Craft Spirits November/December 2023

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Ready to Can Exploring the opportunities and challenges facing craft spirits producers that package canned cocktails BY JON PAGE



MEMBER SPOTLIGHT Windon Distilling Has Wind in its Sails It’s full steam ahead for the Maryland-based producer of LYON RUM as it celebrates 10 years of converting skeptics to rum lovers. BY ANDREW KAPLAN


DISTILLING DESTINATIONS Spirits Riding High in Denver Distillers in and around Colorado’s capital city embrace local ingredients and dry, arid climate. BY JOHN HOLL




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Editor’s Note




Recent releases from Driftless Glen Distillery, Fast Penny Spirits and more



Lost Lantern Opens Tasting Room and Production Facility in Vermont



Craft Spirits Producers Return to Capitol Hill Report Shows 87% of Consumers Want to Purchase Craft Spirits Via DtC Shipping



RTD Trendspotting


Flavorful concoctions from ACSA members

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RETAIL: ON-PREMISE 60 The Sipping Scene

Exploring the wide world of bars and tasting rooms


Feeling the Draft Insights and best practices for kegged cocktails BY JEFF CIOLETTI

PACKAGING & PRODUCTION 64 A Jackpot in Vegas

A report from Pack Expo



TECHNOLOGY & E-COMMERCE 66 Software to Keep Things Running Smoothly

The latest operations software can save you a lot of time and money, especially when it comes to those dreaded reports. BY ANDREW KAPLAN


Taking Care of Our Own BY MATT VOGL


Images from Bar Convent Berlin



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CRAFT SPIRITS MAGAZINE C EO, A M E R I C A N C R A F T S P I R I T S A S S O C I AT I O N | Margie A.S. Lehrman, E D I TO R I N C H I E F | Jeff Cioletti, S E N I O R E D I TO R | Jon Page, A RT D I R EC TO R | Michelle Villas M E D I A S A L E S R E P R E S E N TAT I V E | Annette Schnur, CO N T R I B U TO R S | Lew Bryson, John Holl, Andrew Kaplan and Matt Vogl AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION I T S T R AT EG I S T A N D T EC H N O LO G Y I M P L E M E N TAT I O N M A N AG E R | Akshay Anikhindi, E D U C AT I O N M A N AG E R | Kirstin Brooks, D I R EC TO R , M A R K E T I N G A N D M E M B E R S H I P | Anna Klainbaum, A D M I N I S T R AT I V E AS S I S TA N T | Albab Melaku, D I R EC TO R O F M E E T I N G S & E V E N T S | Stephanie Sadri, ACSA ADVISORS S T R AT EG I C CO M M U N I C AT I O N S | Alexandra S. Clough, GATHER PR L EG A L | Ryan Malkin, Malkin Law, P.A. P U B L I C P O L I C Y | Jim Hyland, The Pennsylvania Avenue Group S TAT E P O L I C Y | Michael Walker, The Walker Group, LLC ACSA BOARD OF DIRECTORS, 2022-2023 P R E S I D E N T | Gina Holman, J. Carver Distillery (MN) V I C E P R E S I D E N T | Kelly Woodcock, Westward Whiskey (OR) S EC R E TA RY/ T R E A S U R E R | Jessica J. Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA) EAST Jordan Cotton, Cotton & Reed (DC) Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (VA) Jessica J. Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA) Tom Potter, New York Distilling Co. (NY) Colin Spoelman, Kings County Distillery (NY) Jaime Windon, Windon Distilling Co. (MD)

CENTRAL & MOUNTAIN 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) Thomas Williams, Delta Dirt Distillery (AR)

PACIFIC Lucy Farber, St. George Spirits (CA) Jake Holshue, Spirit Works Distillery (CA) Jeff Kanof, Copperworks Distilling Co. (WA) Kelly Woodcock, Westward Whiskey (OR)

EX OFFICIO Thomas Jensen, New Liberty Distillery (PA)

ACSA PAST PRESIDENTS 2 0 2 0 -2 0 2 3 | Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. 2 0 1 8 -2 0 2 0 | Chris Montana, Du Nord Craft Spirits 2 0 1 7-2 0 1 8 | Mark Shilling, Genius Liquids/Big Thirst 2 0 1 6 -2 0 1 7 | Paul Hletko, FEW Spirits 2 0 1 4 -2 0 1 6 | Tom Mooney, House Spirits

ACSA PAC Jordan Cotton, Cotton & Reed (DC)

CRAFT SPIRITS MAGAZINE EDITORIAL BOARD Lew Bryson, Alexandra Clough, Sly Cosmopoulos, Kamilah Mahon, Prof. 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.

Editor’s Note

GET OFF MY LAWN In the latest edition of “I am old,” Gen Z has apparently replaced millennials as the age group that’s dominating the marketing conversation. I have Bar Convent Berlin (BCB) and Park Street to thank for illuminating that reality in an education session titled “Demystifying the Gen Z Demographic,” part of the Park Street University track. My default response to such a topic has been, “aren’t Gen Zers too young to drink legally?” Well, as it turns out, at least a third of the folks in that population cohort aren’t, as the most commonly used demarcation point between Gens Y and Z is 1997—meaning that there are some Gen Z’ers who are as old as 26! (They’ve been able to rent cars for at least a year!) So, anyone in our industry who hasn’t been paying much attention to Gen Z has about five years of catching up to do. But, fear not! I’m here to help compress that learning curve, with a cheat sheet I put together from that BCB session. COCKTAILS ARE KING “For the very first time, this is a consumer group that’s more likely to drink cocktails than they are beer—we’ve never seen that with any other age group,” said Charlie Mitchell, research and insights director at NielsenIQ, one of the session’s presenters. It’s no wonder that the beer industry has been stepping up its efforts to reclaim some of the market share it’s lost to spirits. THE GREAT MODERATORS One of the biggest buzz-phrases at BCB for the past few editions has been “low & no,” reflecting a migration toward modest, and sometimes non-existent ABVs in their drinking selections. A lot of clickbaity headlines have claimed that the generation in question has been turning its back on beverage alcohol. That’s not exactly accurate. “They are moderators, not necessarily teetotalers,” Mitchell pointed out. Mitchell suggested that this demographic is likely to respond well to brand campaigns with an “easy does it” message encouraging responsible drinking A SENSE OF ADVENTURE One trait Gen Z has shared with their millennial predecessors is a desire to explore new categories and try new things. And they’re not very brand loyal. THEY’RE OPEN TO INFLUENCE Celebrity-endorsed drinks often catch the attention of Gen Z. “If you partner with the right celebrity,” said Mitchell, “you’re more likely to attract this demographic.” Additionally, 83% of Gen Z, according to NielsenIQ, will go on to buy a specific type of food or drink after they’ve seen it on social media. But “social media” doesn’t necessarily mean what it meant just a few years ago. Z’ers are more likely to be on TikTok, having virtually abandoned Facebook. You’ll still find them on

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Instagram, but you won’t find them (or pretty much anyone else these days) on the platform formally known as Twitter. Further, 58% percent of Gen Z on-premise purchasing decisions are likely to be prompted by celebrity or influencer endorsements. “Big caveat: we’ve seen an influencer strategy work and we’ve seen it fail miserably,” Michell cautioned. “Understand your values and your strategy and pick a celebrity or influencer who mirrors those values.” THE GEOGRAPHY OF DEMOGRAPHY In the past, the western part of the globe influenced trends in the east and the north influenced the south. That is no longer the case. The East (Asia, etc.) is influencing trends in the West and South America and Africa are influencing trends in Europe, North America and beyond. In fact, right now 70% of those living in sub-Saharan Africa are under the age of 30 and by 2030, 42% of the global youth population will have been born on that continent. ALL ABOUT EXPERIENCES Fifty-four percent of Gen Z consumers will go to venues that offer an exciting experience, 64% will visit street food vendors and pop-ups and 51% will attend a concert or music festival this year. “They’re not party-all-night-every-night,” Mitchell explained. “What they are doing is choosing one or two big occasions a month and going big at those occasions and telling the world about it. They want to do something different and then post about it.” Most importantly, the industry has to stop thinking about Gen Z as the future and start thinking of them as the present. And there’s a need for brands to strike while the iron is hot now to form lasting, relevant connections with them that will endure for decades—or at least until they have to write a piece like this about Gen Alpha, Beta and whatever other clever terms the marketing elite can come up with about our descendants. ■

Jeff Cioletti Editor in Chief



Join Us in the V.I.P. Lounge 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.

Matt Vogl is an internationally-recognized mental health advocate and a rarely-recognized standup comic. Matt has spoken on mental health across the globe, including Stanford and Harvard and a well-received TEDx Talk. Matt founded and ran mental health organizations such as the University of Colorado’s Depression Center, the National Mental Health Innovation Center, and he’s currently the founder/CEO of VXVY Mental Health. As a comic, Matt has performed at clubs and venues across the country.

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.

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


Members can receive: - Exclusive products with the CRAFT SPIRITS logo - Access to virtual happy hours with industry guests - Early access to each issue of CRAFT SPIRITS

Learn more at


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ABM Equipment

ABM Equipment has been the leading provider of integrated grain handling solutions to craft distilling spaces for nearly 30 years. Their unique value proposition is “sturdy, creative layouts that are built to move and scale with your space.”


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The Barrel Mill

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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.

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.

The Strategic Sourcing Hub specializes in globally sourcing high-quality bulk and barreled aged spirits. With expertise in overseas importing and exporting logistics, contract packaging and new make distillation, The Strategic Sourcing Hub is a comprehensive creative solutions partner.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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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.

BSG Distilling

Since 1876, we’ve been supplying the highest quality malts in the industry. We’ve developed the most extensive line of specialty malts in the world. We provide everything from malts to pure malt extracts, brewers flakes and filtering aids.

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.

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.

Chevalier Casks

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

Kason Corporation

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


CIE is a state-of-the-art, 75 million wine gallon, beverage and industrial graded, commercial scale, alcohol facility located in Marion, Indiana. CIE supplies pure and denatured alcohols to a wide range of customers.


Kraftwork provides inexpensive and eco-friendly in-store displays for the beverage industry. Brands can choose from our extensive library of stock designs or request a custom design that is specific to their capacity or promotional needs.

Deutsche Beverage + Process

Deutsche Beverage + Process specializes in creating cuttingedge custom and automated distilling equipment to enhance the quality and consistency of your craft spirits and beverages while increasing operations efficiency.

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.


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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.

True Essence Foods

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.

True Essence Foods is a technology company with proprietary solutions that meet the needs and solve the diverse challenges of customers in the spirits industry. We provide impact by improving product quality and flavor and maximizing resources and sustainability.

Ultra Pure

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.

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.

Specific Mechanical Systems

Steric 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.

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.

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.

WV Great Barrel Co.

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

New Spirits

Driftless Glen Distillery of Baraboo, Wisconsin, announces the release of its Straight American Single Malt Whiskey. Distilled from a mash composed entirely of malted barley, this 100-proof American single malt whiskey is sweet and nutty on the nose with notes of chocolate and a silky, buttery finish. The whiskey was aged for nearly six years.

Seattle-based Fast Penny Spirits has launched the company’s first ready-to-drink cocktail. The 15% ABV Amaricano Shakerato is a canned cocktail that combines Amaricano Amaro, Madcap coffee, and Scrappy’s Bitters. The nitrodosed Shakerato unveils a rich velvety texture that gracefully marries the robust notes of coffee and amaro with delicate hints of cocoa, citrus, and spice resulting in a harmonious symphony of flavors and a luxurious finish.

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Detroit City Distillery took its coveted annual release of Honey Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey (100 proof) to new heights this year, doubling production, expanding distribution statewide and adding Honey Old Fashioned, its first ready-to-drink cocktail, into distribution. Based on the distillery’s best-selling cocktail, the 76.5-proof Honey Old Fashioned features Honey Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey, raw Michigan honey and house-made bitters.

Santa Fe Spirits of Santa Fe, New Mexico, has released Colkegan Bottled-in-Bond Single Malt Whiskey: its first bottled-in-bond release. Compared to Colkegan Unsmoked, expect “a richer, deeper flavor for this [100-proof] whiskey,” says distiller Stephen Julander. “More of an American style to celebrate single malt as an American spirit. More new charred oak and full-bodied flavors throughout.”


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New Spirits

Woman-founded whiskey producer Fortune’s Fool announces its debut release, The Prelude, a premium straight rye whiskey raised in the heart of Kentucky. As the opening act of Indianpolisbased Fortune’s Fool, the 109.6-proof spirit takes the stage as one of the only whiskey products on the market to be aged in the highest quality barrels from Napa Valley’s Seguin Moreau Cooperage.

Freeland Spirits of Portland, Oregon, announced the release of its first batch of bottled-in-bond Rye Whiskey. For the 100-proof whiskey, master distiller Molly Troupe collaborated with Camas Country Mill to select heritage and ancient grain varieties that are stone-milled to preserve full flavor. The blend of Great Northern Rye, Purple Karma Barley and the nutty richness of buckwheat give the whiskey a balance of spice and depth.

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Laws Whiskey House of Denver, Colorado, announces the release of Cornerstone, the latest expression in the Laws Whiskey House Origins Series. This 115-proof expression is the first vertical coupling of Laws San Luis Valley Straight Rye Whiskey and represents some of the oldest and most exceptional rye whiskey the distillery has to offer.

Guthrie, Oklahomabased Wander Folk Spirits has announced two new specialty finishes to expand its celebrated Same Old Moses whiskey line. The 98-proof Sauternes finished Rye Whiskey promises notes of white chocolate macadamia nuts with Meyer lemon, caramel apple, cinnamon and honey. The rich, 105-proof Amarone finished Rye Whiskey carries notes of dark chocolatecovered coffee beans with vanilla, preserved cherries, balsamic and tobacco.


WHERE SCIENCE MEETS ART Our single source philosophy provides the highest quality ingredients, tailored technical service and education, and industry leading experience to support your needs. Your spirits are our passion, your needs are our motivation.

Yeasts, Nutrients, Enzymes and Bacteria

New Spirits

Montpelier, Vermont-based Caledonia Spirits announced the launch of its latest expression, Barr Hill Sherry Barrel Tom Cat Gin. This limited release began its aging process in new American oak barrels for one year, the same methodology used to create Barr Hill’s classic Tom Cat expression. Once the spirit has gained an ample level of depth and character, the liquid is then patiently finished in Oloroso Sherry casks for a little over a year.

Columbus, Ohio-based Watershed Distillery is launching another limited release bourbon in its Fall Finishing Series: Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Maple Syrup Barrels. This 114.1-proof release is crafted by handselecting a small number of mature bourbons and then finishing them in Watershed’s spent bourbon barrels that aged in Alliance, Ohio-based Sweetwater’s maple syrup before returning to the distillery as a final finishing cask.

Koloa Rum Co. of Kalaheo, Kauai, Hawaii, announced it has partnered with Foodland to celebrate the iconic chain supermarket’s 75th anniversary with the launch of Koloa Hawaiian Mango-Pineapple Rum Cocktail. The 20-proof beverage features Koloa Kauai White Rum, delicately blended with tropical mango and pineapple. Lewisville, Texas-based BENDT Distilling Co. announced the release of UNBENDT Straight Rye Whiskey—Bottled in Bond, the fourth release in the UNBENDT straight whiskey line. The fall 2023 release has been aged for more than five and a half years using standard 53-gallon new charred American white oak barrels. It is 100 proof.

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New Spirits

Sausalito Liquor Co. is launching a range of spirits inspired by the magic of Sausalito, California. The 90-proof Marin Coastal Gin features California citrus peel, locally foraged Nori seaweed, Angelica seeds from Santa Rosa, and a combination of two types of juniper. The 99-proof Unsinkable Bourbon is finished in Napa Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. And the 95-proof Unsinkable Rye features Kentucky rye aged in Napa port wine barrels

Boot Hill Distillery of Dodge City, Kansas, in partnership with Kansas State University, proudly brings all Wildcat fans its latest limited release of Wabash Reserve Bourbon Whiskey: DOOM Edition. Third in the Wabash Reserve line, this 90-proof bourbon whiskey rested patiently for five years in new oak barrels, then an additional six months in Caribbean rum casks.

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The next edition of the Progeny Series from Buena Vista, Colorado-based Deerhammer Distillery takes form as a collaboration with Carboy Winery. Vino Verso (106 proof) is an expression of the distillery’s flagship American single malt aged in three different casks from Carboy Winery Littleton, just one of their four locations throughout the state.

Anytime, a femalefounded, regenerative and transparent cocktail and spirits company, proudly announces the release of its 80-proof Farmhouse Vodka and 90-proof Farmhouse Gin, which the company claims is the first Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) spirits to ever hit shelves. Anytime was founded by Maddy Rotman and Taylor Lanzet, sustainable food activists who dedicated their lives to celebrating food and drink while improving climate.



2023 Judging of Craft Spirits ACSA’s 10th Annual Judging of Craft Spirits is open for entries. Enter your products into the ONLY craft judging competition assembled, organized and overseen by you, the distilling community. ACSA’s blind-tasting competition recognizes the best craft spirits in the categories of vodka/grain, gin, brandy, rum, ready-to-drink, whiskey, and specialty spirits. Registration Deadline: December 22, 2023 Receiving Deadline: December 28, 2023

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New Spirits

291 Colorado Whiskey of Colorado Springs, Colorado, celebrates the spirit of innovation with three new, limited releases: the highly anticipated experimental release of 291 E Colorado Whiskey Batch 13; the 291 XII Colorado Whiskey, the twelfthanniversary release; and Batch 2 of the 291 ALL RYE 100% Rye Malt Colorado Whiskey.

Los Angeles-based Broken Barrel Whiskey Co. has partnered with Laurel Canyon Spirits to launch Black Hjerte, a blended rye whiskey finished in two types of coffee liqueur barrels. As the second limited-edition offering in the Broken Barrel “Collaboration Collection” series, this 107-proof whiskey is the result of both masterful blending by founder Seth Benhaim and his sourcing of Laurel Canyon Spirits’ Black Hjerte BarrelAged Coffee Liqueur barrels.

Copperworks Distilling Co. of Seattle has unveiled its latest special release: Copperworks American Single Malt Whiskey Single Cask No. 364. This 120.4-proof spirit was crafted from a Queen’s Run of the distillery’s FiveMalt recipe and Fritz malt, using a new American oak cask from Canton Cooperage, char no. 2 and then matured for four years and three months before being bottled at cask strength. Tattersall Distilling of Minneapolis and River Falls, Wisconsin, announced the launch of its Bottled-in-Bond, Five Year Straight Rye Whiskey. Aged in virgin American Oak barrels, this 100-proof release is one of the longest-aged ryes in the Midwest that has been made entirely grain-to-glass.

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Will you take the gold? Do you produce craft spirits with a creative label, eye-catching design or innovative package? Show them off by entering the third annual Craft Spirits Packaging Awards. The competition is open to all producers of craft spirits. Medalists will be announced at ACSA’s Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show in February and will be featured in the March/April 2024 issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine.

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Imbiber's Bookshelf

Hercules Mulligan: Clothier, Spy, Drinksmith, American Hero Author: Aaron Goldfarb Publisher: H. Mulligan Co Release Date: Sept. 25 Set against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War, this novel unveils the untold yet true-to-life story of a remarkable Irish-American tailor-turned-spy, Hercules Mulligan. Follow Mulligan’s clandestine journey as he navigates the treacherous landscape of espionage, employing his wit, charm and skillful craftsmanship to extract invaluable secrets from his unsuspecting British Officer clients. With vivid prose and meticulous attention to historical detail, this novel paints a vivid portrait of an unsung hero, weaving together suspense, adventure, and the indomitable spirit of a man who risked everything for the cause of liberty.

Gin A Tasting Course: A Flavor-focused Approach to the World of Gin Author: Anthony Gladman Publisher: DK Release Date: Sept. 19 Join the author as he explores the story of gin, from ancient uses to its present-day renaissance; offers insight into the unique distillation processes; teaches you to establish and develop your own palate and write your own tasting notes—before guiding you through over 100 of the most exciting gins from across the world. Featuring a classic cocktail section as well as the spirit’s impact on the climate and the ways the industry is changing as a result. This is an all-encompassing guide to the ongoing story of gin—its heritage and innovation—and a celebration of the multitude of complex flavors present in the spirit today.

Tennessee Whiskey: How the Volunteer State Became the Center of the Whiskey Renaissance Author: Carlo DeVito Publisher: Cider Mill Press Release Date: Aug. 29 There is no questioning that Tennessee has a rich whiskey history. With a whiskey tradition surviving both the Civil War and prohibition, Tennessee proved early on that it would be a major player in the industry. But how did the Volunteer State become the center of the whiskey renaissance? In “Tennessee Whiskey,” spirits expert Carlo DeVito investigates the innovative and legendary whiskey pioneers who passed down distilling traditions from generation to generation. With a wealth of distilleries to traverse on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, DeVito honors the quality ingredients, fine craftsmanship, commitment, and character that make these whiskeys a world-class standard.

The Encyclopedia of Cocktails: The People, Bars & Drinks, with More Than 100 Recipes Author: Robert Simonson Publisher: Ten Speed Press Release Date: Oct. 17 How did the Old-Fashioned get its name, and why has the drink endured? What drinks were invented by Sam Ross? What was the Pegu Club, and who bartended there? In “The Encyclopedia of Cocktails,” Robert Simonson catalogues all the essential people, places and drinks that make up our cocktail history in a refreshing take on the conventional reference book. There are more than 100 drink recipes, from the Adonis to the Zombie, with vivid illustrations throughout. Simonson also includes entries for spirits from absinthe to vodka and illuminates the origins of each. This guide is an animated, historical journey highlighting the preeminent bars and top bartenders of record.

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It’s time to STEPUP!

An internship program that is a STEP above the rest Partnering with member distilleries and wholesalers throughout the United States, we provide a comprehensive training program and provide job exposure for those of different races, color, national origins, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations.


Industry Update

LOST LANTERN OPENS TASTING ROOM AND PRODUCTION FACILITY IN VERMONT Lost Lantern Whiskey co-founders Nora GanleyRoper and Adam Polonski recently announced the opening of the independent bottler’s first tasting room. Located in Vergennes, Vermont, at 11 Main Street, the new space opened to the public on Nov. 3, and offers guests the opportunity to taste and purchase bottles of Lost Lantern, representing a wide range of whiskies from distilleries across the United States. “We are so excited to be launching the Lost Lantern Tasting Room; this new space will allow us to really introduce Lost Lantern to Vermont residents and visitors for the first time,” commented Ganley-Roper, who grew up locally in Addison County. “We will offer curated flights of whiskies from across the country, allowing customers to taste the full range of what Lost Lantern has available.” Guests who wish to taste during a visit can choose from a rotating menu of flights, which will change regularly. Each flight features four whiskies. Initial flights include: • Intro to Whiskey (Learn about and taste the different styles of American whiskey) $10 • Fall Single Cask Collection (Lost Lantern’s most recent releases) $12 • Bourbon Flight (Explore the breadth of flavor bourbon can offer) $12 • Lost Lantern Greatest Hits (Taste the most popular and acclaimed releases available): $15 • Lost Lantern Fan Favorites (Taste sold out, highly coveted whiskies only available on-site) $20 • Founder’s Choice (If Nora or Adam are behind the bar, they’ll build you a custom flight) $20 • Build Your Own (Choose any four whiskies from the flight list): $25 The Lost Lantern Tasting Room will also offer bottle sales of all current releases. Beyond that,

Ganley-Roper and Polonski have quietly saved bottles from every Lost Lantern issue to date and will offer a handful of library bottles for sale (including those sold out elsewhere) of everything they’ve released since fall of 2021. The tasting room is part of a larger initiative for Lost Lantern and is connected to the company’s new production facility, which is used for barrel storage, blending, bottling and more. “Although we are not a distillery and never will be, we’re excited to bring all our blending and bottling in-house. Until now, we have been fortunate to work with great contract partners to help us bottle. However, having our own facility gives us more flexibility as we

expand on the success of our Lost Lantern Blend Series and Single Distillery Series,” said Ganley-Roper. “Additionally, the new space allows us to rapidly ramp up our private barrel program to offer retailers and whiskey clubs a wide range of unique single cask offerings from distilleries across the country.” The Lost Lantern tasting room is an intimate space and will is open Fridays from 2-8 p.m. ET and Saturdays from noon-6 p.m. ET for walk-ins and appointments through the end of the year when hours may change. During off days, visits can be made by appointment or chance. To make a reservation or inquiry, contact

CATOCTIN CREEK REACQUIRES INTEREST FROM CONSTELLATION BRANDS VENTURES Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. has reacquired the interest held in their Purcellville, Virginia-based business from Constellation Brands Ventures (CBV). Both Catoctin Creek and CBV agreed that now is the ideal time for the original owners to reclaim the CBV-owned share of the company in order to focus their full attention on craft innovation, new customer experiences and additional product lines. Its flagship rye whisky portfolio, including Roundstone Rye, Rabble Rouser Rye and Ragnarök Rye, will remain available for distribution, and the founders are excited to introduce new products, like the recently released Hot Honey Rye. During this seven-year relationship, CBV’s investment helped Catoctin Creek build substantial improvements, such as increasing production and warehouse capacity, improving supply chain efficiency, and expanding distribution in the U.S.

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“We greatly appreciate the support and resources that CBV provided us during this time together,” remarked Scott Harris, founder and general manager, “and I am very excited about what the future holds.”


Industry Update

UNCLE NEAREST ACQUIRES ESTATE IN COGNAC REGION OF FRANCE Uncle Nearest of Shelbyville, Tennessee, has proudly secured ownership of Domaine Saint Martin. Nestled along the scenic Charente River in the city of Cognac, France, this esteemed estate traces its lineage back over 350 years, first to the Lord Mayor of Cognac, Philippe Fé de Ségeville, and subsequently to various cognac-making luminaries including the Martell family, its four-generation custodian. Encompassing more than 100 acres with Charente River frontage and a unique island, the property adjoins a significant cooperage, expansive cellars and a distillery. Furthermore, its 50 acres dedicated to Grande Champagne vineyards make it Cognac city’s crown jewel. To be labeled Cognac, the spirit must be exclusively produced in the Cognac region of France, which comprises six distinct crus. The Grande Champagne cru stands out as the most sought-after. “The Uncle Nearest brand thrives on its profound story of love, honor, respect and heritage. Our mission in Cognac echoes this essence,” remarked Fawn Weaver, Uncle Near-

est founder and CEO. Throughout the past year, Weaver and her team, involving key spirits industry figures, have delved deep into Cognac’s roots, extracting groundbreaking insights which she believes will captivate global audiences. “Our brand strategy pivots from the norm. We are unveiling a short film first at several film festivals, then launching the brand,” teased Weaver, hinting at an exploration of Cognac’s history that surpasses even Uncle Nearest’s meticulous research standards. Similar to The Story of Nearest Green, this cinematic portrayal of Cognac’s ascent across America, Europe, and Asia will be narrated by award-winning actor Jeffrey Wright, with filming commencing this Spring. Spirits industry stalwart, Adrian Parker, takes the helm as president of this new venture, which is owned by Uncle Nearest, Inc., but will not share the same brand name. He is flanked by seasoned spirits professionals Brielle Caruso, who serves as chief marketing officer, and Chauncey Hamlett from The Formulation Group, who heads innovation.

“Under Fawn’s guidance and innovative approach, the Uncle Nearest team has created a playbook for independent spirits that has never before been seen,” said Parker. “In four years, they have grown Nearest Green Distillery to the seventh most visited distillery in the world. While there recently, I observed cars backed up for 1.5 miles each way trying to get in, with more than 14,000 visiting that weekend.”

BARDSTOWN BOURBON CO. COMES TO DOWNTOWN LOUISVILLE Bardstown Bourbon Co.’s new tasting experience is now open in the heart of downtown Louisville, Kentucky’s storied Whiskey Row. As the modern bourbon experience, the Louisville Tasting Room will feature highly interactive education, innovative craft cocktails, augmented reality and immersive digital environments, curated retail merchandise and exclusive bottles. Bardstown Bourbon Co. is pushing the boundaries of innovation while honoring the traditional art of whiskey-making. The new experience is located at 730 W. Main Street, which anchors the west end of Main Street just past 21c Museum Hotel and a block from the Frazier Museum, enabling consumers to experience the brand in a variety of ways. In true Bardstown Bourbon Co. fashion, the Louisville Tasting Room features a full-service bar with innovative craft cocktails and unique tasting experiences. The fresh, modern environment matches their expertise in blending, finishing and whiskey-making with immersive digital environments. “As a company focused on exploring and showcasing what’s possible in whiskey, we’ve spent years creating a new tradition that


celebrates the past while looking into the future. For this space, integrating leading-edge technology and building tasting experiences unlike anything else in the state was key to doing that. Bardstown Bourbon Co. has the opportunity to speak to a much larger audience in Downtown Louisville and merged the best of design, experience, and story-telling in order to do so,” said Dan Callaway, vice president of new product development at Bardstown Bourbon Co. Bardstown Bourbon Co. worked with international agency 3rockAR to create a 3D engagement as you enter the spaces, showcasing the family of brands. Hidden

augmented reality elements throughout the space— reated by local experiential agency HumanX—will tie back to the state-of-the-art distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. “More than 2 million visitors came to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail last year and more people are enjoying bourbon experiences all across the state. While many make the pilgrimage to Bardstown, Louisville is really Kentucky’s open arms. House Bill 500, which granted the ability to open a tasting room, made way for us to educate people about how we’re moving bourbon forward in a distinctly Bardstown Bourbon Co. way, right here in Louisville,” said Mark Erwin, CEO of Bardstown Bourbon Co.


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Industry Update

J. MATTINGLY 1845 DISTILLERY OPENS IN FRANKFORT, KENTUCKY J. Mattingly 1845 Distillery, created by Jeff Mattingly, a descendant of distilling pioneer John Graves Mattingly, opened its distillery Nov. 1 in Frankfort, Kentucky. The new distillery features 23,000 square feet, which includes a gift shop, tasting bar, a small pot still and a premier custom bourbon blending experience. The distillery will offer tours, tastings and the custom bourbon blending experience every day but Sundays. Previously located in Georgetown, the new location in Frankfort is part of a $6 million investment which will also add up to 50 new jobs. That investment is projected to grow as the distillery starts distilling on site, and eventually adds a second column still and barrel warehouses on property purchased in Shelby County. The addition of the column still carries on the 19th century Mattingly innovation of the coffee column still which greatly enhances continuous production of bourbon. A grand opening took place with Public Protection Cabinet Secretary Ray Perry speaking, joined by Frankfort mayor Layne Wilkerson; president of J. Mattingly 1845 Harry Richart

IV; and Jeff Mattingly, founder and owner. One could say Jeff Mattingly has bourbon in his blood. His ancestor John Graves Mattingly started his first distillery in 1845. Although the distillery was registered distillery No. 2, it is widely reported his distillery may have been the first registered distillery in Kentucky. The Mattingly name is so ingrained with distilling there have been at least nine distilleries in Kentucky in which a Mattingly had a hand in developing. The family also has connections to some of the most prolific bourbon barons in the industry, including George Garvin Brown of Brown Forman, the Willett family, and the Samuels family, with Margie Mattingly Samuels creating the iconic Maker’s Mark packaging, label, bottle shape and famous red wax. Today, current owner Jeff Mattingly, alongside his son Cameron, carry on the Mattingly family mantle and continue to innovate, much like their ancestors did. Each batch of their flagship J. Mattingly 1845 Bourbon is a custom, one-of-a-kind blend, using a proprietary double stave process to add texture, richness

and depth before it is expertly blended by the J. Mattingly 1845 production team. Visitors to the new location will have the opportunity to participate in a custom blending experience, which allows them to blend their own bottle from a combination of hand-selected barrels of Kentucky bourbon, wheated bourbon or rye whiskey, then choose their bottle, customize their label, and choose their wax color, offering a premiere hands-on experience not found at any other distillery.

COPPERWORKS OPENS NEW LOCATION Now open to the public in Kenmore, Washington, Copperworks Distilling—Kenmore is a new tasting room and cocktail bar from the Seattle-based Copperworks Distilling Co. The 5,000-square-foot space features over a dozen classic, craft and carbonated cocktails. Here is what visitors can expect when visiting Copperworks— Kenmore: The minimalist-designed tasting room features an oak wood bar lined with Copperworks’ spirits. Rustic and industrial details are found throughout the space, with garage doors opening to fenced-in patio seating. Indoor seating with several four-seater wooden tables, and for larger parties, large farm-style tables. Outdoor seating with string lights overhead, and guests can choose to sip at tables under a pergola or the big sky. “We’re thrilled to be part of Kenmore’s growing ‘Brew Row’ and add to the selection of locally produced craft beverages and a new stop on the trail,” said co-owner and vice president Jeff Kanof.

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Industry Update

GARRISON BROTHERS INK DEALS WITH ROCKETS, SPURS Hye, Texas-based Garrison Brothers recently announced new partnerships and bar locations with two Texas-based NBA teams: the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. The multi-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs and the Frost Bank Center, which includes Garrison Brothers named an official partner of the Spurs, began on Oct. 1. On the same day, the distillery began a partnership with the Rockets and Toyota Center, which also has Garrison Brothers named an official partner of the team. The Frost Bank Center now features a new namesake bar, Garrison Brothers Bourbon Bar, in the north side of the Frost Club. The new bar is open to all Spurs fans and concert attendees of the legal drinking age and features three Garrison Brothers bourbon expressions and seasonal cocktails on tap. Garrison Brothers began service at the Frost Bank Center officially on Oct. 16. The fully branded bar will be completed in late 2023. “The legacy of the San Antonio Spurs is unparalleled, and to be a part of their journey at the Frost Bank Center is an honor for Gar-

rison Brothers Distillery. Together, with our Garrison Brothers bourbon, we aim to elevate the fan experience, blending the best of Texas tradition and innovation,” states Rob Cordes, chief marketing officer for Garrison Brothers. The Toyota Center will also feature a new namesake bar, Garrison Brothers Bourbon Bar, on the upper concourse with an adjoining lounge area. The new bar will be open to all Rockets fans and concert attendees and feature three Garrison Brothers bourbon expressions and seasonal cocktails on tap. Garrison Brothers ultra-premium bourbon will also be served throughout the arena including on menus for all Toyota Center suites. Garrison Brothers will begin service at Toyota Center officially on Oct. 4 and the fully branded bar and lounge build-out will be completed in late fall 2023. “We are thrilled to be able to serve Garrison Brothers inside Toyota Center and be an official partner of the Houston Rockets,” adds Cordes. “We have long admired the Houston Rockets and the city as a beacon of innovation and growth, and celebrate this new union

of Texas legends.” Garrison Brothers, founded in 2006, which is open for tours and special events, sits on a 100-acre working cattle ranch in beautiful Hill Country. Garrison Brothers bourbon is currently served and sold in 48 states including in hotels, bars and restaurants throughout the Houston area.

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Industry Update SHANKAR DISTILLERS LAUNCHES BOURBON AND WHISKEY BRAND IN TEXAS Varchas Spirits, a spirits brand produced by Michigan-based Shankar Distillers, has launched throughout Texas. Varchas Spirits currently includes three bourbon and whiskey products: Varchas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Varchas Reserve 102 Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Varchas Straight Rye Whiskey. The products are available at select Texas retailers in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Plano areas. Shankar Distillers is a craft distillery that tells the story of blending two cultures—the age-old American tradition of making premium whiskey and the rich history of India. From the packaging of its products to the flavor profiles of its whiskey, Shankar Distillers delivers a unique cultural experience for consumers. “We’re excited to saddle up and introduce our smooth spirits to the great state of Texas,” said Varchasvi Shankar, founder, Shankar Distillers. “We believe that Texans will embrace the exceptional quality and flavor of Varchas Spirits. This launch marks an exciting chapter in our journey, and we’re thrilled to share our passion with Texas consumers.” Hailing from Troy, Michigan, Varchas Spirits is made from high-quality grains and finished with Great Lakes waters. The Varchas Straight Bourbon Whiskey is 90-proof and its mash bill is 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% barley, creating a sweet and spicy blend. Varchas Reserve 102 has the same mash bill as the 90-proof bourbon, but it is a 102-proof, single-barrel bourbon. Lastly, Varchas Straight Rye Whiskey is an aged rye, uniquely balanced with aromas of caramel, complex spice, hints of vanilla and a light smoky body. The rye’s mash bill is 95% rye and 5% barley, creating a sweet initial taste with a long dry finish. Varchas Spirits combines the robust character of American bourbon

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and whiskey with inspiration from Indian culture. Additionally, the packaging of Varchas Spirits weaves the two cultures together. The unique logo, a double-headed eagle, is the winning symbol of the Kingdom of Mysore, where founder Varchasvi Shankar was born and raised, and the collectible metallic American bald eagle stopper symbolizes the strength and freedom of America.


Industry Update


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


lew's bottom shelf


Hey, it’s time to talk again. Let’s have a drink while we’re chatting. Here, catch! Yeah, it’s a can, a little can, packed full of Manhattan. Want a cherry with that? I know I talk a lot about my roots in craft beer. (I talk a lot about aquavit, too, but not today. Probably not. Maybe). Not everything transfers, but a lot does: brewing, branding and the whole “craft/artisan” idea, plus taxes, labor costs and materials shortages. Craft beer has been out ahead of craft distilling, finding smaller scale equipment, finding market niches, fighting into retail spaces, changing state laws. And all that experience is largely there for the asking; sometimes just for the Googling. Another thing craft beer pioneered in small production runs was canning. After years of heart-on-the-sleeve longneck loyalty, craft discovered cans; more accurately, cans discovered craft. Can makers, like maltsters and label printers and brewery fabricators before them, realized that there was money to be made offering products that smaller scale brewers could use. Brewers were reluctant, but once a few of them took the plunge, they realized that almost all the prejudices they had against cans were baseless. Cans were cheaper to transport, cheaper per unit, just as easy to label or print, and were pretty much a wash environmentally. They allowed zero light in the package, and, if done right, had significantly less oxygen. Liners meant no metal taste, and there was a lot more space for label graphics. Consumers loved cans over bottles: they were lighter, took up less space, easier to recycle and no broken glass. Best of all, those same virtues opened whole new markets: sports and music venues, for instance, and airlines. “So what,” I hear you saying, “we get it. We’ve got our rum and cola in cans, our whiskey and ginger, our gin and tonic, and 20 different flavors of vodka soda. We’re kicking hard seltzer’s ass! This is old news.” Well, sure. People want those highball-style drinks, and plenty of craft distillers are doing a great job with them in cans (and bottles, sure). Some of you are even in the really big

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cans: kegs. But what got the whole spirits renaissance going, what’s still a great margin player for bars? That’s right: cocktails. Not highballs, plusones, mixed drinks: COCKTAILS, like Manhattans, Martinis, Negronis, Old Fashioneds, Margaritas, Aviations, Espresso Martinis. I do see distillers doing small bottles of cocktails, usually 100 or 200 mL. Like any good craft distiller will, they use top-shelf ingredients, carefully measured and blended, and taste-tested to make sure they taste like real honest-to-God cocktails, like you’d want to find at a bar. Chill them, pour over ice, add a garnish and you’re good to go. Or yes, you can be a happy philistine and nip them right from the bottle. But bottles aren’t always welcome. They break, so they’re not welcome poolside or on boats. The weight adds up, and the package is large for the amount of drink, so no hiking— kidding, a bit, but seriously, the airlines would rather not have more glass on board. What to do? Craft beer to the rescue again: you can do little cans! Craft brewers have been doing higher alcohol beers (10-16%) in 200-mL cans for a while; not a lot of them, but enough that the technology is out there. And there are some cocktails available in those little cans. Slow & Low first canned their Rock & Rye in 2017, in a 100-mL can at 84 proof. Atlantabased Tip Top Proper Cocktails has a line that includes standards like the Manhattan and Martini, and fun stuff like the Bee’s Knees and Jungle Bird. But Lew, you say, canning machines and those little cans cost money, take up space I don’t have, and how will we train our people to run them! Well, you do have to spend it to make it, as they say, and training is its own reward. But I get you, and here’s your solution: copackers. There are people who will take your liquid—cocktails, mixers, straight spirits, they don’t care—and package it in cans ranging from 100 mL up to 16-ounce tallboys. They have the equipment, they have a DSP, they know what they’re doing. I found two of them with a quick search, one of them less than an

Consumers loved cans over bottles: they were lighter, took up less space, easier to recycle and no broken glass. Best of all, those same virtues opened whole new markets: sports and music venues, for instance, and airlines. hour from where I’m sitting. You can do this (see what I did there?). Small cans and serious cocktails open up a whole set of new niche markets for your products, and a chance for you to get your name on new shelves, in front of new customers … who might just want to get a cocktail made by the maker. Put a cherry in that!. ■

Read more about ready-todrink cocktail packaging on page 38.

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



J ULY/AU G U S T 20 23

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ACSA Affairs

CRAFT SPIRITS PRODUCERS RETURN TO CAPITOL HILL WASHINGTON, D.C.—With an eye toward equitable shipping practices, agritourism, an efficient regulatory structure and sustainable forestry and oak-sourcing practices, 40 of the country’s craft spirits producers and industry partners ascended Capitol Hill in November to engage legislators on key federal priorities during the American Craft Spirits Association’s (ACSA) Legislative Fly-In. It’s the first time since 2019 that ACSA was able to host an in-person Legislative Fly-In, as the most recent editions had been conducted virtually. “As distillers, I think I can look at everyone in this room and say we’re storytellers,” said Gina Holman, founding partner of J. Carver Distillery (Waconia, Minnesota) and President of the ACSA Board of Directors. “And here’s the deal: if we’re not telling our stories, we’re closed.” This year, advocacy efforts focused on four major initiatives: the USPS Shipping Equity Act, adequate funding for the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the Agritourism Act and the White Oak Resilience Act. ACSA Public Policy Counsel Jim Hyland and State Policy Advisor Michael Walker coached attendees on how to engage their members of Congress on these issues. “This work matters because this is how we make change, by showing up, year after year and telling our stories to folks and not letting them forget us, because it’s easy to be forgotten among the press of all the other things that people are asking for on the Hill,” said Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (Purcellville, Virginia) president and head distiller Becky Harris, chair of the ACSA Government Affairs Committee and Immediate Past President of the ACSA Board of Directors. “And showing up, putting our faces in front of people, matters. And that way we’re saying ‘We care and we’re not going away.’” ACSA CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman noted that ACSA members have been able to influence significant changes in government policy because they refuse to be told “never.” Lehrman noted, “I recently had a conversation where I said, “We’re at a crossroads right now. We can either stay inside the guardrails or we can start knocking them down, piece by piece of the highway,’” Lehrman said. “So you’re all here to

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make that happen.” U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) visited the group at the start of the day to welcome them to D.C. HR 3721 USPS SHIPPING EQUITY ACT Among ACSA’s top priorities on Capitol Hill is HR 3721, the USPS Shipping Equity Act, a bipartisan bill that would authorize the United States Postal Service to ship alcoholic beverages. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) contains provisions that will ensure the safe and effective delivery of alcohol including: • Requiring beverage alcohol suppliers to register with the USPS • Directing the USPS to establish rules so that people 21 and over and authorized agents can receive shipments • Prohibiting the resale of alcoholic beverages delivered via USPS • Requiring entities utilizing the the USPS to certify that they are not violating applicable laws. Further, HR 3721 does not preempt state shipping laws and does not allow shipping into jurisdictions that do not already legally allow it. It also ensures that the U.S. District Courts have jurisdiction over any claims made by state, local or Tribal governments over violations regarding sale, mailing and transportation of beverages. Currently, in states that allow spirits to be shipped, producers are only able to do so through common carriers like UPS and FedEx—which aren’t as readily accessible as USPS, especially to distillers in rural areas. “The interesting thing is that we are still stuck in the 1930s as it relates to some of the liquor laws in this country, Prohibition-era liquor laws, the prohibition of the post office to be able to carry liquor to homes and businesses,” Rep. Newhouse said. “We’re trying to change all that. … Not everybody has UPS delivery every single day or FedEx delivery every single day, but they do have the mail coming every day.” And the issue reaches beyond consumers, as it affects craft spirits producers’ ability to ship professional samples to the media and other business entities. “I do hope we can get this equity act passed,” Newhouse added. “It facilitates your

business model and [enables you to] be connected to people around the country. He also noted that it ties in with one of the other main initiatives, the Agritourism Act. “It connects you to rural America,” Newhouse said. “You may not be in rural America, but you depend on ingredients from rural America.” [“The bill’s opponents] are not thinking about the different ways that we have to interact with the press and send samples,” said [If] you start having a problem with your common carrier, then how do you get your samples out?” FUNDING THE TTB Another of ACSA’s objectives at the Fly-in was to urge lawmakers to ensure that TTB has adequate funding to provide vital services to craft spirits producers. The threat of government shutdowns and proposed budget cuts to TTB would hurt the craft spirits industry by reducing its ability to efficiently get products to market and by likely benefitting from rulemakings that are intended to make American small business more competitive. Keeping the federal government open is only part of the challenge. Ensuring that the budget negotiations result in sufficient funding for TTB is another hurdle. ACSA members are advocating for TTB funding of no less than $148.8 million to support critical services including approving operating permits, labels and product formulas. Without such approvals, a distillery may not be able to operate. The association also is working to ensure that funding received by TTB is used to develop regulations recognizing the challenges facing craft distillers and other small business in gaining access to market and competing in an increasingly global marketplace. Senior officials for TTB were on hand to answer distiller questions and address major regulatory issues in a panel moderated by Jordan Cotton of Washington, D.C.based distillery Cotton & Reed and chair of the ACSA’s Political Action Committee. “Big-picture-wise, we want to facilitate and support your success as distillers,” TTB deputy administrator David Wulf told the audience of craft spirits producers. “We want to get you permitted and into business … we recognize that the vast majority, the tens of thousands of businesses we regulate, are small entities.


ACSA Affairs

And we want those entities to thrive.” HR 5203, THE AGRITOURISM ACT Additionally, craft spirits producers have voiced their support for the creation of an office of Agritourism within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the bipartisan HR 5203, The Agritourism Act, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA). According to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture, agritourism-related income increased from $202 million in 2002 to $949 million in 2017, a nearly four-fold increase. Craft distilling is a prime example of valuebased agriculture and many distilleries are located in rural agricultural areas and are becoming destinations for tourists. Agritourism communities support local, regional and state economies and a number of states have recognized that by including spirits production in their promotional boards, while several others have introduced bills to create spirits promotion boards. If passed, HR 5203 would require the Secretary of Agriculture to appoint a Director of the Office of Agritourism and promote agritourism in states. It would also facilitate interagency efforts and agritourism activities with other agencies within USDA, as well as other departments, and review and improve farm enterprise development programs that help support entities involved in agritourism. The bill doesn’t, however, authorize any new federal spending. HR 5582, THE WHITE OAK RESILIENCE ACT Also on the craft spirits industry’s legislative agenda during Congressional visits was support for a bipartisan bill that would implement sustainable practices that would both preserve American forests and biodiversity and ensure a productive future for craft distillers. HR 5582, the White Oak Resilience Act (WORA) introduced by the White Oak Caucus and sponsored by Rep. Andy Barr (RKY), would help achieve those goals. White oak trees, vital for wildlife and biodiversity, today occupy 104 million acres in the U.S. Under current TTB regulations, most whiskey made in the U.S., including bourbon, rye and straight whiskey, are required to be aged in charred new oak barrels. And white oak is the preferred wood among craft distillers, as its exceptional quality, strength and density make it ideal for aging spirits. But, according to research, stands of white oak do not exist in the amount needed to support wildlife and sustainable forestry.


That’s where HR 5582 comes in, as it would codify a public-private partnership—the White Oak Restoration Initiative Coalition— to work to conserve and regenerate white oak. In addition, the White Oak Resilience Act would: • Create pilot projects for the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior to reforest white oak where appropriate • Establish a white oak restoration fund so private funding can be used for regeneration efforts in national forests through the National Forest Foundation • Authorize the Forest Service to enter Memoranda of Understanding with land grant universities to conduct research • Direct USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to create a formal initiative on white oak like the Longleaf Pine and Sage Grouse Initiatives at USDA • Improve coordination and collaboration amongst existing programs. What’s more, HR 5582 does not authorize any new funding. “If we do nothing, the price of white oak will skyrocket,” said Erica Tergeson, principal at Crosswinds Solutions, the political strategist lobbying for the WORA. And that means the cost of aging whiskey and other spirits will skyrocket along with it. White oak shortages will start to become most apparent within the next 10 to 20 years as most trees are now mature and are expected to start to decay by then. “[The crisis] is already happening, we’re in the middle of this,” Tergeson said. “We should have started on this 40 years ago, but here we are. … We can save white oak but we have to act immediately.” Rep. Morgan McGarvey (D-KY), one of HR 5582’s co-sponsors, called the bill “a great example of bipartisanship.” “This is something that’s great for bourbon, it’s great for business and it’s great for our planet, McGarvey said. “It brings people together in a manner in which you don’t always see in Washington.” The ACSA Legislative Fly-In kicked off Tuesday night with a welcome reception at Republic Restoratives Distillery & Craft Cocktail Bar and concluded with a reception showcasing spirits from a wide range of American craft producers in the Senate office building. ACSA would like to thank all who attended, donated spirits for the reception and donated to the ASCA PAC. ACSA also thanks Prestige-Ledroit for donating cocktail mixers. —Jeff Cioletti

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) welcomed craft spirits producers to the Hill

ACSA CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman, Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) and ACSA President Gina Holman (J. Carver Distillery)


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ACSA Affairs

DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER SPIRITS SHIPPING REPORT SHOWS 87% OF CONSUMERS WANT TO PURCHASE CRAFT SPIRITS VIA DTC SHIPPING The recent release of the 2023 Direct-toConsumer Spirits Shipping Report from global tax compliance technology leader Sovos and the American Craft Spirits Association underscores a continued increase in the percentage of regular craft spirits drinkers who want to legally purchase their beverages of choice via direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping. Sovos’ beverage alcohol compliance business, Sovos ShipCompliant, leads the industry in automated alcohol beverage compliance tools, and its customers continue to see a significant, consistent increase in consumer preference for DtC shipping of alcoholic beverages, from spirits to wine to beer and more. The 2023 Direct-to-Consumer Spirits Shipping Report found an increase in regular craft spirits drinkers who want to legally purchase their favorite spirits products and have them shipped directly to their homes — 87% versus 80% in 2022. And 81% of those likely to purchase spirits DtC say if they could purchase craft spirits DtC, they would do so at least once a month or more. More than four in five (82%) regular craft spirits drinkers believe U.S. laws should be updated to make it legal to ship spirits DtC in more states. For the 2023 Direct-to-Consumer Shipping Report, The Harris Poll conducted an online survey among 598 regular craft spirits drinkers (U.S. adults ages 21+ who drink craft spirits once a month or more often) on behalf of Sovos and its ShipCompliant business. “Our second annual Direct-to-Consumer Spirits Shipping Report illuminates that the consumer demand sparked during the pandemic is not diminishing, as an overwhelming number of craft spirit drinkers want direct shipping,” said Leah Rasori, CMO of Sovos. “It’s also notable that 78% of regular craft spirits drinkers say the ability to purchase via DtC would make them more likely to try spirits from out-of-state distilleries, demonstrating missed opportunities in both sales for distillers and tax revenue for states.” Craft spirits are increasingly popular, with 2022 marking the first time U.S. consumers spent more money on spirits than they did on beer. As of October 2023, there are more

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than 122,000 spirits brands in the U.S., and over the past few years the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved between 13,000 and 16,000 new brands. However, DtC spirits shipping is still only legal in only nine U.S. locales (eight states and D.C.), with recent failed legislative progression in New York, Texas and Hawaii. Sovos’ 2023 report found that 80% of craft spirits drinkers, up from 74% in 2022, say they would purchase craft spirits from out-of-state distilleries via DtC shipping if they could do so. “With today’s limited spirits shipping laws, a majority of Americans are unable to

purchase their favorite spirits products,” said Margie A.S. Lehrman, CEO of the American Craft Spirits Association. “As consumers continue to demand choice and convenience, states will need to take action in order to provide spirits producers with enhanced ability to satisfy and grow their customer base. State laws will need to change to support consumers and American businesses. It’s a win-win for all.”

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ACSA Affairs

ACSA HOSTS INAUGURAL AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS FESTIVAL On October 26, the country’s top craft spirits producers poured for consumers and select members of the trade during the first-ever American Craft Spirits Festival at Binny’s Beverage Depot in Chicago. The event was just one of the many ways that ACSA has celebrated our 10th anniversary this year. The event—generously hosted by Binny’s Beverage Depot with a part of the proceeds going to the STEPUP Foundation—featured education by industry leaders as well as an opportunity for sponsors to connect with distilleries during trade-only festival hours. An exclusive ACSA-published Cocktail Booklet featuring recipes from participating distilleries was also distributed to attendees. We are grateful to all of the craft spirits producers who joined us and to all of our sponsors! We look forward to making this an annual event to further demonstrate the innovation in our industry to the trade and consumers alike.

ACSA CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman with Brett Pontoni of Binny’s Beverage Depot

UPCOMING EVENTS Registration is opening for the 11th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show and ACSA’s Judging of Craft Spirits. Visit to learn more.



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Data Distilled








$3.6 billion

$4.5 billion

$1.6 billion

$949 million

$4.7 billion

$1.6 billion

$2.8 billion

$129 million


$645 million


Last 52 Weeks* *Through Oct. 7, 2023


Comparing Spirits-based RTD and RTS Sales Growth READY TO DRINK (LESS THAN 750 ML) READY TO SERVE 750 ML AND ABOVE)





$295 million

$1.6 billion

$233 million


$129 million

The total ready-to-drink (RTD) market, which includes flavored malt beverages, hard seltzers and spirits- and winebased RTDs, is an $11 billion industry. That’s according to NielsenIQ scan data and SipSource depletion data provided by 3 Tier Beverages, a Chicagoheadquartered, beverage-alcoholfocused consulting and data firm. Although hard seltzers held the top spot in the category from 2020 through 2022, data from the last 52 weeks (ending on Oct. 7, 20223) shows that hard seltzers have peaked and flavored malt beverages now lead the overall RTD category in size. Spirits-based RTDs continue to grow steadily, with $1.2 billion of sales in 2022 and $1.6 billion in the last year. Its growth has been explosive, offering consumers a large variety of flavors and pre-mixed drinks most often in smaller-sized portable canned formats, says Danny Brager, a veteran industry analyst. It has attracted entries from not just primarily spirit companies, but also wineries and breweries. It’s worth noting those RTD sales do not include what NielsenIQ and SipSource define as ready-to-serve (RTS) beverages. RTDs are defined as prepared cocktails less than 750 mL while RTSs are 750 mL and above. Over the course of the past three years, sales of RTS drinks have remained steady at $300 million per year. When it comes to the base liquid for spirits-based RTDs, vodka is dominant, accounting for 60% share. However, tequila is leading in terms of growth, with a 73% dollar change versus one year ago. ■

Last 52 Weeks* *Through Oct. 7, 2023

Source: The information is based upon NielsenIQ scan data and SipSource depletion data provided by 3 Tier Beverages (a Chicago-headquartered, Bev-Alc-focused consulting and data firm)

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READY TO CAN Exploring the opportunities and challenges facing craft spirits producers who package canned cocktails BY JON PAGE

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W Boot Hill Distillery owners Shelby and Hayes Kelman

hen Boot Hill Distillery first explored canning its own cocktails, the Dodge City, Kansas-based company used a small, manual machine capable of filling about eight cans per minute. It helped the distillery prove its concept, but within six months founder and CEO Hayes Kelman was on the hunt for a larger, faster canning line. Fast forward a few years and that bigger machine is starting to feel slow, too. “I sure thought that 25 to 30 cans a minute was going to be insane, but you’re talking a low margin,” says Kelman. “You’ve got to spin a lot of cans out before you’re making any money. You start doing the math on the amount of time that you’re spending canning those things [and] a bigger line is of course always better.” That dilemma is just one of many packaging challenges facing both fledgling and established producers of spirits-based ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails. Questions abound when it comes to canning versus bottling. And if you plan to can, do you start with a mobile canner, a co-packer or install your own canning line? There is, however, no question that the category continues to grow rapidly. According to NielsenIQ scan data and SipSource depletion data provided by 3 Tier Beverages—a Chicago-headquartered, beverage-alcohol-focused consulting and data firm—spirits-based RTDs accounted for $1.2 billion of sales in 2022 and $1.6 billion in the last 52 weeks ending on Oct. 7. Partially thanks to that growth, producers of RTDs now have more choices than ever when selecting equipment and materials, including multiple sizes and can liners created to hold hard-tohold beverages. TO CAN OR BOTTLE Deciding on the vessel for an RTD is one of the first packaging-related issues a craft spirits producer must tackle. For Kelman and Boot Hill, the convenience of aluminum cans was a huge factor. “There’s a pretty large area that we’re not able to sell our products in—that our products aren’t even thought of,” says Kelman. “You don’t drink a bottle of whiskey at a tailgate. … You go to the lake, nobody takes glass bottles.” The distillery currently produces three canned cocktails: Rosemary Mule, Whiskey Cola and Vodka Basil Lemonade. Kelman says that the single-serving nature of cans also has a benefit of creating brand awareness at in-store tastings. “There’s a lot of people out there that like straight whiskey, us included, but we forget that the majority of the public is


going to mix their spirits,” he says. “They don’t want to taste a shot of vodka. So we can go to a tasting and offer samples of these canned cocktails.” Asking someone unfamiliar with your brand to spend $14 on a four-pack of canned cocktails is easier than asking them to spend $50 on a bottle of your bourbon, adds Kelman. And if the customer likes what they taste, “then all of a sudden, ‘Oh, you like our brand now?’ Then you go out and spend the $50 on the bottle of bourbon because they make good stuff.” At Minneapolis-based Dashfire—which produces bitters, spirits, RTDs and also offers copacking—co-owner Lee Egbert is a proponent of tin cans because of their recyclability and simplicity. “Your can is also your label,” says Egbert. “It’s also your lid. So when it comes down to it, it’s the most cost-effective package [for RTDs].” However, Dashfire also fills bottles, and Egbert believes that for certain companies a bottle is the perfect vessel. He says some prospective clients are surprised to learn that they need to be in more than one market to justify canning. “In my mind, [it’s] a four-market product,” says Egbert. “You have to mentally prepare for that. If they’re not in the four markets, the best way to start out is get it into 750s or get it into 375s in glass, then you can do that even at your own distillery.” That line of thought propelled Lewisville, Texas-based BENDT Distilling to launch its Witherspoon Whiskey Cocktail Series Old Fashioned in bottles in 2017. ”Bottles just made more sense for us,” says Natasha DeHart, BENDT’s founder and blender. “It’s what we know. We already have a bottling line that works for bottles and bringing in a mobile canner and starting over in that realm was not really something that we wanted to venture into considering that we had all the infrastructure in place for bottling.” CAN CONSIDERATIONS There’s also the matter of compatibility with high-proof RTDs and cans. Although Dashfire finds success with its high-proof cocktails in tin cans, most aluminum can manufacturers would not recommend their cans for beverages 20% ABV and above. To protect against corrosion, all aluminum cans have some type of liner, with variable formulations and levels of thickness depending on the manufacturer. But all it takes is a faulty seam for one small leak to create a giant mess, as Larry Cary of Astoria, Oregon-based Pilot House Distilling has experienced a few times, despite thoroughly spot checking seams during canning.


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Natasha DeHart of BENDT Distilling

“Bottles just made more sense for us. It’s what we know. We already have a bottling line that works for bottles and bringing in a mobile canner and starting over in that realm was not really something that we wanted to venture into considering that we had all the infrastructure in place for bottling.” —Natasha DeHart of BENDT Distilling 4 0 | N OV EM BER /DECE MBE R 2023

“You think you’re catching them all the time and then boom, it pops up,” says Cary, co-founder of Pilot House. “It starts spilling or leaking out and then it slowly dissolves the cans. You’ve got a warehouse full of 20 pallets [and] you just don’t see them all. You grab one and it’s all leaky and smells bad and you’re like, ‘Oh gosh, how much did I lose?’” To ensure that their products are a good fit for a manufacturer’s cans, producers of RTDs can send samples or pH readings to the manufacturer. Colleen Cerling, a marketing manager for Ball Corporation, says that submitting samples to Ball’s lab services team is a crucial step early in the process of crafting a canned cocktail. “The collaboration between distilleries and


Ball starts long before an RTD cocktail ever goes into a can,” says Cerling. “Before the can ends up on a shelf, or in the hand of a consumer, distilleries will submit samples … for what we call compatibility testing. Our team then thoroughly tests the beverage for a number of variables to confirm the compatibility of the liquid and the packaging.” When it comes to the recommended ABV for cans, Cerling says it depends on various factors, including the specific ingredients and filling conditions. She adds, “Liner selection and thickness, tailored to your beverage’s ABV, ingredients, pH levels and other factors, are a part of the comprehensive evaluation process conducted by Ball’s lab services team.” As the RTD category expands, can manufacturers are eager to innovate. Earlier this year, Austin, Texas-based American Canning announced it would be the first U.S. company to manufacture aTULC (aluminum Toyo Ultimate Can) cans, which were first developed by Tokyo-based Toyo Sekian Group Holdings, Ltd. According to an initial press release from the company, unlike traditional epoxy applications, aTULC uses pre-coated aluminum sheets with a more robust liner to protect against corrosivity and increase product sustainability by being produced in a waterless plant. Melody Gregson, American Canning’s VP of sales and marketing, says aTULC is “designed for hard-to-hold beverages. … The current cans aren’t bad, but they were developed for lager beers and soft drinks and sparkling waters. That’s not where the industry is headed in terms of innovation and how people are choosing to push the boundaries with ingredients, particularly ingredients like salt.” Gregson says there is a premium price difference between aTULC and standard cans, but American Canning believes the benefit outweighs the cost difference. “If you’ve got a salted margarita and you’re failing and can’t even get it on product shelves,” says Gregson, “and you’re paying more than your product costs to buy back cans, it’s probably worth looking at a couple of extra pennies per can.” According to Gregson, some customers have been able to expand to new markets in aTULC cans because they previously had to stay in their own market to monitor quality control. “So when they’re not having those leaks and having to worry about local distribution, they can also open up the territory and gain new doors and go further out,” says Gregson. For proof that aTULC cans better withstand those hard-to-hold beverages compared to standard cans, American Canning points


In February, American Canning launched aTULC can manufacturing in the U.S.

to its own internal studies. But Manchester, New Hampshire-based Iron Heart Canning Co., which offers mobile canning services in 27 states, has also performed testing. “Our internal testing confirmed that they perform better,” says Roger Kissling, Iron Heart’s VP of sales and customer management. “For a product that’s at the edge or is at risk for compatibility, these cans could be a useful tool to mitigate corrosion risk.”

MOBILE CANNING, CO-PACKERS AND COOPERATIONS For many craft spirits producers, working with a mobile canner to package RTDs is the most cost-effective and worry-free solution. At Pilot House, which uses Oregon-based Craft Canning + Bottling to can its award-winning lineup of RTDs, Cary says they can package five to eight pallets of cans in a single day. “The mobile canner is a cheap entry into the


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“The mobile canner is a cheap entry into the market. You don’t have to invest in a big machine and then you don’t need the knowledge. They have all the expertise.” —Larry Cary of Pilot House Distilling

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“Your can is also your label. It’s also your lid. So when it comes down to it, it’s the most cost-effective package [for RTDs].” —Lee Egbert of Dashfire

market,” says Cary. “You don’t have to invest in a big machine and then you don’t need the knowledge. They have all the expertise.” Kissling points out that packaging is the last part of the process, and that would-be producers of RTDs must account for many things before a mobile canner arrives to fill cans. The first two primary areas to consider, he says, are formulation and sanitation. The formula should be shelf stable, and procedures should be in place to ensure sanitation. “A distiller who’s used to only working with high-proof spirit,” says Kissling, “should adjust regular protocols and SOPs in place for sanitation of pumps or tanks in order to manufacture a low-ABV RTD.” Kissling says that for carbonated RTDs,


on-site tanks that can accept pressure and glycol chilling are a must, as it’s too difficult to mobilize glycol chilling. While Iron Heart doesn’t offer carbonation, Kissling says the company has filled many non-carbonated canned cocktails. To manage dissolved oxygen, Iron Heart puts a drip of liquid nitrogen into each can. “It pressurizes the can for rigidity and you have a lovely nitro-dosed canned cocktail,” says Kissling. “I think that lends itself really well to things like lemonades or spins on traditional whiskey cocktails.” For RTD producers on the fence about a mobile canner, Kissling says it’s important to consider time and expertise. “We’ve been doing this for over a decade now,” he says. “Every one of our packaging techs is a trained

professional packaging manager, not an assistant cellarman who then jumps on the canning line once every couple of weeks to knock some cans out.” Iron Heart, which will package 70 to 80 million cans this year, has a white paper on detailing more considerations for anyone interested in mobile canning. Although the company is primarily focused on mobile canning, Kissling says Iron Heart encourages many customers to get started with a contract facility or co-packer. “It’s also a great way to get started, test the market and then there’s always the option to bring it in-house down the road,” Kissling adds. Although Dashfire has realized success canning its own RTDs, Egbert is proud that


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4 4 | N OV EM BER /DECE MBE R 2023 Devil’s Foot Beverage co-founders Ben Colvin and Jacob Baumann


the company offers a turnkey solution for other brands in the space. But he likes to say that Dashfire doesn’t offer a “co-packer vibe.” “We really do mean it when we say we want to help other people,” adds Egbert. “A co-packer vibe is that the co-packer is always trying to get every penny they can from you. What I’ve been able to do is, [clients] come in and I say, ‘Tell me where you’re at now and I’ll see if I can beat it.’ A lot of times I can save people money.” That was the case with a national brand that Dashfire is bringing on in 750 mL bottles. Egbert says Dashfire helped reverse engineer the packaging and “save them a lot of money per case.” In Asheville, North Carolina, another kind of spirited collaboration is underway. This August, Devil’s Foot Beverage, which produces sustainable farm-to-can sodas, announced a line of RTDs featuring spirits from other distilleries. The cocktail line is called Friend of the Devil, and the Vodka Lemonade features Botanica Vodka from Nippitaty Distillery in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Carolina Mule features Asheville Vodka from nearby Cultivated Cocktails. In addition to Friend of the Devil’s branding, the distilleries’ logos are featured on their respective cans. “I help their business by purchasing bulk spirits bond to bond, so they’re sending me bulk spirits without having to package it, which is great on their bottom line,” says Devils’ Foot president and co-founder Ben Colvin. “And then I’m putting their logo on everything and I want everybody to see what’s in that. I want you to understand the great spirit that is.” INVESTING IN A CANNING LINE But for producers of canned RTDs who want to control every aspect of production and packaging, there are numerous companies offering canning machines, such as Pneumatic Scale Angelus, Microcanner, American Canning and more. Kevin Rogers, machine sales manager for American Canning, says that the recent rise of small-scale counterpressure fillers is a godsend for small companies. “Five years ago there really were no counterpressure options out there for those smaller craft producers,” says Rogers. “Now there are more options for the low entry price point and smaller footprint.” In American Canning’s lineup, Rogers steers RTD producers to the company’s CP-4 Filler/Seamer, an automated four-head counterpressure system that fills 20 to 30


COCKTAIL-INSPIRED BEERS With aromas of bourbon, bitters and orange peel, it smells like an Old Fashioned. The name of the classic cocktail is even right there on the label. But Trip in the Woods Old Fashioned— a 12% ABV beverage from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.—is 100% beer. The limited release from the brewery is part of a small but growing number of cocktail-inspired beers. Guinness and a few craft breweries have also released beers inspired by the Old Fashioned. While Sierra Nevada—which has headquarters in Chico, California, and Mills River, North Carolina—has made a few cocktail-inspired beers in the past, the latest offering came about largely due to happenstance and experimentation. “We did not go into this thinking, ‘Oh yeah, this is going to be an Old Fashionedinspired beer,’” notes product manager Terence Sullivan. The beer traces its origins to Sierra Nevada’s Estate Ale program. When one batch wasn’t hitting the mark, the brewery decided to transfer some of it to bourbon barrels. In the meantime, Sierra Nevada also aged some beer in barrels that had been aged with bitters. Eventually, someone in the barrel room had the good idea to create a blend of the two beers. That’s when the brewery decided to add some orange peel into the mix to complete the Old Fashioned vibe. Cocktail-inspired beers aren’t likely to become a big focus for Sierra Nevada—best known for its hop-forward pale ales and IPAs—and Sullivan notes that only 32 barrels worth of Trip in the Woods Old Fashioned were packaged. But he reveals that the brewery is considering a 2024 club release that nods to a cocktail, and the brewery’s love for barrel aging may yield additional cocktail-like releases in the future. “I think it’s always an inspiration to brewers to go down that cocktail avenue,” Sullivan says, “because all of us enjoy a really nice-made cocktail.”

cans per minute. He says it’s much easier to produce a highly carbonated RTD using counterpressure. “As you increase the amount of carbonation in your product,” explains Rogers, “it becomes harder to fill a can because all that CO2, all your carbonation, is basically trying to escape as quickly as possible. So when you fill a can under pressure using CO2 you’re going to contain all of that carbonation in the liquid.” These machines start at around $75,000, but RTD producers should expect that a full canning setup may exceed $100,000. That’s after securing the necessary tanks and chillers for carbonation (or a liquid nitrogen doser for non-carbonated drinks); an infeed table to feed cans to the filler; and kits to

change the machine if they are planning on offering different can sizes. They should also consider that while the canning machine itself may have a small footprint, can inventory does not. “We get our cans not quite in truckload quantities, but pretty close,” says Kelman. “It’s 15 pallets that are 9 feet tall taking up space somewhere. It adds up pretty quickly.” CAN SIZES AND PACKAGING As for can sizes, Cerling says Ball Corporation’s 12-ounce and 250-mL cans are the most popular choices for RTD producers. And most of the canned cocktail producers interviewed for this story package their RTDs as four-packs. Colvin says he’d prefer to be in


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six packs, but consumers are used to seeing RTDs in four-packs and he hints that the added cost of two additional cans may turn away buyers. Pilot House’s RTDs are held together by PakTech carriers, but Cary says the distillery is considering paperboard packaging. He suspects consumers prefer the design. “You see the beer guys doing it,” says Cary. “Everyone is running in that direction.” Colvin is also interested in paperboard, with a caveat: “If you put all that energy into the design of the can, [the paperboard] also hides the can. It’s nice to actually show the can.” Where the market allows the purchase of single-serving miniature bottles and cans, Dashfire has a point-of-sale, 24-pack tray display of its 100-mL cans. “That’s how you sell them,” says Egbert. “People buy their samples. You don’t have to have anybody in the store paying a talent firm to taste out for you. They’re just right up at the register and the customer buys them. In my opinion it’s the only way to go [with the 100-mL cans].” Roger Kissling and Randy Edwards of Iron Heart Canning Co.

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ADVICE FOR UPSTART RTD PRODUCERS Regardless of which size cans they might choose, Egbert suggests that anyone thinking about canning their RTD cocktails should act now. “We’re definitely in the middle of the trend cycle,” he says. “If somebody’s got a product in bottles and they want to see it move faster, I would say jump into cans now while the space is getting carved out.” But because of the competition, DeHart warns that anyone getting into RTDs now should be “very passionate” about their product. “You are going to have to dump a lot of money into sales and marketing,” she cautions, “because there are so many just getting into the market and if it’s not already flooded, it’s on its way there.” Cary reiterates that mobile canners are a great way to affordably start canning. He also warns that upkeep of equipment is serious work, which he has witnessed firsthand as Pilot House is a sister company of Buoy Beer Co. “It’s a lot of work on those canning lines,” he says. “That’s what I found on our beer side. You’re always working on those canning lines.” For Kelman, it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. “It’s not something that you can just dabble in,” he says. “You have to buy the right equipment, you have to get set up, and you have to make a lot of cans for it to actually make sense.” ■


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WINDON DISTILLING HAS WIND IN ITS SAILS It’s full steam ahead for the Maryland-based producer of LYON RUM as it celebrates 10 years of converting skeptics to rum lovers. BY ANDREW KAPLAN


hey say a rising tide lifts all boats. In the seaside town of St. Michaels, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, sits a rum distillery that’s familiar with this adage in more ways than one. At Windon Distilling—which produces LYON RUM—president and founder Jaime Windon has made space in her crowded production facility for other craft distillers when

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they needed it, while also working as a tireless advocate for the industry. She’s also given back to the community of St. Michaels, spending time as an elected commissioner. After all, she partly credits this small, historic town with influencing her decision to focus her efforts on producing some of the country’s best rum. “Rumrunners used to sail in and out of

Chesapeake Bay and up and down the tributaries in little fast boats,” she says. “And we still have watermen who work the water all around here. Down by the docks there’s reserved watermen parking. There’s farming here. And boat building. We have this wonderful, active maritime museum with a working boatyard where they restore and build wooden ships.


“So, I like to say that St. Michaels has this beautiful dichotomy where it’s picture-perfect but also the people that live and work here have dirt under their fingernails. Things get done. So that was important to me.” Guiding Jaime and her team at Windon as they celebrate a 10-year anniversary this year, is lifting the image of rum in this country. Windon Distilling is on a mission to change peoples’ minds about what quality rum can be. A DEEP PLUNGE INTO THE ROGUISH SPIRIT Jaime was working as a photographer overseas before she decided to settle in this picturesque seaside town and become a distiller. Windon also produced rye whiskey in its early years. But in a move that goes against the grain, Jaime made the decision to focus solely on rum. She was attracted to the possibility of what the spirit could be, that it was not as restricted by rules as other spirits like whiskey. And in the background was the rich history of St. Michaels, with its maritime museum and a thriving oyster industry, which just seemed to be the perfect setting for it all.


“It is rogue and wild,” Jaime says about the spirit. “It’s not under all these strictures and rules like, say, bourbon. And I loved that. I loved the openness of it, the idea of making something that didn’t have to conform exactly. That there was room to put your mark on it.” Jaime is energized by challenges and another thing she loved about rum was the challenge of changing people’s minds about it. “People didn’t seem to have a very high opinion of rum and I wanted to change that,” she says. “The vast majority of people think that rum is not a sophisticated spirit, the stereotype being that rum is sweet and unrefined. We are motivated to create the best expression possible, and strive to elevate American rum to the status it deserves, worthy of respect and a neat pour in a glass.” At the time, there were only a handful of people producing rum in the U.S. “Not for nothing, a lot of those distilleries were headed by really interesting, creative women, and I saw myself wanting to be in that company,” she adds. What’s more, when Jaime takes on a challenge, she likes to go all in. So, she relished

the chance to learn everything she could about making great rum. “I like going deep,” she says. “If we want to be experts in what we do, and we want to be absolutely great at it, we need to spend every single second digging into this very specific thing.” She’s applied the same passion to supporting the overall craft spirits industry. Windon Distilling is a founding member of the Maryland Distillers Guild and Jaime currently sits on the American Craft Spirits Associations Board of Directors. KINDRED SPIRITS It’s also helped that in 2016 Jaime was able to find someone just as passionate as herself about rum in the person of Brett Steigerwaldt, a former engineer for Bridgestone Tires, who had been distilling on the side as a hobby for years. His job interview for Windon involved creating a coffee rum, which the distillery had been wanting to add to its portfolio. He passed the challenge with flying colors. “Once I began to understand the greater rum world, I realized that this was the perfect place for me,” he says. “I was looking for a


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company that would make a beautiful, delicious, unaged product, and rum offered that blank slate to build. Rum can be whatever you want it to be. So, it was the perfect thing for me to help Jaime start a line of liqueur while at the same time being able to make delicious barrel-rested stuff and unaged flavorful rum for cocktailing.” Steigerwaldt has found a sense of comradery in the rum industry. He counts other producers like KoHana Rum in Hawaii, Roulaison Distilling Co. in New Orleans, Privateer Rum in Massachusetts, Montanya Distillers in Colorado, Foursquare Rum in Barbados and international producers as far away as Thailand, as among those he can always turn to for advice or help. Jaime’s sister, Jessica, sales manager and rum runner, has also played a critical role at the company over the years. For example, she helped grow the LYON line of products in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., markets as wholesale director. “I would say Jaime has the artistic vision and I am the marketer,” Jessica says. Jaime credits her sister with pushing to create their successful Coconut Rum, for example. “It’s amazing,” says Jaime. “I told her one batch; we’ve done over 50.” A GROWING PORTFOLIO Today, Windon’s team consists of around 30 people, with about a third of that devoted to production, including two full-time distillers, Steigerwaldt and Nic McMorris, two assistant distillers, and a full-time bottler. “When Jaime started the company, she wanted to make richly flavored American rum,” says Steigerwaldt. “That is what focuses us. We always approach it from how do we get as much flavor out of our ingredients as possible.” Today, Windon markets several products under its brand LYON RUM. These include White Rum, which is double distilled in classic pot stills from 100% Louisiana cane; Dark Rum, made with house made caramel; Sailors Reserve, which is a white rum finished in American oak for 24 months; and liqueurs, including Rock & Rum, which the distillery considers “our ideal rum Old Fashioned”; Curacao, an orange liqueur; and its Coffee Rum. “When people try our White Rum, they’re tasting Louisiana,” adds Steigerwaldt. “I think that’s really unique. Because when we helped with the sugarcane harvest in Louisiana in 2017 for a few days, the cane right out of the ground tastes very similar to rum. And I just think that’s a really cool story.” Windon also produces a variety of seasonal

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specialties, including its popular Coconut Rum, a Pineapple Rum, a Blackberry Rum infused with local freshly picked blackberries, and a Special Edition Black Rum. Steigerwaldt says he is especially proud of their Blackberry and Coconut rums. “We as a team handpick blackberries every year and infuse those into the rum. This year it was 2,000 pounds of blackberries that we picked by hand. And the Coconut is so different than any other coconut liqueur on the market. And that took 17 attempts to get right,” he says. LIFTING ALL BOATS Windon Distilling is also home to an expanding umbrella of smaller distillers that operate under its roof. As Jaime explains: “My vision with Windon Distilling was that it would be this large umbrella under which everything could fall, that Windon would be the home in which your products are made, but your products are their own thing that you can take credit for.” Two such examples are Gray Wolf Spirits and Capitoline. Gray Wolf was founded in 2017 by husband-and-wife team R.B. Wolfensberger and Meghan Brown and Jaime soon welcomed them into her facility. “Everything about me is about building community and having friends in this industry,” Jaime says. “So, R.B. came out and started working with us when we were a really, really small team. There were probably only four or five people on my crew. And they have developed their business in tandem and under our license.” Says Wolfensberger, “I have heard it described as ‘Sister Brands.’ I love that description because we are individual brands. Both companies are independent and have their own personalities. But over the past six years we have become family. During the early days of covid we came together and worked on a sanitizer project. Just like a family, when faced with adversity and hard times, we came together, supported one another and persevered. “The biggest benefit the Gray Wolf brand has had from our distillery relationship is mentorship,” he continues. “Jaime did all of the startup brand/business stuff before Gray Wolf came along. We had someone working with us that has been through the early formative years of building a brand.” Among the products Gray Wolf produces are whiskey, vodka, gin and an agavebased spirit. Capitoline will be the third project under the Windon Distilling umbrella. Capitoline

became popular in Italian restaurants in Washington, D.C., where Peter Pastan and Kat Hamidi first began making Italian-inspired vermouth (amongst other liqueurs and aromatized wines) in the mid-2000’s. And Windon’s community efforts also extend well beyond the walls of its own facility. Jaime and Steigerwaldt since 2019 have also been helping Rosalie Bay Distilling, a nonprofit distillery/sea turtle conservation effort on the Caribbean island of Dominica. “She and I have been helping to get that team closer to full production,” says Steigerwaldt. “Once the team there is trained, they’ll be making rum for themselves, for Dominica and for the world.” CELEBRATING TEN YEARS As Windon Distilling celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, Jaime thinks there are signs that it is succeeding in its mission to change American minds about rum. “It is changing, slowly,” she says. “I would say in the last two years more people visit that are rum aficionados. They come because they love rum and have sought us out.” This year Windon will produce 5,000 gallons of spirits, around 25,000 bottles. They are sold in several states, and self-distributed in Maryland via, as Jaime describes. “a couple of cute little rum vans.” Windon is also physically expanding, and will soon take up 10,000 square feet in its historic old mill. “For the first eight years, we never had enough product to meet demand, we were selling out constantly,” says Jaime. “Now we’re in a good spot where we have a little extra rum in barrels and in tanks. There’s a little bit of a net. But I like that. I’m pretty comfortable there. I only want to make what people want. I don’t want to have to [chase] people.” For Steigerwaldt, watching an “epiphany” occur in their tasting room when someone realizes they actually do like rum is mission accomplished. “They realize they probably liked rum all along, they just didn’t quite understand it. That is a really happy day for us. And it’s even better when those same people come back and they bring friends,” he says. In fact, on a recent weekend, Jaime was talking with a friend who had popped in at the distillery. “She said, ‘You know this place is really magical,’” Jaime says. “That’s what I want. I just want it to keep being magical and unexpected and better than I ever could have hoped. Because if I planned this, I don’t know how it would have turned out. I haven’t planned a thing, and it seems to be working.” ■


Jessi and Jaime Windon

“It is rogue and wild. It’s not under all these strictures and rules like, say, bourbon. And I loved that. I loved the openness of it, the idea of making something that didn’t have to conform exactly. That there was room to put your mark on it.” —Jaime Windon on rum



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Distilling Destinations

SPIRITS RIDING HIGH IN DENVER Distillers in and around Colorado’s capital city emrace local ingredients and dry, arid climate. BY JOHN HOLL


enver was one of the first major cities in America to create and embrace a craft spirits scene, says Rob Masters, the head distiller and partner of The Family Jones. Citing Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, which was founded in 2004, and the long-standing craft beer scene, Masters says the current scene in and around the Mile High City was built on a strong foundation. “All those consumers understand what local and craft mean in regards to quality and integrity of products and they seek them out,” he says. “We also have access to great raw goods from grains to mountain snow melt water. The dry, arid climate of Denver and the rest of the state makes for a different spirit than something aged in the Midwest.” Climate comes up again and again when speaking with Denver area distillers. The altitude and weather are said to impact the final spirit. “It has been speculated that one year aging in Colorado is roughly equivalent to three in

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Josh Hunt, Travis Jones and Kevin Corneby of Branch & Barrel Distilling in Centennial, a Denver suburb

Laura Walters and Kallyn Romero of Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse

Kentucky, but good luck trying to tell that to any Kentucky bourbon enthusiasts though,” says Josh Hunt, the vice president of Branch & Barrel Distilling in Centennial, a Denver suburb. For as long as the craft distilling scene has been established, the growth seen, and the accolades gathered, Masters says there is still work to be done. “I feel like all Colorado distilleries need to work on telling the story of why Colorado spirits are different,” says Masters. “There are so many factors that go into making spirits, particularly whiskey, and there are things that Colorado’s climate does to the spirit that you are not going to get anywhere else. First-use water, uniquely grown grains, and arid climate aging are just some of the things that affect spirits coming from Colorado.” There is a mix of growing and established distilleries in the city. In the northeast corner of the city, Leopold Bros. has been creating sought-after whiskeys and more spirits since brothers Todd and Scott Leopold relocated


their operations from Michigan to their home state in the mid-2000s. Their operation includes a malt house where the distillery floor malts its own Colorado-grown grains on site. Across town, distillers have their eyes on expansion. South of downtown, Bear Creek Distillery founder Jay Johnson says that his distillery is working on a new rackhouse that will have Bear Creek “competing with the big guys” within two years. Kallyn Romero, the co-founder of Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse says the company is in the process of expanding and streamlining its production and distribution. “Being right in Denver, we do get a decent number of tourists,” says Romero, who notes that Ironton is a distillery pub, and able to serve food, wine and beer along with its spirits. “We recently started online sales and delivery so [we] would like to see that pickup nationwide.” Still, even with its tourism, the city’s distilleries say that locals will always be the

cornerstone of the Colorado craft industry. “They are our lifeblood, and any distillery or brewery will tell you that they could not exist without the support of their respective communities,” says Hunt. “Much of our focus goes towards giving back to our specific community and local supporters.” Local also plays a big role in the narrative when it comes to ingredients. Like in so many other regions there is a conversation on spirits made in-state with regional grain, versus brands that might source from elsewhere. For Masters, the idea of sourcing local grain goes beyond flavor. It is also about saving family farms and having drinkers think and re-connect with agriculture. The Family Jones is sourcing only Colorado-grown grain from farmers who are using regenerative agricultural practices. Some of those partners include Colorado Stock and Grain, Root Shoot Malting and the Whiskey Sisters. “Everyone from our employees to our distribution teams has been on a farm tour and


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walked the fields to learn how regenerative ag is at the root of our quality and flavor and helps to support the health of our communities and family farms,” he says. As Stranahan’s has grown, along with others like Breckenridge and Tincup, the smaller producers give a nod to their success and history, but don’t often think of them as Colorado brands, as they have shifted focus beyond the state’s borders. Discerning consumers are routinely looking for the smaller batch offerings, says Hunt, which helps them grow. There is competition, of course, among the operating smaller distilleries, but also chances for collaboration and coalition building. “At events, festivals and charity, we are a family,” says Johnson, of Bear Creek. He cites the seven Colorado distilleries that recently came together for a Wheat Whiskey collaboration to raise nearly $50,000 for various state-wide charities. The Denver-area distilleries not only cater to spirits fans, says Hunt, but to mixology enthusiasts as well. “Many of our tasting rooms feature intricate and expertly curated cocktail offerings, speaking to the city’s cultivation of a thriving mixology culture,” he says. There is also innovation and creativity in the bottles. FatHouse Spirits uses fat washing for its spirits, combining bacon, butter or coconut oil in various spirits. Gently added, any

Brothers Todd and Scott Leopold

solids are removed before bottling, leaving only the flavor. Patrick and Meagan Miller, the founders of Arvada-based Talnua Distillery, are focused on Irish-style single pot still whiskey, which was inspired by honeymoon sips in Ireland and they are now bringing those flavors to Colorado. There are other spirits found at these distilleries and others, like vodka and gin, but over and over again, the distillers of Colorado want to talk about whiskey, both a nod to tradition and cowboy roots.

“I believe we’ll witness the emergence of a new American whiskey map in the next 20 years, says Casey Rizzo the brand education and marketing coordinator for Laws Whiskey House. “Other regions and states will be discussed in the same way Kentucky or Tennessee whiskey is celebrated. We’re genuinely excited about this evolution. Our aim isn’t to replicate Kentucky bourbon or Tennessee whiskey; instead, we seek to contribute to the rich tapestry of American whiskey as a distillery that harnesses the unique resources available right here in Colorado.” ■

TOUR DENVER-AREA DISTILLERIES Are you heading to Denver in late February for ACSA’s 11th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show? When you register, add on a distillery tour. The central tour includes stops at Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse, Leopold Bros., Spirit Hound Distillers’s Denver tasting room, The Family Jones Spirit House, Bear Creek Distillery and Laws Whiskey House. The north tour includes stops at Leopold Bros., Root Shoot Malting, The Family Jones Distillery, Copper Sky Distillery, Boulder Spirits and Talnua Distillery.

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“There are so many factors that go into making spirits, particularly whiskey, and there are things that Colorado’s climate does to the spirit that you are not going to get anywhere else.” —Rob Masters of The Family Jones



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WHAT’s Stirring

DRINKS TO SAVOR FROM ACSA MEMBERS Golden Hour Boulevardier This balanced and delicate drink is Portland, Oregon-based Westward Whiskey’s version of a Blonde Boulevardier. Simple but sophisticated, it’s sure to please any guest. Ingredients 1 1/2 parts Westward Whiskey Original 3/4 part fine sherry 1/2 part Italian aperitif wine Directions Combine ingredients over ice into a mixing glass and stir until mixed together. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

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Maple Moon Maple syrup is the star of this cocktail from Iron Fish Distillery in Thompsonville, Michigan. It features both a whiskey finished in maple syrup barrels and a maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels. Ingredients 2 ounces Iron Fish Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Maple Syrup Barrels 1 ounce Iron Fish Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup Strong, hot black coffee Directions Pour bourbon, maple syrup and coffee into a mug. Stir and top with whipped cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.

291 Barrel Proof Black Manhattan According to Michael Myers, the founder of Colorado Springs, Colorado-based 291 Colorado Whiskey, crafting this cocktail with the distillery’s barrel proof Colorado Whiskey is “an ode to the untamed spirit of the Rockies—bold, rich, and unapologetically wild. It’s a toast to the rugged allure of Colorado in every smooth, unforgettable sip.” Ingredients 1 ounce 291 Colorado Whiskey Barrel Proof Single Barrel 1 ounce Averna Amaro 2 dashes black walnut bitters 2 dashes orange bitters Directions Chill rocks glass. Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into glass. Serve up. Express with a lemon peel and then discard. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

Delta Ginger This cocktail from Helena, Arkansas-based Delta Dirt Distillery features Sweet Blend Vodka, which claimed best of vodka honors at the American Craft Spirits Association’s 2022 Judging of Craft Spirits. Ingredients 2 ounces Sweet Blend Vodka 1 ounce ginger syrup 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice Club soda Directions Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add a scoop of ice and shake well. Strain into a highball glass over ice and top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a lime wedge and fresh mint.

Candice Rose This cocktail features Teller Genuine Vodka, the signature spirit of Safe House Distilling Co. in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ingredients 1 1/2 ounces Teller Genuine Vodka 1 1/4 ounces hibiscus rose simple syrup 1 ounce egg white 3/4 ounce lime juice Directions Add all ingredients to a shaker with no ice and dry shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with dried rose petals.

J&M Penicillin This Penicillin, made with Chicagobased Judson & Moore Distillery’s Single Malt Whiskey, is one of the most popular and distinct cocktails in the distillery’s tasting room. Ingredients 2 ounces Judson & Moore Single Malt Whiskey 3/4 ounce lemon juice 3/4 ounce ginger and honey syrup

The cocktails in this edition of What’s Stirring also appeared in a cocktail book created for the inaugural American Craft Spirits Festival this October in Chicago. A limited number of books are still available. If you’d like to purchase one, send a note to

Directions Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain into a coupe glass and top to taste with smoked bourbon. Garnish with a seasonal flower and dehydrated orange.


THE SIPPING SCENE Exploring the wide world of bars and tasting rooms 143 Social

Jersey City, New Jersey The Scene: Subterranean un-speakeasy speakeasy The Tip: Look for the Bareburger entrance The Vibe: The cocktail bar scene may be oversaturated with speakeasies, but the concept still works when a venue tries something different, beyond the usual Prohibition-era kitsch. Its hidden location is really the only aspect that puts it under the s-word umbrella. Guests have to enter a Bareburger restaurant, head toward the back and descend an out-of-the-way staircase to reach the basement bar. Instead of Roaring Twenties decor, the aesthetic at 143 Social tilts more toward mildly tropical, midcentury modern kind of feel—not tiki per se, but there’s definitely an island flora motif with painted flowers on the walls, faux plants and an artificial fire created with lights and perpetually rising steam. The space is fairly open, with plenty of comfy seating on a long banquette and at small cocktail tables throughout. Speaking of cocktails, the No. 19 is among the many highlights, with sesame oil-washed Japanese whisky, rhubarb, ginger, honey, sparkling sake and umami bitters. The side of the glass has black sesame seeds stuck to it in an artful array. The music tilts toward funk and jazz, usually at a pleasantly muted level so folks can enjoy their conversations, whether on a date or catching up with old friends. Fun fact: 143 just happens to be the universal code for “I Love You.” But, coincidentally, it’s also the bar’s (and the burger restaurant’s) address: 143 Newark Ave. —Jeff Cioletti

The Tiki Easy Bar

Asheville, North Carolina The Scene: Tiki bar hidden in a brewery The Tip: Try one of the Mai Tais, a favorite of owner Chris Frosaker The Vibe: In a sea of breweries, Hi-Wire Brewing is offering tourists and locals passage to a spirited option beyond its brewhouse. While its name alludes to a speakeasy, it’s no secret that the location of The Tiki Easy Bar is behind Hi-Wire’s South Slope location, but guests must walk through the brewery to enter. Through the doors, visitors will discover a large but friendly space decked out in jungle/island decor and highlighted by vibrant neon lights. An occasional “thunderstorm” drives home the theme. The cocktail menu features about two dozen tropical cocktails, including classic and modern tiki drinks, as well as a handful of more traditional cocktails, wine and, of course, beer from Hi-Wire. While the neighborhood is steeped in beer, Ben’s Tune-Up offers sake next door, and Chemist Spirits is a five-minute walk away. —Jon Page

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Retail: On-Premise

FEELING THE DRAFT Insights and best practices for kegged cocktails BY JEFF CIOLETTI

Serving pre-batched cocktails on draft has continued to gain acceptance in bars, restaurants and distillery tasting rooms as a means of lowering cost, increasing speed of service and maintaining consistency for certain types of higher-volume drinks. Blaze Montana, managing partner at the award-winning Albuquerque, New Mexico craft cocktail bar Happy Accidents, and Brittney Olsen, senior corporate mixologist at Bacardi, detailed the dos and don’ts of kegged cocktail management and maintenance during an interactive lab at this year’s Tales of the Cocktails in New Orleans. Here are some of the major takeaways from their session, “Life in the Draft Lane.” STAY AWAY FROM THESE INGREDIENTS. Solid ingredients and dairy products often can be kegs’ and draft lines’ worst enemies. It’s

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best to avoid kegging the sorts of cocktails that require them. Depending on the drink, dairy can sometimes be added after the rest of the drink is dispensed. But watch out for anything creamy, egg whites and even the smallest solids. “When you say solids,” Olsen points out, “that could be something as small as pulp from juices.” DON’T FORGET ABOUT DILUTION. It’s often easy to forget that when you’re shaking and stirring cocktails, you’re introducing water to them, thanks to the ice. Typically, notes Montana, a shaken cocktail gets diluted by about 20% and a stirred drink by 18%. “So, you want 20% of the cocktail to be water and 18% if it’s stirred,” he explains.

WE TALKED LIQUIDS AND SOLIDS, NOW IT’S TIME TO TALK GAS. “Beyond dilution, one of the most confusing ingredients for cocktails is gas,” says Olsen. When talking about draft cocktails, there are two primary gases you’re likely to be dealing with: carbon dioxide and nitrogen. “With CO2, it’s your sodas, highballs, sparkling wine,” explains Montana. “The tricky thing with CO2 is that it likes high water content, it likes it cold and it hates solids. Strain [the drink] as much as you can—clarification, if you have the option.” Nitrogen, meanwhile, can be used to push the liquid through draft lines or as a nitro infusion for cocktails. You’ll definitely want to monitor the PSI— pounds per square inch—of the gases. “For dispensing, I keep it at around 15, unless I’m


doing nitro infusions—then I’ll crank it to the 40-to-50 area,” reveals Montana. “For carbonation, it’s the same, 40 to 50.” It’s also imperative that you purge oxygen from the kegs, using the container’s release valve, after you fill it with the cocktail ingredients and before you hook up the beverage line. “Then you want to shake the keg, maybe do a 10-second shake, give it a good rock—yes, you can roll it if you’re having trouble shaking it … but the more agitation that you get, you get from shaking,” Montana says. “In that first shake, you’re pushing in CO2 and oxygen out.” Then, purge again, at a lower PSI, before

Just because a cocktail’s not freshly made, does not mean it’s not “fresh.” C R AF TSPIR ITSMAG.COM

hooking up the gas and beverage lines. That raises the question of whether you need to leave any space in the keg when you’re filling it. You only need enough space to close the lid. “I’ve heard people say you need headroom for gas,” Montana notes. “You really don’t. The pressure is going to be enough to carbonate your drink.” YOU MAY BE SURPRISED BY HOW LONG KEGGED DRINKS LAST. “The beauty of cocktails on draft is actually the longevity,” Montana says. Non-kegged batched cocktails remain fresh for, at most, a day. Sours tend to do a little better, lasting a couple of days. “With a cocktail in a keg, I’m getting close to two weeks.” It goes without saying that you’re going to want to keep the kegs chilled. A walk-in cooler will serve you well in this capacity. Extended cocktail lifespan, however, can introduce some new complications. You’ll want to be mindful of any ingredients settling out of the mix. That could happen even with supposedly water-soluble items.

WASTE IS MINIMAL If everything is operating correctly, you won’t see a lot of waste from a draft cocktail program. “We’re talking 5 ounces out of a 19-liter batch, which is a minuscule amount in the grand scheme of things,” Montana reports. SOMETIMES THE BIGGEST HURDLE IS PERCEPTION. Some may wonder how to get staff and guests excited about a batch-only program. Montana conceded that the guests sometimes need a bit more convincing than the bar team. Just because a cocktail’s not freshly made, does not mean it’s not “fresh.” In fact, servers need to sometimes challenge their definition of “fresh.” After all, it’s not like the base spirit in a just-mixed cocktail went right from the still into the guest’s glass. For the servers themselves, increased speed, efficiency and revenue tend to be motivation enough. “If they’re cranking out twice as many drinks,” Montana says, “that’s twice as many tips, twice as many sales.” ■


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Packaging & Production


Pack Expo, the leading trade show in the U.S. for packaging solutions and equipment, returned to Las Vegas in September, showcasing a wide selection of the latest filling, labeling, canning and secondary packaging innovations from some of the world’s top manufacturers. Here’s a taste of some of what we encountered on the exhibit floor. LANGGUTH Langguth’s wetLAN 190 semi-automatic labeler can label cans or glass bottles using wet glue technology. It can be used for front and back labeling, as well as wraparound labeling. A cycle switch—or, alternatively, a pedal or manual switch—activates the labeling process, during which the labels positioned in the label magazines are inserted and guided to the rotating glue roller. The roller applies thin glue strips to the back of the label, which is then transferred and securely affixed to the spinning container. The machine can label up

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to 25 containers per minute.

STANDARDKNAPP The compact Model 991 Unipack 2.0 from StandardKnapp is a gantry-style pick-andplace case packer designed for small- to medium-size operations. It features adjustable gripper heads for a range of applications, a servo-controlled gantry, and balanced load

distribution based on its bridge-type. It covers a small footprint and an optional mobility kit makes it fully portable.

IC FILLING SYSTEMS The Canline 12-1 EPV counterpressure filler seamer from IC Filling Systems represents a cost-effective entry-level solution for automatic counterpressure filling lines for cans. Suitable


for filling carbonated RTDs, the machine features the IC Filling Systems’s Electro Pneumatic Valve (EPV) technology, which, the company says allows total flexibility in adjusting the filling cycle by adapting the filling and degassing timings to the specific needs of each carbonated drink. It also offers the flexibility to fill any size can and its twin linear counterpressure filling system and single-head seamer turret make it adaptable to various lid applications on different can formats. ROBERTS POLYPRO Roberts PolyPro announced that its Grip-Pak bottle and can rings are now 100% biodegradable. The company reports that the rings, which can be used to join sets of two, four or six cans, will biodegrade after 28 weeks in a landfill. Roberts, part of the ProMach family, also showcased a machine that can affix up to 1,000 Grip-Pak rings per minute. A smaller, craft-friendly unit attaches about 70 of the rings per minute.

PALMER BEVERAGE SYSTEMS Palmer Beverage Systems offers canning lines in a variety of filling speeds, including 40 cans per minute (CPM), 60 CPM, 120 CPM, 240 CPM and 360 CPM. The machines feature 100% stainless steel design, mechanical filling valves with gravity fill for accurate fill and easy maintenance, and a lifetime “no rust” guarantee. FOGG Fogg offers bottle fillers specifically tailored with the needs of the spirits industry in mind. Fogg’s systems include spring-loaded lifter pedestals, polymer-tipped valves to prevent chipping of glass bottles and bottle neck guides for accurate alignment. Additionally, to ensure the safety of operators and equipment, Fogg spirits fillers come equipped with explosion-proof electrics, including bolted electrical boxes, intrinsic wiring and


remote panels. Fogg’s Spirits Rinser keeps pre-labeled bottles dry on the exterior while rinsing the interior. The fumes are kept low and are contained within the rinsing area to keep operators safe. And the rinsing media is collected after it is evacuated from the bottle and can be recirculated and reused. The company says that spirits producers’ complex bottle needs with variable bottle sizes can be accommodated on a single filler with a toolless changeover.

GRAPHIC PACKAGING INTERNATIONAL The QuikFlex CP line of cartoners from Graphic Packaging is designed to suit a variety of secondary packaging configurations. The machines are designed to be flexible to enable quick changeovers, handling a wide range of carton sizes. They feature reciprocating, rotary or segment wheel feeding for reliable case staging and are servo-controlled for ease of adjustment. Speeds range from 30 cases per minute for intermittent motion and up to 200 per minute for continuous motion, depending upon product size and characteristics.

CDA The CDA Ninon Mix is a labeling machine for pressure sensitive labels that offers up to five labeling stations that can apply labels to most bottle shapes, from cylindrical to more complex square, ovalized and rectangular designs, promising quick changeovers and a labeling rate of up to 60 products per minute. Operations can be easily managed via an intuitive touchscreen. CDA also offers the more compact single-station Ninette I and two-station Ninette II wheeled labeling machines, enabling front-and-back labeling on the same roll and a production rate of up to 15 bottles per minute.

AUTO LABE Auto Labe manufactures automatic and semi-automatic labeling systems designed to suit a variety of production scales. For smaller runs there’s the 550S Round Product Labeler, designed as a cost-effective and time-saving alternative to manual labeling. It’s portable and lightweight (about 55 pounds) and can fit on most table tops. Label application is activated by foot switch. For larger operations, there’s the 600 series automatic labeling, featuring an automatic stepper drive applicator, programmable presets and easy tool-less adjustments. ■

CHART INDUSTRIES Chart manufactures liquid nitrogen dosing systems designed for enhanced product preservation and pressurization, which could help extend the shelf life of RTDs. The company reports that nitrogen dosing could increase shelf life by as much as 26% and reduce headspace oxygen in the container by 90 to 95%.


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Technology & E-Commerce

SOFTWARE TO KEEP THINGS RUNNING SMOOTHLY The latest operations software can save you a lot of time and money, especially when it comes to those dreaded reports. BY ANDREW KAPLAN

It’s probably a safe bet that if you ask any craft distiller why they got into this business, they’re unlikely to respond: “to fill out government compliance reports.” But keeping track of all the data necessary to file those reports is one of the essential things that allow us to otherwise enjoy life as a craft distiller. The good news is that craft distilleries today can avoid spending hours compiling these reports and devote more of their time to making delicious spirits by deploying one of the latest operations software solutions. Additionally, such software systems provide a plethora of other functions, such as inventory management, the ability to remotely monitor operations, and even, in some of the applications, help optimizing the taste of your spirits. “It helps steer us,” says the Nashville-based Corsair’s consulting distiller Colton Weinstein, about the operations software Corsair has been using, Whiskey Systems from FIVE x 5 Solutions. “Everything fits together to make

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your operations and record keeping smooth.” Weinstein, who also works as an industry consultant, says the time savings for reporting alone can save as much as a week of extra work. “I’ve seen clients trying to suss through a month of all their production and then they get software like Whiskey Systems and they’re like, ‘Oh, you can do this in 30 minutes, great!’” Clay Smith, operations manager for Moonshine University, calls these solutions “organizational tools. The small distiller has a lot of things to worry about and to keep organized,” he says. “You may be running the still, taking in the raw materials, talking with distributors, out on sales calls, or managing tours and gift shops. So, it does help to have one place where this information is kept and backed up and you’re able to access it at any time.” CHOOSING THE RIGHT SOLUTION So where do you start when it comes to choosing the right solution for your distillery? It depends on the size of your operation and your future goals. Crafted ERP, from Doozy Solutions, for example, is geared toward larger distilleries 20,000 cases and above. It is an enterprisewide solution that combines management of the diverse parts of a medium- to larger-sized distillery from one platform. For example, it can help you track procurement, production and planning, along with sales and marketing, accounting and finance and e-commerce, providing a 360-degree view of the organization with real-time data. “In the alcohol beverage space, not only are the accounting complexities tremendous and very difficult, but then you layer on all

of the other federal and state and [other] regulations that you have to abide by,” says Jeremy King, co-founder and principal, Doozy Solutions. “You’ve got to do long-term and short-term planning, all these different things together, and it was a nightmare for any of these guys just to run their business. And that’s where the proverbial light came on and we said, ‘Hey, there’s got to be a better way to be able to encapsulate all this in one system.’” Other operations software, such as DISTILL x 5, from FIVE x 5 Solutions, is geared toward smaller craft distilleries, including those just starting out. DISTILL x 5 was built from the ground up to be an easy to use, graphical user interface for everyone from operators to leadership within the distillery. “DISTILL x 5 has more guardrails in place to prevent users or operators from inputting data incorrectly or out of order, to make sure they stay compliant [with TTB rules],” explains Caroline Calhoun, FIVE x 5’s CEO. “It is typically an easier starting point for new operators, that is new DSPs who aren’t fully up on the industry.” “I’ve always found that DISTILL x 5 has been very good at being a visually-oriented representation of the distilling operation side of things,” adds Smith. Another popular solution for smaller craft distillers is Whiskey Systems, also offered by FIVE x 5 Solutions, which was adapted from a robust set of spreadsheets used in distillery consulting and expanded from there. It excels at ease of data entry and access. “One of the things that’s great about Whiskey Systems is that it’s slightly more flexible in how you put information into the system,” says Calhoun. Prices for these solutions can vary based on


the size of the operation. For example, FIVE x 5 Solutions bases its prices on the distillery’s last 12 months of monetizable spirit produced. “We have subscription tiers and, looking at where a distillery fell in that last 12 months, we base their pricing on that,” Calhoun says. “Typically, our per-bottle price is in line with any other bottling component like a cork or a closure. So, the idea is we’re succeeding where they have succeeded. We’re always following in the success of the distillery.” WORKING WITH THE SYSTEMS Operations software systems geared toward smaller distilleries typically rely on manual data entry. Government record keeping regulations, and just plain economic feasibility, means these systems will not include a lot of fancy bells and whistles such as automatic gauging of the production process. To extract meaningful results, your team must diligently update the system with accurate data. Explains Smith, “Any system’s going to be only as good as the data that you put in it. [They] are designed [so] that you record what you are doing and keep yourself on track that way.” Crafted ERP can offer more fully automated solutions for either larger distilleries or those with more complex operations. As a more enterprise-wide system, it can typically replace as many as eight different pieces of software the distillery uses, combining all of that into one overarching solution. Aside from making sure your recordkeeping is always up-to-date, another great advantage of these systems is that all the operations data can be accessed remotely. “What our systems allow a user to do is put that directly into a cloud-based system rather than putting it on say a piece of paper or a white board or wherever else data could theoretically be lost,” explains Calhoun, of FIVE x 5 Solutions. “So as soon as you put information into the system, your system is live and accurate. Operations reports, production, storage, processing and then excise as well, are always ready to go so that a distillery is essentially ready for audit at any point. On average it saves users somewhere between 20 and 80 hours a month, depending on the size of the operation,” she says. MORE NICHE SOLUTIONS There are other systems available that focus on more specific parts of a distillery’s operation. One example is DraughtLab, a sensory software-geared solution that helps distilleries


fine-tune the taste of their spirits. What DraughtLab is meant to do is basically allow smaller craft distillers to harness the power of sensory science a bigger operation may have at its disposal. “Our whole approach is trying to make the same methods and tools that the big guys are using available for the small guys,” says Lindsay Barr, founding partner and CSO. “We assume very few of our users will be sensory scientists. We just made the software more approachable so they can use sensory methods but not necessarily have to understand all the statistics that go behind it.” She adds, “Sensory science isn’t anything new. The large companies have been using this kind of approach for decades. It’s pretty common in larger distilleries, who might have sensory teams devoted to doing this kind of work. What we’ve found is smaller companies just don’t view that kind of work as accessible.” DraughtLab’s app includes multiple sensory tests that help guide tastings enabling better decisions to be made about the products, according to Barr. Barr used to work as the sensory and consumer research specialist for New Belgium Brewing Co. “I was hearing from a lot of small breweries that they wanted to run a sensory program, but just didn’t have the resources or know-how,” she says. “Brewing was the gateway but after a couple of years we realized this is a universal issue and can be used in a lot of different industries.” INCORPORATING AI With the age of artificial intelligence rapidly dawning, the question naturally arises if that technology will somehow be incorporated into operations software. Operations software vendors say they are indeed exploring ways AI will enhance their products. For example, Calhoun says FIVE x 5 Solutions is exploring incorporating intelligent product trend forecasting into its products based on general industry data. For example, an uptick in sales of rum or tequila over time could provide valuable forecasting for its customers. And King, of Doozy Solutions, says they are looking at incorporating machine learning that has the ability to foresee problems based on past events. “It will effectively predict potential issues and let you know of the implications down the road,” he says. “Call that stuff out so that the user can go and adjust [the operation] accordingly.” But that’s in the future. Right away, craft distillers can benefit from the power of these systems. And the earlier you start, the more

“The reality is it’s not a question of if a distillery will be audited, but when. And having all of this information available saves tons of time and many hours of consulting.” —Caroline Calhoun of FIVE x 5 Solutions


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benefits you’ll probably see. “Distilleries that get started with distillery management software sooner in their life cycles typically see more operational efficiencies more quickly as well as higher returns

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just from being able to adequately track their cost of goods sold to really quickly see what’s going on in their distillery and to avoid any unnecessary audit fines,” Calhoun says. “The reality is it’s not a question of if a

distillery will be audited,” she adds, “but when. And having all of this information available saves tons of time and many hours of consulting.” ■


Mental Health


Greetings friends and ACSA members. Back when many of us gathered in New Orleans for ACSA’s 9th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show, I had the honor of delivering the keynote address on the importance of recognizing the critical role that positive mental health plays in our lives and in our businesses. Even though the only things I know about distilling spirits are the things I’ve heard on tours, you all made me feel like I am part of your family, and that means more than you know. Before, during and after that talk I was able to speak with many of you to better understand how unmet mental health challenges have affected the members of the craft distilling world in such a particularly unique way. Your willingness to share those challenges with me really set the stage not only for the speech I delivered, but for the important work that followed. Since that time I have been fortunate to work with many distilleries on issues like workplace wellness and suicide prevention and that work made it even more clear that there is an ongoing need and hunger to continue to address these issues in a comprehensive and ongoing way. I’m going to get a little doom-and-gloom for a moment because it is important to remember the gravity of these issues and why there is so much urgency for us to address them. We know many facts about how mental health impacts all of us. Unaddressed mental health issues cost businesses in the United States a mind-blowing amount of money every year; over $3 billion by many estimates. People who are struggling with mental health concerns are far more likely to miss work than their peers, and when they are at work, they often suffer from “presenteeism” (meaning they are there, but are so consumed by their mental health that they are unproductive). Unmet mental health issues also lead to far greater healthcare costs because they contribute to higher rates of a variety of


physical health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, digestive issues and substance abuse. People who struggle with their mental health are far more likely to be involved in workplace accidents because they are distracted and often short on sleep. All of these things contribute to increased employee turnover and worst of all, they can lead to suicide or substance abuse deaths. And in spite of all of these well-known facts, nearly 80% of Americans who have a mental illness receive inadequate care, or no care at all. But things do not have to be as bleak as it seems on the surface. In my professional career I have worked with countless organizations in a wide range of industries, and in all of those interactions, I have never seen the kind of camaraderie and concern for peers as I did with you all. This is an extraordinary and frankly pretty rare thing, and it should give all of us tremendous hope that together we can tackle our industry’s mental health. To that end, ACSA has decided to make the commitment to mental health more than just a single speech. I’m excited to announce that ACSA has engaged me to continue the conversation we started in New Orleans and translate it into action. Starting now, I will be working with members to create an ongoing column in this magazine as well as delivering quarterly webinars and a workshop at the conference in Denver this coming February. The goal is to continue to educate and motivate members, and to give concrete skills and strategies for how we can improve our own mental health, and more importantly, how we can leverage the close and supportive relationships with one another in order to create our own mental health workforce that is dedicated to taking care of our own. In the first webinar, Sydney Jones from Few Spirits and I focused on how to start to engage in difficult conversations around these issues, which is an important

I have never seen the kind of camaraderie and concern for peers as I did with you all. step in caring for one another. It is my hope to involve ACSA members in the webinars and columns, so I’m asking two things of all of you. First, please reach out if you would like to participate in any of these activities so that we ensure that everything we do in this initiative includes your voices and not just mine. Secondly, please reach out if there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in the articles and webinars. Finally, if you are interested in having me consult with your distillery about your own workplace wellness initiatives or doing things like suicide prevention workshops, please reach out to me. I am so excited to be working with all of you and look forward to hearing your ideas. And always remember the best advice given to me when I was interviewing distillers in preparation for my speech: Pain is temporary; but Wu-Tang is forever. ■ Matt Vogl is an internationallyrecognized mental health advocate and a rarely-recognized standup comic. Matt has spoken on mental health across the globe and he is the founder/CEO of VXVY Mental Health. He can be reached at


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AUTUMN IN BERLIN Gin continued to have a massive presence at the latest edition of Bar Convent Berlin, with producers from all over the globe showcasing their botanical spirits. But there was plenty of room in the spotlight for global whiskeys, liqueurs, vodkas, agave spirits, RTDs and brandy, as well as zeroABV spirits.

Round Turn Distilling/Bimini Gin’s Kristina Hansen

Du Nord Social Spirits’s Chris Montana

Highway Vodka’s Wendell Robbins III

No. 3 London Dry Gin

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Germany’s Wild Child Gin

American craft spirits producers connect with international markets.

The Park Street University stage

The packaging is often as big a star as the spirit inside.

Iceland’s Marberg Gin



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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.


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