The Hyper-Focus Repercussion. WRITTEN BY COLIN BLAKE
t’s not news that the distilling industry is growing as fast as a Tennessee wildfire. New distilleries are opening up, guilds are being formed, and areas are starting to find their focus. But sometimes that focus might be too myopic for that region’s (or the whole industry’s) own good. Sometimes a hyper-focus on one thing might not be as beneficial as everyone thinks. First let’s take a look at the term craft and how focused everyone seems to be on defining it. I’m a little surprised industry members are still arguing over what craft is, when the real question is: Who cares about what craft is? Turns out that most of the people who care about the definition of craft are involved in the industry in one way or another, whereas the vast majority of consumers care very little, if at all. I think what we should be focusing on, other than how to educate a huge number of consumers to care about the term craft, is working with policy makers to give craft distilleries the same latitude with taxes, sales opportunities, and ease of opening as craft breweries and wineries. The first thing to understand is a drink is a drink is a drink when it comes to common serving sizes. On average, 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, and one and a half ounces of spirits contain the same amount of alcohol. So, if a drink is a drink is a drink, then why are they all taxed so differently? Wineries and breweries have a much cheaper tax rate for the same quantity of alcohol produced. In New York state, not accounting for local or federal taxes, spirits are taxed at six times the rate of beer
or wine. Beer is only taxed at $0.14 per gallon ($1.12 if you adjust the amount of alcohol to be the same as spirits), wine is taxed at $0.30 per gallon ($1.00 with adjustment), and spirits are taxed at $6.43 per gallon. Also, wineries and breweries can often sell a larger volume of product than distilleries can at their tasting rooms (in most states), and they can also ship direct to consumers, which you can’t do with spirits. Further, the permits and inspections required to open a brewery or winery are much less stringent and demanding than those required to open a distillery. The distilling industry is so busy looking at a shiny object that we don’t realize that we’re not being given the same opportunities as our cousins in the alcohol world. It’s time we stop focusing on what the chimney cap should look like when we’ve got a questionable foundation beneath us.
The Napa Valley of Bourbon The other thing I find people in the industry a little preoccupied by is a hyper-focus on one spirit. Recently there has been a lot of talk, discussion, and hubbub about distilling tourism in Kentucky. While there seems to be a consensus that we need to have a focused brand and experience based around our distilling heritage to bring tourism dollars into Kentucky, there isn’t a clear view on how to do that. Some chalk it up to identity, others on messaging. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
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