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Still

(Kinda, Sorta, Maybe)

the Next Big Thing The American brandy category has so much potential, but potential requires patience.

E

veryone loves a comeback story. It’s true in Hollywood and it’s true in distilling. But humans also are an impatient lot, and we have the tendency to rush the narrative rather than allow it to unfold organically, on its own terms. And that’s the story of American brandy. The buzz among many mainstream media outlets and some industry pundits in recent years was that the U.S. was on the cusp of a major American brandy renaissance—akin to what’s happened with bourbon and other American whiskeys over the past two decades. And while it’s true that there are plenty of craft producers doing amazing things with fruit distillates, the category is a bit too complicated to paint in such broad strokes. The overall American-produced brandy category was little better than flat in 2018,

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O C TOBER 201 9 

growing 0.2%, according to market research company IWSR. Its compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2013 to 2018 was a bit better, at +2.3% and IWSR forecasts a CAGR of 0.6% through 2023 (including calendar year 2018). That may seem to be a far cry from the mid-to-high-single-digit year-on-year increases that juggernauts like whiskey and agave spirits have been enjoying, but that’s, at least in part, due to the fact that American brandy brings with it its own unique set of baggage. It largely has the major, high-volume brands to thank for the category’s relatively mediocre performance. And that contrasts significantly with the trajectory of non-U.S.-made brandy, particularly Cognac, which continues to show significant growth. Volume for Cognac imports in the U.S. was, according to IWSR, up 6.4%

in 2018, with a CAGR of +11.3% from 2013 to 2018 and a forecasted CAGR of +4.0% through 2023 “Brandy, in general is making a comeback through premium products, but this is still a small segment for the overall category,” says Adam Rogers, research director at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. “Lower-priced brandy volumes are in decline, making it difficult for the entire category to post significant volume increases.” So, craft brandies—whether they be aged grape-based or apple-based brown spirits or a wide range of white and brown fruit distillates—are definitely connecting with consumers, but they’re such a niche within a niche that any significant volume gains are barely putting a dent in the numbers representing the vast American brandy universe.

C R AF T S PI R I T S MAG .CO M

PHOTOGRAPH: HILLARY JEANNE

BY JEFF CIOLETTI

Profile for americancraftspirits

Craft Spirits Magazine October 2019  

A publication of the American Craft Spirits Association, Craft Spirits Magazine explores the art, science and business of distilling.

Craft Spirits Magazine October 2019  

A publication of the American Craft Spirits Association, Craft Spirits Magazine explores the art, science and business of distilling.