GETTING READY TO GO
PREGNANCY IN THE DISTILLERY
oats NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST
IT'S A DIGITAL WORLD WITH REAL WORLD CONSEQUENCES
Brand Design for the Craft Spirits Industry.
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TABLE of CONTENTS A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
QUARTERLY GUILD & INDUSTRY REPORTS
Updates from guilds and associations within states, across the nation, and beyond!
CRAFT MALT GUILD RELEASES SEAL FOR LOCAL MALT USERS A new graphic tells consumers about craft malt products
FEDERAL ALCOHOL EXCISE TAXES 101
Understanding the FET system
HOW ITALIANS CLOGGED A SEWER IN BUTTE AND THE JETTER NOZZLE WAS BORN We’re still using it today to clean up messes
WSET FOCUSES ON BRAND NEUTRAL EDUCATION
A new Level 3 WSET course in spirits aims to build a broad foundation
FROM THE MEDICINE CABINET TO THE BACK BAR Deciphering traditional recipes from old manuscripts
CRAFTING A BETTER DRINKING CULTURE Lessons learned
2019 SPIRITS INDUSTRY MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS Year in review
COMPLIANCE IN THE DIGITAL WORLD 106
Legal considerations for industry members using the internet to promote their brand
CANNABIS ROCKETS AHEAD, WHERE WILL IT LAND? TTB, Cannabis, and You
TEN YEARS IN BURDETT Finger Lakes Distilling marks its 10 year anniversary
WHEY TO GO
The rise of artisanal spirits from cheese creameries
REVIVING A LEGEND
James E. Pepper Distillery returns
A PATIENT LAUNCH PARTY
Portuguese Bend Distillery uses new licensing to its fullest
One of the world’s most widely grown grains finds a home in the American distilling industry
The government’s misguided policy of poisoning alcohol during Prohibition
YEAST WRANGLING 122 86
Capturing wild yeast for your distillery
IN, AND OUT OF, SUSPENSE
of Mount Airy, Maryland
Part 3: Mediums
BOURBON FROM THE COLUMN
YOUR LABEL, YOUR BOTTLE, YOUR STORY, YOUR COPYRIGHT 129 How copyrights can protect your craft alcohol’s unique vibe
DECLAWING AN EPIDEMIC
DÉJÀ VU. ANOTHER PROHIBITION ERA ENDING? 99
ONE-AND-A-HALF OUNCES, OR ELSE
SHORT PATH DISTILLERY
COLORADO’S OVERLOOKED TERRAIN INSPIRES DRY LAND DISTILLERS
Is cannabis headed for an alcohollike regulatory scheme?
of Everett, Massachusetts
DECODING A COA TO UNDERSTAND YOUR GRAIN’S POTENTIAL 59
AN EXPERIMENT IN EXTERMINATION 120
A rebuttal to the pot still apostles
THE SPIRIT OF SURVIVAL Part 2
KEEPING IT IN
The flavor of the whiskey or the gin!
Pregnancy and the business of making booze
Developing tourism industry-distillery relationships for mutual value
What to think through before launching a membership club
from the COVER
VISITOR EXPERIENCE DESIGN DEEP DIVE: TOURISM INDUSTRY
DISTILLERY CLUB CONSIDERATIONS 55
What do all those numbers mean, anyway?
WHEN DRINKING FOR TWO 76
A spirit of South Africa
Three tips for marketing outlier products
Triple Eight Distillery of Nantucket, Massachusetts
Not just for breakfast
MAMPOER 43 SO YOU’VE GOT AN ODDBALL
TIME IN A BARREL
Southern Tier Distilling breaks into the billion dollar spiked seltzer market
California’s ABC cracks down on overservice
Using unique ingredients to make distinctly Colorado spirits
Triple Eight Distillery in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Image by Amanda Joy Christensen. See their story on page 63.
Issue 29 /// Winter 2020 PUBLISHER & EDITOR Brian Christensen CREATIVE DIRECTOR Amanda Joy Christensen SENIOR WRITERS George B. Catallo Devon Trevathan
CONTRIBUTORS Luis Ayala Candace Lynn Bell Corey Day Carrie Dow Ryan Dunne Ewing, Esq. Andrew Faulkner Andy Garrison Harry Haller Ashley Hanke Bethany K. Hatef Reade A. Huddleston Paul Hughes, Ph.D. Joan M. Kasura
Tim Knittel Aaron Knoll Stacy C. Kula, Esq. Rich Manning Cheyanne Martin Jim McCoy John McKee Kevin O’Brien Tracy Sheppard Gary Spedding, Ph.D. Matt Strickland Gabe Toth
ILLUSTRATORS Brock Caron Lanette Faulkinberry
John McKee Catherine Paiano
PHOTOGRAPHERS Issel Campos George B. Catallo Amanda Joy Christensen
Carrie Dow Joan M. Kasura
SALES & MARKETING Ashley Monroe ARTISAN SPIRIT is a quarterly publication by Artisan Spirit Media. www.artisanspiritmag.com facebook.com/ArtisanSpiritMagazine ArtisanSpiritM
General Inquiries (509) 944-5919 Advertising (509) 991-8112 PO Box 31494, Spokane, WA 99223 All contents ©2019. 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.
LEVERAGING OUR BEVERAGE EXPERIENCE, HASKELL HAS DEVELOPED A RELIABLE AND ECONOMICAL TURN-KEY CAN LINE COMPATIBLE WITH THE PRODUCTION OF READY TO DRINK COCKTAILS. CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS SOLUTION.
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THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SPONSORS. Our mission at Artisan Spirit Magazine 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 within the industry we all love so much.
BSG is focused on supplying craft distillers with the best ingredients from around the world. The craft distilling market trusts BSG to deliver the finest ingredients at competitive prices, without sacrificing customer service. With distilling malts and grains from Rahr Malting Co., Weyermann®, Simpsons, Crisp and Malting Company of Ireland, as well as a full range of yeasts, yeast nutrients, enzymes, botanicals, and finishing products, we have a wide range of distilling ingredients to help you create high quality, artisanal spirits.
The American Craft Spirits Association exists because of real-world momentum and a perceived need for a trade association in the U.S. governed by licensed craft distillers on behalf of craft distillers. Our mission includes legislative advocacy in support of a strong business environment for distillers, and through outreach to consumers help build brands and increase consumer awareness. We welcome your ideas, suggestions and participation.
The American Spirits Exchange is a national importer and distributor serving the alcoholic beverage industry (spirits, wine and beer). We provide domestic and international companies with access and support to the U.S. market. Regardless of your size — from micro, craft distiller to publicly traded multinational — our focus fuels your growth. Our flagship Foundations™ program provides companies with access to the U.S. market. We handle your business-to-business functions from start to finish: permitting, brand approvals, purchase order processing, invoicing and compliance.
Cage and Sons Distilling Systems build premium distillation systems and equipment for premier distilleries.
Unlike other agencies that work within a blinding myriad of industries; our focus is 100% within the spirits, wine, beer and other alcohol sectors. This specialization has allowed us to become experts in the alcohol beverage category. We have an exceptional understanding of design that sells, complimented by professional project management and flawless production oversight. The result has been strategic solutions that consistently produce both critical acclaim and strong measurable return on investment for our clients.
Every element of Cage and Sons equipment is designed and crafted to provide you with the very best distilling experience at an affordable rate because we know that bottom line matters, but so does function. At Cage and Sons, adequate is never an option, and we continue to develop and design new high functioning, cutting-edge distillation systems that enhance the distillation industry. Cage and Sons works every day to bring you the very best distillation systems for the very best value.
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ARCHITECTURE ◆ ENGINEERING ◆ CONSTRUCTION
Decorative label solutions…we’ve got you covered. Fort Dearborn has the expertise and creative appreciation for development and application of labels for the spirits market. Whether your application needs cut & stack labels with specialty hot stamping and embossing, the “no label” look of pressure sensitive film labels or full body graphics using shrink sleeve labels, we have a product to meet your needs. We service brands large and small. Contact us today to discuss your brand building objectives.
G&D Chillers is as committed to the cold as they are to their clients. They strive to build long lasting partnerships by offering on-going technical support from their team of engineers, all backed by their satisfaction guarantee. G&D Chillers offers a widerange of options from small portable chillers and heaters, to large custom chilling units. All units are ETL approved in both the U.S. and Canada. Most of their standard package chiller designs have been tested for over 20 years in the field.
Haskell delivers Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects, both within existing facilities as well as new brownfield/greenfield projects. Haskell is a fully integrated, single source firm with highly specialized, in-house design, construction, procurement and administrative professionals working across diverse market sectors. The Beer, Wine & Spirits Division is one of Haskell’s most mature markets having served discrete and distinguished clients for decades. Haskell is defined by its people, a culture of transparency and trust, and the delivery of value.
Trusted Oak Expertise Since 1912.
Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits is the industry leader in supplying fermentation products and value-added services to the distilled spirits industry. We specialize in the research, development, production and marketing of yeast and yeast nutrients as well as a solid belief in education of the distilled spirits industry.
Live Oak Bank specializes in financing solutions for craft distilleries nationwide. As one of the largest originators of small business loans in the country, our loan options allow you to meet your customers’ demand and take your business to the next level. Our team is guided by craft experts and peers who have a combined 75+ years of lending expertise in this space. With access to a cash flow business model, industry knowledge and innovative technology, you’ll be able to grow your distillery with a committed partner. Financing can be used for expansion, equipment purchases, refinance, working capital, construction and more.
We’ve been in this industry for over 100 years, during which time we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a great barrel to age great spirits. Our R&D team and account managers have hundreds of barrels currently in experimentation. Partnering with distillers, we think outside the box to develop new products that push your vision forward. Our Mission: To craft world-class oak barrels and other cooperage products so our employees, customers and communities flourish.
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A vital part of the alcohol production process, fermentation products from Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits have been designed and selected to create value by tailoring objective solutions to distillery needs.
MGP is known for its mastery in formulating, fermenting, distilling and maturing world-class spirits. The company’s expertise in blending art and science to produce premium bourbons, whiskeys, gins and grain neutral spirits serves as the foundation of a lasting legacy steeped in know-how. Customers benefit from MGP’s in-depth experience, state-of-the-art capabilities, and strong penchant for developing tailored formulations and meeting precise product requirements. MGP’s entire team, with distilleries in Atchison, KS, and Lawrenceburg, IN, takes great pride in delivering the highest quality results with each and every product made. For details visit mgpingredients.com/alcohol.
Moonshine University is located in Louisville, Kentucky on the Beverage Campus with its sister company, Flavorman. Moonshine University offers a variety of classes for enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, industry professionals and those seeking careers in the distilling industry. Our distillery was designed as part of our classroom, and all classes incorporate hands-on learning and sensory evaluation in order to provide a complete and comprehensive education. In addition to its knowledgeable instructors, Moonshine University hosts a range of renowned industry experts for specialized instruction and training.
For over 60 years Tapi USA has produced cork stoppers and a wide variety of bottle closures. Family-owned and operated since its inception, our company continues to develop new products and enter new markets. Tapi USA is proud to support the growth of the artisan distillery industry and is honored to be the Bottle Closure Sponsor for Artisan Spirit Magazine.
O-I is the world’s largest glass container manufacturer and the preferred partner for many leading spirits brands. O-I delivers safe, sustainable, pure, iconic, brand-building glass packaging to the growing craft spirits market. Glass effortlessly conveys a superior image and delivers the unmatched quality that craft beer consumers expect. In addition to the wide range of bottle options offered through our Covet and Heritage collections, we also offer custom glass design and decoration expertise. Find out more at o-i.com.
Total Wine & More is the country’s largest independent retailer of fine wine, beer and spirits. Our strength is our people. We have over 5,000 associates, who must demonstrate comprehensive beverage knowledge before they are invited to join our team. After coming on board, all of our team members undergo an extensive initial training program. We believe that an educated consumer is our best customer. We want to demystify the buying experience for our customers so they will feel confident in choosing the bottle that is perfect for them. Total Wine & More works closely with community and business leaders in each market it operates to support local causes and charitable efforts.
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G&D’s team of engineers and technicians know what they are doing, and their pricing is very competitive. They worked with us to develop creative solutions to our technical challenges and designed a very efficient system for us. - Dain Grimmer, Director of Production and Master Distiller, Heritage Distilling Company, Inc.
V I S I T G D C H I L L E R S .CO M
A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: We have an agenda. It’s not terribly insidious and would make for a shit spy novel, but in today’s world it’s a bit of a novelty: independent journalism. That’s it, thank you for coming to my TED Talk… Really though, despite access to society-altering technology and global social media platforms available to anyone with internet access, we have entered a phase in time dominated by massive mergers, polarizing pundits, and a consolidating narrative. Oddly enough, that also means it’s a surprisingly good time to publish an independent trade journal for an industry we love so damn much. What lights us up when working late into the night editing or designing page layouts is the opportunity to spread new or long-forgotten ideas. The weight of the publication you hold in your hands is a physical representation of time spent gathering ideas and stories we think need to be on the record. We invest a little paper and ink into making sure these stories are more than sound bites and pixels. To give voice to the rebels and the innovators, no matter their connections or any potential gains. It’s about the story and it’s about the ideas. I’ve always said it’s more important that the textural “voice” of the subject, and the author, remain intact through our editorial polish. I’m not interested in being the voice of a generation, or an industry for that matter. Our goal to make sure the voices of good people can be amplified a little further into the world.
Brian Christensen (509) 944-5919 /// email@example.com /// PO Box 31494, Spokane, WA 99223
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ISN’T MY “JOB.” IT’S MY CALLING. ATCHISON , KS
At MGP, every step of creating a premium distilled bourbon, whiskey, rye, gin and vodka is guided by a passion bordering on obsession. We tirelessly collaborate with our partners, regardless of size, to develop and consistently produce the exact ﬂavor proﬁle that’s right for their brand. And for their discerning consumers.
LAWRENCEBURG , IN
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Y R T S U D N I & D L I GPUOR TS Y L R E T R QUA
t’s the end of the year 2019 and here we are
still playing the most broken of broken records, the Federal Excise Tax extension is still not settled. So it's no surprise that a number of guild updates talk about the importance of this extender (one year or permanent) again. In addition, this issue highlights a very important
AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION
state regulatory case in California that is well worth your time to check out (see
STATE GUILD COMMITTEE
page 134). And as always, we can't thank all the state guilds enough for their hard work and effort to wrangle membership, raise consumer awareness, and share their stories with us here. Stay strong through the new year, here is hoping you all survived another OND my friends!
— BRIAN CHRISTENSEN
We continue to work on Federal Excise Tax (FET) reduction, which we are hoping to get in an extenders bill in December. On October 15 the ACSA hosted a very successful FET call in day with over 2000 contacts to Congress. The ACSA has also let the TTB know that we favor changing the standards of fill to allow anything between 5ml and 3.875 liters. We hope everyone is planning on joining us in Portland on March 29 at the ACSA conference for our annual state guild meeting. This is your best opportunity of the year to share thoughts, Ideas and network with other guild leaders. Cheers, P.T. Wood Alchemist, Mayor, American Craft Spirits Association Board of Directors Wood’s High Mountain Distillery
DISTILLED SPIRITS COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES Craft distillers across the nation are facing a devastating 400% tax increase if Congress does not pass the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (S. 362/H.R. 1175) before 2020. The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) would make permanent the current FET reduction for craft distillers. Craft distillers know all too well the importance of making this tax reduction permanent. Mike Cameron, President and Co-Founder of Devil’s River Whiskey in San Antonio, Texas, phrased it perfectly: “CBMTRA was not designed to be a tax cutting bill but more so a job creating and business expansion bill. It is working not only in Texas but across the entire country.” It’s critical that craft distillers are empowered and have the resources they need to invest in their business, employees, and communities. Currently, CBMTRA has 288 co-sponsors
in the House and 70 co-sponsors in the Senate. These numbers reflect that there is a bi-partisan majority supporting this issue, but the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) is not resting until the bill is fully passed in both chambers before the end of 2019. On October 15, DISCUS led a virtual “CBMTRA Day of Action,” in partnership with the American Craft Spirits Association, Brewers Association, Beer Institute, Wine Institute, WineAmerica, and the United States Association of Cider Makers. Our goal was to come together with our industry partners and get Congress’ attention to ensure they know the urgency of getting CBMTRA passed ASAP. The Day of Action showed that united, we can make a difference to #StopCraftTaxIncreases. We were able to mobilize over 2,500 people to make over 8,000 engagements with Congress!
How can you help? Join Spirits United (SpiritsUnited.org) to contact your members of Congress in support of CBMTRA. At Spirits United, you will be able to send pre-drafted letters and tweets, as well as make phone calls, to your elected officials on the various issues that impact your business, including CBMTRA. It’s simple and takes less than five minutes to do. Once you take action, be sure to share with your colleagues, local bartenders, supply chain partners, friends and family. We need everyone involved to get CBMTRA over the finish line before 2020! DISCUS will continue to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, coordinate with our industry partners, and proudly showcase craft distiller stories to make sure this tax reduction doesn’t expire. Chris R. Swonger
President & CEO Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and Responsibility.org
AMERICAN STATE GUILDS CONNECTICUT CONNECTICUT SPIRITS GUILD Now that the Connecticut Legislature passed Senate Bill 647 — which, among other things, allows distilleries to be able to sell cocktails by the glass — we are working with the state’s liquor commission to understand the specifics of how we can operate within a new CT Craft Café permit. We know that it allows all CT distilleries, breweries, and vineyards to sell each
other’s products by the glass in their tasting rooms effective, July 1, 2020, but seek to understand how this will work in greater detail. We are also re-prioritizing our list of future wishes for the upcoming legislative session and are working with our colleagues across the three-tiered system. Among other things, we will seek to be able to sell bottles at certified farmer’s markets and “Made in CT” expos and to be able to operate satellite tasting rooms. Because of our strong partnership with
the CT Package Store Association, we are confident that we can come up with new ways to make all boats rise. We are seeing a bit of an uptick in new distilleries coming online or being planned, so we are hopeful the coming legislative changes at the state level with create a healthier environment for our industry. Cheers to a great finish to 2019! Tom Dubay President, Connecticut Spirits Trail CEO, Hartford Flavor Company firstname.lastname@example.org
MARYLAND MARYLAND DISTILLERS GUILD The Maryland Distillers Guild (MDG) is actively working to develop relationships with the state General Assembly, hosting educational visits for committees of jurisdiction at distilleries, and by holding
MASSACHUSETTS MASSACHUSETTS DISTILLERS ALLIANCE The Massachusetts Distillers Alliance has been focused on the passage of a permanent Federal Excise Tax (FET)reduction. A top priority for the MDA has been engaging and educating consumers regarding FET reduction. The MDA has established an online advocacy web site
NEW YORK NEW YORK STATE DISTILLERS GUILD
NORTH CAROLINA DISTILLERS ASSOCIATION OF NORTH CAROLINA In September, North Carolina distillers began benefiting from the legislative changes enacted this summer. Distillers are selling more of their products and serving their visitors cocktails and other alcoholic beverages. Local government-run Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) stores are offering in-store spirits tastings, and North Carolina
political fundraisers for state leadership. In partnership with the MD Wineries Association and MD Brewers Association, the MDG is able to show strong support for leading policy makers by cohosting three fundraiser events this fall. Although the guild does not have a PAC, members were encouraged to contribute individually at various levels. This November marked the second
annual Maryland Spirits Month, and the guild is excited to roll out an official passport showcasing member distilleries. MDG membership currently represents over 90 percent of the industry in Maryland, and includes 15 start-up and 22 affiliate members.
to aid our craft spirit loving customers in contacting their federal representatives. Massdistill.com/take-action was developed to ensure these consumers’ voices are heard. Contact info is paired with the appropriate Senators and Member of Congress and an email about FET reduction is forwarded to their offices. The website empowers the users to quickly communicate with their representatives regarding FET. Working with the American Craft Spirits Association, the MDA and other
Massachusetts distillers have collaborated to urge our members of Congress support and pass a permanent FET reduction. As the end of the year is fast approaching, the MDA will continue to concentrate on the passage of permanent FET reduction and parity between all craft beverages in Massachusetts. For more information, please visit massdistill.com.
In an effort to better serve our membership and New York's overall distilling industry, our association is undertaking the process of redefining our mission statement and administrative structure. We look forward to
positioning our guild to take full advantage of marketing and legislative opportunities in 2020 and beyond.
distillers are conducting most of them. The Distillers Association of North Carolina (DANC) is closely monitoring implementation of recent legislative changes that affect distillers. DANC wants to ensure that rules and regulations established by the NC ABC Commission are appropriate and reasonable. In addition, DANC is watching closely how alcohol law enforcement is enforcing the new laws to make sure that their interpretation is correct and consistent statewide. DANC has been successful as an allvolunteer run organization, but we recently
expanded our operations by hiring Carol Shaw as our first Executive Director this fall. Carol recently retired from state government after serving the North Carolina General Assembly for more than 35 years. She has a great working knowledge of our industry’s regulatory environment and will help DANC expand the scope of services we offer including assisting members with navigating state regulations and planning fundraising events.
CEO/Co-Founder, Lyon Distilling Co President, Maryland Distillers Guild
Alison DeWolfe Privateer Rum
Cory Muscato Lockhouse Distillery
Pete Barger President, Distillers Association of North Carolina, Principal Partner, Southern Distilling Company
TENNESSEE TENNESSEE DISTILLERS GUILD LEADERSHIP In September 2019, Sara Beth Urban, former Middle Tennessee Division Manager for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, was named executive director of the Tennessee Distillers Guild. In her new role, Urban will continue to move the guild and its initiatives, including the guild’s flagship Tennessee Whiskey Trail, forward. UPCOMING EVENTS The Tennessee Distillers Guild cohosted two events recently, including the annual Grains & Grits Festival on Nov. 2 in Townsend, Tennessee and the inaugural Tennessee Whiskey Christmas on Dec. 1314 in Nashville, Tennessee.
TEXAS TEXAS DISTILLED SPIRITS ASSOCIATION The Texas Distilled Spirits Association (TDSA) has had a busy fall. TDSA and its members wrote letters to the Texas Congressional delegation urging the passage of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA). In addition, TDSA members traveled to Washington, DC to ask members of the Texas delegation to co-author the legislation. TDSA also sent a letter to Ambassador Lighthizer and the Texas Congressional delegation offering support for the United States Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
TEXAS WHISKEY ASSOCIATION This September, Texas Whiskey Association (TXWA) celebrated its first full year as a new industry association. TXWA launched in September 2018 with eight distillery
The Grains & Grits Festival was a premier whiskey-tasting festival hosted by Blount Partnership that offered a unique opportunity for visitors to taste craft spirits and sample gourmet food from across the state, as well as meet some of the region’s legendary distillers and blenders. Tennessee Whiskey Christmas, co-hosted by the L5 Foundation, took place on Dec. 1314 at The George Jones Museum and Omni Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. The two-day event featured 29 Tennessee distilleries, seven renowned chefs, four Tennessee spirits seminars, and musical entertainment by John Rich of Big & Rich. A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit initiatives for veterans battling cancer. TENNESSEE WHISKEY TRAIL One new distillery, Uncle Nearest Distillery, which opened its doors in 2019, has been added as a stop on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail.
LEGISLATION Tennessee distilleries have seen an increase in sales following the passage of a Sunday sales bill last year, which allowed distillery retail shops to sell products during the same hours as retail package stores on Sundays. AIRPORT RESTAURANT & RETAIL STORES The Tennessee Distillers Guild is continuing efforts to open two new Tennessee whiskey-related experiences in the Nashville International Airport (BNA). A Tennessee spirits-themed restaurant, Three Casks, is slated to open in Spring 2020, and a Tennessee Whiskey Trail-themed retail store, The Trailhead, is expected to open in 2023.
Mariko Hickerson Huckleberry Branding
This month, TDSA also became the first state distillers’ guild to join the Spirits United platform. Spirits United will help mobilize advocates for the distilled spirits industry in Texas. It is a partnership between DISCUS, the American Distilling Institute, TIPS and the Texas Whiskey Association. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s (TABC) Executive Director, Bentley Nettles, joined Texas distillers at TDSA’s October principal meeting to recap the legislative session and outline TABC’s priorities for the next decade. He also answered questions surrounding the implementation of TDSA-supported House Bill 1997, which went into effect September 1st. Because of this new law, distillers can now provide samples or conduct tastings of their prod-
ucts for retailers. TABC is currently proposing a rule that would allow in-state distillers to obtain the samples used from their own inventory, which would be considered “first sale” for purposes of taxation. Taxes must be paid on these samples not later than the 15th day of the month following the month in which the “first sale” occurred. TDSA will have a Winter Social and Prospective New Member Reception from 12:30 to 3:00 pm on December 3 at Garrison Brothers Distillery. We invite all distillers in Texas to attend.
members and rounded out the founding year with a total of twelve founding members. Membership has grown in 2019 to include a total of nineteen distillery members, and four associate members including companies within the grain/malt production and hospitality industries.
At the September annual meeting, TXWA elected our second Board of Directors including;
Mike Cameron President, Texas Distilled Spirits Association Founder, Devils River Whiskey
Jared Himstedt (President) BALCONES DISTILLING
Robert Likarish (Secretary) IRONROOOT REPUBLIC
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This year, TXWA introduced the Certified Texas Whiskey™ program to educate consumers about whiskeys made (mashed, fermented, distilled, matured, and bottled) all within the territorial boundaries of the State of Texas. This program is open to all whiskey producers regardless of membership status. On Memorial Day 2019, TXWA
WYOMING WYOMING DISTILLERS GUILD The clock is ticking! We continue to focus our federal efforts on making the Federal Excise Tax (FET) reduction permanent. Many guild members have been in direct contact with our local legislators urging their support. Multiple members of our guild also attended the Public Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. this past July. It was awesome to see the large group of craft distillers from across the country representing in our nation’s capital. There is nothing more important that we can do for our business community than to get this legislation permanent! Our state legislative efforts
launched its subsidiary, The Texas Whiskey Trail, to give consumers and tourists an experience of visiting distilleries that produce Certified Texas Whiskeys™. The Texas Whiskey Trail is poised to grow to include over twenty distilleries in at least three regions of Texas and has added over 1,000 consumer members to the Trail so far. TXWA also mobilized hundreds of Texans to send public comments to the TTB in support of labeling modernization rules that will make details like state of distillation more apparent to consumers. Recently, TXWA partnered with the Distilled Spirits Council
of the United States and the Texas Distilled Spirits Association to rally support around the Spirits United campaign. To date, Texans have written over 1,000 letters to their federal legislators asking them to support making permanent the excise tax cuts from the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA). TXWA is proud to be working with such great advocacy organizations towards this common goal.
over the past few years have yielded positive results. As of July 1, we have seen a few bills become effective that we fought and lobbied hard for. In collaboration with our Wyoming State Liquor Association and our state senators and representatives, the bills that we presented have now become law. HB 219 is a bill that has granted each distillery 12 “manufacturer’s off-premises permits” annually to help our small businesses to promote our brands and boost sales. This will essentially allow us to host off-site events, attend farmers markets, concerts, fundraisers, etc. that otherwise we may not have had the ability to be a part of. Also, with the passage of SF 140, we are now able to self-distrib-
ute directly from our bonded facility into our satellite tasting room. This basically cleans up the previous need for us to ship our product to the state warehouse, to then place an order to have it shipped all the way back. This will save time, money, energy and resources. Looking forward to seeing you all out in Portland this spring!
Spencer Whelan Executive Director, Texas Whiskey Association CEO, Texas Whiskey Trail
Travis Goodman Secretary/Treasurer, Wyoming Distillers Guild Partner, Jackson Hole Still Works email@example.com
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he North American Craft Maltsters Guild has recently released the Certified Craft Malt seal to help producers — brewers and distillers — identify themselves as users of local malt. Guild President Brent Manning said the goal is to help educate consumers and support the continued growth of the craft malt industry by creating a more digestible nugget of information for the consumer. As co-founder of Riverbend Malt House in North Carolina, he said they love it when distillers and brewers put the Riverbend logo on their bottles, cans, chalkboards, or menus to highlight the fact that they use craft malt, but a better place for the customer to start may be to learn about malt and what makes craft malt different, rather than getting bogged down by specific malthouse brands. “Let’s simplify and try to draw a very clear connection between the agricultural roots, between whatever is in their hand, and the choice by the brewery or distillery to source local,” he said. “It is a very basic next step that we’re inviting the consumer to take.” The seal is available for distilleries or breweries that use at least 10 percent craft malt, and can be applied to an individual product or an entire product line. “It’s more than a token amount,” Manning said, noting that for large producers, 10 percent can equate to a tremendous amount of craft malt. To use the seal, a distillery works with their malthouse and the guild itself on a licensing agreement. It’s similar to a sponsorship, where the malthouse is the “gatekeeper” in supporting a distillery or brewery’s application. “We’re not gonna be chasing invoices and brewery logs and stuff like that. If you’re a member malthouse, you know who your good customers are, and who is full of shit,” Manning said. If things go south, he added, the guild can step in as the bad guy. Burial Beer Co. in Nashville may be the first to get a packaged product with the Certified Craft Malt seal to market, but he said there are 15-20 applications in process around the country, noting that Root Shoot Malting in Loveland, Colorado, and Mecca Grade Malt in Madras, Oregon, have customers with products awaiting label approval. “When those packaged products hit the streets, I think, is going to be when we see an uptick in interest and sign-ups,” he said. The seal was launched in connection with the inaugural Craft Malt Day on September 13. The day featured eight to ten events across the country, which they hope to grow in future years. The goal of Craft Malt Day this year and in the future is to “shine a bright light on the people who are certified and the farmers and the maltsters, and the whole supply chain that makes this whole option a reality.”
CRAFT MALT GUILD
RELEASES SEAL FOR LOCAL MALT USERS WRITTEN BY GABE TOTH
Visit www.craftmalting.com for more info. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
FEDERAL ALCOHOL EXCISE TAXES 101 BY BETHANY K. HATEF
here are many laws at both the federal and state level that govern the production and distribution of distilled spirits. For example, craft distillers must comply with licensing and permitting requirements, trade practice laws, advertising restrictions, and, depending on the jurisdiction, alcohol franchise laws. One of the most fundamental — and most complex — areas of law governing distilled spirits is excise taxes. Specifically, for the years 2018 and 2019, new tax legislation is in effect which offers reduced tax rates and tax credits on certain amounts of distilled spirits produced in or imported into the United States. Although a very welcome addition to the tax code, the new legislation is set to expire at the end of 2019, further complicating an already difficult-to-understand system and leading to uncertainty in the alcohol industry. This article will provide a high-level overview of the federal alcohol excise tax system and some specific features that apply to distilled spirits, and will also explain the current status1 of the Craft Beverage Modernization Act, the legislation temporarily providing for reduced tax rates for certain amounts of distilled spirits.
THE FEDERAL ALCOHOL EXCISE TAX IN GENERAL At the federal level, excise taxes on alcoholic beverages have been around for a very long time. In fact, among the first taxes ever collected in the United States were excise taxes on whiskey in 1793. Taxes are, of course, imposed on alcohol production for revenue reasons — the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the federal taxcollecting agency for alcohol excise taxes, is one of the largest revenue generating agencies. But Congress imposes taxes on alcohol for social policy reasons as well. America has long had a love-hate relationship with alcohol. 1 Note: This legislation is somewhat of a “moving target,” and by the time of publication, the situation may be different. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Although Prohibition was repealed in 1933 by the enactment of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, there continues to be concerns about the social costs of alcohol. As a result, imposing high excise taxes on alcohol is a clear and effective way for the government to raise revenue while creating social policy. The fundamental statutes imposing the federal alcohol excise tax on spirits turn mostly on the classification and alcoholic strength of the beverage in question. The tax applies to a product (namely, spirits, wine, or beer), not a person (e.g., a distiller). Alcohol typically is taxed, at least at the federal level, on a per-gallon basis, sometimes taking alcohol strength into account. Distinguishing between the different commodities lies at the heart of the statutory scheme. A key question that comes up for producers or importers of alcoholic beverages is when the excise tax is determined and payable. For domestic products, excise tax liability arises the moment the alcohol AT THE is produced, but the tax “attaches” (or becomes due) after removal FEDERAL from a bonded area. For LEVEL, EXCISE imported products, the tax TAXES ON ALCOHOLIC attaches upon removal from “customs bond” BEVERAGES HAVE BEEN into the U.S. Most states AROUND FOR A VERY have roughly analogous LONG TIME. IN FACT, systems. Taxes are paid AMONG THE FIRST TAXES by returns on a schedule based on production EVER COLLECTED IN volume and other factors. THE UNITED STATES Most of TTB’s excise WERE EXCISE TAXES tax regulations and efforts focus on how to track, record, ON WHISKEY IN and report on the production and 1793. movement of alcoholic beverages until tax payment is due. Under the federal excise tax scheme, alcohol is produced within a specified premises, with the revenue protected by a bond. For this reason effective inventory control and record keeping are critical tax compliance and risk mitigation strategies for suppliers. Improperly measuring and recording inventories, as well as exports and other tax-free events, are classic pitfalls.
DISTILLED SPIRITS IN PARTICULAR Basic excise tax computations vary significantly for spirits, wine, and beer, requiring detailed calculations for each taxpayer and each beverage category. For spirits in particular the federal excise tax rate is a standard rate per “proof gallon” produced (i.e., a gallon at 100 degrees proof, or 50% alcohol
by volume). The actual rate varies based on the alcohol content of the product in question. Notwithstanding the high excise tax rates that apply to distilled spirits, there are mitigation strategies producers and importers may be able to take THERE advantage of to reduce their federal excise ARE tax liability. For spirits in particular, one common tax mitigation tool is the use of MITIGATION “5010 credit.” STRATEGIES Named for Section 5010 of the PRODUCERS Internal Revenue Code, the 5010 AND IMPORTERS credit allows a taxpayer to reduce the effective rate of tax applicable to a MAY BE ABLE TO distilled spirit through the use of wine TAKE ADVANTAGE and flavors (where allowed) in the OF TO REDUCE product. Specifically, wine added to a spirit is taxed at the wine rate, as long as THEIR FEDERAL the wine does not constitute the majority EXCISE TAX of the product. Non-beverage flavors, up to LIABILITY. a limit of 2.5%, do not get taxed at all (other than $1, which is the amount not subject to “drawback” or refund, upon producing the flavor). As a practical matter, though, product classification and labeling requirements can make adding wine and flavors to a spirits product difficult.
CRAFT BEVERAGE MODERNIZATION ACT: CURRENT STATE OF PLAY Currently, the alcohol beverage industry enjoys temporarily lower tax rates and credits, enacted as part of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMA). CBMA was the result of a joint legislative effort by brewers, distillers, cider makers, and the mainstream wine industry. The legislation was enacted in December 2017 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or Tax Act. CBMA became effective January 1, 2018, and is currently set to expire at the end of 2019. CBMA, in part, provides for lower tax rates or tax credits on limited amounts of alcoholic beverages produced in or imported into the United States. The tax benefits apply to products removed for sale by the producer or imported into the United States by the importer for the calendar years 2018 and 2019. The currently effective rates for distilled spirits are as follows:
PRE-2018 (AND POST-2019) RATES $13.50/proof gallon (“PG”) (gallon at 100 degrees proof/50% alcohol by volume) Credits provided for wine and flavor content (“5010 credit”)
For the first time, CBMA makes reduced rates and credits available to foreign producers of alcoholic beverages (except beer). The system contemplates a foreign manufacturer assigning its reduced rate to an electing importer. Although TTB and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) initially instructed importers to pay the full excise tax rates until further notice, subject to later drawback, or refund, claims, subsequent CBP guidance has clarified procedures for importers to make drawback claims under CBMA. Other changes CBMA makes to the federal alcohol excise tax system include the application of the “controlled group” rule in calculating a supplier’s eligibility for the lower tax rate under CBMA. As a general matter, this means that taxpayers with ownership interests of greater than 50% in more than one facility must aggregate their worldwide production volume to calculate the volume eligible for the reduced tax rates. Additionally, CBMA created a new “single taxpayer” rule, which aggregates a taxpayer’s production based on whether a product is produced under a common brand or franchise. This rule purportedly prevents suppliers from obtaining tax credits or reduced rates on products by contracting out production to other producers, but it effectively results in TTB “double-counting” alcoholic beverages produced under a common brand. As noted above, CBMA will expire at the end of 2019. New legislation was introduced in February 2019 by a bipartisan group of legislators (Senators Ron Wyden (D-Or.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.)) and is currently before Congress. The bills would make permanent the current federal excise tax rate language. As of late October 2019, 72 Senators and 299 Representatives had signed on to support the legislation. With only a short period of time until the end of the legislative session, though, enactment of the new legislation seems increasingly unlikely. As an alternative, in late June 2019 the House Ways and Means Committee passed an extension as part of a larger “tax extenders bill,” which includes a variety of expiring tax measures. The extenders bill would push the current excise tax relief to the end of 2020. The law still needs to be voted on by the full House, pass the Senate, and then earn the President’s signature. The most likely scenario is that a broad range of expiring tax measures, including CBMA, will be packaged together or added to a spending bill, and each expiring provision will be extended for a year (or possibly two years).
CBMA RATES (2018-2019) First 100,000 PG: $2.70/PG Next 22,130,000 PG: $13.34/PG All other: Standard $13.50/PG Credits for wine and flavor content remain available
Bethany K. Hatef is a senior associate in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP, based in the Firm’s Washington, D.C. office. She is a member of the Firm’s Chambers-ranked Alcohol Regulatory & Distribution Group where she concentrates her practice on a wide variety of regulatory and distribution issues involving alcohol beverage suppliers. Her practice includes counseling on distribution relationships, trade practice compliance, excise tax compliance, and alcohol regulatory and distribution risks associated with corporate transactions.
Where Science Meets Art Yeasts, Nutrients, and Process Aids
At Lallemand Craft Distilling, our single source philosophy provides the highest quality ingredients, tailored technical service and education, and industry leading experience to support your needs. Your spirits are our passion, your needs are our motivation. Contact us to learn more today. www.lallemandcraftdistilling.com
HOW ITALIANS CLOGGED A SEWER IN BUTTE AND
THE JETTER NOZZLE WAS BORN WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED BY JOHN MCKEE
If you know me, you know I love my town, Butte, America. As an early copper mining town, Butte is literally one of the places America came from. We were the 2nd lightbulb ever lit, and mined and smelted enough copper to light up the world. We still innovate in Butte and still dig deep to write great stories for our future but we do it without ever losing sight of how truly awesome our place was. This story is a story of community, of innovation and of drunken miners for whom Prohibition held no meaning.
eat exchangers are hard to clean, especially shell and tube heat exchangers with baked on grain and solids in long tubes. If you’ve had to clean one out before, you’ve probably used a drill with a long bit and cursed your way through the entire operation. But there is another way to clear a heat exchanger, one that was invented specifically because of the illegal distilling of grappa and a blocked sewer almost 100 years ago. Butte, Montana was the largest city west of the Mississippi at the turn of the century. A glorious stew of immigrants from all over the globe made their way to the Mining City to participate in copper mining and supported a city of 100,000 people with everything from beer to pasties to opium…to hooch. All of those cultures brought the production of a different spirit from their homeland: the Irish — Poteen; the Croats — Slivovitz; the Poles — Vodka; and the Italians — Grappa. Being a mining town, and one that mined copper almost exclusively, there was ample access to the materials, and a desire needed to make hooch, especially during prohibition. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of fruit in Montana, so it probably wasn’t surprising to the rail bosses when a few railcars of grapes show up in the trainyard one day. What was surprising was that teams upon teams of horses, hooked up to empty carts full of Italian families, showed up the second that railcar arrived. The grapes were rapidly off-loaded and disappeared into houses and WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
buildings of uptown, and very soon the smell of fermenting grape was wafting over Butte. This is where the Jetter invention story comes in. Just a few weeks after the railcars were emptied, the sewer manway in front of the Federal Courthouse on North Main St. lifted up into the street and the lees of thousands of grapes came right after. Lees by the megatons had been dumped down the drain after making grappa and had clogged the sewer. The city engineer, Henry J. Weigenstein, was called in to solve the problem. In his letter to the mayor, he described with obvious pride his invention of using high pressure water on the end of a hose to “rod out” the sewer line, in effect inventing the jetter nozzle and cleaning process, all to get rid of a bunch of grappa lees.
“Rye, corn, wheat, barley, cherry stones, raisins and prune pits, from which the vital essences have been extracted in distillation, are clogging the sewers in many sections of Butte. So serious a problem is the presence of huge quantities of discarded mash that scientific measures are now being applied to prevent a complete breakdown of the city’s sewage disposal system.” Imagine potentially thousands of people, distilling so much material that they literally were clogging the sewer infrastructure of an entire city. Butte was all about distilling from day one!
See the diagram at right for how a jetter works. Think of putting your thumb over a hose and increasing the pressure for cleaning something off the sidewalk. A jet nozzle does the same thing. But it also has some rear facing nozzles that eject the jetted material backwards while simultaneously pushing the jet nozzle forward. In heat exchanger cleaning, you can imagine that this phenomena is super helpful. Put the jet nozzle against the plugged tube, it starts cleaning the tube and pulling itself down through the tube to the end by itself, pushing the gunk back out the way it came. Jet nozzles have been used consistently since that day in Butte for everything from sewer cleaning, to descaling pipes, to clearing
JET NOZZLE DIRECTION OF TRAVEL
heat exchangers of everything from grain to glycerin. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and when a bunch of immigrants in Butte, thirsty for a taste of their homeland, clogged the sewers for tens of thousands of people, the Jetter was born. Along with it, an industrial pipe cleaning solution of the modern age was invented.
John McKee and his wife Courtney founded Headframe Spirits in Butte, America. They haven’t clogged a sewer, yet…but they know how to fix it!
A HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE
2801 Whether you’re looking to grow your knowledge or to level-up key employees, Moonshine University has a class for you. From intro-level distilling to the advanced intricacies of aging, our courses are fast paced, in-depth, and hands on. Take a week class or a one day seminar and join the ranks of our alumni, who own & operate over 163 distilleries around the world.
Focuses on Brand Neutral Education WRITTEN BY DEVON TREVATH AN
n an industry full of opinions, many of which differ wildly, there is comfort in knowing that one universal truth exists: There is always a need for more education. The Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is the largest global provider of qualifications for wine, sake, and spirits, and this year they are celebrating their 50th anniversary. Essential to their teaching philosophy is an emphasis on brand neutral education, which they believe is especially important in the spirits category. Rob McCaughey is the business development manager for the spirits society WSET Americas, and he says that historically WSET was an institution aimed at training individuals entering into the wine trade. “There was always a smattering of spirit, but it tended to focus on cognac and single malt, and we were very much based out of the UK.” Today, WSET provides qualifications for spirits, wine, and sake all over the world. Last year, they taught 108,000 students, 20,000 of which were in the United States. As of August 2019, WSET also provides a Level 3 qualification in spirits. “I think we identified several years ago the need to have a high-level spirits qualification that really wasn’t beholden to any one category or any particular brand, and I think historically that was always a challenge with spirits education,” McCaughey explained. Throughout its existence, WSET has consistently provided education to consumers as well as wine students, but McCaughey pointed out that distillery employees can also benefit from expanding their knowledge. Those in a sales or customer-facing role will be more effective at their job with a better understanding of how spirits are
made, and he feels that WSET’s methodology “not only allows [producers] to think about things in a slightly different way and look at where they fall in a broader landscape, but gives them some real tangible skills when it comes to doing quality assessment in a distillery.” Kellie Thorn is the beverage director for Hugh Acheson’s restaurants, as well as a B.N.I.C. certified cognac instructor and certified WSET spirits educator. She has experienced firsthand the benefits that brand neutral education can offer. In her restaurants, Thorn and her team blind taste spirits every Tuesday so that they may approach a new spirit without any preconceived notion. “We often purchase spirits for our program because of the stories and people behind them that are authentic and genuine,” explained Thorn. “But at the end of the day, when we’re trying to assess and understand spirits, I think it’s really important to come from a more neutral approach.” Ultimately, said Thorn, a producer has to have a product that can stand up to others in its category during a blind taste to really go the distance. Brand neutrality in spirits education is certainly one way that WSET differentiates itself from other providers. Many opportunities for spirits education are either offered at or in conjunction with a specific brand or producer. This can be useful to some, but education options have been accused of being too brand focused in the past. WSET is aware of these shortcomings and actively doing what they can to offer a more neutral alternative. It’s one thing to pledge to offer more neutrality in the curriculum, but to actually achieve that is difficult. “Across all of our qualifications, we
“We often purchase spirits for our program because of the stories and people behind them that are authentic and genuine. But at the end of the day, when we’re trying to assess and understand spirits, I think it’s really important to come from a more neutral approach.” — KELLIE THORN , certified WSET spirits educator
“Across all of our qualifications, we start from the premise that first and foremost we’re educators, not producers, so we build our qualifications on the idea that we’re teaching people skill sets rather than facts.” — ROB MCCAUGHEY , business development manager for WSET Americas
start from the premise that first and foremost we’re educators, not producers, so we build our qualifications on the idea that we’re teaching people skill sets rather than facts,” McCaughey stated. He explained that in their Level 1 qualifications, much of the class is focused on developing a foundation, which is mostly the memorization of facts. When students get to a Level 2 class, however, they begin to build on that foundation, wading out further and deeper into the vast pool of spirits information available and gaining practical skills. At this point, students are able to connect the dots across spirits categories and different production styles. By Level 3, members of the class are taught not only to understand the information, but also to be able to relay it to others. “I think that’s what’s really critical at Level 3 — you don’t just know how things happen, but you can explain to somebody else all of the steps, from selecting and processing a raw material to putting a product in a bottle,” said McCaughey. At no point is this information delivered with one brand in mind, even during tastings, though providers do use branded products to teach. WSET designs and builds the curriculum used in its qualifications, but the classes are delivered by third party entities, which they refer to as “approved program providers.” Distillery owners can apply to become an approved program provider. If accepted, they will be responsible for both administering the course and upholding WSET’s commitment to brand neutrality. Jerry and Sara Brennan, co-owners of Trail Distilling in Oregon City, Oregon, are one of a handful of APPs in North America at this time. When they first bought the building that their distillery is in, they had some idea that the expansive, carpeted second-floor former office space could someday
come in handy as a teaching space, but they didn’t realize that would be in partnership with the WSET. They also haven’t found any problems with WSET’s insistence that the education they provide be mostly brand neutral. “We found that to be sort of an advantage, it gave us this credibility that we can talk about spirits from more of a global perspective instead of just showing up and telling them how great we are,” said Jerry Brennan. He leads his Level 2 classes through distillations on miniature systems using various tools, like hydrometers and the DMA 3500 for exact proofing. “We spend very little time, if any, talking about our products. If someone asks us a question, we’ll address it, but typically we go by the book.” Providers like the Brennans get an added economic boon from the ancillary revenue stream to their distillery, but they feel that WSET offers more than just economic value to their students and themselves. “I think the value really is that you build credibility when you’ve expanded your knowledge across the spectrum of spirits,” said Brennan. As distillery owners, he feels that “people respect us more when we know more about the industry.” Today’s spirits market is a different beast and consumers are more knowledgeable than ever. “People travel a lot more,” said McCaughey. “I think we’re now a generation of people who likes to understand the stories behind products, as well as providence and history and heritage.” This is an opportunity for producers since greater knowledge gives rise to more open-mindedness in shoppers browsing the aisles of their local liquor store, but it’s also a reminder that they shouldn’t overlook their education or the education of their team.
Wisit www.wsetglobal.com for more info.
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MEDICINE CABINET to the BACK BAR
Deciphering traditional recipes from old manuscripts written by Aaron Knoll
t is clear that whiskey is losing out, not only as a beverage, but as a bona fide medicament.” The Drug Trade Weekly wrote that in February 1921 in the shadow of the Volstead Act. A mere 22% of physicians in the United States had the ability to prescribe alcohol. It was not all that long ago that a distiller might have been making both medicine and recreation in the same batch. Many spirits that began as the former have since become the latter, but many potentially delicious “medicines” that didn’t catch on in the centuries since are just waiting to be re-discovered by distillers today. Worldwide, nearly every type of spirit has its origins in folk-medicine tradition. Rough ana36
IMPERIAL WATER logs to a number of spirits we know and drink among friends could be found on the back shelf of a Western European apothecary in the 16th century. Burnt wines re-distilled with juniper cones or caraway seeds were widely available and prescribed for a myriad of maladies — including the plague. In Ambrose Cooper’s 1757 edition of The Complete Distiller, he makes specific note that although medicinal Imperial Water “is not present so much in use as formerly,” he makes special note that it has both its intended use and an additional recreational use. “It is also a very pleasant dram, especially if dulcified with fine sugar.” Many spirits historians draw a line in the
(From Ambrose Cooper’s 1757 edition of The Complete Distiller)
• 1 lb. dried peel of lemon, dried peel of orange, whole nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon (or cassia). • 8 oz. Cypress roots, orris roots, sweet flag • 4 oz. turmeric, galangal and ginger roots • Sixteen handfuls of lavender and rosemary; eight handfuls of marjoram, mint, thyme; 12 handfuls of rose petals. Macerate all of this for two days in ten gallons of spirit and four gallons of rose water. Heat over a gentle flame and draw off the first ten gallons.
sand between spirits designed for medicine and those designed for fun. For example, the oldest gin cited is based on a 1495 recipe found in the British Library’s Sloane Manuscript. Why is it a gin, not a medicine? It was found in the cooking section of the book, not the medicinal one. If you remove the recreational requirement, “proto-gins” like the apothecary drinks above can be found as far back as the 13th century. But there are many more beyond gin. So, how exactly did some of these elixirs — aquavit, kummel, anisette — make their way from the apothecary to the bar back? And why were others relegated to the margins of pharmacopeias and not cookbooks? Some of these spirits use botanicals that are widespread and either available year-round or easy to store. Juniper cones and caraway/dill seeds fit this bill. Was it about taste, or was it something else? That fascinating cultural study is beyond the scope of this piece. However, these old manuals are a treasure trove of inspiration for distillers looking to expand their repertoire or cast off the shackles of the neat and tidy “categories” of spirits that did make the move from the pharmacy to the bar.
part everything else is broadly comprehensible to a native speaker. Older German texts pose additional complexity beyond being written in a different language, which is unfortunate because there’s an extraordinarily rich body of distilling texts available online in German. These texts were set in an ornate typeface known as Fraktur. These calligraphic letterforms were in wide use up and through the 1930s. Even if you know German, the script can be flummoxing. Even more frustrating, the letters can sometimes lead to unpredictable results when copying and pasting text that has been converted via OCR. There’s no good tips other than to source a Fraktur guide and have it side-by-side on your screen, especially when you’re first working with it.
DIGGING INTO THE ARCHIVES IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK
In the early days of craft distilling, there was a bit of a run on old distiller’s manuals, much like the early days of craft brewing. These books were afterthoughts in the 1990s, perhaps going for a quarter at a used book store, but by the late 2000s, the listing of some old recipe or cocktail book might fetch over a thousand dollars. Collectors, researchers, brewers and distillers would quickly acquire any book that appeared on eBay. A few years later, by the late 2010s, digitization roared onto the scene. Though many handwritten manuals are now part of private collections, numerous archives are digitizing old recipe books that once were only available to those with money and time to keep an eye out for them.
Old recipes are full of archaic units of measurements. In many cases, some of the terminology looks similar: loth, pfund, kanna, but there is significant variance. For example, in one region of Germany a kanna was about 1.1 modern day Liters. In an adjacent community that same unit is equal to .95 modern day liters. Further, some places defined kanna differently based on what liquid was in it. Extrapolating exact quantities from these recipes is nigh impossible without knowing details about the author’s life and upbringing.
Things to be aware of
Across different German regions, pre-metrification
READING THE TEXT ITSELF
Depending on how far back you go, type will differ a bit as well. In old German and English texts published before ~1820s, you’ll see the “long s.” While it might throw you off a bit at first, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of — it always means the letter “s.” In these older texts, you’ll see it at the beginnings of words, the middles of words, and as the first “s” in a double “s,” as in the word scissors.
Equivalent in modern liters
Source: W.A. Browne, The Merchants' Handbook of Money, Weights and Measures, with Their British Equivalents
For modern-day English readers, this is perhaps the only textual difficulty. The language can be quaint and archaic, but for the most WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
The best way to interpret recipes is relationally within the recipe itself. Convert the recipe to rough ratios and use it as a starting point. Even if you’re unsure what a loth is equal to in a specific recipe, you can learn to approximate. Sometimes recipes include mixed units of measurements and may require additional research to determine the 37
exact ratios between the two. In many cases, a “pfund/pound” is composed of smaller units of “loth/lod.” A couple examples of conversion factors from Old Swedish and Old German are found below.
OLD SWEDISH Weight/Mass 1 Lispund
= 20 Skålpund = 640 lod/loth 1 Skålpund Skålpund
= 32 Lod/loth = =
128 qvintin 4 qvintin
Roughly for any recipe pre-1868 In modern day, 1 lod is approximately equal to 13 grams.
OLD DRESDEN (GERMAN) Weight/Mass 1 stein
Roughly for any recipe pre-1872 In modern day, 1 loth is approximately equal to ~17 grams.
Even if you don’t speak the language, figuring out ingredients can often be one of the easiest steps, as recipes tend to be formatted similarly and follow the format:
Number, Quantity, Ingredient
Typos aside, you’ll quickly begin recognizing that some names are similar across different languages as well. If you’re narrowing your search to a specific type of spirit, such as gin, it becomes quite easy to identify cognates for Juniper with little effort. Availability on the European market at the time is another variable to consider. Historically speaking, when “anise” appears in a recipe of this age, it’s most probably going to be aniseed not star anise. It can be difficult to determine if a product was available. Apothecary shop lists are rare from all periods, though import logs from European harbors can be found in old newspapers and academic databases. When in doubt, I tend to apply Occam’s Ingredient Razor — it’s likely the cheapest ingredient or something that grew locally. Aside from rare exceptions like the Gin 1495 recipe, which is entirely composed of expensive foreign ingredients, most recipes borrow heavily from that which grows locally and regionally. The plant that produced aniseed was native to much of Europe and the Mediterranean and grew widely in commons and fields. Star anise comes from the seeds of a South Asian evergreen tree. One was more likely to be cheaply and widely obtained by the authors of a central European cookbook or distillers’ manual. If the source was from Asia, I’d suggest the alternative was more likely.
Very few of these old recipes go into extensive detail regarding the distilling process. Some will simply list ingredients and say, “distill.” Others may indicate a rough approximation, such as draw off 10 gallons. Distilling techniques are often covered in another part of the book. By the time you get the recipe, it’s assumed that you have the foundations in place and know what to do once you get the ingredients and spirits together. In other words, your knowledge as a distiller is an essential ingredient to re-creating these old recipes.
It’s relatively straightforward to figure out what the ingredient is on a given line. My first approach is just to take the ingredient name as it is in the original language and type it into Google. One example from a recipe in Schubert’s 1861 edition of Praktisch zak-receptenboek voor AN EXAMPLE OF A RECIPE WITH de Destillatie calls for notenmuskaat. A quick search identifies that the SEVERAL OF THESE CHALLENGES: ingredient is nutmeg, but also that the 1861 spelling differs from the SKIØRBUGS AQVAVITÆ modern day spelling nootmuskaat. Out-of-fashion-names and modHelle Schrøder’s 1692 Cookbook is written in Norwegian, but likeernized spelling can often be quickly sussed out with an initial search. ly includes several recipes she copied from other, potentially Danish However, not all are so easy. It’s not unusual to encounter an ercookbooks. At the time of her writing, cooking and distilling were ror in the text that makes the ingredient all but inscrutable even to among a woman’s duties in the home. So it’s not surprising that in an expert. An 1835 Swedish text Handbok för Dryckers Beredning addition to pies, cakes and soups, Kaage Baag has several recipes for features an ingredient lignum rhadis in a Roman script which sets it aquavit, including the one detailed below. apart from the other ingredients in the recipe. Ingvar Svanberg, an This recipe is an excellent example of some of the challenges we ethnobiologist at Uppsala Universee. Firstly, there is the poorly desity found this similarly difficult fined herb of which it asks you to COGNATES FOR to transcribe. He said, humbly, get twenty handfuls. It’s not clear COMMON INGREDIENTS “Not easy to identify, but I think what that herb is beyond it being English Juniper Caraway Aniseed rhadis is a typo.” He was able to fresh and green. Secondly, it uses Finnish katajanmarja kumina aniksensiemen narrow it down to a few ingrediarchaic units of measurement ents which may or may not have Swedish enbär kummin anisfrö such as the loth or lod, which was been available in 19th century roughly equivalent to about 13 Norwegian einerbær karve anisfrø Swedish pharmacies; either it was grams, and the potter, which is Danish enebær kommen anisfrø “roseroot”, or “fragrant wood from equal to a bit over a liter. Handfuls German wacholder kümmel der anissamen Rhodorhiza” or “from the West Inaren’t a precise unit of measureCzech jalovce kmín anýz dian Amyris balsamifera.” 38
ment and therefore we can’t simply convert the entire recipe to ratios. Finally, the process instructions are vague and leave a lot of room for interpretation. • 20 handfuls of “fresh • 160 grams of juniper cones and green” herb • 55 grams of cassia • 10 handfuls of watercress • 40 grams of mustard seed • 6 handfuls of fresh melissa • 40 grams of sassafras • 160 grams of lemon peels Grind all of the plants and seeds. Add to about eighteen liters of Spanish wine and nine liters of proof spirit. Macerate ingredients for four days. Remove plant material and distill.
Why become a spirits historian? CASE STUDY 1: ESCUBAC
For distillers looking to step into the world of botanical spirits, this historical approach can pay dividends. U.K. based Sweetdram “re-discovered” a recipe for a liqueur called Escubac. They then tweaked it and modified it for modern palates and cocktail programs. They launched in 2016 and ‘17 to great fanfare. It was such a compelling story that it prompted Bon Appetit to say “Forget Gin.” There’s one such recipe in Sara Charlotta Götrek’s 1835 book Handbok för Dryckers Beredning titled Eskuback which may offer insight into what the historical foundation Sweetdram may have begun from: Start by blending 1 kanna each of wine spirits, brandy, and water. • ½ skålp shredded bitter almonds
• 1 quentin of cardamom
• ½ skålp cut prunes (“big raisins”)
• 2 whole sliced lemons (juice and peel)
• ½ skålp cut dates and figs
• A couple threads of saffron
• 1 lod each of coriander, anise, nutmeg and cinnamon
• 1 kanna of apple syrup
• ½ lod of licorice root
• 14 cloves
• 3 cups of sugar
Mix all together well and let sit for eight days. Filter through a fine mesh cheesecloth and bottle. Sara points out at the end of the recipe — perhaps tongue in cheek — this “Eskuback may become too cumbersome because of its many ingredients.”
CASE STUDY 2: ITALICUS
Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto is another recent brand to resuscitate a category out of the history books. Giuseppe Gallo borrowed inspiration from a nearly five centuries old Italian tradition of rose and herbal liqueurs. At its launch in 2016, it was the first mass-market Rosolio in decades, at the least. It was based upon a recipe he found for a variant called Rosolio di Torino in an old Italian liquor-making manual. The history of Rosolio is an interesting one. In ensuing centuries Rosolio has transformed from a diverse category of botanically driven spirits to a simple rose petal liqueur near extinction, which may explain its decline. One example of this once diverse category is found in a 1745 German book Der Geschickte und Wohlerfahrne Brandwein-Brenner. Rosolis (or the Elixir Vitae Mathioli) is from the German, not Italian, tradition which explains some of the cultural differences that set this one apart from the Rosolio Gallo recreated. It starts from a rather complex herb and spice driven distilled botanical spirit before sweetening and adding rosewater. For translating to modern equivalents, this recipe is made easier by the fact that the author makes it clear that he is using Leipzig measurements. • 2 grams of nutmeg • 50 grams of the true cinnamon (“the best”) • 1 gram of long pepper • 17 grams of aniseed • 1 lemon peel • 3 grams of cloves • 1 bitter orange peel • 2 grams of coriander seed Grind and combine all of the above ingredients. Macerate overnight in grape spirit and distill. Afterwards sweeten with sugar and add rosewater. The end of the recipe mentions that it is “delicious” and “fragrant.”
CASE STUDY 3: YOUR OWN
While bringing back old categories doesn’t help liquor stores know where to place your product — nor will it help with the TTB and the label approval process — it will help you talk to consumers and bring them new stories and new products. The historical element sets up a compelling brand story from the outset, one that speaks to the strengths that craft distillers have, especially with their direct to consumer tasting rooms and cocktail bars. The history presents a hook, to which you can introduce a process story — how you updated and modified the recipe to create the drink the consumer is trying. Ad Week wrote earlier this year that “humans are hardwired to remember stories as every person on this planet comes from a lineage of storytellers.” When you share something in a story form, it’s easier to recall, easier to share, and easier to empathize with. In a crowded spirits marketplace where narratives like “the first distillery in _______ since prohibition” and stories about a group of friends acquiring debt and opening a distillery are becoming commonplace, history and novelty offers a chance to stand out, in addition to telling a story that people haven’t heard before. For those that sell directly out of their distilleries and tasting rooms, the category doesn’t matter. If it has a good story and tastes good, the consumer won’t be troubled that it doesn’t fit into one of those neat boxes, borne out of circumstance, taste, or whatever compelled those who first started drinking spirituous medicines for fun. Aaron Knoll is a noted gin historian, critic, and consultant. He authored 2015's “Gin: The Art and Craft of the Artisan Revival,” which has since been translated into three languages, and additionally co-authored 2013's “The Craft of Gin.” He also founded leading gin website TheGinisIn.com in 2009.
FURTHER READING Some recommended books, all available online Helle Schrøders. Kaage Baag. Oslo 1692 (Digitized, Norwegian) Ambrose Cooper. The Complete Distiller. London 1757. (English, with long s) Gottlob Hebold. Der Französische und italienische Aquavit- und Olitätenmacher. Gorau 1769. (German, Fraktur text) Peter HIll and G. Kearsley. The Complete Distiller Combining Theory and Practice. Edinburgh/London 1793 (English, with long s). J. F. Mayer. Mayers praktische und gründliche Anweisung, gute und feine Liqueure. Dinkelsbühl 1805. (German, Fraktur text) H. I. Harwell. Domestic Manual: or Family Directory. New London 1816. (English) Sara Charlotta Götrek. Handbok för Dryckers Beredning. Stockholm 1835. (Digitized, Swedish) Hanna Winsnes. Lærebog i de forskjellige Grene af Huusholdningen. Oslo. 1845 (Norwegian) Edward Schubert. Praktisch zak-receptenboek voor de destillatie. Utrecht 1861 (German)
Recommended digital archives which have additional cookbooks and distiller’s manuals Hathitrust Digital Library: www.hathitrust.org Google Books: www.books.google.com (I recommend searching for one of the manuals above and using that to find similar volumes). Internet Archive: www.archive.org/details/books Henry Notaker’s Old Cookbooks Online: www.notaker.com/ old_onli.htm
MAMPOER A spirit of South Africa
WRITTEN BY READE A. HUDDLESTON /// ILLUSTRATED BY LANETTE FAULKINBERRY
frica is not well known for its production or consumption of spirits. Indeed, it contains four of the top ten countries with the lowest alcohol consumption rates in the world.1 This information would probably lead most people to believe that Africa does not have very many indigenously produced alcohols, a belief that would probably be confirmed by the average consumers visit to any local liquor store. However, the small amount of African products on store shelves does not mean that Africa is devoid of local alcoholic beverage production. In fact, Africa has an incredibly vibrant alcohol producing culture with many different groups producing a vast array of unique, fermented and distilled beverages. The reason that very few make it to US store shelves, however, is because most of these beverages are made and consumed almost exclusively at home and are only ever drunk with friends and family. These drinks, which can have incredibly complex production methods and rich histories, are an important part of the social fabric of Africa, and they are beginning to receive international recognition. One of the most interesting native African beverages is Mampoer, a distilled spirit from the capes of South Africa. So, what exactly is Mampoer? Well, the answer to that can be a little bit tricky. The South African Liquor Products Act of 1989, which standardized the South African governments definitions for alcoholic beverages, makes no mention of Mampoer; this is not terribly surprising for reasons that will become evident a little later.2 Regardless of the lack of legal definition, most South Africans are familiar with Mampoer; it is usually described as the distillate produced from a fermentation consisting mostly of peaches.3 Because Mampoer is mainly produced in homes and does not have a real legal definition, it is sometimes confused with Witblits, the South African name for moonshine. That said, Mampoer is a distinct product that is important to the culture of South Africa.4 The history of South Africa and Mampoer is closely linked. Cape Town and the surrounding area was first colonized by the Dutch East India company in 1659 to create a resupply station for ships headed to Dutch holdings in Polynesia. Boer settlers quickly found that the sheltered valleys of the western regions of South Africa contained fertile land and were a perfect place for planting. Initially, grapes for wine and brandy were the primary focus for growers because they believed that these products helped
prevent scurvy. However, by the late 1700s, the wine market had fallen out and many growers began to plant orchards — peach orchards, in particular.5, 6 Utilizing the same skills that they had used to produce wine and brandy, growers began fermenting and distilling peaches for personal consumption.7 The product that these growers made was given the name Mampoer — supposedly in honor of a local chief of the Pedi people Mampuru. Legend has it that Mampuru murdered his brother, Sekhukuni, and then fled to a neighboring tribe that could not refuse him sanctuary under African tribal law. When the authorities finally caught Mampuru, he was hanged along with the chief of the neighboring tribe, and their lands were given to the Boer settlers, who promptly turned the land into peach orchards for the production of Mampoer.8 By the early 1900s, Mampoer was a well-established regional product, with much of its production and consumption based in the western peach producing regions of South Africa. However, while Mampoer was thriving, the South African wine industry was again in dire straits. Over-planting and production of wine grapes had caused a serious surplus and wine prices had
plummeted.5 Afraid for the wine industry's future, in 1918 the government of South Africa created the Ko-operative Wijnbouwers Vereniging Van Zuid-Afrika, or KWV for short, which was a private organization whose goal was to regulate wine production throughout South Africa.9 In 1924, with the passage of the KWV-Act, the KWV was given broad powers over alcohol legislation and, unsurprisingly, one of the KWV’s first actions was to make it illegal to produce alcohol at home, which drove Mampoer production underground.10 The KWV remained in complete control of South Africa’s alcohol market until the mid 1990s, when it was finally converted to a private corporation after Apartheid. With the KWV gone, much of its legislation was repealed, though it took until 2007 for South Africa to repeal the rules against home Mampoer production.8,9 The steps in Mampoer production are relatively simple and straightforward, with few differences between home and large-scale production. The first step it to select the fruit that will be used. As mentioned earlier, Mampoer is produced using mostly peaches; however, other fruits and even citrus can also be used.7 One of the more popular additions is wild foraged Marula fruit, which is native to Africa and is a member of the mango family. Supposedly Marula fruit will naturally ferment on its own and therefore is a favorite of elephants, who like to get drunk by eating the fruit.4,11 Once the fruit has been selected, they need to be processed. Peach pits naturally contain cyanide precursors, so the pit must be removed from the flesh before fermentation begins.12 Once the pit is removed, the flesh can be mixed with other fruit and is ground to a pulp before being placed into a vessel to begin fermentation. Mampoer fermentation, like many other fruit fermentations, can be spontaneous, however commercial yeasts are also used. The fermentation time will vary depending on the amount of sugar available and the type of yeast used.7 Once fermentation is complete, the fruit mash is traditionally double-distilled in alembic pot stills. Although Mampoer is known for being high in alcohol, with some being bottled at 80% ABV, many producers believe that the best Mampoer is bottled at 64% so it retains some of the more fragrant qualities from the fruit.8 Some producers also like to add fruit to the product after distillation to enhance the fruity qualities.4 Although the production of Mampoer is relatively simple, it holds a very important place in South African culture and is very much a part of the countries social fabric. It is often consumed at family gatherings and parties.3 Mampoer can even be found in literature from the country. For example, the famous South African short story writer, Herman Charles Bosman, frequently mentions Mampoer in his stories, and even titles one Willem Prinsloo’s Peach Brandy, in which two would-be suitors battle for the affections of a woman whose father makes some of the strongest Mampoer around.13 However, the most fascinating aspect of the culture surrounding Mampoer is perhaps a sport known as Bokdrol Spoeg. Bokdrol Spoeg means “antelope turd spitting,” and the goal of the game is to see who can spit antelope dung the farthest. Traditionally dung from the kudu is used, and participants will first drop the dung into a glass of Mampoer before attempting to spit the pellets as far as possible. Although to the uninitiated this may all sound like a rather elaborate joke, Bokdrol Spoeg is indeed a real sport that is practiced throughout South Africa.14 Don’t believe me? Youtube has plenty of videos to prove it exists. Although Mampoer has traditionally been considered a homemade product that would only be available to those in the know, its production has begun to become commercialized. Multiple distilleries throughout South Africa, such as Drayman’s, have started to not just produce Mampoer commercially but have also begun to export it.4, 15 Although many people who are not familiar with Mampoer will probably balk at the high ABV, it is bound to pique some people's interest. Who knows: Perhaps in a few years there may even be an American version of Bokdrol Spoeg.
Reade A. Huddleston is Head of Production at Headframe Spirits in Butte, Montana. He received his Masters Degree in Brewing and Distilling Sciences from Heriot-Watt University, and is fascinated with all things drinkable. If you would like to contact him about any strange and forgotten spirit, please email him at ReadeHuddleston@gmail.com. 44
REFERENCES 1) World Health Organization, 2018. Recorded Alcohol Per Capita Consumption. Available from < http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main. A1022?lang=en> [October 28, 2019] 2) Government Gazzette of The Republic of South Africa, 1989. Liquor Products Act. Available from < https://www.gov.za/sites/default/files/ gcis_document/201503/act-60-1989.pdf> [October 20, 2019] 3) South African Travel, 2011. Bosman & Mampoer in Marico. Available from <https:// africaroadtravel.com/2011/09/15/bosmanmampoer-in-marico/> [October 20, 2019] 4) Drayman’s Brewery and Distillery, 2019, Hakkiesdraad Mampoer. Available from < https://draymans.com/product/hakkiesdraadmampoer/> [October 18, 2019] 5) Hellerman Says, 2015. A Short History of Winemaking in South Africa. Available from < https://blog.ellerman.co.za/a-short-historyof-winemaking-in-south-africa/> [October 19, 2019] 6) Kriel, Glenneis, 2019. Peach Fruit Production. Available from < http://southafrica.co.za/ peach-fruit-production.html> [October 27, 2019] 7) Marico Africa at its Best, 2019. Mampoer. Available from < http://www.marico.co.za/ Mampoer/MampoerFarms.htm> [October 20, 2019] 8) Chic African Culture, 2015. Mampoer South African Moonshine. Available from < https:// www.theafricangourmet.com/2015/07/ mampoer-south-african-home-distilled.html> [October 20, 2019] 9) KWV, 2019. Our History. Available from < https:// www.kwv.co.za/our-company/our-history/> [October 20, 2019] 10) Fridjhon, Michael, 2019. 20 Years in the Wine Industry. Available from < https://www.wosa. co.za/The-Industry/Overview/20-years-in-thewine-industry/> [October 21, 2019] 11) Theys, Michael, 2019. Marula Fruit: African Booze for Wild Animals, or Total Myth? Available from < https://africafreak.com/marula-fruit> [October 31, 2019] 12) Nick, Jean. 2018. Are Stone Fruit Seeds Poisonous. Available from < https://www. goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/ a20705824/are-stone-fruit-seeds-poisonous/> [October 31, 2019] 13) Zwietkiewicz, Josie, 2018. Willem Prinsloo’s Peach Brandy. Available from < https://prezi. com/p/mtlhzmiuwofs/willem-prinsloos-peachbrandy/> [October 31, 2019] 14) Rosenthal, Seth, 2014. Spitting Antelope Poop is a Sport. Available from < https://www. sbnation.com/lookit/2014/8/1/5960987/spittingantelope-poop-is-a-sport-kudu-bokdrol-spoeg> [October 27, 2019] 15) Steyn, Louzel, 2017. Tjorts! SA’s Iconic Mampoer Makes World’s Strongest Drinks List. Available from < https://www.traveller24.com/MyTravels/ tjorts-sas-iconic-mampoer-makes-worldsstrongest-drinks-list-20170313> [October 28, 2019]
SO YOU’VE GOT AN
THREE TIPS FOR MARKETING OUTLIER PRODUCTS
or distillers, creativity can be both a blessing and a curse. That moment when you taste the eight-grain whiskey you made for the first time and find it’s better than you ever imagined? That’s the blessing. When you try to convince your local liquor store to carry it and the proprietor asks you with a blank face whether it should go next to the bourbon or rye? That’s the curse. Selling an unusual product presents unique challenges. Not only do you need to go through the standard sales and marketing hurdles, but you’ll need to take on some additional tasks such as education, market segmentation, and the level of high-touch storytelling we’d expect from a roomful of Netflix Original writers. The good news is it’s not impossible. We sat down with Zachariah James Parks of Mezcales de Leyenda, a brand specializing in terroir-driven Mexican spirits, to learn more about his strategy for introducing a new line of sotols to the American market. Mezcales de Leyendas has already launched one ultra-premium sotol called Fabriquero and is planning to introduce additional brands, including one geared towards cocktails, in the coming months. Is it a challenge? Yes, but a challenge accepted. Here’s what Zacharia says has been most helpful in blazing the sotol trail.
WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
1. CONTEXTUALIZE Like it or not, categories are important in the spirits market. Even if your product is exceptionally unique, it behooves you to find a way to fit it into some kind of category, even if you have to think about categories a little more creatively than the TTB does. “Reframe the conversation,” said Parks. “The conversation we’ve been having over the past 10 years started with agave spirits. That includes tequila, mezcal, raicilla, and bacanora. But when you move beyond that, you can look at Mexican spirits as a larger category.” That way of thinking broadens the umbrella to include sotol as well as Mexican rum, Oaxaqueño corn whiskey, and others. Even though those products are made from different ingredients than Mexico’s more famous agave-based spirits, they still come from the same general region and share many cultural links. That creates an opening for Parks and his team to place sotol in a context that most drinkers already understand, at least partially. At the same time, it also creates valuable opportunities for suggesting shelf placement and slotting sotol into existing bar programs.
WRITTEN BY M A R G A R E T T WAT E R B U RY AND ANDY GARRISON PHOTOS BY ISSEL CAMPOS
2. SEGMENT t h e MARKET a n d EDUCATE ACCORDINGLY Regardless of the category, there’s no getting around it: Tastings are essential for marketing unusual products. “For the most part, in the craft spirits space, there aren’t many buyers who purchase without sampling,” said Parks. For brands, that means seeking out opportunities to pour at festivals, events, bars, and liquor stores — and don’t forget the staff when you’re handing out samples. Parks calls sotol an “educational hand-sell.” That means virtually every account requires at least some customized education about what the product is, the heritage behind it, and how to use and sell it at the bar. So far, he says on-premise accounts are easier to convince of Sotol’s many virtues. Off-premise accounts, especially price-conscious or volume-driven retailers, are a bigger challenge. “Typically, those owners don’t spend a lot of time onpremise, and they have their core legacy brands in a specific price range,” said Parks. Higher-end or specialist bottle shops, on the other hand, are another story. “That’s probably where we’re seeing the most traction for the Fabriquero brand,” he said. “Those buyers are just looking for unique, esoteric, global spirits.”
“If a producer and their team is passionate, they should be able to tell an authentic story about where their product comes from and why it’s produced the way it is. That’s the start.”
3. HAVE A STORY
If a marketing plan is like a road trip, your story is the car. Without it, there’s no going anywhere. And if you’ve borrowed the car, neglected its maintenance, and installed bike tires while pretending — ZACHARIAH JAMES PARKS they’re the best all-weather treads money can buy? Well, you might eventually get somewhere, but it probably won’t be where you planned, and the journey won’t be any fun at all. “Ultimately, it’s all about passion,” said Parks. “If a producer and their team is passionate, they should be able to tell an authentic story about where their product comes from and why it’s produced the way it is. That’s the start.” The good news is even if your product doesn’t have generations of cultural history to back it up, you still have a story to tell. The key is how you tell the tale. Tell it honestly, authentically, and in a way that makes other people care, and you stand the best possible chance of creating a future in which that local liquor store owner has a whole shelf of eight-grain whiskeys proudly on display.
For more info about Mezcales de Leyenda visit www.mezcalesdeleyenda.com. For more information about Fabriquero visit www.fabriquero.mx/en/.
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L E S S O N S
L E A R N E D :
Crafting a Better Drinking Culture P A R T
T W O
WRITTEN BY CARRIE DOW
ast issue we talked about the lessons learned from the Kentucky Distillers’ Association’s seminar titled “Crafting a Better Drinking Culture,” led by Director of Social Responsibility Ali Edelstein at the ADI Conference in Denver. Previous topics covered included simple ideas, like easy access to water, to more involved programs, like staff training. What follows are more best practices to help your business craft a better drinking culture, while creating more business for you.
SAFE TR ANSPORTATION Again, an obvious issue, but Edelstein emphasized there is more out there then Lyft and Uber. “If you’re not partnered with tour providers that help push people through your door,” said Edelstein, “that’s a miss because it’s great for your social responsibility effort and it’s great to drive business to your distillery.” Edelstein suggested looking at food and beverage tours, travel companies, and city tours that can add your distillery to their itinerary. Edelstein mentioned that 70 percent of Kentucky Bourbon Trail visitors are from out of state and therefore not familiar with local transportation. Partnering with public transportation organizations and tourism boards, and showcasing that information on your company’s website, helps people find those safe options and bring them to you. Another issue is location. Many distilleries are located outside of city centers or in rural areas making Uber and Lyft options scarce. Joyce Nethery, master distiller and co-owner of Jeptha Creed Distillery and winner of ADI’s Best Distillery Visitor Center award, conveyed her solution to this issue. “One of the things we’ve done, as we’re between our two metropolitan areas of Louisville and Lexington,” described Nethery, “is we want to be socially responsible, but we don’t have Lyft or Uber, so we partnered with KDA and our local tourism commission to set up a driver promotion. We had a breakfast and invited people who were interested in becoming drivers to come in and get their car inspected, fill out their application, and do all those pieces together. We increased the number of Lyft and Uber drivers that we had.” Another thing the KDA did is partnered with Lyft and Uber diWWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
rectly to provide consumers with discounted and free rides. “We partnered with Kentucky’s transportation cabinet to offer $20,000 worth of safe rides on key drinking holidays,” said Edelstein. “We just did one on St. Patrick’s Day and it’s awesome the visibility that it’s gotten our brand.”
COMMUNICATION Communication involves many things, but Edelstein suggested that distillers focus on what values they want to communicate. What are your expectations for your company and your guests? How do your communications reflect on your brand? “Responsibility is an expectation,” said Edelstein. She suggested creating your own Brand Moderation Statement that can be incorporated into advertising and social media. One of her favorite statements is Jeptha Creed’s ‘Honor the Creed.’“Make it fun and a core value for your brand,” she suggested. Knowing what types of communication are good for your brand also helps. Barnes related this incident:“I had someone email and ask if they could have their high school senior come to the distillery and take graduation photos,” she said. “My first reaction was, ‘Pictures? Absolutely!’ Then my second reaction was, ‘That’s probably not a great idea [for an 18-year-old]. That’s my brand behind you in all those pictures going to family or going in a yearbook.’” During the seminar, Edelstein also brought in Clay Smith of Moonshine University. “You know how everyone has that ‘Are you 21’ on the first page of your website?” Smith began. “Well, Ali noticed and I didn’t until they brought it to our attention. The guy doing our website had made it that if you clicked on ‘No, I’m not 21,’ you were sent to a YouTube video of Teletubbies. This is problematic not just because it’s a little bit of ‘go home kiddo,’ but it was inconsistent. We changed it to (link to) Responsibility.org. We are the association’s education partner and we take those issues seriously.”
VISITOR EDUCATION Getting the consumer to drink responsibly may be the most difficult practice of all, but it’s also the most important. “We have to educate our guests about what’s in their glass so they can respect
the way they treat it,” Edelstein emphasized. “You spend a lot of time making the best distilled spirits that you can and you don’t want a consumer who mistreats it.” She suggested having tour guides explain to guests the proof of what they’re about to drink. “For a lot of visitors to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, they aren’t used to a spirit that hits them that strong. We have to education them on what’s in their glass.” For more education, the KDA just opened a DRINKiQ exhibit at the Frazier Museum, the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in Louisville. Modeled on the same exhibit created by Diageo for the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, DRINKiQ is an online quiz visitors can take on monitors mounted to bourbon barrels at the Welcome Center. It consists of multiple choice and true/false questions on alcohol consumption. It’s a way to bring the consumer into the conversation while educating them at the same time. The KDA has also partnered with Better Drinking Culture (BDC), a national organization based in Michigan that promotes responsible imbibing of alcoholic beverages. “These guys do not advocate for abstention,” she pointed out. “They just advocate for drinking in a positive way. It makes moderate consumption aspirational.” Edelstein added that Better Drinking Culture’s manifesto poster is available to download for free online.
WHY IS THIS ISSUE I MPORTANT? “(The KDA) made it a strategic priority for all of our distilleries in 2016,” said Edelstein, “because we believe it not only reduces y’alls liability when it comes to fines and reputational damage and even your license to operate within a community, but it also preserves your industry’s ability to grow.” Smith added another reason for endorsing social responsibility. “They are absolutely 100 percent a silver bullet when you are going to your legislators and looking to change laws in your state,” he emphasized. “Especially if you partner with your guild, you get a lot of bang for your buck because 90 percent of these [practices] cost you nothing. Doing those very simple things and getting privileges that you may not have currently in your state, legislators want to see that. There is always that question, what are you doing to mitigate risk? If you have that data, especially from a distillers association, you can say these are the things we are already doing that meet your requirements so you feel better about supporting these bills.” Edelstein mentioned several laws that passed in Kentucky the past few years, like allowing distilleries to ‘sell by the glass,’ adding cocktail bars to tasting rooms in 2016, allowing the sale of vintage spirits in 2017, which allowed out-of-circulation bottles to come back onto the market, and in 2018, Kentucky became the eighth state in the US to allow direct shipment of spirits to customers from distillery visitor centers. Edelstein declared, “What we’ve found with these best practices is when people know better, they do better.”
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American Distilling Institute
Conference & Expo New Orleans, LA at the Hyatt Regency Hotel April 6-8
Some Highlights for 2020 Tasting of American Single Malt Whisky with Justine Johnson Nosing for Faults Workshop with Nancy Fraley 10 Common Problems with Gin (and How to Fix Them) with David Smith The Challenge of Finding Investors with John Fisher
Keynote Speaker Dr. Anne Brock, Bombay Sapphireâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Master Distiller and Grand Rectifier of the Gin Guild
CLUB CONSIDERATIONS L
iving in Northern California, it’s hard to throw a cork without hitting a winery, and most if not all of them have a member’s-only club offering perks like regular discounts on wine shipments. Recently, I’ve noticed that club model gaining traction in the spirits industry. This is likely due to distillery clubs being a great way to increase brand engagement, improve sales forecasting, and incentivize repeat visits. But as with most things in the distilling industry, great ideas have legal issues to consider before implementing. Boil it down and a distillery club is an agreement: The distillery provides goods or services to members, who in turn pay for them. Because the distillery club is a contract, the details matter. The club’s terms should be in writing and clearly outline everyone’s responsibilities. Whether you have a distillery club — or are thinking of starting one — here are things you should consider:
GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR YOUR DISTILLERY CLUB REVIEW YOUR STATE’S LAWS. States have authority to regulate alcohol manufacture and sale. It is certainly within a state’s power to bar discounts, or to prevent the creation of a distillery club altogether. MAKE SOME DECISIONS ABOUT THE PARAMETERS OF YOUR CLUB. Assuming no restrictions, consider the following: Are you going to have different levels of membership? When is payment due? How many bottles of spirits does the member receive and how often? Are the spirits selected by the distillery or the member? If the distillery, can the member make exchanges? Are you going to cap membership? What is the minimum term length? How often does the contract renew? How does the member cancel? How much notice must they give before canceling? If the member cancels early, are they obligated to pay back any savings? All these terms should be spelled out and signed by the member. OUTLINE MEMBERSHIP BENEFITS. This could include free or discounted tastings, bringing guests to free or discounted tastings (how many friends?), member-only events (how often and when?), and merchandise, additional bottles, tours or private event discounts. Remember, this is a contract. Just as the member is required to keep up their end of the bargain, so is the distillery.
W R I T T E N B Y C O R E Y D AY & C H E YA N N E M A RT I N
SHIPPING CONSIDERATIONS Unlike wineries, most states don’t allow Direct-to-Consumer (DtC) shipping for distilleries. At last count, there were seven states plus the District of Columbia that allow DtC shipping of spirits. Some states regulate brandy and other grape derived spirits differently than spirits generally, so there may be DtC options for those products. If you’re lucky enough to be in a state that permits DtC shipping and you intend to offer DtC, there are additional considerations. First, for out-of-state members, ensure both your state and the customer’s mailing address state allows distillery DtC shipping. Second, spell out what happens if the member moves to a state that does not allow DtC shipping. Finally, you will need to confirm that you have a delivery service that will carry alcohol for you and have the member pay the shipping insurance (or specify that it’s included in the membership).
AUTOMATIC RENEWALS California offers some of the most consumer friendly subscription laws in the nation. In California, a distillery club with automatic renewals, among other things, must provide an acknowledgment to the customer upon signing up that includes the automatic renewal offer terms, cancellation policy, and information regarding how to cancel. A distillery that has an automatically renewing club also needs a cost-effective, and easy-to-use mechanism for cancellation. At least seven additional states and the District of Columbia have similar laws, and there are a handful more considering similar legislation. While the laws vary, the requirement for a clear and conspicuous cancellation policy is nearly universal.
CONSUMER PRIVACY The European Union created one of the first broadly applicable laws regarding customer data. While California is currently the only state with as extensive a consumer privacy law, 26 states have considered similar legislation. For a distillery club to function, you’re going to need to collect information from your members — email addresses, phone numbers, and preferences. Heck, you’re probably already collecting similar information from non-members for marketing purposes. It
will be important to keep an eye out for changes to your states’ laws to see if there are any special requirements for how you handle that data going forward. Now that you’ve considered all the above are you ready to start a distillery club? Unfortunately, no. Doing so is a great start, but I always recommend that you consult a distillery attorney and make sure that there aren’t any additional considerations for your specific distillery. DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to be a source of general information, not an opinion or legal advice on any specific situation and does not create an attorney-client relationship with our readers.
Corey Day is an alcoholic beverage attorney and litigator at Stoel Rives (stoel.com). Corey likes chatting about potent potables, so email him: firstname.lastname@example.org, call him: 916-319-4670, or follow him on twitter: @coreyday. You can also catch him in person at ACSA’s 2020 Convention in Portland, where he’ll be presenting on legal considerations when selling excess capacity at your distillery. Cheyanne Martin is a student at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California. She went to law school to be a public defender, but is now interested in alcohol law. She tempts fate by regularly ziplining, parasailing, sky diving and cliff jumping. Give her a shout at email@example.com.
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D O I C N E
a CERTIFICATE of ANALYSIS Understand y our grain’s potential
WRITTEN BY GABE TOTH
A GRAIN LOT’S CERTIFICATE OF ANALYSIS (CoA) can be a daunting collection of numbers and percentages at first glance, but unlocking the information it offers can provide distillers crucial data as they seek to understand their raw materials. Because of the extra lifting expected of malted barley, analysis for a raw grain such as corn, rye, or wheat will contain less information than a malt CoA, but most of the fields will overlap. Many of the measurements on a malt analysis — including modification, extract, protein, and beta glucans — correspond to each other or are inversely related. Out-of-spec results in one field will often correspond with undesirable results in other fields. It is also crucial to understand that grain is a biological product subject to varying inputs (sun, rain, soil nutrients), so actual specifications will vary by region or even farm, by crop year, and by variety. A malt analysis can be broken down into three categories of information: A physical analysis of the malt itself, a wort analysis that identifies characteristics of the runoff, and a chemical analysis noting enzyme content.
PHYSICAL ANALYSIS The physical attributes in a malt analysis include assortment, friability, and moisture content. Assortment is crucial if using a roller mill; unevenly sized grain can lead to uneven milling and losses in the mash tun. To determine assortment, grain is put through a shaker test with sieve screens. What remains on the 6/64th and 7/64th screens is considered plump (this is often a separate field noted on the analysis), while what passes through to the 5/64th screen is thin. The barley used for malting should be at least 90 percent plump and less than three percent thin kernels. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Plumpness may be tested in other grains, but values will vary from malt standards. Rye, with its smaller kernels, will have lower plump and higher thin values. The relatively enormous corn kernels, obviously, should have no thin grains. Friability indicates the level of modification in the malt kernel. A poorly modified malt is one where the beta glucan matrix that surrounds the starch in the grain endosperm has not been fully broken down. Beta glucans are the residue of cell walls that get broken down during the malting process and correspond with a few
other key factors in a malt analysis. Low friability (less than 90 percent) indicates a malt that hasn’t been fully modified and may have starch still bound up, which can correspond with higher beta glucan levels. Moisture is important because additional water in the grain means a lower percentage of everything else. The moisture content in malt should be below five percent for stability and can be as low as a couple percent, though slightly higher moisture out of the kiln can indicate higher enzyme content. Raw grain comes off the field at a shelf-stable 10-12 percent moisture.
WORT ANALYSIS Wort analysis can include some or all of the following data: color, extract, viscosity, turbidity, beta glucan, amino acid, protein, and S/T ratio (soluble over total protein). Color, generally noted in SRM, degrees Lovibond, or EBC (European Brewing Convention), naturally doesn’t affect the color of the product coming off the still, but it can be an indicator of flavor. The lower the number (1.5 degrees Lovibond or three degrees EBC) the lighter the flavor of the malt. English-style pale malt, such as Maris Otter, is generally kilned slightly darker (three degrees Lovibond or six EBC), lending a slightly fuller character and additional flavor from Maillard reactions. Viscosity indicates how well liquid will flow through the grain. High viscosity, greater than 1.6 units, can indicate difficulty in lautering and wort collection, and is an indication of poor modification. High viscosity corresponds with high levels of beta glucan and low potential extract. Turbidity is a measure of clarity that indicates solids, generally protein and beta glucans, suspended in the wort being run off. While high turbidity values can cause stability issues in beer, this is negligible in spirits production. One of the fundamental pieces of information to know is the potential extract in a lot of malt or grain. The amount of sugar, and thus alcohol yield, in grain is a primary question for most distillers. On a dry-weight basis, standard yellow dent corn generally consists of about 7072 percent starch. Commodity wheat will come in around 69 percent starch, with rye at about 68 percent and barley at 65 percent. These numbers can be lower in
non-commodity grains, such as heirloom or heritage varieties. While extract measures the total soluble content of the tested wort, including carbohydrates, protein, and beta glucans, it is primarily composed of sugars and starches. Calculated according to American Society of Brewing Chemists methods, Dry Basis Fine Grind extract offers a maximum potential soluble yield for malt, generally about 80 percent. Dry Basis Coarse Grind (DBCG) provides a grind closer to a brewhouse roller mill, but will still yield higher than a mash or lauter tun. DBCG measurement might come in at 79 percent, but actual yield will vary depending on the equipment used, usually coming closer to 70-75 percent. Using this data, a distiller can calculate their plant efficiency and estimate how much potential alcohol should result from their given grain and processes. This theoretical yield will vary according to fermentation conditions, yeast, nutrient, and oxygen levels, but roughly 50 percent of the starch extracted will be converted into ethanol and the other 50 percent will become CO2 (with trace amounts of many other fermentation byproducts). Low extract can correspond to higher beta glucans, higher protein, or both. On the other hand, unusually low values of beta glucan may indicate over-modification of the malt, which can result in starch degradation, contributing to lost extract. Total protein will generally run to 1213 percent of the malt’s dry weight and is inversely related to potential extract. The more protein that exists in the grain, the lower the percentage of starch. (Some distillers, however accept higher levels of protein, especially in unique or heirloom grains, with the supposition that more protein equals more flavor.) Protein can be indicated on a CoA in multiple ways. As well as total protein, soluble protein is often measured and will generally be around five percent of the total weight. The percentage of soluble to total protein (S/T), also known as the Kolbach Index, may be noted on the analysis and is an indicator of modification. Less than 35 percent S/T indicates an
undermodified malt. Free amino nitrogen (FAN), crucial for yeast metabolism, is also an indicator of protein levels. FAN levels around 150-200 units indicate enough nitrogen for proper yeast health, but not an excess of protein.
CHEMICAL ANALYSIS Enzymatic levels indicate the malt’s ability to convert starch into fermentable sugars. Diastatic power is an indicator of the total enzymatic content, both alpha and beta amylase, and should be in the range of 140-150 units. Alpha amylase, or liquefaction enzyme, shortens dextrin chains and should be in the range of 50 to 70 units, though an allmalt mash can be converted with slightly lower levels of alpha amylase. Most of the remainder will be beta amylase, also known as a saccharification enzyme, which breaks starch chains down primarily to the fermentable sugars maltose, maltotriose, and glucose. Low enzyme levels, which correspond with higher beta glucan levels, can indicate poor modification and result in poor breakdown of starch. When using malt to convert large amounts of corn or other raw grain, distillers malt with higher diastatic power may be required. Often produced from six-row barley, distillers malt may have lower levels of modification, lower potential extract, and higher protein; these are common tradeoffs when using high-diastatic malt. Finally, a standard grain analysis will include testing for the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol. Also known as vomitoxin, DON is a product of fusarium blight. FDA limits exist for its presence; levels should be less than one part per million.
Gabe Toth is lead distiller at The Family Jones Distillery in Denver and Loveland, CO. A former craft brewer, his passion for fermenting and transforming ingredients also extends to sausage and meat curing, cheesemaking, and pickling. He can be found up in the mountains or at email@example.com. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
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TIME in a BARREL
Randy Hudson of Triple Eight Distillery understands that some things canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be rushed WRITTEN BY DEVON TREVATHAN /// PHOTOGR APHY BY AMANDA JOY CHRISTENSEN
f you were to choose a word to describe the lives of Triple Eight Distillery co-owners Randy and Wendy Hudson, organic certainly wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Though they’ve been proponents of the farm-fresh lifestyle since before it was cool, that’s not the kind of organic I mean. I’m talking about organic in the sense that, for the Hudson’s, things just sort of slid into place. Neither Randy nor Wendy were born on Nantucket. Wendy came to the island as an ethical philosophy major in search of “the good life,” as she puts it. Randy, originally from North Carolina, was attracted to the place because of his genealogical connection: he’s distantly related to some of Nantucket’s early settlers. They both found themselves living there as greenhorns seeking that elusive eudaimonia. Nantucket was once home to the native Wampanoag people, who lived there undisturbed until European settlers colonized it in the 17th century. At first, it was a part of New York, but the island was transferred to the British Province of Massachusetts Bay, which would later become one of the 13 original states of the United States. The whaling industry was dominant there until the mid 1800s; any remaining whaling vessels were destroyed by Confederate raiders during the Civil War. It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that the island saw any new development, and it would still be decades before Nantucket’s transformation into the tourist destination we know today would be complete. Like Nantucket, Triple Eight experienced its own evolution. Before whiskey, there
was wine: Nantucket Vineyard was opened in the ‘80s by Dean and Melissa Long. The first vines were planted in 1981, and by 1983 they were in the thick of production. Randy and Wendy began working at the winery around that time, where both their interest in beverage alcohol and a love for each other was nurtured. “Wendy was working at the farm for a few years. I was working at the Moors End Farm. We were like Romeo and Juliet, the Capulets and the Montagues,” explained Randy. It wasn’t long before Randy and Wendy had a bigger role to play; eventually, they would become partners with the Longs. In the comfort of the Hudson’s small A-frame house on the island’s south side, they started to toil with beer, and from that venture came Cisco Brewers in 1995. Today, Randy and Wendy co-own the property and the individual businesses with the Longs as well as Jay Harman, who joined the team in 1996, a year after the brewery had opened up. “Jay Harman was a college student studying business at Fairfield University when he called us to do an interview because he had been writing a business plan to start a brewery on Nantucket,” explained Randy. Harman ended up working at Cisco for free while he was still in school before procuring a paying job there. Eventually, he became CEO of Cisco Brewers, but since that sold Harman has been responsible for organizing retail experiences and other ventures as an extension of the company, such as a forthcoming restaurant that the group will be opening with an experienced restauranteur in New Bedford, which will be called Cisco Kitchen + Bar. Melissa
Long continues to be involved in the hospitality side of the business, and Dean takes an active role in managing the property. He runs the five and a half-acre farm adjacent to the distillery and is the resident fixer of anything in need, from gutters to drainage. Many of the fruits and vegetables that Dean grows are used in the distillery as part of its bar program. By 2000, Randy and the partners, following a pattern that had already proven successful, deciding to sprout an additional arm of the business, this time a distillery. Twenty years ago, however, the industry was a far cry from where it is now. Small producers and their spirits had yet to hit the mainstream, and few could have expected the success that distilleries would experience. “We couldn’t bother to buy pre-cast or stainless steel, ready-made,” said Randy of their decisions when outfitting the brewhouse. They ended up using a pressure steam vessel procured from the Polly-o string cheese factory as their first kettle. “We were just figuring it out on our own, we didn’t have money to hire consultants. Bootstrappin’, grass-rootin’.” They’ve since upgraded. The original still house, little more than an Alembic still in a diminutive 10x20 wooden shack, burned down a while back. “We would get like 10 visitors a day, so we didn’t have somebody designated, and Dean was running the still,” Randy recounted. “He left the still unattended, the receiver overflowed, and the liquid flowed under the still to the live flame, and whoosh.” They were able to salvage the still, but the building was a loss. Instead, they built a
“We were just figuring it out on our own, we didn’t have money to hire consultants. Bootstrappin’, grass-rootin’.” 64
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“Because we’re brewers, it was natural for us to lauter... It’s not against the law, it’s just not traditional. It makes [our bourbon] taste a lot more like malt whiskey than bourbon, but it’s unique so I’m kind of happy.” 66
new one, albeit on their own terms without bureaucratic approval. “It’s just what we do around here,” he quipped. The second, lasting still house is a charming hodge-podge, filled to the gills with hoses, washbacks, and various other pieces of equipment named after directors and rock bands. There are two different types of stills inside: one pot made by Holstein and one continuous purchased from Headframe Stills. “We make straight whiskey off of it, so we engage the second little column which is called a Barbet and we change the parameters on the big column to do more refining distillation, but when we’re using it as a stripping [still] we’re trying to go fast and dirty as hell,” explained Randy. “It’s a use of the still that I don’t think John [McKee] ever envisioned, so it’s been a little bit of a challenge.” They discovered the 500-liter Holstein, which was made in 1991 for brandy production, through a former employee who’d been hired to work in the brewery. He knew of a still that had been shipped out to an Oregon winery that wasn’t being used, and offered to broker the deal for them. “I don’t know what his percentage was on that, but we bought that still plus the boiler and piping and stuff for $40,000, which was a huge investment for us.” It wasn’t quite what they had planned for; initially, they were looking to purchase a Forsyths, but the buildout costs ran up and copper prices skyrocketed on the commodities market, leaving them little choice but to pursue plan B. Their mashing and fermentation takes place in the building where Cisco beer is produced. They pitch multiple species of yeast in closed stainless steel, but they encourage the entrance of some wild bacteria during the process. Despite undeniable success, Triple Eight has kept the production space purposefully dated, but that choice seems to fit into the overall workplace atmosphere. They aren’t focused on being the distillery with the newest equipment or finest setup; they have other priorities in mind. There are 70 people employed at Triple Eight, and on the day that we visited we were able to witness a handful of them interact with each other. At no point did the bartenders, tour guides, brewers, and other back-of-house staff feel like anything other than family. They have four bars and three production facilities, yet the place never once loses its sense of self. All their fermentations and subsequent distillations are done off-grain. “Because we’re brewers, it was natural for us to lauter,” Randy said, and that includes their bourbon. “It’s not against the law, it’s just not traditional. It makes it taste a lot more like malt whiskey than bourbon, but it’s unique so I’m kind of happy.” Not everything they learned from brewing has crossed over into their distillation philosophy, however. Triple Eight's approach to sanitation for distilling’s sake is lax, to say the least. “Sanitation actually works against it,” Randy offered bluntly, citing their Hurricane rum as an example. “When it gets extended, when it gets sick, when it does a funky, long fermentation you definitely have more bacteria starting to take over that ferment, and you get some wicked butyric baby poop, which is kind of traditional.” Triple Eight can afford to be a bit less clean on the front end because they know that their spirits will be resting in barrels for quite a while. “You WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
actually want some of that so that you develop character over time,” explained Randy. Opening a distillery is a costly business in more ways than one. For Triple Eight, that cost often manifests itself in small-town politics. Nantucket is historical, and as such it is subject to far more protective legislation than most places. Consider for a moment the stipulations set forth by the government surrounding spent grain leftover from the distilling process. Usually, distillers have relationships with local farmers that benefit both parties involved: The farmers come and pick up the grain for their livestock, relieving the distillery employees of having to find a way to get rid of it. This is not the case for Triple Eight. “It was deemed to be industrial sludge,” said distillery manager Bryan Jennings. “Let’s say a farmer came and got our spent grains and didn’t properly compost it and the neighbors smelled it and complained, and they trace it back to the source, and the board selectman [gets] involved…” The rest of the story goes about as you’d expect it to — the folks at Triple Eight are still paying the city to get rid of their spent grain. However much the island takes, though, it tends to give back in equal measure.
Its beauty is more than just a generous backdrop; it draws in tens of thousands of visitors to Nantucket each year, many of whom make their way over to the Cisco/ Triple Eight compound for good drinks, live music, and an energy that is palpable before you even set foot on the property. The distillery sits inside one of many buildings connected by a paved, curving pathway that acts as a network between the brewhouse, bar, stage, and outdoor seating area bustling with swaying patrons, more from
dancing than the drink. Cutting through that crowd on a busy September afternoon can be difficult, but Randy does so with ease, followed as ever by his trusted rottweiler, Baxter. Triple Eight’s spirits have earned numerous accolades and their fair share of attention, but Randy maintains that their focus is on the people who come to their front door. Their accomplishments have never seemed forced or coerced; again, the word organic comes to mind, but just because something’s organic doesn’t mean it isn’t cultivated. The people at Triple Eight cultivated their success, most notably by creating an experience at their facility that feels like an extension of who they are. “Our goal is to be above and beyond,” Randy said of their interactions with the community. He's a different animal to many in the industry, and he knows that — more driven by instinct and intuition than procedure, perhaps. He tends not to write things down while working, which can be difficult if you’re attempting to achieve consistency in your product, but Randy’s not too concerned with that. “I’ll make something else that’s beautiful. It might be slightly different. Aren’t we all?”
Triple Eight Distillery is located in Nantucket, MA. For more information visit www.ciscobrewers.com/distillery or call (508) 325-5929.
NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST. WRITTEN BY ANDY GARRISON
nglish scholar and dictionary writer Samuel Johnson famously panned oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” While Johnson wasn’t shy about slinging racist insults at the Scottish, he does accurately capture the dual identity of oats. In America, oats are about as wholesome as it gets: heart-healthy, virtuously bland, even gluten-free. In other countries, oats are still viewed with suspicion as a poverty ration for barn-dwellers or feed for horses. I still remember the expression of confusion, pity, and barely concealed disgust I received from an Italian acquaintance when told that we eat “oat soup” for breakfast. Oats are a relatively ancient grain that were grown by pre-historic central Europeans, but their cultivation didn’t develop until after wheat and barley. Wild oats were a noxious weed in grain fields (somewhat similar to wild ryegrass), which is partly the source of the scorn that has been heaped on oats since Pliny the Elder. Their large hull size was an irritation to process, and their higher lipid content gave them a tendency to go rancid in storage, which pushed their usage as animal fodder rather than human food. However, oats are easier to grow than wheat in wetter, temper-
ate climates like Scotland and Ireland, which led to widespread cultivation among small farmers. As you may expect, any grain grown by small Irish farmers eventually made it into the still, and historical records are littered with references to oats (sometimes confusingly referred to generically as “corn”) in making booze. Most folks have downed a pint of oatmeal stout, but the grain’s history in distilling doesn’t seem as widely known. That doesn’t mean there’s not a long legacy of it. William T Brannt writing in 1885 claimed that “Oats yield a pure whiskey of a very agreeable flavor.” In the 1908 Royal Commission on Whisky, the testimony of many Irish distillers revealed the inclusion of up to 30% oats in their whisky mashes. Unfortunately, the usage of oats in whisky waned as agriculture and distilling became more industrialized. Oats produce fewer bushels per acre than most other grains, and a bushel of oats produces noticeably less alcohol than other grains — an economic double-whammy, Brannt noted. The production of oats also declined significantly as people traded in their oat-powered horses for coal or gasoline-powered engines. Oats might not make a clear economic case, but the unique WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Oats might not make a clear economic case, but the unique flavor and sensory characteristics they impart to spirits make them an exciting area for exploration by craft distillers. flavor and sensory characteristics they impart to spirits make them an exciting area for exploration by craft distillers. I spoke with several producers about how and why they are working with oats. At Bently Heritage Distillery in Minden, Nevada, master distiller John Jeffery became interested in oats as a way to differentiate the company’s estate vodka. He says previous distilling experience meant he “knew exactly what I’d get from corn or barley or malt, so I was hoping for something unique. Oats are not a traditional choice for vodka, but we try to do unusual things, and try to use materials that others are not.” After some promising experiments, Bently Heritage Distillery elected to use oats along with wheat in its Source One vodka and the neutral base for their Juniper Grove Gin. The choice was not without its share of challenges. “The first thing we discovered is that if we hammer mill oats that have a hull, the hull has the behavior of fiber glass. You end up with an incredibly fine, tissue-irritating powder that gets everywhere,” said Jeffery. This led to the choice of an unmalted, naked oat. But there were still more problems to solve. “We had to make a lot of modifications to material handling to accommodate the oats. The milled oats behave kind of like moon sand — if you take a handful of hammer milled oats and squeeze it, it retains that shape. Trying to move them in a closed conveyor from outside to inside the building caused lots of problems,” said Jeffery. Valves had to be changed, sensors rerigged, and storage rethought to make up for “the fact that oats don’t like to move; they like to stick.” Once they are in the mash cooker, the unique composition of oats can create other problems. Oats are extremely high in lipids and protein compared to other grains, and the composition of the starch is different as well. “Because of the high protein and relatively low starch, there is the possibility to get sulfury ferments. You can also experience very foamy ferments, similar to how foamy a malt mash can get if the malt is undermodified,” said Jeffery. After even more experimentation, Jeffery “landed on a combination of non-traditional enzymes which work to break down polymers that you might not break down in a normal mash like for corn.” If oats are such a hassle, why bother? For Jeffery, it’s about the “viscosity, weight, and sweetness” that oats provide the spirit. “The high lipid content comes through; you can encourage oils to entrain and come over in the distillation process which makes a really cool mouthfeel.” Wheat tempers that viscosity and flavor, so their vodka still fits into the classical style. The added body from the oats has had some knockon benefits which Jeffery discovered as he started to age the vodka in Oloroso sherry barrels. “With a corn neutral spirit, all you’d get is oak and sherry, but because oats have a little more body it really holds up the oak and barrel,” said Jeffery—all while retaining the unique flavor of the vodka. Oats aren’t just being used for vodka; Mike Selberg, owner and distiller at Cannon Beach Distillery in Oregon, has been using oats as a supporting player in unique whiskey mash bills for several years. Selberg was inspired to incorporate oats after seeing malted oats in his grain supplier’s catalog and remembering the fun of brewing oatmeal stout in college. His equipment is set up for off-grain mashes and he doesn’t use exogenous enzymes, so he mostly works with malted oats but has also used some flaked oats. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
SELECTING A TYPE OF OAT
AN EXERCISE IN CLOSE READING AS OATS CAN TAKE SEVERAL DIFFERENT FORMS.
Oats have a very large, difficult-toremove hull which surrounds a grain kernel called a groat. The hull can comprise as much as 30% of the oat, and the nuisance of removing the hull has led to the development of hulless oats. These hulless oats (sometimes called naked oats, streaker oats, or pil-corn oats) confusingly still have a hull — it is just much easier to thresh off:
>> HULLED OATS − the grain is still in the hull/ husk (aka raw oats)
>> DEHULLED OATS − the grain (groat) has been removed from the hull after harvesting (aka whole oat groats)
>> HULLESS OATS − a subspecies with an easier-toremove hull which is typically removed at harvest (aka naked oats, streaker oats) Oats (still in their hulls) can also be malted, just like barley, and there is documentation of malted oats being used in beer dating back hundreds of years. The production of oat malt had shrunk considerably in recent years, but with the explosion of ‘hazy’ beers, oat malt is back in vogue and produced by several maltsers in the UK and US. Unmalted oats (out of their hulls) can be processed into myriad forms, including flaked or rolled (which partially gelatinizes the starch for faster cooking), chopped into particles of varying size (also called steel-cut or pin-head oats), or milled into varying consistencies (from coarse oatmeal to fine oat flour).
According to Selberg, “the hull of the malted oat is really nice structurally for the mash.” (That idea echoes one from 135 years ago by Brannt, who said oats are “sometimes used as an addition on account the beards rendering the mash loose and easier work.”) Unmalted oats are more challenging to work with. Selberg said, “I won’t go super high on percent of unmalted grain in the mash because they gum up and can cause a stuck mash. I can’t preach the use of rice hulls enough. Anytime we’re using unmalted grain, I generally throw in a healthy amount of rice hulls to keep the mash structured and allow better run-off.” Selberg has used malted oats in place of rye or wheat in a traditional bourbon mash bill. He’s found it “pairs really well in bourbon, giving a big, barrel-forward whiskey some lighter elements.” The oats give “a honey-like, nutty character, and my employee gets a coniferous, slightly piney tone. The distillate off of oat mashes also tends to have a little more body.” He’s also used malted oats and flaked oats in an Irish-style whiskey, which is distilled to a higher strength and aged in used barrels. Selberg says those malted oats add a unique element to the finish, while the flaked oats provide “more of an authentic grassy character, truer to the flavor of the grain.” Selberg says he’s interested in working more with oat whiskeys. “There’s something a little different about it. It’s not the leading flavor, but it can be extremely interesting in support cast.” On a personal note, as the head distiller at Stone Barn Brandyworks in Portland, Oregon we’ve been making oat whiskeys since
around 2011. We make a 100% straight oat whiskey from locally milled oat flour, and also utilize oats in some barrels of straight rye and bourbon. When making a 100% oat mash, I have found that a beta-glucanese or other viscosity-reducing enzyme is critical, as the oat mash is initially extremely thick and gummy. A pure oat spirit has a wonderful texture, but the flavor is much lighter and sweeter than more traditional whiskey styles, and might seem a little bit simple to contemporary palates. However, the flavor and aroma of oats seems to be immediately graspable by new whiskey drinkers, especially when compared to the more obscure or challenging flavors of barley and rye. I’ve found the oat whiskey really appeals to non-traditional drinkers, either adventurous sorts looking for something new, or non-whiskey drinkers who find bourbon or rye too intense. Koval Distillery in Chicago also produces a 100% Oat Whiskey. President Sonat Birnecker sums up its appeal. “Think about what oatmeal tastes like in the morning: creamy, earthy, a touch of toasted coconut. Once you add a little of the sweetness and spice of the barrel, you’ve got breakfast in bottle.” And if that doesn’t convince you, maybe the famous Scottish rejoinder to Samuel Johnson’s zinger will: “Aye, and that’s why England has such fine horses, and Scotland such fine people.”
Andy Garrison is Head Distiller at Stone Barn Brandyworks, where he’s worked since 2012. He makes a mean bowl of oatmeal, but there’s kind of a trick to it. Andy.firstname.lastname@example.org
SPIRITS INDUSTRY MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
Year in Review
WRITTEN BY KEVIN O’BRIEN
$15 - $25
$10 - $15
Sales growth in the spirits industry continued to nvestment activity in the spirits industry continued at a 11.3% be driven by the Premium ($15-$25 per 750ml) torrid pace in 2019. While there were no “big ticket” deals and Ultra (>$25 per 750ml) price categories. This like Bacardi’s acquisition of Patron or Diageo’s acquisition of “premiumization” trend continues to gain steam as Casamigos, there were numerous interesting transactions that these categories growth rates surpassed the growth occurred during the year. As discussed in previous iterations 6.9% from the prior year. Year-over-year dollar growth for of this series, this activity has its genesis in factors including the Premium category was 6.9 percent coma resilient U.S. economy, sustained growth of premium-priced 4.9% pared to 4.4 percent for the same period last products, challenges navigating rapidly consolidating distri1.9% year. Even more striking was the growth of bution channels, historically low interest rates and the signifthe Ultra category which grew 11.3 percent icant amount of private equity “dry powder” year-over-year compared to 5.1 percent in seeking to be deployed. The combination of 0.3% the prior year. Overall, higher priced offerings these factors led to numerous investments in the spirits industry continue to outperform and partnerships during the year as the overall the overall spirits market leading to continspirits industry continues to outperform other -3.0% ued investment interest in these categories. beverage alcohol categories. 0.6%positive growth Aside from the current Nielsen market data shows that the spirmetrics for the spirits industry, forecasts its industry continues to experience positive for continued growth are helping to spur growth trends over the last year. Nielsen data, investment activity as well. Review of the which tracks sales that occur in the off-premmost recent IMPACT Databank report, a ise channels (e.g. grocery stores, big box retailTotal Top-25 leading source of beverage alcohol market ers, liquor stores, etc.) provides “real-time” Distilled Brands data, indicates steady growth of the spirits metrics into how the spirits industry is perFIGURE 1 Spirits (without Tito’s) category compared to other beverage alcohol forming. For the 52-week period ended OcNielsen Dollar Growth by Pricing Category (52-weeks categories. tober 5, 2019, this data showed overall spirended October 5, 2019) Projected consumption trends by beverage its dollar volume growth of 4.9% which was alcohol category from 2018 to 2025 reveal significantly higher than the previous years’ Source: Nielsen Food+Liquor that distilled spirits will continue to outpergrowth rate of 1.3% for the same period.
Southern Glazer’s 71 31.8%
form its beer and wine peers. Beer was the largest beverage alcohol category in 2018, capturing 47.0 percent of “share of servings” (defined as the equivalent of one standard drink). IMPACT projects that by 2025, this figure will drop to 41.8 percent, a decline of 5.2 percent. Wine, the smallest of the major beverage alcohol categories by share of servings, is projected to grow slightly from 15.0 percent in 2018 to 15.3 percent in 2025. Conversely, the spirits category represented 35.1 percent share of servings in 2018 and is projected to increase by 4.5 percent reaching 39.6 percent share of servings in 2025. If these trends continue, the spirits category will become the largest beverage alcohol category by share of servings in the next decade.
THE M&A PARTY CONTINUES IN 2019
The year began with the announcement that BDT Capital Partners made a “significant investment” in the acclaimed Vermont-based WhistlePig Rye Whiskey brand. WhistlePig established itself as one of the leading, luxury priced rye whiskey brands in the U.S. with some offerings eclipsing $300 per bottle. After last year’s investment in the luxury tequila brand Casa Dragones, BDT Capital Partners appears intent on building a world-class portfolio of high-end spirits brands. Following this announcement, it was revealed that Sazerac made another large spirits portfolio acquisition. The company acquired a collection of brands from Black Prince Distillery that will help to bolster its substantial portfolio, which also includes numerous brands acquired from Diageo at the end of 2018. Additional transactions announced early in the year included two large beverage alcohol players deepening their investments in the spirits category. Constellation Brands announced a minority investment in Black Button Distilling, a luxury whiskey producer based in Rochester, New York. Shortly afterwards, AnheuserBusch InBev (“AB InBev”), one of the world’s largest and most influential beverage alcohol companies, announced the acquisition of the San Diego-based Cutwater Spirits. Cutwater produces an array of spirits products but is led by their rapidly-growing canned ready-to-drink (“RTD”) cocktails. RTDs are a small FIGURE 2 Growth in Share of Servings by Beverage Alcohol Category segment of the spirits industry, but Nielsen data shows it growing faster 2018 Actual 2025 Projected than any other spirits category in the last year. AB InBev’s distribution muscle should help to further propel the RTD category. Another notable Source: 47.0% Impact Databank transaction during this period introduced another private equity player — The Riverside Company — which announced a controlling investment 41.8% in the Netherlands-based rum blender and producer E&A Scheer. 39.6% Over the next several months, M&A activity ramped up very quickly. 35.1% Led by Pernod Ricard and Constellation, numerous large suppliers announced a flurry of transactions. Pernod Ricard, the second largest wine and spirits Company in the world, kicked off an unprecedented string of deals announcing the acquisition of Italian produced Malfy Gin. This luxury priced brand gained significant traction in the last few years, eclipsing sales of over 100,000 cases. Shortly thereafter, the company revealed they’d taken a majority stake in another luxury15.0% 15.3% priced gin brand, Inverroche Distillers based in South Africa. During the summer months, Pernod Ricard also staked their claim in the U.S. whiskey market by acquiring three brands. The first was Louisvillebased craft whiskey producer Rabbit Hole Distillery. Next was Texas-5.2% +4.5% +0.3% based Firestone & Robertson Distilling, which is led by its eponymous luxury-priced “TX” whiskey offering. Finally, they announced a major Beer Wine Spirits transaction with the acquisition of New York-based Castle Brands. Valued at ~$225 million, this investment added the fast growing, luxury-priced Jefferson’s bourbon brand to their growing whiskey portfolio. The current and projected shift in beverage Not to be outdone, Constellation Brands announced a number of minority alcohol consumption patterns has certainly investments and one large divestiture during the same period. Validating the been noticed by established suppliers as well continued growth of the mezcal category, Constellation publicized their investment as those outside the industry. The result has led in a leading mezcal producer, Los Angeles-based Mezcal El Silencio. This was to an unprecedented amount of M&A activity RNDC followed by the announcement of an investment in acclaimed Colorado-based over the last several 13.6% years. With the spirits craft rum producer Montanya Distillers. The final investment was acquiring a industry continuing to outperform its beverage ern Glazer’s minority stake in the luxury-priced gin producer Durham Distillery. During this alcohol peers, 2019 was another year of robust 31.8% same period, Constellation also sold a collection of lower-priced brands to one transaction activity. Breakthru 10.0%
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FIGURE 3 of the industry’s largest suppliers, Heaven Notable Spirits Industry Transactions in 2019 Hills. The deal, valued at over $250 million, included the Black Velvet Canadian whisky TARGET ACQUIRER CATEGORY brand. This value-priced brand reported sales of 1.9 million cases in 2018 and will fill a WhistlePig Rye Whiskey BDT Capital Partners Ultra Whiskey significant gap in the Heaven Hills portfolio by substantially expanding sales activities in Multiple Black Prince Sazerac Spirits Portfolio the imported whisky category. Distillery Brands Two other major industry players also Black Button Distilling Constellation Brands Ultra Whiskey announced transactions during this period. Brown-Forman, owners of Jack Daniel’s, E&A Scheer Riverside Company Rum Blender reached an agreement to acquire The 86 Company. The New York City-based distillery Cutwater Spirits A-B InBev RTD Canned Cocktails is known for its unique, luxury-priced Fords Gin brand. Long dormant in the M&A arena, Mezcal El Silencio Constellation Brands Ultra Mezcal this acquisition provides Brown-Forman with a scalable gin brand to complement their brownMalfy Gin Pernod Ricard Ultra Gin spirits-focused portfolio. Diageo, the world’s largest wine and spirits company, announced Loch Lomond Hillhouse Capital Ultra Scotch Whisky a 50/50 joint venture with one of the largest Cuban rum brands, Santiago de Cuba. Diageo Fords Gin Brown-Forman Ultra Gin will have distribution rights to the brand internationally, excluding the United States. Rabbit Hole Distillery Pernod Ricard Ultra Whiskey This high-profile offering will join Diageo’s super-premium Reserve portfolio and provide Montanya Distillers Constellation Brands Ultra Rum some upside relative to its struggling Captain Morgan rum brand. Inverroche Distillers Pernod Ricard Ultra Gin Signaling the continued appetite of private equity firms to invest in the industry, Firestone & Robertson Pernod Ricard Ultra Whiskey Distilling Hillhouse Capital Management acquired Scotland-based Loch Lomond Group. Loch Black Velvet Heaven Hills Value Canadian Whisky Lomond produces an array of Scotch whiskies as well as Glen’s Vodka, the second most Santiago de Cuba Rum Diageo Ultra Rum popular vodka brand in the UK market. Italybased Campari Group continued to diversify Castle Brands Pernod Ricard Spirits Portfolio its portfolio, announcing the acquisition of several luxury-priced rum brands from Durham Distillery Constellation Brands Ultra Gin Rhumantilles as well as making a majority investment in the luxury-priced mezcal brand Rhumantilles Gruppo Campari Ultra Rum Montelobos. Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits agreed to a joint venture partnership with a Ultra Mezcal Casa Montelobos Gruppo Campari small but well-acclaimed craft gin brand from California named Gray Whale. Finally, Davos Deutsch Family Wine Ultra Gin Gray Whale Brands of New York announced a partnership & Spirits with craft spirits icon Balcones Distilling. The Texas distillery is one of the most sought-after Ultra Whiskey Balcones Distilling Davos Brands producers of high-end American single malt whiskey and bourbon. The breadth and diversity of transactions that occurred in 2019 certainly speaks to insatiable appetite of various players to invest in, or acquire, spirits brands. Upon review of the details of these transactions, as well as digging into industry data, there are some interesting insights that can be gleaned that provide additional information regarding the nature of spirits industry M&A now and into the future. WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
TOP-25 BRANDS KEEPING PACE?
TIME TO PLACE YOUR BETS
$15 - $25
$10 - $15
Consumers continue to gravitate towards spirits for reasons that include the increasingly popular “cocktail culture,” price-to-value ratio of spirits offerings, and the emergence of local, craft spirits producers. As craft brands continue to proliferate, there is now more competition than ever in the spirits industry. While the industry has long been dominated by a number of very large suppliers, they have recently been feeling the effects of changing consumer preferences. In an effort to quantify these effects, industry data relating to the top 25 spirits brands was collected and analyzed. Utilizing the aforementioned IMPACT Databank report for calendar year 2018, it was noted that the top 25 brands by case volume accounted for about 42 percent of total distilled spirits case sales for the year. This is a significant amount considering there are thousands of brands in the marketplace. The year-over-year growth rate for these brands by case volume in 2018 was 2.0 percent. The growth rate across the entire distilled spirits industry for the same period was 1.9 percent. Based on these figures, it appears that the top-25 brands are performing better than the overall industry. While that may be the case in aggregate, further analysis reveals that one brand in particular is driving growth amongst this group. Tito’s Vodka, independently owned and now the second-largest spirits brand in the industry, grew at an astronomical rate of 22.0 percent over 11.3% last year. For comparison sake, the largest brand (Smirnoff) declined by 0.7 percent, the third largest brand (Bacardi) declined by 2.5 percent FIGURE 4 Case Volume Growth of and the fourth largest brand (Captain Distilled Spirits Brands 6.9% Morgan) declined by 2.7 percent. The (2017-2018) only other brand in the top five that grew was Jack Daniel’s at a 4.9% meager 0.3 1.9% Source: percent. Impact Databank Removing Tito’s from the top 25, which leaves a 0.3% well-known collection of brands owned exclusively by the industry’s largest suppliers, reveals that the group only grew by 0.6 percent for the year. Of those -3.0% remaining brands, only eight grew faster 0.6% than the overall spirits industry rate of 1.9 percent. Said another way, 16 of the top 25 spirits brands either experienced a decline in annual sales or grew at a rate slower than the overall industry. As can Total Top-25 be expected, the largest suppliers have Distilled Brands felt the negative impact of these trends Spirits (without Tito’s) and one solution has been to regain market share by investing in numerous brands to help propel future portfolio growth. As consumers preferences continue to evolve, these trends may be a new reality which should lead to additional acquisitions into the foreseeable future.
The list of spirits industry transactions over the last several years is interesting for numerous reasons. There are large and mid-tier suppliers making deals, private equity firms deploying capital, the world’s largest beverage alcohol company — AB InBev — getting involved, and deals taking place across all spirits categories. The amount of deals isn’t surprising based on the reasons previously discussed, but an intriguing aspect to these deals is the amount of “smaller” transactions being made by a select group of the industry’s largest suppliers. Diageo, the largest spirits company by volume, has been at the forefront of these types of deals over the last several years. Leveraging their investment arm, Distill Ventures, the company has invested in small international whiskey brands Starward Whisky and Stauning Whisky. Additionally, they invested in Westward Whiskey, a Portland-based American single malt whiskey producer. A former Distill investment, luxury vermouth brand Belsazar, “graduated” from the venture unit last year and is now majority owned by Diageo. Rounding out smaller deals, Diageo announced last year the acquisition of the luxury mezcal brand Pierde Almas. Similar 47.0% to Diageo, Pernod Ricard has been very active in making investments in promising brands across 41.8% different spirits categories. In 2016, the company took 39.6% a majority position in the high-end, limited production German gin brand Monkey35.1% 47 as well as the craft bourbon producer Smooth Ambler. The following year they invested in the emerging mezcal brand Del Maguey. The trend continued this year with the company taking stakes in two additional domestic whiskey brands — Rabbit Hole and Firestone & Robertson. The last large supplier that has been very active in 15.3% 15.0% placing bets on emerging brands is Constellation. Under the guidance of their investment arm, Constellation Ventures, the Company has made numerous investments since 2017. These investments include Catoctin Creek -5.2% +4.5% +0.3% Distilling, Vivify Beverages, Austin Cocktails, Copper & Kings, Real McCoy, Black Button Distilling, Mezcal El Silencio, Montanya Distillers, Spirits and Durham Distillery. Beer Wine These investments run the gamut of spirits categories and are all positioned as luxury-priced, craft offerings. These companies, seeking to offset declines in their “legacy” brands and adjust to emerging categories, may prove wise for placing bets across a number of very small brands. Over the last few years there have been numerous high-profile acquisitions of larger, high-growth RNDC “craft” brands with case volumes exceeding 25,00013.6%
Southern Glazer’s 31.8%
WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M 10.0%
50,000 cases. However, the transaction values for some of these brands have been staggeringly high leading to similar, or higher, valuation expectations from many independent brands of similar positioning. Recognizing that there is only so much investment capital to deploy, large suppliers are becoming more comfortable “dipping down” to invest in attractive producers with lower case volumes. In doing so, they can place numerous small bets and trust their distribution muscle to grow the brands and extract significant brand value without having to cut a large acquisition check. The success of this investment strategy is yet to be determined but it’s safe to assume this trend will continue in the near term as suppliers look to diversify their portfolios to meet shifting consumer demands.
OUTLOOK FOR 2020 Peering into our crystal ball reveals that 2020 should be another year of robust spirits industry M&A activity. Economists are indicating that the economy will remain steady in the near term which should increase the appetite for additional acquisitions. Additionally, interest rates remain at record low levels enticing acquirers to utilize “cheap” debt to help finance deals. Suppliers will continue to wrestle with the challenging distribution networks spurring additional transactions to remain relevant with their distributor partners. Similar to prior years, the lion's share of activity will revolve around luxury-priced, craft offerings. These products continue to drive the growth of the overall spirits industry as consumers continue their promiscuous consumption patterns. Investment interest from private equity firms, as well as beer and wine focused companies, should remain strong as the spirits category continues to outperform all other beverage alcohol categories. The combination of these factors signals that the good times will continue to roll in the new year.
Kevin O’Brien is a Sr. Vice President with Zepponi & Company, a leading beverage alcohol M&A firm. Dedicated to the beverage alcohol industry, Kevin has presented on various accounting and finance related topics for the American Craft Spirits Association, American Distilling Institute, Brewers Association, and Oregon Wine Board. Kevin will be providing additional insight into M&A activity during his presentation at the American Craft Spirits Association convention in March 2020.
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WHEN DRINKING f o r TWO PREGNANCY and the BUSINESS of MAKING BOOZE
unning a business is kind of like having a child: no matter how prepared you feel, there will always be some unforeseen hurdle thrown your way. So deciding to raise a child and a distillery at the same time naturally increases the amount of unanticipated complications a person could face, but that hasn’t stopped some distillery owners and employees from embarking on just such a journey. It can be difficult to manage the physical effects of maternity in a role that carries the expectation of alcohol consumption. “To me, things smelled different. It wasn’t just that they were more intense, they smelled actually different,” said Dr. Emily Vikre, co-founder and president of Vikre Distillery in Duluth, Minnesota. Pregnancy is famous for affecting a person’s tastes and preferences in a phenomenon called dysgeusia. The change is likely caused by hormones, and it can make an indi-
WRITTEN BY DEVON TREVATHAN ILLUSTRATED BY CATHERINE PAIANO
vidual detest a smell or taste they usually love. Vikre has two children, both of whom were born after she and her husband Joel committed to working in the craft spirits industry. Maternity was a bit more easily managed with her first child — she was pregnant with him right in the start-up phase before the distillery had officially opened. “That was very different from the second pregnancy where I was in the role of head of product development [and] head of marketing. We were more of an established business,” Vikre explained. “What was good there was that we had an established product line already, so I was able to develop our core product line between the two boys, and I did basically take a hiatus from doing that part of my job for the nine months I was pregnant.” The handful of years between her two pregnancies allowed the Vikres to develop deeply trusting relationships with their staff, which were necessary for those months when Emily relied on them to taste for quality and consistency in her absence. “There was a lot of just trusting people and trusting the team that we had built and trained, and overseeing them but not being as hands-on.” Employees with physically demanding roles may need to reevaluate what tasks they should be assigned as they get further along in their pregnancy. Lauren Long is WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
the marketing and production coordinator for Venus Spirits in Santa Cruz, California. While her responsibilities in the office didn’t change much, her pregnancies did affect how she worked in the production space. “I would jump in and help with bottling sometimes, but the more pregnant I got I wouldn’t be lifting the boxes onto the pallet,” she said. Natasha DeHart is the co-founder of Bendt Distilling Co., formerly Witherspoon Distillery, in Lewisville, Texas, and she was pregnant three times during the course of opening and operating their distillery. “When you own your own business, the work has to get done,” she said. “Toward the end of my pregnancies, I moved a little slower, avoided some chemicals and would do what I could to stay in the A/C, but other than that, nothing changed.” While pregnancy creates physical changes in the body, it also has an effect on the ways in which people interact with you. Women, especially pregnant women, do not make up the majority of the industry, so the sheer novelty of seeing a pregnant woman working around alcohol can be confounding. “People see that you’re pregnant and you’re in a distillery and it’s almost one of those where they do the math, like, ‘Wait a minute, can she be in here?’” said Long. Most of the craft distilleries opening in the United States are true entrepreneurial operations; they run on little cash flow, especially in the early years, and there isn’t always an option to bring in someone new just for a short period of time, nor is there always a need to do so. “Walking into a meeting in the middle of the west Texas oil fields with a massively pregnant belly was quite an experience. I found myself at a conference room table, sitting with six to eight men, pouring and sampling them
“There was a lot of just trusting people and trusting the team that we had built and trained, and overseeing them but not being as hands-on” — EMILY VIKRE,
co - founder and president of vikre distillery
on our whiskey,” explained DeHart. “Their faces gave away that they were not told in advance that I was pregnant, and when I walked into that room, I may as well have had three heads.” Amanda Christensen, creative director of Artisan Spirit Magazine, found out that she was pregnant two days before attending the American Craft Spirit Association’s 2016 convention in Chicago, Illinois. “Because it was so early, anything could happen, and I didn’t want to announce it or tell people,” Christensen said regarding her decision to keep mum about her pregnancy. It wasn’t as much of a problem as she had anticipated for most of the convention, especially during social drinking scenarios where she could easily order a soda water with lime. “Where I think it got a little bit awkward was at the tasting event, when people would come up to me and be like, ‘Oh, you’ve got to try this!’” Christensen found it hard to get friends and peers to accept her refusal, though their intentions were obviously good. A person might not be drinking for any number of reasons, including medical or simply personal in nature, and Christensen feels that we need to normalize that behavior as an industry and not push them. “If somebody says they’ve met their limit, that’s where you say, ‘Okay, well next time. Put this on your list to try,’ and give them tasting notes.” The same is true when a media person visits a distillery.
“When you own your own business, the work has to get done. Toward the end of my pregnancies, I moved a little slower, avoided some chemicals and would do what I could to stay in the A/C, but other than that, nothing changed” — NATASHA DEHART, WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
co - founder of bendt distilling co .
It’s completely understandable that, as a distillery owner or distiller, you would want that writer or journalist to try your spirits while they’re at the facility, but their decision to abstain for whatever reason should be respected. It might seem like distillery owners and executives are in the best position to be able to navigate childbirth while working. Having the flexibility to adjust your role as needed relieves a lot of the pressure that comes with maternity and new motherhood, but there are drawbacks as well. Vikre calls it the “tyranny of flexibility:” “When you are — whether it’s because you’re in charge or you’re freelance or whatever — when you have flexibility it’s easy then for everybody to expect you to give up your time, or what’s supposed to be your work time, to take care of the doctor’s appointments,” she said. “That can be a really hard mental burden and something that I’ve had to work on to set up boundaries with myself and others, and also in my own head.” As the person in a leadership role, the responsibility to make sure that everything gets completed ultimately falls to you. Many business owners end up foregoing traditional family leave because they can’t afford to bring someone else in during that time, but the work still needs to get done, which was true in DeHart’s case. She was back to work before she’d even left the hospital bed. “As soon as I could move enough to reach my laptop, I was working from the hospital,” DeHart recalled. “I love what I do and I'm a workaholic, but I would never recommend this for another member of our team. I do believe that most new moms and dads need a break and that leave should be made available to new parents.” The Pregnancy Discrimination Act stipulates that companies employing 15 people or more must offer health-leave benefits, but many craft distilleries don’t yet meet
that threshold. In situations like these, employee pregnancy is usually handled on a case-by-case basis, which was true for Long. “The first time around I worked almost till my due date, I think maybe one or two weeks before my due date I stopped working, and then I only took about eight weeks after,” she explained. During her second pregnancy, she dropped to part-time and made the decision to keep that schedule after her child was born. “My priorities were really more geared toward what I could do to spend the most time with my family, especially when they’re young.” Long is grateful toward Sean Venus, the owner of Venus Spirits, for his willingness to work with her on her schedule. “If I need to switch a day that I work or come in late a day, I have that flexibility, which is nice.” If distillery owners don’t want to define their plan in writing ahead of time, they should still consider maternity and paternity leave and how they might handle it. “It’s something that distilleries need to be thinking about without their employee coming to them first,” said Christensen. Perhaps a pregnancy and ensuing leave can be an opportunity to train an employee in a new position or reorganize the distribution of certain tasks within the company for a time. “It’s also not the end of the world. It’s a season in a woman’s life that she’s pregnant and she has a newborn,” she said. “They’re still valuable people to have in our industry and supporting them is important.” One way in which new parents can be supported is by embracing
family values as part of the business overall. “For us, family is important, and kids are important and the flexibility to spend time with your family is really important, so we’ve carried that value into our business,” said Vikre. They’ve staffed their distillery so that their employees have the allowance of time necessary to take care of their families. It’s a modern move — more and more companies are going beyond 401(k)s and actively taking care of their employees throughout their tenure. Sometimes that simply means understanding a person’s needs and having the personnel to cover a shift when their kid gets sick. If distilleries are looking to staff a position with the kind of people willing to stay there long-term, they have to realize that children can become part of the equation. Having a child is difficult for any new parent, and that is especially true for parents working in this industry. Be willing to have honest, upfront conversations with your employees about their future and yours, and consider adopting a formal new-parent policy as part of your organization.
Devon Trevathan writes about spirits, wine, and cocktails for a variety of publications. Her focus tends to be on the science behind distillation and the history of drink culture. When she's not working, she's probably at home in Nashville painting watercolor tasting notes or dreaming about the pack of dogs she hopes to have one day. You can follow her @devontrevathan on Instagram and Twitter, or find her at a bar with a Negroni in hand.
WE DO OUR JOB SO YOU CAN DO YOURS.
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VISITOR EXPERIENCE DESIGN DEEP DIVE:
TOURISM INDUSTRY WRITTEN BY TIM KNITTEL
DEVELOPING TOURISM INDUSTRYDISTILLERY RELATIONSHIPS FOR MUTUAL VALUE
n this new world of the modern spirits industry, distilleries — and sometimes even non-distillery brand locations — have become tourist attractions. It’s a shift in thinking, from just the basics of providing hospitality for guests, to generating value via retail sales and brand awareness, onto ultimately being a location worthy of travel and global interest. While the visitor categories of consumer and industry professionals (like distributors, bartenders and liquor store employees) have a direct relationship with your brand and products, tourism businesses and organizations have a relationship with your location and experience offering. This is an important distinction because tour operators (which bring in groups) and destination management organizations (which bring in media) are not themselves the participants in your distillery’s visitor experience, rather they are the hosts of those guests. As a result, the value you can provide to them is different than that you provide to visitors and this requires a difference in planning and function on your part. Correctly tailoring your value creation for these groups in turn translates to greater numbers of consumers visiting your distillery and discovering your brand and products.
TOUR OPERATORS For our purposes, we’ll define a tour operator as any entity that organizes groups and brings them to your distillery. There are various levels of tour operators from companies offering regular public tours making a stop, to bespoke/boutique companies providing custom excursions to corporate event planners looking for team outings. Regardless of those details, these folks are all the organizers, but not themselves the visitors. Having tour operators bring visitors to you is almost like free marketing. It’s not actually free in that you’ll need to invest in slightly different management infrastructure plus the time to build relationships, but the payoff is a steady stream of tour tickets, gift shop sales, and brand engagement. For a tour operator, their goal is to provide an experience received positively by their guests within a budget. There are many factors that influence the final itinerary and chosen destinations such as distance and travel time, costs, experience match to specific guests, etc. Some of those factors are not within your control but many are. First, a tour operator needs to feel comfortable that the destination (that’s you) can be trusted to provide a professionally-managed experience. At a minimum, tours must start and end on time so there’s no disruption to a carefully curated itinerary. On top of that, quick responsiveness to inquiries and flexibility in the face of change will enhance the trust. These elements create the foundation and are the minimum necessary to build relationships with tour operators. Once trust is in place, your visitor program can create additional value for a tour operator through experience delivered and price charged. Remember that the best outcome for a tour operator is for their guest to believe that they made a good decision entrusting their time and money to that tour operator. It’s fine to offer your standard experience to tour groups if it’s of high enough quality, however, offering an “exclusive” experience makes both the guest and the operator feel special. Obviously, this is difficult if the group is having a tour mixed with general visitors and an isolated experience requires more overhead on your part, so there’s a balance point at which it makes the exclusive worthwhile. One strategy is to develop an “exclusive” experience and offer it to all tour operators. This can involve simple elements like having a brief personal welcome by your staff on their bus or custom signage welcoming that operator and specific group. Exclusives can scale up to dedicated tour guides, alternate tour paths, access to limited edition products, etc. Specialty ticket pricing can be used to create value for the tour operator as well. By offering a discount, the tour operators can pass along your fees and make a margin; consider setting your default ticket price with this in mind. Alternately, maintaining pricing but offering a greeting cocktail, keepsake gift, or coupon for the gift shop for tour operator guests can create a similar value (be sure to confirm that local and state regulations allow this before offering any of these perks).
DESTINATION MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS (DMOs) In contrast to tour operators who are bringing you their guests, DMOs will primarily be bringing travel and tourism media outlets that they are courting. For a DMO, the value of your distillery is as an attraction, which encourages greater attention and coverage for the region. (DMOs might also use your distillery for social media value or as an attraction for courting event planners, but those are beyond the scope of this article.) As an attraction, your distillery needs to be attractive. This doesn’t mean Disney-fied beauty, but rather clean, safe, and welcoming. The more your distillery lines up with the region’s destination brand identity, the better because then it’s easier for the DMO to justify including you in the media tour. Media tours, often called FAM or familiarization tours, are an opportunity to showcase the region as worthy of tourism. FAMs will involve multiple stops and will usually have very tight itineraries. The typical FAM visit is your standard experience because that’s what the travel journalist will be promoting to his or her audience. Unlike a media visit where an outlet is covering you exclusively, for these visits the journalist needs to know exactly what you offer to the general public and normally should not receive an alternate or special experience. The one additional element you might incorporate in a FAM visit is greater time and depth to go into your location story. This is subtly different than your brand story because the focus is on locality rather than brand or product. This includes your origin story and why it’s important that you are where you are, perhaps with the history of the building or unique facts and interesting anecdotes about your journey from initial concept in the space (or even a different space) to the state of things today. Sometimes DMOs will be able to pay you for providing a media or planner experience, but more often they be requested for free. Given the earned media value of a successful story, it’s usually worth it to you to offer the experience at no charge.
MINIMUM VISITOR CENTER OPERATIONS Since hosting guests and working with tour operators and DMOs requires labor, it’s generally seen as an expense to operations. ROI can come through income from ticket purchases and gift shop sales plus value can be generated with brand awareness and social and traditional media promotions. One major difference between hosting drop-in (‘transient’) visitors versus tour operator and DMO guests is in timing. These groups will be planned with specific arrival and departure times, headcounts, and possibly special treatment. This is where the real value of having dedicated visitor program staff comes in. Your time must necessarily be flexible, but a staff member can be a dedicated point of contact, be made available during regular hours to respond to planning inquiries, and be scheduled to attend to a group at the appointed time. Ensuring a quality visit starts before the guests arrive. Are you hard to find and is GPS problematic? Provide directions on the website and in a direct email. Take responsibility for confirming groups one to two days ahead by double-checking arrival and departure times and headcounts, plus reinforce directions if needed. Provide a cell phone number for text updates in case of day-of changes. Have a staff member be ready and waiting to personally greet guests upon arrival; by first greeting the tour operator or DMO staff by name, trust in them is conveyed to the guests. A quality visit ends with a thankyou to the guests and thank-you to the hosts, plus a solid close based on the group’s value. An explicit “We had a great time with you here; we hope you had a great time with us as well” is perfectly fine. Additionally for media guests, be sure to provide a mechanism for follow-up questions or assets such as logos and photographs. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
TRUE FEEDBACK Another value point for you with the split between guests and hosts is in getting more accurate feedback on the experience you’re delivering. There is a “politeness problem” with feedback from guests while in your space; once they’re back on the road that will disappear. This provides tour operators with better information than you have about how the experience was received. Follow up on group visits with the tour operator and explicitly ask to relay the guest feedback; they’ll be glad to share it to help you improve your service because any improvement on your part is better for them too. This also holds true for DMOs. Keep a conversation going with any DMOs you interact with to learn how you can improve your value to them, so they can help spread the word about how great you are. When receiving feedback, be especially conscious of how you and your staff react to negative comments. It’s a human default to react to criticism with frustration or contradiction. Instead, treat it as a gift that allows you to identify issues and improve them. A problem encountered by one guest or group is likely encountered by many and the only way to address it is to know it exists. And be sure to celebrate your victories, too! Share positive feedback with all staff members publicly and regularly — the emotional piece of hospitality is a major motivator for people who choose to work in that industry.
ALWAYS MUTUAL VALUE CREATION With a distillery visitor program, tour operators and DMOs offer a mechanism to you to bring in more guests and reach a wider audience for your brand and products. There is a cost to host these groups which may be best served by dedicated staff depending on your particular financials. Like everything in hospitality, these relationships are best served as mutual value creation opportunities. Be a partner. Plan for the special guests and respect the value you’re providing to the hosts. Be explicit and spend the time to ask what the tour operators and DMOs value both generally and with each visit, and then be ready to deliver that value to them and capture the sales and brand awareness value for yourself.
Tim Knittel is a Bourbon educator, writer and event specialist in Lexington, KY. He formerly managed the culinary and VIP hospitality programs for the Woodford Reserve Distillery and is currently the Bourbon Steward-in-Residence for The Kentucky Castle. He runs Distilled Living which provides private Bourbon education, brand representation and distillery consulting services. He holds the titles of Executive Bourbon Steward through the Stave & Thief Society and Adjunct Professor of Tourism, Event Management and Bourbon Studies at Midway University.
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s i b a n Can s t e k c Ro Ahead T
Where will it land? TTB, CANNABIS, AND YOU WRITTEN BY STAC Y C. KUL A , ESQ. & RYAN DUNNE EWING, ESQ.
he national market for cannabis is exploding. The New York Post recently wrote that the cannabis industry in America could surpass the National Football League in collected revenues by 2020.1 Annual cannabis sales in the United States are expected to exceed $50 billion in 2020. Put another way, more people are legally purchasing cannabis than the combined sales of all video games and firearms within the United States. With extraordinary growth and sudden availability, businesses are scrambling to enter the cannabis space. And some of those businesses are distilleries and other alcohol manufacturers. Some manufacturers in the alcohol industry perceive cannabis as a competitor — an alternative to the spirits or other alcohol products they produce. Other manufacturers consider it a new opportunity and want to use it as an ingredient in and marketing tool for their products. Regardless of your position, the impact cannabis is expected to have on the economy and the alcohol industry is staggering, and it is important to at least understand the basics of cannabis — including terminology and legality.
1 See Ed Zwirn, Marijuana Industry could surpass NFL in revenue by 2020, New York Post (Jun. 8, 2019), available at www.nypost.com/2019/06/08/marijuana-industry-could-surpass-nfl-in-revenue-by-2020/.
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the hemp industry Importantly, the genus “Cannabis” includes both hemp and marijuana. Thus, the “cannabis industry” refers to two similar yet very different streams of commerce. While hemp and marijuana are different plants, the federal government also differentiates between “hemp” and “marijuana” based on the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) within the plant. As a general rule, cannabis is considered “hemp” if it possesses 0.3% or less THC concentration on a dry-weight basis. If it possesses greater than 0.3% THC on a dry-weight basis, then the plant is considered to be: (i) non-compliant hemp; or (ii) marijuana. Hemp is a federally legal commercial crop that has widespread use as the basis for textiles and is the primary source for marketable cannabidiol (“CBD”). CBD is made available for public consumption in a variety of forms, such as raw hemp flower (for smoking in a manner similar to marijuana), tincture liquid, dermal patches, foods, drinks, and vape cartridges. Hemp was legalized in a limited capacity under the 2014 Farm Bill, which granted state agriculture agencies and their respective Tribal counterparts the ability to permit the limited growing of hemp for commercial sale. As of this writing, 47 states (i.e., all but Idaho, Mississippi, and South Dakota) have legalized a statewide hemp program under the 2014 Farm Bill. After four years of state experimentation under the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress enacted the 2018 Farm Bill, which explicitly removed hemp from the list of substances that are federally banned under the Controlled Substances Act. In so doing, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the hemp industry nationwide. The 2018 Farm Bill’s nationwide legalization of the hemp industry comes with two significant caveats: (i) the CBD industry is still subject to regulation by the FDA; and (ii) the hemp industry will continue to be regulated under the 2014 Farm Bill until the USDA promulgates regulations in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill. The USDA’s proposed regulations under the 2018 Farm Bill are expected to be released in the late fall/early winter of 2019. The 2014 Farm Bill and its associated state programs will no longer be effective after the USDA’s regulations are fully enacted.
the marijuana industry As noted, cannabis is generally considered to be marijuana if it has greater than a 0.3% THC content on a dry weight basis. Much like CBD and CBD products, marijuana can be consumed through raw flower, tincture liquid, dermal patches, foods, drinks, and vape cartridges. Regardless of state law, marijuana remains illegal throughout the United States. The federal government currently lists marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that the government views marijuana as having a high potential for abuse, no known or recognized medical use, and its use elicits severe public safety concerns. That said, almost 75% of the states in this country (37 out of 50) have legalized the consumption of medical cannabis in some form or fashion. The District of Columbia and the following 11 states have WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
glossary of common terms Cannabis
Refers to both marijuana and hemp.
Marijuana Is a plant under the genus Cannabis. Marijuana is widely utilized for its therapeutic properties. Cannabis is also generally considered to be marijuana if it has greater than a 0.3% THC content. Marijuana remains illegal throughout the United States, regardless of state law. Hemp Is a plant under the genus Cannabis. Hemp has widespread use as the basis for textiles and is the primary source for marketable CBD. Cannabis is also generally considered to be hemp if it has 0.3% THC content or less. Subject to new regulations by the USDA, hemp is legal nationwide. THC Tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is known for producing the “high” effect in marijuana. THC content is significant in marijuana, whereas hemp has trace amounts through the plant’s maturity. CBD Cannabidiol. While CBD does not create a “high” effect, CBD has been recognized to have certain health benefits. CBD content is relatively limited in marijuana and is significantly concentrated in hemp. The 2014 Farm Bill Granted state agriculture agencies and their respective Tribal counterparts the ability to permit the limited growing of hemp for commercial sale. Subject to new regulations by USDA, the hemp industry is operating off of the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill Amended the definition of marijuana by excluding hemp and legalized the hemp industry throughout the United States, subject to: (i) the FDA’s regulation of CBD products; and (ii) the USDA’s promulgation of regulations implementing the 2018 Farm Bill. Until the USDA’s new regulations are in place, the hemp industry is operating off of the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA The United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA is responsible for promulgating regulations enacting the 2018 Farm Bill. USDA’s proposed regulations are expected to be made available to the public in late fall/early winter of 2019. FDA The Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is responsible for ensuring the safe production and ingestion of foods, drinks, cosmetics, and drugs throughout the United States. CBD and CBD products are currently unregulated by the FDA. The FDA has made it very clear that it considers many activities used to produce and market CBD violate federal law. The FDA has opened a notice and comment rulemaking to regulate CBD and CBD-related products in a manner similar to the way that the FDA regulated tobacco in 2009. 83
states where marijuana is legal medical
recreational and medical
CT NJ DE MD
NH MA RI
legalized recreational marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois (effective as of January 1, 2020), Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan (legalized in 2018 but licensed sales activity not expected to convene until 2020), Nevada, Oregon, Vermont (legalized in 2018 but retail sales not permitted until retail system created by legislation) and Washington. Regardless of whether medical and/or recreational cannabis are available in your state, the marijuana industry as a whole is subject to a litany of permitting and continual compliance obligations, and failure to comply with the aforementioned can be financially ruinous. Moreover, as marijuana is federally illegal, marijuana operators remain constantly at risk of federal asset seizure and forfeiture.
the FDA’s current role in the cannabis industry Generally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is tasked with ensuring the safe production and ingestion of food, drugs, cosmetics, and other items made available for public consumption in interstate commerce. To that end, the FDA has suddenly found itself at the center of the cannabis industry’s exponential growth. The FDA’s regulation of the hemp industry is currently at a crossroads. As noted, CBD is a naturally occurring ingredient in cannabis that is primarily derived from hemp. While the ingestion of CBD has been recognized to have certain health benefits,
CBD is currently unregulated by the FDA. Thus, a regulatory vacuum exists: The 2018 Farm Bill explicitly permits the growing, processing, dispensing, and ingesting of hemp-derived CBD products, while the FDA has the authority to penalize businesses for unlawfully engaging in such activities. And the FDA has openly exerted such authority. The FDA has made it very clear that it considers many activities used to produce and market CBD to violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The FDA recently sent multiple warning letters to companies for making “egregious” and “unsubstantiated” claims related to the treatment of serious illnesses and the unlawful use of CBD in food, beverages, and dietary supplements. Without guidance from the FDA, businesses must be very cautious before engaging in the production and/or distribution of consumable CBD products. Recognizing this dilemma, the FDA has opened a notice and comment rulemaking to regulate CBD and CBD-related products in a manner similar to the way that the FDA regulated tobacco in 2009.
the TTB and FDA’s roles governing alcohol Since 2000, the TTB has had a Hemp Policy that allowed manufacturers to include hemp, in limited scope, in beverage alcohol. That policy identifies the requirements when submitting a formula/statement of process for an alcohol beverage containing WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
hemp or a hemp component and to import an alcohol beverage that contains hemp or a hemp component, including laboratory analysis, specification of THC content, sample submissions and paperwork requirements. The 2000 policy also includes specific label requirements for alcohol product containing hemp. Labels can only contain the term “hemp” when it is specifically stated in an approved statement of composition specifying hemp seeds/oil, etc. Labels are prohibited from (1) containing the term “hemp” in the brand name, fanciful name, text, or anywhere else except the statement of composition; and (2) from using depictions, graphics, designs, devices, puffery, statement, slang, representations, etc. implying or referencing the presence of hemp, marijuana, any other controlled substance; or any psychoactive effects. Since the 2018 Farm Bill excluded hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act, the TTB announced on April 25, 2019, by way of Industry Circular 2019-1, that it will update its guidance on the use of hemp ingredients to reflect the change in the law. Industry Circular 2019-1 also stated that:
1) It remains TTB’s policy that it will not approve any formulas for alcohol beverages that contain ingredients that are controlled substances under the Controlled Substance Act.
2) Even if a cannabis ingredient is not a controlled substance because it meets the new definition of “hemp,” TTB will consult with the FDA to determine if the use of hemp ingredients would violate the FDCA.
3) TTB will continue to process applications for formulas for alcohol beverages that contain ingredients derived from hemp seeds and hemp seed oil. However, TTB will return for correction any applications for formulas containing “hemp” ingredients other than ingredients derived from hemp seeds or hemp seed oil. Applicants may resubmit the formula to TTB upon receipt of a favorable individual determination from FDA on the regulatory status of their ingredients.
Because the law explicitly preserved FDA’s authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds under the FDCA, the FDA will play a new role in approving alcohol product containing hemp ingredients not otherwise hemp seeds and hemp seed oil, which may change the landscape forever for producers.
going green Despite the press, it may be more difficult to get the TTB to approve your alcohol beverage with all forms of legalized hemp than it is to find a weed gummy bear. Stay tuned for more guidance from TTB.
Stacy Kula is Team Leader of the Alcohol Team and the Hospitality and Resort Team at Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC. She practices out of the Lexington and Louisville offices, working closely with distilleries, breweries and retailers helping them navigate through the complex maze of federal and state licensing, enforcement, corporate and contractual issues. Despite practicing in the bourbon epicenter, Stacy’s favorite alcohols are spiced rum, gin and limoncello — but she’s always willing to sample the newest product on the market! She can be reached at (859) 219-8222. As the Team Leader for Steptoe & Johnson's Cannabis Counsel, Ryan Dunne Ewing regularly represents corporate cannabis growers, processors, and wholesale dispensaries throughout the United States. Ryan regularly counsels his clients on an everchanging regulatory landscape, and he ensures continued compliance with various state and federal regulations governing the cannabis industry. Ryan is also a happily retired college football player for the Edinboro Fighting Scots.
Ten Years in Burdett FINGER LAKES DISTILLING MARKS ITS 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY Written and photographed by George B. Catallo
ver a decade ago, Brian McKenzie had a vision for a distillery nestled in the heart of the Finger Lakes that drew inspiration from the distilleries of Scotland. In 2006, McKenzie quit his job in banking to turn his vision into reality. What McKenzie didn’t expect, and this is a reality most distillers have realized, was that he had to become something of a lobbyist as well. McKenzie and other distillers teamed up with the New York State Farm Bureau to push for farm distilling laws in New York. After a hard battle, the laws passed in 2007, and McKenzie started construction on his dream in Burdett, New York, overlooking Seneca Lake. In late 2008, the first run of distillate flowed off the brand new pot still. Vintner’s Vodka was a grape-based vodka made from freshly harvested wine grapes from the vines growing on their own property. Shortly thereafter, the first run of whiskey — a Scottish-inspired single malt — was made and barreled. With the farm distillery laws requiring at least 75% of all ingredients used to be of New York State origin, it proved challenging to find enough local malted barley a decade ago. McKenzie had to malt and mill much of his own barley, and round out the mashbill with a dose of peated barley from Scotland. While these barrels matured, a plethora of other products and projects kept McKenzie busy, including bourbon, rye, Irish-inspired whiskey, a pair of gins, cordials, brandies, and more.
I asked McKenzie what his favorite part of his work day was after a decade in business. His response couldn’t be more inspiring to many of us. “I like bringing my dog to work everyday,” he said. And when asked what advice he would give himself ten years ago, he said,“It’s a complex business, lots of headaches. Learn to roll with the punches. Be flexible, prioritize, and be patient. It’s all about patience when you’re waiting for stuff to age four to 10 years.” Being set in the heart of a rich and vibrant tourist and viticulture area is of immense benefit. One third of Finger Lakes’ sales are done directly in the tasting room, despite distribution in a number of states on each coast. McKenzie is patient in the distillery’s continued growth. The distillery is currently focusing on growing in its current territories before expanding reach, though McKenzie is always open to looking at new opportunities. Finger Lakes Distilling also does contract work producing private label spirits, bulk spirits for other companies, and making brandies for consumption or fortification purposes for local wineries. In fact, their work with area wineries generates more than a quarter of their revenue. McKenzie warns that contract work can both be a blessing and a curse, and to make sure to “partner with the right people.” The nature of contracting for wineries is fast cash, short contract. But even with short contracts, relationships and return business can run deep. Some winery relationships McKenzie has forged have spanned eight to nine years.
“It’s a complex business, lots of headaches. Learn to roll with the punches. Be flexible, prioritize, and be patient. It’s all about patience when you’re waiting for stuff to age four to 10 years.” — BRIAN MCKENZIE
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All of this work is done using open-top fermenters without temperature regulation and sour mashing in the distillery’s original pot still or its seven-year-old column still. Using opentop fermenters brings a wide array of flavors to the table, and using a column still makes not only for more efficient processing, but tighter control over how the flavor translates into the final spirit. Operating the still is analytical chemist Jared Baker. A former professor at Elmira College, Baker has been the distiller for the last four years, but before taking the position he was a longtime friend of McKenzie and would help run analysis on distillate. While Finger Lakes currently has more than 20 SKUs, the most noteworthy products in its portfolio are easily the Bottledin-Bond wheated bourbon, the Empire Rye, and its 10.5-YearOld Single Malt. The Bottled-in-Bond bourbon is a particularly impactful product for a list of reasons. First, wheated bourbon is a hot commodity in the marketplace thanks to a certain family of brands from a certain distillery named after a “Bison Path.” Secondly, Bottled-in-Bond carries great weight with consumers as well. For those who know what it means, it’s a proof of origin for the spirit. There is no doubt that this whiskey is 100 percent homegrown and homemade by Finger Lakes. For those who don’t quite know what it means, it’s a familiar buzzword that carries intrigue and mystique. It’s bonded, meaning it was distilled by one distiller at one distillery over the course of a single six-month season and was aged at least four years. Fortunately this bourbon has been enormously successful, so much so that it has completely sold out and is out of stock until more barrels reach maturity. Finger Lakes is one of the founding distilleries of the Empire Rye category, and represents everything that it stands for.
Its rye even sees some finishing in sherry casks, which elevates the spirit to another level. For those not familiar, Empire Rye is required to meet the following criteria: >> Must conform to the New York Farm Distiller (Class D)
requirement that 75% of the mash bill be New York grain; in this instance that 75% MUST be New York State-grown rye grain, which may be raw, malted or a combination. >> The remaining 25% of the mash bill may be composed of
any raw or malted grain, New York-grown or otherwise, or any combination thereof. >> Distilled to no more than 160 proof. >> Aged for a minimum of two years in charred, new oak barrels
at not more than 115 proof at time of entry. >> Must be mashed, fermented, distilled, barreled and aged
at a single New York State distillery. Unless it is a blend of Empire Rye whiskies. (empirerye.com) And finally, the more-than-a-decade-old single malt, the product that encapsulates McKenzie’s dream. That is an incredible feat in and of itself. Finger Lakes Distilling is a shining example of what the craft distilling industry is about and can be.
Finger Lakes Distilling is located in Burdett, NY. For more info visit www.fingerlakesdistilling.com or call (607) 546-5510.
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WHEY TO GO
the RISE of ARTISANAL SPIRITS from CHEESE CREAMERIES WRITTEN BY PAUL HUGHES, PH.D.
hen I start giving a course on distilled spirits, I begin by highlighting the diversity of spirits compared to beer and wine. More specifically, I emphasize that any agricultural commodity can be used to make spirits, the sole requirement being the presence of a carbohydrate source that can be fermented as is (e.g., simple sugars from fruits) or can be converted into fermentable substrates (e.g., starch-bearing raw materials). An alternative industrial process, adding water to ethylene, is well-known, but is generally not permitted for the production of potable alcohol. Fermentability can, though, present problems, especially if it is present in effluent streams. Fermentability translates into biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and, in Oregon at least, craft fermented beverage industries are charged a premium for disposal of sugar (and alcohol) in wastewater discharges, reflecting the associated increased treatment costs. Cheese production at creameries can also have a BOD challenge, as the whey from a typical cow cheese production plant contains around 5 g/l of the disaccharide lactose (as well as protein and salts such as calcium). Larger scale creameries have a range of whey treatment options available, including ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis (to separate proteins from lactose) and spray-drying to create whey protein concentrate (WPC) which is used in a wide variety of foods. Such options, however, tend to perform less efficiently at smaller scales (e.g., at artisanal creameries), so alternative remediation strategies are required. In recent years various spirits made from whey, predominantly vodkas, have come on to the market, and many more creameries are considering whey-to-spirit conversion as a potential strategy to offset effluent costs and enhance the sustainability of their operations. So what are the options for converting whey to spirits? Perhaps the first decision is how to convert lactose, a disaccharide of glucose and galactose, into ethanol. Most alcoholic beverages are produced using the specific yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is also used by bakers for leavening bread. Many strains of S. cerevisiae have a wide range of attractive properties, including tolerance to alcohol and to osmotic stress (usually manifested as high sugar concentrations). However, it cannot ferment lactose as it is incapable of hydrolyzing lactose to its monosaccharide components. Therefore an enzyme addition is typically required.1 The enzyme lactase is capable of releasing the fermentable sugars from lactose. 1â&#x20AC;&#x192; In principle acid treatment might be a lower cost, viable alternative, with both hydrochloric and citric acids having demonstrable effects.
Fig. 1. A schematic highlighting potential product options for whey processing. It is worth noting that whilst spirit might well be the final process aim, there may be value in “stepping off” earlier. (In this context “N” refers to a nitrogen source, which for us is typically diammonium phosphate). Milk/lb/week 1,600
Cheese Whey/lb/week 1,440 VAT PASTEURIZATION
160 lb/week Whey contribution =
Protein precipitate (wet)
1440 lb/week 144 lb/week
Pasteurized whey/lb/week 1,296
Past. whey contribution =
Dilute alcohol/lb/week 1,296
Dilute alcohol contribution =
Yeast, N FERMENTATION
Aqueous waste stream Final spirit/lpa/week 39
In our laboratory, we explored the use of lactose-fermenting yeasts to avoid the need for the addition of exogenous enzymes. In particular, we found that some strains of the yeast Kluyveromyces marxianus were able to both hydrolyze lactose and ferment the resulting monosaccharides into ethanol (Risner et al., 2019). As whey is relatively low in assimilable nitrogen, we found that the addition of diammonium phosphate enabled fermentations to go essentially to completion, although fermentations can take up to five days to complete. The use of S. cerevisiae or K. marxianus seems to us to be a matter of preference, although it would be interesting to compare and contrast the flavor profiles of the same whey under the two fermentation systems. In either case the concentration of ethanol is unlikely to exceed 2.5 g/l (ca 3% (v/v)). Supplementation of the whey with additional sugars has potential. Lactose is a relatively low-cost commodity and could be used to “fortify” whey, up to the limit of alcohol tolerance for the fermenting microorganism of choice. Alternatively, other sugars and syrups may also be used, which may affect the spectrum of volatiles after fermentation and in any final spirit. In our view the next decision, or rather hurdle, is how to deal with the protein present in the whey. Vigorous boiling of the whey, such as in a distilling operation, results in the precipitation of denatured protein. If the still configuration is such that there are direct heating surfaces, there is the very real likelihood of gel-like proteins coating the heating surfaces. This reduces the heat transfer from these surfaces and can result in burning or, for electrically-heated systems, tripping of circuit breakers. In any case the result is generally unpleasant and will not result in a product fit for consumption. So the two remaining options are to either remove the protein prior to distillation or use a “softer” distillation method. Proteins, WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
1,227 lb/week Final spirit contribution =
being larger than virtually any other molecular species in whey, can be effectively removed by ultrafiltration, a technology that has matured rapidly in recent years. Alternatively, a bain-marie type still with an oil or water jacket will recover the alcohol more delicately than direct heating and thereby reduce the risk of gelling and burn-on during distillation. The use of vacuum distillation to recover alcohol from whey fermentations may be the “killer app” that vacuum distillation for spirits has been waiting for! A third question then is what will the alcohol be used for? Many of the conversations that I have soon focus on vodka production. I would argue that vodka is probably one of the most challenging destinations for whey spirit, as relatively low levels of any off-flavors will be detectable in an otherwise low flavor matrix. Nevertheless, good whey vodkas are available in the market and so it is clearly possible to produce. It is interesting to speculate whether the spirit is cleaned by rigorous heart-cutting during distillation (an approach taken by various potato vodka distillers in particular) or by repeated carbon filtration, as employed by some of the world’s biggest volume vodka producers. Botanical spirits such as gin and absinthe may be alternatives here. The industrial specifications of potable alcohol for gin are more relaxed than they are for vodka, not least because of the flavor contribution from the botanicals used. In this respect it is worth pointing out that there are virtually no grain-free gins (a notable exception is Williams 48 Elegant Gin from Chase Distillery, UK, made from distillation of cider apple fermentations), so whey-derived spirit has grain-free as a rare, if not unique, selling point. Other options for utilization of whey spirit include formulation into mixed drinks, such as pre-mixed cocktails. High sugar and flavor contents will mute all but the most outlandish flavor defects in the spirit and therefore relax the specifications set for the final
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spirit composition. This all seems virtuous and straight-forward, but there are some additional details that need to be considered. The whey itself needs to be pasteurized and perhaps stored sterile until ready for use. For a creamery producing cheese on a daily basis, it would be prudent to couple distilling and whey production schedules to minimize the risk of infections developing. Scaling of the distilling operation to match creamery capacity is essential in this respect. A notable infection challenge is from lactic acid bacteria, which can produce diacetyl in flavor-active quantities but which, unfortunately, essentially co-distills with ethanol, making it difficult to remove once it has been formed. Another hurdle is the by-product stream. Ten pounds of milk yields around one pound cheese and nine pounds whey. After fermenting and distillation, the remaining aqueous by-product stream in the still is still more than seven pounds (Fig. 1). There are some points to note here. Firstly, converting lactose quantitatively into ethanol by fermentation substantially reduces BOD, so fermentation then disposal without recourse to further processing steps is not without merit in this context. Secondly the “dilute alcohol stream” (Fig. 1) could, if sufficiently good quality, be formulated into cocktail-type products, although an additional step, such as using membranes to concentrate alcohol, would be required. If the cocktail route was selected, sugar supplementation prior to fermentation is likely to be a simpler strategy, given that ethanol contents of at least 10% (v/v) would be required before cutting with flavors, colors and mixers to create final products. As a final point, we should consider how whey alcohol might affect the value chain from milk. As mentioned, ten pounds of milk will yield around one pound of cheese, let’s say at $40/lb retail. The resulting nine pounds of whey typically contain around 0.45 lb (205 g) lactose. Fermentation results in around half of the mass of sugars lost as carbon dioxide, so approximately 100 g (125 ml) of alcohol will be produced in a well-run operation. For argument’s sake, we can assume this is enough ethanol for a third of a 750 ml bottle, so perhaps $12 in retail. While these figures are clearly back-of-the-envelope estimates and does not include cost of production or taxes or any effluent savings, there remains REFERENCE good potential for smallRisner, D., Tomasino, E., er creameries to offset Hughes, P. and MeunierGoddik, L., Volatile aroma effluent costs, enhance composition of distillates sustainability credentials, produced from fermented sweet and expand product portand acid whey, Journal of Dairy Science, 2019, 102, 202-210. folio by investing in alternative whey processing technology.
Paul Hughes, Ph.D. is assistant professor of food science and technology at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR. For more information visit www.oregonstate.edu or call (541) 737-4595. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
REVIVING A LEGEND
THE RETURN OF JAMES E. PEPPER DISTILLERY WRITTEN BY TRACY SHEPPARD P H O T O S C O U R T E S Y O F J A M E S E . P E P P E R D I S T I L L E RY
rmed with a passion for American history and a formidable entrepreneurial spirit, Amir Peay has painstakingly resurrected what was once one of the most prominent whiskey names in this country, James E. Pepper. Inspired by the rich history of the Pepper family that spanned generations, Peay has worked tirelessly to re-establish the once-abandoned brand and rebuild the original distillery in Lexington, Kentucky. Peay’s success is rooted in his shrewd approach to early-stage bootstrapping and creatively scaling the business. A self-proclaimed history nerd and whiskey lover, Peay initially stumbled across the Pepper name while watching a Ken Burns documentary about the famous boxer, Jack Johnson. During an infamous boxing match in 1904, Johnson was sponsored by “James E. Pepper Whisky” — clearly a once iconic brand, but no longer in existence. This prompted Peay to start digging for more historical context around the Pepper name. As he began to piece together the fascinating story of James E. Pepper, Peay knew this would become his next business venture and acquired the rights to the brand. To fully understand the magnitude of Peay’s accomplishments thus far, you must step back in time — way back. Established in 1780, the Pepper family brand of whiskey enjoyed success for three subsequent generations through the founder’s grandson, James E. Pepper, ultimately guiding the brand to peak popularity in the Gilded Age of the late 1800’s. “As I slowly compiled the Pepper story, I learned that James was a larger-than-life character and a flamboyant promoter of his brand, which was one of the most soughtafter whiskeys of that time. Word has it that the ‘Old Fashioned’ cocktail was invented in his honor at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. He took immense pride in using his grandfather’s Revolutionary-era whiskey recipes,” Peay explained. The whiskey remained a top brand through the early 20th century, but in the late 1950s,
the bourbon industry as a whole faltered. Unfortunately, the James E. Pepper distillery and brand were abandoned and all but forgotten. Fast forward 50 years later to 2008, when Peay decided that there was an opportunity to build a solid business around the revived James E. Pepper brand. It was an important piece of Americana that deserved to be brought back to life — and more importantly, a potentially viable business venture. Instead of seeking startup capital from investors, he partnered with an established distillery to produce the award-winning line of James E. Pepper “1776” whiskeys, while also devoting time to organically bolster the brand. The prolific and captivating history behind James E. Pepper spoke for itself, while the product delighted whiskey aficionados across the world. Of note, three of the Pepper whiskies recently took home Double Gold Medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition — the event’s highest honor. While he was tactfully re-establishing the Pepper brand name, Peay was simultaneously hatching a plan to rebuild a distillery and museum in the abandoned James E. Pepper Distillery. He felt strongly about bringing the Pepper name back to its rightful home in Lexington. The vast property had two main structures, a 100,000-barrel rickhouse and a large
main distillery building, which, despite being abandoned for decades, were still structurally sound. Peay approached this challenge with the intention of remaining independent and sought capital to rebuild the dilapidated distillery. Peay’s dedication to restoring the distillery went as far as re-digging the original limestone well to tap the same water source the founders used in the late 19th century. He also reconstructed the still system by studying detailed mechanical drawings from 1934, as well as reviving the historic Distilled Spirits Plant number, DSP-KY-5. Being number five means it was the fifth issued in the history of Kentucky. On December 21, 2017, the culmination of years of hard work paid off — the distillery filled its first barrel to kick off the latest chapter in the fascinating history of James E. Pepper whiskey. With a fully operational distillery and a museum chock full of Pepper history, the Lexington, Kentucky landmark serves as a lesson that some history is worth repeating. Having spent so many years looking to the past for answers, Peay is now focusing his efforts on the future. Peay summarized, “My goal all along has been to create an independent, world-class whiskey distillery positioned for long-term success, while paying homage to this brand’s incredible history.”
James E. Pepper Distillery is located in Lexington, Kentucky. For more information visit www.jamesepepper.com. 92
The Spirit of Survival How yeast fight a hidden war with killer toxins WRITTEN BY LUIS AYALA
n the Fall 2019 issue of Artisan Spirit we explored the origin of yeast and the reasons behind its evolutionary adaptation to produce ethanol (see “The Spirit of Survival” on pg. 79). We also reviewed trees’ use of tannins as a protection mechanism against predators, and we touched on how humans have taken up the roles of both protectors of yeast and trees, and consumers of alcohol and tannins. In this article we will explore additional mechanisms employed by yeast in order to maximize their probabilities of survival, as well as the ways in which their competing organisms have adapted.
Production of killer toxins has now been identified in over 100 ascomycetous and over 50 basidiomycetous yeast species.3 There are many classes of killer yeast strains differing particularly in the spectrum of their activity against sensitive strains, in their cross reactivity, genetic determination of killer toxin, killer toxin immunity and the mechanisms of killer toxin action.4 Here is a classification of killer yeast according to genetic basis: 1. Cytoplasmically inherited encapsulated double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) viruses 2. II-Linear double strand DNA plasmid 3. Killer phenotype associated with chromosomal genes
Weapons of Yeast Destruction It is easy for us to think that yeast are all members of the same ‘team’ of organisms, all wearing the same proverbial uniform and working in tandem to achieve a collective goal. While this notion embodies aspirational images of collaboration, the reality is that yeast populations are highly competitive across strains. When different communities of fermenting yeast produce ethanol, they do so to ‘cleanse’ their environment by killing potential competitors that have not developed a resistance to alcohol. But what happens when the competitor is a different strain of fermenting yeast, one that has developed a resistance to it? The answer is simple: chemical warfare in the form of killer toxins! The discovery of yeast killer toxins dates back to 1963, when Bevan and Makover1 described the secretion of molecules by a certain isolate of brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that inhibited growth of other yeast strains. The secretions were subsequently identified as a protein,2 which was named killer factor or killer toxin and the producing strain termed killer yeast.
While these killer toxins may appear to affect only specific yeast strains, there are numerous potential commercial applications for them in the real world: 1. Food and fermentation industries 2. Killer yeast as potential antimicrobial agents 3. Yeast killer system in bio-typing 4. Killer yeasts in recombinant DNA technology and transgenic plants As you can imagine by now, we should not expect these killer toxins and their victims to remain static — history has shown us that it is only a matter of time before organisms develop immunity to the toxins, which then sets off the production of new and improved toxins by future generations of yeast. In other words, for every weapon developed, there is a matching neutralizing defense and for every defense an improved weapon is eventually produced.
1 Bevan EA, Makower M “The physiological basis of the killer character in yeast” — 1963 2 Woods DR, Bevan EA “Studies on the nature of the killer factor produced by Saccharomyces cerevisiae” — 1968 3 Klassen R, Schaffrath R, Buzzini P, Philip Ganter PF “Antagonistic interactions and killer yeasts” — 2017 4 Tredoux et al.,1986 , Magliani et al.,1997, Schmitt & Breinig, 2002, Mohamudha Parveen & Ayesha Begum, 2010 WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Meanwhile, in Gotham City... While yeast genera are occupied with production of killer toxins and with the development of chemical resistance to such poisons, other organisms are busy at work evolving ways to consume the ethanol manufactured during fermentation. Of these organisms, acid-producing bacteria are the most notorious, not only because of their abundance in nature, but also because of the key roles they play in humans’ own survival. Here are a few examples.
ACETIC ACID BACTERIA (AAB)
LACTIC ACID BACTERIA (LAB)
Acetic Acid Bacteria (AAB) are a classification of bacteria which are capable of oxidizing ethanol into acetic acid during fermentation. Currently there are 10 genera in the family Acetobacteraceae, one of these is Acetobacter, which can oxidize ethanol to carbon dioxide and water using Krebs cycle enzymes. One example of Acetobacter is Acetobacter diazotrophicus, which can be isolated from coffee plants or from sugarcane stalks. It is an acid-producing, nitrogen-fixing bacteria. In fact, the A. diazotrophicus-sugarcane relationship, first observed in Brazil, was the first report of a beneficial symbiotic relationship between grasses and bacteria through nitrogen fixation. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are important in modern agriculture — exploiting these bacteria would decrease the present dependency on nitrogen fertilizers, which would have positive results for the ecosystem and the health of humans and other animals. Other strains can be found in samples from Japanese rice vinegar (komesu) or unpolished rice vinegar (kurosu).5
Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) are bacteria capable of fermenting glucose primarily to lactic acid, or to lactic acid + CO2 + ethanol. All LAB grow anaerobically, but unlike most anaerobes, they grow in the presence of O2 as “aerotolerant anaerobes.” Although they lack catalase, they possess superoxide dismutase and have alternative means to detoxify peroxide radicals, generally through peroxidase enzymes. Despite the fact that many genera of bacteria produce lactic acid as a primary or secondary end-product of fermentation, the term Lactic Acid Bacteria is conventionally reserved for genera in the order Lactobacillales, which includes Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Pediococcus, Lactococcus and Streptococcus, in addition to Carnobacterium, Enterococcus, Oenococcus, Tetragenococcus, Vagococcus, and Weisella. Because they obtain energy only from the metabolism of sugars, lactic acid bacteria are restricted to environments in which sugars are present. They have limited biosynthetic ability, having evolved in environments that are rich in amino acids, vitamins, purines and pyrimidines, so they must be cultivated in complex media that fulfill all their nutritional requirements. Most LAB are free-living or live in beneficial or harmless associations with animals, although some are opportunistic pathogens.
The human gut contains a highly diverse microbial community that is essentially an open ecosystem, despite being deeply embedded within the human body. Food-associated fermentative bacteria, including probiotics, are major sources of ingested bacteria that may temporarily complement resident microbial communities, thus forming part of our transient microbiome.6 >> Ingested bacteria can temporarily complement resident bacterial communities as part of our transient microbiome. >> The extent of integration is highly species- and strain-dependent and may vary depending on dietary context and baseline microbiota structure. >> Ingested bacteria can cause major shifts in the composition of the microbiome of the small intestine, whereas alterations in the colon are mostly of limited extent. >> Clinical data have provided evidence that ingested bacteria may stimulate production of short-chain fatty acids and inhibit some opportunistic pathogens. Our dependence on acid-producing bacteria to ferment our foods (cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.) has resulted in our preservation and propagation of desired strains. But the same strains can also wreak havoc when they appear in operations where the acidity is seen as an undesirable trait or where its production compromises yields, like in the alcohol production industry.
5 Christina Kennedy (Plant Pathology & Microbiology at The University of Arizona) “Importance of Biological Nitrogen Fixation” 6 Muriel Derrien, Johan E.T. van Hylckama Vlieg “Fate, activity, and impact of ingested bacteria within the human gut microbiota” — 2015
Penicillin: It’s What’s For Lunch! When it was discovered in 1928 by Dr. Alexander Fleming, penicillin marked a turning point in human history. For the first time ever, doctors had a tool with which they could cure patients infected by a plethora of deadly infectious diseases. Not too long after its revolutionary introduction into the medical field, microbiologists and scientists found uses for penicillin outside hospitals as well, including its use as an inoculant in fermentation tanks at ethanol plants. Ever since then, penicillin has been used, even abused, throughout the world, all the while its bacterial victims have been working on survival strategies. According to the World Health Organization,7 “antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. A growing list of infections — such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhea, and foodborne diseases — are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective. Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often overprescribed by health workers and veterinarians and over-used by the public. Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.” If the thought of increasingly resistant microbes is not scary enough to keep you awake at night, recent studies have highlighted the existence of bacteria that actually eat penicillin. Dr. Guatam Dantas, a microbiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, has spent over a decade deconstructing the steps needed for microbes to break down penicillin. Dr. Dantas suggests that specially-engineered microbes could be used to break down antibiotic pollutants, for example, in waste from farms where the drugs have been used in livestock or in effluent from hospitals or alcohol plants (some distillers dump fermentation tank sediments straight into municipal sewage, often with yeast and other organisms still alive).
Into the Future Our digestive tracts are hosts to trillions of microbes that play a very important role in human biology and disease control. Studies have shown that each milliliter of the large intestine holds approximately 1011 microbial cells.8 Can you imagine what would happen if we accidentally ingest penicillin-eating bacteria and they set up permanent residence in our guts, allowing other undesired infectious organisms to establish colonies in our microbiota? On the other hand, will human-genome modifications ever allow us to produce additional microbe killer toxins as part of our immune system? As you read this, scientists are also identifying non-Saccharomyces fermentation yeast alternatives, genetically altering them to optimize them for commercial use. These new strands will, undoubtedly, produce their own new versions of killer toxins, which — everyone hopes — shouldn’t have unexpected negative consequences. While the future is not carved in granite, there is one thing we can surely rely on: Nature’s chess game will continue to evolve and adapt until the end of time. Hopefully we humans will be around to witness much of it. To the spirit of survival!
Luis Ayala is an international rum consultant and broker of specialty aged rums. He is founder of The Rum University, Rum Central and Got Rum? magazine. Visit www.gotrum.com or email email@example.com for more info. 7 https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance 8 Walter J, Ley R. The human gut microbiome: ecology and recent evolutionary changes. Annu Rev Microbiol — 2011. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
BOURBON from the COLUMN A rebuttal.
WRITTEN BY GEORGE B. CATALLO INTRO BY DEVON TREVATHAN PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMANDA JOY CHRISTENSEN
In the Fall 2019 Issue of Artisan Spirit Magazine, we published a piece about pot distillation as it relates to certain whiskey styles made in the U.S. titled “Bourbon from the Pot.” It featured Colin Spoelman, co-founder of Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, New York and noted pot still apostle. The article garnered strong reactions from our readership as a whole, so we felt it was an excellent opportunity to continue the conversation. In part two, we pick up where the original piece left off, this time focusing instead on column distillation. Regular Artisan Spirit contributor George B. Catallo spoke with Jason Zeno, the current director of operations at Porchjam Distillery in New Orleans, Louisiana and former Beam Suntory employee, to get more information. — DEVON TREVATHAN WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
eno has a storied history in the world of fermentation and distillation including studying fermentation sciences at Oregon State Uniersity before beginning his distilling tenure at Beam as a fermentation scientist. He later became managing operator at the Booker Noe Distillery in Kentucky, where he worked with anaerobic bioreactors, predictive modeling, and led their expansions for four years, and as he put it — “blah blah blah.” Needless to say, listening to Zeno talk at great length about distillation isn’t too dissimilar to hearing a Wu-Tang Clan album for the first time. So much goes way over your head but you can't stop listening and nodding your head along. Zeno is the GZA of distillation — The Genius. As you can guess, Zeno is no stranger to column stills; at his current role as DOO at Porchjam, he distills on a pot still with a column attached that is outfitted with rectifying plates. Column stills have some pretty fundamental differences to pot stills. Instead of the vessel being one large pot, a column still consists of many trays stacked vertically in a column and spaced apart. These trays can be set up in any number of configurations with variations in spacing and designs, such as sieve trays for stripping beer, bubble cap trays, or tunnel trays that drive reflux. Each are incorporated for a different reason. In “macro” American whiskey what they call converters are commonly used. A converter is a stainless-steel vessel attached to the column. It is packed with copper tubing and filled to a defined level with a mixture of condensate from the direct injection steam in the column and all of the vapors that have not been previously drawn off or condensed back into the column itself. In the converter, the distillate has exposure to copper in both the liquid and vapor phases. From here the composite inside the converter vaporizes onto a low-wines condenser, and eventually the condensed distillate moves on to the doubler. A doubler is essentially like a pot still usually heated with a Bayonet heater, and it is where the distillate will get the most copper interaction. It should be noted that the above actions all happen continuously. There is a constant flow through the system with a wide array of WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
control points, including, but not limited to, volumes, temperatures, flow rates, collection points, and proof of spirit off of the low wine and high wine condensers. This means that distillers working off a column system still have plenty of control over the minute interactions that will ultimately affect the flavor and consistency of their distillate. Predictive modeling software is often used in conjunction with column stills, which Zeno likens to a video game. The software involves a huge dynamic system that utilizes thermodynamic calculations and equations to run a distillation based on temperatures, vapor pressures, and relative volatility at varying points during the distillation. You can run your mash through a high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) system and input the findings in composition into this software and predict what will come out the other side. “[There’s lots of] things to take into account, like hydraulic loading and vapor velocity...” explained Zeno. “But what’s really specific about that is you can draw from different sections of the column. So if you wanted a heavier spirit you can, the design of a column can dictate a lot more control to extract this profile.” The only real control that you have on a pot still is the cut that you make and the energy you put into it. Pot stills often require even more prudence while mashing and fermenting. If your fermentation is super clean and healthy, your distillation and cuts in either system will be easier to deduce, depending on the intended profile of the spirit and planned aging time. If your goal is a “heavier” spirit that you plan on maturing in barrels for a set amount of time, you can account for that with your fermentation and distillation. For example, if you’re sour mashing, using open top fermenters, or not temperature controlling during fermentation and don’t have the time to let things age out, a column is probably more your speed. Cleaning up the distillate on a batch system can become cumbersome and is rarely possible without multiple runs or low yields. On a pot still you have theoretically one shot at getting it right. In a column, you have as many shots as trays and points to condense product.
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POTS, COLUMNS, AND DOUBLERS — OH MY! The previous article also mentioned single malt Scotch, specifically in relation to blended Scotch. Let’s simplify blends for a moment: A “blend” is simply a combination of heavier and lighter whiskies, heavier being a whisky retaining more character, while lighter implies a spirit that is more refined, usually through a column still. Now let’s translate that to bourbon, or any other style of whiskey for that matter. Given the amount of control points available to the operator of a column still, it is entirely possible to barrel both heavier and lighter runs of the same distillate. They could then be blended in the batching process to have even greater control over your end product. That is not quite possible on a pot still because the composite of the new make spirit coming off the condenser is what it is. There is no more separation to drive or collect besides the reflux that is innate in still geometry or the use of a dephlegmator and the final condensing step. With a pot still, a complete second production cycle, from mashing through distillation, would be required to correct any inherent imbalance of the spirit.
NOT EVERY SCREWDRIVER, NOT EVERY HAMMER
As Zeno eloquently puts it, “The hammer and the screwdriver. If I want a nice and characterful brandy or rum, I certainly am at least looking at some sort of pot or pot-hybrid. But that’s the conscious choice of the distiller.” And at the end of the day, it’s just that: A conscious choice. And that conscious choice is what Zeno finds makes craft, craft. Accidents don’t equate art. A brewer releasing a super funky sour IPA just because they had a contamination in their fermentation, when their intent was something else, can’t claim that to be their vision. This isn’t software development; we can’t get away with joking that “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” What makes what we do “art” or “craft” is having a vision for a product and making educated decisions in service to that vision at every step along the way. That includes picking a still and choosing how to run it. “Not every screwdriver, not every hammer.” If you want to drive in a torx screw, don’t reach for a philips head — get the right screwdriver.
Jason Zeno is director of operations at Porchjam Distillery in New Orleans, Louisiana. For more information visit www.porch-jam.com. 98
Another Prohibition Era Ending? WRITTEN BY JIM MCCOY
he passage of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ended the brief experiment of alcohol prohibition in the 1930s. This began an era where Federal enforcement of newly minted laws and regulations governing a freshly legalized alcohol beverage industry created the current legal environment that distillers operate within. The rules concerned with beverage permits, product standards, government approval of labels and formulas, and restrictions on the relationships between the three tiers of the industry were born. Existing tax rules that regulated industrial-use alcohol were adapted and expanded for non-industrial production. In respect to another currently prohibited product, marijuana, or cannabis, we may soon be seeing a replay of the post-prohibition era. That industry, existent in a growing number of states, is gaining social and economic legitimacy and is ultimately likely to be decriminalized at the Federal level. Similar to alcohol, there is a burgeoning “industrial” component to the industry, as cannabidiol (CBD) products made from industrial hemp plants and medical use marijuana has achieved legal status in 33 states. Many thousands of business enterprises are engaged in cannabis activity, which has been unlawful — hold on — IS still unlawful under Federal drug control laws. Only the recent agriculture rules allowing for cultivation and processing of industrial hemp containing less than 0.3% THC provide a Federal legal status for any cannabis-based production. Federal agencies and law enforcement officials, as well as legislative policy makers, are held in a legal and regulatory limbo where Federal preemptive power is checked by the novelty of state’s establishment of structures that are enabling the cannabis industry (adult use, CBD, and medical) to establish and grow. Add to this the establishment of a legal cannabis industry in Canada, and one can see the pressures at work to expect the US federal government to “get on board” the commercially legal cannabis train. The likely revenue stream and economic activity from legalized cannabis may entice lawmakers to take the big step and WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
Pending in Congress are bills that would remove the Federal criminal treatment of marijuana/cannabis and create a permit-and-tax regulatory structure quite similar to alcohol and tobacco. agree to end Federal prohibitions. Social and community concerns remain as issues which must be accounted for in the future of any legalization effort. Pending in Congress are bills that would remove the Federal criminal treatment of marijuana/cannabis and create a permit-andtax regulatory structure quite similar to alcohol and tobacco. In fact, the proposed legislation provides for the current agencies that regulate alcohol and tobacco to add marijuana to their scope of responsibilities. Noted in particular are companion bills in Congress, S420 and HR1120, which provide for permit and tax structures to regulate a decriminalized cannabis/marijuana industry. In brief, these proposed laws would require that only marijuana produced under a Federal permit would be legal, that certain products (those made from industrial hemp, or products made for medical use) be tax exempt, and that processing and distribution be regulated under Federal rules. Actually, the proposed laws add marijuana to the categories of businesses required to obtain a Basic Permit under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, creating a direct link to the alcohol controls established by that Act in 1935. This environment would, if implemented, also open some other issues which should be considered. For example, in current practice, the “herbal” industry has an option of using alcohol as a solvent in the process of extracting desirable components of hemp/
As with the early days of post-prohibition regarding alcohol, the early days of post-
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marijuana. Either tax-paid alcohol, or a denatured solvent (typically CDA formula 12A using Heptane) are possibly used, and as I understand it the solvent alcohol and chemical are totally dissipated during processing (not being a technical expert on these processes, I can only rely on what I have learned in conversation and online research). Could these extraction uses become eligible for non-beverage drawback of tax at some point? TTB regulations in 27 CFR Part 17 for non-beverage claimants require that any food or flavoring product, which historically has included processing of dietary supplements through extraction processing of plant materials, must be allowed in Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules as approved type materials, either as generally safe or categorized for use, to be allowed as an ingredient in, or as a finished product eligible for drawback of excise tax. Might the proposed laws include provisions for this activity, in conjunction with the allowance for tax exemption for medical use? Just an example of an area that might need to be addressed. As with the early days of post-prohibition regarding alcohol, the early days of post-prohibition for marijuana will certainly see a number of regulatory issues requiring agency action to interpret and explain in policy and ruling statements. It should be an interesting ride, as it was for the industry and regulators from the 1930s to today in respect to alcohol. Further, as with alcohol, the post-prohibition era will generate conflicts between on-going criminal activity reliant on untaxed production and distribution and the new legalized industry. Governments already expend law enforcement and regulatory resources on the illegal trade, so creation of a legitimized industry will define a line between legal and illegal. Just as with alcohol, an ongoing effort to skirt the laws and manufacture “outside the lines” will continue, as permit and tax violations by those making and trafficking in unlawfully made product will replace drug enforcement laws as the focus of enforcement efforts.
Jim McCoy operates J. McCoy Alcohol & Tobacco Compliance Consultants LLC, and since 2010 has assisted alcohol and tobacco businesses in their efforts to meet Federal regulatory and tax requirements. For more information email Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. 100
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H T A P T R SHO Y R E L L I T S DI W R I T T E N B Y D E V O N T R E V AT H A N
PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMANDA JOY CHRISTENSEN
SHORT PATH DISTILLATION: a technique that involves the distillate travelling a short distance, often only a few centimeters, which is normally done at reduced pressure.
he founders of Short Path Distillery, located in Everett, Mass., always intended to distill whiskey, but somewhere along the way they found themselves intrigued by the process of creating gin. “When we were learning distilling, gin was the first spirit we actually perfected — like we really loved it — and we were getting into cocktails at the same time,” explained cofounder Zachary Robinson. There was also the added pressure of rental payments, so Robinson, Matthew Kurtzman, and Jackson Hewlett decided to shelve their dreams of distilling malt for a time and take a crack at botanical spirits instead. A trained organic chemist, Robinson’s method of gin-making was decidedly scientific. He, along with Kurtzman and Hewlett, began to examine the various botanicals typically used in the London dry style, identifying which terpenes were present in each. They found botanicals that contained the same terpenes, surmising that the presence of similar compounds would create a harmonious flavor profile. Limonene, for example, is present in juniper, lemongrass, and coriander, but juniper also has pinene, and so does rosemary, so those two would work together as well. Rosemary and lavender share their own terpene — linalool — and though lavender doesn’t share any directly complementary compounds with juniper, it’s harmonious with rosemary, which overlaps with juniper. “We built a huge spreadsheet, because we’re nerds, of all the different botanicals, bought them, and then the three of us would make three gin recipes independently,” said Robinson. The sample gins would be blind tasted, ranked, and three favorites would be selected by the group. Each of the founders would then take home those three gins and make three more gins working off of those recipes, and on and on it went until they felt they had finally struck the perfect chord, settling on a medley of juniper, coriander, eucalyptus, lavender, and lemongrass for their SPD Gin. “As Jackson likes to say, it took us three months to write the sheet music, another eight months to do the arrangement,” Robinson added. “Bringing that flavor science into it was a logical progression for Zack as a chemist,” explained Elijah Fanelli, head of production at Short Path. “The brand kind of grew around that.” This hyper-scientific approach to choosing a gin recipe belies the building their distillery is housed in. Short Path moved into Everett’s aptly named Fermentation District in 2014. Before them, the building had been home to Rubber Right Rollers, a rubber manufacturer, though it was originally built in 1886. In 2013, a fire ripped through the interior, causing significant smoke damage but no structural damage. When Short Path’s founders walked through the doors for the first time a year later, debris littered the floor and there was heavy char on all the walls, specifically in the now-tasting room. “A nice patina,” joked Robinson. Through the process of power-washing and hand-scraping every inch of the place, they realized just how sturdy the old bones of the building were. Nails that had been there for decades refused to budge; they had to be hammered into the wood or sawed off instead. Some of the pieces made for great upcycling, like one very heavy slab of pine that the Short Path guys repurposed as a standing bar. “There’s about 110 growth rings on this piece of wood right here,” Robinson pointed out as he leaned against it. “It was original wood to the building. The building was built in 1886, so [the trees] started growing at least in the 1770s.”
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The idea for a distillery evolved out of passion for the founders of Short Path. The friends had started a Scotch club where they could nurture their mutual love of single malt whisky. Each member would throw a bit of money into the pot, and the final amount would be used to buy a nice bottle. “One day Matt jokingly said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we did our own Scotch?’ And I said, ‘Well, I do distilling in lab — I’m a chemist. It can’t be that hard,’” Robinson commented. “The joke turned into some research, some research turned into a business plan, a business plan turned into fund-raising, and then we opened.” The development of the distillery seemed to flow together without much force on their end. There was planning, of course, but there wasn’t a moment where all three friends sat down together to express their ambitions of having the next great American distillery. Still, the guys at Short Path haven’t been resting on any laurels. In just over four years, they’ve released seven gins, a triple sec, three different rums, an amaro, an ouzo, an apple brandy, a pommeau, and two malt whiskeys, one of which is peated. This list doesn’t include their Hatchery Series, a collection of limited release products that “push the boundaries of what spirits can be while showcasing our commitment to innovation,” according to Short Path’s website, or the bourbon that they’ve already laid down. Suffice it to say their custom Alembic copper pot stills are not sitting idly by. Robinson was set on using pot stills from the beginning — after all, it’s their namesake. “In chemistry, we have short path distillation and fractional distillation,” he explained. “Pot stills are a short path distillation device — they just boil and condense something.” The stills at Short Path are all direct-fire, which Robinson prefers, though the choice meant that they had difficulty distilling anything on-grain. Each time they tried, the resultant spirit developed an acrid tang from the scorched grain, even when the stills were running long at a very low temperature. They have three separate stills, each made for a particular function: a stripping still, a flavoring still, and a whiskey still. That was one of the reasons they went with Portuguese copper pots. “You can get each still designed specifically for its task rather than getting a Swiss army knife still that does everything but nothing fantastically.” The stripping still is a Charentais, which were originally invented in the Cognac region of France. It involves a pot still and a preheater — a heat exchanger that has a pipe running through it connected to the condenser. For each distillation, they fill both the pot still and the preheater. “It takes about an hour to get our washes from room temperature up to a boil, and with the preheater it takes about 15 minutes, so it saves us 45 minutes a run,” said Robinson. Considering it takes 12 runs for Short Path to empty just one of its fermenters, the time and energy saved by the preheater cannot be overstated. All the spirits fermented at Short Path are distilled twice through their system. The stripping still excels at its stated function, but it’s also great WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
for rum and brandy distillation. The flavoring still comes into play for their many gins along with the ouzo, triple sec, and lemon hibiscus flavored rum that they produce. Robinson has applied the theory behind short path distillation to every aspect of their business model. Grain and raw materials are sourced from areas as close to Everett as they can find, since they want the shortest path from their ingredients to them, and from them to their customers. Currently, their malted barley comes from Valley Malt in Hadley, Massachusetts, and their corn is also grown in-state. Short Path’s apple distillates use only New England apples, which arrive as a raw, unpasteurized apple cider. They pitch their own yeast into the cider, and, with help from wild yeast that’s already present, it ends up pleasantly sour before distillation. “We let the bacteria get in there, and that gives it those nice sour notes, and they’re going to produce a bunch of acids, alcohols, and esters that the yeast don’t, so that’s going to give more complexity to the spirit,” Robinson noted. They don’t just focus on the locality of the raw materials involved prior to distillation, either; one of their barrel providers, Portland Barrel Company, is a solo-run cooperage located in Portland, Maine that uses Maine white oak exclusively. Robinson summed it up nicely: “Our whiskey, it uses local grains, it’s fermented and distilled locally, and it goes into local oak, so it’s an all New England whiskey.” Perhaps the spirit that captures the essence of New England best is their peated whiskey. It’s made with locally-grown malt smoked with peat harvested by Robinson and Hewlett in eastern Maine. They ferment and distill at the distillery in Massachusetts before putting it into barrels made of Maine white oak provided by the Portland Barrel Company. There’s a unique briny quality to the whiskey, which makes sense as the cooperage is located in an industrial site right on the water and only air-dries its wood. “Also, the peat is from down east Maine, so it gets a lot of those down-shore breezes, and it gets those nice iodine flavors,” Robinson explained. It’s yet another representation of what more regionally specific American malt whiskeys can taste like. Massachusetts allows self-distribution, but Short Path opted instead to join up with a distribution company started by Night Shift Brewing, located less than 500 feet from the distillery. “We just reached a point where we would either have to start our own distribution company or go with them.” Short Path may not have had grand designs in mind when they first started, but the community has responded positively to their commitment to locality and adventurous spirit. They’ve already expanded once; a couple of years back, they rented the adjoining spaces to the building and knocked out some walls to create more space. There’s no telling where they’ll end up, but Robinson and his team don’t seem to lack for ideas or ingenuity, that much is sure.
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Short Path Distillery is located in Everett Massachusetts. For more info visit www.shortpathdistillery.com or call (617) 830-7954. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
COMPLIANCE in the DIGITAL WORLD Legal Considerations Considerations for for Industry Industry Members Members Legal Considerations for Industry Members Legal Using the the Internet Internet to to Promote Promote Their Their Brand Brand Using the Internet to Promote Their Brand Using Written by by Ashley Ashley Hanke Hanke Written by Ashley Hanke Written
n a world where tweeting, vlogging, Skyping, texting, and hashtagging are more common than picking up the phone or engaging in a face-to-face conversation, it’s safe to say that technology has changed the way we communicate. Social media is now the core of networking and brand awareness for many brands. Data collection, online surveys, customer feedback, and “likes” translate into targeted, more effective business marketing strategies. Social media’s broad appeal to a wide audience equates to increased website and foot traffic from potential customers who may not have been reached otherwise. But with all of the advantages of efficiency, cost effectiveness, and ease from modern digital communication come legal considerations that may not have been considered.
PERMANENCY The ease of digital communication and the casual, often informal nature of texting and social media can make it easy to forget that anything written in a text message, an email, or on the internet is
permanent. A click of the “send” or “post” button not only has the potential to affect the reputation and goodwill of your business, but also carries the potential for discovery in a subsequent legal action. When it comes to texts, emails, and the internet, there is no such thing as “delete.”
TRANSPARENCY TRANSPARENCY Social media is undoubtedly a great tool to boost visibility and create brand awareness, but with the use of social media comes increased transparency into daily business practices and the risk of drawing unwanted scrutiny or even prompting an investigation. Alcohol beverage brands should contemplate the implications of transparency in relation to regulating bodies such as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the “TTB”), state alcohol beverage control boards, the Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”), and even trade groups like the Distilled Spirits Council or the American Craft Spirits Association. This very consideration may have been
overlooked by some California wineries who went to social media to promote their participation in the 2014 Save Mart Grape Escape wine and food event. The posts, apparently seen by regulators at the California Alcohol Beverage Control (the “CA ABC”), raised suspicions and prompted a trade practice investigation. On this particular occasion, the tasting event was sponsored by and named after Save Mart Supermarkets, an off-sale retail licensee. Participating wineries used social media to promote the event, naturally identifying the event using various abbreviations of its title, “Save Mart Grape Escape.” The CA ABC subsequently charged those suppliers with having violated Section 25502(a) (2) of the Business & Professions Code by providing a “thing of value,” free advertising on social media, to the retail licensee: Save Mart. The CA ABC considered the posts an unlawful inducement from a supplier to a retailer and what started as a casual social media post promoting an event ended in an inadvertent violation of the law and subsequent disciplinary action. Ultimately, due to public opposition over the way the wineries were prosecuted for WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
With all all of of the the advantages advantages of of efficiency, efficiency, cost cost effectiveness, effectiveness, and and With all of the advantages of efficiency, cost effectiveness, and With ease from from modern modern digital digital communication communication come come legal legal considerations considerations ease from modern digital communication come legal considerations ease that may may not not have have been been considered considered. that may not have been considered. that
a seemingly inadvertent and unintentional violation, the Legislature passed a statute that now permits wineries to legally engage in some of the activities that gave rise to the accusation. In this regard, it is important to remember that social media posts are subject to the same advertising considerations as any other traditional print or internet advertisement and, if publicly visible, are a great tool for regulators to monitor business practices without even leaving the office. Here, although the law was ultimately amended in favor of the suppliers, the act of posting on social media will continue to impact those who plead guilty on the record, especially in future licensing matters which may require mandatory disclosure of the incident.
COPYRIGHT CONSIDERATIONS Social media is all about sharing content. Photos. Videos. Memes. GIFs. But the widespread and nonchalant practice of sharing photos and other content without consent of the creator opens the door to copyright infringement, particularly when the content is used for a commercial purpose. Regardless of intent, sharing content without the consent of the originator puts your business at risk of being slapped with a cease and desist letter or worse, a copyright infringement suit. That risk increases when you are using the content to promote your brand and, even if indirectly, stand to profit from the unauthorized use of the work of another. Many social media channels are asking people for permission to repost content, a good habit for anyone promoting an alcohol beverage brand on social media. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
LIABILITY In addition to liability for personal acts, industry members face potential liability for employee or third-party conduct over the internet if acting on behalf of the brand or within the scope of employment. While scope of employment considerations vary from state to state, they generally include whether an employee’s acts were directed by the employer, in the ordinary course of business, performed with the intent to further the employer’s interest, or reasonably anticipated by the employer. Specifically, advertising industry members may be on the hook for third parties acting on their behalf if the use of the internet or social media is related to job duties, if the conduct was conducted on behalf of the brand, or if the industry member encouraged the third party to use the internet to engage in promotion and marketing, all of which happen to directly affect alcohol brands who frequently use the internet and social media to promote products and increase brand awareness. The use of third parties to carry out promotional activities on behalf of alcohol beverage licensees has certainly caught the attention of federal regulators. Over the last few years, the TTB has taken enforcement action against industry members who used unlicensed third-party intermediaries to engage in trade practices that would otherwise be prohibited by industry members. Notably, the TTB received a $2.5 million offer in compromise, TTB’s largest monetary settlement to date, from a supplier who allegedly used third parties to provide money or things of value to retailers in exchange for product placement. The TTB has also prioritized the matter at recent trade enforcement seminars, reminding industry members that the unfair trade practice prohibitions cover activities undertaken directly, indirectly, or through an affiliate. Similarly, the FTC has also stated that
delegation of marketing and advertising does not relieve the advertiser of responsibility under the FTC Act. In 2017, after reviewing numerous Instagram posts by celebrities, athletes, and other influencers, the FTC staff sent out more than 90 letters reminding influencers and brands of the need to clearly and conspicuously disclose the relationship between the brand and the third party when promoting or endorsing products through social media. As a result, FTC staff issued “FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People are Asking” which state that any material connections between an endorser and an advertiser must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed. The Guides also explain that the advertising brand is ultimately responsible for what others do on the brand’s behalf and that appropriate programs to train and monitor members of a brand’s social media network are necessary.
WHAT CAN YOUR BUSINESS DO TO MITIGATE RISKS? The benefits of using technology and the internet to communicate and promote your business arguably outweigh the associated risks. With the proper safeguards in place, businesses can operate within the ever-changing technological landscape with ease,knowing that they have implemented adequate policies and procedures. While not exhaustive, the following considerations should be addressed when utilizing the internet to further your business:
SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY Every employer should create and implement a comprehensive and balanced social media policy which provides clarity to employees on permissible and prohibited conduct while being mindful of an employee’s free speech rights. The policy should provide concrete direction and give examples,
such as the proper use of hashtags. Employees should also be made aware of their responsibilities of disclosing both their connection to an alcohol brand when endorsing products and when a post is sponsored or paid for by a brand.
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OTHER POLICIES AND PRACTICES Alcohol beverage websites should contain proper age gates, terms & conditions, and privacy policies fully disclosing the collection and use of consumer data. Updated policies should be easily accessible to consumers and clearly outline how the company will both use personal information and ensure that users agree to the rules and guidelines for website use.
EDUCATION & TRAINING Due to the nature of the heavily regulated alcohol industry, employers should educate all employees, including third-party marketers and independent contractors, on alcohol laws and advertising regulations to help ensure compliance when acting on behalf of the brand. Employees should also know what to do if a regulator shows up at the door or an event.
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Employers should implement a company-wide record retention policy setting uniform standards for the preservation of emails and other electronic communications in accordance with state and federal laws.
ENFORCEMENT 1901_ArtisanSpirits_Glencarin.indd 1
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Comprehensive policies should be strictly enforced and updated periodically to reflect changes in the law and advancements in technology. In addition to training new employees, training for all staff should be held on an ongoing basis. Employers should have a mechanism in place to frequently monitor social media pages and follow-up in the event of misconduct. Although the FTC has stated that it is unrealistic to expect employers to be aware of every single statement made by an employee or a third party, it is up to the employer to make a reasonable effort to know what employees and third-party participants are disseminating on behalf of the company. Most importantly, delegation of promotional and marketing duties to an outside entity doesn’t relieve a brand owner of responsibility under the FTC Act.
LEGAL LEGAL REVIEW REVIEW Legal review should be conducted of all policies, advertisements and posts including obtaining copyright clearances.
Ashley Hanke is an attorney at Malkin Law, P.A., a law firm focused on serving the alcohol beverage industry. For more information visit www.malkin.law or call (860) 394-7012. Nothing in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as specific legal advice. 108
KEEPING IT IN
The flavor of the whiskey or the gin WRITTEN BY G ARY SPEDDING, PH.D.
his article is an attempt to convey some of the ideas about volatility of those desirable components in your favorite spirit or cocktail and how those delightful aromas you seek are released from the glass to excite your olfactory system and the brain’s pleasure sensors. It will also provide a useful introduction to gin formulation and assist in explaining some arguably controversial topics in the fixation of gin flavors. Before even sipping the simplest beverage — vodka — let’s get some chemistry out of the way. Vodka in its purest form is simply water and ethanol with a tiny bit of other stuff in it. That tiny bit of other stuff, which is expanded upon a wee bit more in concentration in other spirit types, includes a bit of mineral content and, more importantly, congeners — the flavorful bits, the aroma and tasty molecules within the spirit you enjoy. Gins (and some other spirits) add a bit more character through the incorporation of gin botanical essential oil components, of course. Significantly, we cannot consider each component in a spirit alone, though we often do when describing for each its attributes that are interpreted by the brain. However, in order to be perceived, those aromatic molecules must first escape from the glass you hold in front of you. As chemicals they are often held back, depending upon their masses and chemical groups, by the forces or principles of thermodynamics and via chemical bonding. This involves the properties of the co-solvent (ethanol and water) which forms the bulk of the spirit, hence the important studies made on vodka that are briefly mentioned here and some studies dealing with Scottish whiskies. To keep the text light there are many complex terms defined in a detailed glossary. The reader requiring more detail or to better understand the concepts can review the terms there for further guidance and support or read the text for a more general account. In rounding out this paper, a discussion is provided as to how our understanding a bit about the perfume industry can assist us in dealing with and interpreting some of the complexities of gin formulation along with an interpretation of a video lecture on the gin fixative effect and flavor suppression or release. WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
IT BEGINS WITH WATER, THEN ADD ALCOHOL
Two solvents mix to produce a new solvent system
Distilled spirits contain the highest concentrations of alcohol of all the alcoholic beverages, yet water (H2O) is, for most spirits, the dominant solvent component. Water quality is important for producing spirits and especially so for dilution from cask to bottling strength, yet the properties and importance of both water and alcohol are amazingly overlooked. Most distillers are only interested in whether or not the “right” amount of alcohol is produced during fermentation or is distilled over (free of most congeneric material), ready for bottling (unaged white spirits) or for maturation (aged brown spirits). In typical spirits, 40% alcohol by volume (vol-% or ABV) is the norm and after that water is the most abundant component present (4). Yet water and ethanol as a co-solvent have many effects on the release of top note and other volatile components of the spirit. It is to be noted that spirits in a bottle can vary from about 35 to 55 percent ABV and this has big impacts on flavor suppression or release. Water and ethanol have their own unique solvent and taste properties, which solvate (surround) other substances in specific ways, dependent upon physicochemical properties of all species involved in the mix. Ethanol itself as a solvent confers tactile sensations of warmth or heat and mouthfeel (viscosity), but it also extracts and interacts with many other components to “enhance” the flavor profile (4).
Sticking to it
HYDROGEN BONDING AND IMF’S
A key concept to follow in the rest of the article is that of hydrogen bonding (and other, weaker socalled intermolecular forces — see Glossary starting page 110). Hydrogen bonds can not only form between individual water molecules and between individual ethanol molecules in homogenous solvents, but also between ethanol and water molecules (heterogenous solutions). These types of interactions are termed intermolecular hydrogen bonding (see Glossary). If the intermolecular hydrogen bonds form between ethanol molecules, they lead to an increased boiling point of the solution. However, if the intermolecular bonds form between water and ethanol molecules, an increase in water solubility results; the alcohol group (OH) of the ethanol, through hydrogen bond formation, allows it to break into the water lattice and so it is the alcohol functional group itself that promotes the water solubility (the water more easily surrounds or solvates the ethanol). Through this property, water and ethanol are said to be miscible in all proportions, which means complete mixing of the two solvents with no phase separation. This allows for unique solvent properties which change with the relative proportions of ethanol and water present (4). These properties affect both the thermodynamics principles and the chemical kinetics aspects as noted below.
SOLUBILITY OF COMPOUNDS, VOLATILITY, AND SOME CONCEPTS TO BEGIN WITH
A Cluster of Whiskies and Vodkas, Too
The solubility of compounds depends on the physical and chemical properties of a molecular species and the solvent, including the polarity, electrical point charge properties (a term called the “dielectric constant”), dissociation constants (hydrogen ion, aka proton transfer potential, and acid-base chemistries), temperature, and pH (5). Different chemical entities, depending on whether they are hydrophobic or hydrophilic (water hating or loving), will be pushed into the bulk solvent or towards the liquid interface and thereby be more or less available for diffusion — evaporation from the glass — to be perceived by humans. [See the Glossary for definitions and references 1-3 for further details on the various terms.] The solubility and potential suppression of volatility of components in ethanol-water solvent mixtures that are also comprised of many essential oil chemicals, from various botanicals used in gins, for exam-
GLOSSARY of physical and chemical terminology Diffusion and dynamic equilibrium
Diffusion is the movement of molecules from an area that contains a higher concentration to one with a lower concentration of the molecule. Molecules are in constant motion and move in random directions and randomly bump into (collide) with each other and other molecules. Movement is always to the lower concentrated environment with molecules from the more concentrated zone pushed or bumped over to the lower concentration region. Dynamic equilibrium can be reached after the concentration gradient (molecule distribution) which builds up is removed. An equal distribution of molecules exists whereby each molecule that moves out of our gin or other solution is compensated by one re-entering the solution. This would only occur in a closed space (a covered glass for instance).
Different atoms have a differential pull on the electrons in the other atoms of a molecule such that one atom can have a slightly more positive charge and the other a slightly more negative charge. This separation creates a dipole moment. These weak electrostatic charges can pull atoms in another molecule towards them to form the hydrogen bond.
The separation of a liquid from a solid or another liquid by vaporization followed by condensation. Distillation can be carried out at atmospheric pressure and under reduced pressure.
Thermodynamic term — related to the heat absorbed or evolved in a reaction or process i.e., deals with heat change during a chemical reaction (due to differences in bond energy between products and reactants) or a process. If the enthalpy change (ΔH) in a reaction is negative (ΔH<0) the forward reaction is favored as it makes a favorable contribution to ΔG. [See Free energy]
Entropy (S) — a thermodynamic term. Disorder! A measure of disorder in a system. A substance is highly ordered in the solid form, less so in liquid and when a gas the molecules or atoms are at their most random — moving around more freely (in more disarray). Any change taking place which results in an increase in entropy has a positive entropy change (ΔS>0), an increase in disorder and contributes favorably to the overall change in free energy (see Free energy). Most spontaneous processes are accompanied by an increase in entropy. If gin or other spirit volatiles can leave solution and enter the vapor phase (vaporization or volatilization) then they become more disordered and ΔS is positive. [See Free energy]
All liquids and solids have a characteristic vapor pressure dependent upon temperature. In a closed system
— a watch-glass covered whiskey glass perhaps as example, an equilibrium is (eventually) attained — this simply means as many molecules leave the liquid into the headspace as return to it. In an open system though (the glass with cover removed ready for sampling) once some of the volatiles are lost (headed up into your nose or to the room) the more molecules will want to leave the liquid to vaporize. The liquid is continually diminished in its volatiles as continued evaporation occurs. Volatile products — perfumes and flavorful spirits can thus lose their “brightness” and desired flavor qualities over time as the key volatiles disappear. Don’t leave that bottle of gin open! [See Vapor pressure]
Free Energy and gibbs free energy equation
Free energy is a thermodynamic term — thermodynamics being a huge topic we can only cover briefly and as simply as possible here. Essentially, we need to just think about changes in a couple parameters and temperature, and how reactions and processes occur. It is about energy and what is needed to drive the reaction or process of interest. A term, ΔG is the Gibbs free energy change of a system (Δ represents change or difference) and is related to two other terms (defined in this table) plus temperature (T): enthalpy (H — actually the change in chemical bond energy, ΔH) and entropy (S — actually a change in disorder, ΔS). ΔG is the energy that drives a chemical reaction or process. ΔG = ΔH – TΔS A reaction is favorable (proceeds in the direction as written) when ΔG is negative (<0). Reactions that give off heat (ΔH<0) and result in disorder (ΔS>0) are more favorable. When ΔH is negative and ΔS is positive, the only possible value for ΔG is negative, and the reaction will be spontaneous at all temperatures. To summarize: For a reaction to be thermodynamically feasible (for more products than reactants to be produced at equilibrium) the value of ΔG must be negative — there must be a decrease in the standard free energy during the process, chemical reaction, vaporization etc. (1). Note, if a reaction is shown to be favorable the magnitude of ΔG tells us nothing as to how fast that reaction will go — it could be seconds, days, weeks or nearly forever. That is dealt with by another topic in chemistry — kinetics. In relation to the overall signs for ΔH and ΔS and to the sign of ΔG, temperature may be an important factor, but this aspect is not covered here. [See ref. 1]
Ions and many other chemical species in aqueous solutions are solvated (surrounded by solvent) are said to be hydrated. Hydration occurs by hydrogen bonding and in simple models, whereby the molecule is thought of as a sphere is imagined having one or more “shells” of water molecules surrounding it. Continued
ple, could be influenced by the so-called fixative botanical’s components (namely orris root and angelica, to mention the key ones of note; more on all this to follow). Indeed, the Scottish whisky industry folks have been aware of this type of suppression and enhanced release of aromatics phenomenon for a long time. On the Scottish whisky front, the discussion as to whether to dilute a spirit with water or ice or not is a big question in consumer circles with regards to whether it enhances the taste (6). Keeping this simple,studies of the flavorful compound guaiacol (a spicy tasting phenol with descriptors that include phenolic, smoky, bacon, spicy, vanilla, medicinal, and woody) have been made about its perception or expression from different concentrations of ethanol within ethanol-water co-solvent mixtures. Guaiacol and some other key flavorants in whiskies are amphiphilic molecules, meaning they have bits that hate water and other chemical bits that love water. What was discovered is that guaiacol was preferentially associated with ethanol (rather than water cluster structures) and as such was found primarily at the liquid-air interface in mixtures containing up to 45 vol% of ethanol. However, at concentrations of ethanol of 59 vol-% and greater, guaiacol is increasingly surrounded by ethanol molecules and is driven into the bulk and not readily available to headspace. This shows that the taste of guaiacol is enhanced upon dilution to whisky bottle strength and this could apply to other flavorful amphipathic molecules leading to the distiller being able to optimize the production of spirits or alcohol content for desired tastes. Also, for whisky, the effect of ethanol concentration on the solubility of ethyl esters — other key flavor aromatics — has been extensively studied (7-9). As the concentration of ethanol is lowered from 40 vol-% to 23 vol-% (typically done for comparative flavor evaluations of Scottish whiskies) the solubility of the ethyl esters was seen to change. The studies were quite involved (with short-, medium-, and long-chain ethyl esters studied), but what happens is that the esters get pushed together or coalesce, forming clusters known as agglomerates or micelles. Pushing the esters into bulk solution and away from the surface leads to a lowered diffusion and thus less esters appearing in the headspace — the glass — and thereby a consequent reduced sensory perception by the human nose. [The Glossary discusses the various physical, chemical, and thermodynamic principles involved for those wanting a more detailed explanation of all these phenomena.] The review by Ickes and Cadwallader (8) presents an in-depth review of such studies. Other flavor molecules may also get trapped in these clusters and affect their sensory perception. Such studies can help us to better our understanding of sensory evaluation protocols as well as the design of our spirit formulations (see gin below). For a simple and rapid conclusion on this portion of the topic, we will merely state that other compounds are pushed out of bulk solution into the headspace, depending upon their own chemical properties and the ethanol concentration (9) and can thus be more readily perceived. It is noted though that other factors are also at play in this phenomenon as discussed below. Just like water and ethanol there can be structure to other components in solution or perturbation of such clusters depending upon the environmental conditions. A careful review of the references and some thought about the meaning of the data presented would be a useful exercise here. The type of studies here were also applied to vodka and to a concept known as “structurability” (the studies summarized in 4 and see 10-12) and “smoothness” and supposed palate acceptability by consumers. Essentially what both the whisky and the vodka studies showed is that ethanol and water mix to generate clusters of ethanol molecules or defined ratio ethanol: water molecule structures and that these structures are influenced by the presence of other congeners in solution. (11, 12). Flavor molecules are associated with solvation by ethanol or water assisted by the formation of hydrogen bonds and this then dictates whether they are more likely to be present at the liquid-air interface or in bulk solution,and, thus are more or less volatile and diffusible from the glass to the olfactory system for perception. Many flavor compounds found in alcoholic beverages are also (like guaiacol) small organic molecules that are slightly volatile and amphipathic. Examples are vanillin, ethyl acetate, and limonene (and likely other terpenes which are major constituents in gin botanical essential oils and big players in gin flavor). Other more hydrophobic molecules such as anethole (aniseed-based drinks)
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Glossary continued and longer chain length fatty acids are soluble almost exclusively in ethanol (stronger alcohol solutions) and their flavor notes suppressed (clustered or solubilized in bulk solution) until quite heavily diluted drinks are made or prepared by the addition of dilution water. The reason why whisky may taste differently when diluted in the glass is explained by Karlsson and Friedman (6) and the topic was studied extensively by the Piggott research group in Scotland (7, 13-15). There is a balance to be noted here between diluting the whisky or other spirit to taste and diluting the spirit to waste (6). The balance will always depend on the concentration and types of compounds and perhaps the complexity of the components present and characteristic for each spirit, be it whiskey, gin, rum, or brandy (6). Ickes and Cadwallader (8) summarized — as we illustrated above — that of importance to flavor perception is the effect of ethanol on the release of aroma compounds into the headspace of the beverage. However, of further interest here though is their statement that “Changes in ethanol concentration can affect consumers’ perception of alcoholic beverages in terms of aroma, taste and mouthfeel.” The reader will see that there is more to the design and flavor of a beverage than first appears, especially so to the crafting of novel gin flavor profiles.
AND SO, ON TO GIN
Another area, perhaps sadly overlooked to date, is that of gin. Many different botanicals are used in gin production to give a huge spectrum of aromas and flavors. It’s arguably assumed that some botanicals act as fixatives to help retain the delicate top note aromatics over a longer period of time — to maintain the “freshness and vibrancy” of the gin (see boxes 1 and 2 below on Fixatives and Tenacity and Gin Fixatives). Until recently though, there has been little coverage of this topic outside the perfume industry and pharmaceutical business (and lately the great cannabis experiment) where the retention of fragrances or drugs for efficient delivery is desired. The gin producer can learn much from reading about perfume manufacture and indeed the retention of volatiles in their gins must involve similar principles to those alluded to above. A recent video by Dr. Anne Brock provided some speculations as to what happens with gin fixatives and prompted the writing of this article and her work is summarized and commented upon below.
PERFUME AND GIN FIXATIVES
A Fragrant Story or Retaining the Smell of the Roses (or Lemons)? See Boxes 1 and 2 for brief introductory details on perfume and gin fixatives, then follow the final sections of this article.
BOX 1 FIXATIVES AND TENACITY DEFINITIONS Fixative — a term arising from the perfume industry An ingredient used primarily for their assistance in helping a mixture to retain its aroma for a longer period. Fixatives do this by slowing down the evaporation or volatilization rate of other aromatic compounds. See BOX 2 GIN FIXATIVES. According to Eden Botanicals, we can also think of fixative botanicals or perfume ingredients as improving, fortifying, and/or transporting the vapors and/or lending a combination of a diffusive or retentive effect, typically through the addition of trace amounts and that are odorless or almost odorless and lending a stabilizing action by paralyzing the odor of the low-boiling (volatile) materials in the perfume. Another term to note is tenacity (also called substantivity or the lasting effect). Eden Botanicals folks tell us: “The fixative qualities of an oil and an oil’s tenacity do not necessarily mean the same thing. Tenacity is the lasting effect of a perfume material and its ability to linger on the skin*. An aromatic perfume ingredient may have immense tenacity but may have little impact on the evaporation rate of the other perfume ingredients it’s combined with (i.e., be able to impart fixative qualities).” *Or for gins perhaps to retain the freshness and vibrancy of the gin over time? “The mechanism of sustaining perfume release is still not clearly understood though it likely involves hydrogen-bonding of fixative agent and perfume compound — a process known as fixation.” (16) Further details on the topic and a listing of some common botanicals that may be fixative in nature may be found in an article entitled “Fixatives and Their Function in Natural Perfumery” available at www.edenbotanicals.com and also in the Brock video discussed in the text below. A more in-depth experimental and chemical treatment of the fixative topic is also to be found elsewhere (17). WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
Hydrogen bond or dipoledipole bonding
When hydrogen is attached to certain other elements which can pull on its electron (part of the act of forming a bond — details of which are not covered here) the hydrogen becomes ever so slightly positively charged and the other atom becomes slightly negatively charged (the electron carrying negative charge). A polarized bond is said to result — part of the molecule being slightly positive in nature and part slightly negative (a dipole). These polarized molecules can be directed — attracted or pulled towards oppositely charged regions of other molecules (generally we think of the hydrogen — slightly positive — being attracted towards another atom with a more negative charge). In so doing a weak electrostatic bond, called the hydrogen bond is thus formed. Such bonds cause the self-association of water and alcohols (as described in the text). These bonds (from solvent to solutes — other chemicals — such as congeners — in solution) can help hold molecules in solution unless enough energy is put in to cause bond disruption. Each hydrogen bond is very weak but when many of them exist they can be quite tenacious. Hydrogen bonds lead to an increase, beyond chemical expectations based on molecular weights of compounds, of the boiling points of liquids such as water and affect its dissolving properties. The hydrogen bond is dependent upon distance and temperature — thus the more concentrated a solution with respect to more water/ethanol soluble congeners, the greater potential for hydrogen bonding.
Hydrophilic = water loving
If a molecule dissolves fully or partially in water, (aqueous solvent) it is said to be hydrophilic in nature; “hydro” = water and “philic” = loving or attracting.
Hydrophobic = water hating
If a molecule dissolves fully or partially in a lipophilic or non-aqueous solvent (and not readily in water), it is said to be hydrophobic in nature (or lipophilic = lipid loving); “hydro” = water and “phobic” = hating or repelling.
The association of non-polar molecules or groups in aqueous media resulting from the tenacity of water molecules to exclude non-polar species. Simply put clusters of lipophilic/water hating molecules can form in solution which can effectively increase their solubility in a spirit and reduce their evaporation and, therefore, aroma potential.
Intermolecular forces (IMF)
Organic compounds — the major group of chemicals we deal with in spirits from a bulk solution or flavor molecule perspective are known as covalent molecules (their constituent parts tightly bonded together). They can be attracted to one another (or repulsed) by one or both of two forces: 1) Van der Waals (induced dipole) forces [present between all
molecules and are the weakest of the forces] and/or 2) Dipole-dipole interactions. The latter are sub-divided into: Permanent dipole-dipole attractions [stronger forces than the Van der Waals but weaker than hydrogen bonding] and Hydrogen bonding. [See corresponding terms in the table]
A molecule with zero dipole moment — no charge separation on the molecule — less soluble in polar solvents, therefore.
In a mixture of gases, each constituent gas has a partial pressure which is the notional pressure of that constituent gas if it alone occupied the entire volume of the original mixture at the same temperature. The total pressure of an ideal gas mixture is the sum of the partial pressures of the gases in the mixture. The partial pressure of a gas is a measure of thermodynamic activity of the gas's molecules. Gases dissolve, diffuse, and react according to their partial pressures, and not according to their concentrations in gas mixtures or liquids.
Partition coefficients are the ratio of the concentration of an organic compound in two phases that are in equilibrium with each other. For example, in a two-layer system of water (bottom layer) and an organic solvent (top layer), an organic compound will be in one or the other of the layers. After stirring and allowing time for the layers to settle, the organic compound could well be in both phases, albeit to a different extent (concentration, C) in each phase. The partition or distribution coefficient (K) is K=Corganic/Cwater This ratio is therefore a measure of the difference in solubility of the compound in these two phases. From this equation, a high value of K suggests that the compound is not very water soluble but is more soluble in the organic solvent that is if the organic compound is lipophilic (or hydrophobic). In the chemical and pharmaceutical sciences, both phases are usually solvents. Most commonly, one of the solvents is water, while the second is hydrophobic, such as 1-octanol. Hence the partition coefficient measures how hydrophilic ("water-loving") or hydrophobic ("water-fearing") a chemical substance is.
A polar covalently bonded molecule may have the two associated electrons which are involved in the bond (one from each atom participating) unequally shared. One atom has a slight pull on the electrons in the pair. This polar molecule then has slightly positive and slightly negative ends and thus a dipole moment. It can have other molecules attracted to it to form hydrogen bonds. Continued
Glossary continued Polar solvent
A solvent in which the molecules are stated to have good solvating properties or power. Generally, the greater the dipole of the molecules of the solvent the better the liquid as a solvent for ionic (charged) substances.
Solubility refers to the maximum quantity of one phase dissolved in another under specified conditions. Substances are generally soluble in like solvents — organic molecules (non-polar) in organic solvents (such as ethanol) and inorganic salts or charged molecules being more soluble in water (aqueous solvent).
For a spirit or other solution (containing several or hundreds of components — congeners, salts etc.) the substance which makes up the bulk of the solution is usually the solvent. The substances dissolved in it are solutes. For our purposes we are dealing with a binary solvent system — namely one with ethanol and water, both of which have their own unique physical and chemical properties and that act differently when together as our spirit co-solvent. Water is called an aqueous solvent whereas organic solvents are called just that or sometimes lipophilic solvents (as they can dissolve fatty or hydrophobic substances). Typically for 40% ABV (40 vol-%) spirits this is 40 parts ethanol and 63.42 parts water plus a tiny amount of the combined ions and congeners present (higher alcohols, aldehydes, esters, phenols and acids etc.) The volatilization of certain congeners can be affected by the actual ethanol to water ratio and the temperature of the spirit.
Van der Waal’s attraction or forces
Weak forces between molecules arising from weak electronic coupling. These act over only very short distances — requiring tight packing of molecules. Forms between the non-polar portion of two molecules and is a mutual distortion of electron clouds. So, it is an induced dipole effect — “induced dipole-induced dipole attraction.” Weak and temperature-dependent — important at low temperatures and of little significance at high temperatures. May be important in certain types of small organic molecules and found in lipophilic solvents — little importance in water.
Vaporization liquid to vapor
Vaporization of an element or compound is a phase transition from the liquid phase to vapor. Volatile means to be turned into a vapor easily. There are two types of vaporization: evapora-
tion and boiling. Evaporation is a surface phenomenon, whereas boiling is a bulk phenomenon. Evaporation is a phase transition from the liquid phase to vapor (a state of substance below critical temperature) that occurs at temperatures below the boiling temperature at a given pressure. Evaporation occurs on the surface. Evaporation only occurs when the partial pressure of vapor of a substance is less than the equilibrium vapor pressure. [See Evaporation and Vapor pressure.]
Vapor pressure or equilibrium vapor pressure
Vapor pressure is the pressure exerted by a vapor — in other words (for our topic at hand) the pressure caused by the evaporation of liquids. Moreover, vapor pressure is an indication of a liquid’s evaporation rate. All solids and liquids give off vapors, consisting of atoms or molecules of the substances that have evaporated from the condensed forms. It is these atoms or molecules that exert a vapor pressure. If the substance is in an enclosed space, the vapor pressure will reach an equilibrium value that depends only on the nature of the substance and the temperature. This equilibrium value occurs when there is a dynamic equilibrium between the atoms or molecules escaping from the liquid or solid and those that strike the surface of the liquid or solid and return to it. The vapor is then said to be a saturated vapor and the pressure it exerts is the saturated vapor pressure. If not an enclosed system, as volatiles are lost more will be released from solution in attempts to reach equilibrium. Three major factors influence vapor pressure: the surface area exposed to the air/environment, intermolecular forces and temperature. The greater the pressure exerted by a vapor, the weaker the intermolecular forces between molecules in its liquid state and thus the more volatile the liquid; lower the boiling point and the faster the evaporation rate. [See Evaporation] When the vapor pressure of a liquid becomes equal to the atmospheric pressure boiling occurs.
Volatility is the tendency of a substance to vaporize. It is directly related to vapor pressure and indirectly related to its boiling point. Thus, the higher the volatility, the higher the vapor pressure and the lower the boiling point.
Definitions are presented in as simple terms as possible — though some background chemistry knowledge is assumed to best understand these topics. Further reading may be found elsewhere (1-3) and in basic dictionaries and basic-through-advanced chemistry texts.
BOX 2 GIN FIXATIVES Gin botanicals with fixative effects Two gin botanicals that have supposedly the fixative effects (see BOX 1 GIN FIXA TIVES AND TENACITY above) are Angelica (Angelica archangelica) and Orris Root (Iris pallida and I. germanica) — two popularly used gin botanicals. Research and details are very limited hence the controversial nature of this topic. According to GIN MAGAZINE's July 20, 2018 article The Botanicals, “a musky lactone called pentadecanolide gives angelica its unique character and ties the root back to the
perfume industry.” Musks — usually of animal origin have been important as fixatives in the perfume industry so the angelica plantbased musk components might be involved in fixative action in gin formulations. Further research is needed. According to Wikipedia sources, cyclopentadecanolide, present in small quantities (< 1% in roots, <.5% in seeds), is primarily responsible for angelica root's distinctive musky aroma and was originally found in the roots. Cyclopentadecanolide is used as a musk-like perfume fixative in fine fragrances and as a flavoring agent. A timely review on the gin fixative effect appeared as this article was being prepared (18).
THE PERFUME INDUSTRY AND GIN
Building and tearing down the Waals
The perfume industry can enlighten us further in the molecular details of gin fixatives. Indeed, a study of perfume production might assist in the creation of new gin formulations. Many perfume preparations include some form of fixative to avoid loss of odor intensity during the drying (on the skin) or storage processes. These fixatives have included orris root, ambergris, musk, resins (frankincense, myrrh and labdanum) amongst several other groups of compounds. Orris is of course of importance in many gin formulations. Also, of note for Edinburgh Christmas gin — the distiller used frankincense and myrrh in that rendition or expression, and these may have fixative properties. One topic not addressed, as best we can tell from a research viewpoint, is the longevity of the essence of the gins being produced. Do they deteriorate in flavor quality over time (when opened or left unopened) during long term storage and use? We feel that they do, and some basic experiments performed by Tony Aiken in our laboratory have shown the loss of more delicately fragranced gins — as determined by six gin sensory experts (unpublished observations). Moreover, do gins using “fixative botanicals” hold up better than those that do not? Further detailed research is needed here. Brock in the YouTube video (reviewed below) suggested the desire to run sophisticated Gas Chromatography-mass spectrometry evaluations of some of the gins she was working with to better illustrate volatiles flavor losses, but it still comes down to the human senses in determining these issues and the overall quality of such products. Brock herself included some limited taste tests during her live talk. Brock also suggested that Van der Waals forces may be holding the top notes (the key volatiles) more firmly in place in our gins. And that might be part of the story. However, hydrogen bonding and the effects we saw above with respect to ethanol and water concentrations playing a factor in cluster formation might be in play here too. Clusters sequestered in the bulk solvent, reduced from the headspace and thus a tad less volatile and not as easily lost? Keeping the gins fresher a little longer? Let us now see what Brock covered in her on-line viewable lecture.
Dr. Brock’s Excellent Detective Video Adventure:
THE GIN FIXATIVE STORY
Brock of Bermondsey Distillery, and now master distiller for Bombay Sapphire, presented a neat account of botanical fixatives as used in gin in a YouTube video: “The Effect of Different Botanical Fixatives, Dr. Anne Brock, Bermondsey Distillery.” In this brief 27-minute video clip she quite admirably covers definitions of the compounds known as fixatives, some thermodynamics, and chemistry. These concepts are quite involved and a brief discussion of her coverage might expand the concepts to a wider audience outside of the UK where her talk was filmed at a Gin Guild convention. Brock suggests that angelica and orris act as fixatives which help to marry or bind flavors of gin together and discusses what volatility is and defines top notes (juniper and citrus). In action she suggests that a fixative is used to equalize the vapor pressures and thus the volatilities of the raw materials in a perfume oil as well as to increase the tenacity (see Glossary for terms). Tenacity is defined and she suggests that tenacity is associated with
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relatively high boiling point compounds, which fill up the middle and base notes discussed below. (see Box 1 above). Tenacious compounds are going to help retain top notes by depressing their volatilities — thus reducing their potential to escape — however, she states that fixatives might have a mechanism of action that is different than simply depressing volatilities. “Fixatives work by holding other flavors and fragrances in place.” Brock proposes a thermodynamic explanation for the spontaneous evaporation of the very volatile gin compounds (from juniper and citrus primarily). For those intrepid readers, see the terms Enthalpy, Entropy and Gibbs free energy in the glossary and then continue reading. In very broad terms, thermodynamics involves the study of whether reactions will proceed spontaneously or not. The equation ΔG = ΔH - TΔS is called the Gibbs free energy function, and ΔG needs to end up with a negative value (<0), for a reaction or system to proceed spontaneously, e.g. for the evaporation of very volatile compounds to occur. Chemical bonds need to be made or broken (or both may occur in rearrangements) in chemical reactions. And the system will become more disordered or ordered depending upon whether more or fewer overall molecules or particles will exist following a reaction. If many instances occur of two molecules binding together, then the system is more ordered than when each molecule was free to randomly move about in the solution or system. So, in her talk, Brock clearly illustrates — with neat diagrams — what would happen to the two terms ΔH and ΔS to convey what would then happen to the Gibbs free energy term and how this affects the fixative concept in gins. It is a neat piece to try and understand and she does a great job in this regard. Reactions that give off heat (ΔH<0) and result in disorder (ΔS>0) are more favorable. In other words: When ΔH is negative and ΔS is positive the only possible value for ΔG is negative. The reaction will be spontaneous at ALL temperatures. If fixatives are large non-volatile molecules with high boiling points and can form weak intermolecular interactions (Van der Waals forces) this would lead to a larger and more positive value to ΔH, i.e. the enthalpy term in the Gibbs free energy equation. Thus, a larger amount of energy will be needed for volatiles to be lost from the system via breaking down the Van der Walls forces (ΔG becomes less negative or more positive). The fixative effect works here — volatilization is slowed down! [According to perfume-related references it is likely that hydrogen bonding may also be involved in the fixative effect (16). These bonds would also need to be broken by the input of enough energy to disrupt them.] However, we also need to think about the entropy term. The formation of even weakly bonded molecules in a highly simplified model — fixative and say pinene (top note) would suggest a more ordered system (a lesser number of molecules randomly bouncing around) — which affects the entropy term and makes it less positive and in turn making ΔG less negative. Brock explains this about a fixative effect by stating that when more different kinds of molecules occur in solution the result is already a more disordered system than one with a lesser number of different types of molecular species present. Some of the unbonded (unbound) top note molecules can still escape (volatilize) and become vapor (a gas which is a more disordered state than liquid or solid). An entropy increase! But in a system whereby some of the top note molecules are bound to a fixative — being more ordered (less entropic) there is still an overall gain in entropy (the ΔS is smaller but still positive) because the system was more disordered to start with. Thus, the entropy term remaining positive still contributes to making the ΔG negative, albeit a bit smaller in magnitude and, along with the enthalpy term, slowing down the rate of evaporation. Both terms, ΔH and ΔS can work in the fixative effect’s favor. It helps to play some simple numbers in this equation to see how it all works out. How ΔG is changed
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and understanding that the more negative the ΔG term the more favored the spontaneous reaction. One issue not mentioned regarding fixatives — orris root and angelica — is that very little is discussed with respect to the actual components of these botanicals which would be the molecular entities involved in the bonding and fixative effect (though see Box 2 above). Brock begins to wind down her presentation by discussing the flavor changes in gins as being possibly related to oxidation, an alternative to the fixative volatilization effect model. Could certain components in fixative botanicals act as antioxidants? Oxidation reactions can damage flavor in foods and beverages via the creation of powerful oxidant species. Antioxidants — as “sacrificial” compounds — mop up the potential damage by themselves becoming oxidized more readily than perhaps the top note flavor compounds, thus protecting them and helping maintain the vibrancy of a gin perhaps. The reader is encouraged to view Brock’s video and explore more about the top, middle, and base notes discussed therein. What other fixative botanicals might there be? Which compounds within the fixative botanical essential oils are the active principles? As higher molecular weight and higher boiling point compounds do they distill over to be useful as fixatives in the gin? Brock touches on many topics the last few minutes of the presentation and makes it clear that a lot more research is needed in the gin realm.
ODOR PERCEPTION OF GINS
Heads, Heart, and Soul — Grounded by the Base
Odor perception of any product is thus governed by thermodynamics, transport phenomenon (the volatilization and rise of fragrant components or notes out of the food item or the glass or bottle) and psychophysics. [Wikipedia tells us that: “Psychophysics quantitatively investigates the relationship between physical stimuli and the sensations and perceptions they produce. Also described as “the scientific study of the relation between stimulus and sensation.”] For odor perception, the bulk liquid (in our case for spirits) being the mixture of all the botanical flavor components is the starting point. As a side-note, many botanicals contain within their essential oil fractions identical or closely similar compounds (largely terpenes and related chemical entities). This means they can work well together, or sometimes a clash of the titans occurs with too much of one or more similar components coming to the front of the volatile lineup. This is the reason, beyond a few simple rules and ratios (19), that it is not easy nor a simple action to teach about new gin recipe formulation, and that trial and error is needed to create something tasty and unique. As for perfumery, we can consider a triangle of notes composed of odorants and solvents, blenders, and fixatives for looking at the aroma-flavor profile of gins. Think of this as an evaporation triangle or pyramid (discussed in most perfumery books, talks, and papers). The components having different physicochemical properties (volatility, molecular weights, vapor pressures, and so on) and odor features. An interplay of flavors arises from these “layers” in complex ways not always fully understood,creating the final symphony or harmony of the perfume, gin, or other flavorful spirit beverage. While perfumes are clearly a different entity to gins, we can draw upon inferences from the world of perfumery and extend our thoughts towards a nuanced aspect of sensory perception. Perfumes are applied to the skin and lose their fragrance properties as a limited number (concentration) of flavor molecules evaporate (disappearing over time following their application). Gin is a bulk solution of complex molecular composition and will retain its top, middle, and base notes much longer — until and including the last drop so to speak (to paraphrase a famous coffee commercial). So, the top notes are not lost completely from the glass over the course of our imbibing
References 1. Jespersen, N. (1997). Chemistry. Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 2. Lemke, T.L. (2012). Review of Organic Functional Groups: Introduction to Medicinal Organic Chemistry. (Fifth Edition). Lippincott Williams & Williams/Wolters Kluwer. 3. Sharp, D.W.A. (1990). Penguin Dictionary of Chemistry (Second Edition). Penguin Books. 4. Spedding, G. Eighty Years of Rapid Maturation Studies: Why Are We Not There Yet? Distiller 13 (2); 88-100 (Fall 2017) 5. Jouyban, A. Review of the cosolvency models for predicting solubility of drugs in water-cosolvent mixtures. J. Pharm Pharmaceut Sci. 11 (1); 32-58 (2008). 6. Karlsson, B.C.G., and Friedman. R. Dilution of whisky — the molecular perspective. Scientific Reports. 7 (1) Article 6489. (2017). 7. Conner, J.M., Paterson A. and Piggott, J.R., Agglomeration of ethyl esters in model spirit solutions and malt whiskies. J. Sci. Food Agric. 66 (1); 45-53. (1994). 8. Ickes, C.M. and Cadwallader, K.R. Effects of Ethanol on Flavor Perception in Alcoholic Beverages. Chemosensory Perception 10; 119-134. (2017). 9. Boothroyd, E.L., Linforth, R.S.T. and Cook, D.J. Effects of Ethanol and Long-Chain Ethyl Ester Concentrations on Volatile Partitioning in a Whisky Model System. J. Agric. Food Chem. 60 (40); 9959-66. (2012). 10. Valerie Ives. Vodka: distinct tastes of a tasteless drink (2013). www.semanticscholar.org 11. Hu, N., Wu, D., Cross, K., Burikov, S. Dolenko, T., Patsaeva, S. and Schaefer, D.W. Structurability: A Collective Measure of the Structural Differences in Vodkas. J. Agric. Food Chem. 58: 7394-7401. (2010). 12. Nose, A., Hamasaki, T., Hojo, M., Kato, R., Uehara, K. and Ueda, T. Hydrogen Bonding in Alcoholic Beverages (Distilled Spirits) and Water-Ethanol Mixtures. J. Agric. Food Chem. 53: 7074-7081. (2005). 13. Conner, J.M., Paterson A. and Piggott, J.R. Release of distillate flavour compounds in Scotch malt whisky. J. Sci. Food Agric. 79; 1015-1020. (1999). 14. Escalona, H., Piggott, J.R., Conner, J.M. and Paterson, A. Effect of Ethanol Strength on The Volatility of Higher Alcohols and Aldehydes. Ital. J. Food Sci. n.3. 11; 241-248. (1999). 15. Withers, S.J., Piggott, J.R., Leroy, G., Conner, J.M. and Paterson, A. Factors Affecting Pungency of Malt Distillates and Ethanol-Water Mixtures. Journal of Sensory Studies 10; 273-283. (1995). 16. Wannaruemon, S., Jimtaisong, A. and Rachtananpun, P. Sodium Carboxymethyl Chitosan as a Fixative for Eau de Cologne. Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research. 12 (1); 45-49. (2013). 17. Al-Bayati, A.D.J. Comparative Study for the Effect of Fixative Material Type and Perfume Formulation Parameters on the Fixation time of Local Formulated Perfume with Brand Perfumes. Engineering and Technology Journal 34 (3) Part (A); 636-647. (2016). 18. Knoll, A. The Fixative Effect. Distiller. (Summer 2019). 19. Thompson, M. Still Magic (A gin distiller’s guide for beginners). Rethink Press. (2019). 20. Teixeira M, A. et al. Perfume Engineering: Design, Performance & Classification. Elsevier Ltd. (2013). Other books on perfumery, odor and scent chemistry and the sense of smell were consulted during the preparation of this article. Reference details available from the author upon request.
them, as in the case of a small amount of an applied perfume over a wider surface area, though oxidation and other reactions may also change the profile over time. Did we say gin is a very complex matrix? In sniffing our gins and appreciating the initial or top notes, our concentrations will then wander — sensory fatigue will set in as an impact factor with the initial flavor note perceptions. Then our sensory apparatus and brains will start to probe deeper within the pyramid for the underlying middle and possible base notes and recreating the “forest from the trees” — the global flavor profile. In summarizing a vast literature in simple terms, we have for the flavor triangle or pyramid:
“Top notes: The top (head or opening) notes — as our lowest molecular weight or sized compounds — are those most volatile and therefore most flavorful components (largely the terpenes), those we perceive first as arising from the glass or the bottle headspace (not the bulk fluid itself). They are those notes best defining the initial impressions and the first to disappear from our consciousness. Sensory adaptation occurs, which is a decrease in sensitivity to a given stimulus which occurs as a result of repeated exposure to that stimulus. It is not a change in the stimulus intensity that matters, but rather a decrease in the sensory response to it. Common fragrance top notes include citrus (lemon, orange zest, bergamot), light fruits (grapefruit, berries), and herbs (clary sage, lavender). The middle or heart notes are considered the heart of a fragrance (or perhaps our gins) and make an appearance once the top notes evaporate. These notes last longer than the top notes, round out the character of the perfume or gin, and also have a strong influence on the base notes. Often a combination of floral or fruit tones; sometimes infused with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom. Common fragrance middle notes include geranium, rose, lemongrass, ylang-ylang, lavender, coriander, and nutmeg. The base is stated to hold the fragrance or the total flavor impression — to support the fragrance. The base notes are then the final fragrance notes that appear once the top notes are completely evaporated. The base notes mingle with the heart notes to create the full body of the fragrance (or gin). These notes may be the fixatives and certainly are suggested as being important in creating a lasting impression. In perfumery and possibly in gins such notes would include musk-associated or related compounds. Research most needed in this area.” When constructing a gin formula, we want to design for the expressive flavor notes, but there will also be blenders to balance things out, and the fixatives. These issues have been studied by the perfume industry for decades, but have simply become known unknowns for gin distillers. In other words, gins have been made for centuries and rules have
developed about which ingredients work together to create an integrated or symphonic expression. We may not know which components from the botanical oils functions in the middle or base note categories, but they do the job needed (19). Brock also covered this in the finale to her video lecture. A future article could go into this in more detail. For now, we end this article with a final segment — on flavor perception.
Snatched by the nose
FRAGRANCE AND FLAVOR PERCEPTION
Now that we have a better understanding as to how molecules are released from solution, we can conclude this article by thinking about how we detect, interpret, and are delighted by the beverages we choose to consume. Be it perfume on skin or spirit in bottle or glass, the process of perception is as follows (20): 1) The different fragrance or flavor molecules begin to evaporate into the headspace (glass or surface above the application site), albeit — as we have seen in this article — at different rates depending on their volatility, composition, and molecular interactions. 2) The gas odorant molecules will then diffuse through the surrounding air over time and distance (depending on temperature and air currents, etc.). 3) At a given time and distance, some of the aromatic molecules will eventually reach the nose of the evaluator or consumer who then perceive the odorants with a certain intensity and character. [Note: The flavors are not residing within the molecules themselves but are how our brains interpret the signals emanating from their interaction and electrical signal generation within and via the olfactory center.]
Knowing a bit of physics, chemistry, and biology (biochemistry and molecular biology) will enable the reader to more coherently understand the nuances and the skills needed to better formulate, produce, bottle, appreciate, and evaluate fine distilled spirits and beyond, and to improve quality, flavor profiles, and marketability. And that surely is nothing to sniff at!
Gary Spedding, Ph.D. is a brewing and distilling analytical chemist with special interest in the origins and development of beverage flavor and in the sensory evaluation of beer and distilled spirits. He owns and operates Brewing and Distilling Analytical Services, LLC and the new division — Brewing and Distilling Educational Services in Lexington, KY.
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a PATIENT LAUNCH PARTY PORTUGUESE BEND DISTILLERY USES NEW LICENSING TO ITS FULLEST WRITTEN BY RI CH M ANNI NG
P H O T O S P R O V I D E D B Y P O RT U G U E S E B E N D D I S T I L L E RY
t’s a late Friday afternoon in Long Beach, California. I’m on a barstool evaluating inventory as a wash of jazz floats through the air. Familiar labels pop on shelves from behind bartenders dressed in 1920s station attendant garb. Artisanal bitters share counter space with homemade tinctures stowed away in beveled glass. Behind me, a yellow-bottomed boat with “Moonlighting” scrawled on its back suspends overhead, light fixtures undulating down from its pockmarked, stained bottom. A couple of guys are enjoying cocktails and sandwiches underneath. A diagram of a potstill annotated with math equations dominates a slate gray wall by the restrooms. It feels like I’m at a bar, and I am…well, kind of. The place I’m sitting at is Portuguese Bend, a distillery perpendicularly perched at the northern terminus of Long Beach’s bustling downtown promenade. They’re the first-ever distillery in this massive coastal Los Angeles suburb, and they’re currently producing four proper spirits: the twice-filtered Breakwater vodka, the carbon-filtered Breakwater Premium vodka, the traditional oude style London dry gin Smoke Bay, and the hibiscus-hued California “young” gin known as Donna Rosa. Their juice occupies a healthy chunk of their bar shelves, where they’re sharing space with crowd-friendly grog like Michter’s and nerdy labels like St. George’s Baller. If I want to, I can order a piping hot plate of crispy chicken wings, a burger, or a bunch of other menu items without having to walk outside to a parked food truck. This takes a little getting used to, and not just because the distillery opened in the summer of 2019. Its existence as a distillery/bar/gastropub hybrid wouldn’t have been possible until 2016, when California distilling laws changed for the better. For a state known to have WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
distilling legislation that occasionally wanders into wackadoo territory, it’s a strange and beautiful occurrence. It’s fair to say that Portuguese Bend’s existence is also due to the calculated development strategy co-produced by Simon Haxton, a guy that knows a thing or two about calculations. The burly, bearded Haxton usually spends his days working full-time as a rocket scientist for an aerospace company. (He did indeed drop the phrase “It’s not rocket science” when I interviewed him, in case you’re wondering.) When he’s not figuring out escape velocities or geometric equations, he’s at the distillery acting as co-owner, distiller, and “Spirits Tsar,” working on what may be SoCal’s coolest side hustle. The suspended “Moonlighting” vessel isn’t just décor. It’s an allegory.
It’s easy for young distillers to get excited about pumping out their own product. The feeling of holding a bottle you helped design filled with a spirit you helped bring to life is an unmatched thrill. At the same time, it’s crucial to refrain from taking a “ready, fire, aim” approach to getting a distillery up and running, where it’s assumed the minute details of operation will fill in over time. Failure to avoid this trap may at best lead to a clunky start, and at worst cost an opportunity to take advantage of innovative ways to boost business. Portuguese Bend eschewed the temptation of jumping in too quickly and took a patient approach, one that paid special attention to the ebb and flow of California distilling laws. Specifically, they had their eyes on the state’s approval of its type 74 license, a
2016 mandate that, among other things, grants permission for distillery tasting rooms to operate a full-time bar and restaurant on site. “When we started taking the journey of launching Portuguese Bend back in 2014, we planned our strategy in anticipation of the law regarding the type 74 license passing,” Haxton explained. “We knew what we wanted to do, so we were tracking the laws and their timeline very carefully. Once it did pass, we hit the afterburners.” Their waiting game was an integral part of a shrewd strategy to expand a sense of community that already existed. The distillery’s other co-owner, Brenda Rivera, is also behind a pair of popular restaurants located in Retro Row, Long Beach’s vintage shopping district. This pedigree — not to mention the food itself — has given the distillery instant community cred. It also helped them cut their ribbon in one of the city’s most visited neighborhoods as opposed to some nondescript industrial park. “Without the restaurant, we wouldn’t be in such a visible place,” Haxton said. “Being in downtown Long Beach like we are simply wouldn’t be an option.”
Portuguese Bend’s launch coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Volstead Act, the infamous and ultimately failed law that set the ignoble groundwork for the 18th Amendment’s noble experiment. While this tidbit pays a coincidentally backhanded homage to shortsighted legislation, other elements circling the brand are much more calculated. Take the name, for instance: Portuguese Bend lifts its moniker from a weird hunk of topography in nearby Palos Verdes whose notoriously unstable geology creates a constantly shifting landscape. During Prohibition, the area was known in some circles for a different kind of shiftiness, as its network of small coastal caves and jagged crevasses made it a prime Southern California destination for international spirits running. The activity made Long Beach — a town that had been dry for most of its existence — into a hotspot for of other scandalous
activities, such as casino boat gambling. “Not too many people realize how much of a role Long Beach played in Prohibition,” Haxton said. “It makes for a great talking point with our guests.” The working stills on full display at the distillery’s entrance also generate plenty of chatter. They’re a dramatic manifestation of Portuguese Bend’s grain-to-glass philosophy, one that strives to confirm that they produce every drop of juice in-house. Each spirit also has “Made in Long Beach, CA” emblazoned on its label to hammer this point home. It’s a mentality that’s personal for Haxton. “Dad’s a Methodist minister and mom’s an organic farmer, so it’s ingrained in me. It’s who I am,” he said. “But more to the point, Long Beach can sniff out fakes really fast, so it’s important that we’re as honest and transparent with our process as possible. We see this transparency as an extension of hospitality. The community has been so good to us since we’ve opened, we want to make sure we’re just as good to them.” It’s not just the local customers showing Portuguese Bend the love, either. Several other L.A. area distilleries have lent their encouragement to Haxton, which he said has helped him hold steady as his business moves from what he calls square one to square 1.5. The support has also brought Haxton into a professional fraternity that crystallizes a key lesson for any novice distiller: Nobody is alone in the artisan spirit world. “There are so many good people in the industry, and that’s why it’s growing like it is,” he said. “We all go through our bumps and bruises, so it’s important that we give each other help and emotional support. This is definitely the case when it comes to dealing with legislation affecting the industry. In times like that, it’s crucial that we craft distilleries band together.” Spoken like a true distiller… who happens to be a rocket scientist?
Portuguese Bend Distillery is located in Long Beach, CA. For more info visit www. portuguesebenddistilling.com or call (562) 435-4411. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
t’s a staple food for billions and one of the most widely grown grains in the world, but the footprint of rice in the craft spirits industry is relatively miniscule. A handful of American distillers, however, are working to change that. Many of those distillers are drawing inspiration from Chinese or Southeast Asian approaches, such as the family recipes for baijiu at Vinn Distillery in Oregon. Notorious for its pungent, funky character, baijiu is the world’s most widely consumed spirit. It comes in four main varieties — strong aroma, light aroma, rice aroma, and sauce aroma — with Vinn’s recipes falling into the more approachable rice aroma category, according to co-owner Michelle Ly. Vinn was founded when family patriarch Phan Ly, who decades earlier had been deported from Vietnam to China, escaped with his wife and five children to Hong Kong and eventually settled in Oregon. In 2004, he was told by his doctor to not work in the family restaurant any more. Phan decided he wanted to see baijiu on liquor store shelves and keep the family working together, so he began assembling a distillery based on the family’s traditional approach, which goes back more than seven generations. “We thought it was just going to be his retirement hobby, not that he was going to go through all the red tape with the feds and the city. It was kind of a shock to all of the kids,” Michelle Ly said. Meanwhile in Maryland, White Tiger Distillery is giving visitors a taste of Laotian-inspired rice spirits. Founder Itsara Ounnarath’s family left Laos in the late 70s and arrived in the United States in 1983. Ounnarath saw a TV show about distilling and said, “I can do that,” unaware that he was becoming the fifth generation in his family, and the first male, to take on the tradition. “My mom came to visit one Christmas, (and) she was like, ‘Hey, you’re doing it all wrong’,” he said. In Laos and many other places in Asia, distilling is commonly done by women, who aren’t allowed to work but want to make some cash on the side, he explained. “Thank god for them for figuring it out. I tried doing it on my own and I couldn’t figure it out.” The owners of Moto Spirits in Brooklyn take their name from their love of motorcycles, rather than the Japanese term that denotes part of the fermentation process or an ingredient. Their
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inspiration comes from the rice spirits they sampled on motorcycle trips through Vietnam. Co-founder Marie Estrada said she and fellow co-founders Hagai Yardeny and and Tim Harney “fell in love with the hospitality associated with the drink,” known as rice wine in Vietnam. It’s usually distilled in a single pass to 20% ABV or less. “They just put it in used water bottles and carry it around with them and drink it,” she said. Moto has modified “everything” compared to the traditional Vietnamese methods, scaling up from clay pots and pressure cookers, but their unaged rice whiskey, even at 40.5% ABV, is “much like what you would drink in Vietnam. They chose to use a basic process, creating a product that she described as tailsy with roasty, toasted-rice notes on the finish. “Several Vietnamese restaurants in our neighborhood carry it because of that. It’s pretty polarizing,” Estrada said. Their aged version is much more like an American whiskey, though they’re finding that used 10- and 15-gallon barrels work better than new barrels, which allowed the spirit to take up too much of the oak character. She said they’re experimenting with local rye barrels from Nahmias et Fils, as well as rum barrels that lend a banana note to the
RICE WHISKEY? In Louisiana, Mike Fruge of J.T. Meleck Distillers is following his own family tradition of rice farming, which has led him to create a rice vodka and an American rice whiskey following bourbon methods, but using rice grown on the family farm. “My whole purpose is to be able to add value to the rice crop we grow,” he said. “I didn’t have a passion for distillation or brewing. The more research I did, the more it became apparent that no one’s ever really utilized rice in America.” Fruge named the distillery after his great great uncle, who emigrated to Louisiana in the 1870s and first grew rice in 1896. In those days it was known as Providence rice, which described the growing method more than the variety. Before the average small farmer had a means to pump water for irrigation, the water would be held in a reservoir at the top of a hill and allowed to slowly drain down to the rice crop. “If Providence didn’t provide the water, you didn’t have a rice crop,” Fruge said. He and his brother grew up following his grandfather around the farm. The brothers eventually moved into farming after growing crawfish as a hobby while in college. “When we were coming of age, farming was horrible,” he said. “Without the crawfish, we might not have even become farmers. Crawfish saved the rice industry in south Louisiana.” The crawfish and rice form a symbiotic crop rotation, represented by the crawfish displayed prominently on his vodka labels. “The two go hand in hand, if you’re a crawfish farmer you’re most likely a rice farmer,” he said. In creating their vodka and whiskey, he looked to American tradition, milling the rice and cooking it with enzymes, much like corn would be processed. He found that the fermentation times are much longer with slightly higher yields, but little else is different. “I wanted to make an American rice spirit,” Fruge said. “I didn’t want to bring Asia to Louisiana. I wanted to bring Louisiana to everyone else. We didn’t make it too complicated.” Starting with vodka, he said it has a slightly sweet essence, but makes an excellent vodka martini. “That was the final test. I like martinis,” he said. “If you just put a little bit of it on your tongue and swish it around, you’re gonna think you’re tasting something sweet, but if you put it in a martini with vermouth it’s just smooth and creamy.” Fruge is also working on a rice whiskey using traditional American bourbon methods and flavor profile, something that he hopes will appeal to what Louisianians enjoy. “I’m trying to create a bold whiskey, something that can stand up to bourbon or a blended Canadian whisky, because that’s what people drink here,” he said. It came off the still as a clean distillate with a touch of rice sweetness. “It’s not unlike a bourbon coming off the still. You stick your finger in it, it kinda tastes like rice,” he said. “It tasted so good, I went straight in and started putting it in barrels.” At two years old the whiskey is in uncharted territory, but Fruge is going to make sure it’s right before he puts it on the market. “I want it to be an awesome product,” he said. “You only get to be new once.”
whiskey. Moto is also taking the unusual step of barreling the spirit without proofing it down; entry proofs range as high as 150. “We wanted to utilize our distillery space as much as possible,” Estrada said. “If we were going to be putting everything in at 80 or 90 proof, then we would be stuck with significantly more barrels. This is all part of our experiment.” Moto distills an apple brandy as well, blending 80/20 with rice spirit to make Jabuka, inspired by Croatia and eastern Europe. In Jabuka, Estrada said the rice is “more of a signature mark” than a predominant flavor. Vinn Distillery also uses fruit to put a local touch on their baijiu, using Hood strawberries and Oregon blackberries for their rice-based liqueurs. In addition to the flagship baijiu, which is distilled three times and rested for a year, they produce a Family Reserve baijiu that is rested for at least three years, honey- and mocha-infused baijius, a rice vodka, and a whiskey that is essentially a barrel-aged baijiu. Ly said their products are a good entry point into a category that “can be difficult to assimilate to.” “Everyone’s familiar with rice,” she said. “Our rice vodka literally smells like white rice being cooked. Our brown rice baijiu has an earthy, brown-rice flavor.. It’s a much easier baiju to introduce yourself to,” but added that, with notes reminiscent of sake, tequila, white whiskey, and hints of floral gin, there’s “nothing comparable for those not drinking rice spirits.” Ounnarath also described White Tiger’s unaged laoLao, the traditional Lao spirit category, as having a “floral sweetness,” even out of the bottle at 120 proof. He also ages some of it in barrels to add notes of caramel and vanillin, and a little color, for a pour that Whisky Advocate described as having “notes of umami and spice.” “Don’t try to compare it to the whiskey that’s out there right now, it’s just totally unique,” he said. In developing Moto’s rice whiskey, Estrada said they went through upwards of ten different types of rice from different regions, starting with very starchy and sticky elephant rice from Thailand. “We were initially going for an incredibly sticky rice to get as much sugar as we possibly could,” she said, but they had so much waste that they decided to also make kasu soap, a Japanese tradition that uses sake lees. Sushi rice was too expensive and Calrose rice didn’t give them the attenuation they were looking for. Eventually they settled on cleaned Kokuho medium-grain pink rice from a farm in California. At Vinn, Ly said they use Calrose white and brown rice. The brown adds a nutty, earthy character. There is also a stash of black rice baiju that’s been “primarily for personal consumption, but we’ve been tasting it and it’s pretty darn good, so when we have the opportunity to we might convert that into a product.” Vinn works with Pinnacle Rice Coop and Sun Valley Rice WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
because of their philosophy and how the companies work with their farmers.” We find that [by] having that connection almost directly with the farmers, we were able to feel confident about the quality of the products that we’re getting,” Ly said. White Tiger uses a sticky high-starch rice with a unique flavor profile common to Laos. Ounnarath said it’s a staple that might traditionally be eaten four or five times a day. He said they soak the rice and then steam it according to the traditional method. Then they spread it out to cool, shoveling it into totes and then into the fermenter once the temperature drops far enough. They’ll add a little bit of water, with more liquid coming out of the rice as it breaks down in the fermenter. To fill a 1,000-gallon fermenter, he said they’ll normally cook about 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of rice, doing that once a week until their 4,000 gallons of fermentation space is filled. “It’s very labor intensive,” Ounnarath said. “My guys, when it’s a rice cooking day, they call out sick.” After that? “We pretty much wait. For two to three months we’ll just sit and wait.” Vinn uses industrial rice cookers left over from their restaurant days, fermenting in seven-gallon buckets with each 40-gallon pot filled with three buckets. All three distilleries use some We work well together. form of co-fermentation, where enzymatic breakdown occurs simultaneously with fermentation, similar to the koji/yeast process for sake and shochu. Ly said the agent used for baijiu — qu (pronounced “chew”) — is different for specific types of baijiu. Northern Chinese baijiu uses sorgum and “big qu,” while Vinn uses a “small qu” designed specifically for rice. They ferment for six months to get full conversion and a high-alcohol wash; Ly said the small buckets they use to ferment allow the qu to work without requiring manual turnovers. Ounnarath said White Tiger Distillery uses a “special yeast concoction” with an enzymatic agent that his mother developed. The fermentation character is one factor, along with others such as rice type and soil characteristics, that makes laoLao variable. “Every single household seems to have their own recipe. If you drink Lao spirit from household to household, every household is totally different,” he said. “You can tell what region of Laos the whiskey came from.” He pitches the yeast when the rice drops below 100 degrees F, when it’s still soft and the starch hasn’t set yet. “Once it starts to cool off, it gets very hard. You have to get to it right away,” he said. When White Tiger was still developing their methods, he said they would fill five- to ten-gallon buckets with rice and yeast and watch each one. “Whichever ones started to bubble, we would throw in,” he said.”
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Gabe Toth is lead distiller at The Family Jones Distillery in Denver and Loveland, CO. A former craft brewer, his passion for fermenting and transforming ingredients also extends to sausage and meat curing, cheesemaking, and pickling. He can be found up in the mountains or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EXPERIMENT in EXTERMINATION
WRITTEN BY HARRY HALLER
here has been no shortage of mean it wasn't flawed. There In 1926 the United States Federal Government copy written during and after the was a problem because the demanded manufacturers of denatured spirits days of prohibition. Yet one set of ruling created a new normal: It headlines definitely stands out, “U.S. made it okay for businesses to add deadly ingredients, while doubling the Government Purposely Poisoned purposely add toxins to alcohol. methyl content of their products. 10,000 People During Prohibition.” Sounds a bit brutish, right? In A headline which isn't true. But it also many ways it was. WHAT USED TO MAKE ONE SICK isn't false. Even snopes.com had to settle There were bound to be incidents NOW WOULD SURELY KILL. with a “Mixture Rating”;1 their sorta-notof accidental consumption with people getting sick, some even dying, which is really-but-yes-kinda-true rating. The problem exactly what happened. And still happens lies in the prickly fact that when addressing this today5 (check out the Code of Federal Regulations topic, ethics and morals collide. What the Government did in the 1920's was not illegal, but it was certainly not angelic. 27 CFR Part 21 for everything, including recipes).6 upsetting as The fog of this war began to roll in on June 7th, 1906, that might be, it was nothing compared to what occurred in 1926. when Congress enacted a law2 stating that “industrial alcohol That was the year the Federal Government took the not-so-goodidea of purposefully poisoning alcohol one step further, demanding was exempt from taxes, provided that enough toxic additives manufacturers of denatured spirits add deadly ingredients like [rendered] it undrinkable.”3 Alcohol taxes were exceedingly high. kerosene and brucine while also doubling the methyl content of Why should businesses making perfumes and paint pay the same their products.7,8,9 What used to make one sick now would surely tax as those making whiskey and beer, for whom these elevated 4 taxes were intended. However, just because it made sense didn't kill.
1 SNOPES – https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/government-poison-10000-americans/ by David Emery and Kim LaCapria 2 LIBRARY OF CONGRESS – Notes from the 59th Congress Session I, Chapter 3047, page 217 3 ATLAS OBSCURA – During Prohibition, Federal Chemists Used Poison to Stop Bootlegging by Anne Ewbank 4 LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS – Ken Burns’ PBS Documentary Takes on Prohibition by Rob Lowman. In the article, co-documentarian Lynn Novack spoke of this tax. “It started in the Civil War with the levy on beer and whiskey to help fund the war, and it never really went away. Some 30 percent to 40 percent of the government’s income came from the tax on alcohol.”
5 ANTIOXIDANTS IN FOOD, VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS – Chapter V, Section 2 by Amitava Dasgupta PhD, DABCC, and Kimberly Klein MD in which they stated between 1993 and 2998 there were 2,254 cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers — with 1 death in every 183 — and that 90.3% were due to unintentional exposure. 6 TTB – https://www.ttb.gov/industrial/sda-laws-and-regulations 7 TIME MAGAZINE – Monday, January 10, 1927 edition — National Affairs: Poison 8 POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY – April 1927 edition — The Truth About Poison Liquor by Federic Damrau, M.D. 9 SLATE – The Chemist's War by Deborah Blum WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
This decision was made all everyone to “quit drinking, To this date, no one can state with absolute certainty the worse because it did not because we're going to make how many people died directly from superhappen behind a veil of ignorance, this a lot more poisonous.”18 poisoned alcohol. Ten thousand could be an nor did it happen suddenly. Secondly, they said it was not their Frustrated with the ineptitude of responsibility. “Wood alcohol is not a exaggeration. It could as easily be the 18th Amendment to curb alcohol beverage, but a recognized poison and an understatement. consumption, the Federal Government felt its use and sale are not regulated by any compelled to get proactive. Their first move was of the Federal laws... [It is] State laws [which] to prohibit doctors from prescribing alcohol. Opponents regulate the sale of poisons and provide for punishment cried foul claiming this was a violation of the 10th Amendment for their improper use and sale.”19 Thirdly, if you really have to (one giving State Government power over anything “not delegated blame someone, blame science. “The alcohol is made poisonous to the United States by the Constitution”10). In case after case, not with the idea of killing drinkers, but because the only known non removable denaturant [sic] happens to be poisonous.”20 these challengers lost. The end result was perfectly summarized by the Selzman v. United States, 266 U.S. 466 (1925) Supreme Fourthly, no rational person would purposefully drink poison. As Court decision which stated that the 18th Amendment allowed the Seymour M. Lowman, Assistant U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Federal Government to do anything it damn well wanted to do to and former Lieutenant Governor of New York, proclaimed, only the stop people from getting their hands on liquor.11 Once untethered, “fringes of society are hunting for 'booze.' They are dying off fast from poison 'hooch.' If America can be made sober and temperate the Feds went hog wild. in 50 years a good job will have been done.”21 And that was the The results were instantaneous. Less than a week after the first death was reported in New York, the total body-count across the end of that until ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933 U.S. reached 1,968.12 This did not go unnoticed. Far from it. made the whole debate moot. To this date, no one can state with absolute certainty how many “The reports aroused a furor of protest and controversy throughout people died directly from super-poisoned alcohol. Ten thousand the nation.”13 Dr. Charles Norris, chief medical examiner of New could be an exaggeration. It could as easily be an understatement. York City, said the dissemination of this super-poisoned alcohol Either way, one fact remains: The government did what it did and proved the Great Experiment was in reality an “Experiment in 14 continues to do what it feels necessary to prevent the consumption Extermination.” Senator Copeland compared it to “the old days of illegal intoxicants, whether it be the 1978 “Mexican-American of landlord-owner in England [when] it was not uncommon to set eradication program”22 of spraying marijuana fields with a lethal gun traps to kill poachers.”15 Senator Edward I. Edwards called it “legalized murder.”16 And journalist Heywood Broun tied up herbicide (to which “the Administration explained that there was nothing it could do but warn smokers against Mexican all the outrage in a nice little bow writing in his New York Worldmarijuana,”23 So are they actually killing people or are they just Telegram column that “the eighteenth is the only amendment 17 with a death penalty.” Public outcry soon followed. making illegal products toxic enough to scare people sober? All of which begs for an answer to the ultimate question — The end result … indignation. when stuck between what one thinks is right and what established For one, the Federal Government stated what they did was societal norms considers to be right, how does one choose no secret. They had held numerous press conferences telling correctly? 10 THE U.S. CONSTITUTION 11 LIBRARY OF CONGRESS – Selzman v. United States, 266 U.S. 466 (1925), “The power of the Federal Government, granted by the Eighteenth Amendment, to enforce the prohibition of the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquor carries with it power to enact any legislative measures reasonably adapted to promote the purpose.”
Harry Haller is an independent consultant focused on working with sugarcane-based distilleries. Reach him at email@example.com.
12 LIBRARY OF CONGRESS – Congressional Record, Proceedings and Debates of the Second Session of the Sixty-ninth Congress — Volume LXVIII Part 1, page 977 13 POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY – April 1927 edition – The Truth About Poison Liquor by Federic Damrau, M.D. 14 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW – Volume 226, Number 6, page 652 — Our Essay in Extermination by Charles Norris, M.D. 15 LIBRARY OF CONGRESS – Congressional Record, Proceedings and Debates of the Second Session of the Sixty-ninth Congress — Volume LXVIII Part 1, page 977
18 VOX – The US Government Once Poisoned Alcohol to Get People to Stop Drinking by German Lopez 19 TIME MAGAZINE – Monday, October 22, 1928 edition — Prohibition: No Beverage 20 POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY – April 1927 edition — The Truth About Poison Liquor by Federic Damrau, M.D. 21 TIME MAGAZINE – Monday, September 19, 1927 edition — Prohibition: New Sponge
16 LIBRARY OF CONGRESS – Congressional Record, Proceedings and Debates of the Second Session of the Sixty-ninth Congress — Volume LXVIII Part 1, page 977
22 NEW YORK TIMES – Sunday, November 19, 1978 edition — Poisonous Fallout from the War on Marijuana by Jesse Kornbluth
17 SATURDAY EVENING POST – Would the Government Deliberately Poison 10,000 Prohibition Violators? by Jeff Nilsson
23 NEW YORK TIMES – Sunday, November 19, 1978 edition — Poisonous Fallout from the War on Marijuana by Jesse Kornbluth
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Capturing Wild Yeast for Your Distiller y
n recent years there has been a lot of talk in our industry regarding terroir and “hyper-local.” In tandem with these discussions, we’ve seen an increase in distilleries growing their own grains, foraging for their own botanicals, and some even making their own barrels. None of this seems to be in the spirit of one-upmanship, thankfully, but rather expressing appreciation for the many subtle nuances and intricacies that go into making a one-of-a-kind distilled spirit. Interestingly, what we haven’t seen much of (outside of a handful of brandy producers) is the use of wild or so-called “native” yeasts. In winemaking circles this is often accomplished by simply not pitching a pure culture into the fermenter and avoiding the use of antimicrobial compounds such as sulfur dioxide. Native yeast populations will quickly begin reproducing and fermenting the fruit must, with the hope being that they don’t start a free-for-all flavor riot and ruin the wine. Winemakers do have ways to mitigate some of these potential issues, but it requires a lot of experience and extra labor. Coming from a conceptual and sometimes literal background in brewing, most whiskey distillers are understandably averse to the concept of using anything but pure culture yeast in their fermentations. Native yeasts can be notoriously fickle flavor creators, sometimes producing unwanted aromas and lower
WRITTEN BY MATT STRICKLAND ILLUSTRATED BY BROCK CARON
alcohol levels. Additionally, they are almost always accompanied by other organisms such as lactic acid bacteria which can further spoil the fun (and the mash). Perhaps there is a middle ground to the pure culture approach versus that of the aforementioned microbiological orgy that the winemakers allow under their watch. This is where we get into developing our own pure culture of wild yeast. It’s not hard to do and the results can be potentially game-changing for your distillery. The most famous recent example of native yeast being captured and used for whiskey is that of Texas bourbon producer, Firestone & Robertson Distilling Company. Upon hiring their head distiller, Rob Arnold, the company became interested in capturing a local, wild fermentative yeast strain that they could then use as their house yeast. They sampled fields and fruits from the region in a variety of locales finally isolating their “Brazos” strain that they use for their bourbon. It’s an interesting story and a success that needn’t be limited to them; this is something virtually any distillery can do with a few tools and a little time. There are a few basic steps to yeast wrangling. 1 ) Sampling
4 ) Identifying
2 ) Plating
5 ) Trial Fermentations
3 ) Isolating
6 ) Propagation WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Sampling The first decision that must be made with sampling is where to sample. The goal of this should probably be to sample outside of your distillery since there’s a better-than-pigs-flying chance that resident yeast populations will contain pure culture strains you’re currently using or have used in the past. So, get outside. If you live or work in a city, it might be better to get away from the metropolitan sprawl, but the choice is yours. (Cities are rife with sources of potential contaminants such as air pollutants, liquid spills, cigarette smoke, etc.) Ideal areas are local grain fields and fruit farms. There are several methods for sampling yeast in the wild. The first is to use a series of mason jars with fresh brewer’s wort in them and place them in open areas overnight. This works great for grain fields and farms. The process is as follows: 1 ) Purchase a few pounds of dry or liquid malt extract from your local homebrew store along with a small quantity of hops. 2 ) Dilute the extract with filtered water and boil like you would for making a homebrewed batch of beer. The goal is to obtain a starting gravity of approximately 1.045. You’ll also want to add a little bit of hops to the boil to get a final bitterness level of 10-20 IBUs. (Speak with your local homebrew supplier about how to calculate the proper hops addition.) The hops are there to provide alpha acids, which will help to prevent the growth of lactic acid bacteria. 3 ) Allow the liquid to cool enough (<40°C) that you can easily pour it into some pre-sterilized mason jars. Then seal the tops off with cheesecloth and a rubber band. Make sure your hands and any other equipment or utensils that come in contact with the wort are as clean and sanitized as possible. You don’t want to risk any cross contamination this early in the game. 4 ) Place the jars outside overnight in an area with good airflow. Come back the next day and collect your jars. Bring them back to the lab/distillery and pour the contents into small sanitized glass carboys fitted with airlocks. 5 ) Observe them over the course of the next few days for signs of fermentation. If you want to collect samples of whole fruits, grains, nuts, or what have you, then you’ll need to purchase sterilized plastic collection tubes, available through any reputable lab supply store. The concept is similar to the first method. Pre-batch some wort with a little bit of hops. Place the fruit/vegetable/nut sample in the sterilized test tube and fill the tube with the cooled wort. Make sure there’s a little head space in the tube for any fermentation to take place and ensure that the cap is only loosely fitted onto the tube. Screwing it down too hard will make it difficult to vent any pressure or gas if fermentation occurs. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
The final method simply involves swabbing surfaces with a sterilized cotton swab (once again available through lab supply stores). You can swab just about any surface or object you want (just don’t be creepy about it). Rogue Ales in Newport Oregon did this with their Brewmaster John Maier by swabbing his beard to create Beard Beer, pretty tasty stuff, actually. Once you’ve swabbed a surface, place it into a sterile tube, seal, label, and store until you’re ready. This is great for on-the-fly field samples. Once you’re ready, batch out your wort, cool, and swirl the swab inside the wort a few times. Seal the wort off into a carboy for fermentation and carry on.
Plating After you’ve figured out which of your samples has shown good fermentation characteristics (preferably not one that smells like the inside of a dead cat’s stomach), it’s time to plate. At this stage “good fermentation characteristics” mean only a few things: 1 ) Did it ferment completely? And if so, how low was the gravity? 2 ) Does the fermentation smell and taste good? Things like fermentation speed, kinetics, esters, diacetyl, and sugar profiles can wait…for now. At this point we just need to know if we’re heading in a good direction. Plating is simply streaking a tiny drop of your fermentation onto a sterile petri dish filled with a special growth medium. If done properly, this will allow individual yeast species to form colonies on the plate, making for easier isolation. Plating requires the following items: 1 ) Sterile wort produced as before (250-300 ml) 2 ) Sterile petri dishes (available through lab supply stores) 3 ) Agar (5-7 grams, also available through lab supply stores or through Amazon) 4 ) Sterilized petri dishes (Amazon) 5 ) Parafilm (Amazon) Heat wort to a boil and mix in the agar until it is completely dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool to ~110°F then, with clean hands, begin pouring the wort/agar mixture into the petri dishes, about halfway full is fine. Don’t place the tops back on the dishes just yet. Instead move the plates to a clean, cool, dark space that doesn’t have any air draft. Allow them to finish cooling to room temperature. At this point, put the caps back on and wrap the plates in parafilm. Store the plates in a refrigerated space upside down until you’re ready to use them. Always make up more plates than you think you’ll need. The sad truth is that no matter how careful we try to be with keeping our workspace clean, a few plates will manage to catch the occasional errant microbe (usually mold spores) and become unusable as a result.
Isolation Now it’s time to isolate some of the yeast you (hopefully) caught. This involves pipetting or looping a tiny liquid sample from your inoculated wort and placing it onto one of the clean petri plates with the agar/wort medium. Next you’ll “streak” the sample all over the plate in a predefined pattern. Finally put the lid back on the plate and incubate the samples for a few days before you analyze to see what kind(s) of colonies have grown. Isolation requires the following items: 1 ) Bunsen burner with access to appropriate gas for fuel (in a pinch, the flame from a gas stove can also work) 2 ) Sample loop and/or 1 mm sterile pipet for wort sampling (both available at Amazon) 3 ) (Optional) Hand sanitizer or 70% ethanol solution Make sure you have a clean work area with no air draft. We’ve come too far to risk contaminating our wild caught yeast samples. Get your petri plates ready and shake up your inoculated wort samples to resuspend any microbes that have dropped to the bottom. Turn on the Bunsen burner (or gas stove flame). Heat up the sample loop for a few seconds until it is glowing bright red (alternatively you can use a pre-sterilized pipette) and then allow it to cool for a few seconds. Feel free to dip it into some hand sanitizer or 70% ethanol solution to cool it further. Next dip the loop into the wort medium to take a tiny sample in the loop. Quickly apply the loop gently and at roughly a 30-degree angle to the agar plate, trying not puncture the agar. (Streaking microbes on a plate takes some practice so don’t be too upset if you don’t get it right the first or second go. This is another reason why it’s worth having extra plates lying around.) You are going to do a series of three streaks on the plate. The first streak should be done in a zig-zag pattern near the top fourth of the plate. Remember: be gentle and don’t stab the plate. Once you’ve moved your sample loop with your yeast/wort sample back and forth a few
times, re-sterilize your sample loop like before. Now instead of taking a sample from your collection jar/tube, place the loop near the edge of one side of your original streak. Turn the plate about 90-120 degrees and streak again, making sure that you start at the edge of the original streak. The aim is to streak a small amount of the original streaked sample in another zig-zag pattern. Once this is done, re-sterilize the loop and streak a third time from where you just left off at the second pattern, same as before. Once this is done, you can cap the plate, turn it upside down and place it in a dark space at room temperature for several days. Depending on your sample, this incubation period may take only a day or two or up to several weeks. Eventually, you’ll have a set of plates with colonies of microorganisms growing on them. Different organisms have different colony morphologies so some may look perfectly round and cream colored, while others may have irregular shapes and look green or pink or brown and so on. While colony morphology is not a perfect science (few things are), Saccharomyces yeasts typically form nice circular cream/off white colored colonies with a smooth surface, so those are the colonies you’ll want to find. Next, take a flamed sample loop and sample one of these colonies then streak it onto a new plate. Do that for each colony you think might be of interest making sure to streak only one colony per plate and flaming your sample loop between each streak. You’re going to follow the same incubation procedures as before, but this time at the end of the growth period, you should have plates with individual organisms on them.
Next time… This is unfortunately going to have to be a two-parter. There’s just too much to cover here for us to cram it all into a single article. That’s ok. Hopefully the information presented here has spurred your curiosity and perhaps you’ll take the yeast wrangling leap. Follow the steps outlined above you’ll be well on your way. In Part 2 of this piece, we’ll take a look at the steps required to identify the yeasts you’ve wrangled, the process of setting up realistic test fermentations, and finally what to do when you find a single culture that you want to scale up to a commercial level.
If you’re craving more materials for research, a lot of the info from this piece can be found at www.bootlegbiology.com, a company that specializes in propagating wild yeast cultures from adventurous brewers. Also, worth checking out are Rob Arnold and Eric Simanek’s Shots of Knowledge: The Science of Whiskey and Yeast by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff.
Matt Strickland is the Master Distiller (he hates that title) for Distillerie Cote des Saints in Quebec where he focuses on single malt production. He has a Master's in Oeonology and Viticulture from Oregon State, is a faculty member at Moonshine University, and is the only American to sit on the Board of Examiners for the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in the UK. His spirit spirit is Peruvian pisco and he does not believe that listening to Journey has to be done ironically. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
MISCellaneous Distillery Neill realized the “something real” he was seeking to create was spirits and spent the next couple of years researching how to accomplish that goal. As part of that research, McNeill decided he wanted to be near his friend’s farm, which, instead of growing vegetables, would be supplying the grains for his distillery’s whiskies. No more than 30 minutes from Sorenson’s farm, McNeill and Meg MacWhirter, his wife and partner in the distillery venture, quickly settled on Mount Airy and its historic Main Street area. “The town had a great feel to it,” McNeill related. Another plus was economics. “We didn’t want to invest a few million to get the distillery off the ground,” McNeill said. “Instead, we wanted to step-stone its growth.” He also appreciated the fact that by using grains from local farms, their new venture would be reducing its impact on the environment. Using local farms like Sorenson’s Gravel Springs Farm, and, more recently, Chris Weaver’s Hickory Hollow Farm in Finksburg, Maryland, meant “we’re not trucking in corn from the Midwest when we have all PHOTO BY JOAN M. KASURA
ocally-grown grain is at the center of the story for MISCellaneous Distillery. Dan McNeill, owner and founder of the Mount Airy, Maryland-based distillery, is proud that he can tells his customers that he can account for every bit of grain in their spirits. That local connection began with Paul Sorenson, a friend of McNeill’s. Sorenson, along with his wife, Emma, had purchased a 90 plus acre farm from his wife’s family in Carroll County, Maryland, where they had been growing organic vegetables. “We were doing well, but farmers markets had reached a saturation point and we didn’t see a way to grow the business the way we wanted,” said Sorenson. Enter McNeill, who had decided that he had had enough of the “stump speeches and photo ops” that filled the campaigns and political events he had worked in for the past eight years. Instead, he felt the desire to make something real. In 2014, Mc-
Dan McNeill pours a bag of rye grain into one of the fermenters to start the distilling process for one of their rye whiskies.
this corn growing in our backyard,” he said. Yet the most important reason for partnering with local farms rested on the desired flavor profile of MISCellaneous’ spirits. Particularly their three rye whiskies, two of which, Restless Rye and Gertrude’s 100% Rye, won bronze medals in 2018 and 2019 respectively at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Unlike other craft rye
Dan McNeill and Meg MacWhirter, owners of MISCellaneous Distillery, stand next to one of their fermenters. In the background, two fermenters containing spent mash are stacked awaiting transport to feed the cattle at Chris Weaver’s Hickory Hollow Farm. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
PHOTO COUR TESY OF DA N MCNEILL, MISCELLANE OU
S DISTILLER Y
WRITTEN BY JOAN M. KASURA
cess in growing a rye crop depends on how ably it is managed. “You need to walk your fields every four to five days looking for disease,” said Weaver. In fact, thanks to Maryland’s record levels of rain in 2018, growing rye was a true challenge for both farmers that year. Although Sorenson’s rye yields, harvested in early summer at the height of the deluge that year, were reduced for 2018 due to “major lodging.” Despite the challenges, neither farmer regrets what they’re doing. Both the farmers and McNeill are committed to growing not only the rye and corn for MISCellaneous, but also meeting the demand for other local agricultural producers within the region. “If the distilleries support the local producers, it becomes a rising tide for everyone,” Sorenson said. Additionally, “It’s really nice to see everything you’re doing from start to finish,” said Weaver, referring not only to his growing both corn and rye to fulfill MISCellaneous’ mash bills, but also the return of the spent mash back to his farm to feed the cattle he raises. “By having my grain go to a different product, I see the fruits of my labor, versus taking it to a grain elevator and dropping it off and not seeing where it goes from there,” he said. Bottles of Gertrude’s 100% Rye whiskey await their labels. The window on the right allows visitors and customers from the front tasting room to peek in on Still, Weaver acthe proceedings. knowledged that a farmer “has to be on the top of his agronomic game to grow the desired product” for a distillery such as MISCellaneous, especially when it whiskies within the Mid-Atlantic region, many of which are made with 70 to 80 percent rye grains along with a varied combination of corn and/or barley to round out the mash bill, McNeill uses 100% unmalted rye from Sorenson’s and Weaver’s farms. “I want the terroir — that Maryland rye agricultural flavor — to really come out,” he said. This puts the pressure on the farmers McNeill works with, especially since, as Sorenson noted, “rye has its own specific needs” to grow well. “It’s a really labor intensive venture,” Weaver explained, “and not every acre you farm is suitable to grow it.” “You need maximum air flow throughout the field,” he said. “And yield and protein levels can be affected by low soil pH.” Sorenson added, “You can’t treat rye like other small grains [such as wheat and barley]. It grows quickly and lodges easily.” (Lodging refers to the plant’s stem bending over near the ground level, which not only makes it difficult to harvest, but also can dramatically reduce a field’s yield.) If all that weren’t enough, both acknowledged that due to the grain’s susceptibility to fungal diseases, the production suc-
KASURA PHOTO BY JOAN M.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DAN MCNEILL, MISCELLANEOUS DISTILLERY
The rye harvest at Gravel Springs Farm: (top) Harvesting the field; (bottom right) An up-close look at the rye grains being harvested; (bottom left) Pouring the harvested rye grain from the combine into trailer bins for transport back to the main farm for further processing.
comes to growing corn. “Corn inconsistencies can really taint your bourbon,” he said. McNeill also cited the advantage of consistency in working with the area’s smaller farmers like Sorenson and Weaver. Echoing the latter, McNeill explained, “You don’t want to make a batch different from what came before.” McNeill values that consistency so much that he and Sorenson have discussed trying to find neighboring farms with the same soil quality as Sorenson’s as he begins to explore expanding his distillery’s production. “It’s like grapes,” McNeill said, returning to the concept of terroir. “A vine growing in my backyard is not necessarily going to produce wine with the same flavor profile as a vine growing in your backyard, even if you’re just across the street.” “If you’re going through all the discussions of when we need the grains, and when to plant them,” he said, “Why not confirm the soil quality as well?” To that end, McNeill stressed the importance of testing the soil of those neighboring farms to ensure they can continue to keep the award-winning flavor profiles MISCellaneous Distillery has established in the last few years. “Being able to pivot the varieties and work with the growers personally benefits everyone, especially our customers.”
MISCellaneous Distillery is located in Mount Airy, Maryland. For more info visit www.miscdistillery.com or call (240) 394-6472. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
IN, AND OUT OF, SUSPENSE PART 3: MEDIUMS W R I T T E N B Y G E O R G E B . C ATA L L O
e’ve done some talking about filtration these last few issues, and now in the third installment we arrive at the medium. And no, I don’t mean Patricia Arquette. The medium, most simply put, is the part of a filtration system that removes stuff from the fluid. Take a coffee filter, for instance. Coffee filters are generally made from 100 g/m2 (grams per square meter) paper and serve the purpose of keeping the grounds from ending up in your cup while allowing the brewed coffee to pass through. Or consider the filter found in a common household turtle tank. The cartridge is comprised of activated charcoal and a “dense-floss.” The purpose of this media is to remove some minor water contaminants and solid debris (i.e. food particulate and turtle turds).
FILTERING OUT THE NONSENSE Before we get into the types of media you should be using, let’s talk about the nonsense out there being advertised to consumers as something special. The vodka category is particularly infamous for advertising filtration hyperbole. Herkimer “diamonds” (quartz), gold, meteorite, or even the breasts of supermodels are lauded as special extra steps. While quartz (silicon dioxide) is an important mineral, it in crystal form it isn’t reactive or porous enough to impact any fluid passing through it — aside from maybe very large solids. The only meaningful application for quartz in a distillery is in the glass of the bottles. Gold is chemically inert and does not interact with alcohol, or much of anything for that matter. While we don’t know what type of meteorite was specifically used for filtration, there are three main types of meteorite — two of which are high in iron, the other is high in silicate minerals (essentially more quartz). At best, chemically speaking, meteorite filtration would be neutral. I don’t think any explanation as to why breasts are a poor filtration medium is needed.
On the converse, there are some things that may sound like hogwash to be used as media that may not be complete nonsense. Like volcanic rock. Rocks formed from volcanic lava are divided into two main categories, igneous volcanic rock (formed from lava above Earth’s crust) and igneous plutonic rock (formed from magma below the Earth’s crust).The rock more conducive to filtration is igneous volcanic rock, aka lava rock, that as it cooled was rich in trapped air bubbles creating a very porous solid rock. This lava rock is often used in biological filtration systems for water purification with great success. That being said, I don’t feel there is enough data in the spirits world for me to say with any certainty of the efficacy of it as a spirits filtration method. But we’ll call this one plausible. But enough about that, let’s get into what you’ll actually want to use to meaningfully impact your spirits based on what you’re filtering. I once again spoke to Katherine Marchetti of AFTEK Applied FIltration Technologies to get to the bottom of the matter.
WHISKEY A philosophy I’ve heard more than once in regards to spirits production and filtration is, why put something in there to just take it out? Just don’t put it there in the first place. Long chain fatty acid esters are formed in fermentation and are largely found in the tails of a run. Having a more controlled fermentation and tighter cut can reduce the amount of some of these fatty acids in your distillate. If you are foregoing chill filtration, you are going to want to use cationically (positively) charged media to remove the haze caused by the fatty acid chains. A cationically charged medium can be made from either cellulose or microglass. The cationic charge breaks up the long chain esters without stripping them from the spirit, therefore aromatics and mouthfeel are left unadulterated. The ability to break up and not remove these esters alleviates the worry of overfiltration. Removing too much of them from your spirit will harshly impact flavor, aromatics, and mouthfeel. You don’t want a dull and thin whiskey. This is why choosing the proper filter for the job is so astoundingly vital.
RUM, BRANDY, OR GIN “Botanical and fruit oils are often dealt with in a similar fashion as whiskies, sometimes with a slightly tighter retention rating,” said Marchetti. A retention rating is measured in microns (μm). One micron is equal to one-thousandth of a millimeter, and is a measure of the pores in a medium. The size of the pores dictate the size of the molecules that can pass through them. Like whiskey, you are going to want to use a cationically charged medium. Brandy can generally use a wider retention rating than rum or gin. According to Marchetti, “The cartridge we [sometimes] use was actually [from] a Japanese manufacturer — it was developed specifically for sake, and even though it’s quite tight (0.3 micron), it works very, very well on colloidal particles (protein hazes) [without changing the nose or mouthfeel].”
VODKA To ensure your vodka’s clarity, a carbon-based medium, like activated charcoal, is ideal at around one micron. Marchetti recommends filtering just before bottling. “Carbon works on contact time and surface area, so low and slow flow rates are ideal.” Carbon filter media are available in multiple formats: cartridges, pads, or bulk granular carbon. “Cartridges are the easiest and least messy, but also tend to be best on small batches (15-20 gal). Once above 50 gallons or so, pads are the best bet — the product can be set up to recirculate through until the desired profile is reached,” said Marchetti of the more efficient options. “Bulk [granular activated] carbon (GAC) ... has excellent surface area but is dirty and expensive, and it’ll require downstream filtration to catch the fines that migrate through.” I have also encountered the use of charred coconut husks in place of GAC in a gravity filter for vodka, which is a very effective alternative. And finally Marchetti stressed that, “The most important thing to remember about carbon is that while it strips out color and flavor, it seldom will make it a truly neutral spirit; in small batches especially, it’s the cuts that will determine how effective the carbon will be.”
WATER Another type of haze we have talked about in the past is comprised of minerals, most of which are caused by the water source. A mineral haze can be avoided by the aforementioned “don’t put it there in the first place” philosophy by using reverse osmosis water. If you aren’t using RO water, you can filter your water using a standard polypropylene medium to reduce the mineral haze. You can also use this medium on your final spirit if needed. I sincerely hope this series has thus far been educational and also a little entertaining. This industry is full of passionate and gifted people, and you all deserve to shine your brightest to consumers. Don’t let a little haze in a bottle scare someone away from your Mona Lisa.
George B. Catallo is the “Whiskey Guy” and Floor/Social Media Manager at Parkway Wine and Liquor in Rochester, NY. He has been in the beverage industry since he turned twenty-one and has worked as the Bar Operations Manager of a wine bar, an Assistant Distiller and Supplier Rep for a craft distillery, and has even hosted a spirits review web series on YouTube under the moniker 'Just One Dram.'
Your Label, Your Bottle, Your Story, Your Copyright How copyrights can protect your craft alcohol’s unique vibe
any makers of craft alcohol, whether it be beer, spirits, or wine, spend considerable time and effort creating, developing and marketing their brand and their name, which appear on their label. As discussed in a prior article “What Do You Mean I Can’t Name My Artisanal Gin After My Dog?” Artisan Spirit Magazine, Spring 2019, trademark law provides the legal means of how to protect your brand and your name. Your brand and your name, however, are not the only elements of your company’s overall image nor are they the only elements of your company’s overall marketing efforts. Other elements include the cool graphic design on your label, the beautiful original drawing, painting, or photograph that is the background of your label, or perhaps the handmade glass or ceramic bottle designed just for your product. Online elements are equally important, too, such as the “About Us” or “Our Story” features on your website, the photographs on your social media, and the videos you’ve uploaded. Each of these specific aspects of your overall marketing efforts help create a niche for your company and your product and develop a loyal customer basis and positive notice with trend setters and influencers. So, how can you protect everything, from your awesome label to your funky container, as well as your online presence? The answer is copyright law.
Copyright law can help you Currently, in the United States, the two most important acts governing copyright law are The Copyright Act of 1976 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. The United States Copyright Office, part of the Library of Congress, serves an important role in the administration of copyrights. It is also a tremendous resource of information about copyrights (visit www.copyright.gov). In order to figure out if your company can benefit from copyright, there are two threshold questions: 1. “What is a copyright?”, and
WRITTEN BY CANDACE LYNN BELL
2. “What types of works can be protected by
copyright?” WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
No copycatting my stuff A copyright is a bundle of exclusive protections and rights for the author of an “original work of authorship” that is “fixed” in a tangible form of expression or medium. 17 U.S.C. §§ 102 – 016. Under the law, copyright owners have the ability to protect against unauthorized reproduction, copying, distribution, and display of their works, among other protections and rights. As to what types of “works” can be protected by this bundle of rights, under the Copyright Act, “original works of authorship” “fixed in a tangible medium”, include, among other things: == Literary works, == Pictorial, graphic, and three dimensional works, and == Audiovisual works, among others. For a craft alcohol producer’s label, protection means that all of the artwork, the background design, perhaps even the font type, can be protected by copyright to the extent such work is original. The same holds true for a craft alcohol producer’s website and social media. All of the artwork, videos, photos, text, perhaps even the music, can be protected by copyright to the extent such work is original. And what does this mean for a craft alcohol producer’s bottle, cask, or packaging? Again, it means that the bottle or cask and perhaps even the packaging can be protected by copyright to the extent such work is original. For all of these different elements, a copyright can be an additional asset for the maker of craft alcohol. Better still, a copyright, as an asset — a thing — comes into being — is created, at the moment it is fixed in a tangible medium (according to the language of the Copyright Act) — which means, the moment the pen touches paper for a design, or the moment the sketch is made on a tablet or a video is filmed, you may actually already have copyrights in these various elements. One extra note about the bottle or cask, the container, or the packaging. Over the last several years, as noted by several industry trendsetters and influencers, the shape, style, material, coloring, and design of the container that holds the craft alcohol and the packaging that comes with it has become an important aspect of distinguishing one craft alcohol maker from another. Many craft alcohol makers consider the container and its packaging as a core element in building consumer recognition and brand loyalty, and it has become an important part of the brand aesthetic. In some circumstances, the container and the packaging could be protected as a trademark or by a design patent. However, copyright claims should not be overlooked and should at least be considered, if the container or packaging satisfies the requirements for copyright protection.
A copyright exists, but who owns it? Once a copyright is created, who actually owns the copyright? Legal entities do not create original works of authorship, people do. No corporation picked up a camera and took a picture. A person did that act. The status of the creator/author/person in relation to the craft alcohol maker dictates how the craft alcohol maker can obtain the rights in the work. The craft alcohol maker may already own the rights in the work or may need to have the rights in the work assigned to them, based on the underlying circumstances: == Is the person a current or former employee of the craft alcohol maker or an independent contractor, == Was the work created in the scope of their employment or under a specific contract or both, and == What is the nature or type of work? The answers to each of these questions will dictate who is the owner. Generally, if the creator is an employee and the work is created in the scope of their employment, the rights are transferred to the employer under law, but an employment agreement setting out provisions granting such transfer of any rights to works created in the scope of employment can be very helpful in avoiding any issues. If the creator is an independent contractor, in some limited instances, the work is owned by the craft alcohol maker under the concept of “work for hire,” but this only applies to certain types of work. When working with an independent contractor, however, the most proactive course of action to insure ownership of the work by your company is to have an agreement in which all rights in the created work either belong to the craft alcohol maker or are assigned to the craft alcohol maker by the author. By putting these types of provisions in place before the work is created, the craft alcohol maker can insure it owns the copyright. If the craft alcohol maker does not own the rights in the work and the rights cannot be obtained by assignment, can the work be licensed and if so, was a licensed obtained? If there is a license involved, the craft alcohol maker will not be the owner of the copyright, but will have the limited ability to use the work as set out in the license.
You own a copyright — © — Make the most of it So let’s assume the craft alcohol maker owns the copyright, what is the next best step? Register the copyright with the Copyright Office. The craft alcohol maker, or someone on their behalf, prepares and files the appropriate paperwork with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. The various forms and numerous helpful guides can be found on the Copyright Office website, but working with a skilled intellectual property attorney can be helpful in deciphering the technical points of the law and the regulations, which are not as straightforward as the forms make them appear. As of March 4, 2019, you must have registered your copyright with the Copyright Office at the
Library of Congress in order to enforce your rights in federal court litigation. In the recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com LLC, the United States Supreme Court made it clear that to commence federal court litigation on the grounds of copyright infringement, the plaintiff needed a copyright registration in hand. There are additional benefits of obtaining a copyright registration, as well. If the registration is obtained within three months of the work’s creation, statutory damages are available for an infringement. Statutory damages are often helpful when the damages actually incurred are low or, more likely, difficult to prove in a courtroom setting.
A lot of work, but worth it Why go to all this trouble? Here’s a real world scenario to ponder:
A friend of an employee, who is a graphic artist, sketched a new label design one night while everyone was sampling the latest batch of your distilled spirit. The batch was a hit, and it is going to be your spring release. You liked the label design, so you are busy having labels approved and then printed for distribution. Terrific! You also showcased a new bottle design that night, having just received it from the glassblower. Again, terrific! It was such a great moment that an employee took a video of the opening of the cask. You want to post the video of everyone’s reaction to the bottle on your website, along with some photographs of the tasting on your social media. Also terrific! Many copyrights were created that night — assets critical to your business. By utilizing the provisions of copyright law and obtaining copyright registrations, you can make certain you own the copyright or have the ability to use it, and you can protect all of these critical elements of your marketing efforts: your label, your bottle, your website video, and your social media photos. Taken together, the copyrights and their registrations can add value to your business and give you additional means to protect what you are building.
Candace Lynn Bell is an intellectual property attorney with Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC Buffalo, New York office. If you have any questions, please contact author Candace Lynn Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org. This information is intended to keep readers current on developments in intellectual property law and is not intended as legal advice. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
DECLAWING AN EPIDEMIC
Southern Tier Distilling Breaks into the Billion Dollar Spiked Seltzer Market WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY GEORGE B. CATALLO
piked seltzer. You either love it or love to make fun of it. Or you made fun of it, drank it ironically, and then got hooked. Regardless of how you feel about it, there is a ton of money in this sector of the industry. According to CNN Business, the hard seltzer market broke $1 billion in a single year ending in August 2019. That means it saw 200 percent growth, and is now accounting for 2.5 percent of all alcohol sales. That simultaneously sounds like a lot and not very much. But rest assured, those are some huge numbers. Those figures are projected to continue growing to $2.5B by 2021, according to Wine Enthusiast. An interesting piece of information on the sales trends for spiked seltzer is that while sales peak in August, they don’t dip as harshly as one would expect them to through the end of the year. Seltzer is not just a summer phenomenon. That money is coming from somewhere, though. Vodka, beer, and wine sales have bled into the seltzer pot. The ready-todrink category as a whole is taking sales from these categories, and the seltzer brands know it. At the time of writing this article, a major brand is running an ad in which it says to ditch your old drink and an actor is seen using whiskey to light a grill while drinking a hard seltzer. Looking at the spiked seltzer landscape, the reality is that a vast majority
of the brands in the market are fizzy malt liquor. Could you imagine Billy Dee Williams posing with one of them and saying, “It works every time!” or Sublime singing, “Forty Bubbles to Freedom”? Not the highest quality stuff, sadly. That has potentially left the door wide open for someone to come in with a product that actually uses a quality base of distillate over malt liquor. Southern Tier Distilling Company (STDC) has seen that opportunity and run through the door full speed with a vodka seltzer.
STRIKING WHILE THE ALUMINUM IS COLD As with anything, timing is everything. Not long before the release of their seltzers, Southern Tier released a line of canned cocktails that hit the nail on the head in terms of quality and affordability. That cocktail line, which includes a Vodka Madras (vodka, orange, cranberry, cardamom, chamomile, and lime), Gin & Tonic (gin, tonic, cucumber, and elderflower), Vodka Soda (vodka, soda water, kaffir lime, blood orange, pomelo, and rosemary), and the Bourbon Smash (bourbon, ginger, mint, lemon), debuted with great success. The reputation of attached parent company Southern Tier Brewing Company undoubtedly assisted the immediate success by suggesting quality to consumers not already familiar with their distillery. Within months of the cocktails hitting the market, the vodka seltzers entered the
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fray as well. The inaugural line of flavors were watermelon and cucumber, blood orange and pomelo, black cherry and pomegranate, and mango and peach. Timing, again, is everything. These seltzers debuted right around the start of the football season. With STDC being smack dab in the middle of one of the most notorious NFL tailgating markets (triangulated roughly between Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleaveland) it was a recipe for success. An additional draw of the product lines in their home state of New York is that wine, spirits, and beer are divided between package stores and grocery. Wine and spirits can only be sold for off premise consumption in specialized privately held liquor stores, while beer is considered a grocery item and can be sold almost anywhere that is not a liquor store. (Fun fact: Cider is both considered a fruit wine as well as a beer product and can be sold in either). Malt beverages are legally defined as beer. These spirit-based seltzers and RTD cocktails therefore give liquor stores the ability to recapture a lost market share as well. Southern Tier isn’t the only company taking note of the opportunity in this marketplace. Large companies have started releasing vodka-based seltzer lines as well, such as Gallo’s High Noon. Even with the “big boys” getting in on this, there is still plenty of room for competition. Southern Tier is actively opening new markets and is currently distributed in New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware, North Carolina, Maryland, and DC.
BEHIND THE CURTAIN: BUBBLES AND BEYOND The offspring of Southern Tier Brewery Company, the distillery was granted its New York State Farm Distillery License in 2015 and is home to over 600 barrels of whiskey. Their whiskey, vodka, and gin are produced from a 1100-gallon pot still manned by Patrick Neidig, who has been with Southern Tier for over two years. The brewery, founded in 2002 by Phineas and Sara DeMink and Allen “Skip” Yahn, is best known for beers such as 2XIPA and Pumking. The facility that currently holds the distillery was actually Southern Tier’s first brewery location, until they outgrew that space. When the brewery moved a stone's throw up the hill into a much larger and more modern facility, the old space had a brief tenure as storage until the vision for the distillery came to be. In the same space as the distillery is the attached tasting room,
called The Empty Bottle. Patrons have the ability to try any of the products on their own, in a flight, or even in a cocktail as well as purchase products or merchandise. Being the child of a wildly successful and modern brewery has its perks. STDC has full access to the chem-labs of STBC, their immaculate UV treated reverse osmosis water, the 14,000 cans per hour canning line, a wastewater treatment facility, and can even acquire beer to be made into whiskey. Speaking of beer into whiskey, STDC make their 2X Hopped Whiskey from 2XIPA. Lots of simcoe hops are used in the production and that brings an oily pine and citrus aspect to the resulting whiskey without being overly resinous or bitter. STDC is in tune with market trends and consumer preferences. When asked about the longevity of the seltzer trend and what happens when the bubble bursts, Brand Manager Nathan Arnone said, “[STDC is] continuing to innovate to stay in front of new flavor trends, while remaining confident that today’s consumers are looking for lighter alternatives made with high quality ingredients...” The good news is, all data currently shows seltzer is here to stay and STDC is positioned to be a potential leader in that realm.
Southern Tier Distilling Company is located in Lakewood, NY. For more information visit www.southerntierdistilling.com or call (716) 763-5479. WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
ONE-AND-A-HALF OUNCES, OR ELSE
CALIFORNIA’S DEPARTMENT OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL ISSUES ACCUSATIONS AGAINST SEVERAL DISTILLERIES FOR EXCEEDING SERVICE LIMITS AT TYPE 74 TASTING ROOMS W R I T T E N B Y M A R G A R E T T WAT E R B U RY
t’s one of the first maxims of hospitality many of us learn: A generous host is a good host. But some California distilleries are finding that their natural instincts are getting them into hot water with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC. Over the past year, ABC agents have issued accusations against six locations licensed under the Type 74 Distillery License for serving more than the limit of 1.5 ounces of spirit per guest. The Type 74 Distillery License was signed into law in 2015 as part of AB 1295, also known as the Craft Distillers Act of 2015. It allows California distilleries that produce up to 150,000 proof gallons per year to sell bottles from the tasting room, charge for tastings, serve mixed drinks, and ben-
efit from other privileges not open to larger producers. But the law also comes with restrictions, including limiting the quantity of spirit served during public tastings to less than is found in a single typical cocktail. One exception to this rule, however, is during private parties, where distillers can not only serve guests more than 1.5 ounces of spirit, but can also serve beer, wine, and spirits they don’t make themselves. Private events are a popular way for distilleries to generate a little extra revenue and showcase their products in a format similar to how they’d actually be enjoyed. But now, a recent ABC accusation settled in court has suggested that what qualifies as a private event may be narrower than many distillers would like to believe.
PRIVATE MEANS PRIVATE In November 2019, Blinking Owl Distillery in Santa Ana, California, was ordered to shut down its tasting room for 25 days as a penalty for furnishing more than 1.5 ounces of spirits to an undercover ABC agent. It was Blinking Owl’s second accusation. In 2017, it had been the subject of a first accusation, also for exceeding the 1.5-ounce limit while serving another undercover ABC agent. The penalty for that accusation was a $3,000 fine. Blinking Owl’s co-owner Robin Christenson says the first accusation in 2017 was entirely deserved. “It was completely my fault,” she said. “An ABC agent came in. I knew her — I didn’t know WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
she was ABC — I thought she was just from the neighborhood. I felt bad that she couldn’t have another drink, so I said hey, you can be part of my private party, here’s another drink. It was a blatant violation, and I will never do it again.” Robin believes that the second accusation, however, was issued under more ambiguous circumstances. Blinking Owl had instituted a policy to take advantage of a section of the law that allows Type 74 license holders additional privileges during “private events or private functions not open to the general public.” The law doesn’t specifically define how many people can or must attend a private event, or what kinds of events do or do not qualify. Blinking Owl’s policy was that any interested guest could call ahead of time to organize a private event. Once onsite, they were issued a wristband, which gave them the privilege of consuming more than 1.5 ounces of spirit during their tasting room visit. The wristband, Blinking Owl thought, was a clear way of delineating who was participating in a private event and who was a member of the general public. These private events took place during the same hours as the general tasting room was open, and the general public and private event-goers were often present at the same time. On October 4th, 2018, an undercover ABC agent called ahead of time to request a private event according to Blinking Owl’s policy. When he and his partner arrived about 10 minutes later, they were issued wristbands and seated at the bar in Blinking Owls’ small tasting room. While consuming two cocktails, they noted a member of the general public who had not requested a private event enter the space and order one drink. While the other visitor was
served within the 1.5 ounce limit of the law, the ABC agents described this in their report as a violation of the rule that private events “not be open to the general public.” Blinking Owl Distillery contested the accusation, claiming that the use of wristbands provided clear definition between private event attendees and the general public — and, furthermore, that the law was ambiguous in terms of just how separated private events needed to be from the public tasting room. That led to a trial in front of an administrative law judge in October 2019, who ruled in favor of the ABC. The ruling stated: “There was nothing private about Agent Gray's visit. The fact that he called ahead did nothing to create a private event or function, and he certainly was not attending anything that was not open to the general public.” The penalty was a 25-day tasting room closure starting November 12th, 2019. Robin says the wristband system was in effect at the time of Blinking Owl’s first accusation, and ABC didn’t say anything about it then, which led her to believe it met the requirements. She also says other distillers are operating in the same fashion. “Had I known they were agents, I would have done the same thing,” said Robin. “But the ABC thought I was sneaking around.” Blinking Owl complied fully with the penalty, but Robin says she’s disappointed with how the ABC treated her when she says she was acting in good faith. “It felt like we weren’t listened to and we were treated like intentional criminals, and that was where I felt it wasn’t fair. We’ve invested everything into this distillery. We’re trying to figure it out, we’re trying to operate above board…We have everything on the line. We can’t afford to get shut down.”
SETTING A PRECEDENT Enforcements like these are routine for the ABC. While distillery tasting rooms should expect to be inspected by ABC officers at some point, their visits may not be obvious. “ABC enforces these laws in order to help keep a level playing field for all licensed businesses and to do our best to ensure they are all playing by the same rules,” said John Carr, public information officer at ABC. “It is not at all uncommon for investigations to be conducted through plainclothes and undercover operations.” The industry should pay particular attention the Blinking Owl ruling, since it may inform ABC procedure in the future. “The Department could also designate a decision as precedential, which has the same legal effect as a regulation,” said John. Distillers with questions about the law should get in touch with the agency. “ABC is available to answer questions, and we do explain the law and did so in this case,” said John. Interested parties can submit questions to the ABC and view published industry advisories on the ABC’s website: www.abc.ca.gov. Beyond bona fide private events that are closed to the general public, distillers who wish to serve more than 1.5 ounces of spirit at their tasting rooms have another option: open a full-fledged restaurant serving food. Robin says that’s the path Blinking Owl is ultimately hoping to travel, although it’s an expensive one. Even after the ruling, she says Blinking Owl will still host private events, albeit with an extra dose of caution. “I’m going to have all the events I can. And I’m going to be very savvy and very cautious. I swear I’m wearing a “What Would The ABC Do?” bracelet.” Of course, in a familiar refrain for the spirits industry, the ultimate solution would be a change in the law to allow distillery tasting rooms the same privileges enjoyed by their cohorts in beer and wine. For now, however, California distillers should pay special attention to their pour volumes and private event policies to make sure their tastings don’t cross the line from festive to felonious, even inadvertently.
To view published industry advisories and submit questions to California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control visit www.abc.ca.gov. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
S E IR P S IN IN A R R TE D E K O LO R E V O COLORADO’S
DRY LAND DISTILLERS MAKE DISTINCTLY USING UNIQUE INGREDIENTS TO PHOTOGRAPHED BY CARRIE DOW COLORADO SPIRITS WRITTEN AND
hen most people imagine Colorado, they picture rugged mountains soaring into the sky with snow-capped peaks and flowing whitewater rivers lined with evergreen trees. We have Coors Brewery’s Rocky Mountain ad campaigns from the 70s and 80s to thank for those images; however, that’s not the whole story. Half of Colorado’s territory is covered by the grasslands of the High Desert Plateau, from eastern Kansas right up to Denver’s city limits. It’s an area of farm and ranch land with few residents that got little attention from the outside world. That is, until one Colorado distillery decided to focus on the state’s flatter side. Using ingredients that can be grown on these arid lands, Dry Land Distillers creates distinctive spirits. Co-owner and co-founder Nels Wroe ex-
plains, “I’ve grown up in the West. There’s a lot of talk about mountains and celebration of classic Colorado, but for us some of the best places in Colorado are far from the mountains. That means let’s figure out the raw materials that are indigenous or well-suited to Colorado and bring them into the bottle.” Wroe and his friends/partners, logistics guru Marc Staats and Master Distiller Aaron Main, formed Dry Land Distillers in their hometown of Longmont, 25 miles north of Denver. It’s a small city that consistently ends up on lists of “Best US Places to Live,” with its proximity to the Rocky Mountains a big reason why. However, the town’s vast open-to-the-easthorizon vistas can be just as interesting. Dry Land set out to prove just that with their business philosophy and approach to making products.
COLORADO ANTERO WHEAT WHISKEY Wanting to find a native grain to work with, the founders went to Colorado’s agricultural leader, Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Here they found Colorado Antero Wheat, developed by CSU’s wheat breeding and genetics program and released in 2012. The university described it as a drought tolerant hard white winter wheat that grows high yields in Colorado’s high plains. Dry Land uses this varietal from Colorado’s Arnusch Farms as the only grain in their Colorado Antero Wheat Whiskey.
With a larger grain size than other wheat varieties, Antero has a consistency and scent similar to oats. However, this isn’t the only wheat whiskey Dry Land makes.
HEIRLOOM WHEAT WHISKEY Expanding deeper in the West, they came across a 2,500-year-old wheat strain called Sonoran white. Introduced to the desert regions of the American Southwest by Spanish missionaries in the late 1600s, this ancient wheat features soft round grains that are pale reddish in color and makes a stretchy dough which aided the development of the flour tortilla. “It’s an heirloom wheat that had never before been fermented, at least that we could find,” said Main. The trio set about malting their first batch of Sonoran white themselves in Wroe’s basement using his kids’ old cedar toy chest and controlling the temperature using hair dryers and space heaters. Deciding that malting wasn’t for them, they now have the grain, purchased from Grain R&D in Arizona, malted by Troubadour Maltings in Fort Collins. “[Sonoran white] is very difficult to work with,” Wroe said. “The protein is different. The carbohydrate structure is different. The enzyme structure is different, but that works to our advantage because it has a lot of natural enzymes, whereas some of the modern grains do not. That helps us in fermentation.” Wroe also notes the individuality of both whiskeys is highlighted when you taste WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
them side by side. “Even though both are wheat, they’ve got different flavor profiles.” Main concurred: “We treat them exactly the same. It goes through the exact same processes; same malting, same fermentation, same yeast, same distillation method, and the exact same barrels, so we’re highlighting the difference in the grain rather than the difference in our process.”
PRICKLY PEAR NATURAL CACTUS SPIRIT Going in a different direction, the folks at Dry Lands then took a plant considered a nuisance in Colorado and turned it into a brand new spirit. “There’s a high-altitude mezcal in Mexico called bacanora. A friend of mine who lives here is from Sonora, Mexico, and he got us connected to the process,” explained Wroe. “There’s a variety of agave that grows in high altitudes and dry climates and the same variety also grows in southern Colorado. That was our original plan; to figure out how to get enough raw agave to make bacanora here. Turned out to be an impossible task. Nobody grows it commercially. That’s when the idea of prickly pear cactus came up.” While you might be thinking you’ve had prickly pear spirits before, you haven’t had anything quite like this. Prickly pear spirits are usually made from the plant’s sweet pink fruit. Instead Dry Land uses the green pads of the plant and, as far as anyone can tell, is the only distillery doing so. “We worked with a now-retired professor at CSU,” explained Wroe. “He had grown a test plot of prickly pear at the Grand Junction research farm. They determined WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
it was a phenomenal crop for Colorado. It grows in more soils, under low moisture conditions. It’s highly nutritious. It creates wildlife habitat and attracts beneficial insects. It’s just firing on all cylinders, but there’s no commercial market. Most places are trying to rip it out of the ground!” As a result Dry Land has to order their prickly pear pads from a California nursery that grows the cactus for landscaping and, at one time, turtle food. So how does Dry Land turn thick, green pads of prickly pear into a drinkable liquid? “The process is similar to mezcal,” said Wroe. “Mezcal takes the raw hearts of the agave and bakes them over a low fire. Then they crush the agave to get the juices out. We took the same process and applied it to the cactus. The cactus pad is hard to open so we sliced it lengthwise. Cut into long strips and stack it on our big smoker like cord wood. We long, low smoke it for about 24 to 48 hours depending on the time of year, ambient temperature, and the moisture content of the cactus. Smoking gets it black and gooey. The kids jokingly call it the ‘dog snot stage’.” Then they use a wood chipper to chop up the gooey pads. Main continued, “There’s a surprising amount of starch carbohydrate in the cactus pad. There’s way more sugar in the pad than the fruit, which was a big surprise.” He then explained the role the TTB played in the spirit. “Since all recipes have to be approved by the federal government, it was a struggle to get this approved. It was instantly rejected. They wanted to call it an aquavit, which it is not. It’s not brandy because we don’t ferment the fruit. So we are officially a ‘natural cactus spirit’.” Staals chimed in, laughing, “We then naively sent this off to a small spirits competition in London.” Main and Wroe began laughing too. “Only the biggest spirits competition in the world!” Main cracked. Wroe then explained,
“We were advised, after we had already submitted the spirit, to not ever submit to the London Spirits Competition [the] first time out because we would get crushed.” The spirit earned Dry Land a bronze medal before they officially opened in June of 2018.
COLORADO GIN As if cactus weren’t challenging enough, their latest release is gin made with all Colorado ingredients. However, the first few attempts didn’t go so well. “We went through 27 batches before we got a recipe we were happy with,” said Wroe. “We have no native citrus for example, and that is such a fundamental flavor profile in gin. We also didn’t have some of the exotic spices. When we finally said let’s just let the botanicals tell us where they’re going, the pieces started falling into place.” Those pieces include highland juniper from Pueblo to which they add eight other Colorado botanicals including bee balm, licorice root, rose hips, crab apples, and pineapple weed, which is a wild chamomile. For the founders of Dry Land, it’s about representing the land they call home. “We start with raw grains and water,” summed up Wroe. “That is our dedication to making sure we use original agricultural ingredients in every case possible and honoring the places we’re from.”
Dry Land Distillers is located in Longmont, CO. For more info call (720) 600-4945 or visit www.drylanddistillers.com.
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