Artisan Spirit OF THE YEAR THINK
KEEP A SECRET WE'VE
SCRATCHED THE SURFACE
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!
WHAT SHOULD A DISTILLED SPIRITS EDUCATION LOOK LIKE?
Are universities the ideal location for distilling education?
THE DISTILLERY AS A VENUE92 Inviting space invaders for fun & profit
A PRIMER ON EXPORTING AND IMPORTING DISTILLED SPIRITS
POTS AND COLUMNS
FIND YOUR TRIBE AND THEN LEVERAGE IT FOR GOOD
PROTECTING YOUR BRAND’S ASSETS, WITHOUT SACRIFICING ITS GOODWILL
Know the ins and outs of bringing a spirit across borders
How founding a group of likeminded distillery professionals helped make an impact in our industry
THE MILLENNIAL BREAKDOWN Brand Buzz with David Schuemann
ART OF THE BUNG
It's high time we appreciate the humble bung
GIN BY ANY OTHER NAME
Steinhäger Germany’s Forgotten Gin
AUDITING YOUR OBLIGATIONS A contract law primer
Where we are now
Safeguard the successful elements of your business
BAIJIU — AN ACQUIRED TASTE
THE SMALL AND THE LOCAL
RUM AGING SCIENCE
INDUSTRY BLIND SPOTS
A Chinese liquor with a range of unique flavor characteristics
Liquid Riot Bottling Company of Portland, Maine
Part I (2020 Q1)
Adding fuel to the fire or extinguishing long-held prejudice?
‘YES, VIRGINIA, THERE ARE FLAVOR DIFFERENCES’52 Researchers chip away at the monolith of undifferentiated barley
What are distillers not thinking about that they should be?
THE BREWSTILLERY MOVEMENT
TTB’S COCKTAIL LABELING RULES
IN, AND OUT OF, SUSPENSE
DEALING WITH FEDERAL ADVERSE ACTIONS
When niche products outperform expectations
Shaken, stirred, remixed
What does the trend really mean for craft distillers?
How do you deal with being cited?
A comic by Haller and Cosanti
ARTISAN SPIRIT OF THE YEAR72 Recognizing a distiller of distinction
A BREWER’S MENTALITY
Sons of Liberty Beer and Spirits Co. of Kingston, Rhode Island
So much more than an embodiment of the millennial aesthetic
In 2011 a ballot measure radically transformed how spirits are sold
Part 4: Filtration Systems
Israeli start-up prepares for world whiskey market with Ruach single malt
IS YOUR SECRET RECIPE REALLY A SECRET?127 How copyrights can protect your craft alcohol’s unique vibe
MODERN WESTERN VODKA
VIRGINIA IS FOR COLLABORATORS
Ironclad Distillery and AR’s Hot Southern Honey produce Old Dominion decadence
CRAFT SPIRITS AND THE FARM-TO-TABLE PHILOSOPHY 134
PINK GIN82 DISTILLERS FIND PRIVATIZATION IN WASHINGTON STATE A MIXED BAG
Breweries are continuing to jump into the distilling game
Behind the Stick
Match made in heaven
from the COVER Sons of Liberty Beer and Spirits Co. in Kingston, Rhode Island. Image by Amanda Joy Christensen. See their story on page 77.
Issue 30 /// Spring 2020 PUBLISHER & EDITOR Brian Christensen CREATIVE DIRECTOR Amanda Joy Christensen SENIOR WRITERS George B. Catallo Devon Trevathan
When you need high-purity
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Brandon J. Archuleta Luis Ayala Jamie Baxter Candace Lynn Bell Kris Bohm Renée Cebula Corey Day Brian B. DeFoe & Carrie Dow Andy Garrison Harry Haller Bethany K. Hatef Reade A. Huddleston
Paul Hughes, Ph.D. Tim Knittel Aaron Knoll Robert Lehrman Rich Manning Jim McCoy John McKee Marc Rasich Scott Schiller David Schuemann Gary Spedding, Ph.D. Gabe Toth Jason Zeno
ILLUSTRATORS Brock Caron Francesca Cosanti
PHOTOGRAPHERS Luis Ayala Kris Bohm
Amanda Joy Christensen Talya Shapiro
SALES & MARKETING Ashley Monroe You’ve come to the right place. Since 1943 Grain Processing Corporation has supplied the beverage industry consistent, high-purity grain neutral spirits. And of course we offer a full complement of sensory, analytical and customer service to back up every order. You can rely on GPC for quality and value with delivery that’s on time and hassle-free.
U.S. Produced | Gluten Free For more information, call 563.264.4265 or visit us at grainprocessing.com/alcohol © 2019 Grain Processing Corporation
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.
WHAT NEW INNOVATIONS, TECHNOLOGY, PROGRAMS, OR RESOURCES HAVE YOU RECENTLY DEVELOPED THAT THE DISTILLING INDUSTRY CAN BENEFIT FROM IN 2020?
In 2019, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) launched Spirits United.org, a grassroots platform designed to mobilize the spirits industry and its consumers on key policy issues. The Spirits United platform mobilizes everyone in the spirits industry, hospitality professionals and consumers, and provides advocates with an easy-to-use website to weigh in on issues that matter to them. Spirits United advocates are dedicated to educating lawmakers on the best policies for the distilled spirits industry so that responsible adult consumers can enjoy spirits when, where and how they want. DISCUS is partnering with a number of industry trade associations and guilds on Spirits United to broaden its grassroots reach in the states, including: the American Distilling Institute (ADI), TIPS, Texas Whiskey Association (TXWA), Texas Distilled Spirits Association (TDSA), Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA), the Tennessee Distillers Guild (TNDG), the New York State Distillers Guild (NYSDG), the Distilled Spirits Council of Vermont (DSCV), Michigan Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) and Techniques for Alcohol Management (TAM). With the help of our partners, Spirits United has more than 17,000 advocates. Spirits United is already having a real impact. Through the Spirits United platform, industry advocates drove more than 65,000 communications to Congress urging lawmakers to pass the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA). At the end of 2019, Congress passed a one year extension of CBMTRA and we are working to make it permanent. Spirits United is also mobilizing advocates on removing tariffs on distilled spirits imposed by the U.S. and EU by telling the Trump Administration that our industry needs #ToastsNotTariffs. A strong commitment to responsibility is the foundation of Spirits United. Through Spirits United’s social media content and information on its site, spirits advocates will be encouraged to join industry efforts to prevent underage drinking and drunk driving and to promote the responsible consumption of beverage alcohol. Chris Swonger
President & CEO, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and Responsibility.org
ISC Barrels officially rolled out four toasted barrels in our Small Batch Series. Named after the characteristics they impart, these barrels are; Smoke 1, Spice 1, Sweet 1 and Sweet 2. Toasted barrels are made over a rotating oak fire following a time and temperature combination. Our research demonstrates that precise control over toasting time and temperature is crucial for guaranteed repeatability and predictability. For this reason, we developed our barrel profiling technology, which offers diverse, definable flavor profiles that are repeatable. Our new toasted barrels within the Small Batch Series are finished with a Char 1 to comply with the legal definition of bourbon. The development of our new Small Batch Toasted Barrels was a long time in the making. We started with an experiment that consisted of more than 120 barrels over 15 different profiles and two wood species. Every 12 months samples were collected for chemical and sensory analysis. Samples from the test barrels were analyzed in our company-owned GC-MS (Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry) machine at ISCO Laboratory in Napa, California. A trained tasting panel conducted the sensory analysis at our Research Lab in Lebanon, KY. After three years, our team identified four core barrels to add to our Small Batch Series. We are confident in the performance of these barrels to impart a specific characteristic across multiple mash bills while also creating depth and layered complexity in the spirit. Smoke 1: Sweet smoke notes that show up quickly during maturation but gradually develop a rich smoky character that adds depth to the spirit. Spice 1: Autumn inspired spice notes to accent the estery characters of the spirit with moderate intensity. Sweet 1: A barrel that builds with intensity over time showcasing the natural grains of the spirit against a backdrop of sweet oak. Sweet 2: The French Oak tannins add a textural depth and sweetness that transforms the spirit with color and flavor. If you have questions about toasted barrels, please reach out to Chad Spalding or Jeff LaHue with questions or to request a consultation on toasted barrels. Teri Smith
Marketing & Communications Director, Independent Stave Company
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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.
Since being established in 2012, Moonshine University has operated on the mission of professionalizing, educating, and serving as a gateway to the spirits industry. We’ve always been committed to educating current and future distillers, distillery owners, and other industry professionals on best practices in the production of high-quality spirits. By providing the best, most comprehensive and hands-on educational experiences in the world, we believe we can have a positive impact on not only helping brands — big and small — better their products, but also improve the safety and efficiency of the production process. Moonshine University has been successful in this mission.
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.
As of the end of 2019, we’ve hosted students from 49 states, 3 US territories, and 42 countries. Students of our most popular class, the 6-Day Distiller Course, have gone on to launch 175+ distilleries globally — and this October, we’ll be celebrating our 30th 6-Day Distiller Course. In 2020 and beyond, Moonshine University will continue to provide world-class educational experiences for students. We’ll also continue to innovate and adapt our curricula and professional services to the emerging trends and demands of the industry, while also offering invaluable resources and connections to our alumni and partners in these efforts. Colin Blake
Director of Spirits Education, Moonshine University
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.
Packaging is a constantly evolving market, which is why Tapi has translated this need to create a new and innovative closure for the spirits market segment. The Mekano swing-top stopper equals innovation, technology and design. • Mekano is the first bartop with a lock, providing superior performance and guarding against leaks and “pop ups.” • Can be fitted to your bottle with numerous t-seal and arm sizes to create an optimal and custom fit. • An ideal option to give your brand a distinctive look and is fully customizable with leg and top colors, printing and best of all — low MOQs. Combining technological innovation, unique aesthetics, and superior performance. Mekano is the ideal option to give your brand a distinctive look with superior performance.
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.
Midwest Sales Manager, TapiUSA
WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
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.
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 wide-range 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.
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.
Want an exceptional spirit to set your brand apart? The Master Distillers and Master Blenders at MGP can help. Our mastery at formulating, fermenting, distilling and maturing spirits is surpassed only by our belief in collaboration and genuine partnership. MGP’s entire team at our distilleries in Atchison, Kansas, and Lawrenceburg, Indiana, is ready to share their passion and expertise, whether you’re an established brand or an up-andcomer. Let’s work together to craft a premium bourbon, whiskey, gin or grain neutral spirit you’ll be proud to call your own. Learn more at www.mgpingredients.com/distilled-spirits or join the conversation at the MGP Distillery Collective on Facebook. 888-897-3836.
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.
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.
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.
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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A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: My favorite journalistic mantra is, “never bury the lead.” A mostly bullshit expression when it relates to a letter from the editor. Which, almost by definition, is meant to tease out the good stuff and make you dig deeper into the print. But I’m too damned excited to tease this time. So, for the 30th issue of Artisan Spirit Magazine, we are recognizing an:
“Artisan Spirit of the Year” This is not meant to recognize a business or brand, but an individual distiller. A person who exemplifies the best facets of our industry. Someone who lives and breathes the fundamentals of distillation, but also a person willing to go beyond the art and science itself and invest efforts into the success of our industry for the benefit of us all. Of all the topics I wanted to cover in the Spring issue of Artisan Spirit Magazine, this is the one that had us the most excited. The irony is, while the award bestows our name upon the recipient, we did not pick the nominees or even vote on our preferred recipient. Instead, we gathered a group of distilling veterans to do the brutal work of narrowing their peers down to one special distiller who warranted recognition. It was important to us that we act only as the platform, and let the industry speak for itself. So please join us in honoring the first Artisan Spirit of the Year. Which can be found on page 72. OK, I had to tease it just a little.
Brian Christensen (509) 944-5919 /// firstname.lastname@example.org /// PO Box 31494, Spokane, WA 99223
P.S. I want to take a special moment to thank our sponsors, advertisers, and readers who made not just this award possible, but also the entire publication itself. We love every damn one of you.
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IN HIGH SCHOOL I WAS VOTED
atchison , ks
At MGP, we passionately live by the rule that no detail is too small when it comes to distilling premium spirits. Our pride in craftsmanship shows in everything from rigorous quality control to proven production consistency for brands of all sizes. Weâ€™re true partners in creating the best gin, vodka, whiskey, rye or bourbon for your brand, and for your customer.
lawrenceburg , in
Y R T S U D N I & D L I U G Y L R E T R QUA
S T R O P RE I
t’s of no surprise that state guilds are laser-focused on
legislation this spring. Almost every update this issue touches on the legislative arena. In addition, it’s encouraging to see new developments targeting industry education (see NM and MD), membership growth (CA), and finding ways to increase guild revenue generation in many regions. Thanks as always to the guild members and board leaders who volunteer their time to grow and educate our industry. Your sacrifices are not going unnoticed! Don’t see your guild represented? Give us a shout and make sure that your guild is using its soapbox to share successes, challenges, and any news you think the industry needs to hear. Cheers!
— BRIAN CHRISTENSEN
AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION STATE GUILD COMMITTEE We all took a deep breath after securing a hard fought one-year extension of our reduced FET. We are already back in the trenches at the Capitol trying to make sure the CBMTRA is made permanent in 2020. We are working on dates for our 2020 Public Policy Conference and will be announcing that soon. A huge thank you to everyone that contacted their representatives, donated to the ACSA PAC, and contributed in many other ways to get this to where it is. Let's cross the finish line this year. In the meantime, we are hard at it getting ready for our annual Round Table
Discussion at the ACSA convention in Portland from 2-4 p.m. March 29. This is one of the most important discussions of the year and it's an excellent opportunity to find out what’s not working and what we can do as a community to make each other stronger. As always if you have any needs that we can help with feel free to reach out to us. ACSA STATE GUILD COMMITTEE CHAIRS
J Carver Distillery email@example.com
Wood’s High Mountain Distillery firstname.lastname@example.org
AMERICAN DISTILLING INSTITUTE 2019 was a big year of growth and change for the American Distilling Institute (ADI), and the new decade is already off to a great start. In the early spring of 2019 ADI welcomed aboard Brad Plummer to take on the role of communications director and editor of Distiller magazine. And in December, ADI announced its new president, Erik Owens, would take the helm, more than 17 years after his father, Bill Owens, founded the organization. Bill remains president emeritus and still plays an active role as the face of ADI, and is enjoying visiting distilleries. The new year begins with the 14th annual Judging of Craft Spirits, held in Tiburon, California. Upwards of 40 spirits experts and industry professionals flew in for three days of tasting panels, evaluating some of the best craft spirits in the world. The judging continues to see steady growth in the number and variety of submissions. This year, the Ready to Drink (RTD) category totaled nearly four dozen entries, making it among the largest competitions for RTDs in the world. Last year, ADI also implemented a handful of new initiatives to provide added benefit to the top medal winners, including social media campaigns, presentations at tasting
events, including the Indie Spirits Expo, Whiskeys of the World, and a few others currently in the works. ADI also partnered with retail chain Total Wine and More with the aim of creating the potential for distribution and retail opportunities for the Best in Class winners. In tandem with the efforts to broaden benefits and opportunities for its members, ADI also continues to grow its advocacy role for the spirits industry as a whole. In August of 2019, ADI representatives joined a contingent of California distillers in Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers considering the extension of the Federal Excise Tax cuts. Happily, the FET extension, as part of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), passed into law at the eleventh hour, one day before the congressional budget deadline. And, in concert with other spirits associations, ADI weighed in on the TTB’s proposed (Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) changes, filing a public comment on behalf of the membership after extensive polling on the issue. Of course, the FET extension only lasts one year, so more work remains to make those tax cuts permanent. To that end, ADI has
partnered with the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (DISCUS), and TIPS Alcohol Server and Seller Training, in the newly formed advocacy group “Spirits United”, with the goal of driving engagement and awareness of the FET issue facing the industry. ADI’s biggest event of the new year — the annual Craft Spirits Conference and Vendor Expo — takes place in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference includes a keynote address by Master Distiller Dr. Anne Brock of Bombay Sapphire, plus more than 45 educational breakout sessions, an expo hall with over 50,000 square feet of vendor space, tastings, and more. For more information about ADI events visit www.distilling.com. There you’ll find a variety of useful resources for craft distillers, including a calendar of training courses and webinars held throughout the year, and more. We hope to see you in New Orleans!
Brad Plummer Director of Communications, ADI Editor in Chief, Distiller Magazine
DISTILLED SPIRITS COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES DISCUS is pleased that Congress passed a one-year extension of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) at the end of 2019. The passage of a one-year extension of CBMTRA followed a year of strong advocacy in support of extending the lower Federal Excise Tax (FET) rates for distillers. DISCUS and distillers across the country met with hundreds of congressional offices throughout the year, including during the annual Public Policy Conference in July in coordination with the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA), and directed over 65,000 calls, messages, and tweets to Capitol Hill through Spirits United and two DISCUS-led Days of Action in conjunction with our craft beverage coalition partners. Moving forward in 2020, DISCUS will advocate harder than ever for CBMTRA to be
made permanent. We know that craft distillers need more certainty than a one-year extension to be able to fully reinvest in their businesses and communities. Our federal government relations team is already working with our beverage alcohol coalition to lobby Congress on this important issue. In addition, we are asking Spirits United advocates to thank their members of Congress who supported the bill and urge them to make CBMTRA permanent in 2020. DISCUS is also fully advocating for the U.S. and the EU to return to duty-free trade and remove distilled spirits from their respective tariff lists. Tariffs of 25 percent are being applied to American whiskeys being exported to the EU, and 25 percent tariffs are being applied to single malt Scotch, Irish whiskey, liqueurs, and cordials exported from the EU
to the U.S. We recognize that these tariffs are taxes that unnecessarily punish the distilled spirits industry, our loyal consumers, and could also cost jobs in other related industries, like the beverage alcohol retail and wholesale sectors, as well as the hospitality, farming, and commercial driving sectors. DISCUS spearheaded a joint submission to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) from 10 associations representing all three tiers of the beverage alcohol industry urging the U.S. and the EU to simultaneously secure the removal of all retaliatory tariffs on U.S. and EU beverage alcohol products and agree not to impose any additional tariffs on beverage alcohol. In addition, we are urging Spirits United advocates to send letters and tweets to PresWWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
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
ident Trump, letting him know that we need #ToastsNotTariffs. So far, about 1,500 letters and tweets have been sent to the White House on this issue. We are hoping that our collective advocacy will lead to the removal of distilled spirits on February 14, which is
when USTR is required to review and potentially amend the tariffs list. We hope that you’ll join us in advocating for the permanent passage of CBMTRA and #ToastsNotTariffs by joining Spirits United and contacting your lawmakers. Visit
SpiritsUnited.org to join today. Chris R. Swonger President & CEO Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and Responsibility.org
NORTH AMERICAN CRAFT MALTSTERS GUILD The North American Craft Maltsters Guild saw big changes in the last quarter of 2019, from the announcement of the Certified Craft Malt seal program and Craft Malt Day to the hiring of a new executive director. The Guild would like to acknowledge its outgoing ED, Jen Blair, for her tireless efforts and commitment to the organization during her tenure. The Guild experienced tremendous growth and expansion of member services and educational opportunities during her more than two years with us. We wish her the best of luck in her new position at New Realm Brewing in Atlanta, Georgia. Jen’s commitment helped to ensure a smooth transition for my entry into the role of the Guild’s new ED, and I thank our board of directors for welcoming me with open arms. I come to the role with a strong background in craft beer and spirits, two agricultural degrees, and extensive experience in agricultural research and production methods. I
look forward to applying my talents to grow and strengthen the Guild in 2020 and beyond. Along with new leadership, the Guild’s first quarter of 2020 is marked with exciting updates. Our group hosted a successful, soldout third annual Craft Malt Conference in Fort Collins, Colorado on February 7-8. Colorado is the nation’s fourth-largest barley producer and home to more than 400 craft breweries and 100 craft distilleries, making it an ideal location for a symposium dedicated to craft malt. Among the nearly 200 attendees who traveled to the Centennial State for the yearly event was an international menagerie of individuals hailing from seven Canadian provinces and 28 states, as well as Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, and Norway. The two-day conference included seminars on the latest research, topics, and best practices relevant to those throughout the
craft malt supply chain. A session of particular interest was the review of preliminary results of a benchmarking survey of the craft malt industry. Additionally, the conference featured a discussion, with distillers Tyler Pederson of Westland Distilling and Todd Leopold of Leopold Bros., on how single-malt distillers are working to define American single malt as a new spirit style. As we head into the next quarter, we plan to put more focus on increasing brewery and distillery participation in the Certified Craft Malt seal program. In our next update, readers can expect a synopsis of highlights from the preliminary results of our craft malt industry survey and a summary of the results of our second annual Malt Cup competition held in conjunction with our annual conference. Jesse Bussard Executive Director North American Craft Maltsters Guild
AMERICAN STATE GUILDS CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA ARTISANAL DISTILLERS GUILD The California Artisanal Distillers Guild (CADG) is looking forward to sending a delegation to the American Craft Spirits Association Annual Convention in Portland. Their Executive Director Cris Steller and Dry Diggings Head Distiller Casey Newman will sit on the panel Living in Excess: The Business and Legal Considerations for Turning Unused Capacity into Revenue. The
CADG spent 2019 reforming the guild and laying the groundwork for a 2020 focused on growing our membership base, seeking to provide value to members, and focusing our legislative agenda. A fresh website update, new membership tiers, and generating a California-brand awareness campaign around the question “Why should they drink California?” are pieces of the puzzle the guild is working on this year. In January the guild joined the Wine Institute, Distilled Spirits Council, California Association of Winegrape Growers, Family Winemakers of California, California Beer &
Beverage Distributors, California Distributors Association, and Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of California in opposition to SB-372 Beverage Container Recycling Act of 2020. In a statement sent to Ben Allen, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality, we stated, “The bill seeks to reform the bottle bill program by shifting responsibility of the program to beverage distributors and places wine and spirits into the redemption program, which is inappropriate for heavy wine and spirits bottles. While we are supportive of comprehensive reform of the bottle bill program, this bill falls short of any substantive WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
reform that will increase recycling rates, decrease waste, and reduce litter.” Later this year the guild will host an annual
COLORADO COLORADO DISTILLERS GUILD As the newly elected President of the Colorado Distillers Guild, I am very honored to have received the role and look forward to working with other state guilds to benefit our industry nationwide. Our Colorado distillers are very grateful for the extension on CBMTRA, but we also understand that we have a lot more groundwork to do to make the tax relief permanent. Several of our members were able to attend the DC fly-in back in July of 2019, and we are looking to increase the number of our members that travel to DC this year to speak with our representatives. As the largest member-run guild in the nation, we recognize our responsibility to represent craft distilleries without such resources as our own. Beyond the importance of tax relief per-
CONNECTICUT CONNECTICUT SPIRITS GUILD The Connecticut Spirits Trail & Guild members are, of course, somewhat content with the continuance of the FET reduction, but at the same time are looking forward to the day when it is no longer just extended but permanent. At the state level we also have some work to do in order to achieve long-term solutions to promote and protect business growth. Beginning July 1, Connecticut distilleries will be able to hold a café permit allowing the sale of drinks by the glass or hold a full restaurant
MARYLAND MARYLAND DISTILLERS GUILD 18
meeting and elect its board of directors. More info can be found at www.cadistillers.org or by contacting email@example.com.
Vice President of CADG Head Distiller, Blinking Owl Distillery
manence, our guild is focused on our Colorado Spirits Trail for the third year running. This year, we have decided not to hold an event specific to the Trail so we can focus on implementing the Trail itself and getting travelers and patrons in our doors. We intend to have a Colorado Spirits Trail booth at as many spirits events as possible this year to get the word out. As all of our board positions and committees are volunteer-based and we rely heavily on our members to do their part in supporting this program, whether by volunteering their time at an event, serving on our Trail Committee, or even something as small (but maybe most important) as making sure everyone who enters their establishment has a Trail map in hand. This year we are also revamping our sponsorship program to provide more opportunities for our sponsors to get in front of our members and discuss their services/ products. We think that this will create more
communication efficiencies within our guild in providing and creating symbiotic relationships between sponsors and members. Finally, we are working on various National and State Legislative issues including our continued push to make FET reduction permanent. This year’s legislative initiatives here in Colorado include, among other things;
permit. Also starting July 1, we will be able to double the amount of product sold to tasting room visitors. Connecticut law currently has a volume threshold that, if crossed, forbids the sale of bottles in the tasting room. While this may have been intended to allow only small craft distillers’ tasting rooms to sell product, with the advent of canned cocktails/alcoholic RTDs we realize that this aspect of Connecticut law needs to be revisited to accommodate growing production levels. We will prioritize lifting that restriction and attaining other modernizations to the state code — such as the ability to sell bottles at certified farmer’s markets, and operate satel-
lite tasting rooms without the need to have a licensed distillery on the premises. Each of the business environment improvements that we have attained has created more encouragement amongst our current members and for those considering getting into the industry. We realize that our work in this arena will likely never end, so we will continue to press on while working within the three-tiered system and with our state lawmakers. Cheers to a great 2020!
The Maryland Distillers Guild introduced the Maryland Spirits Trail Passport, showcasing member distilleries and promoting tourism across the region. MDG members also include two distilleries located in Delaware,
also featured in the passport. The Education Committee continues to host workshops at member distilleries, with an in-depth fermentation workshop set for February and other events planned through-
1. Parity for production and wholesale lim-
its between brewpubs, distillery pubs and vintner’s restaurants. 2. Increasing the number of tasting rooms
allowable for manufacturers. 3. Allowing manufacturers to participate
in farmers markets and festivals, in addition to our current allowed tasting rooms. Wishing you all the best for 2020! Meagan Miller
Co-Founder, Vice President — Talnua Distillery President — Colorado Distillers Guild
Tom Dubay President, Connecticut Spirits Trail CEO, Hartford Flavor Company firstname.lastname@example.org
out the year. The Membership Committee researched, surveyed, and restructured dues for the 2020 year, increasing revenue for the guild while remaining sensitive to member input. We continue to develop relationships with
MONTANA MONTANA DISTILLERS GUILD There is a joint effort in Montana called the “Liquor Coalition” which is made up of the main players in the Montana alcohol industry — distributors, wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers. One of the group’s goals is to work together to bridge the gap between manufacturing and retail rights. Currently, there are more than a dozen different types of alcohol licenses available in the state. With different laws for manufacturers and how the tasting rooms can
NEW MEXICO NEW MEXICO DISTILLERS GUILD The New Mexico Distillers Guild (NMDG) associate member, Central New Mexico Community College (CNM), under the direction of CNM Academic Affairs Director Victoria Sánchez Martínez is currently building curriculum to expand its Brewing and Beverage Program to include spirits production. NMDG leadership recently participated in a two-day process designed to drill down and identify the important duties and tasks of an employee in the industry with the goal of having an educated and qualified workforce for the growing number of distilleries in New Mexico.
NEW YORK NEW YORK STATE DISTILLERS GUILD By the time you read this, we will have recently held our annual two-day conference
the state General Assembly, and are hosting a tri-industry legislative reception along with the Maryland wineries and brewers associations to showcase our spirits and connect with our legislators. MDG membership currently represents
28 licensed distilleries, 15 start-up distilleries and 20 affiliate members.
operate within the retail space. Breweries and distilleries have similar licenses but each has nuances where parity could benefit the industry. Manufacturers do not have a quota on licenses but Montana state issued retail liquor licenses do have a quota. A limited amount of licenses creates an inflated price in higher traffic markets. Take Bozeman, Montana as an example, a Full Liquor License can cost upwards to $1 million in the city limits. Go just five miles outside city limits and you pay just the $600 Montana Department of Revenue license fee as long as one is available. In other cities, a full liquor license allowing you to sell beer, liquor
and wine can cost $30,000. Currently we are presenting results from the previous six months of discussion to the Montana Legislature (Economic Affairs Interim Committee), with the goal of coming up with a direction prior to the next legislative session that starts this fall and runs through March of 2021. This will be the first step in working towards a solution that could take several years and possibly overhaul the Montana state liquor licensing laws or at least work toward making positive changes for all industry members.
CEO/Co-Founder, LYON RUM President, Maryland Distillers Guild
Jim R. Harris
Bozeman Spirits Distillery
NEW MEXICO DISTILLERS GUILD BOARD OF DIRECTORS The NMDG would also like to congratulate the newly elected board of directors and thank them for their service.
Skye Devore — President
John Gozigan — Legislative Chair
TROUBLED MINDS DISTILLING
LA REFORMA DISTILLERY
Frank Holloway — Vice President
Chris Medina — Events Co-Chair
HOLLOW SPIRITS DISTILLERY
LEFT TURN DISTILLING
Matt Simmonds — Secretary/Treasurer
Chris Leurig — Events Co-Chair
BROKEN TRAIL DISTILLERY
SAFE HOUSE DISTILLING CO.
In addition, CNM is in the process of building out a new beverage manufacturing lab which will include not only beer production, but also wine and spirits production. They will be adding additional degrees, certificates, and continuing education courses to take advantage of this new facility. CNM's
Brewing and Beverage Management Program has been very successful since classes began in 2016. In fact, the program is one of only 4 associate’s degrees recognized by the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.
for 2020. This conference was held at the Carey Institute for Global Good outside of Albany, New York, on March 9 and 10. This year, we expanded the conference to include dedicated space for a trade show. The goal is to bring many of our associate members
to the trade show to show off their wares and value-added services. Attendance at last year’s conference was record-breaking, and we anticipate that trend to continue in 2020. After our annual meeting, spring will arrive and that means that our third-annual New
Skye Devore Co-Owner, Troubled Minds Distilling President, NMDG
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.
V I S I T M O O N S H I N E U N I V E R S I T Y. C O M “Absolutely the most informational class I have aaended in this ﬁeld. Invaluable knowledge.” “You could travel the world for this knowledge or you can go to Moonshine University.”
175 DISTILLERIES LAUNCHED
184 CLASSES TAUGHT
“I had my bubble burst multiple times but was also given the tools to learn and grow. I now have a beeer plan to achieve my goals.”
“I would pay the money to come again. It was worth the trip and it actually saved us money in the long run.”
90+ INDUSTRY EXPERT
York State Distilled Spirits Competition is also just around the corner. This guild-based competition will once again be conducted in tandem with the Great American International Spirits Competition (www.gramspirits. com). Like most guilds around the country, we focused our legislative attention at the end of 2019 on the extension of the excise tax reduction that came with Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act. While
NORTH CAROLINA DISTILLERS ASSOCIATION OF NORTH CAROLINA At the fourth-quarter meeting in November, the Distillers Association of North Carolina (DANC) celebrated its recent legislative success with a keynote presentation from Chris Swonger, the President of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). He discussed DISCUS’s efforts to lobby Congress to enact the Craft Beverage
TENNESSEE TENNESSEE DISTILLERS GUILD EVENTS The Tennessee Distillers Guild co-hosted the annual Grains & Grits Festival on Nov. 2 in Townsend, Tennessee in partnership with Blount County Chamber of Commerce. The event, which gives visitors a unique opportunity to taste craft spirits, sample gourmet food, and meet legendary distillers from across the state, enjoyed record-setting attendance last year. The Tennessee Distillers Guild’s second annual Spirits & Soul Festival will take place
UTAH DISTILLERS GUILD OF UTAH 22
the one-year extension was a welcome victory, we must all continue to fight to make this permanent. The guild’s 2020 state legislative efforts will include continued push for equality when it comes to the application of the production tax credit to New York State spirits, expansion of the existing branch office privilege from one location to five locations for farm distilleries, the inclusion of distilled spirits in the existing temporary beer, wine, and cider permit for retail and consumption
at events and a myriad of other initiatives designed to continue to enhance the craft spirits industry in the Empire State. We are looking forward to these events, initiatives and the continued growth of our guild and New York State craft spirits in 2020. Randall S. Beach
Modernization and Tax Reform Act and their grassroots Spirits United platform aimed at bringing together a broad base of spirits advocates to respond to issues affecting the distilled spirits industry. In December, DANC members sent emails and made phone calls to the North Carolina congressional delegation to encourage them to permanently extend the federal excise tax reduction. We are relieved that the excise tax was extended for one year and will continue to push for the permanent extension in 2020. The DANC Board of Directors formally amended our bylaws to clarify that Principal
Members will pay annual dues and two percent of distillery bottle sales. This clarification will ensure that our Association can continue our lobbying contract, which helped get the initial authorization for distillery bottle sales and offer enhanced services through our Executive Director. Currently, DANC is preparing our 2020 legislative agenda which will focus on further regulatory parity with breweries and wineries and a reduction on state excise taxes for North Carolina craft distilleries.
on April 24-25 in Memphis, Tennessee. The event brings Tennessee Whiskey Trail distilleries to downtown Memphis’ South Main Historic Arts District for two days of music, entertainment, food and fine Tennessee spirits.
TENNESSEE WHISKEY TRAIL RESTAURANT The Tennessee Distillers Guild and Minneapolis-based airport restaurant operator, Aero Service Group, will break ground on Three Casks, a new Tennessee spirits-themed restaurant in the Nashville International Airport (BNA), in February 2020. At the restaurant, guests can enjoy distilled spirits from Tennessee Whiskey Trail distilleries, local craft beer, and a fresh menu inspired by Nashville’s culinary scene. The restaurant is slated to open in June 2020.
ADVOCACY EFFORTS The Tennessee Distillers Guild has partnered with Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) on Spirits United to help expand the industry advocacy group’s grassroots efforts in Tennessee. “Our industry is stronger when it speaks with a collective voice, and by partnering with Spirits United, we can be more effective in our state legislature and on Capitol Hill,” said Tennessee Distillers Guild President Kris Tatum.
The distilling community in Utah is constantly growing! Small distilleries like New World Distillery, Hammerspring Distillers,
Murray’s Fools Distilling Co. Member — New York State Distillers Guild Board of Directors
Pete Barger President, Distillers Association of North Carolina, Principal Partner, Southern Distilling Company
Mariko Hickerson Tennessee Whiskey Trail
and Waterpocket Distillery continue to bring new, unique, and truly artisan spirits to Utah. In 2019 we saw the opening of Holystone WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Health Care For Distillers Health • Dental • Vision • Life Insurance Because the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) is an affiliate member of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), DISCUS members now have access to NAM Health Care: a new benefits offering that simplifies the health care experience for both you and your employees through a convenient, easy-to-use web-based platform. NAM Health Care allows smaller member companies to band together to take advantage of the enrollment efficiencies, administrative cost savings and product flexibility previously only available to larger manufacturing companies.
Access to more competitive product bundles. Fully ACA-compliant. Quicker & easier-to-use online enrollment process. Simple & convenient ongoing benefits management & administration. Reduced administrative costs. Learn more at distilledspirits.org or email@example.com. It’s easy to get a quote and we’re here to help if you have any questions.
NAM Health Care is fully ACA-compliant, administered by Mercer and sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), of which DISCUS is an affiliate member. Plans are not available to member employers in all states.
Program Administered by Mercer Health & Benefits Administration LLC AR Insurance License #100102691 | CA Insurance License #0G39709 In CA d/b/a Mercer Health & Benefits Insurance Services LLC Copyright 2020 Mercer LLC. All rights reserved.
Distilling. This year we look forward to the openings of Clearwater Distilling Co. and Congregation Spirits. Solstice Malt is Utah's very own maltster and is creating a variety of fantastic locally malted grains for local distillers and brewers. Sugar House Distillery and others are already utilizing the local malt to
VIRGINIA VIRGINIA DISTILLERS ASSOCIATION The Virginia Distillers Association (VDA) continues onward with our mission to improve the economic and promotional environments for our local distillers with the support of state government agencies and the Virginia Legislature. After last year’s landslide win of increasing the commission for distillery store sales from 8% to 20% in the statute and expansion of Sunday hours for all ABC stores (including our distilleries), the VDA decided to take a lower profile approach this session to focus on strategic marketing efforts for the industry that bear no fiscal price tag, and are not viewed as divisive. That resulted in our legislative agenda initially being centered around a two-year plan to establish a commodity board (“Virginia Distilled Spirits Board” or “DSB”) embedded in state government. The mission of the DSB will be to establish and fund initiatives that support the marketing, education and research needs of the Virginia distilled spirits industry. This will include programming to support direct sales, indirect sales, in state sales and out of state sales. The Board will consist of 11 members; six will be owners or opera-
create whisky and other fine spirits. We now have the Utah Spirits Trail that offers a guide for patrons to track their experiences as they visit Utah distilleries. The guide encourages folks to visit all of Utah's distilleries. A new iteration will be released annually and will offer a different
reward each year for visiting all the destinations in the guide. Check it out at: www.utahspirittrail.com.
tors of distilleries, three will be maltsters or coopers, plus the CEO of Virginia ABC (ex-officio) and the Commissioner of Agriculture (ex-officio). The Board will be housed under the Virginia Department of Agriculture. While there are numerous models for commodity boards in-state and beyond, this is the first state operated Distilled Spirits Board in the country that we know of. In addition to promotional support for the industry, other direct and indirect advantages to establishing the DSB include: (i.) fostering greater ties with state government, (ii.) influence from the ex-officio board members (CEO of Virginia ABC and Commissioner of Agriculture), and (iii.) development of resources that will aid in the pursuit of future legislative agendas (e.g. Economic Impact Studies and other research initiatives). The DSB will also help to pave the continued path for a more “distillery-friendly environment” in state government. The development of the DSB is phased over two years. The 2020 legislation is centered around the initial establishment of the DSB, and 2021 will be focused on the funding mechanism(s) for the DSB. We also have two bills this session that will (i.) allow for Low Alcohol Beverage Coolers (LABs) produced from
distillate (vs. beer or wine-based products) to be sampled at grocery stores, and (ii.) sold to Beer & Wine Licensees. We’ve all witnessed the canned cocktail and ready-todrink boom; currently in Virginia, only those LABs produced from wine or beer, but not those produced from distillate, can be sampled in Virginia grocery stores and gourmet shops. While they are low alcohol, they cannot be sold to Beer & Wine Licensees due to the use of distillate. Lastly, the VDA is grateful for support provided by the Virginia Tourism Corporation by way of a $50,000 grant to fully fund the design and launch of our printed and digital Virginia Spirits Trail and Passport program. The printed guide was produced and distributed last fall, and the interactive digital application will go live by this summer. We would be remiss to not pay homage to our peers in Colorado — as we’ve taken numerous cues from their printed guide and website programs while structuring our trail promotions.
Ethan S. Miller Head Distiller — Co-Owner Holystone Distilling
Amy Ciarametaro Executive Director, Virginia Distillers Association
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A PRIMER ON EXPORTING AND IMPORTING DISTILLED SPIRITS BY BETHANY K. HATEF
s your craft distilling business grows, you may be thinking about ways to better use your distillery capacity. One way to maximize use of your physical plant and to expand the markets you serve is to get into the business of either exporting or importing distilled spirits. If you are considering exporting your distilled spirits, or if you’ve identified brands of distilled spirits from other countries with a potential customer base in your local or regional market, you’ll need to understand the key regulatory requirements associated with such exportation or importation. To export or import distilled spirits, a distillery must comply with a number of US government requirements. Several federal agencies have requirements relating to the importation and exportation of alcohol beverages, including the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of Commerce. Of course, distillers seeking to import or export products also need to understand the laws and regulations of the nations they will be selling to or purchasing from. This article addresses the primary US alcohol regulatory requirements applying to companies seeking to export and/or import distilled spirits.
KEY US ALCOHOL REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS FOR EXPORTING DISTILLED SPIRITS The specific export requirements that apply to alcohol beverages vary based on several factors, including the specific commodity at issue (e.g., beer vs. wine vs. distilled spirits), whether the company exporting the product is also the producer of the product, and whether the product will be exported with or without tax payment. Distilled spirits may be exported without payment of federal excise taxes if they are actually exported to a foreign country, used as supplies on vessels and aircraft, or transferred to a foreign trade zone. Distilled spirits also may be shipped, without tax payment, to the US armed forces for use overseas. A distiller intending to export spirits without tax payment must file a form TTB F 5100.11 with TTB. A distiller may also apply for and obtain approval from TTB for an alternative procedure allowing the distiller to maintain its export documentation at the distillery, rather than submit such documentation to TTB. Under this alternative procedure, the distiller may submit monthly summary reports to TTB (and can
do so electronically), thus simplifying the administrative burden of the export process. Exports of distilled spirits with no tax paid must be properly labeled. Specifically, each container or case of spirits must be marked with the word “Export” prior to removal of the spirits from the distillery. The distiller also must maintain (and submit to TTB) proof of exportation of the products. Such proof can consist of, for example, a customs certificate of lading and clearance. Distilled spirits also can be exported after tax payment. To export taxpaid distilled spirits, the distiller must obtain a Wholesaler’s Basic Permit from TTB and otherwise comply with TTB’s export regulations located at 27 C.F.R. Part 28. Tax-paid distilled spirits intended for export must be marked in the same way as spirits removed from a distillery for sale or use in the US. If a wholesaler is selling spirits for export, it must notify the producer that the spirits are to be exported and provide certain paperwork to the distiller upon removal for exportation. The distiller then must file this paperwork with TTB to execute a claim for “drawback” DISTILLERS (i.e., a refund CONSIDERING of the excise EXPORTING THEIR taxes paid on spirits PRODUCTS ALSO that are SHOULD BECOME then exFAMILIAR WITH ANY ported). A distillREQUIREMENTS OF er seekTHE COUNTRIES TO ing drawWHICH THEY WILL back must SEND THEIR provide proof that the prodPRODUCTS. ucts were actually exported. Aside from the export requirements imposed by TTB on alcohol beverages exported from the US, distillers
considering exporting their products also should become familiar with any requirements of the countries to which they will send their products. Many foreign countries have requirements concerning exportation that must accompany imported products. TTB has an Export Certificate Program that it has established to help facilitate the ability of exporters to comply with these requirements. This program allows exporters to request a certificate from TTB certifying that an exported alcohol beverage product is authentic. Export Certificate requests to TTB must include an original signature, and the person signing the request must have signing authority or a power IN of attorney for the company making ADDITION the request. The TO FEDERAL request must be LICENSING, submitted to STATE TTB on company letterhead, LICENSE(S) MAY and the adBE REQUIRED dress listed on TO IMPORT the letterhead or on the Export CerDISTILLED tificate must match SPIRITS. the address TTB has on file relating to the company’s basic permit. TTB accepts Export Certificate requests by email, and its goal is to process such requests within seven business days of receiving a request.
KEY US ALCOHOL REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS FOR IMPORTING DISTILLED SPIRITS As an initial matter, a company seeking to import distilled spirits into the US must hold certain licenses and permits. Specifically, you will need an Importer’s Basic Permit from TTB. An Importer’s Basic Permittee must maintain and staff an office in the US. If you wish to sell at wholesale alcohol beverages other than the alcohol beverages you plan to import, you will need
to obtain a federal Wholesaler’s Basic Permit from TTB. Also relating to federal licensing, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the registration of all producers of foods and beverages both domestic and international. Moreover, the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 requires importers to provide FDA with advance notice of the importation of food and beverage products. In addition to federal licensing, state license(s) may be required to import distilled spirits. Many states require companies shipping or importing alcohol beverages into that state from another state or country to obtain a license (typically, an importer’s or wholesaler’s license). Once you obtain the proper licensing to be an importer, you will need to make sure that you have the required product-specific approvals to import the distilled spirits you plan to import. Specifically, an importer must obtain a certificate of label approval (COLA) for each distilled spirits product it plans to import into the US. Certain distilled spirits products also require formula approval from TTB. All imported distilled spirits must arrive at the importer’s place of business or at a Customs bonded warehouse the importer designates. Shipments of alcohol beverages must include a COLA or COLA waiver from TTB to the importer in order to be cleared for removal from Customs custody by CBP. Prior notice to CBP is also required for all alcohol beverage shipments. Finally, all inbound commercial shipments to the US, including distilled spirits shipments, require the consignee’s tax identification number. Importers must comply with a number of ongoing regulatory requirements, including, but not limited to:
1. COMPLYING WITH APPLICABLE TAX AND DUTY REQUIREMENTS. CBP collects excise taxes and duties on imported distilled spirits. Excise taxes are imposed on imported distilled spirits upon removal of the products from Customs custody. CBP uses the Harmonized Tariff System to de-
termine duty rates for any item imported into the US. Companies can request a ruling from CBP if they are unsure about the applicable duties to a particular product.
2. COMPLYING WITH ALL APPLICABLE LAWS AND REGULATIONS, INCLUDING TTB REGULATIONS. These include 27 C.F.R Part 1 (basic permit requirements) and Part 27 (importation requirements). All distilled spirits imported into the US may only be released from Customs custody in accordance with the Federal Alcohol Administration Act and its implementing regulations (for example, regulations concerning labeling and advertising). TTB regulations also require basic permit holders to report any changes in ownership, name, and address, and importers must comply with these reporting requirements.
3. COMPLYING WITH TTB RECORDKEEPING REQUIREMENTS. TTB regulations require importers to maintain daily records of their physical receipts and disposition of distilled spirits. Such records include the kind and quantity of the released spirits, the name and address of the person receiving the spirits from Customs custody, and the date of the release.
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. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
FIND YOUR TRIBE AND THEN LEVERAGE IT FOR GOOD. WRITTEN AND PHOTO PROVIDED BY JOHN MCKEE
WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM â€
â€™ll be honest: In the first year or two of becoming a distiller I was grasping at a lot of straws. The ADI Forums were okay, but there were so many bad ideas, misinformation, and downright dangerous suggestions that I found myself not trusting the veracity of the advice I was getting. At conferences, I would have amazing interactions with people whose knowledge I trusted, but once we left those few days together, we all went back to our normal lives and it was difficult to maintain that connection. Plus, I sometimes needed to hear the opinions and insights of more than one person on a topic and I just needed a new way to get to the facts.
Johnny Jeffery, head distiller at Bently Heritage, and I were on the phone and talking about our shared frustrations, and it occurred to us that we knew a lot of people who also shared our frustrations and we decided to resolve it right there. I opened the Book of Faces (Facebook) and started a private group called the Good Guy Distillers and added Johnny. While I was doing that he was calling out potential members. Once the group was live, we started inviting people to join. Over the next year or two, the GGDs group wound up having some ups and downs in membership as we focused in on our shared values and the purpose of the
GGDs as a group (we ultimately settled on 100 members). Overall, that tribe settled down into a group of people who:
››Share knowledge ››Are professionally vulnerable ››Aren’t necessarily distillers (we needed help from knowledgeable vendors and pros who didn’t have the word distiller in their job title)
››Have each other’s backs ››Enjoy the comradery of being a part
of the shared experience of entrepreneurs, production managers, creative thinkers, and get-shit-done kind of people
And now, after about seven years, the GGDs are still going strong. We still have about 100 members (we remove and add a few every year depending on participation), we have that resource of trusted guidance, and we can rely on each other to know that if there is a question from a GGD someone
else in the GGDs has the correct answer. This year, Johnny and I have been working to lift the impact of the GGDs to outside of our group by sharing more openly, advocating for greater efforts in safety, and by trying to make our little tribe a bigger part of the overall community. To that end, my regular column for Artisan Spirit Magazine is going to be turned over to members of the Good Guy Distillers to write from here on out. Quarterly, you’re going to read about topics near and dear to the GGD writing the article in question. It might be fermentation efficiencies, or running a tasting room, or forklift safety, or something equally relevant and important. The trusted knowledge that these people have been sharing with the small tribe of the GGDs is going to be writ larger for everyone reading this publication. In all walks of life, one finds tribes. They could be Crossfit people, rafting enthusiasts, Saab owners — it doesn’t really matter. Basically, it’s the family you choose to go along with and not the family you’re
born into. In our industry, Johnny J and I decided we needed to start the Good Guy Distillers tribe. In the last seven years the GGDs has been a constant go-to source for me in everything that I do in this industry. As an encouragement, you should consider starting a tribe of your own and leaning on others for help and giving back with what you can. It makes this journey so much more fun. Be on the lookout for upcoming articles and thanks for reading my share of experiences in this industry thus far. Johnny J will be writing the next article and the GGDs will take it from there. If you have questions, ping Brian Christensen at Artisan Spirit (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can see if someone in the GGDs can answer it for you in their article. Cheers.
John McKee and his wife Courtney founded Headframe Spirits in Butte, America. John has only been accused of being a Good Guy once or twice...usually by someone on a raft asking for a beer.
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MILLENNIAL BREAKDOWN WRITTEN BY
Love them or hate them, millennials currently represent $200 billion in direct spending power, 25 percent of the population, and are on track to make up 75 percent of the total workforce by 2025.
ccording to the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials are anyone born between 1982 and 2000. This massive segment of the population is now 83.1 million people, or more than a quarter of the U.S. population, and now larger than the baby boomer generation (75.4 million). The youngest millennials are between 20 and 24, and the oldest are coming up on 40. Far from the assumed monolith of sameness, millennials are instead composed of an extremely diverse landscape of life stages, values and consumption habits. According to a recent study conducted by Oracle and Interbrand, five distinct segments emerged within the millennial consumer segment.1
UP & COMERS This segment is
comprised of a diverse group of predominantly males including African Americans (19 percent), Asians (12 percent), and Hispanics (10 percent). They fall between the ages of 18-25 and tend to be the life of the party. With a high income of over $55,000 per year and elevated education levels, this group has money to spend. They are health-conscious and highly active. They rarely watch TV or relax at home, instead they prefer to hit the town, bars, or enjoy the outdoors with friends. They are value seekers who feel they never pay full price and price compare religiously.
They are easily swayed into purchasing through social media and external advertising like billboards, flyers, etc.
MAVENS This segment is comprised of 27-35 year-old suburbanites. They have the highest income of all millennial segments, with 43 percent of them making over $70,000 per year. 70 percent are in college or have graduated, are likely to be married or are in a committed relationship and 48 percent have one or more children at home. They are always excited to try new products, but typically after the trend has caught on already. Recommendations from friends or family members are a major driver to purchase for this group, however, sales and price promotions are their number one factor when making a purchase decision.
ECLECTICS This segment is the
homebody, crafty, foodie and are primarily made up of Caucasian (79 percent) females (72 percent). They often get creative with their budgets and will seek out a deal wherever possible. 44 percent are either unemployed, stay at home by choice or work part-time. They are more introverted and the least social of all segments and depend on recommendations to make final purchase decisions.
SKEPTICS This segment has the
lowest income with 60 percent having an annual income of $35,000 or less. They are the lowest educated segment, with 38 percent only having their high school GED. They are the quintessential video gamers/internet junkies. Not surprisingly, low price and familiar brands that go on sale a lot are the primary drivers of their purchase decisions. When asked their preferred alcoholic drink of choice, 42 percent stated that they tend to not drink. In comparison, looking at all millennials over 21, only 24 percent stated they do not drink.
Are the youngest segment of millennials with 61 percent of them between the ages of 18 and 25. They are either still in school (51 percent are in high school or college) or have just started their first job out of school. 58 percent of them live in a household with an annual income that is greater than $60,000. This segment is the most likely to start or try a new trend. They keep up with the latest entertainment gossip and have large social networks to stay connected. Trendsetters also seem to purchase across the widest variety of brands the most often and have seemingly no loyalty to anyone.
1â€ƒhttp://www.oracle.com/us/industries/consumer/interbrand-cg-retail-cx-wp-2400662.pdf WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM â€
STRATEGIES TO CONSIDER WHEN TRYING TO APPEAL TO THESE MILLENNIAL SEGMENTS CREATE AN EXPERIENCE Millennials care more about the experience they have with a brand or product than the product itself. Does your packaging have unique attributes, does it leverage augmented reality, etc? If you have a tasting room, what experiences are you providing, daily events, tours, food pairings, special events at bars, restaurants, social events? We have a client that has huge all-you-can-eat oyster parties at their distillery/bar regularly and their patrons line up around the block to get into the event and stay to drink the night away, not to mention the amazing “free” word of mouth advertising they get. OFFER CUSTOMIZATION Consider offering customers the ability to customize their experience, product, packaging, etc. Consider experiences where they can blend their own bottle, create a whiskey club where you engrave a glass they use when they visit your distillery, create their own gift pack, or add some additional customization to their bottle (Maker’s Mark al-
lows visitors to dip their own bottle in wax during their visit).
BUILD LOYALTY Social networks and peer recommendations are the lifeblood of most millennial social circles. Manage your online brand via your website and social media first rather than as an afterthought. Online interactions are easily as important as in-person and these two brand experiences should feel seamless to your consumers. Take the time to ask and really listen to what your customers want and then leverage these insights to drive optimal experiences and loyalty programs. Loyal, happy customers provide online endorsements, reviews, and recommend your brand to their peer groups. PROVIDE VALUE Your brand’s packaging should not be an afterthought. In fact, in many ways it may be as important as your product. Custom bottles and evocative packaging help your brand stand out from the crowd, position your brand in relation
to your customer’s lifestyle or sense of style, and create a sense of value, whether it’s delivering on luxury or simply over-delivering at a price point when compared to the competition. Consider little ‘upgrades” where you provide your customers with something extra. Handwritten “thank you” for their purchase on a neck label, a branded whiskey glass from your distillery as a keepsake if they purchased a bottle, or a free taste when they return to your distillery their second time. Understanding the various millennial segments and what makes each of them unique and what they have in common is the first step towards cracking the algorithm for marketing to this large and very lucrative generation.
David Schuemann is the owner and creative director of CF Napa Brand Design. For more info, visit www.cfnapa.com or call (707) 265-1891.
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Art of the Bung W
hen I told Brian Christensen, Artisan Spirit’s publisher and chief editor, that I wanted to write something about the humble wooden barrel bung, he replied with his characteristic enthusiasm, “Yes! And feel free to go heavy on the bunghole puns!” I am sad to disappoint, but during a long, wide-ranging discussion about bungs with Eric Frey, sales and marketing manager for Cincinnati Dowel & Wood Products Co., not a single bunghole joke was made. Call it professional restraint. However, I did learn quite a lot about bungs, the unsung hero of leak-stopping. Our conversation has been edited lightly for clarity.
How did Cincinnati Dowel & Wood get into the whiskey bung business? We’ve been in business since 1925. The primary business focus has been dowel rods and turnings, furniture plugs, joint plugs, things in that line. There was a period where we did an absolutely huge amount of bungs for Anheuser-Busch, for Hoff-Stevens style kegs which used a wooden bung. However, as the industry transitioned to Sankey kegs, the demand for wooden bungs went way down. Eventually, this caused us to get out of the bung business. We scrapped some machinery and refocused. Fast forward to 2008 and 2009, when
we were approached by some folks from the whiskey side of things who needed a bung with tighter tolerances. We pride ourselves on having the highest quality, so it seemed like it could be a good fit business-wise. We built some machines in-house, and customers were happy with the product. As the years went by, we continued to add more machinery and capacity. Now we are supplying about 90 percent of US wooden barrel bungs, and almost all of Canada after we acquired a bung division in Canada, along with a couple of customers in Europe and Central America. We have a bunch of different machines running thousands per day. Most
WRITTEN BY ANDY GARRISON PHOTO PROVIDED BY CINCINNATI DOWEL & WOOD PRODUCTS CO.
are standard two-inch bungs, but we can manage down to one-inch and can go up to six-inch (not necessarily for the whiskey industry). As time progressed, we saw what other cooperage wood products we can supply, so we make spiles and wedges, and head pins for cooperages which haven’t switched to tongue and groove.
Why are bungs made of poplar? Poplar tends to be the most popular. They’re about 80 percent of what we do. But I’ve never really gotten an answer as to why poplar. I’ve heard guesses that it’s because it’s soft enough that it won’t damage the barrel, but they really swell with moisture to seal tight. Part of the “why” might be that it’s how your dad did and how his dad did it, so if it ain’t broke don’t fix
it. I’ve also seen some references that perhaps it was originally used because it was an inexpensive material and it worked. When you are talking about long decades of aging you don’t want to mess with it, so we hear, “Well, I don’t know why, but I don’t want to change it” a lot.
What about other woods? We’re doing a fair amount of white oak bungs, and that number is growing. We are seeing countries overseas and in South America starting to request oak bungs. The customers that use oak are typically much higher-end barrel companies and want it to be all oak, oak spile, and oak wedges (the majority of spiles and wedges are cedar because it’s soft and less likely to damage the barrel, but for aesthetics they don’t like the dark cedar). Walnut is hard enough to not break when you get it out but soft enough to seal tight. Maker’s Mark are the only ones that get them, and it sets them apart. They announce it on tours to say, “Hey, we’re different.” We’ve gotten inquiries for cherry wood or aspen to see if it affects the taste, but mostly it’s all poplar.
Any exciting developments in the world of bungs?
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In the last year or so, we’ve started a new avenue of laser engraving the bungs, originally for several customers making retail ornaments, but more are using them as a low-cost promotional item for tours and festivals. There has been a trend with people palletizing warehouses, so now more folks are headfilling barrels. Most bungholes are a tapered hole, but most of the head fill bungs are straight-sided and can be larger. That’s another reason we heard about customers using white oak: The cooperage puts a white oak bung in the side which never comes out, and the poplar bung goes in the head fill. Having that difference of color with poplar can be important, as we have a couple customers that use a laser eye to automate removing the bungs and need the different color to locate the bung on the head fill.
What most surprised you about the bung business? Relating to the bung itself, there haven’t been a lot of surprises! But one of the most interesting things I’ve noticed about this industry is how the distilleries, on the whiskey side, don’t view each other as competitors. What’s good for one, is good for everyone, and I can tell you that you really don’t see that in many industries. In going to the different festivals, it’s really a different industry as far as how the companies interact.
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.email@example.com
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O h t y n e A r y N b a m n i e G
Steinhäger Germany’s Forgotten Gin
WRITTEN BY READE A. HUDDLESTON
in is experiencing a worldwide renaissance. In countries like Australia and the UK, the number of active gin distilleries has nearly doubled in the last five years, and this growth shows no sign of stopping.1 Different gins, such as pink gin, have gained new-found popularity, and old cousins of gin such as genever have recently seen upticks in interest and market share.2,3 Everywhere we look, it seems that everything gin is in! However, this sudden increase of popularity has not been shared equally among all styles of gin, and there is one in particular that seems to still be left in the shadows. I am, of course, referring to the German gin, Steinhäger. What exactly is Steinhäger? Well the answer to that can be a little complex. Legally speaking, Steinhäger is a style of gin that has a unique geographic indication so that it can only be produced in and around the city of Steinhagen, in the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen. This geographic indication was officially given to Steinhäger by the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1989 when alcohol production was being codified across Europe.4 This designation essentially gives Steinhäger similar geographic protection as that of Scotch and bourbon.5 However, the EEC does not have any rules or regulations regarding how Steinhäger is produced and simply states that it must follow the general rules that WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
In order to actually understand what
is, and how it came to be, we will have to first learn about its history and the culture that created it. would define it as a gin: i.e. be flavored with Juniperus communis, and not be bottled at less than 37.5% ABV.4 This is surprisingly little information, even by EEC standards, for a spirit that has special status. This means that in order to actually understand what Steinhäger is, and how it came to be, we will have to first learn about its history and the culture that created it. Juniper has been used to flavor alcohol throughout Germany for centuries. Hildegaard of Bingen, a 12th century Benedictine nun and one of the earliest German writers to record drink recipes, frequent-
ly mentioned juniper as an ingredient in many medicinal recipes.6 The use of juniper as both a fermentable and a flavoring became especially popular in Westphalia, a region of Western Germany that contains the Teutoburg Forest, which is renowned for having plentiful stocks of high-quality juniper.7 This area became well known for its superior juniper spirits and many distilleries were opened in the towns of Westphalia, each producing their own unique Wacholders,7 as the spirits came to be known. The distillers in the town of Steinhagen, which sits on the southern slopes of the Teutoburg Forest, developed a particularly unique style of Wacholder that became immensely popular throughout much of Germany. In 1668, Steinhagen was recognized by the “Great Elector” Frederick William of Brandenburg for its unique style of spirits and its distillers were given a royal permit to be the exclusive makers of a newly classified juniper spirit known as Steinhäger.8 This royal attention prompted many new distillers to open factories in Steinhagen, and by the 19th century there were as many as 20 active distilleries in the small town.7 The popularity of Steinhäger was international, and competition between distilleries was fierce; distillers often made fanciful and somewhat outrageous claims about their products. One producer in particular, the owners of the Konig Model Distillery,
were well known for their often-farfetched marketing claims. In one marketing poster the distillery claimed that they supplied all members of the British royal family with Gin and were given a royal appointment to the House of Lords and the House of Commons.9 Unfortunately, during the 20th century, Steinhäger’s popularity began to wane. The region of Westphalia was hit especially hard during both World Wars, and post war turmoil and shortages caused many producers to go out of business. Today, there are only two remaining Steinhäger producers left: Schlichte and Zum Fürstenhof. Both companies still operate within the municipal limits of Steinhagen.8 Production of Steinhäger is relatively straightforward, however it is somewhat different from the way other styles of gins are produced. Unlike many other gin styles, Steinhäger does not use any botanicals other than juniper to flavor the spirit.5 Thus, the first step in Steinhäger production is
always selecting the juniper that will be used. As mentioned previously, Steinhäger is legally considered a type of gin and is therefore only allowed to use Juniper from the family Juniperus communis.4 Once the juniper has been selected, the distiller will mash the juniper berries with water and allow the mixture to ferment. At the same time that the juniper is fermenting, the distiller will also produce a separate mash to create the base alcohol.7,10 Like many other styles of gin, the base alcohol for Steinhäger is usually made from grain. Rye is generally thought to be the most popular grain, a fact that is not surprising when you realize that Westphalia is famous for its rye breads like pumpernickel.10 That said, there is no requirement of where the base alcohol actually comes from, and sometimes sugar beets can be used as a base. After both ferments are complete it is time to distill them. Steinhäger is traditionally distilled three separate times.10 The first distillation is of
the grain mash to create the base alcohol. This distillation can occur at the Steinhäger distillery or can be conducted at a separate facility that is more suited to making grain spirits. The second distillation is of the juniper ferment which is typically smaller in volume and must occur at the Steinhäger facility.11 The hearts from the juniper distillation and the grain distillation are mixed together for the third and final distillation. This distillation normally occurs in a copper pot still at a very low and slow speed, so as not to damage the juniper flavor.10 Once the final distillation is complete, the Steinhäger is allowed to rest before being proofed down, with the standard alcohol content being 38%ABV.12 Traditionally Steinhäger was bottled in tall, brown earthenware containers known as Kruke. These clay jugs were originally favored by producers because it was believed that they helped keep the liquid inside of them cool for longer periods of time.12 However, as glass became cheap-
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er many producers switched over to glass with a brown coating, though it is still easy to find Steinhäger bottled in its traditional container.13 Finding Steinhäger on store shelves can be somewhat of a challenge. As previously mentioned, there are only two active distilleries left, and it’s reported that one only needs to be active for a few weeks a year in order to create enough supply. However, that does not mean that locating a bot-
tle of Steinhäger stateside is impossible. Schlichte, one of the two remaining producers, regularly exports their Steinhäger to the United States; with just a little bit of liquor store sleuthing, a bottle will probably turn up. If you get the chance, I recommend you try Steinhäger; it is very different than many gins on the market, and it is excellent straight or mixed into cocktails. Steinhäger is a drink that has centuries of history and tradition behind it; who knows,
perhaps if the current gin craze continues, consumers will once again begin to swoon to its unique and interesting flavor.
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.
References 1) Humphries, Will, 2018. Number of Gin Distilleries in Great Britain Doubles. Available from <https://www.thetimes. co.uk/article/number-of-gin-distilleries-in-britain-doubles-hvxtntfkf> [January 28, 2020] 2) Gray, Kevin, 2018. Pink Gin is Millennial Marketing at its Best or Worst (You Decide). Available from <https://vinepair.com/articles/pink-gin-trend-beefeater-millennial/> [January 29, 2020] 3) Distiller, 2018. Gin & Genever: A Gin-Troduction. Available from <https://blog.distiller.com/gin-introduction/> [January 29, 2020] 4) Council Regulation, 1989. Council Regulation (EEC) No. 1576/80. Available from < http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/ en/text.jsp?file_id=126926#JD_EU030_15> [January 16, 2020].
5) Knoll, Aaron, 2012. Types of Gin: Steinhäger. Available from <https://theginisin.com/other-thoughts/types-of-gin-steinhager/> [January 25, 2020]
10) Obelode, Jürgen, 2019. Steinhäger. Available from < https://home.obelode.com/pmwiki.php?n=Steinhagen. Steinhaeger> [January 25, 2020]
6) Throop, Priscilla, 1998. Hildegard Von Bingen’s Physica: The Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and Healing, Inner Traditions/Bear Publishing.
11) Auferstanden Aus Ruinen, 2011. Brennerei Zum Fürstenhof. Available from <https://www.auferstandenausruinen.de/ urban-exploration/museen/brennerei-zum-furstenhof/> [January 28, 2020]
7) Brothers Gin, 2016. Gin? German Spirits with Juniper. Available from <https://ginspiration.de/blog/gin-deutsche-spirituosen-mit-wacholder/ > [January 25, 2020] 8) The Liquor Collection, 2013. Furstenbrand Steinhager. Available from <http://theliquorcollection.com/single. php?id=2102> [January 25, 2020] 9) Ad for Konig’s Westphalian Gin. Royal Colonial Institute Year Book, 1914.
12) Kisker, 2020, Fürstenhöfer Steinhäger. Available from <https://www.kisker-brennereien.de/produkte/wacholder-steinhaeger-und-genever.html> [January, 26 2020] 13) Schwarze & Schlichte, 2020, Über Uns. Available from <https://www.schwarze-schlichte.de/ueber-uns> [January 26, 2020]
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R U O Y G N I T I AUD S N O I T A G I L B O R E M I R P W A L T C A R T ON
C O R E Y D AY C RASICH & R A M Y B N WRITTE
inter’s over — the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, the distillate is flowing, and you’re looking to scratch the spring cleaning itch. While contemplating the manual labor of deep cleaning the distillery, you may be ignoring less obvious concerns. Growing up, my nana always told me, “Nothing says spring cleaning quite like auditing your business’ contractual obligations.” Alright, she never said that, but it’s still true. Now’s as good a time as any to review your current, pending, and planned contracts to ensure you understand what you’re agreeing to do, what you’re entitled to, and why all that fine print matters. First, an aside: Whether you know it or not, you can make an agreement without spelling it out in a written contract. A handshake deal can — with certain exceptions — be binding. The issue with unwritten deals is that when they do not go as planned, enforcing the deal can get expensive very quickly. When that happens, both sides will spend significant time and money for a court to determine which parties’ version of events is most credible. Certainty, or as close as you can expect to get to it, is why you should always set pen to paper and write out your agreement. Alright, you’re convinced, you’re only going to make written contracts going forward. That’s good. Odds are you have a rosy outlook on, and high hopes for, the business relationship with the other party to your deal. If you didn’t, you’d probably be looking to work with someone else. However, based on being brought in to litigate contract disputes (well after the rose has wilted), there is nothing more important than understanding what you’re agreeing to from the get go so you can properly assess your liability. Having an attorney draft, or at a minimum review, your contract might be better, but I recognize that’s not always an option.
SOME IMPORTANT CONTRACTUAL TERMS TO UNDERSTAND (i.e. WHAT YOU’RE AGREEING TO)
TERMINATION CLAUSES specify how, when, and under what conditions a party can end the agreement. This is also the place to spell out any consequences for early termination. These are often coupled with liquidated damage terms (a predetermined amount the parties agree the contract is valued at). INDEMNIFICATION AND/OR A DUTY TO DEFEND TERMS are used to determine responsibility for certain costs arising from the contract. These costs can include settling claims and attorney’s fees necessary to defend the claims. CHOICE OF LAW/FORUM is useful when parties reside in different states. The parties agree contract disputes will be determined under the laws of a specific state. The parties can also agree lawsuits arising from the agreement will be brought in a certain state. This simplifies questions over how a provision will be read and gives the parties more certainty.
ATTORNEYS’ FEES PROVISIONS can be useful leverage. There are disputes that can be resolved in a small claims court with minimal cost to the parties, and cases for substantial sums that are worth the cost of fighting. When the value falls somewhere in between, the best decision might be simply stonewalling and forcing the other side to spend more money than the dispute is worth in litigation. If the winning party gets its attorney’s fees, that strategy looks a lot less appealing.
erwise, it can be assigned to a third party. This comes up most frequently when a distributor sells a contract to another distributor. If you want to make sure the contracted party and no one else performs under the contract, the agreement needs to say so.
RIGHTS OF ASSIGNMENT. You’d think that when you enter into a contract with a party, the contract can only be between the two of you. However, if not specified oth-
INTEGRATION CLAUSES limit the scope of the agreement to the signed document. This is crucial for negotiated agreements. It
SEVERABILITY/REFORMATION aka A SAVINGS CLAUSE. If a portion of the contract is unenforceable (typically because it violates law or public policy) the parties agree the improper portion can be removed without blowing up the entire agreement.
prevents a party from saying: “I know the contract says I receive X, but we had an understanding that I actually get X and Y.” This works both ways, any “understanding” (written or otherwise) not in the agreement will be hard to enforce.
The above is a great starting point, but just like a proper spring cleaning, thoroughness and vigilance yield the best result. 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.
Marc Rasich is a partner in Stoel Rives’ (stoel.com) Salt Lake office. Marc is a business attorney and litigator who draws on his personal experience as a business owner to counsel clients on legal strategies appropriate to their needs and objectives. Marc partners with his clients to assess and mitigate their legal risks across a wide variety of areas, including corporate governance, licensing, joint venture and strategic partnership agreements, intellectual property protection, and employment issues. You can reach him at email@example.com or 801-578-6901. Corey Day is an alcoholic beverage attorney and litigator in Stoel Rives’ Sacramento office. Corey likes chatting about potent potables, complicated cocktails, and a little alliteration, so email him: firstname.lastname@example.org, call him: 916-319-4670, or follow him on twitter: @coreyday.
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‘Yes, Virginia, there are flavor differences’
RESEARCHERS CHIP AWAY AT THE MONOLITH OF UNDIFFERENTIATED BARLEY WRITTEN BY GABE TOTH
Pat Hayes is a man with many questions: “In that move towards greater performance and efficiency, have we lost unique flavor and aroma components?” “If you take five available varieties (of malting barley) off the shelf, are there differences?” “Can flavor and sensory be used as tools for variety and choice?” However, unlike most people who ask a lot of questions, Hayes is also a professor in the Crop Science and Soil department at Oregon State University. As such, he has his hands in a variety of research projects, some funded federally or by the Brewers Association, that aim to answer these questions. Hayes is on a mission to bring flavor back into consideration for barley breeders. The
malting barley industry has been on a 150year march towards yield and consistency, and his research aims to put flavor back on the menu. One recently finished bit of work was the Next Pint project, where Mecca Grade Estate Malt in Madras, Oregon, funded work to cross-breed Full Pint barley — a publicly available, flavor-forward variety that Mecca Grade brought back into commercial usage — with Maris Otter and Violetta barleys. Out of more than 100 potential new varieties that came out of those crosses, three are now proprietary to Mecca Grade and the remainder are publicly available for usage or further breeding efforts. Those three Next Pint barleys are currently in the “research pipeline” Hayes has developed: being malted and brewed for sensory analysis at other departments at OSU and being analyzed for volatile and nonvolatile compounds at Colorado State University.
There are three additional projects completed or underway that stem off of a different germplasm, a collection of crosses called Oregon Promise that came out of breeding Full Pint and Golden Promise. The first was a sensory panel with micro-malted samples of 34 Oregon Promise lines. Hayes said the results provided evidence that there were differences and the project was worth scaling up. A follow-up study, which is pending review by an academic journal, established flavor differences at a larger scale without the “weirdness” of small-scale malting and brewing. “Not only did we have differences, but one of the differences was there was a unique flavor profile that was picked up by a consumer panel,” Hayes said. “They said, ‘Wow, this is what we think a craft lager should taste like.’” Hayes explained that particular varietal was one that had not been through the standard testing, but had WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
“The question now is, if you have something that’s almost competitive, is the flavor enough to push it up and over? Can a farmer and maltster afford to produce? Will the consumer pay more? We’re challenging that right now.” competitive — if slightly below optimal — agronomics. “The question now is, if you have something that’s almost competitive, is the flavor enough to push it up and over? Can a farmer and maltster afford to produce? Will the consumer pay more?” he asked. “We’re challenging that right now.” Another breeding project, dubbed the Romp of Otters, consists of cross-breeds of Maris Otter and contemporary European barley stock. Traveling through the same analytical pipeline, with the trial beers brewed by Deschutes Brewing Co., the goal of those varieties is to identify “whatever it is that Maris Otter has had that’s been so fascinating for all these years,” with the practical aim of carrying that character into a more agronomically competitive strain. “Despite the fact that it was released over 50 years ago, it’s still grown. Normally varieties just fall by the wayside,” said Hayes. OSU is also working with a plot of land on the rim above the John Day River, held by Western Rivers Conservancy, that was cultivated last year with five commercial varieties to compare sensory, metabolomics (the study of the chemical processes and metabolite profiles in metabolism), and genetics, following the same research methodology but being malted by Great Western and brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing. “There are consistent differences that research panels are picking out, and there are distinct preferences between these varieties,” Hayes said. They’re sowing the same 500 acres again this year with four experimental malts and a control variety called Thunder, with research to be completed in 2021. Another program, funded by a USDA grant, is conducting research on growing organic naked (hulless) barley, which could theoretically be valuable as human food the same way that wheat is, is showing greater yield for brewers and distillers without the potential astringency from grain husks and the grain could still be used as animal feed the way lower-quality barley is utilized. WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
“The thrust of that is really going out to the edge and saying, ‘Ok, we have organic barleys, and in addition to that, our working hypothesis is that naked barleys offer an advantage in a number of contexts because they can be multi-use,’” Hayes said. While the research is ongoing and probably will be for generations, he said there is a clear takeaway. “As we scratch the surface, we’re definitely coming to the conclusion that we can throw very rigorous analytical tools at this, and yes, Virginia, there are flavor differences,” he said. Even among “standard,” commercially-available varieties of malting barley, there were variations in characteristics such as Maillard reaction products, leading Hayes to speculate that barleys could one day be chosen to optimize their fit for certain products — delicate, floral malts for light beers; richer malts high in melanoidins for darker beers; or malts that produce certain long-chain fatty acids for distilling. “It gives your customer a menu of choices; it gives you the option to exercise a tremendous amount of creativity,” Hayes said. “The maltster is going to be challenged to bring out the best in those varieties.” The breeding program at Montana State University (MSU), led by Jamie Sherman, is likewise tapping into grants from the USDA and the Brewers Association to explore the genetic factors in flavor compound development. In one project being done in coordination with Colorado State, MSU malted about 300 samples and looked at the differences across varieties in flavor-active components such as amino acids, sugars, and melanoidins. The project involved selecting 150 breeds from the national germplasm repository, representing diverse, older heirloom barley lines used around the world in the last hundred years. Those were grown in 2018, malted, and the chemical analysis is just being finished; they were regrown in 2019 for a second year of data. There
— Pat Hayes, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY are obvious chemical differences, but does that impact flavor? Sherman imagines, “a far-off world where we treat barley like hops. This variety will give you this flavor.” Hayes explained that in their work with CSU, they’ve been able to identify regions of the genome that have a significant effect on sensory attributes. The hope is that one day, they’ll be able to identify a metabolite that’s associated with a specific sensory note, like “bready,” and a region of the genome that’s associated with “bready,” and be able to work backwards through the metabolic pathway leading to “bready” and potentially come out with a candidate gene. If you have that information at hand, in principle you should be able to develop new varieties using that genetic information, protein information, and metabolite information. “There was no evil conspiracy to breed flavor out of barley,” Hayes added. It simply wasn’t a priority. “Every new trait that you add to the list of criteria that you use to decide whether or not to release a new variety makes it that much more challenging to find the genotype that meets these criteria.”
Flexibility and Sustainability Flavor isn’t the only frontier in barley breeding, though. The program at MSU has several projects in the works to explore varieties that require lower inputs (water and fertilizer), can be grown in the Montana winter, or are well-suited for organic farming systems. Sherman said they recently released a new variety called Buzz, which consistently produces plump seeds with lower protein, even under dryland (un-irrigated) conditions or if over-fertilized with nitrogen. Since nitrogen helps optimize yield but can elevate protein levels, and since the protein level is a primary factor for most maltsters, brewers, and distillers in determining whether a barley crop or a batch of malt is acceptable, this can mean the difference between a farmer being paid a pre-
mium for malting barley or having to sell their crop for feed. “It’s more stable across environments,” said Sherman. Furthermore, it hydrates much faster in the malthouse than standard malting barley, potentially allowing for greater throughput for the maltster. “You could take 24 hours off the steep/germination time.” They’re also working to develop barley lines with winter hardiness, which would allow farmers more choice in crop rotation decisions and could provide advantages in weed suppression and boost yield by taking advantage of early moisture in the local weather cycles. One grant is funding research on drought tolerance, particularly examining root genetics. According to Sherman, deeper roots would allow the barley to tap into water further down in the earth and hold up better against the idiosyncrasies of the weather. “We’re looking at ways to select breeds for better roots, which will then help dryland breeding for barley,” she said. “Even though barley is a good dryland crop, most people just irrigate.” They’re also examining the impact of different farming systems on varieties, hoping to select lines that are suited for particular methods of organic farming, which sees more variation than conventional farming in decisions such as crop rotations, methods of weed suppression, and fertilizer decisions. “We’re trying to make barley production more sustainable and make it work in a broader variety of agricultural systems,” Sherman said. “The things that do best under a conventional system probably aren’t going to be the lines that do best under an organic system, so we’re starting to make those selections under that organic system.” They’re hoping to work with a few organic farmers in different regions of the state, creating data on farm management systems as well as geography and climate. “They’ll tell us how they manage their organic fields, and that will be the system that the barley is exposed to,” she said. Some farmers may use a pea crop to enhance the soil, potentially eliminating the need for nitrogen fertilizer; others might use a no-till system. In eastern Montana, where there isn’t enough snow cover to protect winter barley, it’s common to cut down the crop and leave the stubble, which helps to hold snow and aids winter survival, Sherman said. Sherman emphasized the complexities of farming and all of the variables involved in trying to maximize efficiencies and yields while minimizing the negative impacts. Choices such as till or no-till, crop rotation and cover crops, soil fertility, and weed suppression are driven by philosophy, as well as practical concerns such as whether a farmer has irrigation, what their soil might be deficient in, and what markets are available to them. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all. It’s almost like every grower has to put together their own system,” she said. “It’s going to be a long process before we have something, but we’re starting to work on it.” 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.
urprises: they’re not what most business owners typically look for. Yet, no matter how diligent your forecasting, detailed your data, or rigorous your market research, if you sell a product to the general public, you’ll always have the opportunity to be proven wrong. Just ask these distilleries. Contrary to their initial ideas, some of their best-selling products started life as one-off oddities whose scope, they imagined, would always be limited. Surprise! And in this case, it’s the good kind.
“Really, the decision was focused around hospitality. We figured that not everybody would want hard alcohol.”
ORPHAN GIRL When Headframe Spirits opened in Butte, Montana, in 2012, it had five products and one of those things was not like the others. “Orphan Girl was our only product below 40% alcohol. Was, and still is,” said Courtney McKee, CEO of Headframe Spirits and Headframe Spirits Manufacturing. Orphan Girl is a bourbon cream liqueur. It’s made from a blend of Headframe Spirits’ own bourbon and a cream base shelf-stabilized with neutral grain spirit. At just 17.5% alcohol, Headframe launched Orphan Girl with their inevitable spirits-tentative visitors in mind. “Really, the decision was focused around hospitality. We figured that not everybody would want hard alcohol,” said McKee. “Montana allows us to serve two ounces per person, per day, but only the alcohol we produce. We WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
When Niche Products Outperform Expectations
can’t mix with booze we don’t make. This gave us a way to have something that would appeal to people who want something more approachable.” It didn’t take long before Headframe realized that Orphan Girl’s appeal was much, much broader than that. “We were open for about two weeks before we realized we’d need to place another bottle order right away,” McKee said. As a cream liqueur, Orphan Girl was the only Headframe product that used brown glass, which protects the spirit from light damage. “It was both delightful, and deeply concerning,” she said. “You don’t want to lose momentum on something successful.” She attributes the spirit’s success to three major factors. First, of course, is that it’s delicious. Second, she believes the branding, which reflects Butte’s mining heritage, taps effectively into a sense of local pride. Third, and perhaps most ineffable, was Headframe’s development of a signature cocktail featuring Orphan Girl and root beer called the ‘Dirty Girl.’ “The phrase ‘Dirty Girl’ was just so much fun,” said McKee. She said everyone, from 21-year-olds in with their parents for their first legal drink to tough-talking bikers in after a long ride, gets a chuckle from ordering a Dirty Girl. “I’ve had Hells Angels walk into the tasting room and yell ‘I need a Dirty Girl’,” laughed McKee. “And I’ve had sweet old ladies come in to buy a bottle of Orphan Girl to take home and have a Dirty Girl party with their friends. We didn’t anticipate how people would be excited and delighted by the name and the silliness.” Orphan Girl’s sales have grown every year. “It’s been tremendous, and that was real-
Written by Margarett Waterbury
ly surprising to us,” said McKee. “Maybe that’s because we were conservative in our planning and because there wasn’t a lot of data to support the belief that it would be a successful product.” When Orphan Girl first launched in 2012, McKee said there weren’t many bourbon creams on the market. Buffalo Trace, a major manufacturer, even told her that they would be pulling back on their Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream. While Orphan Girl has thrived, she said Headframe Spirits is moving slowly on launching another liqueur. “We’re always looking at ways to riff on success, but one thing we all need to be mindful of is the risk of cannibalizing on the success of the existing product,” said McKee. She said Headframe will launch another liqueur in 2020 as part of a fundraiser for Glacier National Park, but she’ll be watching Orphan Girls’ sales when that product goes live. “There’s certainly a risk that some of its success may come at the expense of Orphan Girl,” she said. “So we’re doing the research to be able to factor appropriately for any initial downturn in existing product sales.”
“When we started our distillery bar, we wanted to build out the cocktails we could make — and triple sec is used in a lot of cocktails.”
SHORT PATH TRIPLE SEC Short Path Distillery in Everett, Maryland, also had a surprise success stemming from the desire to expand their tasting room’s cocktail repertoire. “Maryland has this
law. If you make it, you can sell it, but you can only sell what you make,” explained Zachary Robinson, owner and distiller at Short Path Distillery. “When we started our distillery bar, we wanted to build out the cocktails we could make — and triple sec is used in a lot of cocktails.” Robinson had previously formulated a home recipe for triple sec after he grew tired of mixing really good ingredients with cheap, artificially flavored, sugary commercial triple sec. So when Short Path started developing its cocktail program, he made a batch at the distillery using his home recipe. “We never thought we would wholesale it,” Robinson said. “We thought we’d just make it and use it behind the bar. Maybe we’d retail it. But really — who’s going to buy craft triple sec?” The answer, it turned out, was a lot of people. “People go fucking bananas for it,” he said. “Right now, triple sec is our number two best-selling spirit and our fastest-growing spirit. There’s an outside chance in 2020 it’ll be our number one best-selling spirit.” What makes Short Path Triple Sec such a hit? “We use bitter orange peel and orange peel as the main botanicals, all organic,” Robinson said. “It still has a bright, citrusy, candied nose, but the flavor is more bitter orange, which is richer and more savory. You can even drink it on its own.” Another key selling point is its low sugar content. Standard triple sec is about 25 percent sugar by weight, but Short Path’s Triple Sec is just 10 percent sugar by weight. It’s also higher in alcohol than gro-
cery store triple sec. “You can always add sugar to a cocktail, but you can’t take it out of your ingredients,” Robinson said. “Bars and restaurants really enjoy it because they can use it to make cocktails that aren’t so sweet.” He said sales of triple sec continue to grow in on-premise as well as off-premise accounts. “It’s never hit a plateau,” Robinson said. “It just keeps growing, and growing, and growing.”
“I started really enjoying the smells of the surrounding woods... I really wanted to capture that smell in a spirit, because it painted an amazing picture.”
ST. GEORGE TERROIR GIN In the summer of 2007, St. George Distillery Master Distiller Lance Winters was picking his son up from day camp in the California hills when inspiration struck. “I started really enjoying the smells of the surrounding woods,” he said. “The trees, the mulch under the trees, the sunbaked trails. As a distiller, I really wanted to capture that smell in a spirit, because it painted an amazing picture.” Back at the distillery, he started to tinker. At first, he said it “wasn’t even intended to be a gin, just an expression of place.” But after he began to contemplate creat-
ing a St. George gin, he realized that the fresh, herbal botanical aromas he’d experienced in the hills just might translate perfectly. By early 2010, St. George Distillery had begun serious experimentation on how to identify, distill, and balance botanicals inspired by the Northern California landscape, laying the groundwork for the launch of Terroir Gin. In the early stages, St. George Distillery figured Terroir Gin would essentially be a product for locals — people who’d experienced the northern California wilderness firsthand. Quickly, Lance discovered its unique, balsamic freshness resonated with people from very different backgrounds. “I had a visitor from North Dakota at the distillery and I put a sample of Terroir in front of her,” Winters said. “She said it smelled like home.” Today, Terroir Gin is one of St. George’s top sellers in every market, and its growth has brought serious changes to St. George. “Terroir started as our only gin. As we worked to get it right, we kept making fun discoveries that would ultimately lead to creating our Botanivore and Dry Rye Gin,” Winters said. “[Terroir] has been a catalyst for growth across our entire organization, from needing to add more stills and other equipment to our production side, to adding a new bottling line.” Did its success surprise Lance? “Nope,” he said. “But it surprised our VP of Sales.” Margarett Waterbury is a drinks writer who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her book about Scotch whisky is due out in 2020.
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he Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has had the same rule regarding how to label distilled spirits cocktails for many decades. This rule has guided hundreds of prepared or ready-to-drink (RTD) products to market and to large and growing commercial success. This rule is brief, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with. In fact, it can be difficult to contend with because many of the terms are highly subjective. This leaves lots of room for TTB discretion, surprises and controversies. TTB’s 2018 proposal would modernize these cocktail labeling rules. The cocktail proposals are just a small part of TTB’s ambitious rulemaking project announced in the Federal Register on November 26, 2018. The proposal runs to 132 pages and covers a wide range of labeling issues for beer, wine and spirits. This article will focus on the provisions affecting just spirits, and within that category, just cocktails. We will try to get a fix on how the proposed rule would differ from the current rule that has shaped this important and growing category over the past few decades.
THE CURRENT RULE FOR LABELING COCKTAILS The current rule is at 27 CFR 5.35. To paraphrase, it says you need to use the common identifier, such as rum or whiskey, if defined and if the product meets that definition. Otherwise, you need to label the product with a “truthful and adequate statement of composition.” The same rule goes on to say that, in the case of commonly recognized cocktails, this statement only needs to show the classes and types of distilled spirits used to make the product. By contrast, for other products not specifically defined in the regulations, the main non-alcoholic as well as the main alcohol-based components would need to be set out on the brand label. So, we are talking about a complete statement of composition for distilled spirits specialty (i.e., miscellaneous) products — and an abbreviated statement for recognized cocktails. I say this is subjective because of terms WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
TTB’S COCKTAIL LABELING RULES
Shaken, Stirred, Remixed
WRITTEN BY ROBERT LEHR MAN
like the following, scattered throughout the rule: “adequate,” sufficient,” and “indicates to the consumer the general character of the product.” It is also hard to know, from the CFR rule, what cocktails are and are not considered to be “designed in accordance with trade and consumer understanding.” TTB has maintained a semi-formal list of such cocktails, but due to shifting trends and innovations, it is hard to know why a pink squirrel should get extra credit while a paloma should not.
THE PROPOSED RULE ON COCKTAILS The proposed new rule begins in a familiar way, at 27 CFR 5.156. But then it revs up at 5.166 to cover 5-10 times as many words. The first component of the required description for a hypothetical canned margarita cocktail would be listing any and all spirits or wine products. This would be something like TEQUILA AND TRIPLE SEC. Second, this required statement of composition would show any flavors used in the product, such as NATURAL LIME FLA-
VOR. Third, the statement would show colors, such as FD&C YELLOW #5. Fourth, the statement would show any artificial sweeteners, such as SUCRALOSE. All together, this would yield something like the following on the brand label as the required class/ type statement: MARGARITA — TEQUILA & TRIPLE SEC, NATURAL LIME FLAVOR, FD&C YELLOW #5, AND SUCRALOSE. It’s not quite an ingredient list of the sort that would appear on the side of an FDA label, but it’s far more expansive than what would appear on a cocktail’s brand label under the current rule: MARGARITA — MADE WITH TEQUILA & TRIPLE SEC. As we can see above, the main impact of the proposal would be to take away the special status of the most common cocktails. This has allowed abbreviated label descriptions. Instead, under the proposal, even the most famous cocktails, such as manhattans and margaritas and pina coladas, would be labeled like the lowliest miscellaneous product. Beyond the indignities I have already mentioned, the proposal would require cocktails to show various blenders, wines, and intermediate products when used.
COMPARE TO A BURGER To see what’s really going on here, it may help to shift your gaze from the margarita over to the common cheeseburger. Under something like the current rule, the common cheeseburger would have the following descriptive elements required on the front label (if TTB were in charge of burger labeling). Brand name: Let’s call it McDonald’s. Then a fanciful name: Let’s go with Quarter Pounder. Then the crucial albeit abbreviated statement of composition: Something like MADE WITH BEEF AND CHEESE. By way of contrast, in a massive shift, the proposed rule would mandate a full statement of composition such as: BEEF, CHEESE, BREAD, LETTUCE, ONIONS, PICKLES, KETCHUP, MUSTARD, SPICES. This is very close to an FDA-style ingredient list but does allow a few omissions, such as any water and sugar that may be added to our sandwich. This shows our legal description growing by a factor of two or three. The latter rule would do a nice job of distinguishing the beef burger from something like a tofu burger, but then again, so would the current rule. The proposal also suggests but does not quite say that because the most famous cocktails (such as the margarita) would now be treated similarly to the least established miscellaneous products, there would be no need to maintain a list of recognized cocktails. Beyond that, it is not clear that TTB would any longer patrol what needs to be in that margarita. The current rules say (in an old guidance document) a margarita must
have “Tequila, triple sec and lime or lemon juice or oil or natural lime or lemon flavor,” and heaven help the hapless rube who deviates to any degree from this directive. Under the proposal, the same applicant might have the option to leave out the triple sec, for example, on the theory that the more complete statement of composition would reveal the important components used and not used within a given cocktail.
THE RATIONALE The proposal says (at page 60598), with respect to specialties and cocktails:
This classification would not make any substantive change except for labeling requirements for cocktails, highballs, and similar specialty products. The proposal would eliminate the rule allowing for a limited statement of composition consisting of only the spirits used in the manufacture of such products. Over the years, TTB has seen an increase of cocktails recognized in bartenders’ recipe books as the industry continued to innovate. Consumers are not fully informed when a label has only a cocktail name and the component spirit(s) because of the vast array of cocktails. Accordingly, TTB proposes to require a full statement of composition on such specialty products and proposes to clarify that a cocktail name may be used as the distinctive or fanciful name on a distilled spirits specialty product.
INDUSTRY COMMENTS The Sazerac Company filed a comment pushing back, gently, on this proposal, saying: “In short, rather than adding extraneous information to the statement of composition that is more likely to mislead and confuse, we ask TTB to consider a simplified approach … or requiring ingredient information to be provided, which would result in intermediates being declared on the label without being highlighted in the product name in a way that confuses consumers.” Sazerac also asserts that “a requirement to label a ‘Bloody Mary’ as ‘Vodka and tomato juice’ seems to set out a regulatory burden with no corresponding benefit to consumers.” There are about 1,098 general comments regarding the proposal filed so far, and several of them push back similarly on the specific proposal discussed above. But so far I am not seeing powerful arguments against the cocktail proposal, other than it could be a lot of work for companies and TTB to bring the hordes of cocktail products into compliance with a revised rule. One way or the other, RTD spirits cocktails will continue to present many labeling challenges far out into the future. Robert C. Lehrman is a lawyer at Lehrman Beverage Law, PLLC in metro Washington, DC. Since 1988 he has specialized in the federal law surrounding beer, wine and spirits, such as TTB permits, labels, trademarks and formulas. The firm has ten beverage lawyers, over 80 years of combined experience, and publishes a blog on beer, wine and spirits trends, at www.bevlaw.com/bevlog.
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In 2019, the dawn before the Volstead
Act’s century mark, a new type of temperance seemed ready to threaten the distilling industry. It wasn’t a ban, of course, but a cacophony of buzzy catchphrases like “alcohol-free,” “low-alcohol,” and “sober curious” that created enough of a din to generate numerous think-pieces that explored a growing movement involving non-alcoholic beverages, reduced booze consumption, and — naturally — millennials. Some of these stories covered the movement as a hot trend to watch. Other screeds wittingly or unwittingly contained an undercurrent of “MILLENNIALS ARE SLOWLY KILLING THE BOOZE INDUSTRY! BOOGA-BOOGA!” For craft distilleries nursing razor-thin profit margins and/or dealing with the headaches of getting started, it would be justifiable if the latter articles’ fear-mongering vibe put the fear of Carry Nation into their souls (for the uninitiated Carry Nation was a radical member of the temperance movement notorious for vandalizing bars and destroying bar inventory in the name of God. She wasn’t fun at parties). There was plenty of evidence of the movement being in full swing last June, when I attended the Specialty Food Association’s annual Summer Fancy Food Show in New York. With all apologies to The Beastie Boys, no and low was the tempo at the show, and the category of drinks aggressively marketing themselves as alternatives to booze spread wide across the Javits Center’s massive sprawl. There appeared to be enough steam throughout the latter half of 2019 to assume that a similar crush of like-minded vendors would be present when I visited SFA’s Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco’s Moscone Center in January. Except that they weren’t. Don’t get me wrong — there were plenty of non-alcoholic and low-alcoholic beverage companies on Moscone’s floor touting their products. However, the ones vigorously tying themselves to the “sober curious” movement were scant compared to what I saw last summer. In their place were vendors that were more open to the concept of what could be re-
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ferred to as a “complete craft drinker.” That is, an individual that will want to seek out premium or craft beverages to round out their non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinking habits. These are the drinkers that will flock to properly made, great tasting craft spirits, but they’ll also purchase artisanal teas, craft sodas, or small-batch low-alcohol ciders for those nights where they don’t feel like imbibing in the hard stuff. For these non-alcoholic beverage makers, striking a symbiosis with booze can be crucial to their growth. “The ‘meat market’ analogy is a really good one to use here,” explained Tatyana Dolgaya, brand manager of consumable brands at True Brands, a Seattle-based company whose beverage portfolio includes Collins cocktail mixers and Pinky Up teas. “Recently, we’ve seen all these trends toward vegan products, like substitutes for meat. Originally, that industry came out as this very niche group that was all about saying ‘no, no, no’ to other things. And sure, there’s a market for that, but it’s pretty small. We’ve only seen the meat substitute market take off when it’s started to live alongside meat products. We see that now with the Beyond and Impossible products at Burger King and all the fast food chains — it gives the meat consumer the option to comfortably choose either. I think that’s how
I see the low alcohol, no alcohol market, too.” Dolgaya also points out that consumers that drink less doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve stopped drinking. “It’s why they talk about ‘sober curious’ and not just ‘sober.’ The underlying assumption there is that people are still consuming alcohol, and I don’t think that’s going away.” This outlook doesn’t necessarily mean beverages that traditionally play nice with booze aren’t also courting interest within the no and low sector. One vendor I spoke with pointed out that they deliberately removed wordage that referenced mixing drinks off their packaging. The reason was simple: Their products can be enjoyed as a stand-alone beverage and having labeling language that referenced mixed drinks may obscure this. (Interestingly enough, the vendor also wouldn’t allow me to interview him without approval from his marketing team, even though he was the brand CEO. Such approval never came). It also doesn’t mean that the spirits industry won’t be completely impervious to the effects of the movement. Even though co-existence is a goal, the consensus was that there will be some market penetration at the expense of some boozy labels. However, this erosion isn’t as scary as it seems if you’re making artisanal hooch. “I feel like it’s not going to make an impact within the craft spirits industry,” said Alicia
Hollinger, Senior Business Development Manager for Hella Cocktail Company, a premium mixer company in Long Island, New York. “If it was going to make an impact within a type of spirit class, it would be more of your lower quality or lower-end spirits — ones that are more mainstream. For us, we’re seeing that people care more about what they’re drinking, which means more premium mixes and more craft spirits.” In other words, the brands feeling the pinch will be the bottom shelf value brands that artisan spirits fans and adult beverage geeks routinely mock. Consider all those “booga-booga” articles that tend to wrap their words around millennials and millennial culture, about booze and beyond. These pieces inform us that they’re a group that values authenticity in the products they buy. When it comes to spirits, this means they’ll put stock in things like quality ingredients and distilling transparency from grain to glass. By this rationale, it stands to reason that millennials making room on their shelves for premium non-alcoholic labels will sacrifice the high-volume, mass-produced stuff and maintain a consumer relationship with craft producers. It’s also important to remember that a healthy chunk of no- or low-alcoholic beverages looking for market penetration are craft producers themselves. As such, they share a common bond with craft distillers seeking to grow their label — not to mention an appreciation for what craft distillers produce. “It makes us feel a little bit better to know when our mixers are used with craft spirits,” explained Steve Bargmeyer, director of sales for Collins. “When you’re using something that’s crafted, it creates a drink that has a feeling of heritage, which is special.” The bottom line: If you’re a craft distiller whose nerves get rattled every time you see an article predicting doom and gloom for the booze industry, don’t believe the hype. You’ll be fine. After two days of walking the Moscone Center floor talking to beverage companies and looking for signs of trouble, it became clear that your no- and low-alcohol beverage brethren revere you, because craft is craft. And if you’re still a little freaked out by the way the current market looks, just remember that trends and even movements may lose steam over time, while spirits tend to remain evergreen. “Right now, you got millennials that are out there drinking the White Claws and Trulys of the world,” said Bargmeyer. “But as they get older, they’ll turn on to wine, more beer, and eventually, mixers and liquors. It’s just one of those things that comes around full circle.”
Rich Manning is a freelance food and drink writer based in Fountain Valley, CA. He lives about 15 minutes south of Disneyland, but he hasn’t gone there in ages — he’d rather visit the nearby breweries and distilleries instead. You can check out some of his other written hackery by visiting www.richmanning.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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dealing with Federal Adverse Actions WRITTEN BY JIM MCCOY
How do you deal with being cited with significant tax liability and/or regulatory violations?
he distiller operates in a highly regulated and taxed government regulatory environment, and it is always possible that said government (our friends at TTB) will schedule an investigative team to visit the distillery for a compliance review or tax audit. In either case, the findings presented by the team will impact the distiller, quite often requiring changes to operations or records, updates to the permit files, adjustments to labels or formulas, or additional taxes to be accounted for. The team’s results will typically be expressed verbally at the end of their field work, with a follow-up letter explaining the findings in detail and offering the DSP owner a chance to reply with explanations, corrective efforts, and steps taken to prevent reoccurrence of the violations. Like any government inspection, a TTB audit or investigation is a process, and the results of the process take time to resolve. Internally, the distiller has to make procedural, operational, and records adjustments, possibly re-file for labels and formulas, and at worst make tax adjustments. In respect to the government action, the distiller submits a written reply to the gov-
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ernment notice addressing how each issue is being dealt with. That all sounds fairly simple and easy, doesn’t it? However, what if the government findings are significant, a lot of tax is owed, or big shortages and problems are cited? A letter, a check, and corrections may not (will not, in fact) suffice to resolve major findings. The process gets serious at this point, as the distiller may receive a “Notice of Contemplated Adverse Action” or a “Notice and Demand for Taxes,” or a request to appear in Cincinnati or Washington at a conference to discuss resolution of tax owed, violations cited, and potential suspension or revocation of the distiller’s permit. How do you deal with being cited with significant tax liability and/or regulatory violations? How do you reconcile where your distillery has been in respect to compliance with federal regulations, while moving forward, making necessary corrections, building your brand, and making a profit? First, the world has not ended. The government is willing to work with you, as long as you can demonstrate that they have your attention and you are working to be com-
pliant. Prompt responses to their notices, comprehensive attention to their findings, and a positive can-do approach to compliance go a long way towards obtaining the most reasonable settlement (it may still be tough, but better than the alternative). Most important is to be honest and truly do what you tell them you are doing to make things right. The progressive compliance program typical for these cases first involves giving the taxpayer notice of the team’s findings and soliciting a response. Next, if the violations are significant, the notice of contemplated adverse action is provided, which the distiller can reply to with an updated “progress report” on corrective action. In the first response, the answer may have been speculative. Response to this second notice might be that a given correction has been made and employed, and results are provable. Always, if the government asks for additional information, such as evidence of correction, respond promptly and positively, no quibbling or negativity. Always remember that your level of cooperation is noted in their determining your willingness to be compliant.
The levels of adverse action include a “Warning Letter” that reiterates the citations and acknowledges the responses, and cautions that further similar citations may result in a higher level of adverse action. Second level is a “Warning Conference,” where the government official attending may review the citations verbally with the distiller and caution that future similar non-compliance will result in action against the permit. At the conference, if the government feels it is warranted by the extent and nature of the violations, the official may advise that the government intends to take action to suspend or revoke the permit. In such cases, the meeting may be followed by receipt of a Notice of Contemplated Denial or Revocation, as provided in the procedural rules pertaining to permit actions in 27 CF Part 71. If significant tax liability is involved, a “Notice and Demand” for taxes is issued, which must be addressed promptly. What this means is that the government has put the stated liability on their receivables and they expect payment. If any of the liability is disputable, or you have additional information/documentation that developed after the audit which may reduce the liability, that can be presented in response, and you can advise as to whether you can pay the amount shown, whether you need time to pay it, or whether you wish to propose a settlement (an offer-in-compromise) concerning the tax liability. In any tax matter, the government is obligated to respect the taxpayer’s rights as provided in federal laws and regulations. Alternatives to immediate
If you have doubts about how you do things, what records you keep, and how accurate your records are, the best response is to make a list and get working to be compliant. full payment are available and negotiable if the taxpayer demonstrates a need or can present a reasonable case as to why the settlement proposal should be considered. In working out a settlement with the government, the compromise may be structured to settle tax liability, violations of law and regulations, or both. In some cases, an offer may be accepted for the tax, but the government may wish to suspend the permit to resolve the cited violations. A suspension requires that no permitted operations (distilling, processing, bottling, removals of product from bond) may occur during the days enumerated. An offer-in-compromise can be based on doubt as to liability (the taxpayer poses to the government a reasonable argument asserting doubt) or, doubt as to collectibility (the taxpayer does not have the resources to reasonably be expected to pay). In collectibility cases, the taxpayer is expected to provide a package of financial details proving inability to pay. An alternative is an installment agreement or extension of time to pay. Also, note that TTB publishes on its website any accepted offers and suspensions of permitted businesses. Over the past two years, they list 52 accepted offers and 29 permit suspensions. Five years
ago, in 2014-2015, a total of 25 offers were recorded. You can review the terms of the offers posted and see what items are commonly cited to illustrate where to focus your internal reviews. The above information is solely from my knowledge and experience. Of course, the government adjusts its procedures from time to time, and may or may not announce any changes. The bottom line is that the prudent thing to do is take a look at where your distillery is in respect to federal compliance. Ask the tough questions: If you have doubts about how you do things, what records you keep, and how accurate your records are, the best response is to make a list and get working to be compliant. If the audit finds that you had problems and already fixed them, that shows in your favor to resolve those now fixed issues. If you are faced with the process briefed above, work it through with a positive attitude that you can make things right and move on.
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 jmccoy@ jmccoyconsultants.com.
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A RT I S A N S P I R I T OF THE YEAR
WRITTEN BY MARGARETT WATERBURY PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMANDA JOY CHRISTENSEN
Presenting an “Artisan Spirit of the Year” has been a long simmering idea. The team at Artisan Spirit felt an obligation to use our platform to highlight individuals within the distilling industry who are setting the bar for quality, creativity, education, and community improvement. However, it was incredibly important that the award wasn't just another publisher-appointed award, or business spotlight. We wanted the award to go to an individual, and most importantly be selected by a group of their distilling peers. In many ways this award is a work in progress that we hope grows in scope alongside the evolution of our industry. In future years the goal will be to expand the nomination process and voting to a much wider segment of the industry, but for year one we wanted to keep the scope tight and focused. The Artisan Spirit team selected a group of seven distilling industry veterans who were responsible for nomination and voting. We provided the selection committee a list of guidelines (see Sidebar 2) and then stepped back as the committee deliberated over several weeks. As you would expect some of the best names in distilling
came up for consideration, and after multiple committee meetings Nicole Austin came out on top of a long list of incredible distillers. Beyond the guidelines provided, the selection committee took this opportunity to shine a light on someone who foundationally creates “good stuff,” but then they asked the question, “and then what?” For the committee the “then what,” was someone who “inspires, acts as a role model, pushes the community at all aspects and levels, educates, promotes safety, and genuinely cares about the distilling craft.” The Artisan Spirit team did not choose the final recipient of this award that carries our name, but we could not be prouder to honor Nicole Austin as the 2020 “Artisan Spirit of the Year.” Final Note: We want to sincerely thank all members of the selection committee, who by design, were required to recuse themselves from consideration for the year one award. Also, special thanks to our community of readers, sponsors, and advertisers who make this publication what it is. — BRIAN CHRISTENSEN
“I don’t really appreciate the oddity of what’s happened until I look back and see my incredibly good fortune.”
icole Austin didn’t set out to be a distiller. But somewhere along the way, the universe decided that it had different things in store for Nicole than managing budgets for wastewater treatment facilities. “I don’t really appreciate the oddity of what’s happened until I look back and see my incredibly good fortune,” says Nicole from her home in Tennessee, not far from Diageo’s Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. in Tullahoma, Tennessee, where she works as the General Manager and Distiller. Since taking the job in 2018, Nicole has elevated the profile of George Dickel, the 150-year-old brand made at Cascade Hollow, from a dependable yet under-the-radar legacy label to a rising star in the world of American whiskey. In 2019, Whiskey Advocate and Wine Enthusiast both recognized George Dickel 13-Year-Old Bottled in Bond, a whiskey released under Nicole’s watch, with their highest accolades of the year. But there’s more to Nicole than great whiskey. She’s also played a major role in helping the American distilling industry achieve recent legislative victories, build trade-related infrastructure, and elevate quality standards at a critical juncture for craft spirits. It’s all part of a mindset that values long-term thinking and collaboration—and the occasional break for competitive horseback riding.
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Selection Committee Ralph Erenzo — Co-founder of Tuthilltown Spirits Farm Distillery, longstanding and beloved veteran of the craft distilling industry, safety advocate, rock climbing expert, writer, legislative pioneer, and one of the most thoughtful honest people you could hope to know. Randy Hudson — Co-founder of Cisco Brewers and Triple Eight Distillery, lifelong beverage student and educator, brisket enthusiast, and a fan of long walks in the swamp with good friends. Colin Keegan — Founder of Sante Fe Spirits, long serving American Craft Spirits Association treasurer, successful architect, mountaineering expert, river rafting survivor, and the most charming person you will ever meet. John McKee — Owner/Distiller at Headframe Spirits, Co-founder of the “Good Guy Distillers” group, contributor of science and engineering knowledge to the distilling community, and all around terrific human. Lauren Patz — Head distiller at Spirits Works Distillery, winery royalty, medieval studies graduate, voracious reader, and a prime example of the type of distilling nerd we should all aspire to be. Amber Pollock — Co-founder of Backwards Distilling, native Wyomingite, savvy business entrepreneur, committed educator, music lover, and one of the hardest working people in distilling. Jason Zeno — Former distiller at Beam Suntory, current head distiller of Porchjam Distillery, vodka critic/enthusiast, university trained brewer/distiller, an avowed curmudgeon, podcasting savant, and a much kinder person than he would ever admit to being.
How did you get to your current role as general manager and distiller at Cascade Hollow Distilling Company? I studied chemical engineering in school, which is not required but is massively helpful to anyone who wants to be a distiller. But it was not with the specific intention of getting into food and beverage. I had an ambition for cultural relevance. I wanted to produce something with my knowledge that was not oil and gas or pharmaceuticals. I wanted to contribute to something larger than myself, so I thought environmental engineering would be a natural fit. But at the scale I was operating in, I felt like just a very small cog in the machine. Even though wastewater treatment plants are very important, it doesn’t exactly inspire that awesome feeling of cultural contribution. So I was living in New York around 2007 or 2008, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and I went to a bar. The bartender poured me a Caol Ila and said something about how it was distilled, and I had a lightbulb moment. Aha. This is literally what I went to school for. I had absolutely no idea this was a job you could do with this degree. At the time, craft distilling was barely happening. I didn’t have the right last name for the big producers in Kentucky, and the small guys that did exist weren’t in the position of being able to hire anybody. Then, in 2010, Kings County Distillery got their license. I showed up at the first event where they ever sold a bottle, introduced myself, and said ‘I will work for you now.’ They said they didn’t have any money. I said ‘That’s fine, make me a partner.’ I kept my day job for the first three years. Then, Dave Pickerell called and offered to hire me for his consulting company, which enabled me to quit my day job and do this full time. I also did some consulting on my own on the side for William Grant, which offered me the role of Commissioning Engineer for Tullamore Dew. I moved to Ireland
to do that, lived there for two years, and then Diageo called me about the role I’m doing now.
What was it like going from a small, scrappy startup and working as a consultant, to working for one of the biggest drinks companies in the world? It’s astonishing! This very much feels like a goldilocks distillery for me. I loved working at Kings County because it enabled me to be creative, but it was kind of frustrating in that you’re constrained by your scale. It was hard to move the needle on the industry as a whole or make an impact beyond your small circle. Although William Grant is technically a smaller company than Diageo, the distillery I was working in was much larger than Dickel is now. They just treated me as another employee doing a very narrow, specific job. I also learned a lot there, but it wasn’t really creative. And now, although I work for Diageo, my role is very focused on this particular distillery. It’s one of the very few in that middle ground between 10,000 case or fewer craft distilleries, and million plus case brands. It’s big enough to be impactful and to make enough whiskey that I can share it with people at a reasonable price, but small enough that I can be creative and touch every part of the process. I feel really lucky to have ended up here.
What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career? One big one was when the George Dickel 13-Year-Old Bottled in Bond won both Whiskey of the Year from Whiskey Advocate magazine, and was named Wine Enthusiast’s top-rated American whiskey. That meant a lot to me, because I specifically set out to show people the quality and caliber of this distillery. I think it’d been quietly producing amazing whiskey for years and had not gotten recognition for it. When I first created that whiskey, most
people I shared it with said it was too polarizing, that most people weren’t going to like it, so it was so satisfying when it got the response it did. I feel deep pride about creating that whiskey, but it wasn’t just me, of course.
OK, how about a low point that you overcame? Oh boy, there have been so many. The week I quit my day job was the week of Hurricane Sandy, and we had two feet of water at King’s County distillery. It ruined a lot of equipment. As I’m cleaning all of this water out of distillery, I remember wondering if this business was even going to exist later, and wondering what I’d done with my life. I still didn’t know how the consulting work was going to go. It felt like a huge amount of uncertainty. The two years after that were probably the hardest time for me in this industry. There were months I couldn’t pay my rent. I had to borrow to cover my living expenses, at a time when most of my peers are collecting a salary and contributing to their 401ks. That was scary.
Can you tell us a little about how you approach the challenges of balancing your vision for product quality with market demands and commercial realities? I don’t think any distillery is exempt from having to manage those challenges. You have the ambition to create a whiskey you care passionately about, but you can only work with the whiskey you have. Part of sustainability is keeping the doors open. Quality is first when you’re making a decision, but it’s not the only consideration. You also have to consider broader ambitions about ethics, your legacy, whether a choice is good for the brand, whether it’s sustainable for the business, and whether it helps to improve profits. You have to consider all the elements. It doesn’t matter how perfectly beauti-
ful your whiskey is if you can’t stay in business. And I don’t resent that. That’s just the real world. There’s no business exempt from those conditions unless your source of money is endless. Most of us are not that lucky.
You’ve been really involved in legislative efforts. Why is it important to you to engage on that level? I’ve always believed that people negotiating in groups are stronger than people negotiating separately. This industry is very heavily regulated, and faces a lot of legal challenges. Legislative work seemed like the most impactful area I could focus on to help the industry be healthy and have the potential for longevity. And part of it is just selfish. I want to work in this industry forever. I need there to be an industry for that to work. If I’ve learned
anything from the past 10 years, it’s that you have no idea where you’re going to end up, so it’s in our best interest to make this industry healthy. With the Federal Excise Tax, there were moments that we weren’t sure that would ever be remotely possible. But the day it happened, there were literally thousands of distilleries that went from being not profitable, to being profitable. I know the minutia of stuff like rulemaking and TTB labeling feels really wonky, but it’s areas like that that can have a massive impact on what we’re allowed to sell, the information we can communicate to consumers, and the idea of regional styles or designations.
What do you like so much about being a distiller? I like that it really sits at the crossroads of rigorous hard science and
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Guidelines Base Selection Standards: › An individual (not a business) › A distiller (active or retired) › Having the fundamental skills in distilling, blending, fermentation, aging, etc. › Recognized as a quality producer › Distillery size is not a consideration (craft or macro) › Distillery ownership is not a requirement Education & Values: › A steward of knowledge who educates passionately › Fosters community › Collaborates › Not a “dick” (aka, no history of shouting people down, pretentiousness, bigotry, sexism, etc.) Innovation: › Willing to push boundaries while still understanding and learning from tradition › Not afraid to learn from failure Advocacy & Leadership: › A leader in legislative or community issues and regulations (state/federal/guilds/associations) › Industry advocacy to customers and others outside the boundary of the distillery › Celebrity status within the distilling industry is not a selection requirement
creative artistry. There are elements of both in everything we do. It’s really the closest anyone can come to making art if you’re only good at math. There isn’t just one clear answer to solve a problem. Plus it feels like there are still tons of things to be discovered, so that keeps me interested. I also feel like this industry operates in a critical place when it comes to American manufacturing and American agriculture and farming practices. These are manufacturing processes that can’t be moved overseas. Our employees at Cascade Hollow are unionized. I’m proud of the types of jobs we provide and the farmers we work with.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work? I ride horses! When I moved to Tennessee, one of my best friends in the industry commented, man, lucky you, you keep seeming to end up in these gorgeous places with
incredible horseback riding. I said, that’s not a coincidence. I compete in Eventing, which is like triathlon for horses. You do three different disciplines in one weekend, and the person with the fewest penalties at the end of the weekend wins. I bought my horse when I was in Ireland. Diageo helped me bring her back when I got this job, and we just had our first proper season competing together last year. We almost qualified for nationals. It’s the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.
What are your dreams for the future of the American distilling industry? My hope is that we’re very much at a moment of rebirth. Pre-Prohibition, the industry was massively diverse with a lot of different regional identities around the United States. The post-Prohibition era was a time when people were still producing high-quality spirits, but the diversity and excitement of the industry was not present. I feel like that’s coming back, and I’m excited to see what it might look like when it’s restored to its former glory. What are the different regional identities that might emerge? What are the new creative things we can do with whiskey? How can we explore collaborations with other industries, like food and wine? I think we all have an incredible privilege being at this birth moment. All the producers now have a lot of say in terms of what this industry becomes. We can set rules, make groups, and start trends now that could impact this industry for the next 50 or 100 years.
A BREWER’S MENTALITY
Mike Reppucci is the founder and operator of Sons of Liberty Beer and Spirits Co. in Kingston, Rhode Island. He’s also a food-loving Italian kid, and one has more to do with the other than you might think. WRITTEN BY DEVON TREVATHAN /// PHOTOGR APHY BY AMANDA JOY CHRISTENSEN
hen he initially got into this business, Mike Reppucci wanted to know why more producers don’t focus on the first half of the distilling equation. What I mean by that is — and this is going to be very simplified — for whiskey, beer
plus heat equals alcohol and water, but the beer in question isn’t usually like the beers you find at your favorite brewery or bottle shop. His was a fair point — from my earliest days working in a distillery, one of the concepts I became most aware of was
that distiller’s beer is for distilling. It’s not something that you want to sit down and sip on, even after the inclusion of hops and carbonation. Reppucci says that his interest in this topic was sparked when he spent time
living in London as a student earning his graduate degree in business. While there, he managed to squeeze in many a Scottish distillery visit. “I went on all the tours and they kept being like, ‘Oh, this is the distiller’s beer,’ and I kept being like, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’” he recalled. By the time he returned to the states, the idea had niggled its way into a far corner of Reppucci’s mind, out of sight, but not to be forgotten. He worked in the finance industry for a while, but kept coming back to this philosophy on the relationship between beer and whiskey, which he credits to his upbringing. “It came from a cooking background more than anything — if your input is beer, make the best damn beer that you can, don’t do much to it, you don’t have to be that smart,” Reppucci explained as he walked us through his production space in a large white building situated on the main road through town. “The flavor should come through and then just let it run its natural course, and that’s kind of where it started,” he expanded. “It was more that it just made conceptual sense for an Italian kid that loves to cook.” For Reppucci, the key to a successful distillery lies in approaching the front end with a brewer’s mindset. American distilling practices have largely been built on a dynamic fermentation that uses wild yeast and bacteria for flavor development, which is something that Reppucci figured as he dug in and did more research. “You realize pretty quickly it’s just a bad beer that’s distilled and a lot of the magic happens in the barrel,” he said. ” We were like, ‘Alright dude, what happens if we made a really drinkable beer? How would that whiskey taste? Would those flavors translate over the still?’” In the late 2000s, Reppucci was put in touch with the late Dave Pickerell, who would go on to make a name for himself as perhaps the most influential consultant of his time in the craft in-
dustry. But Reppucci wanted more from him than just suggestions on still types. “The first eight months of it was science lessons,” said Reppucci. “I always knew what I wanted to do, so I wasn’t going to make bourbon, even though we kind of do here. I wasn’t going to try and do his thing, and I think that’s what he liked about working with us.” Once the distillery was up and running, Pickerell’s presence waned; it wasn’t until they were ready to begin finishing their single malts that he returned. “That was when Whistle Pig was doing the Old World, so that’s why we have a PX, the Oloroso, the Sauternes.” To get started, Reppucci took a literal page out of Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch. He and his team, which consisted mostly of family members including his cousin Chris Guillette, deconstructed some of the best whiskies in the world to figure out what brewing techniques would lead to similar flavor profiles. They made and distilled a Belgian tripel with rye and honey malt, fermented with a clone of yeast from Westmalle, a Trappist brewery in Belgium. What they got out of the process was an American single malt with spice, sweetness, and complexity, initially finished with French oak staves to add a buttery effect that balanced the spice. That spirit became their Battle Cry, and though the French oak staves have since been retired, they now offer a version of this whiskey finished in Oloroso casks for further nuttiness and dark fruit flavors. This same approach was applied to Uprising, which is a classic stout beer distilled into a single malt that carries some of the mocha and chocolate notes typical of the style. This product was finished in Pedro Ximenez barrels, adding to the sweetness and roasted notes of the whiskey. “So that was kind of the idea, just layering flavors and really getting the essence of the beer through our distillation, so you don’t put a neutral spirit in wood and a small barrel, and it tastes like you’re sucking on oak,” explained Reppucci. This layering of flavor was something he had seen done by his grandmother, who used to make sauce on Sundays. He’d watch as she stacked flavor after flavor, and was left with a well-developed sauce by the end of the day. He figured the same could be applied
to whiskey. Reppucci has drawn on the Scots quite a bit for inspiration throughout his tenure as owner and operator of Sons of Liberty. He believes that the American distilling industry, especially American single malt, can expand and diversify in the same way that Scottish producers once did. Regionality is a focus for Sons of Liberty; they want their whiskeys to be synonymous with the place they’re made. “We are from the Ocean State. What better than to make a single malt in the Ocean State and really lay claim to a New England whiskey?” he said. “There should be regionality, there should be difference.” In true brewer’s fashion, Reppucci is fastidious in the sanitation of his facility. Sons of Liberty is, after all, both a beer and spirits company, and while most brewer/distillers don’t treat their separate equipment alike, Reppucci is the outlier. “We do an acid, a base, and a sanitizer every time. Everything’s cleaned three times,” he stated. They boil all their wort to kill any native yeast existing on the grain and cool nearly all their fermentations to 70 degrees for a low and slow development. By now, you should already know that Reppucci has ideas about yeast. “I always tell people the analogy on yeast we use is that yeast is like me, it’s grumpy as shit,” he joked. “Look yeast, it generates heat, and the hotter it gets the more stressed it gets, so we chill it the fuck out, because when it gets stressed it eats the junk food that it shouldn’t eat.” Sons of Liberty is in the process of migrating to 53-gallon barrels; for now, most of their whiskeys are aging in an assortment of 10, 15, and 30-gallon barrels. They double distill their whiskey in a 250-gallon Vendome hybrid still, though the column isn’t engaged, and they never get above 125 proof so as not to remove too much flavor. “These people who are running the whiskey and stripping it out a lot more, I’m WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
like, ‘Ah, you probably need to because it was nasty in the fermentation,’ but on our Belgian tripel yeast, it’s like a thousand dollars a pitch, so why would I spend a thousand dollars a pitch and then strip all that flavor? That doesn’t make sense,” said Reppucci. Their cuts are narrow and they don’t recycle the heads and tails through the still on the next batch. Sons of Liberty is a family distillery in more ways than one. Thanks to the success of a line of canned cocktails called Loyal 9, the business remains a self-funded venture. With the help of the cocktails, Sons of Liberty’s space grew from 3,000 square feet to 30,000. Reppucci has not had to bring on big investors, meaning he and his family retain control over the operation. He almost sounds flummoxed when telling us about the impact that Loyal Lemonade and Loyal Tea — two popular products in the Loyal 9 line — have made on his business. “You make single malts finished in Sauternes barrels and people want neutral grain spirits, sugar, [and] lemon in a can,” he said. “Even if this brand goes away, it’s
allowed me to migrate to 53-gallon barrels, extend the age. I’m not pressured into letting whiskey out early anymore.” But in another sense, Reppucci hopes to use his business to create family trees that highlight the relationship between beer and spirits. He says that his approach is like that of a chef, wanting to maximize all the raw materials used in the process, but Reppucci is also keenly aware of how to create an impression for visitors. “We will give you a stout beer on nitro made from a stout mash, a whiskey distilled from that stout beer, a barrel-aged beer that’s aged in its own whiskey barrels, a whiskey finished in beer barrels, and then a sour beer that comes from the same mash that’s spontaneously fermented,” explained Reppucci. “You’ll have five to six products from the same mashbill.” This thoughtfulness in dealing with the people who visit is probably a natural thing for Reppucci, but he’s also being strategic. He says that his hope is to “empower them with knowledge” so that a visitor will go back out into the world excited to talk about what they just learned, and that person will then tell beer drinkers and spirits drinkers alike of the experience they had and where to find it. Reppucci seems lucky to have staff who geek out about the process as much as he does. Sons of Liberty has a bustling tasting room and cocktail bar, though it’s quiet when we visit as they aren’t technically open yet. On that day, as we sit down to try an assortment of single malts and their lineage up and down the alcohol family tree, a heaping platter of meats and cheeses are set down in front of us and the alcohol starts flowing freely. What else would you expect from an Italian kid who loves to cook? Sons of Liberty Spirits Company is located in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. For more information visit www.solspirits.com or call (401) 284-4006.
Pink Gin written by Aaron Knoll
The red-coated barman asked [ James Bond] what he would have, and he said, “Some pink gin. Plenty of bitters, Beefeater’s.” (1965) Ian Fleming, The Man with the Golden Gun James Bond — the gold standard in pop culture gin references — drinks Pink Gin, however, Bond’s Pink Gin was a tad different from the one that has taken the gin world by storm in recent years. The Pink Gin of old is a cocktail composed of gin and several dashes of Angostura bitters stirred and served up. When we talk about pink gin today, we’re referring to a broad category of gins that are generally pink in color, are flavored with fruits and flowers, and often (but not always) have some sweetening added after distillation. It’s hard to even broadly describe the category without having to preface your description with stipulations and “sometimes.”
How to Make Pink Gin “How about a drink before lunch, Commander?” The Australian said, “Well — thank you very much. I’ll have a pink gin.” (1957) Nevil Shute, On the Beach The techniques used by makers of pink gin broadly fall into three categories.
NATURAL FLAVORING AND COLORING
A number of the large volume international brands utilize natural flavor essences, similar to the natural flavors that give LaCroix seltzer its flavor. The upside is that these natural flavors are flavor identical from batch to batch. There’s no variance or seasonality. These can also be made nearly instantly. If you have a distilled gin you can add natural flavors to it and have a gin with a “pink gin” flavor profile. Ethyl methylphenylglycidate (or more plainly, strawberry aldehyde) is one widely used natural strawberry flavor. Raspberry is a bit harder to create via the natural flavoring route. Companies working with these ingredients often have entire teams of flavor scientists who combine multiple natural or artificially created compounds to approximate the intended flavor. Consistency is this approach’s strong suit, but 82
there is a major downside — natural flavors do not produce color. To be pink, distillers must add some sort of natural coloring as well. Unlike a coloring from maceration or added ingredients, these colors will not easily fade. Some of these pink gins are easily recognized for their vivid hues — but also disliked or even ridiculed for them. Distillers who have tied their brands to stories about farmers, local crops, organic, or natural should be wary of this approach, as some consumers perceive these to be “unnatural.”
ADDITION OF A SECOND NON-GIN LIQUID
This category of pink gins are somewhat uncommon as they require the distillery to have either a partnership with someone making an ingredient or to also be closely affiliated with a winery or the like. Not many pink things come out of a still! One additional ingredient that is somewhat common is wine. Mirabeau Rosé Gin adds their own rosé wine directly to a gin whose grape base is sourced from their own winery. Other distilleries combine gin and juice. “Thirty-four percent of every bottle of rhubarb gin is that rhubarb juice,” Tom Warner, founder of Warner’s Distillery, said of his Rhubarb Gin. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Some examples of pink gins from around the world— It was a given from the outset that they were not going to use anything but the ingredients themselves to color their gin. Warner Distillery trades on their reputation for being authentic in their flavor and color creation. Warner described the process as requiring a lot of trial and error, but the team had a breakthrough when they saw rhubarb thawing in the sun. “We saw pink juice bleed from this fresh rhubarb… [we] put it through the cider press and we got a bright pink color.” They now take fresh rhubarb, press it, and add the juice to their quintessentially classic Harrington Dry Gin. After blending, they sweeten it and bottle it at 40% ABV. The resulting gin has been a smashing success. In 2017 alone, Warner Distillery’s Rhubarb Gin sold over 350,000 bottles.
POST DISTILLATION MACERATION
The most common way distillers create their pink gins is with natural and fresh ingredients. However, as Warner recounts, this process is not without its tribulations — especially if color is as important to you as it is to Warner Distillery. He charitably described their first experiment with macerating frozen rhubarb as unappetizing and “quite browny-green.” Next, they cooked the rhubarb in the still before juicing it in a cider-press. Color again was an issue. Tom described it as “orangey-pinky-reddy color” and that was only after they added some lemon juice. With the right story, the second experiment might yield a product that consumers want to buy, especially at a bar with a knowledgeable bartender or directly from the distillery. But sitting on a shelf in a liquor store, color speaks volumes, which is why Warner and the team kept working at it until they stumbled upon the juice method described above. Maceration periods vary widely across distillers using this method. Some flavors can be infused in a short time, but others like Isle of Wight let raspberries and strawberries rest in gin for nearly 100 hours. When working with fresh, organic material,sediment isn’t just probable, it’s nearly certain, especially given time on the shelf. Secondly, color can fade over time. People who keep their gin in a cabinet might not be too troubled, but collectors who display their WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Strawberry Ginger Gin
Strawberry and ginger
Post-distillation maceration, naturally pink
Warner’s Distillery England, United Kingdom
Addition of rhubarb juice to gin after distillation, rhubarb juice is naturally pink
That Boutique-y Gin Company England, United Kingdom
Proper Pink Gin
Angostura and Gentian
Bitters added to gin after distillation
Anís Los Hermanos Spain
Puertos de Indias Sevillian Gin Premium, Strawberry
Mashed strawberries added to gin after distillation
The Beefeater Distillery England, United Kingdom
Natural flavors added after distillation
Mirabeau Winery France
Mirabeau Rosé Gin
Wine is added to a grape-base gin after distillation
Cameronbridge Distillery Scotland, United Kingdom
Gordon’s Pink Gin
Raspberry and strawberry
Flavors and color added to gin after distillation
The Antipodes Gin Company Australia
Antipodes Pink Gin
Grapefruit, strawberry gum, pepperberry
Rested over Shiraz grapes after distillation
G&J Distillers England, United Kingdom
Bloom Jasmine and Rose Gin
Isle of Wight Distillery England, United Kingdom
Mermaid Pink Gin
Raspberry and strawberry
Four day maceration of raspberries in distilled gin
Laverstoke Mill England, United Kingdom
Raspberry and strawberry
Natural flavors added after distillation
Boulder Pink Gin
Rose and grapefruit
Musgrave Pink Gin
Lee Spirits Co. Colorado, United States
Vapor Distillery Colorado, United States Musgrave Spirits South Africa
gin could be. This could also affect products that don’t move quickly at liquor stores. In these contexts, color fading and the presence of sediment can be devastating. For better or worse, the perception among consumers is that pink gin should be pink and not have sediment. Some distilleries like Crossbill Distillery in the UK try to directly address this on their website. For their Staghorn Sumac Gin, it prominently informs the consumer, “Our products are made from natural ingredients and unfiltered, hence small amounts of sediment or fruit fibres may occur.” If you don’t have an educational moment with your consumer, you may not have an opportunity to dispel their misconceptions. So, while using fresh strawberries alone for color makes for a great authentic brand story, your pink gin will
Rose petals infused after distillation
Pink grapefruit zest and rose petals macerated after distillation Rosewater and rose petals added after distillation
have to sit next to the vivid unfailing pinks of Beefeater, Bosford, and Gordon’s.
But is it gin? ‘You can buy me a beautiful pink gin if you will,’ said Vicki, looking at him humorously with her rather nice eyes. ‘Beautifully pink, or beautifully ginny?’ asked the Lieutenant. (1947) Patrick Hamilton, The Slaves of Solitude Nicholas Cook, Director General of The Gin Guild, has expressed concern that some brands have incorrectly used the word “gin” to label their products, when technically speaking, because of either ABV or sugar 83
content, those products don’t meet the legal definition for gin. For example, Gordon’s Pink has two different labels. In the U.K. it’s bottled at 37.5% ABV and the label says Gordon’s Premium Pink Distilled Gin. In the U.S. they sell a product called Gordon’s Pink — gin is not in the name — with a description that says “gin with natural flavors and certified colors.” Both products are widely referred to by consumers and in stores as simply, “Gordon’s Pink Gin.” Warner’s Rhubarb Gin has nearly three ounces of sugar perbottle; Beefeater Pink has one ounce of sugar per bottle. The only designation in the European market that specifies sugar is London Gin, which cannot exceed 0.1 grams of sugar per liter. While neither product uses that category designation to describe themselves, Cook’s point is well taken — most consumers are not knowledgeable about the specifics. If consumers tend to think of gin as dry (i.e. unsweetened) they may not be expecting the amount of sugar they’re drinking. Another oft-made critique of pink gin is
that the juniper is lost beneath all of that flavor. Desmond Payne, master distiller of Beefeater Gin, has roundly defended Beefeater Pink Gin against those accusations. He saw Beefeater Pink as a gateway gin that might inspire people to expand their consumption of gin on the whole. Payne had a fortunate vantage point from which to tackle pink gin. Not only is the company big, but the Beefeater Gin, on which its Pink is based, is already a classic. G&J Greenall’s capitalized on the success of its Bloom Gin brand rather than starting from scratch. Even though Warner Distillery’s Rhubarb Gin is its top selling product, it begins as their excellent London Dry Harrington Dry Gin. The clear lesson learned from the leaders of the British pink gin space is that the underlying gin does matter (and name recognition helps too). Starting from a quality gin is the first step towards designing a successful product. Though it seems possible one could hide a lower-quality product, the marketplace is dominated by those who began with a high-quality dry gin.
Pink Gin searches in England steadily rose from 2017-2018, but we can see evidence of a decline in interest by the 2019 holiday season.
Pink Gin Searches in Scotland mirror those of England.
Searches for Pink trend in the United States were higher in 2019 than they were in 2018. 84
Does Pink Gin have staying power? “Life always repeated the same pattern; there was always, sooner or later, bad news that had to be broken, comforting lies to be uttered, pink gins to be consumed to keep misery away.” (1948) Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter Dawn Davies of The Whisky Exchange reminded The Guardian in October 2019 of the lessons learned from previous spirits hype cycles. “When flavours start to dominate, it can signal the beginning of a decline.” In 2018, sales of flavored gins increased by over 700 percent. Flavored gin growth in the UK was largely driven by new gin drinkers. In 2019, it was almost a quarter of the gin market. Despite this, there are signs that gin may have already peaked and that interest in gin is declining — at least in the UK However, in other parts of the world, there are signs that pink gin (and gin in general) might not have peaked yet. There are just shy of 200 pink gins available on the British market as of early 2020, but other markets aren’t so saturated and interest suggests a pink gin could still be a prudent addition to a brand’s portfolio. However, bartender hostility to the category might pose challenges. Bartender Emma Witman reminded Business Insider1, “there are some types of drinks we’ll secretly judge you for requesting.” One Guardian piece2 even said, “Among bartenders, gin often now elicits the same weary reaction that vodka did 10 years ago.” First Milk & Honey refused to stock vodka, and before you knew it, the entire mixology community shunned the spirit. Even Drinks International can’t talk about pink gin without adding the caveat that bartenders roll their eyes when someone orders one. If gin or pink gin falls out of bartenders’ favor and people are fearful of ordering one, it’s unlikely that store shelves and distillery visits alone will WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
be able to support the category. Overall, it seems hard to predict where this category might go. Right now, with nearly no rules, pink gin is wide open. Distillers can try nearly anything and call it a pink gin. However, if the category persists and becomes more than just a fad, it’s likely that the idea of what defines a “pink gin” in the consumer’s mind will begin to coalesce around a narrower range of flavors and techniques. In parts of the world other than the UK, a distiller who releases a quality pink gin has an opportunity to be part of shaping that perception and molding the future. Who knows, maybe even James Bond will order pink gins once again.
In Australia, searches for Pink Gin didn’t really begin to take off until 2019.
South Africa saw a similar pattern to Australia in terms of Pink Gin, with searches steadily increasing throughout 2019.
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.
REFERENCES 1) https://www.businessinsider.com/drinks-bartenders-secretly-judge-you-for-ordering-2019-6?r=US&IR=TT 2) https://www.theguardian.com/business/shortcuts/2019/oct/21/gin-spirit-sales-coloured-flavoured-novelty-bartenders-liqueur
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Looking Forward ar that the Wash-
e third ye 2020 will be th has advanced istillers Guild y ington State D to help remed ate legislature n to a bill to the st ng Washi allenges facing some of the ch to allow ns io udes provis cl in It s. er g distill o offsite tastin open up to tw re distilleries to to ; SP eir D iguous with th d te rooms not cont ra “adulte the amount of move limits on be served ca tails, that n ck co or ,” gs servin cross-sell any room; and to in the tasting hington State by another Was product made n State verl as Washingto el w as y, er ill dist far, the bill ing wine. So kl ar sp d an mouth successful. has not been ibitionis deeply proh “Washington
ist,” said Vo e conversation ijuana bills. Th t liquor and mar s] is ‘We don’ rom legislator nco I hear a lot [f ut cohol.’ B e access to al want any mor fferently on or is viewed di qu Li . do s er .” sum legislative side side than the of fit the consumer ne en be s that one hidd Voelsgen hope ift that attish ly bt ill be to su w n io at iz at iv pr aps if liquor ton State. Perh ng hi as W in d tude to the beer an ery stores next d, an is sold in groc — spirits rmalize distilled wine, it will no erence in tax ff di the dramatic e ak m , rn tu in , and beer ts on one hand iri sp n ee tw be rates ss tenable. e other, feel le and wine on th tillers Guild ton State Dis The Washing ction in state ted for a redu ca vo ad so al has rly failed that has simila ea id an — s tax rate t problem we n. “The bigges to gain tractio are the highthe taxes here at th is ve ha argin,” said y by a huge m tr un co e th in est lot of tax w, we lose a no ht ig “R . Voelsgen s-border shop to people cros . er w revenue due lo ices are where liquor pr ping in states could hapth st move at te ar sm e th k I thin n of the tax to e is a reductio pen in this stat o, a state-cono is at.” Idah the level Idah ts tax rate of t, has a spiri ke ar m d le ol tr llon. $10.95 per ga . “The guys less optimistic s Woodland is make the law e money to d an who have th , to change want the laws change don’t money to n’t have any es do se el ne everyo She feels that w,” she said. change the la t interested in ent simply isn’ local governm for craft distill ly legislation nd ie fr g tin t, ac en care, though absolutely no ers. “There was ion] was going how [privatizat or interest on oodland said. l industry,” W to impact loca ngton State the only Washi om fr r fa s e’ Sh on dustry exists feels their in psu distiller who e or m to see “I would like w Le the margins. sid Kalla legislators,” sa r ou om fr rt tit po ort their cons ected to supp is. “They’re el are a big part all businesses uents and sm w we got left as don’t know ho of that. I just out.” the odd ones r who lives in is a drinks write ry bu er at W tt re Marga t Scotch whisky is n. Her book abou go re O , nd la rt Po due out in 2020. WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
What should a distilled spirits education look like?
WRITTEN BY PAUL HUGHES, PH.D.
ome years ago, in my previous life running the brewing and distilling programs at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, I happened to be sitting next to a rather august Scotch whisky distillery owner at a black tie dinner. Inadvisedly, I asked him whether he had had the good fortune to hire one of our students. In no uncertain terms he told me no, because the last one he tried out was unable to roll a cask! Now, while I’m sure that most able-bodied individuals can be trained to roll a cask safely, the response did make me wonder whether this is something that we should teach. It also begs the question: What skill sets do potential employers expect from our students? For university education with a vocational (applied) component there is often a tension within the university between developing students to be self-sufficient in the workplace and providing specific knowledge in the subject matter, in our case distilled beverages. Where this balance lies can be down to personal perspectives of university management, although education through professional organizations, such as the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the Siebel Institute, and the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD), obviate the classical university constraints. So this made me wonder whether universities are the ideal location for distilling edWWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
ucation. My short answer is yes. First of all, university education is distinct from other forms of tertiary education in that it is expected to be research-led, meaning that successful graduates have at least contemplated some horizons of the frontiers of knowledge. This might sound minor, but such frontiers are not cut-and-dried sharp divisions between knowing and not knowing. Rather they represent particular areas of fruitful discourse between faculty, industry, and the maturing students. For instance, does accelerated maturation lead to a different chemical composition of the final spirit relative to conventional maturation? If there are measurable differences, are these reflected in the sensory performance of the liquid? These are simple experiments that can be developed in the lab and presented to students for them to draw their own conclusions. Of course, the motivation for accelerated maturation is not merely expediency but nimbleness in the market, reduced cost of inventory and arguably enhanced consistency. This brings me to an important point: Various disciplines need to be considered for inclusion in an industry-focused distilling education. The science and technology of production and final quality is essential for any distilled spirits program, and I would also argue that business, product
development and innovation should also be included here. However, we soon run out of space in a curriculum if all of these areas are covered in sufficient depth. Choices have to be made. The first point is that “distilling” is a misnomer in this context, something pointed out to me by Dr. Dennis Watson, former research director for Chivas. Distilling is merely an operation in the conversion of fermented extract into alcohol concentrate for downstream modification and finishing. So whilst distilling is (currently) a mandatory operation in spirit production, most producers do more than just distill. This brings me to a second point: Unlike brewers, distillers exercise more options in terms of their production business model. A brand owner can contract the production of a distilled spirit and only see the final product once it’s in-pack and heading for the market. At the other extreme, producers can derive extract from agricultural commodities which they ferment, distill, and finish themselves. I have no view as to which approach is to be preferred; in my view a business has the right to earn a legal living in whichever way they choose. Before we consider the design of a distilled spirits program, there is a third point: We associate beer primarily with malted barley, cider with apples and pears, and
wine with grapes. For distilled spirits there is no such parsimony when considering raw materials. Grains, fruits, tubers, sugar cane/beet, nuts and agave can all be pressed into service as fermentable carbohydrate sources and indeed the design of processes pre-distillation is driven primarily by the format of the raw materials and the requirements for extracting fermentability. So what should and should not be included in a distilling education program? If we consider the employer as a stakeholder, I have encountered two diametrically opposing views. Generally, smaller producers are seeking specific distilling knowledge and a hands-on approach to problem-solving, whilst the big players contend that distilling can be taught by the company and that a solid base education together with problem-solving and team-working skills are their main priority. This latter is a lightly inconvenient truth for those providing distilling education! During my time in Scotland, the distilled spirits program that I inherited was sub-
stantially focused on Scotch whisky and distilling engineering. This makes sense given that Scotch whisky is a huge industry in Scotland, but given the increase in gin distilleries in the UK in the last 15 years, a Scotch focus was arguably remiss, something I sought to rectify. The IBD distilling program was initially based on the Heriot-Watt syllabus. As an international operator, the IBD felt that there was a need to move beyond Scotch and offered syllabus and examination options for other categories such as rum to satisfy their international demographic. At Oregon State University (OSU), neither approach seemed satisfactory, given that in Oregon virtually all of the common agricultural commodities used by distillers world-wide are used within a 500 mile radius of Corvallis. This includes traditional qu saccharification and fermentation of rice and the fermentation/distillation of agave juice. With these points in mind, we deconstructed distilling education to focus initially on raw material diversity, comparing
and contrasting required processes and timelines for the production of the major spirit categories. It is worth pointing out here that the distilling courses offered at OSU are at the “400” level, in common with brewing and wine courses, and require satisfactory performance in underpinning science and technology. This is in common with other university programs in alcoholic beverages, especially those offered at bachelor level. The range of raw materials employed by distillers means that “brewhouse process” variability is generally greater than that of the fermentation halls, and we primarily focus on yeast-based fermentations, together with the role of bacterial impact on fermentations and solid-state saccharification/ fermentation. We explore the collection of the spirit from the fermented base, both in terms of batch and continuous processes and include some theoretical material, not least the venerable McCabe-Thiele theory as an approximate method to design a continuous column. Distillation is rarely the
end of the production process and significant consideration is given to downstream modification, whether that is by wood/accelerated maturation, redistillation with botanicals, compounding, or simply dilution/filtration/packaging. From our perspective, we recognize that the preparation of distilled spirits is a practical subject and something that cannot be legally performed at home (in contrast to beer- and wine-making). To that end, all students are required to complete 30 hours of lab study, where they perform various tasks, including learning the pitfalls of proofing, fermenting and distilling various substrates, including molasses, malt extracts and grape extracts to make nascent rum, whiskey and eau-de-vie respectively. All final products are presented to the student group and evaluated by formal sensory evaluation to highlight attributes that are typical of the specific category being considered. We contend that without this hands-on experience, an education program of this nature is devalued. Through-
out our 80 hour program, we introduce key business concepts such as logistics, marketing, sustainability, manufacturing/utilities costs and business planning to help embed the notion that this is a business and that, ultimately, money has to be made to help ensure a viable going concern. Whilst our primary focus is on university education, there is a need for educating those either new to or intending to join the industry. Currently we address this by providing so-called PACE (Professional and Continuing Education) courses on start-up distilling. The focus here is less on the scientific and technical aspects and more on defining product space and, therefore, equipment needs and ultimate business model. Going forward we have just launched the first part of our distilling course online. This course focuses on the science of distilled spirits production, a prelude to the next course on production and analysis, where we consider specific spirit drink categories. As a final thought, the research-led com-
ponent in our lab is focused on tailoring botanical flavors in distillates and accelerated maturation of spirits under controlled conditions. Building such attributes into lab classes allows participants to experiment with color and flavor development, and again using taste evaluation to compare and contrast the different approaches used by the various groups. Invariably these are entertaining learning experiences and can in some cases engender significant competitive feelings. As the global distilling industry continues to expand and diversify, there is more need than ever to provide education and training options to facilitate quality, consistency and innovation in the distilled spirits industry. Education and training needs to be contemporary, relevant, and enabling to best contribute to the long-term success of the sector. 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.
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THE DISTILLERY AS A VENUE INVITING SPACE INVADERS FOR FUN & PROFIT
s much as a distillery is a manufacturing facility, in the modern spirits industry it often serves additional functions as a tour path, visitors center, bar, and possibly event venue. The advantages of the additional revenue streams paired with heightened guest exposure from those hospitality operations seems self-evident, but there are always special considerations when outside visitors are involved. The unique case of “distillery as event venue” has potentially the most monetary value through venue rental fee, bar sales, gift shop sales and additional income sources — plus large events usually equal large numbers of guests. Also, hosting your own events is an opportunity for ticket sales and earned media exposure on top of the other values. Unlike guided tours and controlled visitor center programs, events can become free-form with guests taking liberties in your space, so a different approach to security and safety is required. Events may also require additional legal and administrative considerations, even above visitors programs or bar operations.
EVENT BASICS We’ll all been to, and probably all put on, some form of event. But there is a correct vocabulary in professional event management that is valuable to know and understand.
EVENT TYPES Functionally, there are two types of event by host and two types of event by invitation. If you are hosting an event in your space — say, a new product launch party or a concert — the event is venue-hosted or possibly a “special event.” If your venue
is being rented by an individual or organization that is hosting the event, that is a “client-hosted event.” An event which is open to the public, either with or without a ticket requirement, is a “public event.” An event with an invite-only guest list, like a wedding or certain charity functions, is a “private event.” So all events will be some combination of venue- or client-hosted; public or private; plus for-profit, fundraiser/charitable, or just a party (non-financially motivated). While these designations may seem obvious, there are substantial operational and legal differences among them.
THE PLAYERS As is implied above, the host of an event is the person or entity who wants the event to happen. This could be you, someone throwing a birthday party, a corporation having an executive retreat, a charity running a fundraiser, etc. The host wants his or her vision of the event to be realized and wants the guests to have a good time. Not to be confused with the host is the event planner. Sometimes these are one and the same, but they may also be separate. You might hire an event planner, so might the individual, corporation, or non-profit organization. From the perspective of an event planner, the host is their client. Many corporations have event-planning departments. An event planner’s job and desire is to execute the event to their client’s satisfaction. In order to pull off an event, many vendors may be involved. A vendor is any individual or organization that is providing services or products for the event. These usually include caterer, rental company,
WRITTEN BY TIM KNITTEL
entertainment, valet, or crew. Vendors may be hired by the host, planner, or venue. Volunteers are a special class of vendor who are working for the event for free or maybe some non-monetary exchange. (It’s amazing what people will do for a T-shirt.) And just for completeness, the venue is another special class of vendor which is both the manager of and the facility itself where the event takes place. Vendors want to execute their service easily (and profitably) and get positive feedback from their client and the attendees. Events cost money and so they are often subsidised by sponsors, who make donations — either direct cash, product, or other in-kind — in exchange for some value which usually comes in the form of recognition (re: marketing). The folks that attend an event, obviously, are attendees or guests. While the above definitions may seem self-evident, correctly understanding the roles, relationships, functions and values of each of the players in an event is core to correct development and execution.
A VENUE SPACE, PLANNED AND MANAGED So an event is created by the host, managed by the planner, executed by the vendors, supported by the sponsors (and maybe ticket sales) and experienced by the attendees at the Venue.
A BRIEF WORD ABOUT THE RULES Being a guest-ready venue requires more preparation than operating a visitor tour program. In many areas, there is a distinct legal difference between those two and there may be different requirements for licensing, fire
WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
Being a guestready venue requires more preparation than operating a visitor tour program. code, health code, signage, accessibility, insurance, operational hours, amplified music, alcohol service options, food service, and more. Be sure to consult all your relevant local agencies before allowing any event, especially client-hosted and public events! In addition to having venue insurance, you may need or desire to have (for your events) and might require (for client-hosted events) per-event insurance. It’s quite inexpensive and easy to acquire, and provides additional security especially for events involving alcohol.
ATTENDEE BASICS: SAFETY, SECURITY AND COMFORT On a tour, your guide is in control of the visitors’ experience of the space. During an event, especially during a reception, attendees will wander and explore everywhere. As events scale in size (and also scale in alcohol consumption), exploration increases. Take the time to consider what areas are “venue” (attendee permissible) and what areas are off-limits. Ideally, there would be dedicated spaces away from production. Anywhere that production and venue areas overlap requires special attention. Place signs on doors or free-standing posts to indicate off-limit areas and use stanchions with cordons liberally to ensure off-limit areas stay that way. Review all areas for safety and consider hiring a facilities risk management specialist just to give things a once-over. For facilities where the venue is a secondary use, owners often think “Surely no one will … ” or “Surely people are smart enough not to … ” which inevitably becomes “I can’t believe someone … ” Pretending every attendee is a toddler is very helpful when
doing a safety review. Conversely, think about the safety and security of your operations. “Souvenirs” become more common after the second drink. It may be financially worth scheduling a retail employee even if you don’t have any sales just to prevent shrinkage or “self-service.” Remember that any exposed production processes are also exposed to risk. (I was once at a distillery event where a guest emptied their glass of wine into a spirits processing tank. Really. Fortunately it was empty at the time, but imaging having to explain that recipe to the TTB.) Beyond bi-directional safety, guests expect a venue to be comfortable. Indoors should be climate-controlled and both indoor and outdoor venue areas should be low- to no-noise and have minimal non-event activities. For many attendees, being at a distillery may be a new and exciting experience. Nosing fermentation, observing a running still, seeing barrels being filled and rolled, and watching a bottling line can all be very cool. But the socializing and other components of the event are more important! If attendees can’t talk over the noise of the still or the banging of a bung hammer regularly interrupts a speaker, the event experience will be poor. Especially if you have dedicated outdoor venues, or even if not, attendees will spend some time outside. Even if it’s just for the trip from their vehicles to the front door, outdoor areas should have clear signage, good lighting, and easily walkable paths. While you might be able to require closed-toe flat shoes on tours, expect many attendees to be in open-toes and heels. Also, if there’s a lot of in-and-out traffic when the ground is wet, you may need additional mats, mops or towels to keep the floors dry and safe. There will also be smokers to consider. Cigar and spirits events are growing in popularity, but even if there isn’t a dedicated tobacco component, some attendees will inevitably want to pop out at least once during a multi-hour event. Have a smoking area
clearly indicated with an empty butt receptacle ready. Security is always an important consideration for events, most especially when imbibing is expected. Security might be as simple as a manager on duty responsible for monitoring guest behavior or might be contracted out to a professional outfit. For events over a certain size, it’s quite reasonable to require the client to hire or reimburse the venue for a security team. One security staff per 50 to 100 people is a common industry standard.
Pretending every attendee is a toddler is very helpful when doing a safety review. COOL, NEW & SOCIAL-ABLE As I hinted at above, people attending an event at a distillery are often outside of the enthusiast groups that come for tours and tastings. But distilling and spirits are hot right now and being at a distillery presents an opportunity for those guests to show off where they are on social media. It’s worth spending some time to find/create social media opportunities within the approved venue spaces. Consider factors such as lighting, logos and brand identifiers, social media handles, and account tagging prompts. This just scratches the surface of considerations regarding turning your business into an event venue. In the next edition of Artisan Spirit we will cover event management, client/vendor readiness, bar services and more. 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.
POTS & COLUMNS
Where We Are Now How the evolution of pot and column stills, and their respective uses, have informed the American spirits landscape, and where we go from here. WRITTEN BY DEVON TREVATHAN PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMANDA JOY CHRISTENSEN
This piece is the third in a series discussing the impact of pot and column stills, or batch and continuous distillation systems, and if you haven’t read the first two, I suggest you do so before moving further. In the previous pieces, the focus was on the literal impact that a batch system and a column system have when making bourbon, arguably America’s spirit, but there is so much more to this conversation than just the timing of one’s hearts cuts or the amount of plates outfitted in a column. This topic is grand and has shaped the way that Americans think about and consume alcohol.
merica’s distilling industry is young, especially when compared to that of France or other areas in Europe. Early American distillers were concerned mostly with spirits like rum, but following discord with the British empire, they shifted focus to native grains. Over the course of the 19th century — after settlers moved inward to states like Kentucky, where corn was plentiful, and the sour mash process was invented — many of America’s most famous brands either formed or were crystallized into what they would eventually become. Not long after the issuance of the Declaration of Independence, engineers, scientists, and businessmen in Europe began to dabble in a new type of distillation apparatus, one that dramatically increased efficiency. The most famous of these early ap-
paratuses was patented in 1830 by Aeneas Coffey and would forevermore be known as the Coffey still. It wasn’t the be-all, end-all of stills, but it was the beginning of a new era. Producers all over the world embraced this new kind of still, which multiplied their output exponentially and helped to smooth out the overall character of many types of spirit, including whiskey, gin, and rum. Over the next 150 years, continuous distillation would become a staple in distilleries across the globe. Many spirits industries, including those for whiskey, rum, and brandy, would end up with a system that incorporates both column and pot-distilled product, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each. The British government famously commissioned a report published in 1908 that sought to get to
the bottom of this division, with people testifying passionately in favor of and against continuously distilled whiskey. In the end, the report defined whiskey as “a spirit obtained by distillation from a mash of cereal grains saccharified by the diastase of malt,” refusing to stipulate whether one apparatus for distillation was better than the other. What grew out of that period of time, however, was blending. The act of blending has been around for as long as distilling has, but after continuous systems made their way into distilleries, the position became even more important than it had previously. In many distilleries, the blender is a position separate from the distiller, one that requires a skillset all its own. For a lot of American distilleries, especially craft ones, the responsibilities of this position WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
are lumped into those of a distiller. Continuous systems lend themselves inherently to producing a more consistent whiskey. That is not the case at King’s County, whose co-founder we spoke to for the first piece in this series. Ryan Ciuchta is the dedicated blender for the Brooklyn-based distillery, and he feels that his position there is influential, especially taking their production setup into account. “Because we’re reliant on the pot stills, and we’ve probably had at least six different distillers, at least since I’ve started six years ago, we can get some variation going in the barrel and I think that’s where the blender becomes important,” Ciuchta began. “Not only from juggling the different barrel sizes that we have — we’re probably one of the more complex warehouses from having still five barrel sizes — [but] knowing where the optimal ranges are, and then accounting for those slight variations. It allows a whole separate creative process on the backside when forming the blend.” Rob Sherman, a fourth-generation still builder at Vendome Copper and Brass in Louisville, Kentucky, oversees the construction of many of the batch still systems in America today. He believes that, when it comes to bourbon, consistency is key, and that “continuous stills are more geared toward production and consistency.” He also shared a little wisdom that was passed down by his grandfather: “You can sell cheap bourbon, and you can sell expensive bourbon, but you can’t sell inconsistent bourbon.” Therefore, making large amounts of bourbon or whiskey consistently belongs in the domain of continuous distillation systems. To that end, Sherman suggested that any distiller looking to solely make large quantities of aged whiskey invest in a continuous system. However, he also recognized that batch stills are capable of doing things that continuous systems can’t. “If you’re running a batch still with the grain-in, that grain stays in the pot for five hours, six hours, eight hours,” explained Sherman. “When on a continuous still, it goes through the still in between two and three minutes, usually about two and a half minutes is as long as it remains in there.” Sherman has a detailed list of questions that he suggests any new distillery owner ask themselves before deciding which still to buy. These include questions about the site you’ve chosen, the building you’ll occupy, whether or not this is your first distillery, your access to utilities, and WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
more. All these factors play a part, but arguably one of the most important is the budget that you have to work from. The realities are that continuous systems cost more than batch ones. Not only does the still itself cost more, noted Sherman, but “usually you have a bigger boiler, a bigger chiller, more fermenters, bigger cooker, so all the ancillary equipment kind of adds up too.” Ultimately, Sherman feels that the choice of a distiller should be dependent on what they’re trying to make. If a distiller wants to make a variety of products, a batch or hybrid setup is best. Scott Clarke is a graduate chemical engineer at Forysths in Scotland. His sentiments echo what Sherman has said about the purchasing needs of different distilleries. “We probably still supply more batch distillation systems than continuous column systems, however, we are seeing an increase in clients asking for hybrid systems with that focus on flexibility to produce different types/specifications of spirits,” explained Clarke. He went on to say that, considering this new business model where each distillery is expected or has the desire to produce multiple styles of spirit, “the level of expertise of distillers within particular spirit categories has perhaps gone down due to increased breadth of products.” Those producers who want to rapidly increase their output, especially of aged product, will want to consider continuous, and that’s a trend that Sherman is witnessing. “I would say 90% of the ones that are coming to us that already have a batch still are going to continuous stills mainly for bourbon production, whiskey production, a few for rum, [but] mostly bourbons and whiskeys.” He shares those feelings with John McKee, owner and distiller of Headframe Spirits as well as the founder of Headframe Stills. McKee comes from a manufacturing background and invented a new way to distill biodiesel commercially 15 years ago. He’s been making equipment for the distillation of spirits for many years now. “If they’re coming to us, they’re relatively savvy on the business side, meaning they’re not opening with a hundred-gallon pot still and maybe grow in the future,” McKee said of his clientele. “They’re seeing 2,900 distilleries out there and saying, ‘Well, if we don’t open with enough capacity right away, we’re going to be in trouble in the marketplace.’” It is true that
the success of a distillery can be dependent on expansion and the ability to accommodate that growth. That often means distillers are investing in either bigger pot stills or incorporating a continuous system. Though Forsyths still supplies more batch systems than any other, they are seeing some consistency in the questions they’ve received from potential clients looking for greater capacity for output. Clarke has noticed an emphasis on heat recovery and energy efficiency in recent years. “More modern concepts such as Thermal Vapour Recompression and Hot water heat recovery systems are being asked for much more regularly as there is a drive by the industry to reduce its Carbon footprint and energy costs,” said Clarke. In the first and second piece of this series, bourbon production was viewed through the lens of equipment. It’s clear that there are people who stand on both sides of the line
that divides the distillation of whiskey; some will always believe in a continuous system and some are devoted to batch distilling. There is also a very influential economic factor in this equation — the cost of continuous systems is high, but their possibility on return promises to pay back the investment. The exciting thing about being a part of a young industry is that there is much room for growth. Craft distillers have shown that good whiskey can be made off a pot or a column, and it’s the assertion of this writer that the American landscape has plenty of room for both styles of spirit, and more blends of the two. There really is no “best;” the judgement of spirits is, in and of itself, a subjective practice that depends on individual tastes. As long as quality continues to improve, American drinkers have a large and varied selection of whiskeys in their future, pot, column, or otherwise.
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.
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YOUR BRAND’S ASSETS, WITHOUT SACRIFICING ITS
GOODWILL WRITTEN BY BRIAN B. DEFOE & BRANDON J. ARCHULETA
ou’re excited. Your distillery has been around a few years now, and it’s hitting milestones that felt impossible within recent memory. Your award shelf is overflowing with gold medals and your spirits are featured on cocktail menus at trendy restaurants and bars across the country. Perhaps most exciting of all, you’re starting to achieve the holy grail of consumer products: market differentiation. When a growing number of consumers think of a certain type of alcohol, they think first of your brand. Obviously, the quality of your hooch is a driving factor behind that decision, but you recognize that it isn’t the quality of the product alone that makes this happen. There are other factors at play. You chose the name of your distillery because it perfectly blended a childhood memory, a favorite musician, and a regional ethos. You picked a unique bottle to help your spirit stand out on the shelf. You chose the colors on the logo because they were beautifully accentuated by the color of your hooch shining through the clear glass of your one-of-a-kind bottle. The logo itself was designed by a local artist, just looking for an opportunity to showcase her skills, and you were excited to be the forum for that work. Again, your product line is the heart of your business, but you recognize that your brand is its lifeblood. One day you hear a purveyor of your fine tasting room mention how much they enjoyed a new restaurant that had just opened in the next town over. The customer asked if they were affiliated with your distillery, since the name was so similar. “Come to think of it,” said the well-meaning customer, “everything about the place seemed similar. I could have sworn that you’d decided to open a restaurant.” The new restaurant was employing the same color scheme, although one of the colors was just a tinge lighter, and the logo surely looked like that local artist hadn’t bothered to find a new inspiration, if indeed they had even created the restaurant’s logo. After a couple minutes of chatting with the customer, it was clear that this new restaurant was doing good business as well. “You could barely get a seat in the place.” Then the customer says something that really irks you: “Anyway, I know I’ll be back to that restaurant.” WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
You’re livid. Small differences aside, that’s your brand strategy. You thought up that name. You employed that color scheme. You gave the artist her big break. It’s your product that tied it all together, not some new restaurant, with their charcuterie boards, clay stove pizzas, and pretentious hipster waiters sporting handlebar mustaches. That’s your distillery’s goodwill! As you ride the wave of thoughts that flood your mind about what this situation means, you start to think through potential remedies for this situation. At first, you’re convinced that this new restaurant is deliberately stealing from you — ripping off your brand and aesthetic (aside from the mustaches). The area in which you’re both located is just too small for this to be a coincidence. Then you start to question whether that is actually their true motive. After all, given the relative size of the local business community, they must know that any sort of attempt to undercut an established entity in the area could be a death sentence for their restaurant. You want to be thoughtful about your approach to this situation. Ultimately you want to remedy your worry by knowing that you can move forward with a focus on your business and brand. So what options do you have?
TRADEMARK BULLIES Shoot first and ask questions later, right? That would feel good, at least. So maybe you want to be a trademark bully. An increasingly common term in business parlance, a “trademark bully” generally refers to a company that takes an inflated view of the scope of its trademarks and uses the structure of the legal system to its advantage in driving others away from infringing (or allegedly infringing) on the goodwill associated with their brand. And of course, any effort by some goodfor-nothing freeloading company to piggyback on hard-earned brand equity cannot be tolerated. However, before you get your lawyer to file that lawsuit, pause and wait for just a moment; overzealous protection of your brand assets can have the exact outcome that you’re trying to avoid: Creating negative public perception that tarnishes your brand. The rise of the Internet has fostered many exciting avenues for brand enhancement and provides the opportunity to obtain loyal consumers to your brand far and wide. However, it also gives vocal critics a platform for their complaints, whether justified or not. Trademark bullies have begun to see the negative effects of overzealous brand protection. For example, Backcountry.com recently dropped a federal lawsuit against Marquette Backcountry Ski in the face of mounting public pressure, a social media-driven boycott, and a GoFundMe page dedicated to helping their much smaller adversary. Having your CEO publicly admit that your company “fumbled in how we pursued trademark claims recently” and that they had “made a mistake” is not good for any brand. A quick Google search will produce many companies known throughout the business world as trademark bullies and it’s
fairly easy to sympathize with the targets over their uber-aggressive approach to brand protection. However, many of those situations highlight the challenges for small businesses competing in a big business world, as opposed to a true infringement of a company’s brand strategy. So as you reflect on your own situation, you start to think that maybe you should take the bully approach. After all, you’re not being an actual trademark bully, you just want to protect what you have worked so hard to build. You want the restaurant to admit that they have profited from your brand, produce some remuneration for your pain, and, above all, stop infringing. You want them to alter their brand so that you can continue to build your brand without worrying about a confusion between your business and theirs. However, there are other reasons for wanting to avoid a trademark enforcement action. Obviously, it’s expensive. The American Intellectual Property Law Association’s 2015 Report of the Economic Survey states that the median cost of litigating a trademark infringement claim, when less than $1 million is at risk, is $325,000. And this number doesn’t account for the lost productivity associated with the working capital devoted to building your case. Your focus on improving or maintaining the quality of your product will be diverted to talking to lawyers, producing mountains of documents, sitting through depositions, and maybe even trial. Even if you do see an enforcement all the way through trial, a jury might still decide that the similarities are not close enough to warrant any remedy. Put another way, you could spend all that money — which would undoubtedly be better spent toward improving your bottling line — and lose your case. Determining that your business can and should devote time, energy, and resources to anything outside of improving and sustaining your core function is risky, but particularly so when it is predicated on winning a lawsuit. On the flip side, companies have to exert an appropriate amount of protective actions to avoid brand dilution and maintain their market standing. So, how should you go about protecting your intellectual property, without crossing the line into trademark bullying?
THE ART OF THE CEASE AND DESIST As our hypothetical brand-stealing shows, from time to time, a distillery may find aspects of their brand being employed by other companies without their consent. Few things can be more infuriating to a company founder than to see their own logo, name, or other unique identifiers being used to drive money to another’s cause. After all, no one likes the frontrunner that benefits from the blood, sweat and tears of others. However, a more discerning viewpoint may reveal opportunities to address the situation in a way that can achieve your brand protection goals and maybe even enhance your brand. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Back in 2012, the legal team at Jack Daniels came across a book cover bearing a striking resemblance to the label for its Tennessee Whiskey. However, instead of filing suit, the company took the situation as an opportunity to show some of that famed Southern charm. The cease and desist letter sent by Jack Daniels’ lawyers to the book’s author drew praise from various media sources for being “exceedingly polite.” They even offered to cover some of the costs of changing the book cover. Jack Daniels’ chief trademark counsel summed it up as being “…positive sort of all the way around.” For another example of using clear trademark infringement to further one’s own marketing goals, consider Bud Light’s cease and desist approach when small Minneapolis brewery Modist Brewing Company created and sold a “Dilly Dilly Mosaic IPA.” Consistent with its now longstanding medieval-themed marketing campaign, Bud Light sent a town crier (no, really, an actual town crier) to Modist’s taproom to issue the following decree:
Dear friend of the Crown, Modist Brewing Company, Congratulations on the launch of your new beer, Dilly Dilly Mosaic Double IPA! Let it be known that we believe any beer shared between friends is a fine beer indeed. And we are duly flattered by your loyal tribute. However, “Dilly Dilly” is the motto of our realm, so we humbly ask that you keep this to a limitededition, one-time-only run. This is by order of the king. Disobedience shall be met with additional scrolls, then a formal warning, and finally, a private tour of the Pit of Misery. Please send a raven, letter, or electronic mail to let us know that you agree to this request. Also, we will be in your fair citadel of Minneapolis for the Super Bowl, and would love to offer two thrones to said game for two of your finest employees to watch the festivities and enjoy a few Bud Lights. On us. Yours truthfully, Bud Light These examples demonstrate the utility of a creative approach to brand protection. Make no mistake, each of these brands could likely have found enough change in the couch cushions of the finely upholstered furniture of their lawyers’ offices to sue into oblivion the infringing party, but they didn’t take that route because they understood that everything they did on behalf of their brands was itself a representation of their brand. Every public statement — legal or otherwise — was an interaction with their customers and the buying public, so each of these companies worked to identify and pursue a brand-enhancing strategy to address the infringement, turning a potentially negative situation into a positive one and building up some goodwill in the process. Your distillery can take a similar approach to address its WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
challenge with the restaurant. Rather than sink money, time, and a whole lot of stress into a risky lawsuit, you are determined to find a better path to resolution. So you call up your lawyer, and being well aware of most lawyer’s overall aversion to creative writing, you make it clear that you don’t want to fire off a threatening, boilerplate cease and desist letter demanding that the restaurant stop profiting off your goodwill. Since getting a lawyer to do other than they are used to can take directness, you should first make your goals clear. Do you want to stop them from using the colors, or the regional ethos? Do you want a settlement payment? Or maybe there is an opportunity for business collaboration and you may want to extract a license or co-existence agreement. Determining the end goal will go a long way toward helping your lawyer understand the nature of the cease and desist. From there you and your lawyer can think through important facts such as the timeline of your brand’s development, the applicable registrations of your intellectual property, and the aspects of their brand strategy that you believe are infringing on your marks. Ultimately, any successful consumer product business — such as a distillery — will have executed some level of brand creation and ensuring that your brand assets are protected is an essential function. Talk to your lawyer if you believe that there are aspects of your brand that are protectable and obtain the appropriate registrations. In the unlucky event that you find yourself in a difficult situation with a rival business over aspects of your brand, you will always be in a better position to protect your assets if you do not have to rely on common law rights as opposed to the protections available to the holders of registered marks. However, as shown in these examples, over-protection of your brand assets should also be avoided. Every business wants to avoid the pain of legal proceedings, the potential for social-shaming, and any sort of reputation as a trademark bully. Think through your distillery’s brand approach and find unique ways to exert an appropriate amount of pressure on the infringer without stepping over the line. You may find that this approach achieves your brand goals in unexpected ways.
Brian B. DeFoe is a business lawyer at Lane Powell, where he focuses his practice on helping companies in the customer-facing food, beverage and hospitality industries. Brian can be reached at (206) 223-7948, on Twitter @BrianBDeFoe or Instagram @HoochLaw. Visit www.hoochlaw.com for more thoughts on spirits and the laws that govern them. Brandon J. Archuleta is business lawyer who is well-versed in negotiating commercial agreements and providing advice on data privacy and security. Prior to joining Lane Powell, he worked in-house as legal counsel for Molson Coors Brewing Company. Brandon can be reached at (206) 2237239 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This 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.
an ACQUIRED TASTE Chinese Liquor with a Range of Unique Flavor Characteristics WRITTEN BY G ARY SPEDDING, PH.D. & JAMIE BAXTER
hinese baijiu is one of the oldest distillates in the world, dating back about 6000 years, and has been defined into at least a dozen categories based on aroma/flavor characteristics (1-3). Baijiu (pronounced roughly as “bye joe”) is also known as Shaojiu in Chinese and essentially means transparent or white liquor/alcohol. Very few are familiar with this spirit beverage outside of China, yet it’s also the most consumed spirit worldwide — a reference from 2013 suggested over 4 billion liters annually, accounting for about $40 billion in economic value. (4, 5). In terms of consumption this amounts to about 9.43 liters/year for each Chinese person compared to the total alcoholic drink consumed by an American individual, 8.2 liter/year (5). Despite some differences in values over the last few years, that’s a lot of Baijiu! Two good sources of information written for the Westerner, besides numerous websites, include the books written by Sandhaus (6, 7). In particular, for the general audience, Sandhaus has provided highly readable accounts of the history, cultural relevance, the raw materials, the production processes and the various flavor styles (as we shall refer to them here) of baijiu. He also covers examples of the styles with notes on the distilleries that produce them and a few notes regarding their flavor profiles (6). Baijiu, during its long history, spread to every Chinese province and evolved into several distinct styles. In the southeast, lighter-style rice spirits were evolved, whereas elsewhere in China sorghum became the fermentation grain of choice. Moreover, in the southwest the sorghum was and still is largely fermented in earthen pits, while clay jars became the vessels of choice in the northeast (6). Sandhaus also notes that around 10,000 distilleries of varying sizes and capacities exist in mainland China today after peaking at between 18,000-36,000 by the early 1990s. Records on the exact numbers are as clear as the mud pits in which much baijiu is made.
Between them it is also estimated that there are tens of thousands of baijiu products available. Baxter visited one in 2019 as recounted in the side-panel: Baijiu — A Personal Journey and Insight. In addition to the above noted works, a wealth of other scientific material — articles and books (see 8) are now available to help us better understand this otherwise mysterious beverage. Furthermore, the topic of baijiu was the focus of a previous article appearing in Artisan Spirit (9) and one in a recent Distiller magazine issue (10). A web-search today also reveals a wealth of useful and interesting facts and photographs of the production process. Volatile compounds have been the subject of many studies as they are very important to the flavor profile of baiju. More than 300 aroma compounds of 11 (according to Fan, Xu and Qian) different aroma-type baijius were identified (1). That will be our main focus here, though a few more types, styles or variants will also be mentioned. In fact, due to different raw materials (see Table 1) and the use of specialized brewing techniques, Chinese liquors from different manufacturers have significant differences in aroma type (11). Generally categorized as light-aroma type, strong-aroma-type, soy sauce-aroma type, sweet- and honey-aroma type and miscellaneous-aroma-type liquors (6, 11). A more expanded nomenclature appears for the different styles or types in Tables 2 and 3 (5, 12-14).
Of solid-state fermentation and distillation and simultaneous saccharification and fermentation. Unlike most
alcoholic beverages known in the Western world, the raw materials and manufacturing processes, including fermentation, distillation, and aging — plus the flavor characteristics of baijiu and other Chinese liquors — are all quite different from our general understanding of wine, whiskey, and brandy production. This is mainly because baijiu is a product of solid-state fermentation and distil-
FIGURE 1 GENERAL SCHEMATIC OF BAIJIU PRODUCTION Baijiu is produced by solid state production methods unlike most other familiar spirits — involving simultaneous saccharification of the grain starches and solid-state fermentation with a complex mixed culture of microorganisms; yeasts, bacteria and molds/fungi. The main processes involved are as discussed in the text. Cleaned grains (see Table 1) are soaked in hot water (many hours) and then mixed with fermented grains from a previous batch obtained from the fermentation vessel or (mud) pit, along with previously steamed rice husks^. Ratio of components depend on different processes, or regional differences, and style or type of baijiu being produced (see Table 2). Steaming of the grains begins starch breakdown (liquefaction). The grains are then cooled and well-blended with Qu (fermentation starter — see text). Transfer to fermentation pits or vessels of fresh and old mash allows for saccharification to continue and gets fermentation underway. The fermented mixture is shoveled to the still (“Zeng”) for simultaneous distillation and steam-cooking of the grains. Spirit cuts are made, the spirit then stored/aged, blended, and bottled. Overall processes for the different styles are complicated by multiple rounds of fermentation/grain additions/pooling/distilling. ^ [Alternatively — see bottom left — a portion of the fermented grains is distilled without the addition of freshly soaked grains and the spent distilled grain is used as fertilizer of feed.] Fresh or base liquor is collected in pottery jars or in stainless steel vessels and sealed for storage and aged from 6-12 months to three years. After aging, the liquor is diluted to bottling strength (sometimes with sugar as well as water — this can also help remove turbidity from the spirit), graded according to quality, blended, and then bottled. The figure recreated/adapted from Jin, Zhu and Xu — 2017 (4) with additional notes from Liu and Sun — 2018 (21).
Steamed rice husk
Grinding then hot water mixing
Distillation vapor collection
白酒 Baijiu Production
Depending on style — Light-aroma or Strong-aroma Baijiu, distilled grains or steamed grains are treated differently and fermented in the fermentation pits (mud pits) or in fermentation jars and recycling of the processes may occur several times.
Wet grains Fermented grains
(+/- wheat, corn, rice, rye, etc.)
Mixing with husks Soaking/cooking
Months to several years
Distilled grains Fermentation jars or Fermentation pit
Blending Daqu powder
Fermented grains Steaming
Daqu or Qu brick Distillation (typically pot distilled)
lation (4, 8). In a nutshell, grains and a complex starter culture of microorganisms (see Figure 1) are mixed together and simultaneous saccharification and fermentation in a solid (rather than submerged) state takes place. Saccharification, allowing starch-tosugar conversion (by glucoamylase enzymatic action from fungi) and other biochemical processes, occur to ensure that an adequate fermentation takes place, leading to the conversion of fermentable sugars into alcohol and a vast array of associated flavor notes. Starch → Glucose — then — Glucose → Alcohol + CO2 + Flavor Molecules (Volatiles)
A mixed culture of organisms including yeasts, bacteria, and molds are actively involved and solid-state steam distillation processes are implemented, sometimes with the implementation of multiple reiterations of fermentation and distillation. Aging of the base liquor is then allowed to occur in sealed jars, followed by blending and bottling. Figure 1 shows the general outline with added details for each style or type of baijiu produced being presented in Tables 2 and 3. Chinese liquors have also been classified into three types on the basis of their alcohol contents; high alcoholic level (50-60 percent), middle level (40-50 percent), and low alcoholic level (18-40 percent). While most products had high alcohol
TABLE 1 RAW MATERIALS GRAINS USED IN BAIJUI PRODUCTION Grain/raw material source
e.g., Sorghum bicolor (aka. Great millet, milo)
Oryza sativa (Asian rice)
One of the oldest grains used as a food and raw material for alcohol production. It is the second most used cereal grain used for baijiu production.
See Rice. Despite name it does not contain Oryza sativa. var glutinosa (Sticky gluten. rice, sweet rice, waxy rice)
Higher starch content than sorghum with low protein, fiber and fat contents. Distilled it lends a slight yellow coloration to the spirit and conveys a cooked-rice nuance like for sake. Rice gives a clean quality. Higher starch than for O. sativa. Sticky when cooked — glutinous = sticky, glue-like. Opaque grains with low amylose content. Tends to clump when cooked affecting fermentation so not used alone but with other grains. Lends a sweetness to baijiu spirits.
Raw material for complex- grain strong-aroma baijius.
Main role in the baijiu process is in big qu production. Provides softer sweet honey-like notes.
Considered the last of the five primary ingredients (see above). Used in mixed grain strong-aroma baijius.
Corn — high in fat — as it adds oiliness to spirits it is typically removed prior to baijiu distillation. Conveys spiciness and sweet notes.
See notes right.
Sometimes used in qu formation. Said to convey pungency to baijiu.
Triticum aestivum Zea mays (aka. Maize)
content two decades ago, 40 percent of production today is confined to the low alcoholic level liquors (8).
Sorghum, rice, and beyond: The grains used for thousands of years, and the peas — yes, the peas. Grains
determine the flavor and alcohol potential for many spirits, baijiu included. The two main starchy materials used in Chinese liquor production are sorghum and rice, including glutinous rice. Wheat and corn make for the fourth and fifth mainly used raw materials. Baijius are often made from sorghum or a mixture of sorghum plus wheat, corn, rice or sticky rice, with the hulls of rice used as an aid to fermentation activity (8). Details are presented in Table 1. Barley and millet also get a mention and maybe rye(?) Some of the grain and grain husks are used in qu production (Qu defined below) along with the peas — minding your P’s and Q’s. Peas of course are not a grain, but an important raw material substrate for the qu starters.
Each type of baijiu sees a different yet invariably complex approach to its production. A brief outline of the over-
all processes of baijiu production was presented above and is also seen in Figure 1 and Table 2. The full details could not be presented here and the reader is referred to the entire set of references to see the big picture with a subset of citations of particular note here (4-6, 8). Some details for a couple of the styles are, however, as follows. Most Chinese liquor is traditionally fermented from grains as noted above (see Table 1). The best quality baijiu, distilled from sorghum, rice, unhusked barley and other local cereals, is stated to come from the Sichuan province in Southwest China, home to three of the top four producing brands (15). Grains used for liquor fermentation are milled, cooked, and then mixed with husks (see Figure 1). Hot water (ca. 95 degrees Celsius) is added to the cooked grains to adjust the moisture content to about 55 percent (w/w). Cooked grains are then cooled to 13-16 degrees Celsius and mixed
Resembles corn and millet in general appearance often with red kernels. Major raw material for baijiu production. Sticky High starch and protein content. Gluten free. Good gelatinization properand non- sticky varieties — stickiness referring ties. Distilled sorghum lends fruity and nutty qualities to the taste profile to consistency after steaming. and also fragrancy to baijiu.
with daqu powder (see Qu below). The resultant mixture is then fermented in special fermenters (pits or jars) with the insides of the fermentors often coated with a layer of fermentation mud made of clay, spent grain, bean cake powder and fermentation bacteria. In a typical round, fermentation is carried out at 28-32 degrees Celsius for 60 days under anaerobic condition in the solid state (8). There are many variations on the theme and even regional differences in production. Specific details on the production and manufacture of light-flavor, sauce-flavor and strong-flavor baijiu have been outlined by Jin, Zhu and Xu (4, from which Figure 1 was derived and developed) and by Zheng and Han (5). For those interested in much more detail several other references may be provided upon request to the authors. After fermentation, the liquor is distilled out with steam and aged in sealed pottery jars. Typically, as for “western” spirits, the distillate is separated into three fractions — foreshots (heads), middle cuts, and feints (tails). The middle cut, named the basic distillate, is stored for later blending. Basic distillates from several batch-step iterations may be collected with alcohol strength reduction occurring from 48 to 70 percent. Further in-depth information and details on variations in production may be found elsewhere for the different types/styles of baijiu (4, 5, 8, 21). The freshly distilled young liquor obtained from the fermented cereal grains is at first not very desirable for consumption, being harsh, green, and raw. These off-notes will disappear over an aging process lasting months to years. As happens during the maturation of brown spirits in wood, oxidation, esterification, hydrolysis, and rearrangement reactions occur during the baijiu aging process. Well-balanced, matured liquors with unique flavors are developed during this process; most liquor is aged for about one year though some is aged for up to three years. Shorter aging times with quicker-to-market production seem to be becoming more common. Reduction to blending and
TABLE 2 ELEVEN DISTINCT STYLES OF BAIJIU The initial categorization outline shown here was originally devised by Sandhaus in his important contribution in bringing the details of baijiu into the English language and consciousness (6,7). See also: www.jiangjidistillery.com/knowledge/types-of-baijiu/. Other named categories are listed here — including Xiao Qu Light Aroma — with the light style’s floral aroma and the aromatics of rice, and Fuyu Xiang with “Extra-Strong Aroma,” noted for “pungent earthy fragrance and a spicysweet taste.” Fuyu-flavor is a cross between light and strong and rice flavor baijiu’s with ethyl caproate, ethyl lactate and ethyl acetate as primary aroma compounds (“Light, strong, and rice flavor traits”). Additional details added here can be found expanded upon elsewhere (5, 12-14, 20-24). See also the schematic in Figure 1. Category Flavor Type
Raw Materials and Process Details
(Based on Aroma Characteristics) Simple and mixed grain types (Sorghum or sorghum, rice, Nong Xiang glutinous rice, corn and wheat—with wheat-based big qu). FerOnce classed as Luzhou-flavor mented in rectangular earthen/soil pits covered with a mixture of Strong Aroma—70% total liquor produc- fermentation or “pit mud”—continuous fermentation. Anaerobic conditions allow for the cultivation and diversification of the fertion have strong fruity, pineapple- and banana-like aromas. Wuliangye and Jian- mentative microbes which contribute to the desired flavor profile. Distillation in pot stills and aged in ceramic or stainless steel. See nanchun are two famous brands text for more.
Once classed as Fen-flavor Light Aroma Light flavor
Once classed as Maotai-flavor Soy-sauce (Sauce aroma)
Mi Xiang Sweet-honey or Rice Aroma Rice flavor
Jian Xiang Complex (“Mixed”) aroma type Miscellaneous-flavor baijiu
Zhima Xiang Roasted-sesame-like Sesame aroma
Yao Xiang Chinese herb-like (Medicine aroma) Medicine flavor
Feng Xiang Fengxiang (“Phoenix”)—aroma [Feng-aroma] Feng flavor
Laobaigan Xiang Laobaiganxiang—aroma Laobaigan aroma
Chi Xiang Chixiang—Chi aroma Or Fat aroma (see notes at right)
Te Xiang Texiang—(“Special”) aroma WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
Plus, sensory descriptors geographic origins and side-notes of interest (4, 5, 21) “Fragrant flavor, soft mouthfeel with a long aftertaste.” “Fruity, flower, pineapple-like, banana-like, apple-like aromas.” Most popular and widely produced baijiu. Fiery with fruity sweetness. Tropical fruit, white pepper and anise (pineapple and licorice perhaps with notable chemical constituents—see text) noted also here with certain regional brands (though likened to paint thinner to the uninitiated). Geographic ties to Sichuan in southwest China and eastern provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu and Shandong. Off-odors can arise from contaminating bacteria—such as a mud-like off-odor—3-methylindole (with musty and strong animal/fecal odors)
From sorghum and rice husks. Fermentation is in ceramic or stone jars using big qu starter (Qu = barley, peas and wheat bran). Two processes common for the distillation including pot stills and twice fermented and distilled types of operations.
“Pure, mild flavor with mellow sweetness and a refreshing aftertaste.” “Pleasant fruity, floral aroma.” Second largest category by volume. Generally, mild and floral sweetness with some fruity notes*. Associated with Northern China. Bottled 65% ABV and above. *A specific brand noted by Sandhaus (7) though described as roasted herbs, chrysanthemum and pine-like creating a heady mix of flavors. The earthy/musty compound geosmin has also been suggested as a notable component.
Production is labor and resource intensive. Eight rounds of fermentation and distillation—sorghum—in underground pits lined with stone bricks.
“Soy sauce with full bodied long-lasting aroma.” Lingering fragrance— resembling soy-sauce. Herbal and fermented bean notes also described along with smoky, bitter, earthy and umami descriptors; also, shitake mushrooms! Southeastern Sichuan and northwestern Guizhou.
Distilled from long grain rice, or glutinous rice or a combination with fermentation in stone jars with small rice qu. Distillation is sometimes done with continuous still operations. Aged in limestone caves in ceramic jars.
“Soft sweet flavor and clean aftertaste.” May be infused with fruit, herbs or tea flowers and has a mild sake-like taste. Southeast China—Guangxi and Guangdong provinces.
Produced via a combination of production methods or blending from two different baijiu styles.
Characteristics “between those of sauce aroma (Maotai) and strong aromas (Luzhon).” See (Nong Xiang) and ( Jiang Xiang) type aromas and flavors.
From sorghum and wheat qu. Sometimes millet and barley are used. Fermented at high temperatures in mud-bottom-lined stone pits.
“Combining fruity with sweaty, roasted sesame-like and floral flavors.” Since 1957. Close relative of sauce-aroma baijiu but with a more charred-like and nutty flavor from Maillard reactions.
Medicinal aroma also called Dong aroma. Sorghum base. Two types of white mud- and each juice- lined pits are used—one using big qu, the other with rice qu and filled with herbs. The subsequent ferments (mashes) are mixed and distilled.
“Herb-like with sour aroma.” Sweet and savory flavors are also noted for this style.
Mainly distilled from sorghum as raw material—fermentation in earthen (mud-lined) pits with wheat, barley and peas composition qu. Aged in rattan baskets with unique oil, wax and pig-blood impregnated cloth sacks or in ceramic urns.
“Sweet, mellow, and elegant aftertaste.” West Phoenix Spirit”. From Fengxiang country in Shanxi Province. Has strong and light aroma characteristics. Fruity aroma, grainy in taste with long finish.
A unique distillery’s product—this one similar to the light aroma style. However, wheat is used instead of barley along with peas in the qu production. Aged for shorter period than typical for light aroma style.
“Soft mellow characteristics and a rich mouthfeel.” Similar to light-aroma baijiu. Fruity, but with a high heat from alcohol (bottled at 65%+ ABV).
From Guangdong Province. From rice. Qu is Xiaoqu with organisms and associated enzymes spontaneously proliferated on cooked rice and soybeans. Following fermentation, the liquor is distilled out with steam and the base distillate, then aged in sealed pottery jars. At the start of storage, a whole piece of cooked pork is soaked in the base distillate to help remove unpleasant off-flavor compounds. At about 30 days the distillate is filtered out, matured in stainless steel tanks for 20 days then adjusted to desired alcohol strength and blended and packaged.
“Fermented soybean-like with clean aftertaste.” The flavor is that of a salty condiment made from fermented beans (soybean flavor). Has rice aroma and aged with the infusion of pork fat—thus also called fat aroma (zhi xiang) with oily and bacon nuances.
A unique distillery’s production using rice and big qu. Red stone bricks sealed with mud are used here.
“Harmonious strong and light flavor” Earthy aromatics with a light, though rich taste and slightly tart finish/ aftertaste.
TABLE 3 KEY FLAVOR MOLECULES ASSOCIATED WITH THE TWELVE STYLES OF BAIJIU Category Baijiu
bottling strength (40-50 percent ABV) will then be implemented, followed by careful blending and bottling (6, 8). Blends may finish out using 80-100 or more basic distillates (8).
So besides being a character in James Bond stories, who or what is Q or Qu? Qu is an
Nong Xiang Strong-aroma
Light-aroma (once classed as Fen-flavor)
Soy-sauce (Sauce aroma) (once classed as Maotai-flavor)
Key flavor molecules Ethyl esters: hexanoate, acetate, lactate, butyrate, valerate, heptanoate/ associated acids: hexanoic, butanoic (butyric), heptanoic plus furfural and phenylethyl alcohol Ethyl acetate, ethyl lactate, acetic acid, 2-methylpropanoic acid, β-damascenone plus terpenoids Ethyl hexanoate, hexanoic acid, 3-methylbutanoic acid, 3-methylbutanol, tetramethyl pyrazine, ethyl 2-phenylacetate, ethyl butyrate, ethyl acetate, 2-phenyethyl acetate, ethyl 3-phenyl propanoate, 4-methylguaiacol (phenolic compounds) & γ-decalactone. Syringic acid & amino acids
abbreviation for daqu — xiaoqu or β-phenethyl alcohol, ethyl acetate, ethyl lactate, ethyl-benzenecarboxylate, & Mi Xiang diethyl succinate jinqu (Qu, pron. “chew”) — meanSweet-honey or Rice Aroma ing molded cereals, and is a startTetramethyl pyrazine & 2-pentyl furan, heptanoic acid, ethyl heptanoate, Jian Xiang er culture (rich in bacterial, yeast, isoamyl acetate, 2-octanone, isobutyric acid, & butyric acid Complex (“Mixed”) aroma and fungal species and nutrients) Ethyl pentanoate, ethyl hexanoate, 3-methylbutanal, methional, ethyl butaZhima Xiang and a substrate complex used to noate, 3-methyl-1butanol, hexanoic acid, butanoic acid, trimethyl pyrazine Sesame aroma/ 2-acetylfuran, ethyl furoate & methionol initiate fermentations for Chinese Roasted-sesame-like liquor production (8, 12, 16), the Butyric acid, ethyl hexanoate, caproic acid, dimethyl trisulfide, ethyl butaYao Xiang constituents being regarded as sacnoate, 2-phenethyl alcohol, 3-methyl butyrate, 4-methyl phenol, 4-methyl Herbal — Chinese herb-like guaiacol, β-damascenone, ethyl pentanoate, (E,Z)-2,6-nondienal, borneol, & charifying and fermenting agents. (Medicine aroma) fenchol. High total acids Several different types of daqu are Feng Xiang used, each having different flavors Ethyl acetate, ethyl caproate, & isoamyl alcohol Fengxiang (“Phoenix”) — — light, strong, or sauce flavor aroma for example (16). The flavor notes Esters (ethyl acetate, lactate, ethyl hexyl acetate, ethyl butyrate, palmitic ester), Laobaigan Xiang are associated with the metabolic alcohols, aldehydes, acids (linolenic acid), ketones, hydrocarbons, pyrazines, Laobaigan or Laobaiganxiang activities of the types of microaromatics, & phenolic compounds. Fuselly with high level isoamyl alcohol — aroma organisms found for each type of (E)-2-octenal, 2-phenylethanol, 3-(methylthio)-1-propanol (methional), daqu (6). Daqu contains cereals, diethyl 1,7 heptanedioate (diethyl pimelate), diethyl 1,8-octanedioate (diethyl peas (see below), a mixed microChi Xiang suberate) & diethyl 1,9-nonanedioate (diethyl azelate). (E)-2-nonenal — Chixiang — Chi aroma flora of fungi and bacteria, various noted in beer as a staling aldehyde + other fatty aldehyde derivatives and microbial enzymes and resultant components. metabolites and key flavor notes Te Xiang that contribute to the aromas of 98+% esters and alcohols — especially ethyl acetate, caproate & heptylate Te - Texiang — (“Special”) aroma the final distillates. During heating processes daqu also contributes Acids, alcohols, ethyl acetate, ethyl caproate, ethyl butanoate plus low level of Fuyu Xiang Maillard reaction flavors (complexethyl lactate. Fuyu-aroma ity of chemistry in action for flavor See Table 2 for general details of each type/style plus production methods and overall flavor characteristic. The production). We likely are missing chemical components — as classes — giving rise to the general flavor descriptors (acids, esters, sulfur compounds, etc.) some details simply because many appears in the body text and will be further outlined in another forthcoming Artisan Spirit article. Many research publications present discussions on the identified flavor components and their descriptors (4, 6, 7, 10, 21). Note: Fuyu papers on the topic are in Chinese. Xiang was noted in the footnotes to Table 2 — only 11 styles covered in the body of that table. However, dozens of scientific papers and reviews are in English and trolled incubation of the paste whereby it becomes inoculated with could be sources of valuable insight for those wishing to dabble the multiple species of indigenous microorganisms. These bacteria, in qu production or for those wishing to understand the complex yeast strains, and molds provide the catalytic/enzymatic powers to microbiology of baijiu production. affect the manifold biochemical reactions needed to convert the Get in the Right Q for Baijiu. As implied above, baijiu and baijiu raw materials into the desired and subtly different flavor components — and, of course, the requisite amount of alcohol. other Chinese spirits and alcohol-containing beverages would not (6, 8, 16) be possible without qu. However, three types of qu should be conThe three types of qu for baijiu production are known as big qu, sidered here. Qu, itself a fermented product, is made from starchy/ small qu and bran qu, though there are other types of qu for making grain materials via the moistening of crushed grains and the con-
BAIJIU A PERSONAL JOURNEY AND INSIGHT “So how many people work in this distillery?” I asked again. I was staring openmouthed at what looked like a walled city from my vantage point up a stereotypical Chinese tower, slap bang in the middle of this extraordinary place. Ahead of me stretched an arrow-straight driveway nearly 3 km long leading to an enormous, ornate, newly-built gatehouse. On either side of the road was row after row of brand new identical low buildings which housed the distilling, fermentation, and maturation areas. Behind me were different buildings, 15 years old or so, and behind them blocks for staff accommodation and a recreational park. The entire complex was surrounded by a six-meter-tall wall with medieval-style crenellations. We had just arrived along this road in our fleet of 17 minibuses and were about to start our tour of the plant. We were there as judges for the Spirits Selection by Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Around 60 were Chinese and just over 100 had assembled from the rest of the world. There were some big names there, as well as me, and yet for many of us, the baijiu masterclass we’d had a couple of days previously was our first real in-depth look at this, the
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biggest-selling spirit in the world. One of my new-found friends described it as “a challenge for the Western palate,” the most positive thing he could find to say about it. Fortunately for me, I had befriended Derek Sandhaus, who was also there, and there can’t be many Westerners who know more than him about baijiu. Over the course of the week we all sampled many different types of baijiu and I had 36 come up in my blind tasting over three flights. The Shanxi Xinghuacun plant that we were at is said to be the largest distillery in the world. I still don’t know how many people work there, different guides gave me different numbers, but they ranged from 7,000 to 30,000. It specialises in the Light style of baijiu, often shortened to fenjiu after the area. The earliest archaeological evidence for distilling anywhere has been found in this region. We had been to a few different baijiu distilleries and I’d learnt that the process is amazingly complex, nothing like what I’m used to in the west, rather secretive, and varies considerably from one place to another. It all starts with the qu. As with so many things in China there is a great deal of mysticism around the process of qu production. Essentially it is a mix of starchy material from grains and peas, inoculated with bacteria and molds, and then painstakingly dried in brick shapes. The bricks are hand stacked in various, carefully defined patterns at different stages of the process. I’ve never seen so many biscuit beetles in my life. For the light-style baijiu of the north, sorghum is the main grain used and is dampened down and mixed with rice husk to keep it looser. The qu is added and this saccharifies the grains and starts the fermentation process, which takes place in thousands of clay vessels buried in the ground. After several months the fermented grains are dug out and loaded into a still. The ferment is not liquid as in the West. The distillation process is similar in some ways to production of lavender essential oil
Written and photographed by Jamie Baxter
and water in that steam is injected in through the bottom of the still, rises up through the fermented mass, and carries the alcohol with it. This alcohol/steam vapor is condensed and collected and the distillate is stored and aged in ceramic vessels to allow the flavours to mellow. The aging can be as long as 50 years for the most premium products. After distillation the still is dug out and the whole process repeated. More qu is added to the spent grains and they are re-fermented and redistilled. This happens several times, with the yield reducing each time. These various distillates are usually blended to make the finished product. Baijiu tends to be drunk neat, often at high strength. Some brands are flavoured with fruit, flowers or herbs and some are sweetened, but the neat, unflavoured product is most common. It is wonderful served with food and it is often served in a small jug from which you fill either end of your ceramic bamboo-shaped drinking vessel. One end holds a small quantity and the other is bigger. At least on this trip, rounds tended to be drunk as shooters. Baijiu is unlike western spirits and a challenging flavor at first. However, by the end of the week and countless banquets of extraordinary food provided by generous, friendly, and fun hosts, most of us were toasting the country, our friends, our adventure, our new knowledge, and this extraordinary spirit with gay abandon. 105
other Chinese and Asian fermented products. Wheat or barley and often peas are molded into large “bricks” for big qu and is the main saccharification-fermentation agent for sorghum-based baijiu. The bricks are made via milling of raw materials and then compressing into molds. The bricks are then placed in rooms for fermentation to occur under controlled conditions (with a wide range of temperatures used across the industry). Small qu is made from rice formed into small balls, and is used as the agent for most rice-based baijius. Some small qu producers incorporate medicinal herbs which affect their flavor. Qus provide a good bit of the flavor of baijiu indirectly as well as through the microbially directed metabolic reaction products produced. According to Sandhaus, a type of qu — bran qu, made from the outer layers of wheat or barley grains and also formed into bricks — is used to yield highly potent alcohol yields but lesser flavored products (6). Today, some baijius are produced via the use of incorporated cultivated cultures of microorganisms,including bacterial cultivation practices and the accrual of soil/mud-borne organisms acquired over many years of production. Further details on daqu production are available (4, 5, 8, 12, 17-20), with a nice schematic of daqu production in the review by Jin, Zhu and Xu (4).
The Origins of flavor and flavor profile descriptions. What adds to the nuances? As noted from above, a very com-
plex and time-consuming process is involved in the production of the various styles of baijiu. With all the raw materials used, the special microbiological and enzymatic properties of the varied types of daqu, the spontaneous inoculation of additional yeasts, bacteria and molds from mud pits, and the surroundings where baijiu is produced, and the reactions occurring during the fermentations, distillations, and aging, it can be seen how the complex flavor profiles associated with baijiu are developed. Daqu itself imparts a lot of chemical and biochemical flavor nuances (20) to the respective styles of baijiu, as do many steps from raw materials, including the quality of the water supply, through to final bottling and consumption. In wrapping up, a brief description of some of the key flavor molecules and their flavor descriptors is presented. See Table 2 for the key style profiles and Table 3 for a list of key flavor notes associated with each type. Baijiu is clearly differentiated from other liquors based on its distinctive flavor, taste, and production process (4, 8, and see 21). Each style has been the subject of extensive research and the focus of dozens of papers (a fuller set of references available from the authors upon request). More than 1,870 volatile compounds are now reported for baijiu (4, 5, 12, 21-23) including several hundred esters (often fruity accented compounds), more than 200 alcohols (with solventy, floral, honey, and other sweet and fruity notes), 140 ketones (solvent and buttery notes etc.), and around a hundred each of heterocyclic and nitrogenous compounds (with burnt, roasted, nutty notes from Maillard reactions). This also includes animalic, barnyard, and fecal notes, short and medium chain-length acids (cheesy, rancid, goaty, sweaty), aldehydes (green and woody-like nuances and strong fruity aromas like green and bruised apples), terpenes (think of hop and gin notes
here), sulfur compounds, including the group known as thiols (with often unpleasant tones; think burnt match, rotten egg, garlic and onion, and sewer-like notes, adding heat to the alcohol warmth, and also roasted sesame, potato, and other pungent notes), acetals (delicate green, floral, and strong fruity aromas) and lactones (think fatty/creamy peaches and coconut). Recently, a focus on baijiu flavor defects revealed off-odors which include bran-like, earthy-musty, rotten eggs, phenolic and mud-like (animal-horsey and fecal-like) (24). Adding to estery qualities is ethyl hexanoate (see flavor notes in Table 3). This ester exhibits a fruity, floral/sweet aroma and has apple-aniseed-like qualities. Its flavor/aroma potency comes through well in Chinese liquors, especially in strong-aroma type baijiu. Ethyl butyrate (arising from a combination of stinky/cheesy/ baby vomit-like butyric acid and ethanol acting as a solvent) and a host of other fruity esters convey tropical fruit/pineapple notes and much more. Ethanol and the higher alcohols (the fusel alcohols, like rubbing alcohol) also combine with many different acids to form fruity, waxy, and floral notes. Phenolic compounds — such as guaiacol and methyl and ethyl derivatives of it — delivering clove, smoky, spicy, bacon, and burnt nuances are also notes of value. The phenols known as cresols have been identified in Chinese liquors. Cresols found in peat, and thus conveying upon whiskies medicinal, coal-tar, and animal odors, may also contribute such flavors to the baijiu family of spirits. Furfurylthiol (sulfur compound -SH functional group) is a potent odorant in Chinese sesame-flavor baijiu. This compound along with other related aromatic thiols contribute roasted sesame, grapefruit, passion fruit and boxwood characters with thresholds for detection in the parts per trillion range. Soy sauce-aroma type baijiu is associated with some components conveying a key retronasal burnt flavor. Geosmin — a volatile microbial metabolite, which the brain interprets as an earthy odor (beetroot or musty-like) — has been noted (usually as an off-odor) in baijiu production. It is associated, in certain cases, with the microbiome of daqu starters. This shows a need to better understand the microbial community and biochemistry of the multiple organisms including bacteria, molds, and yeasts involved in Chinese baijiu liquor production. Thus, it should be apparent from above that to understand baijiu flavor requires quite the sensory vocabulary and intense sensory evaluation, which is why baijiu is described as an acquired taste to Westerners. Example baijius with some flavor notes are presented in the main book authored by Sandhaus (6). A listing of a few flavorful volatile components encountered in baijiu and in other spirits is provided in Table 3. Flavor descriptors can be found online, in the references cited here, and in a future article to appear in Artisan Spirit. This will have to suffice for now. However, the reader is also redirected to a single volume book containing five recently published major review chapters dealing with aroma and flavor chemistry of several types of baijiu (22). This volume and chapters provide a comprehensive overview and listing of earlier references to the subject. A future paper will attempt to provide a more comprehensive list of flavor descriptors to aid in your appreciation (or not) of such unique beverages. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Summary. A very brief account of the complexities of the production, types or styles, and flavor profiles has been presented for the Chinese liquor baijiu. Those excited by the topic and now wishing to dabble in baijiu production could start by looking at a work by XingLin, et al (25). The paper covers pilot scale production of mild-flavor spirits with details translated from a major work on the topic published in Chinese. In addition to that paper (25), another paper by Qian, et al (26) discusses smaller scale operations in rural China. In conclusion, along with the references cited here and especially with the books by Sandhaus as guides (6, 7) and the short but concise review tying much of this topic together by Liu and Sun (21), it is hoped that we have provided a bit of useful information as to how flavors arise through solid state fermentation and distillation and how best to explore the flavor profiles of this strange, unique, and
potentially wonderfully varied beverage — assuming you can find and afford any of the styles in your local marketplace. They come at a high price both in terms of cash and often flavor acceptance. 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. Jamie Baxter currently works as a consultant to the distilling industry. Through his business, Craft Distilling Services Ltd, he has built one in twenty of all the distilleries currently operating in UK, and now also has projects in Europe and Africa. Jamie was previously Master Distiller at Chase Distillery, launching Chase Potato Vodka to win a double gold medal and “best vodka” at the San Francisco World Spirits Awards 2010, and City of London Distillery and Burleighs Gin.
REFERENCES 1) Fan, W., Xu, Y. and Qian, M. Current Practice and Future Trends of Aroma and Flavor Research in Chinese Baijiu. In Sex, Smoke, and Spirits: The Role of Chemistry. B. Guthrie, J.D. Beauchamp, A. Buettner, S. Toth and M.C. Qian (Editors). ACS Symposium Series 1321. American Chemical Society, (2019); pp.145-175. 2) Yao, F., Yi, B., Shen, C., Tao, F., Liu, Y., Lin, Z. and Xu, P. Chemical Analysis of the Chinese Liquor Luzhoulaojiao by Comprehensive Two-Dimensional Gas Chromatography/Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry. Scientific Reports. 5: 9553; 1-6. (2015). 3) Fan, W., Xu, Y. and Qian, M.C. Identification of Aroma Compounds in Chinese “Moutai” and “Langjiu” Liquors by Normal Phase Liquid Chromatography Fractionation Followed by Gas Chromatography/Olfactometry. In Flavor Chemistry of Wine and Other Alcoholic Beverages. M.C. Qian and T.H. Shellhammer (Editors). ACS Symposium Series 1104. American Chemical Society, (2012); pp 303-338. 4) Jin. G., Zhu, Y. and Xu, Y. Mystery behind Chinese liquor fermentation. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 63; 18-28. (2017). 5) Zheng X-W, and Han, B-Z. Baijiu, Chinese liquor: History, classification and manufacture. J. Ethn. Foods 3; 19-25. (2016). 6) Sandhaus, D. BAIJIU: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits. Penguin Books. (2014). 7) Sandhaus, D. Drunk in China: Baijiu and the World’s Oldest Drinking Culture. Potomac Books. (2019). 8) Mu, X., Xu, Y., Fan, W., Wang, H., Wu, Q. and Wang D. Solid-State Fermented Alcoholic Beverages. In Solid State Fermentation for Foods and Beverages. Jian Chen and Yang Zhu (Editors). CRC Press. Chapter 9: pp. 287-346. (2014). 9) Waterbury, M. Getting to Know Baijiu. Artisan Spirit. 20, Fall 2017. pp. 78-80. (2017). 10) Goldfarb, A. Baijiu: The World’s Most Popular WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Spirit Comes to America. Distiller. 15 (2); 42-48. (2019). 11) Niu, Y., Kong, J., Xiao, Z., Chen, F., Ma, N. and Zhu, J. Characterization of odor-active compounds of various “Wuliangye” liquors by gas chromatography-olfactometry, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and sensory evaluation. International Journal of Food Properties. 20 (S1); s735-S745. (2017). 12) Wang, M-Y., Yang, J-G, Zhao, Q-S., Zhang, K-Z and Su, C. Research Progress on Flavor Compounds and Microorganisms of Maotai Flavor Baijiu. J. Food. Sci. 84, (1): 6—18. (2019). 13) Gao, W., Fan, W. and Xu, Y. Characterization of the Key Odorants in Light Aroma Type Chinese Liquor by Gas Chromatography-Olfactometry, Quantitative Measurements, Aroma Recombination, and Omission Studies. J. Agric. Food Chem. 62, 5796-5804. (2014). 14) Fan, H., Fan, W. and Xu, Y. Characterization of Key Odorants in Chinese Chixiang Aroma-Type Liquor by Gas Chromatography-Olfactometry, Quantitative Measurements, Aroma Recombination, and Omission Studies. J. Agric. Food Chem. 63, 3660-3668. (2015). 15) Leu, S. China, Peoples Republic of/ Product Brief/ China Spirits Market/ 2007. USDA Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN Report CH7063. (2007). 16) Wu, X-H., Zheng, X-W., Han, B-Z., Vervoort, J. and Robert Nout, M.J. Characterization of Chinese Liquor Starter, “Daqu”, by Flavor Type with 1H NMR-Based Nontargeted Analysis. J. Agric. Food Chem. 57; 11354-11359. (2009). 17) Zheng, X-W, Tabrizi, M.N., Nout, M.J. and Han, B-Z. Daqu- A Traditional Chinese Liquor Fermentation Starter. J. Inst. Brew. 117 (1): 82-90. (2011). 18) Fan, G., Fu, Z., Teng, C., Wu, Q., Liu, P., Yang, R., Minhazul, K a H.M. and Li, X. Comprehensive
analysis of different grades of roasted-sesame-like flavored Daqu. International Journal of Food Properties. 22 (1): 1205-1222. (2019). 19) Liu, P., Zhang, L., Du, X., Zhao, J., Gau. G. and Zhang, X. Dynamic Analysis of Physicochemical and Biochemical Indices and Microbial Communities of Light-Flavor Daqu during Storage. J. Am. Soc. Brew. Chem. 77 (4); 287-294. (2019). 20) Fan, G., Sun, B., Fu, Z., Xia, Y., Huang, M., Xu, C. and Li, X. Analysis of Physicochemical Indices, Volatile Flavor Components, and Microbial Community of a Light-Flavor Daqu. J. Am. Soc. Brew. Chem. 76 (3); 209-218. (2018). 21) Liu, H. and Sun, B. Effect of Fermentation Processing on the Flavor of Baijiu. J. Agric. Food Chem. 66; 5425-5432. (2018). 22) Guthrie et al. Sex, Smoke, and Spirits: The Role of Chemistry. ACS Symposium Series; Vol. 1321. American Chemical Society (2019). [Chapters 12-16]. 23) Xu, Y., Wang, D., Fan, W.L., Mu, X.Q. and Chen, J. Traditional Chinese Biotechnology. Adv. Biochem Engin/Biotechnol.122; 189-233. (2010). 24) Dong, W., Shi, K., Liu, M., Shen, C., Li, A., Sun, X., Zhao, M., Sun, J., Li, H., Zheng, F. and Huang, M. Characterization of 3-Methylindole as a Source of a ”Mud”-like Off-Odor in Strong Aroma Types of Base Baijiu. J. Agric. Food Chem. 66; 12765-12772. (2018). 25) Xing-Lin, H., De-Liang, W., Wu-Jiu, Z. and Shi-Ru, J. The production of the Chinese baijiu from sorghum and other cereals. J. Inst. Brew. 123; 600-604. (2017). 26) Qian, L., Newman, I.M., Xiong, W. and Feng, Y. Traditional grain alcohol (bai jiu, 白酒) production and use in rural central China: implications for public health. BMC Public Health. 15, Article 1261; 1-12. (2015).
THE SMALL AND THE LOCAL TAKING INSPIRATION FROM EUROPE, TWO BROTHERS ARE USING THEIR SKILLS TO CULTIVATE A GROWING LOCAL BEVERAGE SCENE IN SOUTHERN MAINE W R I T T E N B Y D E V O N T R E V AT H A N / / / P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y A M A N D A J O Y C H R I S T E N S E N
s far as distillery origin stories go, Liquid Riot Bottling Company’s may be pretty linear, but it is a prime example of entrepreneurs never slowing down. The brewery/distillery/bar/restaurant was started by Eric Michaud, a brewer and owner of the popular Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine. In little time, Eric brought his brother, Ian, onboard to help with the distillation side of the venture. Together, they’re working hard to bring a bit of European drinking sensibility to coastal New England. Eric learned a lot about the way that different cultures around the world approached fermentation in his early years. “Somehow he got into some international business program that allowed him to basically write his own educational plan, so he ended up traveling,” explained Ian. Eric
spent time in Japan, Italy, and Belgium, among others, and when he came back to the States, he decided to open an old-fashioned beer bar, very much in the European style. “That was really successful right out of the gate,” Ian explained. “So, after five or six years of success there, he started planning — he wanted his own brewery, he wanted to create.” It wasn’t long before Eric enlisted both his brother and father to help. Their dad handles more of the maintenance of the building, and Ian was asked to helm spirits. The Michauds come from a big family, and they have managed to shift their dynamic into a working relationship with relative ease. Eric’s vision for the company from day one was a place that would be reminiscent of the spots he visited while studying abroad. “I think his overall image
was sort of old-word Bavarian breweries; they used to be small little breweries that were spread around the farming community,” explained Ian. “They would make all the beer for the clientele and then they also would have a little still, and instead of wasting things they would distill waste beer or fruits during harvest season and make small batches of grappa or some schnapps of some sort.” Similar to small Bavarian breweries, Liquid Riot’s brewing and distilling arms are very reciprocative, though by law they are required to have a distinct physical separation of the two spaces due to separate licenses. “Our kitchen uses our beer and our spirits to make sauces to cook with, our bar makes beer cocktails, we mix spirits and beer,” Ian said. “The brewery and the distillery share barrels and make recipes WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
together, so we’re all pretty interactive and it’s fun.” Liquid Riot makes 10 spirits, all but two of which are fermented in-house. Ian uses the brewhouse to mash in and then pumps over to fermenters that are kept on the distillery side of the facility. Their still, a Kothe from Germany, is a 100-gallon pot with an adjustable column. They have four whiskeys — a bourbon, a single malt, a rye, and an oat — as well as two rums, a distilled beer, a fernet, and a vodka. The oat whiskey has been an interesting experience for the distillers at Liquid Riot. “Oats are very oily, so when you distill it a lot of those oils come through the distillation,” Ian explained. “I found that those oils interact differently in the barrel than some of the other whiskeys that we make. They extract a lot of the cinnamon and vanilla flavor out of the wood.” When the whiskey was still young, Ian found it exhibited a lot of the cinnamon flavor in particular, so much so that they marketed it as a dessert whiskey for a time. As a small producer, Liquid Riot began aging in 10-gallon barrels. They have since graduated to primarily 30-gallon barrels and are currently filling some 53s. The larger format is mostly for experimentation; the setup of their brewhouse is scaled to produce just over 30 gallons of finished spirit, so they’ve found that the medium size works well for them and aren’t in any rush to expand production. The majority of Liquid Riot’s recipes are based in some way on tradition or traditional practices. However, they do apply their own unique spin. They’ve smoked a portion of their single malt with cherrywood, and their rye uses a bit of chocolate malt. “The spice from the rye we’re getting — and again, it’s Maine-grown rye — it’s even softer than other ryes that I’ve tasted,” Ian explained. “It’s there, there is some spice to it, but it’s not as intense as some of the Western ryes.” Their bourbon has a small portion of buckwheat
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in the mashbill, which is likewise Maine-grown; Liquid Riot is committed to taking advantage of as much local agriculture as possible. But buckwheat is also personal for the Michaud brothers — it was brought over to the area by their ancestors centuries ago. “Our family is from Northern Maine, but the Michaud family you can trace back to the original settlers from Northern Maine, the Acadia region.” The Michaud brothers turned to history for more than just recipe inspiration; the name Liquid Riot is a direct reference to the Portland Rum Riot that took place in Maine after Neil Dow, a once-mayor who’s known as the father of Prohibition, enacted the first temperance laws in the state. After embracing temperance, Dow rounded up all the liquor in Portland and locked it up in the customs house. When dock workers found out, they thought he was keeping the spirits for himself, so they began to riot, during which one man, John Robbins, perished. Liquid Riot commemorates this event with their house blend rum, which is called Dow’s Demise. Their second rum is a collaboration with other local outfits New England Distilling and Maine Craft Distilling; the three of them are the first distilleries to make rum in Portland since the end of Prohibition. “We all opened within a couple years of each other and all have our own independent recipes, but for this project we sat down, brought all three of our dark rum recipes together, kind of tweaked it and incorporated all the different ingredients that we all use and made a hybrid dark rum recipe,” Ian explained. This effort happens once a year and enough is made to fill two fermenters. Half the distilled rum is put in a used rye barrel from New England Distilling and the other half goes into one of Maine Craft’s used single malt casks. After two years in those barrels, the rums are blended and put into an ex-bourbon barrel provided by Liquid Riot. Dow would almost certainly turn over in his grave if he knew that, right in the middle of coastal Portland, distilling is alive and well again. The location that Liquid Riot settled on puts them square in the path of any tourists who come to visit, which brings an abundance of local traffic, which is the Michauds’ primary focus for the time. When visitors walk through the front doors of the distillery, they’re greeted by a glass-walled distilling space, proudly exhibiting their Kothe still. Ian says that’s very much on purpose, “the idea being that we’re not hiding anything, we’re making everything right here where people can see it happening.” His background as a theater technician on Broadway certainly has influenced the setup of the distillery, but what Liquid Riot hopes to showcase is no act. The Michaud brothers want to turn the making of authentic products with local ingredients into yet another piece of Portland’s great history.
Liquid Riot Bottling Company is located in Portland, Maine. For more information visit www.liquidriot.com or call (207) 221-8889.
RUM AGING SCIENCE
PART I (2020 Q1)
WRITTEN & PHOTOGRAPHED BY LUIS AYALA
ging is the most value-added transformation that rum can undergo while at a distillery or aging cellar, but aging spirits in general involves so many variables that distillers/cellar masters often leave key decisions to chance (building insulation, orientation, etc.). To further complicate things, the scarce literature on rum aging tends to be centered around the Caribbean basin, where large distilleries have been producing rums on industrial scales for multiple generations. How is the modern craft distillery, with a small still and a relatively small warehouse, supposed to define and carry out a successful aging program? In this new series, The Rum University and Rum Central will closely monitor and share data from a single barrel so that readers can better understand the transformations that rum undergoes while aging. The barrel was filled in late December 2019 and the rum’s chemical transformations will be monitored throughout 2020. Different climate conditions around the world affect these transformations in different ways, but while the effects are universal, the results presented in this new series will be those from Rum Central’s Florence Distilled Spirits Plant, located in central Texas, USA.
change inside the barrel?
++ How much rum will be lost to evaporation?
++ How fast will the pH lower
++ How much will the proof/
and at what level will it reach equilibrium?
ABV drop during aging?
As part of this study, we are monitoring hourly changes to temperature and relative humidity inside the cellar, near the location of the selected barrel and in two other locations within the same cellar:
Simply collecting data, while tempting and easy, doesn’t always answer all the questions that are at the core of our understanding of a particular problem. Here are the questions we will try to answer as we carry out this study (these questions shape our data collection methodology):
++ How fast will rum’s color
CHANNEL 1 — Central area of the warehouse (where our single barrel is located)
CHANNEL 2 — East side of the warehouse and
CHANNEL 3 — West side of the warehouse
PHYSICAL PARAMETERS We are also monitoring physical changes of the rum inside the barrel, including:
++ Composition 113
The environmental parameters are being recorded using Rum Central’s Ambient Weather WS-3000-X3 Thermo-Hygrometer Wireless Monitor, which is configured to log readings hourly. Once per month, we will withdraw a sample from the barrel we selected for this study. The sample will then be analyzed for physical changes using the following equipment:
If you are new to organic chemistry, I recommend you familiarize yourself with the basic transformations of alcohols into aldehydes, carboxylic acids and esters. You can find a lot of information on this topic by searching for Fischer Esterification (named after German scientist and Nobel Prize winner Hermann Emil Fischer). Acidity should increase (pH should decrease) over time, accompanied by a decrease in total volume (due to evaporation) and in ABV (due to esterification) and an increase in wood extractables. The concentration of aldehydes, acids, and esters should also increase over time (due to the interaction of the different alcohols with oxygen inside the barrel). The question is not, “Will all the things we expect to happen, actually happen?” but rather “At what rate will the transformations take place given the environmental conditions inside the aging cellar?”
++ pH will be measured us-
++ Color and composition
ing a Hanna Instruments Edge pH Meter.
++ ABV will be measured using an Anton Paar Snap 50 Alcohol Meter.
will be recorded using a Thermo Scientific Spectronic 200 Spectrophotometer, with a wavelength range from 340nm to 1000nm.
At the end of the 12-month study, the barrel will be emptied and its contents measured and weighed, to determine total volume and alcohol loss.
THE RUM The white rum used to fill the barrel was column-distilled from fermented high test molasses (“miel virgen”). The entry ABV into the barrel was 63.43% ABV.
Since its first use was only three years, the barrel still has a lot of wood extractives to contribute to our rum. These extractives include:
CELLULOSE — The most abundant natural polymer on earth. It consists of linear chains of glucose units and remains relatively intact even after wood curing and toasting.
HEMICELLULOSE — Also known as a “wood sugar” is a
THE BARREL (#19-0018) The barrel is made from white American oak and it was charred prior to its first use aging bourbon whiskey (for three years). Rum Central received the barrel shortly after it was emptied and this is its second use. Most aged rum produced around the world employs ex-whiskey/ ex-bourbon barrels, thus our decision to use one for this series.
two-dimensional polymer composed of many simple sugars, including glucose, xylose, mannose, arabinose, galactose and rhamnose.
LIGNIN — Despite the fact that it is also one of the most abundant nature-produced materials on earth, lignin remains one of the least understood. Oak lignin consists of two building blocks: guaiacyl and syringyl. The former is responsible for producing coniferaldehyde, vanillin and vanillic acid, which—especially the vanillin—are easily recognized in cask-condition spirits.
OAK TANNINS — These plant polyphenols derive their name
from the Latin word tannum, which means “crushed oak bark,” since in early times oak trees served as a major source of tannin for the leather-tannin industry. Tannins improve aged rum’s character by increasing the perception of balance, complexity and roundness.
JANUARY’S WEATHER The month of January was—not surprisingly—very cold. The average low temperature around the barrel was 11.2C/ 52.16F. The average high temperature was 18.1C/64.58F. Humidity inside the cellar ranged from 57% to 89%.
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THE RUM COLOR: After only 30 (very cold) days inside the barrel,
we did not really expect the rum to have changed in color too drastically. The sample retrieved shows only slightly yellow coloration, almost imperceptible to the naked eye. Comparing against the control, with a white background, makes the color a bit more noticeable. AROMA: The aroma is still predominantly that of the con-
trol (unaged) sample, only hints of oak are present in the background. PH: While working in Central/South America and the
Caribbean, we collected a lot of data regarding rum’s pH changes inside the barrels, but usually at annual or semi-annual intervals. We knew from experience and from science that the pH would go down, but didn’t really expect the jump to be as rapid as it was, especially given the low temperature in the cellar. The rum that went into the barrel 30 days earlier had a pH of 7.04 and after only one month of aging in the cellar, the pH dropped to 5.67. ABV: The barrel’s entry proof was 63.43% ABV and one
month later that number was 63.42%.
WHAT’S NEXT? Q1 is the coldest quarter of the year in Central Texas. February’s and March’s average temperature should be slightly warmer than January’s, resulting in a faster extraction rate and in slightly higher evaporation loss. The evaporation loss means that additional ambient air will enter the barrel (to replace the volume of alcohol lost), continuing the acidification and esterification of the rum inside the barrel, but at a higher rate than in January. The higher daily temperature deltas (the difference between the day’s highest and lowest) will also result in a higher rate of extraction of solids from the barrel staves, resulting in deeper color and more intense oak aroma. 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. For more info visit www.gotrum.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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T C E DIR E R I F WRITTEN BY DEVON TREVATHAN
tephen Gould, the founder and distiller of Golden Moon Distillery in Golden, Colorado, puts it best: “There’s a lot of debate on the benefits and risks of a direct-fire still.” So much so, in fact, that it seems to have driven most American producers right to their steam-heated equivalents. Direct-fire stills are certainly uncommon in the states these days, but the few who utilize them swear by direct fire as the source of much character and flavor development. In Everett, Massachusetts, Zach Robinson runs two Portuguese alembic stills at Short Path Distillery, both of which are direct fire. “Nothing’s ever black and white,” he said of his choice of equipment, “but our original thought was using traditional stills in an updated way, and if you look at real traditional stills, they’re direct fire.” Robinson has found that perhaps the greatest asset that this still type has given his spirits is caramelization,
especially in their rum and apple brandy. He says that the unfermentable sugars in the rum wash that go into the still caramelize to develop a unique flavor profile. As for the brandy, the still “really cooks the apples, so it’s much more like a roasted apple pie versus just sort of a straight, clean apple flavor.” Ned Wight, the owner and distiller for New England Distillery, also swears by his direct fire stills. “What I find with the direct fire is that we get a higher level of caramelization of sugars in the pot and we get more development of Maillard reaction — all those innumerable different complex
flavor compounds built at high heat,” he said. It’s impossible to talk about direct fire stills without mentioning Maillard reactions. This well-known chemical reaction, sometimes called the “browning reaction” in food circles, is being attributed more and more with essential flavor development in distillation. In the book Whisky: Technology, Production and Marketing, edited by Inge Russell (2003), there is this sentence: “A range of important flavour compounds is formed by the Maillard reaction, in which free amino acids and sugars combine and undergo chemical transformation
“Nothing’s ever black and white, but our original thought was using traditional stills in an updated way, and if you
look at real traditional stills, they’re direct fire.” — ZACH ROBINSON, SHORT PATH DISTILLERY WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
“What I find with the direct fire is that we get a higher level of caramelization of sugars in the pot and we get more development of Maillard reaction — all those innumerable different complex flavor compounds built at high heat.”
by Strecker degradation and other routes, leading to the production of unsaturated aldehydes, furans and pyrroles etc.” (pg 59.) Most distillers do not go into that level of scientific analysis when discussing the impact that the Maillard reaction has on their spirit, but they nevertheless laud the process. Wight was familiar with the concept from his time spent working in breweries before he made the jump to distilling. “That was definitely a conversation that was out there as people were designing brewhouses and debating whether or not to go with steam-heated kettles or direct fire kettles,” explained Wight. “The argument is always the same for direct fire: It’s flavor development.” There are, of course, drawbacks to these stills. Gould, who uses direct fire stills at his own distillery and works with new distillers who utilize this still type, describes a situation he’s seeing right now at a distillery in London: “They’re using two Portuguese pots with direct fire stills. One, they’re making amazing whiskey, but two, what they’re seeing — which is a risk — copper is soft, and if it’s a copper pot, direct fire, and you run it hard, you’re going to burn through the copper eventually.” He’s realized that his own direct fire stills, which have been in operation for nine years now, will eventually give out and need to be reskinned. “When I do, and that skin is different than the skin it’s had because it’ll be substantially thicker, I will then have essentially a new still that will make a different product, and that’s going to be a challenge.” Another challenge faced by many who use direct fire goes hand in hand with one of its best assets. A lot of people liken this WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
— NED WIGHT
NEW ENGLAND DISTILLERY
kind of setup to a gas stove. With a gas stove, you turn on your heat and it’s there until it’s turned off, and it can be quickly adjusted in the meantime. Compare that to an electric stove, which is less immediately responsive, and it’s easy to see why gas stoves are usually preferred by people who like to cook. Direct fire stills, which can be fueled by wood, gas, or coal, offer a similar level of immediate temperature control to the distiller. The heat source of Steam-jacketed stills usually have a maximum temperature of around 250 degrees Fahrenheit, while the heat source of direct-fire stills can get to temperatures topping 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. But with all that heat, there’s a chance you could get burned— or your wash could, that is. Scorching remains a concern for anyone using or thinking of implementing direct-fire stills, as is heat stress of the mash. There are ways to try to avoid this effect; having some kind of agitation system to keep the wash moving is important, and some stills come with a false bottom to keep solids away from the hottest part of the still. At New England Distillery, Wight uses a pump that circulates the wash while it’s boiling. Water jackets are also implemented to protect the contents of the still, but it’s also thought to prevent or decrease the Maillard reactions that are so coveted by some producers. Any mention of direct fire distillation is often followed with some comment on the inherent dangers of having an open flame around alcohol and its vapor. It would be irresponsible not to comment on this aspect, as there are certainly serious risks. None of the producers I spoke to shied away from it; they acknowledged the danger and spoke of the ways that they mitigate that
danger to the best of their abilities. Wight explained that “One of the bigger risks that I see is alcohol vapor, so when we’re running the stills we’ve always got doors open for air movement and then we’ve got a floor-sweeping fan that draws from the fire box toward the condenser side of the still, so we’re not drawing vapors towards the flame, we’re drawing vapors away from the flame.” Gould says that the conservative interpretation of the fire code by the fire marshal in Golden, Colorado, has forced him to be preternaturally cautious with his distillery, which he said is “over-engineered” for safety. Many of the French producers using direct fire stills encase the flame in brick, which has become a standard practice. Perhaps one aspect of direct fire distillation and safety that’s not talked about often enough is that, due to the price of various still types, a lot of novice distillers end up being the ones to purchase direct fire equipment, especially in America. Both Wight and Robinson cited cost as one of the deciding factors when it came time for them to purchase a still. Direct fire stills are more cost-effective than just about any kind of still available on the market, but also require a lot of skill from the distiller who wields it. That’s not to say that a new distiller can’t safely run a direct fire still, but certainly someone more familiar with the process of distillation will be better equipped to think ahead and avoid disaster before it strikes, and control the various elements at play to make a really fine spirit. This line of thinking suggests that objective education related to direct fire stills would be beneficial. “There are a number of the more modern still manufacturers, that when they run their classes and sell their products will actually say that it’s illegal to use a direct fire still. That is not true,” said Gould. Direct fire stills themselves are not illegal, but depending on the area you’re in, fire marshals can be restrictive enough to make the idea of a direct fire still far less appealing. Gould believes that educating fire marshals would also be a big help to the industry. “Uninformed fire marshals that are following a code and looking at a distillery when they don’t understand what a distillery is are also going to drive
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people away from direct fire, and it’s a shame,” he explained. Elsewhere in the world, direct fire stills are not relegated solely to small producers. In Scotland, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Springbank, and Macallan all use direct fire stills in some capacity, citing flavor as the reason for doing so. In 1981, Glenfarclas installed new steam-jacketed stills but found that the character of their new-make suffered for it and promptly switched back to direct fire. A similar instance occurred in Japan when Suntory decided to replace steam with direct fire for the wash stills at the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries. Certainly, one of the most famous places for direct fire distillation is France, specifically the Cognac and the Armagnac regions. Historically, their brandies were distilled in a still “enclosed in brickwork, with only a small bulbous head exposed” which was “generally heated by means of a furnace, wood being considered the best fuel,” (pg 513) according to Edward Thorpe’s A Dictionary of Applied Chemistry (1912). At that time, continuous and steam-heated distilling mechanisms did exist and were being 12:48 PMused at the brandy distilleries, though, “The spirit produced in this way is not considered so fine as that obtained by the pot still, but it is of higher strength and more suitable for the manufacture of liqueurs.” If you search through message boards on the topic of direct fire distillation, you will likely come across a handful of people declaring this kind of heating system to be “a thing of the past.” That is the general consensus among many in this industry, though some still see the benefit to direct fire. “Most modern distilleries in the United States today, and in Europe for that matter, are running on steam-jacket hybrid stills that are very efficient at making alcohol, but that alcohol loses a lot of its charm, its complexity, its depth,” said Gould. “I’ve done brandies side by side on two similar stills, one with direct fire and single skin and one without, and you taste an amazing difference.” Maybe it’s something that has to be tasted to be believed. 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.
Industry Blind Spots WHAT ARE DISTILLERS NOT THINKING ABOUT, BUT SHOULD BE?
Written by Scott Schiller
Sales Performance Distributor relationship and leverage: Distributor consolidation is nothing new, but the last few years are different. What once was the big five are on the cusp of being the big two. Due to the decreasing options, distributors are continually raising their minimum sales thresholds. In some markets, this equates to 1,000 9L cases per portfolio. If you are not delivering meaningful and growing profit within a few years, you are tying up cash and space from the distributor’s point of view. The days of ‘launching and leaving’ are long gone, and your brands must always be on the upswing. Tracking shipments-to-depletion ratio, percentage of business between on and off-premise, number of accounts sold, and the velocity per outlet are all indices for ensuring your brand is not only growing but growing the right way for both parties.
Financial Health Establish annual budgets, manage them monthly, and track every variable that matters. It is essential to understand what metrics you are watching and ensure those metrics are relevant to your brand or distillery’s short- and medium-term goals, as well as your longterm vision. For example, tracking your EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) is an excellent way to see your profitability by quarter or year numerically. But what about the capital you just raised or banknote that you subsequently took on? This requires a focus on your free cash flow and tracking all dollars leaving the business. In other words, your working capital, from known costs to capital expenditures, to potential changes in FET, needs to be kept in check as not to overspend for profitability’s sake. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
hile spreadsheets and strategy sessions may not be the most romantic aspects of the distilling business, they are vital parts of your daily operation. Regardless of what stage this article finds you, cash positive or not, there are several key areas that every distiller should have a watchful eye on and have an evolving strategic plan that addresses them. The following are four key areas to monitor continually, and they all fall under the commercial side of the business.
Employee Morale Ensuring all employees are working toward the same organizational goal is imperative for success, but how? First and foremost, your distillery or brand must have a clear and succinct vision and mission. Without them, there is nothing employees can point to for purpose, which means all you eventually end up with is clock watchers and low performers — the star talent will all move on. You must not only live by this purpose but help your employees understand it and believe in it. Everyone on staff needs to know what their roles are, how they fit into your spirits company, what they’re responsible for, and, most importantly, how this contributes to your overarching vision. Due to everyone’s uniqueness, personal objectives, thoughts, habits, values, and beliefs, it often is hard to shift behavior or get the whole team on board to a specific goal or direction for your brand. But being practical, and clear on the brand’s vision and future and how that translates to specific roles and responsibilities goes a long way in working together for a common outcome.
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Brand Health For better or worse, the spirits industry is brand-based. While the liquid is very important, no one will discover it unless the branding is strong. Spirit consumers tend to exhibit strong shopping tendencies, first through the dual lens of image and price, usually not deciding on purchase decisions until they are looking at the shelf. Many brands have a weak position and drive little emotion from consumers. However, before a bottle can even be picked up and turned over to tell its story, it must evoke a reaction. While above-the-line marketing is essential, keep in mind with today’s shopping habits, you must be priced accordingly and have a label reflective of your brand that speaks to your target market. It is incredible (unfortunately) how much something tastes better/worse when a fancy new label is applied, not to mention, the industry takes note. While the packaging is critical, be sure you have plans for increasing the age of your products as well. The consumer is becoming wise to what age statements mean, or what the lack thereof might imply. Current trends lean toward new products aging a minimum of two years in 25-gallon barrels, and ideally three years or more for rye and at least four years for bourbon in traditional 53-gallon barrels.
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There is much momentum in the spirits world, and for the most part, everyone is making good progress. Continual improvement is vital for success as the bar is becoming higher and higher, and the outlets for distribution are becoming tighter and tighter, and the competition stronger and stronger. The long-view operator is striving to be best-in-class and is continuously monitoring all of the variables necessary to reach that goal.
Scott Schiller is managing director of Thoroughbred Spirits Group. For more information visit www.tbspirits.com or call (312) 809-8202. PRODUCT & BRAND DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY & FINANCIAL PLANNING PRODUCT LAUNCH SALES, MARKETING & OPERATIONS
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BREWSTILLERY MOVEMENT Written and photographed by Kris Bohm
MAKE the MOST of YOUR TOOLS Breweries and distilleries have many things in common beyond the production of beverage alcohol. Fermenters, pumps, hoses, yeast, and mash tuns are just a few tools utilized by both distillers and brewers. Some breweries have recognized that many of their everyday tools can be co-utilized WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM â€
to function as brewery and distillery tools. This crossover use of tools and equipment has the potential to create additional revenue for a business. A few of the better-known breweries who have jumped into the distilling game include Ballast Point and Rogue Ales, and there are some amazing spirits being produced and distilled by respected breweries. These brewstilleries, as we will call them,
are pioneering a new business model by sharing their equipment to produce a diverse portfolio of SKUâ€™s that appeal to a broad base of customers. Grand Canyon Brewing Co., where I work, was one of the first breweries in Arizona to start producing distilled spirits. In this article, I will talk about what equipment we shared between the brewery and distillery and the spirits produced.
SHARING is CARING First, let’s touch on a few of the tools breweries use that can also be used in a distillery.
Brewhouse — In most breweries a brewhouse is the
essential tool used for the production of beer. This brewhouse will sometimes be idle. A brewhouse not being used is a missed opportunity that a distillery can capitalize on. The mash tun in a brewhouse is used to mash malted barley for brewing beer, but it can also be utilized to produce a variety of types of distillers wash. Even cereal mash can be cooked in a mash tun for bourbon whiskey production. The production of malt whiskey in the Scottish tradition using malted barley requires more complex equipment than the basic cereal cooker utilized by most distilleries. However, the unique equipment known as the lauter tun is something that every brewery has in their brewhouse. Having this equipment available to use positions a brewery to easily jump into the production of malt whiskey. By cross-utilizing much of the equipment, a brewstillery can see much better use of and return on their equipment.
Fermenters — Every brewer and distiller needs the vessels in which they transform grain from sugary liquid into alcohol through fermentation. The fermenters used in a brewery work perfectly for fermenting wash destined to become whiskey. If the excess space is available to ferment, a distillery can make use of otherwise empty tank space. Pumps and hoses — The workhorse tools of brewers and distillers are their pumps, hoses, and tri-clamps and they are expensive. The same pumps and hoses can be used to accomplish liquid transfers in a brewery and a distillery. Sanitization is important to mention here as it is easy to introduce unwanted bacteria or yeast into hoses if a distiller is not careful and conscientious of proper sanitization. Yeast — The essential ingredient that all producers of beverage alcohol must utilize every day in their work is saccharomyces, simply known as yeast. The yeast used by distillers and brewers is closely related. In fact, many brewstilleries will use the exact same strains for both brewing and distilling. The use of yeast and the knowledge of how to handle yeast effectively is similar for brewers and distillers. This knowledge of yeast application and management is a critical tool that brewers and distillers share, and sharing yeast between a brewery and distillery increases the value reaped from every batch of yeast. 122
THERE is WHISKEY to be MADE The fast-growing category of American single malt whiskey includes distilleries like Westland and Balcones, which produce highly acclaimed versions. However, there are also brewstilleries throughout the US producing American Single Malt, one of which is Cutwater Spirits, best known for their successful line of RTDs. Cutwater was formed, and later spun off, when the owners of Ballast Point Brewery embarked on an experimental side project in 2007 by adding a still to their brewery. Using their tried and true beer recipes, the brewers produced an unhopped wash and distilled it into a single malt whiskey called Devil’s Share. We at Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery have taken a unique approach in which brewing and distilling sides collaborate to produce unique, small batch whiskey. While focused primarily on bourbon and malt whiskey production, we are currently producing vodka, rum, gin, and flavored vodka. During much of this production we share tools between the brewery and distillery. We also take a new angle on whiskey by distilling a finished beer into a malt whiskey to showcase the flavor and character of our beers. Our Pumpkin Springs Porter, for example, is distilled then aged in a virgin American oak charred cask. Released as a co-branded whiskey with our Pumpkin Springs Porter beer the following year, the Pumpkin Porter whiskey is a unique single malt that although very young, was well received.
BEER DRINKERS’ WHISKEY Part of what makes a young “hopped malt whiskey” accepted by the public is that a whiskey of this style is not being compared side by side with older Scotch whiskies or bourbon. This lack of comparable whiskies comes from the fact that the different ingredients used to make the spirit produce a different flavor of whiskey. The introduction of specialty malts, spices, and hops make for unique aged spirits. These one-off whiskies allow brewstilleries to showcase beer and spirits together in a way that can generate new interest in craft whiskey. As a brewer, you may already be considering branching off into distilling. If so, be sure to do your homework or hire a pro to help you, as there are many differences between brewing and distilling, and this learning curve can be expensive without prior experience. For those beginning to look into the beverage alcohol industry, the brewstillery model is worth considering because it will give you access to a larger customer base and create better returns on your equipment. Consideration of state laws vary widely on the legality and requirement to operate on this business model. The future is looking bright for craft beverage alcohol production and brewstilleries can be on the leading edge in producing new variations of traditional spirits.
Kris Bohm is head distiller at Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery and owner of Distillery NOW Consulting. When Kris is not working on spirits he can be found traveling by bicycle around the world. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
IN, AND OUT OF, SUSPENSE PART 4: FILTRATION SYSTEMS don’t be a fool, clean your tools W R I T T E N B Y G E O R G E B . C ATA L L O
ow, this should go without saying — it really should — but anyone who has ever been in a public restroom with other people in it knows that society needs reminders to wash things. Your filtration system is no exception to that rule. Keeping your filtration system clean will help you avoid tainting your product as well as keep your system running efficiently. Your filter takes out undesirables; leaving it uncleaned can put those undesirables back into your spirits. Furthermore,
accumulation of those undesirables can slow the flow of liquid through the system. Before we go any further, it is important to remind you that these are just some general cleaning tips and you should always double-check manufacturer recommendations for cleaning before taking any of this advice. Every system and component is different. The cleaning of any of your system’s tanks, hoses, and pumps is going to be fairly straightforward and similar to cleaning
any of your other equipment. Lots of hot water and PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash). Something to keep in mind with hot water is that it needs to be hotter than you think to kill bacteria on its own. Your mother telling you as a child to use hot water while washing your hands is kind of futile. Water from your home sink usually gets to at most 120 degrees F. To kill bacteria and pathogens in water, you have to heat it to 212 degrees F. Many filtration cleaning guides suggest a minimum of a slightly lower 185
degrees F for sanitation purposes. Aside from sanitation, hot water is beneficial because it helps keep particles in suspense and taken away from your equipment. It’s the reverse of the principals behind chill filtration. Remember: after cleaning you need to allow for proper drying of your equipment as well. Hang your hoses, vent your tanks. Moisture and darkness create a habitat for bacteria! There are multiple methods of cleaning available for filter media. Before cleaning any filter media consult manufacturer recommendations. Not all media is reusable or suitable for cleaning, and some require specific care instructions. One of several ways to clean a filter media is simply to soak the media in hot water with the appropriate cleaning solution. Between the aforementioned effects of hot water and the chemical reactions of cleaning solutions, your media can become clean again. The media will need to be rinsed with clean, fresh water after this step to wash away any cleaning solution. This would be best achieved with treated water instead of tap water, as tap water can have contaminants in it. Another way to clean media is by running hot water and cleaning solution through the media in reverse. By sending liquid through the media in reverse it will break built-up particulate and wash it away. This method also requires a rinse afterward to remove any left behind cleaning solution. Any cleaned and sanitized media also requires proper storage to assure it does not end up contaminated again in its dormancy. Some wineries store their glass media in vodka to maintain a neutral, yet contaminant free, environment. Pad filters should be kept dry and in a sealed container. Once again, moisture is your enemy. Distilleries can be messy places and I’ve more than once heard distillers joke that you shouldn’t trust someone whose still is too shiny; if they were making everything themselves they wouldn’t have time to clean it that well. Now I’m not going to tell you that you should spit-shine your copper, but please for the love of the angel’s share — keep your filtration equipment clean!
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.'
WHISKEY BREATH I
t only took one meeting to know Neil Wasserman likes to think big. You can see it in his smile and grand hand gestures as he describes his first foray into the distilling business. And he can’t wait for you to try his product, so much so that he and his partner Lior Balmas smuggled in small bottles of beer and whiskey in suitcases to the US last year and gave samples to anyone willing to provide feedback. He has been waiting two and a half years for this day.
“The whiskey is beautiful,” he said while pouring a taste. “We’re trying to create a little buzz around our distillery. We’re working on a special presentation case for that because it’s a momentous occasion for our distillery.” The whiskey he is gushing about is from the brewing/distilling facility in Israel that he opened with Balmas in 2015. They began brewing beer while preparing their whiskey for aging. Following European
ISRAELI START-UP PREPARES FOR WORLD WHISKEY MARKET WITH RUACH SINGLE MALT WRITTEN BY CARRIE DOW P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y TA LYA S H A P I R O
Union standards, he plans to release his distillery’s single malt after aging in oak barrels for three years. His excitement is palpable now that he can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
WORLD WHISKIES “I didn’t know I was going to start something in Israel,” he said when I called him a few months later at his distillery in
“IT’S A PASSION AND WE’RE DREAMING BIG, BUT WE’RE TAKING OUR TIME AND DOING IT THE RIGHT WAY. WE’RE BUILDING THE FOUNDATIONS.” — N E I L WA S S E R M A N
Pardes Hanah, a part of Israel’s agricultural belt midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. “Basically I got into distilling several years ago. That’s when world whiskies [were] becoming popular. Whiskey from Japan and different countries, so why not have an Israeli single malt on the world stage?” The whiskey lover and businessman from New York City had always wanted his own distillery but knew the New York market was saturated and a difficult place to start. However, he had been visiting his aunt in the old country since he was a child. On a fateful trip with his family in 2011, he came across a brewery in Sizoria where he met German-trained Israeli Master Brewer Balmas. “Unplanned, they didn’t have anything going on at the time, but [Balmas] was forthcoming with information and his passion,” remembered Wasserman. “I was like, this is going to be a great guy if I ever do something in Israel. I kept his information. Later when I was a little more advanced with my knowledge of distilling, I reconnected with Lior and he was thinking of going off on his own. So the idea of the brewery… was born in 2015.”
FORMING THE TRIBE They started with beer, Balmas’ specialty, under the trade name Shevet. Shevet means tribe, clan, or folk in Hebrew. Wasserman wanted to create a community with his products, a tribe of discerning yet welcoming drinkers.
“We realized the beautiful synergy between brewing and distilling,” said Wasserman. “In the states, you had New Holland, Rogue, and Ballast Point. You had Anchor Brewing and Distilling. In order to distill you have to brew. It was a win-win. Now we’re getting the word out. Teaching people about who we are, what we believe in, and what we stand for.” While the beer styles, a Scotch ale and a Helles lager, have been available for a while, they are still perfecting the distillery’s products. They went the route of barreling their whiskey first, prior to selling an unaged product, but like everything Wasserman does, he has big plans for it. “It’s a passion and we’re dreaming big, but we’re taking our time and doing it the right way. We’re building the foundations,” he said. Those plans include eventually producing other spirits like gin, rum, and vodka and creating flavored cocktail spirits. He is also overseeing the building of a warehouse for his barrels. He even has plans for a restaurant, retail store, and bed and breakfast on the facility property. “It’s gonna be a great destination and hopefully lots of people will come to visit,” he said.
WHISKEY BREATH Ruach, which is the name of their whiskey brand, means breath, wind, or spirit in Hebrew. It can refer to a literal breath or more often the breath of the spirit. For Wasserman, his Ruach single malt is about
living in the spirit. The spirit’s symbol is the horns of the Nubian ibex, a wild African goat. “Definitely a component of drinking fine whiskey,” noted Wasserman. “You enjoy it with all your senses, your palate, your eyes, and the spirit of whiskey with friends. Right now as we speak, we’re working on the bottles and labels.” Wasserman and Balmas have also distilled their beer, which is currently aging in sherry and port barrels and will be bottled under the Shevet label. They are definitely putting their brewstillery to good use. “We’re putting a big effort into social media campaigns — Instagram, Facebook — and we’re having Friday parties at the brewery, food trucks, BBQs, and we’re creating our consumer base. As far as distribution, we self-distribute right now. Starting to get into Tel Aviv, which is a huge hub for nightlife. We also started getting into Jerusalem and Haifa. We’re definitely on the move, but we have more work to do.” Wasserman says they are trying to partner with an importer to bring both Shevet and Ruach to the US but haven’t found the right one yet. Like most distilleries starting up, they are so close to their dreams, but so much remains to be done. “We’re almost there…” he said with a big laugh.
Shevet Brewing and Distilling is located in Pardes Hanah, Isreal. Visit www.facebook.com/shevetbeer or email email@example.com for more information. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Is your secret recipe really a secret? Using trade secrets to protect confidential information
WRITTEN BY CANDACE LYNN BELL
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our master distiller has been hard at work on a new formulation for a gin that she is certain will be special. Your new whisky, which had a little something extra added, is winning awards. Your original bourbon is still garnering rave reviews for its undefinable complexity. If you have been lucky enough to be in one of these enviable positions, the most likely reason is something unique to your product’s creation, whether it is part of the process or an ingredient or several ingredients. That something unique is critical to your business success and you want to protect it, but how? It is not your brand so trademark law will not help, nor is it your label, so copyright law will not help. But what it may be is your company’s trade secret and if you take certain steps to protect it as a trade secret, you may have created another intellectual property asset in which your company has protectable rights.
What is a trade secret? Exactly what is a trade secret? Up until 2016, the answer to that question involved a complicated analysis of differing and various state statutes and case law to determine on a state-by-state basis what type of information could be a trade secret and whether or not the manner of keeping that information out of the public eye was adequate. The analysis was even more complicated if the person claiming the trade secret — for example, a distiller — was located in one state, but the person who misappropriated the trade secret and set up another distillery was located in a different state. In 2016, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), a federal law, was signed, creating a uniform federal law governing trade secrets. The DTSA does not preempt the differing various state statutes, but it does provide a uniform federal option for protection of a company’s trade secrets. Under DTSA, a trade secret is defined as “all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic or engineering information, including patterns, plans, compilations, program devices, formulas, designs, prototypes, methods, techniques, processes, procedures, programs, or codes, whether tangible or intangible, and whether or how stored, compiled or memorialized physically, electronically, graphically, photographically or in writing IF: the owner thereof has taken reasonable measures to keep such information secret; and the information derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by another person who can obtain economic value from the disclosure or use of the information.” 18 U.S.C. §1839.
Formula, methods, techniques...oh my! The definition is wordy, but a couple of the terms may be of particular interest to a maker of craft alcohol. The definition specifically includes “formulas,...methods, techniques, processes, (or) procedures.” Under the definition, the list of ingredients, the timing and/or method of adding those ingredients and the steps and the timing of the process of creating the spirit may all be information that could be protected as a trade secret. In addition, all types of storage of such information are included in the definition, so, if you are old-school and write down with paper and pen the list of ingredients, that is covered in the definition. If you are more modern, and the list of ingredients is stored electronically, that is covered too. It is not enough, however, that the type of information be listed in the definition. There are two additional requirements — the last two sentences of the definition — which must be met in order for the information to be treated and protected as a trade secret. The information has to have value because it is not generally known. For the maker of craft alcohol, the economic value of a list of ingredients may be able to be shown by product reviews, awards, and consumer reviews, all of which relate to the sales revenue of the product. In addition, the actual order of the steps in the process, method, or technique of creating the alcohol — for example, the timing of adding certain botanicals for a distilled spirit— may also be information that has value if the steps are not generally known. In the broadest sense, the steps of the distillation process, the brewing process and the fermentation process are generally known, so the craft alcohol maker may want to focus on how its technique is different from other producers in their industry in order to show its value in creating the particular spirit, beer or wine, in question.
Keep it secret The owner of the information, the craft alcohol maker, must also take reasonable measures to keep the information secret. What those actual steps are, however, is not listed or defined in the DTSA. In the years since the DTSA was enacted, courts throughout the country have begun to determine what actions constitute “reasonable measures” in cases under the DTSA, and while there is no definitive list, some general considerations have emerged. By way of example, let’s consider protecting as a trade secret the special recipe for your new gin. As a threshold, making public information that your company may want to assert as being a trade secret will prevent the information from being considered as such. So, posting your secret recipe on your website will most likely prevent you from claiming the recipe is a trade secret. Next, your company’s actions need to be taken before the information, which is claimed as a trade secret, is misappropriated. Retroactively protecting such information, such as after your head distiller leaves to start his own company, is most likely too late, and the ability to claim the information is a trade secret may be forfeited. Finally, not taking any action to keep the information within the company will most likely prevent the information from being considered a trade secret. The owner of the trade secret has to take “reasonable measures,” which means action. So, leaving your secret recipe at the reception desk for anyone to see, including visitors, will most likely prevent you from claiming the recipe as a trade secret. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Four simple steps to take right now “Don’t go public,” “don’t wait to take action” and “don’t do nothing” — this advice leaves much unstated. Specifically, what actions should a craft alcohol maker take to protect their trade secrets? Again, there is no definitive list, but the maker of craft alcohol may want to consider the following proactive steps: 1. Establishing a procedure to choose what information will be protected by a trade secret claim. Is the new gin recipe worth protecting? Can the new gin recipe be claimed as a trade secret? 2. Documenting how the protected information will be protected. Is the new gin recipe stored in a locked cabinet or computer file? Is the new gin recipe marked in a manner such that anyone who does see the new gin recipe knows your company considers the recipe a trade secret? Should the new gin recipe be marked “TRADE SECRET” or “HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL” and if so, is it marked already?
3. Establishing restricted access to the protected information, even within the company, and limiting which employees have access to and knowledge of such information. Do employees not working directly on the distillation of the new gin need to know the exact recipe? 4. Using employment agreements which include confidentiality and non-disclosure provisions for all employees. Has the new hire in marketing, who has seen the new recipe in order to work on the new marketing campaign, signed an agreement to not disclose and keep confidential information?
It’s your success, keep it that way Beyond the considerations listed above, what actions may be considered “reasonable measures” can vary among a distillery, a brewery, or a winery because of the fundamental differences in production among the three. It can differ between a small start-up distiller with several employees and a large craft brewery with multiple product lines and a hundred or more employees. It can differ because of the underlying state laws governing trade secrets that contributed to the common practice in a particular region of the country. Consulting an intellectual property attorney on the nuances of maintaining trade secret rights can assist a craft alcohol maker in assessing their own particular circumstances. At the end of the day, taking the time to assess if a critical piece of business information can be protected as a trade secret enables your company to assert a set of protectable rights. If another person misappropriates those rights, your company may be able to stop that person from using those rights and your company may be awarded damages because of the misappropriation. The process of obtaining and protecting trade secret rights may be complicated and involve numerous steps. Nevertheless, the process can be of great benefit to your company. After all, no one wants his or her great new recipe to be the foundation of someone else’s success.
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
MODERN WESTERN VODKA WRITTEN BY JASON ZENO I L L U S T R AT E D B Y B R O C K C A R O N
I hate vodka.
Actually my father taught me to say “I do not prefer” vodka. I digress … I hate modern western vodka. This is, of course, an overgeneralization for the category but mostly rings true in my universe. If I want to drink neutral spirits, I’ll drink goddamn neutral spirits. To me, the main issues in this category are the expectation and perception of the consumer paired with the intent of the producer. I am not going to waste time with TTB definitions of the category or the history of vodka before the brown spirits boom. Those have been covered sufficiently by far more qualified and eloquent folks. What I will waste time with is a flavorless, scentless, and quite frankly offensively boring spirit. Let us start with the consumer that I so often loathe. We have a bit of a chicken and an egg situation when it comes to expectation. Was vodka produced and presented as a soulless spirit, or was that what the modern western consumer was asking for? The fact of the matter is the expectation of vodka is a colorless, flavorless, and aroma-free spirit. Oh yeah, and it has
to be smooth, whatever the hell that means. (I can discuss how much I do not prefer the descriptor “smooth” in another rant.) To this consumer, if vodka tastes like something or smells like something then clearly (pun intended) the product is flawed and the producer missed the mark. If this spirit throws off the balance of the cranberry cocktail juice or the club soda, it is obviously inferior. The expectation is set by decades of indoctrination. The perception is, as they say, the reality. The producers perpetuate the issue with countless brands of repackaged bulk neutral spirit (NS) and/or distillate that is processed extensively to remove distinguishable characteristics. I have no issue whatsoever with sourcing spirits, as long as this is done with transparency, integrity, and some actual crafting or production. Plenty of brilliant whiskeys, rums, and brandies are done this way. Unfortunately, the previously discussed expectation forces the hand of many producers when it comes to their vodka SKU. The guardrails within neutrality results in facilities simply repackaging and branding. I suppose some re-distill NS, but I find that completely ridiculous. Why in the
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hell would you buy bulk NS produced in a much more sophisticated and efficient facility and utilize your assets and time to make something more neutral? I am not a businessman, but that seems like a pretty dumb idea. Some producers will perform proprietary filtering methods to add to the ethos of their brand. Now, I am not saying there is no reason to filter, as science tells us there are plenty of benefits in doing so. But again, why if you are buying bulk NS? Buy better NS or request a more in-depth certificate of analysis. If you are a distiller and absolutely insist on filtering your NS through dragon glass and coconut husk, then I will require empirical statistically significant data to validate improvement. This can be performed by any number of analytical labs with a GCMS. I understand if these approaches are necessary to keep the proverbial lights on in a budding company — hell, I like money too, but this exacerbates the issues within the category. There is hope, though. Poland produces beautiful vodkas that are full of character and are anything but boring. There is a resurgence of single estate grain vodkas with depth and personality. One individual producer actually distills a single-varietal potato vodka to 160 proof. Now, you can’t call it vodka, and you have to go to the distillery and wait in line to purchase this product, but at least it’s going against the grain (another pun intended). These products can drink like what you wish white dog did. Remember that trend? White dog ryes and corn whiskeys? Well, everything those weren’t, these vodkas can be. This isn’t limited to European producers either. American distillers are taking an approach that goes beyond ultimate rectification and reflux to neutrality. Becoming more popular is the choice of specific raw materials and performing distillations with restraint. Keeping true to the raw materials’ attributes. Producers at all levels are starting to accept vodka with character and hopefully the consumer is following suit. I should disclose that this is all self-serving. I am in fact a modern western vodka producer. Vodka has been one of the greatest challenges I have had as both a producer and consumer. So I have set out to create something I actually want to drink. I want to not judge someone for ordering a vodka on the rocks — I have plenty of other things to judge them for. Alright. I’m going to pour myself some NS because I find it inherently smooth.
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Jason Zeno is director of operations at Porchjam Distillery in New Orleans, Louisiana. Visit www.porch-jam.com for more info.
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VIRGINIA IS FOR COLLABORATORS WRITTEN BY RICH MANNING
IRONCLAD DISTILLERY AND AR’S HOT SOUTHERN HONEY PRODUCE OLD DOMINION DECADENCE Not all food and drink pairings happen at a table. In this ongoing series, we explore how the collaborative efforts of an artisan food producer and a craft distillery can not only yield unique, remarkable products, but also bring passionate, creative minds together for the purpose of producing something special. In this issue, we head to Virginia to see what happens when bourbon, honey, and heat get together.
News, Virginia, the same refrain emerges. “I always tell people, ‘This is the first bourbon barrel-aged hot honey in the history of civilization,’” Russell says. “It adds a bit of panache, and it usually makes people smile. Then they taste it, and then their eyes get wide, because they realize they’ve never tasted Owen King, Kara King, and Ames Russell. anything like that PHOTO PROVIDED BY AR’S HOT SOUTHERN HONEY before.” Russell’s slogan isn’t the stuff of carnival barker sensationalism. He’s right. The other bourbon-barrel aged honeys on the market aren’t hot, and the spicy honeys out there lack bourbon goodness. AR and Ironclad’s collaborative mes Russell has a catchphrase of sorts. When the founder and namesake of the Richmond, Virginia-based AR’s Hot Southern Honey shares samples of the bourbon-barrel-aged hot honey he creates with Ironclad Distillery, located in Newport
effort is a unicorn, and a damn delicious one at that; the uniquely piquant sweetness of AR’s habanero-kissed clover and wildflower honey blend gets fortified by Ironclad’s nuanced barrel notes of caramel and vanilla. AR and Ironclad’s partnership would be noteworthy if it stopped here, but it doesn’t. The honey’s just half of the collaborative process. After Russell finishes using Ironclad’s barrels, he gives them back to Ironclad co-owner and distiller Owen King, who then uses them to produce a limited run of small-batch hot honey cask bourbons. It turns out Virginia’s not just for lovers, it’s also for culinary and libations innovators.
If you talk to Russell, Owen King, or Owen King’s sister and Ironclad Communications Director Kara King, you’ll pick up on a feeling that their partnership and their products are the stuff of destiny. Part of this is due to how quickly things got rolling. “We were doing maple barrel-aged bourbons, and we wanted to give honey
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from what’s grown typical of the category, and this gets reinforced whenever the Kings take it on the road during a tasting tour. “People may hesitate to try it at first when they see the word ‘honey’ on the label,” Kara said. “The nice thing that we can say in these situations is that it’s a ‘hot honey’ bourbon, and it’s not too sweet at all. That convinces them to take a sip, and that’s all they need to get hooked.” It’s a scenario that’s played out often enough to give the juice a cult following. “We now have quite a few customers who stop by our distillery just to have whatever cocktail is featuring the hot honey label,” she added. Visiting Ironclad is a necessary step if you want to enjoy their hot honey cask-finished bourbon on the regular. The label is the very definition of small batch: Only 5,000 gallons of the beverage were produced in 2019, and this limited quantity keeps its distribution to the confines of the distillery’s grounds. While Owen and Kara would like to grow this number down the road, they’re not looking to diversify their honey portfolio to make it happen. “It really depends on what Ames does,” Owen said. “We want to just work with him.” As it stands right now, Russell is comfortable with keeping the connection with Ironclad strong. In fact, their collaboration may be evolving. “I make a peach hot sauce in addition to all of my honeys,” he said. “Recently, I’ve been playing around with the idea of putting the hot sauce into their bourbon barrels and seeing what happens.” If that collaboration does come to fruition, one can only guess what Russell’s catchphrase might be. PHOTO PROVIDED BY IRONCLAD DISTILLERY
bourbons a try,” Owen said. “We knew Ames was doing hot honey, and that was interesting to us. There were already honey bourbons on the market, but we wanted to do something that would separate us from the pack.” “When Owen reached out, my immediate reaction was, ‘My goodness. That’s a wonderful idea. Let’s do it!’” Russell added, saying that he responded to their request within minutes. “It was the chance for us to do something new, for us to say, ‘it’s all been done before, except this hasn’t.’” The basic ingredients for the honey were in place — Russell’s hot honey components would go into Ironclad’s barrels without alteration — but that was the only thing that was concrete. Everything else was destined for trial and error. Fortunately, there was hardly any error in their trials. The 15-gallon Ironclad barrels Russell initially decided to use for the honey instantly became the standard. When Russell asked how long the honey should stay in the barrels before being transferred into buckets, Owen said around 90 days — a number that transformed from arbitrary to accurate. “We found out if we left the honey in the barrel any longer than 90 days, it would start to crystalize,” Russell says. “Owen’s original suggestion ended up being perfect.” They hit a home run with the honey, but what about the bourbon? “We got the flavors we wanted on the first try!” Owen said. “As far as finishing goes, we decided on three to five months. We’ll never let it go longer than that. What we get when everything’s ready is the sweetness of the honey in the bourbon, but we also get this unique spice from the habanero. You’ll also get this nice fruity flavor once you get past its heat, which gets mellowed out by the honey. It’s why it works so well in a whisky sour.
It works really well in a hot toddy, too — if it doesn’t cure what you have, then what you have probably can’t be cured.”
The composition of Russell’s bourbon barrel-aged hot honey — not to mention Russell’s “history of civilization” line — is enough to open the door to customers and their curious palates rather effortlessly. Ironclad’s hot honey cask bourbon, on the other hand, is tasked with a different kind of door opening, that is, opening the doors of people’s perceptions and biases. It’s an issue not uncommon with craft distillers looking to produce an expression that deviates from the norm, particularly if it’s an expression that’s enjoyed some trendy market penetration. It’s also challenging, but it can be overcome through sample-by-sample encouragement. In Ironclad’s case, their hurdle was getting people past the honey bourbon flavor profile punched out by big-label heavyweights. Ironclad’s more refined expression is a distinct departure
Visit www.hotsouthernhoney.com or www.ironcladdistillery.com for more information.
B E H I N D
T H E
S T I C K
Craft Spirits and the Farm-to-Table Philosophy WRITTEN BY RICH MANNING PHOTOS COURTESY OF FARMHOUSE AT ROGER’S GARDENS
“You’ve heard of jujubes, right?” This is not the question I’m expecting to hear from Anthony Laborin, bar manager and so-called “Chef de Swigs” for Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach, California. We’re in the middle of a conversation about the synergy between local fresh ingredients and local craft spirits, and he drops the name of a candy. At least, that’s what I assume. “I have heard of jujubes,” I reply, thinking he’s using the gummy fruit treat to concoct the craft cocktail equivalent of Homer Simpson’s infamous SkittleBrau. Laborin briefly disappears and re-emerges with a pair of plump, reddish-brown oblong spheres about the size of golf balls. He recognizes the confusion on my face. “These aren’t the candies,” he explains. “They’re Chinese dates. We have a bunch of them soaking in a jar of 102-proof bourbon.” We sample the referenced liquid. It’s way better than candy — subtly sweet and slightly funky, like smoky caramel. I ask what he’s planning to do with the juice. “Oh, I have some ideas,” he says with a grin. It makes sense that Laborin possess-
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es this kind of experimental streak. It can be argued that his workspace is an ongoing experiment of sorts. Roger’s Gardens is a sprawling nursery. Farmhouse occupies its back corner, steps away from colorful plants, fragrant herbs, and the occasional clinging clang of wind chimes. It’s not exactly the place where one would expect to find a restaurant equipped with a killer bar. But it’s a locale that completely feeds into Laborin’s penchant for playing around with fresh, seasonal, and unique ingredients, and he’s not shy about praising his muse. “I’m pretty astounded by how we’re essentially surrounded by gin botanicals,” he says. “It fuels inspiration. Being able to come up with cocktails in an environment like this is just too much fun.” Indeed, Laborin’s having a blast. The jujubes prove this. So do his bar shelves, which he stocks with an abundance of craft spirits that he constantly shares with curious customers. While he has a few big brands on hand, artisanal, small-batch, and booze-nerdy stuff dominate his stash. Each craft bottle he brings on board is a delicious expression that passes his taste standards, but they’re also treated like blank canvases. Most of his cocktail ideas integrate craft labels, whether the endgame cues in on the spirit itself or a nuanced flavor within the juice that can be extracted more by adding a specific ingredient. According to Laborin, part of the affinity he has for craft producers is that they tend to share Farmhouse’s own “farm to table” philosophy, even if it’s done out of necessity. “The small-batch guys don’t have big budgets... so they’ll usually have to source local, somewhat obscure ingredients to make what they want to produce,” he said. “That’s a good thing. It helps connect them with the community and builds strong relationships with purveyors. It’s not unlike what we do when we go to the market.” “The market” Laborin refers to is the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, the
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“There’s a synergy that exists between us and the small-batch guys that do ‘grain-to-glass.’” — Anthony Laborin FARMHOUSE AT ROGER’S GARDENS
weekly open-air market that Los Angeles-area chefs routinely descend upon to source fresh, fun, and funky ingredients to use in the kitchen. It’s more pilgrimage than trip; Laborin and Farmhouse Executive Chef Rich Mead dutifully sit through some 54 miles of Los Angeles traffic every Wednesday morning to shop and discover. Sometimes, Laborin arrives ready to hunt down a specific ingredient. Other times, he’ll pop random produce in his mouth and spirit-soaked ideas will flood his mind. He’ll usually leave with a mix of mainstream goodies and a few offbeat nuggets of deliciousness with unorthodox names (he informs me he picked up the obscure orange varieties cara cara and tango on his last trip). Whatever he does end up purchasing can land anywhere in the cocktail-making process — aged in a vessel, transformed into a tincture, infused into the spirit itself, or even just a kick-ass garnish. The weekly excursions obviously play a big role in fueling Laborin’s creative streak. As a bartender who sources ingredients like a chef, it also provides him with a perspective that deepens his appreciation and commitment to artisanal spirits even more. “There’s a synergy that exists between us and the small-
batch guys that do ‘grain-to-glass,’” he says. “If a local label is sourcing the ingredients they need to make their gin or whiskey or whatever, there’s a chance that they may be using the same local purveyor we’re using to get our ingredients. It’s great to be able to step back, realize that, and see that we’re all part of the same ecosystem. That produces a certain level of symbiosis that’s really cool to support.” Laborin’s sentiment is one that should bring a sense of comfort if you’re a burgeoning distiller. Yes, we live in a time where the phrase “farm-to-table” is often pulverized into meaningless jargon by marketers. But passionate bartenders and on-premise types — the kind of people you’ll likely want to connect with — know the difference between a sincere narrative and a ruse. If you’re a true ‘grain-to-glass’ operation, it can still be an effective selling point for your label. It may even lead your juice to be placed in a jar with jujubes.
Anthony Laborin is bar manager and so-called “Chef de Swigs” for Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach, California. For more information visit www.farmhouserg.com.
Swipe Right Match Made in Heaven WRITTEN BY RENÉE CEBULA ILLUSTRATED BY CATHERINE PAIANO
As days grow longer
and temperatures become warmer, thoughts turn to blossoming flowers, budding trees, and a season of mixed drinks. In our house, this means gin and tonic season has arrived with its essence of spring flavors. As the final bits of ice melt and the ground thaws, let’s take a look at the history of this iconic warm weather libation by diving into the stories behind the ingredients and how they found each other. Gin is named for the juniper berries that are infused into distilled alcohol. Gin lovers owe a debt of gratitude to the Dutch for creating gin’s prototype jenever, named for the Latin Juniperus, the berry-producing juniper tree. Juniper had been used for centuries in classical medicines and alchemy to treat everything from indigestion to pain in childbirth. In Holland by the late 1500s to mid-1600s, the work of two Dutch professors of medicine came together at the University of Leiden’s apothecary. Dutch jenever was made from infusing juniper berries in distilled malt wine and aged in barrels. It quickly became the official drink of Holland and its nobility. But jenever didn’t stay in Holland. William of Orange III and the Dutch East Indian
Company led Holland’s rise to seventeenth-century superpower and extended Dutch reign over Britain. Gin came to England as the drink of nobility, but because it was cheap, it soon became the drink of the masses and working poor. The English simplified the drink by infusing neutral grain spirits with juniper and other botanicals. The Brits’ appetite for the new spirit skyrocketed and over the following centuries was pushed and pulled by the types available and impulses to drink. Parliament allowed unlicensed gin production while imposing heavy duties on imported spirits. With no restrictions or competition, production of gin cheapened — both in quality and price. The epidemic that was called London’s Gin Craze led to
serious social and h e a l t h crises. The powerful images and stories in William Hobarth’s 1751 Gin Lane, illustrated the depravity. The government stepped in, passing a series of laws with both production standards and consumption controls. The Gin Craze ended by the mid-1700s. Restrictions and quality controls in addition to an increase in the cost of grain led to a decline in gin consump-
tion. The reigning in of gin consumption and improvements in production within the island nation coincided with the expanding empire. Probably the best-known gin drink in America is the Gin and Tonic. The distinct bitter note of tonic water comes from quinine, found in the bark of the Peruvian cinchona tree. As the British empire expanded into the tropical region of India, malaria was a constant threat to soldiers and colonists. Centuries earlier Spanish missionaries learned about the medicinal qualities from the locals, calling it Jesuit’s Bark. Quinine was extracted from the bark and helped to treat and prevent malaria. Water was used to dilute the extreme bitterness. Further experimentation revealed that this tonic water was much improved with a generous splash of gin. Indian Tonic Water was bottled, which made it convenient. The sweetness of sugar helped balance the bitterness. French pharmacists found a water-soluble process for extracting quinine from cinchona bark and added it to carbonated water. The addition of citrus was found to help the quinine dissolve. The use of limes to prevent scurvy was commonplace. By 1867, Britain passed a law requiring civilian vessels to carry lime juice. Gin, tonic water, and lime juice came together to create an imperial drink both medicinal and recreational. The drink was so pervasive that Winston Churchill proclaimed, “The Gin and Tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” Gin has been in America from the start. In 1624, the Dutch established the colony of New Amsterdam, which would be renamed New York when the English conquered the Dutch in 1664. Like all immigrants, the Dutch had brought their drink of choice with them, and when the Duke of York took control of the harbor and islands that became New York, London gin was there. Although colonials’ go-to drink was rum, and later whiskey, gin was on the back bar right alongside the other spirits. Generally served neat, most preferred the heavy, sweetened Old Tom gins from Britain and the malty Holland gins. Some-
times a few dashes of bitters were added to soften the rough edge and impart potential medicinal qualities to the drink. Later, mixers such as tonic water, lime cordial, and vermouth were added. It was the Golden Age of the cocktail that put gin in the American drink lexicon. In the first bartending book published in 1862, gin was the base spirit in more than a dozen concoctions. From gin fixes and slings to gin sours and toddies, gin flourished in American mixed drinks to the eve of prohibition. While the 18th Amendment was intended to stymie alcohol consumption, it effectively green lighted homemade bathtub varieties and bootlegged gin. Gin cocktails were a big hit during prohibition, with drinks such as the Scofflaw and Corpse Reviver series, invented by American-trained bartenders working in exile in Havana and London. After WWII, Americans returned to drinking traditions, but with a twist. Much had been lost during the failed “Noble Experiment,” the Great Depression, and a world war. Many ingredients — bitters, spirits, and syrups — were no longer made and knowledge of recipes and techniques had disappeared with the professional bartenders who left for wet countries. Mid-century America ushered in an age of affluence, optimism, and drinking in American homes. The focus on mixing drinks was for the average consumer, not the professional behind an ornate mahogany bar. The gin and tonic was democratized, shedding its private golf club reputation. Much like Chef Gusteau’s “anyone can cook” motto in the movie Ratatouille, drinking culture in the postwar era carried the philosophy that “anyone can bartend,” exemplified by the gin and tonic. The cocktail renaissance that began in the 1990s and the variety of new gins available have renewed interest in both gin and tonic water. In 2019, over 6,000 different brands of gins were produced worldwide. In Spain, the gin and tonic has practically become something of a national drink. In London, a gin renaissance has brought the Gin Tonic (Brits prefer no and) front and center at new gin bars reminiscent of the gin palaces
of the Victorian era. Bartenders are adding infusions to both tonic and spirits, adding an array of fresh herbs, citrus, and flower petals to large decorative pitchers and mixing glasses. Although the success of tonic water was linked to tropical disease prevention, today it’s linked to the popularity of the Gin and Tonic. The U.S. is the largest market for tonic water, with sales continuing to increase with artisanal varieties such as Fever Tree and Q-tonic. Its popularity is arguably due to the simplicity and ease in making a G & T, but it may also be because of the drink’s versatility, as it allows for easy experimenting with readily available ingredients, like the ones found in the backyard garden. Tonic’s match, gin, also continues to rise in sales in the U.S. Gin sales are strong and consistent according to the Distilled Spirits Council’s Economic & Strategic Analysis Department report, “In 2018, nearly 10 million 9-liter cases of gin were sold in the United States, generating $891 million in revenue for distillers.” The U.S. craft spirits market continues to grow forecasting growth of over 30% in the next 3-4 years, according to PR Newswire’s Research and Markets data. Artisanal craft distilleries are leading innovation exploring with an array of botanical gins. The berries from juniper trees indigenous to southwest Asia that are central to gin are now added to a cornucopia of ingredients used to infuse through percolation and cold compounded processes. From oranges, cardamom, and coriander originating in India to lemons indigenous to Corsica and Persian caraway seed, today’s gins bring a world of flavors to the refreshing tang and fizz of tonic. As stated by Distilled Spirits Council’s Economic & Strategic Analysis Department in a Feb. 2019 report, “Gin is here to stay,” but then it never really left. Just add the effervescence of tonic water and a squeeze of lime. Cheers!
Renée Cebula is a cocktail historian. Her business, Raising the Bar, connects people to history through unique shopping experiences and interactive cocktail-themed classes and tours. raisingthebarNW.com // Insta: @badassbarware
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