response from your industry to COVID. The spirits industry commitment to community should be applauded. Innovation, options and investment in glass bottle design for spirits brands continues to increase and should help your marketing efforts going forward. Spirits companies have long recognized the inherent and premium qualities that glass offers to showcase their products. Brands of all food and beverage packaging understand that choosing glass bottles and jars is in line with their sustainability goals. With increasing attention being paid to rising waste and plastic pollution, glass packaging remains an environmentally friendly and innovative option for craft spirits producers. What are some of the recurring themes you see, in terms of packaging, within the spirits market? What are craft spirits producers looking for in their bottles? What are their most common requests? Increasingly, large and small batch craft spirits producers are seeking ways to have their bottle stand out on the shelf and bar display. In addition to increasingly intricate bottle design options, producers are exploring creative spaces in labeling, as they work with supply companies to provide the finishing touches to showcase their spirit. In addition to applied ceramic decorating and pressure sensitive labeling standards, producers are also looking at acid etching, medallion application and spray coating technologies to enhance their standing with consumers. What do you see as 2021’s biggest packaging trends? One of the most significant packaging trends in 2021 will be product sustainability. Brands are helping to drive this effort, with company sustainability goals and other efforts to reduce their environmental footprint throughout the supply chain. Glass is well positioned among packaging to assist them in these efforts, with an endlessly recyclable package, and an average recycled glass content at roughly 30% nationwide that we are working to increase to meet brand objectives. This is an area we can make progress on together. ■


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Retail: On-Premise

MIRACLE RETURNS AMID PANDEMIC Christmas-themed pop-up bars forge on for seventh season.

Heading into its seventh year, the Christmasthemed pop-up bars Miracle and Beachbum Berry Presents: Sippin’ Santa are returning for another holiday season. More than 80 cocktail bars are set to participate as Miracle locations in November and December, with more than two dozen bars joining as Sippin’ Santa locations. In an email, Greg Boehm, owner and creator of Miracle, said that the decision to return came after careful consideration while staying on top of health updates and guidelines. “We felt that this year, more than ever, people needed to feel the hope and magic of Christmas,” says Boehm. “It has been a very tough year for everyone, and our industry has been hit especially hard, so some holiday cheer is definitely in order all around. Some of our partners have been with us for years and we felt we owed it to them, and to those joining us for the first time, to offer Miracle as a way to energize their bars and hopefully drive business after taking some tough losses during COVID. “We have been staying on top of all updates from local officials for capacity and health guidelines and working closely with all of our partners on how to execute in their own way,

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according to those restrictions, while still offering the best of what people love about Miracle. As usual, guests can expect unique and unusual cocktails that play on classic holiday flavors in playful mugs and glassware. However, the safety of guests will be more important than ever, and the pop-up concepts may look a bit different than in the past. All locations will follow direction from local officials for capacity and health guidelines. Select participating locations will offer to-go cocktails (where legally able to do so). “We have seen so many of our partners get extremely creative in keeping their businesses up and running,” says Boehm. “In all of our conversations we made sure to keep the dialogue open as to what they thought would be a workable Miracle set-up and have tried to remain as flexible as possible in our sign-up approach. “I am a bar owner myself and operate several Miracle and Sippin’ Santa locations, so really, I am in the same boat as our partners. It’s true—many of the locations will look and feel different, but with some offering to-go cocktails or expanding onto city streets or rooftops; some doing weekly Zoom cocktail classes or micro events, Miracle will live on.”

Joann Spiegel, the mastermind behind the brand’s cocktail repertoire, has created a roster of delightful, holiday-inclined libations with a few fan favorites from years past making a reappearance. New this year are the Jolly Koala with gin, vermouth and pine-cardamomsage cordial; the On Dasher, a concoction of bourbon, mezcal, sweet vermouth, spiced hibiscus, Burlesque Bitters, and lemon; and the Fruitcake Flip, made of brandy, Jamaican overproof rum, amaretto, fruitcake, cherry bitters, and a whole egg. Miracle cocktails back for the season include the Snowball OldFashioned, Christmapolitan and Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r!. The concept for Miracle was born in 2014, when upon the advice of his mother, Boehm decided to halt construction of what was to be his new East Village cocktail bar Mace to transform the unfinished space into a winter wonderland serving holiday-themed drinks among festive décor. As crowds swarmed to what became Miracle on Ninth, Boehm’s friends throughout the bar industry began reaching out to him and Spiegel to see how they could recreate the holiday magic in their own bars. ■



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Retail: Off-Premise

SHELF IMPORTANT Distilleries experiment with various efforts to shift focus from on- to off-premise during the pandemic. BY JON PAGE

With tasting rooms, bars and restaurants closed or operating with limited seating, it’s no secret that consumers are spending more on spirits at off-premise retailers during the pandemic than ever before. According to Chicago-based market research firm IRI, overall spirits dollar sales from early April to early October of 2020 were up 32% compared to the same period in 2019, while case sales were also up 28.6%. (Check out Closing Time at the end of this issue to see how that breaks down by category.) Unfortunately, it’s difficult to track overall sales of craft brands, and many craft spirits producers suspect that the bulk of the increased sales are benefitting larger corporate brands. “They’ve gone up for the major brands because people aren’t shopping and looking for different products,” says Pete Barger of Southern Distilling Co. in Statesville, North Carolina. “They’re going in for what they know.” That hasn’t stopped craft distilleries from seeing gains when it comes to off-premise sales, but many smaller producers are still refining their best practices and strategies for growing their brands.

At the start of the pandemic, Alan Dietrich, the CEO of Crater Lake Spirits in Bend, Oregon, says the distillery took a gamble by keeping on its highest-paid employees: the in-house sales staff for its three key markets in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. For both on-premise and off-premise accounts, Dietrich says he simply wanted the sales staff to show their faces, to offer hand sanitizer and to help in any way possible. “The liquor stores had to lay off people, so our guys were sweeping floors and stocking shelves, dusting bottles,” says Dietrich. “They weren’t selling anything. They were just there.” In those markets, Dietrich says Crater Lake Spirits has seen increases in sales, albeit for other reasons. “Where we were part of people’s normal buying habits, they’ve continued to buy our brands and moreso,” he says. “Where we are an emerging brand, the bottom has fallen out. We might be 20% up in one market and 100% down in another. “My takeaway over the last six months has been that people were comfort buying. They were retreating into brands and products that

they were familiar with, that they knew. They weren’t taking a lot of risks on new stuff unless there was a price incentive to do that or some serious change in what they were doing.” Before the pandemic, Columbus, Ohio-based Watershed Distillery’s sales staff focused approximately 80% of its attention on on-premise accounts, according to director of sales Nicki Moore. Most of that focus was on trying to land on cocktail menus. “Now that bars and restaurants in all of the markets that we’re in are closed or reopening and closed again, or way down in capacity, we have certainly made a big shift focusing more on the off-premise,” Moore said in late July. “It’s not where our natural talent in the past has taken us, where the retail manager may not care about what craft cocktail is hot right now, they just want to know what is going to sell on their shelves. We’re learning a lot along the way. … “It’s not so much like we’re walking in and making a hard sell off-premise. We’re trying to convince store managers to give us a little better replacement, or maybe there’s an opportunity for a display or something like that.” At nearby Middle West Spirits, co-owner

Alan Dietrich of Crater Lake Spirits

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Ryan Lang says the distillery had a similar ratio of attention to on-premise vs. off-premise. In recent months, Lang says Middle West has placed more focus on shelf talkers and related programs for off-premise accounts. “It’s us competing with the billboard brands,” says Lang. “We’re up a significant amount off-premise, which is wonderful, but our on-premise is shot. It’s being nimble, working on a new cadence and working with our distributors, too, because they’ve had to shift. They’ve had to lay off people. It’s a whole new world and we’re trying to be adaptable.” Darren Case of Biddeford, Maine-based Round Turn Distilling, makers of Bimini Gin, wonders how to replace the dynamic of inperson interactions between bartenders and consumers. “I think the answer is a two-way street: bartenders have an opportunity to transition their influence from an in-person audience to an online audience, and craft brands have an opportunity to support bartenders through paid collaborations on social media,” says Case. “Case backers, neck hangers, and shelf talkers will never be as effective as an informed recommendation from a trusted source, and craft brands need to do everything we can to support the people who have


always supported us.” In Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, Barry Young says Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries is focusing more on social media and working on a directto-consumer banner ad campaign to promote their products, including Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and a growing lineup of ready-to-drink cocktails. He also hopes his company will see a boost from two recently hired sales people who have extensive spirits knowledge from previous careers that were not focused on sales. “[They’re] just phenomenal people,” says Young. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to get them before.” Back in North Carolina, Barger echoes other distillers interviewed for this story when it comes to social media. Southern Distilling, he says, has been making a stronger effort to keep its Instagram feed updated and relevant. “We’re constantly preaching to our marketing folks: What we do is really cool. Don’t take it for granted because we do it every day. People are always interested,” says Barger. “We’re trying to take the little things that we do on the production side of the house and push that out to our fans and our consumers so that they can get a bit of a back story about what it is we actually do to make these products that [they] enjoy.” ■

“Case backers, neck hangers, and shelf talkers will never be as effective as an informed recommendation from a trusted source, and craft brands need to do everything we can to support the people who have always supported us.” —Darren Case of Round Turn Distilling

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distribution & logistics

MATERIAL HANDLING BUYER’S GUIDE The Latest Warehouse Solutions from Top Suppliers Toyota Material Handling Toyota Material Handling offers a full line of material handling products proudly assembled in the United States, including forklifts, reach trucks, order pickers, pallet jacks, container handlers, automated guided vehicles, and tow tractors, along with aerial work platforms, fleet management services, and advanced automation engineering and design. Toyota’s commitment to quality, reliability and customer satisfaction, the hallmark of the Toyota Production System, extends throughout more than 230 locations across North America. This year, Toyota Material Handling introduced new 3,000- and 3,500-pound capacity models designed to boost both productivity and uptime. The new models feature Toyotadesigned AC motors that deliver industryleading runtime and performance. Customers will also benefit from improved ergonomics and new standard features and options that provide additional comfort and versatility. In addition to the AC drive motor, both models feature a new AC pump motor. These motors function with reduced current draw, helping to control overall energy and operational costs for superior operability. They also operate without the use of wearable parts such as brushes or commutators, requiring no regular maintenance. Both motors are designed and built by Toyota to maximize uptime and reduce overall cost of ownership. Crown Since its entry into the material handling equipment industry in 1960, Crown has earned a reputation as a leading innovator in world-class forklift and material handling equipment. Crown designs and manufactures up to 85% of its lift truck components, including key parts like motors, drive units, and electronic modules. When it says Crown on the outside, it’s a Crown on the inside. From its smallest hand pallet truck to its highest lifting turret truck, Crown designs, manufactures, distributes, services and supports material

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Crown’s SC Series (above) and WP Series Pallet Truck

handling products that provide customers with superior value. The Crown WP Series Pallet Truck provides exceptional maneuverability and control vital for a variety of applications, including positioning raw materials, dock work and moving product to/from lift gates and delivery trucks. Designed to handle loads weighing up to 4,500 pounds, the easy to operate pallet truck features brake override and multiple power source options, including lithium ion. The Crown SC Series of sit-down coun-

terbalanced forklift delivers long-term value, featuring a short turning radius, flexibility for maneuvering within tight spaces and ease of operation. Designed to handle loads weighing up to 4,000 pounds, it can be opportunity charged or fitted with a TPPL battery solution that requires very little maintenance. The three-wheel design of the SC Series makes it an ideal forklift for dock work, loading/unloading trucks, transporting raw materials or even on the canning line as a workstation.


Toyota Material Handling this year released new 3,000- and 3,500-pound capacity forklifts. C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

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closing time







$5,116,594,114 32.3%

36,795,174 28.6%


$1,624,505,014 28.0%



$1,280,753,119 16.1%

10,088,157 12.3%


$491,760,727 58.8%

1,867,765 40.0%

PREMIXED COCKTAILS $418,821,146 99.3%

5,676,303 92.3%


$390,004,444 20.1%



$310,141,023 39.3%

1,480,423 31.7%


$234,412,551 42.2%









Due to COVID-19, off-premise sales of spirits are soaring. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to track overall sales of craft brands, and many craft spirits producers suspect that the bulk of the increased sales are benefitting larger corporate brands. But thanks to Chicago-based market research firm IRI, we can at least see the breakdown by category of total spirits sales by dollar and volume. This table shows sales and volume of spirits in the U.S. from early April to early October.


$138,902,026 27.3%




Total U.S.; multi outlet w/ C-store (grocery, drug, mass market, convenience, military and select club & dollar retailers) for the 26-week-period ending Oct. 4 Source: Market Advantage, Shared BWS; IRI Liquid Data


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