Craft Spirits March/April 2023

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34 Packaging Perfection

See all of the medalists from the third annual Craft Spirits Packaging Awards


Building a Global Brand

Breaking out of your comfort zone by exporting can be a great way to grow your brand, and yourself. Just don’t expect it to be easy.


All in on Amaro

Seattle-based Fast Penny Spirits crafts amari and shows commitment to impacting the greater good.



Harsh Weather, Smooth Spirits


Western New York has embraced its climate and roots to produce a regional distilling scene of distinction.

Cover photography: Jon Page

MARCH/APRIL 2023 | 3 34
4 | MARCH/APRIL 2023 CRAFTSPIRITSMAG.COM 8 Editor’s Note 9 Contributors NEW SPIRITS 12 Recent releases from Westward Whiskey, BENDT Distilling Co. and more IMBIBER ’ S BOOKSHELF 20 INDUSTRY UPDATE 22 An Upcoming Boom for American Single Malt Whiskey LEW ’ S BOTTOM SHELF 28 Shout About Agriculture BY LEW BRYSON ACSA AFFAIRS 30 A Toast to ACSA’s 10th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show SNAPSHOTS 32 Images from our convention in Portland, Oregon WHAT ’ S STIRRING 60 Flavorful concoctions from ACSA members DEPARTMENTS 12 22 60




Exploring the wide world of bars and tasting rooms



The Supply Chain’s New Normal

The havoc that the pandemic played with the craft spirits supply chain a year ago has morphed into new, sustained challenges—and some unexpected opportunities.




Cask Sizes

Exploring how your choice of casks can impact the flavor of whiskey



The Widening Reach of AI

Discussing some ways that artificial intelligence is weaving its way into the world of craft spirits



Supply Chain Issues




EDITOR IN CHIEF | Jeff Cioletti,


ART DIRECTOR | Michelle Villas


CONTRIBUTORS | Kate Bernot, Lew Bryson, John Holl, Andrew Kaplan and Jason Parker







LEGAL | Ryan Malkin, Malkin Law, P.A.

PUBLIC POLICY | Jim Hyland, The Pennsylvania Avenue Group

STATE POLICY | Michael Walker, The Walker Group, LLC


PRESIDENT | Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (VA)

VICE PRESIDENT | Gina Holman, J. Carver Distillery (MN)

SECRETARY/TREASURER | Jessica J. Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA)


Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (VA)

Jessica J. Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA)

Tom Potter, New York Distilling Co. (NY)


Gina Holman, J. Carver Distillery (MN)

Colin Keegan, Santa Fe Spirits (NM)

Amber Pollock, Backwards Distilling Company (WY)

Mark A. Vierthaler, Whiskey Del Bac (AZ)

Colton Weinstein, Corsair Artisan Distillery (TN)

P.T. Wood, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery (CO) VACANT


Thomas Jensen, New Liberty Distillery (PA)

Thomas Mote, Balcones Distillery (TX)


2018-2020 | Chris Montana, Du Nord Craft Spirits

2017-2018 | Mark Shilling, Genius Liquids/Big Thirst

2016-2017 | Paul Hletko, FEW Spirits

2014-2016 | Tom Mooney, House Spirits



Dan Farber, Osocalis Distillery (CA)

Lucy Farber, St. George Spirits (CA)

Jake Holshue, Rogue Ales & Spirits (OR)

Jeff Kanof, Copperworks Distilling Company (WA)

Kelly Woodcock, Westward Whiskey (OR)


Jordan Cotton, Cotton & Reed (DC)

Lew Bryson, Alexandra Clough, Sly Cosmopoulos, Dr. Dawn Maskell, Teri Quimby

For advertising inquiries, please contact For editorial inquiries or to send a news release, contact P.O. Box 470, Oakton, VA 22124

© 2023 CRAFT SPIRITS magazine is a publication of the American Craft Spirits Association.

Glass & Plastic Bottles

Aluminum Cans

Closures & Stoppers

Neck Bands & Wraps

Secondary Packaging


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I guess we’ll unofficially call this the Aesthetics Issue. The obvious reason for that was right on the cover. We are very pleased to showcase all of the medalists of our Third Annual Craft Spirits Packaging Awards, which we presented at ACSA’s 10th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show in Portland, Oregon. Congratulations to all of our medalists and to our Best in Show honoree James Ownby Reserve, a bourbon produced by Ole Smoky Distillery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We’d like to once again thank our sponsor for the awards, the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), especially GPI president Scott DeFife, who made the trip out to the Rose City to present the Best in Show award in person. You can read all about the medalists—and, more importantly, see them all—beginning on page 34.

The less-obvious component of this unofficial aesthetics theme is that we’re launching a new feature in this issue: The Sipping Scene. The section focuses on the places—in the U.S. and abroad—beyond everyone’s own homes, where consumers are most likely to enjoy the spirits that our industry produces.

It’s been a long and bumpy road getting folks around the world to fully embrace going out again, but bar and tasting room traffic has, more or less, returned to pre-pandemic levels in the past year. And, for better or worse, the people in the crowds are looking more and more like their pre-pandemic, maskless selves. I’ll continue to wear mine, thank you very much, and probably will until the day I die. And it’s not just about covid—which I’ve had twice, including less than a month before you’re likely reading this. Now that the pandemic has normalized masking, I want to avoid every airborne infection. (And I’m probably doing the public a service by hiding half of my face. Aesthetics, amirite?)

But regardless of your feelings on masking (no judgment from me, either way), no one has forgotten the full-on lockdowns of 2020. It reminded us just how much we took the very simple act of going out for granted. It was more precious

than we’d realized.

Additionally, many of us (myself included) still feel a tiny pang of trepidation when we go out in this supposedly post-pandemic world. We’re still going to go out with the same frequency we did before covid, but our relationship with sipping in a communal setting has definitely changed for the long term. If we’re leaving the safety and comfort of our own homes to have a drink, the experience ought to be a memorable one. Where we’re drinking is as important as what we’re drinking. There has to be an appealing vibe—which is all about aesthetics. (See where I’m going with this?)

We selected the four establishments in the inaugural Sipping Scenes for that reason. There’s the cozy, nautical setting of Alexandria, Virginia’s Captain Gregory’s. That’s joined by the elegant Art Deco flair of Durham, North Carolina’s Corpse Reviver. North of the border, we celebrate the classic vinyl LP motif at Montreal’s Bar Le Record. And, overseas, we’re fans of the intimate, low-lit ode to all things juniper-flavored at Stuttgart, Germany’s Botanical Affairs.

Taste and aroma are only the beginning of the spirits- and cocktail-drinking experience. Now, more than ever, the sipping occasion needs to engage as many of the other senses as possible. Otherwise, why are we even bothering to go out? ■


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

Jason Parker is the co-founder and president of Seattle-based Copperworks Distilling Co. With degrees in chemistry and microbiology, he was the first brewer at Pike Place Brewery in 1989. He went on to refine his craft with Fish Brewing Co. and Redhook, and he worked as brewmaster at Pyramid Breweries. He partnered with Micah Nutt to open Copperworks in 2013. Jason served as board member and chair of the Washington Distiller’s Guild and he now serves on the board of directors of the Craft Maltsters Guild.

Kate Bernot is a reporter covering beer, food and spirits. She regularly contributes to Good Beer Hunting and Craft Beer & Brewing; her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Imbibe and elsewhere. She is a BJCP-certified beer judge and the director of the North American Guild of Beer Writers. She lives in Missoula, Montana.

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

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.


is a

York City.

was managing editor of Beverage World magazine for 17 years and has worked for a variety of other food and beverage-related publications, and also newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @andrewkap.

Kaplan freelance writer based in New He

Thank You , Sponsors !

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ABE Equipment will drive cutting-edge innovations and industry-leading service to ensure entrepreneurs can maximize their opportunities to succeed. Our foundation was built on the success of our parent company, Norland International, a leading supplier of turn-key beverage equipment, components, and support services.


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


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

FIVE x 5 Solutions

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

The Barrel Mill

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

Berlin Packaging

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

Glencairn Crystal

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

Harvest Hosts

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

Malkin Law

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.


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

Moonshine University

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

Park Street

Park Street delivers productivityenhancing and cost-saving back-office solutions, advisory services, working capital, compliance management, export solution, integrated accounting and human resources management solutions.


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


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


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

Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

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

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

Briess Malt & Ingredients Co.

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

BSG Distilling

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

Chevalier Casks

Chevalier Casks is a distributor of high-end wine and whiskey casks and a broker of bulk spirits.


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

Independent Stave Co.

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


ISTS makes workplaces safer, employees ready and compliance uncomplicated. ISTS has extensive experience working with the spirits industry, so our programs are totally customized to address your site.

Kason Corporation

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

Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits

The leader in supplying fermentation products and services to the distilled spirits industry, we specialize in the research, development, production, and marketing of yeast, yeast nutrients, enzymes, and bacteria.

Soderstrom Architects

Soderstrom Architects’ Ferar Wine & Spirits Studio has been involved in the design and master planning of more than 70 wineries and distilleries. Our studio was founded with a passion for design that conveys the special sense of place inherent in the site.

Sovos ShipCompliant

Sovos ShipCompliant has been the leader in automated alcohol beverage compliance tools for more than 15 years, providing a full suite of cloudbased solutions to distilleries, wineries, breweries, cideries, importers, distributors and retailers.

Specific Mechanical Systems

Since 1984, Specific Mechanical Systems has handcrafted brewing and distilling systems for the craft beer and spirits industries, in addition to supplying various industries with complex processing equipment.

Steric Systems

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

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.

Whalen Insurance

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

Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America

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

WV Great Barrel Co.

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

S PECIFIC brewing distilling

BENDT Distilling Co. of Lewisville, Texas, is releasing its latest extension in the UNBENDT Straight whiskey lineup: UNBENDT Straight Bourbon – Bottled in Bond

The release of this 100-proof spirit follows the release of UNBENDT Straight Wheat Whiskey and UNBENDT Straight Malt Whiskey in 2022.

Boston-based GrandTen Distilling announced the launch of its new line of limited-edition American whiskey, GrandTen Whiskey. The company is kicking things off with their first spirit, Chapter 1 – A Long Time Coming, which is 90 proof.

Westward Whiskey of Portland, Oregon, introduced its first 2023 Club release, Westward Whiskey Sauternes Cask. This 90-proof limited offering combines the prestige of French winemaking with the innovation of the American Northwest.

Tattersall Distilling of River Falls, Wisconsin, announced the launch of Interstate Whiskey. Inspired by the first interstate park in the nation, Tattersall’s first American single malt whiskey has been in the making for more than five years and is 90 proof.


D isti la Z y me ®

Pro cess aids f or higher ethanol yield and f erme nt ation consis ten c y.

Vi e w ou r e x t en s i v e o e r in g of c ra f t distilling inp u ts a t

©2022 Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits

Bending Branch Winery of Comfort, Texas, announced the launch of two new bourbon brands: Bending Branch 1840 and ChickenDuck. The Bending Branch 1840 brand features premium Kentucky straight bourbon and high rye bourbon whiskeys, aged for a minimum of four years in new American charred oak barrels. ChickenDuck is serious bourbon that is purposefully crafted differently. It is named after two of the original chickens and ducks that roamed the vineyard managing pests and entertaining guests.

Milam & Greene Whiskey of Blanco, Texas, is introducing the Wildlife Collection, a new limitededition series of cask strength, single barrel whiskeys that attempt to answer the question, “How does weather affect aging whiskey?” The first release of this collection is the Scorpion Single Barrel, bottled at 123.3 proof.

Before the launch of its annual Pączki Day Vodka on Feb. 3, Detroit City Distillery added an additional limited-edition vodka distilled with fresh horseradish, called Hometown Horseradish. This 88-proof vodka is ideal for making the ultimate Bloody Mary and is made from raw horseradish and 100% Michigan corn vodka.

Garrison Brothers Distillery of Hye, Texas, has released the 2023 version of Guadalupe Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It is a port-cask finished bourbon named after one of the Lone Star State’s most beautiful rivers and is bottled at 107 proof. This limited release includes only 16,098 bottles for this year, 1,002 of which were sold at the distillery release event in Hye, Texas on Feb. 4.


ABC Fine Wine & Spirits of Florida announced the limitededition Romulan Ale

Rye Whiskey from Star Trek Spirits is now available in select store locations. Romulan Ale is a staple of the Star Trek fandom, first appearing in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” The rye whiskey version is an ultra-premium spirit crafted with advanced technology that uses a vacuum distillation process.

Half Shell Vodka, the newest spirit developed by Santa Rosa Beach, Floridabased Distillery 98 and distributed by Breakthru Beverage Group, is packaged in a recyclable paperboard bottle. Made from 94% recycled paperboard, Half Shell Vodka’s Frugal Bottle embodies the Florida Panhandle’s legacy of community and sustainability by using six times less carbon than traditional glass bottles.

Hawaii’s Koloa Rum Co. has partnered with the Las Vegas Raiders in creating a limited-edition Kauai Reserve Five-Year Single-Barrel Aged Rum with commemorative bottle and box. It honors the 45th anniversary of the team’s historic first world championship that resulted from a 32-14 win over Minnesota on January 9, 1977. Since 2021, Koloa Rum Co. has been “The Official Ultra-Premium Rum of the Las Vegas Raiders.”

Cathead Distillery of Jackson, Mississippi, announced the newest addition to their portfolio of award-winning craft spirits: Cathead Raspberry Vodka. Joining the brand’s flagship vodka lineup, the 70-proof spirit is now available online and in select liquor stores.


Watershed Distillery of Columbus, Ohio, unveiled its most exclusive whiskey release yet with its first-ever rye. The 122.8 proof Watershed Distillery Straight Rye Whiskey is aged six years in a char four barrel with a mash bill of 57% rye, 36% corn and seven percent barley—making a unique rye for the whiskey enthusiast.

SanTan Spirits of Chandler, Arizona, has partnered with Casa Maestri Tequila and Sun Orchard Beverages to create a new line of canned margaritas. The new 10.5% ABV beverages are made with authentic tequila, SanTan’s house-made triple sec and Sun Orchard’s natural lime juice to combine south-ofthe-border flavor with the freshest local ingredients.

Dogfish Head Distilling Co. of Milton, Delaware, announced the release of Grapefruit & Pomegranate Vodka Crush and the Crush Variety Pack, an eight-pack of 12-ounce cans complete with four distinct canned cocktails, including a new variety pack exclusive recipe, the Pineapple & Orange Rum Crush

Lost Lantern, the Weybridge, Vermontbased independent bottler of American whiskey, is pleased to announce the release of its ninth single cask collection since launching in 2020.

The Spring 2023 cohort features four limited-edition single casks—all aged at least seven years–from three distilleries: Westland Distillery in Washington, Watershed Distillery in Ohio, and Corbin Cash Distillery in California.


Agave Spirits: The Past, Present, and Future of Mezcals

Authors: Gary Paul Nabhan and David Suro Piñera

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.

Release Date: May 16

All tequilas are mezcals; all mezcals are made from agaves; and every bottle of mezcal is the remarkable result of collaborations among agave entrepreneurs, botanists, distillers, beverage distributors, bartenders, and more. How these groups come together in this is the subject of this new book. Join the authors as they delight in the diversity of the distillate agave spirits, as they endeavor to track down the more distant kin in the family of agaves, and as, along the way, they reveal the stunning innovations that have been transforming the industry around tequilas and mezcals in recent decades.

Martini: More than 30 Classic and Modern Recipes for the Iconic Cocktail

Author: David T. Smith and Keli Rivers

Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small

Release Date: May 9

There is nothing more satisfying than that first sip of a crisp, cold martini. In this book, David T. Smith and Keli Rivers guide you on an exhilarating journey through all things martini, showcasing all the exciting places that the iconic cocktail can take you. You’ll find everything from classics like the Dirty Martini and Vesper, to more avant garde combinations that demonstrate sensational possibilities, alongside seasonal treats. Contemporary recipes include the Appletini and Espresso Martini, while more experimental creations make the most of less typical spirits and flavors, allowing you to indulge in the Rum Martini and the Mezcal Martini.

Portland Cocktails

Author: Nicole Schaefer

Publisher: Cider Mill Press

Release Date: March 28

Portland Cocktails is an elegant collection of more than 100 recipes inspired by Oregon’s City of Roses. These signature drink recipes from Portland hot spots pay homage to this vibrant city. With all of those recipes and dozens of bartender profiles, you can drink like a local whether you’re just visiting or entertaining at home. From vintage cocktail lounges to tropical themed bars and hidden gems, locals and tourists alike will discover new watering holes that are sure to satisfy all tastes. With the best signature creations by prominent mixologists in the area, this book offers a detailed rundown of the best locations Portland has to offer.

Backcountry Cocktails: Civilized Drinks for Wild Places

Author: Steven Grasse and Adam Erace with Lee Noble

Publisher: Running Press Adult

Release Date: May 9

Inspired by the singular natural beauty of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, this book is a true celebration of entertaining in the outdoors—with dozens of seasonally-inspired and organized recipes to enjoy outside, whether you’re on an early spring hike or a mid-winter retreat. Each recipe captures the energy of hitting the trails in an elevated yet approachable ode to craft cocktails and the beauty of the natural world. No matter your cocktailing style, there’s something for everyone, from spiked cocoa to frozen fizzes (perfect for packing as a treat after an afternoon of hiking), and even foraged creations that will tie your experience to the land around you.

Imbiber ’ s Bookshelf
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. We Are Craft! Our mission is to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers. WHY JOIN? • Build long-term relationships and enhance industry connections • Help cultivate a competitive landscape for craft distillers • Learn from industry thought leaders • Increase market access TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MEMBERSHIP ONLY OPPORTUNITIES BY JOINING TODAY! A: P.O. Box 470, Oakton, VA, 22124 E: W:


If one word could summarize the presentation on American single malt whiskey at Craft Malt Con, that word would be opportunity.

The March 17 panel discussion at the Craft Maltsters Guild-organized conference in Portland, Maine, emphasized the scale of the American single malt whiskey proliferation that’s likely to occur when the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) ratifies that standard of identity. Steve Hawley, president of the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission (ASMC), told the conference he expects that ratification to occur before the end of the summer.

“I imagine by summertime, for the first time in a long time, we’ll have a new category of not just whiskey but of any spirit in this country. That’s a pretty monumental feat,” Hawley says.

In the past 12 years, 250 distilleries in the U.S. have released a single-malt whiskey. That number could easily jump to 400 or 500 distilleries “overnight” once the TTB ratifies the standard of identity, according to Hawley. The category already grew at an 18% compounded annual growth rate between 2016 and 2021, much higher than bourbon’s 8% CAGR (though on a smaller base of volume), according to data from IWSR, a global beverage alcohol analysis firm.

“Single malt is the pinnacle of whiskey making across the world and for too long America hasn’t had a voice in it,” Hawley says. “The sheer climate diversity within America gives us an opportunity to go out to the rest of the world and say, ‘We can have a unique perspective on a spirit that’s been made for 700 years.’”

Hawley and fellow presenters Andrew Meissner of Virginia Distillery Co. and Murphy Quint of Cedar Ridge Distillery emphasized how solidly American single malt whiskey has already defined itself as a category among whiskey writers, influencers and consumers. They shared examples of extensive media coverage and of consumer demand for whiskeys with this designation—even as TTB labeling has yet to formally catch up.

“If we all believe the category exists, then it exists,” Hawley summarized.

The next step in converting that consumer interest into actual sales will happen at the retail level, where the ASMC is urging online and physical retailers to group American single malt whiskeys into their own shelf sets. Currently, many retailers display individual American single malt whiskey brands in varied locations: craft whiskey, local whiskey, even with bourbons. But a study led by British company Virtual Store Trial in partnership with Hawley found that if Total Wine were to create an American single malt set, the re-


Garrison Brothers Distillery and McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams have announced the release of Garrison Brothers Whiskey & Pecan Pralines, a limited edition ice cream collaboration, bringing the award-winning Texas bourbon distillery and the iconic California ice creamery together in one delicious pint. This is the third release of their celebrated ice cream collaboration.

The Garrison Brothers Whiskey & Pecan Pralines ice cream flavor features smooth, sweet, smoky ‘n spicy Garrison Brothers Small Batch bourbon made in Hye, Texas, married to

Central Coast California milk and cream, and topped off by delicious, buttery, salt-roasted ‘n caramel-coated pecans.

“It has always been a dream of ours to make the ultimate bourbon whiskey-flavored ice cream. When our bourbon hit the California market, McConnell’s Ice Cream was our first and only choice for a collaborator. Our mutual dedication to using the finest quality ingredients and not compromising on our standards is evident in every single scoop,” said Dan Garrison, founder of Garrison Brothers Distillery.

tailer would increase overall whiskey revenue by 7%. Armed with that data, ASMC has convinced liquor chains—including Binny’s in Illinois and Goody Goody in Texas—to create dedicated shelf space for the category.

Speaking as a producer, Quint said it’s invigorating to see consumer and retailer demand for a product that distillers themselves love to make.

“There is so much artistic input in American single malt,” Quint said. “I can manipulate barley along the way to hit a mark … a bit better than I can even in my traditional bourbon category. It excites producers because of the range we can create within it.”

The panelists’ parting message to the maltsters and fellow distillers in attendance at Craft Malt Con was not to wait on the sidelines if they’re keen on being part of the growth in American single malt whiskey.

“There is going to be a boom,” Hawley said. “Don’t wait until a trend comes around to get engaged in it.”



Up North Distillery of Post Falls, Idaho, announced Sailor Guevara has joined its team as director of strategy. Up North is one of six distilleries nationwide that manufactures spirits using 100% honey in its mash. Recently the distillery released its first batch of North Idaho Single Malt Whiskey, which has been three years in the making. This whiskey is made from 100% malted barley, aged in American oak, and laid to rest until the distillery deems it ready. Up North is preparing to transform the distillery’s footprint to meet greater demand.

This newly established role reflects an exciting milestone for the award-winning Up North Distillery and the Bees Knees Whiskey Bar (a second location in Hayden).

“We are excited for Sailor to bring her passion, enthusiasm for craft spirits, and decades of experience to help us expand and grow,” said Hilary Mann, co-founder of Up North Distillery.

Guevara has also accepted the position of executive director of Good Deeds Spirits. Good Deeds Spirits was established in 2021 to create interesting, collaborative spirits releases to raise money to benefit important industry causes.

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Humble Baron announced its official opening date of March 23. The restaurant, bar and live music venue will debut in Shelbyville, Tennessee, at Nearest Green Distillery, home of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey. The distillery is a popular destination, welcoming more than 110,000 visitors in the past 12 months with that number expected to triple by the end of the year. Humble Baron will be a welcome addition for the community and distillery guests.

Featuring a 17-station, 518-foot-long showpiece bar that wraps stunningly around an indoor stage, Humble Baron allows guests to enjoy elevated fare and creative cocktails while watching live entertainment. The Humble Baron bar is more than 100 feet longer than the current record holder for the longest permanent continuous bar in the world.

“Humble Baron is a place where everyone has a seat at the table,” said Humble Baron’s inspiration, Keith Weaver. “We want our guests to pull up a seat at the world’s longest bar and enjoy some amazing music over a craft cocktail or a bite to eat and engage with those around them. Humble Baron reflects my varied music tastes and will bring all types of

people, with all interests and backgrounds, together.”

The bar program was crafted in partnership with Gin & Luck, the hospitality company behind renowned cocktail institution Death & Co., with Black-owned spirits taking center stage. Signature libations include the Queen’s Gambit, featuring Sorel Liqueur, Hella Cocktail Co. Apple Blossom Bitters, local premium Tennessee whiskey, pineapple gomme and lemon juice, as well as the Dear Fawn, which is a spin on a favorite classic cocktail, the espresso martini, swapping the usual vodka for local premium Tennessee whiskey. Assistant director of beverage, DeAndre A. Jackson, leads the bar’s cocktail innovation.

The highly anticipated Humble Baron will rapidly become one of Tennessee’s most visited destinations. Audio and visual for the state-of-the-art music venue, with an indoor and outdoor stage, was designed by the former technical director and engineer for Prince’s Paisley Park. The indoor stage, separated by a glass garage door from its mirroring outdoor stage, will allow live concerts hosting more than 15,000 guests.

For its culinary offerings, James Beard nominee and critically acclaimed chef and television host Chef G. Garvin has crafted a menu of sophisticated yet familiar dishes, including the restaurant’s signature Nashville Hot Shrimp and Grits and Snow Crab Claws sauteed in brown butter and sage. Renowned Atlanta chef Jay Craddick will helm the kitchen as executive chef, bringing more than 18 years of experience and a passion for innovative Southern cuisine to Humble Baron.



New Riff Distilling of Newport, Kentucky, is beginning a $3 million renovation of the distillery’s public areas, including the first-floor gift shop space and the thirdfloor event space, which will become the new home for The Aquifer, the distillery’s tasting and cocktail bar. The distillery will remain open for visitors throughout the project.

“We’ve always been focused on providing visitors an engaging way to learn about New Riff and our award-winning spirits,” said Hannah Lowen, vice president of operations. “As New Riff’s popularity has grown, people are looking to share in the experience, whether that be through our tours, tastings, unique events or by having a drink at The Aquifer, which we’ve long outgrown. This renovation will create comfortable, inviting spaces for conversation, education or simply enjoying the product we all love.”

Guests will immediately see a difference as they walk in the front door, with an all-new welcome station and pre-tour waiting area, along with the gift and bottle shop. While it is a great place to pick up a bottle of New

Riff—including etched bottles for special occasions—the distillery is also known for its curated collection of barware, home goods and other carefully selected finds.

The Aquifer, previously nestled in the first floor space, will move up to the spacious third floor with its expansive rooftop patio and views of the Cincinnati skyline—creating the perfect place for a neat pour or cocktail. A new reservable private room will be available for community gatherings.

“Our library of whiskeys and other spirits has grown substantially since we opened in 2014,” Lowen said, “and along with some recent legislative changes, we’re excited to use this new space to share some unique and rare expressions that have been hiding away

in our warehouse. We’re looking forward to having a bit more room to both introduce new enthusiasts to our products as well as geek out with the most knowledgeable fans.”

Renovations begin in April, but the distillery will remain open for tours and tastings. The Aquifer will relocate to the existing third floor space for the summer and fall, until renovations begin there in July. While subject to change, first-floor renovations are expected to be completed in late summer and the third floor by year’s end.

The distillery is working with Schumacher Dugan as the general contractor as well as Platte Architecture + Design, Luminaut, HAWA Inc, KLH Engineers, Goodfire Design and Durham Studios.

Our mission is simple: to help you cra the best beverage possible.

To do that, we curate the most comprehensive and ever-expanding portfolio of ingredients and products in the industry.

But being a complete supplier means more than having the biggest catalog – we’re also a leader in innovation, technical expertise, and novel solutions for your business.



Drizly and Gopuff have announced a partnership to provide on-demand delivery of drinks to adults of legal drinking age. This new collaboration brings the full Gopuff Liquor & More assortment of beer, wine and spirits to Drizly’s beverage alcohol e-commerce shop, while also expanding the number of BevMo! and Liquor Barn stores on the platform.

Increasing Drizly’s network of partners to offer convenient delivery options for drinks, the partnership also expands Gopuff’s reach by tapping into Drizly’s customer base of high-intent alcohol shoppers. Gopuff Liquor & More, BevMo!, and Liquor Barn stores are now available on Drizly’s marketplace in 26 states, including Florida, Texas, New York, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and more.

The new partnership builds upon the addition of Gopuff to the Uber Eats app in 2021. As Gopuff continues to expand its platform to reach customers wherever they shop online, its partnership with Drizly enables a more seamless shopping experience for customers.

“As we continue to build the best shopping experience for beverage alcohol, teaming

up with Gopuff is our next step in offering consumers convenient delivery options for drinks,” said Blaine Grinna, Drizly’s senior director of retail ops. “Drizly’s infrastructure for alcohol e-commerce coupled with Gopuff’s network of commerce locations will extend the ease of on-demand delivery of beer, wine and spirits nationwide and help even more customers of legal drinking age shop the best drinks for the moment.”

In addition to bringing new Gopuff locations offering beer, wine and spirits to the Drizly marketplace, the company also adds nearly 20 new BevMo! stores to its platform, marking expansions into Arizona and Washington, and increasing the network of Liquor Barn stores available for rapid delivery across Kentucky.

“Gopuff continues to drive the future of commerce by leveraging our network and infrastructure to innovate, improve and streamline the shopping experience wher ever consumers make purchases online—on Gopuff, third-party platforms, social media, and beyond,” said Daniel Folkman, Gopuff’s SVP of business. “Today, we are excited to

expand upon our relationship with Uber by offering our beer, wine and spirits selection to Drizly custom-

ers 21-plus in applicable markets, bringing the unparalleled Gopuff experience to more consumers nationwide.”

The news underscores Drizly’s commitment to becoming the go-to shopping destination for all beverage alcohol occasions. As the alcohol e-commerce pioneer, Drizly continues to build upon its expertise to help customers find the best drink for the moment via convenient delivery options and one of the widest selections, at a great value.



Virginia Distillery Co., a woman-owned and women made business in Lovingston, Virginia, proudly celebrated Women’s History Month by announcing its Angela H. Moore – Women in Distilling Scholarship. The scholarship will provide $100,000 of aid for female students at Boone, North Carolina-based Appalachian State University who are entering the field of distillation and whiskey production.

The renewable scholarship will provide annual aid to female fermentation sciences majors above the age of 21 in a five- year endowment. Half of VDC’s investment will be used to conduct student-driven research projects on distillation. With the help of VDC, students will now have the necessary funds to develop research ideas and carry them out under the mentorship of the fermentation sciences faculty. Additionally, Virginia Distillery Co. is offering paid-internship opportunities to those students that receive aid from this scholarship, giving them on-site, real-world experience working inside a whiskey distillery. Interns will work across all facets of whiskey production including distilling, cask house

operations and packaging.

“I’m incredibly proud to launch this program and hope it encourages those who are interested in a career in distilling to pursue their passions,” said Angela H. Moore, board chair at Virginia Distillery Co.

In 2012, App State became the first university on the East Coast to offer a bachelor’s degree in fermentation sciences. “This scholarship and the research monies are critical for attracting and retaining women in the fermentation sciences program as well as in the

distillation industry,” said Dr. Brett Taubman, professor in and director of the fermentation sciences program in App State’s A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation. “Women are currently underrepresented in the distillation industry and this investment represents a great start in changing that.”

In support of the initiative, Virginia Distillery Co. is introducing a new limited edition release: Scholar’s Craft Coffee Cask American Single Malt Whisky (SRP: $59.99), with all proceeds going towards the scholarship fund.

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One of my first columns for CRAFT SPIRITS magazine was about farmer-distillery cooperation and coordination. It’s continuing, but it needs more work … something that was brought home to me when I went looking for grains and spirits at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

The Farm Show is our state fair. It’s held in January, in the million-square-foot Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, and it brings an influx of farmers, herders, sawyers, beekeepers and their animals to the state capital. I went twice, with my wife and then with my daughter. We saw the rabbits, goats, sheep and cows; no poultry this year because of avian flu.

I ate lots of Pennsylvania mushrooms, the state’s top cash crop; we’re the No. 1 state for production. We also rank second nationally on farm-to-consumer direct sales—CSAs, farm markets and farm stands—and there was a big “Pennsylvania Farm Market” display in the center of the main hall. There were big displays of award-winning Pennsylvania cheeses, apples and Christmas trees. There were also agriculture-related drinks makers: brewers, winemakers and cideries. There was even a meadery.

But I didn’t see a distillery. Dad’s Hat rye whiskey was featured in the press pre-show the day before the opening, and that’s great. But there were no distillers on the floor during the actual show; no whiskey, no moonshine, no vodka, no gin.

It gets worse. I wanted to find the displays of the award-winning grain farmers. The map said they were in the lobby—out in the lobby of the main hall. They weren’t. I asked the suited fellow at the Department of Agriculture information booth, right inside the hall; he clearly didn’t even know that there was a display of award-winning grains.

We finally found them in an annex off the lobby, several static display cases with minimal information showing the best hay, corn and “small grains” of the year. We were the only people there, on the busiest day of Farm Show week.

Look, I realize Pennsylvania isn’t a Plains state. We’ll never be known for corn like Iowa and Nebraska, never be known for wheat like Kansas. But apparently we’ll never even be known for rye like … Pennsylvania. We’re ranked fourth in rye harvest (not acreage; about 90% of the rye planted in the U.S. is a cover crop that’s plowed under as green manure), but practically no one knows. I didn’t know until about three Google minutes ago.

I get it. Grain farming isn’t sexy, like growing heirloom tomatoes, or microgreens, or even apples. Grain is about volume; acre after acre of grass that you can’t just grab and eat, like an orange, or a carrot, or a watermelon. Grain must be processed: threshed, milled, malted, toasted, kilned, dehusked. With a few exceptions, like popcorn, it doesn’t look much like it does on the stalk by the time it gets to your kitchen.

If you’re wondering, “So what? Distilling is sexy, and that’s enough,” you’re missing my point. People don’t see grain in distilling, so there’s a major disconnect. I want to see grain farmers get their fair share of adulation, of credit, of popular interest, because that means more interest in distillers, and how you operate.

Pennsylvania’s farmers raise corn that directly drives our state’s great dairy production; it also powers our great distilleries. They harvest and clean rye that other farmers can’t be bothered with, and Pennsylvania’s distillers take that rye and make spirit with it: whiskey, gin and vodka. It happens in your states too, but all too often, there’s a disconnect between the two activities.

We are, slowly, starting to get it. We’re starting to recognize people like Robert McDonald, who grows a wide variety of heirloom corn and rye at his Dancing Star Farm in Imler, Pennsylvania. McDonald was praised at the Farm Show for his online marketing of his wide range of seeds. I’ll concur; when I interviewed him back in late 2020, he was constantly being peppered with email inquiries, even while we were sitting out in the barn.

Do you use grain from small farms, from

direct sales from farmers whose names you know? Think about doing what they did at the Barrel 21 Distillery and Dining, not far from me in State College. On the wall of their bottle shop you’ll find photos and names of the farms where they get their grain, including McDonald’s Dancing Star. It’s there if people are interested.

Visiting Dancing Star was a cool thing; just seeing the multi-hued corn in the several bins in the drying shed was wild. Maybe, if you have a good group of customers, think about a field trip—so to speak—to the farm where your grain-to-glass operations begin. Nothing brings that connection home like seeing grain come from the soil.

It’s another advantage you have as a small distiller. Grab hold, use it. Your farmers will love the praise and interest; your customers will be amazed. ■

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

28 | MARCH/APRIL 2023 CRAFTSPIRITSMAG.COM lew ' s bottom shelf
I want to see grain farmers get their fair share of adulation, of credit, of popular interest, because that means more interest in distillers, and how you operate.


In early February, hundreds of members of the distilling community gathered in Portland, Oregon, to learn, network and celebrate the craft spirits industry at ACSA’s 10th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show. Together, we celebrated a decade of ACSA; explored a trade show floor budding with energy; learned countless tips and strategies to help craft distillers thrive during our educational sessions; mingled and made new friends at various networking events; and so much more! Here are a few highlights from the experience in and around the Oregon Convention Center.

On the trade show floor, more than 140 exhibitors displayed their latest offerings and products designed for producers of craft spirits. We opened the trade show floor one day before kicking off our educational sessions to give attendees ample time to visit booths.

Our educational sessions featured more than 30 hours of learning, covering a wide range of topics for everyone from a novice to the most seasoned attendees. The three main tracks included sessions on technical/production, sales/marketing and business/compliance. Prior to the convention, we also held a 1.5-day Distillery Startup 101 class.

Our agenda also included panels for Women of the Vine & Spirits and the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which conducted both a boot camp and a Q&A session over breakfast titled Rise and Regulate: Coffee and Conversation with TTB.

On the first evening of the convention, we welcomed some of ACSA’s key founders and past presidents for a spirited conversation on the association’s past, present and future. ACSA president Becky Harris moderated a panel that included Ralph Erenzo, co-founder of Tuthilltown Spirits; Paul Hletko, founder of FEW Spirits; Ted Huber, co-owner of Starlight Distillery; Pennfield Jensen, ACSA’s inaugural executive director; Tom Mooney, founder & CEO of Westward Whiskey; and Mark Shilling, founder of ShillingCrafted and partner in Big Thirst Consulting.

During a luncheon, we announced the medalists of the third annual Craft Spirits Packaging Awards, which celebrates the best in craft spirits labels and packaging. You can see the

full list of medalists later in this issue. Also during the awards luncheon, ACSA board members and staff surprised attendees with a rousing flash mob to the tune of “Brave” by Sarah Bareilles.

During lunch on the final day of the convention, ACSA CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman presided over a town hall meeting. Tom Mooney introduced keynote speaker and renowned bar industry personality Jeffrey Morgenthaler, who shared his story and offered advice on how craft distillers can work with bartenders. During the town hall, attendees heard from a wide range of ACSA board members, committee chairs, advisors and partners who provided updates on ACSA’s strategic plan, the Craft Spirits Data Project, education initiatives, ACSA’s PAC, potential legislation affecting craft spirits producers and much more.

In a small gathering, the STEPUP Foundation held its first graduation ceremony for inaugural interns: Erin Lee and Yakntoro “Yaki” Udoumoh. STEPUP also welcomed its

second class and current 2023 interns, Ashley Grayson and Amy Salter. Westward Whiskey and the Woodlark Hotel also hosted a Happy Hour, Cocktails For A Cause, which donated all net proceeds ($3 per cocktail) to the STEPUP Foundation. Visit stepupinternship. org or email to learn more about how to support or participate in the program.

During a reception at Westward Whiskey for members of ACSA’s PAC, we raised our glasses to support our continuing efforts to strengthen the business environment for craft spirits producers. Special thanks to our guest speakers U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and Oregon Rep. Rob Nosse!

Throughout the course of the convention, we offered numerous opportunities for attendees and exhibitors to network over drinks, hors d’oeuvres, singing and dancing. On our pre-convention distillery tour, we visited New Deal Distillery, McMenamins Edgefield Distillery, Westward Whiskey, Freeland Spirits, Stone Barn Brandyworks and


Pilot House Distilling.

Near the end of the first day of the trade show, attendees enjoyed a happy hour hosted by the Oregon Distillers Guild where they could grab hors d’oeuvres, chat with our exhibitors and enjoy spirits from the Beaver State, with contributions from multiple Oregon distilleries.

To wrap up the first day, we hosted a hospitality suite where we sampled spirits that medaled in ACSA’s Judging of Craft Spirits Competition in 2020—the year we were originally supposed to be in Portland. We were thrilled to give those medalists the moment in the sun—and in our glasses—that a nascent pandemic unfairly denied them. Thanks again to the Oregon Distillers Guild for helping us ensure our event was fully in compliance with all local laws and regulations. We also enjoyed hearing our attendees sing karaoke!

At the legendary McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, we toasted to 10 years of ACSA as popular Portland-based singer/songwriter Ruby Friedman performed a private concert to mark the milestone.

To close the convention, we enjoyed rounds of ping pong and a Super Bowl party at Pips & Bounce, followed by a closing reception at Rogue Eastside Pub & Pilot Brewery where we celebrated all things craft spirits!

To help commemorate our 10th anniversary, a group of Oregon-based producers collaborated to concoct Crabby Snacks, an RTD riff on a classic Canadian Caesar, combining jalapeño lime-flavored vodka, crab juice and natural flavorings. Special thanks to everyone who made this happen, including Freeland Spirits, Pilot House Distilling, Rogue Spirits, Aimsir Distilling, Straightaway Cocktails, 503 Distilling and the Oregon Distillers Guild.


ACSA gratefully acknowledges the generosity of those who have provided support for our 10th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show, including:

Lallemand Distilling: Distillery start-up 101

The Digest of Wine & Spirits Law: Tote bags

Glenmore Custom Print + Packaging: Badge wallets and lanyards

The Spearhead Group: 10th anniversary video

Briess Malt & Ingredients Co.: Hospitality suite

Amoretti: Exhibit hall coffee/ refreshment stations

Niagara Label: Exhibit hall ribbon cutting

ClearSource: Exhibit hall happy hour and swag bag materials

Eurostampa: Swag bag materials

The Strategic Sourcing Hub by Black Button Distilling: Mobile app Liquor Bottle Packaging

International: Swag bag materials


Over the course of late February and early March, ACSA held an online election for new members of the ACSA Board of Directors. The election gave members a chance to exercise their right to vote and have a say in which leaders will fill five board seats for the next three years. Results will be announced soon.

If you’re a non-member who wants to have a say in the future leadership of ACSA, there’s no time like the present to join us today so that you can vote next year. Visit to learn more.

Keynote speaker Jeffrey Morgenthaler


Here are a few visual highlights from ACSA’s 10th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show in Portland, Oregon




Being a successful craft spirits brand begins with the quality of the liquid, but it doesn’t end there. A spirit has to offer the complete package. The medalists in the Third Annual Craft Spirits Packaging Awards fully understand that dynamic. Presented by the American Craft Spirits Association and CRAFT SPIRITS magazine—and sponsored by the Glass Packaging Institute—the Craft Spirits Packaging Awards celebrates the best in craft spirits labels and packaging. This installment of the awards drew 130 entries from 80 companies. The medals and Best in Show honors were officially announced in February during a ceremony at ACSA’s 10th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. CRAFT SPIRITS magazine editor in chief Jeff Cioletti emceed the awards and Scott DeFife, president of GPI, presented Best in Show honors to James Ownby Reserve.


Judging for the Craft Spirits Packaging Awards took place virtually in October of 2022, with an esteemed panel of judges evaluating each entry on the following criteria.

AESTHETICS: How does the packaging appeal to you from a design/artistic perspective?

INNOVATION: How original is the design? Does it stand out on a shelf?

EMOTIONAL APPEAL: How does the packaging make you feel? Does it connect with you?

BRAND COMMUNICATION: How well does the packaging tell the story of the brand/product through visual/design/copy elements?

The packages that rated highly on all of those criteria are the ones that connect with consumers and drive trial and sales, even when those consumers have not previously encountered your products.


Jackie Summers is a James Beard Award Finalist, seasoned public speaker, and serial entrepreneur. Summers is the founder of JackFromBrooklyn Inc. and the creator of the award-winning Sorel Liqueur. Jackie has written for everyone from the James Beard Foundation to Plate, Wine Enthusiast, VinePair, Epicurious, Delish and Edible Brooklyn.

Ivy Mix is co-owner of Leyenda, her pan-Latin inspired cocktail bar in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Leyenda has won numerous awards and is consistently recognized as one of the best bars in America. She is also the author of “Spirits of Latin America,” and the owner of Fiasco! Wine + Spirits, a bottle shop she opened in 2021.

Matt Ebbing is founder and chief creative director for Wilmington, North Carolina-based branding and design agency Creature Theory. A veteran of agencies in Colorado, New Zealand, Oregon and North Carolina, Matt has helped to shape notable and highgrowth brands, including more than a dozen distillery and cocktail brands.

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.

Shannon Mustipher is a cocktail consultant, spirits educator and author of “Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails.” After launching a Caribbean rum-focused bar at Gladys Caribbean in 2014, she went on to found Women Who Tiki, and, in 2020, was awarded the Tales of the Cocktail Pioneer Award and inducted into the Dame Hall of Fame.

Michelle Villas is an art director with more than 20 years experience. After spending 16 years working on magazines in New York, Michelle moved to California where she is the creative director on a range of publications for The Golden State Company. A true typophile, she carries her obsession with fonts into every project.



“This is a perfect blend of form and function; a remarkable design that’s bold without being ostentatious or having any superfluous information.”


Ole Smoky Distillery

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Design: BAKER

Bottle supplier: Zuckerman Honickman

Label print supplier: AmeriGraph Packaging Group

Closure supplier: NimbleJack Partners

A Legacy of Renegades

James Ownby Reserve was first released in the spring of 2021, but its inspiration goes back centuries.

The Tennessee straight bourbon whiskey from Ole Smoky Distillery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is named after Ole Smoky co-founder James Baker’s fifthgeneration great grandfather. According to family lore, James Ownby was one of the original settlers of Tennessee and a war hero who beat back the British in the Battle of Kings Mountain and faithfully fought for freedom as an Overmountain Man in the Revolutionary War. Will Ensign, Ole Smoky’s VP of marketing, says the 94-proof whiskey is based on years of experimenting with smaller batches that were aged in 10-gallon barrels and then shared with friends and family.

When it came to the design of the label and bottle, Ensign says Ole Smoky “wanted to convey a premium look and feel while also connecting to our Tennessee heritage.” The label and branding was designed by BAKER, a Minnetonka, Minnesota-based branding agency.

Ensign adds that the design strategy was inspired by a leather-bound historical novel with gold filigree and the backbone engraving on an antique rifle. The dark navy blue background in a matte texture is a nod to a patriot soldier’s wool uniform. “Our book-shaped bottle and wood and cork closure laid the foundation for these rich, tactile labels that showcase the brand name, story details and graphic symbolism that includes the Ownby O, inspired by a whiskey barrel head,” says Ensign.

“The packaging must perform on shelf and stand out in a sea of competitors, and also reward the purchaser every time they view, select and pour from the bottle. The label design and finishes invite them to pick up the bottle, and creates a premium 360-degree brand experience.”



Brandywine Branch Distillers

Elverson, Pennsylvania

Developer: True Hand Society


West Hills, California

Design: Filmland Spirits

Supplier/ manufacturer: Gamer

Packaging/Stoelzle Spirits


“Original designs that stand out. Great consistency across the brand while still having variation.”

North Charleston, South Carolina


Rimouski, Quebec, Canada

Packaging supplier: Berlin Packaging

Custom bottle design: Berlin Packaging, Studio One Eleven

Label designer: Chad Michael Studio



GrandTen Distilling


Bottle supplier: O-I Glass

Designer: Benjamin K. Shown


Star Union Spirits

Peru, Illinois

Design: Kevin Cantrell and Erik

Attkinson of Satellite

Bottle supplier: Imperial Packaging


“The intricate combination of typography and line work draws you in.”



Starlight Distillery

Borden, Indiana


Laird & Co.

Scobeyville, New Jersey

Packaging sourcer: Saxco

Bottle supplier: Stoelzle Glass USA

Bottle decorator: Serigraphie Richford Inc.

Package designer: Vision Creative Group



“The simple, clean design brings a fresh approach that stands out from the rest.”


ChainBridge Distillery

Oakland Park, Florida

Design: Michael Truhe of Wright

Global Graphics



Pilot House Distilling

Astoria, Oregon

Design: Grady Britton



Woody Creek Distillers

Basalt, Colorado

Packaging supplier: Berlin Packaging

Label designer: Sandstrom Partners


DogMaster Distillery

Columbia, Missouri

Bottle supplier: Saverglass

Label designer: Sawyer Wade

Distillerie du St. Laurent Rimouski, Quebec, Canada
“The label is one of the most perfectly-balanced between art and clean space. And its slight imperfections and storytelling are perfect for a craft spirit.”


Star Union Spirits

Peru, Illinois

Design: Kevin Cantrell and Erik Attkinson of Satellite

Bottle supplier: Berlin Packaging


Ron Millonario

Chiclayo, Peru

Design: Fabio Rossi

Packaging supplier: Comunidad de tejedores de Catacaos

Production director: Jaime Montaño


“Woven details add great texture and draw the eye.”



Papa’s Pilar Rum

Key West, Florida

Design credits: Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Lindsey Kops, Jessie Behar, MRL Promotions, Kyle Groth, Dr. Guy Harvey, Lulu Almazan, Janelle Fleming and Encore


Montanya Distillers

Crested Butte, Colorado


Montanya Distillers

Crested Butte, Colorado



Party Can


Label design: Brandon Josie

Packaging supplier: Berlin Packaging


“Originality courses through the veins of this package, whether it’s the innovative structural design, or the beautiful and extremely fun label. It will be hard for a consumer to resist.”


Melograno Premium Craft Cocktails

Escondido, California

Design and artwork: Reza Mortazavi, Shiva Mortazavi, Sanam Shirvani and Dough Agency

Packaging supplier: Zion Packaging


Pilot House Distilling Astoria, Oregon


Pilot House Distilling

Astoria, Oregon

Design: Grady Britton


Pilot House Distilling

Astoria, Oregon

Design: Grady Britton



Senza Maeso

San Marcos, Texas

Design: Toro Pinto

Bottle supplier: Imperial Packaging

Label printer: Advance Labels NW


“Intriguing and mysterious, the design just draws you in while also conveying a lot of information about the beverage in an innovative way.”



Mad March Hare Irish Poitín

Dublin, Ireland

Design: Bold Studios Dublin

Bottle supplier: Allied Glass

Label supplier: CCL Dublin

ALPHA Arcane Distilling

Brooklyn, New York


Fósforo Mezcal

Puebla, Mexico

Design: Lisa Detwiler and Tom Lane of Ginger Monkey

Bottle supplier: Pavisa Group


Star Union Spirits

Peru, Illinois

Design: Kevin Cantrell and Erik Attkinson of Satellite

Bottle supplier: Imperial Packaging



Woody Creek Distillers

Basalt, Colorado

Packaging supplier: Berlin Packaging

Label designer: Sandstrom Partners


“The bold use of type combined with the minimalist aesthetic brings strong attitude to the design.”


Blackleaf Vodka

Washington, D.C.

Bottle supplier: Saverglass


Tahoe Spirits Inc.

South Lake Tahoe, California

Designer: Matt Levitt

Bottle supplier: Liquor Bottle Packaging


QURI Quinoa

Peruvian Vodka

QURI Vodka

Berlin, Maryland



Ole Smoky Distillery

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Design: BAKER

Bottle supplier: Zuckerman Honickman

Label print supplier: AmeriGraph Packaging Group

Closure supplier: NimbleJack Partners




Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits

Stamford, Connecticut


Jeptha Creed Distillery

Shelbyville, Kentucky

Design: Thoroughbred Spirits

Bottle supplier: Vetri Speciali


Jeptha Creed Distillery

Shelbyville, Kentucky

Design: Thoroughbred Spirits

Bottle supplier: Vetri Speciali


Valentine Distilling Co.

Ferndale, Michigan

Bottle and label design: CF Napa

Brand Design

Bottle supplier: Global Package


The Great Jones Distillery

New York, New York

Packaging supplier: Berlin

Packaging Designer: Stranger & Stranger


C H E E R S !

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Building a Global Brand

Both Ukraine and Russia were growing and vibrant markets for Chicagobased KOVAL Distillery. Now, the distillery’s products are not exported to either country. KOVAL’s experience in these now war-torn countries is an extreme example of the risks that come with exporting. But it’s also an exception to the norm.

Beyond Ukraine and Russia, KOVAL has

built a thriving export business over 13 years with 25% of all its products currently sold in 45 different markets around the world. “We always saw it as a good avenue for growing our brand,” says Sonat Birnecker Hart, cofounder of KOVAL. “We wanted to be a global brand. That was always our hope and our desire, to do that and to build it ourselves.”

Another craft distiller that has found

success exporting is Portland, Oregon-based Westward Whiskey, which now sells in more than 20 countries. “There is an endless list of challenges when it comes to export markets, but we believe they are worth the extra effort,” says Thomas Mooney, CEO and founder.

Are enough American craft distillers currently making that effort? Craft spirits exports are growing, albeit from a small base.

Breaking out of your comfort zone by exporting can be a great way to grow your brand, and yourself. Just don’t expect it to be easy.
Sonat Birnecker Hart and Robert Birnecker (fourth and fifth from left) at a trade show in Japan

In 2021, the latest statistics from the 2022 Craft Spirits Data Project show, craft spirits exports rose by 58%, reaching 164,000 9L cases. Even so, this amounted to just 1.2% of craft spirits sales, meaning there is a lot of room for more craft distillers to begin exporting their products.

The fact is, if you’re looking to grow sales, and maybe learn another language and get in some international travel at the same time, exporting just might be for you.

Export Challenges

But exporting isn’t for everyone. Some distillers have decided to retreat from ambitious overseas plans in recent years after struggling for years against a variety of headwinds.

For example, Scott Harris, co-founder of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. in Purcellville, Virginia, says exports to Europe were shaping up to be around 10% of the company’s total revenue. “And they were moving up as a percentage of total revenue,” he says. “The next year we were shaping up to see a doubling of that to like 20% of our gross revenue represented by European exports.”

And then, he says, the tariffs hit.

“The tariffs killed that and it’s been paltry since,” he says. “Since the tariffs and the difficulties that have happened since then, all of our exports have been like 1% of our total revenue. So, we’re basically focusing almost entirely all of our efforts on the U.S. market as a result.” Other headwinds, he says, included Brexit, the war in Ukraine—which has sparked inflation and hurt sales in Europe—and the strong dollar.

The one export market Catoctin Creek has had some success with is Mexico. “The Mexico market is a slower market for us,” he says, “but it is a consistently good market. We find ourselves on the menu in some really nice high-end restaurants in a few of the bigger cities. And of course, transportation costs to Mexico are much cheaper, and it’s easier with the (trade agreements) and everything.”

As Mooney mentioned earlier, a craft distiller looking to get into exporting can expect to face a variety of challenges (though he believes in the long run, they are worth dealing with). Among the ones he cites are: complying with pre-entry regulatory requirements like

lab testing, printing country-specific labels, maintaining higher inventory quantities given the length of time to restock a market, and the need to purchase both 750-mL and 700-mL bottles. “The U.S. unilaterally made 700-mL bottles legal, but Europe did not reciprocate by making 750-mL bottles legal,” he explains.

Five Tips to Get Started

These all may seem a bit overwhelming at first. But craft distillers that have experience exporting say there are some useful tips that any budding exporter should know and that could increase the chance of success.

1. Find a Personal Connection: Tapping into personal connections or experiences can often be a great way to get your products into a market.

Kristina Hansen, co-founder of Round Turn Distilling in Biddeford, Maine, credits a repeat bar customer with playing a crucial role in opening up the Ontario, Canada, market for her distillery. The customer, who owns a local beach house, also happened to own a restaurant group in Toronto. “He gave us a

“Process is critical—a distiller must have a checklist of everything one needs to understand about a market before committing to it. There are no universally good or bad export markets, only markets that are a better (or worse) fit for a particular distiller, or ones with a more (or less) motivated importer as a partner.”
—Thomas Mooney of Westward Whiskey
Thomas Mooney of Westward Whiskey

contact with the broker that we currently use now,” she says. “It was a year’s worth of working with them and working with the Ontario government to get the ball rolling.”

For Westward Whiskey, it was Mooney’s own former ties to Australia that made that market a natural opening salvo in the more than 20 countries it now exports to. “Initially, we focused on markets in which we had knowledge and experience,” Mooney says. “Australia was our first market because, for years, I was responsible for the FIJI Water business in that country and my former colleague, who was the GM for FIJI Water at the time, became our business development partner when we launched.”

For Hart and her husband, Robert Birnecker, who both have deep connections overseas, exporting felt like a natural extension of their U.S. business. Robert is from Austria and Hart was a professor of European Jewish cultural history. It’s no accident that Eastern European countries like Ukraine and Poland have been big export markets for KOVAL as a result.

2. Domestic experiences can be applied. Learnings from domestic sales can definitely

be applied to exporting. While there are additional layers of complexity to exporting, the fundamentals of business sales remain the same, these experts say.

“The challenges of exporting seem nearly identical to trying to break into new states here,” says Hansen. “Everyone has different rules, everyone has different assumptions about what you already know.”

“Go for it!,” encourages Mooney. “Exporting is only marginally more difficult than launching into a new state, and the rewards can be immense.”

3. Research the market. “The key is to ensure that a distiller understands the market before jumping in,” adds Mooney, who explains that in some markets, “the learning curve has been massive. It took us half a year to get an order from Taiwan out the door because of the many labeling and lab test requirements. We are on a roll now, but we had to figure everything out along the way.”

He continues, “Process is critical—a distiller must have a checklist of everything one needs to understand about a market before committing to it. There are no universally good or

bad export markets, only markets that are a better (or worse) fit for a particular distiller, or ones with a more (or less) motivated importer as a partner.”

Adds Hansen: “You have to just really be up on your research and don’t expect anyone to explain something fully to you.”

4. Put feet on the ground. Most craft distillers that export stress that there’s no real way around it: you are going to have to spend a fair amount of time in your target market, at least initially. If it works out and you plan on staying a while, a good idea is to hire somebody local to manage the market for you. That’s what KOVAL does in Asia, for example. “One can’t just send product abroad, and hope that it will grow,” says Hart.

Adds Mooney: “Nobody will build our brand for us, so exporting is a commitment to spend time in other countries doing the same level of street work that we do in the U.S.”

“There’s a lot of self-advocating that you have to do,” sums up Hansen.

5. Take advantage of government, trade or professional assistance. There are many resources currently available to craft distillers

“The challenges of exporting seem nearly identical to trying to break into new states here. Everyone has different rules, everyone has different assumptions about what you already know.”
—Kristina Hansen of Round Turn Distilling
Kristina Hansen of Round Turn Distilling

looking to get into exporting.

For example, The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) was granted in December $1.12 million through its partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Market Access Program to promote American spirits exports in 2023, which represented a slight increase over 2022 levels.

Round Turn was one of the craft distillers featured in the Bar Convent Berlin DISCUS booth. Hansen says especially helpful for a newer export like herself was being able to network and learn from the other exhibitors in the booth. “We talked with them about how long it takes and how many relationships it takes before you start to get some traction. It was refreshing to get some real-life advice from people,” she says.

Mooney has tapped into the USDA’s Market Export program. “It’s provided us with some helpful funds to help spread the word about Westward. Additionally, we’ve needed to rely on key organizations like ACSA to mitigate the very real export threats and retaliatory tariffs that face our industry. Finally, organizations like the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA) have provided financial support to help us grow export sales.”

And Hart says there are District Export Councils (DEC) in each state whose job is to mentor people in best practices for exporting. In fact, she is a member of the DEC in Illinois. “Every state has its own export assistance for manufacturers,” she says. “The state of Illinois even has offices abroad to help manufacturers in the state engage in trade.”

And if you’re looking to partner with an

expert, companies like Crafted Exports, based in Brooklyn, New York, specialize in helping craft distillers export. “We started a company to make it easier for American craft suppliers in the alcohol space to enter international markets and to help international importers, bars, distributors, get access to great American brands,” says co-founder Qurban Walia.

The Bigger Picture Craft distillers are often concerned about helping their local communities. Exporting can also be a way of impacting the world beyond. These are unsettling times, after all, and distillers offer a unique product that can help bring people together.

“Westward is truly a whiskey of the

elements that is inspired by the American Northwest, and these elements are appreciated by whiskey lovers around the world,” says Mooney. “Our exposure to export markets is also a tremendous opportunity to learn, both about ourselves and also about innovations in whiskey that are taking place everywhere.”

And Hart says there’s another larger dimension to all of this, too. “Trade is also wonderful for other reasons,” she says. “This is a way for us to engage in soft diplomacy. If we bring our spirits abroad, we’re bringing a piece of wherever we are from, and ourselves, to that place. And that can bring good cheer. And in a time that we live in that is full of so much sadness, war, fear, I think bringing cheer to the world is a great thing to engage in today.” ■

Scott Harris of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. Peter McNulty and Qurban Singh Walia of Crafted Exports
member spotlight

All in on Amaro

Jamie Hunt’s new spirits business was scheduled to launch in July of 2020, just months after a global pandemic grounded life as we know it to a halt. But where others might have envisioned gloom and doom, Hunt saw an opportunity.

In her previous career, Hunt was a VP of digital strategy, giving her an invaluable set of skills necessary to launch Seattle-based Fast Penny Spirits during a time when bars and restaurants were closed and distributors were

wary of taking on new products. From the get-go, Fast Penny’s website had e-commerce functionality for direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping to several states, and the distillery had an early focus on social media and email marketing, as well.

“The area of digital that I worked the most in was around innovation, user experience and experience design,” says Hunt. “I did a lot of digital marketing work. … I think my background allowed me to pivot the company

because the normal channels that you launch a brand in on-premise—restaurants and bars— wasn’t really available.”

Of course, it also helped that Fast Penny’s focus was unique: crafting amaro using organic and wild-crafted ingredients. Today, Fast Penny has two main amari in the market; it’s one of a handful of distilleries to become a Certified B Corporation; and it helps fund nonprofits through its Pretty Penny giveback program.

MARCH/APRIL 2023 | 53
Seattle-based Fast Penny Spirits crafts amari and shows commitment to impacting the greater good.
“You kind of have to build your palate for a lot of the amari that’s out there. And once you do, then you can grow that appreciation of all the complexity of the botanicals playing together with the sugars and so forth.”
Jamie Hunt of Fast Penny Spirits
Jamie Hunt

Hunt’s fascination with amaro began years ago on a trip to Italy. Despite her Italian heritage, it was her first taste of the bittersweet drink, which grew on her by the third sip. In future travels, she sought out various amari throughout the country. She collected bottles and shared them with friends.

“Some friends really loved them and others didn’t because some of the amari was a little more bitter and not as approachable,” says Hunt. “You kind of have to build your palate for a lot of the amari that’s out there. And once you do, then you can grow that appreciation of all the complexity of the botanicals playing together with the sugars and so forth.”

The inspiration for starting Fast Penny came not only from Hunt’s appreciation for

amari, but also food, wine and cocktails. She received her first sommelier pin, and she attended one of the Culinary Institute of America’s boot camps. She had been considering starting her own company and a seed was planted in her head when she sampled some American-made amari one night at a bar. After some research and experimentation, she had a prototype.

“It was lovingly called swamp water,” says Hunt. “While it tasted good, it was this greenish brown, cloudy looking thing, [but] I thought, well, I can figure that out. … I got the flavors in the right direction.”

Thanks to assistance from a food scientist, neither one of Fast Penny’s main amari are remotely green.

“Amaricano Bianca is a white amaro,

which is very rare in the marketplace,” says Hunt. “It has a little bit of candied lemon flavors [and is] very floral. The saffron comes through and [it’s] grown here in Washington State. It’s wonderful sipped neat and it’s also lovely in cocktails.”

The Amaricano has notes of black truffle (foraged by dogs in the Pacific Northwest), Rainier cherries, Mexican spice, cascara and organic cocoa nibs. “It’s richer, earthier,” says Hunt. “It’s also really delicious to sip neat, one I go to after dinner most of the time, and then it’s lovely in cocktails, too.”

Once Fast Penny’s amari were in the market, it wasn’t long before bartenders took notice. One of them was Camille Cavan, then the bar manager at Quaintrelle in Portland, Oregon, and now Fast Penny’s brand ambassador for


Oregon and California. She had been intrigued by some American-made amari in the past, but Fast Penny stood out to her.

“I found a lot of [other American-made amari] interesting and fun, but I never [found] too many of them that were as applicable as this,” says Cavan. “I think that’s what gravitated me towards Fast Penny so much is that it was so easy to work with and it plays well with others, which is a really big reason as to why I started playing with it in the first place. I was surprised that it didn’t bulldoze and it complemented other spirits really well.”

Hunt and Cavan are equally excited to talk about Fast Penny’s philanthropy and B Corps status.

Hunt says the Pretty Penny give-back

program was part of the business model from the start. Each quarter the company picks a nonprofit or business that empowers women in business, local communities and the hospitality industry and donates 3% of all bottle sales to that organization (ACSA’s STEPUP Foundation was a beneficiary last year).

The program is one of many reasons why Fast Penny qualified as a B Corp. Like the give-back program, attaining B Corp status was part of Hunt’s plan from the start.

“I knew the things that I needed to put in place in order to get there,” she says. “Being a small business, there’s less things that you can put in place than [if you’re] larger. But I just started building it into our business model from the very beginning and to qualify you need 80 points. We ended up with 99.7. I

was pretty happy about that.”

In the near future, Hunt is excited to launch Fast Penny’s first ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail featuring amaro and coffee. And the company regularly collaborates with wineries and distilleries in the Pacific Northwest, so fans can expect an amaro aged in barrels that formerly held Westland Distillery’s American single malt whiskey.

When asked to look a decade into the future, Hunt sees more opportunities.

“Fast Penny Spirits will be available internationally 10 years down the line,” says Hunt. “[Fast Penny] will have a full product lineup—not a huge one, but a full product lineup. And we will have shown people how to extend amaro into their daily lives and entertainment.” ■


Harsh Weather, Smooth Spirits

Western New York has embraced its climate and roots to produce a regional distilling scene of distinction.

Western New York usually makes it into the news when Lakes Ontario and Erie conspire with cold temperatures to drop massive amounts of snow on the areas around Buffalo and Rochester. It’s culinary gift to the world has been the tangy dressed chicken wing.

But there is more to the area than bar snacks and winter weather. There is a proud industrial history, and a connection to the land that continues to this day.

Craft distilling is a modern movement that speaks to the richness of the area and a handful of spirit makers are working to put the area into the larger consciousness.

“The beauty and bounty of the Western New York and Finger Lakes agricultural region is truly reflected in our spirits and in the regional craft spirits industry—and we have our farmers to thank for that,” says Jason Barrett, founder and master distiller of Rochesterbased Black Button Distilling. “Without family-run farms we’d have no grain. Without grain, we’d have no bourbon.”

Where some might see the extreme winter weather as a distraction, Barrett says it is actually a feature that helps the spirit making process. Using bourbon as an example, he notes that the weather patterns from the two Great Lakes gives the aging whiskey a chance to experience seasonal change.

“Both the deep cold of winter and heat of summer favorably impact the barrel aging process of our bourbon,” says Barrett. “With temperature fluctuations of 20°F or more, the staves of each barrel expand, and contract more often than barrels do in more famous whiskey producing areas like Kentucky or Scotland,” he says. “This allows for a quicker

evaporation of volatile compounds and deeper exposure of the caramelization layer of the charred oak. In short, more temperature fluctuations make for better whiskey.”

The local spirits industry also benefits from regional agriculture. While many who think of New York will put their attention to Manhattan or Brooklyn, Brian McKenzie, the president and owner of Finger Lakes Distilling in Burdett, says the region is actually more akin to the Midwest.

“We are located in a pretty rural location with access to wonderful agricultural resources,” he says. “Most of the grain we use for our whiskeys is grown less than three miles from our distillery and we also take advantage of the wealth of other fruit available including apples, grapes, berries, pears and more.”

There is also a benefit to using the bounty of the land. Most distilleries in New York State are operating under the New York Farm Distillery license which requires use of stategrown agriculture.

According to the state, a farm distiller may produce liquor, have a 75,000-gallon limit on annual production, and use 75% New York State ingredients in its products. This kind of license also allows for distilleries to sell other New York State labeled products like beer, cider, liquor, mead and wine at the licensed premises and to go.

A distillery operating with a farm license does not actually need to be located on a farm, the state says.

Steve Bystran, the president of Barrel Factory Distilling, spent a considerable amount of time and resources restoring a historic building in Buffalo’s first ward, turning a one-time barrel factory into a drinking destination.

Built in 1903, it was home to the Quaker

City Cooperage Co., and Bystran says upwards of 6,000 barrels were produced daily, supplying food and commodity companies that used the Erie Canal for commerce.

The building is now home to the distillery, a brewery and other businesses, and rehabbing a space that was once important to the region helps give those who pass through the door a sense of pride.

“History and heritage ties in nicely to distillation,” says Bystran, who notes that rye is the predominant grain used in his spirits, including vodka. “Rye is a traditional grain from New York State, and that’s why we use it.”

While the wings of Buffalo and the garbage plate of Rochester are celebrated and sought after, there is also a desire among distillery owners to showcase some of the finer sides of dining and by working with bars in the region on specialty cocktails, the message is getting through.

Bystran and others also work with various civic groups and companies to host events that bring people into distilling spaces to highlight the craftsmanship and connection to local.

“Buffalo has a chip on its shoulder,” says Bystran. “It hasn’t grown at the rate of other places and people know us for the blizzards, the Bills losing, or [national news events]. When there is something to be proud about, to jump up and down about, we take it. Distilling is something to be proud of.”

The farming and malting industries also get a boost from the number of distilleries in the area, especially those with farm licenses. There are breweries in the state that also use mostly local ingredients and have helped that industry along.

There is growth in the space. New

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Barrel Factory Distilling is housed within a former barrel factory.

distilleries are planned, and existing ones have announced expansion plans. Conversations among distillers show healthy competition but a desire to build a spirit-based community on a strong foundation.

“This is all possible because of people. The people that work with us, and the people that buy our spirits. Western New York is our home—it always has been—and the people of this region have supported us at every step of the way,” says Barrett. “There is a spirit of collaboration and a desire to support local in this area that has helped lift many boats. Western New Yorkers are approachable people. Our spirits are too. And now they’re becoming recognized as some of the best in the country—and beyond.” ■

Jason Barrett of Black Button Distilling

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Teri Quimby



Rosemary Sour

This cocktail from Jeptha Creed Distillery in Shelbyville, Kentucky, is crafted with house-made rosemary simple syrup and house-made dandelion bitters.


2 ounces Jeptha Creed Straight

4-Grain Bourbon

1 ounce rosemary simple syrup

1/2 ounce lemon juice

2 dashes Jeptha Creed Ne Oublie

Dandelion Bitters

1 dash rosemary tincture

Orange wedge, cherry, and rosemary sprig


Add ingredients to a shaker tin with ice. Shake well and strain over ice in rocks glass. Garnish with orange, cherry and rosemary.

WHAT ’ s Stirring

Lavender Moon

This cocktail from Jeptha Creed Distillery harkens back to its opening in 2016 when lavender was growing in the herb garden and the team knew they had to find a way to include it at the bar. Go the extra mile and make your own lavender syrup by boiling fresh lavender, sugar and water together.


1 ounce Jeptha Creed Honey Vodka

1 ounce Jeptha Creed Lemonade


1/2 ounce lavender syrup

4 ounces lemonade

Lemon wheel and lavender


Combine all the ingredients into a mixing tin with ice. Shake and strain over ice into a highball glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel and lavender.

Pot O’Gold

This is a unique, fresh and vegan cocktail from Valentine Distilling in Ferndale, Michigan. The distillery uses marigolds from their own garden designed specifically for fresh herbs and flowers to be used in their cocktails.


1 1/2 ounces Valentine Liberator ‘Old Tom’ Barrel Aged Gin

1/2 ounce lime juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup

3/4 ounce marigold liqueur

1/4 ounce génépy

1/2 ounce aquafaba


Combine all ingredients into a shaker and dry shake for 10 seconds. Add ice and shake for an additional 10 seconds. Double strain into a Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with dehydrated lime and marigold.

New York Manhattan

This twist on the traditional classic cocktail is made special as it is exclusively made with New York State ingredients. Rochester-based Black Button Distilling’s Empire Rye Whiskey distilled with 94% New York State-grown Danko Rye complements Brooklyn’s Method Spirits Sweet Vermouth and Rochester’s Fee Brother’s Bitters.


2 ounces Black Button Empire Rye Whiskey

1 ounce Method Spirits Sweet Vermouth

1-2 dashes each Fee Brothers Old Fashioned & Orange Bitters


Build on ice in a mixing glass and stir until chilled. Strain onto fresh ice. Garnish with lemon or orange peel.

The 585

Named for the area code in Rochester, New York, the 585 is a delightful mix of Black Button Distilling’s Bespoke Bourbon Cream, Citrus Forward Gin, cold brewed coffee and Fee Brother’s Bitters. In its tasting room, Black Button uses coffee from CDGA in Canandaigua to keep the New York Spirit alive.


1 and 1/2 ounces Black Button Distilling Bespoke

Bourbon Cream

1/2 ounce Black Button Distilling Citrus Forward Gin

2 ounces cold brew coffee

2-3 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters


Shake with ice and pour into a glass. Top with dashes of Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters.

White Rabbit

If a cocktail could form a perfect bridge between winter and spring, Lewsiville, Texas-based BENDT Distilling Co. says this cocktail would be it. Their homemade amaretto liqueur combines with BENDT Bourbon Cream to bring rich brown sugar and creamy vanilla notes, while the lemon provides vibrant citrus.


2 1/2 ounces BENDT Bourbon Cream

1 ounce Amaretto

1 bar spoon lemon curd

8 drops pure vanilla extract


Add all ingredients to a shaker tin half full of ice. Shake for 15-20 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with edible flower or lemon twist.

Hibiscus Gimlet

This cocktail from Seattle-based Fast Penny Spirits features its Amaricano Bianca, an amaro in which candied lemon envelops the senses, while saffron, apricot and chamomile create a perfect dance on the palate.


1 ounce Big Gin

1 ounce Amaricano Bianca

3/4 ounce lime juice

1/2 ounce hibiscus syrup


Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a hibiscus flower or fresh mint sprig.

Americano Sour

This cocktail from Seattle-based Fast Penny Spirits features its Amaricano. With aromas of toasted sugar and dark fruit, the body of Amaricano is unapologetically rich and full. Rounded truffle, vanilla bean and Mexican chocolate help finish, mingled with a savory bitterness.


1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey

3/4 ounces Amaricano

1/2 ounce lemon juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup


Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Serve on ice in a double rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon peel and cherry.

The Nightcap

For this cocktail from Buffalo, New York-based Barrel Factory Distilling, the distillery makes its own Irish cream. But you can substitute your favorite brand and get similar results.


1 1/2 ounces Barrel Factory

Distilling Professor Boozle’s One Fine Whiskey

1 ounce Irish cream

4 ounces chai concentrate

4 ounces coffee or espresso


Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice. Pour neat and top with chocolate covered marshmallows.


Exploring the wide world of bars and tasting rooms

Botanical Affairs Stuttgart, Germany

The Scene: Pocket-sized bar that serves, almost exclusively, gin and gin-based cocktails

The Tip: If there was ever a place to have a gin and tonic, it’s here.

The Vibe: There are very few places in the world that are equally ideal for solo drinking, dates and small gatherings of friends, but Botanical Affairs has got to be one of them. And visitors aren’t likely to ever find more than about a dozen people inside its walls because that’s about all it holds comfortably, with four stools at the bar and a pair of low cocktail tables catty-corner from each other, each surrounded by a few comfy parlor chairs. There’s seating for about eight more outside, if the weather cooperates. Guests who aren’t into gin are pretty much out of luck, but they’re probably very much in the minority. Germany, like much of the rest of Europe, has gone gin mad in the past decade-plus and now boasts more than 1,000 brands of the spirit produced within its borders. The bar stocks a number of those, as well as gins from every other gin-making continent—with more than 100 selections on hand at any given time. There’s an eclectic array of tonics as well, in addition to a host of fresh, sweet, sour, bitter and savory garnishes. And they all pair remarkably well with the complimentary glass full of rosemarydusted popcorn.—Jeff


Corpse Reviver Durham, North Carolina

The Scene: Durham Distillery’s Art-Deco-accented craft cocktail bar

The Tip: You can’t go wrong with the house Dirty Martini

The Vibe: The Jazz Age-inspired décor sets the tone, but I wouldn’t call this a speakeasy. The design is so much more about elegance and mood than it is anything resembling the performative kitsch of those hidden Prohibition-themed bars. The menu is an inventive showcase for Durham’s Conniption Gin and its line extensions—including Kinship, which gets its indigo hue from butterfly pea flower—as well as its Cold Distilled Cucumber Vodka and Damn Fine Liqueur range. The Frozen Purple Rain is a martini straight from the freezer, combining Kinship with Cocchi dry vermouth and an orange twist. The flagship Conniption American Dry Gin gets stirred with fino sherry and garnished with a lemon peel for the Tuxedo. Conniption Navy Strength is the star of Corpse Reviver’s riff on a classic Singapore Sling, joining Cherry Heering, Benedictine, pineapple, house-made cinnamon grenadine, lime and shaved nutmeg, But the house dirty martini is on another level: Conniption Navy Strength, olive brine, La Copa Extra Seco vermouth rinse and house bacon- and blue cheese-stuffed Castelvetrano olives.—Jeff Cioletti


Bar Le Record

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The Scene: Cocktail bar with lots of vinyl records

The Tip: Try the Charlie Watts

The Vibe: This is the nexus of cocktail and vinyl geekery. The bartenders spin while they stir and shake—and there’s a full calendar of guest DJs working the dual turntables. More than 2,500 LPs fill the shelves throughout the spacious room, though one of the bartenders admitted that some of them are duplicates for ornamental effect. The collection is eclectic, covering most genres and eras ranging from the 1940s until today. An antique victrola helps sell the atmosphere. The bar named many of its signature cocktails after iconic performers or compositions. There’s The Supremes, with gin, orgeat, grapefruit juice, basil and Angostura bitters; the Bloody Holly features vodka, Clamato, Caesar booster, smoked salt and chorizo; the Rat-Pack combines bourbon, Lillet, lime/pepper syrup and smoked salt; and the Charlie Watts melds spiced rum with cider, apple juice, basil and chili/tonka syrup.—Jeff

Captain Gregory’s Alexandria, Virginia

The Scene: Nautical-themed cocktail bar with speakeasy elements

The Tip: The cocktail menu’s always rotating, but Pine-Smoked Old Fashioned is a mainstay.

The Vibe: Let’s get the speakeasy part out of the way first. Yes, it’s got a semi-secret entrance inside its sister restaurant RailBird Kitchen (previously, the space that RailBird now occupies was a doughnut shop, which made the presence of Captain Gregory a bit more of a head-scratcher). And visitors have to pull the flag next to the bar’s closed entrance door and wait for staff to let them in. But once you’re past that little bit of hospitality theater, what you’ll find is a warm, cozy drinking establishment with lots of rustic wood and nautical décor. As you’d expect, there’s a full roster of always-changing tiki-inspired drinks, but that’s only about half the menu. The other half features non-tropical concoctions, often tied to a particular theme. For instance, drinks list recently celebrated “Winter in Tokyo,” with cocktails like Tokyo Vice (Wagyu fat-washed American rye, maple syrup, black peppercorn and maple syrup) and Karaoke Superstar (Honeycomb gin, Japanese barley shochu, yuzu juice, apricot liqueur and lemongrass bitters). For those in the mood for something that tilts a little more into classic territory, there’s the signature Pine-Smoked Old Fashioned (singlebarrel estate bourbon, burnt sugar syrup and two kinds of bitters, pine and orange).


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Amy Bohner, co-owner of Alchemy Distillery, in Arcata, California, could tell that something was off when she received her usual shipment of glass bottles. “It was more expensive and the boxes, which used to have an

‘American-Made’ logo on them, were blank,” she says. Inside the box was a letter informing them their bottles now came from India. For a distillery that always prided itself on buying domestically, Bohner took it hard. “It’s

been really disappointing and frustrating,” she says. “Every piece of equipment in our distillery’s American-made, and that used to include the bottles.” She considered alternatives but had to take into consideration what fit her labels and other operating issues. Alchemy’s small size also made it hard to find vendors willing to work with her. So, in the end, she decided to stick with the Jersey bottles she had been using, but which now come from India.

Bohner’s experience describes that of a lot of craft distillers these days when it comes to the supply chain. Things are better, but maybe not exactly how most would like it if they had a choice. “I’m no longer losing sleep at night, which is awesome,” says Cathy Plourde, co-owner of Rhode Island Spirits in Pawtucket. “But damn, it’s gotten expensive!”

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The havoc the pandemic played with the craft spirits supply chain a year ago has morphed into new, sustained challenges—and some unexpected opportunities.
“I’m no longer losing sleep at night, which is awesome. But damn, it’s gotten expensive!”
—Cathy Plourde of Rhode Island Spirits
Cathy Plourde and Kara Lawson of Rhode Island Spirits

A year ago, Rhode Island had to invest in more bottles than it needed given supply constraints, taking up valuable distillery space in the process. This year, Plourde says the supply of bottles is a lot more stable, but her packaging costs in the past couple of years have gone up by 15-20% depending on the item. This is on top of an earlier 15% increase in 2020, just a year after they opened in 2019. “And I complained back in 2020 when it went up 15%,” she says with a laugh. Such rising costs of materials go beyond bottles, and are being felt by just about everyone. And from what most can see, it has to do with the rising costs of transporting goods. “Freight is through the roof,” says Mark Allen,

owner of Lazy Guy Distillery in Kennesaw, Georgia, who says he’s watched the cost of shipments of the grain he gets from a supplier in the Midwest soar. “A pallet used to be anywhere from $200 to $300 on freight,” he says. “Now it’s $400 to $800 on freight.”

The price of barrels is also rising as some distillers are hearing word of a potential shortage. Allen says two years ago a 30-gallon barrel cost him about $300. That’s since gone up by around $100. “My last shipment was $416 per barrel. My next shipment in three to four months will be over $430 per barrel. The reason for that they say [is] demand,” he says. “That’s a huge hit for us. I feel for small distilleries just now starting who want to age

dark spirits. I just think it’s just not financially viable at this point.”

Concerned about a potential barrel shortage, distillers like Eric Montemagni, owner of Loup River Distilling in St. Paul, Nebraska, have put in orders early. “I had to put an order in for the entire year in advance to make sure I got my supply every quarter,” he says.

In a recent survey by the American Craft Spirits Association, barrels and bottles were neck and neck as the number one disruption people are experiencing today.

Domestic Bottle Supply Races to Catch Up Montemagni also finds himself in the same position as Bohner, having to now buy bottles made in India. He too used to take great pride in only buying American-made supplies. “But we can’t do that anymore,” he says. “It’s kind of sad.”

He says he will not buy anything from China though he could get inexpensive bottles there, while searches for a Mexican source of bottles closer to home have come up short. “They’re so booked up, and they don’t want to talk to you unless you have a 50,000-bottle order or something,” he says.

However, according to Glass Packaging Institute president Scott DeFife, there is good news on the horizon. He says bottle suppliers are actively expanding domestic capacity. In fact, he points out that U.S. production of 750-mL bottles and spirits bottles in general was up in both 2021 and 2022. “There has been high demand the past couple years and the spirits market is growing. So, there is investment in U.S. production,” he says.

These include:

- A new Georgia plant making spirits

MARCH/APRIL 2023 | 71
Steve and Amy Bohner of Alchemy Distillery

bottles owned by Arglass Yamamura, a joint venture between Nihon Yamamura Glass Co. and investment firm Cambium Arglass, began full production last year.

- O-I Glass is building a new spirits plant in Kentucky.

- Stoelzle Glass has added a new spirits bottle line to the plant in Pennsylvania it bought from Anchor Hocking. DeFife says they recently exhibited at the ACSA trade show in their greater flexibility to do more custom work in smaller batches.

- And Saverglass has expanded its higherend bottle production capacity in Mexico.

According to DeFife, the issue with Indian bottles was the result of one plant in Missouri (Piramal) that moved their production to India in 2019. “The former Piramal clients could get relatively standard bottles from O-I, Anchor Glass and Ardagh,” he says, “and more smaller batch designed bottles from Arglass in Georgia and Stoelzle in Pennsylvania.”

Making Lemonade from Lemons

The supply chain disruptions, to the surprise of some distillers, have also resulted in some unexpected opportunities. “As a very small distillery, we did not anticipate that we would age our products as long as we currently now do,” says Derrick Mancini, owner of Quincy Street Distillery, in Riverside, Illinois. “Because I couldn’t sell them, I couldn’t bottle them, but I kept making them.” He estimates that the shortages of bottles, labels and barrels set him back about a year and a half bottling his product. So, what to do?

With most of these supply shortages now having cleared up and givien him the greenlight to bottle again, he has proudly announced the official release for sale of the 9-year-old version of Quincy’s North

American Steamship Rye Illinois Bottled in Bond straight single malt rye whiskey. “This is our oldest whiskey released to date and the oldest craft whiskey distilled and bottled in the state of Illinois,” his press release reads. “This release is the newest, yet oldest, version of our artisanal straight single malt rye whiskey, North American Steamship Rye.”

“I released it, and it’s damn, amazingly good whiskey!” Mancini laughs. “So, we’ve shifted over to older product that we think we can demand a higher price for. So, there was an upside for us. Because it allows us to try to do a little bit of a rebirth. Because we’re this little tiny distillery which now is making the oldest whiskey in the state, how about that?”

Back in California, Bohner is also trying to put the best face on her new imported bottles. “I have thousands of labels and corks in stock, and I want the bottles to look consistent so we’re going to choose that over American-made for this one item,” she says. “I’m appreciative that it’s not grains, or yeast or anything that actually goes in the bottle. So, the bottle itself? It’s a bummer but in the scheme of things I don’t know that our customers would really care.” ■

“Freight is through the roof. A pallet used to be anywhere from $200 to $300 on freight. Now it’s $400 to $800 on freight.”
—Mark Allen of Lazy Guy Distillery
Mark Allen of Lazy Guy Distillery Eric Montemagni of Loup River Distilling

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Exploring how your choice of casks can impact the flavor of whiskey

In the February issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, we discussed how the choice of oak species is one of at least six factors you can control to influence the flavors produced during whiskey maturation in a cask. This time we’ll discuss the related aspect of cask size and explore how your choices can influence

the flavor of your mature whiskey. Note the use of the term cask to describe a wooden vessel, rather than the term barrel In most of the world a barrel is understood to be a 180-200 liter cask. There are many other cask sizes, but the ones most common to whiskey maturation are shown in diagram 1.

I also use the word mature rather than age, as we’re exploring the creation, removal and transformation of flavors, rather than how many years have passed since the spirit was entered into the cask. While related, they are not synonymous. As we’ll see in this article, many factors beyond years— including cask size—affect the maturation of whiskey. We’ll start with the two directly attributable to the cask.

Removal and addition of flavors

Contact with wood, (toasted and/or charred) provides two of the three main sources of cask flavor and aroma to a maturing whiskey: removal and addition. (The third is transformations, which will be discussed later.)

Diagram 1 : Cask sizes vary in volume and shape. For comparison purposes, the maximum number of bottles possible from a full barrel are shown in this diagram. In practice, a barrel that has been maturing whiskey for some number of years will contain much less, sometimes only 30-70% of the maximum, due to evaporation (the angels’ share) over the years. (Diagram courtesy of Mark Littler.)

Removal refers to the subtraction of off-flavors and early volatiles. The mechanics of subtraction is accomplished through several mechanisms, but primarily through adsorption through the char layer and evaporation through the barrel seams. (The wood itself should not allow water or alcohol to pass through. To understand how this is accomplished, see the first article in this series.) Subtraction is particularly important with regards to methyl polysulfides, such as dimethyl sulfide (DMS), dimethyl disulfide (DMDS) and dimethyl trisulfide (DMTS), as these compounds have low thresholds for


detection, and are generally considered offflavors and aromas.

DMS may take only a couple of months to reduce, whereas DMDS and DMTS may take several years to reduce to non-detectable, or at least acceptable levels. The rate of evaporation from the cask of these three polysulfides to below-detectable levels is, of course, dependent on how much was in the original spirit, but also on time, temperature, humidity, air flow and barrel size and stave thickness.

The other flavor influence for which the cask is directly responsible is the addition of flavor compounds. These effects are best described as the extraction of flavor compounds derived from oak, leading to changes in both flavor and color.

There is a rapid increase in the extraction of tannins during the first six months of whiskey maturation. The extraction rate then levels off to a slow and steady increase for the rest of the maturation. Sugars, glycerol, organic acids, lignin-related compounds and steroids all extract from the cask into the maturing whiskey. Most of these compounds contribute directly to mouthfeel, flavor and aroma, or are the necessary precursors for interactions with oxygen, alcohols and other compounds in the maturing whiskey.

Many factors affect the extraction of wood compounds, including entry proof of the spirit, the toast and char of the cask, whether the cask is new or used, and the warehouse conditions where the cask is stored during maturation. While all of these decisions lead to flavor impacts, casks have one of the more significant effects on extraction rate.

How size matters

The size of a cask directly affects the ratio between the surface area (where the spirit interacts with the cask) and the volume of whiskey. The smaller the cask, the more wood contact the whiskey will have, therefore extraction will occur faster in a small cask than a large cask. Evaporation (removal) will also occur faster for the same reason. Small casks are chosen for this reason: they shorten the time required to extract oak flavors and remove unwanted compounds.

If extraction and evaporation were the only two factors responsible for new make spirit turning into fully matured whiskey then small casks would indeed be the ticket to rapidly getting product to market. Where that is the case, the reason to move to larger casks would be for process efficiency and cost reduction. Consider that 5-, 10-, 15-, and 30-gallon casks cost just slightly

less than a standard 200-liter barrel, require more labor to fill, take up more warehouse space per gallon, and lose significantly more through evaporation.

Addition and subtraction mechanisms are not the only two factors creating mature flavors in a cask. The third factor is a series of transformations dependent on time, temperature, available oxygen, cut points, grain type and entry proof. Regardless of all these variables, transformations from new make spirit to fully matured spirit takes time for chemical reactions to reach the level of flavor detection. One of the benefits of larger format barrels is that they allow enough time for oxidation and esterification transformations to occur to reach detectable levels before the whiskey becomes over-oaked, meaning too many wood extracts are in the whiskey for a balanced flavor.

Incorporating small casks that have been previously used may be a good way to reduce the risk of over-oaking a whiskey when small casks are employed, but they still come with a high evaporation rate, which can mean significant loss while waiting for the flavor transformations to occur in sufficient amounts.

The transformations are how whiskey esters are produced, and are the result of an acid and an alcohol interacting. They include flavors and aromas of tropical fruits, flowers, honey, citrus, earthiness, and many more. Esters are produced during fermentation and are also formed in the cask when aldehydes oxidize to form acids which then combine with ethanol to form an ester .

Critical to the formation of esters in the cask are the availability of oxygen and sufficient temperatures to facilitate the reactions (see di-

Diagram 2: The pathway to ester formation in maturing whiskey is dependent on the availability of oxygen. Derived from an acid in which at least one –OH group is replaced by an –O–alkyl group.

agram 2). Oxygen is more soluble at lower temperatures, but esterification reactions are more rapid at warmer temperatures. Therefore, whether the warehouse is maintained at a constant room temperature or swings seasonally between high and low temperatures, the rate of esterification will be impacted.

Because esterification is where mature whiskey flavors come from (not just woodderived flavors), small barrels have an inherent risk that the extraction of wood-derived flavors occurs faster than the oxidation and esterification reactions occur This can lead to woody or over-oaked flavors. Therefore, a distiller has to consider all of their choices of grain, fermentation, cuts and warehouse conditions leading up to the whiskey before deciding that a small cask is the best path for flavor development in their maturing whiskey. When incorporated into a blending program, small casks can add flavors missing from larger casks, and vice versa. So small casks can have their place in a distillery, with caution and an understanding of how they work. ■

Jason Parker is the co-founder and president of Seattle-based Copperworks Distilling Co. This column is derived from two presentations he presented at ACSA conferences which are available as recordings at



A spirits industry attorney ponders the issues and opportunities that artificial intelligence presents.

Love it or hate it, artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay. It’s built into our phones and computers (Does “Hey Siri,” ring a bell?); helps entertain us (think about all those suggestions on Netflix and Spotify); and makes for a better online shopping experience.

We recently checked in with Marbet Lewis, the founding attorney and team manager of Coral Gables, Florida-based Spiritus Law, to discuss some ways that AI is weaving its way into the world of craft spirits. She says there are many ways AI can help bars, restaurants and distilleries improve their services and operations, but it’s important to remember that AI cannot replace everything.

CRAFT SPIRITS: Let’s address the AI elephant in the room. Recently, Microsoft revamped its Bing search engine with an artificially intelligent chatbot that went off the rails when numerous users reported unsettling interactions. For someone on the outside looking in at AI who may be skeptical, what would you say to temper their fear or doubts about AI?

Marbet Lewis: Microsoft’s latest attempt to make its search engine more user friendly definitely didn’t help AI’s image. But, it is important to note that the defects in the

chatbot’s responses were discovered during testing phases. So, if you are skeptical, it should be reassuring to see that AI developers are aggressively testing their products and more importantly, that there is a certain level of transparency in this testing as we are learning a lot about both the pros and cons of this technology. Artificial intelligence can still be a useful tool, and on the bright side, Microsoft is learning from the sketchy interactions with the chatbot. Other developers will also learn from transparency in the testing process. This testing and all the discussion and controversy around AI testing is a good thing because it all builds awareness both on the developer and consumer sides. User error still exists though and, as with any new technology, there is a learning curve we’ll all need to go through.

In a nutshell, why should members of the craft spirits community be paying attention to artificial intelligence?

AI can offer endless possibilities for improving craft spirits by streamlining production processes, predicting customer preferences and managing branding strategies. But more than anything else, artificial intelligence is here to stay. We are no longer dealing with

what if but rather how and when will AI solidify itself in everyday business operations. Those days are likely closer than we think given the active use of AI in most leading industries, including the alcohol industry. Craft distillers are already leveraging AI technology to create unique and innovative flavors, automate tedious production tasks and optimize operations. AI also allows craft distillers to analyze consumer data in order to better target their market and develop new products based on consumer real-time feedback and taste data. By applying artificial intelligence, craft distillers can quickly gain insights into customer preferences and trends within the industry, allowing them to stay agile in a rapidly changing marketplace.

What are some specific ways that AI can help tasting rooms improve their services and operations?

Aside from just being an innovative and cool way to interact with on-site customers, AI technology can help tasting room operators make better decisions based on synthesized data; save time and resources; and increase customer satisfaction. For instance, AI-driven solutions could be developed to monitor customer feedback in order to gain valuable insights about the quality of products or services offered by the tasting room. Additionally, such solutions can enable automated delivery of personalized recommendations for customers based on their past purchases and preferences. AI can also improve operational processes such as resource planning or inventory and scheduling management based on data synthesis that can identify peak operating times and trending products.

How can AI help break language barriers? AI has the potential to break down language barriers, allowing craft distillers around the world to share their brands with an even wider audience. Artificial intelligence can be used

We are no longer dealing with what if, but how and when will AI solidify itself in everyday business operations. Those days are closer than we think...
Marbet Lewis of Spiritus Law

to translate communications in real-time in conversational tones rather than the technical and cold language of most used modern translation technology. Creating dialogue rather than just an exchange of words facilitates more meaningful connections and understanding of diverse brands. Additionally, AI can be used to effectively translate labels and tasting notes into different languages and develop creative outreach and marketing campaigns that appeal to varying cultures. AI makes it possible for craft distillers from all corners of the world to share their unique products.

How can AI help with staff scheduling?

Staff scheduling can be tricky for any business owner but craft distillers also need to take into account specialized skills and training for various day-to-day tasks. AI-powered plans can take into account production goals; specialized employee training or skills required for specific tasks; customer flow rates for tasting rooms; required break times; lunch hours; and peak performance hours. The

ability to effectively synthesize this data on an ongoing basis is an incredible tool for craft distillers, which are often smaller businesses with less management staff. Even larger facilities can benefit from using AI though as the time saved on administrative tasks can be better used on creative development or more substantive operational tasks.

A few spirits have been created with AI. Do you suspect this is something we’ll see more of in the future, too?

Absolutely, but this leads into a controversial issue. How far will we let AI go into replacing human creativity in a skilled craft? I think the better use of AI is as supportive technology that can enhance, rather than replace, the creativity craft distillers bring to their brands. Through AI-powered algorithms, talented distillers can explore creative flavor combinations, identify trends in customer preferences, and make decisions about what kinds of spirits to produce. This process enables them to create innovative flavors and push the

boundaries of traditional craft spirit production. Fortunate or unfortunate though, AI has the ability to quickly harness vast amounts of data that can be used to quickly and easily develop recipes for new brands of spirits. We’ll just have to see how those brands connect with consumers.

What legal considerations should distillery owners consider when it comes to using solutions with AI?

The most important thing to remember when using AI is that technology cannot replace licensee responsibilities and obligations. If we learned anything from Microsoft’s AI blunders, it’s that the technology is not error-proof, but errors can still result in significant administrative fines or penalties. Distillery owners should continue to train staff and any AI operators aggressively on alcohol compliance regulations and check with their regulatory agencies on any new reporting or permitting requirements that may come into play when using automated systems. ■



In 2021, increased consumer demand, labor shortages and the impact of the pandemic were wreaking havoc on the supply chain. According to a survey conducted that year by the American Craft Spirits Association, craft spirits producers were experiencing the biggest disruption by far in sourcing glass bottles. A similar survey this year revealed that many of the same headaches remain and barrels are much harder to come by now.



Cardboard Closures (cork, capsules, etc.)

Glass bottles



Raw materials

Other 3% 73% 6% 4% 26% 13% 42% 22% 77% 71% 16 % 16% 35% 13% 16% 24% 3% 6% 2021 2023


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