Craft Spirits July/August 2022

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Process aids for higher ethanol yield and fermentation consistency.

View our extensive offering of craft distilling inputs at

©2022 Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits





A Gathering Opportunity As bars and restaurants recalibrate from the pandemic, openings exist for craft spirits brands to drive more business in the on-premise. But how long will such opportunities last?




Real-world Application Spirits brands find utility in NFTs by tying them to actual bottles and experiences. BY JON PAGE


MEMBER SPOTLIGHT Fueling the Dashfire Minnesota-based Dashfire has an expansive portfolio of craft bitters, spirits and cocktails—with even bigger plans on the horizon. BY ERIKA RIETZ



DISTILLING DESTINATIONS The Aloha Spirit Hawaiian distillers craft a taste of the islands. BY JOHN HOLL

Cover photography: Jeff Marini


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Editor’s Note




Recent releases from Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, FEW Spirits and more



A Pennsylvania Community College Now Offers Diploma in Craft Distilling

LEW’S BOTTOM SHELF 30 Nomenclature



Images from Bar Convent Brooklyn


Flavorful concoctions from Pilot House Distilling, Star Union Spirits, Aimsir Distilling Co. and Santa Fe Spirits



ACSA’s 9th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show Meet ACSA’s New Board Members


Making a Difference BY CHAD BUTTERS

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Age-Old Questions Key considerations before selecting a barrel recipe BY CATE CRABTREE


Automation for an Evolving Marketplace Making the case for automating processes in craft spirits BY BOB GREEN


RAW MATERIALS 70 Paving the Whey

Why a food scientist went Wheyward with whey BY EMILY DARCHUK


E-commerce Essentials Part II Increasing consumer engagement and driving repeat purchases BY SUSAN MOONEY

SUPPLIER SHOWCASE 74 Crossover Appeal

Six largely unsung supplier product categories targeting brewers that are just as suitable for distillers BY JEFF CIOLETTI


Comparing On-Premise Sales Examining the percent of dollars spent at bars and restaurants


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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 | Lew Bryson, Chad Butters, Cate Crabtree, Emily Darchuk, Bob Green, John Holl, Andrew Kaplan, Susan Mooney, and Erika Rietz AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION N O N - D U E S R E V E N U E & M A R K E T I N G S T R AT EG I S T | Ken Brady, E D U C AT I O N M A N AG E R | Kirstin Brooks, M E M B E R S H I P & E V E N T S D I R EC TO R | Carason Lehmann, A D M I N I S T R AT I V E AS S I S TA N T | Albab Melaku, 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 | Gina Holman, J. Carver Distillery (MN) S EC R E TA RY/ T R E A S U R E R | Jessica J. Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA) EAST Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (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) Mark A. Vierthaler, Whiskey Del Bac (AZ) Colton Weinstein, Corsair Artisan Distillery (TN) P.T. Wood, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery (CO)

PACIFIC Dan Farber, Osocalis Distillery (CA) Lucy Farber, St. George Spirits (CA) Jake Holshue, Rogue Ales & Spirits (OR) Jeff Kanof, Copperworks Distilling Company (WA) Kelly Woodcock, Westward Whiskey (OR)

EX OFFICIO Thomas Jensen, New Liberty Distillery (PA) ACSA PAC Stephen Johnson, Revolution Spirits (TX) ACSA PAST PRESIDENTS 2 0 1 8 -2 0 2 0 | Chris Montana, Du Nord Craft Spirits 2 0 1 7-2 0 1 8 | Mark Shilling, Genius Liquids/Big Thirst 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, Dr. Dawn Maskell For advertising inquiries, please contact Ashley Guillermo: For editorial inquiries or to send a news release, e-mail P.O. Box 470, Oakton, VA 22124 © 2022 CRAFT SPIRITS magazine is a publication of the American Craft Spirits Association.





Editor’s Note

AUTHENTICITY OVER ORTHODOXY Over July Fourth weekend, I was back in Portland, Oregon (yes, again) to attend Tiki Kon, one of a handful of notable tiki-themed gatherings that happen on both coasts in the spring and summer. I’ve been to these sorts of events before and they’re usually a nice, little diversion for a couple of days and I’ll usually forget about them until I attend the next one. However, (dare I say?) this particular outing may have contributed to a complete mindset shift for me. Allow me to explain. There were two cocktail-focused sessions that caught my attention, one titled “The (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai,” presented by blogger Kevin Crossman; and the other, “Tiki Drinks Demystified: Ratios, Archetypes and Flavor Combinations,” with cocktail guru Craig ‘Colonel Tiki’ Hermann. The first one demonstrated how many different iterations of the Mai Tai there have been, especially after the Californiaborn drink migrated to the islands that supposedly inspired it. The second broke down quintessentially tropical drinks to their core elements and showed just how easy it is to riff and reinvent based on those basic components. There are unlimited possibilities. So here’s what got me: I’ve, for too long, conflated authenticity with orthodoxy. Take the aforementioned Mai Tai, for instance. I’ve been known to mix a pretty mean one from time to time, but I’ve always been fixated on trying to find the true recipe and adhering to it religiously. The same goes for the dishes that I cook. But recipes and traditions evolve, innovations intervene and the question of what is true becomes moot. And therein lies an opportunity for craft spirits producers. What really sets our industry apart is that creative, pioneering spirit. At the heart of that is authenticity. But never let a perceived orthodoxy get in the way of authenticity. The latter can exist without the former. There obviously are certain stylistic conventions to which producers must conform—TTB definitions, for starters,

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though even those have been known to evolve from time to time—but once you get past that defined structure, the horizons are limitless. There’s no need to try to compare a product with something that came before it or to try to chase a similar flavor experience. Create the product to which those that come after will try to compare themselves before they realize that they, too, need to find their own voices. At this point a year ago, America was home to just shy of 2,300 active craft distilleries, according to the Craft Spirits Data Project. I would wager that we’ve added at least a few hundred more since then. So, let’s say that number is around 2,500. Now, multiply that number by the exponential number of opportunities there are to create something new and it should give you a pretty good idea what the craft landscape could look like if producers align more closely with authenticity than orthodoxy. By the way, since we’re talking creativity, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the call for submissions to the Third Annual Craft Spirits Packaging Awards begins in August. As you’re busy pushing the boundaries with what goes in the bottle, take a moment to celebrate the artistry that goes on the bottle (or can, in the case of many RTDs). Watch your inboxes for the official announcement. Now, pardon me while I throw out all of my recipe books. ■

Jeff Cioletti Editor in Chief


Thank You, Sponsors! Amoretti

Bardstown Bourbon Co.

The Barrel Mill

Berlin Packaging


FIVE x 5 Solutions

Glencairn Crystal

Harvest Hosts

FIVE x 5 Solutions believes that distillery 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.

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.

Harvest Hosts connects over 225,000 self-contained RVers to a network of thousands of small businesses (hosts). Hosts simply offer RVers a one-night stay on their property, and, in return, RVers patronize the business while spending the night. Our program is a cost-free opportunity and 100% of the money spent onsite goes straight to the Host.

Malkin Law


At MGP, every step of creating a premium distilled bourbon, whiskey, rye, gin and vodka is guided by a passion bordering on obsession. We tirelessly collaborate with our partners, regardless of size, to develop and consistently produce the exact flavor profile that’s right for their brand. And for their discerning consumers.

Moonshine University

Park Street

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.

Steric Systems


Amoretti specializes in super concentrated natural infusions for artisan craft beverages. Amoretti sources the freshest and tastiest fruits, herbs, spices, chocolates, vanillas and peppers from around the world, paying attention to quality and consistency to ensure an impeccable, creative, consistent brew in every barrel.

Fermentis is an agile and expanding company, dedicated to fermented beverages. It is a unit of Lesaffre Group, global key player in yeast for over 160 years. Our roots are strong while having an audacious spirit. As things happen during the fermentation … our goal is to discover them in terms of taste, flavor and pleasure.

The Steric Systems PureSmooth process is a method of “polishing” distilled spirits to reduce alcohol burn, open up and balance flavors, and improve mouth feel. It works on both aged and unaged spirits.

Bardstown Bourbon Co. operates one of the most sophisticated distilleries in the country. Our Collaborative Distilling Program brings together some of the most experienced distillers in the industry, allowing our customers to create alongside us and drives education, innovation and experimentation.

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.

The Barrel Mill is a family-owned cooperage in Central Minnesota specializing in premium white oak aging barrels, infusion spirals, and custom wood marketing displays. Our products are made from the finest materials we can find, hand-selected, hand-crafted, and aged to perfection.

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.


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.

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.

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.

Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

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

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!

Blue & Co., LLC

Blue & Co., LLC is an independent accounting and advisory firm with more than 50 years in operation. Our public accounting expertise includes the practice areas of assurance, tax compliance and consulting, healthcare consulting, benefit plan services, valuation and litigation support, and business services.

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. Partnering with distillers, we think outside the box to develop new products that push your vision forward.

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.


ISTS makes 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.

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.

Kason Corporation

Kason Corporation is the industry-leading global spent grain processing equipment manufacturer that distilleries can count on for efficiency, cost savings and reducing waste and disposal costs.


CIE is a state-of-the-art, 75 million wine gallon, beverage and industrial graded, commercial scale, alcohol facility located in Marion, Indiana. CIE supplies pure and denatured alcohols to customers in the spirit, beauty, personal care, medical, food-flavor and industrial markets.

Lafitte Cork and Capsule

Lafitte Cork and Capsule is setting new standards for premium, high performance bar top closures. Lafitte employs the technical expertise accumulated over 100 years in business to guarantee the perfect closure for your brand.

Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits

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.


brewing distilling


Soderstrom Architects

Sovos ShipCompliant

Ultra Pure

Whalen Insurance

Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America

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.

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.

Soderstrom Architects’ Ferar Wine & Spirits Studio has been involved in the design and master planning of more than 70 wineries and distilleries. Our studio was founded nearly 30 years ago with a passion for design that conveys the special sense of place inherent in the site, be it a vineyard or a city block.

Whalen Insurance is a second-generation insurance agency owned and operated by Peter Whalen. He started a program for craft breweries in the mid 1980s and expanded to craft distilleries almost 10 years ago. It provides all property and liability coverages needed to safely operate a distillery.

Sovos ShipCompliant has been the leader in automated alcohol beverage compliance tools for more than 15 years, providing a full suite of cloudbased solutions to distilleries, wineries, breweries, cideries, importers, distributors and retailers to ensure they meet all regulations for direct-toconsumer and three-tier distribution.

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.

Specific Mechanical Systems

Since 1984, Specific Mechanical Systems has handcrafted brewing and distilling systems for the craft beer and spirits industries, in addition to supplying various industries with complex processing equipment. Originally a two-person company, the company now employs a team of approximately 100 people.

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.

Erika Rietz is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience covering craft beer, spirits and a breadth of culinary topics for print and digital publications. She was previously the editor-in-chief of DRAFT Magazine, and is currently the owner of Se_Ku Skatewear, a brand of athletic apparel for figure skaters.

Cate Crabtree writes about whiskey barrels, terpenes and all things sensory in Portland, Oregon. Previously, she headed up sales & marketing at WV Great Barrel Co.

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 the podcast Steal This Beer, 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.

Emily Darchuk forged her career as a food scientist in the natural food and dairy industry before founding Wheyward Spirit. Emily received an undergraduate degree in food science and nutrition at the University of Illinois, a master’s in food science from Oregon State University and an MBA in innovation and entrepreneurship from the University of Oregon. She has held positions in product development and innovation at Coca-Cola, Whitewave Foods, Kellogg’s and NASA.

Chad Butters is the founder and CEO of New Tripoli, Pennsylvania-based Eight Oaks Farm Distillery. He spent over 25 years as an Army pilot until he retired in 2015. He continues to fly today as an airline pilot for a major U.S. carrier. He oversees everything at Eight Oaks. He loves the blend of agriculture, history and science of distilling, which lets him use his creativity to craft something for others from scratch. He lives with his wife and best friend, Jodi, in New Tripoli. They are proud grandparents of their lovely granddaughter, Willa James.

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Stay on top of the news.

Andrew Kaplan is a freelance writer based in New York City. He was managing editor of Beverage World magazine for 17 years and has worked for a variety of other food and beverage-related publications, and also newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @andrewkap.

Bob Green is director of sales North America at Shemesh Automation, a global manufacturer of high-end packaging machinery for craft spirit producers in the United States. Shemesh’s 30 years of experience delivering high-end packaging machinery to manufacturers around the world has been poured into a complete range of solutions tailored specifically to the demands of craft spirits production. For more info on the full range of machines and Shemesh Automation visit


Susan Mooney is the founder and CEO of Spirits Consulting Group (SCG) which provides e-commerce and digital marketing solutions for beverage alcohol brands. She has built a team of industry experts who help new-to-market and established brands navigate the unique three-tier compliant world of beverage alcohol e-commerce. The team includes specialists in SEO optimization, content development, digital advertising and email marketing.

Michelle Villas is an art director with more than 20 years experience in publication design. After spending 16 years working on magazines in New York for a variety of titles, including Beverage World, Michelle headed out to California where she now calls the South Bay home. She is the creative director on a range of lifestyle publications for The Golden State Company. A true typophile, she carries her obsession with fonts into every project.

Visit us online at

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New Spirits

Barrell Craft Spirits of Louisville, Kentucky, introduced BCS Gold Label Seagrass, the pinnacle of the BCS Seagrass Series, which also includes Barrell Seagrass and the limitedrelease BCS Gray Label Seagrass. BCS Gold Label Seagrass features ultra-rare 20-year rye whiskey, meticulously sourced and finished in Martinique rum, Malmsey Madeira, and apricot brandy casks. The expression was distilled in Canada, and then crafted and bottled in Kentucky at cask strength, 128.12 proof.

Milam & Greene Whiskey of Blanco, Texas, is introducing The Castle Hill Series Batch Two, the second release of its limited-edition batch of 13-year-old hand-selected straight bourbon whiskies bottled at barrel proof. Just 26 vintage barrels were married to create this superb 111-proof whiskey.

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FEW Spirits of Evanston, Illinois, announced the release of 101-proof Motor Oil Whiskey, a new, limited-release collaboration between FEW Spirits founder and master distiller Paul Hletko and modern rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, honoring the 21st anniversary of the band’s seminal debut album, B.R.M.C.

Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery of Nashville, Tennessee, announced the launch of Nelson Brothers, a new line of whiskeys debuting with two releases. Nelson Brothers Classic Bourbon is aged in new, charred American oak barrels and bottled at 93.3 proof. Nelson Brothers Reserve Bourbon offers a similarly balanced profile, but with bigger, bolder elements and flavors, singling out the choicest, wellaged barrel lots, which are blended into an exceptional expression that packs more punch at 107.8 proof.



Our next AWARD WINNING spirit, could be yours

New Fills Custom Mashbills Contract Distilling & Bottling


New Spirits

Watershed Distillery of Columbus, Ohio, announced the release of Four Peel Strawberry Gin. The 88-proof gin is made with fresh Ohio strawberries and combines the nostalgia of a youpick strawberry farm with the citrusy flavor of Watershed’s Four Peel Gin. The release is scheduled in tandem with the distillery’s fourth annual Four Peel Fest on July 16.

Cotton & Reed of Washington, D.C., is launching three new limited-release products this summer. Coconut Rum (65 proof) is the distillery’s beloved limited release rum made from macerating White Rum on 1/3 pound of coconut flakes per bottle. Bottled-In-Bond Rum is 100 proof and the distillery’s oldest age statement single barrel rum to date. Overproof White Rum (114 proof) features notes of coconut, banana, grassy sugar cane and vanilla cake.

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Balcones Distilling of Waco, Texas, announced the release of 100-proof Big Baby 2022, a fiveyear-old bottled-in-bond straight corn whisky that will shepherd in the next generation of the distillery’s corn whiskies. Matured in used tequila casks from Mexico, Big Baby 2022 is the distillery’s first foray into bottled-in-bond whiskey.

Kansas City, Missouribased Lifted Spirits has announced the return of a summer favorite, its 80-proof Jalapeño & Herb Infusion Vodka. Classified as a botanical vodka, the Jalapeño & Herb Infusion blends fresh jalapeño peppers, black cardamom, coriander, spearmint and lemon balm to create a unique and refreshing flavor profile. While tasting, the vodka brings a bright kick of spice at the front that tingles on the tongue, which is quickly cooled by the infused mint and the earthier tones of black cardamom and coriander.




Let’s meet at ACSA! July 21-24 I Booth #636 Join our presentation on «Ester Overexpressing Yeast Offering Innovative Highly Flexible Use For New Trendy Spirits Distilled On Lees.» | July 22 nd | 4pm

New Spirits

Harridan Vodka, a certifiedorganic vodka crafted in New York state, announced the launch of its limitededition, 88-proof Midsummer Reserve. Saluting the Summer Solstice, the spirit was rested under a full moon during May’s lunar eclipse. Donning a bespoke label and hand-dipped in white wax, the new expression is crafted from organic corn and doubledistilled, retaining a floral aroma and creamy mouthfeel.

A pale malt whiskey that matured for three years in a charred new American Oak barrel was transferred into an Ardbeg Scotch Whisky cask for one year to create Seattle-based Copperworks Distilling Co.’s Peated Cask American Single Malt Whiskey Release 043. Copperworks Washington Peated Whiskey Release 042 has more savory and earthy notes, whereas this 100-proof release has more of the traditional Islay Scotch smokiness.

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Boardroom Spirits of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, is reintroducing three of its anticipated 750mL ready-to-drink bottled cocktails that are perfect for summertime entertaining and sipping. Peach Cinnamon Whiskey Sour (46 proof), Passionfruit Punch (36 proof) and Espresso Martini (40 proof) are all gluten-free and made with all-natural ingredients.

Denver-based Laws Whiskey House announced the fourth release of its Bottled in Bond Centennial Straight Wheat Whiskey. The 100-proof spirit is crafted from a 100% Soft White Centennial Wheat mash bill. This heirloom varietal spring wheat is grown in the unique environment of the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado by the Cody Family Farm.


NEED GUIDANCE ON-THE-GO FOR ALCOHOL BEVERAGE COMPLIANCE? The SET THE BAR app provides easyto-understand access to marketing and trade practice regulations in all 50 states and DC. Now you have 24/7 access to what’s compliant when planning your next tasting, designing displays and developing your marketing or advertising campaigns.

SET THE BAR does not provide legal advice and does not replace legal counsel.


New Spirits

Washington, D.C.-based Republic Restoratives has released Civic Pride, an 80-proof vodka with a limited-edition Progress Pride-inspired label. Proceeds from every bottle sold will be donated directly to Whitman-Walker Health, D.C.’s community health organization that specializes in healthcare for LGBTQ communities and those living with HIV.

Minneapolis-based Tattersall Distilling launched ts first canned cocktail line. Made from its award-winning distilled spirits, the 7% cocktails include Key Lime Gin + Tonic, Blueberry Basil Collins, Easy Street and Watermelon Bootlegger. Distributed in Minnesota and Wisconsin to start, Tattersall’s canned cocktails are now available at select liquor stores and Tattersall’s River Falls, Wisconsin, distillery in four-packs of each can.

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Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. of Purcellville, Virginia, and heavy metal rock band GWAR are back for the second annual release of Ragnarök Rye. The 92-proof rye whisky is pot stilled, then aged in charred new white oak, sugar maple and cherrywood. This year’s bottle includes new and improved collectable metal die cast toppers representing all five band members: Blóthar the Berserker, Balsac the Jaws of Death, Jizmak da Gusha, Beefcake the Mighty and Pustulus Maximus.

Miami-based Tropical Distillers launched J.F Haden’s Espresso Liqueur. The 40-proof liqueur is made with 100% arabica beans roasted exclusively by Per’La Specialty Roasters in Miami and is the first product to be produced at the new Tropical Distillers distillery. Each small batch is made without preservatives, artificial colors or flavors.



Quench your thirst for knowledge in ACSA’s Craft Spirits Classroom. For more information or to register, visit our website at


Imbiber’s Bookshelf

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Cocktails, A Still Life Artist: Todd M. Casey Authors: Christine Sismondo and James Waller Publisher: Running Press Release Date: Aug. 16 Fine art meets mixology in this sophisticated cocktail book that pairs drink recipes and beverage history with stunning still-life oil paintings, perfect for taking the art of drinking to the next level. As they say, “We drink first with our eyes.” If you believe there is an art to drinking well, then pairing cocktail recipes with still-life oil paintings is a natural next step. This book brings together 60 of Casey’s contemporary hand-painted images paired with dozens of delicious cocktail recipes. The three-author team offers a satisfying deep-dive into each drink complete with a great classic cocktail recipe and a painted representation.

Summer Fizz Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small Release Date: May 24 Quench your thirst with 100 recipes for refreshingly fizzy summer drinks including cooling punches, cocktails and mocktails. In the warmer months when the days are long and the evenings roll in slowly, there’s nothing better than fixing a cool drink, and a glass of something sparkling provides the ultimate refreshment. From fruity and fresh to tart and tangy, here you’ll find an array of tasty fizzy tipples perfect for every summer occasion.

Dessert Cocktails Authors: David T. Smith and Keli Rivers Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small Release Date: Aug. 9 Enjoy your cocktails on the sweeter side? Or struggle to find room for dessert but fancy a little something to end your meal? Then try one of these deliciously indulgent recipes and satisfy your sweet tooth and cocktail craving at the same time. This book has options to suit all tastes, from chocolate, caramel and coffee concoctions to fresh and fruity treats, as well as rich, silky, and creamy sippers. You will find classics such as the White Russian and Gin Alexander, which sit alongside fun new ideas, including the Colorado Bulldog, Hot Apple Crumble, and the Pink Squirrel.

Texas Dives Author: Anthony Head Photographer: Kirk Weddle Publisher: Texas A&M University Press Release Date: July 8 In Texas Dives: Enduring Neighborhood Bars of the Lone Star State, veteran writer Anthony Head and internationally recognized photographer Kirk Weddle visit 12 bars in 12 Texas cities. With pithy text and revealing images, they tell the stories of some of these off-the-radar hangouts of Americana, shining light on the bars and their owners, staff and regulars. Head and Weddle are quick to point out that this book is not about drinking, per se: it’s a book about Texas culture intimately observed, plus just enough participation to claim with confidence that dives also serve as community anchor points, social clubs, and even, on occasion, places where enduring friendships are made.


Industry Update

COMMUNITY COLLEGE IN PENNSYLVANIA NOW OFFERS CRAFT DISTILLERY SPECIALIZED DIPLOMA Northampton Community College (NCC) of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has announced that it is becoming the first academic institution in the Mid-Atlantic region to offer a for-credit program in craft distilling—a curriculum it developed in conjunction with Eight Oaks Farm Distillery in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania. The Craft Distillery Specialized Diploma, within NCC’s hospitality management program, will offer both hands-on and classroom-based study, covering all facets of the distilling business over the course of one full academic year. The program covers everything from fermentation, distillation, aging, process management and operations management to finance, marketing, safety and compliance. “The program itself is meant to be holistic,” says Chad Butters, founder and CEO of Eight Oaks. “[Students will] complete the program knowing not just the technical aspects, but how everything works together as a true business and a true opportunity within your community.” The program grew out of an earlier course NCC had offered called Craft 140, which taught the fundamentals of beer, wine and spirits. “Three or four years ago, we used that as a springboard to move into craft and then


Covid hit,” recalls Rebecca R. Heid, NCC associate professor of hospitality management, who leads the program. “Chad Butters was nice enough to host students in that class for a virtual tour and when we spoke afterwards, he said he didn’t see enough formalized credit education in distilling.” Originally, the program was specifically targeting students new to the industry who were considering distilling as a career. “As we put it together, we started getting a lot of interest from people already in the industry who were looking for additional, formal academic training to supplement their hands-on knowledge, ” Butters reveals. Eight Oaks plays a major role in the handson side of the program, as it will serve as a live lab for students. Additionally, head distiller Caitlin Fenstermacher is teaching a course on fermentation for distillation. “The biggest thing is that students are going to be learning from experts in the industry,” says Heid. “I always say, ‘I just write the curriculum, I’m not the expert.’ That’s what’s making our program unique, along with [the fact that] it’s the only for-credit one in the Mid-Atlantic.” The program kicks off August 29 and will be, in its inaugural year, limited to 14 students. “We don’t want to overwhelm our instructors

Rebecca R. Heid of NCC

because they own small businesses or they’re working in those businesses,” Heid explains. “And some distilleries can only host a certain number of people while doing their labs.” Heid envisions eventually expanding the program to include students outside the area, with online lectures and hands-on labs at distilleries near where the non-local students reside. “We’re hoping it gets that big,” she says. —Jeff Cioletti

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Industry Update

MINNESOTA DISTILLERS TAKE A STEP FORWARD WITH LIQUOR LAW CHANGES Thanks to a new law, craft distillers in Minnesota can now sell one 750-mL bottle to their customers. Previously, distilleries were limited to selling one 375-mL bottle per customer per day. In addition to the change for distillers, the law raises the cap of growler sales and allows more off-premise options for breweries. Gina Holman of Waconia-based J. Carver Distillery is the vice president and legislative committee chair for the Minnesota Distillers guild, vice president of the American Craft Spirits Association and co-chair of ACSA’s State Guild Committee. She is unaware of another state that limited distilleries to selling 375-mL bottles. On a regular basis, she says visitors to J. Carver Distillery would lament the fact that they could only buy a smallformat bottle. Around the state, distillers are happy to see the change and hopeful for continued progress. “For the first time in our small business’s nine-year history, we’re able to sell something that everyone who walks through the door thinks we should be able to sell,” shared Mi-

chael Swanson and Cheri Reese, owners of Far North Spirits in Hallock. “We’re thrilled that the law has been updated, and grateful for the heavy lifting that got us here, but, man, that road didn’t have to be so long and rocky.” In St. Louis Park, Kyle Kettering of Copperwing Distillery is grateful for the law change but says “it’s always a letdown when patrons visit us and can only buy one 750-mL [bottle], or two 375-mL bottles when they intend on buying more.” In Duluth, Doug Kouma of Vikre Distillery sees the law change as a small step forward for craft distilleries. “I’m positive that if visitors to the distillery were allowed to take more of our products home, it would translate into stronger sales from their hometown retailers,” says Kouma, who is Vikre’s director of consumer sales and visitor experience. “So I hope that further expansion to support Minnesotaowned brands like ours remains on the table.” In addition to 750-mL bottles, Kouma says Vikre will continue to offer 375-mL bottles. Copperwing will most likely phase out the small bottles for its base spirits but will use

them for new cocktails and liqueurs. Kettering also sees an opportunity for variety. “The law change also allows any size container, previously only 375-mL, up to a total of 750-mL,” says Kettering. “With the container size limitation being updated, it’s possible to include more variety packs of even smaller containers, [like] 50-mL, 100-mL or 187-mL.” —Jon Page


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Industry Update

GLOBAL BEVERAGE ALCOHOL REBOUNDS IN 2021, WITH VALUE REACHING $1.17 TRILLION Global beverage alcohol value grew by +12% last year to reach $1.17 trillion, making up for Covid-driven value losses of -4% in 2020, according to extensive new data from London-based IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. Total alcohol volume grew by +3% in 2021, after losses of -6% the year prior. Examining the industry from across 160 countries throughout the world, IWSR forecasts compound annual volume growth of just above +1% for total beverage alcohol over the next five years, as Covid restrictions continue to ease. “Our latest data shows encouraging signs for the continued recovery of beverage alcohol,” says Mark Meek, CEO at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. “The market rebounded far more quickly than expected and, in value terms, 2021 is now above 2019. Premiumization continues unabated; beverage alcohol ecommerce also continues to grow, although at a more moderate rate; and the trend towards moderation continues, with no/ low-alcohol products seeing ongoing growth from a relatively low base.”







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Industry Update

CHEMIST SPIRITS SHINES AS OFFICIAL GIN OF THE 49TH DAYTIME EMMY AWARDS In June, nominees attending the 49th Daytime Emmy Awards celebrated one of the industry’s biggest nights in Los Angeles with handcrafted gin from Chemist Spirits, an artisan distillery located in the heart of downtown Asheville, North Carolina. “Women are such a large part of the Daytime Emmy Awards. As a female-founded and owned spirits brand, Chemist is proud to be the official gin of the 2022 ceremony,” said Debbie Word, who established Chemist Spirits in 2018 alongside her daughter, Danielle Donaldson, who is a chemist by training. Word is one of the few female distillery founders in the United States. According to industry data, less than 19% of American distillers are female and only 2% of distilleries are owned by women. Word and Donaldson aim to challenge the industry norm by growing their business and mentoring other women and minority groups in the distilling profession. “Our goal is to help more women and people of color to join the distilling community to make it stronger and more inclusive,” says Word, who hosts women’s entrepreneurial

events at Chemist Spirits. “We plan to use the spotlight as the official gin of the Daytime Emmy Awards to help advance this conversation on the national stage.” For Word, spotlighting the art and science of distilling at the Daytime Emmy Awards complements the ceremony’s celebration of

the television arts and sciences. “Every bottle of Chemist Spirits represents an amazing balance that takes a lot of time, patience, and understanding of the art and science of distilling to actually achieve,” says Word. Chemist Spirits gin was also featured in the 2022 Daytime Emmy Awards gift bag.


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Industry Update

HELLA COCKTAIL CO. CELEBRATES CHOICE IN COCKTAIL CULTURE WITH NEW INVESTMENT Hella Cocktail Co., a Brooklyn, New Yorkbased brand of botanically inspired mixers and beverages crafted to elevate cocktail culture for everyone, announced a $5 million investment from a fellow BIPOC-owned company, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey. Standing out with its inclusive category perspective and incredible development, Hella Cocktail Co. secured this investment as part of Uncle Nearest Ventures, which seeks to uplift minority-founded, owned and led spirit companies. Hella Cocktail Co. says it was the first BIPOC-founded, owned and led American beverage brand to be available in all 50 states, and its products are currently sold or used in more than 20,000 stores, bars, hotels and restaurants. The investment coincides with additional hallmark achievements, including the business’s 10-year anniversary and the innovation of a new beverage category with its line of Bitters & Soda. This partnership will propel the brand’s next phase of structural growth, funding continued recruitment to Hella’s team, stocking warehouses with enough

inventory to meet the outpacing demand, and continuing to spread the brand’s message of creating a more expansive and inclusive cocktail experience. The two brands share values and goals that go beyond just business. Both companies are rooted in the diverse backgrounds of their founders and a fundamental dedication to inclusivity. With three leaders of unique heritage, Hella Cocktail Co. inspires confidence in consumers to bring forth their most authentic selves by championing celebration for all. “We don’t see this as just an investment in Hella, but rather an investment in bringing all voices to the table and celebrating different experiences,” says Jomaree Pinkard, CEO of Hella Cocktail Co, “This partnership not only enables us to bring our message to more audiences, but aligns us with a fellow minority-owned and led company that understands how integral culture is when creating a successful business.” The investment from the Uncle Nearest Ventures reflects a new legacy that aims to shape a more diverse landscape for cocktails.

“Investing in Hella Cocktail Co. was an absolute no brainer,” said Fawn Weaver, founder and CEO of Uncle Nearest, Inc. “Our team members were already pairing their Bitters & Soda with Uncle Nearest, so I knew their products were made with excellence. What I didn’t know is the brand was founded by three men of African American, Mexican, and Jewish descent. Once I learned that, I reached into Jomaree and said, ‘What do you need? It’s yours.’”

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Industry Update

FAR NORTH SPIRITS RECEIVES BEE FRIENDLY FARMING CERTIFICATION Far North Spirits of Hallock, Minnesota, has been certified as a Bee Friendly Farm by Pollinator Partnership. The distillery sits on the 1,200-acre Swanson Family Farm in northwestern Minnesota and distills grains grown on the farm for its rye and bourbon whiskies. To become certified as a Bee Friendly Farm, a farm must demonstrate that it provides good pollinator nutrition on at least three percent of its land; different flowering plants throughout the growing season; nesting habitat like shrubs and hedges; a clean water source; and that it reduces or eliminates the use of chemicals. As a fourth-generation farmer, Far North Spirits co-founder and head distiller Michael Swanson believes in taking care of the land through responsible stewardship, focusing on farming practices that promote soil health and ecological diversity. “This certification means we are walking the talk,” said Swanson. “We are being good stewards of the land and protecting it for generations to come.”

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The pollinator connection to liquor may not be immediately evident, but Swanson breaks it down like this: “Bees and other pollinators are vital components of a healthy ecosystem, which results in healthy soil. Healthy soil is essential to the production of quality grains. And quality grains are indispensable in making great whiskey.” This common sense approach has been handed down for generations by small farmers, but protecting pollinators is even more important today as they are a precious resource that are in increasing jeopardy. “We are very excited to certify and partner with Far North Spirits as the first Bee Friendly Farming distillery,” said Miles Dakin, Bee Friendly Farming Coordinator with Pollinator Partnership. “Far North Spirits is a fantastic example of sustainable farming, maintaining dozens of acres of pollinator habitat and implementing pollinator best management practices. We are proud to support their efforts.” Pollinator Partnership has certified 129,000 acres as Bee Friendly Farming since 2020, the equivalent of 200 miles or the distance be-

tween Minneapolis and Madison, Wisconsin. The Swanson Farm, a fourth-generation family farm where Far North sits, has returned more than 50 acres to natural prairie grasses through a federal conservation program designed to incentivize farmers to remove land from production and plant species that will be environmentally beneficial. These native grasslands help to prevent soil erosion and provide an ideal habitat for pollinators and other local fauna.


Industry Update

CRAFT MALTSTERS GUILD TO HOST MALT FOR BREWERS & DISTILLERS WORKSHOP The Craft Maltsters Guild will host the second annual Malt for Brewers & Distillers Workshop at the University of California, Davis on Sept. 19-20. This two-day, in-person course is custom-tailored for craft malt beverage producers and provides an extensive overview of technical malt knowledge from farm to fermenter. Maltsters and farmers will also find the workshop a valuable opportunity to learn to better communicate with their brewery and distillery clients. The workshop precedes the combined 23rd North American Barley Researchers Workshop and 43rd Barley Improvement Conference also happening in Davis later in the week from Sept. 22-24. The conference is held every four or five years and it combines the latest research from Canada, the U.S. and global barley breeding programs and malt researchers. “Craft brewers and distillers have been indispensable to the growth of the craft malting industry,” says Jesse Bussard, guild executive director. “We’re excited to be able to offer this workshop another year, and even more so, to host it alongside such an important confer-

ence for malt barley research.” During the two-day course, attendees can expect to learn about barley topics from field to pint including barley breeding and the North American supply chain, grain and malt quality, a review of the malting process and technology, and malt styles, flavor, and troubleshooting. Hands-on activities and tours of the UC Davis Brewing Program pilot brewery, as well as a local craft maltster, Admiral Maltings in Alameda, California, will also be part of the experience. Hannah Turner, director of the Montana State University Barley, Malt & Brewing Quality Lab and a current guild board member, is the instructor for the course. Turner has worked in plant science research for over a decade. Additionally, she heads up the guild’s technical working group and the American Society of Brewing Chemists’ malt subcommittee and serves as chapter co-leader for the Montana chapter of Pink Boots Society. Registration for the workshop is $600 for guild members and $750 for non-members with attendance limited to 20 students. All

students will also receive copies of the Craft Maltsters Guild quality and safety manual and DraughtLab malt flavor sensory maps. Questions about the course can be directed to

Listen to conversations with distillers and craa spirits visionaries.

Stream episodes at or listen via Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud or Spotify.


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lew's bottom shelf


Ever think about why it’s craft spirits, why it’s craft distilling? I hate it when writers say “the dictionary defines craft as,” but this one time, let’s take a look. The definitions are interesting. A craft is defined as “an occupation, trade, or activity requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill.” A clearly more modern definition: “relating to food or drinks made using traditional methods by small companies, or companies and people that do this.” And an interestingly different take: “skill in deceiving to gain an end.” Well, well! There are alternatives, of course. Artisanal spirits is one.’s usage notes for artisan has some thoughtful words. “Artisans aren’t the same as artists, but it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference.” Maybe, but that’s the nature of small batch production, which is the heart of the artisanal ideal. Artisans in the Middle Ages and Renaissance were skilled workers who put their own stamp on everyday items. The Gothic Revival brought back the idea in reaction to the uniformity of factory-made goods. The craft food and drink movement of the past 40 years or so was a similar reaction to processed, undifferentiated foods: TV dinners, oceans of light beer, convenience-bred vegetables and a consolidation of distillers. That sounds good. Maybe artisanal would work? But the rest of the usage

If we acknowledge that we’re leaning in on craft because it evokes the appeal and aura of craft brewing, the choice of craft over artisanal or boutique or micro makes perfect sense. It works. 30 |


notes brings up the other side of artisanal, noting that “when factories produce almost all of our goods, artisans usually make only fine objects for those who can afford them.” There’s a distinctively snobbish edge to it, and the casual inclusion of high prices is off-putting. Boutique and bespoke are sometimes tossed around, but they’re too precious to apply to what is, after all, regardless of scale and whatever amount of hand-crafting is involved, a production industry. Steam, metal, boiling, hoisting … none of that says bespoke to me. Maybe the cocktails afterwards, but the tail shouldn’t wag the dog. And a boutique isn’t a distillery, it’s a clothing shop. I know, there are boutique wineries. I just don’t like the word, anymore than I do gastropub. Maybe we are stuck with these words, but I’m not going to encourage them, or suggest we use them more widely. Then we come to the other common term: microdistillery. This is clearly a parallel construction to microbrewery, and as I’ve probably mentioned more than once, I’ve also been on that track for years. It sounds good, but I’ve seen how this goes, and it’s not pretty. Micros are like puppies. They’re cute, they’re loved, and everything they do is great. Then they get bigger and they’re knocking you over when they jump up, they’re chewing holes in the rug, and all of a sudden, they’re not so cute anymore. And you start looking at puppies on Instagram, and gee, they’re so much cuter. … The micro in microbrewery is doomed by success, by growth, which just isn’t fair to anyone. But it’s an interesting choice for just this reason, that it parallels beer. You know: microbrewed beer, artisanal beer. Craft beer. That’s almost certainly why we settled on craft spirits. There’s a lot of overlap between the two industries, the two movements. Literal, sometimes, like when Anchor Brewing owner Fritz Maytag decided to start distilling, too. Functional, in that distilling has some of the same processes: mashing, fermentation, cooling, bottling, packaging. And as I mentioned, there’s me. I overlap with the best of them. Craft beer has another thing going for it:

it worked. The timeline of craft distilling has often paralleled that of craft brewing—small start, traditional types, expansion, experimen-


tation—but faster. We didn’t have to reinvent every wheel on the truck, only some of them. Most importantly, perhaps, every tier of consumer—wholesaler, retailer, individual— has seen craft beer work, and they don’t even think to question whether a small local producer can make a great product. They step up, and they try it. If we acknowledge that we’re leaning in on craft because it evokes the appeal and aura of craft brewing, the choice of craft over


artisanal or boutique or micro makes perfect sense. It works. I saved one last definition of craft for the end. “To make or produce with care, skill, or ingenuity.” I would add, “or all three.” The cool thing about that? It’s both a description, and a challenge. Make spirits with care, skill, and ingenuity. If you can do that every day your doors are open, I think you’ve earned the right to call what you put in the bottle craft spirits. ■

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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BACK IN THE BOROUGH Bar Convent Brooklyn (BCB) checked into some new digs in June, moving from its original home at the Brooklyn Expo Center in the Greenpoint neighborhood to the sprawling Industry City complex in the Sunset Park section. We spotted some familiar faces from around the craft spirits industry, including Ryan Christiansen of Caledonia Spirits (second from the left in the top row of the opposite page), who partnered with BCB on a sustainability initiative to offset the event’s footprint by developing new pollinator habitats.

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WHAT’s Stirring

DRINKS TO SAVOR FROM ACSA MEMBERS Chai Abides This cocktail from Pilot House Distilling in Astoria, Oregon, is perfect for summer sipping or a winter drink by the fire. Ingredients 1 1/2 ounces Bar Pilot Chai Tea Vodka 3/4 ounce Kahlúa 1 ounce oat milk Directions Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and shake to combine, strain through a mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Grate nutmeg over top and serve.

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DEC EM BER 201 9


Hibiscus Hour This summer cocktail from Peru, Illinois-based Star Union Spirits features the distillery’s Silver Rum. It is a refreshing spin on the traditional Arnold Palmer drink using hibiscus tea and lemonade. This drink is perfect for a hot summer day at the ballpark, golf course or while you are grilling. Ingredients 3 ounces all-natural lemonade 1.5 ounces Star Union Spirits Silver Rum 2 ounces hibiscus tea Fresh mint and dehydrated cutie orange Directions Add fresh ice, Silver Rum, and lemonade to a Tom Collins glass. Slowly pour the hibiscus tea to the top of the glass. Garnish with fresh mint and dehydrated cutie orange. Mix before drinking.

Drunken Roosevelt Franklin Roosevelt was known to have made his Manhattans out of Apple Brandy. This spin on his favorite cocktail includes Rum and Rye, the sweet and spicy collaboration of Star Union Spirits and Mississippi River Distilling Co. (makers of Cody Road Whiskey). Ingredients 1.5 ounces Star Union Spirits Apple Brandy 1.5 ounces Star Union Spirits/Cody Road Rum and Rye 1/2 ounce maple syrup 3 dashes of black walnut bitters 1 dash Angostura bitters Directions Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until chilled, strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an Amarena Fabbri cherry.

Aquavit Negroni This cocktail features Portland, Oregon-based Aimsir Distilling Co.’s newest spirit, Vættir Aquavit (pronounced vay-teer), which is named after the spirits of Norse mythology, including elves, dwarves, gods and giants. Ingredients 1 ounce Vættir Aquavit 1 ounce Campari 1 ounce Lillet Blanc Directions Add ingredients to a mixing glass and stir for about 15 seconds. Strain into a glass with a large ice cube. Express an orange or grapefruit peel over the drink, twist nealy and place beside the cube.

Aquavit Collins This cocktail—featuring Vættir Aquavit from Aimsir Distilling Co. in Portland, Oregon— includes lavender kombucha. The distillery recommends kombucha from Happy Mountain Kombucha, but you can look for a local alternative near you. Ingredients 2 ounces Vættir Aquavit 1/2 ounce lime juice Lavender kombucha Directions Add Vættir Aquavit and lime juice to a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with lavender kombucha and garnish with a lime wedge.

Mystic Sage From Santa Fe Spirits in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Mystic Sage pulls out the botanicals in Wheeler’s Gin, which are juniper, desert sage, cascade hops, cholla cactus blossoms and osha root. This is currently one of the most popular cocktails in the distillery’s tasting room. It’s refreshing and summery, without being too sweet.


Ingredients 1 1/2 ounces Wheeler’s Gin 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice 3/4 ounce sage simple syrup Directions Shake with ice, strain into coup or martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist. For the sage simple syrup: add one cup sugar to one cup water, bring to low boil, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat, add six sage leaves, and let stand for half an hour. Remove leaves and strain. This will keep in the fridge for about five days.

ACSA Affairs

ACSA’S 9TH ANNUAL DISTILLERS’ CONVENTION AND VENDOR TRADE SHOW We are thrilled to be in New Orleans this July 21-24 for our 9th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show. Here is a quick look at some of the major highlights as we gather to learn, network and celebrate the incredible community of craft spirits producers and suppliers. Second Line and Welcome Party at Mardi Gras World We’re kicking off the convention with a parade around downtown New Orleans with live music and dancing while marching toward Mardi Gras World for an opening-night celebration. You can mix and mingle with attendees and suppliers from around the globe while enjoying live music, craft cocktails, the museum and more!

Expand Your Knowledge We’ve lined up nearly 40 hours of convention education for you to strengthen your knowledge. We’ll have three concurrent education tracks (technical, sales/marketing and business/finance) in three difficulty levels (advanced, intermediate and suitable for all). We’re also hosting a New Distillery Start-Up 101 Pre-Convention Class on July 20-21.* This two-day class will address topics including basic distillery safety; equipment selection; oak extraction and aging; material selection; flavor chemistry and biochemistry; pros and cons of tasting rooms; working with distributors; building a sales team; general business management; and much more.

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Keynote Presentation and Town Hall Renowned mental health professional and comedian Matt Vogl is delivering a keynote presentation titled Distilling Mental Health & Crafting Support in Volatile Times—a topic that’s relatable for every professional role and at any skill level. ACSA’s Town Hall meeting features an engaging, enticing and informative discussion on issues our community is interested in like tax parity with beer and wine, DtC, CSDP and more. First-Time Attendee Coffee & Beignets Klatc Besides a light breakfast and overview of what to expect over the course of the convention, first-time attendees get to meet some of the ACSA leadership, including members of the ACSA board of directors and past presidents. You’ll soon realize you’ve met a new buddy, someone who will be there to answer questions, listen to the evolution of your DSP, and serve as a conduit of support for your small business. Don’t be surprised if that friendship lasts well beyond the convention. Tour Local Distilleries We are excited to offer two unique distillery tours* before and after our convention! On July 20, attendees get a taste of the Bayou State on ACSA’s pre-convention distillery tour, a full day exploring some of the area’s best distilleries, including Three Roll Estate, Sugarfield Spirits and Porchjam Distillery. On July 24, we’re offering a hands-on distilling tour called, A Foray into Flavor, which explores how distillers approach creating flavorful spirits, touching on barrel aging, vapor distillation and maceration/infusions. The distilleries include Roulaison Distilling Co., Porchjam and Happy Raptor Distilling.

ACSA PAC Fundraiser On July 22 we’re raising our glasses to toast to strengthening the business climate for our industry at the ACSA PAC Fundraiser (members-only) at Happy Raptor Distilling. Please note this event is complimentary to the first 100 ACSA members who register. If you haven’t already signed an ACSA PAC authorization form, you’ll be required to do so upon entry. Spirits Soiree: Awards Dinner & Banquet Join us July 23 for ACSA’s Awards Dinner & Banquet. You’ll get a chance to cheer on your peers and possibly accept a medal or two of your own at the awards ceremony for our annual Judging of Craft Spirits competition—the first in-person dinner in presentation of the medals in more than three years. This event is complimentary to general attendee and exhibitor registrants. If you


ACSA Affairs

Download Audio Recordings from Our 2021 Convention Audio recordings from our 8th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show are now available on our website. Convention attendees are granted lifetime access to recordings for the convention(s) they attended. If you attended our convention, you may access the content by logging in with the same email address you used to register for the convention. Courses can also be purchased individually if you did not attend. If you have issues accessing the recordings, send a note to

purchased only the Saturday Day Pass, you can purchase an additional ticket to attend the awards dinner. Dinner tickets will be distributed at registration check-in and collected upon entry at the event. Download or Update Our Convention App Download our app by scanning the QR code. If you’ve already downloaded the app, click the icon in the upper lefthand corner and click yes to switch evenst. From the homepage, click ACSA Annual Convention 2022. *These are separate, ticketed events with limited space.

REGISTER NOW FOR THE 2022 VIRTUAL PUBLIC POLICY CONFERENCE Registration for the 2022 ACSA/DISCUS Public Policy Conference is now open! This virtual conference is an opportunity to make your voice heard on the issues most impacting your distillery! We’re looking forward to joining the best and the brightest from the distilled spirits sector to meet virtually with lawmakers and advocate on the issues impacting distilleries across the country. On Tuesday, September 20, join us for a legislative issues overview and state delegation meetings to prepare for Congressional meetings.

On Wednesday, September 21, we will meet virtually with officials from Capitol Hill and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau before setting off for virtual Congressional meetings. We will close the conference with a virtual closing toast—offering the chance to connect with one another and raise a glass with industry luminaries. We hope you’ll join us virtually on September 20-21, 2022. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

MEET ACSA’S NEW BOARD MEMBERS In April, ACSA announced the results of its latest elections for our Board of Directors. We recently checked in with the newest members:

Lucy Farber of St. George Spirits in Alameda, California; Mark A. Vierthaler of Whiskey Del Bac in Tucson, Arizona; and Kelly Woodcock

of Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon.

LUCY FARBER OF ST. GEORGE SPIRITS Lucy Farber is the operations manager for St. George Spirits in Alameda, California. Having watched the craft spirits industry explode over the past decade, she says that she felt the time had come for her to share the knowledge and perspective she has gained from almost two decades of experience. CRAFT SPIRITS: As a newly elected member, what are your top priorities for the coming year or two? Lucy Farber: I would like to see the group use the power of our growing membership


to address issues which affect us all—both large ones such as DtC, and small practical ones such as the cost of shipping those packages. As well as the challenges with label and formula approvals, and outdated federal regulations which are mostly ignored, yet can suddenly be randomly enforced or called out during an audit. You’ve been at St. George since 2004 when it was a small operation. What lured you there, and what are some of your fondest memories from your early days there?

I was lured to St. George by founder Jörg Rupf’s wife, LaDene Otsuki, who was my friend, tennis partner and son’s piano teacher. Hangar One Vodka had just taken off, and Jörg found himself swamped with the administrative details of running a successful distillery. My older son was headed to college and, after filling out the financial aid forms, I realized something needed to be done! LaDene knew I was fascinated by the business aspect of St. George Spirits—we often chatted about it while we hit those tennis balls. My husband and I had run a small literary publishing com-

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ACSA Affairs

pany and design firm for 30 years, so I had plenty of experience running all the aspects of a small business—but I knew nothing about alcohol compliance. LaDene sent me off to talk to Jörg and Lance Winters, and I ended up working full time the next week. LaDene and I never played tennis again! But I could pay for my son’s piano lessons. My fondest memory of those days was the excitement of bringing unique new spirits into the world. Sharing in the creation of something that brought lots of pleasure to people. Bottling a new spirit was similar to publishing a new book—except a lot more people got a lot more giddy about it than they did about a literary title. Is there an accomplishment at St. George or in the spirits industry of which you’re most proud? The most fun I had was tracking down sugar cane for our California Agricole Rum. This was

such a long and winding adventure; involving UC Davis scientists, Hmong farmers, tribal councils, machetes, a Cajun sugar scientist, toploading walking floor trucks and biofuel research in the Imperial Valley near the Salton Sea. What excites you most about your current work at St. George? That I still don’t know what the next adventure will be. Are there any intriguing future projects from St. George that you can share details on with us? It is our 40th anniversary year. We always like to celebrate these milestones with something special—so keep an eye out this fall. Any additional advice or words of wisdom for your peers in the distilling community? Be flexible. Pay a ton of attention to details. Strive for something special. Just because ev-

Lucy Farber

eryone else is doing something doesn’t make it right, or legal. Don’t be in it just for the money. Enjoy the ride.


Mark A. Vierthaler

Mark A. Vierthaler is head distiller for Tucson, Arizona-based Hamilton Distillers Group, makers of Whiskey Del Bac. He says that an early introduction to ACSA gave him access to education, camaraderie and support. After additional involvement with ACSA committees, he says running for a seat on the Board seemed like a logical extension of supporting those who supported him. CRAFT SPIRITS: As a newly elected member, what are your top priorities for the coming year or two? Mark A. Vierthaler: I believe one of the

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key functions of a new board member is to get up to speed as quickly as possible. We (ACSA) are going to be celebrating a decade of advocacy and support for the craft spirits industry next year. That means catching up on a decade’s worth of impactwork, plus learning our current goals, tactics and implementation plans. The overarching issues to focus on will be furthering DtC legislation and work towards parity with the wine industry, as well as concerted efforts to open our doors to underrepresented groups. As a bearded white guy, I recognize the majority of our industry looks like me. We can utilize our positions of privilege to elevate others’ voices and work towards eliminating the hurdles of entry for others. You came to Hamilton Distillers Group/ Whiskey Del Bac by way of Tenth Ward Distilling Co. and Boot Hill Distillery. How are you settling into desert life? My wife and I have both fallen in love with Tucson and the desert. Admittedly, the American Southwest had never really even been on our radar. I was familiar with the amazing work that Whiskey Del Bac was doing in the American single malt whiskey space, and had heard very good things about ownership as well. A mentor of mine (Maggie Campbell) was doing some consulting work with Whiskey Del Bac and reached out to me one day, asking if I had ever thought about focusing on a single product as

opposed to multiple spirit styles. I was definitely intrigued, and when she mentioned one of her consulting clients was looking for a head distiller, I asked her to throw my name out there. Four months of interviews later, I was offered the head distiller position, and happily accepted! As I always tell other distillers, every distillery is different. Countless factors impact HOW you produce your spirits, from the still to the yeast to water to the weather. There was definitely a learning curve going from the Mid-Atlantic to the Sonoran Desert, but I’m lucky enough to have inherited an absolutely amazing production team that had experience with the challenges and opportunities that the desert presents. Plus, Tucson and Baja Arizona is an absolutely beautiful area with some of the most impressive cultural fusions I’ve ever experienced. It’s a love affair at this point. Are there any intriguing future projects from Whiskey Del Bac that you can share? There have been a lot of very cool projects that we’ve been working on for the past year. Some of the highlights include the creation of our Global Cask Collection—limited annual releases of our unmesquited Single Malt finished in PX Sherry (called Frontera), Calvados (called Normandie) and our love-letter to the heavilypeated Scotches of Islay, Winter. The Winter is a big blast of our mesquited-notpeated American Single Malt, leaning into the


ACSA Affairs

heavier, sweeter notes of the wood. We’ve also increased our collaborations this year, offering multiple releases with Lost Lantern, a new multi-distillery project with American Mash and Grain, and some early discussions of partnership projects with some other craft producers. We also have a new product in development that will drop in late Q3/early Q4 of this year that I can’t talk about in too much detail. But perhaps I’ve already said too much … Any additional advice or words of wisdom for your peers in the distilling community? Be willing to fail. The head of operations at the first distillery where I cut my teeth would often say, “Distilling is 75% science and 25%

magic.” What he meant was, taking risks and making mistakes is how you build an amazing product and an amazing brand. But only if you’re taking the time to track how and why things failed, and then pivot from there. Keep your ego in check. There’s always someone out there more talented than you. More driven than you. More successful than you. I’ve been in the spirits industry for more than a decade—distilling for almost half of that. Every time I feel I have an expert’s grasp on something, I either meet someone with exponentially more knowledge than me. Or I spectacularly screw something up. Be confident in your abilities and know when to stand your ground. But don’t ever think you know ev-

erything. That’s how you stagnate as a distiller and never grow past where you are now. The day you wake up and say, “I think everything is absolutely perfect,” is the day to retire. It’s all about community. This ties in with what I said above. You can have the world’s best palate. You can craft the most insane spirits anyone has ever tasted. No one wants to purchase your product because you’re a jerk? You’re in trouble. It’s rote to say it but it’s true—a high tide raises all ships. That doesn’t mean going out and sharing your secret recipes with everyone. It just means we were all beginners once. Be calm, be understanding, share your knowledge. When we’re all better, we’re all better.

KELLY WOODCOCK OF WESTWARD WHISKEY Kelly Woodcock is a partner and vice president, guest experience and whiskey club, for Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon. She believes that individual businesses thrive in a strong industry, which can only happen when people work together. As the craft spirits industry continues to grow stronger, she felt like it was her turn to step up and give back. CRAFT SPIRITS: As a newly elected member, what are your top priorities for the coming year or two? Kelly Woodcock: I’m really excited to continue working on DtC issues across all states helping to provide more distilleries access to this critical business-building tool. At Westward, since the pandemic, we’ve really learned how critical DtC can be in building our business and I want everyone to have parity access. You’re approaching your 10th anniversary at Westward. What initially excited you about starting there, and what keeps you excited about working there now? This coming November will mark my 10 years here at Westward. The company and our industry have changed so much over that decade that it seems like it’s only been a few short years since I started in the industry. I got excited about the job initially because I love spreading the word about the amazing products made in my home state of Oregon. When a good friend of mine told me her neighbor was hiring for locally made Aviation Gin, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity. With the change of focus for us to Westward, the exciting developments with laws changing to allow DtC and


then the truly amazing people I get to work with each and every day, I can’t help but love my job! You have a fun claim to fame in that you helped open the first distillery tasting room at an airport. What types of challenges did you have to overcome to make that a reality? Are there any particular fond memories you have from the process of building it? Building and operating a tasting room at the airport is just a completely different animal with increased construction costs and a new government agency overseeing things, but it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made. Because the airport has such different rules than other locations, we got to do most of our construction and move-in in the middle of the night. I guess my most fond memories of building out the space were the middle of the night shifts where we were a bit loopy but fully stocked up on pizza and excitement as we put the first bottles of Westward on the shelves. Westward is a host distillery for ACSA’s STEPUP Foundation. Why is participating in that program important to you? It’s been an honor to be one of the host distilleries and to get to work with interns Erin Lee and Yakntoro “Yaki” Udoumoh this year. It’s so easy to say the right things but it only really counts if you take action and are a part of the needed change, so when the opportunity to be a host came up, we immediately said yes. It’s programs like these, and others, that continue to make me proud to be a part of ACSA and our industry.

Kelly Woodcock

Are there any exciting future projects or happenings from Westward that you can share quick details on with us? We just started remodeling our tasting room at the distillery and I’m excited to show off the results later this summer. We are also continuing to share some of our most innovative releases through our Whiskey Club and I’m always excited to share these releases with our club members. Any additional advice or words of wisdom for your peers in the distilling community? This is a hard one. I’m not sure what to say except that what we are all doing is really hard. Building a small business and being a craft distillery are both enormously challenging on their own but we have this community within ACSA that can help us all be stronger individually. That excites me and I hope it’s exciting for all of us.

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MAKING A DIFFERENCE Staying true to its purpose, Eight Oaks Farm Distillery serves as host distillery for the STEPUP Foundation. BY CHAD BUTTERS

Eight Oaks Farm Distillery is Pennsylvania’s first veteran-owned, family-run, modern farm distillery. We are located in the rolling farmlands of the Lehigh Valley in New Tripoli. We grow all our grains including corn, wheat, rye and barley to craft a wide range of award-winning spirits, including bourbon, rye whiskey, applejack and gin. At the heart of everything we do is our commitment to help make our community a better place. Our purpose is what drove our decision to participate as a host distillery for the STEPUP Foundation’s inaugural class of interns. Our

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purpose guides us and we measure all we do against it. For that reason, it was nice to see something actionable come out of our strategic decisions related to the inequalities around our country. The STEPUP Foundation gave us an opportunity to make an immediate difference with inequality in our industry, not just talk about making a difference. During the turmoil and protests against injustice in 2020 we, along with many other businesses, created a position to make sure we were doing what we could to look at equity in our business and our community.

We created a JEDI advisor role within our company, which stands for Justice, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. In her role as JEDI advisor, Vicky Zisman, who is also our director of sales, is empowered to speak across all departments through the lens of equity and inclusion. It’s Vicky that did the research, found STEPUP and advocated for us to apply to the program. It was that advocacy that drove our application. It comes back to taking real action, not putting out Facebook posts, and it’s that advocacy that got us in the same room as the


Chad Butters of Eight Oaks Farm Distillery


As a distillery, you can have a quantifiable, tangible impact to help this industry look more like America.


The STEPUP interns spent most of the first half of the year on the producer side of the business, but they recently pivoted to the distribution tier at Republic National Distributing Co. (RNDC), the second largest wine and spirits wholesaler in the country. They’ve been spending much of the summer at the distribution giant’s Dallas location—with a brief stint at its New Orleans site immediately prior to ACSA’s 9th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show—and will continue there until September. “I am quickly learning how many hands (and how much equipment) it takes to get product into the world,” STEPUP intern Erin Lee told CRAFT SPIRITS magazine in July. “At just one RNDC warehouse there are three miles of conveyor belts and ‘round the clock teams keeping tens of thousands of cases moving every single day.” Intern Yakntoro “Yaki” Udoumoh says one of the things that has struck him the most, so far, has been the family dynamic at RNDC. “[I] never would have believed that logistics and family go together, but RNDC has been so welcoming,” Udoumoh says. “It’s clear that family is essential to their identity.” He notes that he was truly impressed with RNDC’s dedication to promotion within their own walls, versus hiring from outside the company. “The belief they have in their own staff is admirable—just like a family would bring up their next generation,” Udoumoh says. Adds Lee, “At the end of the day, it comes down to customer service and building strong relationships.” Applications are currently open for the 2023 STEPUP internship. Interested parties may apply at until Sept. 1. —Jeff Cioletti

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folks we said we wanted to help. In doing that we learned even more about what’s challenging from an individual’s perspective, which we think is important. It’s nice to have an opportunity to help. To see the human element of diversity in the room and get to know their experiences and see their contributions. It’s been a learning experience for us, just structurally as we help to build off the framework that STEPUP provided. It’s a serious responsibility to provide training and access for the interns, and in the end, everyone–STEPUP, the interns and us—are all better for knowing each other and working together. As a distillery, you can have a quantifiable, tangible impact to help this industry look more like America. So if that aligns with your purpose, this is something actionable you can do and your company and your crew will be better because of it. Anytime you can take 90 days to teach your processes and procedures, it’s inevitable you’ll have to improve them so you can communicate them well. It’s a great way to not only help others but your crew as well. STEPUP provides a framework for curriculum to the distillery. We used that framework to break down the schedule for each intern and then added things that were unique to how we do business. You may find things you want to teach, which takes a lot of effort, and after those 90 days, you’ll see where you made mistakes and adjust for the second intern. Those efficiencies make it easier for future interns. As we moved through the STEPUP curriculum and our own processes, we were much more comfortable with the second intern, and welcome the opportunity for future interns. ■

Founder and CEO of Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, Chad Butters got into distilling because it’s a great blend of agriculture, history and science. Eight Oaks is a host distillery for the STEPUP Foundation’s inaugural class of interns. STEPUP is currently seeking interns, mentors, DSPs and wholesalers to participate in the STEPUP Foundation internship program for the 2023 year. Visit to learn more.

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STEPUP intern Erin Lee

It’s time to STEPUP! An Internship program that is a STEP above the rest Partnering with member distilleries and wholesalers throughout the United States, we provide a comprehensive training program and provide job exposure for those of different races, color, national origins, genders, and sexual orientations. Applications are now open for Mentors, Distilleries, and Wholesalers to participate in this truly unique program for 2023.

Apply Today!



Across the nation, bars and tasting rooms are adapting to shifting demands. The Whistler (this page) in Chicago is now open Wednesday through Saturday rather than seven days a week. And Wednesday is now a popular day at Dry Land Distillers (opposite page) in Colorado.



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A Gathering Opportunity As bars and restaurants recalibrate from the pandemic, openings exist for craft spirits brands to drive more business in the on-premise. But how long will such opportunities last? BY ANDREW KAPLAN


o one can predict the future, especially amid a pandemic, but at least when it comes to bars and restaurants there are signs of hope for craft spirits companies. Consumers are going out again in big numbers, and what’s more, premium bars, which play a crucial role in introducing many consumers to craft spirits brands, are performing the best of all the onpremise channels. “The on-premise has come back,” says Matthew Crompton, regional director North America, of CGA Strategy. This past Mother’s Day, for example, saw visitors rack up more food and beverage sales per location than any other Sunday in 2022. And other spring events, such as the Kentucky Derby and Cinco De Mayo, have also helped drive big business. “Consumers missed out on a lot of this over the last 18 months to two years or so, and they really are starting to come back in droves now,” Crompton says.


In fact, consumers appear to be more than willing to part with all that cash they socked away during the pandemic. “The young crowd has come back with a vengeance,” says John Bassett, whose Iron Vault Distillery, is located in a rural part of Ohio, in Galion, a city of around 10,000 people. “The bars have reduced hours, but nobody has said they’ve seen a lack of people when they are open, though many of the older patrons have not yet returned. I think they’re just being safe.” Some newer distilleries, like R/Farm Distilling Co. in the small town of Mound City, Missouri, population 1,004, have found local residents, as co-owner Dylan Rosier describes, “kind of chomping at the bit to get out and do something.” R/Farm opened this past March. Built on land farmed for four generations, R/ Farm’s story sounds a little bit like the movie “Field of Dreams.” Pent-up demand has drawn people from miles away.

“We’re in a rural area, so when everything was shut down, there was really nothing for anybody to do,” Rosier says. “Everybody was really excited to be able to go somewhere and just see people again, more or less, and be able to do something fun. Our Saturdays have been pretty consistent. We didn’t have any idea what to expect and we’ve had probably 80 to 120 people just about every Saturday that we’ve been open so far. We’ve been really happy with that so far.” CGA data shows the on-premise actually performed better during the first half or so of this year than it did than during the same period in 2019, before the pandemic. In April, 64% of American consumers had gone out to eat in the two weeks prior, according to CGA, and 38% had been out specifically for a drinking occasion. And when asked about future plans, the results were even better, with 70% planning to go out to eat in the next two weeks, and 43% planning

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to go out for a drink. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, the situation is not all rosy. The pandemic, for one thing, has left deep scars that operators are having to adjust to. “I feel like we lost a lot of residents during Covid,” says Kathryn Kulczyk, co-owner of the craft cocktail bar The Alembic in San Francisco. “There was a mass exodus out of the city. I noticed a lot of people missing, like a lot of our regulars in Haight-Ashbury that would come in all the time. I was like, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen this person in a while.’ So, the biggest thing that has changed is that San Francisco is still a really, really expensive place to live and unfortunately a lot of people had to leave because of just the financial strain.” In fact, operators say they remain faced with a host of challenges, from the changes in traffic patterns Kulczyk describes, to supply chain disruptions, to a very tight labor market. Many have had to cut back on hours and days of the week and have raised menu prices or had to figure out creative ways around the supply shortages. “For our beverage program, we’re trying to have seasonality in what we’re doing, so stuff that is brought in is seasonal and lowerpriced,” says Steve Lewis, owner/partner of Chicago’s Meadowlark Hospitality, which owns several properties in the city’s trendy Logan Square neighborhood. “We’re also trying to do a lot of our own infusions with citrus and syrups and fresh products to be able to make some of our own stuff to keep costs low. And sometimes we’re having to completely rework our cocktail builds because we can’t R/Farm Distilling Co. in Missouri

get things.” What’s more, some worry that the relatively good times the industry is now experiencing may end just as it’s really getting started, as inflation and other forces create further instability in the economy. And don’t even mention the possibility of Covid rearing its ugly head again. “We’re under no illusions there are still a lot of tough things out there,” says Crompton. “But I think for everybody in the industry, bars and restaurants have managed to come back perhaps quicker than we thought they would do after the Covid-19 shut down.” THE GROWTH IN PREMIUM BARS While the total on-premise account universe has shrunk by nearly 5% over the course of the pandemic, premium bar locations in the U.S. have risen by 27% over the same period, according to CGA data. Also doing well are fast casual restaurants, which saw locations increase by 17% over the past two years. The worst performers? Nightclubs, which shrunk by 28% since 2020 and fine dining, which saw locations fall by 20%. The growth in premium bars especially is good news for the craft spirits industry as the channel is often a launching point for craft spirits brands. According to CGA, 53% of consumers say menu options and drink choice in bars and restaurants influence their alcohol purchases in stores. “Craft spirits is one of the biggest categories that you’ll find in premium bars,” Crompton says. “And what we’ve actually seen is a lot of places, which closed, reopen with a more premium proposition.” Customers expect more of a brand focus in such premium venues, CGA research finds. For both fine dining restaurants and premium bars, 71% of consumers say they expect to see a cocktail menu with a branded base spirit listed in drink descriptions. That drops to 56% at sports bars and casual dining chains, 49% at neighborhood bars and 35% at dive bars. “Spirits are driving the trend (at premium bars),” Crompton says. “These are very much spirits-focused places with mixologists almost becoming celebrities in their own right. It’s everything that young people—the Gen Zers—love in terms of giving brands a story and having a real skilled, trained bartender to talk you through what each brand does, how it all fits together and make you a great drink that you can’t get at home.” THE GREAT RESIGNATION SPELLS OPPORTUNITIES FOR CRAFT SPIRITS One of the other changes wrought by the pandemic, however, is that many of those

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same bartenders are no longer there. The Great Resignation hit the hospitality industry just as hard, if not harder, than other industries. Many bartenders either left the industry entirely during the Covid shutdowns or have moved into other positions. This has given rise to a fresh crop of new personnel in many on-premise locations. The result is a challenge for craft spirits companies, as some of their advocates may have moved on—but also potential opportunities. “We’re seeing a resurgence in newer faces coming to bartending and wanting to work with spirits,” says Laura Kanzler, trade marketing manager for Hotaling & Co. in San Francisco. “There’s a lot of younger people entering the industry now who haven’t worked on that side of the bar.” Adds Alex Barbatsis, bar director at the craft cocktail bar and music venue The Whistler in Chicago: “A lot of people just left the restaurant industry and the service industry. On the flip side, that opened up a lot of opportunities for people who want to get into bartending. At some of these hot spots you could work for five years as a barback before somebody left. But now it’s like you could become a bartender pretty quickly.” Kanzler sees it all as an enormous opportunity for craft spirits companies wanting to expand their on-premise footprints. “There is this fresh wave of people who need to learn and want to work with products,” she says. “When I think of it from a sales perspective, that’s fresh opportunity. This is a chance to introduce your products, your story, your brands to people who haven’t been able to experience them or haven’t been in a decisionmaking capacity yet.” Adds Barbatsis: “Once you have a favorite, it’s your favorite, right? So, it’s a good time to start introducing people to your products, to get ingratiated.” “There’s a bit of a vacuum going on that needs to be filled,” says Crompton. “And that gives an opportunity to craft spirits because not everyone’s going to be trained upon major supplier A’s portfolio and so on.” CGA has found bars and restaurants have enormous influence on consumers when it comes to spirits. The research firm found 62% of them do not decide what they will be drinking before visiting the venue every time or almost every time. Males are more likely to decide in advance (47%) while females are less likely to decide in advance (30%). The firm also found that bartenders and servers are essential to drink choice. The number of customers who take recommendations


Kathryn Kulczyk of The Alembic


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At Bozeman Spirits in Montana, founder Jim Harris (bottom right) has noticed that the busy time for visitors has gone from late afternoon and early evening to midday.

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from venue staff about what to drink was 56%. And the younger they are, the more likely they are to take recommendations. Those between 21 and 34 years old were 70% likely to take recommendations, those 35-54 years old 66%, while those 55 and older, 39%. CONSUMERS ARE LOOKING FOR EXPERIENCES Another segment of the on-premise that is growing are experience-led bars, also known these days as eatertainment venues. They can include bars with arcade games, bowling, ping pong, etc. According to CGA research, between the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021, such venues saw visitation grow by 4 percentage points, from 4% of on-premise venues to 8%, or from 9.5 million to approximately 18.3 million people, as consumers who had been quarantining were eager to re-engage in activities outside the home. “People want to have an experience that they can’t get at home and they’ve not been able to do that for so long,” says Crompton. Kanzler even predicts 1980s-style flair bartending (think Tom Cruise in the movie “Cocktail”) will return. “I think that creative service is going to make a big comeback,” she says. “A little bit of a nod to the 80’s flair bartending will probably be a thing. It’s something that’s still around now, but you don’t see it very often. Showmanship I think is coming back a little bit. And not in a serious way, more like ‘watch and be dazzled.’” While one in four nightclubs have by now closed across the country, Crompton also sees this as leaving potential new opportunities. “This is not to say that nightclubs are dead, of course not,” he says. “The nightclubs which survived are the ones which are truly doing something different, giving their consumers a great offer, and a great experience. And that’s really what the on-premise is all about. “People love to have a reason to go out, it’s a new way of socializing and doing different things,” he continues. “It’s the Instagram culture of the world. You’ve got your fancy cocktail while you’re launching an axe at the wall. Anything for that Instagram moment and those places give you that in abundance.” He says such venues, along with casinos, stadiums and the like, are also fertile ground for canned or ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails. But there is also room for RTDs in regular restaurants or bars as well. Some 18% of on-premise visitors say they drink RTDs in a restaurant or bar, with 53% of that being a spirits RTD. “So, they are gaining popularity in the on-premise, but it’s still relatively small


compared to the off,” Crompton says. CONSUMER HABITS SHIFT The shift to more people working from home, which continues often as hybrid working today, has also had an enormous impact on the on-premise, the depth of which is still being revealed. For example, Crompton says more hybrid working-from-home has given birth to a “weekend millionaire” trend, with customers going out more frequently on the weekends instead of after work on weekdays. As a result, many bars and restaurants have recalibrated their businesses to this new normal, taking advantage of the new traffic patterns, while also finding it provides some benefits to their own business models. For example, The Whistler in Chicago has changed the days it is open from seven days a week to Wednesday through Saturday, with possible expansion back into Tuesdays coming soon as traffic picks up again. Barbatsis says the change has provided the best of all worlds for The Whistler team. Having SundayTuesday off from work provides a much-needed mental health breather since business gets compressed into those days they are open, while also fitting with the busier times of the week at this point in the pandemic for a bar like The Whistler. “I think a lot of people are just mostly going out [on] weekend nights now,” he says. “(The other) days are not going to be profitable for the foreseeable future and so let’s just make sure we have built-in days off for our staff, which is awesome because Saturday night gets done, we clean up and then we just relax and we can sleep in, not have to worry about things like is someone going to get sick and we have to cover their shift or things like that. We can do whatever we want for the next few days and that’s it. It’s just a more pleasant lifestyle.” CGA has also noticed a shift to younger drinkers going out earlier in the day. Specifically, CGA has tracked a fall-off of traffic in the early evening, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., since the pandemic. That part of the day for a drink occasion has fallen by 9 percentage points between the fall of 2020 and fall of 2021 to 53%, though it is still the busiest time for visits. For example, Jim Harris, founder of Bozeman Spirits in Montana, noticed that the busy time for visitors to his distillery has gone from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. pre-pandemic, to midday. “The majority of our sales are done during the day time now,” he says. “It totally flipped. Is it people working from home and they can go out whenever they

“Craft spirits is one of the biggest categories that you’ll find in premium bars. And what we’ve actually seen is a lot of places, which closed, reopen with a more premium proposition.” —Matthew Crompton of CGA Strategy want? I don’t know.” Growth overall, according to CGA, has been in brunch and lunch visitations, which have increased by 5 and 3 percentage points respectively. Also up are midafternoon visits, by 1 percentage point. “The big change is brunch and lunch,” Crompton says. “Brunch and lunch were big anyway, but it’s gotten even bigger on Saturday and Sunday with people going out on the weekend.” Crompton says spirits are positioned particularly well for such changes. “When we talk about why the spirits category is winning, partly it’s because it plays so well across all dayparts,” Crompton says. “While some of the other beverage alcohol categories have had a harder time selling throughout the day.” Out of every dollar spent in the on-premise at a bar or restaurant, 44.7% is on a spirit brand, up 2.1 percentage points from January 2020 to January 2022, according to CGA. That is compared with 39.4% for beer with hard seltzer (down 0.5 percentage points), 15.9% for wine (down 1.6 percentage points), and 38.1% for beer without hard seltzer (down 1.2 percentage points). “Two percentage points doesn’t sound like a lot,” Crompton says, “but that’s a hell of a lot of money when we look at the full size of the pie here. So, spirits very much is the winning category at the moment.” In fact, Lewis, of Meadowlark, says that a saving grace during this time of shortages has been the craft spirits industry. “I think it’s a fun thing that there are so many other smallbatch distillers that are still producing great stuff that there’s a ton of options,” he says. Along with weekends, some have also

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Alex Barbatsis of The Whistler

noticed the middle of the week, especially Wednesday and Thursday, becoming more popular for the on-premise. The theory among some is that it’s become the most popular day of the week for hybrid workers to be in the office. “People are commuting, or they have meetings that they’re having again,” says Kanzler, “and nobody wants to have a Friday afternoon meeting, right?” Nels Wroe, founder, Dry Land Distillers in Longmont, Colorado, says his downtown business community has noticed the impact of the newfound popularity of Wednesdays. “That day has become a new bright spot for everybody which I don’t think any of us saw coming,” he says. “We heard this from a lot of restaurant owners. And Wednesdays were never anything that anybody would have banked on before. We weren’t even open on Wednesdays prior to this because they were pretty lackluster.” As a result, the City of Longmont’s downtown historic district decided to launch a downtown Wednesday happy hour program with multiple businesses participating. “We’ve done a couple of them,” Wroe says, “and they’ve been phenomenal, strong or stronger than some of our Fridays and Saturdays.” FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES If hybrid working continues to be a thing, as most suspect it will be, look for the middle of the workweek to continue to take on new importance for bars and restaurants.

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“A lot of the trends we’re seeing now were happening previously. It’s just that they’ve been accelerated because of Covid,” he says. “So, with that in mind, I think a lot of things will stay around.” Along with RTDs, non-alcohol spirits also continue to perform strongly with lots of white space for them in the on-premise. “It’s still relatively small in the on-premise, but definitely getting harder and harder to ignore,” he says. “We’re seeing more and more brands enter the space, not just low and no-alcohol beer, but also actual non-alcoholic spirit companies as well. There’s many of them out there.” Kanzler, of Hotaling, thinks consumers will be of two minds when it comes to cocktails. “We’re probably going to see lower alcohol options continuing to grow, like aperitifs and non-alcoholic cocktails and we’re also going to see heavy, large format, high-octane fun things happening as well,” she says. She also predicts shared formats like Scorpion Bowls will grow in popularity, for example, as the fear of spreading germs fades away. Crompton also sees some potential for growth of craft spirits in the fast casual segment of the industry. “The challenge is what can be done in this type of location to bring your products to the market? Because you’re not going to have a skilled bartender working here.” He suggests RTDs and hard seltzers can grow in this channel because they provide a quick turnkey solution for busy locations. The better use of outdoor spaces for the on-premise is another change caused by the pandemic that many distillers believe will stick around. Highside Distilling, located on Bainbridge Island, Washington, near Seattle, was able to convert some of its parking lot space to seating. “We’re still seeing people Steve Lewis of Meadowlark Hospitality

that will even when it’s rainy or cold out request to sit outside just because it makes them more comfortable,” says co-owner Matt Glenn. “Being able to have that has been huge because we have such a small indoor space that it probably would turn people away if we didn’t have the option to sit outdoors. We’ve been in touch with our landlord and we have the intention of keeping that as kind of a permanent fixture for our facility.” Adds Wroe, of Dry Land, “The change we see with patrons is very much around cautious optimism that, ‘OK, maybe we’re out of the woods, but we’re going to be a little more careful.’ So we have many patrons that choose to sit outside more than they would have in the past. And so we see some permanent changes [to] making that outdoor space more of a true extension of the distillery.” For example, state and local governments are working with them to encourage and facilitate the expanded use of outdoor space, Wroe says. After two years of being knocked back on their heels by the pandemic, Crompton would also like to see a shift to a more proactive approach by beverage brands. “This means actually leaning into operators and truly understanding what they want—it’s not one size fits all—but offering proper solutions, great stories, and really helping them in a proactive way rather than waiting for the next rule change or the next whatever it may be,” he says. “And really helping them promote different types of drinks on the menu.” The million-dollar question is just how long will these good times for the on-premise last? Already, mounting strains on the economy are appearing. Supply chain disruptions and rising prices are already having some impacts that could cut down on the ability to craft spirits brands to take full advantage of today’s reopenings. Rob Lewis, co-founder Spiritus Law, a hospitality and alcohol law firm, says he is already noticing venues beginning to cut back. “They’re limiting their menus, they’re really focusing on high demand items and readily available ingredients and locally sourced ingredients because it’s just easier for them and less expensive for them,” he says. And yet while no one can predict the future, on-premise operators are, at least for now, celebrating the first extended period of stable sales in two years. As are their customers. Says The Whistler’s Barbatsis: “People are happy to be back, happy to be partying, happy to be dancing, happy to hear live music—that part’s nice. It’s just a little different from before.” ■


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Real-World Application Spirits brands find utility in NFTs by tying them to actual bottles and experiences. BY JON PAGE


midst an onslaught of headlines such as “Crypto Firms Quake as Prices Fall” and the likes of Bill Gates calling cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) a sham, it may be easy for most brick-and-mortar business owners to altogether dismiss them. But it may be impossible for distillers to ignore NFTs, which are digital assets frequently bought with cryptocurrency and stored in a blockchain (essentially a digital ledger), as a growing number of startup digital marketplaces are offering NFTs tied to real-world bottles of spirits and experiences. Take, for example, a recent auction of rare whiskey from Buffalo Trace Distillery. In March, the Frankfort, Kentucky-based distillery sold NFTs representing five 6-liter bottles of O.F.C. Bourbon whiskey—distilled in 1982—via auction with BlockBar. All told, the auction raised $280,000, with proceeds benefiting a handful of charities. The bottles are available to be redeemed by Dec. 31, and the NFT holders will also unlock an invitation to the distillery for a private VIP tour. Companies like Metacask and BAXUS are also focusing on bottles, casks and experiences tied to NFTs. And while there are certainly questions about compliance, the marketplaces offer distilleries a chance to reach new audiences.

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Before the Buffalo Trace auction, Sara Saunders, vice president of global marketing for Sazerac Co. (Buffalo Trace’s parent company) says there was no expectation about how much the whiskey would fetch. It was the first NFT for Sazerac and the first bourbon NFT for BlockBar. But Saunders was thrilled with the outcome, and she offers advice for craft distillers who might see NFTs as a fad. “Like all new technology, there are learning curves,” says Saunders. “Things we think are fads we’re still utilizing and finding new uses for 10-plus years later. By embracing new technology, one can reach new audiences who are also in the discovery phase. It’s like distilling whiskey— the concept is not new, but everyone is always looking for ways to improve it and innovate within that space.” When it comes to the space of NFTs, it has traditionally been known for pieces of digital artwork, some of which have sold for record prices. Last year, an NFT of digital art sold for $69 million in a Christie’s auction with the final payment made in Ethereum, a form of cryptocurrency. Also last year, a collection of digital art known as the Bored Ape Yacht Club became a hot commodity. Initially, 10,000 NFTs of bored-looking cartoon apes were created and sold out for the equivalent of $200 each. But a rare Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT later sold for

$3.4 million, and the cheapest available options at the time of this publication were available for the equivalent of $100,000. That’s down from about $340,000 as reported in early may by The New York Times, before the most recent wave of headlines predicting crypto’s demise. And before Gates, at a tech conference, said digital asset trends are “100% based on greater fool theory” and mocked Bored Apes, joking that “expensive digital images of monkeys” will “improve the world immensely,” CNN reported. Others remain optimistic about the future of NFTs. Amanda Whitcroft is the owner of Panda PR, a New York-based boutique agency specializing in cryptocurrency and technology. She says the latest hit to the crypto is nothing new, that this is part of a cycle. “This stuff is not going anywhere,” says Whitcroft. She sees NFTs and cryptocurrency as a way


Bottles for sale on BAXUS

to build and innovate for the future. “Should we go through another pandemic 20-plus years from now, we’re gonna be able to survive because of the technology that we’re building,” she says. And it’s all the better when NFTs can be tied to real-world products like spirits. Todd Wiesel is the founder of BAXUS, which launched in January. Wiesel is a self-described whiskey fanatic who was perplexed by the unnecessary transit between trades. “We were looking at it and saying, ‘Well, this is not an efficient or effective way.’ Can you imagine if you had to trade stocks by mailing a stock certificate to someone every single time you wanted to trade? It would take months between sales and pricing,” says Wiesel. “So what we wanted to create was a secure, 24/7, round-the-clock market where people could check what prices are, where people are buying, receive availability, and actually trade their whiskey.” Meanwhile, the whiskey stays in a temperature-controlled warehouse until the NFT is redeemed. Beyond serving as a trading ground, BAXUS also allows brands or companies to connect directly with their consumers. One of the startup’s first partners is Minneapolis-based O’Shaughnessy Distilling Co., makers of Keeper’s Heart Whiskey. The distillery is launching a cask program on BAXUS later this summer. “Ultimately what we want to provide is access to as wide of an audience as possible, that’s into whiskey, and we want to build a community,” says Paddy Caulfield, the distillery’s marketing director. “Those two things are extremely challenging to do in our industry and with the technology that we now have and people like BAXUS and their platforms, it opens up an audience that would be incredibly hard for us to reach, in a way that’s


extremely scalable and that allows us to build a really intimate relationship.” Before jumping into the world of NFTs, craft distillers should consult their attorneys, according to Ryan Malkin, the principal attorney at Malkin Law, P.A., a law firm serving the alcohol beverage industry. “When it comes to the compliance of NFTs attached to alcohol, the regulation landscape is still a bit of the Wild West,” wrote Malkin in a recent article for SevenFiftyDaily. Third-party providers like BlockBar or BAXUS have a license to sell NFTs directly to consumers, but Malkin wrote that “legal compliance is also important for purchasers of NFTs attached to alcohol to understand, as regulations for reselling these NFTs will vary by state.” Malkin thinks NFTs tied to experiences represent a great opportunity for craft distillers. “People in the craft community might have a little bit of a better opportunity here to provide something that the bigger brands typically can’t provide, which is the unlockable content being, ‘Come to my distillery; have a private tour with me; taste barrels that are aging in the distillery; have a special dinner with the master distiller’—all of those kinds of cool things,” says Malkin, who is also counsel to the American Craft Spirits Association. “Those things are certainly more compliant than just trying to get a bottle to somebody.” That sort of utility does present some added staying power for NFTs. As for cryptocurrency, only time will tell. But it’s worth noting that BAXUS customers can pay with a credit card. And when Buffalo Trace distributed funds to charities after the auction of O.F.C. Bourbon NFTs, the donations were made not with Bitcoin, Ethereum or a new type of crypto, but via a wire of good old-fashioned American dollars. ■

“Ultimately what we want to provide is access to as wide of an audience as possible, that’s into whiskey, and we want to build a community. Those two things are extremely challenging to do in our industry and with the technology that we now have and people like BAXUS and their platforms, it opens up an audience that would be incredibly hard for us to reach, in a way that’s extremely scalable and that allows us to build a really intimate relationship.” —Paddy Caulfield of O’Shaughnessy Distilling Co.

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member spotlight

Fueling the Dashfire Lee and Dawn Egbert launched Dashfire with one product: Vintage Orange Bitters. Today, they have an expansive portfolio of craft bitters, spirits and cocktails—with even bigger plans on the horizon. BY ERIKA RIETZ

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ee Egbert’s love of adventure took him around the world: He lived for a year and a half in China and traveled extensively throughout Europe and Central America. It was on these journeys that Lee became enthralled with the nuance of local flavors and spices. But his job as a project manager, which involved everything from moving warehouses to setting up multimillion-dollar e-commerce sites, brought him often to New York, where he fell in love with the vibrant speakeasy scene and the world of creative, complex cocktails. “We took that home to Minnesota and really just started crafting and having fun with it,” Lee says. Nearly 10 years ago, he and his wife, Dawn, launched Dashfire in the Twin Cities area with a single product: Vintage Orange Bitters, made with fresh orange peel, bourbon and a “heap” of botanicals, aged in bourbon barrels. He calls the recipe his debut album; there’s even a 1 on the bottle’s label, but not because it was the first product. “That’s because the recipe was actually a first try,” he says. Over the course of a decade, the Egberts expanded the Dashfire lineup well beyond Vintage Orange: Today, the brand boasts more than 20 bitters (the largest selection in the world), ready-to-drink cocktails like the Bourbon Old Fashioned and Fig and Cascara Manhattan in 100-mL cans, coffee drinks (made in collaboration with Minneapolisbased 5 Watt Coffee) like Rum Golden Latte and Bourbon Cold Brew Coffee and liqueurs like Bourbon Orange and Elegant Elderflower. This summer, Dashfire is set to release its Long Drink Series, a line of easy-sipping fruitforward cocktails in 200-mL cans. This new collection includes Bramble, made with blackberry juice and Dashfire gin; Fl. Mule, featuring Florida rum and ginger juice; Salty Dog, produced with Minnesota vodka, grapefruit juice and toasted rosemary; and Margarita, a blend of blue agave tequila and passionfruit juice. But don’t think because they’re crushable that they’re lightweight: These summery drinks all clock in around 14% ABV. Lee insists they’re “real cocktails; just how you’d get them in a bar.” It’s the mindset he’s applied to every Dashfire drink: A command of real ingredients from vetted suppliers; an emphasis on balanced, layered flavors; and the quality drink you’d expect to be served at a top-tier ­­­New York City bar, all in a can. “Even our Old


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“I think as long as all of us craft producers continue to really care about quality and really care about shelf stability and how the cocktails taste over time, we stand a really good chance of doing what craft beer did.” —Lee Egbert of Dashfire

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Lee Egbert of Dashfire

Fashioned has nine ingredients in it. A lot of time, energy and effort goes into it,” Lee says. Lee and Dawn share the workload along with 10 to 12 employees: Dawn runs the books and manages the back-end of the operation, and Lee designs everything from the drinks to the labels that go on them. Lee also takes the reins on the vision of the business and keeps tabs on the direction of craft spirits in general. “I’m always thinking where strategically we want to be down the road, and what types of products to make. I’m keeping a finger on the pulse of the industry; what’s out there, what’s changing, what’s coming.” This year, the husband-and-wife team are ambitiously spearheading dynamic changes within their own business; they are scouting for a much larger space in the Twin Cities—nearly double their current size—with the potential to open an on-site cocktail room. They’re also plotting to launch a new, tandem venture: A tin canning operation. In addition to bottles, Dashfire drinks are currently in tin cans; the coating on traditional aluminum cannot withstand the acidity of big-ABV beverages. Tin is better for stabilization, ensuring the cocktails maintain quality in transit and on the shelf. But the cans have been tricky for Lee to source, primarily because there are currently no tin can producers in the United States. “In fact, they’re all in China, and there are only a couple of them. It’s very limited.” And, he adds, the freight costs are very expensive. Lee (who admits he loses sleep thinking about shelf stability) says he’s encountered quality issues with some of the producers, citing that faulty cans, where the seal is broken and the liquid is exposed to the tin, can turn a spirit green or gray. All of this has led the Egberts to hatch a plan for a canning operation stateside. But it won’t be just for the Dashfire brand; he has plans to build upon their current private label contract canning and extend it to more beverage producers. This is good news for those in the burgeoning ready-to-drink business; Lee plans to have relatively low minimums so that even smaller producers can source a more stable vessel for their big-ABV beverages. Lee is an ardent supporter of other craft spirits companies; after all, he started his business making bitters and often collaborated with craft spirits producers before launching his own. But he’s also not shy about the standards he thinks the industry needs to hold to in order to sustain growth: “I think as long as all of us craft producers continue to really care about quality and really care about shelf stability and how the cocktails taste


over time, we stand a really good chance of doing what craft beer did,” he says. “As long as there’s not too much junk out there giving us all a bad name.” Perhaps the best way to ensure that there isn’t too much “junk” on the market is for


quality brands to take up shelf space, which is exactly what Dashfire has done. Rather than setting sites on building a cocktail room or a destination distillery, the Egberts have always decided instead to focus on their distribution. “So, we’re kind of like a sleepy, quiet company.

We don’t make a lot of noise, but we are pretty spread out there,” Lee says. It’s true: Their products are in 24 states and a handful of foreign countries. Seems apropos for a brand inspired by travel to be spreading around the globe. ■

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Distilling Destinations

The Aloha Spirit Hawaiian distillers craft a taste of the islands. BY JOHN HOLL

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Bob Gunter of Koloa Rum Co.


alk to any manufacturer in Hawaii and they will mention the supply chain, logistics, raw ingredients and costs. The truly passionate ones, like small distillers, will quickly pivot to all the good and excitement, the importance of local and sustainability efforts. Such is the nature of craft spirits producers on the Hawaiian Islands, where a small but dedicated group is working with what they have and giving a true taste of the islands to both locals and tourists. “We live and work by the notion that the world’s oceans give life to our planet and everything we do and produce makes its way back to the ocean,” says Jim Grannan, the CMO of Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm and Distillery on Maui. “Nowhere is this more prominent than being on an island in the middle of the largest body of water on the planet.” The land is sacred. Residents of Hawaii will repeat this over and over again in conversation, not as a lecture but because it is a way of life and how to survive. For the small group of craft distilleries across the islands there is an opportunity to lean into local and a desire to be unlike the rest of the industry. That has been a driving focus for Garrett Marrero, the CEO and founder of Kupu Spirits on Maui. He brought craft beer to the island in 2005 with Maui Brewing Co., and he has been a loud and passionate voice for the importance of local and the fight against big beverage conglomerates. He believes in authenticity and thinks consumers do as well. He notes that there are products that might look or feel Hawaiian but are just a label with imported ingredients. “We’re doing the research and development, using local ingredients not only to ferment and create an alcohol base but also to impart unique flavors and profiles that are specific to Hawaii,” he says. “That is the real focus for us.” If something comes from the mainland, transparency is important, he adds. Of the distilleries on the islands, most are producing rum. This is not only because of its tropical allure and relaxation but because of Hawaii’s history with sugar cane. That industry—says Bob Gunter of Koloa Rum Co. in Kalaheo on the island of Kauai—largely shaped the culture of the 50th state. “The successful commercial sugar production operations in Hawaii were first established in the town of Koloa in 1835 and, two years later, the initial harvest yielded two tons of raw sugar,” he says. “Native Hawaiians are grateful for the abundance of natural resources on their islands. They deeply revere

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According to CMO Jim Grannan, Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm and Distillery works “by the notion that the world’s oceans give life to our planet and everything we do and produce makes its way back to the ocean.”

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and honor the `aina (land). And this wisdom has been passed down for generations. This strong sense of connection with nature, the environment, and for each other is the essence of The Spirit of Aloha.” Touring distilleries today showcases much of that history. Maui’s Kolani Distillers, the island’s oldest spirits producer, is located on the grounds of a sugar mill that dates back to 1875. The distillery, which specializes in rum, makes its varieties from 100% Maui Grown Molasses. Kolani also continues the modern trend of making hand sanitizer, which many local companies, including hotels, have branded with their logos. “We’re able to competitively price our sanitizer because it’s not shipped in from the mainland,” notes co-founder Paul Case Jr. on the company’s website. Touring distilleries can also showcase environmental efforts. Marrero, who also runs Maui Brewing Co. and Maui Hard Seltzer, is proud to show off the production facility with ICO2 recapturing equipment and solar photovoltaic and solar thermal systems along with biodiesel fuel generators that provide electricity and hot water to brewing and distilling systems. Local agriculture is critically important, and the small distilleries all use fruits and other ingredients that do not have to travel far from the farm to the still, or café restaurants whenever possible. This also strengthens bonds with local farmers and shows a commitment to the importance of local. Koloa Rum, for example, notes that it is the first licensed distillery on the island of Kauai and has focused its rum recipes on pure cane sugar and fresh mountain rainwater. Marrero says that the islands are known for high-sugar tropical fruits so incorporating those into spirits—from gin and vodka to whisky—just makes sense. There are so many chances for experimentation and flavor combinations and each can resonate with different consumers and that can be the key to success. Another way distillers have found a way to connect with consumers is through hotel and resort beverage programs. Tourism is the main industry on the islands and visitors are often willing to pay for experiences and souvenirs. If it comes in the form of liquid or a take-home bottle, all the better. When visitors are poolside or oceanfront, a locally made cocktail, a collaboration between resort bartenders and craft spirit makers can enhance the beverage experience. Small


Garrett Marrero of Kupu Spirits

“We’re doing the research and development, using local ingredients not only to ferment and create an alcohol base but also to impart unique flavors and profiles that are specific to Hawaii. That is the real focus for us.” —Garrett Marrero of Kupu Spirits

distillers are constantly working on new recipes and combinations to keep consumers engaged. Through it all, however, they keep coming back to educating on the sense of place—a reminder that the islands are vibrant and lush and need to be celebrated and protected. Keeping paradise intact takes hard work. “Our mission is to support our community and share the positive aspects of Hawaiian life with those who visit as well as those who interact with our brands around the world,”

says Grannan, who notes that the distillery uses local produce and ingredients for menu items at their restaurant, organic sugar cane from the farm and deep ocean mineral water from the Kona coast on the Big Island of Hawaii for its spirits. “It is our belief that a strong community can have positive impact with those who visit,” he says, “and subsequently take the experience back home with them to bolster their own communities.” ■

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AGE-OLD QUESTIONS Key considerations before selecting a barrel recipe BY CATE CRABTREE

The world of whiskey barrels is changing. You no longer need to pay a premium for an infrared toasted barrel, and perhaps you’re starting to think about experimenting with some of the options now widely available to distillers. But where to begin, when product consistency, time and investment are on the line? Whether you’re looking to bring a clearer definition of flavor to a beloved expression or feel ready to embark on something completely new, here are a handful of questions to bring to the table when selecting a spirits barrel recipe, courtesy of Ashley Barnes, master blender and process consultant with The Spirits Group of Louisville, Kentucky. She cut her teeth at Four Roses Distillery before starting her own consultancy with Monica Wolf. Barnes advises distillers on every step of the process, from business and distillery design to barrel selection, finding faults in distillate and blending. 1: What is the desired flavor profile? “You want to know what your end goal is [before you begin],” advises Barnes, who suggests thinking through the process step by step before making any decisions, always with an eye towards the target flavor profile. The first step: grain. “Your mash bill is the primary source of

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flavor. It’s the basis upon which you’re building the overall profile. The grains provide the primary food source for the yeast to produce additional flavor compounds. They also provide compounds to encourage reactions with the barrel, oxygen, and time. So with this in mind you’ll want to choose the primary and secondary grains for the broad stroke profile you are hoping to achieve,” says Barnes. In other words, “I want a maturate that has these specific components. How do I get close to that with the grain?” If you want a rich, nutty, chocolatey-type end product, you might want to go with a higher malt mash bill. If you want to bring in some depth, some creaminess and a light sweetness, add in some wheat. (Wheat also often brings a sweet herbal note into the finished product.) If you want a nice, middleof-the-road (but could go deeper) sweetness with bright fruit notes–like dried strawberry–you would want to bump up your corn percentage in the grain bill. And the variety of corn brings in different fruit and sweet notes which can be highlighted through the grain bill as well. Rye brings in spice, earthiness and herbal notes, which is one of the most common reasons for using it. “Rye’s ability to bring in complexities and multiple flavors is a

valuable asset,” notes Barnes. “Once you are happy with your grain ratios and the flavors anticipated, you’re going to move on to think, what needs to happen in the distillation process to get those flavors from the grain? Then how can my barrel support this and highlight what I want to achieve as my final product? Your goal might be somewhat fluid as you move down the process,” admits Barnes. “But if you don’t have direction, then you’re just chasing your tail.” 2: What is your mash bill and what flavors are you hoping to bring forward in the barrel from both your primary and secondary grains? Generally speaking, the primary and secondary grains in any mash bill bring their unique range of attributes to the distillate. Once you’ve selected your grains, you can then think about how to leverage the heat treatment of the barrels to highlight the elements you’d like to emphasize within that range for your end product. But you also want to be sure that you’re not going to overpower any of the more delicate notes you’re targeting– which, Barnes says, can happen when distillers “go straight for the Char 4.” For example, are you looking to play up the


spice versus herbal notes in a rye? Do you want a 20% malted barley to be able to stand up to more dominant flavors? Are you looking for a traditional bourbon profile or something a little unique? Each mash bill plays on a spectrum of possible flavor, and that’s where your barrel recipe comes in, particularly in terms of toast. “[Depending on the choice you make with the barrel], corn can be super rich and heavy or lighter, [for] more of a summery-type whiskey. A malt-heavy mash bill can go herbalforward or rich and robust with notes of dried red berries, plums, roasted notes, chocolate and coffee. Or you can go in a direction that highlights leather, earthy, herbal tones,” advises Barnes. With wheat, you can either go more herbal-forward or move in a direction that is “more sweet and sultry.” It’s the difference between earthy, sawdust, new leather and rich stone fruit and grilled fruit. So what about people who think toast is going to overwhelm with barrel flavor? “Toast is what’s really amplifying the complexity of flavor of the barrel,” says Barnes. “You can get more spice. You can get more herbal notes. Toast allows for the heat to penetrate deeper past the initial char layer. Just below the char is a thin area that appears red in color usually but if you aren’t looking for it, you may miss it. This is where a lot of flavor comes from. By including toast into the cooperage process, you’re increasing that area. Wood degradation through the heating process helps create those amazing flavors we all know and love from the barrel. Toasting encourages more of these flavors and allows the cooperage to target specific flavor compounds. A great way to think about toasting barrels is as if you are expanding your palette of colors you are working with.” Essentially, says Barnes, “You’re getting the 180-box of crayons instead of the 12-box.” 3 and 4: What’s your target aging time and what’s your climate? We’re combining these questions out of necessity. Simply put, four years in a barrel house in the Pacific Northwest is very different from four years in a rickhouse in Texas. But both can and do yield beautiful results. With aging time and climate, variability in toast and char levels becomes very important. Traditionally, it was believed that the char layer brought all the color and flavor. These days, it’s more commonly understood that char provides a valuable level of filtration as the liquid moves into and out of the barrel, through the red layer and back out again. The red layer—created in part when the barrel is


charred, and further enhanced with a toast— is where the real opportunity for flavor and color are. But if your char layer is too thick for your climate and aging time, you may not be taking full advantage of the red layer. Barnes advises considering how fast the liquid is traveling into the barrel and how much opportunity it has to do so, to better dial in an ideal char and toast combination. Consider the environments in the Pacific Northwest and Texas rickhouses we mentioned earlier.

The barrels in the Pacific Northwest will experience a temperate environment and thus slower movement of the liquid into and out of the wood. A lighter char treatment will encourage the liquid to pass through to the red layer more easily. The barrels in the Texas rickhouse, however, will experience temperature swings that encourage a great deal of movement of liquid into and out of the wood throughout the course of the year. The maturate won’t have any problem passing through a thicker charcoal layer as it

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Ashley Barnes tasting samples

“A great way to think about toasting barrels is as if you are expanding your palette of colors you are working with. … You’re getting the 180box of crayons instead of the 12-box.” —Ashley Barnes of The Spirits Group ages, and will benefit from a heavy char. But the story doesn’t end there. Climate doesn’t just determine the rate of extraction from the barrel; it determines the size of compound that can be extracted. A chemist

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The whiskey line in a stave from a dumped barrel

by training, Barnes uses an analogy to illustrate: running. “If you’re running fast,” she explains, “you’re not going to want to carry anything heavy. If you’re on a leisurely walk and just enjoying the view, you’re more likely

to stop at that vendor and pick up that really nice sweet treat, maybe a rich caramel compound that’s a little too heavy to be packed off when you’re running as hard as you can. So you’re more likely to get the larger, more complex sugar-type compounds (that are just a little too big to be extracted through a fast reaction) in an environment with slow movement through the barrel.” It’s an argument for increasing the red layer through the toast: “If you’re in an environment [with temperature extremes], you want to break down as many of those complex sugars in the barrel with your toast so they’re slightly smaller and more easily extracted.” “If you’re in a more temperate environment, you don’t necessarily have to approach it in that way because you’re going to be able to get those sugars in their complete form and have the time for them to stay whole,” Barnes continues. That’s a good method for longer aging periods. But when the aging time is under four years or so, there might not be enough opportunity for the whiskey to do its work. And that’s where further decreasing a char and introducing a heavier toast can be helpful in a temperate climate. “Across the board, you need to consider how long the liquid’s going to be in the barrel,” says Barnes, “and how long is it going to be exposed to the oak and what you’ve done to the oak to get those flavors.” The bottom line is, a standard Char 4 will work beautifully for a six- or seven-year Kentucky Bourbon, just as it has for generations. But when you sit down to create with a whole palette of colors in front of you, why not reach for something that will bring you a little closer to what you had in mind? ■


FIRE PROTECTION & PREVENTION WITHIN CRAFT DISTILLERIES Put safety first in your craft distillery! This course is made possible through a grant ACSA received through OSHA and will be presented by Industrial Safety and Training Services. The content will be OSHA-approved and specifically designed to address fire concerns at a craft distillery scale, including but not limited to: • • • • •

Sprinkler systems Fire code compliance requirements Dust explosion hazards Explosion-proof wiring and equipment Hazard identification and recognition

The class is free to all in the industry, regardless of ACSA membership status. Attendees are responsible for their own travel costs. Location: Watershed Distillery 1145 Chesapeake Ave Columbus, OH 43212

Register Now


AUTOMATION FOR AN EVOLVING MARKETPLACE Making the case for automating processes in craft spirits BY BOB GREEN

Packaging plays an important role in promoting brand awareness and shelf appeal in the very competitive American craft spirits market. Data released by Park Street and ACSA in the Craft Spirits Data Project reveal that by August 2021 the number of active craft distillers in the U.S. had grown to 2,290.

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The craft spirits market volume reached over 12 million nine-liter cases in retail sales, an annual growth rate of 7.3%. In value terms sales are running at $6.7 billion. That’s an awful lot of liquor! Large producers make up only 1.6% of the total number of craft producers but are

responsible for more than half of the cases sold in the U.S. So how can sustainable, welldesigned packaging and correctly positioned labeling—that is distinctive and does what it says on the bottle—help smaller independent producers boost their share of the market? The use of automation in the production


of artisanal alcoholic beverages may raise concerns regarding the craft status of the product while, in fact, the opposite may very well be the case. Automation of the technical process, which is cost-effective and can rapidly boost the production output, offers more time for product development, fine tuning and implementation of product values which are the true essence of artisanal products. SPACE MATTERS Space can be a big issue for the smaller distillers operating out of cramped premises, so making the most efficient use of that space is imperative to making such businesses viable. Meeting turnaround and volume targets can also be challenging—investment in reliable, compact machinery is the ace up your sleeve that can help you meet these challenges head on. Investment in this drinks industry has grown significantly in the U.S. since the enactment of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act. In 2020 the amount of capital investment was $759 million—an increase of over $61 million from 2019. However, distillers need a decent supply partner to work out exactly what steps they need to take to get the best ROI. Flexibility is key for managing diverse products. Bourbon, gin, vodka—to name just a few—can come in a variety of bottle shapes and sizes. Downtime for changing lines to accommodate different items can result in lost revenue. What’s needed is a hands-off approach with cutting-edge equipment that encompasses all aspects of downstream packaging from liquid filling to capping, continuous labeling and case packing. Large distillers spend millions of dollars on the design and branding of packaging for their products to ensure they draw the shopper’s eyes to their shelves in supermarkets and grocery stores. Some might be considered gimmicky, like the shape of a famous U.S. building. Most are not. But they know that nine times out of 10 it’s the bottle design that catches the eye. PEOPLE POWER VS. MACHINES For smaller craft producers who can’t afford to spend millions of dollars on designs and advertising, a complete downstream turn-key solution can help expand know-how, enhance production efficiency, lower costs, raise output and product quality as well as improve market share and overall profit margins. I understand some craft producers prefer human involvement, but why would you employ a skilled person to manually cap bottles


of alcoholic beverages when you can get a significantly better ROI with an automated capping machine that is faster, consistent and reduces the risk of errors, allowing staff to be deployed on more skill- or knowledgebased tasks? An efficient piece of automation machinery will fill bottles and churn out accurately placed labels on bottles or cans at a far faster rate than even the quickest worker. Labels must be applied correctly so as not to compromise the presentation quality and critical message to consumers. Highly automated processes require less close operator interaction. Automation provides a consistent process irrespective of staffing levels. A flick of the button and you are off and running, which is a significant benefit. Thanks to modern, maintenance-friendly designs, when operators do get involved, they have optimum accessibility, through the human-machine interface (HMI), of machine parts allowing for tool-less changeovers to take place quickly and safely. The latest technology, such as that supplied by Shemesh, is also Industry 4.0 ready so any issues or software updates to a line can be handled remotely as part of after-sales customer service. There is a perception by some craft spirits producers that the cost of automating is too high or their distillery too small. Lines can be modified to suit any business and supply any liquid imaginable. Making the change now could be the first step of your journey from initial automation to complete robotic production. Shelf appeal is massively important. Shoppers are becoming more discerning coupled with an increased awareness of sustainability. Retailers are demanding that suppliers have packaging systems in place that not only protect the integrity and offer great presentation of goods, but can also accelerate the process of getting them to market. When working with a packaging machine supplier, it’s important for craft spirit producers to understand what their capabilities are and how they are structured for change. Reliable delivery, quality product, competitive pricing and great service are still key indicators of performance. BOTTLE THAT CREATIVE SPIRIT The challenge is sourcing easy-to-use systems that can seamlessly interact between brand labels, complex bottle shapes and materials— but don’t cost the earth. All-in-one packaging machines with completely hands-free

The use of automation in the production of artisanal alcoholic beverages may raise concerns regarding the craft status of the product while, in fact, the opposite may very well be the case. operation increase production efficiency by encompassing all aspects of beverage packaging. You’ve invested a massive amount of time and effort in your product but it’s useless to you stuck in a vat. Craft spirits are only good in a container that a customer can buy, and a trustworthy supply partner will ensure that happens come rain or shine. American consumers are crying out for something different and if a craft spirit producer takes the plunge on evolving their idea into automated production, chances are it will take off. ■

Bob Green is director of sales North America at Shemesh Automation, a global manufacturer of high-end packaging machinery for craft spirit producers in the United States. For more info on the full range of machines and Shemesh Automation visit

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raw materials

PAVING THE WHEY Why a food scientist went Wheyward with whey BY EMILY DARCHUK

Anyone who makes a craft spirit from scratch knows it’s a labor of love and an unexpected turn of events that often brings you to where you are today. That was certainly the case for how I came to found Wheyward Spirit and start the Wheyward journey I’ve taken as the founder of a category-bending spirit like ours. Before starting Wheyward Spirit, I worked as a food scientist and product developer with a passion for sustainable food production. I’ve always cared about where food comes from, and as a scientist, I had a natural curiosity and the practical skills to make a difference through innovation. I had the opportunity to commercialize a wide variety of products over the years, but spending time working in the dairy industry left me with a lasting impact of seeing the pain point of whey waste first-hand. For every 1 pound of cheese produced, there are 9 pounds of nutrient-rich whey left behind, creating a logistical and at times ecological burden for producers and the local community. Of the 110 billion pounds of whey produced annually in the U.S., about half leaves the human food chain. The biggest realization I had through my journey in the food industry, especially with a delicate and delicious ingredient like whey, is that

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what we see as waste isn’t really waste. By taking a holistic look at our food system, we can bridge gaps in existing supply chains and handcraft a product that adds value to our producers and customers, inspiring the DNA of Wheyward Spirit. At Wheyward Spirit, we like to say our name has a double meaning. First and foremost, we are very proud to be the first and only whey specialty spirit, and second is our Wheyward Mentality to break the status quo and do things differently for the right reasons. We take a holistic approach to fermentation and distillation to have a clear spirit with a signature flavor that is sippable and versatile while making a sustainable difference through our sourcing. In the spirit of sustainability and adding value to the industry by making a better tasting alcohol, we partner with domestic dairies to upcycle whey as the fermentative base of our spirit instead of using a traditional grain, fruit or agave. This prevents food waste and creates the opportunity to give that whey its highest and best use. We are giving back to the food system and creating a sippable spirit that’s made for something more. By upcycling and building a circular economy approach

to production at scale, we reduce the strain of food waste on the environment, maximize the inputs of food production, and lower the impact of spirit production. The decision to be flavor-focused shaped our categorization as a specialty spirit versus a neutral spirit like vodka. We see Wheyward Spirit as a natural evolution of agriculturally based spirits more analogous in complexity to a Blanco tequila but with a signature flavor and unique versatility that is true to our whey source.

For every 1 pound of cheese produced, there are 9 pounds of nutrient-rich whey left behind, creating a logistical and at times ecological burden for producers and the local community. C R AF T S PI R I T S MAG .CO M

Our signature profile is made through our fermentation process and careful cuts during distillation to allow those delicate flavor notes to shine. After distillation, we proof with water and add nothing else to our spirit, producing a naturally delicious product that has subtle hints of vanilla cream, a light sweet aroma, and a velvety smooth finish that has earned Wheyward Spirit numerous awards over the past year. Although it’s not the easiest path to do things differently, we believe in the Wheyward Mentality. Our boldness in being different has presented challenges, but also delivered huge opportunities to reach and connect with passionate consumers and partner with organizations to make a real difference which is helping us grow our reach and impact quickly. We work closely with organizations like the Upcycled Food Association. We are the first alcohol brand to work with the California Milk Advisory Board linking us with sustainable dairies across the state. We also leaned into corporate partnerships, becoming a values-led sourcing partner to Ben & Jerry’s, inspiring them to bring back their fan favorite, Dublin Mudslide, with a new more sustainable spirit through the inclusion of Wheyward Spirit in the recipe. Being an outsider to the spirits industry has also presented its challenges, and launching Wheyward Spirit in September 2020 made us forge our own path to market. This was an incredibly challenging time to launch a spirit with unique character as there was no opportunity to sample in-market for nearly 18 months following our launch. Instead, we worked to develop our Why, and earn top awards to validate our quality and find mission-aligned partners to help share our story. Without existing distribution or tasting rooms, we have had to be creative and were early adopters of three-tier compliant directto-consumer (DtC) platforms, which helped tell our authentic story and build our Herd. This approach has been very hands-on but helped us learn an incredible amount about our customers and enabled us to evolve and pivot our brand quickly. It has allowed us to test and validate our messaging, helping us to prove, at an early stage, that Wheyward Spirit is a nationally relevant brand and provided useful data to support our entry to traditional markets as things are now returning to normal. Finally, creating an upcycled spirit made from a novel base wasn’t easy because the food industry is a supply chain industry at heart. Creating your own supply chain from


In the spirit of sustainability and adding value to the industry by making a better tasting alcohol, we partner with domestic dairies to upcycle whey as the fermentative base of our spirit instead of using a traditional grain, fruit or agave. scratch is a challenge, especially in the current environment. It took years of hands-on development to perfect the fermentation process and find the right sourcing and scaling partners to make a product we felt good about launching. Whey is a mild, slightly sweet, yellow liquid that is more difficult to work with than many other fermentative bases because of its unique nutrient and sugar profile. Because it is highly perishable the logistics between the cheese maker, transportation and distillery need to be very closely aligned. Our whey is upcycled, meaning we are working with partners that weren’t previously using their whey as a food ingredient. We have had to self-develop sourcing standard operating procedures and work hands-on with our partners to ensure quality parameters were met as they developed new processes to capture high quality food grade whey at their facilities. Through each progressive trial and production, we have improved our fermentation efficiency, locked in our award-winning flavor profile, gained certifications and developed a sourcing network to help us scale. It took significant research and development hours to even get to market. I’ve leaned heavily on accelerators and my professional and educational background, but most

importantly, have hit the pavement talking with customers and our sourcing partners to build a bridge between the alcohol and dairy industries that adds value and improves sustainability of both. The goal with Wheyward Spirit was to make a spirit where you can taste a difference and make a difference, and we took that to heart in every step of building our brand and making our product. We hope the category of novel and handcrafted specialty spirits continues to grow as creative makers find their own inspiration to buck the status quo of traditional categories, make meaningful impacts in the glass, expand options to consumers and make a positive impact on the broader food system that we all rely on. ■

Emily Darchuk is the founder of Wheyward Spirit. Learn more at wheywardspirit. com.

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Sales & Marketing

E-COMMERCE ESSENTIALS PART II Consumer engagement and driving repeat purchases BY SUSAN MOONEY

In the previous issue, we covered key initiatives to create product and brand visibility, which is the first step for any effective ecommerce sales funnel. We noted the growing importance of e-commerce for craft producers from a sales, engagement and customer understanding perspective. We focused on activities to build awareness such as SEO, social media and advertising, which are known as top of the funnel activities because they represent the first steps in the buyer journey. In this segment, we will tackle the next steps needed to increase engagement, drive repeat purchases and create an ongoing relationship with your consumers so that they become regular buyers and advocates. ENGAGEMENT When we do our initial analysis with our

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craft distillery clients, we find that they are generally good at engagement but often need to get more strategic with tools and tracking. A purposeful content strategy that fits your target audience is needed in order to keep your consumers engaged and interested in your brand so that they become buyers. Sporadic emails are not sufficient to increase sales or build brand loyalty. Many distilleries are already doing monthly newsletters to communicate news and information about what they are doing. However, many don’t properly track these to know what their open rate is and even fewer include promotions, links to their shopping cart or requests for product reviews. Genuine reviews from satisfied customers not only help drive confidence in a new brand and lead to sales, they also increase engagement. Another effective engagement

tool is online events. Host a production process discussion and tasting webinar with your master distiller or conduct a seasonal cocktail workshop. These events allow your customers to personally engage with the brand in a fun and informative way in much the same way they do in a tasting room or on a tour. Even as tasting rooms and bars and restaurants get back to normal activities, online events will remain popular and be an effective way to engage your consumer in a way that pays off in engagement and conversions. RETARGETING CAMPAIGNS Awareness and engagement should lead to well thought out retargeting campaigns that convert consumer interest into a sale. The best way to do this is through personalized retargeting campaigns. These need to be


Even as tasting rooms and bars and restaurants get back to normal activities, online events will remain popular and be an effective way to engage your consumer in a way that pays off in engagement and conversions.

set up properly and run effectively to target potential consumers who have already visited your website, social media platforms or done a search but have not yet purchased. According to AdRoll, typically only 2% of visitors to a website convert on the first visit and 70-96% leave your site without taking any action at all whether that is a purchase, signing up for your newsletter or visiting your social media accounts. That means that you have spent money to make them aware of your product without garnering any benefit. So, retargeting is a critical part of the conversion process. However, according to Digital Remedy, only 46% of professional marketers feel that brands are executing their retargeting campaigns correctly. Many of our clients worry that retargeting will be annoying or creepy. However, despite the fact that approximately 26% of consumers use ad blocking, 77% of consumers surveyed by Hubspot indicated that they preferred ad filtering to full blocking so that they would receive ads for products that interest them. The issue is not ads per se but relevant ads that reflect their interests. For example, ACSA conducted a live focus group in which they asked consumers if they wanted to purchase spirits online. They initially said no. But when asked if they wanted to purchase craft spirits online, they said yes because they were interested in helping support the small business owners whose products they knew were not making it onto shelves. They also were supportive of visiting a tasting room on vacation and having that product shipped rather than trying to lug it in a suitcase. They knew it wasn’t in their home market. Finally, they were interested in buying hard-to-get craft spirits. Brands that make these retargeting


Awareness Engagement Conversion Repeat Purchase Advocacy

ads more relevant to the target consumer and are clear about their product benefits, see impressive conversion rates.

The biggest mistake we see is that brands are just sending emails without personalization or optimization.

EMAIL MARKETING In addition to retargeting, email marketing is a powerful tool for building a relationship with your customers and driving repeat sales. When set up and executed correctly, email marketing can drive 25% or more of digital revenue. Personalization and automation are both important aspects of email marketing. Build your email list through events, tasting room visitors, website capture and of course existing customers. In building the list, set yourself up for personalization by using codes to track sources or utilize source tags that will allow you to customize future emails. A customer who has visited your tasting room should get a different email than one who signed up via the website. In addition to source tagging, segmenting the list based on habits such as favorite product or frequency of purchase is essential to create personalized campaigns. Finally, take the time to define your best customers and segment them out as VIPs because they will have the highest customer lifetime value. Send these VIP customers promotional codes and special deals. You can also ask them to write a review that you can post on your website or social media. While segmentation and personalization are essential to effective email marketing, don’t forget to automate. Automated trigger emails (abandoned search, abandoned shopping cart) so that you can pull in interested but not convinced customers at key decision points. An estimated 70% of revenue comes from these automated emails at the point of purchase not one off newsletters or e-blasts.

SUMMARY Creating an effective e-commerce channel is essential and requires proper set up, management, tracking and ongoing optimization. The landscape is constantly evolving so make sure that you are evaluating tactics and spending on an ongoing basis. E-commerce essentials are: · Have a cohesive sales funnel plan from awareness to advocacy and understand what is needed for each phase from a technology, skill and budget perspective. · Personalization and automation are key for successful campaigns. Track, analyze and continuously optimize your campaigns so that you can shift your budget to what is working and stop doing what isn’t. · Your e-commerce site and campaigns are more than marketing, you need to invest in the right team to ensure that this is a successful sales channel. ■

Susan Mooney is the founder and CEO of Spirits Consulting Group (SCG) which provides e-commerce and digital marketing solutions for beverage alcohol brands. For more information email or visit

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Supplier Showcase

CROSSOVER APPEAL Six largely unsung supplier product categories targeting brewers that are just as suitable for distillers BY JEFF CIOLETTI

In May, we attended the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America in Minneapolis to check out some of the latest offerings from suppliers whose wares are equally suited for both brewers and distillers. Sure, there were plenty of stills, ingredients and packaging machines and solutions on display. But there were also products from other areas they may not always be top of mind as those supplier categories, but can be just as critical. Here are six of those. ERP Software As your operation grows, it may be time to consider enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that connects and manages processes across departments. A variety of tech suppliers demonstrated their ERP systems at BrewExpo America, including Tamlin Software, which has been implementing business solutions for more than 30 years and offers a system that integrates information across accounting/financial systems, production execution, shipping/receiving, warehouse/inventory

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control, customer relationship management, ecommerce/web store integration, quality assurance and compliance management. Then, there’s the aptly named Crafted ERP system, a product of Doozy Solutions. Crafted ERP, the company says, provides a 360-degree view on your operation with real-time dashboards, giving you and your team the visibility and intelligence to make fully data-based decisions. Crafted offers Distillery Edition modules, which it designed with the assistance of seasoned distilling industry veterans and built on Oracle NetSuite. The company calls it “an all-in-one distillery management software system that streamlines and automates many of the complex tasks and processes required to run a craft distillery.” Its sales and CRM functionalities help distilleries track and manage all lead, prospect and customer information. In addition, its sales automation management helps distillery owners and sales managers keep track of their sales reps’ activities and performance and gives visibility into pipeline statuses and expected orders.


Portable Barrel Racks Western Square Industries of Stockton, California, offers a line of portable steel barrel racks that are designed for stability and safety. Its Double Bar Rack holds two barrels and is available in stainless steel or powdercoated mild steel in a variety of colors. The rack is available to hold a variety of barrel sizes, including 15 gallon, 30 gallon, 52 to 70 gallon, Cognac-style, 500-liter puncheon and 600-liter puncheon. Custom sizes are also available. Western Square’s Four Barrel Rack— which it has dubbed Big Foot—offers more than double the base of the two-barrel racks and is the company’s primary recommendation for stacking six barrels high. It’s available in two sizes: 25 to 30 gallon and 52 to 70 gallon barrels.

Flooring Building a distillery is about more than finding the right equipment to go inside its walls. The floor that said equipment sits upon is also a critical decision. Sika Corp., based in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, says its SikaFloor line offerings can be tailored to a facility’s unique environment. The Sikafloor Merflex for equipment rooms employs smooth elastomer technology, rather than plasticizers or other additives to maintain the original adhesion elongation and flexibility. The company says that this ensures that the systems will deliver reliable performance for many years. The SikaFloor PurCem is a urethane cement flooring system designed for areas where both cleanliness and durability are crucial.

curbside recyclable. Fishbone is available in both Flat Carrier and C-Clip Carrier formats, both of which are available for standard, slim and sleek cans and in four-pack and six-pack formats. They’re both sealed with a recyclable water-based barrier coating for moisture resistance. The C-Clip carriers provide extra support for larger cans in all climates.

Barrel alternatives When it comes to barrel-aging spirits, there really is no substitute for, well, a barrel. However, distillery tasting rooms with cocktail programs looking to give their drinks a bit of wood character have some alternatives. A couple of those options exhibiting at CBC include Oak Infusion Spirals, which The Barrel Mill first introduced as far back as 2004. The same oak used to make barrel staves is cut into a spiral, creating maximum surface area to touch the liquid. Meanwhile, Black Swan Wood Products has come up with its own take on the concept, in the form of its Honey Comb barrel alternatives. Shaped just as the name implies, the Honey Comb-like holes increases the surface area and enables the liquid to extract more flavor from the wood grain, the manufacturer says. ■

Furniture & Games Some artisan furniture companies presented a few options for those looking to make their tasting rooms as comfortable and inviting as possible. Viking Log Furniture will give the front-of-house a handcrafted, rustic look with pine and hickory wood tables, chairs, stools, cabinets, dartboards and billiards tables, all made in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Styles include Barnwood (rough-sawn pine), Sawtooth Hickory and Log (made from Norway pine logs). Its Northwoods Billiards division offers tables and cue racks in styles Barnwood Cheyenne, Red Cedar, Ponderosa, Barnwood Timber Lodge, Norway Pine and Klondike.

Plastic-Free Can Carriers So you’ve already decided to make RTDs and you’ve got all of the necessary equipment— owned or mobile—to put your cocktails into aluminum. And you’ve read about plastic can carriers in a past edition of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine. But here’s an addendum to that: there are completely plastic-free alternatives, like the Fishbone carrier by Atlantic Packaging, that not only offer branding opportunities on the carrier but are fully


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closing time

Percent of Dollars Spent at Bars and Restaurants

COMPARING ON-PREMISE SALES According to CGA Strategy, the majority of every dollar spent at bars and restaurants is on spirits brands compared with wine and beer. Spirits are up 2.1 percentage points from January 2020 to January 2022, while wine is down 1.6 percentage points and beer (with hard seltzer) is down 0.5 percentage points..

Wine 15.9% Spirits 44.7% Beer* 39.4%

*With hard seltzer Source: CGA Strategy

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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.


Build long-term relationships and enhance industry connections

Help cultivate a competitive landscape for craft distillers

Learn from industry thought leaders

Increase market access


JOINING TODAY! A: P.O. Box 470, Oakton, VA, 22124 E: W:



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