Craft Spirits May 2021

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VOL. 3, ISSUE 2 | MAY 2021









MAY 2021



Kernels of Wisdom Distillers weigh in on their adventures with heirloom corn. BY JEFF CIOLETTI



Singled Out As more distilleries gravitate to single malt, differentiation needs to be a greater priority. BY JEFF CIOLETTI


MEMBER SPOTLIGHT Bourbon Vision How Dan Garrison created Garrison Brothers Distillery. BY JON PAGE


DISTILLING DESTINATIONS Sipping in the Sun, Stones and Sand


A trek through Arizona and southern Utah. BY JEFF CIOLETTI

Cover photograph: Markus Winkler


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Editor’s Note




Recent Releases from Dogfish Head Distilling Co., Still Austin and more

imbiber’s bookshelf 20 INDUSTRY UPDATE 21


Tattersall Distilling to Open Wisconsin Distillery


Create Better Customers BY LEW BRYSON


Flavorful Concoctions from Boston Harbor Distillery, Brooklyn Gin, Flying Leap Vineyards and Distillery and Swamp Fox Distilling Co.



Registration Opens for ACSA’s Convention in Louisville American Rescue Plan Includes Help for Craft Distillers


Q&A with Tom Potter of New York Distilling Co.

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Knocked Off-Balance Why craft distilleries took a harder hit than the rest of the spirits business. BY ANDREW KAPLAN

BUSINESS SENSE 64 Avoiding Mistakes

Planning, thought and a willingness to adapt can help startup distilleries succeed. BY JOHN HOLL


The Proof is in the Proofing Tips for Gauging and Proofing Spirits BY CLAY SMITH



Five Tips for Virtual Tastings Craft distillers from around the U.S. share their experiences with online spirits tastings. BY JENNIFER CIRILLO


Advice for Distillers Interested in Exporting Craft Spirits

Legal coRNER 76 A DtC Mirage?

The ins and outs of what appears to be direct-to-consumer shipping via third parties BY RYAN MALKIN


Tasting Room Losses The pandemic has ravaged revenues normally gained in distillery tasting rooms.


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CRAFT SPIRITS MAGAZINE C EO, A M E R I C A N C R A F T S P I R I T S A S S O C I AT I O N | Margie A.S. Lehrman, E D I TO R I N C H I E F | Jeff Cioletti, S E N I O R E D I TO R | Jon Page, M E D I A S A L E S CO N S U LTA N T | Ashley Guillermo, A RT D I R EC TO R | Michelle Villas CO N T R I B U TO R S | Lew Bryson, Jennifer Cirillo, John Holl, Ryan Malkin, Clay Smith and Andrew Kaplan AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION O P E R AT I O N S A D M I N I S T R ATO R | Teresa McDaniel, E D U C AT I O N CO O R D I N ATO R | Kirstin Brooks, M E M B E R O U T R E AC H M A N AG E R | Carason Lehmann, ACSA ADVISORS M E E T I N G S A N D LO G I S T I C S | Stephanie Sadri, HelmsBriscoe S T R AT EG I C CO M M U N I C AT I O N S | Alexandra S. Clough, GATHER PR L EG A L | Ryan Malkin, Malkin Law, P.A. P U B L I C P O L I C Y | Jim Hyland, The Pennsylvania Avenue Group ACSA BOARD OF DIRECTORS, 2020-2021 P R E S I D E N T | Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (VA) V I C E P R E S I D E N T | P.T. Wood, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery (CO) S EC R E TA RY/ T R E A S U R E R | Jeff Kanof, Copperworks Distilling Co. (WA)

EAST Ryan Christiansen, Caledonia Spirits (VT) Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek (VA) Jessica J. Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA) Tom Potter, New York Distilling Co. (NY)

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

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

EX OFFICIO Thomas Jensen, New Liberty Distillery (PA) ACSA PAC Stephen Johnson (VT) ACSA PAST PRESIDENTS 2 0 1 9 -2 0 2 0 | Chris Montana, Du Nord Craft Spirits 2 0 1 7-2 0 1 8 | Mark Shilling, Treaty Oak Brewing and Distilling Co. 2 0 1 6 -2 0 1 7 | Paul Hletko, FEW Spirits 2 0 1 4 -2 0 1 6 | Tom Mooney, House Spirits CRAFT SPIRITS MAGAZINE EDITORIAL BOARD Eli Aguilera, Lew Bryson, Alexandra Clough, Sly Cosmopoulos, Dan Gasper, Dr. Dawn Maskell For advertising inquiries, please contact Ashley Guillermo: For editorial inquiries or to send a news release, e-mail P.O. Box 701414, Louisville, KY 40270 • 502.807.4249 © 2021 CRAFT SPIRITS magazine is a publication of the American Craft Spirits Association.

Where Science Meets Art Yeast, Nutrients, Enzymes and Bacteria

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

Editor’s Note

AN HEIRLOOM INDUSTRY Just in case the collection of colorful cobs on the cover didn’t tip you off, we’re featuring heirloom corn in this issue. Hope you enjoy reading the cover story as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it—and putting together the webinar that features many of the key innovators featured in the article (if you’re reading this before May 6, there’s still time to register; if after, you can access the archived webinar at the ACSA website—free for members and $59 for non-members). The whole process of putting this feature together got me thinking: Many, perhaps most, of you don’t work with heirloom corn (or even make whiskey, for that matter), but the piece is about all of you. That’s because craft spirits, regardless of what fermentable substrate you use, is an heirloom industry. Okay, I know that sounds corny (pun very much intended), but bear with me. Producers of heirloom corn-based spirits are using heritage grains, untethered from mass-market commoditization. Sound familiar? Craft distilling has everything to do with heritage and nothing to do with cranking out indistinguishable commodities. Each variety of heirloom corn has its own idiosyncrasies and personality; doesn’t always behave; is unfailingly expressive; and isn’t a fan of conformity. And it goes without saying that authenticity is the name of the game. You’re probably getting the idea now. These corns of many colors represent just some of the tools craft distillers have to put their stamp on a market in which it’s increasingly difficult to do so. I’m a huge fan of the case that Gary Hinegardner of Wood Hat Spirits makes for heirloom corn. The mega-distilleries haven’t sunk their claws into the heirloom space in any significant way and it’ll probably be about a decade before they do. Now is the time for craft producers to get a massive head start and own that space. Granted, that’s often easier said than done and this issue’s cover story lays out many of the reasons why (it’s still a potentially costly leap of faith for many). But the more producers who throw their hat into the … uhh, cornfield,

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Craft has everything to do with heritage and nothing to do with cranking out indistinguishable commodities. the less risky it eventually becomes for others. Even if corn’s not your grain (or even if you don’t distill grain at all), just about every bit of flora that eventually finds its way into a fermenter, and then a still, has some heirloom connection. On my recent trip through the Southwest (which you can read about on page 46), Flying Leap’s Mark Beres was absolutely rhapsodic about White Sonora Wheat, a heritage grain that’s grown in Arizona for around 400 years and has modern consumers lining up at bakeries that make bread out of it. And even though its yield is much smaller and its price tag considerably higher than more common wheat varieties, Beres is making whiskey out of White Sonora Wheat because few grains are as quintessentially Southwestern and capture the local terroir quite like it does. And consumers these days are willing to pay a premium for anything heirloom. If you don’t believe me, just go hang out at the tomato stand at your neighborhood farmers market. ■

Jeff Cioletti Editor in Chief


Thank You, Sponsors! Arglass

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Berlin Packaging

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BPS Glass

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Fisher & Company

FIVE x 5 Solutions

Glencairn Crystal


Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits

Malkin Law

Midwest Custom Bottling

Moonshine University

The Barrel Mill

Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

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

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

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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Top Shelf Logistics

Top Shelf Logistics is a best-in-class freight provider focused solely on the spirits industry, providing clients industry proven sustainable domestic transportation capacity, service and value.

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

Ultra Pure

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

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

Briess Malt & Ingredients Co.

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

BSG Distilling

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

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


Image Apparel Solutions

Independent Stave Co.


Park Street




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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.


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

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

Whiskey Systems

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


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

Jennifer Cirillo is a drinks trade expert with more than a decade of experience. As a former journalist/editor covering the global drinks arena for leading magazine, Beverage World, she has a firm understanding of the industry. Her journalism background has led her to become a B2B drinks PR specialist working on accounts including Maxxium UK (Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Courvoisier, Harveys, Bols, etc), Zamora International (Licor 43 and Villa Massa) as well as Global Travel Retail (Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Beam Suntory and Jägermeister).

Since 2003, Clay Smith has served across many facets of the liquor industry. Former head distiller of Corsair Distillery, Clay has been an educator in botanical spirits at Moonshine University since 2013, officially joining the team as its distillery operations manager in 2018. Clay also assists with onsite consultation and product development services for distilleries nationwide.

Ryan Malkin is an attorney focusing on alcohol beverage and cannabis law. He has extensive experience providing guidance to suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, agencies and third parties within these regulated industries. Ryan’s passion for the alcohol industry began as a staff writer for SmartMoney, and his articles have also appeared in Artisan Spirit magazine, Beverage Media,, The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, DJTimes, and Esquire to name a few. Ryan is also counsel to the American Craft Spirits Association.

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

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

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Bulk Spirits for your Custom-Crafted Brands

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

Organic Spirits

Unaged Whiskey

Cream Liqueur


Brandy & Cognac

New Spirits

Still Austin Whiskey Co. of Austin, Texas, has released a full packaging rebrand for its signature American Gin (also known as The Naturalist). The 90-proof gin is crafted from a custom base of 70% Brasetto rye and 30% non-GMO white corn provided by Texas farmers. It is then milled and distilled in-house in small 100-gallon batches in a copper pot still. The spirit’s botanicals include organic juniper berries, coriander seeds, cinnamon, citrus peels, elderflowers and allspice berries.

Pittsburgh-based Wigle Whiskey announced the release of its Saffron Negroni Bottled Cocktail. The Negroni was perhaps the original bottled cocktail, produced as a ready-to-drink offering as early as 1919. Wigle’s take on this classic cocktail comes in at 30% alcohol and combines three Wigle spirits: Wigle Saffron Amaro, Wigle Dutch-style Gin and Wigle Amaro Vermut, a sweet vermouth. A flavor thread of saffron runs through Wigle’s Negroni. The Wigle team was inspired by the Pennsylvania Dutch who brought crocus bulbs, from which they harvested saffron, when they settled in Pennsylvania.

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Copperworks Distilling Co. of Seattle announced the release of Copperworks Double Peated Whiskey. This 98-proof, single cask release (Release No. 036) was crafted through an inspired blend of old and new-world malt whiskey production techniques, resulting in a whiskey that is far smokier than any of the distillery’s previous releases. Copperworks started with its Washington Peated Single Malt Whiskey, made from locally grown barley malted with peat from a bog in Washington State. That whiskey matured for 45 months in new American oak and then it was finished for an additional seven months in an Ardbeg cask.

Up North Distillery of Post Falls, Idaho, is pleased to announce the release of North Idaho Pine Liqueur. To make this product, owners Hilary and Randy Mann climb Idaho white pine trees to forage pinecones from their favorite spot on the Coeur d’Alene River. Pinecones are combined with Up North’s Apple Brandy and sweetened with Idaho honey to create this unique 79.8-proof liqueur.


New Spirits

Laws Whiskey House of Denver announced the 2021 releases of its 100-proof Bonded Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Bonded San Luis Valley Straight Rye Whiskey. Each spirit was aged in barrels for an average of more than six years.

Stellum Spirits, a new national brand created to celebrate the modern-day whiskey drinker, officially launched its inaugural flagship offerings, including the 114.98-proof Stellum Bourbon (blue label), the 116.24-proof Stellum Rye (green label), and single barrels, which are all bottled at cask strength.


Dallas-Fort Worth-based whiskey producer, Oak & Eden has announced the re-release of its prized seasonal whiskey, 90-proof Bourbon & Brew, which is a combination of Oak & Eden Bourbon whiskey, finished with the depth and richness found in West Oak Coffee’s cold brew coffee.

Virginia Distillery Co. of Lovingston, Virginia, has released three new whiskies in its Courage & Conviction product line. Each expression is a 92% American single malt whiskey, aged a minimum of three years on-site in Virginia. The new releases include Courage & Conviction Bourbon Cask, Courage & Conviction Sherry Cask, and Courage & Conviction Cuvée Cask.

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New Spirits

Hinterhaus Distilling of Arnold, California, released its first two liqueurs. Anorak was inspired by German kräuterlikörs and was distilled from California wine vodka and lightly enhanced with agave syrup. The 84-proof spirit contains 23 herbs and botanicals that range from chamomile and cardamom to star anise and cinnamon, and it was aged for two months in whiskey barrels. The 75-proof Mont Esprit is a slightly sweetened liqueur that makes for perfect après-ski imbibing. Clean and clear, this liqueur displays its bright wintergreen and peppermint notes up front, followed by light layers of cinnamon and juniper that extend flavor layers.

Dogfish Head Distilling Co. of Milton, Delaware, announces the coast-to-coast launch of its scratch-made, ready-todrink canned cocktails—Blueberry Shrub Vodka Soda, Strawberry & Honeyberry Vodka Lemonade and Cherry Bergamot Whiskey Sour. Each recipe was crafted using Dogfish Head Distilling Co.’s house-made spirits combined with allnatural, high-quality culinary ingredients to create a liquid masterpiece that tastes as if it was poured straight from a bartender’s shaker tin. Each canned cocktail is 7% ABV.

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Cardinal Spirits of Bloomington, Indiana, announced the release of Bourbon Cream Soda, its latest canned cocktail. The 8.5% RTD is made with Cardinal’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey plus Madagascar vanilla beans and smooth cream soda. The distillery says it delivers a nostalgic feeling of a frosty, fizzy cream soda all grown up in a rich, lush and balanced bourbon cocktails. Bourbon Cream Soda is available in four-packs at retailers in Indiana, New York and beyond. It joins Maui Mule, Bramble Mule and Vodka Soda in Cardinal’s lineup of canned cocktails.

After nearly two and a half years of research and trials, Manifest Distilling of Jacksonville, Florida, announced the release of its Florida Botanical Gin. This certified organic gin highlights a delicate balance of botanicals that can all be found growing within Florida. An homage to the state’s largest agricultural industry, the 90-proof spirit contains three citrus varieties: orange, lemon and grapefruit. It is accentuated with the fresh, sweet and earthy flavors of sumac, elderberries, orris root, rose hip and blackberry leaves.



4. Online Ordering

Are you managing a separate system for your online orders? Your customers expect to get all their favorite food and cocktails to go (a Covid convenience no one wants to give up). When online ordering is integrated with your POS, your inventory syncs from the same place and all sales reports show up on the same dashboard creating a seamless experience on the front and back end. See why Arryved customers rely on integrated online ordering

5. Card on File

Do you keep a rolodex of credit cards behind your bar? Or run a card for every order? No customer likes the feeling of reaching for their wallet and realizing they left their credit card (and their open tab) with you; no business wants the liability of hanging onto their guests’ credit cards. If you run a card for every order, you’re incurring payment processing fees unnecessarily. Up your game and keep cards on open tabs. Dream big with card on file

6. Contactless Payments & Ordering Photo of Elkins Distilling, an Arryved customer, by Eddie Clark Media.

Is your point of sale ready to help you handle the summer rush? Are you missing out on features that will lower labor costs, increase revenues and ensure an exceptional guest experience? Read on for a handy list of point of sale must-have features based on feedback from hundreds of American craft makers.

1. Free and Fast Support Services

How quickly can you reach a real human for support? When you’re hustling and you need POS help, you need help quickly and from a real partner. Fast and reliable support services keep your business—and your spirits—flowing without interruption. Waiting hours on hold for poor support or paying premium support fees in hope of getting real answers, is not the standard. See why Arryved’s support is best in industry

Are you set-up to offer guests contactless options? Look for options that allow your guests to pay and order in a way that highlights your hospitality. Enhance your excellent service by giving your guest the power to start a tab, order, and pay from their own device—either on a mobile app or with a QR code. Add tap and pay technology so guests can choose to pay with their credit card and Apple, Google or Samsung pay. Give your staff and guests options for contactless service

7. Extensive Reporting Capabilities

Do you know which items are selling best when, at what quantity, and by which staff member? Access to rich data catered to your business is critical for maximizing efficiency and a great guest experience. A cloud-based system gives decision-makers access to data on the fly, providing immediate insight to sales numbers and labor costs. Long-term trends and insights will help you make the smartest staffing, service and event decisions to save you money and wow guests. Build a better business with better insights

2. No Extra Charges for Additional Features

Does adding premium features require a premium price tag? Nothing should hold you back from having the right tools to grow a healthy business … especially not the price tag. Evaluate your current costs for online ordering, contactless payments, gift cards, time tracking, employee logins and customer loyalty program and imagine what you could do if they all came for FREE. Choose a point of sale that puts your business first so you can put your guests first. Learn more about Arryved’s inclusive and robust feature offerings

3. Real Time Inventory Changes

How many places do you have to update inventory when a mixer kicks? Save time and reduce human error with centralized inventory management for your POS, online store, digital menus and contactless ordering. Kicked items will disappear from your menus (online and on-premise) in real time, and guarantee your latest cocktail to go won’t get oversold again! Demo Arryved’s POS management software

Photo of Elkins Distilling, an Arryved customer, by Eddie Clark Media.

New Spirits

West Des Moines, Iowa-based Foundry Distilling Co. has collaborated with Arrogant Consortia to distill the mash bill of Arrogant Bastard beer into a 97-proof American malt whiskey. Arrogant Bastard Whiskey started as mash produced from Arrogant Consortia in Escondido, California. The ale’s unfermented wort was then transported to be refined at Foundry, located in the Historic Valley Junction area of West Des Moines. This whiskey has been aged for 26 months in 30-gallon new charred American oak barrels and has notes of citrus, herbal tea and allspice with a finish that consists of a warming, bright citrus zest.

Boardroom Spirits of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, introduced three 750-mL bottled cocktails for spring. Elderberry Cucumber Cooler (21% ABV) Lansdale Lemonade (20% ABV), and Spring Garden (18% ABV) are gluten-free, made with all-natural ingredients and each bottle provides six to eight cocktails.

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Mr Black Roasters & Distillers announced the U.S. debut of its specialty coffee liqueur—Mr Black Coffee Amaro. Crafted with bittersweet Arabica coffee, 14 carefully selected distillates and macerated fresh botanicals such as citrus from the brand’s distillery garden in Erina, Australia, and native Australian botanicals, the 57-proof Mr Black Coffee Amaro is a modern take on the traditional Italian bitter liqueur.

Absinthia’s Bottled Spirits, a woman-owned artisan spirits company based in Oakland, California, has released the 110-proof Absinthia Verte, the follow-up to its inaugural Absinthia Blanche. To create the peridot green of the Verte, Absinthia distills the Blanche with organic artemisia pontica, anise hyssop and lemon balm.








Imbiber’s Bookshelf

Negroni Author: David T. Smith and Keli Rivers Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small Release Date: March 9 The Negroni has been a favorite with discerning cocktail drinkers for over a century but has perhaps never been as popular as it is today. What started off as a simple, equal-parts, three-ingredient cocktail (campari, gin, vermouth) has become a global sensation. Included here are recipes for classic Negronis from straight-up over ice to a sparkling aperitivo spritz. This basic formula is then played with in endless ways with Negronis designed for different seasons; bright and citrusy summer versions; cozier, spiced winter drinks; and celebratory cocktails for special occasions.

Punk Rock & Cocktails Author: Jesse Hubbard Publisher: The Educational Publisher / Biblio Publishing Release Date: Feb. 26 At first glance, the respective worlds of craft cocktails and punk rock might seem like unlikely bedfellows, but they are, in fact, quite similar. Both are born from a desire to create something that sends a message and that will stand the test of time. And there’s a true artistry at the heart of both a great record and a well executed cocktail that is indeed timeless. Join author Jesse Hubbard as he takes you on a journey through 20 of his favorite albums and his original cocktail creations for each of those albums.

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RadCraft Industry Relief Coloring Book Publisher: RadCraft Release Date: Dec. 9 This downloadable coloring book from craft beverage-centric marketing company RadCraft features the logos of thirteen of the company’s partner malthouses, breweries, and distilleries (including ACSA members Deerhammer Distilling Co. and Laws Whiskey House) brought to life by content coordinator Shelby Martin. Proceeds from the coloring book will support the James Beard Foundation’s Open For Good campaign. Open for Good programs provide critical resources to help independent restaurants build the capacity to come back stronger, more equitable, more sustainable, and more resilient. The book is available for download on Issuu , and those who download and print are encouraged to share their art on social media with #radcraftindustryrelief.

The Wildcrafted Cocktail Author: Ellen Zachos Publisher: Storey Publishing Release Date: Feb. 16 Meet the natural lovechild of the popular local-foods movement and craft cocktail scene. It’s here to show you just how easy it is to make delicious, one-of-a-kind mixed drinks with common flowers, berries, roots and leaves that you can find along roadsides or in your backyard. Foraging expert Ellen Zachos gets the party started with recipes for more than 50 garnishes, syrups, infusions, juices and bitters, including quick pickled daylily buds, rose hip syrup, and chanterelle-infused rum. You’ll then incorporate your handcrafted components into 45 surprising and delightful cocktails, such as Stinger in the Rye, Don’t Sass Me and Tree-tini.


Industry Update

TATTERSALL DISTILLING TO OPEN WISCONSIN DISTILLERY, 40 MILES EAST OF HOME BASE Restrictive liquor laws in Minnesota are forcing a distillery to move the bulk of its production out of state. This spring, Minneapolis-based Tattersall Distilling announced its plans to open a destination distillery in River Falls, Wisconsin, 40 miles east of the Twin Cities. Under current state laws in Minnesota, distilleries that produce more than 40,000 proof gallons are unable to operate a cocktail room or sell product directly to guests. Distilleries in Minnesota are also limited to selling one 375-mL bottle per person, per day. No limits exist in Wisconsin. “The laws are forcing us to do it, but we did it to make sure that we could keep our cocktail room and keep our ties to Minneapolis,” says Tattersall co-founder and chief officer Jon Kreidler. “It’s an expansion, not a straight-up move. We’re excited that it allows us to keep growing and keep doing cool things.” Kreidler says Tattersall and the Minnesota Distillers Guild have long lobbied for state legislators to review and change the law. “Everybody would say, ‘Oh that makes sense, I don’t see why not,’ but there would be no action,” Kreidler says. Tattersall is aiming to begin production at the new 75,000-square-foot facility this summer and hopes to open to the public in the fall. The new location will have a similar look and feel to Tattersall’s Minneapolis location, albeit with an expansive footprint. “Our existing place, we lease it, so we haven’t been able to do a lot of the things that we’ve always wanted to do and we haven’t had the freedom that we wanted,” says Kreidler. “We started with 9,500 square feet here and we’ve grown to about 35,000, and we’ve really adjusted the business and the operations to fit the space. So now to have a giant blank slate and lay it out exactly how we want it is super exciting.” The new distillery will include a full-service restaurant and cocktail bar, a large outdoor patio, indoor and outdoor event spaces, and a retail market. It will also have a focus on sustainability, including solar panels and a water reclamation system. The site is also adjacent to the Kinnickinnic River, a popular spot for fly fishing, and near a prime location for mountain biking. Kreidler and Tattersall co-founder Dan Oskey both have strong ties to the Badger State. Growing up, Kreidler fondly remembers spending summers in the state with his family, and Oskey attended the University of Wisconsin. Kreidler says the distillery is receiving a warm welcome from the city of River Falls, and customers in Minnesota understand the reason behind the expansion. Not long after Tattersall’s announcement, Stillwaterbased Lift Bridge Brewery also unveiled plans to expand in Wisconsin. “I think we’re definitely seeing a lot of people are just angry that there hasn’t been any movement on any of these laws and realizing how behind the times the laws are compared to the rest of the country,” says Kreidler. —Jon Page


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Dan Oskey and Jon Kreidler of Tattersall Distilling

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Industry Update

SPIRIT HUB FUND ANNOUNCES FIRST APPLICATION PERIOD The Spirit Hub Independent Distillery Preservation Fund has finished its first round of fundraising efforts and is now opening applications for grants for the first time. In an effort to provide financial aid to independent distilleries that have suffered many losses in the past year despite stepping up for their communities, The Fund will award grants to distilleries in need. “We are so excited to receive our first round of applications to see where this goes,” said David Cohen, treasurer of The Fund, in a press release. “Once we get our name out there and start awarding grants, we know we’ll be able to make more of an impact for these organizations, which is all we could ask for.” Applications are now available for download at and must be submitted by May 30 for consideration. The Fund collected donations from several industry partners including Spirit Hub, NimbleJack Partners LLC, Independent Stave Co., Moonshine University, Insero & Co, Cerco Group and more to provide grants for this first round of funding. Initial grants will be limited to $5,000 per entity and

are not guaranteed by application. To apply, organizations must fill out the application and meet several other requirements, such as: holding a Distilled Plant License, be based in the United States (including minor outlying islands), be in the business for two years or more, and others. Applications and all associated resources must be submitted to by May 30 for consideration. The board projects awarding the first round of grants in mid-June 2021. The Fund was launched in December of 2020 by Spirit Hub, the first eCommerce platform that connects customers with craft spirits from independent distilleries around the world with the intention to give back to the community of independent distilleries that their business relies on. The Fund is anticipating re-opening applications for round two in the summer or early fall. The Fund has been created as a separate entity from Spirit Hub and its charitable operations are in compliance with industry regulations at the federal and state levels.






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Industry Update

ELKINS DISTILLING LAUNCHES FUNDRAISER FOR INJURED EMPLOYEES After a fire at its production facility in February, Elkins Distilling Co. of Estes Park, Colorado, launched a fundraising campaign for two injured workers. According to the GoFundMe campaign, the distillery planned to cover medical costs but the fundraiser aimed to cover additional expenses. As of mid-April, it had raised close to $50,000. “We are a small business and our employees are family to us,” Elkins co-owner Joe Elkins wrote on Facebook in early March. “We have all wept and prayed and are marshaling our determination to move forward. We want to thank the community of Estes Park, the craft beverage producers in our community, and the thousands of loved ones and friends who have reached out to us. We are humbled to know that so many care so much for us. We love you all, and are so thankful that you have contacted us.” According to Estes Park News, the fire was extinguished quickly but did a substantial amount of damage to the rear of the building. Elkins reopened its downtown store in March, and its distillery and cocktail bar are closed until they can rebuild.




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Industry Update

MIDDLE WEST SPIRITS HIRES BEVERAGE ALCOHOL VETERAN AS NATIONAL SALES DIRECTOR Middle West Spirits recently announced that Victor Spotloe, a recognized brand builder in the alcohol industry, has joined forces with the notable Central Ohio whiskey distiller as its national sales director. Spotloe will lead the company’s branded sales efforts, with the goal of growing Middle West Spirits’s distribution footprint across national and international markets. With more than 20 years of proven sales and leadership experience in the beverage industry, Spotloe has assisted in building and managing hundreds of national brands across the beer, wine and spirits categories. Spotloe is rapidly becoming an indispensable asset on the Middle West Spirits Team. “Victor brings a clear vision for what we plan to accomplish to the Middle West Family,” said Middle West Spirits co-founder and owner Ryan Lang, in a press release. “His strong national relationships will be invaluable as we continue to tell the Middle West Spirits story.” Lang adds that Spotloe has already been instrumental in building Middle West’s newly-opened online shop, which gives craft spirits lovers across the country access to the Columbus-based distillery’s line of OYO Vodkas, Middle West Spirits whiskeys and its Vim & Petal Gin. As an industry leader, Spotloe is well versed with the complexities craft spirits producers face, such as complicated and inconsistent state liquor laws, compliance roadblocks and the challenges of selling and transporting products across state lines. “I am ready to take on this exciting new venture,” says Spotloe. “Middle West Spirits has a captivating story to tell, which truly comple-

ments its outstanding line of products. I can’t wait to see where we can take this brand.” The Middle West Spirit’s portfolio is now available in more than 26 United States markets.

Victor Spotloe

STILL AUSTIN WHISKEY CO. ADDS TO BOARD OF DIRECTORS Still Austin Whiskey Co., a homegrown distillery situated in the heart of South Austin, Texas, announced the addition of two accomplished industry veterans—Rudolfo “Rudy” Ruiz and John Scarborough—to its board of directors. Ruiz brings more than 40 years of supplier and distributor experience in the beverage alcohol industry. Currently the managing director at Park Street, Ruiz is the former EVP at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. He also spent 25 years at Bacardi in various leadership roles that included president and CEO of Bacardi Asia/Pacific, president of Bacardi Global Brands, and president and CEO of Bacardi USA. Ruiz graduated from The University of Puerto Rico with degrees in accounting and finance. Scarborough is the CEO of Austin-based Ranch Rider Spirits Co., and the former president of Deep Eddy Vodka, where he oversaw all functions of the brand, including operations, financial management and planning. His career also includes leadership positions in publishing, telecom and e-commerce. John is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and earned his MBA in finance from The University of Texas at Austin. “Rudy and John are invaluable additions to our Board and will help us to reach our long-term expansion plan,” said Chris Seals, CEO of Still Austin, in a press release. “Their industry experience and track record for building world-class brands will be essential as we increase the footprint of our flagship Straight Bourbon Whiskey and American Gin, both in Texas and beyond.” “Still Austin Whiskey Co. possesses all the key factors for success: great leadership, a growing category, and a portfolio of quality products produced in a state that’s emerging as a distinct whiskey region,” said Ruiz. “It’s a privilege to be a part of Still Austin’s team.”

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“I’ve been a fan of Still Austin since they launched and am excited to join the board to help them achieve their bold ambitions for the brand,” said Scarborough. “Chris Seals has assembled a solid team that’s making high-quality products with a bright future.” Still Austin is an independent craft whiskey distillery founded in 2015, focused on a true grain-to-glass concept that produces the highest quality whiskey and gin using local resources and sustainable practices. The team makes everything from scratch—milling the grains, fermenting the mash, and distilling the spirit in two types of stills. Last fall, the company introduced its flagship straight bourbon whiskey (aka The Musician), depleting an impressive 6,276 4.5L cases within six months. This March, the team launched a full packaging rebrand for its signature American Gin (aka The Naturalist), the first rye gin made in the Lone Star State.

John Scarborough

Rudolfo Ruiz


Industry Update

FIFTH-GENERATION OWNERS TAKE HELM AT FEE BROTHERS Continuing their family’s legacy, Jon Spacher and Benn Fee Spacher announced that they are the new, and fifth-generation, owners of Fee Brothers in Rochester, New York. As direct descendants of one of the original four brothers, John Fee, they are following in the footsteps of their aunt Ellen Fee and late uncle Joe Fee. Jon Spacher will assume the role of CEO with responsibility for global sales and administration. Jon has been working in the insurance industry for 24 years, most recently as a regional president of Main Street America Insurance. He is a graduate of Penn State with a degree in business. “It is my privilege to stand on the shoulders of our Aunt Ellen, Uncle Joe, and generations who came before them,” said Jon Spacher, in a press release. “I’m proud of our rich history, grateful for our crew, and excited to meet and thank our customers.” COO Benn Spacher oversees all aspects of production and worldwide distribution. Benn worked summers at Fee Brothers in high school, and returned to assume full-time responsibilities in 2020 after a successful career in IT Security. He is a graduate of SUNY Oswego with a degree in Technology Education. “I’m excited by the challenge of meeting increasing domestic and international demand and am confident that our great team will meet that need,” said Benn Spacher. “We’re committed to our customers, and our reputation of producing quality products.” Dan Welch rounds out the team as chief financial officer. Welch was

brought on as a consultant, stepping in as interim CEO over the past year to help transition to the next generation. “Dan’s experience has helped us mitigate risk and upgrade all aspects of our business. We are grateful for his continued leadership,” said Jon. Ellen Fee will remain onboard through 2021 in a consulting role to assure a seamless transition to a new generation of leadership. Jon Spacher and Benn Fee Spacher

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Industry Update

NEXT CENTURY SPIRITS ANNOUNCES NEW HIRES, CEO OF CREEK WATER WHISKEY Next Century Spirits of Raleigh, North Carolina, announced the appointment of two leadership roles including the chief operating officer and chief strategy officer. The leaders were hired to oversee the company’s exponential sales growth and international expansion plans. Rob Mason, Next Century’s new COO, will oversee the company’s operations, business, beverage development and commercial organizations. Jenny Gates, Next Century’s new CSO, will focus on partnerships and alliances to bolster market strategy. The appointments will champion the creation and implementation of scalable best-in-class processes to support the company’s continued growth and innovation. The announcement trails the decision of the company’s flagship brand, Creek Water Whiskey, to hire a new CEO, Anthony Moniello, also a seasoned executive in the spirits industry. The senior executives were hired to centralize oversight of strategic expansion of distribution across brand innovation and commercial sales on a global scale. To support the executive search, Next Century worked with Korn Ferry, one of the most prestigious search firms, to identify leadership. Mason brings a keen view of brand management in the spirits industry with over 20 years of experience in global marketing for consumer brands represented by Beam Suntory, Diageo and Procter & Gamble. Gates brings a diverse understanding of the spirits industry with over 10 years of experience leading corporate strategy, most recently with Pernod Ricard, where she led cross functional projects across the entire portfolio, including leading brands Absolut and Jameson. Since the company’s founding in 2018, Next Century Spirits innovative production solutions have supported the creation and launch of hundreds of successful spirits brands. Anthony Moniello


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lew's bottom shelf


There’s a brewpub in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the Bullfrog Brewery. I happened to stop by a month before it opened, way back in 1996, and spent some time talking to the brewer. I still remember what he told me about the beers he was going to make: a blonde ale, a pale ale, a stout and an apricot ale. Maybe an IPA after a few months. I was disappointed. That was it? Nothing daring at all, no smoked porter, no weissbier and no IPA to start off? (That was all kind of daring in 1996, when the first double IPA and barrel-aged stouts had been made only two or three years before.) The brewer reminded me where I was. “It’s Williamsport,” he said. “I’m going to have to bring them along slow.” It worked. Although the locals drank a lot of blonde and apricot in the first six months, within two years, the Bullfrog was serving a more advanced selection of beers. By 2005, people were driving three or four hours to wait in line for the frankly amazing sour beer releases, and the locals were drinking rye stouts and cask-conditioned double IPAs. Are you bringing your drinkers along? Or are they still stuck on the apricots? Look, I’ve got nothing against your apple pie moonshine, or your redistilled vodka, or your blended bourbon made from your stuff and MGP’s stuff. You may even have a nifty gin, some three-year-old rye. I’m sure they’re all fine products. Only problem is, at that level, so is everyone else’s. If you’re going to thrive, you have to offer more. But first you’ve got to get your drinkers up to speed and asking for more. What does that take? Well, sometimes you can lead with new stuff. Take my local distillery, Mountain Laurel Spirits, where all they make is the distillery’s Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey, albeit in a nice variety of expressions.

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If you’re going to thrive, you have to offer more. But first you’ve got to get your drinkers up to speed and asking for more. But its pandemic special was a line of retrolabeled 375-mL pocket cocktails—Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and Boulevardiers—and let me tell you: fun stuff to carry in a shirt pocket! Those little pocket cocktails are a teaching tool, too. Plenty of folks at a distillery tour have never had a Boulevardier, and there are non-whiskey drinkers who quickly learn to like them. Smarter drinker; better customer. Do you have a local grain program with farmers? The right heirloom grain can mean a new flavor for your whiskey—a point of difference, for sure—but it can also mean a great opening for a discussion with visitors to the distillery about grain, and what grain choices mean to whiskey, and what they might smell that’s different. And once they get hooked on different, well … smarter drinker; better customer. Want to show off your custom barrels, your connection with a small or famous cooperage? Take a used barrel and saw it in half, mount that sucker on the bar. Instant conversation piece, and more, smarter drinkers who will make better customers when they tell their friends what they learned … and where they learned it. A brewer I knew called this on-site intersection with drinkers a way to “share some air.” If you have a tasting room, get your bartenders and servers prepped to share information

with the drinkers. A lead bartender can be a draw to your bar for their cocktails, but they can also be as influential at hand-selling as the best retailer. Find good people for those positions, and pay them appropriately; they’re money in the bank. Maybe more importantly, spend time there yourself. There’s nothing drinkers like better than drinking with the distiller or owner, and there’s no better way to create dozens, even hundreds of brand ambassadors. Don’t forget that it’s a two-way street. Your


drinkers are going to tell you what they like about your whiskey, and you’re going to love that. They’re also likely to tell you what they don’t like, and you need to listen. Is most of it likely to be uninformed whining? Sure, and I’m as impatient with that as you are. But that’s an opportunity to inform, to gently correct misinformation. And it’s also an opportunity to get real insights on occasion … but you gotta listen to all of it to find those. Educate yourself and your staff, learn more about your products, other distiller’s prod-


ucts, and stuff you don’t even make. Learn about cocktails and why they work, what it is about your products that make a particular cocktail uniquely good. Learn about your state’s liquor laws, because I guarantee you’ll get questions. That’s the key to success in artisanal products. Create new customers and better customers through education about your category, your process, your products. The best way to do that is through enticement with new and better drinks, spiked with some

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

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WHAT’s Stirring


Flying Leap Mint Julep To make a sparkling version of this cocktail from Flying Leap Vineyads and Distillery in Elgin, Arizona, add up to 1 ounce of simple syrup and top with S.Pellegrino sparkling mineral water. Ingredients 10 mint leaves 1/4 ounce simple syrup 2 ounces Flying Leap Bourbon Directions In the bottom of a 10-12 ounce glass or silver julep cup, gently muddle the mint and simple syrup. Add bourbon, stir to combine and fill glass with finely crushed ice. Garnish with a straw and mint sprig.

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R+R Old Fashioned This recipe from Boston Harbor Distillery in Boston offers a twist on a classic cocktail. Ingredients 1 ounce Lawley’s New England Small Batch White Rum 1 ounce Putnam New England Straight Rye Whiskey 1/4 ounce demerara simple syrup Dash of citrus bitters Dash of cherry vanilla bitters Directions Combine all ingredients, briefly stir and pour over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange rind.

Brooklyn Gin Bee’s Knees A Brooklyn Gin Bee’s Knees is a refreshing addition to any cocktail hour—a perfect balance of sweetness and tang. Brooklyn Gin of Brooklyn, New York, uses hand-cut fresh citrus in its botanicals, a perfect complement to the fresh lemon in this cocktail. Ingredients 2 ounces Brooklyn Gin 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice 3/4 ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and warm water) Directions Pour all ingredients into a shaker. Shake with ice and serve in a rocks glass. Garnish with a fresh slice of lemon.

Blueberry Basil Smash This colorful concoction from Boston Harbor Distillery in Boston features the distillery’s 86-proof Putnam New England Straight Rye Whiskey, for which the grain bill is made up of 95% rye malt and 5% two-row malted barley. Ingredients 2 ounces Putnam New England Straight Rye Whiskey Spoonful of blueberry jam 3 basil leaves 1 lemon wedges 1/2 ounce water Directions Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Shake and pour into an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with basil leaf

Dragon’s Breath This cocktail from Swamp Fox Distilling Co. in Buena Vista, Georgia, makes for the perfect warm weather libation. Featuring Swamp Fox’s high proof Southern Secret, distilled from muscadine wine, it’s much more refreshing than it’s name may imply. It’s a favorite at Columbus River Dragons hockey games. Ingredients 1 part Southern Secret Muscadine Moonshine (150-160 proof) 4 parts unsweetened cranberry juice 1 splash of grenadine 1 cherry Directions Shake Southern Secret Muscadine Moonshine, cranberry juice and grenadine with ice. Strain into a rocks glass with ice. Drop in one cherry and garnish with a slice of lime.

Flying Leap Manhattan In this Manhattan recipe, Flying Leap Vineyards and Distillery of Elgin, Arizona, recommends its bourbon for a sweeter taste or its rye for a spicier approach. The recipe also makes use of the liquid in which Luxardo cherries are packed. Ingredients 2 1/2 ounces Flying Leap Bourbon or Rye 1 ounce sweet vermouth 3-5 dashes Angostura Bitters Spoonback of Marasca cherry syrup Directions Vigorously mix ingredients with ice in a shaker until the exterior surface frosts. Strain into a coupe or highball glass and garnish with a Luxardo cherry and twist of thin orange peel on a spear.


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ACSA Affairs

BACK ON TRACK: REGISTRATION OPENS FOR ACSA’S CONVENTION IN LOUISVILLE ACSA is thrilled to announce that registration is now open for its annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show. The convention is scheduled for Dec. 4-6, 2021, in Louisville, Kentucky. Get ready to join fellow producers and other industry experts to network, learn, and toast our incomparable, vibrant industry in Derby City. ACSA is planning a stellar conference that will showcase our LEGACY and demonstrate our GRIT. Over two and half days, you will gain insight from tailored, expert-led education sessions and share opportunities to mix and mingle with suppliers and friends in our craft spirits community. As the health and safety of our attendees will continue to be our main priority, expect a release of COVID-19 precautions shortly. All prior attendee and exhibitor registration fees from the July 2021 event will automati-

cally roll over and be applied to the December dates. If you need to check registration status or have any immediate questions, please contact Teresa McDaniel at (502) 807-4249 and/ or To register, please visit americancraftspirits. org, and please note that the following early bird rates are available now until June 30. Members Member Attendee: $595 Additional Member Attendees (1-5): $395 per person Additional Member Attendees (6+): $100 per person Non-Members Non-Member Attendee: $795 Additional Non-Member Attendees (1-5): $425 per person Additional Non-Member Attendees (6+): $120 per person

Exhibitors 10×10 Single Booth: $1,900 20×10 Double Booth: $3,300

ACSA, DISCUS TO HOST PUBLIC POLICY CONFERENCE IN MAY Join us for the American Craft Spirits Association and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States’s Virtual Public Policy Conference on May 25-26, 2021. While we are disappointed COVID-19 prevents an in-person visit again this year, we plan to offer the same opportunities that you have come to expect from our conference—to learn and share from one another and celebrate this great industry. As part of the conference, craft distillers and suppliers will participate in virtual congressional visits with your home-state legislators to discuss the extreme hardships craft distilleries are facing due to the impacts of COVID-19. Visit to register now for the free event May 25-26 and attend from the comfort of your home or distillery/office as it is virtual.

ACSA JOINS TOASTS NOT TARIFFS COALITION ACSA recently joined dozens of associations representing all tiers of the beverage alcohol industry in the launch of the Toasts Not Tariffs Coalition to advocate for the permanent removal of all EU, U.K. and U.S. tariffs on beverage alcohol products in connection to the steel and aluminum and WTO Boeing/Airbus disputes. In mid-April, the coalition sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urging the immediate removal of all U.S., EU and U.K. tariffs on distilled spirits and wines imposed in connection to unrelated trade disputes. The coalition stated recent agreements between the U.S., EU and U.K. to suspend tariffs on certain wines and spirits are significant steps in the right direction that will support the recovery of U.S. distilleries, restaurants, and bars that were forced to close during the pandemic. They underscored, however, that American Whiskey, the U.S.’s top

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spirit export, must not be left behind saddled by tariffs. The temporary tariff suspensions expire in early July, the EU’s tariff on American Whiskey will increase to 50% on June 1, 2020, and the coalition understands the U.K. will launch a review of its tariff on American whiskey in May.


AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN INCLUDES HELP FOR CRAFT DISTILLERS ACSA knows the pandemic shuttered tasting rooms throughout the United States. ACSA also recognizes the pandemic wreaked havoc on the bottom line revenues for craft spirits producers. As a result, ACSA worked with its industry coalition to ensure that tasting rooms were included in the American Rescue Plan Act via the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is administering this fund and will accept applications for a $28.6 billion government program which will provide funding to help distilleries and other eligible businesses keep their doors open. A pilot registration period was scheduled to begin in late April for some Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) qualifiers who self-identified as women, veterans or socially and economically disadvantaged businesses. General registration will open soon and SBA’s Patrick Kelley urged eligible businesses to review the sample application and program guide well in advance of registration. He said it is important to register early to send a strong message to Congress and the Biden Administration that $28.6 billion is probably not enough for the fund. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says it was the first bill he brought to the Senate floor as majority leader, and he vowed to advocate for more funding if needed. “If the funds run low for this program, we’re going to fight to get more money,” says Schumer. Applicants will be able to apply via SBA’s website, through point-of-sale vendors or by telephone, although Kelley cautioned that applications via telephone may take longer to process. In order to be eligible, distilleries must provide documentation with their application that on-site sales to the public comprised at least 33% of gross receipts in 2019. For businesses who opened in 2020 or that have not yet opened, the applicant’s original business model should have contemplated at least 33%

of gross receipts in on-site sales to the public. Kelley made clear that the sale of hand sanitizer from the tasting room (or distillery) would be included in gross revenue receipts, as would t-shirts, and any other merchandise sold from the tasting room. The American Rescue Plan also extends the Employee Retention Tax Credit for eligible employers that continue to pay employee wages during COVID-19-related closures or experience reduced revenue through December 31, 2021. It allows businesses to offset their current payroll tax liabilities by up to $7,000 per employee per quarter. This is up to $28,000 per employee for 2021. As for PPP, the program was just recently extended in other legislation. It will provide until May 31, 2021, for distillers to receive a first or second draw PPP loan. The second

draw loan must show a 25% reduction in profit reduction between 2019 and 2020. While the deadline is for the end of May, SBA recently testified before Congress that current and new applications by the end of April may obligate the remaining $79 billion in the PPP fund. Separately, ACSA continues to support and work for passage of H.R. 1035, introduced on a bipartisan basis by Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Rep. Maria Salazar (R-FL).The legislation would allow distilleries to borrow at higher amounts from PPP, 3.5 times monthly expenses which was provided for restaurants and bars, unlike the 2.5 times allowed for all others. It will also provide parity in statute for the program that directs SBA to make loan and interest payments for eight months for hard-hit industries.

HEARTLAND WHISKEY COMPETITION RETURNS ACSA is proud to announce that registration for the third biennial Heartland Whiskey Competition will open in May. The competition is generously sponsored by state corn marketing associations, and it is open to craft whiskeys from all 50 states that incorporate corn in


their mash bill. Top mixologists, brand ambassadors and whiskey aficionados will judge the competition. Visit to enter by July 14—with a spirits delivery deadline of July 18.

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ACSA Affairs

Q&A WITH TOM POTTER OF NEW YORK DISTILLING CO. Tom Potter of New York Distilling Co. in Brooklyn, New York, was elected to ACSA’s Board of Directors in 2020 and he has been an active supporter of ACSA since its beginning. He was among its founding members, he chaired the election committee which coordinated the first two national elections, and he moderated the first town hall at ACSA’s inaugural convention. Potter was also the co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery. He recently shared some updates on upcoming projects from the distillery, issues facing distilleries in New York City and recent developments with the Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling. ACSA: What has it been like to watch this industry continue to grow? Tom Potter: It’s been incredible to watch, and to be a part of. We’ve gone from fewer than 100 distilleries to a couple of thousand, and the range of spirits and innovation has been mind-boggling. What are your top priorities now that you’ve been elected to the board? The New York State Distillers Guild has a good history of contributing to the national effort. I think we’re one of the larger and more cohesive state organizations, and I think it’s important to maintain good cooperation between it and the ACSA. Founding ACSA board members from New York included Ralph Erenzo and Nicole Austin, who were so crucial

in pushing the FET reduction. I’m proud to follow in their footsteps and hope to be at least half as effective. When you were running for the board, you mentioned that you were part of a working group of New York City distillers discussing and negotiating with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) as they prepare to rewrite the city’s fire code. Have you learned anything during that process that would be helpful for other urban distillers to know about? It’s a really important issue. One year ago, FDNY seemed ready to introduce the first public draft of a completely re-written code that, for better or worse, could have influenced municipalities across the country. A group of NYC distillers had been working with them for almost a year and I think we’d made a lot of progress. COVID froze everything, though, as the FDNY and everyone else had other stuff to worry about. I’m guessing it will resurface later this year. How many of our suggestions they ultimately incorporate will be key to whether or not the rewrite helps or hurts craft distillers. Once the draft is released for public comment we can analyze it and get more aggressive about advocacy and education, and at that time we will certainly also look for help from all industry allies. Which of your products from New York Distilling Co. are you most excited about?

We’re probably best known for our gins, since we started selling them years before our rye whiskies were ready. But inside the company we’re probably most excited about an heirloom rye whiskey that we’ve been developing for more than nine years. We started with a dozen seeds and worked our way up from there. After a few years we finally got to a place where we had enough grain to distill meaningful quantities and also have enough to plant the next year. Those early barrels are really coming into their own now and are showing beautifully. We think we’re going to have something unique and special in a year or two. What are some of the biggest contrasts or similarities between your former career in brewing vs. your career in distilling? Great people and fun conventions in both. Not enough diversity in either. Most of the founding brewers and distillers I’ve met look like me, (albeit younger and more attractive)— white and male. One big difference: the rise of craft beer felt really surprising. The rise of craft spirits didn’t. In the early years no one knew how important craft beer would ultimately become. When we started the Brooklyn Brewery there were already two other breweries in New York State, and I remember thinking maybe we were too late. Was New York really big enough for three? And then the first two went broke, which didn’t seem promising. Success did not seem inevitable. On the other hand, the rise of craft spirits seemed a near certainty. Looking at the overall spirits landscape 10-15 years ago, and keeping the previous experience of craft beer in mind, it was hard to imagine it wouldn’t happen. We saw that you had reached out to Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery’s brewmaster, about working on the Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling, named after the beer writer. Was it important to you that distilling be included and/or what do you think Michael would think about distilling being a part of the foundation started in his name? Michael had been a good friend of the Brooklyn Brewery, and we began to work with him in the mid-90s to raise money to train young brewers. Originally, we co-sponsored

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Tom Potter with Garrett Oliver


fundraising events with the New York chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food, which was founded by Julia Child and Robert Mondavi and was probably America’s first real foodie group. At that time Garrett was still an up-and-coming brewer, but Michael saw something in him and they became pretty close. When Michael passed away in 2007 Garrett spoke at his funeral. A couple of years later, when I helped start the New York Distilling Co., I thought we had a platform to expand the Jackson remit to include distillers and it just seemed to fit. It’s hard to imagine now that this is even possible, but in his day Michael was at once the world’s foremost authority on beer as well as the world’s foremost authority on whiskey. His writing inspired me, and many others, to turn away from dull ordinary pursuits and turn toward making something fun and worthwhile. So NYDC organized dedicated spirits events; some on our own, some in collaboration with the Brooklyn Brewery, and some with the ADI back before there was an ACSA. Dan Farber of Osocalis Distillery, who was also a Michael Jackson acolyte, was of great help back then. The funds had remained under the wing of the American Institute of Wine & Food but we wanted to find a more permanent home for them. A couple of years ago I was talking to Garrett about this, and he shared his vision of starting a new foundation in Michael’s name focused on diversity, which would have pleased Jackson enormously. I was instantly sold, and promised when he got the new Foundation set up we’d move the money over. And so last month we did.

Tom Potter

Any additional advice or words of wisdom for your peers? I don’t think I have much wisdom to share, but I would certainly enjoy sharing a drink. To all my colleagues: Please look me up at our convention in December! Especially if you’re buying. Editor’s Note: Garrett Oliver on Instagram recently announced the Michael James Jackson Foundation’s first round of scholars. Also recognizing a lack of diversity in the alcoholic beverage sector, ACSA last year formed the STEPUP Foundation. This internship program will promote diversity and inclusion for those of different races, color, national origins, genders, and sexual orientations who are eager to work in the craft spirits sector. We are finalizing IRS status, curriculum and funding, and we will continue to update you on this important initiative.


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Kernels of Wisdom Distillers weigh in on their adventures with heirloom corn. BY JEFF CIOLETTI


n an heirloom corn variety’s journey from farm to still to glass, sometimes it needs to make a detour into a Dutch oven. At least that’s often the route for Gary Hinegardner. “When I select a corn, one of the first things I do with that corn—if I can get three ears of [it]—I make a Dutch oven cornbread,” explains Hinegardner, owner/distiller of Wood Hat Spirits in New Florence, Missouri. Hinegardner has a kindred spirit in Widow Jane president and head distiller Lisa Wicker. Any time she’s experimenting with a new corn variety—usually for limited, distillery-only releases—she first bakes them into cornbread. Often, she’ll make a Kentucky favorite, the pancake-like fried cornbread to mix things up. And then there’s Spirits of French Lick head distiller Alan Bishop: “I make grits.” Lest you start to think this is going to turn into some sort of culinary workshop, please know that there’s a method to all of this cooking madness. “Because [with cornbread],” Wicker says, “I can start to understand what they could possibly taste like in whiskey.” Cornbread, notes Hinegardner, is the ideal vehicle to determine whether a new variety has any future in a bottle. The aromas coming off that bread should provide some


instructive hints. “If you make whiskey out of something that tastes good … and have it make a great cornbread, your chances of making a great whiskey are better—according to me,” Hinegardner says. “And I’ve kind of found that to be true.” The same applies to grits, Bishop reports. “Grits are basically the exact same thing as the mash before you convert it to sugar,” Bishop says. “So if it tastes good as grits, it’s going to taste good as mash and it’s probably going to taste good as whiskey.” Whether it’s grits or cornbread, turning an heirloom variety into food is a prudent move and far less risky than making a whiskey that ends up not being very good. “If I wait to make a batch of whiskey, that’s a ton, 2,000 pounds—that’s what my batch is,” Hinegardner says. “Well, it takes me at least three years of growing the corn and multiplying the seed to get to that point. So [it helps] if I can make a batch of cornbread early on and see how it tastes [because] to me, there’s a definite correlation [between] when we eat a [type of] corn and what we can make a whiskey out of it.” Wood Hat has grown some 18 varieties of blue, red, green, brown, purple, and orange, corns on 13 acres of its own land. (10 at the

distillery) and another 50 acres on other farms with which it works. Hinegardner notes that Hopi Blue and Bloody Butcher account for the greatest percentage of the 380 tons they have processed so far. While blue varieties have far outnumbered those of other colors, the distillery has cultivated a few white corns, including Hickory Cane, Boone County White, Tennessee Red Cob—whose naked red cobs are covered with white kernels—and research batches of Missouri Shoepeg. Plans in 2021 include 117 acres of heritage corn both at the distillery and farmer co-operators. Research plots will include 60 different blue corns, which Hinegardner beliieves will be the most blue corns in one place in the world. In addition Wood Hat will collaborate with USDA this spring to bring some 40-plus heritage corns sent into seed banks from Missouri 75-80 yrs ago and just waiting for someone to plant them. Those will be planted and evaluated for future whiskey corns. For Hinegardner, Wicker, Bishop and other distillers experimenting with heritage corn varieties, creative expression is only part of the allure. Working with heirloom corn means harnessing raw materials grown with humans in mind, rather than livestock. And it enables whiskey—and other corn-based spirit makers—to control their own destinies. The most common corn grown in the U.S., yellow dent, is primarily used as animal feed. “The corn [distillers] use, if it’s yellow dent, it’s another whole industry that dictates what’s growing out there and we just get whatever that industry plants,” Hinegardner points out. “It’s really the livestock industry that decides what corn is planted out there and we just use it in the whiskey industry.” That’s been the case for the better part of a century. And the crop is selected based predominantly on its yield. “It’s selected on characteristics that aren’t relevant to whiskey,” Hinegardner asserts.

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By contrast, by working with heirloom varieties, the distiller pretty much calls the shots. If you’re selecting your own corn year after year, you’re able to fine tune the selection process and figure out which ears are going to impart the characteristics you desire. “You’re basically controlling your raw ingredients and that is the most basic difference between any whiskeys—it’s the grain,” Hinegardner says. “If you make apple pie out of different apples, you’re going to have a different apple pie; if you make jelly out of different kinds of strawberries, you’re going to have different strawberry jelly [and] if you make wine out of a different kind of grapes, you’re going to have a different wine. Then why is it so hard for us in the whiskey industry to admit that corn makes a difference?” Heirloom varieties have accounted for the bulk of the corn Wicker has worked with through her career, long before she arrived at Widow Jane. During her previous stints with Limestone Branch Distillery, Starlight Distillery and a host of consulting clients, she’d made whiskeys from Hopi Blue, Bloody Butcher and a range of white corns. “It’s part of the reason I got hired,” she says of her current tenure at Widow Jane, where she became president, head distiller and head blender in 2018. Widow Jane’s Baby Jane Bourbon uses the distillery’s proprietary namesake corn, an open-pollinated cross between Wapsie Valley and Bloody Butcher, imparting some of the sweeter notes from the former and savory

Gary Hinegardner of Wood Hat Spirits

“You’re basically controlling your raw ingredients and that is the most basic difference between any whiskeys—it’s the grain.” —Gary Hinegardner of Wood Hat Spirits

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“It really harkens back to what distilling is, which is an agricultural process.” —Alan Bishop of Spirits of French Lick

Put That In Your Pipe and Smoke It Aside from all of the heirloom varieties with which Pinckney Bend produces its special releases, the corn that goes into its American Rested Whiskey has a bit of a curious history itself: It’s made from corn typically used to make corn cob pipes. The Missouri Meerschaum Co., located about a 20-minute drive from the distillery—has been making pipes out of the same breed of corn for more than a century and a half. “[The corn]’s got a super thick ear inside of it so they can actually turn it into a pipe,” explains Pinckney Bend distiller and chief compliance officer Keith Meyer. “Master distiller Tom [Anderson] had the brilliant idea to take some of that corn and actually start turning it into a whiskey.” That started back in 2014. “And then we slowly switched to pipe corn 100% in 2015,” recalls chief operating officer Tara Steffens.” The last time the pipe manufacturer cross-pollinated the variety was nearly 100 years ago. It’s been the same strain ever since. “It’s a historical corn,” Steffens says, “and we only work with it and the true heirlooms we do every year.”

Alan Bishop of Spirits of French Lick

notes of the latter. Prior to Wicker joining Widow Jane, the distillery had identified that strain after extensive research. “They had done some trials for almost five years of trying to get a pure strain of that and it just tasted the best out of all the ones they were doing,” Wicker says. “It’s more about trying to come up with a one-of-a-kind expression.” Bishop, who has a farming background and estimates that he’s distilled with 60 to 70 different varieties, also has bred his own strains. One of those, a cross of 150-plus different open-pollinated older varieties, he named Amanda Palmer—after the singer who’s one half of the punk-cabaret duo the Dresden Dolls, as well as a celebrated solo artist and author in her own right. “I tend to name things after people who influence me,” Bishop reveals. “Back before I got into distilling professional full-time … I was a plant breeder, just kind of on an amateur basis … and I went to see Nine Inch Nails and


The Amanda Palmer strain from Spirits of French Lick

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Point of Origin Every corn-based industry in the U.S.— and that includes whiskey makers—owes a debt to Oaxaca, Mexico, the birthplace of the ancestor of just about every variety of corn currently used commercially in North America. And distiller Douglas French—known previously mainly for his Scorpion Mezcal brand—has brought corn-based spirits production back to the source with his Sierra Norte Oaxacan whiskey line. “Oaxacan corn is the origin of corn in the world, so it goes back anywhere from 7,000 to 14,000 years,” French says. “By 7,000 years ago, [Oaxacan farmers] were starting to trade it and it became an export product.” As it moved northward, the indigenous peoples of what would, millennia later, become the United States, were growing corn of many colors—the same sorts of colors that distinguish the corn bases in each of Sierra Norte’s offerings. “We’re using white corn, yellow corn, black corn, red corn and purple corn—five different types of corn for five different whiskey expressions,” French says. “The flavors of the whiskeys differ simply because of the color of the corns. We use the same process for mashing and fermenting, distilling—everything—with all of them. The only thing that varies is the color of the corn and that creates a different flavor profile in each expression.”

I watched the Dresden Dolls open for those guys. They held their own and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’m going to call that corn.” (Bishop contends that Palmer herself is aware of the variety that bears her name and is in possession of a couple of ears of it.) Spirits of French Lick now grows about 30 acres of Amanda Palmer on two farms— Bishop’s own and one that belongs to the Doty family, who own the West Baden Springs, Indiana-based distillery. The farm also grows the Cateto variety, a bright-orange, high-carotenoid corn, out of which the distillery makes a few barrels of whiskey each year. Since 2016, Pinckney Bend Distillery of New Haven, Missouri, has been releasing a series of heirloom-based whiskey, with individual releases based on Hickory Cane, Wapsie Valley,

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Pencil Cob, Boone County White, Tennessee Red Cob and Bloody Butcher. The distillery works with local farmers to propagate and grow the different varieties, which it then grinds, distills and ages, releasing a different heirloom-based whiskey each year. And each one (of the same age) is noticeably different from the last in side-by-side comparisons, according to Pinckney Bend distiller and chief compliance officer Keith Meyer. “We’ve all been enraptured with this curiosity, now that we’re hitting a point to know [the distinctions],” Meyer says. “I wouldn’t say any one of them tastes green, but I think there are different congeners that can develop out of any of them.” Nearly as noteworthy as the varieties that ultimately made their way into bottles are the ones that didn’t. “We also tried [distilling some varieties] and it went horribly awry,” reveals Tara Steffens, COO at Pinckney Bend. Ohio Blue Clarage was one such example. Even though a number of distillers have worked with it—with varying results—it proved challenging for Pinckney Bend. As appealing as it may seem for distillers, there are certain creatures for which it’s a bit more so. “The raccoons got to a lot of it,” Steffens laments. “It was a nightmare. It just didn’t grow well for us here, [even though] everything was pointing to [the fact] that it should have.” Hinegardner can attest that that’s a typical problem for blue corn in general. The quality of the protein in blue corn makes it a prime snack for a wide range of wild creatures—from mice to deer. Its stalk is also not particularly strong, making it prone to falling over. Gourdseed and Oaxacan Green were other examples of problem varieties for Pinckney Bend. Deer were fond of chowing down on the former and there were significant yield problems with the latter. “And we had to hand-seed everything because it didn’t fit in our seeder or our sheller,” Steffens recalls. Meyer also recommends steering clear of corns with high-cellulose content. That’s why, he says, you’re not likely to see great results with varieties that are meant for popcorn. “If you go into these different corns, they still are, at their core, [meant for] what they were bred for,” Meyer notes, recalling a time he “went down a rabbit hole” with a co-worker’s brother who makes kettle corn. It was eyeopening for Meyer to discover just how many corn varieties there are for that purpose. But that doesn’t mean any of them are going to make a decent whiskey. They tend to be among the strains that are high in cellulose, which helps them structurally, but they’re not

so great at providing sufficient starches to convert to fermentable sugar. “As we went through the blues and that green and the Gourdseed, some of these corns [had] a lot more cellulose,” Meyer says. “You should make it into a polenta. It’s more of a food than … a fermentation.” Bishop, however, says he hasn’t really worked with a variety he didn’t like. “I don’t have any that I’d say don’t necessarily make good whiskey,” Bishop notes. “I have some that I think make a lot better whiskey.” And, while flint corns—known for their hard outer layers—may typically have lower yields than dent corns, he believes that flints produce better whiskeys than dents. “There’s a hard outer shell on the [flint] corn kernel, so they’re not as easy to convert, but they contain so much more flavor because you’re not converting that,” he notes. “You’re leaving some of the starchiness behind in that matrix of water and you’re distilling that water and pulling some of those aroma precursors across. So, you get more of that grain flavor itself, though you don’t get nearly the yield.” The different flavor and aroma notes are especially expressive in pot distillation. “It’s noticeable in column stills too,” Bishop observes, “but these heirloom corns really lend themselves to pot stills.” And corns of different hues behave differently from one another because those color compounds relate to specific amino acids that are either water soluble or fat soluble. Producers are able to distill those compounds across, bringing distinct aroma and flavor precursors. The anthocyanins in blue and purple corns, for instance, impart notes of black cherry and stone fruit, as well as some spice. An orange corn like Cateto may exhibit some rosewater and safflower characteristics. “[Color] makes a major difference, it’s a huge contributor, even in something like a white corn where you have z cyanin,” Bishop asserts, “which gives almost a nuttiness or almond sort of flavor.” But even with the most versatile heirloom varieties, there remain issues with supply and sourcing—at least with regard to bringing any significant scale to production. And there’s a sort of chicken-and-egg scenario about how to reach that scale. More farms will grow it if more distilleries are working with it. But distilleries won’t work with it until there are enough farms growing it. Even when the farms are growing it, there are substantial risks for the distiller. “Because this isn’t a guaranteed crop, I can’t get crop insurance,” notes Wicker. “It’s not been grown long enough for anybody to


Lisa Wicker of Widow Jane Distillery


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Heirloom 101 Here’s a brief primer on some popular heirloom corn varieties. Bloody Butcher: When ground, little red specks emerge within the cornmeal, reminiscent of the apron of a hard-working butcher (hence, its name). It can often impart some savory notes to balance sweetness. Boone County White: The high-yield white variety can often have some spicy characteristics not unlike rye. Hickory Cane: A white dent corn that was originally cultivated by Native Americans in Florida before it migrated through Appalachia. It can have a nutty sweetness to it. Hopi Blue: A high concentration of anthocyanins give Hopi Blue its signature color. Flavor-wise it tends to have a nutty sweetness. It’s very popular for tortillas. Missouri Shoepeg: The white corn variety is known for its sweetness. It gets its name from 19th century shoemaking: the kernels resemble the wooden pegs used to attach soles to shoes.

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Ohio Blue Clarage: Also known as Blue Clarage Dent Corn, the strand was developed in Appalachia in the first half of the 19th century. Its sweetness makes it popular for cornmeal. Pencil Cob: It gets its name from its very narrow, pencilthin reddish cob—surrounded by yellow kernels. Its hearty flavor has made it a favorite for grits, as well as an ideal roasting corn. It can have aromas that are at times fruity, floral and woody. Tennessee Red Cob: Another popular corn for grits, it’s been popular in its namesake state since the 19th century. Don’t let the name deceive you, though. The red cob is surrounded by white dent kernels. Wapsie Valley: As a named variety, it goes back at least as far as the 1850s in Iowa. Kernels alternate between red and yellow and there’s both a sweetness and a spiciness to the flavor and aroma.

Photos courtesy of Annie’s Heirloom Seeds (, North Georgia Still Co. (, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange ( Sustainable Seed Co. (sustainableseedco. com),Trade Winds Fruit ( and Wood Hat Spirits (

be interested in insuring it—in case it doesn’t work out.” Widow Jane contracts with a farmer in upstate New York to grow everything that Wicker’s team distills at its Brooklyn, New York, facility. Additionally, the distillery works with a seed corn farmer in Pennsylvania. “It’s a five-year crop and Widow Jane has a longterm business plan built off of it, so we have seed corn growing in two states, because of hail, locusts and acts of God,’ Wicker says. “If we lost an entire year’s crop, I’ve got some that’s dried and in storage.” The balance of the distillery’s corn is grown in Kentucky. Widow Jane negotiates up front with the farmer on what the distillery will pay per acre, even if the crop fails. “So, rather than thinking that we’re buying the corn at the end, we pay a minimum,” she explains. “So if the crop didn’t work out, then [the farmers] aren’t completely out of getting paid. That part varies state to state, how much we have to do that, but that’s probably the piece that keeps everyone from doing it on a large scale.” But for the pioneers in this space, it’s been a risk worth taking. “It really harkens back to what distilling is, which is an agricultural process,” Bishop says. And that’s going to be appealing to a growing number of new, adventurous distillers, he says. “I think those distillers are going to look at distilling as what it really is—it’s part of a local foodshed,” he adds “And they’re going to look around and they’re going to go, ‘Well what’s in my local foodshed or what grows here that I can make into a distinct, regionalized product that you can’t get elsewhere, that tastes like the food we eat here, that tastes like the land we have here, the terroir we have here.’” Hinegardner believes that craft spirits producers have the better part of a decade to experiment and get it right before the large distillers get their hooks into heirloom corn in a meaningful way. And these heritage varieties of corn provide real opportunities for small distillers to distinguish themselves and make their mark in the meantime. “[On] the craft spirits side, we’ve got eight or 10 years to play with this, to learn it and to enjoy the new experiences,” Hinegardner advises, “before the big boys take it away from us.” ■



Cheers to America's Corn GrOWERS ACSA would like to thank the following state corn associations for their support in sponsoring the biennial Heartland Whiskey Competition. In May, we will begin accepting entries for the competition, which is open to craft whiskeys from all 50 states that incorporate corn in their mash bill.

Singled Out As more distilleries gravitate to single malt, differentiation needs to be a greater priority. BY JEFF CIOLETTI


urphy Quint doesn’t see America getting its own version of Speyside any time soon. “I go back and forth on regionality,” says the head distiller and director of operations at Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery in Swisher, Iowa, “and whether or not one day the U.S. is kind of going to look like Scotland

where you say, ‘a Pacific Northwest single malt tastes like this, a Midwestern single malt tastes like this.’ I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen or not, but if it does, it’s going to happen over time.” But as the number of U.S.-based craft distillers making single malt whiskey has rapidly increased and made the style a full-fledged

category unto itself—with producers like Cedar Ridge, Westward Whiskey, Westland Distillery and St. George Spirits making some of the biggest waves—the pressure is on for producers to distinguish themselves. And that means within the category itself, not just against other, more established American whiskey traditions.

“I don’t think you can go broke underestimating the durability of the American palate. We like hot sauce, hoppy beer and really smoky whiskey.” —Lew Bryson 46 |

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Murphy Quint of Cedar Ridge Distillery

For Quint, Cedar Ridge’s path to distinction involves harnessing the non-distilling side of its business. “You have to find something to hang your hat on and here at Cedar Ridge, we are both a winery and a distillery,” Quint says. “So one thing we try to incorporate in our QuintEssential American Single Malt is wine influence. We use a lot of our own ex-red-wine casks, a lot of port casks, a lot of sherry casks. Those are really going to stand out in our final products’ flavor profile.” QuintEssential aims to stand out on the shelf as well—at least from other styles of American whiskey. When Cedar Ridge rebranded its single malt last year, the refresh included a label redesign, giving the package a more Scotch whisky-like aesthetic than is common among U.S-produced whiskeys. “The traditional American-style label—those big, bold labels that you can read from 50 feet away—we do that with our bourbon, we do that with our rye,” Quint notes. “With our QuintEssential, we wanted to go a different route and kind of make it look more like a Scotch. And the reason we’re doing that is because the category is still fairly new and the American consumer hasn’t really had a chance to understand what it is and what’s happening.” The distillery figures that an American whiskey in Scotch clothing would make it an easier transition for the average Stateside drinker. Meanwhile, Southwestern U.S. producers


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Sante Fe Spirits of New Mexico and Hamilton Distillers of Tucson, Arizona, have chosen to make that connection by taking a popular and easily recognizable element of many Scotch whiskies—smoked malt—and give it a bit of a regional twist. Instead of peat, Santa Fe and Hamilton use mesquite for their respective Colkegan and Whiskey Del Bac single malts. Hamilton/Whiskey Del Bac co-founder Stephen Paul had a great deal of experience with mesquite in a previous career, when he owned furniture company Arroyo Design with his wife, Elaine, for 30 years. The company specialized in mesquite wood. “I would always take my scraps home to barbecue with and I would tell my wife, ‘Those are our profits going up in smoke,’” Paul recalls. “And one night in 2006 … we were drinking Scotch and barbecuing and she says, ‘Why couldn’t you dry malt over mesquite fire instead of peat fire like they do in Scotland?’” Five years later, he started doing exactly that commercially. The specific wood the distillery uses is velvet mesquite—for the botanically minded, the technical name is Prosopis velutina—which grows all over the Sonoran desert and is responsible for a very familiar aroma that wafts from fireplaces and barbeque pits throughout the region. “The goal was to make a truly Southwestern American single malt whiskey that was evocative of the desert Southwest,” Paul says. “[Velvet mesquite] grows everywhere and it’s not endangered in any way.” There definitely are market opportunities

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Rhonda Kallman of Boston Harbor Distillery

for mesquite-smoked malt whiskeys, believes noted whiskey expert and writer Lew Bryson, author of “Tasting Whiskey” and “Whiskey Master Class.” Just follow the American palate. “I say that because of the huge success of really peaty whiskies and really really hoppy beers,” says Bryson. “I don’t think you can go broke underestimating the durability of the American palate. We like hot sauce, hoppy beer and really smoky whiskey.” Smoke is obviously a part of the signature American culinary tradition—barbecue—so there’s a sort of logic incorporating it into an emerging American distilling tradition. Perhaps even more universally beloved by practically anyone with a tongue in this great land is chocolate. And the country’s oldest producer of said confection, Walter Baker & Co. (aka, the Baker Chocolate Co.) is based in the same neighborhood, Dorchester, that Boston Harbor Distillery calls home. So it should come as no surprise that the mash bill for Boston Harbor’s Putnam single malt draws its inspiration from that two-and-a-half-century old chocolatier. “So when you drink Putnam single malt, you get this really unusual chocolate, cherry, almost toffee, coffee flavor that you don’t find with most single malts,” says distillery founder Rhonda Kallman, noting that the character derives from 20% of the mash bill being roasted malt. “We’re not peating it because it’s a roasted malt, it’s not that light body you’re getting from other malt whiskeys around the world.” Kallman admits that she’s a little ambivalent about calling Putnam a “single malt.” “I grapple every day with using the word ‘single malt’ because single malt is uniquely Scottish, and here we are, trying to adopt it— which is kind of cool, but I wouldn’t mind having our own brand of malt or American malt, or however we do it,” she explains. “I use ‘single,’ but there’s no reason I can’t just say ‘malt whiskey,’ on other brands down the road.” Whatever a distillery may call its barleymalt-based whiskey, Bryson recommends keeping things simple. The majority of target consumers, he says, likely won’t respond to anything too esoteric. Things that appeal to whiskey geeks—a fraction of the market— might alienate curious drinkers. “They’re not in it for the subtleties, they’re going to want something that can be put on a label and is obvious,” Bryson notes. “You can’t [say] ‘we used all second-fill barrels for this,’ and [drinkers] are not going to be impressed when you have a different strain of malt.” ■


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Mesquite wood features prominently in Whiskey Del Bac

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member spotlight

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Bourbon from Garrison Brothers Distillery is now available in 32 states and eight countries.


Bourbon Vision

How Dan Garrison created Garrison Brothers Distillery, the first legal distillery in Texas. BY JON PAGE


an Garrison’s vision to start the first legal distillery in Texas and make “the best bourbon in the world” was “a total pipe dream,” according to his younger brother Charlie. “That is truly what [Dan] said to me on day one: ‘I’m going to make the best bourbon in the world,’” Charlie recalls. “And I’m looking at him and I’m like, ‘And I am going to fly to the moon.’” In fairness to Charlie, Dan had never made whiskey. He was unemployed after the Enron scandal of 2001 bankrupted the software company where he worked, and Dan started writing a business plan during a tour of Kentucky distilleries. Some experts advised that he’d need to make vodka to stay afloat in the early, lean years; that he’d need to source some whiskey to start; or that bourbon couldn’t come from Texas. His own father and brother tried to talk him out of it, but Dan stuck to his plan. More than a decade later, Dan’s vision doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Bourbon from Garrison Brothers Distillery is available in 32 states and eight countries. The distillery has won numerous awards and honors for its bourbon lineup. Fans flock by the hundreds to the distillery in rural Hye, Texas, for special releases like Cowboy, an uncut and unfiltered straight bourbon whiskey. They covet spots


on the distillery’s volunteer bottling sessions while a Facebook group titled Garrison Brothers Drinking Team is thousands of members strong. And through its charitable arm, Good Bourbon For A Good Cause, the distillery has raised more than $500,000 for veterans, hospitality workers, parks and more. “That’s always been Dan’s unbelievable gift in the world, is that he has a vision and he holds it,” says Charlie, the distillery’s national sales director. “[Dan is] highly intelligent, very motivated and typically about seven steps ahead of the rest of us,” adds Donnis Todd, Garrison Brothers’ master distiller. “He’s so far ahead of everybody in the mind that he’s already figured everything out and he’s already had this conversation, and I’m just trying to catch up.” Dan admits that he constantly doubted himself in the beginning. During his first summer aging whiskey, the Texas heat cracked a barrel stave, causing a massive leak (he later found success with custom-made barrels with thicker staves) and many sleepless nights. He worried that his product wouldn’t even taste like bourbon, which made it that much sweeter when he finally tasted his aged whiskey. “Barrel number six was one of the earlier ones that we put away,” recalls Dan, “and when I tasted that I went, ‘Yeehaw! We did it!’ … Not only did it taste like bourbon, it tasted

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like a rich, full-bodied bourbon with texture and umami like I’ve never tasted before.” Todd believes a combination of elements make Garrison Brothers bourbon extraordinary. First, there’s the water, high in calcium and lacking iron, straight from the ground. Then there’s the relationship with local farmers who grow the grains. And then there’s the custom barrels and the brutal Texas summers, where temperatures soar above 100 but drop into the 70s and 60s, causing slight leakage in the barrels. “What’s left in there is amazing,” says Todd. “We have no problem with extraction. I think it gives Garrison Brothers this very unique, amazing special mouthfeel. I’m not saying you couldn’t get it anywhere else, but I know you can get it in Hye, Texas.” Dan and Charlie agree that the distillery owes much of its success to Todd. “We would have shut down long ago [without Donnis],” says Dan. “He jumps in and he takes over a project. I’ll be out on the road selling and we’ll have to build a new barn and Donnis, he’s the construction foreman on the project. He gets it done and he gets it done on time and under budget every single time.” Back in 2007, Todd was enlisted in the Air Force and contemplating a longer career of service when he decided to rejoin civilian life and spend more time with his young son. Todd grew up near a grandfather who distilled, and he sought out distilling opportunities in Korea and Japan while he was in the Air Force. When he saw that Dan received his distilled spirits permit, Todd visited the ranch

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where construction was beginning on the distillery, without an invitation. “I said, ‘Who are you and what are you doing in my stillhouse?’” recalls Dan. “He said, ‘My name is Donnis Todd and I want to make bourbon whiskey.’ I said, ‘Well you can’t make it here, cause I ain’t got any money and I can’t pay you.’ And he said, ‘Well I’m not going anywhere and you look like a smart man, so I’m sure you’ll figure something out.’ “Today he’s the best bourbon maker in America in my opinion.” Charlie says that’s a credit to Todd understanding Dan’s vision, building an incredible team of distillers, and bringing work ethic and ingenuity from his military career to the distillery. “Dan is the soul of this thing,” says Charlie. “He absolutely knows what Garrison Brothers is, what it is not, what it will never be. … Donnis got it, and Donnis built Dan’s vision. If it were not for Donnis Todd, there wouldn’t be a single one of us employed.” It helps that Dan and Todd are constantly experimenting. In addition to its core Small Batch and Single Barrel products, the distillery strives to introduce unique limited releases. Projects in the distant future might include a carbonated whiskey aged in champagne barrels or bourbon aged in a barrel that previously stored coffee beans for one year. An upcoming release this summer, Guadalupe, is a four-year-old wheated bourbon finished for two years in port barrels, which Dan says is “the best thing we’ve ever made” and Todd calls “pretty close to perfection on the palate.”

Last year, Garrison Brothers introduced two limited-release products. HoneyDew came after years of requests from Nancy Garrison, Dan’s business partner and wife, to make a honey-infused bourbon. Another spirit morphed into a fundraiser for COVID-19 relief. Laguna Madre is the distillery’s oldest bourbon to date, aged for four years in white American oak and then for another four years in barrels made of Limousin oak from France. Its initial release was slated for distribution last spring, but when the pandemic struck the distillery changed its plans. For a contribution of $1,000 to Good Bourbon For A Good Cause, customers could come to the distillery to collect a bottle of Laguna Madre, a bottle of HoneyDew and a bottle of Boot Flask Bourbon. The distillery raised $400,000 for various hospitality and disaster relief efforts. “We want to use this amazing platform to help those folks [in the hospitality industry],” says Todd. “Those are the folks that are pouring the bourbon that I love to make. I want to do something to help those folks in a time of need. It’s definitely more important than the bourbon.” The distillery also donates a portion of proceeds from its 115-proof Balmorhea to Balmorhea State Park, and it is test driving a new initiative called Cocktails For A Cause, which aims to establish health care funds for hospitality workers. Dan hopes people will view restaurant and bar jobs as a career. “Restaurant workers have always been on the fringe,” he says. “They


“Barrel number six was one of the earlier ones that we put away, and when I tasted that I went, ‘Yeehaw! We did it!’ … Not only did it taste like bourbon, it tasted like a rich, full-bodied bourbon with texture and umami like I’ve never tasted before.”

“People drink Garrison Brothers when they’re having special moments, and right now we’re [all] savoring every special moment we can.” —Charlie Garrison

—Donnis Todd

—Dan Garrison don’t have health care. They work strange hours. It’s almost impossible to have children if you’re a bartender or a cook or chef or server because you can’t get home at night. It’s always been a fringe industry. We’re working very hard to make it a profession.” Garrison Brothers is also looking forward to gaining new ground in the on-premise sector. Hopdoddy Burger Bar started selling a slushy infused with Garrison Brothers bourbon and the food service and hospitality company


“We want to use this amazing platform to help those folks [in the hospitality industry]. Those are the folks that are pouring the bourbon that I love to make. I want to do something to help those folks in a time of need. It’s definitely more important than the bourbon.”

Delaware North will start offering Garrison Brothers bourbon in airports, stadiums and more across the nation. Charlie says sales for Garrison Brothers have continued to grow, despite the pandemic. “I think it’s because people drink Garrison Brothers when they’re having special moments,” he says, “and right now we’re [all] savoring every special moment we can.” For Dan, the distillery’s success is proof that “good bourbon can change the world,” which

is embossed into each bottle of Garrison Brothers bourbon. He sees that in action during the distillery’s volunteer bottling sessions, when strangers from all walks of life become fast friends. “Good bourbon creates enduring, lasting friendships,” says Dan. “Good bourbon can increase one’s faith in man and God. Good bourbon creates legendary stories. That’s the philosophy behind Good Bourbon For A Good Cause, and I see it every day.” ■

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distilling destinations

Sipping in the Sun, Stones and Sand A trek through Arizona and southern Utah reveals the many flavors of the desert Southwest. BY JEFF CIOLETTI

Double Arch in Arches National Park


here is no travel experience more conducive to social distancing than roadtripping for a week through the desert Southwest, popping in on distilleries between Elgin, Arizona, and Moab, Utah, with the occasional national park visit. The circuitous, 1,500-mile loop I covered—from Phoenix, to the Grand Canyon, to Arches National Park, way back down to a point about 30 miles north of the Mexican border

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and, finally, back to Phoenix—is admittedly not the most efficient route one could take. But spending a cumulative 30-plus hours alone in a rented Nissan Versa (one that seemed to lack functioning shock absorbers), is like a mini-quarantine—and one with an absolutely spectacular view of snow-capped mountains, red rocks and cacti. It’s visually everything you’d want from the Old West, without having to be on a horse.

Grand Canyon Brewing and Distillery leans into its Western-ness—which is readily apparent before you even enter, thanks to the wooden double entry doors with frontier rifles as handles. Inside is a rustic mountain oasis with a running fountain/stream separating the tasting room/merch shop from the sprawling full-service bar and restaurant. A foot bridge adjacent to a wall of river rocks gets you across it and you’re invited to throw a


Mark Beres of Flying Leap Vineyards and Distillery

“In order for us to turn a buck, what we have to do is we have to provide customers with something that is extraordinary in quality, first and foremost, but, secondarily, that’s unique.” —Mark Beres of Flying Leap Vineyards and Distillery few coins in the water to make “a dog’s dream come true.” The wilderness craftsmanship continues in the dining space, with high-top tables made from sectioned tree trunks and stools that resemble giant Lincoln Logs. Also, this being pandemic times, there’s plenty of seating on the outdoor patio, as well. As the name tells you, Grand Canyon Brewing and Distillery—located in Williams, Arizona, about 60 miles south of the natural wonder for which it’s named—produced beer before it expanded its operation to distilling in 2017. The distillery’s core products include Grand Canyon Vodka, Rum, Gin, Prickly Pear Vodka and Thunder Snow unaged corn whiskey. Bottles of all of those are typically available for purchase at the distillery shop. Sometimes visitors also might find some of the distillery’s limited release offerings, including Star Shine single malt. Among the many cocktails on offer at the on-site restaurant bar was a well crafted Old Fashioned with a Star Shine base, instead of bourbon or rye. About five hours northeast is another distillery/brewery combo that produces an American single malt whiskey and is near two national parks. The parks in question are Arches and Canyonlands and the producer is Moab Distillery in the Utah city of the same name. Moab Brewery operated for 21 years before it launched its distillery the same year as Grand Canyon. Moab takes full advantage of its majestic, unspoiled locale for its brand building. Class


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5 Vodka refers to the level of intensity of the Cataract Canyon rapids after the snow melts. Its Spot On Gin is made with naturally filtered water from the nearby La Sal Mountains and its Canyonlands Confluence Single Malt, made with “pure Colorado plateau water” (and 100% malted barley) and aged in a variety of new and used charred American oak barrels for a minimum of two years, takes its name from the confluence of the Green River and the Colorado River. At happy hour, the full-service restaurant attached to the brewery—the distillery is in a store front right next door—is typically full of folks relaxing over a gin and tonic or a pint after a strenuous day’s hike. For those who favor warmer climates, let’s head back down to Arizona and practically all the way to the southern edge of the state (and the country)—yes, it’s a weird route, but like I said, it’s quite scenic—to Elgin, the heart of wine country (yes, Arizona has one). Amongst all of the wineries are ones that do double-duty as craft spirits producers, including the Elgin Winery and Distillery (aka Arizona Craft Beverage) and Flying Leap Vineyards and Distillery. Elgin Distillery makes the award-winning rum, Regalo de Vida, the perfectly named El Gin, as well as the whiskey trio, Arizona Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Arizona Straight Rye Whiskey and Arizona Straight Single Malt. The company also moved all production of products previously produced at Tombstone Distillery in Tombstone, Arizona, into the Elgin facility. Arizona Craft Beverage also operates a brewery, so it’s a

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true craft trifecta. Flying Leap leapt into distilling because it had a surplus of grapes and needed to figure out what to do with them. “We could either sell them to other growers, we could make more wine with them and hope that we could sell it in the future—which would be risky—or we could distill the grapes,” Flying Leap president and CEO Mark Beres told me while he was multi-tasking on the distillery floor on a particularly busy Saturday. Naturally, Flying Leap chose option number three. “It was expensive to build the distillery, but once we were able to get that capability we could make all these other products, like these whiskeys, we could open more tasting rooms, more retail, we could generate more cash flow, and we could broaden and diversify our business,” he said, motioning to barrels of Flying Leap Bourbon. Initially, though, Beres’s intention was to focus mainly on making brandy and grappa. “But as we got into it,” he explains, “we were, like, ‘Well, shit man we could make whiskey, too. Hell, let’s make whiskey.’” The consumer learning curve for whiskey obviously isn’t as steep as it is for certain varieties of brandy—especially a grape-pomacebased distillate like grappa. And, all agingrelated issues aside—the distillery’s bourbon sits in wood for at least two years—there’s a much greater yield from grain than there is from the same volume of fruit. “Our entire harvest last fall—and we got a lot of grapes—made three barrels of grappa,”

Beres reveals. “Those three barrels of grappa took more man-hours of labor than the entire rest of the distilled spirits portfolio last fall. There’s a huge amount of labor and expense buried in those barrels, but it makes the most exquisite product, which is grappa.” It’s also an extremely polarizing spirit. “People either love it and will pay the premium of grappa,” he says, “or they don’t know anything about it. Or, they’re like college [students], hiking around in Europe and they drank grappa and it was like gasoline—that’s what they [now] think it is.” Of course, that raises the question: why make it at all? “We can sell it for a lot of money,” Beres says. Rarity—especially in the middle of the desert—plays a role. “We make our money by making stuff you can’t get anywhere else,” But quality, he says, has to play a larger role. “In order for us to turn a buck, what we have to do is we have to provide customers with something that is extraordinary in quality, first and foremost, but, secondarily, that’s unique,” he says. “The third thing … our products have to have a connection to our winery … we want our distilled spirits to amplify our wine portfolio.” Aside from making brandy and grappa, that means finishing some whiskey in wine barrels. It also means getting creative to bridge the gap between whiskey and brandy as consumers are far less familiar with the latter. “Americans just have not culturally developed the taste for brandy, but they do have the taste for whisky,” Beres says. “Whiskey


sells, brandy doesn’t, but we’re making a lot of brandy. How do I do it? The idea I came up with was to bury the brandy in the whiskey.” To do that, Flying Leap developed two products: Franken-bourbon and Oatmeal Cookie. The distillery combines low wines from bourbon and oat whiskey production, respectively, with grapes from the intermediate stage of winemaking and then co-distills them into a single distillate. Since Flying Leap is a winery first and a distillery second, the concept of terroir comes into play quite often. One way in which that’s happening is through a wheat whiskey the distillery is developing, made from white Sonora wheat—a prized grain in the region. Folks in the greater Tucson region line up for loaves of bread made with the stuff. “White Sonoran wheat is a heritage grain, it’s organic and it’s been grown here for


centuries—Mexican people use it to make tortillas,” Beres explains. “There’s a new focus in our culture for locally sourced ingredients— heritage this, heritage that. This is a manifestation of that cultural fascination with [things like] heirloom tomatoes.” Fifty miles north of Flying Leap in Tucson, Hamilton Distillers/Whiskey Del Bac captures the essence of the region another way: with mesquite-smoked grain for its line of single malts. (Read more about it in the single malt feature on page 38). “The project really started out of a long relationship with mesquite wood and a really profound love of the Sonoran desert,” says co-founder Stephen Paul, who ran a mesquite wood furniture company with his wife for 30 years. Paul experimented with the mesquite smoked malt concept on a 5-gallon still for

several years before launching the distillery with his daughter, Amanda, 10 years ago. “I kind of graduated to a 40-gallon still and went into the official product development phase off of that still and took product to the local Tucson market and it was warmly received,” Paul recalls. Then, in 2014, the distillery secured the funding to build a 500-gallon system, with a 5,000-pound malt house. The smoking typically lasts one day. The production team builds a fire in a burner box outside the distillery, constantly ensuring that the heat level doesn’t get too high. “When the enzyme has been produced in the malt, it’s very vulnerable to heat,” Paul says. “As the kernels dry out it becomes less vulnerable, but you don’t want high heat in the very beginning.” The heat is then pumped into the grain bed in the germination/kilning tank. “It turns

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“The project really started out of a long relationship with mesquite wood and a really profound love of the Sonoran desert.” —Stephen Paul of Hamilton Distillers on Whiskey Del Bac

Stephen Paul of Hamilton Distillers/Whiskey Del Bac

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out that the smoke will only grab onto the kernels when the exterior of the kernels is wet,” he reveals. “So that’s why we’re just doing it on the first day. We do about nine restokes of the fire, usually on a Thursday, and by the end of the day those kernels are dried out on the exterior.” It’s not completely finished drying at that point but it won’t grab any more smoke. So, on the second day, the drying continues with heat from a boiler passing through a heat exchanger. Ultimately, the malt will be a part of Whiskey Del Bac’s core single malt product line, which includes the 90-proof Dorado, cask-strength Distiller’s Cut and the unaged Old Pueblo. The distillery also has a Classic offering, sans smoke (Distiller’s Cut actually blends Classic and Dorado). Everything in its bottles are distilled in house—the product descriptions declare “Never Sourced,” like a personal mantra. A distillery that shares that philosophy is Tempe-based Adventurous Stills, a hidden gem whose distillery and well appointed tasting room are nestled within an unassuming business park. Its three partners, Chase Estrin, Kelly Lattig and Jeff Reisinger, apply their mechanical and aerospace engineering backgrounds to the distillery, whose equipment and bar they built from scratch. The three share a love of the sort of outdoorsy activities that Arizona offers in spades—rock climbing, snowboarding, backpacking, etc.— and they infused their distillery’s identity with that sense of adventure. They launched the distillery about five years ago and opened the cozy tasting room—complete with leather couch and loveseat—in 2017. Their overall goal has been to make whiskey and other spirits that they could pass around the campfire, with a deep focus on local. At


least 80% of the grain the distillery uses grows in Arizona. The eclectic lineup includes Lost Dutchman Rye, Peralta Bourbon, Fossil Creek Whiskey (with a mash bill that combines corn, wheat, malted barley and rye), the distilleryonly Hickory Creek Whiskey (Fossil Creek aged in hickory instead of oak) and the unaged, cask-strength Peralta Moonshine (a traditional bourbon mash bill with some specialty grains to impart chocolate and spice notes). Adventurous Stills also ventures beyond whiskey with Papago Dark Rum, wheat-based

Picket Post Vodka and Agave Reposado. When I visited, I was able to taste its smallbatch special release #13, Red, White & Blue Corn whiskey, featuring the visage of “Parks & Recreation’s” Ron Swanson donning an American flag bandana. If Ron himself ever found out, the privacyobsessed libertarian likely would flee off of the grid and vanish into the wilderness. Then again, what better place to hide from the modern world than in the middle of the Southwestern desert? ■

The Adventure Continues The diversity of spirits throughout Arizona and Utah is as vast as the landscape. Make sure these other craft spirits producers in the region are on your radar.


In the town of Carefree, Elysian Desert Distillery (aka Carefree Distillery) crafts “Spirits with your Spirit in Mind,” including a lineup of Chakra Vodka and Carefree Bourbon. … Amidst beautiful scenery in Sedona, Red Wall Distillery plans to open this summer with a focus on bourbon, vodka, gin and apple brandy.


Alpine Distilling is Park City’s only locally owned distillery producing awardwinning whiskey, gin and liqueurs that capture the spirit of its great hometown. … In Pleasant Grove, Clear Water Distilling Co. produces small-batch liquors that are creatively handcrafted, vapor infused, and made with all natural molasses, fruits and wine. … Dented Brick Distillery of South Salt Lake makes a diverse range of small batch spirits from regionally sourced grains and house select yeasts. … High West Distillery was once a small operation in downtown Park City and has grown to be an internationally-recognized brand with four locations and a lineup of whiskies that has received numerous accolades and awards. … In Eden, New World Distillery’s mission is to ensure above top-shelf quality and bold tastes in all of its spirits, which includes gin, vodka, whiskey, liqueur and agave-based products. … Based in Midvale, Outlaw Distillery seeks to create some of the finest, hand-crafted spirits with a focus on premium local ingredients and a modern approach to tried-and-true distilling standards. … In West Valley City, Waterpocket Distillery is named for the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park, and crafts pre-Prohibition herbal spirits, bitters and its Long Lost liqueurs.


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KNOCKED OFF-BALANCE We explore why so many craft distilleries took a harder hit than the rest of the spirits business during the pandemic. BY ANDREW KAPLAN

KOVAL Distillery in Chicago had been planning to open its new tasting room. But then the pandemic hit, forcing it to delay those plans for an as-yet-to-be determined future date. “For me, it’s like a huge financial drain at the moment,” says Sonat Birnecker Hart, the distillery’s president. The revenues from the 4,000 square-foot tasting room would open up a new stream of revenue for KOVAL, supplementing the thriving international, distributor-based business it has already built. “Distribution is such a huge part of what we do,” Birnecker Hart continues, “around 95%. And then maybe there was 5% from tourism and our store. But we were expecting that to grow once we opened our bar, our tasting room, which we invested well over a million dollars into and has not been able to open for a year.” KOVAL is not alone. The craft spirits industry’s dependence on the on-premise, whether it be their own tasting rooms, or their bar and restaurant accounts, cannot be overstated. (In a survey of American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) members, 30% of respondents lost more than 80% of their tasting room revenue in 2020 compared to 2019.) Much of the craft spirits business relies on the introductions and personal connections with consumers that occur in the on-premise. And many of these locations were either shut down or had their seating capacities and hours drastically reduced during the pandemic. Many still do. The situation facing craft spirits producers was reflected in a headline in a presentation to ACSA members by NielsenIQ and Nielsen CGA in February: “Despite record breaking off premise sales, the on premise has been damaged like never before.” The chart shows a historic dip to near zero on-premise spirits sales for the four weeks between March and April last year, the height of shutdowns during the pandemic.

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Adding to the hardship is the fact that many states have not allowed craft distilleries to sell direct to consumers (DtC) or cocktails to go, remedies that have proven to be lifelines for many smaller spirits companies during the pandemic. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, as of January of this year, 33 states and D.C. have allowed cocktails to go in response to the pandemic. But only two of those, Ohio and Iowa, made those laws permanent. Also, just 19 states have legalized some type of DtC shipping for spirits. Heavily reliant on the on-premise as so many craft distillers are, the heavily media-covered boom in liquor store sales as consumers stocked up in the early days of the pandemic only helped them so much. Most of the benefit went to the minority of craft distillers who had achieved somewhat of a balance between on-premise and off-premise sales before the pandemic hit. “When they talk about the spirits industry, a huge majority, probably 80, 90% of it is represented by large brands, and I think large brands have seen a lot of strength from people buying handles of stuff at the liquor store for lock down, and things like that,” says Scott Harris, general manager of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. in Purcellville, Virginia. “Craft spirits is quite different,” he continues. “Eighty-plus percent of the craft spirits producers are little, tiny distilleries that make like 1,000 cases a year. They are really reliant upon tourism and walk-in traffic. They operate sort of as a pub concept across the nation and I think they’ve been hugely impacted by this.” A Far-Reaching Impact There was another slide in Nielsen’s February presentation that symbolizes the deep impact of the pandemic on craft distilleries. The headline says the back bar has “shrunk

dramatically,” with the number of spirits brands on the bar shrinking by 52% in bars and 42% in restaurants. These establishments have pared down what they sell to meet the new normal of reduced capacity and sales. “Previously, people might have been a little more willing to take whatever their distributors pushed on them,” explains Guy Rehorst, founder of the Milwaukee-based Great Lakes Distillery. “And that certainly ended during the pandemic.” For craft distillers like Rehorst, this has made what is already a difficult job on a good day that much more challenging. “We make premium products, super premium products, and there’s only room for so many on the back shelf,” he says. “I’m pretty sure we’ve got more placements than any other craft distilleries in our state, but I can still tell you there is always a reluctance. We have to do a good job of selling the products to them. They don’t sell themselves.” Birnecker Hart says the reduction in visitors to her distillery has also had a major impact. Tourism is a primary way word spreads about KOVAL, especially in a busy city like Chicago. So the reduction in things like distillery tours and even gift shop sales has been felt. “You are able to tell your story in person, so there’s the marketing side of the tour experience,” she says. “People are able to create a connection to your brand because they get to be there in person and hear from you. But there’s also the leaving through the gift shop. That is something that, when you’re not having any tours at all, that sort of revenue stream is then also adjusted.” The 5% of revenue KOVAL usually takes in from tourism and its gift shop was expected to grow once its new tasting room opened with a capacity of about 98 people. At around $8 a cocktail, the new room could take in something like $800 an hour, just on drinks


“Eighty-plus percent of the craft spirits producers are little, tiny distilleries that make like 1,000 cases a year. They are really reliant upon tourism and walk-in traffic. They operate sort of as a pub concept across the nation and I think they’ve been hugely impacted by this.” —Scott Harris of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co.


Scott Harris of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co.

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Guy Rehorst of Great Lakes Distillery


alone and before sales of food is factored in. “I would have to do some math,” she says, “but it’s not insignificant.” She is now waiting until the country really turns a corner with the pandemic before opening the tasting room, given the large upfront costs of opening associated with things like hiring staff and stocking the kitchen. Great Lakes Distillery, on the other hand, is one of those distilleries that has had a strong revenue stream from its tasting room for quite some time. “Usually, our tasting room accounts for probably about 40% of our gross,” Rehorst says. “But certainly with the shutdown it’s a lot smaller than that. Before the pandemic, we were very even across both on-premise and off-premise. And, of course, the pandemic has really taken its toll on the on-premise, so we lost a considerable amount of the sales there.” At Catoctin Creek, Harris says multiple impacts have been felt, from the loss of some restaurant accounts who have permanently closed, to its inability to conduct tastings at stores, and even its ability to partake in events like whiskey festivals. “As a distiller who does have distribution we relied heavily upon restaurants where people get to know a craft spirit often for the first time, and then also in-store tastings,” he says. “Those are really effective ways of getting, as we say, liquid to lips in craft spirits. To get them to try something new that they’ve never tried before.” Catoctin Creek has had some success with virtual cocktail classes during the pandemic, to the extent that it might end up live-streaming its in-person classes once the pandemic ends. Harris also believes the pandemic may also have a long-term dampening effect on the innovation that propels the craft spirits industry forward. “The bartenders create drinks for menus at cocktail bars, places that are real tastemakers and really driving innovation,” he says. “Maybe when they reopen we’ll see some more innovation out there.” Bright Spots on the Horizon There was some good news for the industry in the Nielsen report as well. E-commerce exploded, where it was allowed, for example. While alcohol ecommerce sales rose overall by 232% during 2020, spirits led all the segments, rising by 396%. Also, sales of products from smaller spirits companies and distilleries outpaced the larger brands off-premise, growing by 34%, compared to the 24% growth in sales of the top 20 spirits companies’ products. That growth



-52% in bars

-42% in restaurants *Source: Nielsen

Much of the craft spirits business relies on the introductions and personal connections with consumers that occur in the on-premise. And many of these locations were either shut down or had their seating capacities and hours drastically reduced during the pandemic. was up just 5% the year before. Also, a lot of white space seems to remain for craft spirits companies to come out with ready-to-drink products, which surged in 2020, up 142% from the year before in offpremise channels, as consumers sought out convenience at home. There was $8.5 billion in off-premise sales of RTD products across beer, wine and spirits in 2020, compared to $5.2 billion in 2019. Also, the shift to premiumization continued in the off-premise during the pandemic. Sales of high-end spirits rose 3.3% in 2020, compared with just 1.7% in 2019. Non- or low-alcohol products also look to have a bright future. “So far we’ve only seen a handful of big players,” says Danelle Kosmal, vice president of beverage alcohol practice for Nielsen IQ, one of the experts who gave the presentation to ACSA members in February. “If we look at where it is in Europe and where the beer category has been maintaining double-digit growth rates with low alcohol and no-alcohol throughout the pandemic, the consumer interest is there. And I think there’s an opportunity for craft spirits to play in that space.” Light at the End of the Tunnel The Nielsen report also reveals that consumers are reared and ready to go once the pandemic ends. A second Roaring Twenties? Quite possibly so. Some 44% of those surveyed miss visiting

casual dining restaurants, 40% local/neighborhood restaurants and 28% fine dining restaurants. What’s more, 40% of U.S. consumers say they are extremely likely to pay extra for a better-quality drink when out. As to just when things will return to a semblance of normalcy, however, that remains up for debate. “I think we’re not close to full recovery yet,” Kosmal says. “I think full recovery will be in 2022 and even beyond. I think we’ll see some consumers that are really excited to get out and to not be spending as much time at home. And I think craft spirit suppliers, in particular, have a lot of opportunities to tap into that segment.” “Boy, it’s so hard to know,” adds Harris. “You know, all of our predictions for 2020 just went out the window and were wrong. With that said, people all around us now are starting to get vaccinated. So what we’re anticipating is returning to normal sometime around late September or October, that’s what we’re hoping.” He says even has tentative plans to attend a whiskey show in London in the fall. Whenever things get back to normal, craft distilleries, so reliant on the on-premise business, will have to navigate a landscape left scarred by the past year. “We’ve already seen a lot of restaurants in our local area, and D.C., Virginia and Maryland, that have gone out of business,” Harris says. “Some of them were big customers of ours and we had a relationship. They’re gone and they’re not coming back.” ■

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business sense

AVOIDING MISTAKES Planning, thought and a willingness to adapt can help startup distilleries succeed. BY JOHN HOLL

Talk to most distillers on their first anniversary and ask them what they know now that they wish they had known when they opened. It might take until the second anniversary for them to finish. Mistakes are going to happen, and they will come unexpectedly, but as the craft spirits industry grows there is a foundation of institutional knowledge that exists and a lot of sage advice that can help newcomers avoid pitfalls. As a new generation of distillers make plans to fire up their stills and fill bottles, CRAFT SPIRITS magazine asked some professionals to share their expertise and words of wisdom on mistakes that are bound to happen but can be avoided. “If I had taken notes along the way, during my career, I’d have a three-volume set on the mistakes I’ve made,” says Mark Shilling, a partner of Big Thirst Consulting.

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Unsurprisingly, what first comes to mind is capital funding. “Often when people raise capital they raise the minimum amount,” says Scott Schiller the managing director of Thoroughbred Spirits Group, LLC. He notes that it cannot simply be enough to price out a still, a few months’ rent, and maybe some payroll. There are always going to be unforeseen expenditures, delays and more that will quickly eliminate those funds. Having extra funding is often critical to helping smooth over what would otherwise be a bumpy start. “The big thing we always preach is putting together a very detailed financial plan with lots of contingencies for good and bad reasons,” he says. It is also critically important, early on, to look outside of your distilleries four walls and beyond just generating revenue from on-site tasting and sales. “It’s very easy to focus on what’s in front of

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you, like your tasting room. The margins are great, bottle sales are good but the problem with that business model is that it’s not one that can really be scaled,” says Schiller. “Really focusing on the distribution end, even though it’s a slower return with lots of money up front, frustrating as all get out, the business that focused on that found, especially when the pandemic hit, that it was smart money.” Distillers also quickly realize that it takes a lot more money than originally planned to do proper marketing and support. “You spend all of this money developing recipes, getting it into bottles and out the door and then you realize that you have no budget left for expanding and increasing sales,” says Shilling, who is also a past president and chair of the Government Affairs committee for the American Craft Spirits Association. “Without really thinking about the long-term you’re always going to be playing catchup.” Schiller also cautions on pricing a product correctly. Taking the time to do market research within your distribution footprint is going to be important. Consumers buy on label and reputation as well as price. While some consumers might be willing to spend $75 on a bottle at your tasting room because it is part of the experience, that same price point might not fly at a local shop. “But maybe a shop customer will buy if it is cheaper,” he says. “Remember the good brands are usually more rational [when it comes to pricing].” Location is also important and it is important to complete due diligence on areas, potential buildings, local zoning laws, foot traffic, area studies and more before signing a lease. There are few things more frustrating than writing a monthly rent check for a space that is hung up for something that should have been spotted and corrected earlier.


Scott Schiller

Mark Shilling

“Whatever you think is going to happen, or what you want to happen, it will change several times.” —Mark Shilling

Shilling recalls one colleague who spent six months in rent on a space that they later came to find was not able to legally house a distillery. From the start, the experts say, it is important to have confidence and grit but also humility. Taking on tasks outside of your normal wheelhouse can slow down the operation, or lead to mistakes that might cost more later when a professional has to fix the mess you have made. Having an engineering background, for instance, is a great asset when it comes to owning or running a distillery, but accounting might not be a strong suit. Invest wisely in getting the right people into the right jobs. The consultants note that for truly small operations, the mom and pop shops hiring actual employees might not be feasible, but there are contractors who specialize in accounting, legal work, logistics and more that can keep your business running smoothly, and keep you focused on the day-to-day distilling. This is especially important when it comes to using attorneys and accountants. When the time does come to hire staff, there are several things to do early on to


ensure it is the right fit for everyone. Having an employee handbook or manual, along with guidelines, job responsibilities and expectations is important. A company owner taking the time to write down descriptions also helps focus on core values. Hiring also comes with a whole new set of mistakes that are waiting to happen. Read up or have people well versed in payroll setups, taxes, safety training, unemployment insurance, health insurance and other benefits. Peter Whalen, the president of Whalen Insurance in Northampton, Massachusetts, says that while some distillery owners might think of using the same insurance company that they do their home or car, finding a firm that specializes in the uniqueness of a spirits company is critically important. “Insurance is the kind of thing that people don’t like or understand, spend money on it and then deal with it as little as possible,” says Whalen. “Spending the money now on a good policy that understands your business saves you money later on.” From an insurance standpoint, Whalen says that installing sprinklers and a ventilation system early in construction will save on costs,

and peace of mind, in the future. He also thinks about the long term and making sure that barrels that are aging whisky for three years or more are well covered in a policy. “If the fire strikes at two years and 11 months and takes out your inventory, all of the profits you were counting on, waiting on, are gone,” Whalen says. “If you don’t have insurance to cover the lost revenue you’re out of business basically.” Distilling is in the hospitality industry, of course, so having employees that enjoy being consumer-facing is important as they will be representing your brand. The novel coronavirus pandemic taught everyone the value of the pivot and the consultants say that the distilleries who switched to sanitizer production early on showed an ability to think and react quickly. Every new distillery should have that mentality and should be prepared for the next big event and find a way to adapt to survive. No matter what, “Don’t just be prepared, but be prepared to be creative and flexible,” says Shilling. “Whatever you think is going to happen, or what you want to happen, it will change several times.” ■

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Technically Speaking

PRACTICAL PROOFING Tips for Gauging and Proofing Spirits BY CLAY SMITH

Every year, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) purchases hundreds of bottles of distilled spirits for testing. Selected at random, these bottles are evaluated for compliance as part of the Alcohol Beverage Sampling Program (ABSP). While the ABSP ceased publishing results after 2016, the same problems were identified year after year, bringing to light several avoidable compliance issues. The biggest pain points? Labels that featured unapproved revisions, had missing mandatory information, or displayed inaccurate alcohol content values, with the latter being the most common. In fact, out of the 68 non-compliant bottles, a majority (50) had erroneous alcohol content information. Beyond ensuring products are labeled correctly for consumers, getting the alcohol content right is important because it determines a product’s tax class. While your product can fall under the declared alcohol content value by up to 0.2 proof points (as a good rule of thumb), it must not go over. If you report that your bottle is 80 proof when it is actually more, then those are taxes TTB isn’t getting and there will be penalties for that. Although we sometimes talk about the TTB as this big, scary organization, it’s really not— they don’t want to have to be the bad guy and have made a number of resources available to help distillers stay in compliance. These guidelines are meant to protect the distiller, the consumer and the TTB’s revenue—that makes everyone happy. So, how do you make sure your operation stays in compliance? Well, a lot of that depends on what you’re proofing. There are slightly different rules for different spirits—mostly because of their potential for obscuration. … For simplicity’s sake, I tend to approach the process from a practical standpoint, using best practices I’ve


picked up from working in the industry for the last 18 years. While this article should not replace any guidelines gleaned from Part 30, Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), there are some strategies and insights I’ve shared here to help make your life just a little bit easier. TIPS FOR GAUGING & DETERMINING TRUE PROOF There are two primary approved methods for gauging and the equipment you’ll need depends on which method you plan to use. The first approved method requires calibrated hydrometers and calibrated thermometers. These should read to 0.2 proof points or degrees in temperature. If you’re gauging by weight (which is recommended), then you’ll also need a scale calibrated to at least 0.5 pound for most craft distilleries. Now, the hydrometer and thermometer method can be cost effective and accurate when performed correctly, but you may need to take additional steps should you need to account for obscuration—or when solids or extracts in solution interfere with your reading. You’ll need to determine proof obscuration in spirits with more than 400 mg/100 mL of solids but no more than 600 mg/100 mL of solids (steps on this process can be found in the CFR). Using calibrated hydrometers for aged spirits is generally okay, so long as you know your typical obscured value. The second primary approved method utilizes a piece of equipment called a densitometer. This device uses the same methodology as described in The Gauging Manual and does the calculations for you. Samples are heated up to the TTB stipulated 60 degrees and then read to the nearest 0.2 proof points, and it can handle spirits with solids in them. While this equipment can save you a lot of time and headache with its fast

Although we sometimes talk about the TTB as this big, scary organization, it’s really not—they don’t want to have to be the bad guy and have made a number of resources available to help distillers stay in compliance. automation, it can be expensive—anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000—and still needs to be operated according to vendor guidelines to function accurately. Tip No. 1: The first best practice for preventing non-compliance issues is pretty straightforward—get the right equipment and maintain it. Tip No. 2: Don’t just get your equipment from eBay. Invest in getting the right tools purchased from reputable vendors who you can fall back on for any maintenance needs. Your calibration should come from a recognized body like the American National Standards Institution (ANSI). Organizations like ANSI can provide you with a certified correction factor for your equipment, which you’ll need to properly gauge and proof your spirits. By design, hydrometers fall somewhere between 20 proof points apiece, so if you are

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dealing with all types of proofed liquid—from just below 80 proof to all the way up to 200 proof—then you will likely have six or seven separate hydrometers, each of which will need to carry its own ANSI certification. Tip No. 3: Protect your equipment. Because a good, calibrated hydrometer typically runs about $300 when all is said and done, you will likely be spending $1,500 to $1,700 for this set of equipment alone. Take it from me—you don’t want those hanging around the distillery where they can easily be damaged! Instead, I always recommend producers get some cheap hydrometers to use as your working set. You can gauge them against your calibrated hydrometers and note the discrepancy between them: if it’s just 0.2 proof points off, for example, then you know to add 0.2 every time to match up to your calibrated metric. It may take an extra step, but if one of the cheap hydrometers does break, then you might be out $50 to $60 instead of $300. Tip No. 4: Even if you do choose to go the densitometer route, it’s a best practice to have hydrometers anyway. As a principle, your staff should still be trained on the standardized method. A Note on the Handheld Density Meter Technology has come a long way since I started in the business in 2003. You might already be aware of the handheld density meters that some distillers use as a supplementary way to gauge and proof spirits. These days, they can be pretty cost efficient ($2,500 to $5,000) and work similarly to the standard hydrometer and thermometer method—so why aren’t they considered approved by the TTB? Well, the primary reasons for this are because these devices do not bring your sample to a baseline temperature of 60 degrees, nor are they necessarily accurate to 0.2 like the larger densitometer machine (most are accurate to 0.4). That being said, they can still do some of the legwork for you. Tip No. 5: The main function of the handheld density meters is to supplement the role of your hydrometer and thermometer; so while they should not replace the approved equipment and standardized processes outlined by the TTB, they can be used to support you as you make in-line checks or review your own readings. TIPS FOR CUTTING TO PROOF Congratulations! You’ve properly gauged your spirits—now it’s time to cut them down to your desired proof. The TTB has designed their Gauging

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Manual so you always have at least two pieces of the equation to determine what you need. In addition to providing direction on how to find your true proof (using one of the previously discussed methods), TTB has provided guidance for determining your total proof gallons, as well as how much water is needed to get to your desired bottle proof. This can be done by using Tables 4, 5, and 7 of the Gauging Manual, where you have the option of using weight or volume. Tip No. 1: Best practice is to use weight: weight won’t change but volume will, depending on the temperature of your distillate. If it is warmer than 60 degrees, for example, you will have fewer proof gallons than you think. Table 7 will tell you exactly how many pounds of water to add to get to your desired poundage of spirit at your desired bottle proof. If you’ve done your calculations right, then you will know exactly how much water to add. The amount of water you add is important, but so too is the quality of that water—and how you integrate it. Tip No. 2: Your water source matters! The water you used for your cook will not necessarily be the water you’ll want to use for cutting your spirits to proof. For this part of the process, you will need clean, neutral water— that means free of flavor, nutrient compounds, and any solids. Most producers opt for reverse osmosis, de-ionized, or distilled water for this purpose. Tip No. 3: Don’t add all of your water at once. It’s best to creep up on your desired proof: you can always add more water but may not have the opportunity to add more spirit. Even if your calculations tell you to add 10 gallons of water, start with eight and then re-gauge. Tip No. 4: How you add your water is also important. To prevent quality issues in your final product, you’ll want your water to be as close in temperature as possible to your spirit. A few degrees difference (10 to 15) is usually okay but going beyond that threshold may not be. Tip No. 5: Add your water slowly over time. Exactly how slow you can get away with will depend on the nature of your product, but the slower you make your addition the less risk you have in experiencing quality issues with your product. Tip No. 6: Know your product and understand how it will behave with your water; that means accounting for filtration and risk of haze, soapiness, or coagulation at a certain proof. For example, if you are creating a fine brandy or cognac, you’ll want to slowly

ABOUT MOONSHINE UNIVERSITY Founded by David Dafoe in 2012, Moonshine University is the nation’s premier educational distillery and the exclusive educational member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Located in the heart of Bourbon country, Moonshine University offers comprehensive, hands-on spirits education courses and services to entrepreneurs and professionals from around the world. Its most popular class, the 6-Day Distiller Course, educates entrepreneurs on how to launch a successful distilling business from concept to production and bottling. As of 2021, graduates of this course have gone on to successfully launch 186 distilleries worldwide and counting. For more information, visit

proof it down over time (sometimes hours or even weeks) to stave off saponification—or particles dropping out of solution. For most gin and whiskey, it’s typically okay to add your water over several minutes, depending on the volume you are dealing with. Gauging and proofing can seem complicated, but it does not need to be. As something you will be doing regularly, it’s in your best interest to make sure you’re doing it right—so I’ll leave you with one last tip: Bonus Tip—if you’re still struggling at any step in this process, do yourself a favor and enroll in Moonshine University’s 6-Day Distiller Course. Don’t guess and wait to find out you’ve done something wrong from the TTB! I promise that MU will be a lot nicer about it. See you in class! ■

Clay Smith is the distillery operations manager at Moonshine University, the distilling industry’s foremost education provider located in Louisville, Kentucky.



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Sales & Marketing

TOP FIVE TIPS FOR VIRTUAL TASTINGS Craft distillers from around the U.S. share their experiences with online spirits tastings. BY JENNIFER CIRILLO

When the pandemic hit, many craft brands took matters into their own hands and quickly turned to their electronic devices to connect with their consumer base. As so many craft spirits heavily rely on the on-trade to engage with consumers and sell products, going online was the next best way to get liquid to lips. Holding virtual tastings is an initiative that not only created a safe and friendly way for brands to share their stories, but it also provided consumers with a way to escape the mundane and enjoy a specialty product from the comfort of their home. CRAFT SPIRITS magazine spoke to four distilleries from across the United States including: Westward Whiskey (Portland, Oregon), Watershed Distillery (Columbus, Ohio), One Eight Distilling (Washington, D.C.) and Kings County Distillery (Brooklyn, New York) to compile a list of best practices to pull off a successful virtual event. Collectively, they’ve

“For us, success ideally means we have someone who will now seek out a bottle to purchase and share their discovery with friends.” —Erin Hayes of Westward Whiskey held nearly 1,000 events as of March, so they have experienced it all. 1. Best Platform: Zoom Zoom has been the preferred choice amongst the distilleries as it allows for small and large groups (up to 100) and for 40 minutes, but this can be lengthened with a corporate account. There are many platforms that can be used, however, despite Zoom being the preferred one.

“In the beginning we were Zooming along with the rest of the world,” says Nancy Coleman, general manager of One Eight Distilling. “At the end of the year we found Google Meet to be much easier for all parties. We have since been using Google Meet and have had good success with that for the most part.” Devin Ershow, tour and events manager as well as executive bourbon steward for Kings County Distillery, comments: “We use Zoom, but my staff has become relatively adept at most video conferencing platforms (Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, etc.). Sometimes, when working with a corporate client they prefer to use their own platform, so we are flexible.” 2. Sweet Spot for Attendees: 20 While there is the opportunity to host very large virtual events, most of the distillers agree that the best number of attendees to have is about 20. “I have helped Westward conduct tastings for anywhere from two to 50 people. I think that the sweet spot is 10 to 20 people,” notes Erin Hayes, partner and director of sales and trade advocacy at Westward Whiskey. Ershow adds, “I think there is a way to make a virtual whiskey tasting fun for pretty much any size group, but a nice size is somewhere between 10 to 20 people. The most important thing is that these tastings not only be educational, but fun and engaging as well. It can

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Watershed’s marketing and experience coordinator, Jennifer Murley, leads a tasting.


Virtual tastings at Kings County Distillery

be more challenging to engage with everyone when the size of the group gets larger.” 3. Product is a Must Depending on your state, this might be tricky as the laws around shipping alcohol vary. Greg Lehman, Watershed Distillery founder and CEO notes, “Because we can’t legally ship spirits in the state of Ohio, we work with the organizers to set up local pick up from our distillery. We typically do that in the few days leading up to the event, keeping in mind that some ingredients may need to be refrigerated.” If attendees don’t have a product to taste, the experience is missed, so it’s important to provide the spirit as well as a kit if applicable for those joining in to really get involved. “Our ‘kits’ are based on the needs of the group and may be as simple as their preferred spirit, or a spirit, some house-made simple syrup (like Cranberry Spice, Honey Simple, etc.), some fresh citrus and a recipe card,” adds Lehman. “We can include glassware upon request too.” The same holds true for One Eight Distilling. “We cannot ship alcohol so everything can be picked up directly from us at the distillery,” explains Coleman. “Each tasting kit includes four 50-mL bottles of our spirits, District Made Bourbon, District Made Rye Whiskey, District Made Ivy City Gin, and a whiskey from our Untitled series. The Untitled offering changes. There are tasting cards with tasting notes as well as a few other fun things we have thrown in there.” 4. Ideal Length: 45-60 Minutes The length of time a virtual tasting can vary from 20 minutes all the way up to 90 minutes or more depending on who your audience is, the number of products you are tasting and how engaged your audience is. But as a rule of thumb, sessions should last no more than an hour. “I have found that 45 minutes is an ideal length. This allows for plenty of time for a full experience with Q&A, but not too long where people lose interest,” says Hayes. For Ershow at Kings County, the three bottle flights usually last about an hour he says, but that doesn’t mean that tasting could go longer. “We have had tastings that have gone as long as two hours,” he says. “There really is no perfect length. It all depends on what kind of experience they are looking for and how engaged and inquisitive they are.” Alex Laufer, co-founder and head distiller of One Eight Distilling, agrees that 60 minutes is a good length of time. However, he has led virtual sessions that have lasted 150 minutes. So how does he keep people


engaged? “A taste every 15 minutes, the first one within the first few minutes, helps keep the audience engaged,” he shares. “The more interesting or humorous stories also work, but mostly I feel that open and honest discussion of who we are and how we craft is enough to keep their attention.” 5. What Success Looks Like Taking tastings online is a great way to connect to consumers, but the objective is to really turn those consumers into customers. This is achieved via many avenues and for craft it really is about having a quality product that is authentic. Feedback is a great way to gauge how your audience feels about your product and your virtual offering. “We send out a survey following the tastings and 93% rate their virtual tasting experience as excellent,” says Ershow. “One hundred percent rate our whiskey experts as great, excellent or the best and 98% say they are either likely or very likely to purchase our products again.” Hayes says: “People are looking for unique experiences at home and have enjoyed learning about and tasting Westward whiskeys. For us, success ideally means we have someone who will now seek out a bottle to purchase and share their discovery with friends.” The virtual element also allows distillers to reach consumers near and far, which is a great driver to spread awareness and encourage attendees to eventually plan an in-person visit. “A successful virtual tasting means a tasting starts and ends on time, engages participants in a way that they have fun, enjoy what they’re drinking and learn more about Watershed Distillery and the icing on the cake would be if we encourage even one person in the tasting to visit our restaurant or distillery in person when they are able,” says Lehman. “We look to the virtual experiences as an opportunity to foster awareness and connections that we hope to continue in person.” Coleman says, “I have received countless follow up emails and even phone calls from folks who are so grateful for the experience and knowledge that we share with them. This type of guest is the one that sends their other group of friends back to me to book more events. It works out well that way.” Laufer adds, “The best success is often hearing praise of our spirits during the tasting. Receiving great feedback especially from the private tastings, or our private customers booking multiple tastings—corporate or from word of mouth— also are great signs of success.” ■

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xxxxxxxxxx& logistics distribution

EXPORT IMPORTANCE Advice for Distillers Interested in Exporting Craft Spirits

Expanding into new markets beyond the U.S. may at first seem like a daunting endeavor to craft distillers. But with the right guidance and insurance, exporting craft spirits can help grow your business. To get a better sense of what aspiring exporters should consider, we recently checked in with Ursula Wegrzynowicz, broker account manager for the ExportImport Bank of the United States (EXIM), a U.S. federal government agency with the mis-

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sion of supporting U.S.-based jobs by facilitating U.S. exports. EXIM helps companies of all sizes compete for global sales by offering financing solutions including export credit insurance to protect sellers from nonpayment by international buyers and working capital guarantees to help small businesses improve liquidity and cash flow. Sonat Birnecker Hart of Chicago-based KOVAL Distillery, which is a client of EXIM, also offered her advice.

In a nutshell, why should distilleries who are interested in exporting their products turn to EXIM? Ursula Wegrzynowicz of EXIM: Distilleries should turn to EXIM when exporting so that they can offer competitive terms to foreign distributors, much like they would to domestic distributors. EXIM is here to take the worry about collecting payment from half-way around the world out of the equation. Distill-


eries need to consider that 95% of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S. borders, so why limit sales to just the U.S.? EXIM can also assist distillers with accessing vital working capital, so that no international order needs to be turned downed or delayed in filling, because of a lack of access to working capital. There is a whole world out there ready to try your spirits! How can a distillery know if it’s ready to start exporting and what are the first steps to that process? Wegrzynowicz: Distilleries should turn to their local U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) office, which is part of the Department of Commerce. The role of USCS is to assist U.S.-based companies find qualified international distributors. That involves researching which countries currently import the spirits sold by the U.S. distillery and then digging in and finding a distributor match. USCS can also prepare the U.S. distillery with knowledge about how to do business in any given foreign market. What are the regulatory requirements for bringing the product into the country? Sonat Birnecker Hart of KOVAL Distillery: It is always important to check to see what the label requirements are for every country, and even province. For example, in Canada there are different label requirements for different provinces. In Europe there are many different regulations to consider for liquor labels. If your product is classified as organic in the U.S., how do you classify it as organic in another country? Will that classification provide you a competitive edge? Birnecker Hart: Even if products are classified organic in the U.S., it does not mean that they will be classified organic abroad. Sometimes there are strange regulations that render organic products un-organic, such as if a country requires a completely unbroken chain of organic certified logistics as well as retail. In Germany, for example, a liquor store cannot sell organic products unless they have a certified organic storage in their store for organic products. If they buy and sell organic products without their own organic-certified storage, they will get fined and the products will not be considered organic. Since there are very few retail venues in Germany with such a certification, it does not benefit an American organic brand to claim organic status as there will be very few retail accounts through


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which to sell the brand. With this in mind, it is probably best to concentrate on other halo designations such as single barrel, bottled in bond, etc., [rather] than organic, depending on the market at hand.

“Distilleries need to consider that 95% of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S. borders, so why limit sales to just the U.S.?”

How familiar should you be with the customs and culture of the country? Birnecker Hart: It is always important to learn about the business environment, customs, and culture of a country in which one wants to build a brand. It will always help. How do you properly label your spirits so there are no issues with customs clearance? Birnecker Hart: It is important to do all of the research and not just rely on hearsay when it comes to regulations and requirements. Wegrzynowicz: USCS can provide assistance on these topics and many more. In addition, most states also have resources to provide assistance—in some cases even financial—to support a distilleries’ plunge into the international arena. Any advice on which particular markets might be best to try at first? Wegrzynowicz:To be successful in any market, takes research and planning. U.S. distilleries should rely on the local, state and federal agencies like the USCS to understand where the best opportunities are for their specific product. Then the distillery can implement a successful, strategic export business development plan versus reacting to orders that may be coming in through a website. Of course, those e-commerce leads are great indications of market interest, but it’s important to do your homework and understand the costs of doing business in any market, so sales are profitable. Birnecker Hart: Other factors to consider when deciding on markets abroad also include

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—Ursula Wegrzynowicz of EXIM

Ursula Wegrzynowicz

whether one has a particular language ability or cultural/business understanding that could give one an advantage. At what point should a distillery that is interested in exporting reach out to EXIM? Wegrzynowicz: Anytime a U.S. distillery has an inquiry from a foreign distributor, they should be reaching out to EXIM to talk about how we can assist. We always prefer to speak with a company early on in the sales process. First we can quickly advise whether the country the U.S. distillery is considering selling to is one that is viable for us to support (see Country Limitation Schedule at tools-for-exporters/country-limitation-schedule). If EXIM is not open for business in that country, probably best for the U.S. distillery

to get payment up front—assuming there are no sanctions against selling to that country. If we are open for business, then we can quickly help the U.S. distillery determine if this is a creditworthy prospective customer. If so, we can take the next steps to get coverage in place. The U.S. distillery will know the costs up front, which helps as many of our customers build in the cost of EXIM insurance into the product cost (on average from 0.5%-1%). It seems like an export credit insurance policy from EXIM would be helpful to distilleries looking to export— especially when foreign distributors prefer credit over cash in advance. What are the benefits? Wegrzynowicz: Most businesses prefer to pay on credit terms; we do we as consumers, and the EXIM export credit insurance policy gives U.S. distilleries the ability to offer those credit terms and sleep at night knowing that if the foreign distributor does not pay, then EXIM will pay the invoice—at 95%! We have a policy tailored to small business exporters that will cover 95% of the invoice, no other hidden costs. So, if the U.S. distillery has a $20,000 order insured by EXIM, the cost of the insurance is $110 and if the foreign distributor does not pay, EXIM will pay $19,000 (95%). Additionally, many U.S. distilleries pass on the cost of insurance, so it is the foreign distributor who is paying for the cover.


And how exactly does it work? Wegrzynowicz: Once the distillery is quoting or has an order from a foreign distributor, the exporter would consult with one of our specialists (request a consultation at https:// and start the application process, which is all paperless. EXIM would help the exporter determine if the foreign buyer is credit worthy and then once that is complete, the distillery ships the product and pays the premium on the shipment. If there was a non-payment by the foreign buyer, usually due to cash flow problems although we cover other commercial and political risks, at 90 days after the original due date a claim may be filed. All EXIM requires is standard documentation—a copy of the purchase order, final invoice and shipping document. Once that information is provided, EXIM pays the claim no more than 60 days later. Many U.S. distilleries pass on the cost of insurance, so it is the foreign distributor who is paying for the cover. Is this insurance expensive and/ or are there any resources that can help cover the costs? Wegrzynowicz: EXIM insurance is very cost competitive ranging from 0.50%-1%, and in some case below or slightly above, depending on where in the world the foreign buyer is located and what credit terms are being


offered. However, many distilleries—especially the ones that contact us early on—are able to pass on the cost of the insurance to the foreign distributor. How can a distillery know if an overseas distribution partner is reliable? Wegrzynowicz: EXIM can assist a distillery in determining if an overseas distributor is reliable by doing a credit check. EXIM makes its credit standards public in the interest of transparency and that is something all distillers can access. Additionally, the USCS provides due diligence services through the U.S. embassies and consulates overseas. Are there some other tools or products that would be beneficial to distilleries looking to export? Wegrzynowicz: Distilleries that are looking to export should partner with advisors that have experience in the international arena. For example, does the distiller’s freight forwarder have experience in the particular area of the world where the distiller is quoting? Does the distiller’s accountant have experience with foreign sales and can inform the distiller when it makes sense to set up an IC-DISC (interest charge domestic international sales corporation)? Has the distiller’s attorney previously set up foreign distributor agreements? These outside advisors can also assist the distiller in setting up some best practices specific to

export so the distiller can earn profits and sleep at night. Birnecker Hart: It is also important to consider the benefits of working with a general, foreign importer willing to carry multiple markets or directly with different distributors abroad. What are some other considerations that prospective exporters should be thinking about? Wegrzynowicz: U.S. distillers that are getting into the international marketplace, much like other businesses, need to ensure their service providers—their attorneys, accountants, freight forwarders—have international experience. All of these outside advisors are staying updated on developments in their particular specialties and it is so important for U.S. distillers, who are undoubtedly stretched, to rely on those advisors to stay a step ahead and problem solve when those challenges arise. Birnecker Hart: Yet there is no substitute for doing one’s own homework and making sure that one understands the different ways of doing business in a particular country as there is never only one way. ■


MAY 20 21

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Legal corner

A DTC MIRAGE? Understanding the ins and outs of what appears to be direct-to-consumer shipping via third parties BY RYAN MALKIN

All of us in the distilling industry know the stark difference between direct-to-consumer (DtC) laws for wineries versus distilleries. Although the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) are putting significant time, effort and expense behind pushing for DtC shipping for distillers, with some distillers being afforded the ability, others are simply looking for alternatives. Enter the feeling of purchasing from the distiller’s website via third party marketer, but, well, not. The sale is actually being transacted through the three tier system by a retailer. Most of us are familiar with the various online platforms that allow for delivery to your door. Caskers, Reservebar, Drizly, and the like, are third-party marketing companies and not liquor stores. Generally speaking, here is how it all works. The selection is based on prices and availability within a network of liquor stores that deliver or ship to the consumer. These third-party marketers work by receiving an order from a consumer, then the retailer is pinged to accept or reject the order. Assuming the retailer accepts the order, the retailer processes payment and arranges for delivery or shipment. The retailer then pays the third party marketer a small marketing fee. If a brand links to these third party marketers, the consumer knows he or she is leaving the brand website. When the consumer lands at, say, Drizly, that consumer may be swayed into purchasing another brand. That means all of the work your brand did to get the consumer to your site may not be lost to another brand for the sale. To keep the branding consistent and the consumer experience on the brand page, many are shifting toward what some may call a white label option where the buying experience lives (or seems to live) on the brand page. In the white label model, the consumers visit the brand website and see a “purchase

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now” or “buy now” option. When a consumer clicks that link, it allows the consumer to add items to a shopping cart from your curated selection of products. The shopping cart lives on the third-party marketing company’s platform. “The orders get funneled through a small group of retailers,” explains Alain Scheiman, CEO of Passion Spirits, a player in the white label shopping cart space, along with Thirstie, BarCart, Bevshop, Speakeasy, Cask and Barrel and others. “Given the limited distribution and number of stores an emerging brand will be in, white label sites are superior to traditional delivery apps for emerging brands,” says Scheiman. Passion Spirits has a select group of liquor stores process multiple orders versus a lot of liquor stores processing just a few orders. This, Scheiman says, keeps the retailers happy and re-ordering. “DtC has become the most important distribution channel for many of our clients,” Scheiman adds. The brand typically pays the third-party marketer a monthly fee for website maintenance and software services. The brand then sells to the distributor, which in turn sells to the retailer partners named by the third party marketer. That retailer then fulfills orders placed via the platform, oftentimes remitting a flat or de minimis in comparison fee to the third -party marketers from the sale of alcohol. Although a marketing fee may generally be paid to a marketing company, product prices must be independently set by each alcohol beverage licensee in each of the three tiers. If you want to consider these options, consider reviewing the agreement with the third-party marketer carefully with your lawyer. Consider including compliance language stating that the fees paid by the supplier to the marketing company are not conditioned in any way upon any licensee’s purchase of any alcohol beverage products offered for sale by the supplier and that no funds paid to the marketing company will be used to induce any

retailer to purchase the supplier’s products to the exclusion of another competitor’s products. Plus, both the brand and the marketing company’s websites should include terms and conditions which make clear that sales are only lawfully fulfilled through the three-tier system, purchases made through a third-party marketing company’s website or through the “purchase now” button embedded on a supplier’s website are directly routed to an alcohol beverage licensee and are pending until the order is accepted or rejected by that licensee. The terms and conditions should make clear that the marketing company does not sell alcohol and the service is not meant to facilitate any improper furnishing of inter-tier inducements. Privacy policies should cover the usage of the platform user’s data and should provide the user with options to opt out of the platform’s standard data collection if desired. In addition, be sure the third party is responsible for ensuring compliance and that it will indemnify you for any violations of its third parties, like retailers. You don’t want to be on the hook for simply offering the service, then the third party marketer and retailer allow for a sale by a retailer who impermissibly ships. In other words, you want to manage your risk and be sure you work with reputable partners. ■

Ryan Malkin is principal attorney at Malkin Law, P.A., a law firm serving the alcohol beverage industry. Nothing in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as specific legal advice. It is for information and educational purposes only.




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


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30% 80% or more

4% 70 to 79%


3% 30% to 39%

60 to 69%

15% 30% to 39%


11% 20% to 29%

50 to 59%

4% 10% to 19%

Less than 10%


ACSA continues to work with Congress to ensure that distillers have access to maximum PPP and debt relief. Now that 2020 is well behind us, we asked ACSA members to provide us with their most recent analysis of total loss of revenue in 2020 from their tasting rooms. Eighty percent of our respondents lost more than 10% of revenue compared with 2019, and 30% of respondents lost more than 80% of their revenue.







Distilling With Heirloom Corn with Alan Reed Bishop (Spirits of French Lick), Gary Hinegardner (Wood Hat Spirits), Keith Meyer (Pinckney Bend Distillery), and Lisa Wicker (Widow Jane Distillery)

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

Eliminating Sulfur Compounds in Malt Whiskey

MAY 14

Fermentation Techniques with Kevin Kawa (AB Biotek)

with Akira Wanikawa (Nikka Whiskey) AUGUST 12

Permitting 101

MAY 27

Facebook Advertising for Craft Distillers with Kim Nguyen (Speakeasy)


U.S. Rum: Getting Candid About Cane


Entering the Export Market with Export-Import Bank of the United States


Malt Presentation with the Craft Maltsters Guild


The Lowdown on Liqueurs


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