Craft Spirits July 2021

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VOL. 3, ISSUE 3 | JULY 2021










Process aids for higher ethanol yield and fermentation consistency.

View our extensive offering of craft distilling inputs at


JULY 2021



Bitter, Sweet & Everything in Between Liqueur producers tune in to the evolving tastes of the consumer base. BY JEFF CIOLETTI



Certifiably Sustainable

Exploring some of the organizations offering earth-friendly certifications for distilleries BY JON PAGE


Let There Be Light Is light whiskey poised for a comeback? BY SAM SLAUGHTER


MEMBER SPOTLIGHT From Delta Blues to High Spirits With a mission to support live music, Cathead Distillery hits the right notes in Mississippi. BY JON PAGE



DISTILLING DESTINATIONS Their Way New Jersey craft distilleries eye potential for growth. BY JOHN HOLL


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Editor’s Note




Recent releases from Philadelphia Distilling, Milam & Greene Whiskey and more



Uncle Nearest announces $50 million fund to invest in minority-founded-and-owned spirits brands



Flavorful concoctions from Cathead Distillery, Caledonia Spirits, 3BR Distillery and Up North Distillery



Hundreds of distillers virtually visit with members of Congress ACSA’s immediate past president gives testimony to congressional committee

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Seven facts every distiller should know about honey

Part two of our closure series spotlights innovations from Tapi.

A South Carolina restaurant owner switches to mostly local spirits.







A primer for distilleries on successful waste management

Distillers share their tips for expanding beyond their original states.

How distillers can make the most of their relationship with the retailer







A digital marketer offers creative tips for Facebook advertising.

A biochemist, analytical chemist and sensory specialist offers a cheat sheet on off-flavors in the production of distilled spirits.

Voice of the Beehive

Wise on Waste

Know Your Facebook Audience


Top Form & Function

Leaving Home

Off-Flavors in Spirits Production

Craving Local

What Makes Total Wine Tick

Keeping Tabs on Taxes



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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, S A L E S & D E V E LO P M E N T M A N AG E R | Ashley Guillermo, A RT D I R EC TO R | Michelle Villas CO N T R I B U TO R S | Amy Bauer, Kate Bernot, Lew Bryson, John Holl, Andrew Kaplan, Kim Nguyen, Sam Slaughter and Gary Spedding 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)

EAST 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)

EX OFFICIO 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 © 2021 CRAFT SPIRITS magazine is a publication of the American Craft Spirits Association.

Bulk Spirits for your Custom-Crafted Brands

HIGH–PROOF SPIRITS Aged Bourbons, Rye & Whiskey Neutral Spirits Gin

Organic Spirits

Unaged Whiskey

Cream Liqueur


Brandy & Cognac

Editor’s Note

JABBING FORWARD Oh great, here comes another of those “things are opening up, I’m so glad I get to do [fill in the blank] again” posts that have been saturating the media, both traditional and social (not that being social isn’t a tradition!) But as I write this, I’m still coming down off of the high of attending my first in-person industry event in nearly a year and a half. When I received the invite to sample some spirits brands from India—Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin and Raimpur Indian Single Malt Whisky, including the latter’s many creative barrel finishes—I thought it was a mirage. I scoured the email for the words “virtual,” “Zoom” or “home tasting kit” and could not find them anywhere. Yep, this was the real deal, a gathering at a genuine, honest-to-goodness brick-and-mortar restaurant—in this case, the wonderful Punjab Grill in Washington, D.C. It was surreal, but a much-welcome surreality.* Another sign that we could be approaching some semblance of normalcy: By the time the next issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine arrives in your inbox, I likely will have been at the first spirits industry trade show since the first quarter of 2020. I say “likely” because there needs to be a heaping tablespoon of trepidation served with all of the optimism. Back in the spring, everyone seemed to be tearing up at a certain Extra Sugar Free Gum viral ad. You know the one; it was one huge makeout fest choreographed to Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” (written by the legendary Jim Steinman, R.I.P.) While everyone was busy sharing the video and attaching little heart emojis to it, I was trying to caution everyone to slow their roll. It was premature to be spiking the ball because the game wasn’t close to being over (and they were jinxing it). And it still isn’t. We aren’t out of the woods (let’s see how many cliched metaphors I can cram into this column). Yes, I’m double-vaxxed and dining indoors again and I’m looking forward to going to Bar Convent Brooklyn in August (if you are too, make sure you stop by the ACSA Pavilion and meet some of the country’s finest craft spirits producers!) Same for the O.G. trade fair, Bar Convent Berlin in October. And of course, I can’t wait for the ACSA Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, this December 4-6 (register now!). And further out, I’m itching to get back to Texas for San Antonio Cocktail Conference, as well as New Orleans for Tales of

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the Cocktail, roughly a year after you read this. But the Delta variant, as well as the variant’s variants, is no joke! As we wrapped up this issue, we were about to fall short of President Biden’s goal to have 70% of the U.S. population vaccinated by July 4 because the number of people getting their jabs has slowed dramatically since spring. It was only a couple of months ago that we were all getting up at the crack of dawn, trying to score a vax appointment online before they were all filled up by about 6:05 a.m. Now, the frontline workers who are administering the shots practically have to chase people down the street with syringes. And I don’t want to get political on you here. A pandemic never should have been politicized in the first place. Science does not care which side of the aisle you sit on. Remember how last year we were saying, “We’re all in this together?” That still holds true. All of us who are eligible (which is most of us older than a tween) must get our vaccinations—not for ourselves, but for everyone else. For society. For the ability to go to restaurants, conventions, conferences and trade shows so we can finally get back to business—and back to life. I very much plan to be clinking glasses with as many of you as possible at all of the aforementioned events—and many more to come! ■ *Not so welcome was the fact that a few people were so eager to get back to the Before Times, that they assertively shook my hand before I had the chance to insist on an alternate form of greeting. Fist or elbow bump? Bow? Vulcan Live Long and Prosper hand signal? Wakanda Forever chest cross? I’m still workshopping some options. But I was really hoping that we’d retire the handshake once and for all. I really like not catching colds!

Jeff Cioletti Editor in Chief




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Thank You, Sponsors! 3x3

We help liquor brands create better futures. 3x3 is a data-driven shopper engagement partner for brands and retailers in the beer, wine and spirits industry. We blend marketing technology with expert insight to help brands and retailers connect with shoppers who will love their products.


In an industry largely focused on products with long production runs, we offer a superior alternative based on our three principles: flexibility, efficiency and sustainability. Arglass transforms the U.S. glass container market with a network of next-generation manufacturing plants operating with those same principles.

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.

Berlin Packaging

Berlin Packaging, the only Hybrid Packaging Supplier® of plastic, glass and metal containers & closures, supplies billions of items annually, along with package design, financing, consulting, warehousing and logistics services. We bring together the best of manufacturing, distribution & income-adding service providers.

FIVE x 5 Solutions

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.

BPS Glass

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

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.


Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits

Malkin Law

The Barrel Mill

Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

The leader in supplying fermentation products and services to the distilled spirits industry, we specialize in the research, development, production, and marketing of yeast, yeast nutrients, enzymes, and bacteria; as well as a solid belief in education of the distilled spirits industry.

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 oldworld craftsmanship with state-of-the art equipment and technology, we deliver the best wine and spirit barrels for many of the leading craft brands.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Moonshine University

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.

Ultra Pure

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.

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.

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.

Export-Import Bank of the United States A U.S. federal government agency with the mission of supporting U.S.-based jobs by facilitating U.S. exports. We help companies of all sizes compete for global sales by offering financing solutions including export credit insurance and more.

Image Apparel Solutions

Your full, turn-key, branding solution. As your partner in all things logo, spirit and athletic wear, let our 25-plus years of experience work for you. We provide top-notch service with the highest attention to detail. Our in house design and production team work with you to get every project delivered on time.

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.

Whalen Insurance


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. We have hundreds of barrels currently in experimentation. Partnering with distillers, we think outside the box to develop new products that push your vision forward.

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.

Whalen Insurance is a second-generation insurance agency owned and operated by Peter Whalen. Peter started a program to insure craft breweries in the mid 1980s and expanded to craft distilleries almost 10 years ago. The program provides all property and liability coverages needed to safely operate a distillery, as well as multiple coverages designed to address the unique exposures facing distillers.



Since 2001, ISTS has offered cost-effective, 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 programs are totally customized to address your site.

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.

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.


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.

WV Great Barrel Co.

The best-performing whiskey barrel on the market, precision built in the heart of Appalachia. Infrared toast and controlled char standard on every barrel.


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), a broad survey of the whiskeys of the world, their history and manufacture. He has also written four regional brewery guidebooks.

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.

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.

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.

Sam Slaughter is the author of “Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? And Other Cocktails For ‘90s Kids.” His writing has been featured in Maxim, Mashed, Bloomberg, InsideHook, The Bitter Southerner and more. He lives in Greenville, South Carolina, and can be found online @slaughterwrites.

Amy Bauer has more than 20 years of experience conducting and managing environmental site assessments, regulatory compliance audits and support, and environmental investigations. She is a Certified Professional Environmental Auditor (CPEA) and has performed various industry environmental compliance audits in the United States. She is a senior compliance specialist for EHS Support, an environmental, health, and safety consultancy headquartered in Pittsburgh.

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Gary Spedding, Ph.D., is the owner of Brewing & Distilling Analytical Services. A biochemist, analytical chemist and sensory specialist, he’s here to educate us all. Gary knows so many people in the industry and is very enthusiastic about sharing ideas with fellows in the business. Some people complain that they don’t like walking across a tradeshow hall with him as they really would like to make it to the other side before the show ends. Learn more at

Kim Nguyen is a data-driven digital marketer who has worked in the realm of digital marketing for e-commerce brands for over 10 years in industries ranging from automotives to travel to consumer packaged goods. Over the last year, she has worked with craft beverage brands who have partnered with Speakeasy Co., a leading integrated direct-to-consumer solution for beverage alcohol brands, to start selling their products online on their digital advertising efforts to improve site traffic and scale revenue.


The Art, Science and Business of Distilling

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New Spirits

Lansdale, Pennsylvania-based Boardroom Spirits announced the launch of its latest canned cocktail flavor series, Vodka Iced Tea [5.5% ABV]. The sweet and tart Original Lemon is the first flavor released in the series, to be followed by fruits inspired by the season and perfect for enjoying with outdoor activities from backyard gatherings to beachside adventures.

Philadelphia Distilling recently unveiled its first new spirit since 2018: Bluecoat Gin For Seltzer (94 proof). Refreshing with a botanical mix highlighted by organic, dried tropical yuzu and whole black limes, Bluecoat Gin for Seltzer is perfect for mixing with soda water. The distillery also recently unveiled new packaging for the full range of Bluecoat spirits—original Bluecoat American Dry Gin, Bluecoat Elderflower Gin and Bluecoat Barrel Finished Gin. The brand redesign also features a new logo, which had remained unchanged since the brand first hit shelves in 2006.

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Detroit City Distillery announced the return of its limitededition spirit, Summer Rum, made in collaboration with some of Detroit’s best bartenders. As the name suggests, the 88-proof spirit is only available for the summer and will be available from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend at the distillery, local bars and liquor stores.

Pittsburgh-based Wigle Whiskey announced the third release of its 80-proof Eau de Pickle. The spirit was awarded the National Innovation Award by ACSA, and this year’s limited release is wrapped in an illustrative label with a King Kongesque Pickle at the Point. This label is designed by the talented Pittsburgh artist Matthew Buchholz, owner of Alternate Histories.


Enter Your Whiskey in the Heartland Whiskey Competition Registration for the third biennial Heartland Whiskey Competition is now open. The competition is open to craft whiskey producers from all 50 states, as long as they incorporate corn in their mash bill. ONLY 17 corn-supported states can compete for a “Best of State” award: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Top mixologists, brand ambassadors and whiskey aficionados will judge the competition. The deadline for entries is July 14 with a spirits delivery deadline of July 18. This competition is generously sponsored by the following state corn association marketing boards. ACSA extends very special thanks to all of them for their support.

New Spirits

Milam & Greene Whiskey is introducing The Castle Hill Series Batch 1, a vintage batch of 13-year-old hand-selected bourbons bottled at barrel proof 108.5. Only 20 barrels mingled to create this whiskey, making it the most limited of the company’s boutique whiskeys. The series celebrates the art and skill of blending vintage whiskey to create bourbon that highlights complex flavors from several single casks.

Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. of Purcellville, Virginia, announced the release of Ragnarök Rye, a collaboration with the band GWAR. Aged in charred new white oak, then sugar maple and cherrywood, each bottle of the 92-proof rye whisky comes with a cast-metal collectable bottle topper featuring each of the five members of GWAR: Blóthar the Berserker; Balsac the Jaws of Death; Jizmak da Gusha; Beefcake the Mighty; and Pustulus Maximus.

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Still Austin Whiskey Co. launched its first limitedrelease Cask Strength Bourbon. Made from 100% Texas grains, the new expression contains the same mash bill as the company’s flagship straight bourbon whiskey—70% Non-GMO white corn, 25% Elbon rye and 5% wildfire malted barley—but without utilizing the slow water reduction process, resulting in a higher proof at 118.

Park City, Utah-based High West Distillery & Saloon has released an exclusive rendition of Rendezvous Rye (92 proof), an award-winning blend of straight rye whiskeys. The label on the limited release features custom artwork crafted by the iconic Ed Mell, an artist whose timeless Western landscapes bring to life High West’s signature spirit. In keeping with the essence of the original High West labels, Ed crafted the new Rendezvous Rye label to reflect a New West, Meets Old West aesthetic, boasting warm earth tones and a contemporaryinspired cowboy scene.









New Spirits

Coppercraft Distillery of Holland, Michigan, announced the release of a gin crafted in partnership with the Detroit Tigers. Social 416 Gin is made with 13 botanicals and blades of bluegrass, the same bluegrass that can be found in Comerica Park. The 80-proof gin will be sold at select Michigan retailers, in Comerica Park, and at Coppercraft Distillery’s tasting rooms in both Holland and Saugatuck.

State 38 Distilling of Golden, Colorado, announced a new bottle, label and name for its agave spirits line: Hacedor. The name translates to “maker,” which speaks to the entrepreneurial spirit of State 38’s owners and those that pursue their passions. The new Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo made with 100% blue Weber agave are rolling out at major retailers throughout the state.

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West Fork Whiskey Co. is kicking off summer with its latest ready-todrink (RTD) bourbon beverage, the Cold Hamer Bourbon Peach Tea canned cocktail. The 7% ABV drink will be the third in the Cold Hamer RTD lineup, in addition to the High Ball and Snapback options.

Columbus, Ohio-based Watershed Distillery is unveiling a reimagined bourbon portfolio that includes two new bourbon products. The first is Watershed’s Bottled-inBond, a 100-proof offering made from a selection of the distillery’s favorite barrels all from a single season. The second is the 90-proof Distillery Bourbon, made by blending Watershed’s standard bourbon with its six-year apple brandy finished bourbon, and rounded out with a sourced bourbon


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Imbiber’s Bookshelf

The Japanese Art of the Cocktail Authors: Masahiro Urushido and Michael Anstendig Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Release Date: June 1 Katana Kitten, one of the world’s most acclaimed Japanese cocktail bars, was opened in 2018 by mixologist Masahiro Urushido. One year later, the bar won 2019 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for Best New American Cocktail Bar. Before Katana Kitten, Urushido honed his craft behind the bar of awardwinning eatery Saxon+Parole. In this book, Urushido shares his immense knowledge of Japanese cocktails with 80 recipes that best exemplify Japan’s contribution to the cocktail scene, both from his own bar and from Japanese mixologists worldwide.

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The New Kindred Spirits Author: F. Paul Pacult Publisher: Matt Holt Books Release Date: June 1 In 2008, F. Paul Pacult published the second edition of his groundbreaking book of reviews, Kindred Spirits. In the dozen years since, interest in distilled spirits has exploded, and craft distilleries have popped up around the country and the world. Now, in The New Kindred Spirits, Pacult provides a new compilation of more than 2,400 evaluations of spirits—an indispensable reference for any spirits enthusiast or professional. This edition will also cover the craft distiller explosion—wherein thousands of small, independent distillers burst onto the scene— through hundreds of reviews of craft spirits.

Pantry Cocktails: Inventive Sips from Everyday Staples (and a Few Nibbles Too) Author: Katherine Cobbs Publisher: Tiller Press Release Date: May 25

Gotham City Cocktails: Official Handcrafted Food & Drinks From the World of Batman Author: André Darlington Publisher: Insight Editions Release Date: May 18

This book is an organized, easy-tofollow guide that not only includes cocktail recipes but accompanying themed food boards (such as The Warming Hut Board inspired by New Mexico flavors), helpful tips and hacks, and useful pantry suggestions. The book teaches which key bottled spirits to keep in the iquor cabinet, which fridge and cupboard staples can be repurposed, and how to use seasonal herbs from the patio or garden to create outstanding cocktails that are sure to satisfy and impress.

Based on the colorful heroes, villains, and locations of Gotham City, this compendium of enticing cocktails takes readers on a trip through the home of the Dark Knight. Featuring a collection of sophisticated libations, the book contains 70 recipes for delicious handcrafted cocktails, as well as a curated selection of tasteful bar bites to pair with the beverages. With drinks inspired by everyone from Batman himself to Poison Ivy, Commissioner Gordon, and the Joker, this book includes step-bystep instructions and tips on how to craft the perfect cocktail, as well as beautiful full-color photography. A refined and elegant volume, this book is an essential addition to every fan’s bar cart or bookshelf.


Industry Update

UNCLE NEAREST ANNOUNCES $50 MILLION FUND TO INVEST IN MINORITY-FOUNDED-AND-OWNED SPIRIT BRANDS On June 1, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey announced the formation of the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund. The $50 million fund was created specifically to invest in rapidly growing, minority-founded and owned spirit brands. According to Fawn Weaver, Uncle Nearest founder and CEO, it’s by design that the timing of the announcement came on the 100th anniversary of the destruction of Black Wall Street. “On June 1, 1921, an entire community of wealthy and successful African Americans was wiped out in a matter of hours. We are talking about 35 square blocks known as Black Wall Street,” said Weaver in a press release. “As an African American, learning about that history broke my heart because we, as a people, were really onto something in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We were lifting one another up and creating wealth within our own community, and then showing others how to do it for themselves. We cannot go back and undo the past, but I do believe we have full power over our future, and that recreating a Black Wall Street of sorts within the spirits industry is a great place to start.” The fund has already chosen its first two investments, each company to receive initial funding of $2 million, respectively—Londonbased Equiano, the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum founded by Ian Burrell and Aaisha Dadral; and Jack From Brooklyn, Inc., the first-known Black-owned distillery in America post Prohibition, and the maker of the bartender-beloved Sorel Liqueur. Founded by Jackie Summers in 2012, Sorel had all the makings of a successful brand when it launched, and immediately gained popularity. However, Summers was not able to obtain the funding required to grow a successful spirit brand. “Most people don’t know how expensive it is to create and grow a premium spirit brand in America,” said Summers. “I wasn’t willing to compromise on the quality and I did everything I could to raise the money to keep Sorel alive, including pitching the brand to the CEOs of some of the most well-known spirit conglomerates. Every single one turned me down. Many do not know this, but I went homeless for about 18 months as I pounded the pavement to continue growing my business. I never gave up because I knew it was special and that one day, someone would be willing to invest in it and in me. The moment the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund agreed to do so, we were ready—we’d only been waiting on capital.” Through the investment from the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund, Sorel Liqueur will return to market this summer as an exclusive offering via and their Spirited Change Initiative. “America consists of approximately 40 percent people of color, but they own an incredibly small percentage of spirit brands,” said Lindsay Held, CEO and co-founder of ReserveBar, the established leader in premium spirits ecommerce. “We have to work collectively to change that so that we can unlock opportunity for all. We are

Fawn Weaver

committed to working with every minority-owned brand in the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund.” Following its online debut, Sorel will roll out to markets across the country this summer. The brand has already obtained national distribution through Republic National Distribution Company (RNDC), Breakthru Beverage Group, Empire Distributors and several other top distributors, and will be available in more than 40 states before the end of the year.

DU NORD CRAFT SPIRITS SUPPORTS PLANS TO UNIONIZE Minneapolis-based Du Nord Craft Spirits announced that it voluntarily recognizes and supports its production team’s plans to unionize and has signed an agreement that recognizes UNITE HERE! Local 17, AFL-CIO as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent. UNITE HERE! is Minnesota’s hospitality union,


representing “…more than 6,000 workers in hotels, restaurants, sports complexes, convention centers, and the airport in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and surrounding suburbs.” “We voluntarily recognize this union out of respect for our staff, and we plan to negotiate in good faith,” said Du Nord owner & CEO,

Chris Montana, in a press release. Also in the press release, the distillery mentioned that unions have a long history of building collective power among industries to ensure all workers are compensated fairly and treated with respect, and this is another way for Du Nord Craft Spirits to raise up its world.

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Industry Update

CRAFT SPIRITS COMMUNITY MOURNS LOSS OF GABLE ERENZO The craft spirits community is mourning the loss of Gable Erenzo, who died in his sleep in April. “We all mourn the loss of this wonderful man,” wrote his father, Ralph Erenzo, on Facebook. “We ask for time to come to grips with this terrible loss. Thank you on behalf of the family for your support and your friendships with Gable.” Erenzo was the owner of Gardiner Liquid Mercantile in New York and the former chief distiller at Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, which he helped develop with his father. On its Facebook page, Gardiner Liquid Mercantile asked followers to “raise a glass for this beautiful, big-hearted man.” Tuthilltown Spirits also shared a tribute: “His bold personality, genuine warmth, and sense of humor brought joy to anyone he encountered. During our early years Gable’s unwavering determination fueled our team with a passion and enthusiasm that continues to inspire our work today.” We at ACSA are deeply saddened by the loss of such a dynamic soul and universally beloved member of the craft spirits community and express our heartfelt condolences to Erenzo’s family and friends.

Gable Erenzo






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(847)-229-2000 (847)-229-2000





Industry Update

KOLOA RUM CO. ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH LAS VEGAS RAIDERS & ALLEGIANT STADIUM Hawai’i’s Koloa Rum Co. announced a partnership with the Las Vegas Raiders and Allegiant Stadium. Named the “Official Ultra-Premium Rum of the Las Vegas Raiders,” Koloa Rum will bring its award-winning rums to the global events destination, augmenting the stadium spectator experience. The agreement grants Koloa Rum Co. prominent visibility within Allegiant Stadium, including a branded stadium bar located inside the Twitch Lounge. Koloa Kaua’i White Rum will be offered as a deluxe option across concession stands. Two specialty cocktails created by Allegiant Stadium’s “Modern Mixologist,” Tony Abou Ganim, will also be featured at the Raiders’ home stadium including a Rum Punch cocktail featuring Koloa Dark Rum and a Frozen Cable Car blended with Koloa Spice Rum. “The Raiders are excited to welcome Koloa Rum Co. as our newest partner,” said Brandon Doll, Raiders’ SVP of strategy and business development, in a press release. “Koloa Rum Co. is a great match as evidenced by their commitment to producing high-quality, ultra-premium rums that will enhance the beverage experience for Raiders fans and guests of Allegiant Stadium.” The partnership fortifies Koloa Rum’s brand with a strong foothold in the sports and entertainment capital of the world as it continues to expand to new markets, both nationally and abroad. The Kauai-based, single-batch craft rum distillery currently distributes in 30 states and internationally including Australia, Canada and Japan. “As a proud partner of the Raiders, we’re eager to bring our premium

rums to Raiders fans and sports enthusiasts as well as concert-goers from around the globe,” said Bob Gunter, Koloa Rum Co.’s president and CEO.


Tracking Trends and Future Sales Through Local Liquor Retailers A proprietary report for the beer, wine and spirits industry, powered by 3x3.


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Industry Update

WATERSHED DISTILLERY WELCOMES AARON HARRIS AS HEAD DISTILLER Watershed Distillery recently announced the appointment of its new, and first, head distiller. Aaron Harris joins one of Ohio’s oldest and largest craft distilleries, bringing years of experience from two Kentucky-based distilleries with him. Harris will be responsible for overseeing production and quality control and will help lead the team in bourbon innovation. Harris comes to Watershed from Bardstown, Kentucky, where he was most recently the Distillery Supervisor for Lux Row Distillers. He has also served as Distillery Supervisor for Barton 1792 Distillery. “Aaron is a vital addition to the Watershed team,” said Greg Lehman, CEO of Watershed Distillery, in a press release. “To add this talented bourbon maker and rising star in the distilling industry to our team is exciting. After a year that has been challenging for so many in our industry, it means a lot that we are able to expand our team in 2021. We have big plans for Watershed and feel we are equipping ourselves with one of the best teams in the business.” “I’m happy to be here in Columbus and to be part of an organization that has become such a respected name in the craft distilling industry,” said Harris. “We have exciting developments in store for Watershed’s bourbon offerings in 2021, and I’m looking forward to making bourbon in the Buckeye state.” The distillery celebrated its 10-year anniversary as an independent Ohio craft distillery in 2020 and has some special releases in store in 2021.

Aaron Harris

STILL AUSTIN WHISKEY CO. PROMOTES BRANDON JOLDERSMA TO COO Still Austin Whiskey Co. recently announced that Brandon Joldersma will become the company’s COO, a new role effective immediately. Joldersma joined Austin, Texas-based Still Austin in July 2019 as general manager, overseeing day-to-day operations. In his new role, he will further define and implement the company’s growth plans, in a way that continues to focus on quality while honoring the community and local farmers. He will work alongside CEO and co-founder Chris Seals and industry veterans including Rudy Ruiz (former CEO of Bacardi) and John Scarborough (former chairman of Deep Eddy Vodka), who recently joined the company’s board of directors. As part of the announcement, Molly Pearson will join the leadership team as director of production operations alongside Seals (CEO), Joldersma (COO), Chris Cain (director of sales) and Mike Spadier (acting director of brand marketing). “Brandon has been a big part of our success since joining us two years ago,” said Seals in a press release. “He has a tremendous capacity to understand and implement everything it takes for a brand to truly shine. Plus, he’s a joy to work with—an outstanding leader who has built a remarkably strong team of leaders.” The news comes as Still Austin’s star continues to rise in the Lone Star State, having recently become one of the top-selling Texas Whiskeys. The independent craft distiller is currently shipping more than 1,300 cases per month of its flagship bourbon whiskey (known as The Musician) and is on track to sell more than 20,000 cases in 2021. According to Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, The Musician is the No. 2-selling new SKU in its portfolio within the American Whiskey category. The expression was recently awarded Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Additionally, the limited release of the company’s Cask Strength whiskey has been a huge success, selling more than 1,100 cases to local retail partners. The team plans to release an additional 1,100 cases in the fall.

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“Still Austin is excited to be on the forefront of the Texas Whiskey boom that’s currently happening in the U.S.,” said Joldersma in a press release. “While our flagship bourbon is widely distributed in Texas, we plan to expand our footprint in the near future. To that end, we’ll soon move to a 24-hour production cycle, allowing us to produce upwards of 5,000 barrels per year.” Before joining Still Austin, Joldersma spent two years with Coppercraft Distillery in Holland, Michigan, as general manager, where he oversaw sales, marketing, production, and operations. Prior to that role, he served as sales director at Virtue Cider, based in Chicago.

JULY 202 1


Brandon Joldersma

Industry Update

PENNSYLVANIA DISTILLERS GUILD NAMES KATHY MANDERINO AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR The Pennsylvania Distillers Guild has tapped former Pennsylvania labor and industry secretary Kathy Manderino as executive director to help grow the membership and organizational efforts of the Guild. With the new hiring, Manderino brings a wealth of experience in state government, nonprofit management, and leadership in voluntary member organizations to the table. In addition to serving as labor and industry’s chief executive, Manderino, an attorney, has quite the resume. She was a commissioner on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, a state legislator, executive VP of a human services organization, manager of a state-wide education advocacy campaign, director of membership services for a labor-management group, and member of the governing board of a voluntary membership organization. “We are excited to have Kathy working with us to help grow our Guild to the next level,” said Guild president Robert Cassell, president of New Liberty Distilling in Philadelphia. “Since the Guild was founded roughly six years ago, it has been an all-volunteer effort, and the membership has grown to over 30 Pennsylvania distillers. With so much interest in craft distilling, local agri-business, and travel and tourism built around the industry, the Guild is pleased to be able to tap into Kathy’s expertise to help further grow and mature our organization to enhance benefits to our members, as well as to the Pennsylvania growing economy.” The Pennsylvania Distillers Guild, founded in 2014, is a collaborative organization of spirits producers focused on enriching the growth of the state’s vibrant distilling industry. Their membership’s primary mis-


sion is to advance the prosperity of craft spirits in Pennsylvania, with a key focus on the use of local agriculture, the state’s historical distilling legacy, and educating fellow craft distillers.

Herman Mihalich of Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey; Kathy Manderino of the Pennsylvania Distillers Guild; and Ellen and Jim Hough of Liberty Pole Spirits

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Industry Update

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

MICHIGAN LOWERS TAX, RAISES ABV LIMIT FOR CANNED COCKTAILS In May, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation that will make it easier for distillers and retailers to distribute and sell canned cocktails. The legislation allows distillers to sell canned cocktails up to 13.5% ABV, up from 10%. It also reduces the tax on mixed spirits from 48 cents to 30 cents per liter. Whitmer signed the legislation at Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids. “This is a great example of bipartisan legislation that will create jobs and help our small businesses grow, and shows what we can do when we work together,” said  Gov. Whitmer in a press release. “Distillers are a growing industry in Michigan, and these bill make it easier for distillers to distribute their products. These bills will make canned mixed spirits more affordable and accessible, creating jobs and helping Michigan small businesses.” Jon O’Connor, co-founder of Long Road Distillers and Michigan Craft Distillers Association president, praised the legislation. “We thank the governor and the bi-partisan efforts in both the House and Senate for recognizing the importance of the craft distilling industry in Michigan as well as the need to make these changes which create new opportunities to get products to market,” O’Connor told The Detroit News. “We believe this is the beginning of continued and expanded support for future efforts related to enhancing opportunities for Michigan small distillers.”

CLARIFICATIONS In the May 2021 issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, Garrison Brothers VIRTUAL TASTING Distillery was identified as the first BEST PRACTICES legal distillery in Texas. It was actually the first legal whiskey distillery. The first legal distillery in the state was, of course, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which was founded by Bert Butler “Tito” Beveridge in 1997. HEIRLOOM CORN Also in the May 2021 issue, in the Technically Speaking story about proofing, the author wrote that “While your product can fall under the declared alcohol content value by up to 0.2 proof points (as a good rule of thumb), it must not go over.” An astute reader pointed out that the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) revised its proofing tolerance numbers to 0.3 in 2020. VOL. 3, ISSUE 2 | MAY 2021








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lew's bottom shelf


There are so many things your customers don’t know. They don’t know the difference between “bourbon” and “whiskey” (right, because they think there is a difference). They don’t know why your gin costs more than Gordon’s. They don’t know how much you sacrificed to build this business. Here’s one more, a big one. I can almost guarantee that your customers don’t know that spirits are taxed a lot more than beer or wine. It’s so bad that it bears repeating. Craft brewers pay 11 cents a gallon in Federal Excise Tax (FET) on the first 1.86 million gallons of beer they make in a year; after that, they pay 51 cents a gallon (really big brewers pay 58 cents). Wine makers? At 16% and under (most non-fortified wines), and less than 750,000 gallons production in a year, the most they’ll pay is 53.5 cents a gallon. Under 30,000 gallons a year, it’s a piddling 7 cents a gallon. And the most a small cider maker will pay is 19.3 cents a gallon. But you? The first 100,000 proof gallons is a minimum of $2.70 a gallon. A small but growing number of you are nudging up against that, and some have passed it, and every proof gallon of eligible spirits over 100,000 (up to 22.23 million) a year gets taxed at $13.34. Yup. Twenty-five times what wine pays. And one hundred-twenty-one times what beer pays. And that’s just the federal tax; state taxes are generally structured the same way, and go right on top. Someone should create a graphic showing the disparity that you can all tack up in your sales space. (See page 80!) Then do something about it: get behind the push for further tax equalization. On top of the success of the passing of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act in 2020, industry groups continue lobbying to get alcohol excise taxes changed to an equitable level. That could mean raising everything to liquor’s level, lowering every-

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thing to beer’s level, or something reasonable in-between, preferably closer to the beer level than the liquor level. The government rarely likes to let go of tax revenue, because it means it’s going to have to make it up somewhere else, and that somewhere else is going to squeal, and vote the taxers out. If you can show them that making products more accessible means more revenue (and more employment), you can convince them. Your booze comrades in the beer, wine, and cider business, though, are even more determined opponents. That’s come to a head recently because of hard seltzer. It’s a rapidlygrowing $4 billion market, and some of you are getting into it, packaging sub-20% ABV premixed cocktails, highballs and spritzers. It’s a popular category, one that people didn’t even realize they wanted, and there’s a real craft niche for spirits producers. But the tax structure makes a spirit-based drink significantly more expensive than a brewed hard seltzer, taxed at the beer rate. Your shelf price is higher, and you don’t see a penny of it. That same legal prejudice against spirits limits where your products can be sold to about a third of the number of outlets for beer, wine, and cider, on average. Some of you have been lobbying your states for a reduced rate on spirits overall, or on spirit-based drinks that are “beer strength.” Some are trying to get the retail channels expanded. These are good efforts, but they have triggered a reaction. Beer is pushing back. Jim Koch, the head of the Boston Beer Co., recently said that spirits companies want to tilt the playing field, and that a “big foreign-owned liquor company” trying to lower taxes to increase its profits should be a hard sell to state governments. He’s right. That argument should be a hard one. But that’s not your argument. Yours is the same one Jim Koch’s been making for craft beer for over 30 years: it’s about fair access to the market, a fair access that’s been denied by

I can almost guarantee that your customers don’t know that spirits are taxed a lot more than beer or wine. entrenched big businesses and clearly uneven laws and regulations. Use the whole craft beer argument: small, local, manufacturing employers are asking for fairness so they can thrive and grow their businesses … and employ more people, and buy more local services and products, and increase local tourism, all of which means more tax revenue. That sounds like a virtuous circle to me. As more and more people discover the appeal of locally-made food, clothing, art and drinks, there must be a recognition that old inequities that exist for questionable reasons must be re-examined. We shouldn’t reject those re-examinations out of hand simply because it’s been this way for a long time. This marks two years of this magazine, of this column. And once again, I’m urging you to increase your influence by working together. Hone your arguments, marshal your reasons, and gird your lobbying loins. Let’s go level that playing field so we can all sell fizzy drinks. ■ 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 Honeysuckle 75 This spin on the French 75 from Cathead Distillery in Jackson, Mississippi, highlights the distillery’s Honeysuckle Vodka. Made with all natural ingredients, the 70-proof spirit evokes the sense of pulling honeysuckle straight off the vine. Ingredients 1 1/4 ounces Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka 3/4 ounce lemon juice 1/2 ounce simple syrup Champagne Directions Add all ingredients (except Champagne) in a shaker over ice. Shake and strain into a coupe or fluted glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a raspberry and lemon peel.

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Barr Hill Sour For this cocktail from Caledonia Spirits in Montpelier, Vermont, the distillery recommends experimenting with different types of amaro (or anything bitter sweet). In order from sweeter to more bitter: Amaro Averna (citrus peel, caramel, spice); Amaro CioCiaro (softer, dark chocolate, bitter orange); Cynar (deep, bitter, herbal); and fernet (bitter, intense, menthol). Ingredients 1 ounce Barr Hill Gin 1 ounce amaro of your choice 1 ounce fresh lemon juice 1 ounce raw honey syrup (2:1) Egg white Directions Combine ingredients in mixing tin and dry shake without ice for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake for another 15 seconds. Double strain into coupe and garnish a discarded lemon twist and with a spray or drops of the same amaro you used.

Cold Brew Martini This cocktail from Cathead Distillery features Hoodoo Chicory Liqueur, which is made with real roasted chicory root. Ingredients 1 1/2 ounces Cathead Vodka 3/4 ounce Hoodoo Chicory Liqueur 1/2 ounce agave nectar 1 ounce cold brew concentrate Directions Build in a shaker over ice. Shake, strain and serve.

Bijou Invented by Harry Johnson, the Bijou dates back to the 1890s. The original recipe called for equal parts, but for this version from Caledonia Spirits in Montpelier, Vermont, the given proportions work best. Ingredients 2 ounces Barr Hill Gin 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth 1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse 2 dashes orange bitters Directions Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, stir, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist. This cocktail also works well served over ice.

Banya For this cocktail, 3BR Distillery in Keyport, New Jersey, took its agave distillate (made with hops and bitter orange peel) and a traditional Russian bread soda and kept piling up things to make it more beer-like. What the distillery got was nothing at all like it imagined, tasting more like an iced tea meets an Old Fashioned. Ingredients 1 1/2 ounces kvas 1 1/2 ounces 3BR SOCHNY 1/4 ounce hops simple syrup 1/4 ounce lime juice 1/4 ounce wood simple syrup 4 drops orange blossom water 2 dashes bitters Directions for Cocktail Add SOCHNY, hops simple syrup, lime juice and wood simple syrup in a shaker with ice and shake until the shaker is frosted. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube. Add kvas, drops of orange blossom water and dashes of bitters directly to the glass and garnish with an orange half wheel. Directions for Syrups For the hops simple syrup, boil 24 grams of pelletized hops in 3 cups of water. Strain with an added 2 cups of sugar to the hop tea. For the wood simple syrup, use heavily oaked water in equal parts with sugar.

Manntini In this twist on the Martini from Up North Distillery in Post Falls, Idaho, founders Randy and Hillary Mann substitute their North Idaho Pine Liqueur (a spirit combining apple brandy, foraged pinecones and honey) in place of vermouth. Ingredients 2 ounces Up North Barrel Reserve Honey Spirits 3/4 ounces North Idaho Pine Liqueur 3 dashes Angostura bitters Directions In a carafe, stir all ingredients. Stain into martini glass. Garnish with a Bordeaux cherry and orange peel.


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ACSA Affairs

HUNDREDS OF DISTILLERS VIRTUALLY VISIT WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN ACSA AND DISCUS PUBLIC POLICY CONFERENCE Distilling dominated Congressional appointment books in late May as more than 200 craft spirits producers from nearly every U.S. state talked COVID-19 relief, trade tariffs and direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping with Senators and Representatives on both sides of the aisle. The spirits community gathered for more than 150 virtual meetings during the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) Public Policy Conference on May 25th and 26th. On the COVID-19 relief front, distillers urged support for two bills in particular: the Restaurants Act (H.R. 793/S. 255) and the Fairness for Craft Beverage Producers Act (H.R. 1035). Congress had already allocated $28.6 billion in relief for restaurants, bars and distilleries with tasting rooms through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. But demand was more than double the existing funds. The Restaurants Act, sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in the House and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) in the Senate, would add $120 billion in funds. Other major objectives on spirits producers’ agenda included tariffs and the USPS

Shipping Equity Act. About a dozen officials from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) addressed attending distillers and answered any TTB-related questions, discussing officials new technologies and protocols that will enhance efficiency of processes related to label

approvals, permitting and filing and claims. “Certainly we recognize that it is more important now than it has ever been that we’re able to get folks into business and get their products into the market as quickly as we can,” said TTB Deputy Administrator David Wulf.

ACSA’S IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT GIVES TESTIMONY TO CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE Chris Montana, ACSA’s immediate past president and the founder of Du Nord Craft Spirits in Minneapolis, gave testimony to members of Congress via Zoom in late May on behalf of craft spirits producers. Montana was part of a panel of small business owners and advocates who addressed the Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Regulations in a remote hearing. Members heard about the implementation and effectiveness of the Small Business Administration’s pandemic-related grant programs, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). Montana praised the federal government for providing relief through initiatives like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “The fact that my business has survived to reach today is traceable directly back to the PPP, EIDL and restaurant revitalization programs, and I know that there are many other micodisitilleries across the nation who would say the same.” Montana said that he had initially failed to secure PPP funding, and was grateful for

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the priority period for RRF, for which applications closed after the fund received more than 300,000 applications for more than $69 billion of relief. “I think that the real challenge here,” Montana said, “is not so much to focus on the fact that instead of being left out

again, this population did get a fair chance at those funds. ... The focus should be on how can we make sure that everyone now gets that same access. … I really do hope that this committee and this Congress find a way to fully fund the program.”


TARIFFS ON U.S. RUM, BRANDY AND VODKA SUSPENDED FOR FIVE YEARS In June, the U.S. reached separate deals with the U.K. and EU in the WTO Boeing-Airbus Dispute, which includes agreements to suspend all tariffs imposed in connection with the disputes for five years. The tariff suspension applies to rum, brandy and vodka from the U.S. From the U.K., it applies to to Single Malt Scotch, Single Malt Irish Whiskey from Northern Ireland, liqueurs and cordials, and certain wines from the U.K. From the EU, it applies to liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain, on certain Cognacs and other grape brandies from France and Germany. Note that this agreement does not address the EU and U.K. tariffs on American Whiskeys, which are related to a separate dispute on steel and aluminum. The Toasts Not Tariffs Coalition, which is made up of 50 associations (including the American Craft Spirits Association)

representing the entire three-tier chain of the U.S. alcohol industry, released the following statement. “We commend the administration’s tremendous progress in resetting the important trading relationships between the U.S., EU and U.K., which have been instrumental for the growth of the hospitality sectors on both sides of the Atlantic. “Securing a long-term tariff suspension in this dispute provides U.S., EU and U.K. producers, importers, exporters and distributors of wines and spirits, as well as bartenders, restaurants, bars and other on-premise establishments with much-needed certainty, many of which have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. “The Toasts Not Tariffs Coalition hopes these important developments will set the stage for the prompt removal of the 25% tariffs on American Whiskeys to the U.K. and

EU. Having recently entered the third year of retaliatory tariffs on American Whiskeys to these two key markets, it is critically important for our producers, our farmer suppliers and the hospitality sector across the U.S., EU and U.K. that we return to the zero-for-zero agreement on trade in distilled spirits. “We fully appreciate the Biden administration’s commitment and ongoing efforts to secure a prompt return to duty-free trade for all distilled spirits and an agreement to refrain from imposing any new tariffs on wine.”

ACSA, ALCOHOL ASSOCIATIONS URGE CONGRESS TO FULLY FUND TTB The American Craft Spirits Association is among a dozen beverage alcohol associations that are urging Congress to fully fund the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for the fiscal year ahead at the administration’s requested funding level of $131,330,000. Representatives from the associations made the request via a letter to Congressional leaders, noting their appreciation of TTB’s efforts to mitigate the impact of CO-

VID-19 on the alcohol industry. From the letter: “The agency’s ability to respond swiftly and appropriately to changes in the alcohol industry has a direct impact on jobs, consumer protection, the innovation of new products, and the collection of federal excise taxes. This level of funding also supports trade practice education and enforcement efforts.”

ACSA APPLAUDS BIPARTISAN BILL TO ALLOW USPS TO SHIP SPIRITS Members of Congress recently introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow the United States Postal Service (USPS) to ship alcohol—including distilled spirits—directly to consumers in accordance with state laws. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and 17 original House co-sponsors introduced the United States Postal Service Shipping Equity Act (H.R. 2517). This bipartisan bill—which now has 44 co-sponsors—would end the Prohibition-era ban that prevents USPS from shipping alcoholic beverages to consumers. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate, as well. “On behalf of the American Craft Spirits Association, we are pleased to endorse the United States Postal Service Shipping Equity


Act,” said Margie A.S. Lehrman, CEO of ACSA. “It is long past time that we bring our laws into the 21st Century for distilled spirits in an effort to better cater to our consumers. More than 2,250 craft distillers nationwide, mostly small businesses, should have the option of using the Postal Service for delivering their products in a safe and responsible manner, just as they are able to using other package delivery services. Consumers should have the option of enjoying American-made craft spirits from all corners of the U.S with the ease with which they shop for other artisanal products. We applaud the work of Congresswoman Speier, Congressman Newhouse and Senator Merkley on this effort.” “In 2019, California wineries shipped 275.6 million cases of wine, yet consumers and man-

ufacturers are prohibited from using the U.S. Postal Service to ship or deliver these everyday products. In most states, private carriers such as FedEx and UPS are already delivering alcoholic beverages. It makes no sense to create a competitive disadvantage for the USPS by barring them from these kinds of shipments, especially given the Postal Service’s dire financial condition,” Rep. Speier said. “The time is long overdue for Congress to lift this Prohibition-era ban for the benefit of beverage manufacturers, consumers, and our struggling postal service.” The USPS Shipping Equity Act would allow USPS to ship alcoholic beverages directly from licensed producers and retailers to consumers over the age of 21, in accordance with state and local shipping regulations.

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Bitter, Sweet & Everything in Between Liqueur producers tune in to the evolving tastes of the consumer base. BY JEFF CIOLETTI

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epending on when (and where) you read this, there’s a good chance that summer is now upon us (how’s that for a qualification?). And anyone with an internet connection likely has found it hard to avoid the barrage of articles touting the top cocktail recipes for the warm months. This is not one of them. Generally, we’re not too keen on seasonspecific stories in this space, given their limited shelf life. But we’re making an exception in this case because summer means it’s time to hit the patio—and hopefully more a choice than a necessity this year as much of the country heads toward fully reopening. And more and more, al fresco sippers have been taking a cue from Italy’s aperitivo culture, integrating spritzes into their warm-weather drinking routines. That’s just one of the trends that’s providing an opportunity to grow the liqueurs category—because it’s certainly not the bubbly wines that are giving those mixed refreshers their character. “Those drinks, historically, have always been big hits on the patio, they’ve always been patio pleasers,” says Robby Haynes, co-founder of Apologue Liqueurs in Chicago, whose offerings include Aronia, Celery Root, Persimmon and Saffron liqueurs. “I think we’ll see a lot less brown and stirred [on the patio] which are more suited for a moody corner at a nice cocktail bar. These sort of thoughtful sippers are going to be in short order for summer, but when cold weather hits, it’ll swing around the other way.” The glasses that sit atop the outdoor tables at Washington, D.C.’s Italian-style liqueur maker Don Ciccio & Figli on a Saturday afternoon sometimes work better than any thermometer could. President and master distiller Francesco


Randy Mann of Up North Distillery

Amodeo has it down to a science. “If the temperature outside is above 70 [Fahrenheit], you’ll see that every single table will get a spritz,” Amodeo reports. “When it was lower, around 65, people start gravitating to things like the Sidecar, heartier things, to give them psychological warmth. There have been weekends that we sold 80 to 100 spritzes and our patio only has eight tables.” Producers also credit spritzes with being a sort of gateway drink that leads to further investigation across the category. “I think the spritz trend has been a really positive thing for inspiring consumers to try new things, to look at different sections of the spirits store and branch out,” says Michael Foglia, director of production at Wigle Whiskey, which boasts an extensive line of liqueurs, including amari. “All of the publications, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, the blogs, have really made that a familiar idea to the hip drinking community at large.” BITTER BUMP The popularity of Stateside spritzes stems from the gradual shift of the American palate toward a greater appreciation of bitterness— enabling the amaro segment of the broader liqueurs category to have its time in the sun. The tipping point for the bitter trend occurred early in the last decade—Amodeo goes so far as identifying an exact year. “The palate switch happened in 2014,” declares Amodeo. Not coincidentally, that’s the same year his nearly-decade-old company produced its first amaro. “We started the company in late 2011, early 2012, with the idea of showcasing some of the sweeter cordials that were more known in the market, like limoncello,” Amodeo recalls. “A couple of years later we saw that the palate

was changing and the way the consumer was purchasing products was changing.” Don Ciccio & Figli’s amaro portfolio eventually would expand to nine products, including Amaro Don Fernet, Amaro Delle Sirene, Amaro Tonico Ferro-Kina, Cinque Aperitivo, Cerasum Aperitivo, Luna Aperitivo, C3 Carciofo, Donna Rosa Rabarbaro and Ambrosia. They sit on various points across the bitterness spectrum from predominantly sweet, to full-on bitter. Outside of amari, Don Ciccio & Figli’s range of traditional liqueurs include Limoncello (lemon), Mandarinetto (mandarin orange), Nocino (walnut) and the espressoinfused Concerto. Apologue’s Haynes points to broader consumer lifestyle trends for the shift toward more assertive flavors. “People found a new appreciation for bitter as part of a larger macro trend where they’re more adventurous,” Haynes notes. “Anthony Bourdain and that kind of foodie movement of the last 10 years had pretty far-reaching effects where people are open to trying new flavors and ingredients.” Wigle’s Foglia has observed that culinary shift right within the four walls of the distillery. “I use my production team as an example,” Foglia says. “Four or five years ago if we were sampling a fernet, you’d get practically all of the faces making that wild, puckered face, like ‘What the hell is that?’ There wasn’t so much appreciation for bitterness as there was a suffering through it. Now everyone on my staff has fernet at home and they even look for amari that are more bitter.” Wigle’s own amari include Amaro Vermut, a copper-pot-distilled spirit infused with wormwood, cacao nibs, cinnamon and cloves and finished with apple cider; and Saffron Amaro, an apple brandy infused with 12 botanicals, including, of course, saffron. Wigle’s nonamaro range includes Limoncello, as well as Coffee, Maple and Rhubarb Liqueurs. Consumers’ exploration extends beyond just the flavors themselves, into the history of how bitter and/or herbal-forward spirits emerged. They tend to share a common origin story, usually in the backroom of an 18th or 19th-century apothecary, somewhere in Europe. And there’s a certain romance to such tales—regardless of how many actual facts may or may not be involved. Becherovka is a prominent example that comes to mind. It began as a digestive aid around 1807 in what is now the Czech Republic and today is regarded as a Czech national beverage. The iconic Italian amaro Fernet-Branca

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“I think the spritz trend has been a really positive thing for inspiring consumers to try new things, to look at different sections of the spirits store and branch out.” —Michael Foglia of Wigle Whiskey

was first marketed as a remedy for cholera and menstrual cramps when it burst onto the scene in 1845. Both have since emerged as darlings of the modern bartending scene—the latter of which having achieved mythical status in San Francisco before exploding across the U.S. The relative starpower of those brands—as well as other international herbal offerings like Hungary’s Unicum—is evident to anyone who’s ever attended an international drinks trade fair like Bar Convent Berlin. OFF-PREMISE JUMP Total volume for the liqueur category, which includes everything from amari and fruit liqueurs to nut and cream-based products, grew 3.8% in 2020, according to IWSR —thanks, mostly, to off-premise sales, as COVID-19 sent on-premise channels into a freefall. Off-premise volume was up a strong 15.3%, offsetting the predictably dismal on-premise drop of 44.7%. For comparison to a non-pandemic year, on-premise volume growth actually surpassed the increase in the off-premise in 2019, 3.0% and 2.3%, respectively. As is the case with many spirits categories, products within the super-premium price tier—which includes craft—enjoyed growth of around 7% in 2020 according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. The pandemic certainly has helped shift consumption habits—where, when and how people drink—at least in the short-term. Since consumers, over the past year and a quarter, had been mixing drinks at home more than they had when bars were at full capacity and generally taken for granted, many may have opted for ingredient simplicity over complexity. From a flavor perspective, liqueurs of many sorts have their own built-in complexity that limits the number of components a drink requires. THE SIMPLE TOUCH But even before COVID hit, minimalism was the direction in which a growing number of bar menus had been trending. “I’d say over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a shift with fewer-touch drinks, cocktails with two or three ingredients,” says Haynes. That could mean taking a basic highball or gin and tonic and replacing the whiskey or gin with a liqueur—not only providing a different flavor experience, but also, in many cases, satisfying a consumer’s desire for a lowerproof cocktail. The orientation toward simplicity may not only be a matter of taste, but one of

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Sonat Birnecker Hart and Robert Birnecker of KOVAL Distillery

“You can make liqueurs out of so many berries and fruits and combinations thereof, that I think that drinking them by themselves, they’re delicious. It’s almost like a mini-dessert.” —Sonat Birnecker Hart of KOVAL Distillery

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Don Ciccio & Figli’s portfolio includes nine amaro products and a range of traditional liqueurs.


practicality, as well. Jordan Tepper, another of Apologue’s co-founders, suggests that personnel trends may have influenced the movement. “A big contributor to this is staffing shortages,” Tepper says. “Cocktail menus in general are shorter and there’s been a bias toward simple, but interesting cocktails that maybe are a little easier to execute, that are friendlier to outdoor patio-type environments.” Don Ciccio & Figli’s Amodeo also is a fan of keeping it simple. “I’m a strong believer in ‘one-two-three,’” Amodeo offers. “When I was behind the bar and I was working as a consultant for different restaurants in the area, [on] the menu [there were] three ingredients per cocktail, maximum four. I’m a huge believer in simplicity, and allowing the units to shine through.” At Bar Sirenis, the cocktail venue Don Ciccio & Figli operates in the building that houses the distillery and tasting room, the menu’s first page showcases simple classics. “You have a spritz, a Negroni, a Boulevardier and an Americano,” Amodeo says, “where you can select your favorite bitter liqueur of the nine, as well as the style, and the bartender will craft it based on your choice. Then there’s the craft cocktail section, with more of the modern cocktail recipes, but those are still three to four or five ingredients.” Like Don Ciccio & Figli, Chicago-based KOVAL Distillery’s story is very much rooted in European traditions. When Sonat Birnecker Hart and her husband, Robert Birnecker, left their careers in academia to launch the distillery, they drew much of their inspiration from Austrian-born Robert’s family. KOVAL might be best known for its extensive line of whiskeys and its gin, but its portfolio of liqueurs has a deep connection with that family history. “Robert’s grandmother, who makes amazing liqueurs, [would] bring them out after a meal and … they were always conversation extenders,” Birnecker Hart recalls. KOVAL’s range includes Caraway, Coffee, Chrysanthemum Honey, Ginger and Rose Hip Liqueurs. “You can make liqueurs out of so many berries and fruits and combinations thereof, that I think that drinking them by themselves, they’re delicious,” she says. “It’s almost like a mini-dessert.” Though, she concedes, the majority of liqueur consumption in the U.S. remains largely cocktail-based. “I hear a lot of people when they use our Chrysanthemum Honey Liqueur or our Ginger Liqueur, they add it to their teas or they add it to their cocktails,” she notes. “I’ve heard people


making ginger margaritas, adding our Ginger Liqueur. But I personally really appreciate liqueurs just by themselves, and that, for me also goes for amaro and any bitter liqueurs.” LOCAL FLAVOR You’re more likely to find widespread neat liqueur consumption throughout Europe, given that many countries across the continent have had centuries to develop that sort of culture. (And even though craft cocktail scenes are thriving in major European cities, those places, for the most part, are following America’s lead in that department). “When I travel through Europe,” Birnecker Hart says, “I absolutely appreciate the regional nature of them. … You go to all the different places, [like] Milan, [where] it’s so amazing to have the Fernet Brancas and the different varieties thereof. [Drinking those liqueurs] makes me think of those places and I think there’s an amazing regional opportunity here.” Spirits producers already are talking about terroir—whether you buy into the concept or not for distilled beverages—and fashioning liqueurs out of whatever type of flora makes your backyard unique is just another way to assert hyper-locality in your branding. That’s why it was a no-brainer for Roswell, Georgia’s liqueurs-only operation, Blended Family Spirits, to make a product out of—what else—peaches. Operating partner Scott Mayer, who brings a hospitality and brand management background to Blended Family, was surprised there were remarkably few such competing products in a state that’s synonymous with the fuzzy stone fruit. Still, he’s not a fan of using the ‘t’ word, even though he sources the fruit for his Peach, Raspberry and Blueberry Liqueurs as close to home as possible. “I’m not a ‘terroir’ guy,” Mayer says. “[As for] regionality, much of that is just being responsible citizens of the planet. Why would I source something from across the world when I can source it from down the street? Our preference is to source everything as close as humanly possible to the distillery.” It’s also good business to be a steward of the community, building strong relationships with area farmers and showcasing the fruits of a particular region. “We’re not making mangoes because there aren’t any mangoes around here,” he says. The closest Mayer is willing to get talking terroir relates to how different fruits behave at different times of the year and how he strives for consistent flavors given

Extracting the Secret Even though Scott Mayer had a great deal of experience with amaro brands throughout his career prior to launching Blended Family Spirits in Roswell, Georgia, he opted to focus, instead, on fruit liqueurs. “I worked for Branca for many years and I’ve kind of stayed away from that world for now,” Mayer says. “I would never say never. But certainly my knowledge of amari and their production informs a lot of what we do at Blended Family.” The extraction techniques he learned within the world of amaro production have been applied to fruit. “Not every single botanical or every single fruit needs to be extracted the same way,” he says. “Different methods produce different results.” For example, Blended Family steeps honeysuckle in its Peach Liqueur to achieve the desired result. But when it comes to its Triple Sec, each botanical is individually distilled. “We vapor distill every single flavor that goes into the Tripel Sec,” he says. “What I really learned working in amari is that you just can’t throw a bunch of stuff in a barrel and hope it comes out well.”

Scott Mayer of Blended Family Spirits

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To Everything, There Is a Season Seasonality is often a key consideration any time fruits or other botanicals are involved—but not always in the most obvious ways. Take Wigle’s Coffee Liqueur for instance. “That’s something that we’re much happier to make in the winter time when our production space is reasonably cold,” says Michael Foglia, Wigle’s director of production. But last year, there was a run on just about everything thanks to COVID and the distillery needed to build up more inventory over the summer. “Normally we wouldn’t choose to make Coffee Liqueur in July,” he says. “Part of the process is making a super-concentrated cold brew and if we make that in December, we can feel pretty confident about that cold brew remaining stable from off flavors for four days.” In July, that window shrinks to about 36 hours, Foglia says. Additionally, when Wigle’s able to produce all of its batches of Limoncello in the winter, its margins are appreciably better. “I’m able to access domestic lemons October through April, I might have some coming in May,” he says. “You really start getting into international sourcing and price increases are regular when we’re out of the domestic citrus season. When I have a choice, I always choose to do those two products in winter.” For something like rhubarb, though, consumers are more in tune when it’s in season because it starts showing up in bakeries and on restaurant menus in April and May—a period when, Foglia says, Wigle’s Rhubarb Liqueur had been “absolutely flying off of the shelves.”

those seasonal quirks. “My blueberries that I get in March are very different from the blueberries that I get in May,” he points out. “The color’s different. And the product’s that out [in the summer] will not look the same as the Blueberry Liqueur that we put out in November, and that’s just a function of the blueberries. Different times of year, different parts of the harvest, year over year, you try to maintain a consistent level of sugar content

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Members of the team at Apologue Spirits

“People found a new appreciation for bitter as part of a larger macro trend where they’re more adventurous. Anthony Bourdain and that kind of foodie movement of the last 10 years had pretty far-reaching effects where people are open to trying new flavors and ingredients.” —Robby Haynes of Apologue Spirits and all of those things.” Sometimes, he says, it’s necessary to manipulate some of those factors to achieve consistency. Going local in liqueurs doesn’t just mean harvesting nearby fruits from vines and trees. Sometimes you can capture your regional flavor from the tree itself. That’s what Up North Distillery in Post Falls, Idaho, does for its North Idaho Pine Liqueur, which incorporates pine cones from Western White Pines—Idaho’s state tree—foraged along the Coeur d’Alene River, sweetened with local honey. The cones steep in an apple brandy base for about two months to achieve the optimal pine character. It goes in the vessel at about 100 proof and comes out just below 80 proof when it’s ready for bottling. Like many of the liqueurs mentioned previously, there’s a bit of a European backstory to the creation of North Idaho Pine Liqueur. The inspiration was Zirbenschnaps, pine cone liqueur popular around the Austrian Alps. When Up North co-founder and owner Randy Mann first tried it during a visit to the region, he immediately fell in love. It turned out that the trees from which the cones were sourced for Zirbenschnaps were very close relatives

of the Western White Pines. “Just one species off,” notes Mann. Up North then set out to make its own twist on it. “We use it in place of sweet vermouth in a Manhattan and a Rob Roy,” says Mann. “I actually used it in place of gin for a traditional gin fizz and it was really, really nice. … It cuts down on some of the sugars you add to drinks that take liqueurs because it’s sweetened with honey.” Eventually he hopes to produce it from an Idaho elderberry base to add to its hyperlocal character. Over the next handful of years, spotlighting those homegrown elements is likely to become even more critical as the number of craft distilleries continues to grow, along with the number of those producing liqueurs. “When it comes to three, four, five years down the road, people are going to need to innovate,” says KOVAL’s Birnecker Hart. “And I think that a lot of times, innovation starts in your own mind, in your own backyard, in your own community, because these are the treasures that belong to you. No one can tell your own story, your own regional story, better than you can. And I think that is an asset.” n



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Certifiably Sustainable Exploring some of the organizations offering earth-friendly certifications for distilleries BY JON PAGE

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commitment to sustainability is front and center upon arrival at Appalachian Gap Distillery. On the way to the tasting room in Middlebury, Vermont, visitors can see six solar arrays that provide all of the distillery’s electricity. But recently, the company—founded in 2010 by Lars Hubbard and Chuck Burkins—saw an opportunity to expand its sustainability mission. In April, Appalachian Gap became the nation’s first distillery to become certified with Climate Neutral, a nonprofit association that works to decrease global carbon emissions by getting brands to measure, offset and reduce the carbon they emit. According to Will Drucker, Appalachian Gap’s head of hustle, it was a logical next step. “At this point it would almost be an expectation for existing customers that we’re just continuing to improve our performance and continue on our journey towards greater and greater sustainability,” says Drucker. As climate change forces humanity to carefully consider its carbon footprint and impact on future generations, many distilleries are joining the push for a more sustainable world. While demand for earth-friendly products rises, so rises the number of organizations offering certifications that businesses and their products are green. Here is a glimpse at some of these organizations, as well as some additional sustainability initiatives from American craft distillers. CERTIFIED B CORPORATIONS Certified B Corporations (B Corps) are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. The assessment evaluates how a company’s operations and business model impacts workers, community, environment and customers. Of the nearly 4,000 Certified B Corps, less than a handful are American distilleries, including Fair Game Beverage Co., Headframe Spirits and Montanya Distillers. “We’re local economy freaks and local ingredient freaks and that has been our mission. It just fits into the B Corp model nicely,” says Lyle Estill of Fair Game Beverage, which makes wine and spirits in Pittsboro, North Carolina. “It’s an alternative to Wall Street if you will, or an alternative to big commodity, big corporate— well—greed. We’re more about mission.” Estill says the assessment “challenges your belief systems and your company’s practices and it takes work.” One recent challenge occurred in the company’s tasting room, which


The Match Factory, which dates back to the early 1900s, houses Big Spring Spirits in Pennsylvania.

also sells craft beer and cider from North Carolina. But as some breweries are beginning to package beer in plastic-wrapped cans, Estill has been forced to stop selling some products. “I’m not going to carry plastic because they’re not recyclable and I don’t want products on my shelf that I’m selling to consumers that can’t be recycled.” Although the assessment can be difficult to attain, Estill recommends that all companies use B Corp’s free impact assessment tool. “It’s like holding up a mirror to your company, staring in the mirror for a while,” says Estill. “I think everybody who’s in business should do it just as a learning experience.” CLIMATE NEUTRAL When leaders from Appalachian Gap Distillery surveyed organizations focused on carbon neutrality, they gravitated toward Climate Neutral because it was associated with consumer-facing products, including some that shared their same ethos. Another important factor was Climate Neutral’s user-friendly Brand Emissions Estimator, an online tool that helps companies measure their carbon footprints from cradle to customer. That includes Scope 1 (direct greenhouse gas emissions like fuel for vehicles and natural gas), Scope 2 (indirect emissions like purchased electricity) and Scope 3 (upstream and downstream emissions that are essentially the Scope 1 and 2 emissions for other businesses in a company’s supply chain). The measurement process revealed that the distillery could reduce emissions from powering its steam system by switching from natural gas to renewable natural gas derived largely from local farms. It also revealed the depth of Scope 3 emissions. “We realized that our Scope 3 emissions were about three times as large as our direct emissions from the distillery,” says Drucker, “which were predominantly natural gas and commuting, driving to farmers markets, driving to visit new markets. And those are harder emissions because we can’t control those directly, not until trucking fleets electrify or use renewable natural gas or biogas.” The initial certification process took several months, and Appalachian Gap (and all brands certified Climate Neutral) must repeat the process annually to recertify. The distillery offset the equivalent of 59 metric tons of carbon dioxide by purchasing carbon credits, which will support nature-based projects such as encouraging sustainable agriculture and protecting important ecosystems. The

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distillery has also switched to using 100% recycled glass bottles, and with the new look Appalachian Gap will tout its carbon neutrality on the label. “Our plan is to make a neck tag to go on the bottle with [the Climate Neutral] label and a QR code so for people at the shelf making a decision about what to bring home, that will take them to the sustainability page on our website.” PLASTIC NEUTRAL In Crested Butte, Colorado, Montanya Distillers continues to add to an impressive cache of sustainable practices. To name a few, the distillery is 100% wind powered, offsets its carbon production with Terrapass, uses a biodigester to process organic waste into grey water, and its glass bottle supplier, Owens-Illinois, achieved Cradle to Cradle Certification for its bottles (you can read more about Cradle to Cradle Certification in the January 2021 issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine). One of its most recent initiatives was to become certified Plastic Neutral through rePurpose Global, a plastic credit platform dedicated to reducing waste, reviving lives and restoring nature’s balance. While the certification is relatively new, Montanya founder Karen Hoskin says she had been paying close attention to its growth. She liked that she had the power to pick where Montanya’s credits would go. Montanya chose to support vetted waste management social enterprise CarPe in India (where Hoskin once lived). The partnership will help fund the collection, processing and reuse of more than 1,000 pounds of plastic waste,

equivalent to Montanya’s plastic use. Hoskin liked that rePurpose Global enables its partners to hold them accountable. “If I decided tomorrow that I want to pick up and go and visit the specific project that we’ve chosen to participate in India, I can go and they have to prove and demonstrate to me what they’re doing,” she says.” That accountability factor is equally important to Hoskin when she is choosing where to spend her own personal money. “I don’t typically take [a] company’s words for things,” says Hoskin. “It’s too easy to say I am a sustainable company. It’s unverified. One of the big pet peeves I have in the world of sustainability is just doing a big [public relations] campaign around a goal you’ve set for 2025, or something like that, and then praying that nobody actually circles back to figure out whether you actually did it.” LEED CERTIFICATION When it comes to the actual buildings that house distilleries, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is another badge of honor, as a limited number of distilleries—like Bently Heritage Estate Distillery in Minden, Nevada; Big Spring Spirits in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania; and Mother Earth Spirits in Kinston, North Carolina—have earned the designation. Recognizing buildings worldwide, LEED was started by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council and its mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.

“At this point it would almost be an expectation for existing customers that we’re just continuing to improve our performance and continue on our journey towards greater and greater sustainability.” —Will Drucker of Appalachian Gap Distillery

rePurpose Global is a plastic credit platform that allows participating companies to choose where their credits go.

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Appalachian Gap Distillery became the first distillery in the nation to be certified by the group Climate Neutral.


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Marble Distilling Co. is aiming to achieve net-zero electricity by the end of 2022.

“We have built a really loyal following of people who care about the planet, believe in climate change, don’t want to stop drinking and are now aligned with Marble.”

—Connie Baker of Marble Distilling Co.

Big Spring’s road to LEED certification is partially thanks to a bit of serendipity, according to proprietor Kevin Lloyd. Before opening in the Match Factory (a building dating back to 1900), the distillery worked with an engineer on some sustainable initiatives to recover heat from the distillation process. The engineer introduced his wife to Lloyd, noting that she worked on LEED certification with large companies and Penn State University. The result is a LEED Gold-certified distillery that is energy efficient, and the distillery works hard to reduce waste, recycle post-consumer disposables, and reuse whatever it can. Lloyd says the process to achieve the certification wasn’t difficult. Mainly, it required a lot of record keeping and working closely with the general contractor. “I think it was very beneficial for us,” says Lloyd. “We think it was the right thing to do. And that’s why we did it.”

not only reclaim heat but reclaim heat from cooling. … Basically, cooling is heat rejection. So they’re able to recapture that energy from the heat rejection which a chiller is just like a big air conditioner. By recapturing that energy in addition to the other energy that we recapture, we’ll be able to get to net zero.” Marble also takes pride in its Water Energy Thermal System (WETS) which captures and reuses the water and heat generated in the distilling process. The system allows Marble to save more than 4 million gallons of water annually, capturing 1.8 billion BTUs of energy, or enough to power 20 homes. To put it another way, Baker says, Marble needs just one liter of water to make one liter of Marble vodka. Consumers take note of those types of

initiatives, says Baker. “We have built a really loyal following of people who care about the planet, believe in climate change, don’t want to stop drinking and are now aligned with Marble,” says Baker. “I’ve had hundreds of people say, ‘I’m never going to drink another vodka. Why should I? This vodka tastes great and you’re doing it the right way. I have children and I want to leave a nice planet behind. I’m going to buy your vodka.’” ■


BEYOND CERTIFICATIONS The previously mentioned certifications represent a drop in the bucket of existing organizations that are helping to make a greener world. And there are countless more initiatives distilleries are practicing, whether it’s producing organic spirits or getting creative with recycling. For every bottle it sells, Los Angelesbased Greenbar Distillery plants a tree with Sustainable Harvest International. At Bently Heritage, all of the distillery’s spent grain and processed water are sent to compost on the land where the distillery grows its grain. Montpelier, Vermont-based Caledonia Spirits—makers of Barr Hill gin and vodka—helps build bee habitats through its Bee’s Knees Week campaign. And when Minneapolis-based Tattersall Distilling recently announced plans to open a production facility in River Falls, Wisconsin, it also revealed that it is working with upcycled ingredient company, NETZRO, to become the first distillery in the country to commercially upcycle spent grain for human consumption. Marble Distilling Co. of Carbondale, Colorado, also has its sights set on an ambitious sustainability goal. In February the distillery, which also runs the on-site Distillery Inn, announced its intent to become a netzero electricity facility by the end of 2022. That will be possible thanks to a growing array of solar panels and by moving to heat pumps. “We have been able to realize that we can get there by removing our chiller and installing heat pumps rather than a chiller,” said Marble co-founder Connie Baker. “So the heat pumps


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Let There Be Light Is Light Whiskey Poised for a Comeback? BY SAM SLAUGHTER

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sk most casual consumers—and even a fair amount of industry professionals— what light whiskey is and you’ll likely get one or two answers. The most popular answer is that it is some sort of diet whiskey, a la products like Skinny Girl Margarita, lower on calories as well as lower on alcohol and flavor. The second most popular answer focuses solely on one part of the previous: Light whiskey is whiskey with a light flavor. As it turns out, light whiskey is, thankfully, neither. Light whiskey was first defined by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s predecessor, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, in 1968 as a category of whiskey that was “produced in the United States at more than 160 proof, on or after January 26, 1968, and stored in used or uncharred new oak containers.” The category was created because American whiskey producers were facing stiff competition from both clear spirits as well as imported whiskies. Because American producers needed to use new barrels and imported whiskies did not—which made the imports cheaper to produce—the producers felt they were at an unfair advantage and something needed to be done. What came of the discussions between the government and American whiskey producers, with the government more or less controlling the show, was this new category, which was described in an April 1971 article in Time as “Pale in color, varying in strength between 80 and 90 proof, and bland-tasting enough to get lost in the mixer, [they] will come to market in July 1972.” When they reached the market four years later, Time continued, there would be an estimated 200 million gallons ready for sale, making up around 10% of the total market. Did light whiskey become the next new whiskey, ushering in an age of spirits with a flavor that fell somewhere between vodka and whiskey? No. Over the next few decades, it faded away in obscurity as vodka continued its reign as king of spirits in the U.S. and whiskey distilleries continued on making bourbons and ryes. The thing is, though, light whiskey is still being made and, while it may not become king of American whiskey, there is a chance, according to some, that it could play a role in the scene moving forward.

lexicon when they were looking for sourced whiskey for projects. “We started our distillery in 2015 and like a lot of distilleries we were going to be purists at first, but then realized we needed capital coming in,” says Rick Molitor, the owner and distiller of New Basin Distilling Co. in Madras,

Oregon. “We were looking for something unusual and unique through a secondary dealer and we found an 8-year American light whiskey out of Kentucky.” This became New Basin’s Strong whiskey, named after an Oregon pioneer (not the proof). The distillery has since released

The name is arguably the biggest barrier for light whiskey entering the market because the whiskeys themselves are not light—they’re not lower in proof and they’re not light tasting.

THE NEW LIGHT WHISKEYS While there are not many light whiskeys being produced today, there are still a growing number as distillers learn about the category. For some distillers, light whiskey entered their


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Dave Schmier of Proof and Wood Ventures

Stronger—which was the same whiskey aged an additional two years and released during the solar eclipse in 2017—and most recently Strongest, again the same whiskey, aged 13 years. Strongest was just named Sip Magazine’s Best Whiskey in the Northwest. Like Molitor, spirits proprietor Dave Schmier also came across light whiskey when he was offered some barrels. For Schmier, it was first a 25-year-old light whiskey. Since then, he’s continued to use light whiskey both as a sipping spirit and as a blending component. For other distillers, such as Jason Barrett, president and head distiller of Black Button Distilling Co. in Rochester, New York, producing light whiskey was a “happy accident.” “We practice double pot distillation and the struggle is at the end of the finishing run, there’s still good usable alcohol, but it’s over 160 proof. Every day we end up with five to seven gallons of light whiskey. It was starting to build up,” he says. After talking to some people and reading up on the TTB rules, Black Button realized what it had was light whiskey. And while it only makes up a very small percentage of the distillery’s total output, Barrett says, Black Button will continue to produce it, as people enjoy it. The issue across the board, though, was the name. When Black Button first released the product, it was called light whiskey, Barrett says. After about a year, though, the distillery changed it to American Straight Whiskey because people kept getting confused. “There’s only so many times you can have the same conversation,” Barrett says. GETTING PAST THE NAME “The name, it just doesn’t sound good,” Schmier says. Molitor agrees. “It sucks,” he says. The name is arguably the biggest barrier for light whiskey entering the market because the whiskeys themselves are not light—they’re not lower in proof and they’re not light tasting. Often, because light whiskeys can age longer thanks to being held in used cooperage, they can develop in ways that other American whiskeys cannot. The key, then, is education. First, consumers would need to get past the name—that will be the biggest barrier. Then, the need will be to show light whiskey’s versatility, both as a sipping spirit, but also as a blending component. To get people to learn more about the world of whiskey, Molitor sees light whiskey as a great entry point. “It’s great for those not familiar with whiskey or just starting to taste. It’s a good start for them to get in there and get the barrel flavor

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down, then they can move on to lower proofed bourbon to learn about the flavor of corn and the influence of wheat and rye, et cetera.” Schmier agrees, noting that the category of light whiskey can be akin to Jameson, and not just because the distilling specs are similar. “Jameson is approachable for people who don’t necessarily want to contemplate whiskey—I don’t mean that in a negative way, either, they just want to enjoy the flavors in front of them,” he says. Another way to build the base knowledge is to bring light to light whiskey’s use as a blending agent. While the idea of blended Scotches and blended single malts pervades already, there needs to be more education around American blended whiskeys that are not destined for the bottom shelf. Whiskeys like William Grant & Son’s Fistful of Bourbon are helping with that education, Schmier says, but more can be done. “From there I think we’ll see greater acceptance of blended whiskeys,” he says. WHAT’S NEXT FOR LIGHT WHISKEY As the whiskey world continues to evolve, and education about the spirit also grows, these experts see a viable space for the light whiskey category. “There’s a tremendous opportunity for an American producer to create a really accessible modern whiskey that could compete with Jameson,” Schmier says. Barrett agrees, though with a caveat, saying that macro trends ultimately dictate what’s going to be popular. “Light whiskey would need a big company to step up and make it a thing, like what happened with rye whiskey a few years ago,” he says. With the right budget and marketing plan, a light whiskey brand could make a name for itself on shelves across the country. Another way light whiskey can be capitalized on, Barrett says, is in the ever-growing RTD category. With taxes on spirits so high, being cognizant of costs can help break into the segment. “With light whiskey you can be conscientious of cost—the cost of barrels can be incredible. The ability to reuse barrels can make for some cost-effective whiskey that can still have great flavor attributes you’re looking for in a canned cocktail,” he says. Regardless of its application, if light whiskey were to have a resurgence in popularity, it’s still a few years off. “There’s some real opportunities for light whiskey; they just haven’t blossomed yet,” Barrett says. ■



Rick Molitor of New Basin Distilling Co.

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member spotlight

From Delta Blues to High Spirits With a mission to support live music, Cathead Distillery hits the right notes in Mississippi. BY JON PAGE

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Richard Patrick, Phillip Ladner and Austin Evans


he plan for Mississippi’s first legal distillery hatched late one night on a tailgate in the Delta. When the idea first struck Austin Evans and Richard Patrick, the pair of friends were in Evans’ home state for a music festival. The year was 2006, or maybe 2007—their memories are understandably foggy, on account of the late hour of a conversation fueled by cheap beer and whiskey. But this much is clear: that night was a seminal event for Evans and Patrick, who first met in business school at the University of Alabama. “Sitting on that tailgate … the whole world kind of made sense for a second,” recalls Evans. “Sometimes it just all kind of makes sense and you wake up the next morning and it still makes a lot of sense. … It was the starting gate for the whole business.” That the idea originated after a concert was an added bonus, given their shared love for live music. “The fact that we were at a blues festival in the Delta and the word cathead is a blues tem, it just all hit all at the same time,” says Patrick. “It was very foggy but very clear of what we wanted to do from there on.” More than a decade later, Jackson-based Cathead Distillery is a thriving business with a philanthropic mission to “support live music,” which is written on each bottle of the distillery’s flagship vodka. With distiller Phillip Ladner guiding the back of the house, Cathead strives to create spirits with a Southern flair, like Hoodoo Chicory LIqueur and Honeysuckle Vodka. And Evans and Patrick have received national acclaim, as they were named semifinalists for a James Beard Award in 2020. But long before Evans and Patrick sold their first bottle or hosted an on-site concert, they had to navigate opening a distillery in the last state to repeal its statewide Prohibition law in 1966. Today, distilleries in Mississippi can serve cocktails from their tasting rooms, but when Evans and Patrick were starting Cathead, the laws were much less friendly. “When we started we weren’t even allowed to advertise our location,” says Patrick. “The law was so gray that it didn’t offer room for legally allowing tours and tastings.” Prior to opening, the business partners remember a series of meetings with the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) board to discuss laying the groundwork for a distillery. Evans says he and Patrick looked like “basically beach bums with long hair and flip flops,” and Patrick says members of the ABC


“When we started we weren’t even allowed to advertise our location. The law was so gray that it didn’t offer room for legally allowing tours and tastings.” —Richard Patrick of Cathead Distillery

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“looked at us like we had 10 heads.” But over time, the ABC worked with Evans and Patrick to pave the way for Cathead. “I think it took four or five meetings where we had to prove our dedication to it,” says Evans. “Eventually we got them to start thinking realistically that we were actually going to pursue this, that we were knowledgeable enough about the industry and the tax system in Mississippi. … They did a fantastic job working with us.” Another important meeting took place by chance more than 2,000 miles away from the distillery. Ladner is a native of Long Beach, Mississippi, and an Ole Miss graduate who

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made wine before he started distilling at Stillwater Spirits in Petaluma, California, where he also started co-teaching a class on distilling for the American Distilling Institute (ADI). He was quietly plotting a return to his home state, with the hopes of opening its first distillery. Then, a Google alert for “Mississippi distillery” dashed his dream. “It was an article about these two guys that had started the first legal distillery in Mississippi since Prohibition,” says Ladner. “It was called Cathead. I remember reading it and showing it to my wife and being like, ‘These guys figured it out. How did they figure this thing out?’” Months later, Evans and Patrick showed

up for an ADI class oblivious to Ladner’s pedigree and dreams. By the end of the week, Evans and Patrick were plotting a path to bring Ladner on board, which they did officially in 2012. “Sometimes the world just spins and you land in the right spot at the right point in time,” says Evans. “Leaving the airport, me and Richard were like, [Phillip] would be the perfect fit for what we need.” Ladner, meanwhile, made peace with not opening the state’s first distillery. “If I couldn’t have the first distillery in Mississippi,” says Ladner, “why not be the first distiller since Prohibition, right?” Cathead had already launched its vodka by the time Ladner joined the distillery, but he made his own impression in the years that followed. Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka is made with natural honeysuckle flavoring; Bitter Orange Vodka includes satsumas; and Hoodoo Chicory Liqueur is made with real roasted chicory root, which is native to Mississippi. “We’re all from the South, so a lot of the products that I started coming up with are just relative to growing up in the South,” says Ladner. Cathead also makes Bristow Gin, a new line of ready-to-drink cocktails and Old Soul Bourbon. While Old Soul is currently a blend of sourced and in-house distilled whiskey, Cathead has plans to start releasing some of its whiskey that is 100% distilled and aged for four years in Mississippi. “Those are tasting great right now,” says Ladner. “[We’re] just letting them get to their peak and make sure they’re ready for the market.” Also on the distant horizon, visitors to Cathead can expect to see signs of expansion, and maybe even an on-site restaurant. Clearly, the distillery—and the laws in the state—have come a long way from Cathead’s opening in 2010. In those early days, Evans and Patrick visited every liquor store in the state. Had someone told them that they would eventually be semifinalists for a James Beard Award, Patrick says they would have laughed as they traveled the state, living out of a car and eating beef jerky. Evans wouldn’t have believed it. “We were so far into getting the day done and the work done that was in front of us—so far in the trenches that we weren’t looking anywhere else than what was on our current windshield,” says Evans. “Getting that phone call a few years ago was just … so humbling and numbing. … Never, ever in my mind did I think that we could potentially qualify for such a high status of recognition.” ■



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distilling destinations

THEIR WAY New Jersey craft distilleries eye potential for growth. BY JOHN HOLL


he earliest known distilleries in New Jersey go back to the 1600s, but despite that spirited history, the current industry is small and in its craft infancy stage, owners say. But there is potential for widespread greatness again. The Garden State, as it is known, has

lagged behind neighboring states like Pennsylvania and New York when it comes to craft spirits production, with laws only being passed in 2013 that allowed small entrepreneurs to do business. Spirits lag behind both breweries and wineries in numbers and recognition. Currently there are about two dozen

distilleries operating in the state. “People say we are sassy and driven, fair minded and scrappy,” says Ray Disch of Sourland Mountain Spirits in Hopewell. “People like scrappy.” Disch, who like many others, is experiencing growth again as vaccination rates are up

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“People say we are sassy and driven, fair minded and scrappy. People like scrappy.”

Ray Disch of Sourland Mountain Spirits

and restrictions are lifted, made it through a lean year by producing hand sanitizer, and thinking about a long-term strategic plan that will increase distribution and tie into the New Jersey pride and spirit. Since the spring, distilleries have been able to set up and sell direct to consumers at farmer’s markets, and that has been a boon for business. “We’re all in a push to grow the industry,” says Disch. “People are ready.” It’s the strong agricultural background of the state—often overlooked because of the view from Newark Liberty International Airport—that many of the distillers are relying on for both their spirits and cocktails. “Jersey is the Garden State. If grapes are to Napa, then corn is to New Jersey. Corn makes whisky,” says Geoff Karch, the founder and distiller of the Colts Neck Stillhouse Co. He is trying to source as many locally grown products as possible and putting them into both tasting room cocktails and a line of RTD cocktails that launched earlier this year. Karch, like many others, gained an interest in opening a distillery over the past decade. His operation, one of a handful that also opened within walking distance or on the same property as a brewery, was the first since Prohibition to open in Colts Neck, home of the country’s oldest licensed

distillery: Laird & Co. Long synonymous with the apple orchards that once dotted the farmlands of central New Jersey, the company’s famed Applejack is now distilled out of state, but corporate offices remain on the family farm. Lisa Laird Dunn, COO and global ambassador of the distillery and part of the ninth generation of the family to helm the business, says a planned visitor’s center in New Jersey could be open by 2022 to tell the story of the


—Ray Disch of Sourland Mountain Spirits on the state’s craft distillers

family, apples, farming and drinks history. “People think that bourbon is the American spirit,” she says. “Applejack was here first.” Even with its relative youth, there are several distillers that are eager to harken back to the past, both their own and the state in general. Andy Karas of the Asbury Park Distilling Co. says his grandfather was a bootlegger during Prohibition. Aleksandr Zhdanov, co-CEO and head distiller of 3BR Distillery, is creating spirits based on old

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3BR’s spirits are inspired by old family recipes.

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Mark Ganter (right) with his late brother and co-founder Eric Ganter

family recipes, including one that is distilled from garden peas. “We are so close to New York, and that’s a big market, there is a lot of curiosity about what we are doing,” Zhdanov says. Karas notes that there is national interest in what New Jersey is doing, with intrigued customers reaching out following the distillery’s double gold medal and best of class recognition at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. COVID-19 was a setback, but moving forward Karas and others believe that

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cocktails will help bring recognition to New Jersey-made spirits. The state has a vibrant bar and restaurant scene and its proximity to Manhattan and Philadelphia—cities known for inventive and fine dining—mean opportunities for spirits made with locally grown herbs, fruits and more can find a place on trendy menus. Many of New Jersey’s distilleries are eyeing out-of-state expansion as well as direct shipping to consumers beyond the state lines. There are still battles to be fought at the state house as well. The New Jersey Craft Distillers Guild has a number of challenges

ahead of it to bring equity to its members in the state’s drink industry as well as facing competition from neighboring states and large national brands that dominate the airwaves and have their hooks in the sands along the restaurants of the popular Jersey Shore. When it comes to marketing dollars “perception is reality,” says Mark Ganter, the CEO of Little Water Distillery in Atlantic City. To succeed, Ganter says he is focused on not treating the business as local, but a distillery “that is producing high quality spirits, with exceptional value and pricing.” Authenticity is also key. “We also have to go after one customer at a time,” says Ganter. “Every impression we make is valuable and we have to make it positive. It’s a good way to grow.” In Trenton, the state capital, the guild is trying to work with and educate lawmakers on the value and potential of a robust distilling industry and fighting for a more fair tax rate. Conversations are happening, if not slow going, says Mark Elia of Long Branch Distillery, but there is movement in the right direction. “If we can push legislation forward, get our customers on board with support, while trying to showcase what we’re doing and making, I think there is a lot of potential for the craft distilling industry in the state,” he says. “Right now the entrance barrier is high for small distilleries, we want to make it a little easier.” ■


Mark Elia of Long Branch Distillery


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Kelly Lynch and Bill Tambussi of Asbury Park Distilling Co.

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raw materials

VOICE OF THE BEEHIVE Seven facts every distiller should know about honey BY JEFF CIOLETTI

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For those curious about honey as a distillate, a botanical, a flavoring or a sweetener, the National Honey Board has been actively engaging with the craft spirits community through a series of Honey Spirits Summits. After attending one myself a couple of months back, I followed up with the Board, as well as some of the leading creators of honey spirits in the U.S. to help us offer a quick primer on this ancient, bee-made ingredient. And we’ve distilled that down to seven pertinent points. There’s massive diversity in honey. There are roughly 300 different varieties of honey across America and about 3,000 worldwide.

“If you think about honey and where the flavor comes from, every honey technically is different,” says Keith Seiz, ingredient marketing representative for the National Honey Board. “It’s influenced mainly by where the bees extract the nectar. The nectar is what determines the variety, determines the color, the flavor.” The honey industry uses the Pfund color grading system to identify the color of each variety, ranging from the palest to the darkest: extra water white, water white, white, extra light amber, light amber, amber and dark amber. Typically, the darker the honey, the more robust in flavor and aroma it is. Sometimes there can be hints of barnyard-y funk in some of the more assertive varieties.

Honey has a complex composition. There are a total of 181 different components within honey, according to the National Honey Board, including carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, prebiotics, bacteria—all naturally added to the honey by the honeybee. Honey has been used in beverage alcohol for a lot longer than you think. There’s evidence that honey was used as a fermentation substrate for alcohol as far back as 7000 BCE—a full 9,000 years ago. Terroir plays a role in flavor diversity. “In my mind [honey] is the very definition of terroir,” says Ryan Christiansen, president and head distiller at Caledonia Spirits in

Keith Seiz of the National Honey Board


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Montpelier, Vermont, whose portfolio includes Barr Hill Vodka, distilled from raw honey, and Barr Hill Gin, which includes honey as the only botanical other than juniper. “We think of our partnership with bees as just another way that we can extract the flavor of the region.” Bees gathering nectar in an orange grove in Florida are going to make an orange blossom honey that’s different from the one that they make from nectar gathered in essentially the same orange grove in California. The humidity in Florida and the relative lack thereof in California has considerable influence on the honey’s ultimate character. “Moisture has a lot to do with nectar,” Seiz explains. “And obviously in Florida you have a lot more moisture than you do in California.” That, combined with the soil, will play a significant role in the final product. “Is the soil rich in certain minerals, has it been a wet season, has it been a dry season?” Seiz notes. To be sure, the differences would be subtle, but people likely would be able to discern them if they’re tasting the two different orange blossom honeys side by side. It probably would be a bit harder to pick out in a distillate.

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Honeybees are very efficient creatures. The bees are going to fly to their nearest source of food and when that nectar’s depleted, they’re going to move on to the next closest area. “They’re not going to go over rows and rows of trees and go somewhere else—if it’s there, they’re going to get it,” Seiz says. They tend to stick to about a four-mile radius from a hive and throughout their very limited lifespan—only about four to six weeks—they fly a total of about 500 miles, having visited some 20,000 flowers. After that, their wings stop working and they die. The earliest evidence of bees can be traced back about 100 million years. Modern honeybees likely didn’t make it to North America until 1622—though fossil evidence says a now-extinct prehistoric breed of honeybee may have been here 14 million years ago. The main three bees in North America are European or Western, Africanized and Italian. The Italian variety, the National Honey Board says, tend to be easier to work with because they’re relatively docile.

The yeast requires additional nutrition when fermenting. Generally, honey has a pH of around 3.9, give or take, with gluconic contributing much of its acidity. Other acids present include acetic, butyric, citric and lactic, as well as a smaller amount of amino acids. The acidity contributes to honey’s stability, keeping wild yeast and bacteria at bay. You’re going to need a slightly higher pH for fermentation. To get it into the sweet-spot fermentation range of 4.7 to 5.4 pH, you’ll need to “feed” it with things like nitrogen, minerals and vitamins. “Honey has an inconsistent nutritional value,” says Christiansen. “If it’s not supplemented with [additional] nutritional supply, the yeast is just naturally going to be strained. If you don’t get the nutritional values correct, you just lose the wash’s ability to self-buffer. As its pH starts to reduce, you’ll see violent swings that lead to stress on the honey.” Randy Mann, co-founder of Up North Distillery in Post Falls, Idaho, will often add baking soda to get the pH in the proper zone. A 55-gallon drum of honey combined with around 280 gallons of water typically requires one package of Arm & Hammer baking soda, Mann notes. Up North’s Honey Spirits line includes a clear, unaged spirit distilled from 100% honey, as well as Barrel Finished Honey Spirits, aged for 1 to 2 years in American oak; Barrel Reserve Honey Spirits, aged for 2 to 3 years in American oak and Cask-Strength Single Barrel Honey Spirits. Honey’s character expresses itself whether it’s the substrate or a flavor Ingredient. For the best illustration of this assertion at work, compare the character of two different gins—one with honey as the base substrate for the spirit and the other, which uses honey as a botanical. The former is from Hatch Distilling in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin, with a 100% raw honey base, and the latter is the aforementioned Barr Hill Gin from Caledonia Spirits. “The base spirit [of Hatch Gin] is a neutral spirit distilled from honey and then they add juniper and spruce tips and that’s it,” says Seiz. “And it’s such a mind-blowingly good gin and an overall good product.” Seiz is equally effusive about Barr Hill Gin. “Barr Hill isn’t using [honey] as a distillate, but they’re using honey and juniper as the only two botanicals and it’s really an excellent use of honey because it really showcases what a flavorful [ingredient] honey is beyond sweetness.” ■


“In my mind [honey] is the very definition of terroir.” —Ryan Christiansen of Caledonia Spirits

WISE ON WASTE A primer for distilleries on successful waste management BY AMY BAUER

The regulation of solid and hazardous wastes is a highly prescriptive maze of technical requirements that changes with the specific type of waste; the rate and amount of waste generated; and the state where operations are located. Distillery business managers and operators should become familiar with proper waste management and emergency procedures for regulated wastes. Every facility manager, no matter the size or type of industry, should: • Gain general awareness of the types and

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characteristics of regulated wastes. • Have a basic understanding of regulated waste management requirements, and recognize the resources required for effective management of regulated wastes. • Introduce strategies for reducing the risk and regulatory burden of managing regulated wastes. This summary of regulated waste requirements will get you thinking about managing and reducing the regulatory burden as much as possible.

Production Waste

• Distillery sludge • Spent grains • Distillery effluent— spent wash/stillage

What is regulated waste? The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) contains the federal solid waste statutes and amendments that established the framework for a national system of solid waste control. Nearly everything we leave behind—solid, liquid, or gas—is a waste that must be controlled from the time it is generated until its disposal. RCRA Subtitle D is dedicated to non-hazardous solid waste requirements, and RCRA Subtitle C focuses on hazardous solid waste.

Operational/ Maintenance Waste • Used or obsolete chemicals, such as cleaning products • Used oil • Spent light bulbs • Spent batteries

Unexpected Waste

• Spills of high proof alcohol or water treatment chemicals • Obsolete product or chemical


Solid waste may be hazardous waste based on either the source of the waste or the characteristics of the waste. Many small businesses, including distilleries, are not aware they generate hazardous waste. Items like light bulbs and batteries, used oil and solvents from equipment maintenance, and paints and paint thinners from facility maintenance may be hazardous waste. The way a facility is regulated depends on the amount of hazardous waste generated each calendar month. As with any generator of solid waste, a distillery must accurately determine if the waste is hazardous. This means the distillery generating the solid waste must know the source of the waste or the identifying characteristics of the waste to determine if it is hazardous. Other laws and regulations can affect your regulated waste and/or hazardous waste program. The Department of Transportation (DOT), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Clean Water Act (CWA) have regulations regarding hazardous waste. Specifically: • DOT regulates the transportation of hazardous materials, including hazardous waste. • OSHA regulates the use of hazardous solvents, but not solvent hazardous wastes. However, employers must still protect employees through other applicable OSHA standards such as hazard communication and personal protective equipment. • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized that more than one environmental program could apply to a single waste stream at a facility. As a result, EPA established the wastewater treatment unit exemption from RCRA requirements to avoid duplication of CWA requirements for hazardous wastewater. What regulated wastes are generated by distilleries? Distillery waste can be broken down into three main categories: • Production waste, which is generated from producing the product (i.e., alcohol) • Operational/maintenance waste (e.g., waste generated from cleaning or maintaining vessels and the facility) • Unexpected waste (e.g., spills, obsolete product, or chemicals) Alcohol production generates solid and liquid wastes that must be managed properly.




YES 2. Is the waste excluded from the definition of solid waste or hazardous waste? NO 3. Is the waste a listed or characteristic hazardous waste?



YES 4. Is the waste delisted?

Not all solids and liquids can be handled the same way—a one-size-fits-all approach does not apply to waste management. Management of each waste depends on the process, the product and the location, but you go through the same step-by-step process for each: Determine what the waste is (i.e., characterize the waste) and determine how you will manage it (i.e., dispose of, reuse, or recycle). Ethanol production generates wastewater as spent wash or raw effluent. Whether this material is land applied (i.e., spread on soil surface or incorporated/injected into the soil), discharged to a sewer under the CWA, or managed by some other means, it must all be characterized, properly treated if necessary and managed under the approval of the receiving facility. Ignitable wastes—which can be liquid, solid or gas—have their own criteria. If the ignitable waste is a liquid, it is hazardous waste. The only exception is if the liquid is a solution containing less than 24% alcohol by volume, and is at least 50% water by weight, and has a flash point of less than 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit), then it is not a hazardous waste. What if you have a spill of high-proof alcohol or waste treatment chemicals? What then? Any mixture of this with other materials (including spill-response equipment) must be characterized and disposed of properly. A variety of harmful chemical and cleaning products can be found in distilleries, and possibly identified as hazardous waste if discarded (including those empty containers if not properly emptied).

The material is not subject to RCRA Subtitle C regulation


The waste is subject to RCRA Subtitle C regulation

Less Waste Means Less Regulation Strategies for reducing the regulatory burden and risks of regulated wastes include: • Identify all waste streams. • Know exclusions and exemptions; reuse and recycle when possible. • Strategize waste generation, generating the least amount of waste possible, and use regulatory mechanisms, such as episodic generation when needed. Conducting a waste audit will not only identify if you are complying with requirements but will highlight areas where more efficient use of materials may lead to producing less waste. The best course of action for every distillery is to identify and understand the requirements for each type of waste generated and introduce strategies for reducing the risk and regulatory burden of managing regulated wastes. ■

Amy Bauer is a Certified Professional Environmental Auditor (CPEA) and a senior compliance specialist for EHS Support, an environmental, health, and safety consultancy headquartered in Pittsburgh. Its mission is to provide sustainable, environmental, health and safety solutions with a commitment to unparalleled customer service.

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Sales & Marketing

KNOW YOUR FACEBOOK AUDIENCE A digital marketer offers creative tips for Facebook advertising. BY KIM NGUYEN

The alcohol industry faces many challenges when it comes to digital marketing, from limitations in capabilities to high advertising costs. The rising interest in purchasing alcohol online and the increased competition in the space has been one of the biggest drivers of those increased costs. So how do you get the most out of your ad dollar on Facebook and Instagram? From the more than 240 alcohol beverage brands that we work with at Speakeasy Co., the most successful companies leveraging Facebook advertising have identified their core audiences to target and market to online. If you’re having trouble identifying key characteristics to target in your Facebook advertising, here are a few places to start. TARGET NON-CONVENTIONAL INTEREST TARGETS Let’s say, you’ve narrowed in on the obvious interest categories that are most relevant to your end product. In our world, that would mean people who are interested in whiskey, vodka or “distilled beverages” for example. The next step is to target interest categories that are complementary to your brand. Think about your ideal customers. Who are they? What do they do in their free time? What do they care about? For example, if your brand takes extra care to be environmentally conscious through the entire supply chain process from the product creation to packaging, try targeting the sustainability interest category on Facebook and Instagram. When crafting your ads targeting these users, ensure that your messaging is relevant to that interest category. Using the previous example, mentioning that your packaging is biodegradable would be the key product differentiator among other

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like-brands, and will resonate specifically with the Sustainability interest users. CREATE LOOKALIKE AUDIENCES FROM YOUR EMAIL LIST Facebook allows you to upload an email list that you’ve gathered from either your website or tasting room to create a custom audience to target on its platform. Once the upload is complete, you’ll have the option to create a lookalike audience from this custom audience list. Creating a lookalike audience will prompt Facebook to find and deliver your ads to users who share common qualities to the users in your list. In a nutshell, if you upload a list of your best customers, Facebook will try to find more people who could be potentially new “best customers.” LEVERAGE YOUR SOCIAL ENGAGERS Rather than attempting to only acquire new users to purchase your product, leverage your existing fans and followers to drive additional sales. People who have taken any action on your existing organic posts or ads are more likely to re-engage if presented with another ad. Create two new custom audiences that are specific to the users who have interacted with your brand on both Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to select the option, “Target users who have recently interacted with a post or ad.” Creating this audience segment will allow you to get your brand in front of them again, and help drive these users further down your purchase funnel. CONCLUSION Of course, there are plenty of other useful custom and lookalike audiences to leverage for your Facebook ads, but these are a

It is highly recommended to continually test new audiences to find your perfect marketing mix. fantastic place to start! It is highly recommended to continually test new audiences to find your perfect marketing mix. If you’d like to start selling your spirits online and reach a wider national audience, our team at Speakeasy Co. can help! We handle the technology, warehousing and fulfillment of an e-commerce store, enabling you to start selling direct-to-consumer (where applicable) while staying three-tier compliant. We also offer digital advertising services to drive traffic to your brand’s site using our industry knowledge to help scale your business. See how we can help grow your brand at ■

Kim Nguyen is a data-driven digital marketer who has worked in the realm of digital marketing for e-commerce brands for over 10 years in industries ranging from automotives to travel to consumer packaged goods.



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TOP FORM & FUNCTION Part two of our closure series spotlights innovations from Tapi. BY JEFF CIOLETTI

A bottle’s closure says as much about the distiller’s intentions as any production description on a company website could. Different spirits categories and different segments within those categories often have disparate messages to convey and—not to get too McLuhan-esque on you here—the medium (ie: the closure material) that they choose is the message. As part of our occasional series on package closures, we checked in with Tapi USA to detail how its product line helps craft spirits producers communicate an array of brand attributes to a range of target consumers. “The selection of your décor and finish really equate to the end consumer who you are trying to attract,” says Leah Hutchinson, midwest sales manager for Tapi USA. “Probably, this is less a question about spirits brands and more a question about the desired

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end consumer of the brands. There are design cues which customers hit on to identify products to which they’re attracted.” Aged and what Hutchinson calls “more refined” spirits—think higher-end bourbons—are typically associated with deeper stained wood tops and heavier pieces like a weighted metal zamac. Consumers looking for a contemporary-style gin or flavored vodka might gravitate to a lighter color plastic top. Distillers pursuing an agricultural look that says organic or really wanting to play up certain botanicals may consider a natural raw wood top with a rough laser engraving. For a more urban or cosmopolitan look, shiny, reflective aluminum or clear could be the way to go. “The trend for premiumization and competition for shelf space continue to drive brands to develop unique and high-quality designs,”

says Hutchinson. “More and more of our customers are working with designers to help stand out in the fight for shelf space and to create products that enhance their on-site distillery image.” But beyond design aesthetics, closure suppliers and their customers are focused, now more than ever on the supply chain. “When you look at what our customers are asking from us now, they’re looking for supply,” says Tapi USA general manager Kevin Dunbar. “The pandemic has brought the supply chain into sharper perspective for these customers.” Pre-COVID, Dunbar says, the industry could rely on a wide range of points of origins from which to procure materials. “As things have tightened and as demand has increased, all of a sudden everyone all of a sudden everyone had to make sure they


“More and more of our customers are working with designers to help stand out in the fight for shelf space and to create products that enhance their on-site distillery image.” —Leah Hutchinson of Tapi USA

locked down their supply chain, and that’s what they’re doing,” Dunbar adds. “People are wandering a little less into the new and the cutting edge and they’re just trying to secure their supply chain.” Tapi recently purchased Les Bouchages Delage in Cognac, France, which not only enables the company to expand its premium line of closures, but it adds much-needed capacity to continue to meet spirits producers’ demands. “As the supply chain smooths out, people are going to work harder trying to differentiate themselves,” he says. A number of factors are likely to play into distillers’ differentiation decisions, as Tapi touts a number of new developments in the pipeline. As sustainability continues to be a high priority on producers’ agendas, the economics of going green will become more and more manageable. That means newer, environmentally friendly plastics and an orientation toward compostability and recycling in closure design and manufacturing. Tapi has dubbed its mission LEI—lower environmental impact. “That has to do with more than just recyclability, it’s reusing things,” says Dunbar. “It’s reducing the amount of plastics, it’s using compostable-type materials so that when they go to the landfill they don’t last for such a long time. There are a lot of ways to keep attacking this idea of lowering our environmental impact, it’s not just one method. The idea is to attack it from all angles and see which way provides the most improvement.” ■

TAPI CLOSURES AT A GLANCE ABOR Sustainability is the driving force behind Abor. The closure incorporates waste left over from the distilling process, including grape pomace, agave, malt, sugar cane and corn. LASER TATTOO Highly detailed images can be imprinted on the shank sides, bottom, top sides and top of the closure, in a full range of colors. The Laser Tattoo innovation incorporates a specific new type of plastic that, through heat application, undergoes a change of color. MEKANO The head of the swing-top closure is a thermoplastic resin made up of high-performance technical polymers, while the seal is made from glycol rubber, providing a high gas barrier. The bar and veil are made of composite fiberglass materials constructed with the same durability as aluminum. PANDORA CERAMIC The ceramic closure is designed to capture a classic look in a modern format. PANDORA WOOD The high-end wood closure features a leather insert for an extra touch of class. STARCAP The Starcap features an aluminum head and a leg made of synthetic material. Its simple, refined design is meant to express both elegance and functionality. T-WOOD Elegant minimalism is the objective here. T-Wood is a bar top closure with a wooden head and a leg composed of either synthetic material or cork.


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distribution & Logistics

LEAVING HOME Distillers share their tips for expanding beyond their original states. BY ANDREW KAPLAN

When is the right time to expand into a new state and how do you do it successfully? These are questions that many craft distillers find themselves eventually faced with. Craft distillers have entered new states for all different reasons. Some have driven the expansion themselves into key markets like New York City or Chicago, viewing those places as springboards to broader distribution. But oftentimes, craft distillers find themselves being pulled by market forces—by tourists who have visited their tasting rooms and then returned home and want to continue the relationship, for instance. Or it can be a distributor who learned about their product in some way and is looking to boost their craft spirits portfolio. However, expanding into a new state can be a tricky game to play. Those with a lot of experience say it’s quite easy to get caught up in the excitement that comes with a distributor expressing interest and jumping on the opportunity, only to discover pretty soon that you moved too fast. “I think the biggest thing that many people do is they just rush in,” says Karen Hoskin, founder and owner of Montanya Distillers in Crested Butte, Colorado, whose products are now sold in 44 states. “They feel like it’s such a compliment to be asked or for a distributor to say, ‘Yes.’

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“But,” she then adds, “the risk for the distributor is almost nil.” “It just makes good business sense, right?” adds P.T. Wood, co-founder of Wood’s High Mountain Distillery in Salida, Colorado, whose products are currently in five states. “We love our Colorado distributor and they’re fantastic and a great partner. But it’s always nice to have a little income coming in from multiple places.” Distillers that have successfully expanded their brands into new states say many tend to underestimate just how much work is involved on the part of the distiller to make it work. What follows are some of their experiences, along with examples of mistakes to avoid when expanding into a new state, and ways to reduce the chances of making them. THE BIG MISTAKES One of the biggest mistakes distilleries make is underestimating the amount of resources and focus from them that expanding into a new state will require. It’s not about just signing up with a new distributor and then thinking your job is finished, those who have done it say. For instance, Ann Moran, managing director of industry consultant Thoroughbred Spirits Group, calls ‘launching and leaving,’ a big mistake. “This is where you come in, you launch, and then your whole team goes back

to your home market and you literally don’t have anyone there to support the market and continue to build the brand,” she says. “You definitely do not want to get yourself in a position where you launch and leave. As a supplier you are going to have to do the bulk of the work in the market.” She says it’s important to keep in mind when working with one of the bigger distribution houses that a smaller craft brand will not necessarily be a priority for them. “There’s a lot of excitement when you’re launching a brand,” she says. “The distributor’s excited and it’s very genuine. But if you are not there to keep up that excitement, it quickly fades and then you are simply relying on the distributor that’s just unfortunately not giving your brand the attention that you expect and that it needs.” The fact is a brand needs TLC to sprout roots in a new market. Ryan Christiansen, president and head distiller for Caledonia Spirits in Montpelier, Vermont, whose products are found in 34 states today, likes to adhere to the adage, “Don’t go too wide too fast,” stressing the importance of a methodical approach to growing a brand in a new state. “I think it’s a more rewarding journey—and in the long term the right way—to build it slow,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s about starting conversations that support your brand


“You definitely do not want to get yourself in a position where you launch and leave. As a supplier you are going to have to do the bulk of the work in the market. —Ann Moran of Thoroughbred Spirits Group

and if you’re just scattered in the sea, there’s really nobody talking and thinking about your brand. The product needs people to see it all the way through the three tiers because there’s no shortage of customers [who] want to taste what we’re distilling. It’s just a matter of getting the product through the various layers of commerce.” Colin Keegan, founder of the 11-year-old Santa Fe Spirits in New Mexico, whose products are now sold in 11 states, says he learned early on where the distributor’s role stopped and his began, and the outlay of money that is needed to bring attention for his small brand in a new state. He remembers a learning curve with the first state he expanded into, Colorado. “I presented to the [distributor’s] whole sales force and it went nowhere,” he says. “I mean, we were selling two or three cases a month.” He eventually realized he needed to support the market with more money, boosting his spending for marketing and sales promotions. “And by that I mean discounts on volumes, sales incentives for the salespeople and the distributor, and tastings and sales people. We had to educate ourselves, because sales is very expensive,” he says. After a few years, Santa Fe moved to a smaller distributor which fit its needs better. “We were actually allowed direct access to the sales people, which meant we could tell our story better,” he says. “And when somebody was leaving, they would call up and say, ‘Hey Colin, I’m leaving, here’s my replacement.’ So we could talk to the new guy. That was key to us. That we had the ability to get into the market and tell our story.” Hoskin adds that “mutually understood expectations at the beginning of the relationship” with a distributor are also vital. And even better is finding a distributor that is just as passionate about your brand as you are. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen. She points to her relationship with Cask & Cork Distributing in South Dakota as an example. It began after one of Cask & Cork’s sales reps saw her speak at an industry


event and expressed an interest in carrying Montanya’s rum. “She really got galvanized about the brand and did a lot of hand selling throughout her territory,” Hoskin says. “And then, when she left, those customers not only remained committed to Montanya but they also had customers that were committed and so it created this little organic growth engine.” The result? “They have sold more Montanya Rum than the state of New York or Texas,” she says. “They are just this little engine that could. They do an amazing job; they really do, and that’s not the only example like that. There are others in other states that have done really well for us with zero investment from me.” IT PAYS TO PLAN AHEAD With consolidation in recent years leaving fewer wholesalers as the number of craft brands continues to grow, distillers are under a lot of pressure to make sure they are prepared when the chance to expand into new states arises. “Once you get shelf space, you have to be able to maintain that shelf space,” Wood says. “And if you … lose that shelf space then it’s twice as hard to get it back in the future.” There are no guarantees that things will go smoothly when expanding into a new state, experts say, but you can minimize the chances of big blunders by taking the time to plan ahead. Which is why Moran recommends a detailed route-to-market plan, like the ones she regularly creates with her customers. Such a plan can provide an important framework for expansion into new states, she says. A solid route-to-market plan, Moran says, will logistically and geographically map out the expansion, provide a window into its cost, and predict for you how much manpower and marketing support will be needed. “That plan ensures that you’ve put everything in place, you’ve done all of your research and all of your homework to ensure absolute success,” she says. “We look at all of those things and build them into the plan and into a

model so that we can pull different levers.” Such levers can include how to adjust if sales are lower than anticipated, or higher, and what that means for the level of intended personnel for that market, or for the intended advertising spend or marketing spend. “The plans that we put together have very extensive built-in metrics and evaluation so that you are constantly evaluating where you are,” Moran explains. Basically, a good route-to-market plan can set up the guardrails for the expansion. “You always want to go back to your plan because opening a new market is a massive undertaking,” Moran says. Along with the excitement around expanding into a new market, also comes some drudgery. Each state has its own sets of rules and regulations. So, many find partnering with a good back-office solutions provider can free them up from dealing with such minutiae so they can focus on distilling and other things they’d rather spend their time working on. Park Street, and other such providers, can handle regulatory compliance services to reduce time-to-market. “It would be a headache if I did it myself,” says Hoskin, who uses Park Street. “It would keep me awake at night, for sure, because I couldn’t possibly follow all the deadlines and submissions and requirements of 44 states.” Keegan also recommends really doing your research when working with a new distributor in a state. Ask the distributor for references and reach out to other craft distillers in that state to learn about their experiences. “No one understands the pain of lack of distribution or market access better than a craft distiller, so you want to talk to them,” he says. Many craft distillers, like Keegan himself, will often be happy to pass on what they’ve learned. “I feel for new guys getting into it,” Keegan says, “because I know how much pain and heartache we went through to learn. And I’d like that to be easier for the next guy, you know, even if it is competition. Because, hey, we’re all in this together.” ■

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Technically Speaking

OFF-FLAVORS IN SPIRITS PRODUCTION A biochemist, analytical chemist and sensory specialist offers a cheat sheet on off-flavors in the production of distilled spirits. BY GARY SPEDDING

Ah, where to start? Normally we concentrate on the desirable attributes—aromas and tastes = flavor of our spirits. However, it goes deeper, to a need to understand the origins and controls of such flavors and their descriptors. Moreover, we have a clearer need to understand when things go wrong, and unripe and unsavory aromas and/or tastes assault our senses, either in process, or when more economically expensive, if they end up in the final product. Despite clean separations in distillation, the old adage, garbage in, garbage out must be drilled into our psyche. So, to start with, a couple definitions. Is it a taint or an off-flavor? A taint (while itself can be an off-flavor), as an unpleasant characteristic, is caused by the presence of a chemical that imparts a flavor that is unacceptable/ unusual or is atypical in a food or beverage. A taint is also further regarded as the presence of a substance totally alien to the beverage— giving rise to atypical odors (or flavors) from external sources such as air, water, packaging materials, sanitizers, processing lines, etc. On the other hand, an off-flavor is more traditionally defined as arising from a chemical reaction of a naturally occurring component in the food or beverage (or through internal deteriorative changes) giving rise to an atypical or unwanted compound with an undesirable or unexpected taste (depending upon the amount present and its detection threshold concentration). Oxidation of products on the shelf is also an important concept to keep in mind. While the definitions go deeper, metabolic activities of microbes (yeast, molds and bacteria) can give rise to both desirable flavors, off-flavors and, by certain criteria, reaction chemistries, and definitions, to taints. From raw materials and water, through all processes, including milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation—plus packaging—care must be taken to end up with the right flavor profile and avoid the sensory

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or even bad (toxic) off-notes. Thus, in short order and space, we cover now just a few of the off-flavors associated with spirits. Taints. Compounds arising from molds and or bacteria, and from water or reactions between metabolic compounds and chlorine (hence sanitizers, bleach) et cetera, include trichloroanisole (TCA), methylisoborneol (MIB) and geosmin (common names). Geosmin and MIB are known to cause powerful earthy, beetroot-like and musty aromas, and are produced by certain aquatic microorganisms. Odor active in parts per trillion amounts, once present in the process or spirit, cannot be removed. In certain geographical regions even treated domestic city water supplies will show a seasonal signature of these aromas, so care over the selection and use of water sources for distilling—for process and washing—is needed. Such taints can also arise from a heavy use of chlorine cleaners and a lack of mold control in the distillery. The strongly earthy and musty/moldy aromatic (cork taint) notes of TCA arise from its formation from a fungal metabolite known as trichlorophenol (details covered in extensive on-line notes and resources). Spoiled grains can also harbor molds and subsequently liberate potent moldy aroma/flavor compounds. Off-flavors (aromas and taste = flavor). Can arise from most chemical classes of compounds. A few are covered here. Acids: two considered here—acetic and butyric. Acetic acid with a key role in ester formation (see below) conveys the sour, acetic/vinegar note and is associated with aerobic contaminating bacteria: Acetobacter. Care is, therefore, needed with open fermentations and control to prevent ingress of unwanted microbes from the environment or as carried in via raw materials. Butyric acid with a yummy descriptor, “baby vomit,” or with acidic, sour, sharp-cheesy, dairy, creamy, rancid butter odor notes is also produced

(along with acetic acid) in contaminated ferments, or if certain bacteria are present in low-temperature mashing. Once present, they’re difficult to remove. They may also be produced in contaminated high fructose corn syrups and other sugar sources. Acrolein: aka acrylic aldehyde, is a compound not as often seen today as an issue in most spirits, but very noticeable and problematic if it is. With a piercing disagreeable odor—peppery, hot/acrid or horseradish—it is a lachrymator, it brings tears to the eyes. It may be noted in poorer grain neutral spirit or in fruit brandy or apple-based ferments and the resultant spirit today, or if spirit is made from wine that has sat on the lees too long. It is associated with glycerol metabolism and specific species of bacteria. However, a sharp pungency in spirits today might also be related to sulfur compounds, though little definitive research has been done on this topic (see under Sulfur compounds below). Aldehydes: Acetaldehyde, in particular, largely originates from poor fermentations. It may, however, also be produced during maturation in wood. A more troubling route is via Acetobacter bacterial contamination of mashes—green, grassy and apple notes (bruised apples), ethereal (catches the breath), latex paint and florists’ shop-like notes here. It’s considered toxic and, therefore, is regulated to certain tolerances depending upon regulatory agency and type of spirit. Esters: These mostly convey desirable attributes—fruity and fragrant. However, if overproduced or not removed during rectification, they can be too much. Ethyl acetate is the most common ester and is composed of ethanol and an activated form of acetic acid. This ester presents with a little fruity lift if at acceptable levels but rises to an acetone, solventy, paint thinner-like note at high concentration. It’s produced during high-temperature and high-gravity fermentations. Its boiling


point being similar to that of ethanol means a careful heads-to-hearts rectification cut. Unfortunately, many craft spirits can carry this component as a signature fault. Higher alcohols: the fusel alcohols (oils) can also be offensive if they are at too high of a concentration (especially the odor and taste of isoamyl and active amyl alcohols considered unpleasant). They’re produced under poor fermentation conditions and present from an inefficient distillation separation—in the tails fraction of the distillate, along with the cheesy and rancid fatty acids. In some spirits this complex mix of compounds can have some desirable notes and qualities though.


From raw materials and water, through all processes, including milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation— plus packaging—care must be taken to end up with the right flavor profile and avoid the sensory or even bad (toxic) off notes. Ketones: the key here being diacetyl (2,3 butanedione). Odor/flavor active in the low parts per billion concentration, this is the oilyslick compound (tactile sensation) described as buttery, butterscotch or movie popcorn.

It’s more prevalent than desired, and many distillers refuse to admit that is in their spirits. Notable more so in white spirits—vodka and gins—as a defect but may be somewhat desirable if at suitable levels in buttery rums

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and certain other brown spirits. In contrast to desirable caramel-like notes, if diacetyl is present it grows to be more annoying, intense and sickly with repeated sips. It’s produced from fermentation activities and from bacterial spoilage and can be controlled with the brewer’s method of a diacetyl rest. However, precursors to diacetyl can be converted to diacetyl rapidly during early stages of distillation when heat is applied. The similar boiling point to ethanol means little chance or removal during rectification. For the Japanese spirit shochu, the potent buttery note of diacetyl is said to induce the condition known as tsuwarishu (“morning sickness smell”). Sulfur compounds—a complex topic. In view of the brevity of this article, we finish with just a few notes about sulfur compounds—with facts based on experimental experience or communications with chemists in the industry. Several sulfur compounds with similar boiling points—therefore similar volatilities to that of ethanol—are stated to be responsible for a bit of the “sulfuriness” of spirits, though more work is needed on this. The compounds most noted in distilling literature are hydrogen sulfide and several other methyl sulfides. Hydrogen sulfide,

arising from yeast activities during fermentation, and from microbial contamination, is very volatile, but at very low parts per billion, it is the characteristic eggy (rotten or boiled eggs) note. Dimethyl sulfide (sweetcorn, parsnips, veggie, tomato juice, truffle, asparagus and oysters), dimethyl disulfide (rubbery, asparagus, garlic-like and rotten vegetables) and dimethyl trisulfide (stagnant, rubbery, meaty and onion) are all detectable in low parts per billion or even parts per trillion. We have also shown (unpublished) that when dissolved in ethanol these sulfur compounds can convey the trigeminal burn or pungency to the alcohol/ spirit (see also acrolein). The chemistry is complex with these compounds—produced during fermentation and in the distilling operations, plus modulated by copper ions and in the barrel during maturation. Their importance is not to be underestimated when it comes to the final flavor profile and sensory perception of spirits. Other sulfur compounds associated with ethanol and thiols also contribute undesirable flavors (garbage, sewer drains-like), but space precludes further discussion here. Conclusions. Many other taints or off-aromas/flavors are possible, with other

classes of chemical compounds involved, however, this limited discussion has at least touched upon and considered most of the major players in spoiling the overall acceptance and appreciation of most types of distilled spirit. Some flavor descriptors and points of control are also noted. The chart provides a visual glimpse to aid learning of some of these compounds. One compound not commented upon here, which must be carefully controlled for and monitored as it is highly toxic is methanol. It is very important to be aware of this compound and its level in any spirit produced today. ■

Gary Spedding, Ph.D., is the owner of Brewing & Distilling Analytical Services. A biochemist, analytical chemist and sensory specialist, he’s here to educate us all.


for the spirits industry


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Retail: On-Premise

CRAVING LOCAL A South Carolina restaurant owner switches to mostly local spirits. BY JON PAGE

Throughout a decades-long career opening dozens of restaurants, Peter Woodman has been all about his guests. That meant carrying a fully stocked collection of national and international brands, even if it was a rarely-ordered beer or spirit. It took a pandemic to sway him more towards locally produced alcoholic beverages. Woodman is the CEO of Crave Hospitality Group, overseeing several restaurants in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, a suburb of Charleston. When the pandemic initially impacted his business, Woodman took a deep dive into the analytics at Crave Kitchen & Cocktails. He noticed that local beer and spirits vendors were regularly ordering to-go meals from the restaurant. He remembers looking at the backbar—stocked with names like Grey Goose, Ketel One and Smirnoff—and wondering what they’d done for the restaurant lately. “These [bigger brands] won’t give me a cent, couldn’t give a shit about me—don’t know who I am,” says Woodman. “And these [local people] are the ones helping me out. Honestly it was really humbling.” With that new perspective, Woodman decided to remove nearly all of those national brands from the restaurant’s backbar and

feature as many local products on the cocktail menu as possible. Now, Crave’s bar features bottles from the likes of Charleston Distilling Co., Dixie Vodka, Firefly Distillery, High Wire Distilling Co. and more. After Woodman wrote a letter to all local distillers asking them for support and encouraging them to stop by with samples, Traxler Littlejohn, president of North Charleston-based Nippitaty Distillery, was quick to respond. “What [Peter] did is a revolution,” says Littlejohn. “It was a breath of fresh air for all of us who try to get out there, present to restaurants and get on their menus—not just the backbar, but on their actual menu, because that puts us in front of their customers and our customers.” Littlejohn hopes more restaurants will see the value of lifting up local spirits. “Farm to table is the same principle,” continues Littlejohn, “and he’s the first person that I know of down here who’s really taken it to that level by saying, ‘Hey, bring me your spirits. Let me support you and help you survive and also help you thrive.’ And that’s what it’s done.” Woodman says the feedback from customers has been extremely positive. He says the

restaurant serves 3,000 to 5,000 people each week, and in the past year about 10 people have walked out the door because they couldn’t get a national brand. “When someone sits at the bar and they say, ‘Hey can I get a Grey Goose?’ it gives the bartender an opportunity to get into why we don’t have Grey Goose, and it makes that connection to the guest,” says Woodman. “So it’s actually a great conversation starter for the staff.” Crave is also enjoying a financial benefit. Woodman says he has reduced his holding stock by 50%. “Instead of sitting on $20,000 to $30,000 of inventory a week, it’s now down to $10,000 to $15,000,” says Woodman. “Instead of having 15 vodkas, now I’ve got 6 and I’m selling a lot more.” When it comes to advice for other retailers considering a similar move to local spirits, Woodman has a simple message. “Don’t be afraid of the change,” he says. “My thought process and mentality was always [to] give the guest whatever they want. Then when I made this change, it blew my mind and actually increased our business. I do sincerely believe it increased our business.” ■

“When someone sits at the bar and they say, ‘Hey can I get a Grey Goose?’ it gives the bartender an opportunity to get into why we don’t have Grey Goose, and it makes that connection to the guest.” —Peter Woodman of Crave Kitchen & Cocktails C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

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retail: off-premise

WHAT MAKES TOTAL WINE TICK How distillers can make the most of their relationship with the retailer BY KATE BERNOT

Total Wine & More is the largest independent beverage alcohol retailer in the U.S., and in 2020, it also became the largest independent spirits retailer in the country. Eli Aguilera, Total Wine’s senior vice president of merchandising, says Total Wine carries at least one product from nearly every craft distiller in the U.S. Indeed, he calls “breadth of selection” one of the company’s hallmarks. But in a sea of alcohol, how can a particular craft distiller’s bottle stand out? Aguilera says that’s where Total Wine’s second hallmark, service, comes in. (He names price as the third.) Service means that sales staff can act as knowledgeable guides that promote shoppers’ exploration and satisfy their curiosity. With such a vast selection, employees’ suggestions are paramount to guiding shoppers’ purchases. Aguilera (who is also a member of this magazine’s editorial board) says Total Wine does two key things to ensure that each store feels relevant, not generic, to those shoppers: It empowers its store managers and state-level employees to develop their own relationships with wholesalers and suppliers to manage inventory that consumers want, and it incentivizes store staff to complete educational opportunities related to different products and categories. The goal is to have a shopping trip to Total Wine feel like “an experience” for customers. Craft distillers’ products are a major piece of this.

Here is Aguilera’s advice for distillers looking to make the most of their relationship with Total Wine. MAKE TIME FOR FACE TIME Distillers who spend time in stores and connect with individual employees—not just buyers, but sales staff—will be top of mind when those staff are asked for recommendations. A shelf tag is critical, but a distiller can only say so much in 140 characters. “A craft producer who spends a lot of time coming in and sampling, getting to know store managers and team members, and who’s sharing their story as much as possible and developing ground-level relationships becomes very successful,” he says. “I highly recommend craft distillers spend time in our stores, not only in the office.” Distillers can submit new products through an online portal as soon as the product is ready, Aguilera says, but that should just be the start of a relationship between the distillery and Total Wine staff. PLAY YOUR STRONGEST HAND FIRST Total Wine’s opening orders for a new supplier are generally one case per item per store, Aguilera says. He asks distilleries to open with the strongest three or four sellers in their portfolio; then, orders can expand to other SKUs if sales are strong enough and if the distillery can ensure enough supply to meet demand.

“Make sure that you have the heavy hitter first and foremost because that’s what builds the brand,” he suggests. “You don’t want to squash innovation, but find ways of testing your innovation whether it be in your [tasting room] or whether with a core group of consumers. Don’t launch every innovation that you create.” BE STRATEGIC Aguilera cites Ironroot Republic Distilling of Denison, Texas, as one of Total Wine’s craft success stories. That owes to the plan Ironroot had in place from the start of its retail relationship with Total Wine: Ironroot wanted to be much more hands-on with both on- and off-premise sales in its home state of Texas, but wanted Total WIne to be the retail partner to accelerate its brand nationally. Ironroot also had something else Aguilera says is critical for distillery partners: A great story and brand personality. Two details that store sales associates can quickly convey about Ironroot are that the distillery was named Whisky Magazine’s Craft Producer of the Year in 2021, and that its distiller has traveled extensively across the globe to learn about the best and most innovative cask aging techniques. “One thing I’d highly recommend to [craft distillers] is that they have a command of their stories,” Aguilera says. “Be a great storyteller.” ■

“A craft producer who spends a lot of time coming in and sampling, getting to know store managers and team members, and who’s sharing their story as much as possible and developing ground-level relationships becomes very successful.” —Eli Aguilera of Total Wine 78 |

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closing time

KEEPING TABS ON TAXES In his latest column for CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, Lew Bryson mentions that even after the passing of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act—which permanently reduced the federal excise tax for distillers from $13.50 to $2.70 for the first 100,000 proof gallons—the tax rate for craft distillers is still much higher than beer or wine. “Someone should create a graphic showing the disparity that you can all tack up in your sales space,” wrote Bryson. Here is a side-by-side comparison of those tax rates.


$.51 BEER

First 1.86 million gallons

Over 1.86 million gallons up to 62 million gallons





DISTILLED SPIRITS First 100,000 proof gallons

Over 100,000 up to 22.23 million proof gallons

Over 22.23 million proof gallons




HARD CIDER First 30,000 gallons

Over 30,000 up to 130,000 gallons



WINE* Over 130,000 up to 750,000 gallons

First 30,000 gallons

Over 30,000 up to 130,000 gallons

Over 130,000 up to 750,000 gallons

*16% and under (most non-fortified wines) Source:

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Packaging Series 2: Closure Innovation: Putting the ‘Fun’ in Functional JULY 22

Eliminating Sulfur Compounds in Malt Whiskey with Akira Wanikawa (Nikka Whiskey)

Crafting the Perfect Contract: What You Need to Know to Create a Contract That’s as High Quality as Your Spirits with Adena Santiago and James W. Mathis (Husch Blackwell) SEPTEMBER 23

Unconventional Distillates


Fermentation Techniques with Kevin Kawa (AB Biotek) AUGUST 26

U.S. Rum: Getting Candid About Cane


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The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) is the only national association of craft distillers created and governed by craft distillers. Our mission is to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers.


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Engage in the battle to make permanent the reduction in the Federal Excise Tax

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