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VOL. 3, ISSUE 4 | SEPTEMBER 2021

CRAFT SPIRITS

PACKAGING

MAKING SENSE OF THE ‘CANDEMIC’ ON-PREMISE

THE RESURGENCE OF UNCERTAINTY

THE ART, SCIENCE AND BUSINESS OF DISTILLING

CLEARLY CRAFT WHY WE NO LONGER CAN TAKE A NEUTRAL POSITION ON VODKA

A PUBLICATION OF THE AMERICAN CR AF T SPIRITS ASSOCIATION


Bulk Spirits for your Custom-Crafted Brands

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

Organic Spirits

Unaged Whiskey

Cream Liqueur

Rums

Brandy & Cognac


CONTENTS

SEPTEMBER 2021

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FEATURES 38

Respecting Vodka Craft distillers embrace local ingredients to concoct vodkas that are anything but neutral. BY JON PAGE

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Best of the Best The best in class honorees from the 2021 Judging of Craft Spirits

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MEMBER SPOTLIGHT A Tight Ship From grain to glass, Spirit Works Distillery sails ahead. BY JON PAGE

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DISTILLING DESTINATIONS Top of the World Alaska distilleries hope to rebound from the depths of the pandemic. BY JEFF CIOLETTI

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C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

Cover photography: Jon Page

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DEPARTMENTS

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8

Editor’s Note

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Contributors

NEW SPIRITS 14

Recent releases from Dogfish Head Distilling Co., Garrison Brothers Distillery and more

IMBIBER’S BOOKSHELF 20

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INDUSTRY UPDATE 22

A conversation with Steve Hawley of Westland Distillery and the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission

LEW’S BOTTOM SHELF 30

Getting Outside the Bubble BY LEW BRYSON

WHAT’S STIRRING 32

Flavorful concoctions from Boot Hill Distllery, J. Carver Distillery, Port Chilkoot Distillery and Ursa Major Distilling

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ACSA AFFAIRS 36

ACSA launches STEPUP Foundation ACSA submits comments on economic competition in the spirits industry.

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


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RAW MATERIALS 58 Sheaves of Gold

Wheat steps into the whiskey spotlight. BY JEFF CIOLETTI

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DISTRIBUTION & LOGISTICS 68

Wholesalers Give Craft Spirits an Extra Hand Larger distributors reinvent themselves to appeal to the craft market. BY ANDREW KAPLAN

PACKAGING 62

Coping with the ‘Candemic’ How a shortage of cans is threatening the growth of ready-to-drink cocktail programs BY ANDREW KAPLAN

HUMAN RESOURCES 67

Sexism in the Spirits Industry Rooting out toxic culture requires a unified effort. BY SARA BETH URBAN

C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

LEGAL CORNER 71

SALES & MARKETING 76 Crystal Clear

A look at what’s new and innovative in glassware

CLOSING TIME 78

Economic Threats

Distillery to Doorstep The growing demand for DtC BY BREEDEN TESONE

RETAIL: ON-PREMISE 72 In Limbo

Cocktail bars and restaurants navigate restrictions and uncertainty. BY JOHN HOLL

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

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

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

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

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


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Editor’s Note

‘ESSENTIAL’ TRAVEL The day before I wrote this I returned from my first trip out of the country since the pandemic started. Much of Europe had recently opened to vaccinated U.S.-based travelers and I was long overdue with a research project that would take me to Ireland and the Netherlands, with a quick afternoon trip to Belgium thrown in. Upon my return, I have a few initial thoughts that I’d like to share. We could learn a thing or two about on-premise COVID protocols. Many, if not most, venues had just reopened for the first time since this whole mess started. A server at The Long Hall, the iconic Dublin pub that’s more than two and a half centuries old, mentioned to me that the establishment had been closed for 497 days (but who’s counting?) and things were (very tentatively) bustling again. But I couldn’t get past the front door at most places without showing my vaccination card (which I carried with me everywhere). And the first time a bar asked me for my phone number, I thought it meant I had to wait for a table and they’d text me when it was ready. When the host immediately escorted me to my table, I realized it was for contact tracing. Similar procedures were in place in the Netherlands. At one of my go-to Amsterdam cocktail bars, Rosalia’s Menagerie, the tables have two QR codes. There’s the link to the online menu, of course, but before you can even scan that code, you’ve got to scan the one that takes you to the COVID registration page. I felt very safe (and I guess it worked because I got a negative on the COVID test I was required to take before I could return to my home country). The cashless future is closer than you think. Cash has always been king, but that used to be doubly true when traveling abroad (I’m old enough to remember a time when Americans would get mercilessly mocked by other countries for our over-reliance on plastic). Not anymore. Practically every shop, bar, restaurant and fast food joint in Ireland had signs posted strongly encouraging touch-free transactions—and pretty much making us feel guilty for even thinking of using cash. We need more Boilermakers in our lives. The menu at the aforementioned Rosalia’s Menagerie featured an extensive list of recommended kopstootje pairings—the Dutch version of a classic Boilermaker which pairs jenever with beer (“kopstootje” means “head-butt,” based on an old tradition of leaning into a small tulip glass filled to the tippy-top with jenever and slurping the first bit). And Dublin’s Bar 1661—Ireland’s first modern watering hole devoted to the traditional spirit poitin—featured poitin (basically Irish “moonshine”) alongside a perfectly poured pint of Guinness. The combination was sublime. I like the upscaling

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of the old “beer and a shot” and I think there are so many opportunities with U.S. craft beer and spirits—and not just whiskey—to elevate the experience. We also need more museums. There are two major museums focused solely on jenever— one in Schiedam, the Netherlands, and the other in Hasselt, Belgium. (I spent a total of eight hours on the train getting to and from Hasselt for a day trip because I couldn’t miss the museum there). There’s also a lower-key third one in the back room of a jenever-centric pub in Schiedam called ‘T Spul (essentially, “the stuff”). I long for a day when there are museums in every major U.S. city showcasing each of the many categories our distillers produce. I wish we had older buildings. Architecture is everything. Case in point: The Flying Dutchmen cocktail bar in Amsterdam, the brainchild of Dutch mixology icon, jenever authority and all-around force of nature Tess Posthumus. It’s in a 400-year-old building that was once a spice-trade merchant house. The ceilings are staggeringly high and adorned with Renaissance-era paintings (artist unknown) depicting the four seasons. Talk about a vibe! Does the whiskey/whisky divide annoy you? It has nothing on jenever/genever At least countries that opt for the e-less spelling are pretty consistent within their borders—Scotland, Canada, Japan— as are the ones that embrace the ‘e’—the U.S. (except for notable exceptions like Balcones and Maker’s Mark) and Ireland. Not so with jenever. I used to incorrectly think the g/j dynamic was a Holland/Belgium thing, but it’s more of a case of producers in both countries (as well as small parts of France and Germany) never reaching a consensus on a preferred spelling, so it’s all willy-nilly. Sadly, as I write all of this, exactly 24 hours after I reentered the States—the EU recommended to its member countries that they should reimpose restrictions on nonessential travel. Not my fault, I swear! ■

Jeff Cioletti Editor in Chief

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



Thank You, Sponsors! Arglass

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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. malkinlawfirm.com

Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

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Ultra Pure

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


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!

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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. iscbarrels.com

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

Supercap

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Contributors

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 WhiskeyWash.com, American Whiskey and Bourbon+. He is the author of “Tasting Whiskey” (Storey Publishing, 2014), a broad survey of the whiskeys of the world, their history and manufacture. He has also written four regional brewery guidebooks.

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

John Holl is a journalist covering the beer industry. He’s the author of several books including “Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint” and “The American Craft Beer Cookbook.” He is the co-host of 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.

Sara Beth Urban is the executive director of the Tennessee Distillers Guild, working with distilleries statewide to manage and grow the industry as well as to promote the Tennessee Whiskey Trail. She has 10 years of experience in management and marketing and is a passionate advocate for gender equality in the workforce.

Breeden Tesone is a second-year law student at the University of Miami School of Law. This summer she completed a legal externship with the American Craft Spirits Association, which included researching and writing about legislation impacting the craft spirits industry.

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

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


BACK ON TRACK

8TH ANNUAL DISTILLERS’ CONVENTION AND VENDOR TRADE SHOW

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New Spirits

Milam & Greene Whiskey of Blanco, Texas, released its limited-edition, 125-proof HOME Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey to raise funds for HOME, Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers, a nonprofit group made up of musicians and music business professionals dedicated to helping aging musicians in the Austin area pay their housing expenses.

To pay homage to one of the most beautiful rivers in Texas, Garrison Brothers Distillery released Guadalupe. Bottled at 107 proof, Guadalupe is a port cask-finished bourbon that will be available year round. The release from the Hye, Texasbased distillery has been more than six years in the making.

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Delaware-based Dogfish Head Distilling Co. recently announced the launch of its first single malt whiskey, Let’s Get Lost. The 102-proof whiskey is distilled from a custom blend of malted barley and aged onsite for more than three years in charred oak barrels. The resulting caramel-colored liquid is layered with nuanced flavors that are both warming and enticing.

Cathead Distillery of Jackson, Mississippi, recently unveiled the 2021 release of its small batch Old Soul Straight Bourbon Whiskey—a blend of two whiskeys with an identical high-rye mash bill and aged for four and five years respectively. This year’s version boasts a more mature flavor profile compared with its predecessors and is bottled at 90 proof with a high-rye mash bill of 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley.

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


Will you take the gold? Do you produce craft spirits with a creative label, eye-catching design or innovative package? Show them off by entering the second annual Craft Spirits Packaging Awards. The competition is open to all producers of craft spirits. Medalists will be announced at ACSA’s Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show this December and will be featured in the January 2022 issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine.

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New Spirits

Pennsylvania companies Wigle Whiskey and Tröegs Independent Brewing have teamed up to make the 80-proof Pennsylvania Peach Whiskey, Pittsburgh-based Wigle’s first cross-state collaboration with Tröegs of Hershey. The spirit started with Wigle’s Straight Whiskey distilled from regionally grown organic wheat grain. It was aged for four years in new charred oak barrels and then transferred to Tröegs Freaky Peach beer barrels for an additional five months. Finally, the Wigle team steeped the twice-barreled spirit with peaches and apricots.

Maplewood Brewery & Distillery of Chicago announced the launch of its first canned cocktails. The initial lineup consists of three sparkling offerings, including: Palmer Square (12% ABV), which features Maplewood’s Spruce Gin, iced tea and lemonade; Whiskey Sour (15%), which is a blend of Maplewood’s Wheated Whiskey with ginger, lemon, grapefruit, and locally produced orange bitters; and Rum Punch (10%), Maplewood’s unique reimagination of a classic rum punch.

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SanTan Spirits of Chandler, Arizona, is releasing a new trio of ready-to-drink canned cocktails called SunSplash Vodka Soda. These beverages combine SanTan’s vodka with delicious flavors— Cherry Lime, Watermelon and White Peach—all at 5% ABV.

Tamworth Distilling of Tamworth, New Hampshire, announced the release of The Mellow Fellow Corn Whiskey. Made in honor of American essayist, poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, the 84-proof straight corn whiskey is aged two years and was named The Mellow Fellow as a nod to Thoreau’s desire to live simply and peacefully amongst his natural surroundings.

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


New Spirits

Afton, Virginia-based Silverback Distillery announced the release of a new small batch whiskey that coincides with the distillery’s seventh anniversary in August. Using fewer than 10 barrels, the 92-proof Blackback Small Batch 4-Grain is a blend of Silverback Straight Bourbon Whiskey and industry-selected straight bourbon.

Coppercraft Distillery announced the release of four new canned cocktails: Black Cherry Whiskey, Moscow Mule, Rum Punch, and Iced Tea & Lemonade. The new cocktails, which are each 10% ABV, expand the distillery’s popular ready-to-drink portfolio to seven products.

C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

Social Hour Cocktails of Brooklyn, New York, has announced the launch of three new cocktail expressions, including the Sunkissed Fizz (vodka, yuzu, peach, key lime, jasmine), the Strawberry Rhubarb Spritz (aperitivo, white wine, strawberry, rhubarb), and the Prizefighter (rye whiskey, peach, lemon and fernet). They join the Gin & Tonic, Whiskey Mule, and Pacific Spritz that quickly became fan favorites when the brand launched in July 2020.

Philadelphia-based New Liberty Distillery announced the release of two new spirits to the Kinsey brand: Kinsey Pot Distilled Straight Wheat Whiskey (95 proof) and Kinsey Chardonnay Cask Whiskey (80 proof). The Pot Distilled Straight Wheat Whiskey was aged for two years in highly seasoned new char American oak barrels, and the Chardonnay Cask Whiskey was finished in French Chardonnay barrels.

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New Spirits

Dallas-based whiskey producer Oak & Eden has announced the re-release of its summer seasonal whiskey, Rye & Rumba. Inspired by the coastal life, the 90-proof Rye & Rumba begins with Oak & Eden’s award-winning rye whiskey, and is finished with a Caribbean rum soaked American Oak spiral.

Todd Thrasher, who currently produces five rums in his Smoke Stack Series at Potomac Distilling Co. in Washington, D.C., announced the release of the sixth: the 98.72-proof Relaxed Rum. Thrasher has taken a breezier approach to what everyone else calls aging, describing the process as a relaxation period in which rum lays dormant for a while in new American white oak barrels.

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Talnua Distillery of Arvada, Colorado, released two new expressions: Virgin White Oak Cask and Bourbon Cask & Stave Series. Both releases feature American single pot still whiskey, with a mash bill of unmalted and malted barley, and are triple distilled following old world customs. Both releases were aged a minimum of three years and were bottled at 86 proof.

Old Harbor Distilling Co. of San Diego announced the national distribution of its newest line of smallbatch handcrafted spirits: The Adventure Series. This collection of three 80-proof liquors—Gin, Rum and Vodka—was designed to be the ideal craft choice for well placement, as well as an easy choice for any classic cocktail menu.

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


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Imbiber’s Bookshelf

Art Boozel: Cocktails Inspired by Modern and Contemporary Artists Author: Jennifer Croll Publisher: Chronicle Books Release Date: Aug. 3

The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails Editors: David Wondrich and Noah Rothbaum Publisher: Oxford University Press Release Date: Nov. 4

Go on a boozy tour of art history with this collection of recipes for over 50 expertly crafted cocktails, each one a unique creation inspired by its namesake artist. Unwind with a refreshing tequila-watermelon Frida Kahlo. Spark some inspiration while sipping on a Salvador Dalí. Or mix it up with a colorfully sweet Yayoi Kusama. From painters to sculptors, photographers, and more, each artist profiled has a cocktail recipe that draws deeply from their life and work. Both art lovers and cocktail enthusiasts alike will love pouring over this collection of engaging stories and unique recipes. “Art Boozel” will give you a new appreciation for each of these inspiring artists.

The “Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails” is the first major reference work to cover the subject from a global perspective, and provides an authoritative, enlightening and entertaining overview of this third branch of the alcohol family. It covers drinks, processes and techniques from around the world as well as those in the U.S. and Europe. It provides clear explanations of the different ways that spirits are produced, including fermentation, distillation and aging, alongside a wealth of new details on the emergence of cocktails and cocktail bars, including entries on key cocktails and influential mixologists and cocktail bars. The Companion is lavishly illustrated throughout, and appendices include a timeline of spirits and distillation and a guide to mixing drinks.

The Unofficial Disney Parks Drink Recipe Book Author: Ashley Craft Publisher: Adams Media Release Date: Oct. 5

The Big Book of Amaro Author: Matteo Zed Publisher: Countryman Press Release Date: Aug. 24

Raise a glass to bringing the magic of Disney straight to your home with “The Unofficial Disney Parks Drink Recipe Book.” From coffee and tea to milkshakes and slushies to mocktails and cocktails, this book features more than 100 of your favorite beverages from the happiest place on earth. Recipes are taken straight from your favorite restaurants and cafes throughout the Disney Parks and resorts. You’ll learn to make delicious, unique drinks without waiting in line, including the Sparkling No-Jito from the Tambu Lounge or the La Cava Avocado from Mexico in Epcot.

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Cocktail designer, spirits writer and amaro expert Matteo Zed explores amaro’s fascinating history (from its origins in medieval alchemy to today’s popular renaissance), botanical profiles, and remarkable natural properties. Zed showcases how best to use amaro behind the bar and in the kitchen, with recipes such as the Golden Mai Tai and Bitter Goat Cheese Risotto. Readers can browse the thorough buying guide with descriptions of bottles from Italy, Europe and beyond. A lovingly crafted tribute to an iconic Italian creation, “The Big Book of Amaro” is an essential experience for all of us with a passion for amaro, mixology, food culture or all things Italian.

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


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Industry Update

Q&A WITH STEVE HAWLEY OF THE AMERICAN SINGLE MALT WHISKEY COMMISSION hash it out. A funny story that we all like to tell is that we scheduled about three hours for the session figuring that it would take us a while to kind of push and pull on the ideas and negotiate through to a final definition or what’s called a standard of identity. So we met at Binny’s during a blizzard and we steeled ourselves for a long meeting and 30 minutes in we had already gained consensus on what the definition should look like, so we spent the rest of the three hours just catching up and having some beers. Looking at how the category has evolved since then, what surprises you the most? I’m a bit surprised by the sheer numbers of it. You look at this country and it’s still bourbon-focused. People still think American whiskey just means bourbon and to some extent rye. It’s slightly surprising that there are so many that are throwing their hat in the single malt ring here, but at the same time it’s shown to be a wildly popular thing. Where are you in the process to get a TTB definition, and what did it take to get this far? Certainly we’re closer than ever before to having a formal definition for American single malt. The TTB announced that we would be included in the spring unified agenda. They had earmarked December of this year to publish the formal definition which kicks off a public comment period. We’re very hopeful and optimistic that that will indeed happen by the end of this calendar year. As far as what it took to get here, a lot of patience, honestly. The good thing is that as whiskey makers we’re practiced at the art of patience, inherently. But it’s been a while. We’ve been speaking to the TTB formally since we established the commission back in 2016, so it’s been a five-year-long process.

Steve Hawley

A growing number of American craft distillers are exploring a whiskey category that is not (yet) officially recognized by the federal government. The American Single Malt Whiskey Commission, which is more than 170 distilleries strong, hopes to change that. The group has proposed a standard of identity for the category, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) recently announced that the matter will be addressed in its upcoming spring unified agenda. Steve Hawley of Westland Distillery in Seattle is one of the commission’s founders and its president. In a recent episode of The Craft Spirits Podcast, Hawley discussed the commission’s efforts to establish and protect the category across the globe. He also talked about common misconceptions about the category, as well as future opportunities for craft distillers making American single malt. The following has been edited for length. ACSA: What do you remember about the start of the commission? Steve Hawley: It was winter of 2016 when we first gathered. … We had invited everybody to come join us in Chicago while we were all together for a conference. We kind of peeled away from that conference and nine folks were able to join. We sat down to kind of

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What are the specific elements of the defintion? The first three clauses I would hope that [this audience] would find pretty obvious. Single malt needs to be made from 100% malted barley. It needs to be mashed, distilled and matured in the United States if we’re going to call it American single malt. And it’s got to be distilled entirely at one distillery. Globally that is the definition that consumers and producers worldwide see as single malt whiskey. So we’re not really diverging from what people understand as single malt whiskey around the world. The other three clauses that we have are matured in oak casks not exceeding 700 liters. Distilled to no more than 160 proof or 80 percent ABV and bottled at 80 proof or higher. Those are all clauses that are designed to fit within the TTB’s structure and also ensure again the integrity of single malt is maintained in comparison to what the world at large sees as single malt whiskey. Has there been any pushback or reaction from Scotland with the term single malt? I wouldn’t say they’ve come around to it because they were never opposed to it. They don’t own the term single malt. There’s single malt being made all over the world. We have had conversations with the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) and [have] their support. They want to maintain the integrity of it as well. I think the last thing that anybody wants, SWA, American producers and anybody else, is to see in America a definition for single malt that doesn’t align with what single malt is considered around the world. They’ve always shown us support.

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Industry Update

As far as public education, where would you say consumers are in terms of their understanding of what American single malt is? If you’re talking about the American consumer, the ugly truth ... I’m afraid to say, is that there’s a relative lack of education regardless of category. I would suggest that most people in this country don’t really even know that bourbon is made from corn. A lot of people like to talk to us about the legislative process and what we’ve been doing to gain a definition and when that’s going to come, all the questions that you’ve been asking me. But our main charter, I would suggest, is to educate people. To educate the trade, to educate consumers. If, at the end of the day, retailers and bar owners and restaurant owners represent American single malt, if consumers understand what American single malt is, then the category exists, whether there’s a piece of paper in Washington, D.C., that says what the definition is or not. So a lot of our activity is and is going to be moving forward, educating consumers. And sometimes that even means explaining to them what other categories are like bourbon, rye, wheat, etc. What would you say some of the greatest misconceptions are about single malt? First and foremost the number one misconception is that Scotland owns single malt. That single malt just means Scotch whiskey. You’d be shocked how many people still think that’s the case. Even after 50 years ago, you know Japan finally showed the world that a great single malt can come from outside of Scotland. So that’s by far the number one misconception. I think second goes to really just the cost, to be honest with you. I don’t think people really fully grasp that single malt is really the most expensive whiskey you can make, just from a raw materials standpoint. Take the comparison with bourbon again. Bourbon is made from corn. Corn is a subsidized grain in this country, so if you were a distiller and you wanted to start making bourbon, you can imagine, of course, depending on economies of scale and how big your operation is, but

you’re looking at 7, 8, 9 cents a pound for corn in this country. I can use Westland as an example. Our cheapest malted barley that we use is 35, 36 cents a pound. So already an order of magnitude more expensive. At Westland we use specialty malts and we’re even developing new varietals of barley. Some of those can get up to $1.20 or $1.30 a pound. That is an enormous difference. What’s the key takeaway that you want the public to have when they start to explore American single malt? American single malt, I truly believe, is the next big thing in whiskey. I think the momentum that we have and the interest that we have from all corners, whether that be end consumers or the trade, is pretty exciting to experience. So I guess I would just leave people with the idea that they should get into it. That’s not just picking up a bottle of American single malt, but it’s also talking it up. If you go into your local retailer and they don’t have it, tell them they need to bring it in. If you walk into the local retailer and they have it but it’s scattered all over the store and it’s hard to find, tell them, ‘Hey you should make an American single malt shelf.’ That’s one of the main things that we’re trying to advocate for in the trade. And tell your friends about it. Buy a bottle and share it with people. Buy a bottle and compare it next to a Scotch single malt or a Japanese single malt or an Australian single malt and really kind of start to explore what America has to offer in the world of single malt, because there’s a lot of good stuff being made across this country and there’s a lot of excitement around it. Don’t be the one that hears about it late. Be the one that hears about it first and knows about it. Go out there and try it.

Click here to listen to the entire conversation on The Craft Spirits Podcast.

BOOT HILL PROMOTES STEPHANIE NESTOR TO HEAD DISTILLER Boot Hill Distillery of Dodge City, Kansas, announced the appointment of Stephanie Nestor as head distiller. Nestor, a native of Columbus, Ohio, joined the team in 2019 as an assistant distiller. “Stephanie had the problem-solving skills we were looking for, and I am proud to pass the torch to her as my first successor in the head distiller role,” said Hayes Kelman, managing partner and CEO, in a press release. Nestor earned a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Technology from The Ohio State University, where she learned many of the principles that apply to distilling. She learned more science and much of the art of distilling under the guidance of Kelman. Since joining the team, Nestor has been integral to the move to the 5,000-square-foot warehouse facility and has overseen the development and launch of Boot Hill Distillery’s ready-to-drink line of cocktails, including the installation of an automated canning line. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity and, with the help of our fantastic team, excited about what the future holds for Boot Hill Distillery,” said Nestor. According to Kelman, Nestor’s commitment to producing high quality spirits makes her an invaluable member of the Boot Hill Distillery staff. “We are excited to see the impact that her continued growth will have on our soil-to-sip products.”

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Stephanie Nestor

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Industry Update

UNCLE NEAREST ACQUIRES MORE LAND TO EXPAND OPERATIONS Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey of Shelbyville, Tennessee, announced that it closed a $2.1 million deal to purchase an additional 53.12 acres of land on Highway 231 North that abuts its Nearest Green Distillery. The additional land will bring the distillery’s total acreage to 323.12 and extend its frontage to over half of a mile along the highway. With this expansion, Uncle Nearest will dedicate 100 acres of its property to plant and grow its own non-GMO, organic corn. Aptly called the Field of Dreams, the corn will be used solely to create the brand’s portfolio of premium, award-winning whiskeys. “When we broke ground, we made history as the first distillery in America to be named after a Black person. Every day, our brand continues to make history and we are finding more and more people wanting to celebrate this history with us at record numbers,” said Fawn Weaver, CEO and founder of Uncle Nearest, in a press release. “Expanding our distillery allows us to increase our production capabilities, as well as to continue to enhance the guest experience, so every person who visits has a reason to return again and again.” Nearest Green Distillery, home of the legacy of Nearest Green, the first known African American master distiller, reopened its doors on June 19, 2021. After a more than year-long pandemic-related closure, the distillery unveiled its Phase Two additions, including: a welcome center; Philo + Frank’s, the world’s first non-alcoholic speakeasy; the first single barrel rickhouse; and family tasting room. The current 270acre footprint will continue to be built out to provide the best tourist experience possible.

“Every weekend, when Nearest Green Distillery opens its doors, we welcome guests from all over the country. At any given time, we have guests from more than 20 states represented, who have all come to Tennessee to experience the cementing of the legacy of Nearest Green,” said Weaver.

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Industry Update

BROUGH BROTHERS DISTILLERY HOLDS GRAND OPENING Brough Brothers Distillery recently held its grand opening in Louisville, Kentucky. The distillery says it is the first and only AfricanAmerican owned distillery in the state. The distillery was founded by Bryson, Christian and Victor Yarbrough, three brothers born and raised in Louisville. They wanted to produce quality bourbon whiskey in an industry that has historically been largely inaccessible to minority entrepreneurs. Led by master distiller Bryson Yarbrough, Brough Brothers distills a proprietary mash of corn, rye and barley and can currently produce one barrel a week. Most of the historic first barrels will be aged for a minimum of one year to meet the Kentucky Bourbon designation. In April, Brough Brothers Distillery became the 42nd member—and 24th craft-level member—of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. It is the first African-American-owned and operated facility to join KDA since the organization’s founding in 1880. “As Louisville’s Congressman and the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus, I’m thrilled to help celebrate the grand opening of Brough Brothers Distillery in West Louisville,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY). “Black Louisvillians have been involved in distilling for centuries, and the Yarbrough family’s work to build this company from the ground up is a tremendous step forward in making the distilled spirits industry more reflective of our nation, our city and our people. Louisville is lucky to have Kentucky’s first Black-owned distillery call the Park Hill neighborhood home, and you don’t have to look any further than a Brough Brothers bottle to see the love Victor,

Bryson, and Chris have for our hometown. Cheers to them!” “I want to congratulate Victor, Christian and Bryson Yarbrough for pouring their hearts and spirits into their vision for Kentucky’s first Black-owned distillery,” said Greg Fischer, mayor of Louisville. “Bourbon is a critical part of our growing economy, and with the addition of this new distillery in the historic Park Hill neighborhood, the industry will grow stronger and investments will continue to flow into the area.”

FIVE X 5 SOLUTIONS INTRODUCES NEW WEBSITE AND BRANDING FIVE x 5 Solutions, the leader in operations management software for distilleries, introduced a new, redesigned website and new branding for its distillery management software, DISTILL x 5. The brand refresh creates a fresh, cohesive look for FIVE x 5 and its two distillery management solutions, DISTILL x 5 and Whiskey Systems, while building a foundation on which the company could expand its product line beyond craft distilling in the future. “We’re excited about something fresh and clean, and to give users of any FIVE x 5 product a consistent look and feel across all marketing materials,” FIVE x 5 CEO Caroline Calhoun said in a press release. “After an incredible first year with Whiskey Systems as a part of the FIVE x 5 family, it feels like an appropriate celebration to debut this new brand suite on our anniversary.” The branding refresh includes a new FIVE x 5 website, new logo and font set for FIVE x 5 and a new logo and font set for DISTILL x 5 The website and branding launch coincides with the one-year anniversary of FIVE x 5’s acquisition of Whiskey Systems and follows the launch of the new Whiskey Systems website, branding, and product in April 2021.

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Industry Update

FLAVORMAN APPOINTS NEW COO AND CSO Flavorman, a leading beverage development company, announced that Scott Weddle and Peter Eberle have been named chief operating officer (COO) and chief strategy officer (CSO). Effective August 1, the decision comes ahead of the Louisville, Kentuckybased company’s milestone 30th-year anniversary in 2022. “We are honored to welcome Scott and Peter into their respective roles,” said Flavorman founder and CEO, David Dafoe in a press release. “Flavorman has a 29-year history of successful growth. Following this trajectory, our new COO and CSO will work together to strengthen the company’s existing processes while introducing new procedures and initiatives designed to propel us into the future.” Formerly Flavorman’s director of business development, Weddle has been with Flavorman since 2010. From production and purchasing to fulfillment and quality, he has served in nearly every aspect of the business. As COO, Weddle will apply the full spectrum of his beverage development ex-

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pertise to advancing Flavorman’s operations and contribute a customer-first approach to product innovation, consistency, and quality. Eberle joins the Flavorman team with an extensive career in successfully leading multimillion-dollar companies through critical growth and development periods. He offers 30 years of specialized experience in the start-up, transformation, and turnaround of businesses in highly competitive markets. As CSO, he will employ his diverse skill set in directing Flavorman’s strategic planning initiatives, as well as overseeing key projects in production, logistics, construction, safety, and financing. “It’s an exciting time for Flavorman,” said Dafoe. “As we approach our 30-year anniversary in 2022, we see this evolutionary period as the perfect moment to celebrate and renew our commitment to our clients and partners in the industry. Under Scott and Peter’s leadership, the Flavorman Team will continue growing in a direction that adds value to our business and fuels our mission to change what the world is drinking.”

Peter Eberle

Scott Weddle

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Industry Update

BRIESS APPOINTS CRAIG BRIESS AS CEO Briess Malt & Ingredients, a family-owned company headquartered in Chilton, Wisconsin, is proud to announce the appointment of Craig Briess as CEO. Craig represents the fifth generation of continuous family leadership. Craig follows in the footsteps of Monica Briess, who assumed leadership of the company following the unexpected death of her husband and craft beer pioneer Roger Briess in 2001. As a close family business, Monica will remain actively involved as a member of the board of directors as well as strategic advisor. With a background in business and law, Craig has been active with Briess for more than 20 years in a variety of roles, including membership on the board of directors since 2001. He has been involved in building the strategic supply relationships with our community of 300 barley growers in Wyoming since 2013, doubling capacity at the Insta Grains plant in 2017, and most recently, the major expansion of our Manitowoc malting, roasting, and packaging operations. As CEO, Craig will provide strategic leadership and direction for the company’s future.

Craig has demonstrated his commitment to uphold the values that have been established during the past 145 years, including the company vision: “To be the quality ingredient and service provider that positively differentiates our customers’ products”. Under Monica’s leadership during the past two decades, the company continued to focus on helping its customers grow, as she carried out the vision to supply craft brewers and food manufacturers with only the best malt and ingredients. Monica noted that “Craig and I have been privileged to work with the senior leadership team and all our employees to continue the mission of being a partner with our customers in supplying the highest quality ingredients and service. Everyone at the company shares a sense of pride in our accomplishments, including having been recognized as Manufacturer of the Year and as Business Friend of the Environment by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce”. As he assumes the CEO role, Craig values the company’s history and is enthusiastic about continuing its commitment

Craig Briess

to quality and meeting the needs of its customers. “During the past 20 years, I have gained a deep appreciation for our business and the role we play helping our customers grow with the broadest and highest quality line of malt and ingredients in the industry,” he said. “I am humbled by the contributions of Monica and all those who preceded me. We have a great team and I look forward to building on the tradition of excellence that has been established.”

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Industry Update

MONTANYA DISTILLERS RECOGNIZED AS ‘BEST FOR THE WORLD’ B CORP

PENNINGTON DISTILLING CO. ANNOUNCES TWO HIRES

Montanya Distillers, a Certified B Corporation, has been named a Best For The World B Corp in recognition of its performance beyond commercial success. Montanya Distillers ranks in the top 5% of all B Corps in its size group worldwide for its environmentally sustainable business practices. The American craft rum distillery earned this honor because of initiatives such as using Cradle to Cradle glass, sourcing American sugar cane from a family co-op that operates sustainably, and using 100% wind power to run its tasting room and distilling operations. Since the distillery’s certification in 2018, it has also become certified plastic neutral and has installed an onsite biodigester. “From the beginning, I wanted to create a business I could be proud of when I spoke to my own sons. I couldn’t be responsible for degrading the environment they will inherit,” noted Karen Hoskin, Montanya Distillers’ founder and owner, in a press release. “I wanted to create a business that put people, the environment and social responsibility on equal footing with growth and profit. Historically, the rum and spirits industries have had a poor track record regarding environmental and human impact, so I knew I had to change that narrative for Montanya. I’ve always believed business could be a force for good. It’s exciting, yet often challenging, to build an international rum company that demonstrates that the environment and community don’t need to suffer at the expense of success.” The Best for the World recognition is administered by B Lab, the global nonprofit network that certifies and mobilizes Certified B Corporations, which are for-profit companies that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance,

Pennington Distilling Co., an award-winning spirits company based in Nashville, announced two new additions to the team. Dana Crawford has joined the Pennington Distilling Co. team as the marketing and special events director. Crawford has prior hospitality and event management experience from working at Greenhouse Winery in Pittsburgh, in addition to coordinating weddings at other venues in Pennsylvania. She is responsible for coordinating the company’s numerous sponsorships and marketing efforts as well as booking and overseeing all events that Pennington Distilling Co. hosts on-site or participates in off-site. Zach Taylor has joined the team as the head distiller. Taylor has over six years of experience in the spirits industry with a primary focus in whiskey. He is proactively implementing new and efficient strategies while also investing in the future with product development. He is excited and proud to uphold the reputation that Pennington Distilling Co. has established in the spirits industry.

accountability, and transparency. Today there are more than 4,000 Certified B Corporations across 77 countries and 153 industries, unified by one common goal: transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet. B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. The B Corp Certification doesn’t just evaluate a product or service, it assesses the overall positive impact of the company that stands behind it—like Montanya Distillers. Using the B Impact Assessment, B Lab evaluates how a company’s operations and business model impact its workers, community, environment, and customers. To achieve the B Corp Certification, a company must achieve a score of at least 80 points on the assessment. Montanya Distillers has a score of 119 and is recertifying this year as part of a continued commitment to doing better. “Best for the World is a special program for the B Corp community, and we’re thrilled to resume it after pausing the program in 2020 due to COVID-19,” said Juan Pablo Larenas, executive director of B Lab Global. “This year’s Best for the World companies are operating at the very top of their class, excelling in creating positive impact for their stakeholders, including their workers, communities, customers, and the environment. We’re proud of the community of stakeholder-driven businesses we’ve cultivated over the last 15 years; together we’re marching toward our collective vision of an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economic system for all people and the planet.”

Zach Taylor

Dana Crawford

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Industry Update

Mark A. Vierthaler

WHISKEY DEL BAC HIRES MARK A. VIERTHALER AS HEAD DISTILLER Hamilton Distillers Group, Inc., the Tucson, Arizona-based makers of the Whiskey Del Bac line of American single malt whiskeys, recently announced that Mark A. Vierthaler has joined its team as head distiller. Vierthaler most recently comes from Tenth Ward Distilling Co. in Maryland, where he won multiple gold medals and expanded the distillery’s portfolio, while growing production fivefold and establishing himself as a leader in the American craft distilling movement. Active in ACSA, Vierthaler sits on the education, government affairs and guild committees. With a passion for nuance and details, Vierthaler loves the art of blending and the science that distilling requires. He joins a distilling team that has been getting high ratings and winning awards of their own for their Sonoran Desert single malts. “Joining Whiskey Del Bac brings with it a litany of feelings: Honored. Humbled. Happy,” Vierthaler said in a press release. “I’ve witnessed the nationwide respect and knowledge of the Whiskey Del Bac brand, and founders Stephen and Amanda Paul have put together one of the best teams in craft distilling—from management to production, office staff and sales staff. Under CEO Kent Cheeseman, Whiskey Del Bac is really gaining traction in the American single malt category. I’m elated to join such a strong distilling team with Dustin Cox, Abbey Fife and Raymond Hammond, who have been pulling in glowing review after glowing review.” Stephen Paul noted, “Mark’s attention to detail has already made an impact on our production in the short time he’s been with us. His enthusiasm, experience and integrity will really help us get to another level within the American single malt space.”

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lew's bottom shelf

GETTING OUTSIDE THE BUBBLE BY LEW BRYSON

Did you like your mom’s cooking? I did, and it took me almost 10 years after moving out to realize what everyone else in the family already knew: Mom wasn’t a great cook. Almost everything she made included cans of processed vegetables and soups, Minute Rice and pre-blended spices. When I got out on my own, I had to learn to cook. I wasn’t good, and I knew it, because when I dined out, or at friends’ homes, the food was a lot better. I’d ask how they made things, then go home and try these new ideas, and make them mine. I never would have become a better cook by continuing to do what I did. I wouldn’t be poaching salmon, or making Spanish butter beans, or picking wild wineberries to make sorbet if I hadn’t tasted those things in the great wide world. I wouldn’t have created my own recipes if I hadn’t spread my wings and got out of town. Getting outside my bubble made me dissatisfied with what I was cooking and eating. That drove me to get better, to get more inventive, to learn better techniques and get better tools, better ingredients. This obviously has nothing to do with your mom making her own gin with essences instead of actual botanicals. But it has everything to do with drinking widely. If you’re going to make spirits, you’ve got to taste them often: for quality control, for sensory consistency. But you’ve got to taste the competition, too, because you can be sure that your customers are. If you only drink your own stuff, you can start to think that’s how all gin, or bourbon, or rum is supposed to taste. It’s good to be different, but it’s better to be different and good. The way you find out what’s good is the same way drinkers do it; by tasting. You have to be honest when you do. If your spirits are always the ones you like the best, well … they might be the best. It’s possible. But it’s likely that there are at least a few that you’ll taste and think something like, ‘Damn, I like that minty note; that would be really good in mine.’ And you’ll try it, and tweak it, and

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maybe you get one or two steps closer to your spirits truly being the best. You can do it while contributing to the industry by judging competitions. You get to taste a wide range of spirits, from the

questionable stuff to the best bottles on offer. It’s all blind, so there’s no distraction of price or reputation. It’s just you and the booze, and you can think about why yours is better—or not—and what you might want to take with

Take the best ideas the industry has to offer, and don’t copy them; increase them.

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you and try to emulate. You might taste something blind and recognize a similar taste from your own product, and decide that maybe that’s not so great after all. There’s no shame in learning from the competition. It happens every day. Picasso may have said “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” But T.S. Eliot said it first, and better. “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn.” If someone in your category is doing something smart, or new, or bold, you need to know about it. Because craft brewing’s trajectory

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of experience will show you that consumers want new things, that despite being mavericks they are still influenced by trends. It also clearly shows that flagship brands, like actual flagships, eventually are surpassed by newer, faster, fancier bottles. You’ve probably experienced that already, if you’ve been open more than a couple years. Things change, and you can’t stop them. Instead, become the change. Take the best ideas the industry has to offer, and don’t copy them; increase them. To do that, though, you’ll have to go out and drink. It’s not a bad idea to put aside the last few hours of the week for that. Gather your crew, get some glasses and three or four bottles of someone else’s spirits, and one of

yours, and do some research. Keep at it, and you’re going to find some new material. Chances are, another distiller is drinking your stuff right now, and thinking about how to do it better. That’s not a bad thing. It’s how we all get better. ■ Lew Bryson has been writing about beer and spirits full-time since 1995. He is the author of “Tasting Whiskey” and “Whiskey Master Class.”

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WHAT’s Stirring

DRINKS TO SAVOR FROM ACSA MEMBERS

Strawberry Highball Beautiful wild strawberries grow in southeast Alaska, so why not add them to a cocktail? The muddled strawberries in this cocktail from Port Chilkoot Distillery in Haines add a bit of sweetness to the drink but still let the rye shine through. Ingredients 1 1/2 ounces Wrack Line Rye Whiskey 2 dashes Angostura bitters 4 ounces seltzer water 3 strawberries Directions Muddle strawberries, rye and bitters in a mixing tin. Double strain into a highball glass with fresh ice. Top off with seltzer water and garnish with a mint sprig.

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Brickyard Old Fashioned A classic fan favorite cocktail at J. Carver Distillery in Waconia, Minnesota, the Brickyard Old Fashioned is elevated by the distillery’s wheated straight bourbon and highlights the rich and intriguing flavors from Cruella Amaro, made from J. Carver Straight Rye Whiskey and spices, herbs and roots. Ingredients 2 ounces J. Carver Brickyard Straight Bourbon 1/4 ounce Cruella Amaro 1/2 ounce simple syrup 1 dash Old Fashioned bitters Directions Pour over a large format ice cube and garnish with a cherry and orange peel.

Lavender Fizz This drink from Boot Hill Distillery in Dodge City, Kansas, is a play on the classic gin fizz. The lavender bitters marry well with the sarsaparilla and 12 other botanicals found in the distillery’s Western-style gin. Ingredients 2 ounces Boot Hill Distillery Gin 3/4 ounce lemon juice 1 ounce simple syrup 3/4 ounce egg white 2 dashes lavender bitters 1 splash of soda water Directions Add the gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white and bitters to a shaker and shake without ice for about 20 seconds. Add a scoop of ice and shake very well. Quickly strain into a coupe using a Hawthorne strainer. Top with a splash of soda. Garnish with five drops of lavender bitters swirled in the foam and a lemon wheel and lavender sprigs.


Manhattan This classic cocktail gets a nice twist from Haines, Alaska-based Port Chilkoot Distillery’s houseinfused walnut tincture, which complements the full-bodied flavor of its Wrack Line Rye. Ingredients 2 ounces Wrack Line Rye 1/2 ounce Vya Sweet Vermouth 2 dashes Angostura bitters 4 dashes walnut tincture Directions Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with fresh ice. Stir for 20 seconds and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a luxardo cherry. Walnut Tincture Directions Add 1 tablespoon of cacao nibs to an 8-ounce mason jar, then fill with chopped walnuts and add vodka to completely fill the jar. Let sit for one week. Strain and bottle.

Runestone Sazerac This cocktail features J. Carver Distillery’s Runestone Straight Rye and Everlasting Absinthe Verte. The rye has a mash bill of 86% Minnesota rye and 14% malted rye. Everlasting Absinthe Verte is made using J. Carver grappa in collaboration with local Minnesota vintners and distilled with herbs, spices and J. Carver’s signature Minnesota-grown everlasting clover. Ingredients 2 ounces J. Carver Runestone Straight Rye 1/4 ounce Everlasting Absinthe Verte 1/3 ounce simple syrup 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters Directions Stir all ingredients over ice until chilled. Strain into a chilled lowball glass rinsed with absinthe and garnish with a lemon peel.


Sun Dog One of the most popular cocktails on the menu at Ursa Major Distilling in Fairbanks, Alaska, the Sun Dog is a nod to the spectacular sun halo seen often in Alaska’s winter skies, where the sun just hovers over the horizon during the shortest days of the year. Ingredients 1 1/2 ounces Ursa Major Distilling AKavit 3/4 ounce elderflower liqueur 1/2 ounce lemon juice Directions Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously with ice, and strain to a coupe glass. Garnish with a dried lemon slice.

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ACSA Affairs

ACSA LAUNCHES STEPUP FOUNDATION After more than 18 months of planning, the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) is proud to launch the Spirits Training Entrepreneurship Program for Underrepresented Professionals (STEPUP Foundation), a diversity initiative that aims to provide underserved and underrepresented individuals with training, encouragement, and opportunities to enter the craft spirits community through a comprehensive year long, immersive internship program. ACSA has long recognized a lack of diversity in the alcoholic beverage industry and has been working behind the scenes for some time now to develop a comprehensive program aimed at increasing talent through facilitation of workplace diversity. STEPUP will engage diverse applicants with an interest in the beverage sector and help those of different races, color, national origins, genders and sexual orientations to acquire the skills and experience they need to succeed in the industry. Together with an Advisory Board, the Board of Directors have created an immersive internship program for underrepresented individuals in the alcoholic beverage industry. Margie A.S. Lehrman (CEO, ACSA) will serve as the organization’s president, working together with Secretary Rebecca Harris (Head Distiller and Co-founder, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. and President, ACSA) and Treasurer Julie Kinch (CEO/Founder, JK Leadership Advisors, LLC). They are joined by a seasoned Board of Directors, including Chris Montana, CEO and Head Distiller, Du Nord Social Spirits, Chris Underwood, CEO, Young’s Holdings, David Cid, Rum Master, Bacardi, and Ingrid Wetzell, HR Director, Bently Enterprises. These critical liaisons will help identify potential partners, secure financial resources, and develop training materials to ensure the program’s success. The STEPUP internship program will be primarily funded through Cornerstone Partners and other major donors. Diageo North America will serve as the first Cornerstone Partner

and has made a $1.2 million commitment over three years. In addition, the company will also hold a seat on the STEPUP Advisory Board. Donor contributions, of any size, will also be welcome from anyone supporting the mission to open up and embrace diversity in the distilling community. STEPUP has also received significant financial commitments from Young’s Holdings, as well as contributions from other leaders in craft distilling, including Leopold Bros. and Smooth Ambler Spirits. STEPUP Foundation participants will be guided through every facet of operating a distillery, with the added bonus of an immersive internship opportunity with a wholesaler. Interns will experience hands-on training and job exposure to several facets of the alcoholic beverage industry, including distillation production and safety, sales and marketing, business and finance, tasting rooms operations, and distribution. In an effort to remove any financial impediments that may limit applicants, the internship will also include a stipend, travel expenses, and room and board. In its inaugural year, the STEPUP Foundation will run two candidates through the program with the expectation to run another six interns in its second year and 10 or more interns in year three and beyond. Margie A.S. Lehrman, CEO, ACSA and President, STEPUP Foundation stated, “While we recognize we cannot change our industry landscape overnight, we are pleased to be moving in the right direction and are equally inspired by the unwavering support we’ve seen from the craft community for initiatives like STEPUP. Though we’ve been working behind the scenes for well over a year, we are excited to formally introduce this program in our ongoing effort to spark as much change in our industry as we can.” Chris Montana, Board of Directors, STEPUP Foundation, CEO and Head Distiller of Du Nord Social Spirits, and Immediate Past Presi-

dent, ACSA, added, “We are thrilled to be launching this critically important effort. We acknowledge the real lack of diversity in the alcoholic beverage space and hope to provide all of those interested in the industry, regardless of background, with thorough training and real-life experience.” Nicole Austin, General Manager & Distiller of Cascade Hollow Distilling Co., who will serve on the Advisory Board on behalf of Diageo and their Cornerstone Partnership, added, “The community and leadership I found in the American Craft Spirits Association has enriched both my life and career, and I am thrilled Diageo is supporting ACSA as they provide opportunity, training, and experience to all who are interested in this space.” Chris Underwood, CEO of Young’s Holdings, whose company has also provided a significant financial commitment to fund STEPUP’s launch, added, “We are proud to put real action around the words of diversity and inclusion.” The STEPUP Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity with donors able to deduct contributions. To learn more about the foundation or to apply, visit stepupinternship.org or email info@stepupinternship.org.

Click here to learn more and apply.

PLEASE COMPLETE THE CRAFT SPIRITS DATA PROJECT SURVEY The American Craft Spirits Association, along with our hand-picked partner, Park Street, urgently need your feedback via the Craft Spirits Data Project Survey. Now in its sixth year, the Craft Spirits Data Project is the chief economic data study for craft spirits producers—but we cannot do it

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without you. We need your help to provide hard data on what really happened to the craft spirits industry in 2020 during a tremendous year of change. This survey is shorter than years past, and your feedback is vital to our mission to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers.

Please do not delay—take the survey with an extended deadline to mid-September.

Click here to complete the Craft Spirits Data Project Survey.

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ACSA SUBMITS COMMENTS ON ECONOMIC COMPETITION IN THE SPIRITS INDUSTRY On behalf of its members and American craft spirits producers, ACSA this August submitted comments to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) about economic competition in the spirits industry. In July, President Joe Biden issued an executive order on promoting competition in the American economy, which included a section on beverage alcohol. Pursuant to the order, TTB issued a request for information to solicit input regarding the current market structure and conditions of competition in the American markets for beer, wine, and spirits, including an assessment of any threats to competition and barriers to new entrants. In late July and early August, ACSA asked American craft spirits producers to take a short survey about the most important issues facing them as it relates to competition in the American economy. Market access was, unsurprisingly, the primary issue. In our survey, most producers considered this issue to be of the highest importance (ranking 5 out of 5) in their ability to enter a market. Four key areas were identified: • The business incompatibility of small spirits brands and the wholesale distribu-

tion system. • Lack of distributor options (10 companies have more than 74% of the market with the top 3 alone having more than a 55% market share). • Control states give limited or no access to small producers. • State franchise laws lock producers to a distributor regardless of the sales performance of that distributor. Additional important issues included lack of parity between beer, wine and spirits; common business practices employed by large producers making for an uneven playing field in the wholesale and retail tiers; and federal (TTB) regulation. In a letter to Amy Greenberg, TTB’s director of the Regulations and Rulings Division, ACSA CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman noted that small distilleries deserve parity with the nation’s small wine producers. “Small wineries work with partners across the three tiers selling directly, self distributing, and working with distribution partners. With these practices they have grown the wine sector from a few hundred wineries 50 years ago to tens of thousands today. Small distilleries, who also

heavily support the agriculture, hospitality, and tourism industries, need similar access to markets and the tools to help them get back on their feet and thrive in the modern threetier system.”

Click here to read the entire letter.

ENTER THE CRAFT SPIRITS PACKAGING AWARDS If you produce craft spirits with a creative label, eye-catching design or innovative package, you have until Oct. 1 to enter the second annual Craft Spirits Packaging Awards. Sponsored by the Glass Packaging Institute, the competition is open to all producers of craft spirits. Medalists will be announced at ACSA’s Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show this December and will be featured in the January 2022 issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine. Entries will be judged by an independent panel of industry and design experts in the following categories: • Best Brandy Packaging • Best Gin Packaging • Best Ready-to-Drink • Best Rum Packaging • Best Specialty Spirits Packaging • Best Vodka & Grain Packaging • Best Whiskey Packaging • Best Portfolio (Recognizing outstanding packaging across a range of products three or more products. Must be entered separately from individual entries.) • Best in Show Please note that no physical samples are required for entry (some winning entries may be asked to ship samples for photography). Packaging companies and/or designers may enter on behalf of craft spirits producers. Awards will be given to the distillery and credit will be given to the company/designer in CRAFT SPIRITS magazine.

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Click here to enter by Oct. 1.

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RESPECTING VODKA

Craft distillers embrace local ingredients to concoct vodkas that are anything but neutral. BY JON PAGE

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tart discussing vodka with producers of craft spirits, and many of them repeat a common refrain: Vodka keeps the lights on. Especially for a fledgling distillery, they say, it’s almost a necessity to have a packaged vodka available while creating additional products and waiting for aged spirits to mature. Those same distillers, however, are quick to point out that the recipe development and production of the clear spirit should not be an afterthought. On the contrary, craft vodka producers across the country preach the importance of taking the time to make a unique spirit that can maintain flagship status a decade into the future. In other words, the category of vodka deserves respect, says Chris Montana, the co-founder, CEO and head distiller of Minneapolis-based Du Nord Social Spirits, as well as the master blender for American Liquor Co. Vodka, which is a blend of vodkas distilled from four separate ingredients. “Take [vodka] seriously and don’t just put out something that doesn’t taste like anything, because that’s already out there,” says Montana, who is also the immediate past president of the American Craft Spirits

Association. “We should all be adding to the library of spirits. That’s the glory of craft distilling is that we get to add to the library of spirits. So take it seriously, put your stamp on it, and I should be able to tell that I’m drinking your vodka. And if I can’t, then the question is, ‘What are you doing it for?’” Fueled by a passion for innovation and creativity, many American producers of craft vodka are distinguishing themselves from neutral-tasting behemoth brands. They are crafting flavorful vodkas that beg to be sipped neat, and doing so with a wide array of base ingredients, including standards like wheat, potatoes, corn and fruit, as well as outliers like hemp, honey and wine. With so many options from which to distill, some distillers are using a word that is typically reserved for that latter ingredient to differentiate their vodka: terroir. There may be additional room for experimentation, thanks to a 2020 ruling by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Previously, TTB defined vodka as “neutral spirits distilled or treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials so as to be without distinctive character, aroma,

taste or color.” After seeking comments on the matter, TTB announced plans to change the standard of identity. “TTB agrees that the requirement that vodka be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color no longer reflects consumer expectations and should be eliminated,” stated the ruling. Current producers of craft vodka say the ruling has little effect on the production of their existing vodka products. But Barry Young—CEO and master distiller at Glenshaw, Pennsylvania-based Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries, which makes Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and BLY Rum—says extra attention about the ruling in media reports is welcome. He also credits the growing number of craft distilleries and consumers for helping to change perceptions about vodka. “Collectively, there’s been an impact from craft because we are educating the public,” says Young. “It’s not just a flash-in-the-pan marketing plan that they’re seeing or looking at a magazine or celebrity endorsements. It’s just [the] sheer number of craft distilleries, the number of tasting rooms, the number of tours people are going on and they’re being educated, [which I] think helps the category

“TAKE [VODKA] SERIOUSLY AND DON’T JUST PUT OUT SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T TASTE LIKE ANYTHING, BECAUSE THAT’S ALREADY OUT THERE.” —CHRIS MONTANA OF DU NORD SOCIAL SPIRITS AND AMERICAN LIQUOR CO. VODKA

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Barry Young of Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries

more than anything else.” According to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, case share of vodka declined by 3% for the 52-week period ending on June 13 compared to the previous year. However, vodka still maintains a lead over whiskey in case share. And according to the latest IWSR Drink Market Analysis research, vodka volume in the U.S. grew by 2.5% in 2020, and IWSR forecasts an increase of 1.7% in volume this year, and 1.1% CAGR 2021-2025. “It’s still the money maker for virtually every spirits brand,” says Alan Dietrich, the CEO of Crater Lake Spirits in Bend, Oregon.

“Everybody wants to talk about whiskey and these new products. Our sales reps love the specialty stuff and they love talking about the brown spirits. Me and our national sales manager, we look at the numbers and we’re like, ‘Dude, it’s vodka. Just liters of vodka moving.’” GRAIN FORWARD Merriam-Webster defines terroir as “the combination of factors including soil, climate, and sunlight that gives wine grapes their distinctive character.” The absence of ingredients grown for vodka in that definition isn’t stopping many craft distillers from using terroir to

describe their vodka. Ever since Middle West Spirits of Columbus, Ohio, opened in 2010, co-founder and head distiller Ryan Lang says sourcing of raw materials has been paramount to the distillery’s ethos. For its OYO lineup of vodkas, Middle West explored using soft red winter wheat from various parts of the state. “Grains may be the same species of grain, the same genome that’s in the ground, but when you take that product from the ground and you distill them in the exact same manner, the exact same yeast, exact same process, the flavor of what comes off the still is different,” says Lang. “So there absolutely is a terroir to that ground.” Gina Holman, a founding partner of Waconia, Minnesota-based J. Carver Distillery and a certified sommelier, is also a strong proponent of focusing on terroir. “I don’t think people understand what it means to say, ‘There’s no place on earth like that spot. There’s no place on earth like that five square miles, two square miles,’” says Holman, who is also a member of ACSA’s board of directors. “When people are thinking about terroir, it’s the land, it’s that said place, it’s the climate, it’s everything.” Holman also touts using the right equipment to distill vodka, as another one of the TTB’s requirements is that vodka be distilled at or above 190 proof and bottled at no less than 80 proof. At J. Carver, a 42-plate double column still allows single-pass distillation for

“IT’S STILL THE MONEY MAKER FOR VIRTUALLY EVERY SPIRITS BRAND.” —ALAN DIETRICH OF CRATER LAKE SPIRITS

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Alan Dietrich of Crater Lake Spirits


less about the region and more about the distillery. “I wouldn’t necessarily call it terroir,” says Valentine, whose distillery produces a small-batch vodka derived from corn, wheat and barley. “I think it is more distillery specific. Depending on your equipment, depending on your mashing, depending on your yeast, you’re going to get vastly different things from different distilleries.” Also in Michigan, Kent Rabish of Traverse City-based Grand Traverse Distillery steers the conversation to the importance of supporting local farmers and businesses. Rabish says Grand Traverse gets 90% of the wheat and rye used in its vodkas from a farmer about 10 miles from the distillery. “I’m not living an Andy Mayberry kind of a life,” says Rabish, “but if we can start [locally] supplying more of our [goods], we can start doing things more regionally and locally. It’s good for everybody.” The team at Boot Hill Distillery of Dodge City, Kansas, can relate to Rabish. The distillery makes its spirits with grains planted, grown and harvested by father and son owners Roger and Hayes Kelman in Haskell County. “We like to say it’s soil to sip,” says Hayes Kelman, CEO and distiller. “From the moment we put the seed in the soil all the way through, until that person takes a sip out of that bottle, we have had control of the process the entire way.” With a creamy mouthfeel and a kick of black

Valentine Distilling

the distillery’s wheat-based vodka and its Lake House vodka, which is made with wheat, corn and rye. Without over-distilling or overfiltering, says Holman, the natural character of the local grains shine through in the finished product, delivering hints of butterscotch on the nose. Holman compares over-distilling to cooking soup or chili more than once. “Once all the beans start tasting alike … or the onion starts tasting like the celery, then you’ve lost the entire essence of what your local grain looks like in the distillation process in highlighting that terroir,” she says. At Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol, California, proprietor and brand director Ashby Marshall says the distillery often fields

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terroir-related questions from visitors, on account of Spirit Works’ location in Wine Country. She takes pride in describing the distillery’s vodka made from 100% organic red winter wheat from the Sacramento Valley, but she hints at some limitations to discussing terroir in spirits. “I’d say it’s less like wine where you’re getting down to the terroir of what side of the hill you’re on per se because most distillers don’t have access to grain at that level,” says Marshall. “But for us it’s sort of the regionality of the states of where the grain is coming from. We try to get it as close to where our home is.” For Rifino Valentine, the founder of Valentine Distilling in Ferndale, Michigan, it’s

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pepper alongside strong notes of malt, Boot Hill’s wheat-based vodka claimed a gold medal and the nod for best of vodka and grain spirits in ACSA’s 2020 Judging of Craft Spirits. The award validated about eight months of recipe development and testing for the distillery, which held a grand opening to coincide with a local festival in 2016—without any packaged products. Kelman says the distillery had been experimenting with various ingredients, of which they offered samples and collected written feedback during the grand opening. While Kelman says he wouldn’t recommend that path for other distilleries, the feedback was crucial. “You take that great product you have and send it out to the public a little bit here, letting them know that this is just an example, and all of a sudden you might hear some of the tough things that you needed to hear,” says Kelman. “And you go back and revisit it and go, ‘Oh, you’re right. We need to clear our heads a little bit here and get back to it and figure it out.’ “I know at the time we were going crazy trying to figure out, ‘Why are we continuing to fine tune this?’ But I think it was worth every penny.” POTATOES AND BEYOND The latest vodka to earn best of category and a silver medal in ACSA’s 2021 Judging of Craft Spirits also took a long road to the honor. Wood’s High Mountain Distillery of Salida, Colorado, had been open for seven years when it released San Luis Valley Potato Vodka in 2020. The distillery’s first and only vodka is made with potatoes from the nearby San Luis Valley. Wood’s co-founder P.T. Wood, who is also the vice president of ACSA, says it took about a year to dial in the recipe. “I would hate to have tried to make potato vodka right off the bat [to] try and make a living at it,” says Wood. “It’s not an easy product to make. And the vodka market out there is super crowded. For us, it turned out [to be] a work of love, of passion.” Wood says the distillery had to overcome consistency issues and to develop protocols for enzyme additions before they were ready to release the vodka, which has an earthy sweetness. Eventually, the distillery settled on dehydrated potatoes ground into what Wood describes as a flour. Similar to Wood’s, Young also uses dehydrated potatoes from Pennsylvania for his Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka. He also shares that he uses a Champagne yeast to draw more starch out of the potatoes.

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Lexi Aho of Proof Artisan Distillers in Fargo, North Dakota, echoes Wood on the temperamental nature of distilling potatoes. Proof produces 2DOCKS Vodka, made with starch from locally grown potatoes. “You have to know exactly what you’re doing,” says Aho, “because if you add the enzyme in at the wrong time, you’re going to end up with ballistic gel. If you add it in too late or too much of it, you’re going to end up with something else. It’s very time consuming and you really have to know what you’re doing when you’re making vodka out of potatoes.” Each of those distilleries credits local potatoes for making their vodkas unique. “We couldn’t make it anywhere else, and we couldn’t make it with any other ingredients than what we do,” says Wood. For its vodka, Hinterhaus Distilling relies on an ingredient a few steps removed from a farm. The Arnold, California-based distillery uses wine that would otherwise be destined for the drain. Nate Randall, who opened the distillery in 2020 with his wife Bonnie BoglioliRandall, says there are numerous reasons why the wine may be available—a winery overproduced, a contract fell through or it’s not selling through in the tasting room. While there is a financial benefit in collecting that wine (Hinterahus prefer totes, by the way, rather than bottles), the distillery also sees it as a sustainability effort. “They’ve used a ton of water to grow grapes and California has a major water

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Ryan Lang of Middle West Spirits

issue,” he says. “And then their alternative, if they can’t unload it somewhere, is to dump it down the drain. So for us ... it just makes sense all around.” The result is a vodka with cotton candy on the nose and hints of jam and vanilla on the palate. In the future, Randall says the distillery hopes to partner with winemakers to make its own purpose-built wine. For now, he says Hinterhaus will happily continue to produce

its vodka from unwanted deep red wines, typically Cabernet Sauvignon or red blends. As for blending vodkas made from a variety of bases like corn, wheat, rye and potato, Montana was immediately intrigued when the rest of the team at American Liquor Co.—including Mike Slapp, William Brumder and Steve Luttmann—approached him about the project. “I told them, ‘You’re trying to put together

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things [like corn and potato] that don’t like to be put together, and that’s going to be tough.’ That was also the reason why I kind of wanted to try it,” says Montana. The process of experimentation, he offers, was less like blending a whiskey and more like creating a gin, balancing flavors and combining disparate ingredients to make them greater than the sum of their parts. The final product includes wheat vodka from Middle West Spirits and Columbia, Illinois-based Stumpy Spirits Distillery; corn vodka from Yahara Bay Distillers in Madison, Wisconsin; rye vodkas from Grand Traverse Distillery and Valentine Distilling; and potato vodka from Proof Artisan Distillers. It is blended and bottled at Temperance Distilling Co. in Temperance, Michigan. “This was [also] an opportunity to highlight other distilleries,” says Montana. “It’s not just, ‘Hey we’ve got a cool marketing idea so we’re going to put this out.’ This is actually focused on other craft makers and telling their stories.” Part of that story is crafting a spirit behind which there is no place to hide. “Your vodka has to be clean coming off of the still, because there is no fixing it,” says Stephanie Nestor, who was promoted to head distiller at Boot Hill in August. “The charcoal filtering isn’t going to remove the sulfur. It’s not going to remove the bizarre off-flavors that people sometimes get when they rush the product.” That’s why Kelman preaches the importance of patience with vodka, mentioning that for many distilleries, it is the base for gin, liqueurs and many ready-to-drink cocktails. “Take your time and get it right,” he says. “You can tell the places that have done that—they’ve spent the time and really figured something out.” For Marshall at Spirit Works Distillery, it all comes back to local ingredients and the proper still and process. She says visitors often return to the distillery and share that they simply chill and sip Spirit Works vodka. Marshall reminds them that it “hasn’t been filtered through moon rock a hundred times. It’s been rectified to 190 proof the whole time; it’s been proofed down with reverse osmosis water; and gone through one carbon filtration, as opposed to being distilled seven times and filtered through all these things. “If you’re starting with great grain and you have the right equipment to distill appropriately and the right skills, you should be getting something beautiful that first time.” And, ultimately, a little respect from consumers and peers should follow. ■

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Stephanie Nestor

“YOUR VODKA HAS TO BE CLEAN COMING OFF OF THE STILL, BECAUSE THERE IS NO FIXING IT. THE CHARCOAL FILTERING ISN’T GOING TO REMOVE THE SULFUR. IT’S NOT GOING TO REMOVE THE BIZARRE OFF-FLAVORS THAT PEOPLE SOMETIMES GET WHEN THEY RUSH THE PRODUCT.” —STEPHANIE NESTOR OF BOOT HILL DISTILLERY

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Best of the Best The best in class honorees from the 2021 Judging of Craft Spirits

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n late August, the American Craft Spirits Association announced the medalists of its 8th Annual Judging of Craft Spirits, which were honored during a livestream awards ceremony. Medalists were hand-selected among a pool just shy of 550 entrants. During the event, ACSA proudly bestowed the evening’s ultimate honor, the Best of Show award, to Milam & Greene Whiskey Distillery in Blanco, Texas, for its Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Port Wine Casks. Dan Garrison from Garrison Bros Distillery served as the evening’s emcee, providing remarks to the online audience. The stream also featured remarks from Margie A.S. Lehrman, ACSA’s CEO, and Maggie Campbell, ACSA’s judging committee chair, who gave a warm welcome with an optimistic toast to the future of the industry.

This year, entries were submitted from 42 states across the country in seven main categories: whiskey, gin, rum, vodka & grain spirits, brandy, distilled specialty spirits, and ready to drink (RTD). In addition to a Best of Show and the best in class distinctions, the judging panel awarded 12 gold, 228 silver, and 242 bronze medals. The 2021 best in class distinctions, the highest honor in each of the seven judging categories, were awarded to a mix of both established, award-winning distilleries and younger newcomers. These winning distilleries will be presented with hand-carved barrelheads courtesy of Thousand Oaks Barrel Co., and all medal recipients will receive custom medals generously provided by Apholos. Learn more about these award-winning products in the following pages. ACSA would also like to thank its com-

petition sponsors, which include Glencairn, Heinz-Glas, and Top Shelf Logistics. Special thanks, as well, to Bloomington, Indiana-based Cardinal Spirits for serving as the host facility, and to our panel of 29 judges, including Amy Zavatto, Andie Ferman, Ashley Barnes, Ashtin Berry, Audrey Reid, Brett Pontoni, Caley Shoemaker, Clay Risen, Craig Shimko, Dan Farber, Dave DeFoe, Devin Walden, Duane Sylvestre, Gary Spedding, Jake Parrot, Johnny Caldwell, Katie Sauer, Lisa Laird Dunn, Lisa Wicker, M Carrie Allan, Matt Colglazier, Monica Wolf, Monique Huston, Paul Clark, Richard Wolf, Rob Benedum, Samara Davis, Steve Beal and Wayne Curtis.

CLICK HERE TO SEE A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL MEDALISTS.

BEST IN SHOW AND BEST OF WHISKEY

PHOTOGRAPHS: SARAH BAUMBERGER PHOTOGRAPHY

MILAM & GREENE STRAIGHT RYE WHISKEY FINISHED IN PORT WINE CASKS MILAM & GREENE WHISKEY DISTILLERY BLANCO, TEXAS Made with a blend of various aged rye whiskies distilled in Indiana, Milam & Greene Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Port Wine Casks is batched and finished in old Port wine casks in the Milam & Greene warehouse, where it is bottled at 94 proof. The Texas Hill Country weather greatly affects the aging in Port casks. The high variance in temperature and humidity in rapid succession in the warehouse quickly imparts a rich Port flavor into the whiskey. The team tastes it weekly to determine when to pull the rye from the Port casks so that they get the exact flavor profile that they are looking for. The result is a deep ruby amber color with rich dark fruits, chocolate, caramel, toffee and fig flavors that mellow the spiciness of the rye, while retaining that characteristic rye pop. “We’re incredibly happy with the richness and elegance of our Port finished rye,” says Heather Greene, CEO and master blender. “It has won prestigious awards previously, but to be selected as best in show by a panel of our craft distilling peers and industry experts is an absolute honor. As all craft distillers know, there is a certain element of trial and error when we make our spirits for the first time. That is exactly the case with this rye. I previously worked in Scotland where finishing whisky in the cool climate is fairly common. With that experience in mind, we planned on aging our rye for up to five months in the Port wine casks. We tasted our first batch at five weeks, and realized immediately that it was ready. We had to rush to pull it from the casks to vatting tanks for bottling. That important lesson has influenced our approach to cask finishing each batch since then.”

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BEST OF GIN

BEST OF READYTO-DRINK

28 MILE GIN 28 MILE DISTILLING CO. HIGHWOOD, ILLINOIS

COPPERWING HOUSE CALLS WILDERNESS DOWNTOWN COPPERWING DISTILLERY ST. LOUIS PARK, MINNESOTA

28 Mile Gin was inspired by a traditional London dry gin, but with a contemporary twist. “We developed our gin to be the Goldilocks of gins,” says co-owner Eric Falberg. “Not too much juniper, not too floral. It’s just right.” The distillery is located 28 miles north of the center of Chicago and also produces vodka and Debonair Bourbon.

This 70-proof ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail is the third offering in Copperwing’s House Calls lineup. It is made from 27 ingredients, including Copperwing Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Copperwing Fernet liqueur, real maple syrup and Copperwing Aromatic Bitters. Each bottle contains six servings and is made in-house by hand in small batches. “We are so honored to be recognized in a national trade association that we are members of and have a business that is part of the whole American entrepreneurial distilling group,” says Kyle Kettering, Copperwing’s owner and master distiller. “We are all striving to make a name for our brand and products, yet it’s so difficult to stand out in this type of business without largescale operations and equally large marketing budgets. Thankfully, craft producers can make standout products and this platform will help us tell the world about it!”

BEST OF SPECIALTY SPIRITS CARLINO BRO’S BOOTLEGGER’S EDITION BARREL FINISH 3 HUNDRED DAYS DISTILLING MONUMENT, COLORADO 3 Hundred Days Distilling produces a wide range of moonshine. It’s 92-proof Carlino Bro’s Bootlegger’s Edition Barrel Finished starts as the distillery’s traditional Colorado shine, distilled from beet sugar, commonly referred to as “sugar moon” throughout Prohibition. The spirit’s name is a nod to Pete and Sam Carlino, who controlled the flow of bootlegged alcohol from southern Colorado to Denver from 1922 to 1932. Along with the Carlino family, the distillery brought a little history back to life with its wheated Colorado shine aged in American oak and finished in Pinot Noir wine casks, creating a unique specialty spirit with smooth, rich whiskey-like flavor.

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BEST OF VODKA & GRAIN SPIRITS SAN LUIS VALLEY POTATO VODKA WOOD’S HIGH MOUNTAIN DISTILLERY SALIDA, COLORADO The 80-proof San Luis Valley Potato Vodka starts with Colorado potatoes from the state’s San Luis Valley, 50 miles south of Wood’s. The distillery triple-distills the vodka and then blends it with water from Colorado fourteener snowmelt. When describing the experience of tasting this vodka, co-founder P.T. Wood starts with the mouthfeel. “It’s just a really thick, syrupy liquor,” says Wood. “And then you get this beautiful kind of earthy sweetness to it, that just kind of lingers … in a way that I hadn’t experienced before.”

BEST OF RUM

BEST OF BRANDY

Star Union Spirits named its spirit Navy Strength Dark Rum because it is bottled at 114 proof, 57% alcohol by volume, the traditional strength required by the British Royal Navy. Traditional Navy strength rums also had a distinct recipe that added caramel to give the rum its unique color and flavor. Star Union Spirits Navy Strength Dark Rum is made from Louisiana first-boiled molasses. The spirit is aged in oak for approximately one year, then married with charred oak spirals and caramelized molasses, and finished in charred oak barrels, imbuing the spirit with its signature dark rich color and deep flavor. This rum was distilled by distiller Casey Beall, who joined Star Union Spirits nearly three years ago.

This spirit features Palisade-grown pears and is aged a minimum of six years (Xtra Old) in a single toasted French and American oak stave barrel. There are roughly 22 pounds of pears in every 750-mL bottle, which are all pressed, fermented and distilled at Peach Street Distillers. The regular Pear Brandy (aged an average of four years) is available at any fine retailer in Colorado, but the XO Edition is only available at Peach Street Distillers in Palisade and its sister Brewstillery, Ska Street in Boulder.

NAVY STRENGTH DARK RUM STAR UNION SPIRITS PERU, ILLINOIS

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PEAR BRANDY XO EDITION PEACH STREET DISTILLERS PALISADE, COLORADO

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member spotlight

A TIGHT SHIP From grain to glass, Spirit Works Distillery sails ahead BY JON PAGE

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PHOTOGRAPH: LOREN HANSEN (BOTTLES)

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trange as it may sound, a life at sea prepared Timo and Ashby Marshall to run a distillery. They met while working on research vessels for environmental nonprofits and later managed warehouses. The experience at sea helped them think on their feet and be resourceful, and the warehouse work gave them experience with logistics and forklifts—all of which would prove helpful in their next career. “When you’re on a ship … if something breaks, you have to fix it and you have to fix it with whatever is available to you,” says Ashby Marshall. “Being a small family-run business, you can’t just buy the fanciest thing to fix every single part. You’re always sort of being a genius and trying to figure things out.” Clearly, the Marshalls figured things out when it came to distilling. With a commitment to making spirits from grain to glass, Timo and Ashby founded Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol, California, in 2012. They started with a passion for making their Sloe Gin, but also make gin, vodka and whiskey from organic California-grown grains. They strive to be transparent, diligent, intentional and creative in everything they do. “We try not to cut corners,” says Timo. “We focus on our product right from the very beginning as it comes into the distillery until it leaves the door. Every aspect of it—the packaging, the design, the labels, and obviously the spirits that go inside it.” For Timo, making sloe gin is a family tradition. Growing up in the United Kingdom, he remembers foraging the English countryside for sloe berries as a teenager, and making sloe gin at his grandmother’s kitchen table. He ooked forward to giving it out as Christmas gifts. Years later, when he and Ashby were engaged, he presented Ashby’s parents with a bottle of his own sloe gin. “I couldn’t think of anything greater to do,” he says. “That was my way of thanking them.” Before Timo and Ashby considered opening a distillery, they were hoping to farm their own sloe berries and team up with a local distiller, but they realized that their interests aligned more closely with distilling. “We discovered that we were really hyper passionate about doing everything from grain to glass,” says Ashby. “We were real traditionalists and really wanted to make sure that we were doing everything from scratch.” They were especially drawn to Sonoma County, and are located in The Barlow, a market district featuring local food, wine,

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“We discovered that we were really hyper-passionate about doing everything from grain to glass. We were real traditionalists and really wanted to make sure that we were doing everything from scratch.” —Ashby Marshall of Spirit Works Distillery Timo and Ashby Marshall founded Spirit Works Distillery in 2012.

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beer, crafts and, of course, spirits. Both Timo and Ashby are distillers, but Timo gravitated more towards operations while Ashby initially focused mainly on production. Timo says Ashby’s culinary prowess makes her a natural when it comes to distilling. “Ashby is an astounding cook,” says Timo. “She is just incredible at putting meals together. … Because of that, it means that her approach to distillation is very much intuitive. She can look at a mash or how distillation is actually running and intuitively feel that it needs a little extra something. Whereas for me, I can cook, but I’m a much better baker, which means that I need a

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recipe to follow.” While their Sloe Gin may have been the impetus for starting the distillery, the Marshalls are equally proud of their whiskeys. They make a Straight Wheat Whiskey, mashed from 100% organic red winter wheat grown in the Sacramento Valley; Straight Rye Whiskey with a mash bill consisting of 70% rye and 30% malted barley; and Four Grain Straight Bourbon, featuring 60% corn with wheat, rye, and barley. And they will soon release a light spelt whiskey that was aged in a sour beer barrel for over four years. The distillery is also experimenting with sonic aging, pumping music into some of its

whiskey barrels, which Timo calls “partly a little science, partly a little curiosity, but most of all, it’s a little fun.” Previous barrels have listened to everything from classical music to bluegrass to hard rock. “We of course always say any barrel is like a snowflake,” says Ashby, “and you’re going to get variation and different beauty amongst each of them. “It’s been a fun process to see what people think.” In recent years, other head distillers have joined the team. This January, Spirit Works announced that it was promoting Krystal Goulart to head distiller. Prior to that, Lauren Patz held the same title. Ashby says the line

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PHOTOGRAPHS: LOREN HANSEN (GOULART, COCKTAIL) AND CAMILLE CAUTHEN (SIGN)

Krystal Goulart


of female distillers was coincidental. “We’ve never done it intentionally, but it’s definitely inspirational to have a woman down there who’s in charge of most of the production,” says Ashby. Goulart began an apprenticeship with Spirit Works in 2018 after more than a decade of work in the wine industry. Goulart, who was recently named to Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 40 under 40 tastemakers, recalls a pivotal shift when she attended an impromptu holiday party at Spirit Works several years ago. She had already been thinking about branching out into a career that was less seasonally focused but highly creative, and

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she found the right fit at Spirit Works. “I feel deeply aligned with the company’s philosophies and core beliefs of transparency and focus on education,” says Goulart. “Our relationship has felt very natural and I still pinch myself every time I think of myself as a head distiller here.” The latest challenge for the distillery is to create an amaro with a sloe berry twist, as distillery tasting rooms in California can only mix their own spirits in cocktails. “Since we regularly make Sloe Gin on site and have access to what we call bitter sloe (sloe gin without the sugar), we think it’s going [to work as] a base for our untraditional

amaro,” says Goulart, who adds that Spirit Works is aiming to release its amaro by the end of the year. In the more distant future, the Marshalls have their eyes set on sustainable growth, staying transparent, and focusing even more on local grains. “I really have a goal of getting that regionality of grain down to miles away from our distillery,” says Ashby. “We’re surrounded by farm country of various different kinds and beautiful soil. And the more I can join with local farmers to create a better livelihood for them and to create a better whiskey for us is something I’m always going to strive for.” ■

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distilling destinations

Top of the World With an already-complicated supply chain, Alaska distilleries hope to rebound from the depths of the pandemic. BY JEFF CIOLETTI

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s the world continues to deal with all sorts of supply-chainrelated headaches due to the pandemic and the subsequent workforce shortage, the disruptions tend to be exacerbated significantly in remote, sparselypopulated regions. Long lead times on raw materials, packaging and other mission-critical items have always been par for the course for distilleries in Alaska and the current situation is only adding another level of pain. But to be painting craft spirits producers there with broad strokes would be doing them a disservice because Alaska has far and away the most land of any state. So a distillery in Fairbanks is going to have significantly different needs than one more than 700 miles away in Juneau. “There definitely are some unique challenges to operating in Alaska, supply chain challenges,” says Heather Shade, founder and owner of Port Chilkoot Distillery in Haines, about 90 miles, as the crow flies, northwest of Juneau. “We’re in southeast Alaska, which is closer to the Pacific Northwest, just at the north end of the Inside Passage. We’re along the water here and our main supply chain connection is with Seattle.” But Washington State’s largest city is still more than 1,000 miles from Port Chilkoot, with all distillery supplies arriving by barge. “We’re in a small, rural community that’s difficult to access and we get one barge a week that arrives here in Haines and leaves Seattle a week prior,” Shade explains. “That extends our time for planning [regarding] raw materials and for shipments of our finished products in and out [of the distillery].” Those products include 50 Fathoms London dry-style gin, Icy Strait Vodka, Green Siren Absinthe, Boatwright Bourbon and Wrack Line Rye. This month, the distillery is releasing the first batch of its rum, which will be available in southeastern Alaska, with plans for expansion throughout the state next year. Despite the extra time built in due to shipping distance, the Seattle connection is quite reliable. “It’s really efficient and consistent to get materials here out of Seattle, it just creates another leg of cost, time and logistics,” Shade says. Distillers located in Alaska’s interior rely on more land-based access to their supply chain—after their shipments arrive via water in Anchorage, that is. “For things like bottles or cans, it’s a good three weeks to get them from when we order them,” says Rob Borland, founder and distiller at Ursa Major Distilling in Ester, part of greater

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Sean Copeland and Heather Shade of Port Chilkoot Distillery

Distilleries outside the interior, in coastal areas like the southeastern section of the state, have been hit the hardest since cruise ship traffic ground to a halt. Fairbanks. “It’s mostly a lot of thinking ahead. … The pandemic has doubled that time frame.” The interior of Alaska is where most of the state’s agricultural activities take place and that usually means easier access to grains. But Ursa Major has recently moved away from being a strictly grain-focused distillery.

“We used to do all barley up here, Alaska barley, but during the pandemic we pulled the plug,” Borland notes. “The barley-growing season is long, but ground temperatures are not the best for barley. It makes for great feed-grade barley—there’s a lot of protein, but not enough starch in it.”

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The distillery switched to sugarcane and the irony that Alaska is about as far away from the world’s cane-growing regions as you can get is not lost on Borland. “We just released our aged rum,” he says. “It’s one we’ve done before, but it’s in a beautiful new bottle and we’re pretty excited about it. We’ve gone to much larger-format barrels for this rum. Ursa Major also produces Akavit, Summer Harvest Gin and Long Winter Vodka, as well as canned cocktails—all from cane sugar. The distillery sells most of what it makes in Fairbanks. “Every once in a while we get some down to Anchorage, mostly for fun or if we have extra,” Borland says. “But for the most part we sell every drop right here.” And that means to locals, as well as travelers. “The tourist industry in Fairbanks is kind of unique [as it’s] fairly year-round,” he notes. “A lot of people in the summer come to see [Mount] Denali and in the winter we get a lot of tourists from Asia who want to see the Northern Lights and go to the hot springs. But [our consumers] are predominantly local, that’s our bread and butter.” And that’s been a good thing, considering tourism has dropped off substantially since the pandemic began.

Distilleries outside the interior, in coastal areas like the southeastern section of the state, have been hit the hardest since cruise ship traffic ground to a halt. “A large component of our economy here is based on tourism,” says Shade. “A large portion of those [tourists] come on cruise ships and those haven’t been sailing in any meaningful numbers yet.” Cruises have returned to southeast Alaska this summer, but they haven’t been at full capacity. Skagway Spirits, located about 20 miles northeast of Port Chilkoot, reports a sales decline of 87%, thanks mostly to the tourism drought. “Our tasting room has been very impacted because we depend on our cruise ship tourism,” says Skagway general manager Janilyn Heger. “[Last year] we didn’t have a single ship come through. This year, so far we’ve had four and the ones that were on their way this week have canceled because of COVID and various reasons.” One silver lining: Consumers who live in states to which Alaskan producers are allowed to ship have been ordering Skagway’s products more. “That’s had [a] small impact on our

business and oddly enough that’s recently been picking up—when people couldn’t make their trips to Alaska,” Heger says. “Maybe they’d been here before or heard of us.” At the very least they may have heard about the distillery’s water supply, the base for its Bone Dry Gin—a five-botanical, “stripped down, classic gin,” Heger says—and Glacial Vodka. “[People are] amazed at the water they drink right out of the tap and we tell them that’s the water we’re using to distill,” she reveals. The glacier-derived water goes through no processing and is available to the distillery in its most unadulterated form. “A lot of [other companies] will say ‘We use glacial water,’ but … it goes through treatment,” Heger notes. “Nothing happens to ours. It comes off a Juneau ice field and we get a special dispensation from treating it. … It really does have a flavor and it’s delicious.” Tourism or not, it’s that sort of local pride that’s going to continue to be the lifeblood of distilleries across the vast land mass that is Alaska. “There is a large market in Alaska for Alaska-made products,” says Port Chilkoot’s Shade. “Alaskans really support their local businesses. … I don’t want to give the impression that it’s just visitors.” ■

“For things like bottles or cans, it’s a good three weeks to get them from when we order them. It’s mostly a lot of thinking ahead. … The pandemic has doubled that time frame.” —Rob Borland of Ursa Major Distilling 56 |

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raw materials

SHEAVES OF GOLD Corn, rye and malt have all had their time in the whiskey spotlight. Why not wheat? BY JEFF CIOLETTI

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The category of wheat whiskey—many would argue—is smaller than it should be, considering the abundance of the grain in the U.S. Tradition is partly responsible for that—corn, rye and barley tend to have more prominent roles throughout distilling history. And then there’s the cost issue. Sure, wheat generally isn’t prohibitively expensive, but you get what you pay for. If you’re talking wheat with Denver’s Laws Whiskey House, don’t ever mention commodity grains. “We’ll pay two to three times commodity prices for farms and farmers who grow for us,” says Laws founder Al Laws. “We recognize that this isn’t going to happen if you’re trying to minimize cost. We’re not interested in that. … We’re interested in presenting flavor and we’re going to pay for that.” Much like farm-to-table in the culinary world, Laws says, it’s not about yield, it’s about differentiation. “People are looking for more flavors,” notes Peyton Mason, CFO at Laws. “[The grain] is going to be grown for specific nuances, rather than how many bushels for the acre I could possibly get. People are starting to get that quality is better than quantity, that’s for sure.” When Laws first started making wheat whiskey, it was using Midwestern hard red wheat. “It presented us with all of the elements of wheat that we were looking for: baking spice, orange—all of the stuff it brings to the distillate,” Laws remembers. “We ran into this really interesting situation where we were able to try some of this heirloom variety, Centennial, in a malted form because we ran out of some of the other product. Once we tried [the heirloom variety], it was no contest. This was what we were going with.” The heirloom grain in question, soft white

“When you malt [rye], you leave a lot on the table because it doesn’t fully attenuate. The wheat fully attenuates. It ferments pretty viciously and we’re happy with how that works.” —Al Laws of Laws Whiskey House C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

Centennial spring wheat, offered much more robust flavors. The red exhibited more traditional, hay-like grain flavor. Centennial, on the other hand, showcased more pronounced fruity elements.” Centennial has since become the base of Laws’s 100% wheat offerings, Centennial Straight Whiskey Bonded and Straight Wheat Whiskey finished in curaçao casks. The whiskeys incorporate a combination of malted and raw wheat. Not too far from Laws in Longmont, Colorado, Dry Land Distillers has been producing two separate 100% wheat whiskeys, each based on a single variety. Sonoran white is the grain of choice for Dry Land’s Heirloom Wheat Whiskey. “When we set out to create Dry Land Distillers, we were looking around for what we could do as a distiller to really, genuinely, authentically represent Colorado, the American West, in our spirits,” says Dry Land co-founder Nels Wroe. “When we started to dig into … the idea of grain to glass, we realized that— while there’s a lot of great traction there— we’re also missing one more step, which is—is the grain we’re using appropriate for the place we’re living or the place we’re celebrating?” That ultimately led Dry Land to grains that had been recovered from the Sonoran Desert, which—as Dry Land’s name suggests—gets a similar amount of moisture that Colorado gets. White Sonora wheat fit the bill. The other variety Dry Land uses is Antero, which local growers developed in partnership with Colorado State University, to cultivate a grain that would do well in the state’s climate. Colorado Antero Wheat Whiskey has a spicier edge than the Heirloom spirit, balanced with caramel, vanilla and black cherry. Dry Land promotes Colorado Antero Wheat Whiskey as a “30-mile whiskey,” as the grain is grown (at Arnusch Farms in Prospect Valley, Colorado), harvested, malted and distilled within a 30 mile radius. Even the spent grain’s final destination—Black Cat Farm in Boulder— fits within that distance. “[Antero]’s a very uncommon grain, it’s a low protein grain that kind of fell out of favor because it doesn’t have the protein content— bakers don’t like it as much,” Wroe says. “Our grower, as far as we know, is the only grower left growing that grain and it’s a phenomenal grain. It’s got some lovely backbone to it and it’s got some rye-like characteristics in our whiskey.” The Sonoran white’s kernels are tiny compared with those of the Antero. “So you’ve got some sensory difference and visual differences in the grain itself,” Wroe notes.

Flying Leap Vineyard and Distillery knows a thing or two about white Sonora, thanks to the fact that its Elgin, Arizona, base is located within the desert in question. So it was only a matter of time before president and CEO Mark Beres started making a whiskey with it. Some of it’s been available unaged as a moonshine, while the rest has been aging in the cellar. “The moonshine has been wildly popular,” Beres says. “We make some, it sells out, we make some more, that sells out.” Unlike Laws and Dry Land, Flying Leap decided against a 100% wheat mash bill for its products. “The Sonoran wheat is a little different than soft winter wheat,” Beres says. “As a 100% wheat whiskey, I think it’d be very good—it’d be very smooth—but I don’t think it’d have enough flavor. So I put in some sweet corn and some roasted malt and that roasted caramel malt is really going to give it a lot of richness in texture and flavor. I don’t think the wheat by itself is going to make as remarkable a whiskey.” The “very soft, very mild” wheat needs to be ground very fine, Beres notes. When Middle West Spirits in Columbus, Ohio, first started producing wheat whiskey about 12 years ago, it relied on a mash bill that was exclusively wheat. But the distillery ultimately realized that a small proportion of barley malt would enhance the process and the product. “We were doing a 100% wheat mash and then converting with liquid enzymes,” recalls co-founder and head distiller Ryan Lang. “Since then, we realized that the flavor was too singular and we needed to beef up the product some more.” Middle West turned to different varieties of malt, primarily for starch conversion. “It’s not a high percentage [of barley malt], it’s just another component,” Lang says. “It gets the sugars where they need to be for the yeast to consume them.” KO Distilling in Manassas, Virginia, found its magic number to be 60/30/10—the percentages of wheat, rye and malted barley, respectively, in its Bare Knuckle Straight Wheat Whiskey—a product that launched in 2016 and was the first aged spirit the distillery released. The 2016 iteration was bottled at a year old “Probably for four years running it was our most flavorful drink—nothing came close,” says KO co-founder Bill Karlson. “It really popped, the combination of the sweet wheat taste on your first sip, but then the rye on the backend that gave it a little heat. It was definitely our most flavorful spirit until we started to have our bourbons and our ryes getting up to four years.”

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KO currently offers three wheat expressions: small-batch multi-barrel, cask-strength and single-barrel. The distillery is releasing them older and older and Karlson expects to have a four-year-old, bottled-in-bond version some time next year. Karlson has observed that, comparatively speaking, KO’s bourbon was more of a “late bloomer” than the wheat. “Bourbon needed more time in the barrel, but from the get-go, the wheat has always been more flavorful,” he notes. KO head distiller Ryan Hendricks adds that the raw grain flavor comes through a lot more in younger barrels, but the wood can easily overpower the wheat if it spends more than a few years in the cask. As for how the grain behaves before it gets to the barrel—or the still for that matter—well, it depends on whom you ask. Hendricks reports that wheat is relatively accommodating, especially when compared with rye, noting that he’s found fewer yield issues with the former than he has with the latter. “They’re basically similar plants, but rye will foam up really bad on us and get sticky,” Hendricks says. “So it’s definitely a lot easier to work with than 100% rye, but a little more difficult than corn.” Meanwhile, Laws has found that, during fermentation, wheat tends to get a “gooeyness” that’s similar to rye at the same stage. “We attribute some of the flavor to its gooeyness stressing out some of the yeast and giving off different flavor compounds,” Laws reveals. He also touts wheat’s diastatic power, versus rye. “When you malt [rye], you leave a lot on the table because it doesn’t fully attenuate,” he explains. “The wheat fully attenuates. It ferments pretty viciously and we’re happy with how that works.” Despite that, the grain still can be a “pain in the ass” in other ways, says Dry Land’s Wroe. Failure to pinpoint the precise fermentation temperature could turn the process into a bit of a nightmare. “I only wish it would behave,” Wroe offers. “We battle with every mash. We have this thing dialed in, but [with] every mash, we can miss our temperatures by—I’m not kidding—two degrees and we’d have a problem. So it’s super-sensitive to all of our temperature breaks and temperature rests.” Any slight thermal deviation means you’re either going to end up with a “sticky, gooey mess” or dramatically lower yields. Distillers can mitigate the yield issue with added enzymes, but Dry Land’s goal is to use only the

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enzymes that are native to the grain itself, without having to add any. “I know we have some cheats if we had to,” Wroe says, “but at this point we’re just unlocking what’s available in the grain itself.” For Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol, California, however, the use of added saccharifying enzymes is as much by design as Dry Land’s avoidance of them is. Not only does it help the mash process and deliver the conversions the distillery desires, but it influences the character, as well. “That part of it is very specifically intentional and we do the same thing for the base of our white spirits, as well,” says Ashby Marshall, co-founder and brand director. “We didn’t want a malted flavor coming over [the white spirits] and [our] whiskey shouldn’t go over that way as well. From a milling and mashing standpoint, Marshall has found wheat to be a bit easier to work with than rye and corn, which tend to get thicker and clump a little more than wheat. “We’ve got the right mill, the right sieve for [wheat], so it processes really well here,” she says. “We’re lucky that we get through about 2,000 pounds of grain, which is the size of our batches, in an hour and a half with the mill we have here—which is fast and quite nice.” Each batch yields about two barrels of whiskey. Beyond its 100% Straight Wheat Bourbon, organic California red winter is very much a part of Spirit Works’s brand identity across its portfolio. In addition to forming the base of its Gin, Sloe Gin and Vodka, it’s a key component of the distillery’s Four Grain Straight Bourbon and it’s 40% of the mash bill for its Wheated Bourbon. Marshall believes that the grain is very much rooted in the heritage of the Golden State. It’s likely that any distillation that was happening on the West Coast in the 19th century was largely wheat-based. “This is what easily, naturally grows out here, versus what easily, naturally grows on the East Coast,” she points out. “I will [offer the] caveat that I haven’t done extensive research, but it is our assumption. It just makes sense.” And it’s just one more element that could add to the appeal of distilling wheat and grow a category that is massively overshadowed by whiskeys made with more historically prominent grains. “Wheat whiskeys are a lovely addition to our spirits culture,” says Dry Land’s Wroe. “If you look at the fun differences, the flavor profiles that you can get from true whiskey wheat, it opens up a whole new world. … Come on guys, this is a category of its own, that deserves to get some attention on its own.” ■

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Ryan Lang of Middle West Spirits

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packaging

COPING WITH THE ‘CANDEMIC’ How the ongoing shortage of cans is threatening the growth of ready-to-drink cocktail programs BY ANDREW KAPLAN

The Hawaii-based Kupu Spirits had been mostly spared the effects of the candemic, what many call the can shortage that has been plaguing segments of the beverage industry. A local can plant on the islands had kept Kupu’s supply of cans steady. But then recently, Kupu’s CEO, Garrett Marrero, noticed that was beginning to change. While it used to take a week or two for Kupu to get its cans, the distiller now often has to wait four to six weeks. “The plant has recently started to make cans to ship to the mainland,” explains Marrero. “Even though we still get all of the cans we need, the response time is longer.” Still, Marrero considers himself fortunate. “I’d rather that than not have cans,” he says. As Kupu’s experience shows, the candemic shows no signs of abating, and even continues to deepen. In fact, some estimates say it could be years before the supply of cans loosens for beverage manufacturers. An informal survey of craft distillers around the country reveals that delays in obtaining cans are quite common, as are price increases due to the scant supply. Marrero says he has experienced two price increases in the

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past year. On the other side of the country, in New York City, Jesse Ferguson, founder of Interboro Spirits & Ales, says he’s also seen costs for his cans rise in the past year. The reason for the tight supply has been described as a perfect storm of events. After demand fell for a while, the aluminum can has experienced a huge resurgence—and it has done so faster than the can suppliers can churn them out. Cans have become the package of choice for expanding alcohol beverage categories like craft beer and hard seltzers and non-alcohol such as sparkling waters, energy drinks and iced coffee. “COVID added further to demand as consumers bought more beverages in aluminum cans for home consumption,” says Scott McCarty, director, strategic communications, beverage packaging North & Central America, for Ball Corp., one of the major can manufacturers in the U.S. “Demand hasn’t slowed and remains at unprecedented levels.” Adding to the problem, are supply chains that are backlogged and short of personnel, such as truck drivers, as the economy tries to reopen from the pandemic. And McCarty says

last year’s unusually harsh winter also didn’t help. “Winter storms impacted many companies, including some suppliers,” he says. For the craft spirits industry, less reliant on cans than some of these other beverage categories, the candemic hasn’t been too severe—yet. But some worry this could change, and just as the industry is demanding more of them thanks to the strong success many distilleries are seeing with canned cocktails. While distillers say they are able to get most of the cans they need, they say some types are now harder to come by than others. It appears to be more difficult to obtain sleek cans, for example. Roger Kissling, vice president of sales & customer management for Iron Heart Canning Co., which operates 75 canning lines in 25 states, says he has seen an especially acute shortage of 12-ounce printed sleek cans. “Where a can manufacturer only has so much line time to produce different can sizes, it’s almost impossible to get in the queue to get sleek printed cans made for you, especially if you’re a smaller producer that doesn’t plan on ordering truckloads and truckloads,”

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he says. “I think one of the major reasons for that is the can manufacturers are prioritizing standard cans where they need to because there’s a shortfall there. And some of our larger customers rely on that.” Kissling says recent months have seen

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international supply coming into the market that has relieved some of the shortfall and the market has stabilized some, but these international cans have come with higher costs. While craft distillers are doing their best to adjust to the shortage, there are signs that it

is already hampering what was supposed to be one way the industry emerged from the devastating impact of the pandemic. PLANS POSTPONED For many craft distilleries, the candemic has

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upset their ability to plan like they would in normal times. This can be especially unsettling for businesses that are young and trying to expand. In some cases, in fact, what should be a time of celebrating the popularity of new canned cocktails is instead being spent worrying about whether there will be enough cans to grow the business to its maximum potential. Adam Quirk, co-founder of the Bloomington, Indiana-based Cardinal Spirits, for example, wonders what will happen if sales of the distillery’s new Bourbon Cream Soda keep growing. “The sales of that have outpaced everything else we sell. It hasn’t caused us any can problems yet, but if it keeps growing, it could cause a problem,” he says. He also says the long delays in being able to get a supply of printed cans also led the distillery to put off plans for a significant packaging change. “We actually were planning to transition from sleeved cans to printed cans last year, and put in an order, and our order got delayed by something like six months,” he says. “From a marketing perspective we had this new rollout planned and just had to push things down the road a little bit.” Cardinal uses cans strategically, Quirk says. It will roll out a new product using sleeved cans. If the product sells well, they will move it to a printed can because the higher volumes justify the extra up-front cost. “When we launch a new product, we usually do that in a sleeve can because it’s faster, first of all, and the minimums are lower. We don’t have to commit to a full truckload,” he says. “Having to order a whole truckload of cans almost a year before you get them, in an industry where innovation is so important, is very difficult.” For Lansdale, Pennsylvania-based Boardroom Spirits, the candemic has resulted in a stronger working relationship with Iron Heart, which they source from, and they are shifting away from sleek cans because sleek cans have been so hard to come by. “Right now, we’re working with the 12-ounce traditional beer cans complemented with a fun, customized label,” says Marat Mamedov, co-founder. “We’d love to do sleeks eventually, but for right now they require more planning due to the shortage.” Today, four of the top six Boardroom Spirits products are ready-to-drink canned cocktails. “COVID created the shock to our system, but we needed to really move forward with it,” Mamedov says. “It allowed people to really interact and get introduced to our brand through a different avenue. Cans have brought new, different consumers to us that

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enjoy our cocktail culture and in the last year it’s grown to be a healthy portion of our sales.” CANDEMIC WORKAROUNDS Craft distillers say the key to ensuring an ample supply of cans today is the ability to plan ahead. For example, the Newport, Oregon-based Rogue Ales & Spirits began creating a backup supply of cans early on, stockpiling about a quarter of a million dollars worth of cans. “We saw this coming about a year ago, if not more, and so started planning for it then,” says the company’s president, Dharma Tamm. Rogue uses 12-ounce printed sleek cans for its spirits. To be safe, Tamm says they began stockpiling unprinted cans. “So, we had these unprinted cans which we then will either label or shrink sleeve if we run out,” he says. The lesson Tamm learned is to try to provide your supplier with as big a lead time as possible for your orders. “If you’re in a production-constrained industry you have to help make that production as smooth as possible. So, working much further out than we’re used to and then finding other sources where possible,” he says. Rogue was also able to draw on the relationships with suppliers it had cultivated on the brewery side. “A lot of this is based on relationships and making sure that we’re all trying to figure it out at the same time,” Tamm says. In fact, drawing on relationships was cited by several distillers as a critical tool when it came to obtaining enough cans. This could be a relationship with a supplier, but some also said they helped other craft distillers find cans if they could. In New York City, Ferguson, of Interboro Spirits and Ales, says contracting with Berlin Packaging has helped ensure his distillery’s uninterrupted supply. “We have a really good relationship with them and basically contracted with them to buy cans,” he says. “So, they in turn guaranteed that we wouldn’t run short.” Mamedov says Boardroom uses Iron Heart to can its flagship larger-volume products, and will can its smaller releases itself. “Iron Heart is able to bring everything to you, including cans and ends,” he says. “You can even get pre-sleeved cans as well which really makes it super convenient. … It may not work out as much for someone who’s doing smaller volumes, but it’s been kind of a saving grace as we grow our canning program.” Also, baking into your business plan the possibility of further can price increases is probably a good idea at this stage. Kissling predicts that price volatility will continue.

After demand fell for a while, the aluminum can has experienced a huge resurgence— and it has done so faster than the can suppliers can churn them out. “Where in previous years, if you saw one or two price changes the entire year, that’s all you would expect.” Kissling says he’s already seen more than that in 2021. ANY RELIEF IN SIGHT? How long will the candemic last? One report, from Credit Suisse, said it could stretch until 2025 or 2026. Kissling likens the industry’s adjusting to the demand for cans to trying to turn a barge. “Getting new can manufacturing plants and facilities online is a slow process,” he says. “And I believe for the can manufacturer, from a business standpoint, it’s much better for them to be slightly behind the curve than ahead of the curve when it comes to demand. They like to run these facilities to maximum efficiency.” McCarty says Ball is aggressively expanding its U.S. can manufacturing production to meet long-term domestic demand growth by installing two new lines in existing facilities (which are now running at speed) and building state-of-the-art plants in Glendale, Arizona; Pittston, Pennsylvania; and yet another recently announced in Concord, North Carolina, that is scheduled to start up in late 2023 or early 2024. It is also building a can ends plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. “Ball is working with our customers to minimize short-term impacts by supplying cans from our global plant network, as well as continuing to improve the efficiency and production of our existing aluminum can, bottle and end lines,” he says. In the meantime, a more reliable supply of cans cannot come too soon for those craft distillers, such as Cardinal Spirits, looking to take advantage of the consumer’s love of canned cocktails. Says Quirk: “If someone wanted to create a business that would create cans faster for smaller producers, I think that would be a very successful business.” ■

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FREE TO MEMBERS

Quench your thirst for knowledge in ACSA’s Craft Spirits Classroom. Upcoming webinar topics include crafting the perfect contract, SBA’s EIDL program changes, and getting to know the craft malt movement. For more information or to register, visit our website at https://americancraftspirits.org/education/webinars

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER


human resources

SEXISM IN THE SPIRITS INDUSTRY Rooting out toxic culture requires a unified effort. BY SARA BETH URBAN

When the stories about widespread sexual harassment and discrimination in the beer industry came out this May, I knew that the Tennessee Distillers Guild and the entire spirits community needed to address this issue immediately. It was not that I thought we needed to get ahead of it, because you cannot get ahead of something that is already happening. And I knew for certain it was already happening. How did I know? Because I’m a woman, and I’ve experienced some form of sexism in every job I’ve ever been in. It was that male colleague in a senior position who made an inappropriate remark about my appearance that I felt compelled to laugh at; it was that disgruntled ex-board member who suggested the president of the board was acting like “my boyfriend;” and it was the male colleague who called my idea stupid and then proceeded to offer a lengthy explanation that I didn’t ask for (which for those of you who don’t know, is the definition of mansplaining.) This type of behavior is prevalent to say the least. And in an industry that is majority male and makes a product that lowers inhibitions, sexual harassment is not only happening, but as the revelations from the beer industry proved, it could escalate to something much worse. That’s why the impetus is on men and women to end this toxic culture. It can only be done through a unified effort that combines women standing up for themselves; male allies listening to women’s stories and believing them; and everyone recognizing that this is a real and significant problem that can be fixed. For the women out there currently in the distilling industry, my message for you is: We belong here. We add value and bring a unique perspective to this industry. There will be people out there who try to devalue the work you do by belittling you or harassing you, but know that that is a reflection of their insecurities and issues and not an accurate judgment of your effort and contributions. To stop this behavior

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We can fix this problem; it just takes work. It takes partnerships. It takes calling out people who are problematic. though, you have to speak up. You have to say something when you’re uncomfortable; you have to listen to your female colleagues’ stories and take action; you have to be an advocate for yourself and other women. Change won’t happen without women owning their place in this industry and demanding a culture of respect. For the male allies that are already working to correct these issues, my message for you is: Keep it up. Keep speaking out; keep talking to your colleagues; keep amplifying women’s stories. While women are the ones who carry the burden of the actual experiences, you can be a part of the change. The distilling industry needs men who are willing to call out other men, whether those are the social media trolls or the master distillers, it includes everyone who is part of this industry. For the rest of the industry, if you are unsure whether this behavior is happening in your state, at your distillery, in your tasting room, at the retail store or anywhere else for that matter, my message for you is: Yes, it is happening in all of those places. It is happening online and in person. It is happening in overt sexual harassment like groping, as well as passive sexism like only hiring men for distillation or management positions. It is happening within the industry from the owner to the bartender, but also among the customers and enthusiasts who enjoy the products. It is not one isolated incident, it is countless stories, some that have been reported and some that have been ignored or silenced. I’m not saying this to make the situation sound hopeless. I’m not ringing the death knell of sexual equality in the distilling industry. We can fix this problem; it just takes work.

It takes partnerships. It takes calling out people who are problematic. It takes creating an environment at your distillery and in your tasting rooms for your employees and customers to know that sexist behavior will not be tolerated. If you do not know where to start, reach out to the American Craft Spirits Association or Women of the Vine & Spirits to discuss training opportunities for your workplace. Establish a code of conduct for your employees and customers so that the guidelines are clear on what kind of behavior you expect from your staff and patrons. Most importantly though, listen to your female employees and take them seriously. When they say they have been harassed, felt unsafe or feel discriminated against, listen to their stories and take action. I feel like Dolly Parton said it best: “As soon as you realize that [something] is a problem, you should fix it. Don’t be a dumbass.” ■

Sara Beth Urban is the executive director of the Tennessee Distillers Guild, working with distilleries statewide to manage and grow the industry as well as to promote the Tennessee Whiskey Trail. She has 10 years of experience in management and marketing and is a passionate advocate for gender equality in the workforce.

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Distribution & Logistics

WHOLESALERS GIVE CRAFT SPIRITS AN EXTRA HAND Larger distributors continue to reinvent themselves to appeal to the craft market. BY ANDREW KAPLAN

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, one of the nation’s largest spirits distributors, announced Aug. 3 the launch of SG+, an enhanced service offering that will include craft spirits. In doing so, it joins several other large wholesalers in offering special craft-focused programs. These include Breakthru Beverage’s Trident, Republic National

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Distributing Co.’s partnership with LibDib, and Horizon Beverage Group’s Origin, just to name a few. Will Willis, co-founder of Bully Boy Distillers in Boston, credits Origin with helping his company grow substantially over the past decade. Bully Boy was one of the first craft spirits brands to partner with the craftfocused venture during its launch about a decade ago. “Origin has really blossomed,” he says. “It’s seen as a benefit by the general salesforce at Horizon.” The craft-focused efforts by the larger wholesalers are structured in various ways, but their goals are often the same: to make craft suppliers take another look at the benefits a larger wholesaler can provide them.

They are doing it by forming various craftfocused teams or overlays to hand-sell craft brands, to give companies like Bully Boy the help they needed to expand their distribution. “It’s not a profit center for our company,” says Sam Rubenstein, Horizon Beverage Group’s principal/managing director, about the extra investment that’s required for Origin to be successful. “Is there a value in saying, ‘Hey, one of these could be the next Tito’s so it’s good that we’re building this relationship.’ Yeah, of course. But this is clearly now a significant part of the market. Every distributor realizes that in one way or another they’ve got to be engaged in craft spirits. The big question is how to do it? Everyone does it differently. While profitable, it’s still costly to

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do it correctly.” Nick Demjen, general manager emerging spirit brands at Horizon, describes the company’s Origin division as a “true sales overlay and support system” for the general Horizon salesforce. “Sam, who came up with the idea for Origin, saw a lot of wholesalers around the country take craft spirits and put it into the wine division, which doesn’t always work. When you’re going to a restaurant, you’re generally not talking to the sommelier about spirits. They’re not going to really want to care to hear about it for the most part,” he says. Southern says SG+ focuses on “a differentiated sales and service experience, paired with carefully curated portfolios.” It will be rolled out initially in Florida and Texas, with additional markets to follow in 2022. The spirits part will be called Craft Collection Luxury Spirits and will be led by Ray Lombard, Southern’s executive vice president and general manager, craft spirits. Lombard describes SG+ as a higher level of distribution service, an expansion of similar programs Southern already has in specific markets in the U.S., like Florida. He compares it to the military’s Green Berets in terms of the SG+ staff’s special training. For example, all SG+ team members will be WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) certified or are in the process of being certified. Also, SG+ brands will be delivered in temperature-controlled vehicles. “It’s not another person going in to push something, or to take the same order that the other sales rep was,” he says. “It is an enhanced service level, spending additional time in the account to make sure they can develop the right program … be it a seasonal drink list, be it a signature drink program. It creates opportunities to hand-sell products and it’s a different experience from somebody that’s coming in to take orders for the mainstream brands.” And Drew Levinson, Breakthru Beverage’s VP, business development, emerging craft brands, says Trident, launched in 2017, provides a heightened level of service to independent distilleries and entrepreneurs. “We are focused on bringing their stories and ambitions to the forefront,” he says. “Trident is a nationally aligned strategy that delivers a uniform approach on how we take these brands to market. We see ourselves as an incubation partner with the goal of growing these craft and emerging brands to whatever their aspirations are.” GETTING CRAFT RIGHT Experiences with the various wholesaler craft ventures around the country have varied,

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“They can really take time to educate themselves, get educated on our brands, and they’re there to really operate as advocates for the smaller brands that maybe wouldn’t get as much time.” —John Carrabus of One Eight Distilling on the craft divisions within wholesalers according to several craft distillers. For example, John Carrabus, director of sales Northeast for One Eight Distilling in Washington, D.C., says he has had a positive experience working with Breakthru’s Trident program. “They have a dedicated marketing person, a dedicated sales rep manager overlay, that was only focused on those brands within that portfolio and not the ‘Jack Daniel’s,’” he says. “So, it gave us more dedicated feet. “The other thing that’s really nice about the craft divisions within wholesalers,” he continues, “is they can really take time to educate themselves, get educated on our brands, and they’re there to really operate as advocates for the smaller brands that maybe wouldn’t get as much time.” Willis, of Bully Boy, remembers receiving a lot of attention from the Origin sales team from the start, but also recalls some confusion in the market in the early going. “Origin, as a brand unto itself, was unknown,” he says. “There was uncertainty amongst the general salesforce at Horizon and there was confusion in the marketplace as to what Origin was. There was a learning curve.” Willis says those early growing pains eventually went away, however. “Origin was instrumental in launching our brand and in helping it grow,” he says. “What they did was develop enough of a brand presence so that the general salesforce started to take notice. And it’s the general salesforce that call on all the large retail chains and deal with the large restaurant groups and have helped us to take

John Carrabus of One Eight Distilling

Drew Levinson of Breakthru Beverage

Laura Kanzler of Hotaling & Co.

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Nick Demjen of Horizon Beverage Group

Ray Lombard of Southern Glazer’s

Sam Rubenstein of Horizon Beverage Group

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the brand to the next level.” Today, Origin’s overall portfolio includes around 50 craft suppliers, according to Demjen. Laura Kanzler, the regional sales manager, NorCal, for Hotaling & Co. in San Francisco, says the experience a distiller has with these craft ventures can vary state by state depending, for example, on the distributor’s local team. “It really is specific to the relationship that you have with that distributor in the state that they’re in,” she says. “Some of them are really great at it and some of them have some growth and learning to do about the best way to have a craft spirits team.” Another distiller, Karen Hoskin, founder and owner of Montanya Distillers in Crested Butte, Colorado, recalls problems that arose when her rums were moved from the general sales division of one wholesaler into its newly created craft and luxury division. “There was just a cultural mismatch,” she says, adding that she especially resented being suddenly alienated from the general sales team. “I had been able to talk about Montanya and get them excited,” she says, recalling frequent presentations in front of 120 or so salespeople. “And they’d go out in the market and sell Montanya because they were salespeople, and they would sell Jell-O shots if you gave them Jell-O shots to sell. It was just kind of how they were. And I loved them. I loved that approach.” She just didn’t connect with the members of the craft division whom she described as “culty” and favoring certain brands. “It felt like this cult of 12 who had this little scene going on and there was a lot of like back scratching going on,” she says. “You had to get in their good graces. … It was just a harder sell.” To this day, she says she still prefers working with just a craft specialist, rather than a special craft division. “RNDC in Colorado I’m having really good luck with because they’ve never gone to the craft division in Colorado or Texas,” she says. “So, when I go to do brand education with them, I’m talking to groups of 100 people, 60 people usually at the smallest, and it just makes it so much more possible to get the word out,” she says. She prefers a lighter touch. “So, it’s not necessarily that there’s a division or a team or an overlay, it’s that they have people who really specialize. So, if a sales rep walks into a new account and they’re like, ‘Oh man, these guys want to just crush out the craft spirits,’ instead of trying to become an expert, they can bring in a craft spirits specialist. I’ve seen that be phenomenally effective. That person

moves in the same circles as the general salesforce people, so they’re in the presentations, they see what’s going on. But they’re an extra layer of expertise. I love that.” And Kate Palmer, founder of Hearts + Tales Beverage Co. in Vallejo, California, points to one potential pitfall with these craft divisions: “The worst thing that you would want is for your craft division to be stealing revenue and or placement from your general division, because your general division is really doing all the heavy lifting. You want them to complement one another and not fight one another for placements and money,” she says. Demjen says Horizon has found one way to avoid conflicts with its general sales force by paying them commission on the brands in the Origin portfolio in accounts also serviced by Origin reps. This way, if a Horizon rep’s account wants a craft brand in the Origin portfolio, the rep can call in the Origin team member and not lose that commission. It may be more expensive, but it is part of doing craft spirits business today at Horizon that Rubenstein alluded to when he said the extra costs mean Origin is not in itself a profit center for Horizon, though having the craft component does help the company overall. The fact is these larger wholesalers can bring to bear certain advantages when it comes to craft brands that other, smaller distributors may not be able to match. This includes their market reach, technology, market data, infrastructure and manpower. “We try to balance providing that extra support at the account level in a small universe of accounts, but still take advantage of our scale which is where we go to most customers in the state,” says Rubenstein about Origin. Adds Southern’s Lombard: “We have a whole army out there ready to quickly build that brand.” As these larger wholesalers, often generations old, continue to reinvent themselves to sell more craft, there is no denying that the trend signals the power the craft movement has today and the ways it continues to reshape the alcoholic beverage landscape in the U.S. And, as Rubenstein points out, it has also paid off in perhaps some unexpected ways. “I truly believe that the stories behind these brands are inspiring and exciting,” he says. “And there are a lot of brands that are more mature, where the customer’s initial focus is often price and program. Craft spirits have re-engaged the entire market with a focus on quality product and product attributes.” ■

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legal corner

DISTILLERY TO DOORSTEP The growing demand for DtC BY BREEDEN TESONE

It is no surprise that alcohol beverage consumers are going digital. Notably, 44% of alcohol e-shoppers in the United States only started purchasing alcohol online in 2020, an increase from 19% in 2019, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis consumer research data. The coronavirus pandemic has transformed consumer shopping behavior for good, driving demand for alcohol delivery to consumers’ doors. To-go cocktails are becoming commonplace in many states, but that does not mean that direct-to-consumer (DtC) spirits sales are picking up equally or receiving the same long-term privileges. Currently, only 12 states and the District of Columbia permit some form of DtC shipping of spirits. Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota and the District of Columbia authorize out-of-state distilleries and in-state distilleries to ship spirits directly to consumers’ residences in their state. However, these privileges are more limited in other states. Connecticut, Hawaii and Nevada allow consumers to obtain permits to receive limited quantities of distilled spirits for personal consumption; New Hampshire allows inbound shipping from distillers who obtain proper permits; and Oregon and Washington allow distilleries to ship only within their respective states. West Virginia allows distillers in West Virginia and in states other than West Virginia to ship to consumers in West Virginia only if the shipment is made to a retail liquor outlet. Despite the limited ability for distillers to ship directly to consumers, a national survey conducted for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reveals that 90% of consumers believe distillers should be permitted to ship their products directly to consumers. The same survey also shows that at least 76% of consumers would consider buying spirits directly from distillers outside or within their state for direct shipment. Clearly craft is missing out. The pandemic has brought about extensive

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changes in alcohol legislation. States including Alabama, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Virginia and Washington have adopted measures, temporary in some states and permanent in others, allowing distillers to deliver their products directly to consumers’ homes. Temporary measures have expired in other states, in New York for example. Bills were introduced and are pending in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Washington that would authorize DtC shipping of spirits. Bipartisan legislation was introduced to end the ban preventing the United States Post Office from shipping alcoholic beverages, which dates back to 1909 legislation that prohibited intoxicating liquors from being “deposited in or carried through the mails”. The United States Postal Service Shipping Equity Act (H.R. 3287), introduced on May 17 by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and 17 other co-sponsors (that number is now at 30), would authorize the United States Postal Service to ship alcoholic beverages directly to consumers from licensed producers and retailers, in accordance with state and local shipping regulations. A companion bill, S. 1663, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). If enacted into law, manufacturers would be provided access to consumers by means of DtC shipments. Unlike the private carriers that are currently permitted to ship alcohol, including FedEx and the United States Parcel Service, the United States Postal Service delivers to every address in the United States. According to Newhouse, “the USPS Shipping Equity Act would give rural producers access to another option for shipping alcoholic beverages”. The passage of pending bills into law that would allow DtC shipping and the passage of the United States Postal Service Shipping Equity Act would allow distillers to better serve their existing customers, while also

44% of alcohol e-shoppers in the United States only started purchasing alcohol online in 2020, an increase from 19% in 2019 reaching consumers who may not otherwise be able to purchase their products. ■

Breeden Tesone is a second-year law student at the University of Miami School of Law. This summer she completed a legal externship with the American Craft Spirits Association, which included researching and writing about legislation impacting the craft spirits industry.

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Retail: On-Premise

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IN LIMBO Cocktail bars and restaurants navigate restrictions and uncertainty. BY JOHN HOLL

There were a few weeks of calm. A few weeks of hope. Around the country, bar owners and managers, buoyed by the arrival of spring and a population receiving vaccines, reopened their dining and barrooms, hired back staff, and began trying to put an extraordinarily difficult 18 months behind them. “We’ve been focusing on gearing up on what we thought would be a complete return … to normal by September,” says Bill Thomas, the owner of Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington D.C. “We have staffing and everything else we needed, anticipating an increase in business, and then, bam, the Delta variant comes on strong.” The Delta variant of COVID-19 has become the pandemic of the unvaccinated, according to health experts, but breakthrough infections for those armed against the virus have also emerged, complicating indoor dining desires and bringing a return of mask mandates in various parts of the country. In turn, that has led to a desire for outdoor service only among consumers, to-go orders and an overall drop in business. “It’s been brutal,” says Thomas. Washington D.C. and other major cities have returned mask mandates to the streets and indoors, and that coupled with fears about the pandemic have slowed or canceled plans. Thomas says that a number of private parties that were scheduled at the bar were

“It’s strange to be happy about breaking even.” —Bill Thomas of Jack Rose Dining Saloon C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

Bill Thomas

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canceled or postponed. One recent party where 30 guests were expected only had eight attendees. This hurts the bottom line and long-term success. In a mid-summer interview, he had just returned from Kentucky where he selected single-barrel bourbons that will be available at the bar later this year. Special releases and tastes still bring in the regulars and enthusiasts, which in turn keeps the business afloat. “You know it’s a good thing when your accountant calls and says that you lost less money than the month before,” he says. “It’s strange to be happy about breaking even.” In San Francisco at Old Devil Moon, Chris Cohen, a managing partner, says the bar had a similar experience. In the early days of the pandemic Cohen went back to his homebrewing roots. He quickly purchased 12-ounce glass bottles and a manual capper and began to mix up cocktails for to-go sales. Publicity from being one of the earliest bars in the city to offer cocktails to go helped bring new

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customers to the doorstep and kept employees paid for as long as possible. Eventually, it was not enough and the bar was reduced to a skeleton staff. As the weather warmed and people got their jabs, Cohen says business rose again and staff was rehired. Any sense of calm was quickly washed away. “San Francisco recently re-mandated masks for indoor dining at bars and restaurants and that was only a few days after the SF Bar Owner Alliance, of which I’m a member, decided to issue a statement that many bars and restaurants in the city would now require proof of vaccination from customers,” says Cohen. “At first, I thought that was a bit of an overreaction to the new increasing Delta numbers, but after seeing a lot of breakthrough infections happening to people we know in the business, as well as family and friends, we’ve started requiring proof of vaccination at Old Devil Moon. I blame all the people who are refusing to get vaccinated for these steps,”

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PHOTOGRAPH: JASON PERRY (OLD DEVIL MOON)

Chris Cohen of Old Devil Moon

he says. A plan for a fifth anniversary party is now on hold, says Cohen. Similarly, events, dinners, and special releases at other bars are in limbo as owners try to figure out how many people they can safely have within their walls and if the margins can actually work. Owners and managers say that changes and upgrades made during 2020 and the earlier part of this year, like online ordering, QR code menus, hand sanitizing stations and advanced air filtration systems are likely to remain or be maintained going forward. In many cases, the added convenience or sense of security helps sooth customer aversions to germs. Portland, Oregon, also recently brought back a mask mandate, and that has helped take the burden off of the staff at the Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library, says general manager Lani Sickman. “It’s not us telling our guests what the right thing is or playing the role of moral police or health authority,” she says. Customers have largely been polite, she says, with a few exceptions. “The front door staff take the brunt of any annoyances,” she says. “But if someone goes against the rules or puts our staff at risk, we’re firm in asking them to leave.” The benefit to running a focused bar operation that attracts passionate customers likely helps to avoid some of the horror stories of rude or abrasive customers that have emerged from other sectors of the hospitality industry. Overall, the summer of 2021 has been difficult because future plans are once again on hold for bars around the country. There is the worry of once again having to furlough or lay off staff, and uncertainty with bank loans, many of which have current terms that expire at the end of this year. In the short term, Sickman says all they can do is roll with the punches. If it means limited indoor capacity again or socially distanced tables and stools, so be it. A desire to feel calm and have normalcy is the propellant forward. “We need to keep moving,” she says. “We don’t mind wearing masks. It’s not fun and the shifts are long but I’m optimistic that we will get through this.” How long that takes and what it ultimately does for the long-term physical and mental health of hospitality workers remains to be seen. “We never moved out of crisis mode,” says Thomas. “We’ve just been working hard to try to anticipate how things will be and are now used to getting kicked in the face. It just means we have to work harder to keep selling harder.” ■


“The front door staff take the brunt of any annoyances. But if someone goes against the rules or puts our staff at risk, we’re firm in asking them to leave.” —Lani Sickman of Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

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CRYSTAL CLEAR A look at what’s new and innovative in glassware

There’s a vessel for every occasion, whether it’s for something nosed and sipped or something shaken or stirred. Here’s a rundown of some of the latest glassware solutions for your tasting room or cocktail bar from some of the industry’s top suppliers. Glencairn Gin Goblet Scotland-based Glencairn Crystal, producer of the now-iconic whisk(e)y glass, recently expanded its line with the Gin Goblet, which the company calls “the definitive crystal glassware for your favorite gin serve, whether it be over ice with tonic and the garnish of your choice, or a twist on a gin cocktail.” The company notes that, with the rise in popularity of gin in recent years, drinkers and distillers had been asking why Glencairn hadn’t yet created a dedicated gin vessel. In response to that, Glencairn investigated the world of gin and discovered that existing gin glasses tended to be very similar to each other and that drinkers were already using the Glencairn

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Mixer Glass. The Mixer Glass was originally developed in consultation with the Canadian whisky industry and designed to allow appreciation of premium whiskies, while also being able to accommodate a mixer or ice. Glencairn used its Mixer Glass as the jumping-off point for designing the Gin Goblet, which boasts features like: • A lip for easy drinking • A curved shape at the top to help focus and enhance the aroma • A stem to keep the drinker’s hand from warming the gin • A fine crystal composition to enhance the clarity of the drink • A design that requires less ice to prevent the gin from becoming too diluted • A user-friendly weight The Glencairn Gin Goblet can be personalized for distilleries with bespoke engraving.

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The original Glencairn Glass

Cocktail Kingdom Cocktail Kingdom is known as a leader in all manner of barware, and that includes glassware of many shapes, sizes and functions. The company showcased a number of those at Bar Convent Brooklyn in August. • For an extra touch of elegance, Cocktail Kingdom offers its Leopold Coupe Glass with gold or silver trim, as well as the original version. The stemmed glass is ideal for the Manhattan, Sidecar, Bee’s Knees, Gimlet and other drinks served up. • The Audrey Saunders Sour Glass, developed in partnership with the prominent New York bartender, features a tulip shape that facilitates the addition of egg whites—a key ingredient in many classic sours.

Leopold Coupe Glass

Audrey Saunders Sour Glass

• The Nick and Nora Glass, named, of course, for the roles William Powell and Myrna Loy made famous in the “Thin Man” film franchise of the ‘30s and ‘40s, is the stemmed vessel with a wine-glass-like bell shape—holding a slightly smaller volume than a coupe glass and ideal for very spirit-forward up drinks. • The Yarai Rocks Glass has a capacity of 225 mL and enough room to fit a 2-inch ice ball in an Old Fashioned. • The Yarai Double Rocks Glass is a bit more contoured than the aforementioned Rocks Glass and holds just about 10 ounces (liquid and 2-inch ice ball combined)

Nick and Nora Glass

Yarai Rocks Glass (L) and Double Rocks Glass (R)

Rastal Ethora Germany’s Rastal recently unveiled its double-walled Ethora tasting glass, which, the company says, was conceived to allow drinkers to experience more clearly the different unfolding aromas. The bulbous shape is designed to fit comfortably in the user’s hand and sit stably on a flat surface. It features three different inner sections and the double wall helps insulate the spirit from environmental influences. The set includes three glasses, each with a distinct inner contour: cylindrical, coned and spherical. C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

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closing time

1 2.67%

2 4.28%

ECONOMIC THREATS In late July and early August, ACSA asked American craft spirits producers to take a short survey about the most important issues facing them as they relate to competition in the American economy. Market access was, unsurprisingly, the primary issue. See how 187 respondents ranked its importance, with 1 being least important and 5 being most important.

3 14.97%

4 13.37%

5 64.71%

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THERE IS

STRENGTH IN MEMBERS

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.

WHY JOIN? •

Build long-term relationships and enhance industry connections

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

Learn from industry thought leaders

Increase market access

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MEMBERSHIP ONLY OPPORTUNITIES BY

JOINING TODAY! A: P.O. Box 701414, Louisville, KY 40270 P: (502) 807-4249 E: membership@americancraftspirits.org


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