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Brand Design for the Spirits, Wine and Beer Industries.

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of Santa Fe, New Mexico



American Craft Spirits Association



Jan’s Corner


A word from John McKee


The battle at Balcones and his advice to distillers seeking capital




An introduction




Dames of Distillation



Bill Thomas, Whiskey Collector

THE BARREL TRIANGLE29 Flavor, Oak, and Time



Prohibition era legislation in the digital age

THE CRAFT WARS37 A wave of litigation is sweeping the distilling industry, is more to come?


A look at the practice, benefits, and the necessity of truth in labeling





Big state, big spirits

RUM 102

A look inside distillery construction

A CLOSER LOOK AT YEAST STRAINS52 For distilled spirits production


5 principles governing the “get something nice” goal


Wood chips, infusion spirals, and honeycombs


Can a celebrity endorsement or partnership be worth it?


Part Two


in Bardstown, Kentucky



with Total Wine & More




Starting with the end goal in mind




The craft distilling industry’s second critical stage




Experimental Smoked Malts and Whiskeys by Darek Bell


of Clermont, NY

from the COVER



Build it yourself


Osocalis Distillery in Soquel, California. Image by Amanda Joy Christensen. See their story on page 66.



Issue 9 /// Winter 2014 Publisher & Editor Creative Director Contributors

• Minimums starting at just 50,000 bottles


• Up to 90 days warehousing


Your Vision, Our Process In addition to our variety of stock containers, we now offer custom bottle design through our Vision Program.

• Just $500 to get started

Brian Christensen


Amanda Joy Christensen Luis Ayala Maggie Campbell Chad Chriestenson Amber G. Christensen-Smith Ralph Erenzo Jason Lippa Chris Lozier Neal MacDonald Ryan Malkin John McKee Susan Mooney Jan Morris Jeanne Runkle Steven Seim Tiffany Patterson Amanda Joy Christensen David Hawkins Victoria Johansson Photography Devon MacLeod John McKee Chris Moyer Veronica Sequeira Jess Williams

Sales & Marketing

Available exclusively through

Ashley Monroe

ARTISAN SPIRIT is the endorsed publication of the American Craft Spirits Association. ARTISAN SPIRIT is a quarterly publication by Artisan Spirit Media. www.artisanspiritmag.com facebook.com/ArtisanSpiritMagazine


General Inquiries (509) 944-5919 Advertising (509) 991-8112 PO Box 31494, Spokane, WA 99223

Also ask us about low minimum branded stock ware through our Advantage Program.

Contact Us Today www.thepackgroup.com

(888) 997-2252

All contents © 2014. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. Neither Artisan Spirit Media nor ARTISAN SPIRIT magazine assume responsibility for errors in content, photos or advertisements. While ARTISAN SPIRIT makes every effort to ensure accuracy in our content, the information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. We urge our readers to consult with professional service providers to meet their unique needs. At ARTISAN SPIRIT, we take the opportunity to enjoy many different craft spirits and adult beverages. However, it’s also our responsibility, and yours, to always drink responsibly. Know your limit, and never drink and drive. ARTISAN SPIRIT’s number one goal is to share and celebrate the art and science of artisan craft distilling. But please remember to follow all the laws, regulations, and safety procedures. Be safe, be legal and we can all be proud of the industry we love.

TRADITION AND INNOVATION. The Innovation vs Gimmick article in our Fall 2014 issue sparked an interesting conversation regarding the often unsung role of old world traditions in this new American craft distilling industry. This got us thinking about the craft distillers we’ve met, who range from the staunchly traditional to the outrageously innovative and everything in between. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

It’s all about making a “better mousetrap”, or at least a variety of mousetraps to fit differing needs. Barrel making dates back to before 3000 B.C. (the epitome of “Traditional”), however, we have never let that idea hold back our innovative side. From offering a wide array of options for accelerated aging, unique flavor profiles through custom toast/char levels, to different wood species. Craft distillers continue to inspire us to think creatively. — Heidi Karasch

We embrace both the traditional and innovative distillers. The traditional vs. the innovative can vary substantially with some distilleries looking at branded merchandise as a profit center trying to maximize their return on investment. Others view it as a means to advertise with the longevity that promotional products provide. Whether you lean toward tradition or love the innovation, many times it is one and the same, and anyone can benefit from the ROI that comes with Brand Awareness & Brand Alliances. — Janie Cantrell






G&D Chillers has been building custom chiller packages for over 20 years, catering to each of our customer’s unique needs on case by case basis. This business model fits the distilling industry perfectly, in that each distillery is different from the next. Whether it is traditional, or cutting edge, small batch, or continuous distillation, requires precise fermentation control, or high efficiency heat reclaim. We take the time to get to know each of our customers and their requirements, then design a system to fit their needs. — Paul Johnson

The craft of distilling is firmly rooted in tradition and scientific principles. You need a firm understanding of how things have been done before you can play with how things can be done. As educators, we encourage experimentation; it reveals new truths and reinforces fundamentals. Our job is to provide the rules and tools to run classic distillations and then teach ways to build upon that foundation using alternative methods, technology, and innovation to push the boundaries of tradition. — Colleen Thomas


Our mission at ARTISAN SPIRIT is to share and celebrate the art and science of artisan craft distilling. We are humbled by the support of our sponsors. With their help, we can further our common goals of supporting creativity, innovation, and integrity O-I offers a stock portfolio of classic bottle designs that give more traditional within the industry brands a premium yet timeless look. For example, Cannon Beach Distillery chose our Harmony bottle because of its resemblance to the old Spanish rum bottles. We also help we all love so brands bring their unique visions to life by working with them on custom, cutting-edge designs. much. In a recent partnership with our customer Yaguara and world-renowned glass artist Brian Clarke, we created a stunning bottle to bring their cachaca into the premium category. — Danielle Catley

Tapi USA works with a wide range of distillers and most would consider themselves innovative in some aspects of their business, perhaps in packaging. Many new distillers rely on our experience to show them what consumers have identified as traditional. Then they make their decision to stay close to that or to innovate in a new direction. This is super as it pushes us to develop new and interesting products all the time. — Kevin Dunbar

Very humbly we have the benefit of choosing what we work on; so we only work on projects that we feel have a great chance of success. Gimmicks rarely fit this requirement. The spirits business is often one of slow and steady growth, a light-up bottle that twirls is not likely to be relevant in twenty years. That being said, we love to work with entrepreneurs who have a cutting edge idea. The common thread between successful traditional distillers and cutting edge distillers is outlook. The great ideas have their end customer in mind; they are choosing who they want to buy their product and filling a need or desire for that particular person. Gimmicky products and companies behind them rarely think about choosing their customers. As Seth Godin has said, these companies are like a sailor on shore leave, not so picky. Huge mistake. — Scott Schiller


A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: The 2014 winter issue of Artisan Spirit Magazine marks our second anniversary, a small but personally important milestone for our team. In that time, we’ve been routinely humbled as you, craft

Our second anniversary issue highlights the changes the

distilling industry, have opened your arms to us time and again.

industry and the individuals in it have experienced over the

There is no way to possibly thank everyone who deserves credit

last two years. First up is a candid conversation with one of

for getting us to where we are today, but we can give it our best

the industry’s most iconic and respected distillers, Chip Tate


..(page 62) . Being a quarterly publication has given us the

To every distiller who has shared a warm still, a story, and their wisdom – we thank you. To every advisor who has taken a moment to encourage, counsel, and lecture – we thank you.

ability to take the long view on the story surrounding Chip. After several long conversations with Chip, and multiple breaking headlines in the media, the world is now ready to meet “Tate & Co Distilling.” Chip’s story hasn’t been the only headline grabbing drama in the media lately. It would have been difficult to ignore the

To every supplier who has embraced our quest, aesthetic, and

legal troubles surrounding some of the notable names in the

values – we thank you.

distilling world. We have a review of the current environment

To every reader who has dog-eared, highlighted, bookmarked, and shared – we thank you. To every bearded man and booted woman who has laughed, fraternized, and imbibed with us – we thank you. As dedicated lifelong learners, we are far from declaring ourselves experts, but are pleased to no longer be the new kids on the block.

and legal perspective from attorney Ryan Malkin (page 37) , as well as some sage words regarding the current state of the industry from the respected and knowledgeable Ralph Erenzo

.(page 77) . I’m incredibly proud of how far our team, and the industry as a whole, has come these last two years. Yet, we have a very long way to go personally and as a group. We still have issues to sort through such as “what craft is,” legislation to champion, and knowledge to gain. In some respects we are still rookies. We know it, and continue to be proud of our ability to say “I don’t know, but we are sure as hell going to find out!”

Brian Christensen


(509) 944-5919




PO Box 31494 Spokane, WA 99223

From our team to yours — Thank you!


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ACSA: American Craft Spirits Association ADI: American Distilling Institute

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On January 28th and 29th, 2015, ACSA will conduct its 2nd Annual American Craft Spirits Competition at Huber’s Starlight Distillery in Starlight, Indiana. ACSA takes great pride in conducting a rigorously transparent and professional judging program. Since many people have asked how we conduct the competition, we are pleased to provide the protocols that serve as its guide.

STAGE ONE: RECEIPT AND CLASSIFICATION OF SPIRITS All received spirits are stored in a locked room at Huber’s Starlight Distillery. Boxes remain sealed until two days prior to judging whereupon the backroom organizing team opens the boxes and sorts the categories in the staging area. Spirit Definitions by Category: For the complete list of the definitions by category, please refer to the TTB Beverage Alcohol Manual, Chapter Four, available in PDF format (ttb.gov/spirits/bam/chapter4.pdf).


»» Smoking is not allowed at any time during the competition. »» No perfume/cologne can be worn. »» Clothing must be free of residual odor (from smoking, perfume/cologne, or poor hygiene).

»» Judges are expected to act like professionals at all times during judging.

»» Protocols are to be followed as well as specific instructions from the Anchor Judge. Judging Panels: The Judging Panels consist of an Anchor Judge plus a minimum of three and a maximum of five bench judges. The judges are picked to provide a mix of experience between various areas within the spirits industry—retailers, mixologists, educators, and journalists/reviewers. Distillers or consultants

with a vested interest in a spirit will not be able to preside Spirit Categorization: A “Spirit Category” is defined as the over flights in that category. Whenever possible, judges with an “parent” spirit type, with most categories having multiple expertise in a certain type of spirit are placed on the panels, as subcategories. Categories and Subcategories are those defined well as generalists who are qualified to judge a variety of classes by the TTB in the CFR 27 and must be backed by the TTB- of spirits. approved COLA. All spirit entry categories shall consist of two make-categories:

»» Craft-Distilled: A fermented mash/wash that is produced

Judges will perform a sensory evaluation of the spirits and enter their perceptions on the score sheets provided. The nose, palate, finish, and balance of spirits will be evaluated in terms

exclusively by original distillation, aged and bottled in- of cleanliness, length, depth, and complexity. Tasting notes and house without any third party spirits being added or judges’ comments will be entered onto the score sheet. blended into the product at any time.

»» Craft-Produced: A spirit that is either distilled in-house

When the outcome of a flight is determined and tallied by the Anchor Judge, a steward will deliver the scorecards to the staging

and blended with third party spirits, or consisting of third room where the scores will be recorded and score sheets copied. The recorder shall enter the medals into the master spreadsheet party spirits blended and bottled.



HOW TO ENTER: Go to the ACSA website for instructions on how to enter your spirits. Or, you can go directly to the registration site:

Midnight, Saturday January 24th, 2015


RECEIVING DEADLINE January 26th, 2015

of entries and compile a complete list of winners. Tasting notes spirit. Although there will be no points given for these specific from the judges will be gathered and sorted for distribution, but categories, their consideration can be used in determining the results and tasting notes will be considered confidential and held overall quality of the spirit. Such feedback will also be useful for in secret until after the awards are announced. Anchor Judges: Preside over each panel. The anchor judge

the producers themselves. The bottom portion of the score sheet asks the judges for input

will compile the scores from the other judges as they become regarding the best qualities of the spirit, and also asks how the available, and will determine how each spirit is rated. Anchor spirit can be improved. While this feedback is important for judges will also lead the discussion in creating consensus as to the producers, judges will have a limited time to write these evaluations (four minutes on average). what medals should be awarded. The anchor judge will add the total scores for each spirit to

The last line of the score card is for the judge to give the total

The anchor judge will compare the category rankings against


determine how each was ranked in numeric scores. The numeric score for the spirit and make a recommendation on whether the spirit should be awarded a medal and what that medal should be. rankings will determine best of category. the medals recommended. In the case where best of category is inconsistent with the medals awarded, it is the responsibility to find a consensus among the panel on what they can confidently award. The anchor judge may entertain conversation with the judges about why they made specific recommendations and the judges may discuss the specific merits of each spirit. The anchor judge is forbidden from asking another judge to change their recommendation against their will. In the rare case where a panel cannot come to a consensus, the anchor judge or the judging director may ask for the flight to be reevaluated by one of the other panels.

Once judging of the flights is complete, the staging room staff will compose a flight of each Best of Category Spirit. Without concern to medal recommendation or tasting notes, the judging panel for each category will consider this flight to determine a best of class. The anchor judge will take votes from each panel member as to which spirit in the flight is their favorite. If the results are conclusive on the first vote, then the results will be recorded. If the results are inconclusive, the judges will used ranked scoring, allowing three points for first place, two points for second place, and one point for third place. The spirit that receives the

Awards: Judges will award gold, silver and bronze medals for highest score will be named Best of Class. spirits in each category and subcategory. There will be a Best of Class recorded for each of the classes Scoring: The scoring of spirits is based on a 100-point system and for each of the two divisions, craft distilled and craft produced th with four main categories of consideration: Nose (30 points), spirits. The medal winners will be announced on February 15 at Palate (30 points), Balance (20 points), and Finish (20 points). the Awards Banquet during our Convention in Austin, Texas. Below these categories, the judges will also be asked to Pennfield Jensen is executive director of the American Craft Spirits consider the cleanliness, complexity, length, and depth of each Association. Visit www.americancraftspirits.org for more info.













(844) 837-1515


jan’s corner written by Jan Morris illustration by Tiffany Patterson

REIGN of FRUIT FLIES Every summer fruit flies arrive, and their reign of terror begins. At the Hood Canal, in Hoodsport, WA, summer begins in July

to fly up my nose, and second this method does not kill them. I

when the rainy season comes to an end. We enjoy a “modified

am fairly certain that they fly around the building, and come right

Mediterranean climate” which means that we have beautiful

back in through the front door.

summer weather. It lasts until October. We do not have many bugs in our region. A major exception is

Why don’t I just kill the little beasts? My son, Cody, thinks I am foolish not to kill them. I just do not want to clean up a bunch of

fruit flies. In the summer they arrive in hordes. Research shows that dead bugs, and it seems like a good idea to release them at the fruit flies prefer grain or fruit in the early stages of fermentation at compost pile. Wish I had a better answer. about 3% ABV. The distillery has plenty of that commodity, and they head straight for our building. When they arrive, we resurrect the fruit fly traps, and in no time the traps are full of the tiny critters every day. In July we settle into our summer routines. In the warm mornings

The most terrifying thought is that a fruit fly might end up in a bottle of spirits. This gives me nightmares. I have received many suggestions. Fans help. On the positive side, children enjoy looking at the traps full of fruit flies. So do adults. They have added an unexpected

we enjoy a cup of coffee while planning the day, charge the stills, dimension to the tours. and then empty the fruit fly traps. Hundreds of fruit flies fill the traps each night. The traps, which are pint glasses with cones secured to the

Thanksgiving marks the end of the fruit fly season, and gives us one more reason to be thankful. Meanwhile, we are waiting for the day Fruit Fly Gin becomes a

top, are taken out the back door of the distillery to be emptied. TTB approved category of spirits. I think it could rival Mezcal. The fruit flies become excited, energized, and ready to escape as they welcome the sunshine. It would be nice if they flew far away. Jan Morris owns and distills at The Hardware Distillery Co. with her Instead they head toward my face and nose. husband Chuck. They are located in Hoodsport, WA. For more info visit There are two problems with emptying the traps. First, they try www.thehardwaredistillery.com or call (206) 300-0877.



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know, I know...in the last editorial I said, “Don’t get

cocky and don’t extend yourself

In Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanning, we were connected with over 12 Gold Key meetings,


too far.” Then Headframe Spirits

each in-depth

was asked to participate in a Foreign Trade Mission to China with the Governor of the State of Montana. Hard to say no.




were with

detailed, importers,

distributors, and on & off premise clients capable of meeting the demands of our import goals.

But, the mantra of “Don’t get cocky” still held true and I

I wasn’t interested in selling a case or two (more like a container

committed only once I learned of the resources available to

or two), so I needed to be connected with companies capable of

introduce the markets in Asia to my products; namely the

handling that kind of volume. Every Gold Key had the potential

US Commercial Service, a branch of the US Department of

for direct success — not a single one was lacking.

Commerce, and the Agricultural Trade Office of the US Embassy. I cannot stress enough how important and ultimately successful their services were to our trip.

So specifically how does this work?

»» Reach out to US Commercial Service via

Via the US Commercial Service, using the “Gold Key Matching


Service,” they arranged multiple meetings with pre-screened

»» Next you will be connected with your local US Export

prospective trading partners, distributors, and importers. For a nominal fee, they threw the weight of their offices in-country to the goals that Headframe Spirits was interested in pursuing, namely:

»» Selling our products in China »» Investigating Direct Foreign

Assistance Center.

»» Once the local rep has your goals, targets, and information, they bring in the foreign trade officers and begin to work on the Gold Key meetings

Investment in potential

»» Once you have your travel arrangements completed, they



schedule your meetings in-country.

»» Once in-country, a USCS or ATO officer will accompany you on all of the meetings (or facilitate the meetings happening at a central location, such as your hotel conference or meeting room).

»» Each meeting is at least an hour and in our case included follow-ups at on-premise accounts.

»» Following

the meetings, the USCS or ATO officer will

for your distillery, there are other options. I could also suggest that:

»» State Distillery Guilds (and/or) »» American Craft Spirits Association (and/or) »» American Distilling Institute (and/or) assist their members in collaborating on Gold Key meetings and preparing shipments with a mixture of products from multiple distilleries…in effect leveraging our collective badassery

continue to follow up for a few weeks, ensuring the

together to rise the tide for the container ship taking our

meetings continue to yield fruit.

products overseas.

The one and only goal of the USCS and ATO is to get U.S. products into foreign markets and for us, they were relentless at making that happen. I have not ever found a more effective branch of our government in the application of furthering business interests. I was impressed enough that I even joked about making a few of them brand ambassadors, which wasn’t turned down….each and every USCS and ATO agent was an entrepreneur at heart. Understanding that we’re all pretty small players and that trying to enter a market like China alone could be too daunting

We’ve looked into other foreign markets in the past without having knowledge of the USCS Gold Key Program. We’re going to reset all of those efforts and turn to the USCS to restart our entrance into those foreign markets from here on out. The experience was that good. Cheers, John

John McKee, along with his wife Courtney, are the owners of Headframe Spirits in Butte, MT. John can be reached at john@headframespirits.com

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hat happens when you put a group of strong women Habits poll, 67% of men and 64% of women drink alcohol. together in a room? In this case, it wasn’t just any group

While half of those ladies tend to drink wine, more are starting

of women, but ones that make spirits from all over North America. to drink distilled spirits. More women enter the workplace each And this wasn’t just a meeting to sit around swapping stories

year, which means more disposable income. When a woman

of stills with no gauges. This meeting was about collaboration

walks up to a bar, she’s ordering a glass of whiskey more often

and building long-lasting relationships within an industry that

than any time in recent memory. So why advertise to her based

could benefit from more female representation. So when you

on her desire to find a man to build her a bookshelf? It’s time for

get a group like this together something great happens — the

a change, and these ladies are the ones to do it.

founding of The Dames of Distillation™. A look at the current state of craft distilling shows about 600

Meet the Dames of Distillation : women distillers and distillery

owners that met, some for the first time, to begin talking about distilleries nationwide. Of those, only about 25-30 have either how they can use their collective talents and resources. women distillers or owners — a mere four percent in mathematical Troy Ball of Asheville Distilling, makes Troy & Sons moonshine terms. Much like other male-dominated occupations, distilling and whiskey from a non-GMO corn that’s grown nowhere else in isn’t the easiest industry to get into for women. There are a the world. While her hand may not be on the still these days, limited number of educational opportunities and internships, and her mind is always working: it was her idea to bring women who it’s not information that’s always readily published and shared. make spirits together, and the Dames of Distillation was born. The women of the Dames of Distillation movement are working to Robin Blazer of Willie’s Distillery makes moonshine, change that, to better educate the women in the industry today, and those that are interested in joining. The Dames of Distillation aren’t solely focused on the women

Bourbon and liqueur in a tiny town in Montana. Ever heard of a chokecherry? It’s a small local fruit, with a taste vaguely

that make the spirits; they’re also interested in bending their reminiscent of a plum that Willie’s makes into a liqueur each influence toward an ever-growing group of women that drink season. Locals bring buckets of the fruit to the distillery — talk spirits, too. Advertising including women and whiskey is often

about community involvement.

a condescending blend of cheesy clichés or is downright sexist.

Andrea Clodfelter is Corsair Distillery’s Head Distiller/Whiskey

How are women that drink whiskey supposed to feel when

Witch. Who knew reading an article in Garden & Gun would lead

advertising sometimes suggests a man should be pouring that

to making award-winning whiskey just a few short years later? whiskey for them? According to Gallup’s 2012 Consumption And not just any whiskey - Andrea uses grains like quinoa and


oats to make her hooch.

Arla Johnson and Julie Shore make Canada’s first potato vodka at Prince Edward Distillery. The Dames are creating a North American organization, and these ladies bring a wealth of experience to the group. Julie’s title of Master Distiller also comes with Master Still Assembly: she built the still from the box of disassembled parts.

Elisa Tatham of Blue Ridge Distilling Co. makes Defiant Whisky, one of the new American single malts. Bringing her home brewing experience from Boston, Elisa instead found a passion for distilling whiskey.

The Mission Alternative grains, non-GMO heritage varietals, local fruits and botanicals — these are all ingredients that appeal to an ever-

Kate Mead of Wyoming Whiskey is an attorney who helps run growing group of consumers. According to the USDA, demand for the family cattle ranch and the newest addition to her portfolio - organically produced goods continues to show double-digit growth. making Bourbon. The first (and so far, only) legal distillery in the

Dames’ spirits are made from these ingredients and it is another

to the Dames of Distillation. While she doesn’t have a hand on

formed an alliance that is dedicated to a higher standard of

state, their Bourbon is made from local Wyoming grains and water. important message that the group will include in their marketing. The Dames of Distillation’s mission statement says it all: Jeanne Runkle brings her passion for craft spirits, marketing We are four decades of women who distill spirits, who have and customer engagement, as well as a talent for herding cats, a still (yet), her desire to make women in distilling a force to be reckoned with is unmatched.

Elizabeth Serage is the newest distiller at Peach Street Distillers, but it’s not her first rodeo. She was the Head Distiller at Wyoming Whiskey, and started her career at Willie’s Distillery. Her diverse experience (which includes being a blacksmith) will find her making great whiskey no matter where she is.

representation and opportunity. We are continuing the history and tradition of the women that built the foundation of our industry. Leveraging our talent and resources, we will create a better tomorrow, through our work today. We make what you should be drinking.

For more information on the Dames, please contact Jeanne Runkle at questions@damesofdistillation.com.




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ill Thomas may be one of the most interesting collectors

Thomas is happy to share that DC has a growing and amazing

in the United States when it comes to whiskey. The rare

cocktail realm within its borders. You can expect to be served

whiskey aficionado grew up hearing stories of the bar industry,

a great cocktail in any bar in the area these days, as it has

as his family owned and operated several in the Washington

become the norm. DC has a supportive network of bartenders,

DC area, so the occupation became a rather natural fit for this

and they also have a flare for competition — which is pushing

drink-slinger and hunter of spirits. Over the past seventeen

that envelope to create wonderful craft cocktails that will satisfy

years, Thomas has toiled to procure some of the rarest whiskies

the palate of any consumer.

in the world in order to make his customers swoon. Bill makes it very clear for spirits producers vying for his shelf space, “If you want to grab my attention, distill some whiskey.”

SOME STRANGE ERUPTION Thomas has become somewhat of a “Whiskey Slayer” in

Thomas is fortunate to be a part of a great growing cocktail

the United States. If you’re looking for rare, he’s probably

scene in his hometown of Washington DC. His love of bourbon

got it. His original bar, Bourbon, boasts the second largest

and whiskey pours through in his establishments in many ways,

whiskey selection in the city — second only to his newest

and customers are never dissatisfied with a stop at his bars.

bar, the Jack Rose Dining Saloon, which has a “well-curated selection of whiskies approaching 2,000 bottles,” according to Thomas (who also has nearly 4,000 bottles in his private


collection). He’s proud to have an amazing array of spirits to choose from, as well as a great selection of beers and fabulous Southern-style fare served up in the kitchen. When selecting great cocktails, Thomas says he is guided by his great bartending staff and their drive to create delicious cocktails for the patrons that sashay through the doors of the saloon. When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of it all, however, what he says is, “I only know one ingredient: whiskey.”


He’s confident to suggest that

restaurants — anywhere to land

what really makes the cocktail is

his next obscure find.

a high quality whiskey, and going


from there only builds on that greatness.

So what’s Thomas’ advice for


getting craft distillers in his bar

Becoming a whiskey procurer is

and impressing him with your

no easy task. Thomas has learned

whiskey? First off, avoid rushing

this takes time and patience. He

your product. Don’t push it out

shares, “I began searching out

the door before it’s ready just

rare whiskies when I opened my


first whiskey bar and realized how

the bit. “I’ll pay extra for good

much great whiskey I had missed

whiskey, even if it’s not in line

in my early 20s. I only wish I had

with the market,” he states.

started [searching] sooner, but

He’s supportive of craft distilling

now I’m doing my best to play

and goes out of his way to




Thomas’ is


affordability in his establishment. of

incredibly whiskies


distillers. “At Jack





meet a lot of craft




these rare could


Rose, we regularly


distillers for spirits


events, or just a


host visiting craft launches,


night of drinking.” However, as he says,


“You have to bring a quality spirit.”

easily be priced at

Thomas is great

an uber premium, but that’s not Thomas’ bag. “Why carry it if people can’t afford

at supporting craft distillers, especially if the craft spirit

to drink it? There are so-called ‘whiskey bars’ across the country

compliments the cocktails they are serving in one of his bars.

that price their rare bottles so they never sell. It makes an

He’s noticed that more and more distributors are competing

impressive list but an unsatisfied palate.” Because of Thomas’

to represent the craft brands as they are gaining more market

methodology on pricing, he is able to sell more whiskies than

share and popularity, which — in turn — is getting them noticed

anyone in the country and that keeps him going to find more

by bartenders in all areas.

whiskies for his customers.

POOR LITTLE LAMBS So how does one hunt for such rare whiskies? Well, according to Thomas, the hunt is always on. “I look for rare whiskies

To Thomas, innovation is important, as well as honoring tradition. He notes, “Each region, still, mashbill, warehouse, water, and distiller add something special.” These differentiating factors, in his opinion, can create phenomenal whiskies for the consumer.

everywhere. In the last year or so, I’ve bought whiskey from

“America is simply drinking quality and craft spirits have

Belgium, England, Turkey, Israel, Japan….I did a road trip

fueled that fire,” Thomas notes. “The decades of artificial

with a very supportive girlfriend [traveling] from Kentucky to

anything are over.”

Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, and back to DC. All in four days.” Thomas hits anything from liquor stores, donut shops, gas stations, little hole-in-the-wall

Bill Thomas owns Bourbon and Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C. For more info, visit www.bourbondc.com or www.jackrosediningsaloon.com.


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TRIANGLE f l a v o r, o a k , a n d t i m e WRITTEN BY MAGGIE CAMPBELL

At our distillery spirits spend most of their time maturing. It on. In essence it is a pairing process. Explicitly it is pairing the is one of the most important steps to creating concentrated and

intensity of the distillate’s flavor to the intensity and character

complex flavors. Our spirits are fermented for six days, distilled

of the barrel to the amount of complexity of flavor created by

over two days and matured anywhere from three months for clear aging. You want each to represent a side of a triangle, and that spirits to years upon years for barrel aged spirits. The barrel aging

triangle’s shape will tell you much about the flavor of the spirit.

process is just as active, if not more so, than any other process

Let’s talk about it in specifics. If you have a delicate aromatic

in the making of our spirits. People may think that you throw the

spirit run that you want to add a top note of vibrancy to for your

spirit in the barrel, wait, and pull it out to bottle. Nothing could

final marriage of spirits, and you throw that spirit into a new

be further from the truth at our distillery.

alligator char barrel for one year you will squash out the soft and

I always start any in depth conversation about our barrel

delicate notes without giving it time to create the oxidized and

program by explaining the ‘barrel triangle.’ We host stage days

ripened flavor that comes from maturity. It will taste mostly of

at the distillery, meaning aspiring or career distillers are invited

oak, and not much else.

to spend a day at work with us learning from each other and

If you have a deep powerful spirit and you want to fill in the

exchanging ideas. This keeps our minds fresh and gives back in

bass notes of your final marriage, you can put it in a barrel that

a way that helped to start our own careers. I find that the barrel

will give stronger flavors for a longer period of time without being

triangle, though not new to most, is something we go very deep

washed out, and in fact, it will bring those bold flavors into


balance, like an equilateral triangle.

up however you want, they are still only a kid. Second, a higher

What do I mean when I say ‘the flavor of maturity?’ Oak flavor

proof barrel will get more oak flavor more quickly, but oak flavor

and maturity mean two different things. Maturity is the product

is not maturity. So, a 110 proof barrel will actually be the one

of oxidation, esterification, and ripening. Oxygen interacts with

to have more flavors of maturity (because it cannot actually ‘be

the spirit, like decanting a bottle of wine, and creates complexity

older’ than it is — unless you are changing the rate in which it

of flavor. You may note a primary flavor of fresh apple flesh when

travels through time by shooting it into outer space — in which

the spirit is fresh off the still, but after oxidation in barrel this

case call me because that sounds awesome)!

will become a more complex tertiary flavor such as dried golden

We simply are trained to recognize oak flavors as age in the US.

apple peel. These tertiary flavors are the sign the spirit is mature. Again, the idea here is to find balance and you can make proof a When a spirit tastes of developing spirit + wood it is in secondary

tool to control the rate of oxidation and the intensity of oak you

flavor development. A mature spirit should not have the actual

pull. To address the other angles of the barrel triangle we match

flavor of ‘wood’ as in wood shop. Once mature, or tertiary, these

our spirit runs to our oak barrels. We smell our new barrels and,

wood flavors will become cigar box, vanilla, spice tone. Raw spirit and wood marry to become completely new flavors indeed! That is maturity. Ester formation and ripening are all about the chemical interactions of spirit as it ages. This would happen regardless of the presence

just like in wine pairing, look for complimenting or contrasting flavor. If our spirit run is showing quite fruity that day we may pick a high spice barrel to fill out the flavors, or if we really want to create a spirit that is high toned aromatic in the fruit profile we will look for a fruity barrel. The

Spirit, idea here, and with all barrel aging, is to create a variety of flavors in your barrels. This way water, oak, when you select and marry casks you have grabs onto other molecules gathering flavor a wide spectrum of flavors. You can only and creating larger, more intricate chains. and time are not pull from flavors that you actually have, In short, creating the all-important so we see this as an opportunity to complexity and concentration of flavor. just ingredients, but create a large variety of flavor. Used This happens slowly, and requires time. The higher the alcohol tools in crafting your bourbon and brandy casks can be paired by nose in this same content, the more stable your spirit to new heights of way, knowing they will be spirit is and the more slowly less intense, which may this occurs. We put our complexity and concentration. be your desired effect spirit into barrel at 110 of wood. Ethanol molecules have a lovely little branch that likes to play well with others. It

proof to encourage this,

to balance your barrel

as opposed to 125 proof. When we marry and re-cask our final

triangle. Our finishing casks always have their own little flare

selection for a batch we proof the spirit to be re-casked at 100

and signature which we get to know well batch after batch. We

proof to lessen the effect of oak (lower alcohol, less of a solvent, use these recorded notes to notice themes and again marry spirit less oak flavor) and encourage oxidation and flavor development

to cask to encourage and accentuate desired flavor profiles.

for another level of complexity. As an aside, this also causes the

The quickest way to ruin all this hard work is by introducing

proofing water to become fully married and to be barrel aged

flaws in the aging process. Barrels work as a vector that you need

with the spirit, a great alternative to feb barrels (a European

to be aware of and on guard about. With the barrel shortage I

practice of aging your water in cask by fortifying it to a low abv

see many people turning to wine barrels. As the Whiskey Bible

and using that to proof).

cautioned in 2013, winemaking chemicals can introduce a

We love our Atlantic maritime climate, and the fresh, salty

world of flaws. Sulfur, being one of the classic flaws of a poorly

ocean breezes it brings. This of course affects the oxidative

fermented or rush-distilled spirit, may be infused into your spirit

flavors and ripening flavors of our spirit in barrel. Have you ever

from a wine barrel. You can ferment well, distill carefully in a

heard the one about, “A barrel at 125 proof ages ‘faster’ than

clean still, and catalyze out the present sulfur with copper just to

a barrel at 110?” Well, first, let me point out there is a space

put it back in again by selecting a sulfured cask. Another thing

time continuum and 1 year old simply is 1 year old, you cannot

to watch for is acetic acid. A bottle of wine left on the counter

age something any faster than time allows. Dress a 12 year old

gets attacked by acetobacter, turning into vinegar, and the same


thing can happen in empty casks. Your spirit is so high in alcohol it will kill this infection, but it may infuse the vinegar flavor that has already been created. Trichloroanisole, TCA, is another big one you really really really don’t want. Barrels in breweries and wineries are perfect hosts to TCA and it is water soluble and will gladly infuse your spirit with wet cardboard and moldy scents. The trick with TCA is that once you are exposed you can quickly become nose blind, unable to smell it until you get time away and allow you nose to reset. If you plan to use wine barrels get some wine training to arm yourself. Sweeter styles of wine are allowed far higher levels of sulfur as they are the most likely to become infected, creating a world of hurt for your spirit down the road. Your spirit really comes into its own in barrel — use it as an opportunity. The variables to create and coax flavor out of your spirit and cask are infinite. Spirit, water, oak, and time are not just ingredients, but tools in crafting your spirit to new heights of complexity and concentration.

Maggie Campbell is currently in the Level 4 Diploma program for the Wine and Spirits Education Trust out of London and working towards her MW. She holds the position of Head Distiller at Privateer Rum. Her advice for aspiring distillers, “Read all the books you can and knock on every distillery door you can get to. Having mentors with different philosophies gives you a whole world of tools to pull from.”




ecent, yearly reports for the retail sales of distilled spirits widespread distribution. The long-standing sales challenge for have topped US$75 billion, with a sales volume of over 210 innovative brands stems from prohibition era legislation, which

million 9-Liter cases. However, it is estimated that less than 2% of requires a three-tier system that distances the brand from its those sales were conducted online. Compared to other industries, customers. This legislation demands the use of a distributor to the sales of spirits report the lowest percentage of Internet intermediate the channel to retailers who then sell to consumers. customers since online shopping became mainstream over It is the three-tier system that continues to create one of the twenty years ago. Consumers have become accustomed to buying largest barriers to entry, and one of the most frustrating aspects everything online — from toothpaste, to furniture, to marijuana. of introducing a new spirit product. Nevertheless, the purchase of spirits online is still in its infancy

Distributors have been consolidating over the past ten years

and fraught by outdated legal obstacles that make marketing and are now responsible for thousands of SKUs. Even as and delivery a challenge for businesses in the spirits industry. distributors consolidate, they are met with an ever-increasing The lack of substantial online merchandising further broadens flood of new brands due to the growth of craft spirits and new the challenge for new brands looking to enter the market and flavor introductions. For each of the past five years, there have for existing brands looking to expand. One of the most difficult been nearly 300 new spirit brands introduced every year, making and crucial tasks for a new brand is to secure meaningful and it nearly impossible to attract brand attention at the distributor, retail, and consumer levels.


Conversely, in almost all other consumer industries, new brands start online companies almost overnight, and often quickly level the playing field established by larger brands. These newer, smaller brands achieve success


by marketing with smart social media and online campaigns that share this adoration. Caskers has over 200,000 members, mostly conveniently lead the consumer directly to an online purchase.

stemming from New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles

Furthermore, online retailers have the luxury of instant data and Miami. Fifty percent of Caskers’ customers are repeat analysis to assess what is, and is not, working in their marketing customers, and over 40% purchase regularly. Caskers uses and sales approach. The highly regulated alcohol industry misses targeted marketing strategies directed to this customer base and out on this crucial and low cost asset. To date, all online sales relies on partner retailers to fulfill the orders. They double their must adhere to the three-tier system, leaving brand owners unable growth year after year, and in late 2014, they established “Caskers to collect important information related to consumer habits, Concierge” and “Caskers Private Cask.” These programs have trends, and preferences. This also prohibits them from marketing attracted the craft and limited-edition spirit enthusiasts because directly to the exact demographic in relation to price-point and of their ‘exclusivity.’ In essence, Caskers has utilized every asset shipping costs, a top-tier factor for other consumer goods. available to optimize online spirits selling. The benefit of this method is matching a product that fits a profile


and is appreciated by web visitors, resulting in brand recognition among an enthusiastic member group. This said, and similar to the limitations of distributors, Caskers does not accept all products and they do not have plans

This labyrinth of state laws makes shipping out of state of appealing to the mass market. February 2014 saw the launch of

confusing and inconsistent. Some states allow shipping across


Founded by

state lines — some states do not; and some can ship wine, but Lindsey Andrews and Lara Crystal, Minibar is both an online site not liquor. Licensed retailers who do not comply with of one of and an app that allows consumers to register and receive wine these rules risk heavy fines or the loss of their license altogether. and spirits delivered, for free, within the hour. Like Caskers, Often unaware of all of the rules and regulations, consumers Minibar works with select retailers in each market to deliver ultimately end up frustrated with an online purchase experience the final product. The consumer is routed to the liquor store that doesn’t measure up to what they are accustomed to with nearest to them to complete their purchase. This meets the other types of online purchases.

demand for delivery but not necessarily at the best price. Lara

Thankfully, some visionary entrepreneurs have stepped into Crystal credits their rapid growth to the fact that liquor stores the wine and spirits online sales segment and have created new can forgo online marketing and branding and reduce their need online sales solutions. Methods range from online membership to keep up with the latest technology. Minibar has created a formats, to an integrated tool that allows suppliers to sell quick-fix solution for delivering customers on-demand. Crystal nationally from their own branded website. Founded in 2012 by Moiz Ali and Steven Abt,

cites statistics from liquor stores showing an increase in sales by


40% through the use of Minibar. She attributes success for new

one first online spirits sellers created purely for the love of rare- brands to Minibar’s targeting of limited stores throughout the found, craft and limited-run spirits. Fortunately, their members U.S., effectively achieving distribution in key markets. Minibar





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has now expanded to Chicago and San Francisco, and thanks who is purchasing, where, when. This allows them to build a to a recent investment of $1.8 million, they have aggressive relationship with that customer and directly market to them, a expansion plans in progress.

standard practice for the plethora of other retail sites but not

Also appealing to brand owners and new distilled spirits available to spirits brand owners until now. producers was the launch by PASSION SPIRITS of its online tool

The consumer advantages to online shopping trump those

in June of 2014. Its tool allows brands to legally sell nationally, of traditional shopping. Consumers have more access to directly from their own web site, to consumers, creating a more information, they can compare prices with ease, they shop at integrated consumer experience. The Passion Spirits option does ease and avoid lugging heavy products home from a brick-andnot solve the issue of competitive pricing compared to other mortar location. It’s proven — consumers want the convenience channels, but it does allow brands to drive sales, track campaign of online shopping and younger consumers don’t necessarily effectiveness and collect customer insights allowing the brand to want human interaction to purchase a product they already know they want.

speak directly to its target audience. Without the use of a tool such as this, customers are driven to

“I believe the spirits industry is in the early phase of stage-two

online marketing platforms linking them to a retail store’s web for online spirits sales. We believe that we will see aggressive site, where the consumer often ends up purchasing a brand other growth in the next couple of years for online sales,” said Alain than the brand which essentially paid to direct the customer Schieman, CEO of Passion Spirits. “The online sales tool makes there — or a landing page forcing them to “search” for the brand everyone happy. The distributor sells more to the retailer and they intended to buy. This method results in a convoluted and doesn’t have to burden the street sales force on new, untried or obscure brands. The retailer makes more sales and the brand

cluttered purchase experience, or worse, a lost sale.

The Passion Spirits tool captures orders using proprietary connects directly with its customer. I expect to see more brands software on the supplier’s branded website which is then passed to doing much more of their online marketing and retailers working a backend network of retail stores that can legally deliver alcohol more on fulfillment.” products




“I really appreciate the ability to have a seamless consumer transaction on my site and that the consumer I’ve





media to bring there is not diverted to a site with fifty other

What does Steve Abt of Caskers anticipate for the future of

vodkas that compete with mine,” said Stuart Hirsch, co-founder online sales? “I think we’ll see some of the interstate regulations of Three Hunters Vodka, launched in September 2014 and fading away because they just don’t make any sense anymore. I focused heavily on online sales.

don’t know when, and it won’t be soon, but they’ll go away.”

The Passion Spirits tool also allows the brand to “own” —

that is, understand and appreciate — the customer. They know Susan Mooney is CEO and founder of Spirits Consulting Group. For

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“Do not misrepresent how a product is made,”

warns Thomas Zimmerman, lead counsel in

one of the ongoing cases against Fifth Dimension, Inc., the parent company of Tito’s vodka. By now, most are well aware of the recent litigation affecting various craft distillers around the country. At the time of writing, there are three pending cases against Tito’s alone, in California, Florida and Illinois. Zimmerman is also lead counsel in cases against Templeton Rye, Angel’s Envy and Proximo’s Tincup whiskey. When distilled down, the basis of all of these complaints is alleged consumer misrepresentation, that the plaintiffs would not have purchased these brands if they were labeled and marketed correctly. Perhaps the reason for the spate of current litigation, according common claims and bring a case in a single forum. This makes to John Londot, shareholder at Greenberg Traurig law firm and things more efficient for the courts and the parties, avoiding attorney for Tito in Florida, is the United States Supreme Court unnecessary duplication in bringing numerous individual claims decision in Pom Wonderful v. Coca-Cola. In that case, “the court with the same defendant and same claims. Here, because the allowed federal Lanham Act (false advertising) claims between individual damages would be relatively small, the plaintiffs are competitors to go forward — over a challenge that federal food- seeking class action approval because, as argued in the case labeling regulations preempted such claims.” Londot explains, against Tito’s in Florida, the “expense and burden of individual “plaintiffs’ attorneys nationwide viewed that decision as opening litigation would make it difficult or impossible for individual the doors to not just competitor claims, but consumer claims members of the Class” to bring this claim and, “an important as well — even though the Supreme Court expressly said its public interest” is served by addressing the matters as a class decision did not reach that issue — and quickly filed numerous action. In practice, Londot explains, “class actions are often filed consumer fraud allegations.” Although that case was about in multiple jurisdictions as plaintiffs’ firms vie for control of the pomegranate juice and not booze, Londot believes “we may be class — and consequently entitlement to attorneys’ fees in the seeing expansion of these types of consumer claims from the case of a settlement or judgment.” Hence the reason there are food labeling arena to the spirits industry.” These sorts of claims are usually filed as class actions.

three pending cases against Tito’s alone. The basis of the alleged misrepresentation in the Tito’s cases

A class action is appropriate where numerous people have stems, in part, from TTB rule 27 CFR §5.65, prohibiting labels


or advertising that contain “any statement that is false or alleged, “handmade” or “crafted in old fashioned pot still,” they untrue.” In addition, the California complaint alleges violations would not have purchased Tito’s vodka. Tito Beveridge, owner of Tito’s vodka, responded to the bevy

including unfair competition, false and misleading advertising,

and negligent misrepresentation. Meanwhile, the Florida of litigation on September 23, 2014. In the public response, complaint includes alleged violations of the consumer protection he said that he distills at the same distillery in Austin where he statutes, deception and unfair trade practice, breach of express started the business, distilling in pot stills. In response to the warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability and handmade claims, Tito noted the company “hand-connect the usage of trade, negligence and unjust enrichment. In Illinois, the hoses and pumps” and taste the product to “ensure head and complaint alleges similar violations, including consumer fraud tail cuts, all of which are done” in the Austin distillery. Moreover, and deceptive trade practices.

he noted that the labels, which state “Handmade,” have been

Sure, Tito’s labels say that the vodka is “Handmade” and approved by TTB. “Crafted in an Old Fashioned Pot Still by America’s Original

According to Zimmerman, use of terms such as handcrafted

Microdistillery.” Plaintiffs claim the vodka was not handmade as and local are used to “distinguish themselves from all other it states on the bottle, but “actually made via highly mechanized bottles on the shelf.” Zimmerman notes that the truth must be process devoid of human hands.” As noted in the Florida case, reflected on the labels and the marketing cannot be misleading plaintiffs allege that Tito “knowingly and intentionally sold this to the consumer. Based on similar claims, plaintiffs say they misbranded product to consumers (including Plaintiffs) with the were misled to buy Templeton, Angel’s Envy and Tincup American intent to deceive them.” The plaintiffs claim to have purchased Whiskey. The claims in these cases are similar to one another, Tito’s under false pretenses; specifically that the product is, as and to the Tito’s cases, and include violations of consumer fraud noted in the Florida complaint, “of higher quality, is handmade, is and deceptive business acts and unjust enrichment. crafted in old fashioned pot stills, and is otherwise as advertised

The complaint against Templeton alleges that Templeton

on the product’s label.” If the plaintiffs knew Tito’s was not, as markets itself as “small batch” and “made in Iowa.” The most

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recent label for Templeton, approved October 21, 2014, notes

Similarly, the Tincup American Whiskey complaint notes that

that the product is bottled by Templeton in Templeton, Iowa, the whiskey claims to be from Colorado with a “‘unique mash but states that the product is indeed distilled in Indiana. The bill’ that separates it from other whiskeys.” The allegation is that previous label, approved in 2012, said, “produced and bottled Tincup markets itself in this way to stand out on the shelf and by” Templeton in Iowa. The complaint alleges that the product to lead consumers to believe they are buying “unique, premium is distilled and aged at MGP Ingredients, Inc. in Indiana, which whiskey, not sourced whiskey from a bulk producer.” However, distills and ages whiskey for numerous brands. The complaint Tincup is allegedly also distilled and aged by MGP, a “massive claims those “seeking an alternative to mainstream, mass- complex that produces and distills industrial-sized quantities.” produced” products purchased Templeton and “paid a premium” The complaint notes that Tincup purchases unaged whiskey and the plaintiff would not have done so if the actual origin of made from recipes that MGP offers to other companies. Tincup the whiskey was known.

then pays MGP to store the barrels then transport the product to

Like Templeton, the complaint against Louisville Distilling Colorado for bottling. Company, parent of Angel’s Envy, alleges that Angel’s Envy is

Whether any of these claims are true remains to be seen. All or

marketed as “small batch.” The label also notes that it is “Hand none of these suits may reach trial. Most cases don’t. In the short Crafted and Bottled by Louisville Spirits Group, Bardstown, term, what’s the best approach to avoid potential litigation of Kentucky.” However, according to the complaint, Angel’s your own? Zimmerman sums it up: don’t claim to use an old pot Envy is also distilled and aged at MGP in Indiana. Consumers still with locally grown rye and a unique recipe if you’re buying have allegedly paid a premium in reliance on Angel’s Envy’s the product from someone else using a huge floor to ceiling representations that it was not only produced in Kentucky, but continuous still. also “small batch”. The plaintiff claims, had he known the

truth about where Angel’s Envy was created “he would not have Ryan Malkin is principal attorney at Malkin Law, P.A.. For more

information, visit www.malkinlawfirm.com or call (212) 600-5828.

purchased it.”

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American Distilling Institute™ T H E





Hudson Valley Distillers WRITTEN BY CHRIS LOZIER


udson Valley Distillers just got their start this year, but



few of the things that keep us moving.”

they already have a lot of fans - tourists, distillers and

Moyer is in software sales, while Yozzo was a police officer,

neighbors alike – because their business philosophy is simple

retiring just months before opening the doors to the distillery.

and they execute it wonderfully. Focused on making ultra-small

Keeping a strong friendship after college, their families would often

batch, locally sourced, innovative spirits, they plan to become

vacation together. Over many campfires, Moyer and Yozzo talked

a destination distillery more than a production distillery,

about starting a business together, and as craft distilling grew,

connecting with people and showing them just how much small

those talks were often accompanied by new bottles of craft spirits.

distillers have to offer.

“At one point the business brainstorming and sampling spirits

“We want to make innovative and unique spirits with natural

intersected and we decided to start a distillery,” says Moyer.

ingredients, live in the country, work with our hands, and provide

After spending a couple years forming the business, training and

for our families,” says Chris Moyer, who co-founded HVD with

bringing investors on, Moyer moved from Virginia to Clermont,

his friend from college, Tom Yozzo. “This is more than a job

New York, and Yozzo moved from nearby Newburg. The pair and

or a paycheck for us, this is a lifestyle. Working with our hands, being part of the Hudson Valley agricultural community, building a business that creates jobs, and working for ourselves are just


their families purchased a 12 acre farm in Clermont, naming it Spirits Grove Farm, and began building out the distillery in the existing red barn. Moyer says the 150 year old barn was a staple to their property and business


Instead, HVD is focused on making innovative





ingredients, producing a hyper-regional terroir. Moyer says their bourbon recipe is substantially different from most and their vodka is made from apples and has a softer body and flavor than grain-based vodkas. They also produce two different Applejacks with distinct differences in nose, palate and finish. “There’s not a huge market for Applejack, but we’ve done well with it because it was historically a very popular drink, it uses a crop the Hudson Valley is famous for, and it is damn good!” tells Yozzo. He explained that the area’s history plan, but it needed some major work. The families renovated also helps to promote the brand, telling that distillers in the it — floor to ceiling — in nine months, all while both Moyer and area have made and enjoyed Applejack since colonial times, Yozzo were still working full-time jobs, something Moyer hopes including Chancellor Robert Livingston. Livingston was one of will remind hopeful distillers of the hard work it takes to turn the signers of the Declaration of Independence, swore George their dreams into reality.

Washington into office, and used to own the land now known as

Alongside the barn, Spirits Grove Farm features several large Spirits Grove Farm. greenhouses, which they are using to grow the botanicals for

The agricultural community and history of the area not only

their Gin. They also have a four acre apple orchard, which they promotes HVD, but allows them to play a part in their community are bringing back into service.

and generate local revenue. Only a two hour drive from New

Unfortunately, they lost this year’s apple crop to frost, but they York City, Clermont’s population is less than 2,000. Moyer said were able to buy fruit from a nearby farmer, something they say their community is very supportive, along with local and regional is fundamental to their business philosophy.

wineries and retail farms, which send tourists their way, and vice

“To date, all of our ingredients have come from no more than 5 versa. miles away and we ferment and distill on premise,” tells Moyer.

“Although the area within 100 miles is some of the most

He says that they don’t have a problem with distillers sourcing densely populated [land] in the country, we are in a rural area ingredients like NGS as long as they are honest about it, but and agriculture and tourism are the two biggest industries,” explains that their current plan does not necessitate that.

tells Moyer. “We are in the middle of both in a big way and the


community appreciates that.”

distillery as a destination, rather

He says that they are also lucky

than a production facility. Next door

to have a supportive community of

to their distillery, they are currently

distillers in New York, and credits

renovating a small building that will

Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee of

soon become Spirits Grove Cocktail

Tuthilltown Spirits, and Monte Sachs

Café. Not only will this attract

of Catskill Distilling Company for

more tourists, but it will showcase

helping them get started.

their spirits, allowing them to craft

“We have a great relationship

cocktails around their unique flavors.

with the distillers in New York and

Connecting with their customers is

in particular the distillers in close

essential to their success as a small

proximity to us — Dutch’s Spirits,

operation, so they currently do their



own distributing, tasting events and

Harvest Spirits,” tells Moyer. “As a

sales promotions, personally. Their

destination distillery there is benefit

distillery tours are always led by at

to us if our neighbors are successful.

least one of the owners, and they

It helps that we all have different

always open their doors to visitors,

business models and I think visitors

even when the sign says “Closed.”



will have a unique experience at each

Moyer says that this is an important

of our distilleries both in terms of our

part of their business model, and

processes and products.”

offers some advice to hopeful distillers about the necessity of

Moyer says they currently generate more revenue from tourism, building a good business model and sticking to it. including distillery tours, than bottle sales, and says that’s what they planned for and expected from the start.

“Understand there is a difference between a business model and a business plan,” he explains. “You can change your plan

“Groupon is probably more effective for us than paid — ours has changed a dozen times — but you can’t change your advertising,” says Moyer, explaining their approach to creating model from “Pappy Van Winkle” to “Fireball” overnight.” a destination distillery. “In New York, we can provide tastings

Building their brand by deliberately executing their own unique

and sell bottles at fairs and wine and food fests, so we attend business model is paying off for the Moyer and Yozzo families as many as we can, not only for bottles sales, but to get to know at Hudson Valley Distillers. Friendly and welcoming, they offer people and encourage them to visit us at the distillery. As for high quality, locally-sourced spirits. Through their hard work and conversion, if we can get someone into the distillery and give focused planning, their dreams are coming to fruition, just like them a tour, we will end up with a bottle sale at least 90% of the orchards of the Hudson Valley. the time.”

Their next plan of expansion also focuses on developing the Hudson Valley Distillers call Clermont, NY home. For more info, visit

www.hudsonvalleydistillers.com or call (518) 537-6820.

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We offer a Special Rate for craft spirit producers like you.

Texas D I S T I L L I N G


A gentleman from Nacogdoches, in Texas, informs us, that, whilst there, he dined in public with Col. Crockett, who had just arrived from Tennessee. The old bear-hunter, on being toasted, made a speech to the Texians, replete with his usual dry humor. He began nearly in this style: “I am told, gentlemen, that, when a stranger, like myself, arrives among you, the first

inquiry is — what brought you here? To satisfy your curiosity at once to myself, I will tell you all about it. I was, for some years, a member of congress. In my last canvass, I told the people of my district, that, if they saw fit to re-elect me, I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but, if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas. I was beaten, gentlemen, and here I am.” The roar of applause was like a thunder-burst.  

—Davey Crockett, quoted from the Louisville Journal story during the 1800s

“Deep in the Heart of Texas” Texas. Bigger and better. Bold. Gorgeous. Texas, the second

“If It Wasn’t for Texas” Distilling, as mentioned previously, has grown from single-

largest state in the United States, surely knows how to get digits to numbers in the sixties in a very short time—seventeen attention and get things done, all the while having fun. But, years to be precise. Texas is known for bigger and better and believe it or not, distilling has only been legal since 1997 in the there is a lot of pride in the state. So how did they get to be such grand old state. At that time, Tito’s — one of the US’s largest newcomers in the distilling world when Texas has been around manufacturers of Vodka today — was the first of two distillers to since 1845 and has been no stranger to a good stiff drink? be given permits. By 2008, there were still only eight distillers

According to Stewart, TDSA Executive Director, Texas has long

licensed in the state. In 2012, the Texas Distilled Spirits been known as a more regulated state than others, especially Association (TDSA) was officially formed, and now over sixty when it comes to alcohol. TDSA was formed in 2012 due to distillers operate in Texas.

the rapid growth of distilleries. There became a great need

The industry in Texas is beginning its boom. Artisan Spirit for one voice that represented the distillers when it came to recently had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Likarish of legislative, regulatory, education, and marketing matters (the Ironroot Republic Distilling, located in Denison, TX, and Scott most important being the regulatory and legislative portions of Stewart, the Executive Director of TDSA, who also acts as their these hurdles). TDSA has focused on being a voice for distillers Government Affairs Manager. Through these two, we were given and has worked to build great relationships with the community, a small snapshot to learn of the growth trends in Texas, the stakeholders, and other associations like the Texas Alcoholic legal hurdles they have overcome and are currently dealing with, Beverage Commission (TABC). the Texan community’s response, and future of distilling in the Lonestar State.

During the first legislative session of 2013, TDSA was able to enact some great changes for distillers. Four significant


bills were passed and Governor Rick Perry declared September definitely agree that it’s behind the curve in terms of growth. 2013 as the inaugural celebration of “Texas Distilled Spirits

But, that’s rapidly changing. The new changes in state law have

Month.” Stewart explains that through TDSA distillers can now: opened the floodgates for more distilleries to pop up in Texas.”

 Sell a limited number of bottles on site to consumers and have tastings and samplings of products.

 Purchase products in bulk from Texas wineries,

breweries, and other distillers for manufacturing.

 Sell products in bulk directly to food processors.

Likarish goes on to explain that when they started, only two other distilleries were located in North Texas and now there’s close to eleven. Texas also has some wonderful established artisans from whom new distillers can learn. Likarish credits Chip Tate (formerly of Balcones) and his team for having one of the best craft whiskeys

 Appoint someone to represent the distillery with

on the market and for being such great leaders, calling Tate

Stewart is proud of these accomplishments and of TDSA’s

credits Dan Garrison of Garrison Brothers as being a great leader

tastings and in working with distributors.

and company, “truly pioneers and damn fine distillers.” He also

ability to continue to work to help the distillers in Texas and to who will speak out for change in the industry. work with national groups when federal issues arise. Stewart says that, “[TDSA] has enjoyed working together with these [national] groups, and they have been great relationships to build and have, and will be vital moving forward.”

“Can’t Get Enough of Texas” Both Stewart and Likarish happily say that the response to distilling in the state has been outstanding. “If there is one

Likarish also adds that, “There aren’t any really

thing that Texans love,” says Stewart, “it’s Texas; and the

huge legal hurdles for starting up a distillery in

same can be said for our distilling industry.” More and more

Texas right now.” Likarish goes on to explain

connoisseurs of distilling are showing up and more people are

that the dry counties are on the decline, and


out education to learn about distilling.

the existing restrictions only make it difficult to

“Overall, Texans have done what

sell bottles on site due to the laws in those dry

they always have — support local

counties. Additionally, he also

businesses,” says Stewart.

states that Texas now allows a distillery to sell two bottles per

The communities in Texas have



person every 30 days (and, yes,

supportive, as well. As for

they do have to keep track of this).

Likarish, when they went to

Everyone has been excited about the

Denison, they knew they had

recent legislative changes — changes like being able to sell bottles and cocktails at the distillery is a huge obstacle that has been broken down, and this is a grand opportunity for craft distillers in Texas.

found their home. “The town immediately welcomed us in and made setting up a distillery extremely easy. Since we have arrived, the town has even put together large incentive packages to attract

“Just Like a Texan” With TDSA enacting changes in the state and helping things move in a positive direction for distillers, more distillers have shown up ready to create spirits in the beautiful state. “Texas may have been behind some of our western brethren in

other distilleries, wineries, and breweries.” Additionally, the distilleries have been very welcoming of one another and have been ready to educate and grow as a distilling community. Stewart reveals, “Historically, Texas distillers have generally worked together for common goals,

terms of timeframe, but with the quality of spirits and number

and supporting each other. After establishing the [TDSA], this

spirits,” says Stewart. Texas craft distilling is continuing to grow

failures and successes provides a forum for everyone to come

of distilleries, Texas is poised to become the pre-eminent culture of community was strengthened immensely. Sitting in a destination of independent, innovative distilling methods and room with a group of your peers and sharing your commonalities, and bring innovation to spirits. Likarish of Iroonroot Republic Distilling concurs: “We’d

together to face the challenges facing our industry.” Likarish assures others of the great commitment Texans have


to other Texans: “When we were first starting to put together


the idea of starting a distillery back in 2011, Chip Tate took us under his wing and taught us an enormous amount…We were [also] fortunate to spend countless days down at Balcones, asking questions and getting feedback on our farfetched ideas.”

75 Anniversary! 1939 - 2014

Likarish knows that these pioneers have become his friends and mentors and he hopes to add to this tradition himself.

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The future of distilling in Texas is looking rosy. Texas has won awards for their distilling work and their recognition in the distilling world is on the rise. This year alone, Treat Oak Distillery won the Distillery of the Year award from Microliquor and Ranger Creek Distilling won two silver medals at the 2014 Whiskies of the World Awards. “It’s recognitions and awards like these that bring attention and eyes of the alcoholic beverage community and consumers around our state and nation to the Texas distilled spirits industry,” shares Stewart.

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“It’s a great place to start a distillery,” insists Likarish. “There

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are so many helpful and friendly distillers in the state—we are always willing to help with advice.” He punctuates this point by providing the advice of making sure you visit the other distilleries


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and to get into the passion of the other craftsmen as you explore the idea of opening a distillery in Texas. Texas distilling is growing and becoming more competitive according to Stewart—so should you desire to distill in Texas, do your homework and create products that stand out in a growing industry. But don’t be discouraged, says Likarish, finishing with some great advice: “Be proud of where you come from, create spirits that speak with the voice of where you are from, and dream big.”

For more info visit www.texasdistilledspirits.org or call (512) 482-9339.

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ns A Look i













esigning, building or renovating a distillery is specialized

urban location makes space planning uniquely challenging.”

work, something many architecture and construction

Instead of leaving their original location, they stayed put and

firms are not familiar with. There are numerous pitfalls when

purchased another site nearby to handle the space-demanding

planning the construction of a new distillery, renovating an

portions of their operations, renovating it to suit their needs.





“We have a warehouse down the

a current facility. Cash Moter of

street where we do most of our aging

Joseph & Joseph Architects of

and bottling,” says Hletko, who

Louisville, Kentucky, Corky Taylor of

adds that additional space allowed

Kentucky Peerless Distilling, also of

them to ramp up their production

Louisville, and Paul Hletko of Few

capacity, as well. “We recently

Spirits in Evanston, Illinois, shared

installed additional fermentation

some insight into their current

capacity, and a stripping still to work

distillery construction projects, and

with the additional fermentation.”

offer advice to those preparing to

Moter says that distillers should

break ground.

plan for this expansion from the start. “Painting yourself into a


corner can be a very costly mistake but planning to avoid it can add

Joseph & Joseph Architects is one

little to no cost,” he explains. “The

of the leading distillery architecture

most common approach is to plan

firms in the country. Cash Moter,

to add shifts. That can mean little

who owns the company along with

more than having the ability to

his father Merill, says it is hard to

add fermenters, disposing of the

say how many distillery projects the

additional by-products and adding

firm has worked on in their 106

space for barrel storage.”

years of business, but shares that they have more than 400 projects


in their records relating to distilling companies.

Moter says that while the details

With so much experience, Moter


and the firm see many of the same oversights made by clients beginning to design their distilleries. “One of the most common underestimated items in a distillery is space,”








user-friendly distillery may seem

“One of the most common under-estimated items in a distillery is space.” — Cash Moter

distillery management, there are

complicated, distillery



experienced can


find the right fit for the distiller by discussing the plans thoroughly together. “Even




always unforeseen logistical issues: shipments are delayed,

distiller may never have built a distillery,” says Moter. “We work

needing to buy in bulk, the bottling line breaks down, etc. All of

with our clients by asking questions about their process. Our

these issues represent a need for a staging area. It’s important

experience with many distilleries allows us to bring up issues that

to plan for these logistics on the front end as opposed to making

are not readily obvious. While the overall basis for making spirits

due and tripping over yourself.”

is similar, each distiller has their own process and techniques to

Few Spirits owner Paul Hletko has felt this need for more space firsthand. “We have increased our production several times, and each time it is a different challenge,” he tells. “Our

make their product unique. We work with them to customize the facility for their specific needs for that operation.” Such is the case with father and son team Corky and Carson


Taylor of Kentucky Peerless Distilling. Reviving Henry Kraver’s century-old Peerless whiskey label, the Taylors chose to renovate a historic building in downtown Louisville. “We wanted to put a 100 year old bourbon company in a 100 year old building,” tells Corky. “The size, square feet, look, feel, location - it was the perfect fit.” Corky says his son Carson has a background in construction and had the vision of what the distillery could become inside the existing building. They worked with Joseph & Joseph to design their distillery, setting up firm plans before beginning construction. “We did our homework up front,” says Corky. “We made all the changes before construction. We upgraded things now rather than later. We added more fermenters, PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) on the still and the cooker, and a more efficient bottling line.”

“The definitions of words like ‘storage’ and ‘processing’ have subtle connotations that can cost an owner dearly if not interpreted correctly.” — Cash Moter

MAKING IT HAPPEN The Taylors are part of a citywide influx of distillery construction in downtown Louisville. They are joining Michter’s, Angel’s Envy, Evan Williams and others that are choosing to renovate historic buildings to house portions of their distilling business and their visitor centers.


Joseph & Joseph has worked on many of these projects, and Moter says they bring their own unique challenges.

that most architects never deal with. One of the most important things is to really understand the specific terminology. The

“Recently we found ourselves involved in a project that

definitions of words like ‘storage’ and ‘processing’ have subtle

someone had told the client it could not be done,” he tells.

connotations that can cost an owner dearly if not interpreted

“The project was a historic building in an urban neighborhood


and the competing code requirements and historic preservation

Moter says that while large distillers and small distillers face

requirements were overwhelming to others the client talked

many of the same challenges, small distillers often face higher

with. By making some small modifications and working through

percentage safety costs. “The threshold to become high-hazard

the specifics of the distillery equipment with the owner we were

occupancy is a relatively small quantity of flammable liquid,”

able to not only get the project permitted but also help them get

he explains. “The percentage costs that those safety features

historic tax credits on the project.”

represent are much greater on a small operation than a large one.”

Moter says another major challenge in distillery design and

Moter also explains that it is often more costly and difficult to

construction is navigating codes and regulations. While building

design and build a small distillery with growth potential because

code safety regulations are based on International Building

of the space constraints and requirements, saying, “It is much

Code and do not change very much between states, he says that

easier to outgrow a 250-gallon pot still than it is a 32” column

zoning, design districts, insurance requirements, liquor laws, tax


incentives, infrastructure, utility standards, and other factors, can vary greatly, even within the same state.

Corky Taylor says that if someone wants to build an efficient distillery that will accommodate future growth, they should build

“Prior to starting a project we start working with the owner and

for where they see themselves in five years. He says that can

touch base with the building code officials to start researching

mean doubling their budget up front. He recommends trying to

these requirements,” he tells. “The sections of the building code

find a banker to work with rather than taking on investors, and,

that regulate flammable liquid handling and storage are sections

most importantly, “don’t lose sight of your dream.”



ften when touring a distillery, the yeast are mentioned very briefly as simply an ingredient used in the fermentation process. In actuality, the yeast are highly sophisticated microorganisms responsible for creating complex flavors that carry over from fermentation into the distillate. Thus, in contrast to a mere ingredient added to fermentation, the yeast are a living entity requiring specific growth conditions and must F OR D I S TI LLE D SPI RI TS PRODUCTI ON be handled with care, and employed in very specific ways to maximize positive flavor contributions. Here we look W R I T T E N B Y P AT R I C K H E I S T, P H . D more closely at yeast and dissect some of the PHOTOGRAPHS PROVIDED BY FERM SOLUTIONS, INC. differences between various yeast strains used for distilling, how they contribute to the flavor of the distilled spirit, associated environmental factors, and expectations from a production standpoint. We will focus mainly on spirits produced from grain-based fermentations, but many of these same principles apply to other distilled spirits.



YEAST STRAINS USED IN DISTILLED SPIRITS PRODUCTION The scientific name for distillers yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Figure 1). This same species of yeast is used in baking as well as beer and wine making, but different strains are selected for each use. For example, in baking, yeast strains are chosen based on the flavor profiles that they create and for CO2 production responsible for making dough rise. In beer making, whether or not the yeast settle out of solution or remain suspended (a.k.a. “flocculation”) is an important criterion when choosing the right yeast. In distilled spirit production, yeast are also chosen for the aroma that they produce in fermentation, but there are also certain production requirements that must be met relating to sugar consumption and ethanol production.


Looking at yeast macro- and microscopically, one can see differences. What they look like growing on an agar plate (colony morphology) can be different


than what they look like under the microscope (cell morphology). and in fermentation. There are also differences in susceptibility to certain inhibitors like cycloheximide, which is often used to select for growth of bacteria in a substrate with high yeast populations. Most S. cerevisiae are sensitive to cycloheximide, but some strains are resistant. These differences can be used to group yeast strains together or to differentiate one strain from another. It is unclear how these differences contribute to flavor profile when comparing yeast strains.


influences how quickly the yeast will divide and is

linked to aldehyde production. Oxygen is also important to the yeast for production of unsaturated fatty acids and sterols that are important for cell wall integrity, yeast viability and how well they can survive, which is especially important towards the end of fermentation when ethanol is high and residual sugars are very low.

Other differences include production of various flavor SUGAR availability is also important and should be regulated compounds collectively known as “congeners.” These are during yeast propagation. Since one of the primary goals of produced during fermentation and are discussed in more detail propagation is to maximize cell populations, lower sugar (maltose below. Another difference between yeast strains is their origin, and/or glucose) concentrations should be targeted to promote or where they were first isolated. Yeast can be routinely cultured aerobic respiration. For further reading look into the “Crabtree from fermenting fruits and grain and other environmental Effect.” These are just some kibbles of information on this topic surfaces and are considered ubiquitous in nature.

as we could very quickly get lost in details beyond the scope of this article.


Yeast is also available in different forms, including active dried

Yeast contribute significantly to the flavor profile of distilled yeast (our favorite!) as well as wet-cake and liquid formulations. spirits. In addition to ethyl alcohol, they produce other chemicals The latter two require refrigeration and are more prone to

(aka congeners) that contribute to the flavor of the spirit. Examples spoilage. In contrast to inoculation using a yeast propagation, of congeners include alcohols, acids, esters, and aldehydes, these different yeast formulations can be added directly to the

many of which are produced by the yeast during fermentation. fermenter, a process called “dry batching.” It is the simplest way The level of congeners is influenced by the yeast strain, but there to inoculate the fermentor and avoids the extra steps required are also other factors that come into play that are independent of for propagation. However, using propagated yeast versus dry the yeast. For example, cooking temperatures of grains resulting batching results in different fermentation kinetics, which could

in different sugar or protein profiles can lend to the flavor profile. influence the final flavor. For example, a fermentation inoculated This is one reason why corn is cooked at a higher temperature with propagated yeast starts faster as it has already acclimated

than small grains like wheat, rye and barley. Other environmental to the fermentation mash and is actively growing. In contrast, factors like temperature of the fermentation and presence of when dry batching, the yeast undergo a lag in growth for the toxic byproducts like acetic acid can also influence the level of first few hours as the cells are rehydrating and repairing after congeners produced by a given yeast strain, which can change being in a packaged form (active dried, wet cake, or liquid). It is the flavor of the distillate.

unclear what effects this may have on flavor, but there are several

How the yeast is added to fermentation is another variable. distilleries that use either method and produce fine spirits. As Some distilleries start from single yeast colonies on an agar long as the process results in an excellent spirit and the yeast is plate and then subculture into broth or grain mash. After several capable of depleting sugars, either method is acceptable from a passages from smaller to larger vessels an appropriate amount production standpoint. of inoculum is generated, sufficient to seed the fermentor.

Multiple yeast strains are sometimes used to create more

facets of yeast propagation that can influence the final spirit

Some non-yeast factors that contribute to flavor of the

This process of growing yeast to create suitable inoculum for complex and unique flavors and is an interesting area for further fermentation is called “yeast propagation.” There are many research and highlights how different yeast strains can be used.

and there are a variety of methods used in different distilleries. finished spirit include grain quality, mash bill, cooking methods Oxygen and sugar availability are two very important factors that (temperatures, pH’s, etc.), sour or sweet mash process, method influence the yeast and are considered both in yeast propagation of distillation (pot or column still), final proof of the spirit coming off the still, the water used to gauge the spirit for barreling or


bottling, and any contributions from wooden barrels or other

flavor profile, but it must also be capable of finishing sugars

storage vessels, to name a few.

in fermentation. While deficiencies in ethanol production and leftover sugar at the end of fermentation can be directly

STRAIN-RELATED PRODUCTION FACTORS While flavor contribution often gets the most attention when discussing yeast strains, the right yeast strain for your distillery must also meet certain production criteria. Many distilleries are well-known for the flavor of the spirits they produce, but there is also a production side that is tied into profitability of the business, and yield (gallons of ethanol produced per bushel of grain) is often the measuring stick used to determine success. Ethanol utilization important calculating a

production are









at For

optimized production you


maximum production almost



ethanol and complete

depletion of sugars. Any sugars left over at the end of fermentation is viewed as money left on the table. In addition, leftover sugar in fermentation can cause ancillary issues such as burning onto distillation and evaporation equipment. Not all yeast strains are capable of fermenting to completion, thus the right yeast strain must not only produce the desired

translated into calculable losses, there are other ancillary factors associated with the yeast that can further affect profitability, namely temperature, briefly mentioned above. Since yeast is a living organism, there is a specific temperature range required for optimized performance in fermentation, normally between 80-95° F. Higher or lower temperatures can result in lower ethanol and/or higher residual sugar, which can be directly tied to monetary losses. During fermentation, the yeast produces heat, which raises the temperature often to the point of affecting performance. Cooling capacity is required to keep fermenters from getting too hot, which is provided by heat exchange systems using incoming water or through use of a chiller, both of which cost money to operate and factor into the operating cost of the distillery. There are differences in the amount of heat a yeast strain will tolerate before fermentation is adversely affected. Thus, the best yeast strain is one that will produce the desired flavor profile, reaches the target ethanol production, depletes sugar, but also can withstand higher temperatures. If you are forced to keep your fermenters below 85°

(FIGURE 2) LACTIC ACID BACTERIA (LACTOBACILLUS) F because of the yeast strain you are using it will end up costing a lot more in the long run than if the yeast strain could have operated successfully at 95F, for example. This is even more important if your distillery is located in an area with warmer average temperatures. While extreme temperatures can adversely affect fermentation from a yield standpoint, it can also boost production of certain congeners that may negatively

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affect the flavor of the finished spirit. Diacetyl is one of

While bacterial and wild

the undesirable compounds produced by yeast at high temperatures and imparts a buttery flavor to the finished

yeast contamination is primarily a sanitation


issue, yeast strains

spirit. Thus, temperature is important for multiple

with poor vigor or

reasons with respect to flavor and yield and

ones that are slow

temperature tolerance is an important criterion


when selecting a yeast strain.




with and



compete bacteria

wild a




environment. Inability to

It is important to mention microbial contamination of

grow quickly and compete

fermentation as it ties into several of the areas described

with contaminating microbes

above including yield and flavor. Bacterial contamination can greatly affect yeast performance in fermentation and often

can be problematic. Poor yeast vigor

results in a more acidic beer with elevated organic acids, namely

is compounded by additional factors like temperature, nutrient

lactic and acetic. Some believe the organic acids produced by deficiencies, etc. Different yeast strains possess differing bacteria contribute positively to the flavor profile of the finished levels of vigor or the ability to complete the mission of ethanol spirit and as mentioned before, organic acids are one of the

production and complete sugar utilization in fermentation.

several congeners that influence the flavor profile. However, growth of bacteria and production of their byproducts are difficult to manage consistently from batch to batch. Bacteria that contaminate fermentation in distilleries are most often

CLOSING REMARKS While we have just barely scraped the surface of the complexity

lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus and related species; Figure 2), of distillers yeast, hopefully we have hit on certain areas that but there are several others that are found, each producing its

will be helpful for differentiating yeast strains and the criteria

own cocktail of different metabolic byproducts that can take the to consider when selecting a strain for a particular application. flavor in multiple different directions, some bordering on putrid.

Continued research into new yeast strains, their biochemistries

In addition to bacterial contamination there are wild yeasts and how different environmental factors can influence quality (meaning other yeasts besides the one you intended to be there; of distilled spirits is needed to unlock the full potential of these Figure 3) that can contaminate fermentation and can cause

interesting and widely used microbes.

issues including off flavors from metabolic by-products. Wild yeast are less likely to be an issue compared to bacteria, but it Patrick Heist, Ph.D. is chief scientific officer of Ferm Solutions, Inc. and does happen so you should be aware of the possibility.

co-founder of Wilderness Trail Distillery. For more information visit www.ferm-solutions.net or call (859) 402-8707.



“Honey, pick up a gallon of milk on the way home.” That’s the voicemail/text/email for eleven months out of the year.

“Honey, pick up a bottle of something nice for the party.” That’s the order from now through New Year’s…God bless the holiday season! Lots of these messages lead only to teeming groups of people loitering in a stupefied daze attempting to unravel faux French words on wine bottles. Yet the statistics are equally bright for

grain, of finely tuned cuts of the pot still, of carefully selected water, of all-natural ingredients that really are natural… Sorry. Jiminy Cricket doesn’t exist. You’re on your own selling

liquor: during these cold months of dropping temperatures, these spirits, mon frere. internet booze search traffic goes up 200% and more. That

What’s going through their heads? How can you get in there?

means a lot of similarly stupefied people are standing in the

We interviewed several neophytes in the moment of purchase in

vodka aisle.

attempt to identify those things that they look for when they’re

What’s clearly wanted is a boozy Jiminy Cricket whispering in

shopping for something nice. What is nice? What does that

the ears of the hurried, harried individual facing those linear feet mean? What do they look for? Where do they seek help? Here of looming 750ml bottles. He would speak of locally sourced

are 5 principles we’ve developed based upon their responses...

METHODOLOGY: These findings are qualitative in nature. Similar to a focus group, we conducted observational interviews with 7 individuals assigned to shop in a central Illinois liquor store of high inventory and reputation as if they were told to “get something nice.” We conducted a second study simply observing shoppers from a distance to get a sense of time and practice. This was done over the space of 90 minutes on a Friday during the closing hours of the standard business day. These methods yield insights and we’ve dared to draw conclusions from them but they should not be confused with a truly representative sample of the drinking population.


1. INDIVIDUAL TIME IS SHORT (BUT GROUP TIME IS LONGER) Buying the hooch is competing with the cheese tray, the babysitter, gassing up the car, and whatever else is going on. That stupefied daze has a pretty short life-span. In our observations, individuals will pick up 2 or a maximum of 3 bottles before deciding and bailing. The more crowded the aisle, the less likely they are to mull over their choices, perhaps not wanting to flaunt their ignorance in public. If they’re going to look something up on their smartphone, they’re prone to walk away from the selections and then come back later, again, perhaps not wanting to flaunt their ignorance. (Pairs or groups, by the way, tend to argue and compare longer.) What does this mean? Like internet search results, you need to be in the top three results to be truly in the consideration set.


Your window of opportunity to tell your story

Happily, “get something nice” usually

is very small: pick a theme and

means “get something that’s not on the bottom shelf

get to the point, fast!

and allows us to arrive in dignity.” Nobody’s buying the bottom shelf stuff for the party (and no one we talked to would admit to refilling expensive vodka bottles with cheaper stuff). In our observations $30 was considered an upper limit and $39.99 an absolute ceiling barring explicit instructions for a particular brand. $16.99 appears to be floor. The $20s are a Goldilocks zone of just right. However, people still want to feel

like they’re getting a bargain and those sales tags matter a great deal. They’re attractive, just like discount tags in jewelry, shoes, and butcher shops. They might be willing to pay $27, but only if they think it’s a discount off of $31. What does this mean? You have to make the customer feel like they’re smart, savvy bargain hunters. Coupons? Rebates? The sale doesn’t have to be large, it has to be just enough.

3. SIZE DOES MATTER… AND SO DOES THE BOTTLE Dignity appears to be the name of the game for the holiday party and no one’s looking for glass skulls or other oddities. They are looking for something tall, elegant, and smooth; it should have a little heft. In our observations, people gravitated towards light colors, sleek lines, and just a hint of flair. Holiday / seasonal decorative bottles are working! Special editions are working, as well. Bottles that dress with a little couture are attractive and prone to get grabs (not too flashy, mind you - a little couture - no one wants to show up with the Bling Flagon either). And yes, marketing BS or not, having a little text on the back of the label is better than nothing at all. Most of all, those bottle tags are attractive no matter what score or press-piece they’re touting. If you’ve entered those competitions, now might be the time to pull out the tags and slap them on the bottles. What does this mean? If you have marketing dollars to spend on a touch of glitz (not too much!), now is the time to spend it. The target market that responds to that kind of thing is shopping right now!

4. HOLIDAY FLAVORS ARE IN, WEIRDO STUFF IS OUT And thank God. Put the cake flavors, the candy flavors, and

all the other shock-flavored dross away. Party flavors, however, are in; particularly holiday flavors. Egg nog, holiday spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and even summer flavors like cucumber, cherry, and other herbs are all enticing. We always

preach easy and uncomplicated cocktails and it’s especially true for parties where punches and quick pours are in fashion (you’re competing against wine, after all). What does this mean? A simple cocktail idea on the back of the bottle will be a hit. Particularly if it’s “mix with club soda” or “tonic water” and ice. Can you get the retailer to put a bottle of cranberry juice or ginger beer or whatever it is you need to mix with next to your spirit?


5. NAME BRANDS ARE IN THE FIGHT EVERY TIME Here’s the bad news for craft distillers: those big names matter and people look there first. You know them, we know them, everyone knows them. The geese, the kettles, the julios, and the walkers…they’re all there. In that 2-3 bottle consideration set, you’re guaranteed to be facing one or two of them. That name recognition confers the very dignity that’s required for the holiday party offering. Your bottle is the new kid at school and without a little reassuring reinforcement, it’s hard to get that first date. The store staff, the bystander, the internet…just about anything can serve as a reassuring source, but a reassuring source of some kind is most definitely wanted among those we talked to. Otherwise, they’ll default to the known quantity. What does this mean? Your stuff is good. Probably better than good. Once again, this is where those shelf tags, newspaper quotes, social media campaigns, or other accolade-dripping accoutrements pull their weight. Make sure you use them!

These seem to be the 5 principles governing the “get something nice” goal. This is our sense of what the thought profile of the shopper looks like. This is it, about 3 minutes, and only about 100 seconds of that to

get into the consideration set. Not the time for exhaustive history lessons of the spirit or graphic descriptions of the hours of toil you put into each bottle. It most definitely is a time of opportunity for the craft spirit that displays dignity, flavor, savvy, and easy.

Neal MacDonald is editor of Proof66.com, an independent, informational service. The data it provides includes aggregating scores from several critical institutions and combining those results with user reviews.




n a small distillery’s first few years a big challenge can



story to consumers.

be making sure potential customers hear, and more

Jeffery has gone from studying food chemistry in graduate

importantly understand, the story that makes them special.

school, to consulting for several distilleries, to helping Santa Fe

Working with owner Colin Keegan, head distiller Johnny Jeffery

Spirits with operations. Its location in New Mexico has become

and the rest of Santa Fe Spirits are working hard to get their

a key component in their story, and Jeffery’s attachment to


the surrounding area has grown as he learns to infuse local

attention so that distributors want to add you to their portfolio,

ingredients into Santa Fe’s growing product line.

which they will do if the public asks them about you.

Santa Fe Spirits makes several southwest-infused craft spirits.

New Mexico coalesces a plethora of local sources of

Jeffery told us, “We’ve taken pieces of the desert and expressed

inspiration and Santa Fe Spirits aims to take advantage of as

them in our spirits.” Their products include Silver Coyote

many of them as they can. The apples in their apple brandy

Pure Malt un-aged Whiskey, Expedition Vodka, Apple Brandy,

come from New Mexico and Colorado. They hand pick Cholla

Wheelers Gin, and Colkegan Single

blossoms and the juniper is freshly

Malt Whiskey. Their single malt is

picked, as well. The pride in Santa

made in the style of scotch, but is made distinctly unique by smoking the grain with mesquite. Their apple brandy is made from apples grown on Keegan’s family orchard. For a distillery that is less than two years old, Jeffery’s experience

“The real fun to be had is in doing things that surprise people when they try it...we’re creating products that almost need their own place on the shelves entirely.”

Fe Spirits’ ability to integrate New Mexico into their products is obvious. Jeffery shared, “These are elements you can’t get in whiskies from KY and the UK. They’re totally unique to the high desert and rather than trying to ‘make up’

is still enlightening. He states that

for them we’re highlighting them.”

one of the biggest challenges a

Jeffery is also learning about

young distillery can face is getting the attention of, and making

local history and how it can benefit spirits in the area. He

an agreement with, distributors, glass makers, and suppliers.

described learning about plants both brought here by other

“Distributors just don’t take us seriously. We’re such a small part of their portfolios they overlook us and try to get accounts to buy their money makers.” Jeffery’s advice is to get the public’s

cultures and those that are native, and they are all included in one ingredients list or another. We asked Jeffery what aspects of Santa Fe set them apart from

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other distilleries. Their single malt whiskey is a combination of

because they sound good, that we fight a bit of an uphill battle

the styles of both America and the British Isles. Because of

to reach them.” In order to help support the industry as a whole,

their local aridity, they aren’t able to age whiskey for as long as

Jeffery had some of the best advice we’ve heard: “Don’t fucking

in Kentucky or the U.K. Their goal, instead of falling in line with

lie!” We agree.

the rest of the industry, is to play with people’s expectations.

In an exciting industry, Jeffery has plenty to say about where

Jeffery explains, “the real fun to be had is in doing things that

Santa Fe Spirits will fit in for the long term. “I think that the

surprise people when they try it.” Santa

time is coming where we’ll have to get

Fe Spirits doesn’t want to displace other

away from competing with the big guys

products, Jeffery told us, saying, “we’re creating products that almost need their own place on the shelves entirely.” For other distilleries, Jeffery has advice

“Our strength is the ability to do things differently, try new things, be unique.”

on how to stick out to both consumers

in their backyard.” Small distilleries will compete by creating new favorites among new connoisseurs, he says. “Our strength is the ability to do things differently, try new things, be unique.” There are not

and distributors: “Own your own back

many spirits more unique than brandy

yard.” The story each distillery tells is what matters to many

made from a family’s apple orchard. Whatever makes your spirits

spirit drinkers, and a legitimate story is what helps stick in

special, Jeffery and Santa Fe Spirits encourages everyone to

their minds. Jeffery says there are too many distilleries with

make sure people know about it. You may even be able to create

marketing-driven stories that customers will eventually discern,

your own spot on a store shelf, next to those made by Santa Fe

which makes the true stories even more important for a


distillery’s survival. “The kinds of consumers we appeal to are wary of our story as they’ve been fed so many artificial ones, stories that are invented

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C H I P TAT E ’ S S T O R Y & D














lot has been said about the legal struggle at Balcones

among other things.

Distillery in Waco, Texas, and even more words have been

“All of that stuff was totally fabricated,” he tells. “They had

buried. As it stands, now, Chip Tate, who founded the company

all the passwords, I never came to the distillery, I never sent

in 2008 by learning to weld and hammer his own stills, has sold

members of my family to the distillery, I never made those

his share of the company to PE Investors II, LLC, a private equity

threats, I never said I would burn it.”

group based in Oklahoma.

Tate says audio and video surveillance at the distillery prove

In 2012, under Tate’s leadership, Balcones was facing an

the claims are false, however since both the injunction and

insatiable demand for their whiskey, which many celebrated

restraining order were lifted, the claims will not be tried in court.

as some of the best new whiskey in America. Tate had visions

From the beginning of the legal battle, Tate held that the

of expansion and went through the laborious process of vetting

parties would not be able to work together and adamantly sought

investors and searching for the funding to bring his vision to

a buyout of either PE or himself, likening the venture to a divorce

fruition. Eventually Tate met Greg Allen of PE, and an agreement

where only one person keeps the house.

was struck bringing him on board to fund the project.

Tate held a 27 percent stake in Balcones, and the details of

Tate says things went well in the beginning, but as time went

the December 2 buyout have not been disclosed by either party.

by the harmony faded. Tate’s opinion is that the relationship

While Tate is not pleased about his separation from the company

began to deteriorate when the full cost of the expansion came

he built, he says he is glad to have a resolution and incredibly

to realization, somewhere near $7 million, and the two parties’

excited for the future.

goals and expectations seemed to be diverging. While disagreements between the parties had played out behind the scenes for several months, in August of 2014 PE



Investors brought an injunction and restraining order against

Tate warns other distillers to be cautious as they acquire new

Tate, saying his actions were detrimental to the company and

capital. He says if their products are good and well-marketed

the brand.

and they want to keep up with demand, they will need to expand

Many media outlets covered the situation, however Tate was

and find the funding to support it.

initially unable to tell his side since he had been gagged by

“You know you’re doing it

the injunction and restraining order. He was prohibited from

right when it starts looking a

speaking to the media and others in the distilling industry, and prevented from visiting the distillery. On October 3, a judge ruled Tate was in contempt of court for not immediately returning a company computer, hard drive and iPhone to the distillery as per the restraining order. A forensic computer technician said that some data had been removed from the devices, but could not verify whether the data removed was Tate’s personal information or if it belonged to the company. Tate watched in silence as the situation progressed. On November 10, a judge sided with Tate, saying the board never had the authority to file either the injunction or restraining

“ Yo u

k no w y o u ’r e d o in g it r ig ht whe n it st a r t s lo o k in g a lo t h a r d e r, a lo t m o r e e x p e n siv e a n d a lo t m o r e p r o f it a b le t h a n yo u im a g in e d . ”

lot harder, a lot more expensive and a lot more profitable than you imagined,” he tells. Most banks will not lend the large amount of money it takes to fund a big expansion because they consider it high risk. This leads many distillers to take on private investors. While some investors will be in it for the long haul, others

order, or to move forward with the distillery expansion. In order

will seek a sizable return on

to act on behalf of Balcones, their company handbook stated,

investment in a shorter time period. This can lead to distillers

and judge confirmed, Tate had to be present, or there was no

losing control, or accepting that these profits must be gained via


a brand or business sale.

Shortly thereafter, the injunction was absolved, freeing Tate

“A lot of investors want to buy into brands that they can flip

to work towards finding a resolution. He denied the claims that

for a bunch of money,” says Tate, who explained that there is

the restraining order and injunction were founded upon, which

nothing fundamentally wrong with this approach. “The problem

alleged he threatened to shoot Allen and burn the distillery,

is that somebody that starts a brand to flip it for a bunch of


“ T h e pr oblem is t h a t som ebod y t h a t starts a b r a nd to flip it f o r a bunch of m o n ey pr etty m u c h never b u i l ds a brand a s s uccessful a n d com pelling a s s om eone who n e v e r intended t o s ell it. They d o n ’ t have their h e a rt in it. ”

money pretty much never builds a brand as

complicated, they’re just hard,” Tate tells. “This

successful and compelling as someone who

is one of them. You’ve got to figure out what is

never intended to sell it. They don’t have their

compelling, what you love, what you’re interested

heart in it. Maybe that shouldn’t be your goal.”

in and then just do it, and that’s hard.”

Tate says it is imperative to be sure your

Tate says another common misunderstanding

investors are on the same page you are when it

arises because many people think the art and

comes to the goals for the business. Whether

science of distilling are totally separate from

you plan to build up the business to keep it

the business end of distilling, but that is not the

or sell it, make sure those goals are clearly

case. He says the art is what makes the product,

defined and agreed upon, because investors

and the product is what makes the business.

are financially able and willing to fight lengthy

“This is what makes people buy what you sell,”

legal battles to see their plans through, and

he explains, “and if you mess with that, you mess

you do not want this to happen.

with it at your own peril. This is the formula.”

He also emphasized making sure the

He also advises that the agreement should

investors know what they are getting into.

clearly show that an investor is owed money by the

Distilling is not only extremely expensive, with

distillery and will receive a return on investment,

much of the capital required up front, but it is

but that they will not receive a controlling stake.

also involves much more difficult and tedious

“This is like when you buy a federal savings

work than many other businesses. It demands

bond,” he explains. “That doesn’t give you an

commitment, sacrifice and perseverance from

extra vote at the polls. It just means that the

everyone involved.

government owes you money.”

“Many things in life and in business are not

In the unfortunate scenario that a distiller feels


the relationship with their investors is souring, Tate says they should immediately consult with a lawyer. He said he was naïve not to do so earlier, because the law maintains the status quo. Put simply, the battle at Balcones is the messy result of divergent business goals, which quickly dissolved the relationship between the two parties and cost them both a lot of time and money. Tate says that if he had known this was what would happen, he would have found different investors that shared his same philosophy, and solidified that plan from the start. “What it ended up being both in practice and in fact was not at all what was represented at the beginning,” says Tate, an

“ Yo u ’ve g o t t o f ig ur e o u t wha t is c o m p e llin g , wha t y o u lo v e , wha t y o u ’r e in t e r e s t e d in a nd t he n ju st do it , a n d t h a t ’s ha r d. ”

for Tate & Co. Distillery is to focus on building a Texas brandy tradition, alongside other Texas distillers who are starting to pave the way. Tate’s




group of friends, and several individuals he worked with at Balcones are already on board, people with a diverse range of talents that he

unenviable position for everyone involved, and one that many

trusts. Tate says they will

established and hopeful distillers can look to as a hard lesson

likely try to work with investors, but in a much different fashion

for the industry.

than before and only after ensuring that everyone at the table holds the same goals and motivations. “The number one thing that needs to turn them on is to be


part of the inner circle of a real craft distillery,” he explains.

Three days after the reported buyout, Tate & Company Distillery,

“That needs to be the thing that gets them hot and bothered. If

LLC became a legal entity on December 5, 2014, Repeal Day.

it doesn’t, they should invest their money elsewhere.”

The buyout included a non-compete stipulation barring Tate

Busily working out the new details, Tate says they are paying

from making whiskey or any other products that Balcones

a lot of attention to their bylaws, joking that, “The new legal

currently produces until March 2016. The current battle plan

structure is going to look like Fort Knox.”

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hile the craft market of spirit distillation has seen an exponential boom in the last decade, brandy is a spirit whose popularity

has not mirrored the heights of bourbon or vodka. Yet Brandy has a long history in craft distilling reaching back further than the recent craft boom itself. It is versatile and complex, and producing it is expensive, with challenges unique among spirits in the artisan craft market. We spoke with Daniel Farber from Osocalis Distillery in Soquel, California and Scott Harris from Catoctin Creek Distilling in Purcellville, Virginia, two distillers who have dedicated themselves to the art of brandy making with the hope that we could explore the complex, seldom discussed spirit.

the basics Brandy is distilled from fermented fruit (i.e. wine). Grape is the most common base, but brandy can be made from any fruits. Plum brandy is likely the most common across Europe. Grape varieties are usually aged a minimum of two years in oak casks,

which the wine-maker isn’t able to sell otherwise. Farber of Osocalis warns that bad wine is going to result in bad brandy. “In general, it’s worse than garbage in, garbage out. It’s

garbage in, concentrated garbage out.”

So while he appreciates the thought, he will always politely

but brandies from other fruits (typically called eau de vie) are decline an offer for someone else’s leftover wine. He does aged for less time, and most commonly not in wood casks.

mention that by using rectification it is possible to take generic

Brandy is typically produced on specialized stills but eau wines and produce a neutral spirit. However, according to Farber, de vie is commonly produced on the same equipment (steam “neutrality is exactly what we don’t want.” heated column stills) as other spirits. Traditional methods utilize

Don’t be dissuaded from buying a brandy if you don’t see

pot stills (Cognac) but brandy can be made with continuous the traditional age/rating system on its label. We’ve all seen stills (Armagnac), as well. According to Harris of Catoctin them: A.C, V.S, V.S.O.P, but their use is unregulated in brandies Creek, “the process for making brandy is remarkably similar produced in the United states. For the varieties of brandy made to making whisky, except that there is no need for mashing (or in Europe under stricter rules, like Cognac or Armagnac, the saccharification) because the fruit will already have available age statement should be valid. But brandies made in America sugars for fermentation upon pressing.” Fruit is made into a base don’t have any regulations regarding the system, so it could wine, which is then distilled into brandy.

be dishonest. Harris, who makes several varieties of brandy,

One of the most important things to know is that the wine said that his distillery doesn’t use the rating system because it you start with is key. Farber says he is sometimes asked by wine remains unregulated, and thus unreliable for a consumer to base makers if he is interested in old wine that has sat for ages and their purchasing decision on.


why Brandy is one of the most expensive spirits to distill. Unlike grains or corn, fruit is highly perishable and cannot be stored for long, so making sure the best ingredients are ready and available can be tricky. And fruit is seasonal, meaning a particular style can only be made for a short time. In addition to making sure your timing is right, fruit is generally more expensive than grain. Each batch counts, as well. Since every year’s production is fermented at the same time, a mistake can mean an entire year is lost.

can have a wider range of flavors than other brown spirits, as opposed to whiskeys or rums which have a specific, more focused goal for a flavor profile. Even within the same bottling of brandy, the range of flavors from the front to the end of the palate varies. While perhaps intimidating to some spirits tasters, those who enjoy brandy come to enjoy the differences from sip to sip.

how Here are some tips that Farber revealed for those who are

So why would a distillery decide this spirit is worth making? thinking about producing brandy. Farber told us that for him, it was the answer to two specific

Aging brandy may be unfamiliar to some, as the goal is

questions: “What could be made in the United States that could different with brandy than with other brown spirits. After aging in be world-class,” and “What is decidedly the distiller’s fault if a toasted barrel for a shorter amount of time (usually six months it doesn’t turn out great?” Farber lives in California, and he to a year), brandy is transferred to an older, more neutral barrel realized that some of the best fruit in the world grew around him; for longer maturing. According to Farber, charred wood barrels fruit not available to other brandy makers in any country. And would impart too strong a burnt flavor and ruin the brandy. Harris he wasn’t the only one. Other distilling legends like St. George agreed, saying “The benefit to aging brandy longer depends on Spirits, Germain-Robin, and several others in California decided the brandy being made. We make some very young pear and that with the local fruit available to them, brandy would be a peach brandies whose fruity taste would be subsumed by the worthy goal.

wood if we aged them longer; whereas, a robust grape brandy

When describing brandy, Farber’s enthusiasm is infectious. We can benefit from 10 or more years in a barrel.” For long-term asked him to describe some of the differences that challenge aging the barrels used are more neutral, usually toasted instead consumers. In brandy, the distiller’s goal is complexity. Brandy of charred. Unlike when aging whiskey, barrels that have been


used several times are more desirable since the wood has less during the distilling process.” Farber described Furfural as being flavor to impart on the spirit.

responsible for a coffee, cocoa flavor that is only present in the

Farber said that many higher-end brandies can age in barrels later stages of the distillation (near the tails) after the chemical that are decades old. Sugars that are embedded into the wood reaction that occurs between the direct heat, copper, and wine. of a used barrel mingle with the new brandy in order to help

Cuts are an important detail, with both the heads and tails

form a delicious spirit. “So a barrel that’s 100 years old, that’s containing valuable elements vital to the final desired flavor, been saturated for decades with old brandies, it has old micro- according to Farber. “We want some things that come over in the organisms interacting with the sugars and elements [in the new heads…they’re very volatile, very bright, they have the most fruit, brandy], giving forth to a very unique character.” Some distillers the most flower.” The trick is to get as much ‘brightness,’ as he age brandy for 60 years in one style of barrel, before moving calls it, without the aspects of the heads that are undesirable. it into even older, several-hundred year old barrels for further The tails contains many of the fatty acids and bulkiness that end maturation. “Brandy is the brown spirit which has the potential up in a finished brandy. Fat is important for the aroma. Like with to age the longest of any brown spirit,” he said.

any spirit, too much of the tails can be a bad thing, but including

Farber also helped us understand the importance of equipment the right ratio is important in finding a good flavor in brandy. when making brandy. His operation utilizes stills with direct

Brandy producers face several unique challenges, but the

flame. “The high interfacial temperatures of a direct-fire still at satisfaction of a happy consumer can make them worthwhile. the copper-wine interface catalyze a lot of reactions much faster The rambunctious attitude of distillers who have embarked on than using a steam jacket.” Copper is an important aspect of this path, including Farber and Harris, is felt in most bottles. If making brandy, and not just because it looks good. “Copper is you’ve never considered brandy, and have always been worried a great catalyst for a number of chemical reactions that go on about how it might taste or whether it was worth it, consider in the still. For instance, furfural, which isn’t present in wine, picking up a bottle and rewarding not only yourself, but those comes from the chemical reaction of the copper with the wine who have chosen to walk the path less travelled.














ourcing spirits from large beverage alcohol producers

were looking for at MGP, and began working closely with them

has been and continues to be a common practice in

to produce the base for their vodka and their Temperance Trader

the distilling industry for large and small labels, alike. While misleading advertising about a spirit’s production is receiving

bourbon line. “MGP was a great fit for Bull Run for a few key reasons,”

a lot of ridicule, as it should, there are potentially reasonable

explains Bernards. “They had ample inventory of appropriately

benefits to transparent sourcing for both the distiller and the

aged spirits (3-8 years old), they had blends that were of high


quality and were unique, and they were willing to work with us on

Distillers and bottlers are able to work in different capacities

our own mash-bills going forward. We invest time at MGP to work

with large-scale alcohol producers. For many vodka, gin and

on our bourbon and our peers at MGP have been to our place

liqueur distillers, sampling several different offerings from a few

to see our production processes - the level of collaboration is

Neutral Grain Spirit (NGS) producers will often suffice to select amazing. While we’re not distilling our Temperance Trader line the spirit base for their product because they are going to alter it

through our stills, the relationship we have with MGP allows us

further at their distillery.

to be involved virtually every step of the way.”

For whiskey distillers and bottlers, a good relationship needs

MGP was founded in 1941, employs 290 people, and vice

to go farther than that. Patrick Bernards of Bull Run Distilling

president of alcohol sales and marketing David Dykstra says they

in Portland, Oregon, says he and co-owner Lee Medoff requested

are one of America’s top multi-line producers. They make white

samples from all of the whiskey producers they could find, tasting

spirits at their Atchison, Kansas plant and brown spirits, including

and comparing the products until they found some they would

bourbons and other whiskeys, along with white spirits, at their

be proud to put their label on. Eventually they found what they

Lawrenceburg, Indiana plant, formerly owned by Seagrams and


then Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI). “Our distilling expertise and craftsmanship are widely known and respected,” tells Dykstra, who says MGP focuses on selling

Bernards says that their modifications of the spirit when it arrives makes it unique to their label, something you could not buy elsewhere.

alcohol to clients and does not currently produce any of its own

Across town, Ted Pappas of Big Bottom Whiskey was able to

brands for retail sale. They produce some custom proprietary

purchase a still and equipment to begin distilling his own gin,

mash bills for customers like Bull Run, as well as over a dozen of

rum and whiskey this year with revenue generated by selling

their own mash bills at their

his Big Bottom line of

Indiana plant.

sourced spirits. Distilling

“Our oldest mash bills have been produced since the end of Prohibition,” says Dykstra. “Our newest mash



6, were added in 2013.” Custom blended, proofed, or bottled at cask strength,

“We invest time at MGP to work on our bourbon and our peers at MGP have been to our place to see our production processes — the level of collaboration is amazing.” — Patrick Bernards, Bull Run Distilling

MGP whiskies play at least some role in a wide number of popular labels.

his own spirits was always the plan, but it was not in the cards when he started as an independent bottler. That did not bother his fans, though, as many praise Pappas’ whiskey because of what he does with it when it arrives. “We transform what we get

and it depends on the product,” says Pappas, who custom blends

“The benefits of working with MGP are simple,” says Bernards. some of his whiskies and ages others in used Port, Zinfandel “They allow a DSP to bring great product to market that they

and Cabernet wine casks. “Our finished products get a complete

otherwise wouldn’t be able to produce.” This is a benefit to not overhaul courtesy of a wine barrel while our blended whiskey only the distiller, but also consumers, who have access to a wider ends up nothing like its singular components.” variety of quality spirits. Bull Run is currently distilling their own whiskey, as well, and

Pappas has also received a lot of praise for his transparent business philosophy, clearly labeling his products as sourced. He

they are waiting for it and their private mash bill with MGP to

said that his intention when starting the business was to be open

mature before releasing them. Even so, they plan to continue

and honest with his customers, but he did not expect to receive

their Temperance line in the future because of the quality, and

the recognition that he has for doing so.


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“I had no idea something like the coverage on this topic would happen,” he explains. “When we started, we knew our approach to transparency would be highlighted but that’s not why we did it. Being upfront with your products is just the right thing to do.” In open forums at the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and American Distilling Institute’s (ADI) annual meetings last year, several prominent distillers and bottlers, including Pappas, voiced their views on the necessity of clear and truthful labeling. Some predicted that the issue would soon become a hurdle for small distillers to overcome, and sure enough, this year a number of articles in well-circulated publications have addressed the

“Being upfront with your products is just the right thing to do.” — Ted Pappas, Big Bottom Whiskey misleading and shady labeling employed by several brands.

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Some fear that the actions of a few brands attempting to hide the origin of their spirits will reflect poorly upon the whole craft distilling industry at a critical time in its growth. But Pappas doesn’t think that’s the case. “I think it just might hurt the craft brand, not the industry,” he says. “If you make a good product, people will come back for the second bottle. There is too much infighting on what craft really means and for


my company, we won’t use it [craft] for our distilled products.” Truth in labeling and the definition of craft seem to be inseparable, and several groups, including ADI and ACSA, are addressing the issue by creating standards and codes of ethics emphasizing honest labeling. Bernards of Bull Run says he thinks these efforts will create


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understand this I believe the backlash could be even larger. This said, once they dig into who is doing what and how and why, and they realize breadth of quality and uniqueness of spirits coming to market that started as sourced spirit, I think sourcing will be largely appreciated and embraced. Let’s face it, there are some highly regarded spirits out there today that are sourced. This tells me that at the end of the day it’s about quality and honesty.


That’s what the average consumer wants.” Several current lawsuits seem to support this idea, and they are bringing a lot of attention to transparent labeling. Groups claiming Tito’s Vodka and Templeton’s Rye Spirits labels have misled them have filed class-action suits against each company separately. Templeton’s Rye Spirits is currently involved in multiple similar class-action lawsuits. Plaintiffs argue that the label claims the whiskey is made in Templeton, Iowa using a prohibition-era recipe, which is not accurate. The reality is that Templeton Rye is sourced and transported to Templeton where they blend it with flavoring from Kentucky to replicate the assumed taste of the real prohibition rye whiskey. While there is nothing wrong with this practice, and many like the product, the plaintiff’s argue that the label does not tell this story, but instead purports a fiction that it is an actual prohibitionera whiskey recipe, loosely tied to Al Capone, completely made in Templeton, just as it used to be. Likewise, several groups are suing Tito’s Vodka, saying that using the word “handmade” on the label is misleading. While Tito’s started by distilling their own vodka, they now source at





least some of their vodka from a large alcohol supplier. However, some claim the spirit is handmade since they process the spirit in-house, which among other things includes handconnecting the hoses and tasting to check the heads and tails cuts. Therefore, they say, Tito’s does actually handcraft the vodka. While many distilleries use this production method, the real difference, some speculate, is just the large scale of Tito’s and the size of the coffers the plaintiff’s and legal teams could

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potentially dip into. “I think overall the general public could really give a crap if


Tito’s says handmade or not,” says Pappas of Big Bottom. “Does it matter to the majority? I don’t think so.” Even so, Pappas says that being truthful and transparent in your marketing is not only in the consumer’s best interest, but the distiller’s, as well. “We should be holding ourselves to the highest standards instead of people outside the industry,” he suggests. “The TTB gives us the tools to be transparent and all we have to do is use them. This applies to everyone - big or small.”

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Bernards of Bull Run agrees, saying consumers will eventually come to appreciate transparent labels and reject shady marketing. He says their openness about sourcing and the quality of the product will keep customers coming back. “It’s not something we’re worried about long term,” says Bernards. “The consumer will drive truth in advertising.”


fire water




e are fortunate to have a multitude of excellent bourbon

malting technology took the smoke flavor out of whiskey, except

and rye whiskies in America, and if you want a smoky

in Scotland, where distillers continued to use direct peat fires

flavor, you can find that in the myriad of Scotch labels. But until

to dry the malt. Next, he dedicates some time to peat and its

recently very few American distillers were producing smoked

unique appeal as a smoke source, offering a few examples of

whiskies, with fewer still making whiskies smoked with fuels

American distillers currently making peat smoked whiskey.

other than peat.

Then Bell moves into the heart of the book: the experiments.

One individual who would like to see the world of smoked

Leading with the bulk of the experiments, the first section

American whiskies grow is Darek Bell of Corsair Artisan Distillery

covers woods sourced from around the world. Some of the woods

of Nashville, Tennessee and Bowling Green, Kentucky. To

provided results similar to what they expected, while others were

address this disparity Bell has published his second book, Fire

very surprising, like lemon wood, coffee wood and maple.

Water: Experimental Smoked Malts and Whiskeys. Bell hopes the

The next section covers barrel wood that is chipped and

book will inspire distillers to take advantage of the opportunities

smoked, sourced from bourbon, cabernet, French oak and

waiting for them in this relatively unexplored category of whiskies. Tabasco® pepper sauce aging barrels. Results range from the Bell studied at the Bruichladdich Distilling Academy in Islay, fruity nose and soft palate of the cabernet barrel, to the spicy, Scotland, where he sampled a multitude of excellent whiskies

tangy barbecue flavors from the Tabasco® barrel.

with strong smoke characteristics. “It made me wonder why

Roots and barks come next, followed by herbs. Fuels in these

there were no smoked American whiskies,” he writes. “I was

categories were sporadically pleasant or undesirable, with many

determined to make an American smoked whiskey when I got

off flavors coming from the herbs. Some winners included sage,

back to the States.” Bell and his colleagues at Corsair developed

lemon balm and Cacara bark. Bell found that the best fuels in

a controlled experiment, using the same distillation and smoking

these two categories were not typically strong enough to

methods for over 80 different fuel sources, and all of their

stand on their own, but they do add exciting new

experiments and results are compiled in the book.

layers to the whiskey if other smoke fuels were

“This book is an idea book,” writes Bell at the beginning, “A Kama Sutra of smoked whiskey positions for you to experiment

used in conjunction. Bell follows the tasting notes

with.” Two professional spirits consultants, Nancy Fraley

with a section on how to build

and Julia Nourney, provide detailed nose, palate, finish and

a good smoked whiskey.

conclusion notes for each of the 80 different whiskies, giving the

He advises distillers

reader an intimate explanation of what each of the fuel sources

to design their

will do for a whiskey.


Corsair’s smoking methods are described in detail at the beginning, giving distillers an in-depth understanding of how to make their own smoked whiskey. Bell discusses variables like temperature, humidity, barrel smoke loss, different smoking methods, and the effect they all have on the final character of the whiskey. He also explains how a distiller can make their own smoked malt, and provides a list of maltsters currently producing smoked malts. Bell also talks about the history of malting, and how indirect


to be great, rather than merely hoping for good results. Bell says Corsair’s best smoked whiskies generally utilized multiple smoke fuels, so he provides quite a few examples of their experimental smoke blends. The blends show the amount of each type of smoke, and Bell explains why those fuels and percentages were used. For example, one recipe uses peach wood to build the nose, black walnut for the body of the palate, and maple to lengthen and sweeten the finish. By taking advantage PHOTO BY JESS WILLIAMS

of the tasting notes catalogued in this book, distillers have a head start in designing the flavor profile they want to achieve in their smoked whiskey. Innovative cocktail recipes showcasing smoked whiskies come next, followed by some of Bell’s personal favorite smoke fuels, and why he likes them. Fire Water finishes by telling the story of Corsair, one of the most widely distributed and awarded young distilleries in America.






enthralling, an exciting read for distillers and





illustrative photos and a clear layout help the reader to understand the text with coordinated photographic examples. Among the memorable books covering the art and science and distillation, this is one of the milestones.

WHAT WAS YOUR MAJOR MOTIVATION FOR WRITING THIS BOOK? I think you are always writing the book you wished you had. When I wrote my first book, Alt Whiskeys, it was to help our internal staff keep track of how many recipes we have. It grew into a full book. When I was at the Bruichladdich Distilling Academy, I knew I wanted to make smoked whiskeys like what I was trying there in Islay, Scotland. However, I knew the peat in Tennessee would be very different. So I started thinking of what I could use locally. With the tradition of smoked meats like barbecue I began looking at native hardwoods I could use. I assumed there was a book on grilling that would show the different flavors that the different woods would bring to my whiskeys, but sadly most of them said the woods were either all the same or only slightly

different. Our research shows how dramatic the different flavors are and what an influence the smoke source can have on the final flavor of the whiskey. HOW DO THE SMOKE FLAVORS INTERACT DIFFERENTLY WITH WHISKEY THAN THEY WOULD WITH SMOKED MEATS AND CHEESES? Because alcohol is such a powerful solvent and so reactive, I think the aroma from the smoke is more pronounced in a whiskey than in food. One night I left a cap off some whiskey and the next morning I was shocked at how smoky my house smelled. The alcohol really accentuates the smoke flavor. The back end, the finish of the whiskey when you have that long burn on the back of the throat, really drags out the smoke flavor on the end of drinking it. It is a very intense experience.


HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO PRODUCE AND REVIEW ALL OF THE DIFFERENT SMOKED WHISKIES IN THE BOOK? About 3 years. It was a big project for us and took the bulk of the time. When you buy the book you are not paying for the writing, but the experiments and tests that the words are describing.

HOW MUCH EQUIPMENT DID YOU HAVE TO BUY FOR YOUR MALTING AND SMOKING OPERATION? A lot. There are many home brewers, but very few home malters. Malting is harder than people realize, and when you batch up to a large scale it gets very tough unless you are on a farm with a lot of the right equipment already.

WHAT SMOKE FUELS WERE MOST DIFFICULT TO FIND, AND HOW HARD WERE THEY TO SOURCE? Coffee wood took me a while to find, but I had heard it had a lot of flavor and hoped that would come over to the final whiskey. It did. Manuka wood from New Zealand took a while to find. Finally I met someone on a distilling forum who lived there and traded me some wood for a copy of my first book, Alt Whiskeys.

HOW DO YOU BARREL AGE THE SPIRITS WITHOUT LOSING ALL OF THE SMOKE? This is a tough one. You can pre-smoke the barrel before the whiskey goes in, but in general you just have to know that some smoke loss will occur and push the smoke higher before you get to the barrel. You can add smoke after the barrel, but the danger is you can add a lot more creosote and off flavors, as well.

HOW MUCH OF THE MALTING AND SMOKING DOES CORSAIR DO IN HOUSE? All of our new whiskeys after Triple Smoke we are smoking entirely, though not malting. Our three year goal is to malt and smoke all our own stuff except the peat malt we buy from Scotland.

HOW MANY CRAFT DISTILLERS WOULD YOU ESTIMATE ARE CURRENTLY MAKING SMOKED SPIRITS? Only a few that I know of: Corsair, Balcones, Lost Distillery, Santa Fe Distilling, and Arkansas Distilling. I hope in 10 years it is more mainstream.

Southerners are damn good at making smoked meats; why not smoked whiskey? You know what pairs well with barbecue? Smoked whiskey. DO MOST MAJOR SPIRITS COMPETITIONS HAVE SPECIFIC CATEGORIES FOR SMOKED WHISKIES? Only a few, and they did so at our asking. ADI and Denver International Spirits Competitions, for example. I hope that changes. WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AND CORSAIR? MORE BOOKS AND EXPERIMENTS? Of course! We don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Now that our malting facility is up and running, expect to see a lot more smoked malts and unusual malted grains come out of Corsair.

Darek Bell is owner and distiller at Corsair Distillery. For more info call (615) 200-0320 or visit www.corsairartisan.com

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he Craft Distilling industry is past its infancy. Most of

differences between big and small spirits. The industry is finally

the youngish family of maverick startups have made it

taking responsibility for itself by organizing on the professional

through the gauntlet of real world obstacles and are entering

level and a national scale.

their advanced adolescence. And haven’t we all been through it?

The moment seems to have come early to the Craft Distilling

The injuries, fires, audits, taxes, staffing, label approvals. The

industry. That moment when the earth moves a little, usually

dozen or so oldest distilleries have mostly managed to get their

when the newness has worn off and the potential for profit is

products to market and appealed to a sense of adventure out

shown to be more than a unicorn. It is that moment when the

there in the marketplace, the desire for “the next new thing.” The

money becomes more important than the lifestyle or the creative

industry at large has accepted the brazen newcomers and their

act. It’s when bankers and lawyers see profit and billable hours;

crazy notions, and the big producers appear to recognize the

when the lawsuits start.

value the craft producers bring to both the marketplace and the

In his new book How to Kill a Unicorn, Mark Payne defines the

ongoing legislative efforts. The press is better educated on the “Unicorn” as an interesting concept that seems exciting, pretty to


look at and the stuff of wishful thinking, but in reality it simply

capital is so tempting isn’t it? But for both the “old timers” and

will not work; is premature or will take too long, cost too much, the startups it is time to beware your choices, keep your vision in or doesn’t meet a real need. Craft distilling is not a unicorn, it is

mind and close to your heart. Do the smart thing to ensure your

here and it is real and it is working. Its time has come.

business survives and be watchful of your motivations and those

It is also the time those who believe in what they are doing, of them who join you. and want to maintain their original motivation for beginning and

The craft distillers who have survived this long and are proud

suffering through the making of the “thing,” may find themselves

and thrilled to have their wonderful spirits in the marketplace,

defending their dream and protecting the work they’ve done. selling every drop they can bottle, face the same questions the Fingers are being pointed. People are “found out” or wrongly

newcomers face: “What do I want out of this? Is it the big bucks

and very publicly accused. It is when we see success rear an I can pocket in a buyout deal? A craftsman’s life? Security? A ugly head rather than smiles of the joyful head that accompanies

heritage to pass on? A comfortable retirement? And how do I

a fulfilled dream. Conflicting goals produce internal conflict and

protect it?”

class action suits, financial partners and the creative geniuses

Those distillers who have survived will attest, unless you start with very deep pockets stuffed with cash, building a distillery

who built something from nothing collide. The proliferation of new small distilling operations nationwide

and establishing a brand from scratch does not make any serious

is the inevitable outcome of the success of the first-starters. It’s

money for a long time, after a mountain of challenging uphill

the “proof of concept,” a powerful magnet that is now attracting

hiking, with a full pack. And reaching the top of that mountain

a second wave of entrepreneurs who are feeling the early

is never certain.

uncertainty somewhat mitigated, making it less scary to jump

The recent spate of critical press and legal maneuvering is

into the water. But that pool is getting crowded. Standing out an unfortunate result of overreaching and overzealous marketing among the swimmers is becoming more and more difficult.

types who invited in the equally overzealous ambulance chasers

The lure of the “fast buck” and the sudden availability of or venture capitalists with only profit on their minds. Startups


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and established distillers who want to remain true to their craft,

Expect to see greater “commercialization” of the craft. We see

to the facts, must be on guard when money comes too easily, and

already that major producers are adopting the characteristics

aware of who it comes from. Know your partners. Act in good

of the small artisan producers. The best defense against the

faith. It’s likely from time to time you will be tested. My favorite

bastardization of the nature of the craft we love is honest

quote is from Winston Churchill: “Never give up.”

professionalism among us, and a willingness to defend it.

The industry is at its second critical stage. We are quite like

The difficulty is, of course, getting self-starting maverick

teenagers trying to become adults. Nerves are frayed after a

entrepreneurs to act as one is like trying to herd cats. But we

decade of underfunded start ups fueled only by the vision of must get past our well deserved “know it all” mentality and work the founders. The cumulative pressures of early years sometimes

together as a serious industry in our own right.

drive people apart creating opportunities for carpetbaggers who

States where craft distillers are organizing guilds are stepping

see profit in taking advantage of the natural difficulties we

up to the plate. Watch for the emergence of a corps of “true

humans face while we try to survive together.

believers” who are also astute businessmen/women smart enough

As your business matures and the situations and competition

to rise above the finger pointing while focusing on their craft

and growing pains increase, do not lose sight of the reasons

business and their people. These will be among the long term

you began, or ignore the value of trusted industry cousins. We

survivors. These will be successful in their efforts to modernize

will all do better as a big extended family making our futures

distillery law, engaging with government agencies and engaging

brighter and improving our products in an atmosphere of honest the consumer. They will profit from amended regulations, a competition rather than trying to be the next zillion dollar deal

leveled playing field, an educated public. They will also be the

while forgetting that the idea would be nowhere and worthless

beneficiaries of the availability of all the slightly used equipment

without the “Team” sharing a common goal. Ask yourself, “Is

that will go on the market after the anticipated “shake out.”

the security of my people and maintenance of our integrity more important than being the next Grey Goose?”

Ralph Erenzo is co-founder of Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner, NY. For more information visit www.tuthilltown.com or call (845) 255-1527.




f you want to race cars professionally,




you random

vehicle and then hope it

tannic content, others are so neutral they could be mistaken for vodka. Starting with the end in mind means


meets the criteria for a NASCAR or Formula 1 race, would you? On the other hand, many aspiring craft rum distillers will buy a still first, before having a business plan or

written by Luis Ayala

a clear idea of the end goal in mind, often finding out later — the hard way

identifying what we want our rum to taste like, based on what we know is available in the market. Once we have our target in mind, we learn as much as we can about it:

Organoleptically: Can we tell if the alcohol is heavy with congeners or is

— that the still either does not produce the

it fairly clean and neutral? Are the congeners

type of rum they want, or that the amount of energy

primarily “heads,” “tails” or both? How much aging

needed or the volume of “cuts” required to do so makes the final

can we perceive through the nose and on the palate?


product cost-prohibitive.

Beverage laboratories can conduct gas

One of the sad aspects of being a rum consultant is being

chromatography (“GC”) tests on samples, for a small fee. This

asked to get involved in a distillation project long after most of

can cost you about $100-$150, depending on the specifics of

the equipment decisions have been made, especially when the

the test, which is a small price to pay to clarify your business

equipment already purchased does not support the client’s end

objective. Your test should include, at the very minimum, the

goal. Preventing these problems was our motivation when we

following quantifications: acetaldehyde, methanol, ethyl acetate,

established The Rum University in 2004. What I am about to

amylic, butanol and propanol.

share with you in this article is just a

High-congener or “heavy” rums are best obtained through slow,

summary, enough information, I

long fermentations (up to 5 days). You’ll want to double distill

hope, to kick start your curiosity,

these in the simplest of pot stills (that is, without rectifying

IF YOU HAVE ALREADY BOUGHT YOUR STILL, it is not necessarily too late to experiment, but instead of looking for the ideal type of rum you want to distill, you’ll be better off focusing on the “natural” or most “effortless” type of rum your equipment is more likely to produce.

so that you can be better prepared to tackle the rigors

columns, with a low number of theoretical plates). If you want “heady” rums, make sure you cut the heads out, but

and reap the rewards of craft

reserve them and then slowly experiment adding them back to

rum making excellence!

your heart in very small amounts. You may also want to increase

Starting with the End Goal in Mind When exploring the offerings from



the acidity of your wash, to increase the formation of esters. Beware of methanol and the maximum concentration allowed! Medium congener rums are best obtained through relatively quick fermentations, typically 2-3 days. You will want a pot still


with at least four physical or theoretical plates and you’ll want


to distill at least twice. As with the heads, set aside some of the

IF YOU HAVEN’T BOUGHT ANY around the world, EQUIPMENT, you can probably purchase we quickly everything you need from a local laboratory realize that not supply store: a heating mantle capable of heating a 1 liter flask, a 1 liter boiling flask, a Graham all rums are condenser to connect to the boiling flask, a support created equal. stand with alligator clamps for the condenser, a Some have high few hoses, a thermometer, hydrometer and some levels of esters, containers for fermentation. You should be able others have high to purchase all of these items for less than levels of fusel oils. $500, a small price to pay in your quest to master the craft of Some have high rum distilling.

tails in case you want to add them back in small proportions, to achieve your desired goal. Light congener rums are best obtained through fast fermentations, usually 24 hours or less, but require a bit more knowledge in order to keep the formation of higher alcohols low. For this type of rum, a rectifying still is best and you should approach the fermentation and distillation as if you were producing sugarcane vodka, just make sure to keep your distillate below 190-proof in order to remain TTB compliant (rum only).


Note: Most of the spiced and flavored rums out in the market are made using light or extra light alcohol as a base. If this is what you want to produce, do NOT attempt to get there through

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multiple distillations using a simple pot still, select instead a still with a vodka/rectifying column! On the other hand, if this is the type of rum you want to produce, perhaps you should consider doing something else with your money, since this is the domain of the large, industrial-scale (non-craft) distilleries! In my opinion, there is very little “craft” involved in stripping out

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all the flavor of the rum and adding flavor back in the form of

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additives and sweeteners.

Only ferment what you plan to distill in one day. In other words, if your still can hold 250 gallons of wash and it’ll take you a day (one shift) to distill it, then don’t ferment more than that, even if your fermentation tank will hold more. It is better to distill the wash all at once, when primary fermentation has completed, than to allow for part or all of it to undergo secondary fermentations/transformations that will result in different congener levels than what was planned.


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Tannic content in your finished rum will be a function of barrel quality (how many years they’ve been in use), proof of the rum going in, length of time the rum spends in the barrel and how much water you end up adding to bring the rum to bottle strength. When it comes to aging rum, I always recommend staying away from new, freshly-charred barrels, because the amount of guaiacol you will extract during the first use will not be reproducible in future batches and the only way you’ll maintain it is by always having to use new, freshly-charred barrels (too expensive). Once-used Bourbon barrels have been the go-to choice for rum makers for over a century, not only because of their cost, but also because of the consistency of the results. Once you’ve fermented, distilled and aged (if applicable) something that you feel is close enough to your goal, send a sample of it (at the same strength as the first sample) to the same lab that performed the original test and compare the results side-by-side. How did you do? It is normal for the numbers to be quite different, even if your palate tells you the samples are very close, so don’t despair. Instead, use these results to learn more about what part of your process you could change if you want to get even closer. Wishing you success in your rum distilling endeavors!

Luis Ayala is Editor of “Got Rum?” Magazine and Founder of The Rum University. Visit www.gotrum.com or email luis@gotrum.com for more information.






n the heart of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains a new

have been aged and it’s the way most are aged today. However,

rebel movement is brewing (or should I say distilling?). The

with the rise in popularity of craft spirits and the associated

Founders of Blue Ridge Distilling Company have had enough

increase in microdistilleries wanting to age their products, the

of the oppression and convention found within the confines of distilling industry has seen a sudden drop in barrel availability, traditional whiskey barrels. They’ve had it with tradition and doing things the way they’ve always been done simply because

forcing cooperages to start innovating. Many barrel alternatives are now available on the market.

that’s how they’ve always been done. If you think this attitude These range from wood chips, to the infusion spirals used by sounds a bit defiant, you’re correct. That’s why they named the

Defiant, to honeycombs, the last being a product of Black Swan

award winning oak-aged spirit they are producing, without the


use of barrels, Defiant Single Malt Whiskey. “There are a couple of real advantages we get from our type of innovative aging,” Matt Tacket told me from his office at Blue Ridge Distilling Company. “First, you’re dealing with an expedited maturation process. But, that’s not all. You also have control over the flavor profile, color and nose. With barrels you only have one toast or char, but with spirals you can mix and match to create a unique flavor profile.” The spirals he’s referring to are a patented product produced half a continent away by the Barrel Mill cooperage in central

Three types of results can be expected from aging spirits in charred oak barrels:

1. Additive


These are physical and chemical reactions between the wood and the spirit resulting in new flavor compounds. Barrel-alternatives






compounds available for extracting into the aging spirit due to the increased surface area to volume ratio.

2. Subtractive


Minnesota. “A decade ago, there were some winemakers using

These result in the loss of often undesirable flavor

oak infusion spirals, but they would not admit it. Today it’s a

compounds. Because more surface contact results in

widely accepted practice in the industry,” says Richard Hobbs of

more off flavors being trapped in charred surfaces, barrel

Barrel Mill. “This is an innovation that’s now being adopted by

alternatives also increase the rate at which subtractive

the spirit industry. While it can’t replace all the effects of barrel

reactions occur.

aging, it certainly offers a lot of potential for producers to get creative.” Currently, only a few spirit producers are talking about their alternative aging techniques. But, as with the wine industry, that will likely change in time.

3. Interactive


Oxidation and other chemical reactions occurring in the barrel during aging are extremely important for complex

When consumers think of aged spirits, the first thing that

flavor development. Flavor compounds extracted from the

comes to mind is barrels. Historically, it’s the way most spirits

wood break down into more desirable flavor compounds


over longer time periods. Barrel alternatives do not and cannot increase the rate at which these reactions occur, as they are primarily a function of time. While not every distillery sees barrel alternatives as the future of aging, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t see a place for them in the industry. “The more techniques at the disposal of a true artisan, the better,” says Paul Hletko of FEW Distillery in Evanston, Illinois, where he produces several spirits including a rye that was recently name Craft Whiskey of the Year by Whiskey Advocate. “However,” he warned, “there is also a lot of danger in poor use of great techniques, and in the hands of a less skilled artisan, the techniques can be quite dangerous.” More than 2500 miles away from Defiant’s rebel headquarters, Jason Parker of Copperworks Distilling echoed Hletko’s sentiments. “Alternative aging certainly has a place in the distiller’s tool chest,” he tells. “But, to suggest it’s possible to replace the use of traditional barrels with these techniques is simply incorrect. While additive and subtractive aging effects are both related to surface area, oxidation takes time, and there’s no way around that. If your goal is to expedite the aging process by using alternative techniques, you can certainly get some decent results but you’ll never gain the effects of oxidation on flavor.” And, Parker believes, proper oxidation is what makes the difference between good whiskey and great whiskey. Back in North Carolina, the producers of Defiant remain undeterred. “Basically, the proof is in the pudding,” Tacket shares. “We’ve won numerous awards, both on this continent and in Europe. It’s important to be grounded in tradition. But, we’re not going to be constrained by it. Instead, we’re letting it guide innovation in what we see as the new ‘whiskey revolution.’” Revolution or not, alternative aging techniques are certainly nose profiles can be easily and creatively altered, and space constraints can be dealt with in a simple manner. While they may not offer the full effects of barrel aging, enough flavor and character can be imparted in a short enough time that it just might be the edge some new distilleries need to get started in the industry. So, whether you want to embrace it or not, you had better get used to it. Barrel alternatives likely won’t ever replace barrels, but they are probably here to stay.

Chad Chriestenson has worked in the beer, wine & spirits industries. He currently lives, drinks & writes in Madison, Wisconsin. You can reach him at chad.chriestenson@gmail.com.





opening a lot of doors in the spirits industry. Flavor, color and





Distillery stories start in many ways. We often hear about

Fast forward to just under a year later and Rodman Bad

people sitting down for a drink together, or struggling through

Ass Vodka was being packaged, marketed, and distributed.

some life battle, and then making a complete 180 with their

Business was looking great for their celebrity named and

life and deciding—of all things—to distill spirits. This story

endorsed startup. Then North Korea happened. Rodman’s well

isn’t much different…except it is quite different.

publicized and controversial trip to North Korea was disastrous

In the fall of 2012, Andreas Johansson had an idea. Not to just sell vodka, but to do it with someone he was friends and business partners with already. The key difference here is

on its own, but the problems multiplied when Rodman enrolled himself into rehab for alcoholism the very same month. However, against all odds, Rodman Bad Ass Vodka has

Andreas had to ask, “Do you still own your own alcohol rights?”

recovered and is finding popularity now. Andreas offered up

rather than just asking, “Do you want to go into business with

some great insight on his own personal journey and advised us

me?” Who was this infamous person? Dennis Rodman to be

regarding how working with a celebrity plays out…and if it is in

exact—the retired sports star, household name, and walking

your favor to pursue such a relationship.

controversy, himself.




panache. Andreas shares, “They might be a paid spokesperson that sends a couple of tweets or a couple of Facebook messages

Andreas Johansson had been friends with Darren Prince, and that’s the end of their involvement with the brand. Which, Rodman’s agent, for many years and got to know Rodman

in my opinion, it doesn’t enhance the brand at all. The second

through this relationship. Andreas explains about he and Prince, option is to get the celebrity a little more involved from a long“We are always both looking for new opportunities and one day

term perspective.”

I approached him with the idea of purchasing Dennis’ alcohol

Andreas and Prince knew that issues such as these could crop

rights, and develop several brands surrounding his persona and

up—so it was vital for them to make sure the product looked good

character.” From this, Rodman’s Bad Ass Vodka was born and

and tasted good beyond just being the namesake of Rodman.

is now on shelves in Illinois, California, Michigan, Florida, and

Getting someone to purchase a bottle of this vodka based on

some locations in Canada.

the Rodman name will get the initial sell. If you want it to sell

AB Partners was also born from this endeavor, which is a

the second bottle and more, well then it needs to actually be a

partnership between Andreas, Prince, and Rodman. While

good product with a good value, otherwise no one is coming back

Rodman’s vodka is not produced by the partners (it is sourced, and your product is dead in the water. Andreas confirms this: sold, and distributed), the namesake of Rodman’s Bad Ass “Getting a celebrity is great, it can be money very well spent in Vodka is Rodman himself so he is not just a celebrity endorsing

terms of getting the initial eyeball, but you still have to spend a

a product—he is the brand.

lot of time developing a quality product. Otherwise you’re never going to make it anyway.”

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT “I think we knew in advance that a celebrity like Dennis would


be very polarizing, so there were some markets who he would

As in any business, however, shit happens. Not too long after

naturally appeal to,” explains Andreas. Andreas and Prince

launch the partners ran into some snafus with Rodman’s North

understood that there were also some markets that wouldn’t be

Korea travels and his stint in rehab. “Obviously, the negatives

receptive—but the pros outweighed the cons in their minds. They

were also significant and a bit bigger than we could have

realized learning to use Dennis’ strengths would be essential and

expected earlier this year, and it did put us a little bit on hold for

to create something of quality would also be important. Andreas

a while, to let things blow over.”

continues: “Dennis has a huge following, probably one of the

It went down like this: It is well known that the leader of

best recognized celebrities in the US and beyond, so the media

North Korea, Kim Jong Un, is a huge sports fan, and particularly

interest was huge from the start.”

an enormous Chicago Bulls fan. Rodman, the retired NBA

But what of those people that “naysay” when it comes to

star, visited Korea as part of an invitation for an exhibition

celebrity endorsements and partnerships? Does this sort of thing

basketball game in early 2014. During this trip, and three more

get “gimmicky?” Andreas agrees that people can be correct subsequent trips, Rodman had opportunities to get to know the on this point—if your celebrity is loosely involved in the brand

reclusive leader and to be treated to North Korean hospitality

or product, then it can definitely get gimmicky and loses its

that is primarily reserved for only special guests (there are many


accounts of North Korean people dying of malnutrition and poor living conditions all over the very closed country). When

ard Winning o Aw t k or e 1855 S u p p ly i n g C sinc s r lle d i st i

Rodman returned to the states, he was quoted as regarding the current leader warmly and he touted that the two prior leaders of the country had been “great leaders.� These comments and Rodman’s quotes about the great treatment he received while in North Korean rubbed the American government and many U.S citizens the wrong way, causing a tide of negative publicity. The backlash Andreas and AB Partners received was hurtful in that many distributors cut their ties with them. “While I didn’t like it, and tried to make them change their minds about us,� Andreas reflects, “I fully understand the choices they had to make at the time, and playing it safe was the easier option for them, rather than risk backlash over carrying a new brand.� And if this weren’t bad enough, after Rodman’s final visit to North Korea and the bad press the vodka company received, Dennis found himself in a situation that required rehab. “I think the rehab issue wasn’t nearly as big an obstacle for us as the North Korea issue was. Also, the rehab issue only came about as a direct result of what happened in North Korea—we explained to people (anyone that would listen at this point)


that we would support Dennis throughout his struggles, and most people understood that this wasn’t a ‘new’ issue for him,� Andreas quips. He expressed that you have to be careful anytime the spokesperson for your brand goes to rehab for a drinking problem—you have to be sensitive to the reactions that will occur.

REBOUND The combination of the political issues surrounding North Korea and the issue with alcoholism were devastating. While it’s been some time since these events have transpired, the brand is slowly recovering from the wounds inflicted by the controversies. “We had to make some cuts short term, as by trimming the overhead [so] we could ensure the company remained financially viable as we were going through some tough times,� Andreas adds. Adjustments have been made now in regards to distribution and this work is ongoing. For the future, they know it’s impossible to predict things like this. They did learn to scale back on the social media end to let things pass, as engaging in the conversation at times only fueled the media’s fire regarding what was happening in Rodman’s world. Yet things aren’t all negative and downward spiraling. Andreas is optimistic and proud of some recent developments for the company. First off, he says, “We’ve picked up awards [for Rodman Bad Ass Vodka] in San Diego and Alberta, Canada—so


we know the taste profile is good enough.” He also hopes to grow the AB Partners group by gaining more alcohol rights from other celebrities as this can help diversify their business and can help them avoid putting all their “eggs in one basket” with just one celebrity name on their books.

FINAL ADVICE Andreas has many words of wisdom after dealing with a highprofile figure, controversy, and working through the unknown.


First of all, he says,

He goes on to say to look at the person’s strengths and weaknesses, and to make sure this person has things to bring


objectively and ask yourself ‘is this someone I can stay involved with for the next 5-10 years on a regular basis.” Andreas also reminds those seeking celebrity partnerships

WATCH OUT FOR ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE COMING OUT OF THE WOODWORK THAT WANT TO “HELP” YOUR BUSINESS — it’s not all about throwing lavish parties and giving

or endorsements to

“hand outs” as is sometimes expected in celebrity culture. “That’s one way of running out of funding very quickly,” Andreas warns. Additionally, it’s also important to HAVE CONTINGENCY PLANS, according to Andreas. “Always try to think ahead—nobody could have seen what was going to happen in North Korea, but the fact that we already knew that it was a contentious issue allowed us to make some moves very quickly to salvage the business.”


... In the end, Andreas is able to see the bright side in all of this for the future of his business and is happy to have Rodman on his team with the long term positives outweighing the negatives in his estimation: “I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like what we did earlier this year, and a little bit of controversy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as it’s within reason.”

Andreas Johansson is founder and CEO of Rodman Bad Ass Vodka. For more info visit www.rodmanvodka.com or call (855) 763-8652.




axes and Compliance. The very mention of these two

words is bound to bring forth an

instant change in the demeanor of an otherwise optimistic and enthusiastic



Federal, State and Local Taxes and Compliance measures are the collective dirty underbelly of the spirits industry. Often unintentionally overlooked, the lack of adherence to these rules, regulations, procedures and protocols is the biggest liability that a distillery will face. Adhering to these measures is vitally important and something that no distillery can afford to





installment of three articles, we’ll talk about the tall task that all distillery owners face – the job behind the job: Taxes and Compliance. In 2013, Beam Global sold 37



cases (750 mL bottles, 12 units per case). In that same time period, over four hundred craft distillers sold a fraction of that volume. The operations at



Jim Beam and a craft distillery differ immensely in nearly every way, however both entities share

agency known as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

one thing in common: Federal Regulatory Compliance duties. (TTB) and reside within the Code of Federal Regulations (known Currently in the United States, no matter the size of a Distilled as the CFR). As a whole, the CFR consists of 50 “titles” covering Spirits Plant (DSP) operation or the volume of spirit produced

broad subject areas. Each title within the CFR is divided

and sold, every DSP operates beneath the same set of rules, into “chapters,” then “parts,” which cover a more particular subject. Each part is divided into “sections” containing specific regulations and reporting protocols. These regulations are issued and enforced by the Federal



The regulations covering alcohol and spirits are contained in Title 27, Chapter I, of the CFR (27 CFR Chapter I) and spans

the United States is $13.50 per proof-gallon (a proof-gallon is defined as 1 gallon of spirit at 100-proof).

31 Parts. These 31 parts are further broken down into 4,502

Turning to the Monthly Reports, the first that we’ll take a look

individual sections that outline rules, regulations and procedures

at is the Monthly Report of Production Operations (Production

surrounding the manufacture of alcohol and spirits. The

Report). The Production Report encompasses the manufacture

regulations outlined in the CFR serve three basic purposes as it of spirit from the mash/cook/brew throughout the fermentation relates to the manufacture of spirits:


To ensure the safety of the consuming public

2. To

qualify and ensure the quality of the spirit put into

and distillation processes. All grains or source materials must be reported to the TTB to give regulators an estimate of the expected yield of spirit likely to be produced from the mash or wash. Once “new-make spirit” comes off of the still and into Existence, it must be accurately proofed and gauged to ascertain


3. To facilitate and enforce the collection of Federal Excise Taxes on bottled spirit. To say that Federal Compliance is a daunting task is an understatement. Even with no distillery to run, sifting through page after page of regulations could take months. Running a business and familiarizing oneself with all of the regulations is an almost unrealistic challenge. Time and again compliance slips through the cracks out of necessity to run the business side of things at a newly founded craft distillery. In its most accessible form, the output and reporting of a DSP’s operations are manifested within the TTB’s Monthly Reports of Operations. Harkening back to the early days of post-prohibition, the TTB categorizes the process of manufacturing spirit into three accounts:

»» Production

the volume of alcohol produced. As this new-make spirit leaves the Production Account, it will be bound for either the Storage or Processing accounts and it must be reported to the TTB as having come into Existence on the Monthly Production Report. The Storage Area accounts primarily for the aging of spirits and would be the next destination for new-make spirits such as whiskey or rum leaving the Production Area, bound for wooden casks. As spirit is transferred into the Storage account, it is logged as a Storage Receipt on the Monthly Report of Storage Operations (Storage Report). In its simplest form, the DSP must ensure that all spirit is accounted for on a monthly basis within the Storage Area, balancing the total volume of spirit in the account at the beginning of the month with the stated endof-month volume. The beginning-of-month and end-of-month numbers must exactly match up, down to the decimal, after all receipts, removals, losses and destructions have been accounted for on a transaction-to-transaction basis for each barrel, batch or

»» Storage

package of spirit within the Storage Account.

»» Processing

Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands or any other foreign country, a

To add to the paper trail, if a DSP is importing spirit from

separate Storage Report must be completed on a monthly basis The stage of the spirit (or spirit-to-be) dictates the account for each identity of spirit received. in which it resides. All spirit manufactured is tracked within a The next typical step for a mature spirit after the aging step DSP during every step, from the origin source arriving at the

(though there are exceptions) is a transfer into the Processing distillery to the finished product leaving in the hands of a happy Area. As mentioned above, not all new-make spirit will enter into customer. It is through the Monthly Reports of Operations that the Storage Account. In the case of clear spirits, it is typical for this is achieved.

most to pass directly over the Storage Area from Production and Spirit is considered bonded, in-bond, or tax-liable the moment directly into the Processing Area. that it comes into “Existence.” Existence as defined by the TTB The Processing Area encompasses both bulk spirit undergoing

is critically important to understanding the reporting processes. the final manufacturing steps (cutting to proof, addition of Once distilled into spirit, every single drop must be accounted flavors, filtration, etc.) as well as finished spirit that has been for until it has been removed from the DSP. When removed from

bottled and/or packaged for removal from the DSP. The difference

a DSP, the Federal Government is due the Excise Tax tied to

between bulk spirit and finished product is clearly delineated on

that spirit as it comes out of bond, or is tax-liable. The current

the TTB’s Monthly Report of Processing Operations (Processing

Federal Excise tax rate for all spirit produced and sold within

Report), effectively creating sub-areas of spirit within the


Processing Account. Echoing the format of the Storage Report, the DSP must ensure that all spirit is accounted for on a monthly basis within the Processing Area for both bulk and finished spirit, again balancing the total volume of spirit in the respective sub-areas of

cause for the TTB to call for a cease of operations until activities and all spirit inhouse can be accounted

the account at the beginning of the month with the stated endof-month volume. As a final step, when spirit is removed from the DSP in any fashion, it will be logged in the appropriate location on the Processing Report and the tax-liability will be due at the


next Federal Excise Reporting period (either semi-monthly or quarterly, dependent upon the DSP’s total tax-liability for the current calendar year).

.. . R FO








In addition to these reports, DSPs must keep accurate batch

Penalties for non-

records that reinforce the monthly numbers submitted to the

compliance can be assessed

TTB. Batch records must be kept in great detail to track and verify the manufacture of spirit, logging the volume, proof, times and any notes related to the movement of spirit into or out of each batch within the DSP. In the case of a TTB audit, DSPs may be asked to produce batch records and over thirty additional Daily Summary Reports of and related to actions

by the TTB, often times resulting in a shutdown of operations or levied fines that can be crippling for a distillery with growing momentum. In my next segment I’ll discuss what it takes to prepare for and survive an audit with minimal effect on production operations.

and transactions within the Production, Storage and Processing

Jason Lippa is owner and lead-developer for Distillery Solutions in Denver, CO. For more info visit www.distillerysolutions.com or call request of a TTB agent in the case of an audit is often-times (303) 900-8433.

Areas. The inability for a DSP to produce these reports at the

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for those of you who think Bourbon is just heavenly. While the event welcomes all Bourbon distillers, there is a heavy emphasis

Do you love Bourbon? Then how about a trip to Bourbon on big names in the industry. Originally, only the larger brand country? The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is a unique celebration names of bourbon were in attendance. However, more and more held in Bardstown, Kentucky that celebrates all things Bourbon. craft distillers are attending with opportunities to showcase their Originally started in 1992 by the Bardstown Tourism Department, products. it is now curated by Linda Harrison, a Bourbon matriarch in the

“We do have a craft event that is held at the same time as the

“Bourbon Capital of the World.” The event is currently run by Gala,” says Harrison. “It is well attended and growing. This event Harrison, a Board of Directors, and over three hundred volunteers gives the craft distiller an opportunity to shine and showcase during September each year. The Kentucky Bourbon Festival commemorates the industry of

their products through innovative cocktails.” All of the events are fun and the people are great to meet and

Bourbon, and that nearly eighty percent of the world’s Bourbon chat with. As for some of the most highlighted events, you will is actually distilled in Kentucky. While in 1993 there were not want to miss the KY Bourbon All Stars, Boots and Bourbon, estimated to be 225 people that attended the first festival, now Cigar and Jazz and the Tasting & Gala Event. KY Bourbon over 53,000 patrons attend each year. Attendees hail from 44 All Stars is a tasting event with a dinner that also highlights states and 14 different countries.

vendor goods and even craft distillers. Patrons can dine, mingle, and check out all the offers and samples. Boots and Bourbon


is a more energetic affair with a country and western flair—it includes a live band, bourbon aplenty, and even a mechanical

So, what can be expected at the Festival? The Bourbon bull (although we weren’t able to get our editor to take a leisurely Festival is a weeklong affair that offers classes, tours, music, ride). If you’re looking for an event that’s laid back and outdoors, tasting, cooking, mixology, and a gala to culminate the event attend the Cigar and Jazz event that has a live band as well as


cigars, great food, and plenty of wonderful cocktails. And to top

Brooks Grain Improving the quality of life with grain. www.brooksgrain.com


to the distilling industry for over 50 years.

it all off, as the Festival concludes, there is a Gala—a black-tie affair that has awards, mingling, drinks, and dancing (we may or may not have coaxed the editor to the dance floor this night).

LOVELY DAY Kentucky is traditionally hospitable, and the Bourbon Festival is no exception. If you attend, you are sure to enjoy the outdoor fair-like atmosphere of the event, making for a more than lovely day. “The thing that never stops amazing me is the generosity and humble nature of the people in the industry,” says our Editor, Brian Christensen. Christensen was able to run into many wonderful distillers and other persons in the industry, many of which we’ve highlighted in prior issues of Artisan Spirit Magazine. You might run into head distillers, like Charlie Downs of Heaven Hill Experience of Louisville, Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey, or Jim Rutledge of Four Roses. It’s an incredible collection of some of the most seasoned professionals in the industry. You might also meet some great people who can help you market your product—like bartender Bill Thomas, owner of two whiskey bars in Washington DC and quite possibly one of largest collectors of whiskeys in the US (see feature on page 25).

VAMOS While this event may not be for every craft distiller out there, some benefits do exist for the Bourbon maker. Editor Christensen shares from his experience at the Festival that if you are a craft distiller, it would be to your advantage to focus on the events that include the small Kentucky distillers first: “It’s a great way to see how small distillers can interact, compete, and collaborate with the big national—and international—brands.” He adds that there is also an advantage to learning from all the master distillers and their years of experience in the distilling field. There are lots of learning opportunities, even from those big brand names. While this might not be the event you travel to every year, we can definitely recommend that it is worth the trip at least once, if not for anything other than just having a great time. If you do attend, plan ahead and purchase your tickets ahead of time in order to not miss out on all the excitement at the special events.

The next Kentucky Bourbon Festival takes place Sept. 15-20, 2015. For more info, visit www.kybourbonfestival.com or call (800) 638-4877.








with a WORK

Our store appeals to all wine, beer, and spirits customers


based on depth of selection and service staff knowledge of the

It’s all about the genuineness of the product, and the unique

products we carry. Within our customer mix there is definitely a

appeal we believe that product will provide our customers. We

sophisticated, experimental customer

are not risk averse, we’re happy to try a

who is looking for the newest thing.

product if we believe chances are good

Craft spirits definitely play into this

it will succeed, and we hope more craft

customer’s needs.

distillers will call on us with their new experiments.



supplier or wholesaler can submit

We are always looking for new products

their items for review. This allows

to enhance our assortment. We find

the buying team to have necessary

that craft distillers have brought a new

information to determine if we have

level of product to the industry and have

a need in our assortment for the

refined the offerings to appeal to a new

item or if the item is new, exciting

customer base, as well as encourage

or innovative and would appeal to

customers to try something new and

our customers. In addition, we are

expand their palate.

always seeking new products, and


have executives in the field searching high and low for new craft vodka, rum, bourbon, and whiskey that offers the right combination of value and quality.

Yes – we work with both suppliers and

Highlighting local spirits.





Absolutely. While we operate in many states, we believe that

and anything that will attract new customers to the product is

localized assortments are extremely important.

good for the business.



We are always assessing our store layouts to ensure that we

We believe that the loyalty to local products continues to grow

provide the best shopping experience for the customer. In some

and is more sophisticated in some states. We continue to look

We believe that all producers want what is best for the industry

for ways to enhance our assortment, merchandise our stores and improve our











important to the business. With our extensive



packaging can definitely help set a product apart on the shelf. However,

Stocking the shelves. markets where local and craft are over indexing, we are looking for ways to highlight these products whether in a separate section or with additional signage in the set. Our overall thought process is to have an alphabetical shelf set so that the customer can easily find what they are looking for.

the quality of what is in the bottle is always the primary decision maker for the customer who takes it home. We want the overall product (liquid, packaging, and marketing) to provide optimum value to the customer. Success for us and the distiller is what we call the “wow factor.”

Have you ever wanted your product in 50ml bottles? Now you can! We are adding on a 50ml bottling line. Low Minimums!

We put liquid in bottles so you don't have to.

- NEW 50ml bottling - New Shrink Tunnel - Private Labeling - Contract Bottling

Dehner Distillery

Clive, Iowa 515-559-4879 dehnerdistillery.com


ARE THERE COMMON MISTAKES DISTILLERS MAKE WHEN TRYING TO GET THEIR PRODUCT ON STORE SHELVES? Spending too little time on overall packaging to understand how the product translates on the shelf to the customer. Also determining best use of the product and helping the customer understand what to do with the product. On the logistics side, spending time with the wholesalers understanding their process and how to ensure that product is ordered in a timely manner once approved.

Total Wine & More’s Bellevue, WA location.


also send groups of store team members to various locations on educational trips where they meet the winemaker, distiller or brewer and learn firsthand about the product, production, etc.

We always welcome distillers into our stores, where legal, to taste and educate both our team members and customers on their product. Leveraging us as a preferred retailer when customers are visiting their distillery would help the customer have an avenue which to purchase their products on an ongoing basis.



taste and educate both our customers and our staff on their

We are continuously encouraging opportunities to better

experience. We host both in-store events as well as classroom

understand the product so that the team members can

events where our customers can meet the makers of the product

confidently sell the product to their customers. Our team

and become educated both on the product as well as the region

members have a passion for the product and share their

where it is made or the production process used.

products. We believe in the value of an educated team and customers and are always looking for ways to enhance their

personal experiences with their customers. We have regional meetings 7-8 times per year with a deep focus on product. We

Visit www.totalwine.com for more info on Total Wine & More.

Your Ideal Package, From Concept to Reality Phoenix Packaging offers custom packaging solutions that make your spirit shine as much on the outside as it does on the inside. From bottles to closures to decoration, every detail of your packaging will reflect the soul of the contents within.




Your Ideal Package, From Concept to Reality















As a modern distiller there are many challenges that face us. Among the numerous laws and upstarts there are the more interesting aspects, such as equipment. Being in the distilling business it is hard to image such a large industry where virtually nothing is made for us off the shelf. It is either repurposed from other industries, modified or built custom. I’m going to try to convey what it takes to build some of your own equipment...

There are many ways this project could proceed, but the route I went seemed the easiest for most people to handle. There might be, for some people, techniques where they will have to have a part machined or welded by a fabrication

P ARTS LIST*: 4” x 2” Sanitary Reducer 4” Sanitary Cap

I tend to buy my parts from eBay. It’s usually cheaper and the shipping price is stated clearly. This agitator can’t be used when the still is running. To do that you would have to machine some parts. I’ll post online what that would take.

shop. The simplicity of this project allows that

2” Sanitary x 2” Male NPT Adapter

outside machining and welding, if necessary,

4” Sanitary Clamp

might be different than I used. The measurements

to be done at low cost as it’s not difficult or

2” Sanitary Clamp

given here are just to show an example of what I did.

time consuming. I designed something that is

4” Sanitary Gasket

I used a 4 horse power Gast Air Motor, but an

professional and will last. I always evaluate my

2” Sanitary Gasket

air motor with face mount and 1-4 horse power is

designs with a little universality to them so they

3’ of 7/8” Stainless Steel Solid Rod

sufficient. The three mounting holes on my air motor

can be used in other areas of the distillery. Which leads us to our current build. The portable mixer / agitator has many uses - my main use is to mix batches during proofing. The first consideration is air motors. Air motors are explosion proof and if they get stuck they just stall and don’t break. You can use an electric explosion proof motor, but they are very expensive, some requiring 3 Phase Power or 220V Single Phase which most don’t have wired all over their distillery. I also use many Sanitary (Tri-Clover) parts as most distilleries have them available; also it makes for easier disassembly.

5/8” x 7/8” Shaft Coupling 1 7/8” OD x 7/8” ID Sealed Bearing Qty: 6 - 5/16” Stainless Steel Washers Qty: 3 - 5/16”-18 Stainless Steel Cap Head Screws 1” Long 6” IBC Cap with 2” Female NPT in the Center Mixer Blades This is what I used, but sizes will vary depending on which way you intend to go.

This is merely a guide as the parts you choose

didn’t fit inside the area of the 4” Sanitary Cap to be able to get the Clamp to fit on. So I had to drill and tap new mounting holes. I put them about 1/8” away from the original holes and drilled to the same depth. On face mount air motors the center hub is a machined surface used for aligning when mounting. So I had to machine a center hole in the 4” Sanitary Cap on my lathe. This needs to be in the exact center so a lathe really is needed. If you don’t have the knowledge or access to a lathe you’ll have to take it to a machinist. It shouldn’t cost much; this is where a case of beer or some of your spirits will come in handy. The Cap after machining should slip onto the


air motor hub, but not have much play in it.

Steel Round Bar as my shaft so it won’t wobble so much at high

Next I had to lay out where to drill the holes for mounting it speeds. I decided to use two different shafts so I can change out to the air motor. Even for me I had to guess a little as I drilled the shaft with the mixer blades to a shorter one as I use different my own mounting holes in the motor. The easiest thing to do is size totes, but I’m only going to explain how to make a single measure where you think they are then lay out everything in a shaft. The pictures provided should give you the detail required CAD program or drawing program, print it out then cut it out and to complete the double shaft. see if everything aligns. I laid mine out with a hole for the center

I make a 3’ long shaft. You’re going to have to do a little

hub on the motor and the mounting holes, cut the holes out machining on the shaft to get it to slide through the bearing. in the paper and test fitted it.

Normally the shaft would have

I had to adjust a couple times.

to be press fit into the bearing,

Then I reprinted the pattern

but we want to be able to

with cross hairs in the circles

change the shaft out. What this



means is you’ll have to spin the

holes, then I cut the center

shaft and use some sandpaper

hub out in the paper and put

to make the shaft smaller until

it on the air motor print side

it fits through the bearing easily.

down and double stick taped

Constantly check as you do this

over where the holes are going

as you don’t want any play in

to be then slipped the Sanitary

it. After that’s done you’ll have

Cap onto the hub and pressed

to take a file and file down the

down. When I took it off the

shaft on the end that couples

paper is stuck to the cap and

with the motor. You want to

you then have the spots where

make a flat spot so when the

you need to mark for drilling.

set screws bite into the shaft it


There are free CAD drawing programs from Google. Drilling

won’t make it so you can’t get it out again.

into Stainless Steel is very

For assembly I had to use

difficult; slower is better. Don’t





let the drill bits heat up, you

between the cap and the

can use WD-40 to cool things

motor to allow the Sanitary

as you go. Make sure to use

Clamp to fit. Fit the cap to the

sharp drill bits and don’t drill

motor then put on the Sanitary

the entire hole at once. Start

gasket, followed by securing

with a small drill bit, maybe 3/16”, then move to ¼” and so on the shaft to the motor with a motor coupling. Then you can slide until you reach your desired size. If the holes don’t quite align the reducer on and clamp it onto the motor, followed by the perfectly you can over size the holes a little at a time until it fits. 2” Sanitary/Male adapter. I made my own motor couplings and The reducer I found on eBay happened to have the correct paddles for the mixer end, but you can buy Stainless Steel mixing ID on the 2” Sanitary end for the bearing to press into. The blades from lots of places, just make sure they are small enough bearing is 1.875” I.D. and the opening was 1.88”. If the inside to fit through the opening of where you’re intending to mix. diameter of your reducer is too small you’ll have to machine it for

Finally, put on the IBC Cap and voila it’s done.

a pressed fit. If it’s over sized then you’ll have to weld some nubs onto the inside surface and then machine for a bearing press fit. Carter Raff is owner and master disiller of Raff Distillerie in San Next I went about making the shafts. I used a 7/8” Stainless Francisco, CA. Visit www.raffdistillerie.com for more information.

Disclaimers: 1. Metalworking can be a dangerous business so please take care when working with tools, power or otherwise. Make sure you understand how to use the tools you are using and to use proper protection, such as safety glasses. 2. As a distiller you are taking a risk by making and using this equipment in and around your distillery as ethanol is highly flammable. This article is merely a guide to inspire people to make their own equipment. Proceed with caution, no guarantee is expressed or implied.



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A ONE-DAY WORKSHOP ON SELECTING THE RIGHT BOTTLE, CLOSURE, AND LABEL FOR YOUR SPIRIT. Just a few questions you can expect to have answered:

» » » » » » »

When should I start designing my packaging? How should I budget for packaging? How do I tell my story with packaging? Do we have to purchase in bulk? How can I maximize shelf appeal? How do I measure packaging success? How do I update or redesign my packaging?

WHERE: Moonshine University in historic Louisville, KY. WHEN: January 9, 2015 WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Anyone interested in learning more about the art and science of packaging their quality spirits.

HOW MUCH: Nothing, nada, zilch. Artisan Spirit Magazine and industry partners like O-I, Fort Dearborn, Tapi, and Moonshine University are working together to share their knowledge and expertise with new and up and coming craft distillers. WHAT NOW: The workshop is free, but space is limited....


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“Glass is essential to ensure the unique characteristics of Jack Daniel’s. Jack’s guiding words were ‘Every day we make it, we’ll make it the best we can.’ That’s a big reason we bottle in glass.” – Jeff Arnett

Master Distiller, The Jack Daniel Distillery

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Profile for Artisan Spirit Magazine

Artisan Spirit: Winter 2014  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.

Artisan Spirit: Winter 2014  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.