Craft Spirits May/June 2022

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VOL. 4, ISSUE 2 | MAY/JUNE 2022










Lactic acid bacteria for the management of sour mash production.

View our extensive offering of craft distilling products at

©2022 Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits





Ready to Disrupt Exploring the skyrocketing growth of spirits-based ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails BY JON PAGE



The Other Leopold Brother Scott Leopold’s long-term business plan BY ROBIN ROBINSON


MEMBER SPOTLIGHT Aiming High in the Lowcountry Wise decisions and a modernized beverage alcohol landscape fuel High Wire Distilling Co.’s growth trajectory. BY JEFF CIOLETTI




Louisiana embraces craft rum, spirits with local flavor and stories. BY JOHN HOLL

Cover photography: Jon Page


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Editor’s Note




Recent releases from Cedar Ridge Distillery, GlenPharmer Distillery, and more



Wheyward Spirit Included in Reincarnated Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Dublin Mudslide




Images from ACSA’s Judging of Craft Spirits and a visit to Lost Spirits



Flavorful concoctions from High Wire Distilling Co., Long Road Distillers and Middle West Spirits


100% Women-Led Board to Steer ACSA


Grain and Gratitude BY YAKNTORO UDOUMOH

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Stay on top of the news.



Tips to keep in mind when naming your distillery

ACSA is using OSHA grant funds to create a one-day course on fire protection and prevention.

On Brand


Extinguishing Hazards



Putting Packaging to Work Creative packaging solutions have allowed some craft spirits companies to keep moving forward during the pandemic.


Tracking RTD Growth See how the recent growth of spirits-based RTDs compares to hard seltzer and more


SALES & MARKETING 74 E-commerce Essentials

Building an effective digital marketing strategy

Visit us online at



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CRAFT SPIRITS MAGAZINE C EO, A M E R I C A N C R A F T S P I R I T S A S S O C I AT I O N | Margie A.S. Lehrman, E D I TO R I N C H I E F | Jeff Cioletti, S E N I O R E D I TO R | Jon Page, S A L E S & D E V E LO P M E N T M A N AG E R | Ashley Guillermo, A RT D I R EC TO R | Michelle Villas CO N T R I B U TO R S | Isaac Arthur, Lew Bryson, John Holl, Andrew Kaplan, Susan Mooney, Robin Robinson and Yakntoro Udoumoh AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION N O N - D U E S R E V E N U E & M A R K E T I N G S T R AT EG I S T | Ken Brady, E D U C AT I O N M A N AG E R | Kirstin Brooks, M E M B E R S H I P & E V E N T S D I R EC TO R | Carason Lehmann, A D M I N I S T R AT I V E AS S I S TA N T | Albab Melaku, ACSA ADVISORS M E E T I N G S A N D LO G I S T I C S | Stephanie Sadri, HelmsBriscoe S T R AT EG I C CO M M U N I C AT I O N S | Alexandra S. Clough, GATHER PR L EG A L | Ryan Malkin, Malkin Law, P.A. P U B L I C P O L I C Y | Jim Hyland, The Pennsylvania Avenue Group ACSA BOARD OF DIRECTORS, 2020-2021 P R E S I D E N T | Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (VA) V I C E P R E S I D E N T | Gina Holman, J. Carver Distillery (MN) S EC R E TA RY/ T R E A S U R E R | Jessica J. Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA) EAST Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (VA) Jessica J. Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA) Tom Potter, New York Distilling Co. (NY)

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

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

EX OFFICIO Thomas Jensen, New Liberty Distillery (PA) ACSA PAC Stephen Johnson, Revolution Spirits (TX) ACSA PAST PRESIDENTS 2 0 1 8 -2 0 2 0 | Chris Montana, Du Nord Craft Spirits 2 0 1 7-2 0 1 8 | Mark Shilling, Genius Liquids/Big Thirst 2 0 1 6 -2 0 1 7 | Paul Hletko, FEW Spirits 2 0 1 4 -2 0 1 6 | Tom Mooney, House Spirits CRAFT SPIRITS MAGAZINE EDITORIAL BOARD Eli Aguilera, Lew Bryson, Alexandra Clough, Sly Cosmopoulos, 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 470, Oakton, VA 22124 © 2022 CRAFT SPIRITS magazine is a publication of the American Craft Spirits Association.


Our next AWARD WINNING spirit, could be yours

New Fills Custom Mashbills Contract Distilling & Bottling


Editor’s Note

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM We’re featuring RTDs on the cover and I’m writing this just prior to Memorial Day—two things that remind me that summer is pretty much here. And that means ACSA’s Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show will be here before we know it. If you’re still on the fence about attending, I’ll give you several reasons why you should head to New Orleans, July 21-24—nine to be precise, in the spirit of the 9th annual convention. An unparalleled education program ACSA has scheduled 44 hours of education sessions during regular convention hours, divided among three tracks— technical, sales/marketing and business/finance—at three difficulty levels: advanced, intermediate and suitable for all. Plus, we’ve planned a 14-hour, pre-convention class, New Start-Up Distillery 101, for a grand total of nearly 60 hours of hand-crafted programming! An exhibit hall full of cutting-edge suppliers More than 150 exhibitors will grace the trade show floor, offering the most up-to-date equipment, technology, packaging, ingredients, services and more to help you build a better business. Not one, but TWO distillery tours We’ve planned two separate distillery tour itineraries to bookend the convention. The pre-convention distillery tour on July 20 will feature a full day of visits to production facilities that include Three Roll Estate + Alma General Store, Sugarfield Spirits and Porchjam Distillery. On July 24, we’re offering a hands-on distilling tour that we’ve dubbed A Foray Into Flavor, where attendees will explore how distillers approach creating flavorful spirits—with insight on barrel aging, vapor distillation and maceration/infusions. Participating producers include Roulaison Distilling Co., Porchjam Distillery and Happy Raptor Distilling.

relatable for every professional role and at any skill level. Matt joins us on Thursday, July 21, 5 p.m. CDT. Did we mention it’s in New Orleans? We’re happy to give you an excuse to visit one of America’s most vibrant, culturally significant cities where you’ll be able to soak in the music, history, art and overall aesthetic of the Big Easy. Oh and did we mention the food? Feast your way across the Crescent City on gumbo, crawfish, etouffee, po’ boys, muffalettas, Oysters Rockefeller, beignets and beyond. And don’t forget the drinks—it is, after all, the birthplace of the American cocktail. End-to-end climate control If you’re worried about New Orleans weather in the middle of the summer, don’t be. Our host hotel, Hilton New Orleans Riverside, connects by enclosed bridge to the convention center. So you’ll always be cool and shielded from whatever the skies throw at us throughout the convention schedule. See old friends, make some new ones The biggest advantage to having an in-person convention is the person part. There will be no shortage of networking opportunities—from the welcome party to the New Members/ First-Time Attendee Morning Coffee & Beignets Klatch to the PAC fundraiser to the Spirits Soiree. Take Advantage of Tales Did you know that our convention ends just as Tales of the Cocktail begins? One flight/train/road trip connects you with two major industry events this year. Now that’s what I call convenience! I hope I’ve convinced you. Head to programs/convention/ to register! ■

Awards galore You’ll get a chance to cheer on your peers and possibly accept a medal or two of your own at the awards ceremony for our annual Judging of Craft Spirits competition—the first in-person dinner in more than three years. A keynote address that’s highly relevant for these times Renowned mental health professional and comedian Matt Vogl will deliver a keynote presentation titled Distilling Mental Health & Crafting Support in Volatile Times—a topic that’s

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Jeff Cioletti Editor in Chief



Lew Bryson has been writing about beer and spirits full-time since 1995. He was the managing editor of Whisky Advocate from 1996 through 2015, where he also wrote the American Spirits column, and reviewed whiskeys. He is currently a Senior Drinks Writer for the Daily Beast, and also writes for, American Whiskey and Bourbon+. He is the author of “Tasting Whiskey” (Storey Publishing, 2014), a broad survey of the whiskeys of the world, their history and manufacture. He has also written four regional brewery guidebooks.

Yakntoro “Yaki” Udoumoh is a Maryland native and Howard University alum who counts on experience as a bartender at the revered Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He is part of the STEPUP Foundation’s inaugural class of interns. After his initial placement at Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, he is now at Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon.

Isaac Arthur is a co-founder of CODO Design, an Indianapolis-based food and beverage branding firm founded in 2009 on the belief that they can create better work by directly including clients in the creative process. He is the author of the Craft Beer Branding Guide, co-author of Craft Beer, Rebranded, and writes a popular monthly newsletter with over 5,500 subscribers called the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter. He also co-hosts the Beer Branding Trends podcast, where he dives into the art and science of building stronger beverage brands.

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

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

Robin Robinson is the author of “The Complete Whiskey Course: A Comprehensive Tasting School in Ten Lessons.” As a sales and marketing consultant, he acts as a brand sherpa to emerging spirit brands, from narrative creation to marketing/sales strategies. He teaches sales classes for spirit brands, is a route-to-market instructor at Moonshine University, and prior to the pandemic, ran the longest running whiskey class in the U.S. at Astor Center in New York City for 11 years.


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Thank You, Sponsors! 3x3


Bardstown Bourbon Co.

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

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


FIVE x 5 Solutions

Glencairn Crystal

Harvest Hosts

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

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

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

Malkin Law


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

Moonshine University

Park Street

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

Steric Systems


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

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

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

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

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


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

Berlin Packaging

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

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

Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

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

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

Blue & Co., LLC

Briess Malt & Ingredients Co.

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.


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.

Independent Stave Co.


Lafitte Cork and Capsule

Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.


brewing distilling


Soderstrom Architects

Sovos ShipCompliant

Ultra Pure

Whalen Insurance

Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specific Mechanical Systems

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

WV Great Barrel Co.

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

New Spirits

Cedar Ridge Distillery of Swisher, Iowa, will release a limited-edition, commemorative label on its number-one selling Iowa Bourbon whiskey to honor the Fourth of July holiday. The 2022 Red, White and Bourbon campaign label will replace the brand’s well-known version with a unique American flaginspired design. The label will only be available from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Old Dominick Distillery of Memphis, Tennessee, and the Overton Park Conservancy celebrated the park’s newly renamed golf course with 7-year-old Huling Station Single Barrel Straight Wheat Whiskey. Only four individual wheat whiskey barrels were bottled, all at cask strength, resulting in a range of proofs including 116.86, 117.77, 118.94 and 119.31.

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Columbus, Ohio-based Watershed Distillery, in partnership with Ohio Liquor, has chosen six exclusive single barrel selections for Ohio consumers, available at select liquor stores throughout the state. This collection of single barrels includes the release of 121.49-proof Crème de la Crème Brulée, Watershed’s only remaining barrel created from its original fivegrain mash bill.

GlenPharmer Distillery of Franklin, Massachusetts, announced that due to popular demand, its Bean spirit has been made a permanent fixture in the distillery’s portfolio. The 60-proof spirit is infused with Atomic Coffee Roasters’s coffee beans, Madagascar vanilla beans and the distillery’s eponymously-named small batch distilled Vodka.


New Spirits

Driftless Glen Distillery of Baraboo, Wisconsin, announced the release of a limited edition Apricot Brandy-Finished Bourbon. The 92-proof spirit was aged for four years in a 59-gallon French oak barrel that was used for six years of apricot brandy maturation in Turkey.

New Riff Distilling of Newport, Kentucky, announced the release of a limited-edition Sherry Finished Malted Rye Whiskey, bottled at barrel strength without chill filtration and secondarily aged in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. The 112.7-proof spirit builds on the distillery’s exploration of malted rye whiskey.


Brush Creek Distillery of Saratoga, Wyoming, unveiled its first ever batch of Railroad Rye. This 104-proof straight rye whiskey traveled more than 1,200 miles across North America’s historic transcontinental railroad on a boxcar to its home at the distillery where it matured on a 30,000-acre working cattle ranch, in the Wyoming wilderness.

Aurora, Illinoisbased Two Brothers Artisan Spirits announced that a 5-year-old rum is ready to become its first single barrel spirit release. Two Brothers Single Barrel Rum will be the first in a line of single barrel products. The 86-proof spirit has prominent notes of vanilla and oak to complement the tropical fruit notes and caramel sweetness of the rum.

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New Spirits

Milwaukee-based Central Standard Craft Distillery announced the release of Pour Ready Premium Cocktails, the distillery’s line of craft, ready-to-pour cocktails. The first premium cocktails in the lineup are the Pour Ready Door County Cherry Vodka Lemonade and the Pour Ready Door County Cherry Vodka Mule. Each cocktail is 30 proof and a 750-mL bottle makes about four cocktails.

Portland, Oregon-based Freeland Spirits has launched its first limited release Straight Rye Whiskey finished in Magdalena Rum barrels. The 112-proof, 5-year-old sourced rye was transferred into four Magdalena Guatemalan Rum barrels, where it spent two years in its second maturation. This marks the first time that Freeland has offered one of its limited releases outside of the distillery’s two tasting rooms.

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Boardroom Spirits of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, recently announced the addition of four new flavors to its readyto-drink (RTD) cocktail collection. The new flavors include Lansdale Lemonade (40 proof), Spring Garden (36 proof), Elderberry Cucumber Cooler (42 proof) and Bourbon Punch (42 proof). Each cocktail is gluten free and made with all-natural ingredients.

Driggs, Idahobased Grand Teton Distillery announced the release of its Cherry Vodka. Made with its original flagship potato vodka, the 60-proof spirit has been infused with tart pie cherries from Bithell Farms in Oregon for 18 weeks.


ARE YOU READY TO EXPERIENCE CRAFT IN THE QUARTER? ACSA’s 9th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

Register Now


Imbiber’s Bookshelf

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Bourbon Is My Comfort Food Author: Heather Wibbels Publisher: University Press of Kentucky Release Date: May 3 This book reveals the delicious beauty of bourbon cocktails and the joy of creating them. Whether readers are new to bourbon or steeped in its history and myriad uses, they will gain the knowledge to make great bourbon cocktails, share them with friends and family, and expand their whiskey horizons—because the only thing better than bourbon is sharing it with a friend.

The Art of Whisky Photography: Ernie Button Text: Charles MacLean and Howard A. Stone Publisher: Chronicle Books Release Date: May 10 This amazing celebration of single malt Scotch takes a unique photographic perspective that highlights the nature of the spirits in startlingly beautiful ways. “The Art of Whisky” is a breathtaking and unusual gift book for whisky connoisseurs, celebrating the spirit from an unexpectedly beautiful angle. By chance, award-winning photographer Ernie Button noticed the intricate patterns formed in the residue at the bottoms of (almost) empty whisky glasses—each as different as a snowflake—and began photographing them with inventive lighting techniques.

Cocktail Chemistry: The Art and Science of Drinks from Iconic TV Shows and Movies Author: Nick Fisher Publisher: S&S/Simon Element Release Date: May 18 Enjoy clever, pop culture-inspired drinks with this collection of recipes from the beloved Cocktail Chemistry YouTube channel. The book features recipes to recreate the classic White Russian from “The Big Lebowski,” the iconic martini from the James Bond movies, to drinks featured in “Mad Men,” “The Simpsons,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Office,” “Harry Potter” and more.

The Bartender’s Manifesto: How to Think, Drink, and Create Cocktails Like a Pro Authors: Toby Maloney and Emma Janzen Publisher: Clarkson Potter Release Date: June 14 Offering a foundational approach to cocktails, this manual from a James Beard Award-winning trailblazer will have you understanding and creating original drinks like a seasoned barkeep. Take a raucous romp through the essential stages of fashioning cocktails and learn the hows and whys of bartending with acclaimed mixologist Toby Maloney and the team from The Violet Hour.


Industry Update

WHEYWARD SPIRIT INCLUDED IN REINCARNATED BEN & JERRY’S FLAVOR DUBLIN MUDSLIDE An ice cream from the Ben & Jerry’s flavor graveyard is getting new life with a sustainable specialty spirit. Wheyward Spirit is featured in the ice cream maker’s Dublin Mudslide, an Irish cream ice cream with chocolate chip cookies and coffee fudge swirls. The flavor, which was first introduced as a limited batch offering in 2004, went to the Ben & Jerry’s flavor graveyard in 2007 where fans can vote to resurrect their favorite flavors. Dublin Mudslide is returning for a nationwide release and is already in some grocery stores. The only alcohol in the ice cream comes not from an Irish cream but a specialty spirit. Wheyward Spirit is distilled from whey, the liquid co-product of cheese and other dairy products that often leaves the food chain as waste. Emily Darchuk is the Oregon-based founder and CEO of Wheyward Spirit, which is distilled in California. She says her company’s sustainability mission was an obvious

fit with Ben & Jerry’s, and talk of a collaboration started not long after the spirits company launched in September of 2020. “It was an opportunity to make the fans happy by bringing back a favorite with a great taste and a new, more sustainable spirit,” Darchuk says. According to Ben & Jerry’s, the flavor includes a hint of Wheyward Spirit, but Darchuk says it’s enough for her to taste the essence of her spirit. And the alcohol adds a welcome side effect to the ice cream’s consistency. “We were talking with a food scientist and this flavor of ice cream is a little bit softer and creamier because the little bit of alcohol actually impacts the freezing temperature,” says Darchuk. “It’s enough in there to obviously make an impact in a good way because it’s kind of soft and creamy and great even out of the freezer. It’s a low enough level that it’s considered non-alcoholic, so you can get it at retailers and still serve it to your family.”

In addition to its inclusion in the recipe, Wheyward Spirit’s branding plays prominently on the package. Its mascot, a long-haired Scottish Highland named Magnificent, is holding tails with the Ben & Jerry’s cow, Woody, on the front of the package. The back features Wheyward Spirit’s logo and this message: “It’s a spirited twist on a dearly missed favorite. Thanks to our friends at Wheyward Spirit, this flavor’s got the same taste with less waste! Learn more about their sustainable spirits at” It’s a welcome boost of national exposure for a brand shy of its two-year anniversary on shelves. “It’s huge for us because everything about Wheyward Spirit is doing things differently for the right reasons,” says Darchuk. “It’s really cool that that’s some of the value they see in us—to get that partnership where we can be a valuesled sourcing partner for them, and that they’re validating our not-so-wacky idea.”—Jon Page

Industry Update

CORSAIR RELEASES SPIRITS IN MINIATURE TRIAL CANS In April, Corsair Distillery of Nashville, Tennessee, announced the national release of a mini can for its flagship spirits. The distillery’s main products—Triple Smoke American Single Malt Whiskey, Dark Rye American Rye Malt Whiskey, American Gin and Barreled Gin—are now available in a 100mL can. Lorna Conrad, Corsair’s master distiller, says the trial size may be appealing to consumers who are eager to try a spirit but have trepidation over buying a full bottle. It also has the benefit of giving someone “the perfect two-shot pour in a sealed container,” she says, “when you don’t need a whole bottle— like when you’re golfing or wanting a gin and tonic on the beach.” The distillery also sees the small can as a sales tool. “Our sales team can go out and you can leave a can, you can leave a four-pack of our core lineup,” says Conrad. “You can just say, ‘Oh the manager’s not in? Well, here’s a two ounce pour of Triple Smoke. Let me know what you think.’”

Conrad is also hopeful that the smaller can will open up opportunities for partnerships with venues and turn more tourists on to Corsair.

“They’ll have this smaller format can,” says Conrad, “and they can give it a try, put it on plane, bring it home and say, ‘Hey, I tried this awesome brand in Nashville.’”



ROBERT QUALLS SCHOLARSHIP FUND! Four eligible students will receive $5,000 for the 2022 - 2023 academic year!

Learn more by scanning the QR code or visiting

WHO CAN APPLY: Any alcohol supplier, wholesaler, or retailer employee or their children in a hospitality-related, full-year academic program.


Tito’s Handmade Vodka Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America’s Educational Foundation

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Industry Update

FAST PENNY SPIRITS ACHIEVES CERTIFIED B CORP STATUS Seattle-based Fast Penny Spirits, makers of Amaricano and Amaricano Bianca, recently joined a small group of American distillers as a Certified B Corporation (B Corp). The women-owned amaro distillery scored a 99.7 on the rigorous benchmarks required to earn the credential. Fast Penny is the fifth distillery in the country to become a B Corp and 14th in the world. “Fast Penny Spirits was built to be more than a spirits company and we’re very proud to be a B Corp,” said Jamie Hunt, CEO and founder of Fast Penny Spirits. “I started the distillery with the goal of having a positive impact in the world and this certification validates that we have the standards in place to support our values and advance our mission.” B Corps are for-profit companies that meet the highest standards of treatment of workers, customers, suppliers, communities and the environment. The assessment process measures a company’s performance in five categories: governance, workers, customers, community and the environment. Fast Penny qualified for the certification for a variety of the company’s initiatives and policies, including: The distillery’s Pretty Penny give back program was part of Fast Penny Spirits’ business model from the start. The company donates 3% of all bottle sales

to organizations that empower women in business, local communities and the hospitality industry. The distillery has provided financial resources and in-kind donations to organizations including Off Their Plate, Ladies Who Launch, Vital Voices, Black Girl Ventures, Emerge Washington, Jubilee Women’s Center, WA Women’s Foundation and the Independent Restaurant Coalition, among others. Fast Penny’s Amaricano and Amaricano Bianca are crafted with quality and sustainable ingredients. The neutral base of the amaro is made from reutilized West Coast wine grapes. All the botanicals that infuse the base are wild-crafted, organic, and/or consciouslysourced. From truffles foraged by dogs to organic saffron to up-cycled coffee berry husks, Fast Penny sought out quality and sustainable ingredients that offer the best flavors and ultimately the finest amaro. At Fast Penny Spirits, daily decisions are made with a constant filter on impact. In addition to sustainably sourced ingredients, the company uses recycled bottles and reclaimed corks, and partners with like-minded businesses to sustain and grow our community. The amaro distillery is committed to collaborations that uplift other female-owned businesses, often hosting pop-ups at its bottle shop and tasting deck and partnering with other women-owned restaurants for

specialty dinners and events. Fast Penny joins more than 4,000 businesses from 150 industries and 74 countries that are using the power of business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Amaricano and Amaricano Bianca can be found at retailers, bars, and restaurants in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington and soon Michigan. The distillery also ships to more than 30 states, nationwide.

DJINN SPIRITS RELEASES VODKA TO BENEFIT RELIEF AGENCIES IN UKRAINE Djinn Spirits of Nashua, New Hampshire, announced the release of Budmo! Vodka, for which the distillery will donate $3 per bottle to medical relief agencies in Ukraine. The term “Budmo” is a Ukrainian toast which translates to “Let us be.” The label on the 80-proof spirit features a photo of the Ukrainian Motherland Monument. Djinn owner and distiller Andy Harthcock says that soon after opening nine years ago, the distillery released a Krupnik, which was originally made 500 years ago by monks in Lithuania. “That has brought us a steady stream of people originally from Eastern Europe who enjoy a taste of home,” he says. “For the last couple of months though, the conversation has invariably shifted from Krupnik to the invasion. These customers, to a person, present

an expression of resigned disappointment. So while I have no direct family ties to Ukraine, we have this daily reminder of the conflict.” That led Harthcock to wonder how Djinn could help. “I started reading about Ukraine—particularly in regard to spirits,” he continues. “That was pretty straight forward in that like most people in the area, they really like their vodka! I had always avoided vodka as a product thinking it was too common. The thought of releasing a product as a fundraiser appeared interesting, however I also knew that releasing a mediocre vodka in honor of a country that prides itself on good vodka, would be tragic. So we ran trials, researched, and ran more trials to make sure we could produce a solid expression.”

Industry Update

THE BETTER MAN DISTILLING’S GRUPPUSO AND CORNILLIE INDUCTED INTO THE GIN GUILD The Better Man Distilling Co. of Patchogue, New York, recently announced the induction of Anthony Gruppuso (president and founder) and Peter Cornillie (head distiller) as members of the London-based international gin industry member body, The Gin Guild. Gruppuso and Cornillie are two of the only eight current members and the fifth distillery inducted into Gin Guild of London from the United States. As the newest American Gin Guild recognized Warden Rectifier, Gruppuso—and Cornillie as Rectifier—they have achieved the highest ranking in the spirits industry on two continents. The Gin Guild is a subsidiary of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, one of London’s traditional livery bodies, which was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1638. The historical role of the Worshipful Company of Distillers was to hold key responsibilities for the control and regulation of early gin distillers. Today, the Gin Guild is a spirits industry body, charged with protecting the gin trade and culture around the world. The Gin Guild promotes and encourages commitment to

excellence in gin distillation and industry custodianship of the spirit category. “With just over 300 members worldwide and only eight in the United States, it is a huge honor to be recognized in this way,” said Gruppuso, who, along with Cornillie, was sworn in at a ceremony at Guild Hall in London on May 5. Gruppuso and Cornillie were recognized because of the innovative products like Eleysian Fields Lavender Gin, Moonstruck Citrus Gin and Red Horizon Apple Forward Gin produced by The Better Man Distilling Co. “This is a very rare and distinguished honor,” said Gruppuso. At the ceremony, the new members were installed as Gin Guild members in the presence of Lesley Gracie, Grand Rectifier and Master Distiller of Hendricks Gin and Director General, Pal Gleed. The new members swore the Guild oath to protect the spirit’s quality and production around the world, while symbolically holding juniper berries (the key botanical in gin). “Distilling and gin in particular is a passion

of mine,” said Gruppuso. “I’m devoted to continuous education and innovation in the spirits industry. What we do here is for the love of the spirit,” he said, noting that The Better Man Distilling Co. also utilizes a 35-L test still to aid in the creation and production of new craft spirits. “We look forward to continuing to work on new and innovative craft spirits and to continue to protect the gin trade as a reputable craft here in the United States and abroad,” he said.



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Industry Update

CASEY JONES DISTILLERY TO EXPAND Casey Jones Distillery of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, recently announced a $1.9 million expansion. The nearly $2 million expansion will see the company add a 1,000-gallon distillation, fermentation and mash cooking system to expand production capacity of bourbon and other spirits. Additional support equipment such as a bottling line, distilled water system and alcohol storage also will be installed. The project will include a nearly 3,800-square-foot barrel aging rickhouse that will support the increased barrel storage and aging necessary for the expanded operations. “With the belief and commitment of our remarkable staff, and the many partners like South Western Kentucky Economic Development Council and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, our dream and our goal of being the premier craft distillery in Western Kentucky is going to come true,” said Arlon “AJ” Jones, master distiller and cofounder of Casey Jones Distillery. Casey Jones Distillery was founded in 2014 and is an independently owned, micro-craft


distillery. The company offers a full bourbon experience that includes tours, tastings and various events throughout the year. In 2019, for the company’s fifth anniversary, the distillery released its first bourbon, starting a new chapter for the company and helping to establish it as a premier producer of highly sought authentic Kentucky spirits. The bourbon and spirits industry remains one of Kentucky’s most prominent sectors. Today, spirits facilities employ more than

5,300 people throughout the state. Since the start of 2020, Kentucky’s spirits industry has seen roughly 50 new-location or expansion announcements with over $980 million in planned investments and approximately 800 announced full-time jobs. Gov. Andy Beshear also worked with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to remove harmful bourbon tariffs on trade with the United Kingdom and European Union, ensuring continuing strength in the export market.

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Industry Update

NEW RIFF DISTILLERY ADDS BARREL WAREHOUSE IN NORTHERN KENTUCKY Newport, Kentucky-based New Riff Distilling announced construction of a new barrel warehouse facility in Silver Grove, Kentucky, a short drive from the distillery and existing warehouse. The 10-acre site will be capable of holding more than 40,000 barrels of whiskey with room for future expansion. “Last year we expanded our distillery to increase production,” said co-founder Ken Lewis. “With our Newport facility already

nearing capacity before that, it is time to add more storage and we’re happy to be building in Campbell County.” The 55,000-square-foot pre-engineered metal building is intended to be ready for use in spring 2023, Lewis said. JDL Warm Construction is the general contractor for the project. Since its founding in 2014, New Riff’s products have attracted a wide following, with demand outpacing supply.

New Riff is currently available in 15 states with distribution extending to Illinois later this year. Lewis said the recent production expansion and increased storage capacity will allow the brand to better meet demand for New Riff products. The 2021 expansion project increased the distillery by 800 square feet, allowing for the addition of three additional fermenters and increasing production to 12,000 barrels per year, up from 8,000 previously.

MILLSTONE SPIRITS GROUP ACQUIRES FABER DISTILLING Philadelphia-based Millstone Spirits Group—the ownership arm of New Liberty Distillery, as well as revived heritage brands such as Kinsey and ready-to-drink canned cocktail line American Liquor Company (ALCO)—has acquired Faber Distilling and all assets of Midnight Madness Distilling LLC. The $1.4 million winning bid acquires the Pennsylvania company’s line of Faber Liquors, as well as two high-speed bottling lines, 160,000-square-foot production facility, and even a piano. “The acquisition of Faber Distilling is a strategic move aimed at expanding the production capabilities of our entire portfolio,” said Robert Cassell, president. “We are working diligently to audit all processes and practices so that we may best retain employees and operate the business much as it has been—but in a profitable manner, and in compliance with industry standards. It’s exciting as we can bottle more in one day than the average craft distillery sells in a year.” Under the helm of master distiller Cassell, New Liberty Distillery in Philadelphia has developed a deserved reputation for unique and authentic craft spirits. Meanwhile, Faber Distilling, encompassing Faber Liquors, Escape Goat readyto-drink canned cocktails and Single Prop Rum, experienced windfall success with Pennsylvania on-premise. This acquisition, significantly expands the Millstone Spirits Group portfolio of offerings, boasting a wide range of craft spirits with prominent back bar potential, to quality and affordable vodkas, plus two options in the ever-growing ready-to-drink category. Based on the historical performance of Faber Distilling and changes implemented by new ownership, Cassell conservatively projects the combined portfolios of New Liberty Distillery and Faber Distilling to be upwards of 100,000 nine-liter cases throughout the Mid-Atlantic in 2022. “Our number one priority is getting the entire Faber portfolio back in stock for our valued bar and restaurant owners,” says Cassell. “In the next six months, we are looking to create 25-plus new roles and have already added 25 new hires to our staffing line up since the acquisition. Right now, we are hiring in the roles of packaging, drivers, marketing, warehouse, sales, admin and bookkeeping.”

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Industry Update

LIBERTY POLE SPIRITS ANNOUNCES PLANS TO BUILD NEW DISTILLERY CAMPUS Mingo Creek Craft Distillers, a six-year-old craft whiskey distillery and producers of Liberty Pole Spirits, recently announced plans to build a new distillery campus adjacent to the Street at the Meadows entertainment complex in North Strabane Township, Pennsylvania. This new campus will be located just four miles from its original distillery in the City of Washington and will feature a colonial-themed tasting room and visitor center, a state-of-the art production facility and a 3,400-barrel capacity rack house. In honor of the region’s Whiskey Rebellion heritage, the project was set to kickoff with the raising of a liberty pole, in lieu of a traditional groundbreaking ceremony. Liberty poles were often raised by western Pennsylvania farmer distillers to protest the excise tax on distilled spirits that was passed in 1791. These liberty poles became an enduring symbol of the Whiskey Rebellion. This expansion will initially nearly triple production capacity from the current location through the addition of a 1,000-gallon mash cooker, four 1,000-gallon fermenters and a 1,000-gallon pot still. The still will be supplied by Vendome Copper & Brass Works while the mash cooker, fermenters and process control systems will be supplied by Deutsche Beverage Technology. “As our brand continues to grow, we needed to find a location that would enable us to significantly increase our production capacity,” said co-founder Jim Hough. “Craft spirits are growing in popularity and destination distilleries are becoming major tourist attractions as can be seen in the growth of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We truly feel that this location on Racetrack Road, just minutes off Interstates 70 and 79, will make this a destination for both whiskey enthusiasts as well as those who are looking for a unique experience.” Co-founder Ellen Hough added, “We’re proud to be able to honor those early Pennsylvania farmer distillers and the vital role they played in the establishment of American whiskey.”


ART OF DISTILLING Class will be held in advance of the convention WEDNESDAY, JULY 20

9:00 AM TO 5:00 PM


9:00 AM TO 3:00 PM

New Distillery Start-Up 101 Register now for ACSA’s New Distillery Start-Up 101 Pre-Convention Class on Wednesday, July 20, and Thursday, July 21. This two-day class will address topics including: • • • • • • • • • •

Basic Distillery Safety Equipment Selection Oak Extraction and Aging Material Selection Flavor Chemistry and Biochemistry Pros and Cons of Tasting Rooms Working With Distributors Building A Sales Team General Business Management And Much More!

Learn more convention/#class.

Member Rate: $399; Non-Member Rate: $799 Take advantage of these pre-convention offerings to maximize your time and money in New Orleans!



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lew's bottom shelf


I owe some of you an apology. In my last column, I took a swipe at unaged whiskey. I wrote, “... unlike ‘white whiskey,’ people actually like drinking unaged rum.” I’m here to eat those words. Or drink them, I guess. See, not long after I sent that column in, I was visiting a distillery and tasted some delicious new make. That made me think back to when I tasted a dipper of Maker’s Mark right off the doubler, and how good it was: “like warm vodka, the best vodka I’ve ever tasted, with sweet corn overtones,” it says in my notes from that day. But there was also the ‘moonshine’ and ‘white whiskey’ I’d tasted in the years from about 2005 to about 2014, when some distillers had to bottle unaged spirit to bring in some cash to keep the doors open until their whiskey was aged. I can’t be the only one who remembers spirits that were feinty, hot, touched with fermentation issues; stuff that never should have been in a tank, let alone a glass. Don’t blame it on not spending time in the barrel. Unaged whiskey has a history and tradition that is, if anything, even older than whiskey. In Germany, it’s known as kornbrand, ‘grain brandy,’ as opposed to the fruit-based schnapps. Japanese shochu is unaged grain spirit (it can also be made from sweet potatoes, sugar cane and nearly 50 other things, but rice and barley are common bases). And of course, in Ireland, they have poitín, always unaged and punishingly strong. It’s definitely a real thing, but it was done a disservice by inexperienced distillers who didn’t know what their spirit should have tasted like, smelled like. Most of them got better and had aged whiskey to sell, but the damage was done. White whiskey was bad stuff, and most of us weren’t going to even try it. Michael Myers at Distillery 291 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, remembers those days. “There was a push to sell white whiskey back then,” he said. “And craft distillers were not distilling clean enough. I had a guy come up and say, ‘White whiskey, that’s awful.’ “You haven’t tried mine, I told him. “He said, ‘If you can handle the criticism, I’ll

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taste it.’ Okay, I poured him some 291 Fresh. “‘Say, that’s pretty good!’” That’s what I’m talking about: unaged grain spirit, made with a whiskey mash. Myers still bottles 291 Fresh, from a bourbon mash, and his Colorado White Dog from a rye mash, because people like it, in cocktails, on the rocks. He’s not alone. One of my local guys, Jared Adkins, at Bluebird Distilling in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania still bottles and sells Bluebird White Rye Whiskey: 80/20% rye/rye malt. “When I’m giving tours and tastings,” Adkins said, “I tell people, ‘This is the whiskey you’d be drinking in colonial times.’ I was just trying to get close to what whiskey tasted like before aging was popular. They’re tasting what rye grain tasted like.” That’s the key to the appeal of this stuff: the taste. It’s not vodka, as I realized way back when at Maker’s Mark (Dave Pickerell handed me that sample, that’s how long ago it was). It’s not distilled that high and tight, there’s still plenty of flavor in there. Sometimes it expresses as a tequila-like freshness, sometimes as a grainy sweetness. And like white rum, like blanco tequila, it can be damned good in a cocktail (like 291’s trademarked Whiskarita) or a simple, crisp highball. Maybe, now that we’re experimenting with new and old yeasts, with heirloom corn and ancient strains of barley and wheat, with seedbank resurrection rye, all in the name of flavor ... maybe it’s time to give white whiskey another chance. Maybe now that we’re all a bit smarter, a bit more experienced, and have some better kit, white whiskey could have a chance to shine like the bright, clean, electrifying spirit it can be. “I still sell it in the [state liquor] stores,” Adkins told me about his Bluebird White Rye Whiskey. “It does okay, it still sells. Nothing crazy, but it still moves. Some of it is the novelty; that’s kind of an easy sell. And there’s a collection of people who still like white whiskey. We’ll keep it as part of our product line.” Myers, at Distillery 291, is quite a bit more bullish. “I believe in white whiskey, I have from Day One,” Myers said. “I just did a four grain wheated rye. The white dog off the still is just amazing, it’s so special. Will I have another

Maybe, now that we’re experimenting with new and old yeasts, with heirloom corn and ancient strains of barley and wheat, with seedbank resurrection rye, all in the name of flavor ... maybe it’s time to give white whiskey another chance. Maybe ... white whiskey could have a chance to shine like the bright, clean, electrifying spirit it can be. white whiskey to sell? “White whiskey is ready to come back,” he said, “and it’s going to be big. That’s truly how I feel.” Poitín, shochu, kornbrand, old school moonshine. White whiskey. Yours to perfect, yours to present. ■

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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ACSA recently completed the judging for our 2022 Judging of Craft Spirits competition. Here are some images from the event at High Wire Distilling Co. in Charleston, South Carolina. Thirty judges tasted their way through hundreds of spirits, and we’ll announce the results at ACSA’s 9th Annual Convention and Vendor Trade Show in New Orleans this July 21-24.

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After operating for several years in Los Angeles, Lost Spirits Distillery last fall opened its sprawling visitor experience in Las Vegas. CRAFT SPIRITS magazine recently paid a visit to the facility that’s a bizarre amalgam of distillery tour, speakeasy, theme park, immersive theatrical experience, burlesque hall and circus (complete with magic shows, contortionists, belly-dancing snake charmers, trapeze acts and other assorted oddities and curiosities).

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WHAT’s Stirring

DRINKS TO SAVOR FROM ACSA MEMBERS Violet Beauregarde This cocktail from High Wire Distilling Co. in Charleston, South Carolina, is a great choice in late spring when local blueberries are in season. Ingredients 1 ounce High Wire Revival Straight Rye Whiskey 1/2 ounce High Wire Southern Amaro 1 ounce blueberry simple syrup 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters 1 ounce club soda Directions Combine all ingredients except club soda in a shaker tin. Add ice and lightly shake for about five seconds. Strain into a rocks glass and add ice. Use about 1 ounce of club soda to rinse the shaker tin of all the blueberry goodness, and add this to your glass. Stir to incorporate and enjoy! Blueberry Simple Syrup Ingredients 1 quart blueberries (rinsed) 1 cup sugar 1 cup water peel of 1 lemon Blueberry Simple Syrup Directions Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and heat to dissolve sugar. Add blueberries and lemon peel and simmer for about 10 minutes or until blueberries begin to burst. Strain and cool.

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Canned Heat This cocktail from High Wire Distilling Co. in Charleston, South Carolina, is a variation of a Gold Rush, with a Southern twist. Ingredients 1 1/2 ounces High Wire Jimmy Red Corn Straight Bourbon Whiskey 3/4 ounce spicy peach honey syrup 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice 1 bar spoon peach jam 1 bar spoon High Wire Benton’s Smoked Jimmy Red Corn Whiskey Directions Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin, add ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Strain over ice in a rocks glass. Spicy Peach Syrup Ingredients 2 cups honey 1 cup water 4 peaches (cut in cubes) 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes Spicy Peach Syrup Directions Add honey, peaches and water to a saucepan. Place on the stove and let simmer for 10 minutes, whisking every so often to incorporate. For added peach flavor muddle peaches during the simmer. Strain and cool.

Morning Paper This riff on a Paper Plane from Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, introduces the morning flavors of coffee and orange to that classic cocktail. Here, the rich flavors and aromatics of the Amaro Pazzo stand up well to the distillery’s 93-proof bourbon and 90-proof orange liqueur, for a strong flavor profile and a smooth finish. Ingredients 1 ounce Long Road Straight Bourbon 1/2 ounce Long Road Amaro Pazzo 1/2 ounce Long Road Orange Liqueur 1/2 ounce simple syrup 1/2 ounce lemon juice Directions Shake all ingredients with ice and double strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube, and garnish with a twist of lemon.

Something Blue For this cocktail from Middle West Spirits in Columbus, Ohio, hospitality manager David Alrbright said he wanted to marry “flavors often associated with shaken, citrusforward drinks in a much more clarified and aesthetically pleasing way. We drink with our eyes first, and my hope is that at first sight Something Blue elicits visions of clear blue water.” Ingredients 1 ounce cucumber-infused OYO Vodka 1 ounce Fino Sherry 1 1/4 ounces White Verjus 1 1/2 ounce mineral water 3/8 ounce simple syrup 1/4 ounce Rothman & Winter Orchard Pear Liqueur 1/2 tablespoon Giffard Blue Curacao 3 drops of saline solution Directions Build all ingredients in a cocktail mixer, and strain into a highball over clear ice.

Join us in the V.I.P. Lounge Show off your support for our cuttingedge features, business insights and entrepreneurial advice for the craft spirits community by joining us in the V.I.P. Lounge. Members can receive: • An exclusive, limited-edition set of two Glencairn glasses emblazoned with the CRAFT SPIRITS magazine logo • Access to bi-monthly virtual happy hours with prominent industry guests • Early access to each issue of CRAFT SPIRITS


WELCOME TO OUR NEWEST MEMBERS Scott Beierle Doug Thiesse Peter Whalen

ACSA Affairs

100% WOMEN-LED BOARD TO STEER ACSA In April, ACSA announced that its recent elections mark a first in drinks industry history, as a 100% women-identifying-led board will steer a national trade association. Additionally, women currently comprise 40% of the elected Board of Directors, which welcomed three new and two returning members. Becky Harris of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. in Purcellville, Virginia, was re-elected as President; Gina Holman of J. Carver Distillery in Waconia, Minnesota, was elected as Vice President; and Jessica Lemmon of Cart/Horse Distilling in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, was elected as Secretary/Treasurer. The newly elected Board Members include Lucy Farber of St. George Spirits in Alameda, California; Mark A. Vierthaler of Whiskey Del Bac in Tucson, Arizona; and Kelly Woodcock of Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon. Jeff Kanof of Copperworks Distilling Co. in Seattle and Amber Pollock of Backwards Distilling Co. in Casper, Wyoming, were also re-elected to the Board. Departing the board after the completion of their terms are Ryan Christiansen of Caledonia Spirits in Montpelier, Vermont, and Molly Troupe of Freeland Spirits in Portland, Oregon. We’d like to extend our thanks to Ryan and Molly for their years of service to the board and their ongoing contributions to ACSA. Moreover, we extend our gratitude to P.T. Wood of Wood’s High Mountain Distillery in Salida, Colorado, and Kanof, whose terms as Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer, respectively, expired. Each helped guide the association, as a part of its executive leadership team, during particularly trying times due to COVID-19. Their business acumen and responsiveness to unprecedented demands, kept not only this trade association afloat, but aided in securing COVID-related relief for our industry. Together, Harris, Holman, Lemmon and the current and newly-appointed Board of Directors will work with CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman to address the key issues facing the craft distilling industry, including the organization’s continued push for direct-toconsumer shipping. “I am honored to be selected again by my fellow board members, a group of incredible leaders within our craft distilling community, as President, and I am excited to continue the incredible momentum behind our industry on the heels of our federal excise tax (FET) victory and the slow, but changing direct shipping ecosystem,” said Harris, as she begins

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her second term as President. Lehrman added, “As a woman in drinks, particularly at a trade association level, [this] marks an important milestone as we announce the election of our first-ever womenled Board. Though ACSA remains focused on critical industry issues such as parity, tax reform, trade, and direct shipping, we continue to pour our hearts and efforts into the STEPUP Foundation, the 501(c)3 non-profit immersive internship program we helped create late last year. Through STEPUP, our work is narrowly focused on an important mission: to change the face of the drinks industry, one intern at a time. While we still have so much work to do—particularly within the communities that have been most marginalized historically—we are beginning to see a shift in drinks.” Following these elections, the ACSA Board of Directors will also be appointing leadership to its governing committees. Those committees include Membership, Ethics, Convention, Education, Elections, Safety, ACSA PAC, Mentorship, Judging, Government Affairs, State Guilds, Technology, Finance, DtC and Development. The national digital election was administered with the help of the Election’s Chair, Renee Bemis of Driftless Glen Distillery in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and Jeff Wuslich of Cardinal Spirits in Bloomington, Indiana. The 2022 Board of Directors, representing the craft spirits industry nationwide, is comprised of the following individuals:

Becky Harris

Gina Holman

EAST Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (VA) Jessica Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA) Tom Potter, New York Distilling (NY) CENTRAL & MOUNTAIN Gina Holman, J.Carver Distillery (MN) Colin Keegan, Santa Fe Spirits (NM) Thomas Mote, Balcones Distillery (TX) Amber Pollock, Backwards Distilling Co. (WY) (re-elected) Mark A. Vierthaler, Whiskey Del Bac (AZ) (newly elected) Colton Weinstein, Corsair Artisan Distillery (TN) P.T. Wood, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery (CO)

elected) Dan Farber, Osocalis Distillery (CA) Jake Holshue, Rogue Ales & Spirits (OR) Jeff Kanof, Copperworks Distilling Co. (WA) (re-elected) Kelly Woodcock, Westward Whiskey (OR) (newly elected)

PACIFIC Lucy Farber, St. George Spirits (CA) (newly

EX OFFICIO Thomas Jensen, New Liberty Distillery (PA)

Jessica Lemmon


ACSA Affairs

MEET OUR KEYNOTE PRESENTER We recently announced that renowned mental health professional and comedian Matt Vogl will deliver the keynote address at ACSA’s 9th Annual Distillers’ Convention & Vendor Trade Show in New Orleans, July 21-24. Matt, who helped found and run the University of Colorado Depression Center, as well as the National Mental Health Innovation Center, will present “Distilling Better Mental Health & Crafting Support in Volatile Times.” Matt brings a unique perspective. After nearly losing his life to a suicide attempt 20 years ago,

Matt made the decision to tackle the stigma by talking publicly about his struggles with bipolar disorder and suicide and has become an internationally-recognized mental health advocate. His speeches, media interviews and his TEDx talk have reached tens of thousands of people worldwide. As a professional comic, Matt has worked with some of the biggest names in the business. Matt’s keynote will be humor-driven—tailored specifically to the unique realities and challenges facing the craft spirits industry.

Matt Vogl

ONE-DAY PASS NOW AVAILABLE Don’t have enough bandwidth to attend our entire convention? Don’t sweat it, we’ve got you covered! This year, we are offering a special day pass

SAVE THE DATE: 2022 VIRTUAL PUBLIC POLICY CONFERENCE The 2022 ACSA/DISCUS Public Policy Conference will take place virtually on Sept. 21. Please also save the afternoon of Sept. 20 for a pre-conference session with an overview of our legislative asks and state distiller meetings. We’re looking forward to coming together across the distilled spirits industry to advocate on the policy issues impacting distillers. We hope you will join us for an important day as we speak with regulators at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), advocating before Members of Congress and their staff on important policy issues, and then raising a glass to our amazing industry at the end of the day. We’re excited for another successful Public Policy Conference, and hope you are too.


for Saturday, July 23. The one-day pass will allow you to network on the trade show floor from noon-4:30 p.m. CT (doesn’t include education sessions).

You can also purchase a dinner ticket for an additional fee to attend our Spirits Soiree Happy Hour and Awards Banquet from 6-9 p.m. CT.

ACSA TOASTS END TO U.S., U.K. TARIFFS ON WHISKEY The Toasts Not Tariffs Coalition, which includes the American Craft Spirits Association, raised a glass of gratitude to the Biden administration for negotiating a successful end to the harmful tariffs impacting the entire U.S. beverage alcohol sector. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and United Kingdom Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan announced the agreement to remove the retaliatory tariffs on American Whiskeys during a meeting in March at the U.S./UK Dialogue on the Future of Atlantic Trade in Baltimore, Maryland. Under the terms of the agreement, the UK’s retaliatory tariff on American Whiskey exports will be lifted on June 1.

SPIRITS JUDGING COMPETITION WRAPS AT HIGH WIRE DISTILLING CO. In early April, 30 judges tasted their way through hundreds of spirits across all major categories for ACSA’s 2022 Judging of Craft Spirits competition at High Wire Distilling Co. in Charleston, South Carolina. Spirits were judged in the following categories: brandy, gin, ready-to-drink, rum, specialty spirits, vodka & grain and whiskey. We’ll announce the results at ACSA’s 9th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show in New Orleans, July 21-24. We’d like to extend very special thanks to High Wire Distilling Co. for generously hosting the judging, as well as to all of the judges and stewards.

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GRAIN AND GRATITUDE Exposure to farming inspires continuing education BY YAKNTORO UDOUMOH

“Let’s show you around the farm,” Chad Butters, founder of Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, quipped on a brisk January morning in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania. Outside, away from the warmth of the distillery floor, we stepped out into an apparent frozen tundra. The land appeared as clean ivory with gray stalks piercing from the ground as foreboding pikes, external remnants from last year’s harvest. Just yesterday, the heavens had opened and snow had pelted the ground leading to the terrain of slick ice this morning. With Chad as my guide, we pressed out into the aforementioned bleak and barren expanse towards the largest manmade structures in the immediate area. Our target, a gray foreboding group of colossus pointing straight into the sky,

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seemingly grew larger as Chad and I approached closer in a red pickup truck. The number eight, the logo of Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, emblazoned proudly on the front of the structure, was cocked at an angle, almost signifying a metamorphosis to infinity in terms of the structure’s size. All of Eight Oaks’s previous year’s grain harvest are kept in these mammoth silos and transferred over to smaller silos near the distillery when needed. The truck stopped and Chad opened the driver side door. I followed suit on the passenger side. Today’s lesson started as an intricate game of attempting not to fall flat on my face in supposedly non-slip sneakers while attempting to listen to Chad wax and wane on grain silo operations and the

importance of managing grain temperature and humidity. “Push this button here”, Chad instructed, “and I’m going over here to turn this one on.” I skated forward while Chad marched around a corner towards another silo. I pushed a green button on a gray metallic box. A fan spun up producing a boreal gale inside the silo. Apparently, I had just begun this month’s session of cooling and drying wheat berries. Once a month during cold and dry conditions, the Eight Oaks crew fans their grain, blowing massive amounts of cubic feet of cold dry air per minute to prevent grain spoilage encouraged by warm humidity. I had never witnessed such a process at any distillery that I had visited, but I imagine it would be commonplace


... all of these aspects of grain storage came from a cold morning trip to a farm in New Tripoli. Something I would have never experienced without ACSA’s STEPUP Foundation.

on any sizable farm. With Chad’s encouragement that all staff participate in continuing education, I delved deeper into the topic of grain spoilage on my own time, reading scientific papers and websites. Paramount in my wonder was what kind of grain spoilage may have occurred at craft distilleries during the seemingly monthslong work stoppages at many distilleries due to varying pandemic restrictions across the nation and what could have been done to prevent these hypothetical grain spoilages at small distilleries without cooled grain silos. In an attempt to communicate without overly scientific jargon, two types of spoilage appeared predominantly in warm humid grain storage conditions: mold, from the Aspergillus


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fungi, and rancidification, from endogenous lipid enzymatic activity or bacteria. The former kind of grain spoilage gives off a musty smell and creates aflatoxins, which are a carcinogen. The later form of grain spoilage gives offflavors and smells like wet cardboard or play dough. All these negative aspects we distillers wish to avoid extracting from our mash bills. Therefore, a step a distillery without an air-cooled silo can take to mitigate spoilage risk in the event of another long-term production stoppage would be to store their grain with a food grade desiccant or freeze their grain. Incredibly, all of these aspects of grain storage came from a cold morning trip to a farm in New Tripoli. Something I would have never experienced without ACSA’s STEPUP Foundation. For all the experiences I have and have yet to experience this year, I’m truly in

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the debt of those that decided to step up and make a difference in my life. ■ Yakntoro “Yaki” Udoumoh is a Maryland native and Howard University alum who counts on experience as a bartender at the revered Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He is part of the STEPUP Foundation’s inaugural class of interns. After his initial placement at Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, he is now at Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon.


Partnering with mentors, member distilleries,

An internship experience that is a STEP above the rest.

and wholesalers throughout the United States, we provide one-on-one mentor support, a comprehensive training program, and job exposure for those of different races, color, national origins, genders, and sexual orientations.

LEARN MORE AT STEPUPINTERNSHIP.ORG Accepting new applications from June 1st to September 1st

Ready to disrupt As spirits-based ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails are skyrocketing in popularity and poised to compete with hard seltzers, craft distillers seek parity and find success in the category. BY JON PAGE

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he commercial begins with black and white footage of average looking adults gazing into the camera. “Here’s to the lazy ones,” says the narrator, in a nod to an iconic Apple ad. “The renegades. The outliers. The unsung geniuses. The ones who live life differently—working smarter, not harder.” A woman tenderizes meat with a massage gun. A man uses a blowtorch to melt the snow in his driveway. Another man relaxes in a chair, holding a leash while his dog runs on a treadmill.

In each scene, only one item appears in color—canned cocktails. “And while some may see them as the lazy ones, we see pioneers,” the narrator concludes. “Because the ones who make the most of their time are the ones who are ahead of it. Cutwater: bar-quality cocktails in a can.” The ad for AB InBev-owned Cutwater Spirits aired during this year’s Super Bowl, and it was yet another reminder that the spirits-based ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail category—which includes products in cans,

bottles and even pouches—is exploding. John Cena, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosario Dawson and Vanessa Hudgens are among a group of celebrities promoting a new brand of RTDs. Hard Rock is launching a line. Diageo recently opened a $110 million manufacturing site devoted to RTDs. There’s a bar in London that serves only cans, including RTDs. And Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Distillery and Dogfish Head Distilling Co. says the “summer of ‘22 is going to be the summer of the spirits-based RTD—just the way that a

Co-founded by sisters Jill Burns and Kelly Gasink (right), Austin Cocktails was recently acquired in full by Constellation Brands.

“You really can’t go to market casually with a canned offering. If you’re gonna get buyers to carry it outside of your distillery, you need to show up with marketing support and a strategy. Because now, for a category that had about three players in it originally, it’s absolutely inundated and buyers are having a really hard time making distinctions among products.” —Kelly Gasink of Austin Cocktails C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

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Canned cocktails from Bloomington, Indiana-based Cardinal Spirits are now available in 13 states.


couple of summers ago it was the summer of the seltzer.” He may be right. Although some industry reports—and consumers—lump spirits-based RTDs into the same category as malt-based hard seltzer, analysts who make a distinction between the products see spirits-based RTDs skyrocketing. “Growth wise, spirit RTD cocktails are just off the charts right now,” says Danny Brager, a beverage alcohol industry consultant and the former leader of the Nielsen Company Beverage Alcohol Practice. Spirit-based RTDs, however, have a long way to go to catch up with seltzer sales. According to Data from NielsenIQ, off-premise sales of hard seltzer in 2021 were $4.6 billion, compared with nearly $800 million for spirits-based RTDs. However, when looking at dollar percent changes for the past 52 weeks through Feb. 26, spirit-based RTDs were up 106.2% compared to hard seltzer, which increased by 5.3%. Additionally, IWSR has forecasted that spirits-based RTD volume in the U.S. grew by 53% last year, and is projected to grow by 29% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) 2021-2025. While craft distillers face numerous barriers to entry, distribution challenges and markets that lack tax parity for spirits-based RTDs, many independent producers are joining in on this rapid growth and finding success. At Astoria, Oregon-based Pilot House Distilling, co-founder Larry Cary says the RTD side of the distillery’s business comprised about 10% of his time two years ago. Now, production of the distillery’s Astoria Mary, Astoria Mule, Gin

& Tonic and Vodka Soda accounts for half of Cary’s time. “Watch out what you get into,” he says. “These things move. A lot of my time is now spent just planning cans.” So what’s driving the boom? A global pandemic that forced consumers out of bars and into their homes, for one, but there’s also the overall convenience angle and the fact that RTDs can demystify spirits for some consumers. “Spirits are great and I love them, but getting together socially with spirits is a challenge at times,” says Jeff Wuslich of Bloomington, Indiana-based Cardinal Spirits. “You show up at a party with a bottle of wine and a six pack, everybody knows what to do. You show up at the party with a bottle of gin and they’re like, ‘Whoa, Jeff! What are you doing?’ And you’re like, ‘No, I just need some simple syrup. Do you have any citrus? Ok, great.’ “And then you’re stuck in the corner all night making cocktails. Having everything in a can is amazing.” Cary has a similar opinion. “I don’t see our bottle sales going away, but if I’m going to a tailgate or a party, or if I’m going camping, I’ll bring a four pack [of RTDs],” he says. “It’s real easy. I don’t have to bring glass with me. I don’t have to mix cocktails. I don’t see it ever going away and I’m surprised it’s taken this long to catch on in the U.S.” And it’s all the better to help promote your bottled spirits, according to Richard Patrick of Jackson, Mississippi-based Cathead Distillery, which launched its RTD lineup in 2021. “We have a walking billboard that people drink out of now,” he says.

Monica Pearce of Tenth Ward Distilling Co. in Frederick, Maryland, can relate. “We’re hitting a whole different target [audience that] we hadn’t hit before,” she says. “It hasn’t affected our spirits sales at all. It probably has brought more awareness to us because there are some stores that carry our cans now that never carried our spirits.” HURDLES FOR CRAFT DISTILLERS While analysts and distillers see a bright future for RTDs, existing and would-be producers of craft spirits-based RTDs face numerous challenges in the category. According to conversations with more than a dozen distillers across the U.S. and a recent survey by the American Craft Spirits Association, some of the biggest hurdles include tax parity, fair distribution, supply chain woes and finding shelf space, along with the cost and challenges inherent in developing a high-quality, shelf-stable RTD in the first place. When first contacted about this story, Melissa Katrincic of Durham Distillery—an early producer and champion of RTDs—implied that the category is so rife with headaches that it may not be worth it for craft distillers. “Unless a distillery is planning to have RTDs as their priority SKUs with significant marketing dollars to support their traction and growth, I do not recommend this category,” she wrote. “It pains me to say that as we were one of the first to market with them, but yeah, it’s not a good scene.” Katrincic and her husband, Lee, founded the distillery in 2013 and launched their gin in 2015. In 2018, they released their canned gin

“Watch out what you get into. These things move. A lot of my time is now spent just planning cans.” —Larry Cary of Pilot House Distilling


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and tonic and a vodka soda, both at 8% ABV. A 2020 presentation by Lee on RTD production mentioned that the distillery had “no issues with RTDs since we launched.” But competition crept in from RTDs with half the ABV for the same price. There were also supply chain issues with aluminum, struggles to secure prime store displays and other concerns. Melissa says that by the summer of 2021, sales were declining and the margins were too thin. Now, the distillery is only distributing its RTDs in North Carolina, a control state that does not allow sales of spirits-based RTDs in grocery or convenience stores. Katrincic says she wants aspiring craft spirits-based RTD producers to enter the space with eyes wide open. “I want everyone to understand the hurdles in front of them,” she says. “If it’s a passion that they have and they think they have something that’s going to set the world on fire, go for it. But if they think it’s a way to gain more revenue for their home distillery, I highly caution against it. And I didn’t even get into all the tax implications.” Katrincic says that the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission is making more margin off of RTDs than anything else in its portfolio because spiritsbased RTDs are taxed at the same rate as

an 80-proof spirit. The same is true in many other states. Meanwhile, malt-based hard seltzers that have similar ABVs are taxed at the same rate as beer. Some of those even advertise spirits-like flavors on their cans. “There’s all these brands that are meant to look like they have spirits in them, but they really have flavored malt beverage,” says Phil Mastroianni of New Hampshire-based Fabrizia Spirits, a rectifier that produces several RTDs and limoncello. “That is a real challenge for producers of [spirits-based] cocktails. … If the flavored malt beverage brands are gonna be able to sort of blur the lines of what their alcohol is, at least tax [us all] the same, at this low proof.” Despite pushback from a few beer trade associations, some states are evening the playing field for spirits-based RTD producers. In 2021, Michigan and Nebraska reduced excise taxes on low-alcohol RTDs. And in some control states like Idaho, Mississippi and Virginia, low-alcohol RTDs are now sold at grocery stores. “What that enabled us to do [in Mississippi] was go from about 300 points of retail distribution to about 7,000 overnight,” said Patrick of Cathead. The RTD-friendly legislation signed last year by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

raised the ABV ceiling from 10% to 13.5% and reduced the tax on mixed spirits from 48 cents to 30 cents per liter. It also paved the way for self distribution of canned cocktails. According to Jon O’Connor, who is the coowner of Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids and the president of the Michigan Craft Distillers Association, the advocacy strategy for the legislation was all about parity. “We don’t want to be treated special,” he says. “We just want to be treated fairly and have parity with our other brothers and sisters in the craft beverage industry that are around us.” The new law is already making a big impact for Long Road. In March O’Connor said Long Road was already approaching what it produced in all of 2021, and the distillery has hired a full-time sales person to meet the strong demand from retailers across the state. “Now that we have the resources to do it,” says O’Connor, “they’re chomping at the bit to get these and be a leader, because they see the data that supports the consumer demand [for RTDs].” PRODUCTION AND PACKAGING CONSIDERATIONS Assuming a distillery has accounted for all the regulatory hurdles and has a strategic

“We have a walking billboard that people drink out of now.” —Richard Patrick of Cathead Distillery

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Brothers Nick and Phil Mastroianni of Fabrizia Spirits

“If the flavored malt beverage brands are gonna be able to sort of blur the lines of what their alcohol is, at least tax [us all] the same, at this low proof.” —Phil Mastroianni of Fabrizia Spirits


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“We don’t want to be treated special. We just want to be treated fairly and have parity with our other brothers and sisters in the craft beverage industry that are around us.” —Jon O’Connor of Long Road Distillers

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Standards of Fill As the market for RTDs continues to grow, the standards of fill for container sizes isn’t keeping pace. The American Craft Spirits Association hopes to change that. On behalf of the craft spirits industry, ACSA in April petitioned the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to add 250-mL to the list of approved standards of fill container sizes for distilled spirits. In the standards of fill for wine, 250 mL is an approved size, yet there is no corresponding size for spirits. The letter mentions Frederick, Maryland-based Tenth Ward Distilling Co. as a prime example why the rule should be amended. The distillery uses a 250-mL can for its RTDs that is packaged in a four-pack and therefore approved as a 1-L package. Tenth Ward founder Monica Pearce says the 250-mL can was strategically chosen for numerous reasons. To get certificate of label approvals (COLAs), however, the distillery must also submit and print additional labels that are adhered atop the four-pack pack tech rings. Between the cost of printing stickers and labor, Pearce says the extra cost amounts to about $1 per four-pack. And for a product that has thin margins, every cent counts. “Because that one fill size isn’t approved by TTB,” says Pearce, “I’m incurring all of this extra time and expense.” At the time of publication, TTB had yet to amend additional fill sizes for RTDs.

Lauren Blanchard of Savage & Cooke

marketing plan, there’s still the reality of production, which is neither easy nor cheap. Installing a canning line could be less than $100,000, but depending on needs, the price could triple or quadruple. For that reason, a lot of distillers start out working with mobile canners like Iron Heart Mobile Canning. Brothers Nick and Phil Mastroianni cofounded Fabrizia Spirits with an initial focus on limoncello made from Sicillian lemons. They started bottling RTDs in 2015, and added canned offerings in 2017. It started with a mobile canner, but Phil says it eventually made more sense to invest in a canning line. “Once you see the certainty and get the right size canning line for your operation,” he says, “you’ll make more money and you’ll open yourself up to co-packing opportunities for other


craft distillers or brands.” The co-packing route has been effective for Hollywood, Florida-based Ziami Distillery. Founder Victor Olshansky says RTD production now accounts for 70% of the distillery’s volume and 50% of its revenue. “We ended 2020 coming off of hand sanitizer, still having our own rum brand and having one or two copacking clients in tow with bottles,” he says. “But then in 2021, once we added the canning capability, we very quickly started adding a lot more canning clients to the list.” For some distillers, it makes sense to work with a brewer that has mobile canning equipment. Or in the case of Copperwing Distillery in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a kombucha maker. The distillery has a line of bottled RTDs and won a silver medal and two

bronze medals in ACSA’s 2021 Judging of Craft Spirits in the ready-to-drink category. But for a new release of canned cocktails, owner Kyle Kettering struck a deal with the neighboring company. “It’s a good fit,” he says. “The utilization of all of the equipment isn’t even near 50%, so there’s a lot of available time. You just strike a deal with them to share each other’s time and equipment and you can make things happen for a lot cheaper than someone you don’t know.” When it comes to recipe formulation, Kris Bohm, the owner of Distillery Now Consulting, recommends starting with

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Regional Tastes For producers of spirit-based RTDs who are considering going beyond their home market, it’s worth thinking about how tastes can vary across the country. Canned cocktails from Cardinal Spirits of Bloomington, Indiana, are in 13 markets across the U.S., and co-founder Jeff Wuslich says the distillery has noticed varying tastes for sweetness, depending on the region. “Our product development team [in the Midwest] has a level of sweetness that they think is appropriate,” says Wuslich. “As we took the canned cocktails across the country … we hit it perfect in the Midwest. Some on the East Coast were like, ‘This is too sweet.’ The same was true in California and in large metro areas. But in the South, where sweet tea is king? “They were like, ‘Oh, this could be a lot sweeter.’” Sam Calagione—the founder of Milton, Delaware-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Dogfish Head Distilling Co.—sees geographic preferences with the distillery’s line of canned cocktails, which includes Strawberry & Honeyberry Vodka Lemonade, Blueberry Shrub Vodka Soda, Lemon & Lime Gin Crush and Blood Orange & Mango Vodka Crush. Calagione says the lemonade is the sweetest drink in the portfolio and sells well inland. “The Crushes,” he says, “are a little more acidic from the citrus fruit and a little drier and seem to be going off in the coastal beach areas; particularly on the New York to Virginia coast line, because that’s where the crush style is most recognizable.” Wuslich says it likely would not be feasible for a distillery the size of Cardinal Spirits to prepare different batches for various regions. Instead, he says, it’s about finding the right customers. “Maybe it’s too sweet for a New Yorker, but it’s probably not too sweet for the Midwesterner that’s in New York,” he says. “And so maybe that’s what you have to focus on, is to find those people and try to get them excited about your product. Maybe it will make them think of home.”

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“You don’t want to go and can something that’s not shelf stable and have it ferment in the can and explode on the shelf.” —Kris Bohm of Distillery Now Consulting ingredients that are known to be shelf stable. Bohm has been intimately involved in the launch of RTD programs for four distilleries, and he says fresh lime juice is troublesome, unless you plan to pasteurize. “Most of the successful RTD cocktails that I’ve seen developed, or have been a part of developing, have been developed very much in a lab setting,”

says Bohm. “Trying to take the cocktail out of the bar and put it in a can doesn’t work for most people. For a lot of folks, they develop it using shelf-stable extract flavors, sweeteners and acids and often will produce something that tastes just as good as a cocktail in a bar without a lot of the big issues that come up with using fresh ingredients.”


Minnesota-based Dashfire produces a wide range of canned and bottled RTD cocktails.


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Those big issues could lead to product recalls. That’s why he’s also a proponent of rigorous quality assurance and shelf life stability testing. “Testing all of those things before you actually take the product to market is essential to the success of a readyto-drink cocktail,” he says. “You don’t want to go and can something that’s not shelf stable and have it ferment in the can and explode on the shelf.” Lee Egbert of Minnetonka, Minnesotabased Dashfire (makers of premium bitters, RTDs and liqueurs) agrees that quality assurance should be top of mind for all producers. “That’s what everybody who does these longterm RTDs should be losing sleep over—if they don’t already—is shelf stability and creating a crummy reputation,” he says. Cary advises producers to constantly monitor seams. “Through the production line as we’re canning, I’m constantly bringing them out, checking my seams,” he says. “I have

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experienced poor seaming and lost full pallets in the warehouse, that is truly a horror story.” Wuslich of Cardinal Spirits also suggests that distillers making carbonated RTDs should consider carbonation as an extra ingredient. “If you taste a Coke, it almost burns your tongue,” he says. “You get that aggressive carbonation. Some of ours, we want that. Some of them we want to be a little more mellow. Trying to nail that carbonation level is key.” And before scaling to a large run, Elliot Macaluso of Ziami recommends experimentation on a small scale. For him, that started in his office with a lab still, a single canning system and a SodaStream. “Before we even canned our first product with a canning line,” he says, “I think I must have canned 50 to 75 single cans myself, making sure that I knew every which way that the operation worked before we actually went into canning in bulk.” Of course, RTDs are not limited to cans,

and some distillers offer a mix of canned and bottled RTDs ranging from low to high proof. Savage & Cooke of Vallejo, California, opted for 200-mL glass bottles for its Home School products, which it markets as bottled craft cocktails rather than RTDs. Home School includes a 50-proof Negroni and a 70-proof Blood Orange Manhattan, which earned a silver medal in ACSA’s 2021 Judging of Craft Spirits. “These are real cocktails and they’re meant to be served over ice and garnished,” says general manager Lauren Blanchard. “They really mimic the experience that you would get when you’re in your favorite on-premise restaurant [or] bar. … We never say that we’re in the RTD category because we don’t really feel like we are in a lot of ways. How do you compare yourself to Cutwater and High Noon? It’s such a different category than what we are.” There’s a similar ethos at Hudson Valley


The latest RTD release from Copperwing Distillery features the distillery’s gin and wine from Winehaven Winery.

Kyle Kettering of Copperwing Distillery

Distillers in Clermont, New York, which launched its Hudson Cocktail Co. line of bottled cocktails in 2021. The cocktails are 21% ABV and higher and are marketed as ready to pour rather than ready to drink. Co-owner and marketing director Stephen Theiss says the distillery made an intentional decision to steer clear of low-ABV canned offerings. “It was like the whole herd was running in that direction, and that’s just not what we’re about,” says Theiss. “We want them to be in a bottle and a little bit more [of an] elevated experience. I want people to feel like they’re drinking a bartender-quality cocktail at home … not a half-hearted Cosmo.” Dashfire makes high-proof RTDs in bottles and cans, but its cans are not aluminum. A lineup that includes multiple Old Fashioneds, a Martini and more are packaged in 100-mL cans made of tin. “Aluminum cans can’t hold the high-proof alcohol cocktails,” says Egbert. “The liner on the inside of an aluminum can isn’t as strong as the liner on a tin can.” Dashfire believes strongly enough in the tin can manufacturing and RTD business that it will be announcing a major investment to produce up to 20 million cans per year for their products as well as others. Egbert says they plan to make the cans (in 100-mL, 200-mL and 250-mL sizes) available to new customers


sometime in 2023. “Currently, all suppliers of these small tin cans are only in China, and we all know what that means both in terms of freight and the cost to the environment,” says Egbert. “We’re excited to bring that production to the U.S. Having low minimums of printed cans will really help craft producers and is far more environmentally conscious than label-over or shrink sleeves, which are not as easily recycled.” MARKETING AND DIFFERENTIATION Bohm likes to remind RTD upstarts that sales and marketing go hand in hand with production. “Successful sales of alcohol only happen with businesses that equally invest in production, sales and marketing,” he says. “If that investment isn’t made to all three of them, more than likely you won’t succeed.” Echoing Bohm is Kelly Gasink, the cofounder of Austin Cocktails, which was recently acquired in full by Constellation Brands. “You really can’t go to market casually with a canned offering,” says Gasink. “If you’re gonna get buyers to carry it outside of your distillery, you need to show up with marketing support and a strategy. Because now, for a category that had about three players in it originally, it’s absolutely inundated and buyers are having a really hard time making distinctions among products.”

That’s why many distillers interviewed for this story recommend cornering your home market. “My recommendation is to stay hyper local,” says Dogfish Head’s Calagione. “Can and sell it direct, or maybe with one distributor in your home state. But to go into a 5-, 10-, 15-state footprint as a non-national brand with spiritsbased cocktails is going to be challenging. I think you have to go for it and be national or stay local with your offerings.” Katrincic urges RTD producers to be disruptive, and Brager says they should strive to bring something unique to the market. “If you do get into it,” he says, “it feels like you have to have something that’s different than all the other ones that are out there, or some background story that will cause a consumer to choose you rather than the other 273 brands that are out there.” So is it worth it for a craft distillery to enter the category? Blanchard of Savage & Cooke suggests starting the conversation with a distillery’s key supporters. “Talk to your consumers,” she says. “Talk to your fans. Talk to your friends and family that support the brand and find out if [this is] truly something that your distillery could be successful in. If you’re just wanting to because it’s a big category, it’s not really the right reason.” In other words, don’t be lazy about it. ■

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The Other Leopold Brother Scott Leopold’s long-term business plan BY ROBIN ROBINSON

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he craft distilling movement of the 21st Century is without a doubt the single most disruptive influence in the distilled spirits industry. When we look for the markers of this disruption—the innovation in technologies, fermenting and grain varieties, etc.—what’s been overlooked is perhaps the most profound component of them all: the return of the family to the business of making spirits. Examples abound, typically with one member taking the more public-facing lead, the other’s working through the back processes. Copper Fox Distillery, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co., Far North Spirits, KOVAL Distillery and Ironroot Republic Distilling are but a few examples. But the family that typifies this ethos at its most acute, and its most enduring, are two guys who have their names on the label: Leopold Bros. And as Todd Leopold is one of the acknowledged visionaries of the modern distilling age, his older, less-visible brother Scott has provided the business side of the Denver-based distillery with its most lasting and wise set of practices that guarantee their long-term viability in support of that vision. The principles that underlie these practices are deceptively simple: patience, persistence and authenticity. “The product we’re really selling is Leopold Brothers as a world-class producer of spirits,”


Brothers Todd and Scott Leopold

“Then I realized that I’m not really interested in business. I’m a brewer and distiller, so I let Scott take over. That’s when the company, first the brewery then the distillery, took off. Now I joke that I just make stuff for Scott’s company.” —Todd Leopold of Leopold Bros.

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says Scott. “That was our first point of differentiation,” Scott says. “Every product had to have its own unique selling points, a contribution to the spirits marketplace that made it different, a reason for being.” The second indication is the overall philosophy of their approach to the business world: “We set this up hoping there will be future generations of Leopolds who will keep this going.” Both points were underscored by Rich Trachtenberg, owner of Pacific Edge Spirits, their longest distributing partner. “Scott Leopold and I met around 15 years ago when Leopold Bros. Distillery was based out of Michigan,” says Trachtenberg. “It was obvious that his company had two main ingredients that were imperative for us to come together: great spirits with a great story and a company built for the long run, not one being built to quickly spin off for a buck.” As Scott puts it, “our name is on the bottle, and we intend to keep it that way.” The long-term success of a company built by two brothers doesn’t come out of the box. “Our first couple of years together were filled with arguments,” admits younger brother

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Todd about their early days as brewery/pub owners in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Then I realized that I’m not really interested in business. I’m a brewer and distiller, so I let Scott take over. That’s when the company, first the brewery then the distillery, took off. Now I joke that I just make stuff for Scott’s company.” Scott, a Northwestern University grad in economics who later attended Stanford for an advanced degree in environmental engineering, concurs. “Todd’s a great strategic visionary,” he says. “We’ve always been close growing up, but we operate in two different spheres of influence. He’s responsible for making great juice and putting it into a bottle. I’m responsible for everything else. We’re both intrigued by what the other does, but I don’t tell him how to make whiskey, he doesn’t tell me how to run sales.” The entry into Colorado from Michigan paralleled the move from brewing/distilling to full-time spirits making in the early 2000s. “The early days of selling was a great laboratory, an incubator for business,” Scott said. “In the brewpub, you get immediate feedback, but in the open market, we were cutting a

swath through the jungle. There were only a few out there with us—St. George, Clear Creek—and it was tough. Patience and persistence were the key, every bottle was handsold. Luckily, Colorado allows self-distribution and in-store sampling, and we had a genuine, down-to-earth, ‘Here, try this,’ approach with a hometown advantage.” But as small distillers to this day will agree, that approach can only get you so far. You need help from the distribution tier. “My first impression of Scott Leopold was a very intelligent, honest and loyal man,” says Trachtenberg. “PacEdge was still a young company in the early 2000s, as were they, but we saw that Leopold Brothers were way ahead of the curve in their business approach.” That opinion is shared by Jeremy Tostrup, EVP of Breakthru Beverage in Colorado, who represents them in their home state. “Scott has a lot of courage,” says Tostrup. “He’s able to make tough decisions about what’s working and not working in the portfolio. He’s well-prepared but not rigid, he sits with our business managers and thoughtfully works through the data to come up with the right plan.”


Choosing which market (they’re now in 23 in the U.S.), and which distributor, becomes an artform in itself and Scott Leopold holds to the same simple rules. “One of our hallmarks is patience, making the right decision at the right time. We reach out to key bar and retail influences and sometimes other brands when sizing up a wholesaler. We try to align ourselves with those companies that have a similar philosophical approach in route to market; people who are good storytellers, because it’s still the best tool in the marketplace.” Tostrup agrees. “Scott understands relationships and authenticity is his number one asset. That resonates in a marketplace.” Both brothers take part in the initial market setup: they attend the general sales meeting where the story first gets told; the ride-withs with individual reps out to the stores and bars. “In a way, we’re both real nerds about history, and that forms the basis of the types of spirits Todd makes,” says Scott. “That’s a good story to tell.” Todd adds, “the distributors that we work with get us, they get the creative part.” Which brings us to the 800-pound gorilla in the stillroom: the now-famous three-chamber still. For years, Todd researched its existence, specs and anticipated output and was convinced it had to be re-created. But first he had to make the case to brother Scott. “I have a great deal of faith in Todd’s ability to execute,” says Scott. “My concern was whether the public was ready for it. We knew it would be different, but afraid that some would say, ‘Well, yeah, that’s different but it’s not for me.’ It was certainly a leap of faith, but we wanted to turn back the hands of time with this old world relic and breathe life back into it. It was such a part of Americana and it fit so well into our philosophy.” Todd admits, “the success of the three-chamber gave Scott a lot more confidence in my thinking process.” In a world of the short-term, the goosed ledger sheets, the fly-by-night brands that appear and disappear, it’s no wonder Leopold Bros. holds a dominant position in the imagination and palates of drinkers everywhere. Todd’s wizardry with a still and barrel is balanced by the patient, methodical approach to the marketplace enacted by Scott. Todd has a little fun with that. “The best part of hiring a new person is when they come to me after a few weeks and announce, ‘You guys are nothing alike!’” And yet, they are: two brothers with an eye on the same goal of authenticity from two different perspectives with two separate talents. A definition of long-term success. ■


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member spotlight

Aiming High in the Lowcountry Wise decisions and a modernized beverage alcohol landscape fuel High Wire Distilling Co.’s growth trajectory. BY JEFF CIOLETTI

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hen I called Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall to chat for this piece, they were capping both a hectic week and a monumental year. A couple of nights before, they were schmoozing South Carolina legislators at a craft-spirits-fueled reception—but this time they weren’t advocating for any specific piece of legislation. “The lobbyist [the South Carolina Craft Distillers Guild] hired said, ‘Look, legislators don’t like it when you just come to them and always have an ask … they want you to actually just say hello and welcome them into your business and show them around—not [just] when you’re asking for things,’” says Blackwell, who, with wife, Marshall, co-founded Charleston’s High Wire Distilling Co. in 2013. “You’ve got to build these relationships.” The state guild, of which Blackwell serves as president, had much to be thankful for at the event. It had been nearly one full year since the state passed significant, craftfriendly updates to its liquor laws. “[Before the May 2021 change] we were only able to serve up to 3 ounces per person per day and it had to be in conjunction with a tour—and any bottle sales had to be in conjunction with a tour,” explains Blackwell. And of those bottles, a distillery could only sell three per person, per day and had to close at 7 p.m. It also was prohibited from serving food and had to sell any items that weren’t alcohol-related—t-shirts, hats, other merch—in a separate retail room. And minors who were with their parents of legal drknking age weren’t allowed anywhere near the tasting room. “We get a lot of tourists and they’ve got their families and they couldn’t bring them in,” Blackwell continues. “We’re not trying to fill up the bar with a bunch of kids, but [previously] we had to say, ‘You can come in, but your family has to stay outside.’” But as of last year, all of that’s changed. Since then, Blackwell notes that it’s on the bottle-sales front that he’s seen the most significant difference. “We’ve basically doubled the number of bottles someone can buy and I honestly didn’t think that people would [buy more],” he says. “But it’s been pretty great, especially during the holidays [when] we had people walking out of here with six bottles.” However, he concedes, High Wire has yet to capitalize on some of the other facets of the legislative change—mainly because the distillery is being methodical on how it expands operations to do so. “We felt like that’s another whole business


High Wire founders Ann Marshall and Scott Blackwell

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to open up at night to create food and all that stuff,” he says. Instead, High Wire is gradually incorporating foodservice into its operation, starting with what Blackwell calls “elevated snacks”—cheeses, nuts and charcuterie from local artisans, served alongside crackers made from the distillery’s spent grain. This month service is expanding a bit further to lunch, again with an eye toward showcasing local purveyors and regional cuisine. The Lowcountry’s famous for its shrimp, so shrimp po-boys will likely be on the menu. Field peas grown by farmers High Wire already works with will form the base of field pea hummus (another partner for those spent-grain crackers). “We’ve been pretty conservative with it,” says Marshall. “I think our labor market has stabilized, but we just were more focused on smooth transition into lunch service so we could just not burn anybody out or stretch the limits of our crew. We’ve taken baby steps and we’re excited about the next iteration of this menu and starting to take reservations and really formalize it like a restaurant.” The cautious approach is understandable, considering the fact that we’ve yet to fully emerge from a pandemic that began nearly two and a half years ago. That reality is certainly not lost on Blackwell and Marshall—considering that the distillery had just completed a move to a larger, 23,000-square-foot facility right before COVID hit in early 2020. The facility’s more-spacious tasting room remained closed for most of that year. “It’s South Carolina and we could’ve opened full-tilt in May [2020], but we didn’t want to expose our staff to that so we stayed closed really until September,” Blackwell recalls. The distillery also has an event space it wasn’t able to rent out for fear of fostering a super-spreader situation. “Last year we were paying 150% rent to make up for COVID, we were just getting pummeled,” Blackwell says. “I’m not crying, it was just a tough, tough year.” But things are definitely looking up. The distillery has been able to double its staff in the past year and sales are up about 40% annually. “Next year, I think we’ll really start to see an increase because we’ll start to add more hours, especially toward the weekend,” he says. “Maybe we won’t be open until midnight, we might be open until 9 or something like that. Because I think we’re going to add some cocktail classes, whiskey classes—maybe once a month or twice a month.” (In April, the distillery generously hosted the judging for ACSA’s Judging of Craft Spirits competition.) The fact that such instructional events are

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“I think that the decisions we’ve made around our whiskey program early on have proven to really distinguish the brand.” —Ann Marshall of High Wire Distilling Co.

even being planned speaks volumes on how far the Charleston cocktail scene has come since Blackwell and Marshall, whose prior entrepreneurial endeavors were in the natural foods space, decided to open a distillery. Until 2006—just a handful of years before High Wire officially opened—South Carolina bars and restaurants were only allowed to sell cocktails made from spirits packaged in mini-bottles. “South Carolina has had a pretty—what I would call—not mature cocktail scene, [due] largely in part to the fact that we’d just gotten out of mini-bottles,” Marshall says. “And that definitely prohibited a lot of creativity with cocktails because there weren’t many liquors that were available in mini-bottles. It was a challenge that we didn’t quite think about when we opened, but cocktail culture has evolved dramatically since that point.” With that scene poised to rapidly mature, Marshall believes that she and Blackwell got into the business at exactly the right time. “We have been fortunate enough to have jumped in right when that wave was taking off, when a new wave of chefs were coming up in Charleston,” Marshall continues. “And that level of culinary creativity and bartending creativity definitely boosted what we are doing, especially since one of our biggest themes here is creating spirits from a culinary

Jimmy Red corn

perspective—same thing with paying attention to ingredients and how they’re grown and who grew them.” That ethos is most apparent in the distillery’s Revival Straight Bourbon Whiskey, made with 100% Jimmy Red corn and its Revival Rye Whiskey, with locally sourced 100% Wrens Abruzzi heirloom rye. “I think that the decisions we’ve made around our whiskey program early on have proven to really distinguish the brand,” Marshall says. Specifically, High Wire opted against sourcing whiskey when it was starting up. “[Sourcing] is certainly the easier route, but we knew that we would never be able to get out from that model once we started it,” she reveals. “We just started a very patient program growing this Jimmy Red corn, two and a half acres the first year, nine acres the second year, 13 acres the third year. This year, we have 330 acres of Jimmy Red under plant and a storage warehouse that’s got a substantial amount of whiskey in it.” Next year, a sizable portion of that whiskey—120 barrels’ worth—will be bottled-inbond ready. “So I think patience has won out,” Marshall concludes, “even though I don’t think Scott and I are particularly patient people.” ■



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distilling destinations

Andrew Lohfeld and Patrick Hernandez launched Roulaison Distilling Co. in 2016.

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Cane to Bottle Louisiana embraces craft rum, spirits with local flavor and stories BY JOHN HOLL


ouisiana seems like the ideal state for a craft distillery boom. Its agriculture industry is robust with sugar cane and crops like rice and wheat, as well as sweet potatoes. There is a strong connection among residents for supporting local and grassroots enterprises that furthers the collective culture. And, of course, there is New Orleans, the city known for parties, parades and to-go cups. It has been slow going to get the craft


spirits industry moving, says Andrew Lohfeld the co-founder and CEO of Roulaison Distilling Co. in New Orleans. “I always say that, generally speaking, Louisiana is about five years behind everyone else, so here’s a burgeoning movement,” says Lohfeld who is also the president of the Louisiana Distillers Guild. “When we opened up in 2014 there were three [distilleries] in the state and now, we have 10 times that, and there are another 20 getting ready to

open. The movement is happening and happening quickly.” In conversations with distillers, it does not take long for sugar cane to come up. It’s a dominant industry in the Gulf Coast state and something with which most residents are intimately familiar. Boasting rums made with local cane is also a talking point that helps forge a bond between distillers and drinkers. “The scene here is young but this is a natural point for rum production,” says

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“Some of the best sugar cane in the world is in our backyard.”

—Meagen MorelandTaliancich of Happy Raptor Distilling

Moreland-Taliancich says that employees are always working to come up with new twists and flavors which not only keeps customers happy, but the in-house creativity flowing. Small distillers around the state are also working with bars and restaurants to work craft offerings into menus and lineups, often talking up the local angle as a way to connect with customers. This seems to be working, distillers said, especially as tourism rebounds and more people are going out as COVID-19 has less of an impact on daily life. “I say it all the time but ‘local, local, local’ needs to be part of the dialogue as much as possible when we’re marketing,” says Olivia Stewart of Three Roll Estate in Baton Rouge. “That’s what restaurants want and care about and that’s what we’re relaying to consumers in independent grocery stores. It’s about cocktails, tours and tastings. That’s how each of us

are reaching customers directly.” Three Roll Estate is located on a sugar cane farm and mill that has been in Stewart’s family for generations and is helping to tell the story of local agriculture in a burgeoning industry. Other distillers that source their cane from other farms have seen a positive change in attitude from the companies that are not more willing to work with the small companies because it leads to increased visibility. There is a lot of focus on tourist business. New Orleans sees roughly 20 million tourists annually, and the distillers see the benefit of meeting as many of them as possible and then sending them home with bottles, but the distillers also want to focus on locals and fulltime residents and forge a deeper connection. “Tourists come and go but locals are forever,” says Mark Taliancich. There are other spirits being made in the

Thomas Soltau, the head distiller and principle owner of Sugarfield Spirits in Gonzales. “A lot of other distillers around the country are making rum from molasses that they got from Louisiana. Here it’s a local ingredient and it expresses a sense of place.” Meagen Moreland-Taliancich the co-founder and chief brand officer of Happy Raptor Distilling agrees. “Some of the best sugar cane in the world is in our backyard.” Happy Raptor, which is located in New Orleans, sources its molasses from an 100-year-old family refinery, which only adds to the lore. “It’s truly cane to bottle,” she says. “We’re making something magic from their sugar cane. And in terms of quality it can’t be beat and it’s just so special and important.” Sugar cane also plays big into the distillery’s offerings. When Happy Raptor opened in February of 2020, it offered a handful of rums in both classic styles and flavors, including hibiscus, bananas foster and king cake. The company—which was also cofounded by Moreland-Taliancich’s husband Mark Taliancich (the head distiller) and Peter Rivera—has since added a lineup of flavored simple syrups. As one might expect, cocktails play a big part of the craft distillery story in Louisiana, and especially in New Orleans, where mixed drinks are incredibly popular.


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Porchjam Distillery

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state as well. Porchjam Distillery has released a vodka, gins, and, of course, rum, and has other projects in the works. New Orleans, says Jason Zeno, breeds creativity. “The culture in the city is influenced by so many complementary cultures and its own innate soul that it truly is unique,” he says. “This is why the food, music and cocktail scene is second to none. Outside of the city is the beautiful bayou and fields of sugarcane that give you a sense of terroir. “No matter if you were born here or you are a transplant, the city can feel like home or it is simply not a good fit. This is not an easy place to live by any means, but there is a trade off for the culture and experience of living here. A unique place breeds unique art, food and drink.” The craft distillers in the state say there is a lot of work to be done legislatively and regulation-wise to help the industry grow to reach its full potential. Those efforts are underway and Lohfeld and others say that legislators are receptive to advancements. For those who are getting ready to travel to the state and to experience all New Orleans has to offer, there are a few pieces of advice that local craft distillery pros have to offer. “Dress for the weather,” says MorelandTaliancich. “It’s gets pretty warm but that’s why we have cold drinks.” And always remember that a Hurricane tastes better with locally distilled rum. ■

Louisiana Distillery Tour As part of ACSA’s 9th Annual Distillers’ Convention & Vendor Trade Show in New Orleans, we are offering two unique distillery tours. On July 20, get a taste of the Bayou State on ACSA’s pre-convention distillery tour as we spend a full day exploring some of the area’s best distilleries, including Three Roll Estate, Sugarfield Spirits and Porchjam Distillery. On Sunday, July 24, we’re offering a hands-on distilling tour called, A Foray into Flavor, where we’ll be discussing how distillers approach creating flavorful spirits, touching on barrel aging, vapor distillation and maceration/infusions. The distilleries include Roulaison Distilling Co., Porchjam and Happy Raptor Distilling. Visit for details.

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Olivia Stewart of Three Roll Estate

Business Sense

The name Three Rivers Distilling Co. seems evocative and place-based, but is vague enough that that place could be anywhere.

ON BRAND Tips to keep in mind when naming your distillery BY ISAAC ARTHUR

I recently spoke with a startup distillery that had its entire path to market figured out. They had a location pinned down. They knew what equipment they were going to purchase. They understood their portfolio mix and go-to-market plan. They had even hired a master distiller.

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They had everything figured out, but they still didn’t have a name. When I asked about this, I heard something that we’ve found to be a common refrain amongst beverage alcohol founders. “It seems almost impossible to find a name that’s fitting and available.”

I have to admit that even I feel this way sometimes. And my branding firm, Indianapolis-based CODO Design, is almost always developing a name for a startup distillery or brewery or some other beverage product. Finding a compelling name for your distillery is every bit as important as the spirits


you produce because it is often people’s first interaction with your brand. Your name is the start of a story and communicates, even before someone sees your identity or packaging, who you are, what you stand for and why they should care about your company. It’s the foundation for your brand identity, packaging, marketing, sales and overall culture. If you’re struggling to name your distillery, here are some of the most important criteria we use when evaluating name options with our clients during the branding process. 1. A great name is evocative and immediately reflective of your differentiator and story. Your name should reflect your brand’s positioning and values. Is there something special about your team or where you’re located? What do you stand for and what role will your distillery play in someone’s life? People are buying your story—and what it allows them to tell the world about themselves—just as much as they are buying your liquor itself. A great name gives them a solid reference point to begin that relationship. For example, the name Plain Spoke Cocktail Co. (of Madison, Wisconsin) reflects the company’s belief that a great cocktail experience should be enjoyed by everyone (and not taken so seriously). It uses straightforward ingredients and a wry brand voice that lives naturally in their Wisconsin and Minnesota home markets.

extensions like canned cocktails, a great name should serve as a platform for these moves (though, your larger brand strategy should dictate whether or not you should extend your parent brand’s name through other products). Either way, a name that gives you this option is great to have. Consider Backbone Bourbon Co., whose name speaks to its unapologetically bold spirits. The flagship product, Backbone Bourbon, has served as a conceptual springboard for several follow-on brands over the years, including Bone Snapper Rye, Bone Dry Gin, Old Bones Bourbon and recently, a ready-todrink (RTD) cocktail brand extension called Bone ’n Cola. 4. A great name is portable. Your name shouldn’t hold you back as you grow and expand into new markets. We’ve worked with several brands with hyper-local, esoteric names that only meant something in a particular town (if even then). This is fine if you intend to be a hyper-local business. But if you have any intention of scaling and wider distribution, consider how a less specific name could help you achieve that. Take Three Rivers Distilling Co. of Fort Wayne, Indiana, for example. Three Rivers seems evocative and place-based, but is vague enough that that place

Finding a compelling name for your distillery is every bit as important as the spirits you produce because it is often people’s first interaction with your brand. could be anywhere. This allows the distillery to distribute throughout different regions without being held back by an overly-specific, esoteric name. 5. A great name can (and must) be federally trademarked. Here’s where this process gets frustrating. You find a perfect name—it tells your story, it’s short and sweet and it’s evocative. And after some research, you find that it’s so perfect that another distillery is already using it. A great brand name has to be able to be

2. A great name is easy to spell, pronounce and recall. This point is subjective, but a name that is easy to spell and recall is handy when you want people to find your spirits on shelf or online. And names, like spirits, have a mouthfeel—a name with alliteration, or a lovely rhythm can be pleasant to say. When it comes to character count, a great name doesn’t necessarily have to be short, though that can be nice when it comes to developing your identity or presenting the name on a bottle (longer names can be more unwieldy when developing labels). 3. A great name can scale and extend to additional categories. Does your distillery’s name lend itself to a larger theme? A great name can carry through to your products themselves to enhance your overall brand name and story. This becomes even more important when it comes to extending the brand. Whether through a small batch pilot program or brand


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Plain Spoke Cocktail Co. a wry brand voice that lives naturally in its Wisconsin and Minnesota home markets

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Backbone Bourbon, has served as a conceptual springboard for several follow-on brands.

federally trademarked. Is there another distillery, brewery, winery or any beverage company out there with the same (or similar) name as what you’re planning to use? Are your domain name and social media handles available? If you run into any conflicts on any of these fronts, you may need to find another option. A quick note here. Don’t try to save some costs by doing your own intellectual property (IP) work. Work with an IP attorney to ensure any name option you’re interested in is free and clear to use. Ask your attorney to run a knockout search on any candidates and when you find one that’s available, trademark it and lock it down. By doing this work yourself, you may save a few thousand dollars in attorney fees. But imagine if you get it wrong and have to completely rebrand down the line after sinking tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars into work that will have to be redone—thousands of bottles, enormous building signage,

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the brand identity work itself. All gone. Please work with an attorney. Final Thoughts Be wary of made-up words. Invented words can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, they tend to be available—and they can seem like a godsend after ripping your hair out from the naming process. However, these often carry no ingrained meaning to potential customers, which means you have to work that much harder to tell your story. Why start off in the hole if you can avoid it? A great name is appropriate—it fits within the category (unless it doesn’t). A name should make sense within its category and consumer expectations, unless you can break that category canon in a fun, delightful way that stands out. As a starting point, it’s always a good idea to cleave to category expectations, at least when you begin your name exploration process. Then, break it as

needed down the line. Work with a lawyer. Wait a minute? Didn’t you just say this a few bullet points ago? Yep, I did. And I’m including it down here again so you don’t miss it. It’s that important. Find a great attorney and work with them through this process. Good luck out there. ■

Isaac Arthur is a co-founder of CODO Design, an Indianapolisbased food & beverage branding firm founded in 2009 on the belief that they can create better work by directly including clients in the creative process.





PUTTING PACKAGING TO WORK Creative packaging solutions have allowed some craft spirits companies to keep moving forward during the pandemic. BY ANDREW KAPLAN

Supply chain delays. Skyrocketing costs. It’s enough to make any craft spirits entrepreneur want to throw up their hands in despair. The companies in the following examples may have shared some of those feelings over the past couple of years. But they have also come up with creative ways to use their packaging to add value to their brand in one way or another, despite these challenging times. TEQUILA KOMOS The pandemic-related supply chain disruptions have created enormous challenges for many distillers when it comes to getting enough bottles and other crucial materials. Industry veteran Richard Betts launched Tequila Komos in late 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. But a decision he made early on—to launch his tequila in ceramic bottles instead of glass ones—has turned out to be a fortuitous one for his brand. “It’s not the easiest thing to get these bottles, but at present it’s a whole lot easier than getting glass bottles,” he says about the vitrified porcelain bottles Komos uses. Komos is a luxury tequila brand whose bottles sell at over $100 a pop, and many craft spirits companies today would have a hard time making ceramic bottles costefficient for anything other than limited-run specialty offerings. “They’re unbelievably expensive from what we discovered,” says David Schuemann, owner and creative principal, CF Napa Brand Design, who has found ceramics can cost twice as much as glass bottles. There can be other drawbacks as well. Fabrizio Gulì, category director EMEA, for Berlin Packaging and Bruni Glass, says, “Ceramic has a critical issue for spirits producers due to a lower liquid retention/ higher evaporation than glass, especially with

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high-proof liquids (40% ABV +). This issue, together with the non-transparency of the material, makes every purchase a bet on how much liquid is remaining in the bottle after some time.” Today, ceramic is more often found amongst spirits brands in Europe than the U.S. But that was not always the case. “Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, ceramic alcohol bottles (or decanters) were very popular among many of the bigger brands,” explains Clara Allaman, national accounts manager for Anfora, which supplies Komos its porcelain bottles. “Today, it is not uncommon to find collectors hunting for old ceramic bottles to complete their collection.” She continues, “We are now seeing a push by many distilleries to return to the roots as we enter a new golden age in the spirits industry. This means not only bringing back original recipes and methods, but also reevaluating packaging to give more value to these special releases. Launching collector’s edition, ceramic bottles is a return to the past that we’d like to see many of the established and new distillers offer.” Angela Agati-Casady, vertical market manager – specialty glass, Berlin Packaging, says her company has gotten requests for ceramic bottles from the tequila and mezcal industries. “We also have one high-end bourbon customer that is in a ceramic bottle today,” she adds. Betts says turning to ceramic for Komos has really defined the brand in a crowded market. He has purposely foregone secondary packaging, like a luxury box, to get maximum impact on the shelf. “By just putting it on the shelf and enabling the customer to touch it and feel it drives trial,” he says. “They’re like, ‘Oh my God, this thing is beautiful, I want to hold it.’”

In fact, the different varieties of Komos took home gold, silver and bronze medals in the specialty spirits category in the 2021 Craft Spirits Packaging Awards. According to Betts, the hand-crafted way the bottles are produced makes some of the bottles individually unique. An advantage of this is that it fits with the ethos of craft distilling, that search for something special. But another downside of ceramic bottles, and something touchy with consumers today, is that unlike glass, ceramic bottles are not recyclable. But Anfora’s bottles sales manager Gabriela Lopez says their beauty makes consumers want to collect them. “Consumers are buying beverages in ceramic containers because of its value,” she says. “They can keep the bottles in their homes for different reuses like candles, flower bases, or just ornamental items.” Adds Allaman, “Depending on your product offering and price point, ceramic bottles may not be suitable for all of your presentations. However, the use of ceramic bottles for limited editions, small runs and collectors series will only add value to the customer and give your spirit a greater shelf presence.” She continues, “Consumers that chase limited releases and value premium products are usually less worried about the overall cost of a bottle and more concerned with finding limited release and highly allocated spirits— either to open and drink with friends or to add to their collection. Either way, the more attractive and unique the packaging, the more value it adds to the overall experience.” ANCHORAGE DISTILLERY Anchorage Distillery undertook a packaging redesign just before the pandemic, and part of the aim was to broaden the appeal



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“It’s just [the] little attention to details that I think makes craft a little bit different. It is really elevating what we wanted to be as a craft distillery.” —Skyler Fancher of Anchorage Distilling

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of the brand beyond just the tourists who regularly visit the distillery’s home state of Alaska. The redesign could not have come at a better time. Shortly after the new bottle hit the market, Alaskan tourism would come to a complete halt. Like many Alaskan businesses, Anchorage Distillery has always relied a good deal on sales to tourists, especially the cruise ship industry. For example, Anchorage Distillery produces a special cranberry vodka just for Princess Cruises Lines. “Despite the fact that cruising really shut down and took away a huge amount of their audience, the new packaging has helped them really make an impact in the market and start to gain recognition and distribution and sales throughout Alaska and stay afloat, honestly,” says Cynthia Sterling, who worked on the redesign as brand creative director for Affinity Creative Group. Sterling recalls how the original design “really did not communicate the level of quality or the craft distilling approach that it really needed to. It looked very inexpensive and unsophisticated and didn’t have a clear and understandable brand identity.” Adds Skyler Fancher, Anchorage’s CRO, “It just didn’t have a cohesive image of what you thought a small craft distillery should have. We knew we wanted a package that would scream craft distillery, but also really emphasize Alaska in small, detailed ways.” The redesign sought to “bring the authentic Alaskan craft spirits concept to life,” Sterling says. The revamped design sets an offwhite cream-colored, wavy label (chosen to represent snow-capped mountains), against a blue-green-colored glass bottle. “It evokes the glaciers and the water and the sky that is just a big part of the experience of being in Alaska,” says Sterling. They also put the iconic image of an Alaskan moose front and center. “We wanted to make sure that the packaging expressed authentic Alaska, as opposed to the kind of cliché Alaska. We really wanted to find something that would express the beauty and the uniqueness of the Alaskan region,” Sterling says. Over time, the company would like to continue to broaden its distribution beyond Alaska in the lower 48. Its products are currently available in several states. “It is just a more elegant look, more cohesive, a branding across the entire platform, which I think is important,” Fancher says. “It lets everyone know there is something special about this brand. There’s a uniqueness factor. It isn’t one of the 900 distilleries from the lower 48.


It’s one of 11 in the state of Alaska that’s very proud of the fact that it comes from grains grown in the state, that we’re in tune with the Alaskan culture and nature up here.” Adds Sterling: “This is a good example of how a package can help a brand expand their markets and grow significantly by creating a very clear visual story that consumers can connect with.” “It’s just [the] little attention to details that I think makes craft a little bit different,” adds Fancher about the brand’s new packaging. “It is really elevating what we wanted to be as a craft distillery.” GRANDER RUM Like many craft spirits producers, Dan DeHart, owner of Grander Rum, found himself in a tight spot as a result of the pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. But he says a late 2020 change in the law allowing 700 mL-sized spirits bottles to be sold in the U.S. could not have come at a better time. Grander Rum is distilled, aged and bottled in Panama using locally grown sugar cane, and DeHart, who distributes his brand overseas, happened to have a supply of 700-mL bottles when it became near to impossible for him to get his hand on 750s. “I actually had 700 mLs sitting in Panama,” he says. The U.S. market had always been an outlier when it came to the 750-mL bottle size, with the international standard most countries around the world use being 700 mL. DeHart says being able to use his existing 700 mL bottles for his U.S. customers, also allowed him to maintain his price without having to push through increases. “It allowed me to be a little flexible,” he says. “And I think what we’ll see, particularly maybe with smaller suppliers, is in the future people just utilizing the 700 mL versus having two different sizes. It’s a little more difficult or costly for a smaller supplier to manage both inventories for two different markets.” Priscila Neiva, director of sales for ByQuest of Stockton, California, says since 700-mL bottles were legalized in the U.S., her company has been advocating for more widespread adoption of the size. “We are not sure why this has not taken hold more aggressively in the U.S. yet,” she says. “I think the market is needing a large brand to embrace the 700 mL in the U.S.” “It is a nice option,” adds Schuemann of CF Napa Brand Design, “because it nearly looks the same size as a 750, so it gives you some pricing opportunity there to be a little more aggressive, get a little bit better margin.” ■

Dan DeHart of Grander Rum

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Sales & Marketing

E-COMMERCE ESSENTIALS Building an effective digital marketing strategy BY SUSAN MOONEY

As recently as 2019, e-commerce was an insignificant channel for beverage alcohol brands to consider. This changed overnight with COVID-19 as distilleries needed to replace lost revenue from closed tasting rooms and consumers shifted to buying alcohol online. This has forced distilleries nationwide to create an e-commerce solution that fits their business needs. Now that distilleries have this new, active channel, they are trying to navigate best practices for attracting customers, getting sales and growing revenue. It is not enough to have an e-commerce solution, you need to create the right marketing strategy and allocate budget and staff to succeed. This is essential because online marketing not only impacts online sales but also impacts brick and mortar sales and brand awareness. Consider the following: • By 2024, it’s estimated that e-commerce will account for 7% of alcohol sales which is a 7-times increase from 2019 levels, according to Supermarket News • According to IRI, more than 76% of all customer shopping trips begin online, regardless of whether the purchase transaction

occurs in a brick-and-mortar store or online • 46% of online sales are premium brands • 40% of consumers said that they already knew what they wanted/what they were going to buy • 10% of online sales were the result of seeing an ad • 10% of online sales were driven by online reviews • Brands have used product and customer insights from online activities to inform other areas of their business In addition to sales, e-commerce allows beverage alcohol brands to learn about their brand that they used to have to rely on retailers or distributors to tell them. That information was often hard to get and outdated by the time it got to the brand owner. Significant additional benefits of e-commerce for distillery owners and producers is that it: • Allows you to create effective plans, strategies and budgets and measure the results • Allows for ongoing, real-time learning about your brand that is not mediated by a third party retailer or distributor • Allows you to build direct relationships:

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with your customers, distributors and retailers Benefitting from this new channel requires a plan. When we work with clients to create and implement their digital strategies, there are six areas we look at starting with search/ SEO, social media, advertising and then layering in email marketing, content marketing and online events. In this article, we’ll closely examine the first three areas, and we’ll take a closer look at the final three in a future issue. SEARCH ENGINES Simply put, search engine optimization (SEO) is making it easier for your product to show up when consumers do an online search. Executing SEO well is not as simple and requires ongoing tweaks and updates. Note that SEO optimization is different from paid search which we will discuss in the advertising section. The first step is to understand the brand, how it is behaving online and what are possible avenues for growth. One way we do this is by conducting search engine research to understand what people are searching for in the category, segment and your product’s consumer target. We look at search word trends and keywords to understand if there are preferred terms that should be used in the website, ad copy and social presence to garner better results. The research provides an empirical understanding of what people are interested in and eliminates some of the guesswork before you start investing money in audiences, terms and geographies. Based on the findings you can develop more effective campaign copy, employ SEO keywords for your website and even develop content ideas that will get your brand noticed. Another benefit to the keyword research is that we can see what markets are high-potential markets based on the concentration of searches/ over indexing. Finally, if the brand is already selling online we look at customer profiles in terms of demographics and geographic


locations. All of this information is then used to create rankable content, geographies and target audience profiles. SOCIAL MEDIA Once we have an understanding of the brand and the target audience, we conduct a social media audit to ensure that the brand is making the most of its social media presence. The social media presence must accurately reflect the brand and it has to be interesting to this target audience. While many people are obsessed with follower numbers, we’re valuing engagement, shares, saves, etc. In general we have found two key mistakes that distilleries repeatedly make. The first, is trying to have a presence on all social media channels but not doing a good job at any of them. Social media’s main goals are to raise awareness about your brand and engage with potential new consumers. So if you are spread thin among too many platforms, it is time to evaluate what platform is most important and focus your time and budget on doing that in a high quality manner. The second mistake is poor quality and/ or monotonous images and copy. Many feeds feature bottle shot after bottle shot. Remember that social media is meant to entertain and engage, so you must provide something other than bottle shots if you plan to keep your followers engaged. Yes, social media is evolving into a selling platform but many of the sales opportunities available to other consumer packaged goods aren’t available to beverage alcohol. Best practices in social media include focusing on your two strongest platforms and making sure that you create a content plan that includes non-product shots that will appeal to your target audience. For example, if you are making a rye whiskey, show where the rye is coming from, if possible show it being harvested and what it looks like before it is made into whiskey. If your distillery is in a beautiful location, show some beautiful photos of the surrounding area or iconic locations in your neighborhood. Keep event announcements, tasting room hours, etc. in Facebook, highlights or stories so that your feed can remain the beautiful branding tool that it needs to be. ADVERTISING While social media is meant to develop your brand, warm up your audience and engage them, advertising is meant to sell. Advertising is essential to get product awareness, clicks and sales conversions, but it also causes a


lot of stress in new brands worried They came and they looked. about how best to spend their marketing budget. Again, a They came and they bought. bit of planning helps increase the effectiveness of your They bought again. campaigns. First, define what your goals are so you They buy regularly. can determine what type of campaign you need. Do you They buy regularly and advocate. want to run a teaser campaign for a new product launch or promotion? Or do you want an awareness campaign to find • Ensure that you have tracking code on more customers or a conversion campaign all e-commerce solutions. This is especially to get sales? If you jump right to conversion important for beverage alcohol where the campaign because your goal is to get sales, transaction is happening on another platform. remember that potential customers must • Run campaigns in one geographic area see your brand several times before they are to test different creative and messaging then ready to purchase so a good awareness camexpand if budget and sales reach allow paign will drive a better conversion campaign • Overlay geographies where you have down the road. on the ground activities, accounts and/or a Once you determine the type of campaign distillery and tasting room presence you need to create the appropriate campaign To measure your advertising campaigns, creative and copy for the job. Successful look at CTRs and conversions but it is also ad campaigns communicate your products’ essential to look at customer acquisition costs unique benefits while also being smart about (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLTV). keyword usage. If you are a new brand, While CAC and CLTV are harder to calculate, develop several distinct messages, then narmany brands have learned that digital marrow in based on results. For example, create keting is their most cost-effective tool even one campaign about craft, create another without knowing how online brand awareness about ingredients and a third related to your translated into a brick and mortar sales. It is location, your family or why you started the easy to see from the above chart who is your distillery. Then track which campaign gets the most valuable customer. best click-through rates (CTR) and converAgain, these are the first three marketing sion rate and do more of that type. Once activities we implement when working with you have the messaging down, try different e-commerce clients. In a future issue, we’ll visual creative to see which works best. Note explore the next three marketing initiatives that messaging and creative preferences will that we implement. ■ vary depending on whether you are running a teaser, awareness or conversion campaign so you should optimize for each. The benefit of online advertising is that you can track results Susan Mooney is quickly and easily if you have set your chanthe founder and nels up properly. CEO of Spirits Unlike social media, new brands should be Consulting very pragmatic about showing the product Group (SCG) and talking about key benefits versus running which provides lifestyle campaigns that are aspirational and e-commerce and are more effective for mature brands. As your digital marketadvertising campaign creates conversions, ing solutions for you need to build a database of your consumbeverage alcohol ers so that you can then market via email brands. For more information email info@spirmarketing. Some other best practices include: or visit

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EXTINGUISHING HAZARDS ACSA is using OSHA grant funds to create a one-day course on fire protection and prevention. BY KIRSTIN BROOKS

A fundamental safety hazard in craft spirits production is fire. Each step of distilled alcohol production—from milling and storing grain to distilling and aging barrels of alcohol—carries a risk of fire. Fires can destroy property and equipment. Fires can wreak havoc on the environment. Even worse, fires can take human lives. Without proper training and prevention, injuries will occur. In an industry that has witnessed record growth, with fewer than 100 operating small distilleries in 2010, to significantly more than 2,250 operating in 2020, safety education has not kept pace with this expanding business sector. While safety training is often geared toward other industries or large operations and brands, craft distilleries with small teams of employees are often left to figure it out on their own. There is general agreement that fire safety is important, but there is not a universal playbook on how to train each employee to avoid fire hazards. Seeing this gap in industryspecific training, the American Craft Spirits Association applied for and was awarded a U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Susan Harwood Training Grant. ACSA’s Capacity Building Pilot Program grant aims to educate the craft spirits industry at large on fire protection and prevention.

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The need to address fire safety in craft distilling is clear, and it is also clear that industry-wide training and resources are of interest to industry members. When ACSA has polled its members, safety is consistently in the top three of topic areas in which members request further education. In a recent industry-wide survey, 95% of respondents were not aware of fire safety training specifically tailored to craft distilleries in their area. Additionally, 85% of respondents determined that distillery fire prevention and protection was an important topic to them, and 96% expressed some interest in an educational program on craft distillery fire protection and prevention. The most-requested fire topics were: explosion-proof wiring and equipment, fire code compliance requirements, rated electrical systems, dust explosion hazards and sprinkler systems. Using this feedback, ACSA is using OSHA grant funds to create a one-day course on fire protection and prevention, customized to address the needs of craft distillers, and presented by Industrial Safety and Training Services on Aug. 31 at Watershed Distillery in Columbus, Ohio. The class will be free of charge for members and non-members alike, because we believe there should be no barrier to safety in this industry. As a requirement of

The need to address fire safety in craft distilling is clear, and it is also clear that industrywide training and resources are of interest to industry members. the grant, all materials for the course will be submitted to OSHA for approval, so attendees can be assured that the course will not only be scaled to craft distilleries, but also compliant with federal OSHA requirements. While ACSA plans to expand this training program to reach distillers where they are, this inaugural class is limited to 40 attendees per the grant’s requirements. ■

Click Here to Secure Your Space


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

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

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

Register Now

closing time


As we noted in this month’s cover story on ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, spirit-based RTDs have a long way to go to catch up with hard seltzer sales. According to data from NielsenIQ, offpremise sales of hard seltzer in 2021 were $4.6 billion, compared to nearly $800 million for spiritsbased RTDs. Take a look at how those numbers compare to other RTDs over the past four years.





$766 million

$518 million


$82 million





NielsenIQ scan of off-premise channels; latest 52 weeks ending Jan. 8, 2022

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


Build long-term relationships and enhance industry connections

Help cultivate a competitive landscape for craft distillers

Learn from industry thought leaders

Increase market access


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


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