“We should not look outside of ‘us’ to regulate these things, and I think we need to recognize that if we’re interested in a long term relationship with our customers, there’s an implied trust.” — Jake Norris, Laws Whiskey House
f all the current conversations in the craft distilling world,
regulate these things, and I think we need to recognize that if
the most pivotal seems to be: What exactly is “craft?”
we’re interested in a long term relationship with our customers,
Many feel an urgency to define the word before some other organization does, and before consumers lose their trust in this relatively new wave of spirits. Open discussions to receive input on the definition of craft are happening across the US, with three of the largest hosted
there’s an implied trust.” While many are in agreement about the need to define craft, there is very little agreement about how to define it. Ask any distiller or consumer what craft means and you will get a different answer every time.
at conferences for the American Craft Distillers Association
“Craft distilling to us is really a state of mind,” said Frank
(ACDA), the American Distilling Institute (ADI), and the World
Coleman, Senior Vice President of the Distilled Spirits Council
Whiskies Conference (WWC).
of the United States (DISCUS), a trade organization for all
The current situation, with no legal definition and ambiguous
American distillers, large and small. “It’s about a love of
consensus, allows for misleading advertising by brands that
products, it’s about a commitment to quality. I don’t know that
many believe should not be able to call themselves craft and
you can define that.”
the subsequent loss of trust from consumers who paid more for a “craft” brand that was not what it claimed to be. “Some of them are adopting what we do for marketing purposes only,” explains Ralph Erenzo of Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner, NY. “They’re not actually imparting the same standards and levels of operation or mindset to the production that many of the small producers are doing, but they’re doing it to ride the coattails of that word, ‘craft.’” Truth in labeling will need to be enforced to prevent this, and
“It’s about a love of products, it’s about a commitment to quality. I don’t know that you can define that.” — Frank Coleman, Senior Vice President of DISCUS
Ryan Burchett of Mississippi River Distilling Co. in Le Claire, IA says that should be the first priority. “If there’s a problem in the way that the government looks at how we label things, then let’s fix that,” he suggests.
“Craft is a lot of things to a lot of people,” explains Casey
But first, what exactly is craft distilling? Many propose that
McGowan of Trailhead Spirits in Billings, MT. “To me it’s using
establishing rules to define craft distilling will help to keep
your hands, making something, creating something from start
consumer trust so that they will continue buying craft brands,
to finish. Craft is anything that you’re doing that’s your own.”
and eliminate the confusion that distributors, retailers and consumers alike are currently facing.
Many people agree that the mindset and involvement of the distiller should have something to do with the definition of craft.
“We need to regulate ourselves,” says Jake Norris of Laws
The difficult part of defining craft in this way is that it is a
Whiskey House in Denver. “We should not look outside of ‘us’ to
concept, explains Tom Potter of New York Distilling Company.