Craft Spirits May/June 2024

Page 39


WHERE SCIENCE MEETS ART TRADITION MEETS INNOVATION For today's agave spirits, a strain with Mexican heritage NEW @Company/Lallemand-Biofuels-&-Distilled-Spirits LallemandDistilling DistilaMax® AG

The Craft Spirits Community’s Best Bars 2024

Explore the most dynamic, craft spiritsfriendly bars across the United States 52 MEMBER SPOTLIGHTS

Getting to Know ACSA Member Producers

Profiles on Silverback Distillery, Driftless Glen Distillery, Freeland Spirits, B.H. James Distillers and New York Distilling Co.


Distilling Sunshine Florida Craft Distilleries Define Local Flavor BY JOHN HOLL

Cover photography: Allison Webber

MAY/JUNE 2024 | 3 34 CONTENTS MAY/JUNE 2024 52 62 FEATURES 34
4 | MAY/JUNE 2024 CRAFTSPIRITSMAG.COM 8 Editor’s Note 9 Contributors NEW SPIRITS 12 Recent releases from 3BR Distillery, Jeptha Creed Distillery, Distillery of Modern Art and more IMBIBER ’ S BOOKSHELF 22 INDUSTRY UPDATE 24 Alex Castle Joins Augusta Distillery as Master Distiller LEW ’ S BOTTOM SHELF 30 Sales Party BY LEW BRYSON ACSA AFFAIRS 32 ACSA Announces 2024-2025 Board of Directors WHAT ’ S STIRRING 66 Flavorful concoctions from ACSA members DEPARTMENTS 14 24 66



Join the Club

Spirits clubs help craft distilleries foster customer loyalty and expand market reach.



Sales Unleashed

The latest point-of-sale systems free up craft distilleries to maximize sales in their tasting rooms and beyond.



Still Evolving

Stills are continuing to move forward, while also drawing inspiration from the past.




Wastewater Management

Tips for working with wastewater treatment facilities to ensure environmental compliance



Worth Pouring Over

Shedding light on distillery valuations





EDITOR IN CHIEF | Jeff Cioletti,


ART DIRECTOR | Michelle Villas


CONTRIBUTORS | Lew Bryson, John Holl, Andrew Kaplan, Ryan Lake, Erin Lee and Mike LoCascio








STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS | Alexandra S. Clough, GATHER PR LEGAL | Ryan Malkin, Malkin Law, P.A.

PUBLIC POLICY | Jim Hyland, The Pennsylvania Avenue Group STATE POLICY | Michael Walker, The Walker Group, LLC

ACSA BOARD OF DIRECTORS, 2024-2025 PRESIDENT | Kelly Woodcock, Westward Whiskey (OR) VICE PRESIDENT | Amber Pollock, Backwards Distilling Co. (WY) SECRETARY/TREASURER | Jeff Kanof, Copperworks Distilling Co. (WA)


Jordan Cotton, Cotton & Reed (DC)

Greg Eidam, Sugarlands Distilling Co. (TN)

Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (VA)

Adam Polonski, Lost Lantern Whiskey (VT)

Colin Spoelman, Kings County Distillery (NY)

Jaime Windon, Windon Distilling Co. (MD)


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


Tom Bard, The Bard Distillery (KY)

Amber Pollock, Backwards Distilling Co. (WY)

Phil Steger, Brother Justus Whiskey Co. (MN)

Olivia Stewart, Oxbow Rum Distillery (LA)

Mark A. Vierthaler, Whiskey Del Bac (AZ)

Thomas Williams, Delta Dirt Distillery (AR)


2023-2024 | Gina Holman, J. Carver Distillery 2020-2023 | Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. 2018-2020 | Chris Montana, Du Nord Craft Spirits 2017-2018 | Mark Shilling, Genius Liquids/Big Thirst 2016-2017 | Paul Hletko, FEW Spirits 2014-2016 | Tom Mooney, House Spirits



Lucy Farber, St. George Spirits (CA)

Jeff Kanof, Copperworks Distilling Co. (WA)

Kelly Woodcock, Westward Whiskey (OR)


Jordan Cotton, Cotton & Reed (DC)

Lew Bryson, Alexandra S. Clough, Sly Cosmopoulos, Kamilah Mahon, Prof. Dawn Maskell and Teri Quimby

For advertising inquiries, please contact For editorial inquiries or to send a news release, contact

P.O. Box 470, Oakton, VA 22124

© 2024 CRAFT SPIRITS magazine is a publication of the American Craft Spirits Association.

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Sweet & bready, with notes of honey

Available in whole kernel and flour

Learn more about whiskey malt at ©2024 Briess Industries, Inc.


My recent trip to the Craft Brewers Conference & Brew Expo America got me thinking a lot about entertainment. And that’s not only because it was held in Las Vegas, but because of the range of ideas showcased that could jazz up your tasting rooms.

I was particularly intrigued by the title of one of the education sessions: “Music Moves Our World and Your Customers” (I mean, who wouldn’t be?).

Music licensing company Broadcast Music Inc. (better known by its initials, BMI) sponsored the session, with BMI’s Jessica Frost leading a panel that included Fred Matt of FX Matt Brewing and Robin Wibby of Wibby Brewing.

In late 2022, BMI and American Research Group conducted a poll on the impact that music has on the customer experience, the results of which should come as no surprise to anyone: 89% of millennials said that good music makes a more memorable experience, while 86% indicated that they’d recommend the establishment if they enjoy the music. On the flip-side (see what I did there?) 70% of those same millennials said that having no music negatively impacts their experience.

And, given that 80% reported that most of the restaurants and bars they frequent have music playing, it’s very likely that your distillery tasting room is one of them and you can probably attest, firsthand, to the dynamics measured above.

That’s the fun part. This next bit might not be. With BMI being a licensing group and all, the discussion’s about to get legal.

Let’s say members of your staff take turns plugging in their smartphone playlists to your speaker system. You could be setting yourself up for a lawsuit if you haven’t paid for the proper license.

BMI boasts a library of 1.4 million songwriters, composers and publishers who get paid royalties through the company’s music licenses. Another licensor you may have heard of, ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) has a stable of 975,000 of those creatives. Then there’s the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC), an invitation-only group that’s curated a collection of 30,000 songwriters and publishers (SESAC has been known to be particularly aggressive in its litigation).

A typical blanket license through one of these agencies encompasses live bands (that cover of “Free Bird” isn’t free!), karaoke, DJs and background music and is tailored to

the individual establishment based on factors such as the frequency that music is played, the size of the public space/ its posted legal occupancy, whether there’s dancing and if there’s a cover charge.

The average license for a brewery (which would be comparable for a distillery) was about $1,300 a year in 2023. If you’d like to save a little more than $100 a month and try to skate by without a license, you really don’t want to get caught. Under U.S. copyright law, failure to obtain a license can make you liable for infringement, potentially costing you as much as $39,000 for each copyrighted song performed— and up to $150,000 for each song if the litigating agency can prove willful infringement.

That C-note a month doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?

Of course, the caveat is, no licensed playlist is likely to cover 100% of the music in the world, and those lists can change all the time. So it’s best to choose your songs carefully.

There are other options available that take care of licensing, like Spotify for Business, Pandora Business or SiriusXM for Business. The operative words are “for Business;” your own personal streaming subscription won’t cut it.

The good news is that not every part of your facility requires a music license. It’s okay if your distilling team wants to play the entire Beatles catalog during a production run. As long as it’s not a public area, it’s the same as firing up your tunes in your living room.

Just make sure none of the tasting room guests are putting a jar up to the wall to catch an earful of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

I’m kidding. But am I really? Always better to be safe than sorry. And that should always be music to your ears. ■


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.

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.

Ryan Lake is a managing director at Arlington Capital Advisors, a boutique investment banking firm focused exclusively on advising consumer businesses. He has over 20 years of investment banking and commercial banking experience and has sourced, structured and negotiated more than 60 transactions for beverage brands, suppliers, importers, distributors and retailers across spirits, RTD, beer, wine and nonalcoholic beverages. Ryan and the team at Arlington have successfully completed over $10 billion worth of transactions for premium beverage clients around the world.

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.

Erin Lee is a lot of things. If she was a cocktail, she’d be one part whiskey maker, one part tea sommelier and a splash of creative dreamer. She spends her days crafting whiskey for FEW Spirits as head distiller and moonlights as a spirits judge for Beverage Testing Institute. When not turning grains into liquid magic, she can be found exploring every nook and cranny of dim sum that can be found.

Mike LoCascio is the founder and CEO of Clear Lake, Iowa-based Soluble Organic Solutions. He has a vast knowledge of the water treatment industry with nearly 30 years in the field. Mike started his water treatment career in 1994 working for Nalco Chemical. From 2003-2010, he oversaw the design and installation of pretreatment and discharge monitoring for 40 fuel ethanol plants. His experiences provided the background to focus singularly on the problem of contaminated distillery process waters and how to reduce their environmental impact.


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3BR Distillery rolls out Gom Soju on both coasts.

A chance meeting at a bar was the catalyst for the creation of Keyport, New Jersey-based 3BR Distillery’s latest year-round product.

Co-CEO and head distiller Aleksandr Zhdanov was sipping whiskey at Jersey City drinkery Dullboy and got to talking with a fellow bar-goer. It turned out that she also worked in beverage alcohol—specifically as a rice wine sommelier. Jisung Chun, who runs a company called Soy & Rice, had spent about six years in South Korea, learning from a series of brewers the art of making makgeolli, the traditional Korean fermented rice drink (kind of a cousin to Japanese sake).

“She was taught those processes and came back to the U.S. to eventually open her own makgeolli place, which she’s in the process of doing,” says Zhdanov, who runs 3BR with his twin brother, Maks.

He invited her to make makgeolli on 3BR’s equipment, with the intention of taking the process a step further and distilling it into another traditional Korean alcohol, soju.

3BR had intended to release the soju as a one-off, part of the distillery’s experimental, limited-edition Elevator Series (a nod to the Zhdanovs’ grandfather, who worked as an elevator engineer). But the spirit that the distillery had named Gom Soju—“Gom” being Korean for bear, an animal that’s featured quite prominently in 3BR’s branding and décor—soon attracted the attention of master sommelier and importer Kyungmoon Kim.

“He has this import business where he brings in soju [from Korea],” Zhdanov explains. “[Chun] knew him when she was in Korea, when she was a sommelier at a restaurant and he’d come in and talk. … So she reached out to him and said, ‘I need you to try this, I collaborated on this, it’s super-legitimate.’”

Zhdanov recalls that Kim was “blown away”

by what he tasted.

Kim typically imports higher-end, traditionally crafted soju that’s radically different from the commoditized greenbottle variety that dominates the market. Traditionally, soju was essentially distilled makgeolli, produced from short-grain Korean rice with the help of a fermentation starter, nuruk (a concept similar, but not identical, to the way koji mold kickstarts the fermentation process for Japanese sake and shochu). The nuruk simultaneously converts the starch and ferments the sugar.

A post-Korean War famine prompted a multiyear ban on the use of rice in alcohol, which led to the proliferation of lesstraditional, mass-produced varieties distilled from other available ingredients (sweet potatoes being among the most common).

“They weren’t distilling it for flavor, they were distilling it just to make alcohol,” Zhdanov says of non-traditional soju production. “Soju itself, just like makgeolli, was a dying art.”

Today’s traditional soju, the sort that Kim imports, is produced on a much smaller scale and is much more expensive to sell to retail accounts in the U.S.

“The stuff coming out of Korea is still so micro in scale and it’s coming from overseas, thousands of miles,” Zhdanov notes. “And [Kim] has all of these clients that he works with, Michelin-starred restaurants in New York City, and they want real soju. And he gives it to them, but it’s really hard for them to make cocktails with it because it’s $50 to $60 a bottle.”

By contrast, Kim can sell a soju of similar quality, produced barely 40 miles from the city, at a more palatable price point.

“I’m using these real ingredients, but the yield is so incredibly high on it because rice,

just like corn, is one of the highest yielding starchy [grains],” Zhdanov continues. “And [Kim]’s like, ‘Now I can start pushing it to all of these accounts.’”

So, what was once intended as a one-anddone product for sale primarily at the distillery, is now distributed through Kim’s company, KMS Selections, in New York and California.

The entire process to produce Gom Soju, from making the nuruk mother—a dough-like mixture of rice and enzyme-releasing microbes, not unlike a bread starter—to fermenting and distilling takes three to four weeks.

“For [the starter] I’m using more rice, I’m using rice powder to basically give it pure starch in that form and I’m growing that starter in another vessel,” Zhdanov explains.

It’s then introduced to the steamed rice that will form the base of the eventual distillate.

“I may end up adding another yeast to help jump-start the activity, but only two weeks in because the nuruk itself has all of that wild yeast and I want that to be the primary fermenter.” At the end of the simultaneous conversion-fermentation period, the steamed rice is pretty much liquefied.

3BR bottles Gom Soju at 40% ABV. The most widely available, mass-produced soju brands tend to be in the low 20s, ABV-wise, while other, less prominent versions can reach as high as 60%.

Aside, of course, from the rice, the nuruk really is the star of the show as it’s responsible for much of the resulting flavor in traditionally produced soju. The ricey elements are immediately apparent in the finished product, but there’s also a distinctive radish-like aroma that the nuruk imparts.

“It’s just so crazy how much flavor you get on there,” Zhdanov says. “This is an opportunity to really start the soju boom.”

Visit to listen
to a podcast with Maks and Aleks Zhdanov, twin brothers and co-founders of 3BR Distillery.

Foley Family Wines, the Santa Rosa, California-based wine and spirits company, has announced the addition of High Ground Vodka to its growing line of spirits. High Ground Vodka is a 100% estate rye, small production, hyperlocal vodka crafted by master distiller Joseph O’Sullivan at Minden Mill Distilling in Minden, Nevada. “High Ground is made locally from estate rye in the high desert of Minden and pure water from Sierra Nevada snowmelt,” says O’Sullivan. “Small batch distillation allows us to have more control over the process, so we can create a truly unique quality vodka that is smooth with a hint of spice, perfect sipped neat or in cocktails.”

Jeptha Creed Distillery of Shelbyville, Kentucky, launched its 6-Year Wheated Bourbon. Known for the ground-to-glass maxim, the Jeptha Creed family farm grows renowned Bloody Butcher Corn, a nonGMO heirloom varietal that imparts a uniquely sweet yet nutty flavor profile to Jeptha Creed’s diverse and growing portfolio. The 93-proof spirit has a mash bill of 75% Bloody Butcher Corn, 20% Malted Wheat and 5% Malted Barley, leading to a beautiful golden Citrine Gem hue.

Distillery of Modern Art of Chamblee, Georgia, announced its first release of Rye Whiskey Aged in New American Oak barrels since 2022, this 104.4-proof spirit marks the first of several Rye releases planned from DoMA this year. DoMA’s Rye pays homage to early American Rye distillers while staying uniquely Southeastern by utilizing Wren’s Abruzzi Rye, a varietal bred specifically for Southern growth, lending light floral notes, complex nutty flavors, and that signature Rye spice.

Golden Eagle Vodka, a new American-made vodka distilled in Montana, makes its debut in Southern California. Distilled in Big Sky, Montana, Golden Eagle Vodka is crafted in small batches using 100% Hard Red Spring wheat and mineral-rich Yellowstone spring water.



The craft spirits industry sluggishly moves forward. Economic headwinds continue to hit hard. But we can work — together — to change that! Join us as we educate Congress on the issues facing our small businesses. Let’s teach them about the hardships we have with market access. Come share your story with those on Capitol Hill. JOIN US THIS

Register now for the ACSA Fly-In, which includes a session with TTB executive leadership. Space is limited.


Seattle-based Copperworks Distilling Co. announces the release of three new whiskeys. Copperworks American Single Malt Whiskey Single Cask No. 22-2 is crafted from Copperworks’ Five Malt recipe, which the awardwinning distillery founders developed directly from their background as brewers. The other two, Release 049 and Release 050, are crafted from the Fritz varietal of barley grown in Washington’s Skagit Valley.

Fortune’s Fool of Indianapolis announced the sequel in its lineup of premium whiskeys. The Overture is a premium straight rye whiskey distilled in Kentucky and aged in the highest quality barrels from Napa Valley’s Seguin Moreau Cooperage. Aged for 39 months, The Overture is bottled at 109.4 proof and offers a unique sipping experience made up of a mash bill of 62% rye, 30% corn and 8% barley.

Baltimore-based Old Line Spirits released 51 Rye Whiskey as its contribution to Maryland’s rich rye whiskey heritage. Using the same grains as Monument City Brewing Co.’s 51 Rye IPA, this rare and limited high malt rye whiskey is bottled at 102 proof and presents gentle notes of rye, balanced with tasting notes of cinnamon, warm sugar cookies, faint ripe plum, dark chocolate and light, dry tobacco.

Ole Smoky Distillery of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is announcing the nationwide distribution of its Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Barrel-aged for four years and true to Tennessee tradition, this high-quality whiskey expands Ole Smoky’s premium, straight whiskey offerings. Full-bodied and smooth for sipping, the Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey features rich, warm flavors with subtle hints of smoke, char and caramel.


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


Thompsonville, Michigan-based Iron Fish Distillery and Bellaire, Michigan-based Short’s Brewing have announced the return of Soft Parade Vodka. The spirit is infused with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries—the exact same fruit used in brewing Soft Parade Beer. The 2024 batch is even more fruit forward and comes in at 75 proof. The result is a one-of-a-kind vodka that combines the smoothness of traditional vodka with the subtle natural flavors of real berries. No artificial flavors were added to Soft Parade Vodka.

Hye, Texas-based Garrison Brothers Distillery announced the release of its award-winning Lady Bird The Texas honey-infused, cognac-finished bourbon starts its life as Small Batch Bourbon that is aged for four years in new white American oak barrels before being infused with Burleson’s Texas Wildflower Honey for an additional 8-9 months, creating the exquisite cask strength HoneyDew. The bourbon is then transferred into French Cognac XO casks to mature for an additional three years. It is bottled at 114 proof, and each bottle is hand-sealed with a Prairie Purple wax.

Tamworth Distilling of Tamworth, New Hampshire, announced the debut of Tamworth Garden Cordials, a collection of six natural fresh fruit liqueurs. The lineup includes Black Trumpet Mushroom & Blueberry, Citrus, Mountain Berry, Raspberry Lime, Sierra Fig and Strawberry Rhubarb. Available now, Tamworth Garden Cordials are low proof libations, perfect for sipping or in a spritz, but truly shine when brandished as a cocktail enhancer.

Freeland Spirits of Portland, Oregon, re-released its limitededition Cherry Blossom Liqueur The 70-proof liqueur is back by popular demand after debuting in 2023. This year’s release features locally harvested cherry blossoms, hand-picked from the highest hill of the Portland Japanese Garden.


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.

STEP above the rest It’s time to STEPUP!
An internship program
is a


Mattingly 1845

Distillery of Frankfort, Kentucky, released its Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) Bourbon

Each year J. Mattingly 1845 Distillery donates a portion of the sales of the CIB bottles to a military-related nonprofit. This year’s recipient is Forgotten Coast K9, a nonprofit organization that helps provide service dogs to veterans and first responders with the mission to stop suicide in those communities by getting them the service dogs they need. The 2024 CIB bourbon was aged for six and a half years and bottled at 116 proof.

Fabrizia Spirits of Salem, New Hampshire, released its readyto-serve Limoncello Spritz. The beverage is made with three ingredients: Italian sparkling wine, Fabrizia’s award-winning Limoncello (crafted with Sicilian lemons) and bubbly soda water. Each bottle comes with dried lemon slices to be used as a garnish for a truly authentic experience.

John Lee Hooker Legacy Spirits announced its first release of Boogie Chillen’ Bourbon 1948 Inspired by legacy, love and music, John Lee Hooker Legacy Spirits was founded by mother and son Zakiya Hooker and Glenn Thomas in 2023 to honor their father and grandfather, John Lee Hooker, through their shared love of bourbon. Crafted from the finest selection of barrels, Boogie Chillen Bourbon 1948 is a flavorful bourbon at 100 proof, boasting subtle notes of baking spices and warm brown sugar.

Blanco, Texas-based Milam & Greene Whiskey released its limited Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey To produce this 100-proof bourbon, the Milam & Greene team used its signature mash bill featuring malted rye, which offers a richer texture and a slight nuttiness, and its proprietary yeast recipe that provides balance. The resulting whiskey has richness and depth that is characteristic of each Milam & Greene whiskey.


The Connaught Bar

Author: Agostino Perrone

Publisher: Phaidon Press

Release Date: April 10

Step inside one of the best bars in the world and learn how the London-based Connaught Bar’s virtuoso mixologists create 100 elegant cocktails—both contemporary and timeless classics—with easy-to-follow recipes and clear instructions on how to recreate them at home. Alongside expert guidance for essential bar tools, glassware and spirits, there are 120 additional recipes for homemade syrups, infused spirit, and garnishes that mixologist Agostino Perrone and his team use to make their signature celebrated drinks, including the famed Connaught Martini.

The Bourbon Drinker’s Companion

Author: Colin Spoelman

Publisher: Abrams Image Release Date: May 14

“The Bourbon Drinker’s Companion” is an illustrated and narrative journey into the heart of American craft distilleries, taking readers from the well-known producers to craft whiskey makers on the West Coast to the emerging new traditional distillers of the South. Bestselling author Colin Spoelman celebrates all things whiskey as he explores the effect branding, taste, region and distilling processes have on America’s beloved and most notorious drink. The book is complete with sidebars and infographics highlighting key whiskies, bourbons and ryes from each distillery, as well as tasting notes, pricing information, distilling methods and more.

Love & Whiskey

Author: Fawn Weaver

Publisher: Melcher Media

Release Date: June 18

Fawn Weaver, the founder and CEO of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, unveils the hidden narrative behind one of America’s most iconic whiskey brands. This book is a vibrant exploration set in the present day, delving into the life and legacy of Nearest Green, the African American distilling genius who played a pivotal role in the creation of the whiskey that bears Jack Daniel’s name. Set against the backdrop of Lynchburg, Tennessee, this narrative weaves together a thrilling blend of personal discovery, historical investigation and the revelation of a story long overshadowed by time.

The Cocktail Parlor

Author: Nicola Nice

Publisher: Countryman Press Release Date: April 23

Throughout American history, women have helped propel what we know as classic cocktails–the Martini, the Manhattan, the OldFashioned, and more–into popular culture. But, often excluded from private clubs, women exercised this influence from the home, in their cocktail parlors. In “The Cocktail Parlor,” Dr. Nicola Nice, sociologist and spirits entrepreneur, gives women their long-overdue spotlight in cocktail history and shows how they still impact cocktail culture today.

Imbiber ' s Bookshelf


Colin Spoelman is co-founder and distiller at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, New York; the co-author of “The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining” and “Dead Distillers” with David Haskell; a Yale graduate; and a board member of the American Craft Spirits Association. He recently answered some questions about his latest book, “The Bourbon Drinker’s Companion.”

Who do you see as the ideal reader of this book?

It’s certainly for anyone who has at least a passing interest in whiskey. The book is mostly a work of opinion, and therefore, is a different approach than most whiskey books. It’s more centered on my experience as a distiller traveling around to whiskey makers around the country that I was interested in getting to know. There are a lot of tastemakers (okay, maybe influencers) who want to promote whiskey, so there is an audience for whiskey content, but so much of it is centered on big brands with big marketing budgets. I wanted to tell the story that was behind all the marketing, and that led often to smaller, more idiosyncratic distillers. I was really out to find the hidden gems, the classics, the weird whiskeys, rather than just the trophy bottles that everyone probably knows about.

When did you first get the idea for this book?

I had written a book about urban moonshining, which was positioned as a home distilling guide but was in reality a broad introduction to whiskey. I traveled to Kentucky to visit many of the distillers and immediately realized it was hard to know a brand or a whiskey unless you visited the factory: to know the where, the how and why of a whiskey. At the time (leading up to 2013), there weren’t as many craft distillers and there wasn’t much awareness of the commodity market, industrial producers, and the differences between independent, craft and small: concepts that are still pretty loose. Either way, it was time for an update and an expansion of the world of whiskey as it is now in 2024. It’s also arguable that the bourbon boom is in its peak phase, and with so much investment in conventional

bourbon, there’s bound to be a correction and I wanted to highlight some of the distillers and whiskeys using a different approach—one that might be lost in the shuffle if the market starts to contract.

How did you go about deciding which distilleries to feature in the book?

I’m sure there are worthy distillers that I will have left out, and I may never live that down, but it’s a very imperfect science. I wanted to include the obvious distillers of Kentucky and Tennessee, and some of the brand new, medium-size players in the Ohio River valley that are starting to come out with well-aged whiskeys. And of course, my peers in craft. But the book imagines a future where there will be regional styles in American whiskey, so I worked geographically to come up with themes and found distilleries that best made (and sometimes worked against) my argument. I looked at single malt makers from the Pacific Northwest; barbecue whiskey from Texas and the desert of the southwest; detailoriented rye distillers in the Northeast; and even moonshines. There’s no question as an independent small distiller, I take more interest in my colleagues than the big brands, who maybe won’t necessarily benefit so much from the visibility. But there’s usually something to love at every stop, and so the book becomes a little bit of a map through America and American whiskey, starting in Kentucky and then working outward.

How did the process of writing this book compare to your previous books?

With those books, I was writing with my friend and business partner, David Haskell, who is a professional editor (he is now editor-in-chief at New York Magazine). I over-write and David edits. So this was my first solo writing and the book ended up being about 80 pages longer (though there was still a lot that got cut). But I also did a lot more traveling as a part of this book, and that can be a very solo activity, so it was more of a personal project. There’s an aspect of memoir to it, reflecting a little bit on the job of running a distillery and a brand— and taking inspiration from others that are doing it well. I also tasted through a few

hundred whiskeys for inclusion. I wasn’t rating whiskeys, but I did want to find exceptional spirits to highlight, and for a while, I was doing flights of eight samples most afternoons, which wasn’t as fun as it sounds. I prefer to be in the factory with the dust and the noise.

You’re a Kentucky native who co-founded a distillery in New York. Is part of the narrative of the book that good bourbon can come from anywhere?

Once I found out that commercial bourbon was not at all the small-batch, handcrafted, traditional spirit it claimed to be, I became very disillusioned with American whiskey and looked to find those spirits that pushed toward the authentic whiskeys that most of us had in our mind when first getting into whiskey. Kentucky had created a marketing problem where they invented a folksy, homemade, small-batch persona for spirits that were industrial, commoditized and designed to be interchangeable with barrels from other distillers. That disconnect is the jumping off point for the book, and I think it highlights all the directions that one can travel within whiskeys. One thing the book doesn’t cover is brands that are primarily sourced from commodity distilleries. It’s really a book about distilleries so that’s the focus of the story. I visited big ones and small ones, urban and rural, and really tried to find variety. The book is really about a new multiplicity in American whiskey that simply didn’t exist even a decade ago, and that’s a really exciting thing for distillers and drinkers.

Imbiber ' s Bookshelf



Alex Castle recently departed her post at Memphis, Tennessee-based Old Dominick Distillery and is the new master distiller and director of distillery operations for Augusta Distillery of Augusta, Kentucky.

The move is a homecoming for Castle, who is a native of Burlington, Kentucky.

“I’m incredibly excited to be joining the team at Augusta,” said Castle. “I have always dreamed of returning to my home state and making Kentucky bourbon whiskey once more. I am grateful for the team at Augusta Distillery and the trust they’re putting in me. I know it’s going to be an amazing journey and we’re just getting started.”

Nestled on the banks of the Ohio River in its Northern Kentucky namesake town, Augusta Distillery was founded in 2018. The company is in the final stages of converting a late-1800s-era factory building into a bourbon distillery and guest experience center. Powered by two 14-inch Vendome copper column stills, Augusta Distillery will have an annual distilling capacity of 14,000 barrels upon completion. Augusta’s current retail bourbon products are Old Route 8 and Buckner’s 10.

“We are delighted to welcome Alex to our team,” said Ryan Edwards, president of Augusta Distillery. “Alex’s stellar reputation precedes her. Her exceptional bourbon and distilling knowledge will provide an immediate boost to Augusta Distillery’s mission to produce world-class bourbon. We consider ourselves fortunate to have her on board.”

Castle worked at Old Dominick for nine years. Prior to that, she was a distiller at Wild Turkey.

“We are enormously grateful for Alex’s contributions in her nine years and the

foundation she helped build at Old Dominick,” said Chris Canale Jr., owner of Old Dominick Distillery. “We’re confident we have assembled an outstanding team over these years and are excited for the opportunities to showcase their talent as we continue to make carefully crafted spirits that we’re proud to offer as Memphis’s only local distiller. We wish Alex all the best as she embarks on her new journey and appreciate everything she has done for the company.”

In addition to establishing herself as a renowned distiller, Castle has been a devoted industry advocate. In 2020, she was named the first female president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild, for which she has been instrumental in bolstering tourism for the state’s burgeoning whiskey trail. She has also been active in industry advocacy groups, including her role as a board member of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.


Austin, Texas-based Big Thirst has expanded its team by adding Andy Nelson to its consulting practice. Big Thirst consulting services help distilleries streamline business operations with improved processes. The company’s experienced consultants help develop products, introduce brands to the market, ensure positive and repetitive growth, maintain regulatory compliance and optimize profits.

Nelson brings a wealth of experience to the Big Thirst consulting team ranging from formulating a business plan and launching a distillery to scaling the business and successfully exiting. He is a founder and former head distiller for Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee. His passion for the industry was ignited in 2006, upon discovering his family’s legendary whiskey history dating back to the 1860s. Since that day, he worked

tirelessly to resurrect the business, brands and distillery, which opened to the public in 2014. Nelson’s efforts along with his brother, Charlie Nelson, helped the Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery to become one of the bestrespected distilleries in the industry. Constellation Brands acquired a majority stake in the distillery in 2019.

“We are excited to have Andy on the team to help our distillery clients realize their business goals,” says Big Thirst CEO, Matt McGinnis. “He has proven expertise in building an outstanding business, with a passion for the art and craft of distillation. The learning curve to start and operate a distillery can be steep. Andy is well suited to flatten that curve. He gives our clients the most accurate and realistic portrayal of the industry and how it works to help them achieve success.”

Industry Update


The Family Jones Distillery of Denver and Loveland, Colorado, recently announced the appointment of Matt Reilly as its new president as part of strategic initiatives for nationwide expansion. With more than two decades of invaluable experience in the beverage industry, Reilly brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in sales, production and supply chain management to position The Family Jones Distillery for continued success in 2024 and beyond.

Voted Best Colorado Distillery by 5280 Magazine in 2023, The Family Jones Distillery is known for its wholehearted dedication to Colorado’s agricultural community and meaningful farmer partnerships that allow it to produce a robust portfolio of award-winning spirits. The Family Jones Distillery is committed to reconnecting people to agriculture through craft spirits and fueling the conversation around the importance of regenerative farming to protect our soil and water, which in turn, ensures better quality grains for its spirits.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Matt at the helm of our distillery,” explains CEO and co-founder Paul Tamburello. “He continually demonstrates a tireless commitment to his

team, our customers, and the community at large. Over the past year, his steady leadership and keen vision for our sales department have made it abundantly clear to our board and executive team that he is the ideal person to appoint for this role.”

Reilly, who previously served as the director of sales, has been instrumental in driving growth and forging key partnerships for The Family Jones Distillery. His deep-rooted connection with the company dates back to his tenure at Saxco, a packaging wholesaler, where he played a pivotal role in supporting the distillery’s early development and growth. His contributions have been invaluable, and his appointment as president is a testament to his dedication and vision for the company’s future.

“I am honored to lead The Family Jones Distillery, an organization deeply committed to the traceability, connectivity, and quality of our spirits,” said Reilly. “As we embark on this exciting journey of expansion, I am dedicated to upholding our core values and furthering our mission to craft exceptional spirits while fostering meaningful relationships with small family farms.”

In his new role, Reilly will oversee all opera-

tional aspects of The Family Jones Distillery with a primary focus on driving growth strategies and optimizing organizational efficiency. With a keen understanding of the evolving market landscape, Reilly aims to position the distillery as a dynamic and agile player in the industry, poised to meet the demands of discerning consumers nationwide.


Hood River Distillers of Hood River, Oregon, has announced the promotion of Caitlin Bartlemay to master distiller.

Bartlemay joined Clear Creek Distillery in 2010 as a logistics coordinator and worked her way through the ranks to distiller. In 2014, Clear Creek was acquired by Hood River Distillers, joining the two oldest operating distilleries in Oregon, and returning Hood River Distillers to its original roots of creating fruit brandies. Bartlemay was named head distiller in 2021 and now oversees production of some 20 different distillates including McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt; the award-winning Timberline Vodka; and the renowned Clear Creek brandies and eaux de vie.

Bartlemay grew up as a hard-working wheat rancher in Eastern Oregon. Her father started a winery when she was in middle school, and she became fascinated by the science of fermentation. She studied food science and technology at Oregon State University, earning her bachelor’s degree in 2010. During her last semester of college, Bartlemay sent letters to every distillery across the Pacific

Northwest (at that time there were only 12) inquiring about job opportunities. Steve McCarthy, owner of Clear Creek Distillery, never told her to stop calling, so she didn’t. She started work there the week after graduation.

“Caitlin’s vigilant commitment to excellence in every facet of her job is one of the qualities that has made her such an exceptional member of our team,” said David Ballew, president and CEO, Hood River Distillers. “Her passion for quality and craftsmanship is evident in each product that she touches. It’s only fitting that as we celebrate our 90th anniversary, we recognize Caitlin for her leadership in helping Hood River Distillers and its brands continue their heritage of quality in the Pacific Northwest.”

“It has been a thrill to be a part of the Clear Creek/Hood River Distillers team and to have had the opportunity to share so many wonderful brands with our customers,” said Bartlemay. “The history of distillation at both Clear Creek Distillery and Hood River Distillers is one that combines pioneering personalities, exceptional products and phenomenal

teamwork. Whether we are continuing the legacy of the first American single malt, bottling spirits distilled from the bounty of the Pacific Northwest or creating new custom flavors to celebrate innovation in the whiskey category, I’m proud to lead this next generation of distillers.”

Industry Update


Tucson, Arizona-based Whiskey Del Bac announced its hiring of Scott Richardson as sales director in the West Coast. In his new role, Richardson will be responsible for growing the entire Whiskey Del Bac portfolio across coastal markets with a special focus on building the brand’s footprint in California.

“We couldn’t be more fortunate to have someone of Scott’s caliber lead our efforts in the biggest whiskey market in America,” said Jake Wheatley, vice president of sales and marketing for Whiskey Del Bac. “We know that Scott will leverage his experience with new and existing wholesale and retail partners to make California our No. 1 market in the U.S.”

Richardson comes to Whiskey Del Bac with 13 years of spirits-focused experience across large and small suppliers of single malt whisky, bourbon, rye, tequila, mezcal, vodka, gin, rum, brandy, aperitifs and ready-to-drink beverages. Following his impactful years growing the spirits portfolio at GALLO, Richardson’s last three roles helped grow three different brands—one whiskey, one tequila, and one

ready-to-drink cocktail—before each brand was acquired by MolsonCoors, Pernod Ricard and Constellation Brands, respectively.

“My expertise is in building ultra premium brand strategies and distilling them into initiatives that drive national growth across must-win markets,” Richardson said. “I have a deep understanding of the challenges behind early-stage brand growth and portfolio expansion, all of which I’m thrilled to put behind a product as interesting and dynamic as Whiskey Del Bac.”

That deep understanding comes from his most recent role with Blue Run Spirits and his nine-year tenure at GALLO, where he comanaged two imported single malt whiskies and helped build new sales and marketing capabilities across the ever-expanding portfolio of GALLO’s craft spirits. Between his years with whiskey brands and his learnings from working with under-represented spirits, he is uniquely suited to help Whiskey Del Bac grow into new regions in the West Coast.

Born and raised in Orange County, Rich-

ardson graduated from the University of San Diego with a bachelor’s in business administration and a focus in international marketing from Florence University of the Arts in Italy.

26 | MAY/JUNE 2024 CRAFTSPIRITSMAG.COM Industry Update


New Orleans-based Happy Raptor Distilling announces that its last day of service would take place on May 17. The distillery, which opened its doors in February 2020, specialized in premium rum handcrafted with 100% Louisiana molasses and infused with real citrus, botanicals and whole spices. Its signature lines of 504Rum and 504Syrups have been available for purchase at the distillery’s Central City tasting room, local groceries, bars, restaurants and corner stores throughout Louisiana, as well as in select stores across the United States.

Since 2020, Happy Raptor has contributed more than $100,000 in direct funds, goods and services to the New Orleans community, and has worked with more than 100 local nonprofits. At the height of the pandemic, Happy Raptor was the first New Orleans craft manufacturer to develop an online appointment system, allowing guests to safely pick up pre-batched cocktails, bottles of 504Rum, and, later, hand sanitizer. By offering deep discounts to first responders and free event options to nonprofits, the distillery built roots with the community during a time when connection was hard to come by.

“We are devastated to say goodbye to this special company, and this incredible team of people,” said co-founder Meagen MorelandTaliancich. “We named this company after our son, and he’s grown up alongside it. When we look back, we’re very proud. We created a space of comfort during some of the hardest years our community will ever experience, and we had the means to help and take action for others when everything felt hopeless. We hope we made a difference. All we can say is thank you to the families, partners, and friends who believed in us.”

During the pandemic, Happy Raptor was awarded a substantial recovery grant by the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a program Congress authorized through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Unfortunately, they were counted in only 2% of businesses nationally that never received the grant after funds ceased due to political disagreements. After Hurricane Ida, Happy Raptor re-opened for business only three days after the storm, running on generator power and traveling to Mississippi daily to collect ice and food, which were provided to the community free of charge daily until the neighborhood returned to power. On Bacchus Sunday 2023, a deadly shooting on the parade route resulted in a traumatic experience for Happy Raptor guests and its team. The company closed on Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras Day to ensure safety and provide time for mental health support. Financial recovery from this loss was immediately followed by the hottest summer on record, a continued substantial dip in tourism, and the development of generally empty AirBnB’s in the blocks surrounding the distillery’s tasting room.

“We’ve been on the brink of profitability since the day we opened. We’d reach out to finally touch success, and then another disaster. We finally realized that the cavalry isn’t coming. The resources to support small business in Louisiana are like a drop of water on an elephant’s back,” said co-founder and chief distiller Mark Taliancich. “We were told by many friends that we were crazy to say yes to every nonprofit that knocked on our door, but it was the smartest choice we made. With tourism at all-time lows and no budget for advertising, our partnerships with nonprofits and community leaders have kept our doors open. And more than that, those partnerships elevated our tasting room to one of the finest cocktail spots in the city. Nonprofit partners are our strongest sources of long-term customer loyalty and engagement, and our numbers show that clearly. We have no regrets.”

CRAFTSPIRITSMAG.COM MAY/JUNE 2024 | 27 Industry Update


Raleigh, North Carolina-based Next Century Spirits has acquired a majority of the Southwest Spirits & Wine brand assets. The acquisition represents a pivotal step in NCS’s vision of expanding its brand portfolio as it continues down the path of becoming one of the industry’s top spirits suppliers.

Through this transaction, NCS will acquire the Nue Vodka brand which has an approximate annual volume of 220,000 9L cases across 29 states, along with The Other 49 Bourbon, Sixty Men Bourbon, George Ocean Rum, Calamity Gin and Henderson Whiskey.

“We are thrilled to expand our portfolio with this collection of brands, including Nue Vodka,” said Anthony Moniello, co-CEO of Next Century Spirits. “Our ambition is to become a trusted, long-term spirits partner with a diverse portfolio and the recent acquisition of SSW brand assets allows us to diversify our business and accelerate our timeline.”

These brands join NCS’s fast growing

portfolio that includes Bear Fight American Single Malt Whiskey, Numbskull Cool Mint & Chocolate Flavored Whiskey, Creek Water American Whiskey and Caddy Cocktails.

The largest brand in the transaction, Nue Vodka, has established itself as a fast-grow-

ing, impact brand in the vodka space, providing consumers with the best of both worlds when it comes to quality and value. In 2023, Nue Vodka finished as the fastest growing vodka brand amongst the top 10 mid-tier priced vodkas.


Old Glory Distilling Co. of Clarksville, Tennessee, has officially opened the doors to its Restaurant & Silo Park.

“We created this space with the intention of not just establishing ourselves as a mustvisit destination, but also to give the Clarksville community a lively, welcoming place to gather for good times and even better food and spirits,” shared Matt Cunningham, founder and CEO of Old Glory Distilling Co. “Our team is here training, the grill is on, and we’re gearing up to serve a true taste of Tennessee. We can’t wait to have you here.”

The dynamic restaurant features a fusion of indoor and outdoor seating, complete with entertainment spaces and a full bar experience, all thoughtfully arranged to foster a spirited and welcoming ambiance. Old Glory has curated a venue for guests of all ages to enjoy.

The menu features dishes made from scratch inspired by their signature bourbons, offering patrons a taste of the fun, Southern spirit.

Drawing inspiration from traditional Southern recipes infused with a playful twist, the menu offers a diverse selection of tacos, salads, sandwiches, desserts and more. The menu’s dishes mirror the meticulous care and attention given to Old Glory’s signature spirits, with signature items like the Chicken-Bourbon-Mac—a smoked chicken with sharp white cheddar, asiago and whiskey BBQ sauce.

Industry Update


Allegheny Distilling, the producer of Maggie’s Farm Rum and Personal Day Vodka Hard Seltzer, announces the grand opening of a new 22,0000-square-foot production distillery in Upper Saint Clair, Pennsylvania, approximately 10 miles southwest of the company’s original distillery in Pittsburgh’s Strip District neighborhood.

“I saw the importance of ownership and investing in ourselves to preserve our future,” said Tim Russell, founder and head distiller of Maggie’s Farm Rum. “Our customers’ continued support through one of the toughest small business climates in history gave me the confidence to take a much bigger step on a property than planned and build out a state-of-the-art distillery in a space that should support our growth for many more years.”

The state-of-the-art facility boasts two floors, meticulously renovated to accommodate a new custom-designed 3,000-liter copper pot still, over 6,000 gallons of fermentation capacity, and ample barrel storage. With exponential demand for its premium spirits, Allegheny Distilling recognized the necessity for expansion past its former facility’s 3,000-square-foot space and 1,000-liter still production.

Furthermore, the new distillery also features a 40-can-per-minute canning line to grow Allegheny Distilling’s Personal Day brand, a real juice vodka hard seltzer, launched in 2021.

Maggie’s Farm is now poised to meet nationwide demand, as distribution increases across the United States. Maggie’s Farm distribution has also increased its distribution footprint to North Carolina via Dorado Rock and in Minnesota via Bourget Imports this month. Maggie’s Farm rums are currently available in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, and Oklahoma. Products are also available via special order in California and New York through Liberation Distribution.

“I’m incredibly grateful for our steadfast banking partners who shared our vision and provided the financial backing necessary for this endeavor. Maintaining our ownership structure was paramount, and with their support, we’ve achieved just that,” Russell added.

While production of spirits has shifted to the new Upper St. Clair distillery, the original Smallman Street distillery in Pittsburgh’s Strip District continues retail and drink service operations as normal while still serving as a barrelhouse for the aging of rums. The original still and barrel racks for the rear rickhouse are still on display behind the cocktail bar.

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I was just reading in The New York Times about the 1924 dinner party that spawned the Harlem Renaissance. Two Black intellectuals, Alain Locke and Charles Johnson, seized an opportunity to bring together Black artists and thinkers with the day’s “white purveyors of culture,” leading to what they’d hoped for; a reception for that creativity that led to its flowering. The Harlem Renaissance brought Black culture to America’s attention.

I think that opening event has meaning and value as a model for craft spirits. I don’t want to trivialize the event, because it was truly a turning point in American culture. But it’s also important to grasp that it was a party, and that’s something we always need to remember about what distillers are selling.

That part’s obvious, I trust. Spirits are, hopefully, about social relaxation, about the symbolic release of burdens, about the joy of life. Arguably, that happens best at a party, and what is a good bar but a kind of permanent party? That is a party where you want to be present, one you want to encourage to happen.

I’m not talking about your tasting room, either. Tasting rooms are all about engagement, and conversion, all that jazz. There’s also an element of preaching to the choir. Face the odds; if someone’s at your tasting room, chances are good that they’re returning regulars, or already interested in your brand, or at least interested in craft spirits enough to find you. You’ve already reached them, to some degree.

You’ll need to step out. When Locke and Johnson wanted to spark wider knowledge and support of Black artists and Black writers, they didn’t invite people to Harlem galleries and salons for an in-your-face exhibit or reading. They had a party at the Civic Club, in midtown Manhattan, turf with which their target consumers were already familiar.

To reach new people, you want to be at a party where people can experience your spirits in a broader setting. To paraphrase Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” you want to be where the people are, you want to be part of that world.

That’s why cocktail bars that focus on craft spirits are important partners; arguably the most important, even over off-premise retailers. This is where the parties are that you want to attend.

Everyone dreams of breaking into the top bars, going toe-to-toe with established brands and succeeding. But the customers at craft spirits bars have already made a decision in your favor. They’re inquisitive, they like small batch … everything

Craft spirits bars tend to do craft in every direction: local beers, natural wines, neighborhood picklers and salumeria, adventurous cheeses and foraged produce. You’ll find your spirits going into cocktails with unique ingredients, paired with all kinds of foods, and enjoyed by people who want The New. All of The New.

You can learn at the same time they do. How does your product perform, in what cocktails, what kind of bartender, what kind of customer gravitates to you? What needs to be tweaked? Does your package stand out on the back bar?

That’s why we’re recognizing the best craft spirits bars in this issue. I nominated my favorite, Martha, in Philadelphia. My son took me there, and I was delighted to find a large array of local spirits in great cocktails, and not the usual suspects in local draft beer, along with pickles and meats made in the neighborhood. Best of all are the bartenders who will take a moment to talk spirits with you.

Make no mistake: you need to find, and nurture, and support bars like that, as much

Spirits are, hopefully, about social relaxation, about the symbolic release of burdens, about the joy of life. Arguably, that happens best at a party, and what is a good bar but a kind of permanent party?

or more than your own tasting room. As I’ve been saying since the first column I wrote for CRAFT SPIRITS magazine and have repeated since then, we go further when we go together.

Craft spirits bars are your natural partners. Support them with information, with barrel picks and maybe a collaborative gin or amaro (or aquavit!), a house cocktail. Find points of particular coincidence to

30 | MAY/JUNE 2024 CRAFTSPIRITSMAG.COM lew ' s bottom shelf

build that relationship; a shared love for a particular garnish, maybe, or support for the same charity.

Like Locke and Johnson’s party, the guest list is important, the location is crucial. The right people will be there, because the spot is one they know. They’re already interested; they might be interested in whiskey, be fiends for cheese, or have that love for classic cocktails with new twists.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to a new craft spirits bar, to all the ones in a new market. You never know when it might be one that leads to … well, discovery, and enlightenment, and cooperative success, and fun.

Never forget the fun; that’s why we do this. Locke and Johnson were some pretty stuffy intellectuals, from their descriptions in the Times piece, but they understood this. Throw a party! ■

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

and “Whiskey Master Class.”

Lew Whiskey”


In April, ACSA announced the election of five new members to our Board of Directors, along with a new slate of officers.

Kelly Woodcock of Westward Whiskey (OR) was elected President of the Board of Directors. Amber Pollock of Backwards Distilling Co. (WY) was elected Vice President and Jeff Kanof of Copperworks Distilling Co. (WA) will serve as Secretary/Treasurer.

The newly elected Board Members include Tom Bard of The Bard Distillery (KY), Greg Eidam of Sugarlands Distilling Co. (TN), Adam Polonski of Lost Lantern Whiskey (VT), Phil Steger of Brother Justus Whiskey Co. (MN) and Olivia Stewart of Oxbow Rum Distillery (LA).

Together, Woodcock, Pollock and Kanof and the current and newly-appointed Board of Directors will work with CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman to address the key issues facing the craft distilling industry, including the organization’s continued push for modern market access.

Woodcock has served on the Board since 2022, and as Vice President since 2023. Pollock and Kanof have served on the Board since 2018.

“It is a tremendous honor to be leading the ACSA Board of Directors as president, and it is a responsibility that I do not take lightly,” said Woodcock. “As we usher in ACSA’s second decade as a leading industry trade association, I look forward to serving our growing craft spirits community and building on the organization’s remarkable accomplishments thus far. We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us, but I’m excited to be working alongside such an esteemed group of fellow Board Members to make great things happen for our vibrant industry.”

Lehrman added, “While industry growth continues to climb, albeit slowly, we are also seeing distillery closures and struggles to remain financially secure and profitable. ACSA remains focused on critical issues to ensure our small business manufacturers, who are intricately connected to their local hospitality and agricultural communities, will keep pace with modern society. That includes our efforts to diversify the spirits industry through efforts in the STEPUP Foundation, which executes an immersive internship program to change the face of the drinks industry, reflecting the variety of the consumers who enjoy our innovative products. Our 2024 Board of Directors is proof that our industry continues to advance in the right direction.”

Following these elections, the ACSA Board of Directors will also be appointing leadership to its governing committees. Those committees include Membership, Ethics, Convention, Education, Elections, Safety, ACSA PAC, Mentorship, Judging, Government Affairs, State Guilds, Technology, Finance, Market Access and Development.

ACSA also extends our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the following Board Members whose terms expired:

Gina Holman of J. Carver Distillery (MN)

Colin Keegan of Santa Fe Spirits (NM)

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

Tom Potter New York Distilling Co. (NY)

32 | MAY/JUNE 2024 ACSA Affairs


The STEPUP Foundation is now accepting applications for its 2025 class of interns, mentors, host distilleries and wholesalers.

Uniquely created to bring diversity into our industry, the STEPUP Foundation offers underrepresented individuals hands-on training to learn our trade from the ground level up.

STEPUP seeks host distilleries to provide the venue in which to teach. The commitment could be as short as four weeks to host an intern, at zero cost to the distillery.

STEPUP also seeks mentors to provide an additional motivation, positive push and guidance to interns. Mentors can operate remotely, with a flexible schedule and no experience in mentorship is required.

Join us in shaping a more inclusive future for our industry by participating in the STEPUP Foundation’s 2025 program.


Registration is now open for ACSA’s Legislative Fly-In in Washington, D.C., this Sept. 17-18.

This is our chance to meet with senior leadership from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and let our voices be heard before members of Congress. This event is complimentary to all members who want to help educate Congress on issues facing our small business manufacturing sector. This is your opportunity to speak directly with lawmakers and regulators, and to discuss issues that directly impact the craft spirits industry.

Join us beginning Sept. 17, for an early afternoon meeting at TTB (space is limited) and an evening reception at Cotton & Reed. We’ll regroup for a day of meetings Sept. 18, with a Congressional reception showcasing craft spirits.

Visit to RSVP and learn about our hotel block.


ACSA, in conjunction with our valued partner, Park Street, will soon release the next survey for the Craft Spirits Data Project.

The results from this annual study provide the needed lens for regulators to evaluate the state of our small businesses. The results help us share your struggles and success with members of Congress at both the federal and state level, the media, financial institutions, agriculture groups, guilds and more

But ACSA can’t do it without your help. We need you to either complete the survey or send it to someone within your business who can complete the economic data which will be reported out in the aggregate, so your privacy will be secure.

Please keep an eye out for the upcoming survey.


In a recent survey, 40% of ACSA members said affordable employee insurance plans would be able to help their craft spirits business succeed. ACSA’s new affinity partnership with Paychex will help you get the HR services you thought you couldn’t afford, by leveraging our collective power as a group of small businesses.

Thanks to this partnership, ACSA members can access a full suite of discounted HR services, including payroll administration, health insurance for your team, retirement services, tax payments/filings and more.

Take advantage of this opportunity to support your business and ensure its success with ACSA’s exclusive benefits through our partnership with Paychex.


Craft Spirits Community’s

Best Bars 2024

In the vibrant tapestry of America’s craft spirits movement, bars aren’t just places to enjoy a drink—they’re vital hubs of culture, creativity and connection. They also play a pivotal role in the narrative of craft distillers, serving as both stages for

showcasing their carefully crafted creations and classrooms for educating consumers about the artistry behind each bottle. Acknowledging the significance of these spaces, CRAFT SPIRITS magazine recently called upon our readers to look beyond the confines of craft distillery tasting rooms

and distillery-run bars, urging them to nominate the most dynamic, craft spiritsfriendly bars across the United States. In the following pages, immerse yourself in the stories of on-premise licensed bars spanning the nation, each offering an experience not to be overlooked.



Brandy Library

New York, New York

It’s fairly astonishing that Brandy Library, in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year—not because the years appear to have flown by so fast, but because it’s the sort of place that seems like it’s just always been there. It’s as though it exists outside time itself.

As the name suggests, it specializes in fruit distillates, but the spirits list is pretty


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

even-handed when it comes to the major categories. In fact, the whiskey inventory is larger than the brandy collection. The rum and agave spirits selections are also quite vast— more than you’d find even in some bars that specialize in those categories.

The venue boasts some 1,500 (always rotating) different brown spirits in all. As one would expect, France’s Big Three—Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados—dominate the brandy offerings, but the bar makes ample room for Stateside craft creations from Starlight Distillery, Rhine Hall Distillery, Kings County Distillery, Clear Creek Distillery,

I stumbled on Martha while visiting craft distilleries in Philadelphia: an unassuming corner bar in a quiet neighborhood, with a menu was focused on local spirits, beer, wine, food … everything.

“It’s the idea of terroir,” said Martha’s general manager Daniel Miller. “Everything has a sense of place. It ties us to our community. There’s some beautiful stuff being made near us.”

The bar staff is familiar with the wide range of craft spirits Martha carries, and is happy to discuss them. They’re very aware of the way the spirits work in a cocktail, and will guide you on that. Honestly, that interaction is one of the best things about Martha; it’s exciting.

Martha doesn’t take itself too seriously; the cuisine is “hoagie-focused,” the Philly favorite long roll of charcuterie and fresh vegetables, with sides like fresh radishes and butter.

“People understand the importance of supporting local and community,” Miller said. “Everyone’s excited about it.”—Lew Bryson

St. George Spirits, Osocalis Distillery and others. Familiar names like Catoctin Creek Distilling Co., Santa Fe Spirits, High Wire Distilling, Ironroot Republic Distillery, Leopold Bros., Westward Whiskey, New York Distilling Co. and so many more pop up on the whiskey menu. It’s almost impossible to choose. Good thing that the Brandy Library, with its candle-enhanced mood lighting, comfy upholstered lounge furniture and visually stunning, sprawling display cases of hundreds of bottles, is such an inviting, cozy place to relax and take your time contemplating what to order next.—Jeff Cioletti

36 | MAY/JUNE 2024

Monterey Bay Fish Grotto

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Monterey Bay Fish Grotto takes pride in sourcing ingredients locally, partnering with Pittsburgh-area farmers and distillers to craft a menu that celebrates the region’s finest flavors. From farm to table and field to glass, each dish and cocktail reflects a commitment to quality that’s as impressive as the view of the city from their lounge atop Mount Washington.—Joe DeGroot

More Great Bars in the Northeast

Equal Measure Boston, Massachusetts

Moonshine 152 Boston, Massachusetts


Somerville, Massachusetts

The Clover Club Brooklyn, New York

Death & Co New York, New York

Please Don’t Tell New York, New York

Sugar Monk New York, New York

Last Whisky Bar Warwick, New York

Grace & Proper Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ritual House Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Last Whisky Bar

Yours Sincerely

Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood has a reputation for being a hipster haven, which can be reflected in the overly self-aware, ironic pretension of many of its venues. That’s what makes Yours Sincerely such a breath of fresh air. It’s too much of an odd duck for there to be any pretension whatsoever. One might even call it gleefully creepy. That’s largely thanks to the dim lighting; a chandelier that looks like it could’ve been reconstructed after the Phantom of the Opera smashed it; a weathered marble bar top that evokes an early 20th century hotel lobby lounge that’s about to close its doors; and the small, eerie, dead-eyed porcelain figurine heads that sit atop the many taps. But this is no beer bar. Most of those taps dispense prebatched cocktails, which helps keep the drink prices relatively low for Brooklyn—they range from $12 to $15, a steal for their level of craft and quality. Many of those cocktails are based on locally produced offerings from such purveyors as Standard Wormwood and Forthave Spirits, as well as favorites from the opposite coast—including a variety of offerings from St. George Spirits and Seattle’s Oola Distillery. It’s a place to escape, rather than be seen. No one’s likely to see you anyway since it’s usually pretty dark. But if you’re looking for a bit more brightness, there’s a fully heated patio out back.—Jeff Cioletti

Travel Bar

Brooklyn, New York

We’re all on a whiskey journey and in a leafy corner of Brooklyn, you’ll find your whiskey spirit guide. Travel Bar is an unassuming neighborhood bar boasting a discerningly curated whiskey collection of over 450 bottles, including over 35 American single malts. The real gem is Mike Vacheresse, who serves as co-owner and head bartender of Travel Bar. Beyond a sharp wit, Vacheresse has a remarkable ability to remember what you had the last time you were in and always has a suggestion for your next pour.

If you’re not in the mood for whiskey, there are plenty of fabulous barrelaged cocktail choices. Travel Bar also has an ever-changing roster of intimate events hosted by U.S. craft distilleries to big brands far and wide focused on expanding taste buds. Whether you’re local or in town for a night, Travel Bar is essential while in NYC.—Erin Lee


Doar Bros.

Charleston, South Carolina

Located in Charleston’s historic district, Doar Bros. is an intimate bar that delivers on its promise to offer fine spirits, quality fare and modern cocktails. Established in 2018 by brothers Jonathan and Adam Doar, the bar boasts High Wire Distilling’s Hat Trick Gin as a signature ingredient in its Corpse Reviver No. 2, alongside other artisanal spirits featured in both

the classic and seasonal cocktail menus. Jonathan, the executive chef, curates a diverse food selection including caviar service, classic shrimp cocktail, mortadella, and brown butter popcorn. Additionally, the bar occasionally hosts Italian nights, allowing Jonathan to showcase his culinary skills acquired in Italy.

“We focus on service and giving our customers an experience they won’t forget,” says Adam. “Our team of bartenders; Jake, Stephen, Xander and Erin are extremely knowledgeable and love to entertain our guests.”—Jon Page


Captain Gregory’s

Alexandria, Virginia

Sure, call it a speakeasy—it’s hidden inside another cocktail bar/ restaurant, RailBird Kitchen, and you have to pull a flag and wait to be admitted through the handleless wooden door that can easily be mistaken for a wall. But it’s so much more than your run-of-the-mill Prohibition-themed watering hole. For starters, it eschews the nowcliché Roaring Twenties vibe for a nautical theme—mildly tiki-adjacent rather than straight-up tiki—with captain’s wheels, pirate skulls and other seafaring paraphernalia as far as the eye can see. There’s almost a minimalism to the bar shelves, whose sections feature a handful of bottles for each spirits category. And within those selections you’ll see many of the national and international usual suspects. However, eagle-eyed bargoers who, like me, like to take a mental inventory of every whiskey, gin, brandy and liqueur brand, will find that each category-specific row will feature at least one craft brand— largely offerings from Virginia’s and D.C.’s vibrant distilling scenes (with some products from New York and other states). And the collection is always rotating, giving a variety of regional spirits their moments in the spotlight.—Jeff Cioletti

Trouble Bar

Louisville, Kentucky

Trouble Bar is one of those special places that

feels like a neighborhood bar while executing a top-notch whiskey program. Not only does it have a great cocktail program, but it also focuses on flights of whiskey, and has a huge menu of different flights, many that were designed by names you would know in

the whiskey world. Beyond the huge selection, Trouble Bar has an educated staff that can help you make a selection and explain what the flight is showcasing, or at the very least make you feel at home and make sure that you have a spectacular time.—Colin Blake


More Great Bars in the Southeast

Jack Rose Dining Saloon Washington, D.C.

Left Door Washington, D.C.

The Apothecary 330 Fort Lauderdale, Florida

12 Cocktail Bar Atlanta, Georgia

Barrel Proof New Orleans, Louisiana

Gertie’s Whiskey Bar Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee

House of Commons Frankfort, Kentucky

Meta Louisville, Kentucky

Watch Hill Proper Louisville, Kentucky

The Crow & Quill Asheville, North Carolina

Frannie & The Fox Charleston, South Carolina

Top of The Monk

Asheville, North Carolina

Up a flight of rickety stairs above Thirsty Monk—a venerable pub in Asheville, North Carolina—Top of the Monk offers an elevated selection of handcrafted cocktails. In addition to the classics, the menu features several creative options. The Jessica

Rabbit, inspired by a request from the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, includes Covington Vodka—distilled from sweet potatoes—and cold-pressed carrot juice. Statesville-based Southern Distilling Co.’s Southern Star Double Rye serves as the backbone for the bar’s take on The Brooklyn. The space is cozy and opens to a rooftop patio within earshot of downtown Asheville’s Friday night drum circle.—Jon Page

The Study at Morrison House Alexandria, Virginia

Frannie & The Fox



Chicago, Illinois

Delilah’s is a dive bar at first glance, but there’s so much more going on here. Owner Mike Miller has taken all the things he loves and put them under one roof, from post-graffiti art to pinball to punk music. The main event is the dizzying 1,000-plus whiskey list neatly held in a black binder. Just ask for “the book.” Free tastings are on regular rotation alongside educational events, but there is nary a Glencairn glass in sight. Delilah’s celebrates a love of whiskey without an ounce of pretense.

You’ll often find Miller making announcements behind the bar or chatting it up with customers. He loves to host and you can tell. Delilah’s is an industry darling and many a founder or distiller can be seen sipping after hours. Sit at the bar a while and you’ll find yourself making friends with folks you didn’t know when the night started.—Erin Lee


Chicago, Illinois

Scofflaw is a living library of gins from around the world, with over 90 selections to explore. Gins are broken into categories like Genever, Old Tom, London Dry and New Western Gin—the largest category by far, it includes American craft gins as well as international offerings. Quality without a hefty price tag is still prized at Scofflaw, so you can get an $8 classic cocktail during happy hour. The vibe is Old Chicago of yesteryear with Victorian details, two large and cozy fireplaces and a mix of settees, tufted banquettes and leather armchairs. An illustrated cocktail menu with eight streamlined options keeps it all from getting too overwhelming while introducing the adventurous to spirits such as sotol or shochu. If you make a late-night visit, complimentary cookies stave off munchies. Of course there’s a kitchen if you are overwhelmed by the need to feast. Yes, the burger is all that.—Erin Lee



Minneapolis, Minnesota

In a space that has been a bar since the early 1900s, veteran mixologist Robb Jones runs the no-frills Meteor, which delivers

classic cocktails with no frills. Or as the bar’s website more succinctly puts it: “Meteor is an old ass bar with good ass drinks.”

A popular shift bar for industry folks, Meteor offers a dive-like aesthetic and talented bartenders serve up cocktails without pretension.

Denmark on High

Columbus, Ohio

Denmark on High was the first place that I had a true craft cocktail. They’re one of the oldest craft cocktail bars in Columbus, and have inspired many people to open their own, myself included. The first time I went there, I had only been messing around with basic classic cocktails in my kitchen, and my mind was blown. Garry White and his team are masters of creativity and balance. Everything is great, but the Black and Blue Manhattan is the crowd favorite. Any time I take someone there who isn’t sure what they want, that’s where I get them started.—Joe Bidinger

More Great Bars in the Midwest

The Green Post Chicago, Illinois

One Bourbon Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Living Room and Prohibition Minneapolis, Minnesota

Spoon and Stable Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Antler Room Kansas City, Missouri

The Mercury Room Kansas City, Missouri

The Gin Room St. Louis, Missouri

Lincoln Social Rooftop Columbus, Ohio

The Antler Room


The Roosevelt Room

Austin, Texas

Nestled in downtown Austin’s vibrant Warehouse District, The Roosevelt Room is an award-winning cocktail bar that’s a focal point for friendly connections and hospitality. With the motto, “Cheers to you!” echoing through every interaction, the staff is dedicated to ensuring every guest leaves with a smile. The menu includes 10 house creations and a curated list of classic cocktails.

And it’s not just about the drinks. The menu boasts small and large fare alongside decadent desserts, ensuring there’s something for every palate. Plus, with a biannual rotation of featured indulgences highlighting local, seasonal ingredients, there’s always something new to discover. Located in a historic 1929 railroad warehouse, The Roosevelt Room is the perfect spot to soak up some old-school charm with a modern twist.

Batch and Snake & Barrel

Tucson, Arizona

Housed in an historic building on Tucson’s Congress St., Batch is an almost exclusively whiskey-focused bar. In addition to a list of whiskey bottles that’s 1,200 strong (Arizona’s largest list of bottles, according to the bar), Batch also serves house-made, sometimes-boozy doughnuts on Friday and Saturday. Recent flavors include dark chocolate caramel, cookie dough, white chocolate almond fig, lemon rose pistachio and maple bourbon pecan.

Venture further into Batch’s realm, and you’ll find Snake & Barrel, its offshoot basement cocktail lounge that offers a wider array of spirits. And for those looking to take a piece of Batch home, an on-site bottle shop ensures that a visitor’s whiskey journey is just beginning.

Barkeep Supply

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Barkeep Supply in Midtown OKC is a bartender’s dream. Bitters of every sort, syrups, glassware, books and a bar. Julia McLish opened Barkeep to fill a growing need for specialty ingredients to keep up with the evolving cocktail scene in Oklahoma, and happened to create one of the most interesting bar programs at the same time. The space is tiny, but the staff is amazing, and their rotating list of fresh, seasonal-driven cocktails feature as many unique, craft and local spirits as they can source. Having such a small bar (four at the bartop with seating for about 10 through the store) allows the staff’s creativity to shine, and McLish ensures that the quality stays incredibly high while keeping the cocktails focused on craft brands.—Ryan Goodman

MAY/JUNE 2024 | 45

The Still

Tucson, Arizona

Located inside an Italian restaurant,

The Still is a speakeasy experience where admission is only allowed by reservation. Once inside, customers are immersed in the craft cocktail experience by one of America’s most talented and knowledgeable mixologists: Cassandra Schlichtholz. She is creative, knows the spirits and has a clever eye and palate for creating wonderfully unique flavors. The Still is small, cozy and feels private. It is a treasure in Tucson, little known but known well and adored by those of us who produce spirits.—Mark Beres

Pigtails Phoenix, Arizona

Rough Rider Phoenix, Arizona

UnderTow Phoenix, Arizona

Juniper Tucson, Arizona

SideCar Tucson, Arizona

Happy Accidents Albuquerque, New Mexico

Lunar Lounge Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Palo Santo Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Here Nor There Austin, Texas

Jettison Dallas, Texas

Saint Valentine Dallas, Texas

Chase’s Place Fredericksburg, Texas

Bar Loretta San Antonio, Texas

La Ruina San Antonio, Texas

The Plaid Rabbit at Culture ETX Tyler, Texas

46 | MAY/JUNE 2024 More Great Bars in the Southwest

Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library/ The

Green Room

Portland, Oregon

No compilation of America’s best bars would be complete without the Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library. In fact, we debated even including it because it’s almost too obvious! It’s one of the rare places that knows how to balance quantity AND quality. Sure, it has literally thousands of bottles on its massive list, but it’s so well curated that it never seems padded. The cocktails are meticulously crafted as well, even when they really don’t have to be, considering many are coming in to work their way through the house booze bible—a task they’d need at least a second lifetime to complete—one neat pour at a time. And, if you’re not sure what you want, just name a spirit and a general flavor profile, and the bartenders will mix something tailored to your preferences. Yes, there are rare and exclusive expressions of the household-name brands, but the Library knows it’s in one of the great craft cities of the U.S. and seamlessly integrates many from our community into its colossal inventory.

And, as far as vibes go, MWL is unmatched, with its high-ceilings, chandeliers, elegant 19th/early 20th century aesthetic and, of course, wall-to-wall bottled eye candy to keep you visually occupied. As most Portlanders know, the Library operates under a membership model, but that doesn’t exclude the general public. Those not ready to commit to a paid membership can opt for a “Hall Pass” for a nominal fee of $25. The Hall Pass enables non-members to make a reservation—a privilege typically reserved for members only.

Also, you’re not going to want to sleep on the Green Room, the cocktail bar beneath the library that’s open to the public. The menu showcases many local producers—there’s a corner of it dedicated to Pacific Northwest whiskeys from the likes of Freeland, Stone Barn Brandyworks, Westward, Woodinville and more. Brandies from Clear Creek and gins from folks like Ransom and Aria also find their way onto the list.

The moniker kind of has a double meaning. There’s literally a green bricklike tile wall and the street-level space originally served as a holding area of sorts—like the “green rooms” at comedy clubs, talk shows and music venues—for folks waiting for their spot upstairs at the Library proper.—Jeff Cioletti


Everson Royce Bar

Los Angeles, California

L.A.’s Downtown Arts District has really come into its own as a trendy destination in the past decade and a half and Everson Royce Bar truly reflects that hipness. The exterior is quite unassuming, but once you find the door you’ll discover a cocktail bar’s cocktail bar. The room is long and sleek, with wood floors, marble bar top and comfy blue banquette that extends from the entrance to the back edge of the space. It’s a cozy spot to sip cocktails and neat pours featuring a generous array of craft community members like Catoctin Creek Distilling Co., OOLA Distillery, St. George Spirits, Whiskey Del Bac and local favorite, AMASS.—Jeff Cioletti

Estes Park, Colorado

Nestled within the historic confines of The Stanley Hotel, which famously inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining,” is a bar that’s truly worthy of haunting. The Whiskey Bar at Cascades Restaurant boasts a classic cocktail menu and Colorado’s largest selection of whiskeys, including offerings from 291 Colorado Whiskey, Leopold Bros., Woody Creek Distillers, Laws Whiskey House and more. The bar provides an excellent opportunity to unwind with a glass of whiskey, whether it’s following a day of exploration in the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park or as a prelude to a ghost-hunting adventure.—Jon Page

Whiskey Bar at

Skein & Tipple

Clinton, Washington

At first glance, the window advertisement promising hand-dyed yarn and craft cocktails under one roof may sound like an odd pairing. But it’s a perfect, tightly knitted match for Matt and Marsha Owen and their patrons at Skein & Tipple.

The idea for the joint venture came about when the local yarn shop on Whidbey Island, which is 30 miles north of Seattle, announced its closure during the pandemic. Marsha, an avid knitter who was working 95-hour weeks as a postal carrier, hoped to buy the shop and Matt, a graphic designer who had long dreamed of opening a cocktail bar, hatched the idea for the cooperative enterprise after remembering a downtown Seattle general store and bar. Skein refers to a coiled length of yarn and a tipple, of course, is an alcoholic drink. Red tape prevented them from taking over the former yarn shop’s space, but the Owens found salvation in a quaint stand-alone building one mile from their house. The yarn shop opened in December of 2021 and the bar followed suit in May of 2022.

“The building’s architecture is what actually dictated the design concept for the business,” shares Matt. “The yarn store would reside in the small store space in front with a doorway over which we’d drape a velvet curtain to a speakeasy-style bar in back.”

However, the couple isn’t trying to keep the bar a secret.

“The idea is to bring a complete cocktail experience like you’d find in more metropolitan locations to a rural bedroom community,” says Matt. “It gives people who are relocating away from the city a luxury they would miss, while introducing a whole new experience to the locals whose drinking culture had revolved around taverns, pubs and wineries.”

The bar offers live music, small bites and an extensive cocktail menu featuring a section dedicated to spirits from nearby Whidbey Island Distillery.

“They’ve seemed like old pals since the day we met them, and great partners since the day we opened,” says Matt. “They have a renowned tasting room experience here on the island, so we always try to send customers their way. Conversely, we get a lot of customers at Skein & Tipple who say they heard about us while visiting Whidbey Island Distillery. That’s partnership. That’s friendship. That’s community.”—Jon Page

MAY/JUNE 2024 | 49

The Rake

Alameda, California

The Rake is that rarest of pubs where patrons can imbibe while watching the production of malt that will eventually lead to the spirits or beer in their glasses.

Through large windows, guests can glimpse into the production floor of Admiral Maltings, the first floor malting facility in California since Prohibition and the state’s only certified organic malting operation.

Ron Silberstein—who founded Admiral Maltings and The Rake with Dave McClean and Curtis Davenport— says floor malting the grains grown by multigenerational family farmers allows distillers to express the full depth of flavor from the grain. The Rake only offers beer and spirits made with grains malted at Admiral Maltings.

“We place the grains in the spirit on the pedestal and serve them neat, on crystal clear ice, or maybe with a drop of water,” says Silberstein. “We also serve eight elegant, straight-forward cocktails, but with quality basics only, such as Campari, vermouth, seltzer, tonic, and Angostura bitters.”

The operation is in a former Naval warehouse that shares a wall with Almanac Beer Co., and St. George Spirits is less than a mile away, making the area a compelling destination for visitors to the San Francisco Bay Area.—Jon Page

The Sand Dollar Downtown

Las Vegas, Nevada

One seldom thinks “craft” when they think Vegas, as it tends to be known more for free well drinks at Blackjack tables and overpriced Ciroc bottle service at noisy, velvet rope clubs. So Sin City is generally a tough nut for craft to crack. But the team at the Sand Dollar makes some room for small-scale, quality spirits. Nestled amongst the many macro selections on its vast list were bottles from the likes of Corsair, Whistling Andy, Middle West, Dad’s Hat, Garrison Bros., Mulholland, Traverse City Distillery and more. Music lovers will be right at home at Sand Dollar Downtown. It has a stage and ample space for regular live acts and its walls are a shrine to rock, blues and soul with portraits of Bob Dylan, Big Mama Mae Thornton, Muddy Waters, Little Richard, Jerry Garcia and others. There’s also a large neon wall hanging shaped like the patron saint of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, based on Ralph Steadman’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” artwork. It’s a nice place to escape the casino for a bit—though if you’re still jonesing to place some bets, there are some video gambling screens on the bar.—Jeff Cioletti

More Great Bars in the West

Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge Alameda, California

Hotsy Totsy Club Albany, California

Prizefighter Bar Emeryville, California

Parche Oakland, California

Umami Mart Oakland, California

The Great American Craft Bar Rancho Santa Margarita, California

Pacific Cocktail Haven

San Francisco, California

Trick Dog

San Francisco, California

Hooch Aspen, Colorado

Adrift Tiki Bar Denver, Colorado

Union Lodge No. 1 Denver, Colorado

Englewood Grand Englewood, Colorado

Social Fort Collins, Colorado

Craft Lounge Caldwell and Nampa, Idaho

Chapel Tavern Reno, Nevada

Noel’s Coffee & Apothecary Stateline, Nevada

Old Town Bar & Grill Newberg, Oregon

Cereus PDX Portland, Oregon

Loyal Legion Portland, Oregon Teardrop Lounge Portland, Oregon

The Barnacle Eastsound, Washington

Liberty Seattle, Washington

Tavern Law Seattle, Washington

Zig Zag Cafe Seattle, Washington



Getting to know ACSA member producers in their own words

Silverback Distillery

At Silverback Distillery, founded by Denver and Christine Riggleman in 2014, Virginia’s natural beauty and Pennsylvania’s rugged charm converge, inspiring a commitment to craftsmanship, innovation and community in every sip of their award-winning spirits.

Distilled Down: With a commitment to quality and innovation, our distilleries in Afton, Virginia, and East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, offer unique experiences. In Afton, amidst Virginia’s natural beauty, we blend tradition with modern techniques, crafting spirits that captivate the senses. Meanwhile, in East Stroudsburg, we embrace innovation while honoring local influences, creating bold and vibrant flavors that reflect the region’s character. Each sip tells a story of meticulous craftsmanship and the rich tapestry of our surroundings. Whether it’s the rolling hills of Virginia or the rugged charm of Pennsylvania, our spirits embody the essence of their origins.

Vibe: Relaxed, inviting and imbued with a sense of artisanal charm.

Playlist: A mix of Blues and Rock to complement the ambiance.

Inspiration: We draw inspiration from the rich history of distilling, as well as the creativity and dedication of fellow craft distillers pushing boundaries in the industry. Maker’s Mark was a big inspiration for our foundation. Also, a family vacation to Ben Nevis Distillery in Scotland lit a fire within Christine on this path.

Flagship Spirit: Blackback Single Barrel Bourbon

Additional Notable Spirits: Strange Monkey Gin, distilled to enhance citrus notes, while still remaining true to the dry, juniper nature of gin. Blackback Honey Rye, with our very own rye whiskey using raw natural honey, without additional sugar, artificial sweeteners or flavoring.

Buzzworthy: At the prestigious New Orleans Bourbon Fest, for the second consecutive year, we clinched the coveted title of Best in Fest. Additionally, we secured the top honor of Best Single Barrel for our Christine Riggleman Reserve Bourbon.

In the Near Future: Batch 7 of our Christine Riggleman Reserve that just won Best in Fest at the 2024 New

Orleans Bourbon Festival is being released in May. It will be released in our tasting rooms, and usually sells out within the first hour or two. The second batch of our new Alpha Series Stout-Finished Bourbon came out at the end of April.

The Distant Future: In a decade, we envision our distillery as a renowned destination for spirit enthusiasts, offering an expanded range of products and experiences while maintaining our commitment to craftsmanship and sustainability.

Advice for Anyone Thinking About Starting a Distillery: Embrace your passion with resilience and creativity, forging ahead on your journey. Cultivate strong bonds within the industry and your community, fostering collaboration and growth. Pursue continuous improvement, always seeking ways to elevate your craft and offerings. And remember, keep plenty of coffee on hand to fuel your endeavors.

Learn more at

Member Spotlights
Christine Riggleman

Driftless Glen Distillery

Driftless Glen Distillery founders Brian and Reneé Bemis have been crafting awardwinning spirits in Baraboo, Wisconsin, since 2012. The distillery is driven by a commitment to 100% grain-to-glass production and inspired by the rugged beauty of the Driftless Area.

Distilled Down: We are located at the edge of the Driftless Area, a unique topographical part of the state that was missed by the last glaciation 15,000 years ago and that now has rugged hills, deep river valleys, rich prairies and abundant limestone. This local terroir offers not only prime conditions to grow grains, but also a natural sandstone aquifer, allowing us to get grain and water locally and produce our whiskey 100% grain-to-glass. We have never sourced any of our whiskey, and have put up over 9,000 barrels so far! We take pride in our 44-foot tall continuous column still along with our one-of-a-kind pot still. Nestled along the Baraboo River, we offer a full restaurant, bar and patio. The full Driftless Glen experience!

Vibe: We’ll paint a picture: it’s a sunny, Friday afternoon in July. The patio is full of guests enjoying cocktails and lunch. Birds and kayakers are visible on the river below. Out the front door, you see thousands of barrels in the rackhouse. A small group finishes their tour and begins tasting spirits in our retail space. In the back, production is in full swing, with grain dust floating on the breeze. Deliveries come and go for both the restaurant and distillery. We fill new barrels with fresh distillate and they get shuttled over to the rackhouse on forklifts. Life is good!

Playlist: It really depends on who is DJing! The restaurant is typically playing classic rock. Heavy metal mostly comes from the distillery. The back office always requests country. And the kitchen is usually Latin music.

Inspiration: We were lucky enough to have the help of some extraordinary experts to get us started: Dave Pickerell and Nicole Austin. We wouldn’t be where we are without them, and they played a huge role in making Driftless Glen what it is today.

Flagship Spirit: Our Small Batch Bourbon! These small batches consist of about 20

barrels, hand-selected by our distillers, and combined together. It’s bottled at 96 proof. Balanced and full-bodied, this small batch is non-chill filtered to preserve its subtle spice and notes of caramel and vanilla. It boasts nearly 15 different accolades, including a platinum medal from ASCOT in 2022, a gold medal from WOW in 2023, and being named a “Top 6 Bourbon Not From Kentucky” by Whisky Advocate in 2020.

Additional Notable Spirits: We offer nearly 20 different spirits; it’s a challenge to pick only a few! Our Bourbon de Naranja features our bourbon finished in orange-infused sherry barrels from Spain, adding notes of citrus and cinnamon to our bourbon’s classic caramel and vanilla. Our American Single Malt is five years old and is sweet and nutty on the nose with notes of chocolate and a silky, buttery finish.

Buzzworthy: Most recently, our Small Batch Bourbon was ranked No. 2 in Fred Minnick’s 5 Available Bourbons That Excite Me in 2024. We were also ranked in the Top 100 American Whiskeys for 2023 by Fred Minnick. And, back in the fall, we announced that our pinklabel bourbon campaign (#GoPinkWithDG) for breast cancer awareness, which had run in October for the past three years, had raised over $47,000 for local cancer research.

In the Near Future: We will have BourbonFinished Tequila in May; Cherry LiqueurFinished Bourbon later in the summer; Maple Syrup-Finished Bourbon in the fall; the return of our Port-Finished Bourbon before the end of the year; and more.

The Distant Future: Bigger, better and at least 10,000 barrels heavier! We will have older juice, new spirits, and who knows what else. We can’t wait to continue to evolve, grow and improve as time goes on.

Advice for Anyone Thinking About Starting a Distillery: You’ll always need more. Whether that’s more space, more people, more time, more ideas or more funding. And, you always need to think ahead—what you do now won’t be ready for years!

Learn more at

Freeland Spirits

Freeland Spirits was founded in Portland, Oregon, in 2017 by Jill Kuehler, who turned a love for food and agriculture into beautiful spirits. She was joined by master distiller, Molly Troupe, who has a background in chemistry and a Master’s degree in distilling from Heriot-Watt University. Kuehler says Freeland aims to foster inclusivity and empowerment throughout every aspect of their business.

Distilled Down: Since our establishment, Freeland continues to celebrate the hard work of powerful women at every stage of the business—from the women growing the botanicals, distilling the spirit and mixing cocktails in the Portland-based tasting room. Our team remains committed to honoring and supporting women and other traditionally marginalized people. A prime example of our work includes The Freeland Free Spirits program, which is a monthly rotating platform that aims to spotlight one female-identifying, transgender or gender-nonconforming hometown hero who is making a difference in their community. Each month the selected “Free Spirit” works with our team to develop a cocktail to be served onsite at the distillery. Proceeds of the cocktail support a nonprofit of the Free Spirit’s choice for an entire month. Thus far the program has raised funds for causes including Basic Rights Oregon, The Coalition of Communities of Color, the American Nurses Foundation Coronavirus Relief Fund and more.

Vibe: Creativity, celebration and partnership. In March, we re-released our seasonal Cherry Blossom Liqueur, a partnership with the Portland Japanese Garden, for the second consecutive year and it sold out in just one weekend! Harvesting the cherry blossoms from the highest hill of the Garden and adding complementing flavors like licorice root and cinnamon bark, the liqueur offers a well-rounded sip of spring, a celebration of the Pacific Northwest clouds finally parting! Freeland’s distillery and tasting room welcomes all and encourages all to learn on our distillery tours. It’s a safe space to celebrate for all!

Playlist: With a diverse staff comes diverse playlists, at any given day you may hear everything from Radiohead to Beyonce to Noah Kahan, and then back again.

Inspiration: Freeland is named after my Meemaw (that’s what they call grandma in Texas), who taught me that all good things come from scratch and that women can be anything they want to be. Even though she never touched a drop of booze in her life, she now has a distillery named after her. Growing up playing in her beautiful garden is where I really fell in love with food and agriculture. This love then led me to planting school gardens in Guatemala for two years before making a move to Oregon to run an educational farm.

Flagship Spirit: Crafted with passion and precision, our inaugural, blue-bottle gin has quickly become a favorite among discerning spirits enthusiasts. It’s a small batch crafted gin utilizing a unique blend of traditional heat distillation along with vacuum distillation, which allows use of fresh, local ingredients including rosemary, mint and crisp cucumber. With further flavors of citrus peel and spices like pink peppercorn, coriander and star anise, it is a complex, layered spirit with a strikingly smooth texture and rounded body.

Additional Notable Spirits: Finished in Pinot Noir barrels from Oregon’s Elk Cove Winery, Freeland Bourbon offers an element of Pacific Northwest terroir and tasting notes of soft caramel and baked berries layered with vanilla bean, cocoa and spice.

Freeland Forest Gin is especially unique because It gets its name and inspiration from Forest Park, one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves, just five blocks from our distillery. Ingredients, including chanterelle mushrooms, Douglas fir tips, salal berries and nettle are forest-foraged and gently distilled via rotovap in order to preserve their freshness. Its scents of new needles on trees and forest floors transport gin connoisseurs to the spirit’s place of origin while offering

consumers a taste of summer, year-round!

Buzzworthy: This past Women’s History Month, we launched a new, limited edition, Old Tom Style Gin aged in Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey barrels. To continue to inspire and encourage female entrepreneurship, $5 of each bottle sold is donated to Regarding Her, a national nonprofit dedicated to accelerating the growth of women entrepreneurs and leaders in food and beverage.

We launched distribution with Whole Foods in several states this year and we’re giddy to announce the summer opening of our tasting room and bottle shop in the Portland International Airport!

In the Near Future: Each summer is a rainbow takeover at Freeland. We are proud to host eight weeks of Pride events like our Drag Queen performances and bring back our colorful Pride flights.

The Distant Future: Ten years from now, we hope that Freeland has expanded worldwide. We hope that our new Portland International Airport tasting room is thriving and widening our audience and that our distillery and tasting room continue to tell the story of Freeland to all that visit. We hope that the landscape of distilleries looks different, and more women and people of color are entering the industry and taking on leadership roles.

Advice for Anyone Thinking About Starting a Distillery: Surround yourself with a community of support. Have industry colleagues you know and trust and can learn from but also look for inspiration outside of the industry. To survive, you can’t just repeat models from the past—the world is evolving too fast, and playbooks are obsolete as soon as they’re written. Be nimble, and don’t forget to have fun and celebrate the wins.


more at
Top right: Jill Kuehler (center) and Molly Troupe (right) of Freeland Spirits with Cory Carman of Carman Ranch

B.H. James Distillers

At Adairville, Kentucky-based B.H. James Distillers, founder Shawn McCormick’s vision intertwines locally sourced grains and a decade-long dream to craft great spirits that foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie in the town. Founded in 2022, the company produces Burton James Whiskey and James Lake Botanical Spirits.

Distilled Down: We are in Adairville, a very small town in Kentucky and one of the few businesses in our town. We’re using as much locally grown grain as possible, including rye and barley. We started doing “Slushie Saturdays” with cornhole tournaments and a food vendor every other Saturday and they’ve been a big success for us and the town. I’ve had several people tell me they’ve met and talked to neighbors they didn’t know. It is wonderful to become part of my family’s hometown and create something that helps build community. When I was planning the distillery, I was hoping it would provide a positive impact for Adairville and I’m grateful that it is.

Vibe: Super small and scrappy.

Playlist: The distillery team likes Americana. I like today’s hits. But we seem to be fine with whatever someone plays.

Inspiration: I went on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 2012 when there were only seven distilleries on the official trail; I went to 10 distilleries in four days. Each was very different from the other. While on the trail I decided I’d open a distillery. Ten years later to the week, we filled our first bottles of whiskey! During my 10-year planning period I learned a lot from ACSA and went to classes at KOVAL Distillery, MB Roland Distillery, Kentucky Artisan Distillery and New World Distillery. I also visited many, many distilleries and learned something valuable from each. The distilling industry is inspiring as everyone is passionate about what they do and very willing to help you as much as they can.

Flagship Spirit: Burton James Uniquely American Whiskey

Additional Notable Spirits: Kentucky Grit Whiskey and James Lake Botanical Spirits

Buzzworthy: Our very first barrel of sixmonth old Kentucky Grit Corn Whiskey won a gold medal at ACSA’s recent Judging of Craft Spirits. We won a total of 9 awards: four gold, three silver and two bronze. It was very overwhelming, exciting and rewarding to receive such accolades.

In the Near Future: We will be releasing our second single barrel whiskey in May and every other Saturday from now until October is Slushie Saturday, they are fun and a good time! Stop by!

The Distant Future: Hopefully, we won’t be as scrappy as we are now! Hopefully, we are a well-established part of our community where people come from near and far to relax and enjoy themselves. Hopefully, Employee No. 1 is still working at the distillery, and we are one of the top places to work in our area and can offer good benefits. Hopefully, there is someone doing the taxes that isn’t me!

Advice for Anyone Thinking About Starting a Distillery: I highly suggest you have a partner. I am doing it by myself and it is all encompassing, just be prepared for it. If you have other commitments beyond the distillery, it could be challenging.

Being scrappy can work, but it is a lot of work, so be prepared for it. If it’s your passion, you will make it work and you will be rewarded.

Make friends with your fellow local distillers, you will need their advice and assistance at some point. Return the favor for the next new distiller.

Learn, try, try it another way, then another way, and it will work out!

Pursue your passion!

Learn more at burtonjameswhiskey. com and

Tim McKinney, Geoff Sullivan and Shawn McCormick of B.H. James Distillers

New York Distilling Co.

The pulse of New York City’s craft distilling scene emanates from Brooklyn, where Allen Katz, Bill Potter, and Tom Potter founded New York Distilling Co. in 2011. Tom Potter shares details on the distillery’s recent move and highly anticipated release of Jaywalk Rye Whiskey.

Distilled Down: We love craft distilling. Everything about it: our community, our products, our history and where we’re headed. We’re proud to have been co-founders and dedicated supporters of the ACSA, the New York State Distillers Guild and the Empire Rye Whiskey Association.

Vibe: We’re all about New York City—noisy, curious, ambitious, respecting rules that matter and not afraid to ignore ones that don’t. Respect for people who do cool stuff, wherever they’re from and whatever they do.

Playlist: Everything from New York. Which means: everything. The Bushwick

neighborhood in Brooklyn where we’re located probably has as many bands, venues and studios per square block as any city in the world. It can be dizzying, in a good way.

Inspiration: Sean Harrison, Parker Beam and Jason Grizzanti were extremely generous with their time and advice when we were getting started, and we’ll always be grateful. We respect the legacy distilleries and even though we do things a little differently, we hope we’ll someday earn a place on that mantle.

Flagship Spirit: Jaywalk Rye Whiskey is growing fast and becoming our flagship. Dorothy Parker Gin has been our traditional bedrock.

Additional Notable Spirits: Mr. Katz Rock & Rye and Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin.

Buzzworthy: We moved our distillery! I don’t recommend it! Our 13-year lease finally ran out and we had no choice but to move. Fortunately, we found a fantastic location in

Bushwick just a mile and a half away. It’s twice as big and we love the buzzy energy.

In the Near Future: This year we introduce Jaywalk Rye, made with an heirloom variety that we began cultivating from 10 seeds in 2010. It’s been an amazing project and so gratifying to finally begin sales. We’ll have a series of trade and consumer events at the distillery to introduce it, and we’re looking forward to some fun stuff during New York’s Rye Week next October.

The Distant Future: Ten years from now, the distillery will look like it does now, but with a bit of aged patina and a cool new roof garden.

Advice for Anyone Thinking About Starting a Distillery: You’re not likely to get rich, but if you love doing it you won’t be sorry.

Learn more at

Tom Potter

Distilling Sunshine

Florida Craft Distilleries Define Local Flavor
Distilling Destinations

From coast to coast and the Panhandle to the Keys, Florida has a reputation of sunshine, adventure and escape. The Sunshine State’s growing number of craft distilleries have embraced those feelings to create products of distinction that offer a sense of place.

“We are just on the edge of being noticed by the rest of the industry,” says Steve Milligan, the president and founder of Loaded Cannon Distillery in Bradenton. “Florida has produced some excellent products in the rum, vodka and whiskey areas. The distilleries tend to be innovative in the products they produce.”

Part of the key to quality comes from the state’s agriculture. While some distilleries are trying to grow access to some crops, others are embracing what the state is nationally known for and leaning into those ingredients for flavor and to tell a story.

“It’s a bit surprising that Florida produces [about] 20% of the nation’s sugar, yet as a craft distiller it’s not very accessible to us,” says Brian Rabon, the founder of 30A Distilling Co. in Santa Rosa Beach. “We have been trying for years to get fresh pressed cane juice from Florida sugarcane and have yet to find a supplier. More refined sugars are available, and they are used in Rum production.”

But Rabon says he’s had an easier time sourcing Florida citrus for the distillery’s

limoncello and orange rum, and has been able to source locally grown grains from Murphy Farms in nearby Jennings, which grows a variety of crops including Jimmy Red Corn, 401 Black Rye, 2-Row Barley and Red Winter Wheat.

“I think Florida is in a unique position for craft distilleries,” says Jeff Palleschi, the president and CEO of 21st Amendment Distillery in Vero Beach. “The soil is conducive to grow almost all grains and sugarcane. We have a lot of open land available unlike many other states. The Florida legislature seems to be in favor of de-regulation. The Florida economy is better than most states. More and more Americans are moving to Florida. And regarding whiskey—the high temps can be quite extreme down here which helps mature—not age—our whiskey at a faster rate.”

With growing choice and the ability to cite local agriculture in each bottle, there are still inroads to be made with communicating what is happening within distilleries.

“The growth potential is huge,” says Milligan. “In our case, we still have people living within our area who don’t know we are here.” He is looking to the leadership of the Florida Craft Spirits Association to assist in local outreach and to grow the Florida Trail to increase awareness.

“Priority is locals, however we need to grow the tourist market as this is likely the biggest long term opportunity, but could take more

time to establish the correct levers to pull,” he says. “It is imperative that the message ‘buy local’ is repeated and emphasized at every opportunity. This truly matters to most. We need to establish that craft translates to local and quality and follow the lead that craft beer has taken.”

To that end, the distilleries interviewed for this article took great pains to detail the work they are doing with local groups, charities and to play into historical and economic angles to ingratiate themselves with neighbors.

“The distillery is a vehicle to improve Vero Beach, Florida and the U.S.,” says Palleschi “We want to bring folks together. We believe we have more in common than not. We are patriots and love this country. We especially support veterans and children with learning challenges. We do not say no to supporting worthwhile charities (that align with our values and beliefs) with in-kind donations.”

For Rabon, his distillery seeks to embody what he calls the 30A lifestyle, or the spirit of the Emerald Coast on the Panhandle where the water is emerald green and clear and the sand is sugar white and soft.

Of the millions who visit and fall in love with the area, Rabon, who also owns a local gym, wants his distillery to be the embodiment of the region and to have it to not only be a part of the community, but to grow with it. “We feel that ‘drink local’ is a very important message,” he says. “You can get Tito’s

Steve Milligan of Loaded Cannon Distilllery
“I think Florida is in a unique position for craft distilleries. The soil is conducive to grow almost all grains and sugarcane. We have a lot of open land available unlike many other states.”
—Jeff Palleschi of 21st Amendment Distillery

anywhere, but when you’re in the Florida Panhandle, drink something locally made with local ingredients, it adds to the experience.”

Anclote Distilling Co. in Tarpon Springs, is preparing to open its renovated distillery later this year or in early 2025 inside of a former military building that was later used as a tack and feed store, located alongside rail tracks that have been converted into a walking and biking trail.

“We plan to honor the history of our community and also that of the original Tack & Feed store within our facility,” says Stephen

Corrado. “There will be many aspects of our operation which will be intended to educate the visitor, from the history of our community to the local citrus and herb garden we intend to create on site.”

Florida is in a unique position to grow its craft spirits industry, and rather than focus on a transient nature of visitors, the attention to history and local are the paths to success that many owners see.

By using ingredients and flavors that suit tropical climates and creating cocktails best enjoyed while in bathing suits, meaningful

growth can come from an appreciation of the region’s geography.

“Enjoying, hands-on, locally produced products add to the quality of life, it’s good for the environment and good for the local economy,” says Corrado. “It is sustainable, transparent, wholesome and real. People enjoy it and want to support these efforts. We want our visitors to know and feel that they are helping to make a difference with their local support. Our existence, growth, and future success will depend on it.” ■


Seven Bridges Sour

Named for a hiking trail in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this cocktail from Axe and the Oak Distillery is inspired by the contrast between winter and summer, something that seemingly occurs regularly on the same day in Colorado.

Combining winter blood orange with summer blackberry, this cocktail refreshes whether the day is bracing or sweltering.


2 ounces Axe and the Oak Incline Rye infused with blackberries

1 ounce blood orange syrup

3/4 ounce lemon juice

1 egg white

8-10 Thai basil leaves


Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds. Add ice and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Double strain into a cocktail glass or a large coupe. Garnish with Angostura bitters and a dehydrated blood orange slice.

WHAT ’ s Stirring

High Rock Strawberry Lemonade

This cocktail from Gatlinburg, Tennessee-based Sugarlands Distilling Co. was tailor-made for summer sipping. It is best enjoyed lounging by the pool or savoring those relaxing summertime evenings with family and friends.


2 ounces High Rock Vodka Strawberry lemonade


Pour vodka into a glass over ice. Fill the remainder of the glass with strawberry lemonade and garnish with fresh strawberries and a lemon wheel.

Blackberry Sunset

The Blackberry Sunset delivers bold fruit flavor burst with a moonshine kick in every sip. This crowd-pleaser is consistently among the top-selling cocktails at Sugarlands Distilling Co. in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.


2 ounces Sugarlands Blockader’s Blackberry Moonshine

2 ounces pineapple juice

1 ounce orange juice

1 ounce club soda


Combine all ingredients in a glass over ice. Garnish with fresh blackberries, a pineapple slice and a dash of cayenne pepper.

Cackalacky Cooler

This cocktail from Bostic, North Carolina-based Blue Ridge Distilling Co. is an ode to the Tar Heel State, featuring the distillery’s Defiant Whisky and North Carolina favorite, Cheerwine.


2 ounces Defiant Patriot Whisky

1 tablespoon Heering Cherry Liqueur

Cheerwine soda


Pour Defiant Whisky into a lowball glass filled with ice. Fill to just below the rim with Cheerwine soda. Stir to mix. Pour the Heering Cherry Liqueur onto the back of a spoon over glass to float. Garnish with an Amarena cherry.

Spicy Sotol Margarita

A double twist on the classic margarita that will keep you coming back for more. This creation from Red River Brewery & Distillery in Red River, New Mexico, adds jalapeño peppers for a spicy kick and substitutes Sotol for the traditional Tequila yielding a cocktail that few people have yet tried.


2 ounces Red River Rio Grande Sotol

1 ounce agave nectar

1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

1/2 of a jalapeño pepper


Muddle the jalapeño pepper in the bottom of a shaker, add the other ingredients, then add ice and shake well. Strain into a lime salt-rimmed glass. Garnish with a lime and enjoy.

Lavender Fields

Welcome the summer weather with fresh fruit and herb flavors in this cocktail from Brother Justus Whiskey Co. in Minneapolis. This recipe yields 16 drinks and makes for a guaranteed crowd-pleaser for any summer gathering. The tart lemonade combines with the blueberry and lavender to make a smooth, thirst-quenching cocktail. Start by making the blueberry syrup, since it’s the most time-consuming part of the process.

Lavender Blueberry Syrup Ingredients

2 tablespoons dried lavender

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup blueberries

Lavender Blueberry Syrup Directions

Add dried lavender, sugar and water into a pot; stir and bring to a low simmer for five minutes. After the lavender has infused the syrup, strain the syrup into a bowl to remove and dispose of the lavender pods. Add the syrup back to the pot, then add blueberries and simmer for another five to seven minutes. Once the blueberries begin to burst and release color, remove the pot from heat and add its contents to a blender. Blend the syrup lightly for about 10 seconds, then strain the liquid into a bowl to remove any blueberry skins or seeds. Refrigerate the syrup once it has come to room temperature. The recipe makes approximately two cups of syrup, which will last about two weeks in the refrigerator.

Lavender Fields Ingredients

1 750-mL bottle of Brother Justus American Single Malt Whiskey

1 cup of Lavender Blueberry Syrup

2 cups fresh lemon juice

10 ice cubes

Lavender Fields Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large punch bowl or pitcher and stir well (the ice cubes will melt to dilute the cocktail to the appropriate amount). Use a ladle to serve into a Collins or rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge and a sprig of lavender and enjoy.


Spirits clubs help craft distilleries foster customer loyalty and expand market reach.

Inspired by the success of wineries, an increasing number of craft spirits producers are embracing the concept of spirits clubs, igniting enthusiasm among loyal patrons and enticing newcomers alike. While the details can vary widely between clubs, most of them have reciprocal relationships between the distilleries and their fans. Customers receive a steady pipeline of bottles—sometimes club-exclusive offerings or early access to limited releases—and the distilleries cultivate brand allegiance, glean invaluable insights into consumer preferences, and forge deeper connections with their audience.

“It’s the best thing that I’ve been involved with at Westward by far,” says Kelly Woodcock of Portland, Oregon-based Westward Whiskey, which started its whiskey club in 2019 and offers two membership options featuring bottle releases, discounts and other perks. “It’s changed the way I see our customers, the way we engage with customers—it’s just so much more personal. I know a lot of the club members and know about their lives and I know how they share Westward.”

Via a third-party partner, Westward can

“It’s changed the way I see our customers, the way we engage with customers—it’s just so much more personal.”

Whiskey’s Kelly Woodcock on the distillery’s whiskey club

now ship its club releases to 35 states. But Woodcock—who was recently elected as the president of the American Craft Spirits Association’s board of directors—says that shipping nationally wasn’t the distillery’s intention from the start. It started as a pickup-only club and expanded to shipping within the state of Oregon early in the pandemic.

As the chair of ACSA’s market access

Sales & Marketing
Westward Whiskey Vintner’s Cuvée is the distillery’s latest whiskey club release.

committee, Woodcock is also keenly aware that direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping of spirits has a long way to go to catch up to DtC interstate shipping of wine, which is a $4 billion market with more than 15 years’ history and a much more expansive map of where shipping is permitted, according to the 2023 Direct-to-Consumer Spirits Shipping Report from Sovos and ACSA. Woodcock recommends starting with the pick-up model at a slow pace.

“When you start with what you can manage or what your state does allow, you get an opportunity to invite in the people that already want to be more of a part of your brand,” says Woodcock. “And you’re also set up to take advantage of when [shipping] regulations change so that you’re the first person in your area to capitalize on those changes.”

Hannah Lowen, the CEO of Newport, Kentucky-based New Riff Distilling, offers similar words of wisdom. “Listen to your customers and make it simple,” shares Lowen. “It’s so easy to build something with a whole host of bells and whistles, but we’ve found the most success when we’re uncomplicated and direct.”

Lowen says New Riff started its whiskey club in 2019 with the hopes of providing a

more convenient and fair way to share limited releases as opposed to forcing customers to stand in long lines at retail stores. Membership to the pick-up-only club is free and grants members early access to purchase seasonal releases twice a year. In 2023, that included two eight-year-old whiskeys.

“The [club] has become a place for us to release our nerdier, older and elevated offerings,” says Lowen. “The quantities of these whiskeys are often so limited, we can’t even come close to satiating our distribution. Since we’re selling bottles directly to customers, we can ensure that our pricing remains fair, reasonable and in line with the rest of our portfolio, even on the rarest releases.”

Reasonable pricing can be a challenge for clubs that offer DtC shipping—even if the release isn’t limited. It can cost upwards of $20 just to ship a bottle of vodka, for example. Shipping is just one of the issues that Gig Harbor, Washington-based Heritage Distilling Co. vets when evaluating third-party platforms to facilitate shipping for its spirits club, which can now ship to 46 states.

“They have to show us that they are going to do this in a three-tier-compliant fashion,” says Heritage co-founder and CEO Justin Stiefel. “The last thing we can afford to do is gear up, do all the things to support this endeavor, and then we get a phone call one day saying, ‘Oh, we got shut down.’ It’s got to be a legitimate operation. They have to have the right licensing in place, number one.”

Heritage—which since 2012 has also been running a cask club in which members can create their own spirits—started its spirits club in 2015 on the heels of Washington changing a law to allow DtC shipping of spirits. Stiefel says one of the biggest benefits of the club for Heritage is collecting data that can guide distribution strategies.

“We get a lot of repeat requests for products that people receive and they like,” says Stiefel. “And then we take that data and we take the other data from our tasting rooms and we take the best performing products to our distributors and wholesalers and say, ‘These are performing the best. Here are the demographics of the consumers, here’s why and how. We think this product will do well in wholesale and therefore we should attempt to put this product in wholesale.’”

For distilleries interested in starting a spirits club, Stiefel suggests signing up for local wine clubs and going through the customer experience. “Then create the customer journey you want your customer to travel down,” says Stiefel. He believes that a club should

be about more than just the product. Careful attention should be paid to everything from the packaging that the bottle arrives in to the communication leading up to delivery. At Heritage’s tasting rooms, all club members also receive a 20% discount on spirits and merchandise.

“So what happens? We become the place that people bring their families and guests to because they’re going to get a great cocktail at an amazing price and they’re proud of it,” says Stiefel. “They bring more people in. They become your brand ambassador.”

All because they joined the club. ■

Heritage Distilling Co. runs spirits clubs and a cask club.


The latest point-of-sale systems free up craft distilleries to maximize sales in their tasting rooms and beyond.

Nestled in the mountains of northern New Mexico, Red River Brewing Co. & Distillery is a bit out of the way—and that’s precisely what its thousands of annual visitors like about it. But the scenic location also can create a challenge when it comes to doing business.

“For us, up here in the mountains, we have less than completely reliable internet service,” says owner Michael Calhoun. “We have weather events, and sometimes it feels a little bit like a [developing nation] here in northern New Mexico.”

It can be a big problem for this thriving distillery and brewery. A sudden drop in internet service can knock its point-of-sale (POS) system offline, and that could mean losing out on a lot of money.

After looking around for a solution to the problem, the company found one in a POS system from Arryved and its “offline” mode, which allows the system to store the transactions and then upload them once the internet service is back up.

“Arryved has a superior offline mode, so

when the internet drops out from under us for whatever reason, we put the system in offline mode and we just keep doing business,” explains Calhoun.

To the uninitiated, working with a POS system may seem like a pretty straightforward matter. But as many distilleries can attest, there’s actually a lot more to it.

There are very specific needs many craft distilleries have when it comes to POS that make any old system not often the best fit.

Technology & E - commerce

What to Look for in a POS

For craft distilleries, the best systems understand the variety of customer experiences that occur in their tasting rooms. And they also understand that quite often the tasting room experience overflows either across multiple locations in the distillery, or beyond the distillery entirely. So, the ability of POS to be portable and travel with them to outside events or locations is one thing distillers seek out as they are always looking for new markets to sell their bottles.

But mostly, distillers appreciate a system that understands the intricacies of their business. For example, Jay Kosek, director of brand operations with Manatawny Still Works in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, says after researching different systems, he also chose Arryved, in part because of its easy-handling of open tabs and complicated checks. “The ability to break out part of the check and take whatever kind of payment we want for it and then leave the rest open and keep adding to it was just something

that was very complicated to do [in our previous POS system],” Kosek says.

At Rock Town Distillery in Little Rock, Arkansas, Phil Brandon highlights the importance of the POS system from Toast. He appreciates how it manages open tabs, particularly that it allows customers to have their credit cards swiped and returned to them immediately, rather than being held until the tab is closed. “People nowadays are a little uncomfortable about having to leave their credit card with somebody,” Brandon points out.

Loren Bendele, president of Arryved, says his system also excels at handling spirits flights. “It’s difficult to do that on other POS systems,” he says, “but Arryved was made for that.”

Part of the reason is Arryved was developed by and is staffed by people with craft beverage backgrounds, something the craft distillers who use it say makes a big difference in its design, ease of use and customer service. They are familiar with the challenges

To the uninitiated, working with a pointof-sale system may seem like a pretty straightforward matter. But as many distilleries can attest, there’s actually a lot more to it.

craft distillers face on a day-to-day basis. Especially when it comes to customer service. “Our previous provider used to put out email blasts like ‘Oops! Sorry folks! We completely didn’t work at all yesterday!,’” Kosek says.

Another consideration important to distillers is the equipment. Most systems will consist of a tablet and credit card reader, a printer and for table service either the POS company’s proprietary handhelds or traditional cell phones running the system’s software. Some POS companies require customers to use their proprietary equipment. This can have both advantages and disadvantages. Some find such equipment can hold up better to the rigors of busy hospitality settings. But this equipment can also be costly for a small craft distillery.

Other providers allow distilleries to use equipment they often already own such as tablets and cell phones. This can be more costeffective, and also convenient in that the same devices can be used to manage other things like music in the tasting rooms or lighting.

At Red River, Calhoun says his team of servers use Android devices with card readers velcroed to the back of them. As Red River is an expansive space, it has some 25 of these devices, about one for each server to use.

“When they show up for their shift, they sign out a device and that’s their device for the entire shift and then it goes back on a battery charger when they’re done,” he says.

Another important matter to consider is the pricing structure, which can include a flat fee and a small percentage of each transaction. Such fees can sometimes be negotiated depending on the specific POS company. Additionally, there can be a monthly subscription fee to use the POS platform.

Ease of use is also a big plus, especially in this time when labor is hard to come by.

Arryved was developed by and is staffed by people with craft beverage backgrounds.

Bendele, Arryved’s president, says customers appreciate the ability to be up and running with the system pretty quickly, often in just several minutes. “People can take orders and just look at it and can tell what it’s supposed to do,” he says. “It doesn’t require a lot of training. It’s intuitive and easy to use.”

And then there’s the reporting that these systems offer. Many offer reporting suites that allow distillery managers to monitor sales in granular detail. “We can measure if one particular cocktail has been a hit,” says Chris Anderson-Tarver, director of operations at Denver Distillery, who has been an Arryved customer since 2019. “We keep track of that pretty diligently.”

Adds Brandon about the Toast system: “There’s tons of reporting. I get a daily report of last night’s sales, and a weekly report summarizing the sales. And that reporting’s pretty flexible and dynamic where you can drive into the details of what was sold when and all that good stuff.”

And finally, of course, many craft distilleries also offer tours and have gift shops along with their tasting rooms. POS provider, Revel Systems, says one of the things its system excels at is keeping track of retail along with tasting rooms from one system, another convenience that some distillers may appreciate.

“One of the reasons our product does so well is we’re good in restaurants and we also do specialty retail as part of our product’s offering in the same product as the restaurant product,” says Chris Lybeer, chief strategy and marketing officer for Revel. “In our system, you can set it up so that the terminal that’s in the gift shop is a retail terminal.

Often, you’d have to buy two products to cover all those bases.” He adds that the solution also separates those different parts of the business out on the backend when it comes to the sales reports.

Freeing Up the POS

One of the things these distillers like about today’s POS systems is the freedom they provide. “At Peach Street, we have an inside tasting room, an outdoor rickhouse for seating, two separate patios, a food truck,” says Dustin LeMoine, director of sales for Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, Colorado. “And all those places have guests coming and going. They might encounter one server in one area and then place an order at a bar on the other side

of the venue.” For Peach Street, it’s important that they can smoothly continue the guest’s tab throughout the visit.

At Red River, customers can also scan QR codes with their own phones to order drinks at the venue’s outdoor spaces, such as their balcony or fire pits, which are then brought out to them. The server knows where they are based on the code. Having customers order their own drinks in these other areas on the sprawling property cuts down on excess labor costs.

And quite often craft distilleries are looking to expand their retail sales outside their tasting rooms, to places like farmer’s markets or festivals. The latest POS systems enable that flexibility.

“We have a secondary point-of-sale system, essentially another tablet that we take and do farmer’s markets and offsite sales at festivals and events,” says Anderson-Tarver. “And sometimes, we might be up in the mountains which is really not that great at cell service.”

The ability to store those sales offline using the Arryved system is a huge benefit in such a situation. “We can swipe someone’s credit card and store that information temporarily until we get back into better service and then it will batch all of the payments at once,” he says.

And Bendele says Arryved will build in additional capabilities later this year that will help customers structure how they want their staff to talk to guests, including prompts for special promotions or reminders to ask if they want a bottle to go.

So new features continue to roll out for these POS systems as the providers continue to tailor their platforms to the needs of the growing craft distilling industry. ■

Revel Systems prides itself on integrating retail shops and tasting rooms.
The remote Red River Brewing Co. & Distillery benefits from Arryved’s “offline” mode.


Stills are continuing to move forward, while also drawing inspiration from the past.

As craft distillers continue to look for ways to differentiate their products, many are taking another look at their stills. While some are breathing new life into stills that fell out of mainstream use years ago, others, with the help of manufacturers, are adapting new stills to the needs of today’s craft spirits market.

One example is occurring in the town of Bastrop, Texas, near Austin, where Stephen Todee, owner of Copper Shot Distillery, has been using for a little over a year a small-footprint automated continuous still designed by StillDragon North America that he says has boosted his production, freed up more of his time (something essential given that he is mostly a one-man show when it comes to production), and also saved on energy and resources.

Otherwise, manufacturers report that more midsize to larger craft distillers continue to adopt automated continuous stills, while some others are having fun with tour-worthy creative designs for traditional pot stills.

“For us right now, it’s kind of 50/50 with continuous stills with midsize distilleries that are wanting to put away product, wanting to make whiskeys and bourbons and single malts, and then your other side you have the big pot stills for the tourist market that are making a little bit of everything,” says Rob Sherman, president of Vendome Copper & Brass Works. “And most of those companies that have bought pot stills originally have come back and bought continuous stills because along with their tourist market they’re putting away bourbons and whiskeys on the side and letting them age.”

Sherman says he also is seeing a lot of people applying controls and technology in interesting ways. “I think that’s really going to make a big difference on final product in the next five years,” he says. “These new control systems are very dialed in. We’ve got customers that are controlling flavors and character by controlling bottom loss or by controlling their reflux and they’re tracking it all with computers on spreadsheets.”

Distilling Operations
Prospero Equipment Corp.’s Supreme still

And then there is the trend of what’s old becoming new again. “The chamber stills and things of that nature have got a lot of buzz behind them,” says Jeff Rasmussen of StillDragon. “So, I think we’re going to see more people doing research and trying to find equipment that fell out of favor. And I hope we get to help them design and implement it.”

Taking a Shot at Copper Shot

“I’m kind of unique, the locals call me the Willy Wonka of spirits,” laughs Copper Shot’s owner, Todee. “I have a real interesting set-up.”

For the past year or so, Todee has been the proud owner of an automated continuous still that sits on an 8 by 10 foot patch of his production space, churning out as much as 40 gallons of product a day.

Designed by StillDragon, it consists of a 4-inch by 12-foot high stripping column and a 6-inch by 8-foot high spirits column, and came out of conversations Todee had with them about his needs. “I was able to set this thing up in the footprint that my hundred gallon still is in,” he says. “With that still, at the end of the day I am anywhere from 10 to 13 gallons of finished product. With this still, I’m pushing it upwards of 30 to 40 gallons a day. I don’t have the space for a thousand-gallon still that I would like to have so we came up with this idea. For all these distilleries that are starting up that are small or have restraints like I have with being downtown, it’s great just because of its footprint.”

“This still is capable of making all of my 11 products,” Tobee adds, “everything but tequila, but if I did that then I’d have to do a lot of cleaning every time. And the bulk of everything I do is my bourbon, so that’s what it was for. It’s large enough that it will give me enough bourbon in a week to fill a barrel.”

Incorporating a shrunken down continuous still took a little trial and error, he says. “We’ve gone through a lot of configuration changes. Basically, this was kind of a test model, trying to figure out what would work best, and how many plates and collection points and cooling, and you name it. So, this one looks completely different than the ones they’re selling now because it went through a lot of modifications.”

The new still also brings enormous advantages when it comes to the labor required, given that Todee basically handles most of the production himself. “The other thing beautiful about this setup,” he says, “is when you’re running a standard batch still, if you have a problem and you have to shut it off, that batch is ruined, you basically lost all your mash. With this still, if I have something come up and I need to leave for the day, I just shut it off, walk away, and then come back the next day and fire it right back up and pick up where I left off. It’s really nice.”

Also, a big help is that he can keep an eye on it via his phone. “I can go up front and be at the tasting bar talking to customers and in real-time just look in on the still’s control panel and see where it’s at and go ‘OK, yeah, we’re still running good,’” he says. “It can even be set up where there’s notifications that if something’s off, it’ll contact me. It’ll let me know, ‘Hey, we’re out of steam water,’ it gives me warnings.”

Efficiencies are improved as well. “My margins are better because I’m able to get a complete yield,” Todee says. “In a batch still you can’t get all the alcohol out. There’s going to be some left in the mash. With this operation, I’m stripping all of my alcohol out. And it really helps yield more out of each batch. And that is just absolutely wonderful. I’m needing to make product and I need to get all I can get,” he says with a laugh.

The idea arose from conversations he had with StillDragon. “I was telling them my conundrum, that I’d really like to be able to fill a barrel a week,” he says. “And they’re like, ‘Well we’ve been playing with this idea of a continuous-run still, are you up for the challenge?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, if it’s going to give me what I need in a week.’ Now I can drop a barrel on the ground every week and

“These new control systems are very dialed in. We’ve got customers that are controlling flavors and character by controlling bottom loss or by controlling their reflux and they’re tracking it all with computers on spreadsheets.”
—Rob Sherman of Vendome Copper & Brass Works

that was my big goal. I went from 15 gallon barrels to 30 gallon barrels to where I’m now at 53 gallon barrels and so trying to fill those 53s was pretty tough,” he says.

76 | MAY/JUNE 2024
Specific Mechanical Systems Ltd. recently built a portable pot still for Casey Jones Distillery.

Other Innovations

For midsize to larger distillers, Prospero Equipment Corp. of Pleasantville, New York and Barison Industry of Trento, Italy, have come out with what they call their “Supreme” model still, which they say combines the consistency and efficiency of continuous distillation with the flexibility and craftmanship of pot distillation.

A big plus of the system is its efficiency because steam is only required in the stripping column. “You heat steam one time and it goes through both columns, or if you’re making vodka, it has three columns,” explains Prospero’s East Coast representative Matt DiDonato. “You’re not reheating at multiple stages.” The result is a system that is three times more energy efficient than pot distillation and nearly twice as efficient as the conventional beer still with pot or doubler distillation.

Also, the companies say unlike other continuous columns, this system allows for the ability to extract ethyl carbamate with the tails fraction ensuring a safe and compliant product.

“The industry’s just advancing more towards a fully automated system that has the pot distillation in mind,” says DiDonato. “We wanted to get out in front of it and be one of the first in the industry to develop something like this. That’s where a lot of these manufacturers are heading.”

Adds Chad MacIsaac, sales and marketing manager for Specific Mechanical Systems Ltd., “many of our customers who started with a small pot still in the 250 to 500-gallon size are now either looking at 1,000 to 3,000-gallon pot stills to perform stripping runs or getting into column stills to handle the bulk of the production while using the original pot still for small batch runs.”

He adds, “The big differentiator for us is our ability and willingness to work with a customer to create something unique, whether it’s a custom-designed pot still or an integrated system built to fit into a unique building.”

Amongst Specific Mechanical’s more interesting recent jobs, however, was something with a touch of whimsy perfect for all those craft distillery tours.

“We built a pot still for Casey Jones Distillery in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, that replicated an old pot still that fit into the back of a pick-up truck. Designed to be picked up and moved in the event a distillation needed to be abruptly ended,” he says. “We love it when customers ask us to build a uniquely designed pot still. A design with a touch of local history tells a story unlike anything else and can often be a nice marketing piece for a distillery.” ■

“I don’t have the space for a thousand-gallon still that I would like to have so we came up with this idea. For all these distilleries that are starting up that are small or have restraints like I have with being downtown, it’s great just because of its footprint.”
— Stephen Todee of Copper Shot Distillery


Tips for working with wastewater treatment facilities to ensure environmental compliance

The American distilling industry continues thriving in the United States. As additional distilleries become operational, the requirements to adhere to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discharge guidelines associated with wastewater are becoming increasingly more of an issue for both distilleries and local treatment plants. Here is an attempt to educate the distillery workforce on how to speak with your local wastewater management team and to ensure compliance with discharge standards.

Most wastewater treatment facilities have no exposure to the type and strength of waste coming from a distillery. It’s incumbent upon the distillery to provide the treatment plant with the correct data and format so the treatment plant can assess the impact to its operation and how to work with the distillery.

Why does it matter to the local treatment plant?

Each licensed treatment plant has a rated capacity for each contaminant like chemical oxygen demand (COD), biological oxygen demand (BOD), nitrates, phosphates, suspended solids, etc. A single distillery can quickly overload a small water treatment plant in a matter of days. For simplification purposes, this article will only address COD. The concepts and math formulas translate to all contaminants.

COD is a byproduct of the cook/ fermentation process. Scientifically speaking, COD is a direct measurement of the amount of oxygen required to break down the organic matter within the stillage. Higher COD levels equate to higher dissolved oxygen levels necessary to oxidize the COD. The absence

of high concentrations of dissolved oxygen translates into longer holding times required to oxidize the COD. The local treatment plant can only process so many pounds of COD per day. The increased COD load on a wastewater plant means the plant must increase the amount of dissolved oxygen or increase retention time, or both. Neither of these options is usually readily available to a treatment plant.

Why is distillery waste different from other sources?

Distillery stillage has a very high concentration of COD compared to a typical household or small business. A typical house of four people will produce less than one pound of COD per day. A distillery discharging 1,000 gallons per day of stillage

Facility Operations

is equivalent of 750 pounds of COD, or the same as 1,153 homes. The high concentration of COD thus imparts a burden to most treatment plants who do not have the excess capacity to process.

How to provide the information a treatment plant requires

There are two numbers the treatment plant cares most about: concentration in milligrams per liter (mg/l) and total pounds. Concentration is the instantaneous measurement in any given volume of discharge. i.e., it’s a grab sample. This is the number a lab will generate from a sample sent in for analysis. Total pounds is a calculated number. Multiply concentration by the total volume of stillage. It should be noted that dilution has no effect on total pounds.

If you dilute the concentration by mixing it with fresh water, concentration is reduced but the volume increases so the total pounds discharged remains constant. This is why the treatment plant will want to know both the concentration as well as the total pounds the distillery will be sending to the plant.

Here is an example of a total pounds calculation:

COD 90,000 milligrams per liter (concentration) x gallons of discharge (1,000 gallons)

90,000 milligrams per liter x (1,000 gallons / 120,000 (conversion factor)) = 750 pounds

How do you mitigate the COD?

There are primarily five methods to mitigate the impact a distillery has on the treatment plant.

1. Reduce the volume of stillage being

discharged to the city.

2. Optimization of the cook/fermentation process. There is a direct correlation between optimized cook/fermentation and the concentration of COD in the stillage. Soluble Organic Solutions (SOS)—an Iowa-based company of which I am the founder and CEO—evaluates stillage by conducting a high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and COD test. The data will highlight opportunities to improve cook/ fermentation which will significantly lower the concentration of COD in the stillage and increase overall proof gallon yield. This work is done in combination with Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits. SOS and Lallemand will jointly review the data and Lallemand will make recommendations for the cook/ fermentation process while SOS evaluates the COD and provides improved methods of how to handle the discharge.

3. Remove the grain solids from the stillage prior to discharge. This generally reduces the COD level by 15%. Most treatment plants have limits on the amount of total solids that can be discharged as well. It’s strongly recommended to ask the treatment plant for a written copy of the limits before sending any data.

4. Since concentration is a fixed rate, holding the stillage in a tank and slowing the rate of discharge to the city while mixing in fresh water or other waste waters with no or low COD can help reduce the concentration peaks. This will not reduce the total pounds. Treatment plants are better able to handle lower concentrations over extended periods versus being slammed with large concentrations in a short window.

5. Install a holding system where large amounts of dissolved oxygen can be injected into the stillage. The lower the starting COD (due to optimized cook/fermentation) the smaller the holding tanks and less dissolved oxygen required to oxidize the COD.

Understanding the makeup of your stillage is critical to reducing the COD concentration. There is a direct correlation between reduced COD and increased yield.

Lower COD equals lower impact on the environment (more efficient distillery).

The future for craft spirits production is bright for American distillers, and being in compliance with state and local environmental laws ensures a distillery is a popular local attraction, economic partner and environmental safeguard. ■

Mike LoCascio is the founder and CEO of Clear Lake, Iowa-based Soluble Organic Solutions. He has a vast knowledge of the water treatment industry with nearly 30 years in the field. If you would like help writing a letter to your local treatment plant or you want to evaluate the potential for increasing efficiencies through cook/fermentation, contact Mike at 641-231-5222 or mblocascio@

Raw vinasse (far left) compared to samples that have been treated with chemicals and enzymes Chemically treated thin stillage


Shedding light on distillery valuations

There’s a common question in the world of craft spirits: What’s my distillery worth?

The question can also be applied to a spirits business or brand if you don’t own a DSP, and it’s common at least in part because it’s such a difficult question to answer. But we’ll attempt herein to outline some methods by which you can think about how to estimate such a value for your business. Note that this summary is based on more than 100 mergers and acquisitions and capital raise transactions that the Arlington Capital Advisors team has closed for beverage businesses around the world, as well as many additional valuations performed for our clients.

Valuation Purpose

An important first question is for what purpose are you seeking a valuation? This question may seem strange at first because isn’t the value of your business just the value of your business? The answer is both yes and no. Your objective for seeking to estimate the value of your business may impact said valuation as different purposes may lead to different methodologies and, thus, different results.

There are two primary reasons for seeking to obtain a valuation for a distillery or spirits business (or brand):

1. To estimate the value of the business to a willing buyer in the market.

2. To estimate the value of the business for internal or more “formal” purposes (e.g., estate planning, buy/sell agreements, divorce of an owner, etc.)

Market Valuation

The first reason, the value of the business to a buyer on the open market (assuming a willing seller and a willing buyer), is perhaps the simplest of the two but also the least predictable. The reason for this unpredictability is that the value of the same business

can be significantly different for different buyers based on that buyer’s wants, needs and resources.

The short answer—“your business is worth what someone will pay for it”—is cliche but also true. A distillery/brand could be worth $100 million to one buyer based on that buyer’s synergies (both cost savings synergies and revenue acceleration potential through the buyer’s enhanced resources in sales, marketing and distribution) and their strategic need for the business. That same distillery may be worth $50 million to another buyer and $0 to a third buyer based on lack of synergies or strategic fit.

The only true way to get an accurate market valuation is to actually market the business for sale, but that is a time-consuming process. In lieu of that, it’s possible to estimate the value of a distillery on the open market (without actually selling it) based on other investments in or acquisitions of similar businesses (called comparable transactions or comps in financial industry parlance) that have taken place in the past. (Note that much of this information isn’t publicly available but an experienced advisor that has worked on beverage transactions will have more information than you can find in public filings and press releases.) By compiling and analyzing these comps, you can use them to draw inferences of what your business might be worth if it were for sale.

You have to keep in mind, however, that no two distilleries are exactly alike and that differences in any of the following areas can make such comparisons challenging: amount and quality of production capacity; volume and revenue growth rates (both historical and projected); profitability and margin profile (possibly both current and future potential); management team strength; amount of aged/aging inventory; value of real estate (if owned by the business); and quality and

defensibility of intellectual property (trademarks, logos, etc.).

Material differences from the comparable distillery in one or more of these categories can necessitate adjustments to the estimated value.

Another important consideration is not only the companies being compared but the time period when the transaction occurred. The sale of a distillery years ago (or even months ago in a rapidly changing acquisition/ investment market) may render historical comparisons fairly irrelevant so you have to be careful when comparing time periods as well as businesses.

Internal Valuation

The second method, estimating the value of the distillery for internal or formal purposes, involves making certain assumptions about the business and then performing one or more analyses using those assumptions.

This type of valuation is generally performed by an accounting firm, an investment bank or a financial consultant and often includes one or more of the following methods: Discounted cash flow: An exercise whereby the future cash flows of the distillery are forecasted for a certain period of time and then the value of those cash flows today is estimated at today’s dollars based on a discount rate. Note that this type of analysis requires many different assumptions (business growth rate, business profitability, cost of capital for the discount rate, etc.) and the valuation estimate that results from this can change significantly with even small changes to the assumptions.

Asset value: An estimate of the value of the assets of the business (equipment, real estate, inventory, etc.) generally either at the lesser of original cost or at current market value. Note that this method tends to be very conservative, particularly for distilleries which

Business Sense
The short answer—“your business is worth what someone will pay for it”—is cliche but also true.

may have a lot of value tied up in goodwill (i.e., the value of the brand itself which is often not reflected on the balance sheet) or which have a significant amount of aging inventory which is more valuable than its book value on the balance sheet.

Comparable companies: This method examines publicly-traded companies in the same industry to see what their relative valuations on the stock market imply for what the subject business may be worth. This method can be less useful for smaller businesses when comparing them to publicly-traded companies which are generally larger and perhaps more diversified and less risky.

Comparable transactions: This is the method previously discussed in the market value section.

Often in the final formal valuation report, one or more of these methods are weighted and then taken as an average to derive a final estimate of value (or value range).


In conclusion, there are several logical and defensible ways that you can estimate the value of your business, so long as your analysis is wellreasoned, fair and credible. It’s also never a bad idea to speak with an expert in the field if you find yourself asking this fundamental question or needing to perform this exercise. ■

Disclaimer: Please note that the information in this column represents the author’s own opinions and it should not be regarded as personalized investment advice or recommendations

provided by Arlington Capital Advisors or its affiliate, Arlington Capital Services, Member FINRA/SIPC.

Ryan Lake is a managing director at Arlington Capital Advisors, a boutique investment banking firm focused exclusively on advising consumer businesses. He has over 20 years of investment banking and commercial banking experience.

THERE IS STRENGTH IN MEMBERS The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) is the only national association of craft distillers created and governed by craft distillers. We Are Craft! Our mission is to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers. WHY JOIN?
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