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Care to hazard any predictions about where all this is going? I think it will tend to follow the path that the brewing industry has followed only much more limited. It costs a lot more to start a distillery than a brewery, and the regulation requirements are harder to meet.

Are you aware of any amazing spirits products not well represented in the U.S. market? I am not, but I am sure there are a lot of small distillers combing the regs to look for new niches to exploit. It never ceases to amaze me all of the new beverages that are entering the market. Some will only be neat fads while others will become new standards.

Do you have any general advice that would apply to most spirits producers? Be open and honest about your story and where your product comes from. It takes great skill in every step to produce a good beverage. Be proud of the part you do. Nothing is worse than a background story proven false or getting caught lying about where a product came from. Also learn how to make the product you want to make before you start. I’ve seen a lot of money spent on equipment and supplies only to make a big mess.

It seems like technology has changed almost everything in recent decades; what about spirits production? The production of spirits has changed completely. When I first started, there was an army of operators running around checking the operation and turning valves. I learned air logic controls when I first started. Then came electronic based instruments, but they were too expensive to use many of them. As the price came down, the number of control loops went up. The quality, accuracy, and durability of the instrumentation has increased tremendously. All of this has led to consistent and better quality.

If you were starting your booze career over in 2019, and knowing what you know now, what would you do (and not do)? I would do it all over again. I have had a great career, working with a lot of great people who spent a lot of time answering questions for a guy who always had another question of why or how.

Robert C. Lehrman is a lawyer at Lehrman Beverage Law, PLLC in metro Washington, DC. Since 1988 he has specialized in the federal law surrounding beer, wine and spirits, such as TTB permits, labels, trademarks and formulas. The firm has six beverage lawyers, over 50 years of combined experience, and publishes a blog on beer, wine and spirits trends at

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Profile for Artisan Spirit Magazine

Artisan Spirit: Winter 2018  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.

Artisan Spirit: Winter 2018  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.