MAKING ROOM FOR
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TABLE of CONTENTS A LETTER FROM THE CREATIVE DIRECTOR
QUARTERLY GUILD & INDUSTRY REPORTS
Updates from guilds and associations within states, across the nation, and beyond!
STARWARD DISTILLERY IS LOOKING UP
THE SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES OF HYDROEXTRACTIVE DISTILLATION
Fad or the future?
of Melbourne, Australia
FINDING OPPORTUNITY IN THE MIDST OF CRISIS Two distilleries get creative and grow business even as the pandemic rages
Decoding the variables in volatility
GIN IN THE TIME OF COVID
Changes in consumer taste preference during the COVID-19 pandemic
BEYOND THE PALE88 Kilned or roasted specialty malts for distilling
LIVING WITH COVID
Response planning and implementation
WHEN SELLING AN INTEREST IN YOUR CRAFT DISTILLERY
Key alcohol regulatory considerations
Get the revenue while limiting the risk
THE INTERNSHIP47 Making room for fresh talent in distilling
RUM AGING SCIENCE
Part IV (2020 Q4)
Overcoming a 180-year-old law to open the first tribally owned distillery in the United States
TEETOTALING TEENS60 In a rare piece of good news for the spirits industry, underage drinking continues to decline
DAVID, GOLIATH, OR DO IT YOURSELF?63 Choosing the right sized distributor
A taste of Ireland in Arvada, Colorado
TRANSPARENCY IN ALCOHOL LABELING
A window into the difficulties of labeling laws
KULEANA RUM WORKS
Rum agricole made with native Hawaiian sugarcane offers a true farm-to-bottle experience
THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS
On distilling in the thirsty American West
How the Devil’s Half Acre Distillery opened during the pandemic
Part Two: From raw materials to finished product
SPIRITS WITHOUT BORDERS
WATER IN THE DISTILLERY
REACHING THE NEXT GENERATION
THE SCIENCE AND VOLATILE NATURE OF BARREL AGING
ADDING SOMETHING EXTRA
FEUERZANGENBOWLE IN THE WEIHNACHTSMARKT
Looking to other distilling traditions for inspiration
Why water treatment matters
Find family history in every bottle at North Carolina’s Bogue Sound Distillery
Somrus’ Indian-inspired cream liqueurs add depth to a category
Let Me Tell You What I Wish I’d Known
Spirit & Co.’s infused sauces bring food and drink together
And other fine Christmas drinks from around the world
from the COVER
Cover image by Amanda Joy Christensen.
Issue 33 /// Winter 2021 PUBLISHER & EDITOR Brian Christensen CREATIVE DIRECTOR Amanda Joy Christensen SENIOR WRITERS
George B. Catallo Devon Trevathan
Luis Ayala John Carlson Jay Conder Corey Day Carrie Dow Andrew Faulkner Bethany K. Hatef Reade A. Huddleston Paul Hughes, Ph.D. Aaron Knoll
Rich Manning Courtney McKee Lauren Neuhaus Bailey Pryor Gary Spedding, Ph.D. Gabe Toth Molly Troupe Lisa M. Truesdale Mark A. Vierthaler
PHOTOGRAPHERS Luis Ayala Amanda Joy Christensen
Andrew Faulkner Lisa M. Truesdale
SALES & MARKETING Ashley Monroe ARTISAN SPIRIT is a quarterly publication by Artisan Spirit Media. www.artisanspiritmag.com facebook.com/ArtisanSpiritMagazine ArtisanSpiritM
General Inquiries (509) 944-5919 Advertising (509) 991-8112 PO Box 31494, Spokane, WA 99223 All contents ©2020. 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.
“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.”
“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.”
THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SPONSORS. Our mission at Artisan Spirit Magazine is to share and celebrate the art and science of artisan craft distilling. We are humbled by the support of our sponsors. With their help, we can further our common goals of supporting creativity, innovation, and integrity within the industry we all love so much.
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.
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.
Cage and Sons Distilling Systems build premium distillation systems and equipment for premier distilleries. 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.
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, complemented 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.
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The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) is the leading voice and advocate for distilled spirits in the United States. Representing producers and marketers of distilled spirits, DISCUS advocates on legislative, regulatory, and public affairs issues impacting the distilled spirits sector at the local, state, federal, and international levels; promotes the distilled spirits sector, raising awareness and opening markets in the United States and around the globe; and encourages responsible and moderate consumption of distilled spirits as part of a healthy adult lifestyle based on evidence-based research and policy. DISCUS also powers Spirits United, a grassroots platform for the distilled spirits industry. Spirits United is comprised of a community of advocates united with a common goal: to ensure adult consumers can enjoy distilled spirits where they want, how they want, and when they want. Learn more at distilledspirits.org and spiritsunited.org.
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.
Trusted Oak Expertise Since 1912. We’ve been in this industry for over 100 years, during which time we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a great barrel to age great spirits. Our R&D team and account managers have hundreds of barrels currently in experimentation. Partnering with distillers, we think outside the box to develop new products that push your vision forward. Our Mission: To craft world-class oak barrels and other cooperage products so our employees, customers, and communities flourish.
Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits is the industry leader in supplying fermentation products and valueadded 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. 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.
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MGP is known for its mastery in formulating, fermenting, distilling, and maturing world-class spirits. The company’s expertise in blending art and science to produce premium bourbons, whiskeys, gins, and grain neutral spirits serves as the foundation of a lasting legacy steeped in know-how. Customers benefit from MGP’s in-depth experience, state-of-the-art capabilities, and strong penchant for developing tailored formulations and meeting precise product requirements. MGP’s entire team, with distilleries in Atchison, KS, and Lawrenceburg, IN, takes great pride in delivering the highest quality results with each and every product made. For details visit mgpingredients.com/alcohol.
Moonshine University is located in Louisville, Kentucky on the Beverage Campus with its sister company, Flavorman. Moonshine University offers a variety of classes for enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, industry professionals, and those seeking careers in the distilling industry. Our distillery was designed as part of our classroom, and all classes incorporate hands-on learning and sensory evaluation in order to provide a complete and comprehensive education. In addition to its knowledgeable instructors, Moonshine University hosts a range of renowned industry experts for specialized instruction and training.
For over 60 years Tapi USA has produced cork stoppers and a wide variety of bottle closures. Family-owned and operated since its inception, our company continues to develop new products and enter new markets. Tapi USA is proud to support the growth of the artisan distillery industry and is honored to be the Bottle Closure Sponsor for Artisan Spirit Magazine.
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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WELL YES, I DO READ ABOUT JUST FOR FUN. ATCHISON , KS
At MGP, we’re passionate about the art and science of transforming grains into superior distilled spirits. For brands of all sizes, we know that what’s in the bottle matters most. Here, it’s backed by expertise, unmatched quality control and constant innovation. We preserve time-honored traditions to create a truly special bourbon, gin, rye, whiskey or vodka for every customer.
LAWRENCEBURG , IN
A LETTER FROM THE CREATIVE DIRECTOR: I daydream of distilleries a lot lately. My eyes, ears, nose, and skin miss those things that looking through my photographs just can't reproduce. It has been more than a year since I've stepped foot in a distillery and simply watching those words appear on my screen as I type amplifies the ache in my heart. My nose remembers the joy of picking up the first scent of a distillery. Sometimes it hits me the second I get out of the car and other times it's a gentle wave that brushes past as I walk through your front door. But when it hits, I breathe it in deeply, excitement building. The scent of a distillery means I have arrived where I am supposed to be. I miss that smell of yeast and the quiet but oh-sohappy sound of those magnificent microbes working their magic. The way they bubble and churn. I could bake some bread or brew beer here at home, but it wouldn't be the same. I dream of enormous open-topped, wooden fermenters, the scent of lavender and sage wafting in through open windows. I miss the heat emanating from a working still, warning reminders not to touch it slipping from your lips. I miss smiling and promising that I'll be careful. I miss the whoosh of steam that fogs my lens when I forget to move out of the way and how grain dust likes to sneak into my equipment. I wonder if my camera repair guy misses delivering those long lectures to take better care of my gear, knowing full well he'll see me again soon. I miss the crunch of stray grains beneath my boots and giggling at your apologies for getting them wet as you spray down equipment. I miss the horrified look on your face when I accidentally sit in a puddle to get the perfect angle for a photograph. I miss assuring you that I wouldn't wear anything to a distillery that can't handle getting wet and dirty. It's really okay. Your distillery is nothing compared to the sewage treatment plants, fish hatcheries, and other job sites I grew up on. I miss the way copper and steel reflect the sun, the way a beam of light carries the air in musty rickhouses, and the amber glow in the shadow of a whiskey glass as we sample nearly ready treasures right there amongst the barrels.
I miss that moment when your practiced distillery tour script or marketing speak makes the slow shift to genuine conversation as you recognize us as members of the distilling industry. I miss the surprised glimmer in your eye when I ask a question you're excited to answer and the pause before confessing that you aren't perfect. I miss bearing witness to mistakes made and lessons learned. I miss being right there to remind you that to err is human and that sharing your experience can be a gift to elevating our industry. I've been through this longing before. Since starting Artisan Spirit eight years ago, I've been kept from visiting you twice before — once due to pregnancy and once due to a cancer scare and slow recovery. The longing to return to the road and to my work visiting distilleries was then a personal pain, but during COVID it's been a shared experience and it's been a little easier to manage emotionally. Maybe I'm simply a little more mature this time around, or maybe knowing I'm not the only one living in this frustrating limbo really does make some difference. We are all waiting for the freedom to do our work and live our lives without all these new requirements, restrictions, limitations, and guidelines. We are all feeling the loss of physical proximity to the people who make our work feel like something a little more important than just making a living. Please know we're thinking of you. When you're juggling bills and personal crises and longing for “normal,” I hope you can remember you're not alone. Our industry is full of people who understand what's against you professionally and personally.
Hoping to walk through your door very soon,
email@example.com PO Box 31494, Spokane, WA 99223
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WE’VE CR EATED THE WOR LD’S MOST ADVANCED WHISKEY BAR R EL COOPER AGE IN THE HEART OF APPAL ACHIA.
And that ’s just the beginning. We’re commit ted to par tnering with distillers of all sizes in suppor t of making their best whiskey, batch af ter batch, by providing consistency in barrels, flexibilit y in deliver y, af fordable pricing, and a passion for innovation and collaboration.
@ W V G R E AT B A R R E LC O M PA N Y
@ G R E AT B A R R E L
O R D E R I N Q U I R I E S , C O N TA C T C AT E C R A B T R E E | C AT E . C R A B T R E E @ W V G B C . C O M | 3 0 4 . 5 2 0 . 0 6 1 2
Y R T S U D N I & D L S T R I U O P G E R Y L R E T R QUA
t often goes without saying that some news may be outdated by
the time you read it in print (doubly so for a quarterly publication). This caveat is more important than ever with the swiftly changing nature of the international pandemic. Each state and association who provided updates did so not knowing what the future would hold. So please keep this in mind as you read this edition's guild and association updates. Life moves fast during a pandemic. â€” BRIAN CHRISTENSEN
WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM â€
AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION Winter is coming. American Craft Spirits Association has never had a busier agenda ahead of it. As our members of every size grapple with the growing spread of the pandemic and its effects, ACSA is supporting our community through its advocacy, education, and diversity initiatives. Advocacy continues in our efforts to gain permanency for the FET relief that we have enjoyed for the past three years. Our efforts to gain a floor vote for the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act were stymied by the pandemic, but we hold out hope for an extension at the end of this year, even in these contentious political times. We are and will continue
to call on industry members to reach out to their elected members of Congress. Tell them exactly what will happen in January if your excise taxes increase 400 percent. Constant pressure is a must to keep this alive. At a recent business roundtable, my senator walked up to me and immediately spoke to the FET issue, before I could even open my mouth. Let's all manifest that energy until this passes permanently! Direct-to-consumer shipping has been an effective way for distillers in several states to give their customers access to their products during lockdowns and travel slowdowns. ACSA is working hard with state guilds to collect data and build messaging to help distillers navigate a path toward parity with wine in gaining the ability
to ship products directly to their customers. Imagine a future where your visitors can ship their purchases home after a visit, or even order your products from the comfort of their living rooms. I do. This is a marathon, not a sprint, but giving customers the ability to order their products of their choice in the way they choose to get them has the side effect of supporting our small, independent businesses. ACSA launched an unprecedented edu-
cation initiative during the spring COVID-19 surge. Our efforts continue to provide timely content to level up members skills dealing with the full spread of challenges to our businesses. Lastly, ACSA has chartered a separate nonprofit organization, STEPUP, dedicated to increasing diversity in the craft spirits industry through comprehensive paid internships to provide wide-ranging, growth-track careers to under-represented groups in the
spirits industry. Details on this project will be coming soon as the board of directors has been selected, and is now preparing to launch the project. I am incredibly excited to be a part of this effort. See www.americancraftspirits.org for more details. Stay safe and healthy this winter. Rebecca Harris President, Chief Distiller, Catoctin Creek President, American Craft Spirits Association
AMERICAN DISTILLING INSTITUTE Like most in the industry, with widespread limitations on in-person gatherings, the American Distilling Institute continues adapting to the cascade of challenges we’ve all faced this year. Since hosting the annual Craft Spirits Conference & Vendor Expo virtually last spring, ADI is cautiously optimistic about hosting its 2021 conference in person. The conference is scheduled to take place August 23–25 in Louisville, Kentucky. The ADI conference was last hosted in Louisville in 2015. ADI’s annual Judging of Craft Spirits has been rescheduled for June, with the expectation that, by then, in-person gatherings will have resumed and judges will safely be able to gather in Tiburon, California for the tasting panels. Submission deadlines have also been extended — the deadline for registration is May 7, 2021, and entries must be received by May 13. In September, the nonprofit Distilling Research Grant (DRG) announced the opening of the 2021 Request for Proposals, which
runs September 5 through November 25. The DRG receives funding primarily through ADI’s online auction house. Although ADI provides administrative support, proposals are reviewed and awarded by an independent advisory panel invited from government, academia, and the distilling industry. Approved applications support the development of technology, software, or process improvement that has the potential of enhancing and advancing the craft spirits industry. In 2020 the DRG awarded nearly $20,000 to three separate proposals. This year, in addition to auction-house funding, ADI is proud to announce that it donated $10,000 received through the virtual conference registration fees to the DRG. The upcoming 2021 online auction begins February 15 and runs through April 16. For more information about the Judging of Craft Spirits, webinars, online auction, and DRG program visit distilling.com/events. And lastly, as we enter the final quarter of the year, ADI remains committed to support-
ing advocacy efforts toward making permanent the reduction in Federal Excise Taxes, originally implemented almost three years ago. This is critical to the survival of craft distilling. However, once again the end of the year is fast approaching and we still have no clarity on the fate of the soon-to-expire FET reduction. We can at best expect another eleventh-hour stop-gap extension for a year, with the pandemic having scuttled ambitions of reaching a permanent solution for now. ADI, in concert with the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (DISCUS) and other partners continue to pool resources through the advocacy group Spirits United. It is critical that we continue to reach out to our local, state, and federal representatives to communicate just how important this is to the survival of craft distilling. Find out more about Spirits United and how you can become involved at spiritsunited.org. Brad Plummer Director of Communications, ADI Editor in Chief, Distiller Magazine
DISTILLED SPIRITS COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) continues to be very proud to represent this industry as distillers continue to show strength, entrepreneurship, and ingenuity in the face of continued uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both DISCUS and our grassroots platform,
Spirits United,1 remain laser-focused on the passage of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), which would make federal excise tax (FET) relief permanent and provide craft distillers with some added certainty during this tumultuous time. As you know, absent
Congressional action, craft distillers face a scheduled 400 percent increase in their FET in 2021, creating further financial instability for distillers currently weathering significant challenges. As part of our recent advocacy efforts, DISCUS and the American Craft Spirits
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Association (ACSA) hosted our annual Public Policy Conference virtually in September. The conference had more than 325 registered participants from 46 states. Participants heard from Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) on CBMTRA. We hosted more than 150 virtual meetings on Capitol Hill urging Congress to pass CBMTRA as soon as possible, but also to work with the administration to de-escalate trade tensions with the European Union and United Kingdom and seek the removal of tariffs on distilled spirits, and to review concerns with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about the lack of scientific evidence behind the proposed modification to the definition of moderate drinking for men in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
In addition, Spirits United has launched the “Spirits United CBMTRA Advocacy Toolkit,” designed to empower distillers to engage their employees, consumers, and suppliers to join our advocacy efforts and urge Congress to pass CBMTRA.2 The CBMTRA Advocacy Toolkit includes step by step instructions and turn-key, pre-drafted materials to help distillers in the United States urge their members of Congress to #StopCraftTaxIncreases. Distillers like you continue to face an enormous amount of uncertainty caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Uncertainty about federal excise tax (FET) rates shouldn’t add to your burden. We hope your distillery or guild will join us in this coordinated effort to get Congress’ attention and make sure that CBMTRA is passed this year, so that craft distillers across
If your state guild or distillery is interested in joining our Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act advocacy efforts, please contact Jessie Brady DIRECTOR OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
firstname.lastname@example.org or Hannah Cooper DIRECTOR OF GRASSROOTS
email@example.com the country can have a more secure future and #StopCraftTaxIncreases. Chris R. Swonger President & CEO Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and Responsibility.org
NATIONAL HONEY BOARD At the beginning of 2020, the National Honey Board’s third annual Honey Spirits Competition was expected to be its biggest yet, with an anticipated 100-plus spirits made with honey. The 2019 competition attracted 90 entries and the popularity of honey in whiskeys, vodkas, brandies, and spirits distilled with honey continued to boom in the last year. Needless to say, we were expecting a big year for the competition. Then, like the rest of the world, and espe-
cially the spirits industry, COVID-19 changed everything. Instead of recognizing the best spirits that use honey, we started questioning whether we could responsibly host a spirits competition at all, and if the industry even wanted to submit spirits during all of the uncertainty. The first thing we did was reach out to distillers who have entered the competition in the past. Because the Honey Spirits Competition is free to enter, we received a resound-
2020 HONEY SPIRITS COMPETITION AWARD WINNERS BEST OF SHOW SPIRITS DISTILLED FROM HONEY — FLAVORED
Gin, Hatch Distilling Co. GOLD MEDAL RECIPIENTS BOURBON / WHISKEY
Western Pacific American Honey Whiskey, Western Pacific Winery & Spirits LIQUEURS / SPECIALTY
Amaro, Admiralty Distillers Hazelnut Honey Bourbon Ratafia, Mountain State Spirits Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, Honey House Distillery
DISTILLED FROM HONEY
Yellow label / Clear/ Blanco, Domeloz Somel Barrel Finished Honey Spirit, Up North Distillery 12th Hawaii Distiller Distillers Reserve, 12th Hawaii Distiller DISTILLED FROM HONEY — FLAVORED
Dawn Fire, White Winter Winery, Inc DESIGN
Detroit City Distillery Honey Bourbon, Detroit City Distillery Visit HONEYSPIRITSCOMPETITION.COM for the full list of winners
ing “Yes! The competition must go on.” With no entry fees and significant promotional benefits, the National Honey Board decided that the best way they can help distillers is by recognizing the amazing products they make. Next, we had to figure out how to safely host a competition for all those involved, including the National Honey Board staff and judges. Our first step was relocating our event to a much bigger space that allowed our judging panels to be spaced out by more than 20 feet from each other. Each two-person judging team had their own large table with plexiglass barriers separating each judge. Masks were mandatory except when tasting, temperature checks were implemented, and all of the stewards and pourers wore masks, gloves, and face shields. Although it may not have been as exciting as past competitions, we were able to run a safe and successful competition that recognized some amazing distillers. In total, we had 85 entries, which we considered a massive turnout consider-
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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
ing the circumstances. Plus, the quality of spirits was exceptional compared to past competitions. We awarded nine gold medals, which was a record, and five of those medals were from spirits distilled from honey. The growth of the “Distilled from Honey” category over the last three years has been
amazing. It has transformed from our smallest category to our largest as distillers realize the wonderful spirit you can create by using honey as the primary distillate. Although the Honey Spirits Competition was held in-person this year, we were not able to host our popular Honey Spirits
Summit. However, we have launched a series of virtual editions. Sign up today at honeysummit.com/spirits. Keith Seiz Ingredient Marketing Representative National Honey Board
NORTH AMERICAN CRAFT MALTSTERS GUILD 2020 — a year rife with challenge — has also been a period of significant growth for the Craft Maltsters Guild. In September, CMG’s Craft Malt Certified Seal program achieved a milestone. The program now boasts over 100 participants, 22 of which are distilleries. Unveiled in 2019, the Craft Malt Certified Seal is designed to highlight breweries and distilleries using 10 percent or more craft malt in their operations. Over the last year, the Craft Malt Certified Seal has been incorporated into numerous label designs on cans and bottles of craft beer and spirits, as well as social media posts. These efforts were recently spotlighted during Craft Malt Week (September 27-October 3). The campaign reached over 20,000 people through a combination of social media highlights and virtual events organized by craft maltsters, brewers, distillers, and malt researchers from around the globe. The Craft Maltsters Guild continues to monitor the pandemic’s effects on our industry through periodic impact surveys. In mid-September, CMG released the results of a third coronavirus impact survey. A collec-
tive 32 craft maltsters from the US and Canada responded to the survey, which was sent out to member malthouses in late July. The results showed that while sales continue to remain down for some maltsters, year-overyear volume sales and revenue were trending positively for the majority of malthouses as we neared the end of the third quarter. Responses also showed craft maltsters appear cautiously optimistic about the future. A heartening 50 percent reported they felt much more or somewhat more optimistic since we last surveyed them in May. Along with increased optimism, craft maltsters’ confidence in their ability to sustain their businesses was notably high. A hefty 78 percent stated they were extremely confident and the remaining 22 percent somewhat confident their malthouses will still be in business at the end of the year. As we inch towards the new year, we hope these positive trends continue, but acknowledge there are many unknowns in the months ahead. The Craft Maltsters Guild plans to conduct another impact survey of craft maltsters in early 2021.
Moving on to events, entry submission for the 2021 Malt Cup officially closed on October 5. The guild received a total of 46 entries for the third iteration of this annual competition, including several from international members. This is the first year that international maltsters were allowed to participate. Entries will undergo malt quality testing at Montana State University, as well as extensive sensory analysis by remote satellite judging teams across the US. Winners will be announced during a virtual awards ceremony at Craft Malt Con Online in mid-February 2021. The guild is excited to announce Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and longtime supporter of craft malt, will be our keynote speaker. Updates on the event schedule, speakers, and more will be posted as they become available. Learn more and register at https://bit.ly/ CraftMaltConOnline. Jesse Bussard Executive Director North American Craft Maltsters Guild
AMERICAN STATE GUILDS CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA ARTISANAL DISTILLERS GUILD As COVID-19 restrictions continue and each county struggles to reopen businesses, the distilling community continues to strive
on. Operations with restaurants or other food preparation facilities were able to open earlier as long as alcoholic beverages were served with a food purchase. Those without that capability have had to wait to serve tastings until their county reached the "yellow" stage for indoor tastings; outdoor tastings were possible at the "orange" stage. The
temporary relief of shipping direct-to-consumer is still in effect and could possibly exist until the end of 2020. The fires have had devastating effects statewide and many distilleries are located near these affected areas. As quickly as the need for hand sanitizer appeared, the large producers caught up and demand for small production brands WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
has nearly disappeared. Our community rose up statewide and it was remarkable to see the selfless dedication to assist in a dire time of need. 2021 will be a legislative year for the California Artisanal Distillers Guild. The plan is to introduce a bill to transition the temporary DTC relief into a permanent privilege for type 4, 7, and 74 licenses and become more in line with the Type 3 brandy manufacturer license. Language and fundraising has begun within CADG. Having the bill as a permanent privilege would assist small brands in developing their following and a revenue stream to
MONTANA MONTANA DISTILLERS GUILD The Montana Distillers Guild (MDG) and Montana distilleries continue to adapt to the ever changing horizon due to COVID-19. Montana is still in Phase II response to the pandemic. With decreased occupancy set at 75 percent, we have been able to use some of the governor's directives to help continue sales while tourists visited Montana. With winter fast approaching, there is definitely some uncertainty as to how distilleries across the state will be affected. For more than six months, MDG has been working with the governor's office as well as the Montana Liquor Coalition to insure the governor's directives become permanent. These are: Continued online sales where a customer can purchase distilled spirits via a website, curbside delivery of bottles, and cocktails to go. These all help with direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales as purchasing patterns have changed. With the upcoming Legislative Session, MDG has also been working on "Light Re-
NORTH CAROLINA DISTILLERS ASSOCIATION OF NORTH CAROLINA The Distillers Association of North Carolina
build the brand towards distribution. The bill will be introduced in January 2021 for that legislative session. The association holds online Zoom calls for membership led by vice president Ryan Friesen of Blinking Owl Distillery in Orange County. Many members have been able to connect with each other, introduce themselves, discuss operational concerns, and meet supplier members during the calls. With California being so geographically large, in-person meetings are difficult, time consuming, and expensive. Online meetings provide many of the benefits without
the time and cost. For more information visit www.cadistillers.org Membership has continued to grow in 2020. There is a new membership committee that is contacting DSP licensees across the state. Having a unified voice and working together is key to a strong industry. We are all looking forward to a strong holiday season after a struggle for sales all year. Of course, by 2021 we hope to see a healthy community, and economy.
form" in regards to Liquor Licensing across the state. The history of Montana Liquor law has been heated. All parties involved decided to start a group which was named the Montana Liquor Coalition, made up of Montana liquor store owners, restaurateurs, distributors, manufacturers (breweries and distilleries), wholesalers, the Montana Department of Revenue, as well as members of the Montana legislature, who all weigh in on discussions. The coalition was tasked to bring a bill forth that was agreed on collectively, which is called Light Reform.
Previously, a wife and husband couldn't have joint ownership in both. This is a step in the right direction for the coalition to come together as a group and put forth a unified bill with the goal that we can continue to work together on future bills and not come to the legislative table on opposite sides. MDG also joined DISCUS and ACSA for the Public Policy Conference in September. Courtney McKee (Headframe Spirits), Jim Harris (Bozeman Spirits), Gabe Spencer and Lisa Cloutier (Whistling Andy), and Jeff Droge (Dry Hills Distillery) were all able to attend virtual discussions with US Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester. We continue to rally the troops in support of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act and making permanent the reduced Federal Excise Tax. We applaud all the efforts put forth by ACSA and DISCUS and hope we can get the FET extended or made permanent. No one can afford a 400 percent increase in taxes, #StopCraftTaxIncreases.
A bill for an act entitled: “AN ACT generally REVISING ALCOHOL LICENSING LAWS; allowing a brewer or distiller to BE LOCATED ADJACENT TO AN ON-PREMISES retail license if the LICENSEES maintain adequate physical separation; defining adequate physical separation; Revising laws TO ALLOW AN APPLICANT FOR AN ON-PREMISES ALCOHOL LICENSE TO HAVE A SPOUSE THAT HAS OWNERSHIP INTEREST IN A MANUFACTURER LICENSE.”
tried to meet in person for the first time in November, but this meeting, like our spring meeting, was cancelled because of the pandemic. The membership will discuss virtually the 2021 legislative agenda, which requests legislative changes to provide further parity with the state’s breweries and wineries and
Cris Steller Executive Director California Artisanal Distillers Guild
Jim Harris President Montana Distillers Guild Founder Bozeman Spirits Distillery
funding for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to promote North Carolina’s distilleries. After working with DANC and other stakeholders for over a year, the ABC Commission finally completed the rulemaking process for consumer tastings at ABC stores. DANC WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
hopes ABC Boards that have been reluctant to offer consumer tastings will reconsider now that rules are in place. Prior to the pandemic, North Carolina distillers were offering
OHIO OHIO DISTILLER'S GUILD HB 669 was signed by the governor in October, permanently extending the use of outdoor beverage and food service areas for liquor license holders, and permanently authorizing the sale of up to three to-go cocktail orders with food. At the request of the Ohio
VIRGINIA VIRGINIA DISTILLERS ASSOCIATION The past few months have been a rollercoaster here in Virginia as regulatory priorities have heightened in response to the COVID-19 public safety and economic crisis. As the crisis began, many Virginia distilleries began producing sanitizers and antiseptics as a matter of civic duty and to support breaks in the industrial supply chains. As the public safety crisis progressed, the state mandated the closures of all distillery tasting rooms, where more than 80 percent of all Virginia spirit SKUs are sold, creating enormous economic strains on our industry members.
WYOMING WYOMING DISTILLERS GUILD Well 2020 sure has kept us all on our toes, hasn’t it? Good news: There’s only a couple months left and then we are into a new year. Let’s hope it comes with a little less mayhem and WAY less COVID! At the time of writing this, we here in Wyoming have been able to stay relatively healthy, both in business and in personal life, because as our governor says, “Wyoming has been social distancing since 1890.” That being said, it’s been many months of reconfiguring our businesses and
most of the consumer tastings at ABC stores, and some ABC Boards have started scheduling them as North Carolina continues to reopen its economy.
Pete Barger President, Distillers Association of North Carolina, Principal Partner, Southern Distilling Company
Beer and Wine Association, the language around delivery options for state agency liquor stores and bottle shops was removed from HB 669 at the last minute. There is some discussion concerning amending another bill to include the delivery of spirits within the next few months. HB 160 was also passed in October, increasing the allowed purchase limit to three
liters of spirituous liquor per customer per day that craft distillers can sell out of their bottle shops. This doubles the previous limit of 1.5 liters — a win both for craft producers and consumers in the state.
The state enacted several key emergency privileges to expand market access for our constituency through the governor’s emergency orders, creating critical lifelines for distillery stores allowing our industry members to maintain income and employment throughout the pandemic. Emergency privileges included: direct-to-consumer (DTC) delivery and shipping privileges, as well as curbside pickup and to-go cocktails. For promotional updates, the VDA is unveiling a fulsome communications plan to broadly promote the DTC delivery and shipping privileges to Virginia residents for the holidays. Additionally, the VDA launched an interactive consumer-facing Virginia Spirits Trail earlier this year, which highlights
all member distilleries and has since been adapted to promote recent regulatory privileges enacted (e.g. listing which distilleries are shipping/delivering/offering curbside pickup/to-go cocktails/sanitizer/etc.), partially sponsored by the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s matching grant program. Lastly, earlier this year we passed legislation to support the establishment of a state commodity board, the Virginia Spirits Board (VSB), to promote private sector growth for the Virginia spirits industry. The VSB will be up and running in 2021.
adapting to the current normal and adjusting as it changes day to day. Many of our guild members have closed or at least limited the public to their tasting rooms, have minimized the number of public events, and adapted to fill the gaps with making cocktails to-go, offering bottle delivery services, making hand sanitizer, and essentially engaging our communities in new and safe ways to keep ourselves relevant. Our guild met recently over Zoom to hold our annual elections and welcome a few new members — Arcola Distillery and Singletrack Spirits — wonderful people making fantastic booze.
The Federal Excise Tax (FET) extension was, of course, the headliner, and there was discussion about how our members can help the cause. More info was distributed to encourage those that had not yet donated to the ACSA PAC to please do so, and to continue our cumulative efforts of urging support from our representatives. At the state level, we are coming up on another legislative session and discussed some local legislation that could help our industry in Wyoming. The direct-to-consumer shipping is a big priority, as well as the possibility of allowing for a second tasting room (current Wyoming law allows for only one tasting
Greg Lehman CEO, Watershed Distillery President, The Ohio Distiller’s Guild
Amy Ciarametaro Executive Director Virginia Distillers Association
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room). There is also a bill that was passed last legislative session that was written and implemented incorrectly, which was supposed to allow other liquor license holders in the state to buy up to nine liters per week from other licensees. This would mean that a bar or retailer could come to one of our members if they were sold out of a product and not have to wait for their order to come in from the state. The law was not written how it was
intended, and we need to get it cleaned up so that we can realize the benefit. We are also looking at the possibility of collaborating with the Wyoming Brewers Guild on future events and perhaps even sharing some staff. More to come on that idea. That’s about it for now, we can’t wait to see you all again in a real actual face-to-face
cocktail session … fingers crossed that happens in 2021! Travis Goodman Secretary/Treasurer, Wyoming Distillers Guild Partner, Jackson Hole Still Works firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN THE MIDST OF CRISIS Two distilleries get creative and grow business even as the pandemic rages Written by Jay Conder
hen the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, distillers around the world, both large and small, were caught in a generational transformation of the spirit industry. Sales evaporated. Tasting rooms, inns, caterers, and restaurants closed. Employees were laid off. Some distilleries shuttered their doors for good, while others turned to making hand sanitizer and searched for creative ways to survive. As 2020 comes to a close, we turn the spotlight toward two vastly different distilleries who've figured out ways to keep going strong. Even as the pandemic raged and the economic slowdown crippled the industry, these two nimble businesses did the almost unthinkable: They found creative ways to help their businesses grow.
VALUE ADDED SPIRITS Dented Brick Distillery in Salt Lake City counterintuitively saw sales and demand so strong early in the pandemic that owner Marc Christensen had to figure out ways to increase production. Christensen says Dented Brick is on target to hit $2.2 million in sales in 2020, up from about $1 million in 2019.
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COCOV V E ID R A - 19 GE
"Part of it was pure luck on our part," he said. " We were growing pretty rapidly before COVID hit because we'd taken the strategic track of a value brand. Other distillers were going premium or super-premium, but we purposefully decided to put our value products front and center." According to a CNN report, the overall frequency of alcohol consumption increased by about 14 percent from 2019, researchers reported in the journal JAMA Network Open. That increase, said CNN, averages out to about one additional drinking day per month for 75 percent of American adults. Less expensive liquor has fueled many of those extra drinking days. "People have been at home and drinking cheap," said Christensen, "and that has helped us." Dented Brick does offer a premium whiskey, but their gin, rum, and vodka retail for about $15 a liter. Another contributing factor to their success is that Dented Brick never opened a tasting room nor relied on foot traffic at their location to boost their bottom line. Their facility is almost strictly production. But as the pandemic raged, Christensen took the bold move of investing even more into the business.
"Demand for our product was rising and we needed to clean up our processes in both production and shipping," said Christensen. Customers in places as far-flung as Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, and California were asking for Dented Brick. " We needed a scale, a shrink wrapper, and some other equipment, and we needed it fast," said Christensen, who secured a loan for the expansion. Despite the resurgence of COVID this autumn, Dented Brick shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, said Christensen, he's close to going back to the leasing company for the financing of an additional tank. "Sure, I'm worried about this industry as a whole right now," said Christensen. "But we've positioned ourselves to boom during a pandemic, so we'll keep doing what we're doing until there's a vaccine."
TAKING NOTHING FOR GRANTED About an hour west of Nashville, Gutter Bound Distillery was just six months old when the COVID-19 pandemic started. W hile Dented Brick found room to grow in the value liquor market, Gutter Bound got by thanks in part to being unburdened with high overhead.
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19 E D- G VI R A COOVE C
" We didn't know what to expect in March," said co-owner Jess Markham. "The only reason it didn't close our doors was that we still have full-time jobs. We learned we could make hand sanitizer, and then realized we might make it through this." Demand for their hand sanitizer was strong, but the equipment Gutter Bound was using could only produce three gallons a day. The Markhams donated sanitizer to first responders and police officers, then began selling it to nursing homes and schools. Like Dented Brick, Gutter Bound realized they needed to invest in order to increase production. Under the CARES Act signed into law in late March, the state of Tennessee set up a grant program (Coronavirus Agricultural and Forestry Business Fund) that awarded money to food and value-add production businesses like Gutter Bound Distillery. The only issue was that the grant was a reimbursement program, meaning the 6-month-old company needed to pay upfront around $200,000 in order to buy a mash tun, fermentation tanks, control boxes, and other equipment. "Here was this great opportunity to get what we needed, expand our business, and help out the community
â€” dangling like a carrot in front of us," said Markham. "The problem was we couldn't qualify for the money since we needed to pay it up front." Like Dented Brick, Gutter Bound found a leasing company to provide the needed cash, allowing them to buy the equipment and repay when the Tennessee government reimbursed them. "The grant was life-changing for a mom-and-pop operation like ours," Markham said. "The way the deal was structured, we paid about $37,000 for more than $200,000 worth of equipment." With the additional capacity for hand sanitizer (about 15 gallons a day) and spirits production, Gutter Bound now stands prepared to push higher as consumers settle into what is becoming the new but ever-changing normal. "It was totally by accident, but the hand sanitizer is helping us build our brand," Markham said. "I'm just grateful we figured out a way to give back to our community."
Jay Conder is a business development specialist at North Star Leasing Company. Call (802) 540-8392, email email@example.com, or visit www.northstarleasing.com for more information.
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19 E D- G VI R A COOVE C
s the early days of the pandemic recede from immediate memory, some details about how people responded to the unprecedented circumstances are becoming more clear. Sales of spirits rose (Mann 2020). Consumption at home rose (Pollard 2020). Searches for gin in April 2020 on www.theginisin.com were up 275 percent compared to the previous year, and remained up 200 percent throughout summer 2020. But beyond simple increases in volume, another pattern emerged within those searches: the kind of flavors that people were looking for shifted dramatically and persisted through to the fall. Thus far, it’s unclear exactly why this trend emerged. However, as many consumers are emerging from their homes and are re-engaging with society, and while business owners are looking cautiously towards the future, it’s worth looking more closely at a surprising trend that has emerged and explore what it can mean for distillers who are marketing their products in tough times, or designing new products for a better tomorrow.
Shifts in 2020 A dramatic upward trend towards more intensity across multiple flavor profiles began suddenly in mid-March 2020. This effect was particularly pronounced among users looking for gins with either citrus or juniper in it. Historically, citrus flavors have tended to rise sharply in the spring, and decline as summer moves on. Compared to 2018 and 2019, where a summer dip in
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Gin in the Time of COVID Changes in consumer taste preference during the COVID-19 pandemic
WRITTEN BY AARON KNOLL
2020 Citrus Flavor Preference
Mean score out of 3, from January-October
2020 Juniper Flavor Preference
Mean score out of 3, from January-October
SEARCHING for GIN: where the data comes from On www.theginisin.com, a user can search for a gin based on “flavor.” Every gin is scored in six categories of flavor, based on research into how everyday people talk about flavor. In each of the six terms, “citrus,” “juniper/piney,” “spice,” “herbal,” “floral,” and trigeminal “heat,” users can search for gins that have “none” of that flavor, “a little,” “some,” or “a lot.” Within anonymized search data, patterns in generalized consumer taste preference can be discerned.
COCOV V E ID R A - 19 GE citrus preference was pronounced, 2020 flavor preference for citrus rose earlier and remained high. In early 2020, searches for juniper mirrored the trend of declining throughout the first couple months of the year. User searches for juniper rose sharply beginning in March 2020 and remained high through September 2020. Compared by month, yearover-year, juniper was searched for at intensities that were significantly higher than they ever had been over the past four years. From April and still continuing through October, search volume continued at levels above normal. Though preliminary, the numbers for October show a bit of a regression towards the norm for both flavor profiles.
Why did this happen? Several studies have been conducted that looked at the food choices people have been making during the pandemic. An emerging theme is that people have reached for familiar comfort foods (Farm Rich 2020). Perhaps the trend towards searching for bolder flavors comes from a similar space. Whereas trends in previous years seemed to be moving towards
complex, novelty-driven experiences, perhaps 2020 signals a shift towards clearer, less fussy flavors. Or perhaps it merely signals that when under stress, people prefer to think less critically about what they’re drinking (and eating). In an October 2020 Food Technology Magazine article, the impact of “functional flavors” was described as an emerging and growing trend. The idea of functional flavors is that certain botanicals or categories of botanicals have inherent healthful, often immunity-boosting properties (Brewster 2020). Perhaps an interest in the healing properties of “floral and spice flavors” could be driving a search for gins with floral or spice ingredients? Finally, it may be representative of the rise of interest in craft gin in new and emerging gin markets. While the searches are 50 percent United States consumers by volume, the top nations for gin searching includes countries like China, Malaysia, India, and Singapore. Over the years there’s been a trend towards less intense flavor preference among consumers in mature gin markets like the U.S. and the U.K. This may signify a new audience of gin drinkers that are now being engaged rather than a reversal of a trend.
What does it mean for distillers? The shift in drinking trends and flavor preference presents a useful lens for understanding product reception during a tumultuous 2020. Distillers looking to position their gins can emphasize familiarity with comforting, bold flavors. While it’s clear that a large audience of gin drinkers were recently engaged, perhaps online for the first time, it might suggest a broader shift in palates and consumer preference. Tastes have been shown to be fairly consistent throughout the past few years, however, category expansions like pink gin and gin liqueurs have engaged consumers who may not have previously been gin drinkers. The shift in preference might represent the emergence of this new audience and provide opportunities for gin distillers looking to create bold flavors. While it’s early to say for sure whether 2020 was a blip or part of a more permanent shift, it’s clear from the data — for whichever reason — that consumers were looking for something quite different this year than they were in years prior.
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.
CITATIONS Pollard MS, Tucker JS, Green HD. Changes in Adult Alcohol Use and Consequences During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US. JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(9):e2022942. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.22942 Mann, B. (2020, September 11). Hangover From Alcohol Boom Could Last Long After Pandemic Ends. Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2020/09/11/908773533/hangover-from-alcohol-boom-could-last-long-after-pandemic-ends Brewster, Elizabeth. “Flavors of Change: Taste Trends Evolve in Pandemic’s Wake.” Food Technology Magazine, vol. 74, no. 10, Oct. 2020 Farm Rich. “2020: The Year of the Comfort Food Comeback.” PR Newswire, 22 Sept. 2020, www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/2020-the-year-of-the-comfort-food-comeback-301135720.html
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COCOV V E ID R A - 19 GE
Living with COVID Response Planning and Implementation WRITTEN BY COURTNEY MCKEE
'm so tired of COVID. I'm tired of reading about it, thinking about it, wearing masks, enforcing policy, fretting over statistics, and just feeling lonely and disconnected. I'm also a parent and a boss and a human being so I don't have the luxury of opting out of my concern. This is our current shared reality and I have a responsibility to model the behavior I want to see from others. I have the responsibility to show up in alignment with my values of Community and
The best thing we can do for our team in times of chaos is to anticipate and respond to change while providing as much communication as possible.
Courage and to practice the self-care required to ensure I'm able to continue to show up for the duration of this seemingly never ending fear and stress inducer. My goal is to share what we've tried and what we've learned in caring for our team and ourselves. I hope to offer something useful and ideally to start a dialogue with folks who have other great suggestions for what care is looking like. As the country started to open back up, having decided we'd survived the first wave and that our economy needed some prioritizing, we looked for leadership and guidance. We needed it because our employees needed it. Change is tough for any organization. Multiply that by the global uncertainty we've all been experiencing. The best thing we can do for our team in times of chaos is to anticipate and respond to change while providing as much communication as possible. People don't expect us to have all the answers. They want to know what
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answers we do have and what answers we're working on. As the CDC released guidance, science and data became the foundation for the COVID Workforce Policy and COVID Response Plan we drafted. The COVID Workforce Policy is the document we give to each employee and require a signature on and compliance with. It's a policy, so it clarifies expectations. Things like we will all wear masks at work all the time. That we're doing symptom checks and we expect all employees to participate. That we're expecting people to report symptoms immediately and go get tested. That we're expecting everyone to follow Butte Silver Bow County orders on quarantining and isolating if they're a close contact or a positive case. The expectations go both ways. The company commits to 80 hours of compensation for employees who are unable to work because they're positive or are a close contact. That the company will make reasonable accommodations for people to work remotely if they're at elevated risk from contacting COVID. That we'll do our best to keep people from becoming close contacts of one another in the work environment. The COVID Response Plan was built initially in the summer and was revised in the fall. It's the document that reminds us all to not freak out, that there's a plan and we know what we're doing. The plan outlines things like acceptable data sources: CDC, Butte Silver Bow County government, and Health Department. Not your aunt's friend on Facebook. It outlines how the local government is handling testing, suspected cases, confirmed cases, return to work, etc. It includes definitions like Isolation and Quarantine and Close Contact, so we can share a common language and speak articulately about the things that are scary. It breaks down scenarios and "what if " situations in each department... What if a customer in the tasting room tests positive? Great, we've got a handful of steps, like a flow chart, we'll follow depending on the customer and the circumstance. What if an employee's spouse tests positive? Great, we've got a scenario for that, too. It also explains to our employees what the rules are regarding compensation for time missed because of COVID.
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Don't get me wrong, these were really difficult to write. It's hard to provide clarity for others when you don't feel you've got any yourself. It took a lot of phone calls to the local health department, lots of time on the CDC's website, and lots of research into other reputable data sources. The Response Plan is on its third edition, updated as the community changed its testing and return to work protocols, and the CDC updates their protocols. I'm happy to share either or both of these documents with anyone who is interested. Copy them and adapt them to your own facility if you don't already have a plan in place, and if you've got ideas you like better, share them back with me. Turns out, having clarity of process has been more useful already than we'd anticipated. In late October, John, my husband and business partner, surprised us both by testing positive for COVID. Just like that he had to drop everything and walk away from work. He went directly home and stayed there for the next two weeks. I grabbed our 15-year-old son Cooper and went home, too. Any plans we had were out the window. John went into isolation and Coop and I quarantined. Two days later was my birthday. Three days after that I tested positive with Coop testing positive a week later.
A COVID Response Plan is the document that reminds us all to not freak out, that there's a plan, and we know what we're doing. We honored our isolation and quarantine (although it got way better when all three of us could be together again) and have all returned to work and school. How was it? It was bad and it was scary. But we used the time well. We read good books, when we had the energy, watched informative YouTube videos and goofy old
COCOV V E ID R A - 19 GE shows when we didn't. And we couldn't have done it without some amazing friends and family helping us out. From grocery runs to home cooked meals to birthday gifts and Happy Birthday sung on Zoom. For the shit time it was, it was also amazing. I couldn't get through a day without adding another Thank You card I needed to write. I focused on the things I could control and not the things I couldn't. And one of the greatest things that helped us through was a really incredible team at work. We literally dropped our tools and walked away. Client work proceeded, the Tasting Room stayed
open, the challenges that came up were addressed by the team, and it was all handled beautifully. And it worked because we have documented policies and procedures. We have employees who excel in their roles and who are sufficiently cross trained to be able to step in for their peers. Winter in Montana is going to be long this year. We started with snow and sub-zero temperatures before Halloween and as I'm writing, Montana has just had its largest single day for COVID infections. I'm sure the numbers will be increasing. I know that means a greater impact on our company and I'm as ready for that as I can be. We've got procedures well written
and recently reviewed to ensure that any individual who has to walk away due to COVID quarantining won't be leaving the team in a lurch. I don't know how we'll all fare this winter and I'm worried for all of us. And when fear overtakes me, I fall back on science and data, on policy and procedure, on values and self care. I throw my (metaphorical — it is a pandemic after all) arms around my community and give everything I can. This article is my offer of care for you and yours. And if I can offer anything further, just say so. We're all in this together. Take care and be well.
Courtney McKee is the co-owner and co-founder of Headframe Spirits and Headframe Spirits Manufacturing. Courtney is deeply passionate about education, including leadership development, for the distilled spirits industry. You can reach Courtney at email@example.com.
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KEY ALCOHOL REGULATORY CONSIDERATIONS
WHEN SELLING AN INTEREST IN YOUR CRAFT DISTILLERY BY BETHANY K. HATEF
he past few years have seen a significant number of mergers and acquisitions in the alcohol industry. As a craft distiller, you may be thinking about potentially selling a stake in your business (or your business as a whole) to an investor — perhaps a strategic investor (e.g., a larger distiller or other alcohol company) or an institutional investor (e.g., a private equity firm). This article will outline several key alcohol regulatory and distribution-related items you should keep in mind if you are thinking of selling an interest in your craft distillery.
1. BUYER DUE DILIGENCE A critical aspect of any transaction is due diligence. Typically, we think of due diligence as the process of a potential buyer researching/vetting the company which it plans to acquire, or in which it plans to make an investment. On the flip side, though, craft distillers seeking to sell an ownership stake in their business need to conduct their own due diligence of the potential buyer(s). ONE One important focus of buyer due dilIMPORTANT igence should be on potential “tiedFOCUS OF house” issues that may arise as a result of the transaction. As you likely BUYER DUE know, tied-house laws generally DILIGENCE SHOULD restrict an entity operating in the BE ON POTENTIAL upper tiers (e.g., the supplier and “TIED-HOUSE” wholesaler tiers) from holding an interest in or giving any “thing of ISSUES THAT value” to an entity operating in the MAY ARISE AS A retail tier. When considering a poRESULT OF THE tential strategic investor, tied-house issues are relatively easy to spot — for TRANSACTION. example, a large distillery acquiring an interest in a craft distillery usually would not raise a tied-house issue (unless either of the distilleries holds licenses in other tiers).
Particularly for institutional investors, such as private equity firms, family offices, and hedge funds, tied-house laws often present a substantial obstacle to potential transactions involving alcohol beverage suppliers. Many institutional investors have large portfolios with holdings in multiple companies involved in the alcohol industry, often companies that operate in the retail tier (e.g., restaurants and hotels). In large companies with complex ownership structures and numerous investments, identifying such holdings can be tricky. Moreover, sometimes retail-tier investments themselves are difficult to identify — for example, golf courses, spas/gyms, and movie theaters are businesses that we do not think of as traditional alcohol-focused companies, but that often hold retail liquor licenses. If an investor is considering an investment in a craft distillery, existing retail investments become a problem. On the federal side, tied-house issues only arise if the retail investment is a partial ownership interest, and generally speaking, federal tied-house risks can be managed by avoiding any influence by the distillery that might lead to exclusion of competing products from other distillers. State tied-house issues are much more complex, though. To evaluate these issues, craft distillers (and their potential investors) should consider:
a. Whether the applicable tied-house laws are extraterritorial — in other words, whether a regulator in one state will look at ownership interests in other tiers held outside that state when determining whether a tied-house issue exists. In some states, like New York, the alcohol regulator would consider a craft distiller and retailer having a common owner to be a tied-house problem, even if the retailer has no operations in that state. There are strong arguments to be made that such interpretations violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but these interpretations generally have not been tested in court. As part of your due diligence, you should consider the geographic scope of any cross-tier overlap that will occur after closing — this will be critical in evaluating the strategies to address potential tiedhouse problems.
b. Whether, under the language of the applicable tied-house laws, structuring the transaction in a certain way can avoid triggering a tied-house issue. For example, in some states, placing the cross-tier investments in separate funds (perhaps with separate management) would avoid implicating the tied-house law. In other states, the alcohol regulator does not impute an interest in an alcohol industry member or license to a trust (as long as the trustee is an independent party with no connection to the company operating in the other tier, and as long as the beneficiaries of the trust hold no overlapping ownership interest).
c. Whether an explicit exception in the tied-house law would apply to the investment. A number of states have exceptions for certain WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
kinds of license types (for example, craft distillers sometimes are permitted to obtain retail licenses). Tied-house exceptions, though, usually are very specific — e.g., a stadium in a certain county.
d. Finally, in evaluating potential tied-house issues in connection with a transaction, in addition to conducting due diligence on other entities in which your buyer(s) might have an ownership interest, you should also look for (and avoid) any potential overlap in board members, member-managers, or other individuals. One question that often comes up in a transaction in which tiedhouse issues may be implicated is whether, in the absence of clarity in the tied-house laws, the parties should seek the views of the state alcohol regulator(s). This may be practical when only one or a few states are involved, but in transactions involving companies selling alcohol in a large number of states, seeking the views of many regulators can get logistically complicated (not to mention time consuming). Moreover, if the cross-tier investments overlap in a large number of states (i.e., a craft spirits brand sold in many states and a national retail chain), just a few negative regulator responses could jeopardize the whole transaction. As a practical matter, then, dealing with potential tied-house issues in alcohol industry transactions becomes an exercise in risk mitigation. Structuring the transaction in certain ways often can help mitigate potential tied-house risk. In terms of other buyer due diligence issues besides potential tied-house issues, craft distillers seeking an investor should make sure that the buyer understands the unique nature of involvement in the alcohol industry. Specifically, all new officers, directors, and/ or managers should be prepared to submit to fingerprinting requirements and requirements to answer personal questions in order to be vetted by the applicable federal and state alcohol regulators. The potential buyer and its principals also should have no prior criminal convictions, unresolved or past serious unpaid tax liabilities, or any record of problems with alcohol or alcohol licenses in the past.
2. LICENSING & PERMITS Changes in ownership generally trigger the need for regulatory filings. The kinds of filings required depend on multiple factors. First, is the transaction an asset purchase or stock purchase? Alcohol regulators typically treat asset purchases as complete changes of ownership, typically requiring pre-closing approval of the transaction and the new owner. Stock transactions, though, are less likely to threaten business interruption, and often the parties may notify the applicable regulators after closing. Second, does the transaction involve a change of control in the business or a minority investment? Changes of control are more likely to trigger a need for all-new licensing filings. On the other hand, small investments (e.g., under 10%) might require no filing at all, depending on the jurisdiction. Other unique features may also be involved, which can trigger the WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
need for additional filings. As an example, companies undergoing changes of ownership often undergo internal changes or restructurings (e.g., an LLC conversion, a name change, etc.) at the same time. These additional changes often involve additional notice and approval requirements. Finally, if the transaction will involve changes in directors, managers, or officers of the licensed entity, those changes usually trigger some kind of filing requirement as well. Often (but not always), these changes can be reported at the same time as the ownership change. Federal and many state alcohol regulators require a “personnel questionnaire” or similar filing for key individuals, often including fingerprinting.
3. POTENTIAL FOR DISTRIBUTOR CHANGES If you are selling an interest in your craft distillery to a strategic investor, you should consider the potential impacts of the transaction on your respective distribution networks. In a number of states, alcohol “franchise” laws apply to suppliers and wholesalers of distilled spirits. These laws often contain IF THE “successorship” provisions that bind TRANSACTION the acquirer of a brand to continue WILL INVOLVE selling that brand (often on an exclusive basis) to the brand’s prior CHANGES IN distributors. DIRECTORS, Whether a successor is bound MANAGERS, OR to the distiller’s existing distribOFFICERS OF THE utors may depend on the type of transaction — whether the LICENSED ENTITY, transaction involves a transfer THOSE CHANGES of assets or equity, whether the USUALLY TRIGGER change occurred at the operating company level or a higher level SOME KIND “up the corporate chain,” etc. In OF FILING some states, the franchise law inREQUIREMENT. cludes a successor transfer mechanism that allows for termination by a successor upon payment of reasonable compensation to the existing distributor. Although franchise laws do not apply to the sale of distilled spirits in a number of states, many craft distillers have written agreements with their distributors. If you have a written agreement and you are considering entering into a transaction with another alcohol industry member, you should review it to see if it presents any opportunities or obstacles to make changes to your distribution post-closing.
4. POTENTIAL LOSS OF SPECIAL TAX RATES & OTHER PRIVILEGES Transactions in the alcohol beverage industry have the potential to trigger certain requirements relating to alcohol excise taxes. In
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particular, the federal distilled spirits excise tax rate allowing for reduced excise taxes on certain production applies a “controlled group” rule to determine eligibility — this rule aggregates companies with more than 50 percent common ownership. If a transaction triggers the controlled group rule, it can result in substantial annual tax hits to the distillery’s bottom line. The controlled group rule also can trigger electronic fund transfer payment requirements for excise taxpayers. At the state level, potential impacts of transactions vary even more. A number of states impose lower rates of excise tax on smaller taxpayers. Further, state license classes themselves may be subject to size restrictions, so if a craft distillery enters into a transaction with a larger distillery, it may lose the ability to retain its existing license class. Many states also cap special distribution rights based on the size of the distillery, such as self-distribution privileges and retail sales privileges. Finally, in states where alcohol franchise laws apply to distillers, some states recognize partial or complete exemptions from the franchise law based on the size of the supplier, total sales in the state, and/or percentage of sales to a given distributor. A transaction that results in a craft distiller’s production becoming aggregated with another distiller’s production has the potential to eliminate the applicability of these exemptions. It goes without saying that the process of buying or selling a stake in any alcohol business is complicated. The topics discussed here are merely a few important items craft distillers should keep in mind when considering a potential sale of all or part of their business. As always, if you are considering moving forward with a potential transaction, you’ll want to make sure you have counsel to handle the specifics of the deal itself, as well as advise on the alcohol regulatory and distribution aspects of the transaction.
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. A Chambers-recognized practitioner, she is a member of the Firm’s Alcohol & 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.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
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f you haven’t considered starting a distillery club (or if you’re a consumer, joining one) now’s the time to add it to your to-do list. With COVID-19 impacting distillery sales, and an extension of the federal excise tax cut far from certain, having a distillery club offers many benefits. As we’ve previously written, distillery clubs are “a great way to increase brand engagement, improve sales forecasting, and incentivize repeat visits” (See Artisan Spirit Magazine Winter 2020 Issue). That middle point is key. As you grow your distillery club, having a regular, guaranteed (subject to cancellation/attrition) income stream may be just what you need to make it through the remainder of the pandemic. There are a number of facets to consider in your distillery club’s membership, ranging from the number of bottles in each installment, whether there are additional non-alcoholic items included, the amount of the member’s discount, access to exclusive events, and first crack at new offerings. Depending on your state’s particular laws and regulations, you may have limitations on what you can include with membership. So for our purposes, we’ll focus on a barebones model: Each quarter, the member receives a bottle of spirit of the distiller’s choosing at a 10 percent discount. While certainly not a requirement, having your distillery club members agree to regular credit card payments as a condition of membership is useful from an ease
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of administration perspective and helps ensure recurring income. That said, if you want to require recurring payments, there are certain legal requirements that you need to consider and comply with. Failure to do so can result in government enforcement actions and potentially consumer lawsuits. So, pay attention to the details.
Federal Law First Under the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (“ROSCA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 8401-8405, any business offering “negative option marketing” (an oddly phrased term which includes recurring club payments) must:
explain to the customer, in writing and before they give you their billing information, that they will be getting one bottle of spirit of the distiller’s choosing, each quarter, that the bottle will be 10 percent off the regular price, and how they can cancel their membership. Then you need their express consent to charge their credit card each quarter until they cancel. It would be wise to get specific on when their card will be charged and to provide a range of possible prices based on your bottle offerings.
State Law Second
consumer to stop recurring charges from occurring.
The ROSCA is a floor and not a ceiling. So your state, and — if you’re lucky enough to be in a direct-to-consumer shipping state — to a certain extent the states you have DTC sales into, can impose more stringent requirements. By our last count there were ten additional states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and Virginia) and the District of Columbia with laws regulating recurring payments that could be applied in the distillery club context. To be expected, California has the most stringent limitations. By way of example, under California’s Automatic Renewal Law (“ARL”), located at California Business and Professions Code § 17602, businesses must:
This means that under our bare-bones example, at a minimum you’ll need to
the terms in “visual proximity” to the
• Clearly and conspicuously disclose
the material terms of the transaction before obtaining the consumer’s billing information including, a description of the goods or services being offered, information on the post-transaction third party sellers (if any), and the cost of the goods or services.
the consumer’s express informed consent before charging the consumer.
• Provide a simple mechanism(s) for a
• Clearly and conspicuously set forth
“request for consent to the offer.”
affirmative consent to the terms and to charging the consumer’s credit card.
• Acknowledge the consumer with the
terms, cancellation policy, and information on how to cancel.
• Allow for cancellation by mail, email,
phone, or another cost effective means. If the customer signs up online, they must have the option of cancelling the offer online as well (e.g. by a pre-filled termination email).
• Provide notice if any of the terms materially change with information on how to cancel.
• Provide, if applicable, a disclosure
that a free gift/trial will be converted to paid subscription. In California, in addition to the steps we discuss above to comply with ROSCA, at a minimum you’ll need to set forth all terms in close visual proximity to the request for consent (in other words, they should be on the same page). You’ll then need to provide the customer an acknowledgment after they sign up with the terms, cancellation policy, and how to cancel (with certain ways to do so). Finally, if after they sign up you change the terms, for example varying the amount of their discount, you’ll need to give them notice
with information on how to cancel.
Conclusion Recurring memberships are great for the bottom line but require some forethought to be implemented correctly, to fully inform consumers, and limit the chances of a lawsuit. Take the time and do it right. 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 attorneyclient relationship with our readers.
Corey Day is an alcohol beverage attorney and litigator at Stoel Rives (www.stoel.com). Corey likes chatting about potent potables, so email him: email@example.com, call him: (916) 319-4670, or follow him on Twitter: @coreyday.
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the INTERNSHIP Written by Molly Troupe
ven with the difficulties that 2020 has brought, new distilleries are still entering the craft space. More distilleries means more jobs and more opportunities, but it also means more competition. With more competition, it is more important than ever to distinguish yourself. To be a great distillery, great spirits are a necessity. Great spirits are made with a great production team that has a strong work ethic and a refined palate, people who do everything from clean the floors to painstakingly package bottles of liquor. With the attraction of spirits, a casual work environment, and colleagues that can be best described as the coolest nerds, itâ€™s no wonder distilling has proven to be a popular career aspiration, but it remains a competitive field to enter. One problem that distillery production spaces continue to face is a lack of diversity. Despite recent distillery growth, our industry still does not represent the makeup of most Americans. As leaders in production spaces, it is our responsibility to look around us and see who is not there. It is our job to create opportunities and open doors for those who may have had access denied to them.
the PROBLEM Imagine you are developing a new spirit. You have spent countless hours sampling and distilling, trying to reach a new elevation in flavor. Your mind is consumed with this product and how to make it the best. Before leaving development, this product would need to be sampled by other people. The best practice would be to set up a panel of more than ten people, and to give strict tasting parameters. You would want to give them some structure on the feedback you require. Possible questions might include: what did you like? What did you dislike? Would you buy this? What would you spend? What, if anything, would you mix it with? Those panels that help us structure our spirits are most effective when they consist of a diverse
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groupset. Different backgrounds, education, ethnicities, races, etc., all make a better panel, and therefore, can make better spirits. As distillers, we understand that our palate can betray us. We understand that we have our own implicit bias that can take us in the wrong direction when developing a product. The same understanding needs to be developed when approaching hiring practices. Our bias affects our decisions when it comes to hiring. We want to hire people we can be friends with, someone we can share a dram with and enjoy a laugh. We often hire those who are familiar, either by race, education, or background, to ease our pathway to friendship. This is often done subconsciously, with little recognition that we are actively sabotaging the diversity we desperately need. For minorities looking to enter the spirits
As distillers, we understand that our palate can betray us. We understand that we have our own implicit bias that can take us in the wrong direction when developing a product. The same understanding needs to be developed when approaching hiring practices. 47
industry, obstacles are often stacked against them. When I was attempting to enter this field, I remember being asked more than once “Are you SURE you can lift 50 lbs?” and experiencing hazing that can be described as sexual harassment. It almost dissuaded me from a career in this field, but I kept thinking of the women I did know in this industry, and decided that their representation meant enough to me to keep with it. But sometimes, the barriers are too much and it seems like there is no reason to try. If you don’t see familiar faces, if people like you aren’t represented, that can be enough to move on to different fields. This is a problem for distilleries. Diversity makes better spirits. Instead of making spirits for a certain group of people, you are making spirits for all. Diversity also makes for a better work environment.
the SOLUTION The biggest barrier for entry for anyone in this field is experience. Those that have the
least access to this experience are those who are already marginalized. As hard as my entry into this field was, as a white woman, I can only speak for my own difficulties. While I struggled to gain my distillery experience, a woman of color has even more obstacles to overcome to get onto the production floor. It can be extremely difficult to gain experience on a production floor if you don’t have a specific set of qualifications, like a degree, that can remove the obstacles surrounding the door to production. The intention behind an internship should be to give the intern the most well-rounded production experience possible so they can take these lessons and find employment. Internships have long been a gateway into a field. They exist to give the inexperienced the hands-on opportunity needed to excel in their career of choice. Not many people have degrees in distillation, and those degrees don’t come with the insight lugging bags of grain, using a pump, or mopping the floors gives you about the life of a distiller. Distill-
ery operations are complicated. Safe, effective employees require many tools in their toolbelt. Sure, mopping floors and meticulously cleaning mash tuns and fermenters are large parts of production, but an intern that has completed the program should be able to walk onto another production floor and have a cursory understanding of its operation. Think of it as more than grunt labor, but a way to shape the future of the field. Internships are often thought to be unpaid sources of labor, but that concept in itself is a barrier. Not many people can afford to exchange labor solely for experience. Making this a paid position, even at minimum wage, is a signal of investment. A distillery that is putting money down on the education of this intern has developed a program they believe in. Great care should be taken to develop such a program. It is important to make it specific to your operations, covering top to bottom. Make a program and leave room for real production to happen. The next step is to make a job posting.
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When creating a job posting, inclusive language should be used to signal this opportunity is for everyone. Throw out the qualifications (itâ€™s an internship!), take out gendered words, and highlight that your company stands for diversity. Ask for cover letters that highlight why the applicant wants this opportunity. An internship program catered towards making our industry more inclusive that includes real insight on the production floor is a large task, but it is necessary to make better spirits and bring our industry forward. Thankfully there are organizations here to help.
the ORGANIZATIONS DOING WORK The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) recently announced the start of its Spirits Training Entrepreneurship Program for Underrepresented Professionals (STEPUP) Foundation. Helmed by ACSA Board
WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM â€
of Directors President Becky Harris, this foundation aims to train and create opportunities for people of different races, genders, abilities, and sexual orientations. The curriculum is very broad and includes more than just production. It also includes compliance, marketing, and sales, as well as business management and hospitality. Wine Whiskey and Women is another organization to recently dedicate themselves to finding inclusion solutions for distilleries and wineries. Wine Whiskey and Women is currently laying the foundation for their program with an aim to include more women in the industry, especially in leadership positions. My distillery, Freeland Spirits, started cultivating our internship program in June 2020. We spent three months discussing best practices as a team with the input of academics to formulate a pathway that best suited our distillery needs and the needs of an intern. In September, we hired our first intern. Since then, our intern has made weekly progress on the production floor, and at the end of De-
cember they will have a strong portfolio of work to show any future employer. Distilleries around the nation have to be willing to open their doors and train the next generation of distillers. I hope the next round of distillers represents the realities of the American people as a diverse group of all colors from all walks of life.
Our industry has work to do. The only way to create massive change is to actively pursue inclusion, and there are people willing to help. Contact ACSA, Wine Whiskey and Women, or contact me directly. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Molly Troupe is the Master Distiller and Partner at Freeland Spirits, located in Portland, Oregon. Freeland Spirits is one of 2% of the world's distilleries owned and operated by women. You can write to Molly at email@example.com.
RUM AGING SCIENCE
PART IV (2020 Q4)
WRITTEN & PHOTOGRAPHED BY LUIS AYALA
n the first installment (Artisan Spirit Spring 2020 issue) we discussed the experimental design aspect of this study, as well as, the environmental parameters and the equipment involved in gathering the data. The second and third installments tracked the maturation process and recorded environmental impacts. In this fourth installment of the series we look at how the rum behaved in the aging cellar during the hottest months of the year, as well as its behavior as the weather starts to cool down with the arrival of fall.
HUMIDITY IN THE CELLAR As shown in previous articles and also on the graph above, there is a daily, rhythmic increase and decrease in humidity, directly related to temperature changes inside the cellar. For the most part, these daily changes represent a change between 15 percent and 20 percent, but then there are days the changes can be more drastic, such as rainy days or days with increased windy conditions.
TEMPERATURE IN THE CELLAR, AUGUST-OCTOBER
As depicted to the right, there is a matching rhythmic pattern of daily temperature changes inside the warehouse, corresponding to diurnal and nocturnal cycles. The aging cellar is insulated, so the temperature changes inside lag behind these outside, sometimes by a couple of hours.
After 11 months inside the barrel, the rum is definitely showing signs of change. Some of these changes are the natural appearance of aging, a result primarily of tannic extraction, while others are the appearance of maturity, as the aforementioned tannins are oxidized and the esterification starts to develop.
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COLOR: The color of the samples taken out of the barrel at monthly intervals is an indication of how much extractable material (tannins, lignin, etc.) was still left in the staves when the barrel was filled. Keep in mind that this particular barrel was previously used to age whiskey. The whiskey extracted much of the material during its aging, such that its color was much darker than our rum in the same amount of time. Most of the rum aged around the world is produced using ex-whiskey barrels because these barrels are cheaper than new ones and because traditional rum drinkers usually want milder oak notes in their products. There are now several craft distillers aging their rums in new-make barrels and the results are, no surprise, closer to whiskey in oak intensity. TASTE: The tannins extracted during the early months have been
oxidized, but there are additional tannins still being extracted, such that the “oak” dimension of the rum consists of both oxidized and unoxidized tannins. The color continues to darken and the aroma is developing intensity and complexity. PH: The rum that went into the barrel had a pH of 7.04. This number is now 4.64, a slight numerical decrease from the previous month but a considerable increase in titratable acidity. (Keep in mind that the pH scale is not linear!) MONTH pH ABV
tion increased a bit in the last few months. The current reading is 63.81 percent, meaning that water evaporation was higher than alcohol evaporation from the barrel.
The 2020 year-to-date pH and ABV readings as recorded on the first day of each month are listed to the right.
ABV: The alcohol concentra-
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WHAT’S NEXT? In the next and final installment of this series we’ll review December’s data and we’ll take a closer look at the chemical transformations of the rum during its first 12 months in the barrel. I’ll then digest the information into key points/takeaways for craft distillers wanting to implement a new rum aging program or for those trying to improve their existing ones.
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 information visit www.gotrum.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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TALKING CEDAR Overcoming a 180-year-old law to open the first tribally owned distillery in the United States
W R I T T E N B Y M A R G A R E T T WAT E R B U R Y / / / P H O TO G R A P H Y P R O V I D E D B Y TA L K I N G C E D A R
ith more than 122 craft distilleries in the state — the third highest number in the nation — it’s a safe bet that, wherever you are in Washington, you’ll be near a distillery. But until this year, if you were on one of Washington’s 29 federally recognized Native American reservations, you’d be wrong. In fact, you’d be wrong if you were on any tribally owned land anywhere in the country. That’s because an 1834 law passed by President Andrew Jackson prohibited distillation on tribal land. The law remained on the books until 2018, when the Chehalis Tribe of Washington State led a federal lobbying effort to overturn it, making distilling legal on Native American tribal land for the first time in 180 years and laying the groundwork to make Talking Cedar, the Chehalis’ flagship brewpub, distillery, and restaurant in Rochester, Washington, possible. The Chehalis Tribe’s diversified economic interests include a casino, a hotel, some gas stations, and the Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park resort in Grand Mound, Washington. Chris Richardson, the managing director of Chehalis Tribal Enterprises, says these enterprises are a critical part of funding the Chehalis nation’s government, from roads and legal infrastructure to social programs like Head Start and elders’ programming. “The grants we get from the federal government don’t pay the bills,” said Richardson. Richardson leads new business development for the Chehalis, which includes coming up with fresh ideas to generate revenue. “Our job is really to augment our gaming revenue,” he explained. “Our casino closed for three months this year during COVID, and that hit the tribe pretty hard. It was just more proof that we needed to diversify.” Several years ago, Chehalis Tribal Enterprises began considering
whether a small brewery might help boost demand at their hotel. While researching the concept, they met Justin Stiefel, chief executive officer of Heritage Distilling Co. Heritage got its start in Gig Harbor, Washington, about an hour’s drive north of the Chehalis, and now operates additional locations in Roslyn, Washington; Seattle, Washington; and Eugene, Oregon. Stiefel was happy to help Richardson and his team think through their brewery plans, but he also suggested that distilling might create an additional revenue stream for the Chehalis Tribe. “A combination brewery and distillery under one roof takes advantage of certain economies of scale, and it’s a more compelling story,” said Stiefel. Persuaded, Chehalis Tribal Enterprises decided to move forward under a partnership agreement with Heritage Distilling in 2015. They created a flagship concept that brought a brewery, distillery, and restaurant under a single roof, including a massive glassed-in production area serving as a centerpiece to the space. Heritage Distilling would operate the distillery and produce Heritage-branded products, while the Chehalis would operate the brewery and restaurant, which would serve Heritage spirits distilled in-house as well as their own craft brews. They named the distillery and brewpub Talking Cedar, a nod to the importance of the cedar tree in Chehalis culture. “Many of our baskets are made with cedar, so we like that echo of cedar with the Pacific Northwest. And ‘talking’ speaks to WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
Indians with our oral tradition and our stories,” said Richardson. Talking Cedar will have nearly 70,000 gallons of fermentation capacity and the ability to produce more than 750,000 nine-liter cases of spirits annually. The production floor, which has a brewery on one side and distillery on the other, will feature nine 8,300-gallon conical fermenters purchased from the old Red Hook Brewery in Woodinville, Washington, as well as massive Barison stills imported from Italy. “I’ve been saying it’s kind of like a wedding,” said Richardson. “Something old, and something new.” The team is particularly proud that the water comes directly from an onsite well rather than a county or city water system. “The liquid that will go into the spirit and beer is Native water, right from that site,” said Richardson. “Very few breweries or distilleries can say that.” WWW.ART ISANSPIRITMAG.COM
“The liquid that will go into the spirit and beer is Native water, right from that site. Very few breweries or distilleries can say that.” — CHRIS RICHARDSON,
MANAGING DIRECTOR of CHEHALIS TRIBAL ENTERPRISES
All that capacity means the distillery will be able to supply the Chehalis with spirits to serve at Talking Cedar and their other hospitality properties, as well as products for broader distribution and contract projects. “This distillery is coming online at the perfect time to produce liquor for brands who want to expand but don’t want to spend the capital,” said Stiefel. With plans in place, the Chehalis Tribe and Heritage Distilling prepared to launch construction in 2018. But just before the team broke ground, the Chehalis ran into a surprising obstacle: The 1834 Prohibition on Certain Alcohol Manufacturing on Indian Lands Act, a law dating back to the Jackson administration that prohibited distilling on land owned by Native American tribes. “The [Bureau of Indian Affairs] sent the tribe a letter literally the day before we were to sign the contract,” said Stiefel. “The statute they referenced, in our legal opinion and the tribal attorneys’ analysis, was no longer relevant or enforceable. But there was still a risk the TTB wasn’t going to issue the permit.” The Chehalis considered several options, but ultimately decided that the safest and lowest-risk option was to petition Congress to change the outdated law. Richardson says the process, while arduous, was surprisingly smooth. “We had bipartisan support in the Washington State legislative body,” said Richardson. “Herrera-Butler was instrumental, and Denny Heck played a supporting role. Even Trump signed it without any difficulty or hesitation. There was support all the way around.” H.R. 5317 was signed into law in December of 2018. It removed obstacles to the Talking Cedar project and eliminated a historic inequity for Native Americans across the United States. From start to finish, the legislative process took just eight months. “For a standalone bill, that’s unheard of,” said Stiefel. “It’s a credit to the tribe, to the message, to the folks on Capitol Hill who are there to represent us all, and to the team as a whole to not let this one thing derail us. Andrew Jackson should not be able to raise his decayed hand from the grave 180 years later to once again screw Indians.” Talking Cedar isn’t the very first Native-owned distillery in the United States. Copper Crow Distillery near the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation in Wisconsin is owned by a Native American family. But because the distillery is located on privately owned land, not tribal land, the Jackson-era law didn’t prevent Copper Crow from opening. Still, Richardson and Stiefel say the new legislation has spurred interest in craft distilling from other Native American tribes in the Northwest and beyond. “We’re in discussions with a number of other tribes in Washington and other states about replicating this model where we partner with them, open a location of various sizes, and begin producing spirits within the context of their
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own needs and the broader distribution network in their own states,” said Stiefel. “We call it the Tribal Beverage Network.” Despite 2020’s many challenges, Richardson says it’s actually been a successful year for Talking Cedar. While the main brewery was being commissioned, the Chehalis hired a master brewer and established a small 3.5 barrel brewpub in a commercial space across the street to begin developing recipes for their Talking Cedar line of ales, which includes classics like an IPA and a kolsch, as well as experimental brews like a top-fermented Oktoberfest and an imperial pastry stout inspired by Samoa girl scout cookies. The restaurant held an outdoor job fair, interviewed candidates in tents, and hired 70 staff members in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Talking Cedar opened at partial capacity in June, and Richardson said business has been good despite regulations on social distancing, party size, and masking. The hospitality team says Talking Cedar’s ales have been a particular bright spot, hugely popular with casual consumers and
“beer nerds” alike. “Ironically, when we talk to our food and beverage managers, there’s a little bit of relief,” said Richardson. “If there was no COVID, we may have been four times as successful, and it may have been that much more overwhelming.” Now, the team is looking forward to its next major milestone: firing up the stills, commissioning the new larger brewery, and launching — JUSTIN STIEFEL, a tour program to get customers closer to the CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF action on the production floor. “You will literally HERITAGE DISTILLING CO. be looking, hearing, smelling, and even tasting during the tour,” said Richardson. Brewing and distilling has a long history in this part of the state. Just 20 minutes’ drive north on Interstate 5 sits the old Olympia Brewery, which once made one of Washington’s favorite local beers before closing its doors in 2003. The City of Tumwater has been working to restore the old building in an effort to bring brewing and distilling back to Southern Puget Sound. Richardson says he’s excited for Talking Cedar to be a part of that revival by hosting workshops and classes in partnership with the South Puget Sound Community College distilling and brewing program slated to be headquartered at the Olympia Brewery. “I’m very proud of the Pacific Northwest being a driving force for everything that’s craft,” said Richardson. Thanks to the Chehalis, the Northwest is now a driving force behind a new chapter in Native American manufacturing and entrepreneurship, too.
“Andrew Jackson should not be able to raise his decayed hand from the grave 180 years later to once again screw Indians.”
Talking Cedar is located in Grand Mound, Washington. For more info visit www.talkingcedar.com or call (360) 858-7867. WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
Teetotaling Teens IN A RARE PIECE OF GOOD NEWS FOR THE SPIRITS INDUSTRY, UNDERAGE DRINKING CONTINUES TO DECLINE
WRITTEN BY MARGARETT WATERBURY
n September 2020, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released the results of its 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The report brought continued welcome news on the topic of underage drinking. Alcohol use and alcohol use disorder showed a continued decline among young people, sustaining a 17-year trend. In 2019, 18.8 percent of people between the age of 12 and 20 reported using alcohol in the previous month. That’s a significant decrease from 2002, when 28.8 percent of the same age group reported drinking in the month prior. Binge drinking, defined as more than five drinks on the same occasion for men and more than four drinks on the same occasion for women, declined from 5.8 percent of children aged 1217 and 39 percent of young adults aged 18 to 25 in 2015, to 4.9 percent and 34.3 percent in 2019. Six out of ten 12- to 20-year-olds report never having consumed alcohol in their lifetimes. While it’s hard to say for sure what’s causing the reduction, a shift in prevention programming from “scare tactics” to education may be partially responsible for driving the shift. In the early 2000s, drug and alcohol intervention education for young people could have a sensational tone — remember those “this is your brain on drugs” commercials? According to the data, that approach wasn’t particularly effective. “Kids are smart, and they start to poke holes in that,” said Maureen Dalbec, chief operating officer and senior vice president of research and analytics at the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility/Responsibility.org, an alcohol industry-funded non-profit with the goal of ending drunk driving and underage drinking and encouraging adults to make responsible alcohol choices. The group is funded by a number of large alcohol companies, including Diageo, Brown-Forman, Beam Suntory, Bacardi, and Pernod Ricard, among others. By way of illustration, Dalbec recalled an anecdote of student pushback to a D.A.R.E.-era tobacco curriculum that seemed to suggest that all chewing tobacco users develop cancer. While the links between tobacco use and cancer are robust and well-established, not all tobacco users develop cancer — a fact kids were quick to seize on. “One boy stood up and said, ‘That’s not true. My cousin did it and I stole some of his chew this summer, and I don’t have cancer.’ Kids are very black and white, very literal,” said Dalbec. Instead of trying to scare young people, Responsibility. org has focused in recent years on encouraging parents and teachers to talk to kids about drinking through its Ask, Listen,
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Learn campaign. SAMHSA has taken a similar approach with its Talk. They Hear You. campaign, which helps parents and caregivers start and continue conversations about drugs, alcohol, and mental health with kids and teens. “What we know through our own research and the data is that conversations with parents are increasing, and at the same time underage drinking is going down. Can we prove a causal relationship? No. But we think there is a connection,” said Dalbec. It’s also possible that other factors are influencing the decrease — for instance, young people replacing alcohol with cannabis. Over the past decade, cannabis has become increasingly prevalent in many states. Yet the relationship between increasing cannabis use and decreasing alcohol use among teens doesn’t appear entirely straightforward. Young people’s use of alcohol is decreasing at a faster rate than their use of cannabis is increasing. According to the 2020 NSDUH study, 7.4 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds and 23 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds reported using marijuana in the past month, up from 6.5 percent and 20.8 percent in 2016. “Both behaviors are risky, and while underage drinking has continued to decline over the years, underage cannabis use is rising,” said Helen Gaynor, director of educational programs at Responsibility. org. “We’ve heard from our community of educators and parents that risk begets risk, and risky behaviors often run together.” In response, Responsibility.org launched a cannabis module of Ask, Listen, Learn in September, which includes a video about how cannabis affects the body as well as a lesson plan and activities for educators
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While it’s hard to say for sure what’s causing the reduction, a shift in prevention programming from “scare tactics” to education may be partially responsible for driving the shift. and parents. It’s difficult to know how COVID-19 might impact underage drinking trends. With many high schools and universities operating remotely or under social distancing restrictions, and many young people living with closer parental supervision than normal, opportunities for teen drinking occasions may decrease. At the same time, teens, like all of us, are experiencing heightened levels of stress and anxiety, which often co-occur with alcohol use. Dalbec says more information on this topic is expected in an upcoming report from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Project, due out in December, which will capture underage behavior around alcohol during a portion of the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s as interested as any of us to dig into what the data shows. “As some states have lifted restrictions and others haven’t, it’s hard to tell what we’re going to see,” said Dalbec. While anecdotal COVID-19 era stories of underage drinkers donning masks and purchasing alcohol with impunity have alarmed the public (and, perhaps, tasting room operators), the SAMHSA data doesn’t suggest that purchasing alcohol directly is a major method of procurement for underage drinkers under normal conditions. Almost 70 percent of underage drinkers cite an unrelated adult age 21 or over as their source for alcohol — think
an older friend, a guy loitering around outside the liquor store, or a misguided friend’s parent who lets kids drink at their house. Other major sources include adult relatives, other underage friends, or taking it from their home or somebody else’s home. That doesn’t mean distillery tasting room staff shouldn’t scrupulously confirm that the photo on the ID matches the masked person standing in front of them. Masks may be a fresh challenge to this common tasting room task, but the barrier is functionally little different than checking the ID of a clean-shaven person who sports a full beard in their driver’s license photo. When in doubt, staff can ask customers to verify the birthdate and address listed on the ID; check eye, height, or weight statistics (if listed); ask for a second piece of ID, such as a debit or credit card; or, if appropriate for the setting and in compliance with company and local policy, ask the customer to step back at least six feet and briefly lower their mask. “Effective age ID requirements and enforcement are contributors to the successful reductions in underage drinking,” said Leslie Kimball, chief of communications and branding with the Distilled
Distillers with a vested interest in keeping the newer, more relaxed COVID-19 era laws on the books should see preventing underage access as vital as political lobbying.
Spirits Council of the United States and Responsibility.org. Flawless compliance is particularly important now. The COVID-19 era has come with some hard-won silver linings for craft distillers, like relaxed rules around direct-to-consumer shipping, cocktails-to-go, and curbside pickup. Many distillers would like to retain these policies once the pandemic subsides. Some of the resistance to these new measures stems from concerns that they might make it easier for underage people to access alcohol. Distillers with a vested interest in keeping these newer, more relaxed laws on the books should see preventing underage access as vital as political lobbying. The good news is that, by continuing to follow the same rigorous age identifi-
cation procedures required of any business that sells alcohol, distillers of every size can play their part in making sure alcohol stays out of kids’ hands. And, by talking to the young people in your life, you can make sure that underage drinking continues its decline. “Anyone can help reduce underage drinking,” said Kimball. “They definitely don’t have to be members of Responsibility.org!” Interested distillers can access resources and more information at Responsibility.org’s website. “We encourage everyone with an interest in these issues to follow us and share,” said Kimball. “And
just do everything they can with the people in their lives and businesses to encourage a lifetime of conversations on responsible drinking.” Margarett Waterbury is a drinks writer who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her first book, Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland’s Whiskies, released in fall 2020.
THE OBVIOUS CHOICE FOR WHISKEY HIGHLY AROMATIC NEW-MAKE SPIRIT SafSpirit™ D-53 SCOTCH AND SINGLE MALT WHISKEY SafSpirit™ M-1 BOURBON AND AMERICAN WHISKEY SafSpirit™ USW-6
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D AVID AVID,, GOLIATH GOLIATH,, OR DO IT YOURSELF? C HOOSING THE RIGHT SIZED DISTRIBUTOR WRITTEN BY GEORGE B. CATALLO
irst and foremost, every locale is different. You will have dif ferent rules, laws, and options to you than I am going to be covering. My paradigm is that of someone in New York State, where the indus try is heavily regulated by the state but independently operating. Wine and spirits are sold exclusively in independent specialty shops; fran chises are not technically allowed. Beer and only beer is in grocery stores. In my day-to-day function, I work in one of these specialty shops. We work with somewhere between 30 and 40 different im porters and distributors of varying sizes and focuses, and over my nearly a decade of experience in my role I have become intimate ly familiar with the practices, strengths, and weaknesses of each type of wholesaler. You have a great product, you’ve grown enough and have the supply to sell beyond your tasting room. Who you gonna call? The answer to that question is very dependent on what you want for yourself, where you are as a brand, and how you want to move forward with your growth. My aim is not to answer that question for you but to give you a greater perspective before deciding.
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BIG DISTRIBUTOR Pros: The great thing about a top-of-the-foodchain distributor is that they literally own the marketplace. There won't be a single account in your desired distribution area that doesn’t do business with them, because they need to. A store can’t just not carry Jack Daniel’s and succeed, like it or not. Not only will they have the most open accounts per capita, their area of operation will be the largest as well, potentially spanning numerous states or regions. These distributors will also have dedicated sales forces that focus only on off-premise or on-premise accounts to better serve those different ends of the industry. They have the greatest reach, deepest pockets, and largest sales force ready to work for you. Not to mention they have trucks and the logistics to ship. Cons: If you are too small, you will never be a priority for the company or their sales representatives. Goals and incentives are placed on items from their largest suppliers and those are the items that get the most attention. As much as they work for you, they work far more for the ones who pay their mortgages. Your products will just be another line in the book that can often be glossed right over. Little fish, big pond. A really big pond, full of whales and sharks. And in most circumstances a good chunk of your profit margin is given up to them because they obviously don’t work for free. How to make it work: Despite the daunting nature of the cons, there is a huge opportunity in going with a larger distributor. The thing is, you’ll have to do a lot of the work yourself. It is of paramount importance that you have a brand representative who is able to work in the field for a significant amount of time. This person will have to work both in tandem with, and independently of, the distributor’s sales force. Ride-alongs are a useful tool to focus your brand with in-the field-support to the distributor’s salesperson. These ride-alongs are great for both new accounts being opened, as well as revisiting loyal accounts with first looks at new products or exclusive single barrel offerings. This brand representative will also have to do numerous events and tastings to drive brand awareness. Customers looking for your brand are your best bet to get stores to take in your products from the distributor.
SMALL OR MEDIUM DISTRIBUTOR Pros: Many of the same pros as a larger distributor, such as an existing clientele, a sales force with existing relationships with said clientele, and the logistics to ship products to these customers via their own trucks or more commonly a bonded delivery service. The real bonus here is that you’re a small fish in a smaller pond where most of the fish are closer in size to you. Your products are a larger percentage of the portfolio overall and are less likely to be lost in the pages. These companies seem to be trending towards giving their sales force more freedom in what they work with day-to-day instead of making overly aggressive pushes on particular products. This puts you on a more even ground. Cons: Again, they don’t work for free. Your margins are cut into by the distributor, but that is the cost of doing business. Their reach is often significantly smaller than their larger counterparts and there will be a portion of the market that will always be untapped, because not everyone will do business with them. A portion of retail or restaurant accounts don’t bother with companies beyond who they need to work with. Or at least who they perceive to need to work with. How to make it work: Just like with a larger distributor, you’re going to need brand representatives in the field. They will need to focus on creating stronger relationships with the distributor’s sales force and with their accounts. The key here is the ability to take the time to actually build lasting relationships, which isn’t as easy to facilitate in a larger, faster-paced setting. These smaller distributors are also more willing to accommodate event planning with your brand, as you are a relatively larger portion of their portfolio. So you can have some great pairing dinners and other fun things to drum up new customers.
SELF DISTRIBUTION Pros: Complete and total control over absolutely everything without having to rely on anyone else or pay someone else a portion of your profits. All relationships are your relationships alone. Cons: Complete and total control over absolutely everything without having to rely on anyone else. Everything is in your court. Hiring and managing a sales force, warehousing all of your product, opening and maintaining new accounts, filing and price posting, billing, delinquency reporting, being the one to not get paid when a customer doesn’t pay, using your own vehicles for delivering product, compliance, and literally everything else imaginable falls on your shoulders. It costs money to make money, and while you won’t be losing a chunk right off the top, you’re still paying a lot of money to get your products sold. How to make it work: Planning, patience, and persistence. Your plan for operating as your own distributor is going to need to be incredibly detailed and thought out. You are going to need a slightly smaller sales force so that your salespeople can earn a livable wage while working with such a small number of products. You’re going to need to build your entire book of business up from literally nothing. This takes time and you need to be ready for it to be a slow process. If this is the route you take you need to give it a fair shot before bailing and sending off inventory to a distributor.
Regardless of what route is right for you, there is room to thrive in any space. It’s just a matter of what is right for you. I have known distilleries that use a combination of self distribution in their home areas as well as utilizing distributors in different regions. Finding and fine-tuning your approach takes time, but you will undoubtedly find your groove. Just take your time and calculate your options before signing any contracts! 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.' WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
TALNUA DISTILLERY ARVADA, COLORADO WRITTEN BY GABE TOTH PHOTOGRAPHY PROVIDED BY TALNUA DISTILLERY
ar from the rolling hills and heather meadows of Ireland, in an industrial corner of north Denver, the staff of Talnua Distillery is creating spirits inspired by the taste of the Emerald Isle. Talnua, which is derived from the Irish-Gaelic for New World, is solely focused on producing single pot still spirits — primarily whiskey — based on Irish traditions and American ingredients, according to founder and head distiller Patrick Miller. “We are the only distillery completely dedicated to that outside of Ireland,” he said. “We are bringing the American terroir to what would have been a traditional Irish whiskey-making practice.” It’s a passion borne of deep-rooted love for Ireland and its native spirit. Over the course of visiting the island year after year, Miller and his wife, Meagan, became enamored of the traditional pot-stilled Irish whiskeys, which had once been a world
powerhouse. “In 1900, Ireland was making 75 percent of the world’s whiskey,” he said. “It was their heritage style, and it was feeding the British Empire, it was feeding the United States, especially along the coast where bourbon wasn’t as prevalent.” However, after two world wars, American Prohibition, the Irish war for independence, and the creation of the free state that severed much of Ireland from Great Britain, the industry experienced a massive fall. Down from 150 licensed distilleries to two — Middleton and Bushmills — in 1987 when the Cooley distillery was built, Ireland saw its traditional pot-distilled whiskey all but disappear. “This old traditional style nearly died out,” Patrick Miller said. “Irish whiskey became known for blends, such as Jameson.” Enter the Millers, on a visit to Ireland in 2011. That was the year Redbreast 12
came on the market after a long hiatus. They were enjoying the rugby world championship, US vs. Ireland, in a pub, when a delivery arrived. “In walks the first bottles of Redbreast that had hit the market in 50 years,” Miller said. “They bust open the boxes and try us on it. We immediately fell in love.” They continued visiting Ireland year after year, seeing more and more new pot still brands coming out: Powers, Green Spot, Teeling, Middleton. He said they were coming home with suitcases of whiskey when a downturn in the oil and gas sector in which he worked inspired him to learn distilling. Miller landed a job at the Stranahan’s distillery in 2014, while practicing at home making whiskeys with malted and unmalted barley. By 2017, he estimates he made almost 100 batches, adjusting the yeast, grain, cut points, and using the staff at Stranahan’s to bounce his experiments off.
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That was also the year a local rum distillery went out of business, so the Millers incorporated Talnua and got the keys to the building that summer. They began production in February of 2018 and opened their doors on St. Patrick’s Day, 2019. The cornerstone of Talnua’s product line is their Quarter Cask single pot still whiskey, aged for two years in 25-gallon casks. Miller said they’re using a 50/50 blend of malted and unmalted barley and an Irish ale yeast, and abiding by all of the rules for pot-distilled Irish whiskey. “We self-govern all our distillation practices by the Irish Whiskey Technical File,” he said, an approach he hopes will help legitimize a category that’s not recognized by the TTB. In addition to the use of unmalted barley (at least 30 percent of the grain bill), that includes wort separation, an unobstructed copper pot still (no hybrid pot-column allowed), and three distillations (usually but not exclusively done, according to the technical file).
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The triple distillation is preferred because, unlike the light, corn-based, column-distilled grain whiskey that makes up part of a blended Irish whiskey, unmalted barley lends a very dense texture to pot still whiskey. The tradition goes back hundreds of years to Irish distillers who were trying to dodge British malt taxes that started being imposed in 1682. “They decided that they were not going to pay that tax, and they’d throw large portions of raw, unmalted barley into their mash bills,” Miller said. “This unmalted barley completely changed the character and complexity of their style of whiskey, and it became what they were known for.” When twice distilled, it can still be a very rich, heavy spirit. This led to the now-standard practice of triple distilling Irish whiskey. “That unmalted barley has a real oily and velvety texture to it, so that triple distillation really lightens it and brightens it,” Miller said. “You still get that nice coating
mouthfeel from the unmalted barley, but that triple distillation really rounds out the profile, takes the sharp edges off.” Because blended whiskey is so popular, though, they’ve also released Heritage Selection, a blend that consists of at least 40 percent of their own whiskey with the remainder consisting of aged spirit purchased from Cooley. The imported Irish spirit is aged another year in used bourbon casks, then blended with Quarter Cask whiskey. The Cooley spirit doesn’t mask the flavor of their house whiskey, which is naturally much bolder in character. “It’s not something we’re hiding our whiskey under,” Miller said. “It’s truly an Irish-American whiskey.” At the moment, Heritage Selection is a proof-of-concept project that they hope can evolve into an ongoing partnership making blended whiskey or a blend of pot-stilled whiskeys. "We would love to find an Irish distiller, now that there’s craft distillers our
size, to work hand-in-hand with,” he said. He uses the same mashbill and distillation process to create their grain-forward Finglas gin — “It definitely plays more like a genever,” Miller said — that is macerated with juniper, coriander, cardamom, Irish heather, orris root, lemon peel, and orange peel for 24 hours before the third distillation. It is effectively a triple-distilled single pot still gin, and they barrel-age some of it for a year to create another unique expression, their Finglas Dubdair barrel-finished gin. Talnua also has a special release whiskey, Olde Saint’s Keep, which becomes available every year on St. Patrick’s Day. The 2020 version is a port barrel finish, but Miller said they have a diverse array of finishes currently aging. Also to be released on St. Paddy’s Day in 2021 will be their first three-year product from 53-gallon barrels. Outside of their primary market in Denver, the whiskey has been enough of a hit in Ireland that he expects to eventually export. “I didn’t suppose that people in Ireland would know about us for years. It’s amazing how many bottles have made it back over there,” Miller said. He thinks that distinguishing it as an American product helped. “At first, in 2019, you could tell it was like, ‘What are those upstart Americans doing over there?’ And something that we’ve always paid attention to is not calling ourselves Irish whiskey,” he said. “It says American single pot still, Talnua Distillery, United States of America on the front label, and I think they appreciated that. It’s not ‘Irish-style’ or whatever, it’s American single pot still.” It wasn’t originally a priority to be sending spirits across the Atlantic Ocean, he said. But over the years, they’ve made a lot of friends and connections in Ireland and received some good press. He said that move is still a few years away, though. They don’t have a surplus of inventory at the moment, but they’re shoring up those numbers with a big expansion in production capacity. The facility that Talnua took over contained a 450-gallon still that the previous owners had built, and Miller gradually ramped up from producing one 53-gallon barrel (or equivalent) per week up to 2.25 barrels each week. However, they have new stills scheduled to be commissioned at the end of 2020, which will be able to produce up to eight barrels a week. The new system will include custom spirit tanks, hot and cold liquor, fermenters, and a yeast brink, but the centerpiece will be the new stills: designed for the unique Irish process, they will be 600 gallons, 400 gallons, and 300 gallons, sized for and dedicated to the three different distillations that the whiskey undergoes. Given that his current still has an internal coil that has to get all the grain cleaned off for middle and finishing distillations, Miller is excited about the lack of crossover in the new system. “It’s just really nice to have a still that only spirit touches,” he said. “It helps with the cleanliness of the taste.” An innovative business built to honor hundreds of years of tradition. It’s the foundation a new world was built upon. Talnua Distillery is located in Arvada, Colorado. For more information visit www.talnua.com or call (303) 431-4949.
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TRANSPARENCY in ALCOHOL LABELING W R I T T E N B Y B A I L E Y P RY O R
After an allergic reaction to a spirit containing propylene glycol, Bailey Pryor began looking into alcohol label transparency in the US. FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a fan of onerous regulations. But when it became hard for me to breathe after taking one sip of a cocktail my friend had given me at a holiday party, I began to reassess my position on alcohol label transparency. I had noticed the occasional light rash and even some very mild shortness of breath when I drank certain wines or cocktails, but the effects were different and so minimal that I was never concerned enough to investigate. Then I went to the holiday party and the room turned upside down and I thought I might actually asphyxiate in front of 50 friends. Just one sip had triggered a dangerous histamine reaction, which I later learned was an allergy to propylene glycol, a class 2 carcinogen which is illegal for human consumption in the European Union but used pervasively in distilled spirits, vaping products and soft drinks in the United States. This was the catalyst that set me on the road to investigating what alcohol producers put in our spirits, wine and beer, and what is actually disclosed to consumers. The US Food & Drug Administration mandates that all processed foods must list ingredients and nutrition facts on their packaging. This includes known allergens as well as additives like sugar, artificial color or preservatives. Yet the US Tax & Trade Bureau (the TTB), which governs the packaging disclosures for beverage alcohol, has no such requirements. This means that all of the mixers we use in cocktails like juice, soft drinks, tonic, ginger beer, and
even bottled water must disclose to consumers what they are made of, how many calories they have, how much fat and sugar they contain, and if there are any allergens. But none of the alcohol brands they’re mixed with are required to do the same thing. Why is that? Why is one sector of our food supply mandated to be transparent and another sector is not? Some might assume it must be nefarious characters exerting political pressure on the system for their own financial gain, or perhaps government incompetence or complacency. The answer, it turns out, is more
The Real McCoy’s 12-Year “Prohibition Tradition” is the first brand in America to receive government approval to voluntarily disclose Ingredients and Serving Facts on their bottle label. WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
complex. After three years of researching this topic and working toward full label disclosure for my brand, I find that the reason such an important aspect of consumer protection has never been implemented is not because of bad actors in the industry or government mismanagement. In fact, everyone in the industry with whom I spoke supports full transparency (large and small companies alike), and everyone I contacted at the TTB also supports the measure, but the devil is in the details. The TTB does not write the law. That job is performed by Congress. The TTB is an enforcement agency that can only implement, track, and enforce specific language that is clearly defined in legislation. If regulatory language is not clearly defined, it is up to the individual TTB agent to interpret this “gray area” language to the best of their ability, which often means the denial of certain proposed alcohol label disclosures when such disclosures are not specifically defined in the law. So, brands that want to be fully transparent have, until now, been prevented from doing so. I believe this lack of consumer protection, which comes from a lack of meaningful alcohol label transparency, is not due to any failure of government enforcement agencies, it comes from a lack of clear language in the law itself.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO CONSUMERS? Because it could prevent people like me, with severe allergies to propylene glycol, from having their airway restricted when their immune system triggers a massive histamine reaction in an effort to combat a known allergen. The same goes for people with gluten-related illnesses, who have recently won a victory in this area as legislation changed last month that better defines how the TTB can effectively enforce how “Gluten Free” claims can be made on alcohol labels. But what about those who may have a potentially fatal histamine reaction to undisclosed propylene glycol? Or those people who are allergic to excessive sulfite additives (yes, I’m also allergic to sulfites)? Or the vegetarians and vegans who are not informed of the pervasive use of animal-based products like “clarifying agents” that are regularly used in beer, wine, and spirits to make these products appear less cloudy? No one is informing these consumers that they are actually drinking animal products. What about the disclosure of copious amounts of added sugar for diabetics or the addition of other chemicals that cause allergic reactions? These additives can be found today in numerous brands across the entire spectrum of beverage alcohol, but very little language exists in the law that facilitates transparency for consumers. Yes, there is language in the wine laws that require disclosure of added sulfites, if over 10 parts per million. Sulfites exist naturally in fruit, but are often added up to 350 parts per million as a preservative in wine. Propylene glycol is 70
a form of antifreeze that adds sweetness, which takes the edge off of harsh, unaged spirits, and it adds a thicker mouthfeel to a spirit, which emulates barrel aging (it’s also the stuff they spray on the wings of airplanes to prevent icing in winter). Yet more than three million people in the United States are allergic to sulfites. There is no comprehensive study that confirms the number of people currently allergic to propylene glycol, but if you have ever broken out in a rash or felt a shortness of breath after drinking spirits or vaping, you are likely allergic to propylene glycol. As producers, we are also informed consumers, and consumer protection has always been a hallmark of the beverage alcohol industry. We, as an industry, regularly support responsible consumption initiatives and I see the disclosure of additives, especially allergens, as a major step toward furthering responsibility initiatives in our industry. The FDA guidelines have been in use for decades in the food industry. They are easily enforceable by the government, consumers have become well-acquainted with them, and there has been no negative effect on companies that comply with the FDA regulations by disclosing this information. Why not do this in the alcoholic beverage industry? We thought it made the most sense to follow the same rules as the food industry, and through a series of discussions with the TTB, they finally agreed and allowed The Real McCoy rum to list all of this information except for one thing: the disclosure of sugar or added sugar. We don’t add sugar to our rum, but we are at a loss as to why the TTB would prevent us from disclosing such an important aspect of public health information. I don’t believe this is nefarious behavior. I assume it is because many brands in the past have attempted to announce false health claims on their labels and the TTB is now wary of allowing brands to make health-related claims that relate to sugar. It is most likely the lack of clear legislative language that prevents the TTB from exactly following the FDA mandatories. If this language existed in the regulations, it
The Real McCoy’s “Prohibition Tradition” is a blend of rum that has been aged for 12 years in ex-bourbon casks, with rum that has been aged for 12 years in virgin oak casks. It is being released at 50 percent ABV (100 Proof), in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Bill McCoy’s legal rum running practices at the start of Prohibition in America in 1920. With only 6,000 bottles worldwide, this Limited Edition is an extremely rare production by renowned master distiller Richard Seale of Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
would minimize the gray area and allow for better consumer protection, which is the TTB’s primary goal. To the best of our knowledge, The Real McCoy rum is now the first brand in America to fully disclose Ingredients and Serving Facts in accordance with the Food and Drug Administration’s mandatory guidelines for food labeling. This is not a move to create more burdensome regulation. Rather, it is a move toward much-needed consumer protection. Many other brand owners have contacted me asking how we accomplished this and what they can do to get involved. My advice is to begin by recognizing that the TTB has set a precedent when they approved The Real McCoy labels. This precedent can be applied to other brands. The TTB has given us everything we asked for except for the sugar disclosure. As an industry, we can lobby congress to formalize the alcohol regulations to mirror the FDA regulations, including sugar and added sugar, which will make life much easier for the TTB as the beverage alcohol industry begins to embrace the concept of enhanced consumer protection through uniform transparency in alcohol labeling.
WHAT’S THE DOWNSIDE FOR THE INDUSTRY Real estate! Many brands use the back label for important messaging. Adding a voluntary but standardized format for Ingredients and
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Serving Facts allows brands that want to disclose this information to accommodate space on the label at their pleasure, and those who don’t want to give up the space can avoid the issue entirely. It will be up to the consumer to prioritize this disclosure or not.
LET'S FACE IT Consumer preference has changed. People care about what they put in their bodies. They take pride in knowing the details about what is in their favorite alcohol. Trading a little real estate in exchange for consumer trust, respect, and loyalty is a very small price to pay. Please join us in making the world a safer place by enhancing transparency in alcohol labeling. We need producers, legislators, and consumers to band together for the common good. This happened in the prepared food industry in the 1970s and 1980s, and the world is a better place as a result. Yes, it took some getting used to, but in the end I think everyone agrees that we are better off today with full disclosure and informed consumers than no disclosure at all.
Bailey Pryor is founder and CEO of The Real McCoy Rum. Visit www.realmccoyspirits.com for more information.
KULEANA RUM WORKS Rum agricole made with native Hawaiian sugarcane offers a true farm-to-bottle experience Written by Lisa M. Truesdale /// Photos provided by Kuleana Rum Works
“When we recognize that we all have an equal right to these type of things, such as the crops that have collectively been developed by groups of people, then the emphasis becomes not on ownership and rights, but on one’s responsibility to use them appropriately. Since such gifts have come from the collective history of people, they should be used to benefit people collectively rather than privately.” — NOA KEKUEWA LINCOLN, PH.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and an expert on native Hawaiian sugarcane
n 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook first visited the islands now known as Hawaii. According to his journals, he seemed impressed with the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, and he was particularly fascinated by the sugarcane plants. Upon learning that sugarcane had a somewhat sweet taste, he decided to add some to a batch of beer he was brewing up for his crew. As the story goes, he was quite disappointed in the reaction of his sailors; they weren’t impressed with his sugarcane beer, not one bit. In fact, they flatout refused to drink it, demanding their regular grog instead. This didn’t sit well with Captain Cook. He promptly locked away all the remaining grog, grumbling
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that if they didn’t want to drink his beer, the only thing they’d be swigging was water. Fast-forward to 2007. Steve Jefferson and his wife Jackie, both born and raised in Hawaii, are doing a little world exploration of their own. While sailing around the Caribbean with their two small children, they make their greatest discovery on the French island of Martinique. After their very first taste of rhum agricole — rum made with freshly pressed sugarcane juice instead of molasses — they hatch an ambitious plan to one day return home to Hawaii and make their own rum agricole with fresh sugarcane juice. And that’s exactly what they did. It turns out that sugarcane is much tastier in rum
than it is in beer. Kuleana Rum Works was established in 2013 with a mission “to discover, make, and share delicious rum and to celebrate the richness of Hawaii in everything we do.” It’s a responsibility that Jefferson doesn’t take lightly. In fact, “kuleana” is a Hawaiian concept that describes the Hawaiian value of “responsibility.” “Kuleana is the value of stewardship, and the rights and privileges you get if you’re willing to be responsible for something,” Jefferson said. He was more than willing; he purchased a 45-acre farm on windy Upolu Point, the northern tip of the Big Island, for growing the sugarcane. The picturesque spot, surrounded by stunning ocean vistas as far as the eye
“Kuleana is the value of stewardship, and the rights and privileges you get if you’re willing to be responsible for something.” — STEVE JEFFERSON, Kuleana Rum Works
can see, is the former home of the Kohala Sugar Company, which ceased operations in the early 1970s. The team planted all 40 identified varieties of Hawaiian heirloom sugarcane, called ko in Hawaiian. After several years of cultivating his crops there, Jefferson doesn’t think of himself as a landowner. “We didn’t ‘buy’ the land; we accepted the kuleana for this project, and we respect and honor the land. It’s not our land and it’s not our sugarcane. It’s just our idea and our work. We want to be part of the ongoing story of carrying these beautiful plants into the future.” Captain Cook was a big failure at making sugarcane beer, but Kuleana Rum Works is enjoying huge success at making sugarcane
rum. “Our rum represents a true farm-tobottle experience,” said Jefferson, adding that less than five percent of all rum in the world is made from fresh sugarcane juice. About three times a week at the Upolu Point farm, stalks of sugarcane are cut from the plants and hand-fed into an antique juicer that flattens and presses them into sugarcane juice. The 500-liter containers of juice are then transported to the distillery in Kawaihae, about 20 miles south of the farm. There, it’s fermented with the help of a proprietary yeast, then distilled in small batches using a handmade copper alembic pot still imported from Portugal. Kuleana currently bottles three unique rums, all medal winners in the 2019 In-
ternational Review of Spirits. Hawaiian Rum Agricole is just as it sounds — pure rum distilled from fresh sugarcane juice. “None of our rums have colors, sweeteners, or flavors added,” Jefferson said. “It takes thought and attention to keep it this simple. For us, it’s all about the juice.” Huihui — which means something that is “mixed, mingled, or united” — is a blend of Kuleana’s rum, a rhum agricole from Martinique, and a molasses-based rum from Papua New Guinea. Nanea — which translates as “fascinating, tranquil” — is also a blend, but it doesn’t contain Kuleana’s rum; it’s a carefully curated mix of three molasses-based rums from around the world.
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Photo by Lisa M. Truesdale
They’re also the stars of the inventive cocktails served at the company’s restaurant and flagship retail store, Kuleana Rum Shack in nearby Waikoloa Village.
Switching Gears in the Time of COVID Jefferson had ambitious plans for 2020. Kuleana Rum Works was set to release a new product, Hawaiian Aged Rum Agricole, which is carefully aged for about 24 months in French Cognac barrels. He was also preparing to break ground on a new facility up at the farm, featuring a tasting room and a visitor center complete with a small “sugarcane museum” to tell the story
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of what he calls “the elixir of life.” But then COVID-19 hit, Hawaii was all but sealed off to tourists, and all of these plans were put on hold. So he devised a new plan. Within just two short months, the distilling team had learned about the process of making hand sanitizer, secured a permit from the FDA, worked with a pharmacist to develop the formula and procedures, and started producing gallons of it at the distillery. Kuleana Rum Works successfully added it to their product lineup, initially donating it to first responders and healthcare workers on the island, then eventually producing enough to be able to offer it for sale to the public. Jefferson’s plans are now back on track
— the Rum Shack reopened right after Thanksgiving, guided tours of the farm and distillery are resuming as tourists flock back to the island, the aged rum is set to be released, and they hope to break ground on the visitor center sometime in 2021. Still, he’s glad that Kuleana Rum Works could be so helpful during the pandemic. “Here in Hawaii, that decision always comes first,” he said. “What’s good for the community is more important than what’s good for the individual. Helping out was our kuleana.”
Kuleana Rum Works is located on the Big Island of Hawaii. For more info, visit www.kuleanarum.com.
C I N A G R O S T I R I P S D OR THE FUTURE? FA
WRITTEN BY DEVON TREVATHA N
THE WORD “ORGANIC” HAS OBVIOUSLY PROVEN ITSELF TO HAVE VALUE AS A MARKETING TERM, BUT THE INTRICACIES OF ORGANIC FARMING SHOULD BE BETTER UNDERSTOOD BY ANY DISTILLER INTERESTED IN USING INGREDIENTS THAT ARE GROWN IN THIS FASHION.
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t was only a matter of time before we started to see organic show up on the labeling and packaging of distilled spirits. In the United States, the National Organic Program, established by Congress, is responsible for regulating organic food and products, and they offer a wealth of information on their website. The TTB works closely with the USDA to assure that our industry members have up-todate information regarding organic labeling claims, and the USDA safeguards its organic standards for farms and businesses through third-party organizations that they have accredited. Distilled spirits that have satisfied a certain number of requirements are eligible for one of two labels that include the USDA Organic seal. The first is an “Organic” label. It requires certification and does not allow for any GMOs in production and all of its ingredients have to be certified organic, unless the non-organic ingredients comply with the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. Yeast used to ferment a spirit labeled “Organic” must be organic as well. Additionally, a spirit can be labeled “Made with Organic.” The requirements for the “Made with Organic” label are the same as the “Organic” label, except that the minimum requirement of certified organic ingredients is 70% and it does not require organic yeast. If members of the industry are feeling called to seek out organically farmed grain, they should be clear on what their reasons are for doing so. There are four broad considerations for someone interested in buying organically farmed raw materials: flavor, cost, environmental impact, and marketability. In terms of flavor, it is hard to say definitively that a spirit made with an organic version of one varietal of grain will taste different than the same varietal conventionally farmed, and that is for a number of reasons. Little to no research has been done that controls for all the other variables that might affect flavor — including climate, location, the year, etc. Even in genetically different barley varieties being studied by Pat Hayes, a professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Science at Oregon State University, and Campbell Morrissy, a PhD student and graduate research assistant
at the Barley Project in OSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Science, the differences in flavor are “fairly nuanced,” according to Hayes. What’s more important to the quality of the grain being produced is the overall approach that a supplier takes to farming. More and more, we are seeing a hybrid of techniques as organic methods bleed over into the conventional side of the industry. There are plenty of conventional farmers who are thoughtful about their crop rotations, though they don’t have to consider them as thoroughly as organic farmers. By and large, conventional systems are going to be more similar to one another than organic farming systems. This is because conventional farmers have synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and pesticides all labeled for use on a specific varietal at their disposal. “On an organic farm you’re typically going to see a much more thought-out rotation system because they’re often using a legume in the rotation to get some atmospheric nitrogen fix, there may be compost applied,” explained Brigid Meints, a research associate in the Department of Crop and Soil Science at OSU’s College of Agricultural Science. “And additionally, that rotation is going to help with weed pressure because there aren’t really any super-effective herbicides that are going to work on a broad system like a Roundup application or a 2,4-D would, so weed control is going to look really different.” What might be a more illuminating question for distillers to ask potential grain suppliers is what overall soil health looks like to them. “That could be an interesting question that a conventional or organic farmer could answer and may be more interesting than just asking if it's organic or conventional,” said Meints. There is a serious lack of general education around organic farming. One assumption is that organically farmed agriculture cannot use any synthesized substances in its production, but that’s not accurate. The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances identifies all synthetic and non-synthetic substances that may be used in organic livestock and crop production. Some synthetic substances that are allowed include ethanol, isopropanol, hydrogen peroxide, soap-based
herbicides, and sodium hypochlorite. The literature in the regulations asserts that these and other synthetic substances can be used provided that “use of such substances do not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water.” Environmental impact is another area of consideration when shopping organic. Meints explained that the directive of the organic farming movement has historically been increased soil health, but that doesn’t mean that every organic farm is automatically more environmentally beneficial than its conventional counterpart. There is a growing body of research looking at organic farming that indicates it may not be as sustainable as proponents had hoped. Holger Kirchmann, an author and professor in soil and environment at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, published a perspective in the Outlook on Agriculture journal titled “Why Organic Farming Is Not The Way Forward.” In it, he discusses the many positive features of food production that are attributed to organic farming — lower greenhouse gas emissions, better quality food, no pesticides, efficient energy use, increased biodiversity, a reduction in nutrient leaching, and sustainability. But a notable downside was the land necessary to farm organically. In Sweden, organic crop yields have been included in their agricultural statistics since 2004. Over all crops, the organic yield gap in Sweden was 35 percent, which meant that more land was required to produce the
same number of crops. The 35 percent yield gap translated to 50 percent more arable land, which leads to necessary questions of the environmental consequences of the lost land, including lost ecosystem services and lost products. It is already understood that land that can be ploughed and used to grow crops is a finite resource, and energy should be put into ensuring that crop yields of the available land are increased. “Really I think that for the processor they just ought to be thinking about the complete farming system and who their supplier is and how that’s being processed and not necessarily follow those pigeonhole categories,” said Hayes. “Because you can have some incredibly conscientious and sustainable conventional production and you can have some absolutely ravaging organic production and the reverse.” One study out of Washington State University aimed to assess landscape context and its effect on sustainability of organic farming systems; its findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists performed a meta-analysis across six continents of 60 different crop types, assessing the interaction of landscape context and biodiversity, yield, and profitability in conventional versus organic systems. They considered metrics that reflected the landscape composition, such as percentage cropland, number and diversity of cover types, and spatial arrangement of cover types. What they found was that,
when compared to conventional farm sites, organic sites had 34 percent greater biodiversity and 50 percent more profits but lower yields — conventional sites had 18 percent higher yields than organic. They also found that, as the size of the fields surrounding the organic farms increased, biodiversity continued to increase but profitability fell. A big factor that contributes to the profitability of organic sites was the premium placed on those products, however areas with the best premiums tended to be nearer to urban markets. On this one metric, a farmer in a place like rural Idaho may not experience as much of a profit increase as an organic farmer near a big city. Cost is perhaps the most measurable metric to use in considering whether to buy organic or conventional, and for distillers there are concerns beyond a higher price tag. “Understanding what you’re going to get, to work with is super important because it’s not going to be commodity tworow coming in, that’s just certainly unlikely to be the case, so you’ll have to adjust your process,” explained Morrissy. This will inevitably include process variabilities, such as inconsistent protein or beta glucan levels, and may require a distiller to use exogenous enzymes, which are normally a GMO product. It’s important that a distiller consider each of these processing steps and work with organic suppliers to find solutions that fit in with their production. The reality of transitioning from a conventional farming
THROUGH A THOUGHTFUL APPROACH AND MINDFUL PRACTICES, PRODUCERS OF DISTILLED SPIRITS CAN FURTHER THE ORIGINAL INTENTION OF THE ORGANIC MOVEMENT, SELLING PRODUCTS THAT SUPPORT THOSE WHO CARE ABOUT THE EARTH AND ITS INHABITANTS.
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system to one that is entirely organic is that the process is costly and takes time. A farmer has to wait three years from their last application of fertilizer pesticide to sell a product that is labeled organic, but there is no label for what they sell in the meantime. Some farmers have opted to transition their land to organic in parcels rather than one complete step; this spreads the period of time where they are losing money over a longer span. In 2019, Anheuser-Busch initiated a project called Contract for Change to increase organic barley acreage in Idaho by supporting farmers during the transition. They did so by launching their Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, the first domestic beer brand to be certified USDA-organic. Not long after, Coors changed the name of their new organic beer to Coors Pure, and in 2020 New Belgium launched its own USDA-organic lager called the Purist. All three of these new organic beers are exceptionally light; Coors Pure clocks in at just 92 calories a serving. “It’s interesting because all three of them have the word pure in them: Pure Gold, Coors Pure, and the Purist,” noted Meints. This brings me to the last consideration when debating the use of organic raw materials: marketing. “As a blanket statement, organic versus conventional I think would be tough to really say is going to produce anything unique for a spirit other than a marketing opportu-
nity,” said Morrissy. He’s correct in his assertion that there is an undisputable marketing edge to any spirits product labeled organic right now, not least of all that organic products are expected to have a premium attached. What could potentially be troubling, however, is the idea that some producers may potentially seek out organic products to try to make their spirits appear “healthier.” Consider the above beers that have been recently introduced into the market, all three of which feature the word “pure” and are light beers. Perhaps this was not done intentionally, but there is an unmistakable implication that these beers are somehow better for consumers than other beers, and that implication is dangerous. They may have less calories and certain consumers may be able to drink a greater volume of these beers and stay within their normal dietary range, but that does not make the liquid inside the can inherently healthier. I’m not saying that that is the case, nor am I questioning the intentions of all producers who use organic base materials, but we’ve already seen segments of the wine industry fall prey to this insidious kind of marketing angle. In wine, the idea of organic production and especially biodynamic winemaking was largely a reaction to the overuse of stabilizing and clarifying agents that are typical to largescale wine production. The difference
between a big brand wine and one made with little to no intervention is pretty immediately apparent to the consumer. In recent years, however, some marketers have been trying to straddle that divide, making a wine in the traditional style while using buzzwords associated with health on the advertising end. We provide people with a product that is delicious, yes, indulgent, maybe, but certainly not something I would say is integral to a healthy lifestyle. And if there’s any angle that should be pushed, it’s the continued effort of many organizations and businesses to encourage responsible drinking among our consumers and fans. But that does not mean organic ingredients have no place in this industry. Through a thoughtful approach and mindful practices, producers of distilled spirits can further the original intention of the organic movement, selling products that support those who care about the earth and its inhabitants.
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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Is Looking Up W R I T T E N B Y D E V O N T R E VAT H A N
P H O T O S P R O V I D E D B Y S TA R W A R D D I S T I L L E R Y
avid Vitale, founder of Starward Distillery in Melbourne, Australia, has a vision. He imagines a close-knit group of people, friends or family perhaps, gathered around a dinner table, sharing stories, having a few laughs, and just as the last drops of wine are emptied from the glass, someone reaches into the liquor cabinet and brings out a bottle of whisky to take its place. The meal carries on. No one balks at this gesture; in fact, it’s become a common practice. “Wine out, whisky in,” as Vitale said, the same way that Starward chooses to pour its new-make spirit into recently emptied Australian red wine barrels for the entirety of its maturation. One choice echoes the other. Other choices have been made that operate in service of their ultimate goal. Vitale is clearly a goal-driven director. As well as being the founder of the distillery, he is also in charge of their sales and marketing. Since their inception in 2007, Starward’s executive team has realized that they make a whisky for the people who claim they aren’t a fan of the category. “What we want to be known for is this gateway into the world of whisky, such that people go, ‘I don’t really like whisky, but I love Starward,’” Vitale said. Starward’s two standard offerings — Nova, a single malt whisky aged for three years; and Two-Fold, a double grain whisky made of a portion of Nova and a wheat whisky, which are blended together after maturation — are not sold with an instruction manual that dictates exactly how they should be consumed. Instead, Starward encourages its drinkers to take a walk on the wild side, break all of the rules of traditional dram-by-the-fireside consumption: have it with food, enjoy it with tonic, or knock it back in an elaborate cocktail.
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It was important from the beginning that Starward introduce into the single malt category an offering that tells a different story from all the rest. “We’ve got a unique opportunity to talk to drinkers and say something that other whiskies can’t. You can barely make this whisky in Sydney or Western Australia, let alone in another part of the world,” explained Vitale. There is no shortage of ex-bourbon-barreled single malt whisky on the shelves, so while he acknowledges the deliciousness of whiskies made in that way, Vitale opted to take a path less traveled — wet red wine barrels. This decision brought its own set of challenges that Starward has had to face. For instance, charring. “What we quickly realized was, particularly with those red wine barrels, if we charred the barrel, which is the norm, and you had a higher barrel to liquid ratio, that char would effectively clean up the spirit so much that all the hard work that we did to add all those tropical fruits, cloves, pepper, the malt character, the lusciousness, all gone, because it was just kind of cleaning as it expanded and contracted all the time,” said Vitale. To that end, the production staff at Starward is selective about the kind of barrels they cull to age their spirits and marry the different barrels at the end of maturation to maintain a consistent character. Red wine producers don’t need to use a barrel to get the flavor of oak into their product — that can be done more economically through the addition of oak chips or extracts these days — so already the tier of wines that have previously inhabited the barrel will start at the higher end. Beyond that, Vitale says they’re looking for barrels made for a market that appreciates a very oaky 1990s-style of red wine because those winemakers will be turning over their
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barrels in two or three years. To know this much about the previous lives of their barrels, Starward has spent time developing relationships with winemakers in their area, but they’ve also brought former winemakers onto their team. “The reason for that is they can talk a winemaker's language, and pretty quickly when they’re having that conversation we can figure out whether the barrel’s going to work for Starward or not,” said Vitale. Another aspect integral to Starward’s maturation policy is the climate in which they operate. While Australia has a reputation for a consistently warm and sunny clime, Melbourne, situated on the southern coast, is famed for their “four seasons in a day,” which is why Starward makes sure to point out that they age their whiskies for three “Melbourne years.” The effect that the climate has on whisky aging in Melbourne is distinctly different than that of places like Scotland or Kentucky. The huge daily swings that occur in this area contribute to something that Starward refers to as elemental aging, and it’s because of this weather pattern that it’s not uncommon for them to lose 15-20 percent in angel’s share throughout the three-year period of maturation. Compare that to Scotland, which typically sees evaporation losses between one and two percent annually. Decisions had to be made by the Starward team early on that would account for these unique and somewhat challenging factors, decisions that other distillers in the past might not have considered. Vitale said that, “Because of this environment, because of the huge diurnal ranges, because we’re wet-filling the barrels and they’re evaporating really quickly, we actually go in at a lower proof point , relative to single malt whiskies particularly.” WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
Starward harbors no secret intent to extend their aging time beyond the three-year mark, as they feel that their whiskies would then fall out of balance with additional maturation time. Instead, Vitale sees the kinds of barrels they use as an opportunity for innovation. In the future, Starward could easily have a rotation of barrels that are American, French, and Hungarian oak; charred and uncharred; and having previously held shiraz, pinot noir, or cabernet. Just considering those factors alone makes for 18 alternative flavor profiles, and that’s not taking into account the idiosyncrasies of individual winemakers. As Starward’s production practices have tightened and taken form over the years, so too has Vitale’s approach to leading the business. In the 13 years since they opened — a period of time that includes achieving success despite Australia’s limiting tax structure on distilled spirits; receiving investment from Distill Ventures, a subsidiary of Diageo; as well as surviving a global pandemic — Vitale has gleaned a few nuggets of wisdom from his experience as the founder of a growing brand that aspires to be globally recognized. He’s realized that he doesn’t need to be the one to make every important decision or through whom all information must flow. “The key thing for me was being the champion and protector of our values and our mission,” he said. “And for being [a] founder there’s a skill to letting go and doing it in a way where you still hold the business as opposed to let it run away from you.” One aspect to that is recruiting good team members. A business that runs efficiently is one where delegation is regular and those at the top of the hierarchy feel confident in the skills of the employees they’ve brought in to work alongside them. “We didn’t start this way, not for the least of reasons you can’t afford the talent, so you have to do a lot of work yourself,” he said. Over time, however, Vitale realized more and more the need for employees who were a better fit for their particular positions than he was. “You can lull yourself into thinking you’re the best person to do it and that’s a risk.” Growth in this business is often a slow, measured process that takes a 84
lot of commitment, because it won’t happen overnight. Sometimes you get a boon along the way, as was the case with Starward when they received backing from Diageo’s investment arm, Distill Ventures. Vitale said without hesitation that their partnership with Distill Ventures has been a positive development; however, he recognizes that this route is not for everyone. There are a great deal of business owners who would prefer to maintain a slow, organic rate of expansion rather than receive a boost from investors and the many provisions accompanying that aid. Vitale is clear that investment involvement alone cannot make his or any business a success, though. Equally important is fine-tuning one’s brand messaging down to the millimeter. At Starward they call this the brother-in-law test. A founder should work their message until they’ve got it at a point where they can give it to someone in their life who is removed from this industry but still passionate about the brand, a brother-in-law perhaps, and feel confident that person will be able to sell someone else on the product. “The brother-in-law test has been a really good way of cutting out all the crap from our messaging and getting to the root of what’s really important for us to get people excited about Starward,” Vitale said. And yes, that includes the red wine barrels and the lower proof going into the barrels and the brewer’s yeast that they use in their fermentations, but really the focus for Starward is flavor. There’s only a small segment of the general population who will care about all the innovation that goes into making your product unique; the vast majority only want to know what your product is going to taste like and how they can incorporate it into their regular repertoire of drinks. Vitale chose to ground his whiskies in a setting that he himself is familiar with: friends, family, and a table laden with food. Finishing the wine and pulling out the whisky without much thought. Wine out, whisky in. Starward Distillery is located in Melbourne, Australia. Visit www.starward.com.au for more information. WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
The Scientific Principles of Hydroextractive Distillation Written by Paul Hughes, Ph.D.
uring the last 10 years or so of delivering distilled spirits programs, certain concepts have proved challenging to describe, not least of which is the basis of hydroextractive distillation. However it is important to stick with it as, subtle though the physical chemistry might be, it rationalizes a range of processes and activities, such as the composition of distillate and switching from spirit to tails collection, why adding water to intermediate spirit counterintuitively aids its further purification, and why demethylization is most effective when feed is at its highest proofs. Hydroextractive distillation is based on the observation that while a pure compound has a boiling point dependent on atmospheric pressure alone, when it is in solution or dispersed as an emulsion its volatility is affected by its matrix. To understand why this is so, we can consider iso-amyl alcohol (C5H11OH) in a fermented alcoholic broth. Its boiling point as a pure liquid is close to 132C at atmospheric pressure (compare this to the boiling point of ethanol, 78.4C at atmospheric pressure) and so, as ethanol-water mixtures boil at temperatures below 100C, it seems that iso-amyl alcohol would not distill from the boiling broth into the collected, condensed vapor. However it is well-known that it does distill during WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM â€
a simple pot distillation. In fact, iso-amyl alcohol is least volatile at the highest levels of ethanol in water. If we add water to an ethanol solution of iso-amyl alcohol, the relative volatility of ethanol and iso-amyl alcohol become more and more similar. At around 35 percent ABV ethanol in water, the iso-amyl alcohol has the same volatility as ethanol, and at higher levels of water iso-amyl alcohol actually becomes more volatile than ethanol despite there being more than a 50C difference in the boiling points of the alcohols. It turns out that virtually any volatile organic compound will show the same pattern: volatility is inversely related to the proportion of ethanol present. (There is one notable exception, meth-
anol, which I will come to later.) So why does this occur? Descriptively this behavior can be explained by the impact on the polarity of ethanol as water is added. The more polar a liquid is, the more it is able to keep charged entities apart and can be determined by measuring a rather exotic property of a liquid known as the dielectric constant. For water the value of the dielectric constant is around 78, and for ethanol it is 25. These values are relative to air, which has a value of 1. Hydrocarbons such as pentane have values closer to 2. So ethanol does have appreciable polarity. One of the reasons why water is so polar is that the bonding electron pair in O–H bonds are more drawn to the oxygen atoms. Thus there is a partial positive charge on the hydrogen atoms and a partial negative charge on the oxygen atoms. As opposites attract, the result is a three-dimensional network of intermolecular O ….. H linkages, known as hydrogen bonds. They are weak by conventional bond standards, but even so they are some of the strongest intermolecular forces in covalent systems. So, with nature always tending towards the lowest energy state of a chemical system, hydrogen bonds reduce the free energy of an aqueous system. The polarity of alcohols is due to the presence of the O–H group, but unlike water there is only one hydrogen per molecule, so while alcohols are polar they are less polar than water. The point is that we might think that adding an organic species to water would disrupt the energy-saving hydrogen bonding network, as bulky non-polar groups (such as the C5 chain in iso-amyl alcohol) might be thought to get in the way of hydrogen bonds. In fact the explanation is rather more subtle. It turns out that the average number of hydrogen bonds per water molecule does not change materially when a non-polar moiety is added. Instead these moieties become surrounded by water molecules, with hydrogen bonding holding water molecules in place.
This is where the subtlety comes into play. The arrangement of water molecules around non-polar moieties has the effect of conferring order on the solution. Thermodynamically, order is measured by a parameter known as entropy, and it turns out that the higher the degree of disorder the lower the so-called free energy of a system. Conversely, the less disorder there is in a system the higher the free energy will be. Therefore, it is unfavorable for water to solvate non-polar molecules. So the lack of affinity and poor solubility non-polar moieties in water means that, in a distilling scenario, as the proportion of water a boiler proceeds, there is an increase in the volatility of organic molecules. So if you have ever monitored percent ABV coming out of the condenser as a function of time, if the percent ABV is above around 30 in, say, a simple pot still, then the vapor composition remains almost constant (70–80 percent ABV) until continued collection of ethanol means that even relatively low volatility organic species will demonstrate increasing vapor pressures and, therefore, volatility. So the percent ABV exiting the still will drop increasingly rapidly, and the faster it drops the more rapidly the volatility of organic compounds will increase. This has significant implications for deciding when to cut from hearts to tails and indeed for any distillation involving botanicals. Earlier we made the point that the behavior of methanol is not typical of other organic compounds. This is because methanol is one of the few organic compounds that is more polar than ethanol (dielectric constant of 33 for methanol vs 25 for ethanol). The consequence is that the influence of ethanol/ water composition on the
relative volatility of methanol is the opposite of other common organic compounds: methanol is more volatile relative to methanol at the highest ethanol concentrations. Given that the difference in boiling points of the two alcohols is a mere 13C, any advantage is beneficial. In fact at 40 percent ABV, methanol and ethanol exhibit the same vapor pressure. Even with the “advantage” of high proof feeds, in practice the demethylizer requires significant reflux and — either through a 50 to 70 plate column or a packed column — to reduce ethanol-in-methanol (ie ethanol losses) and methanol-in-ethanol (ie running the risk of out-of-specification neutral spirit). So in terms of hydroextractive distillation, it becomes more apparent as to why a typical intermediate spirit at around 95 percent ABV that is destined for neutral spirit is diluted before removal of the less polar contaminants. The removal is simply more efficient, even if there is a need for a (re-)rectification of the liquid running from the bottom of the hydroextractive distillation column to essentially dewater the aqueous ethanol. Much of the discussion above has involved the concept of relative polarities of liquid, a measure of which is the experimentally-determined dielectric constant, but there is still another distilling-relevant observation that is worth explaining. Ethanol (and methanol
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for that matter) do not always mix as a true solution. At ethanol levels of around 20 percent ABV or higher, ethanol molecules are not homogeneously distributed in water and begin to randomly self-associate or cluster. Such clustering will only occur spontaneously if there is a system energy benefit, so the question becomes, “What is the relevance of 20 percent ABV?” It turns out that 20 percent ABV is not unique, and clusters can be detected at as low as 17 percent ABV in the presence of wood extractives such as tannins. But we need to recall that, say, 20 percent ABV is equivalent to a mole fraction of 0.07 of ethanol and 0.93 for water. In other words, seven percent of the molecules in any given volume will be ethanol, the other 93 percent water. This means that clustering begins when there are only 13 molecules of water for every molecule of ethanol. Presumably if ethanol is present at higher ratios (ie at higher percent ABV) the bridging
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model of water hydrogen bonding around the hydrophobic ethyl side-chain ceases to be the lowest energy system for ethanol/ water mixtures. Instead, ethanol clustering presumably allows the ethyl groups to interact intermolecularly. Such forces, known as Van der Waals forces, are much weaker than a typical hydrogen bond, so it would seem that the strain on hydrogen bonds surrounding hydrophobic moieties and decreasing entropy is less energetically favorable than ethanol clustering. This may seem arcane but if you have ever added water to release flavor from spirit, what you are doing in effect is disrupting clusters which, because of their hydrophobicity, trap less polar flavor-active compounds, reducing their vapor pressure and therefore flavor intensity, at least on the nose. Adding water essentially invokes the hydroselection phenomenon, breaking up clusters and therefore “releasing” flavor volatiles as they are exposed to higher
local concentrations of water and increasing their vapor pressure. Whether you add water or not as a consumer based on preference is of course up to you, but if you want to evaluate spirit flavor profile, it will probably be worth your while to add water or, as Germain-Robin suggests in the case of Cognac, warm the spirit in its balloon with the hand, evaporating the alcohol preferentially and therefore affecting dilution and flavor release. On paper, ethanol and water appear to be some of the simplest of molecules. In real-life they invoke subtle differences in intermolecular interactions. It’s enough to drive a Prohibitionist to drink! 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.
BEYOND THE PALE
Kilned or Roasted Specialty Malts for Distilling WRITTEN BY DEVON TREVATHAN
ightly-colored malt, while used most often, is not the only malt available to distillers when making a whiskey. There is a range of techniques to change the flavor and color of malts, varying from a light amber to a deep black malt, and each hue has a corresponding differentiation in character. Most manipulation is achieved through the application of heat in either a kiln or roasting tub. The process of kilning applies heat in order to achieve a key reaction, the Maillard reaction. This, partnered with other heat-related reactions, is central in generating flavors and colors beyond lightly colored malt. These darker shades of malt are utilized by brewers more than
distillers. The signature color and flavor of a porter, for instance, is reliant on the addition of chocolate malt, which can impart flavors such as coffee and chocolate, though compared to black malt, the flavors of a chocolate malt can be quite light. More than 90 percent of commercial porters use chocolate malt in their brew. Varying techniques are used to achieve these different malts. All malts will begin with green malt, which is malted barley that has not yet been treated with heat. If green malt is kilned at a high temperature (between 80-115 degrees C) and roasted (between 215-225 degrees C), it can be turned into an amber, brown, chocolate, or black malt. WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
When someone is discussing these different varieties of specialty malt, they’re most often talking about malted barley. However, any cereal can be malted, with rye, wheat, and sorghum being the most common after barley, and then roasted to varying degrees. Malting wheat can be a little tricky compared to barley. While wheat’s high extract value can make it great for brewing, the fact that it doesn’t have a husk makes it difficult to malt and also runs the risk of a fungal attack on the kernels. Wheat is also difficult to use in a separating device like a lauter tun. Varying wheat malts are typically produced at a lower temperature in the kiln (starting at 40 degrees C and finishing at 60 degrees C). The same issues that are present when malting wheat can occur while malting rye, as rye similarly does not have a husk. Pentosans, a kind of complex sugar, that are present in rye are prone to forming gels in the mashing process, which can add further difficulties to malting. Dark and caramel rye malt are available, however, and offer a distinct flavor that is a combination of rye’s spice and some of the warm caramel notes that are achieved through kilning. As stated above, barley is the most commonly malted cereal, and it can be easily roasted to achieve a specialty flavor profile. All of the specialty barley malts are progressively darker than a lightly-colored malt, corresponding to longer times spent in the kiln or roasting at higher temperatures, and these deeper hues have unique, rich flavors. The barley used to produce specialty malts typically has a higher nitrogen content. Kilning a cereal grain begins with a slow recirculation of air; on-air temperatures for palt malt do not exceed 70 degrees C. Once the kernels are dry to the touch, the temperature inside the kiln is ramped up to achieve a darker color if the goal is to make a specialty malt. Moist air is recycled through the kiln to aid in the development of the Maillard reaction, which creates melanoidin compounds. The higher temperatures that are necessary to roast the malts also elevate simple sugar levels and soluble protein. To roast specialty malts, the malt is usually placed in a roasting drum, where the temperature for kilning is raised over a pe-
riod of time to achieve a temperature between 215-225 degrees C. Throughout this period of production, roasters will continuously check the color of the grain. As soon as they see that the desired degree of roast has been achieved, the heating will be cut. The roasted grain is then quenched with water, halting the roasting process and causing the grain to swell. The color after the roasting has been finished may range from a dark chocolate brown to black, and the husk of the barley will be polished and shiny. Varying levels of roast may be achieved, starting with amber, which has toffee undertones to compliment a dry, biscuity flavor. These malts are rarely, if ever, used by distillers because the change in character will be hard to carry over into the final spirit. Brown malt is next, which adds rich coffee notes to the existing biscuit character. Chocolate malt — the next level in the progressively darker range of specialty malts — may be employed by distillers, however, to achieve a slightly burnt toast and strong coffee character. Finally, black malt, the deepest malt, has flavors of burnt, astringent coffee. These malts are included for flavor and character, but even in beer production, specialty malts are used as a minority inclusion into the brew, about three to five percent, with the rest being filled out by more standard malts. The use of specialty malts by distillers remains quite rare, though some producers are experimenting with these grains. The problem, beyond the fact that increasingly roasting malt does decrease potential yields, is that these strong flavors can become quite overpowering if not handled with care. Consider for instance a brown bread versus a white bread, or the fact that distillation is at its core a process of concentration. If chocolate or black malt is included into the mash, the profile of the final product could be subject to its overpowering character and become rather one-note. That’s not to say that there is no potential to experiment with specialty malts beyond the standard, but anyone doing so should be cautioned to start small and work their way up. Who knows — more specialty products may be on the horizon.
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.
There is a range of techniques to change the flavor and color of malts, varying from a light amber to a deep black malt, and each hue has a corresponding differentiation in character. WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
Water Conservation On distilling in the thirsty American West.
“As my county goes, we have a really good working relationship. They've come in and audited us, and they know we do the best that we can, given what our business is.” — CRIS STELLER, Dry Diggings Distillery
Cris Steller, of Dry Diggings Distillery, is the Executive Director of the California Artisanal Distillers Guild. 90
istilling is a water-intensive process. Water is involved in most distillery activities: fermentation, heating, cooling, cleaning, and tasting room operations. Without water, there is no distillation. The cost of water is a variable that every distillery must factor into its plans. In western states, which seem to be under perennial drought conditions, water can be difficult and expensive to consume. Richard Harris, a retired California lobbyist who worked on water recycling issues, said that, “Now everybody has more of a conservation ethos and a lot of it is driven by price. That's just life … We went through those really, really severe droughts and we're probably going to continue to always have these droughts, so they got to keep doing it.” Aside from the fact that many western cities were built in locations without enough annual precipitation to support the number of people currently inhabiting them, the system by which water rights are allotted has created some wrangling between municipalities, states, and even some countries over this limited natural resource. Unlike eastern cities, where water rights are primarily determined by proximity to the source — lake, river, spring, well, etc. — western water rights are determined by precedent: Whoever had the rights first has priority in receiving their allotment. Most of these first rights came through claims from the gold, silver, and copper
Written & photographed by Andrew Faulkner
mines, which fueled settlement of the West. Subsequent US Supreme Court decisions have extended the precedent of rights to include indigenous people, who relied on the water before European-based society arrived. The Colorado River Compact of 1922 set percentages for each of the seven states with tributaries flowing into the Colorado River — Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California. This was modified by two treaties signed with Mexico in 1944, which guaranteed a minimum volume be allowed to flow across the border. Population growth in most areas has far exceeded the 1922 projections, while rainfall has not met predictions, adding stress to an already complex and imperfect system. In the 1930s, Arizona sued California and floated a two-boat navy to prevent the building of a dam to divert water. Recent decades have produced intrastate conflicts, as northern California interests resist efforts to build tunnels to divert Sacramento River Delta water hundreds of miles to southern California. “They measured how many people were going to be living along and using the Colorado [river], and they didn't project out for Las Vegas or the deserts of California,” said Carey Shanks, co-founder of Marble Distilling, in Carbondale, Colorado. “It's over-allocated.” What this means for distillers is that they must adapt. Even if municipal water treatment facilities recycle their waste for use downstream, it is incumbent on distilleries to conserve. “That is the biggest limiting factor that we deal with here in the State of Nevada: water,” WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
said Matt McKinney, general manager of the Bently Ranch, which is home to Bently Heritage Estate Distillery, in Minden, Nevada. Even though the ranch sits on top of a giant aquifer where water is usually five to eight feet below the surface, new wells cannot be placed on demand. “You just can't sink a hole underground and start pumping water. You have to have the permits, the permission to own the water,” said McKinney. “If you need more water, you need to go find somebody with water rights for sale and purchase them.” In 2006, when Stephen Paul founded Hamilton Distillers in Tucson, Arizona, there was little thought of how much water it would consume. The distillery was founded on a shoestring budget so had to skimp on many things. Tucson receives Colorado River water from Arizona’s extensive canal system and stores it underground, placing little restrictions on its use. “I’m embarrassed to say, in the early days, we were dumping all our condenser water down the drain.” Hamilton Distillers has since installed a cooling tower and a chiller to recirculate all its condenser water. The distillery is in the middle of raising capital for an expansion and Paul is looking for additional ways to conserve, primarily in their malthouse. Hamilton Distillers floor-malts barley to make its flagship Whiskey Del Bac single malt. The grain is soaked twice to germinate. To process 5,000 lbs of grain, it takes 1,700 gallons of water in each soak. Paul says the water from the first soak contains too much organic matter and other solids to be reused. “In the first steeping, … you're putting a lot of vegetal material in the water,” he said. “That's going to go sour if you keep it around.” However, the second soak from one batch can be used for the first soak of the next batch. Solid matter can be a problem for distillers in another way, and that is in stillage. Not only does it contain a significant amount of water, but it also contains the suspended solids that can create problems for municipal water treatment plants. Mike LoCascio of Soluble Organic Solutions in Clear Lake Iowa works with distilleries ranging in size from Breckenridge Distilling to Jim Beam to reclaim water from WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
their stillage. LoCascio’s system removes larger solids by pumping stillage through a rotating drum screen, essentially filtering out the bigger pieces. “It’s just a rotating screen. It's a real fine screen. And we just rotate and we suck the water off,” said LoCascio. “By adding the chemistry and extracting, we reduced the organic load by 85 percent.” LoCascio said what remains in the water is some dead yeast cells, lactic and other acids, but the water can be backset for cooking and provide up to 50 percent of the process water for the next ferment. He said it does not turn a sweet mash sour, and the process also reduces organics that are sent to the treatment plant. Cris Steller of Dry Diggings Distillery recalls when he was helping the late Jim Harrelson at Do Good Distillery. Steller said, “Their sewer district was making them truck their effluence off to a recycling facility that he contracted with, because they wouldn't allow it to go down the drain.” Steller also did not plan a closed system when he founded his distillery in El Dorado Hills, California, but he now recirculates as much water as he can. This is difficult during the hot months in California’s Central Valley.
“You just can't sink a hole underground and start pumping water. You have to have the permits, the permission to own the water. If you need more water, you need to go find somebody with water rights for sale and purchase them.” — MATT MCKINNEY,
Bently Heritage Estate Distillery
Open fermenters and the wash still at Marble Distilling in Carbondale, Colorado.
“As there's more and more people, the resources are stretched thinner and thinner, so you're going to have to have a better, or smarter, use of it.” — CAREY SHANKS,
Marble Distilling Company
“I love vodka, but I don't want to destroy the planet to have it.” — CONNIE BAKER,
Marble Distilling Company
Labeled pipes direct water for different purposes through Marble Distilling for different purposes in the Water Energy Transfer System. 92
“As my county goes, we have a really good working relationship,” said Steller. “They've come in and audited us, and they know we do the best that we can, given what our business is. So, we do try to recirculate water to 500-gallon tanks: During the summer, it's not enough. We use water to cool our chillers. We are looking at going to a completely closed system.” For Dry Diggings, a closed system will have to wait. He estimates the water-system conversion will cost roughly $50,000. “That is extremely expensive, but when you look at the cost of water, it pencils out over a few years,” said Steller. Steller has just finished the permitting phase and is about to begin construction on another project, a full-service restaurant, something allowed in recent years in California. As Executive Director of the California Artisanal Distillers Guild, he lobbied for creation of the Type 74 license, which not only allows for the opening of a distillery pub, but also for direct-to-consumer sales of bottles from the distillery. After the restaurant is completed, Steller plans to expand the production facility, installing larger stills and a glycol-cooled, closed water system. When Connie Baker and Carey Shanks founded Marble Distilling Company, the plan was not only to build a distillery/ bar/restaurant/bed and breakfast, but to do so in a way that proved the economic viability of sustainable practices. The husband and wife team devised what they call the Water Energy Transfer System (WETS), which conserves not just water but the heat and energy that is usually consumed in the production process. Not only is condenser water recirculated, the heat in it is recycled to warm the building and provide hot water for the kitchen, bar and the bed and breakfast. “They call it whole building integration,” Baker said. “All of the systems are integrated, and not just one thing.“ The couple estimated WETS has saved four million gallons of water, while capturing and reusing 1.8 billion BTUs — enough energy to heat 20 homes — saving 14,500 pounds of carbon each year. Recent-
ly, Marble Distilling installed heat pumps to further increase the savings. Baker said, “The first two weeks that we ran [the heat pump]… we cut our gas bill in half, but doubled our production. We were super impressed.” The distillery has a five kW solar system and will install an additional 30 kW system onto a newly-built shed roof on the back of their building, with a goal of going to zero net electrical consumption. Information about WETS can be found on the Marble Distilling website (www.marbledistilling. com/sustainability ) and was featured in the May 2019 Popular Mechanics. Baker and Shanks are happy to share more information on request. “I love vodka, but I don't want to destroy the planet to have it,” said Baker. “We're a mission-driven capitalist venture,” Shanks said, “… and it's really cool when you can blend your life passions with a business model.” Baker said, “I was just talking to another distiller and I said, ‘I can't figure out why my water bill was more than $100. It's never over $100,’” said Baker. “And he said, ‘please tell me that's a day,’ and I said, ‘No, that's a month. What's yours?’ And theirs is $5,000 a month! It just shows, you know, how much you actually could conserve.” Harris wraps it up: “All resources are going to be used smarter as we move forward. So, whether it's water, it's air, it's your transportation, your utilities, your gas, electric: I think everything. Because, as there's more and more people, the resources are stretched thinner and thinner, so you're going to have to have a better, or smarter, use of it. There's just no denying that's going to happen, because it has to.”
Andrew Faulkner was Managing Editor of Distiller magazine for six years. In 14 years at the American Distilling Institute he coordinated curriculum for Hands-on Distilling Workshops, helped plan the Annual Spirits Conference and Vendor Expo, and was the architect of the ADI’s International Judging of Craft Spirits. He is the co-author, along with Bill Owens and Alan Dikty, of “The Art of Distilling Whiskey” (2019, Quarry Press) and has edited six books on distilled spirits.
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hen you open a distillery under normal conditions, people may offer you praise and compliment your passion. If you open a distillery during a pandemic, like Devil’s Half Acre Distillery in Hermon, Maine did, people may say something slightly differently. “We’ve been called everything from crazy, to wack, to nuts,” explained Larry Murphy, The Devil’s Half Acre’s director of sales and marketing. Those adjectives may be harsh, but there’s no denying their strategy takes some serious moxie. At a time when massive supply chain disruptions, tasting room closures, and potentially crippling tax hikes make mere survival the endgame for so many craft distilleries, christening a new product and creating brand awareness may not look like a headache as much as it looks like a power drill to the temple. Yet behind this madness stands a clear methodology, one that requires a dive well beyond the surface narrative of questionable timing.
the DEVIL’S in the DETAILS
How the Devil’s Half Acre Distillery Opened During the Pandemic WRITTEN BY RICH MANNING PHOTO PROVIDED BY DEVIL’S HALF ACRE DISTILLERY
As any distiller will tell you, there’s a big difference between coming up with a label and launching a label. So, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear Devil’s Half Acre’s origin story goes back quite a bit. “We didn’t necessarily start Devil’s Half Acre in 2020, as much as its launch was five years in the making,” said The Devil’s Half Acre president and COO Matthew Murphy. Matthew’s plans to launch The Devil’s Half Acre do indeed trace back five years. Distilling was in his soul — his family lineage connects
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to distillers in Ireland — but more importantly, the Army veteran was seeking a way to build a local business that would allow him to spend a little more time with his friends and family, including his dad, Larry. He got the ball rolling later that year, but a cavalcade of curveballs kept derailing his efforts. Yet he remained undaunted and determined to get things going, even when the roots of COVID-19 took hold. “My 13 years of military service has taught me perseverance is king,” Matthew said. “We’ve been overcoming roadblocks since 2016. We weren’t going to let a pandemic slow us down.” Of course, the virus still caused challenges in getting the word out about the distillery, particularly since distributors were more concerned with maintaining portfolios than building them at the pandemic’s outset. The solution? Good ol’ fashioned pavement pounding. “We spent a lot of time directly reaching out to develop relationships with customers, bars, and restaurants,” Matthew said. “The idea was to drive demand for the product from the customers to the distributors, rather than the other way around.” The strategy worked. They’ve lined up accounts in 77 stores, bars, and restaurants in Maine, and a Connecticut distributor has invited the distillery into their portfolio when the Murphys are ready. “We thought that if we could get good traction now, we could position ourselves to be in a good place after the pandemic,” Larry said. “So far, our strategy has worked really well.”
Dr. James Beaupre, Matthew Murphy, and Larry Murphy.
The Devil’s Half Acre’s sole ambition is making gin — specifically, their lone label, Jigger & Jones Gin. Unlike other new craft distilleries, they aren’t interested in expanding their portfolio into brown liquors or exotic expressions. It’s a decision driven by a desire to make the best gin possible, but also by their own industry observations. “Look at the products out on the current market,” explained James Beaupré, The Devil’s Half Acre’s distiller and chief science officer. “You have Macallan, Tito’s, Grey Goose — they only make one thing, and they make it well. That’s where we take our cue from.” Beaupré’s title isn’t for show. He has a PhD in chemical science. “You know how there’s always the one guy in college that majored in alcohol? I was that guy,” he joked. All kidding aside, he applies his scientific know-how to guide the gin to a space that melds a traditional London dry style with a regional flair that strives to capture Maine’s natural essence. “It starts with making sure the local ingredients like the grains and botanicals tell the story of Maine’s natural resources,” Beaupré said. “Understanding these ingredients helps you build the story of the liquor and provides you with principal flavors that you can build upon. This gives the gin a little more versatility, allowing it to meet the customer’s need and mood.”
Stories can be essential for a new label. The good tales create a sense of place, establish character, and give nods to history. The Devil’s Half Acre’s Jigger & Jones Gin’s story connects with these
* Hermon, Maine sits west of Bangor, close enough for Mainers to essentially consider the former to be part of the latter. As any horror fan can tell you, Bangor is the heart of Stephen King country. The popular author lives here, and he transforms Bangor into the fictional burg of Derry in many of his stories. There’s temptation for any Bangor brand to unofficially tap into this macabre mythos. Those that don’t must ensure their story bests the spooky stuff. The Murphys chose to skip the scares and dig into Bangor’s past, and their discoveries forged a connection to spirits and their pleasures in a way that monsters and malevolent spirits cannot.
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elements , which is crucial when you consider the conflated lord of its region’s headquarters.* Lumber built Bangor. It still contributes to Maine’s multi-billion-dollar lumber industry, but it was the world’s biggest lumber port in the 19th century, and its status as a timber titan attracted loggers from all over North America seeking employment. The city reacted to the worker influx by stuffing its downtown with lurid delights to satiate their hardy dispositions. The locals dubbed the scandalous section of town The Devil’s Half Acre, and with good reason: records from 1890 reveal 142 brothels and saloons in town, despite its official population of just 272. Such penchant for nefarious behavior was quite on-brand. “Prohibition started in Maine in 1851,” Larry noted, “Bangor was the first city in the state, and first city in the country, to say, ‘screw that — we’re staying wet!’” This unique environment provided an incendiary playground for a near-mythical cast of characters. One such individual was Albert “Jigger” Johnson, a legendary logger from New Hampshire who ripped through Bangor’s bar scene with the ferocity of a buzzsaw meeting maple. His fabled equal was a businesswoman named Fan Jones, whose brothel The Sky Blue House of Pleasure allegedly featured a blue chimney that made it easier for randy loggers and sailors to find. It’s assumed their paths intersect at one point, but even if they didn’t, Jigger & Jones Gin ensures their dual legends will be intertwined with the land that built their lore.
Model Sizes 2”- 3” 1 or 3 Phase Wireless Remote
The Murphys’ long-term, post-pandemic plan is to eventually expand to wider distribution, starting with the Eastern seaboard. Until then, they’re content with working within COVID-19’s constrictions and slowly telling the story of their slice of Maine one sip at a time. “Maine has an abundance of elegant, natural beauty that can be experienced every day on the land or by the sea,” Matthew said. “We want to make sure our gin captures that beauty.”
Devil’s Half Acre Distillery is located in Hermon, Maine. For more info call (207) 561-6301 or visit www.devilshalfacredistillery.com.
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www.americanwinepump.com www.americanbeerpumps.com Made in Kenosha, WI
John McGinn (262)-909-7267
Part Two: From Raw Materials to Finished Product WRITTEN BY G ARY SPEDDING, PH.D.
ince Part One — a neat movie discovery. A visual feast, which will help all to better understand the saké-making process and the experiences of those Toji and kurabito who commit six solid months of their life to the trade, is delivered in the form of the movie “The Birth of Saké,” featuring a brewery in Shiroyama City, Ishikawa Prefecture of Northern Japan. It plays out the enormous toll on traditional saké workers (kurabito) and to the level of detail needed in controlling the process from start to finish. While not explicitly shown in this documentary, a master brewer (the Toji) has been known to commit suicide if he has failed to control a brew and it ends up being an irredeemable mess. The stress on the other workers is, however, noted in this movie. With subtitles, the movie explains the process from raw materials selection and processing through to the saké hitting the consumer shelves, illustrating some of the marketing and consumer and distributor tastings. In addition to this movie, a new book detailing the world of saké has just been published — literally hot off the presses — titled The Japanese Sake Bible by Brian Ashcraft (1). Ashcraft explains that the word “saké” is thought to be related to the Japanese word sakaeru — meaning “to flourish” or “to prosper.” Sake mizu — “glorious water” — eventually morphed into simply the word saké. While the making of saké initially sounds quite simple — a few raw materials here, a sprinkling of fungal spores there, and an inoculation of yeast to bask in nutrients and eventually produce flavor and alcohol — the process is exceedingly laborious and complex, with attention to detail needed at every step. The movie, this new book (1), and the references cited in Part One of this article, and herein, should provide the detail necessary for anyone eager to start up a saké brewery to either jump in and attempt to make the “glorious water,” or step back and simply admire the dedication needed to make, or to better appreciate, the examples they consume. Part One (both in print form, and the associated tables and additional materials on the web) presented an outline of the history of saké and how it is made along with some descriptions of its classifications — the types and styles of saké. For example, a detailed glossary of terms was
presented in the magazine edition and online — related to Part One and should be utilized again with this more extended coverage of the topic. This next piece provides a bit more depth to saké-making but also shows how and where the flavors of saké arise or are controlled, and a wee bit to introduce the sensory evaluation and appreciation of this fascinating and complex rice-based beverage. That stated, it provides only a glimpse and a little bit of a personal view but hopefully with enough passion conveyed, and references to enable a deeper probe into the topic no matter the angle or level of interest the reader might have.
A QUICK OVERVIEW/SUMMARY OF THE SAKÉ PROCESS Before embarking on this next piece of the saga a very brief outline of the saké making process is presented. Saké making begins with the polishing of rice kernels to remove the outer layer of proteins, lipids (fats), and minerals that can adversely affect the aroma and flavor of the saké. The polished rice is separated into two parts — one part is steamed with the addition of mold spores and incubated to generate malted rice (kōji). To the other portion yeast, water and lactic acid are added and this is shubo (yeast starter). After these processes, the two portions are combined to yield a final mash (moromi) and alcohol can be added at this stage. A clear liquid is then obtained by filtration and the saké is ultimately bottled with or without pasteurization (2. See Part One for more detail). Brief outlines of the overall process are also featured pictorially in Figure 1. As with the brewing and distilling of most beverages, a lot of physics, biology, and chemistry needs to be considered. It is suggested that ten thousand methods (styles) make saké — “saké zukuri banryuu” (1). Indeed, as we saw from Part One, and the online text additions, there are many styles, types, variants, and nuances of saké. And like for many brewing centers, there are several regions of Japan with distinctly different water sources and approaches that can lead to the nuanced qualities of saké. Thus, we begin this adventure with water. WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
Figure 1: Summary
of Saké Production
Spores of Koji Mold Aspergillus oryzae
Key: lactic acid added solids removed
brewing water added
48 hr 35-42 °C
2-4 wk 10-21 °C
1-2 mo + 10-21 °C
saké yeast (Saccharomyces) added
Adapted from Bokulich, et al. (3) and Kodama (5). A linear schematic from raw materials intake to packaged saké. Here specific points of entry of clean saké brewing water, lactic acid (sometimes created by use of Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) as further described in the text and in Part One), and Saccharomyces yeast are noted. Separation of liquids and solids during processing also noted. Note the actual times and temperatures quoted may vary – these values represent those typically employed at the brewery location featured in their research study. See the text and the figures and text in Part One for more detail and for definitions of the terms illustrated here. Additional details may be found in such works as Kitamura, et al (6), Koyanagi, et al (7), and Hardwick, et al (8).
HARD AND SOFT WATER Masculine and feminine saké
Saké, we are told, is brewed using various sources of famous high-quality water. Moreover, it is extremely important to note that the chemistry of water has a significant impact on the flavor of beverages brewed with it — including beer and saké! (9). Miyamizu — “Heavenly water” from the Nada region (Hyogo Prefecture) of Japan, for example, is said to be highly representative of the water used to brew saké, but good spring water for saké brewing is available in places such as Fushimi in Kyōto Prefecture, Saijō in Hiroshima Prefecture, and Yuzawa in Akita Prefecture. Miyamizu represents relatively hard water, drawn from a well beneath Nishinomiya city and this water is said to allow fermentation to proceed efficiently and results in a dry saké. It is one reason Nada saké became nationally famous (9, 10). The spring water in Fushimi, on the other hand, is relatively soft, resulting in the production of a sweetish (soft mouthfeel) saké. This is “Onna zake” or feminine in expressed meaning. Onna means woman and Otoko means man. So, saké may be classified as feminine or masculine (see below). The hardness and softness of water is largely governed by mineral ions — in particular, by sulfate and bicarbonate levels — and especially concerning calcium and magnesium ion concentrations. Water chemists use formulas to determine the hardness of water, and there are temporary and permanent hardness waters which may be used “as is” or treated to change their overall minerality. In addition, water for saké production is classified as soft, semi-soft, light-hard, semi-hard, hard, and very hard, with graded scales based on different countries’ preferences and specifications — for example, German degrees of hardness. A detailed account of the chemistry of water hardness and how it is expressed was not possible here (refer to water chemistry texts). However, a study of regions of Japan, their respective water qualities and WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
brands made with such waters should be enlightening to those in the West wishing to start making saké. In brief outlines: Shizuoka in the Mount Fuji region has the softest water — runoff from the mountains — Niigata has water spanning the soft to semi-soft region, Fushimi (a region of the Kyoto Prefecture), Nijo (Fukuoka Prefecture), and Hiroshima are classed as having semi-soft water with Miyamizu displaying itself as a harder-water saké producing region, though still in range of light-hard. Harder-water regions (semi-hard through very-hard) e.g., in the eastern part of Japan receive little mention in the texts other than to note that brewers would purchase soft water for their use. Sometimes mineral ions may be added to saké brewing water to promote fermentation. Knowledge of water composition allows safe and careful manipulation today that lets brewers emulate other world-famous brewing waters. So, Miyamizu is high in minerals — phosphorus and potassium — nutrients that, along with calcium and magnesium, are regarded as important for kōji-kin (the kōji mold) and yeast, helping promote enzymatic activities and fast stable fermentations, reducing stress on the yeast, and preventing stuck fermentations. Vigorous fermentations also help prevent unwanted microbiological contamination. Miyamizu water also has decent levels of other ions including sodium, calcium, and magnesium. Perhaps of greatest importance, though, is that the water drawn from this region is extremely low in iron — ferric and ferrous ions. Iron content adversely affects the sensory/flavor properties of saké Nada’s water (see below). Overall, the mineral profile of this water leads to the production of dry and “masculine” saké (9). Another well-known saké producing area is Fushimi (Kyoto Prefecture), which has “honorable aromatic water,” resulting in the sweeter (softer mouthfeel), more “feminine” saké. Overall, with a lower mineral content than the Nada water, the fermentations are said to be less vigorous and this 97
leads to “the softer style of Kyoto sakés” (11). The underground water “Fukuryūsui” from the Mt. Fuji region is naturally purified via the volcanic soils located deep underground. This water has a well-balanced 3:1 ratio of calcium and magnesium — considered most suitable to Japanese palates and has a crisp flavor with a soft mouth feel. At one time harder waters became preferred because, as noted above, minerals will feed yeast and kōji and allow for vigorous fermentation activity. In earlier times this was even more essential in order to prevent spoilage of saké mash; 200 to 300 years ago mash spoilage was a huge problem. Even just one hundred years ago it is claimed that 10 percent of mashes were spoiled during the fermentation stage (T. Ueno, personal communication). Today, many saké makers prefer soft water as this allows them to perform lower-temperature fermentation, which results in the brewing of smooth, soft, clean saké. Many brewers thus make use of reverse-osmosis filters to take out all minerals and nutrients, and then rebuild the water to suit whatever their kōji and yeast like, or need, and within their chosen fermentation parameters. As noted above, iron adversely affects saké. The average product has 0.1 mg/L of iron, though it’s best for brewing purposes when iron is less than 0.02 mg/L. At levels above 0.15 mg/L, saké takes on a yellowish to reddish-brown color and this is accompanied by a change in taste. A natural compound in kōji fungi known as ferrichrysin binds together with iron to form a reddish-brown complex. In addition to the yellowing of saké, iron also promotes oxidation and poor aging of saké, leading to a negative flavor impact (5, 11-15). It is not easy to remove this ferrichrysin from finished saké e.g., by activated charcoal treatments — so best to avoid it in the first place. Another mineral to avoid in larger quantities is manganese, which also participates and catalyzes damaging oxidation reactions. In the presence of manganese ions and sunlight, discoloration occurs and this is called “sun-struck coloring,” leading to an adverse effect on flavor and taste (see this topic coverage again below). Brewers go to great lengths to ensure no iron contamination during saké manufacture but for now we leave this issue with that note of advice. So, in summary, brewing water must be tasteless, odorless, colorless, and transparent, and must be free of organic matter and harmful microorganisms, thus, at a minimum, complying with Water Supply Act standards. The saké manufacturing industry, however, often seeks higher quality standards for brewing water. In addition to its uses for brewing saké — rice washing, steeping and mashing — water (see Part One and Figure 1) is also used for the adjustment of saké quality. It is used for reducing alcohol strength — see Aruten in Part One — rinsing bottles, washing within the brewery (materials, tanks, vessels etc.), and to generate boiler steam. Around 20-30 volumes of water per finished volume of saké will be consumed in the overall process. The qualities of the waters used in these processes must thus be understood. For example, water for steaming rice is supplied directly into the rice, so must be free of harmful components and exhibit no off-flavors which could taint the finished saké (13). A highly detailed account of water qualities for saké brewing and water quality adjustments may be found in the Textbook of Saké Brewing (13) and by Yoshizawa and Ishikawa (12) and in the book SAKÉ by Akiyama (9). [Note: In relation to discovering more about the regions noted in this article, a highly detailed and interactive 98
map showing saké regions of Japan and with extended links and details to many breweries can be found here: https://guides.lib.ku.edu/c. php?g=95095 ]
RICE – GETTING TO THE CORE ELEMENTS Selection, refinement, and polish
“Shinmai - komai — New rice; old rice — 新米・古米 Generally speaking, the rice from the new harvest in autumn is called “new rice” (新米, shinmai) to distinguish it from that from the preceding harvest, “old rice” (古米, komai). In an average year, new rice comes on the market around September. In administrative terms, the Rice Year (Beikoku Nendo) changes on November 1, so all the rice produced before then is “old rice”, and all produced afterwards after is considered new rice. Under natural conditions, the vitality of the germ and the capacity to germinate deteriorate in old rice, and enzyme activity in the grain causes a decline in quality. Although the degree of change varies with the water content of the stored rice and storage temperature, fats decompose and inorganic substances such as potassium shift into the inner part of the grain. Saké made using rice which has been fumigated and stored for a long period may have the characteristic “old rice smell” (komai-shu).” (see 10).” Japanese rice (Oryza sativa L.) cultivars that are strictly used for the brewing of saké represent a unique and traditional group. Rice quality is considered to be the most important factor in saké brewing. Notably, all rice used for saké production, regardless as to type or variety starts out in its harvested form — meaning in its whole-grain state with husk intact. Once the husk is removed, brown rice remains and has effectively a 100 percent polishing ratio (see below). Consideration is given to two main varieties of rice — indica — long grained and japonica — short grained. These two can also be classified into sticky (meaning glutinous) and non-sticky rice. Specifically bred varieties of non-sticky japonica rice, grown in Japan, are used for saké brewing — though some sticky rice may be used in the latter stages of saké production, when clumping is not as big an issue. (9, 11, 13, 16). Key features to saké rice include large grains, low protein content and high solubility during the brewing process. With the right properties, such rice varieties lead to good kōji production as the starch/dextrins are easily broken down in the saké mash and they contain low levels of compounds known to produce off-flavors or an inferior taste in saké. “Shinpaku means “white heart” and it is the starchy center core of each saké rice grain. Having a concentration of starch in the center of the grain differentiates saké rice from eating rice. Yamadanishiki is one strain of saké rice well known for having a large and pronounced shinpaku. Often called the “king of saké rice”, this strain of sakamai [a general term for rice grown to be used to make sake] is highly prized for its properties that make it well suited for making premium saké.” (10) The outer layers of the whole grain brown rice, including the bran coating, contain large amounts of fats, lipids, minerals, vitamins and proteins that would spoil saké or reduce the qualities of saké color, flavor, and taste — for example several short peptides (short protein WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
chains) have been shown to convey bitter flavors. Such components would also accelerate the growth of yeast and the kōji fungi leading to biochemical and fermentation flavor changes. So, as seen in Part One, rice is subject to a high degree of careful and sophisticated polishing to remove the outer layers. The region of the rice grain known as the germ, the germination center for growth into a new plant, is also removed during polishing. When 30 percent of the grain is removed, the resultant grain is called 70 percent-polished rice. For Ginjō-shu, the outer 40 percent or more of the grain is removed and the polishing rate, or seimai-buai number, is a primary indicator of a saké’s grade, and the grade largely determines the overall quality characteristics of the finished saké. (https://en.saké-times.com/glossary/seimaibuai-rice-polishing-rate) (see Part One for details). From least to most polished the grades of saké: Honjōzō (70%), Ginjō/Junmai Ginjō (60%) and Daiginjō/Junmai Daiginjō (50% or less). (See Figures 3 and 4 in Part One). Milling is a delicate and time-consuming process, as the core of the grain must not be cracked or broken but should be a solid, highly-polished entity. With the husk, bran, and germ removed what is left is called the endosperm — white layers high in starch content. The outer layers of the endosperm also contain some protein, lipid, and vitamin content that is removed in higher polishing ratios. However, what is particularly precious for saké making is a highly concentrated, though less densely-packed, starch presence within an inner core of the grain known as shinpaku. This region in the center of the endosperm is made up of round granules of starch held in place by the other materials composing the endosperm. Shinpaku (meaning white heart or white core) has the appearance of opaque frosted glass due to gaps within the structure and has a good water-absorbing capacity and is thus very suitable to kōji-making (see below) (11, 17). Classic table rice lacks shinpaku and should not be used for any ventures in quality saké making. The criteria then for saké rice are large kernels, a fragility that allows a high water absorption rate, large shinpaku — high in starch content and low in protein, amino acids and fats — and a property known as gaikōnainan, meaning firm on the outside and tender on the inside (an ideal condition for steamed rice). In addition, highly desirable features include high enzymatic digestibility of steamed rice and a low cracking ratio during polishing. Grains, as noted above, are fragile but must remain intact during and after polishing. There are dozens of rice varieties used for saké making and while, as noted above, they must exhibit high-quality performance they only directly add some subtle nuances to the final saké flavor. Yamada-nishiki (from the Hyōgo prefecture) is the “king” of rice varieties used in Japan — making up about 30 percent of total saké-specific rice. It came into play as a hybrid strain in the 1930s. With exceptionally long grains and a large, well-defined shinpaku it is well suited to polishing to very-low rice polishing ratios — e.g., for Ginjō and Daiginjō styles. One of its parental strains Omachi is still used today and is one of the oldest saké rice varieties (since 1866). Omachi rice leads to rich-textured, earthy, and spicy sakés — with some higher or maybe “less-refined/raw” umami character. Conveying fruity notes and “lifting” the flavor in a finished sake, Yamada-nishiki use is said to also promote elegant aging. (9, 19). Another popular variety (at about 25 percent of the total of saké-rice used) is WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
Gohyakuman-goku (Niigata prefecture) which also behaves well when polished and is said to be good when producing kōji. Sakés made with it have noticeably light aromas, textures, and flavors — light, simple, delicate, and dry — along with a clean finish (11). A final one to cover here is Miyama-nishiki (10 percent of total sake rice used) which is said to lead to rich and robust sakés, and with some grain-like texture — restrained aromas — fresh, pleasant fragrance, but sweeter, richer, and more robust. The varietal was developed in Nagano in 1978 and is noted as having a very bright white shinpaku — likened to a snow-capped mountain top — it was named beautiful mountain, or “Miyama”. These and other varieties, many originating last century, grow well in defined regions, and differing geographies and climatic conditions, and are covered in the references (9, 11). A detailed agricultural account of rice cultivation is to be found in the WSET guide (11). The quality ratings of saké rice are defined by the Japanese government and the tokutei-meishō-shu premium sakés (see Part One) can only be made with rice that has passed government inspections. Uninspected and ungraded rice can only be used for the futsū-shu non-premium saké. Saké rice grades include above special (toku-jo), special (toku) and first, second, and third grade (11). Examples of sakés made with different rice varieties can be found in a few of the references from Part One and in the Book of SAKÉ by Harper (19). A comprehensive look at the geographical distribution of over 180 Japanese rice cultivars and saké rice breeding and brewing traits of interest to agronomists and of use to saké brewers has been presented by Hashimoto, et al (20). As rice is a very important worldwide commodity and is important to saké manufacture the reader is directed to https:/en.saké-times.com/learn/sakérice and to other key references — Yoshizawa & Ogawa (21), Verma & Srivastav (22) and Lee, et al (23) to learn much about it especially if considering making one’s own saké. From a saké flavor-contribution perspective, volatile aroma compounds for and derived from rice, while conveying only delicate nuances directly, cover the spectrum of green, fruity/floral, roasty, nutty and bitter characteristics with most classes of chemical compounds involved (22, 23).
The National Microbe of Japan As covered in Part One, rice is used in various capacities in saké manufacture. There is Kōji production, then the seed culture (shubo or moto; the yeast starter) followed by the main mash (moromi) (See Figure 1 and Table 2 Glossary of Saké Terms in Part One for details.) First, a quick look at kōji production. Very simply, rice kōji (with kōji-kin referring to saké mold or fungus) is the vehicle which gets the saccharification under way — the conversion of the rice starch into fermentable sugars and dextrins. It is made by growing the filamentous fungus kōji-kin (Aspergillus oryzae) mold on a set proportion of the rice used in the saké-making process. The Brewing Society of Japan authorized kōji mold as the national microbe of Japan in 2006 (24). For saké, the terms applied includes kome kōji (kome = rice based on its substrate) or ki-kōji (yellow) for the color of the mold spores or pigments produced by the mold — yellow-green for A. oryzae or simply saké-kōji based on its end use. Steamed rice is sprinkled under 99
the right conditions with the mold spores which, through little fingers of growth, called hyphae (or mycelium — network of fine filaments), penetrate the shinpaku (polished rice grains). Through the enzymatic activities between mold and rice, and the breakdown of the structures protecting the starch, kōji-innoculated rice granules form packets of enzymes that start the conversion of rice proteins into amino acids and released starches into fermentable sugars, a processes called saccharification. The mold’s fragrant whitish mycelium, which looks a little like the surface of a tennis ball, exhibits a pleasing mushroom-like aroma. A. oryzae belongs to the Aspergillus genus within the group of fungi known as ascomycetes. Ascomycetes are utilized in many industrial applications in food production and flavoring. About 20 percent of the rice for the saké batch production is soaked in water, steamed, and inoculated with the Aspergillus and cultivated to obtain kōji. In addition to providing the enzyme source for the mash to denature the starch, protein, and fats in rice, there is also the production of vitamins and amino acids to later feed the saké yeast and a third role is in providing some of the flavor notes in the saké. Detailed accounts of how the fungi works and the biochemical complexities are to be found in the literature (18, 24-27, and other references cited therein) with the outline presented in Part One.
High alcoholic fermentation abilities of Saké yeast and metabolic flavor production Saké yeast strains — the organisms that convert sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, and which belong to the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, exhibit higher rates of alcoholic fermentation and ethanol yields in the saké mash than other types of S. cerevisiae strains (28). Such yeasts strains tolerate 18-20 percent ABV, whereas most beer and wines usually contain four to six and 12-15 percent ABV alcohol respectively and can also remain active at low temperatures. Such higher yields of ethanol may be possible by virtue of the nature of saké production — the unique fermentation process of simultaneous saccharification and alcoholic fermentation. The yeast feed upon a gradual supply of glucose in the saké mash, rather than receiving one lump sum of sugar to work on,which would cause stresses on the yeast cells. This is known as multiple parallel fermentation. During and after A. oryzae-associated enzymatic activity conversion of starch to glucose, yeast in the saké mash produce not only the ethanol, but also higher alcohols, esters, organic acids, and amino acids. These components are all important for saké aroma and taste. Thus, the choice of yeast strain is another critical factor in determining aroma and taste of different saké types and brands (29). Saccharomyces saké was first isolated in 1895 during the Meiji era (1868-1912). And the saké yeast strains — originally isolated from saké breweries — are indeed taxonomically categorized as S. cerevisiae, and form a closely-related subgroup, distinct from those such as wine, beer, and baking strains. (28, 30). Several works go into detail on the history, selection, use and the isolation and development of saké yeast strains and only a cursory glimpse could be presented here — mainly to get us to the flavor-production details (18, 28-30, and see: https://www.originsaké.com/yeast-1). 100
Wild yeasts were involved early on and these yeasts worked well with the two traditional brewing techniques of the kimoto (shubo) and yamahai methods of making yeast starter — see Part One (Table 2 Glossary of Saké Brew Terms). These found use up until the beginning of the 20th century when research efforts started with the formation of the Institute of Brewing ( Jozo Shikenjo) in Tokyo in 1904. The name was changed in 2001 to the National Research Institute of Brewing ( https://www.nrib.go.jp/English/about/history.htm ) and many suitable Saccharomyces saké yeast strains have been isolated or selected for (or stored) by the Institute with specific desired characteristics, including for the generation of specific flavor profiles. See Table 1. Many useful saké yeast strains have thus been developed in Japan. Taste enhancement and suppression of unwanted flavors have been goals of such research and new yeast strain implementation. Such targeted flavors have included ethyl caproate, isoamyl acetate, 2-phenethyl alcohol, diacetyl, and acetaldehyde and tastants that confer bitterness — malate and tyrosol and peptides. Foam foaming abilities, fermentative activity and color have also featured in research into yeast strain development (4). Table 1 presents an outline of several yeast strains and with typical flavor notes associated with the metabolic activities during sake making. Some of the most important and widely used yeast strains are noted there including the so-called Kyōkai saké yeast strains. However, as a very extensive sub-topic in its own right — essentially requiring an article unto itself, little more will be covered here (though see To foam or not to foam, below), although it is easy to find out more by perusing the references noted herein (incl., 4, 5, 7, 9, 12, 13, 28-33). Such references, along with any on koji mold (see above), will be required reading for anyone wishing to dabble in saké production.
TO FOAM OR NOT TO FOAM
Now that is a yeast issue, and other yeast qualities via strain mutation and selection! One issue with saké yeast strains is that they can produce copious amounts of frothy foam, and this can occupy one third or more of the volume of a fermentation tank or vessel and thus reduces the capacity and efficiency of fermentation. In response, the isolation of a class of foam-deficient mutants were selected and have been used for well over 30 years in saké breweries. The discovery of non-foaming saké yeasts thus made possible the use of smaller fermentation tanks. (33, 35). A non-foaming yeast mutant is now available for every saké yeast strain and is preserved by the Brewing Society of Japan. Their characteristics do not differ from those of their parent strains, with the exception that they do not form a high foam head (33, 35). In grander terms, a big part of research was in modifying saké yeasts to enhance fermentation efficiencies, flavor, and the overall quality of the finished product. Yeast strains — mutational variants that produce high levels of ethyl caproate and or isoamyl acetate — have also been isolated and see use to enhance the ginjō-ka fruity flavors. See the very recent article by Kitagaki and Kitamoto (4) and Zhang, Wu, and Yan (18) for more on yeast breeding research. See Tables 1 and 2 for descriptions of flavors associated with sake and their origins in this regard.
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A ROLE FOR A FEW BACTERIAL STRAINS (Some wild yeasts blowing into the picture too)
Table 1: Details Number Source
of Selected Saké Brewing Yeasts* Year Characteristics - including flavor production
Aramasa Akita Prefecture
1935 Clear fragrance, mellow flavor
Masumi (Nagano Prefecture)
1946 Sl. Sweet aroma. Fragrant flavor producer. Current industry standard.
As discussed in Part One Kumamoto Prefecture saké re#9 1953 Flowery, sweet aroma. Appropriate for ginjō-shu saké search center laboratory and above, moto (aka. shubo, #10 Tohoku Area 1952 Low-acidity, light aroma fermentation starter, or yeast #11 Variation of yeast #7 1975 Hints of apple, strong acidity – alcohol tolerant starter) is a small starter batch #12 Urakasumi (Miyagi Prefecture) Sweet aroma, ferments well over low to high range of temperature of saké that is used to grow a #13 Variation of yeast #9 & #10 Low acidity, flowery, fruit aroma vibrant yeast colony before the Kanazawa regional research center fermentation is moved to the #14 Low acidity and ferments well at low temperature (Ishikawa Prefecture) main and larger fermentation #15 Akita Prefecture research center Intense fruit aroma tank. The quality of the moto Gekkeikan and the Brewing has a significant impact upon #18 Intense fruit aroma, apple, ripe pear Association the flavor and richness of saké. 601 Mutation variant 1973 No-foam producer isolated from K6 (Kyōkai No. 6) As may also be recalled from 701 Mutation variant 1969 No-foam producer isolated from K7 Part One, modern Japanese 901 Mutation variant 1975 No-foam producer isolated from K9 saké breweries generally use the 1001 Mutation variant Brew. Soc. Japan 1984 No-foam producer isolated from K10 type of yeast starter called sokuMutation variant Akita Prefecture 15 No-foam producer isolated from Akita-style flower yeast jō-moto which includes lactic Lab acid. Lactic acid helps maintain * Including Several Brewing Association Yeast Strains — many available from the Brewing Society of Japan . a low pH which in turn assists The table presents an outline of several yeast strains and with typical flavor notes associated with the metabolic activities during saké making. Some of in preventing microbial conthe most important and widely used yeast strains are noted there including the so-called Kyōkai (K) saké yeast strains The foam forming strains: K-6, K-7, K-9, K-10, K-11, and K-14. The non-foam forming strains: K-601, K-701, K-901, K-1001. Other non-foaming strains available (not listed): tamination. When ready, yeast K-1401, K-1501, K-1601, K-1701, K-1801, K-1901, and KT-901. Circa 1971 saw the first breeding of the non-foaming saké yeast. Dry saké yeast strains are designated as K-701, and K-901 (13). Numbers missing from the list represent yeasts of historical reference and/or that see little use today is added to the moto and the or have been discontinued (see https://www.originsaké.com/yeast-1 for some interesting details of many more yeast strains.) See also Akao, et al (30), Ohya and Kashima (31) and Zhang, Wu, and Yan (18) and the Story of Sake (32) for more on all this. conversion of sugar to alcohol begins (7). Sokujo-moto preparation requires about two weeks to ensure full viability of yeast to complete fermentation of the saké brew. things can happen during storage of saké in bottles or tanks when these However, recall the traditional starter yamahai-moto (or kimoto) organisms gain a foothold and grow in finished saké. These strains grow which takes twice as long to prepare as the sokujo-moto. In this tradiwell at higher alcohol levels and with a pH of from 4.0-5.5 and lead tional moto starter, lactic acid is formed through the growth of lactic to putrefaction of saké (33). They can even cause turbidity, increased acid bacteria with details discussed elsewhere (e.g., see 3, 7, 12, and acidity, and a buttery/dairy note from diacetyl. See Suzuki, et al (36) references cited in Part One). Such starters have a specific flavor, based for details on this, Ohba and Akiyama (45) also Kodama (5), and Table on an ecological succession of microbes and their activities during 2 for coverage of the flavors and descriptors — especially for diacetyl. the preparation. This ecology of microbes is more interesting when “Hi-ochi - hi-ochi-kin = Bacterial spoilage of sake (by hi-ochi lactic looking at the early stages of yamahai-moto fermentation: wild yeasts, acid bacteria); hi-ochi = lactic acid bacteria. The growth of a particular film-forming yeasts, and nitrate-reducing bacteria which enter the piclactic acid bacteria in seishu (saké) is called hi-ochi, and the bacteria ture via starting materials and water. The activities of these organisms responsible hi-ochi kin. The infected sake becomes cloudy, and this is in suppressing growth of contaminating microorganisms, and later the usually accompanied by an increase in acidity and a characteristically suppression of the first colonizers via the production of lactic acid by unpleasant smell (“hi-ochi stink”), making the sake undrinkable. The various lactic acid bacteria (LAB) is complex and covered elsewhere degree of spoilage depends on the strain of bacteria, with some mak(7), but failure in the control of the initial microbiota results in abing the sake acidic, but with little effect on aroma, while others pronormal fermentation and major problems. Notably, we see how many duce little acid but drastically affect the smell, and other variations.” different microorganisms play a role in creating quality and flavorful [http://www.nada-ken.com/main/en/index_h/264.html saké (7, 33). Details of the growth periods and the ecological succession of microorganisms in a kimoto mash can be found in the review by Kanauchi, (14), and see Koyanagi, et al (7) and Akaike, et al (34) for Quality, Flavor, and other Sensory Issues more solid reviews of this important topic. Finally, there are saké and beer spoilage lactic acid bacteria (LAB) Following on from fermentation, several adjustments can be made to called hiochi-bacteria — these have a high alcohol tolerance and bad the resultant saké liquor — leading to a reduction in acidity and result-
FINAL STAGES OF SAKÉ PRODUCTION
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ing in a fruity aroma and clean taste — those tweaks and adjustments not being discussed in depth here. Mash filtration removes undissolved rice and yeast — resulting in “new make” saké. Sedimentation, protein precipitation, and filtration steps further clarify the liquid, and charcoal filtration is an approved method for de-colorizing, for flavor adjustment, and to assist in control of the aging process. This is attained by removing substances affecting color and flavor changes. Pasteurization — hi-ire (a process discovered by the Japanese long before Louis Pasteur came up with the idea) sterilizes the saké, preventing microbial spoilage and terminating any enzymatic activities that would result in a further sweetening of the saké and flavor changes also associated with enzymatic oxidation reactions. As the heating of saké during pasteurization changes the aroma, though, the saké is generally left in an “unrefined state” with respect to the taste. So, saké is allowed to rest or age for six months to one year, where it becomes milder (2). The cold of winter helps protect the saké from microbial contamination during this period. Prior to bottling and packaging, alcohol content will often be reduced and further filtration and pasteurization may be entertained. Several research groups publishing in the journal of the Brewers Society of Japan have dealt with changes in flavor of sakés matured or rested at different temperatures and, also under different pasteurization conditions (2).
A BRIEF DIP INTO SENSORY WATERS Binary alcohol-water mixtures with congeners thrown into the mix
For this final section, an expansion of the introductory sensory notes, mentioned here and there in the sections above, is presented. Note that Table 2 provides some detailed chemical names and flavor descriptors plus notes on origins of 20 saké-associated flavors. Basically, the taste of saké depends on sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and umami — but flavor delves deeper into actual aromatics and tactile sensations. “Ginjō-ka the fragrant fruity aroma(s) of saké made from highly polished rice from which a considerable portion of the outer layer of the rice grains has been removed, then slowly fermented at low temperatures according to the methodology known as Ginjō zukuri.” [Esters of ethyl caproate, isoamyl acetate, and the higher or fusel alcohol isoamyl alcohol are included in desirable flavors produced]. [http://www.nada-ken.com/main/en/index_g/407.html] The water, rice, kōji mold, bacteria, and yeast used in saké production all contribute to aroma, flavor and ultimately the mouthfeel of the saké. So do the carefully controlled systems, environment, and processes involved. Some flavor contributions are direct and others indirect. A loss of control can also lead to off-notes. “Raw material aromas”: genryo-ka. Aromas related to the raw materials, white rice, kōji and so on. “Fermentation aromas”: hakko-ka. Fruit- or flower-like smells, produced by the yeast during fermentation. “Maturation aromas”: jukusei-ka. Aging-related aromas arising during storage of sake, and after it is bottled (and shipped). 102
The incredibly complex living, enzymatic, and chemical factories we call yeast feed off the nutrients provided them to yield the desired ethanol and also the multiple and wide-flavor spectrum of biochemicals — we often call congeners or the flavor volatiles. As previously noted, besides ethanol, other higher alcohols (including those called the fusels or fusel oils) are formed during yeast metabolic activities. So are organic acids, short- and medium-chain acids, which can combine with alcohols to produce esters, or richly fruity, floral notes but sometimes also unpleasant aromatic compounds. Lactic, succinic, and other organic acids lend an acidic taste. Amino acids — sweet, bitter, savory/meaty/ brothy and vegetal (potato and mushroom-like aromatics/tastes, etc.) and sulfur compounds are also produced. Out of that mix, a rich chemical soup gets cooked up into sweet, nutty, bitter and savory mix with compounds that form a taste sensation known as umami (savoriness or deliciousness — more on this below). Depending upon residual sugars and the acidity produced from many organic acids, sakés of a wide range of sweetness and dryness are produced. Sweetness, proportional to sugar content, and its perception on the tongue is suppressed by acidity. So, saké with a higher acidity will taste dry, but a saké with lower acidity and with the same sugar concentration will taste sweet. The scale of sweetness and dryness of saké is discussed elsewhere (e.g., 1). In the ginjō saké style, notable esters include isoamyl acetate — with aromas of pear,banana, and possibly melon — and ethyl caproate (aka ethyl hexanoate) which can come across as an intense red apple flavor with nuances of aniseed. The term gingo-ka relates to fruit flavor in this regard. [Note. Some works indicate that ethyl caproate comes across as green apple or melon — this is not correct.] Green and woody notes are largely conveyed by aldehydes — green apple, bruised apple, and melon are descriptors associated with acetaldehyde — which can arise in above-threshold detection amounts as a result of a stressed fermentation or microbial contamination. “The smell of acetaldehyde was long considered a defect but is also reminiscent of the aroma of green apples. For that reason, some consider it should be reassessed when properly handled to be thought of, not as a flaw, but as a positive character element of sake aroma.” (10). In addition to ethyl acetate (the most common ester), isoamyl acetate, and ethyl caproate, many other esters are produced with varied fruity and floral nuances. These are built up via the joining of somewhat cheesy/stinky medium- to long-chain fatty acids and solvent-like alcohols. The art of the saké toji is to control all aspects of the process to tease out the right amounts of desirable flavors while keeping at bay undesirable notes and yielding a smooth textured and refined, balanced product (11). Discussing a systematic approach to tasting saké is not possible here. One can learn more through programs such as the Saké School of America and the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (11), by carefully reading many of the references noted in this short treatise, and tasting many examples. Remember that there are sakés that can be consumed chilled or warm — generally with a range of from 5 to 55 °C (see below). Temperature affects the viscosity and therefore mouthfeel of a beverage and the volatility of those aromatic components, thus suppressing or enhancing their release to the headspace of the glass, and then to the nose for perception. Alcoholic strength also affects volatility of flavor components as well as conveying a trigeminal warming sensation WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
(tactile/texture) and lending to viscosity and sweetness impressions. Saké can be clear (generally an olive oil lemon-green color when freshly pressed or colorless if filtered) or cloudy (see the Nigori style — cloudy should be pure white or exhibit a creamy, slightly off-white appearance. Yellow, brown or, worse, gray coloration is unacceptable and a sign of quality control issues or improper storage conditions — see below). Sakés may range in degree of dryness and sweetness — most saké has noticeable amounts of sugar remaining or added prior to bottling. Lower amounts may be present and thus typically will be described as medium-dry or medium-sweet (11). Acidity lends saké some of its freshness, though acidity is about one-fifth that of wine. The primary acids present — lactic, succinic, glutamic, and malic — are odorless. Glutamic contributes mild yeasty and baked bread notes in the mouth, and is also considered as conveying the umami flavor. Umami, as discussed below, is a distinct component of taste, along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty, with fatty and other taste type receptors now being discovered. Table 2 should be referred to so as to learn a little more about some of the key aroma/taste compounds.
A QUICK REVIEW OF STYLES For a quick refresher: Gingō/Daiginjō — highly polished rice, premium grade Nigori — cloudy saké (only coarse filtered) Genshu — undiluted, original base saké not diluted after pressing Muroka — not charcoal filtered Nama — unpasteurized saké Koshu — aged saké (see below) Kimoto and Yamahai — sakés made with these two shubo or yeast starter methods. Note: Yamahai means abandoned or maybe old mountain and is referred to also as “old man saké”. These types and styles were covered in the online materials associated with Part One.
FOUR DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS OF SAKÉ SENSORY IMPACT The Saké Service Institute in Japan recognizes four categories of saké — distinguishable by means of tactile, aroma and taste sensations (https://www.saké-talk.com/what-is-aged-saké/). 1). Kun-shu — fragrant and light — Daigingo and ginjō grade saké fit well here. Floral, fruit aromas. Sweet or dry. Clean and delicate. Balanced with refreshing acidity. 2) Juku-shu — fragrant with richness/depth — aged saké falls under this category (more on this below). Complex, aged aromas, dried fruits and spices. Medium-full bodied with some texture/ viscosity and sweetness. Balanced with an acidity mellowed by maturation. 3) So-shu — light and smooth — Honjōzō, draft and Futsu-shu (regular) saké fall in here. Light aromatics/light body, fresh and clean.
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4) Jun-shu — full bodied with subtle fragrance — Junmai and saké made using the traditional kimotokei-shubo and yamahai simplified version of the kimoto method (See Table 2 — the Glossary in Part One) starter mashes are considered here. Savory (umami), rich, grainy, and rice-like aroma qualities. Well-rounded richness, sweet with acidity and pleasing bitterness. These categories are also sometimes considered from the serving temperature viewpoint, though consumption can simply be a matter of preference. Here the only point to be made is that saké is served over a range from chilly to quite hot extremes (meaning from 5 to more than 55 degrees C) temperatures, and these conditions are classified by name for each five-degree C rise in the value.
DESIRABLY AGED SAKÉ JUKUSEIKA AND UNDESIRABLE FLAVORS — HINEKA When aging saké breaks bad
Most saké is consumed reasonably fresh, though as we saw in Part One, cask and other styles of aged saké are known. Storing saké for several years changes its color, taste, and aroma. Aroma/sensory descriptions for aged sake include caramel, burnt, heavy, complicated,and “stale.” Recently a type aged for three to several dozen years and called jyukusei-syu (jukusei-shu or jukuseika) is being accepted by consumers based on a unique aroma and mellow taste. The compound sotolon, with caramel and maple syrup-like flavor, is responsible for the mature aroma and is also referred to as the burnt compound (39, 45). See Table 2. Other flavor compounds found above their flavor-threshold in aged sakés include 3-methylbutanal (aka. isovaleraldehyde — ethereal, dry, green, chocolate, nutty, leafy, cocoa), methional (musty, potato — cooked notes, tomato, vegetal), and various volatile aldehydes, furfural, and diethyl succinate (40). The odor of overaged saké is usually called “hineka” by saké brewers, and this overaged flavor is disliked by consumers. This term means “old stink” in Japanese, The compound dimethyl trisulfide (DMTS, a polysulfone), which tastes like pickled daikon radish or other Japanese pickles, and perhaps to us in the west as rotten cabbage with onion- and garlic-like and gassy notes (40, 41-43). DMTS has an extremely low threshold of detection, only 0.18 parts per billion in saké (39, 40). A useful reference detailing its mechanisms of formation here is that of Isogai, et al (40). Its relationship to the desired caramel/burnt odor characteristic of sotolon for aged saké is also discussed there. It should always be remembered that hundreds to thousands of compounds play a role in beverage aroma, taste, and flavor — some act alone, others play synergistically and others antagonistically. The good, the bad and even the ugly all play their part in the final act. We have only been able to touch upon a few — though quite important notes. A basic understanding that the key players — those with the most impact — both desirable notes and off-flavors can arise, as we have now seen, from many parts of the stage is important. Controlling all aspects of the play is also necessary to produce a quality product with the brewer’s desired and consumer appreciated profiles. This is most clearly shown in the film the “Birth of Sake.”
Alco ho C l ov l e Cin nam on Fen ugre ek Alm Nuts o nd / Haz Walnu t el n u t
le A pp r Pea ana Ban n o Mel e he c Ly rr y wbe a r t S us Citr a jo-k Gin
E TR E
Vinegar Yoghurt Butter C h ee s e
Rice iny K Fun oji Mus gi hroo m Gra
Figure 2: Saké Aroma Profiles
THE WHEEL OF SAKÉ
With an introduction to Umami As for many beverages and foods, an evaluation of saké comes with its own sensory flavor wheel (copies shown in 14, 16, 38). The flavor wheel provides a useful sensory tool to prod the taster into seeking out aroma, taste, and flavor characteristics, to remind the trained taster to look for components and to help build the sensory vocabulary. The core evaluation for saké looks at taste, body/mouthfeel and odor, with ginjō-ka fruity, fragrant and floral notes, dryness (sweet-dry), grassy, green and nutty notes, wood (cedar for barrel rested saké), cereal and kōji fungus notes, sweet, caramelly, and burnt Maillard notes, sulfury notes, the dairy-like fatty, buttery diacetyl, and vinegary acetic acid characteristics. Then body and mouthfeel — dryness (see below), the trigeminal feeling of warmth and pungency from alcohol, and the gustatory (tastes) — bitter, sour, sweet and salty plus umami (savoriness factor) are all represented and should be considered when evaluating saké. Finally descriptors for oxidized and stale, and a sunstruck compound — (light-induced deleterious flavor note — see below), and the more sinister microbial contamination-associated hine-ka impressions are described within the flavor wheel vocabulary as attributes to be on the lookout for when sniffing and tasting brand examples (see “Hineka. When aging saké breaks bad” above). Is the saké clear or cloudy (should it be clear or cloudy?), what color is it and what does it feel like in the mouth — is the texture thin/watery or richer and more viscous — soft/round, rough, creamy smooth/ 104
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y ne Ho ruits yF Dr rown B ar g Su auce yS So rnt Bu mi a Um
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silky? Does it exhibit complexity and how is the aroma or bouquet revealed to the olfactory sense? Is it dry/medium/sweet? Is the acidity low, medium, or high? Does it have legs and length? How about umami? (38). Umami notes are covered extensively online these days, in newer cooking books and in the literature (47). Umami notes are typically described as savory, meaty, brothy, or soy-sauce, and molecules associated with this concept are included in many flavor enhancers. The Japanese coined this as the tastiness, the savoriness or, as interpreted in the West, as the deliciousness factor. A high concentration of amino acids — including glutamic acid (24) — is associated with saké and this accounts for the creation of umami flavor notes. In the section “Umami of sake” — Akiyama states than umami is partially a function of polishing or the polishing ratio and that a stable umami arises via the generation of more amino acids, and a delicate balance of them, from the breakdown of rice proteins (9, 16). Read much more on this fascinating topic in Akiyama’s treatise (9). The breakdown or hydrolysis of yeast is also a source of amino acids and nucleic acid components that are a part of the umami spectrum of flavor molecules (see 11). The topic of umami and related flavors and how consumers understand the contribution of cooking reactions to the flavor of their favorite foods and beverages is covered by Iannilli, et al (47). The flavor wheel sees more use in professional assessment and by brewers, and so simplified sets of terms were established for the consumer. One such set is presented in Figure 2 “Saké Aroma Profiles”. Coupled with the use of Table 2, a good deal of saké flavor terminolWWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
Table 2: Twenty flavor compounds associated with saké The Volatile or Organic Flavor Compound
Cause or Origin
Ethyl acetate Ethyl ethanoate Acetic acid, ethyl ester
Solventy, paint thinner, sweet, estery, fruity, rum-like
The key ester compound of all alcoholic beverages.
Isoamyl acetate 3-Methylbutyl ethanoate 3-Methylbutyl acetate isopentylacetate
Banana, pear-like, sweet fruity, a green ripe nuance. Banana oil, pear essence.
Ginjō-ka ester. Yeast fermentation ester when high levels of unsaturated fatty acids are present production of the ester will be reduced. Condensation product of isoamyl alcohol and activated acetic acid (as Acetyl-CoA)
Ethyl caproate Ethyl hexanoate
Red apple with hint of aniseed. Also: sweet, fruity, pineapple, waxy, green banana and with a green, estery nuance.
Ginjō-ka ester. Yeast fermentation ester – saké yeast strain developed to produce this compound.
Isoamyl alcohol 3-Methylbutan-1-ol 3-Methyl-1-butanol
Fusel oil, alcoholic whiskey, fruity, banana, fermented, ethereal and cognac
Saké base aroma. Yeast fermentation alcohol – produced from the amino acid lysine. Saké yeast strain developed to produce more of this higher alcohol.
2-Phenethyl alcohol 2-phenylethanol
Sweet flower aroma, Rose and honey-like: floral fresh, bready, dried roses.
Saké base aroma. Yeast fermentation alcohol – produced from the amino acid phenylalanine and when polish ratio and fermentation temperatures are high. Again, specialized saké yeast strain developed to produce more of this higher alcohol.
Woody, grass, green or bruised apple
Associated with poor or stressed fermentations.
Isovaleraldehyde 3-methylbutanal 3-methylbutyraldehyde
Fruity, dry, green chocolate, nutty, leafy cocoa
May be produced if namasaké is stored at room temperature – offensive odor – derived via oxidation and Maillard (Strecker) reactions. By virtue of its having alternate names, this compound appears twice in this table.
4-Vinyl guaiacol 2-methoxy-4-vinylphenol
Smoky or spicy aromatics: Sweet, spicy, clove-like
Ferulic acid in rice cell walls – degraded by kōji enzymes. Also produced by lactic acid bacteria or wild yeasts.
Sotolon (sotolone) – also known as caramel furanone, sugar lactone and fenugreek lactone [3-Hydroxy-4,5-dimethyl2(5H)-furanone]
Once called Burnt Flavoring Compound
Sweet aroma, spicy, curry, walnut (strongly caramellic). Lower concentrations: caramel, burnt sugar. Also: maple, brown sugary, cotton candy, honey-like, soy-sauce like
From aging/oxidation. From reactions involving the amino acid threonine and the condensation of, alpha-ketobutyric acid and acetaldehyde. Production also associated with Maillard reactions. Burnt notes in saké.
Derived from methionine and heat and UV light reactions. Exists as Methyl mercaptan in saké.
Corn, seaweed, oysters, sulfury, onion, sweet corn vegetable, cabbage tomato, green radish
Arises from old rice
Smells like pickled daikon – a type of white radish – Dimethyltrisulfide DMTS can be cabbage or rotten cabbage-like. Also, sulfurous, cooked onion savory, meaty, alliaceous (garlicky), gassy
An aged oxidation character again derived from the sulfur containing amino acid methionine.
Mold aroma, cork-taint or wet cardboard or paper
Prominent in Ginjō saké when carbon filtration is not adequately used. Arises from TCA infected production lines or wooden containers or implements
Buttery, butter/movie popcorn, sweet, milky, creamy, dairy, yogurt
From a precursor compound – alpha-acetolactate if high level when moromi is pressed. Also arises from Lactobacillus bacterial contamination. Though the aroma of diacetyl has traditionally been considered a flaw, as its reminiscent of yoghurt some think it should be reassessed as a positive element of saké aromatic profiles.
Caproic acid (Hexanoic acid)
Strong cheesy, fruity phenolic, sweaty, fatty, goaty
From yeast fermentation. From yeast with defects in the fatty acid metabolic pathways. This medium chain length fatty acid may condense with ethanol to form ethyl caproate (see above)
Acetic acid ethanoic acid
Vinegar – acidic, sharp, pungent sour
From yeast fermentation. Produced under more aerobic conditions – ventilation issues or moromi exposed to oxygen e.g., via a wide surface area.
Butyric acid butanoic acid
Cheesy, rancid, sickly cheeses or gingo nuts (the fleshy seed coat). (Ginko nuts: taste = combination of edamame, potato, and pine nut. Taste can be sweet or slightly bitter with an undertone that mirrors its stench of cheese.) Also: acidic sour, cheesy, dairy, creamy with a fruity nuance.
From Hiochikin (harmful lactic acid bacteria) or to persimmon tannin from saké pressing cloth sacks.
Isovaleric acid 3-Methylbutanoic acid
Cheese, dairy, acidic, sour, pungent, rancid fruity, stinky, ripe fatty and fruity notes.
A short chain fatty acid. Kōji contaminated by “Hay” bacillus bacteria.
3-Methylbutanal 3-methylbutyraldehyde Isovaleraldehyde
Described as having a malty flavor, aldehydic and nutty. Also: fatty, rancid/sweaty, pungent, fruity, dry, green, chocolate, nutty, leafy, cocoa.
Present in aged saké at above threshold levels and may contribute to the pungent attribute of aged saké aromatics. By virtue of its having alternate names, this compound appears twice in this table.
Methional 3-Methylsulfanylpropanal Musty tomato, potato, vegetative, mold ripened cheeses. 3-(Methylthio)propanal
Methional has been found to be present in aged saké at above recognition threshold levels. Methional is a thermally induced volatile flavor compound, one generated from the important sulfur containing methionine. [One of the heat-initiated Maillard reactions between reducing sugars and amino acids.]
Details can be found in the text and in many references cited here, including Utsunomiya, et al (38), Ohba and Akiyama (45) and Yoshizaki, et al (46), with an oft overlooked early work providing extended listings of flavor compounds (37). An up-to-date and detailed description of Umami and how its flavor notes are understood by consumers worldwide has been presented by Iannilli (47). Other flavor notes of importance, including rancid/fatty odors, phenolic notes and bitter tasting compounds are also detailed elsewhere in the literature (48-51).
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ogy can be learned and appreciated. A further detailing of the flavor wheel and the sensory evaluation of saké may thus appear in a later article. When those in training to become expert tasters utilize the flavor wheels they will be tasting or sniffing doctored or “spiked” samples with pure known compounds — these are odor reference standards. Recently a set of standards has been described (48), and many of these are listed in Table 2. Learning about these compounds and their descriptors will allow the reader to become a more proficient evaluator of food and beverages including distilled and non-distilled beverages.
SAKE FLAVOR Some end notes
A few final notes, with some recent references, are presented here to round out the topic or fill in some gaps in the understanding of flavor profiles of good and bad example sakés. Saké is described in rich and rounded savory terms, so an understanding of flavor/taste sensations beyond umami, bitter, sweet, sour, and salty is, as we learn, important today. Saké is described as having a good flavor due to alcoholic, estery, ethereal (cooling sensation) compounds, and to the presence of certain acids and phenolic compounds. However, certain molecules such as tyrosol, tryptophol and ferulic acid in saké may make it taste bitter and reduce the consumer perception of quality. The first two compounds arise from amino acid metabolism and the ferulic acid from grain sources ( rice in this case). Sake always has residual sugars and, even during processing, amino acids and sugars can combine during any heating/cooking stages in Maillard reactions to create rich, flavorful caramelly, nutty and savory flavors. Acids and fatty acids (medium
chain-length fatty acids — MCFAs) and their ethyl esters contribute to organoleptic properties including the fruity apple-like notes in the ginjō sakés and to fatty odors and to bitterness in saké (49). Some fatty acids come through as rancid, stale, and unpleasant. Staling is also a natural outcome of aging and the oxidation of those fatty acids. Furthermore, staling is such an important problem that it has even been considered necessary to develop techniques to control the production of MCFA compounds, especially during ginjō saké fermentation (49). Ferulic acid, which is noted here and there in this article, arises from steamed rice (as does the compound vanillic acid) via koji-derived enzymatic activity. This acid, and vanillic acid are derived from grain husks and contribute various flavorful molecules including vanillin (vanilla-like) and to phenolic components called guaiacols and related compounds reminiscent of cloves in aromatic terms (50, 51). Four-vinylguaiacol (sweet, spicy, clove-like, somewhat smoky, medicinal) is a known cause of phenolic odors, and is regarded as an off-flavor characteristic of saké. This compound is formed in saké via spoilage bacteria (Bacillus and Staphylococcus species) breaking down ferulic acid in the saké-brewing process (50, 51). A particular region of sake production fared poorly in awards competitions in 2013 due to 4-VG characteristics. This prompted an investigation which led to an ongoing analysis as to which compounds were indeed the cause of the odor and the poor ranking for those sakes (50). This story again shows the complexity of saké production, the role of contaminating bacteria, and the need for clear and incredibly careful control of the entire process. And, quite rightly, a need for more research and sensory training.
REFERENCES 1) Ashcraft, B. The Japanese Saké Bible. Tuttle Publishing. (2020). 2) Sugimoto, et al. J. Agric. Food Chem. 60: 25862593. (2012). 3) Bokulich, et al. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 80 (17) 5522-5259. (2014). 4) Kitagaki, H. and Kitamoto, K. Annu. Rev. Food Sci. Technol. 4: 215-235. (2013). 5) Kodama, K. Saké-Brewing Yeasts. In, The Yeasts Vol. 5. - Rose and Harrison (eds.). Academic Press. Chapter 4 (1993). 6) Kitamura, et al. Ethnic Fermented Foods and Alcoholic Beverages of Japan. In, Ethnic Fermented Foods and Alcoholic Beverages of Asia. - Tamang (ed.). Springer. (2016). 7) Koyanagi, et al. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 80 (2); 399-406. (2016). 8) Hardwick, et al. Kinds of Beer and Beerlike Beverages. In, Handbook of Brewing. William A. Hardwick (ed.) (1995). 9) Akiyama, H. SAKE. Translated by Takashi Inoue. International Edition. Brewing Society of Japan Tōkyo. (2010).
10) NADA Glossary. Sake Glossary by the Society for Nada Sake Research (SNSR). [nada-ken.com/ main/en/] 11) WSET. Understanding sake: Explaining style and quality. Wine and Spirit Education Trust. (2016). 12) Yoshizawa, K. and Ishikawa, T. Industrialization of Sake Manufacture. In. Industrialization of Indigenous Fermented Foods - Steinkraus, (ed.). Marcell Dekker (2004). 13) Inoue, T. TEXTBOOK of SAKÉ BREWING. Brewing Society of Japan. (2016). 14) Kanauchi, M. SAKE Alcoholic Beverage Production in Japanese Food Industry. In, Food Industry, Innocenzo Muzzalupo (ed.). INTECH Open. (2013). 15) KANOH, S. Agricultural Chemicals (Nippon Nōgeikagaku Kaishi). Vol. 35, No. 13; 1304-1308, (1961).
20) Hashimoto, et al. Theor. Appl. Genet. 109; 1586-1596. (2004). 21) Yoshizawa, K. and Ogawa, Y. Rice in Brewing. In, Rice Chemistry and Technology. - Champagne (ed.). Am. Assoc. Cereal Chemists. pp. 541-567. (2004). 22) Verma, D.K. and Srivastav, P.P. Food Research International. 130, 108924; 1-33. (2020). 23) Lee, et al. Molecules. 21, 773; 1-15. (2016). [doi:10.3390/molecules21060773] 24) Ichisima, E. J. Biochem Biotech. 1 (1); 47-51. (2018). 25) Lotong, N. Kōji. In: Microbiology of Fermented Foods. - Wood (ed.). Springer. pp. 658-695. (1998). 26) Kitamoto, K. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 79 (6); 863-869. (2015).
16) Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association and National Research Institute of Brewing. A Comprehensive Guide to Japanese Sake (2011).
27) Kitamoto, K. Molecular Biology of the Koji Molds. Advances in Applied Microbiology. Elsevier (USA). pp. 129-153. (2002).
17) Tamaki, et al. Plant Prod. Sci. 8 (4); 468-474. (2005).
28) Watanabe, et al. Mechanism of High Alcoholic Fermentation Ability of Sake Yeast. In, Stress Biology of the Yeasts and Fungi. H. Takagi and H. Kitagaki (eds.). Springer. pp. 59-75. (2015).
18) Zhang, et al. Food Sci. Nutr. 8; 2995-3003. (2020).
19) Harper, P. The Book of SAKE: A Connoisseur’s Guide. Kodansha International. (2006).
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IN AND OUT OF THE BOTTLE Ending on a colorful note!
With some exceptions noted here and in Part One, the color of commercial saké is often slightly yellowish and, while no major detail is covered here on how this is dealt with in selection of raw materials and processing (including final filtration to optionally render clear saké), color is caused by raw materials, iron, aging (see below), sunlight exposure, and by copper. We saw that color changes in saké can be due to iron in water (see above). However, several other causes are possible. The color of saké gradually intensifies as it ages (see also below). This is due to a melanoidin (a pigmented compound) arising from Maillard reaction chemistry (which can occur slowly even at low temperatures) and involving carbonyl compounds. This reaction may account for 40-80 percent of the discoloration of saké. It can be prevented by storaging saké at low temperature and by treatment with activated carbon. The exposure of bottled saké to sunlight causes a rapid increase in color intensity and this is also accompanied by an off-flavor — “sunflavor,” composed of methyl mercaptan (or methanethiol, a small sulfur compound, with a very low flavor detection threshold and a putrid smell — rotten cabbage-like, garlic- or egg- like (44, 45)). Noted also as sun-struck under the section on water, sunflavor is regarded by some as the worst off-flavor of finished saké. (45). Black, brown, and emerald-green bottles afford some protection, as does the removal of compounds involved in this complex reaction by means of activated carbon treatment. Copper ion contamination can also cause color changes and turbidity in saké, as can manganese (see again under the water section) and other oxida-
tion-promoting metal ions (44). With all the love and care and attention that goes into making such a refined product, and the desire of the Toji and his kurabito to wish you a delightful sipping experience — the genie should always be released from the right bottle!
May your saké always go with you and be of good color, depth, texture, aroma, and flavor and delight all the senses for many years to come While so much more research could still be detailed and reported upon, it is hoped that, in two somewhat detailed parts, we have conveyed ideas and materials that will provide the reader with more than a glimpse into the vast world of saké, its history, culture and flavor. To provide a desire for the reader to explore it further — to seek out and try its many styles — the choice is almost limitless. And that, via a dive into the more in-depth literature cited, it will allow brewers and distillers to further explore creative possibilities of producing this ricewine beverage that is neither beer, wine nor spirit but the glorious water in its own right. One produced by a process called multiple parallel fermentation — and via a labor of love to give us that which is simply known to most of us as saké. Again, kanpai!
Gary Spedding, Ph.D is a brewing, distilling and sensory analytical chemist, and owner of Brewing and Distilling Analytical Services, LLC — with two facilities (Lexington, KY and Denver, CO). In 2020 Spedding qualified as a Certified Saké Advisor and hopes to educate others further on saké production and appreciation as a result.
29) Ohnuki, S. et al. G3 Genes\Genomes\Genetics Vol. 7: 2807-2820. (2017).
38) Utsunomiya, et al. J. of Japanese Taste and Smell, 13 (3); 595-598. (2006).
47) Iannilli, et al. Data in brief. 28; 1-7 – 105102. (2020).
30) Akao, T. et al. DNA Research. 18; 423-434. (2011).
39) Takahashi, et al. Agr. Biol. Chem. 40 (2); 325330. (1976).
48) Utsunomiya, et al. J. Brew. Soc. Japan. 105 (2); 106-115. (2010).
31) Ohya, Y. and Kashima, Y. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 83 (8); 1442-1448. (2019).
40) Isogai, et al. J. Agric. Food Chem. 53: 41184123. (2005). [See also, Isogai, et al. J. Brew. Soc. Japan. Vol 101 (2); 125-131. (2006).
49) Takahashi, et al. J. Agric. Food Chem. 62; 84788485. (2014).
32) The Story of Sake. NRIB Nat. Res. Inst. Brewing March 2017 Part 2. https://www.nrib.go.jp/English/sake/pdf/SakeNo02_en.pdf
41) Isogai, et al. J. Agric. Food Chem. 57; 189-195. (2009).
33) Murakami, H. Some Problems in Sake Brewing. In, Fermentation Technology Today. - Terui (ed.). Soc. Ferm. Technology, Japan. (1972). 34) Akaike, et al. Current Microbiology. 77; 632637. (2020). 35). Hutkins, R.W. Fermented Foods in the Orient. In, Microbiology and Technology of Fermented Foods. IFT Press 12; 419-455. (2006). 36) Suzuki, et al. J. Inst. Brew. 114 (3); 209-223. (2008). 37) Akiyama, et al. Sake Flavor and Its Improvement Using Metabolic Mutants of Yeast. In, Analysis of Foods and Beverages. -Charalambous (ed.). Academic Press. pp. 229-248. (1978).
42) Isogai, et al. J. Agric Food Chem. 58; 77567761. (2010). 43) Murayama, et al. Scientific Reports. 8:106064. (2018). [Nature] 44) Ohba, T. and Sato, M. SAKE. In, Handbook of Food and Beverage Stability: Chemical, Biochemical, Microbiological, and Nutritional Aspects. Charalambous (ed.) Academic Press. pp. 773-799. (1986). 45) Ohba, T. and Akiyama, H. Off-Flavors of Sake. In Off-Flavors in Foods and Beverages. - Charalambous (ed.) Elsevier. pp. 473-484. (1992). 46) Yoshizaki, et al. J. Inst. Brew. 116 (1); 49-55, (2010).
50) Sunao, et al. Food Science and Technology Research. 22 (1); 111-116. (2016). 51) Ito, et al. J. Agric. Food Chem. 64; 4599-4605. (2016.
Acknowledgments: Once again, I thank Toshio Ueno – Samurai (Saké expert) from the Sake School of America for advice and useful pieces of information not readily available to public access and adding more color to the story. This piece reflects my personal take and understanding of the scientific and popular literature and I alone bear all responsibility for any errors, omissions, misinterpretations, or misrepresentations related to any aspect of this complex topic. Delving into the literature is a journey to be taken by the reader to uncover further insights needed according to their desire and direction with respect to saké. Hopefully, I have chosen wisely with respect to references to best help you on that journey.
SPIRITS WITHOUT BORDERS
LOOKING to OTHER DISTILLING TRADITIONS for INSPIRATION WRITTEN BY GEORGE CATALLO
e’re at a point where people’s palates are leaning towards more exotic flavors in food, drinks, or alcoholic beverages. We’re seeing it trend in every aspect of consumables: Passion fruit gum, sour beers with tamarind and guava — hell, I can even go to Taco Bell right now and get a frozen dragonfruit drink (and it’s good!) We are even seeing it in spirits, with more exploratory voyages into traditional spirits from around the world, like soju/shochu, mezcal, mastika, arak, pisco, cachaça, and so many more. Implementing or drawing inspiration from these fruits, flavors, and spirits is absolutely on the table for craft distilled spirits.
Fruits of your Labor First and foremost, it’s important to remember that beverages are very much a culinary thing. A good dish is always balanced. If you have a particular flavor that you want to incorporate into a spirit, I would recommend looking into recipes for foods using that item. The types of complimentary flavors used are a window into what you want your spirit to be overall. For example, I think it would be fairly obvious that you would not want to flavor a bourbon with lychee. It would be awful. However a lychee rum or eau-du-vie would be delightful. On the note of a lychee bourbon being a bad idea — make your spirit with purpose. Slapping a flavor, especially an unusual one, into one of your existing spirits may not work perfectly. Build your spirit from the bottom up
designed around the end goal. The sum needs to be greater than the parts. If you are flavoring a spirit, you need to take into account the characteristics of the base spirit, the characteristics of the flavor you’re using, and how they interact with one another. For example if you have a sweeter rum with a sweeter tropical fruit, the spirit may end up being too overwealmingly sweet. You may need an acid component to balance the sweetness out. You may want to consider citric or phosphoric acid for that purpose. When creating a spirit from an unfamiliar fruit, remember that fermentation can drastically change flavor. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing by any means; just take that into consideration when building your vision for the final result. Yeast selection is also massively important when ferment-
ing fruit. There are strains of winemaking yeast that could potentially fare very well, but it all depends on the conditions the fruit creates in your mash if any one yeast will perform better than others while also achieving the profile you desire. My favorite use of exotic fruits and flavors in a contemporary spirit is undoubtedly in gin. There are already countless gins on the market that utilize tropical fruits or botanicals with great success. There are many that use a plethora of Asian citrus and tea leaves, which are a good starting point for inspiration as they lean towards a fresher more fruit-driven style. The most important thing in building a botanical blend for an exoitic fruit, in my opinion, is to think twice about using cinnamon. Cinnamon is already a very heavy-handedly used ingredient in a lot of contemporary American gins, it rarely plays well with most tropical fruits (except for pineapple, believe it or not).
NOTE: Some spirits I would recommend giving a try while researching both foreign spirits as well as American takes; Akashi Ume Plum Flavored Whisky (It’s basically a barrel aged plum old fashioned), Mizu Green Tea Shochu, Yobo Soju (Contract distilled by Finger Lakes Distilling), El Massaya Arak, Nikka Coffey Gin, Ki No Bi Navy Strength Gin, Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin, Kas Krupnikas, Cruzan Guava Rum, Amarula, Soho Lychee Liqueur.
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A SPIRIT THIS WELL-CRAFTED DESERVES AN ARTISANAL GLASS.
Inspiration from abroad Making a foreign spirit your own is a tricky affair. You have two main routes you can take with this. You can either copy it to a T, or riff off of it and push it into a whole new territory. When copying and going for a classic take on a regional specialty, it is absolutely vital that you understand everything about the spirit. The history of the spirit, the region it hails from, and the people of that region is all important. The cuisine of the region is important, since drinks often go with food. If a spirit you are copying is typically made through clay pot distillation for example or fermented outside in opentop fermenters, it definitely changes your approach on your more modern equipment. The source and quality of your ingredients is also a huge factor. If your license and costs allow, sourcing some if not all of your ingredients from the home of the spirit is not a bad idea. That being said, if your locale has quality ingredients it is an opportunity to allow the terroir of your region to shine through. It’s all a matter of what you want in the bottle at the end of the process. Making a spirit your own still requires the same understanding of history and methods, but your creative juices get to flow. I think my favorite concept I have seen recently has been a riff on pechuga outlined in the Fall 2018 issue of Artisan Spirit Magazine made by 451 Spirits that they called pie-chuga. What makes pechuga unique is that a protein source is hung inside the still, such as a chicken, ham, rabbit, or even a cut of beef. What 451 did in their piechuga was use traditional pizza ingredients to combine Mexican tradition with their local flavor. When making the spirit your own, you need to commit. Your own style, spin, and flavor is everything. Have fun with it while also putting your best foot forward to showcase yourself or your region as well as the original spirit and its heritage.
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.'
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WATER in the DISTILLERY
Part II – Water Treatment
ater is rarely available exactly at the specifications required for its various duties in a distillery. Therefore, it is common to treat water sources to adjust the composition of the solutes present. Of course there should be no physical particles present and, if so, they need to be removed, using technology appropriate to the dimensions of the particles. During the treatment of city water, it is first passed through screens to remove large items of debris, such as leaves and twigs. Next a flocculant such as aluminum sulfate may be added. This has the ability to induce small particles to aggregate into larger particles. Subsequent aeration causes these flocs to float so they can then be skimmed off the water surface. Flocculation tends to be most effective at slightly acidic to neutral or slightly alkaline pH (5.5 – 7.5). Under more alkaline conditions aluminum sulfate can hydrolyze to form gelat-
WRITTEN BY PAUL HUGHES, PH.D.
inous aluminum hydroxide. Given that the efficacy of aluminum sulfate is pH dependent, it is prudent to perform labscale tests to determine the appropriate dosing levels. This approach offers a cost-effective way of providing an initial clean source of water. Any remaining particles can be effectively removed by filtration through deep sand bed filters, and the water may be further filtered through activated carbon, which is effective at removing organic compounds and chlorine. A final sterilizing step is typically applied, either by the addition of chlorine, chlorine dioxide or ozone, or, alternatively, it can be treated with UV light or sterile filtered. No one method is perfect, with each method having its own advantages and disadvantages (Table 1). Bromination can also be applied when legionella is a potential issue. There are also specific methods for removing water hardness, either by boiling, treatment with lime (calcium hydroxide), or by
Water is rarely available exactly at the specifications required for its various duties in a distillery. Therefore, it is common to treat water sources to adjust the composition of the solutes present.
TABLE 1. Water sterilization options Safety in use Method of use Automation Reliability Ease of control Effect under dose Effect over dose 110
Chlorine Safe Dosing Yes Good Simple Not sterile Flavor taint
Chlorine Dioxide Safe Dosing Yes Good Simple Not sterile None
Ozone Safe Dosing Yes Good Simple Not sterile Oxygen hazard
UV Radiation Safe In line Bulb check Variable Simple Not sterile None
Sterile Filter Safe In line Integrity test Good Fair Not applicable None WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
an equilibrium exists between treatment with acid (Fig. 1). bound and free sodium/calciBoiling is of course energy FIGURE 1. Chemistry of water-softening options um, an excess of calcium in intensive, but all treatments the water drives the equilibriresult in the formation of a Boiling: um to the right. precipitated by-product which Ca(HCO3)2 CaCO3 + H2O + CO2 The trapped calcium is requires further processing and flushed from the column by disposal. Lime treatment: a regeneration process where There are various options Ca(HCO ) + Ca(OH) 2CaCO + 2H O sodium chloride (NaCl) solufor the filtration of water, de3 2 2 3 2 tion is used. This is a common pending principally on the treatment applied to boiler particle sizes that need to be Acid treatment: water for steam generation, as removed. Sand filters are used Ca(HCO3)2 + H2SO4 CaSO4 + 2H2O + 2CO2 the calcium (and, to a lesser to trap particles, and the filter extent, magnesium) ions are bed is simply regenerated by Note that the arrows represent salt precipitation and/or release of exchanged for the more soluback-flushing with clean water carbon dioxide, which prevent any reversibility of the reactions. ble sodium ions. Sodium salts to drain. If the water is aerated are generally more soluble than prior to filtration, any ferrous magnesium and calcium salts (Fe(II)) iron present is oxidized and are therefore unlikely to form scale in the boiler. It is worth to insoluble ferric (Fe(III)) iron that can be removed by subsequent bearing in mind that the resulting sodium concentrations are too filtration. high for mashing or product dilution, but it is nonetheless a useful Particle filtration refers to removing particles sizes in the range of approach for water pre-treatment. 1 μm – 1+ mm, where the limits of human visibility are commonly A hydrogen ion (i.e. proton) exchange resin is also known as a considered to be 20 – 30 μm and above. Microfiltration can be de-alkalization membrane. The membrane-bound protons are exapplied to remove particle sizes in the range of 30 nm – 2 μm, and changed for calcium and magnesium ions. The released protons nanofiltration is effective from around 8 – 900 μm, the lower limit react with carbonate to form hydrogen carbonate and, formally, being of the same order of magnitude as the hydrodynamic radii of carbonic acid. The acid is either removed in a degassing tower or common proteins. the water is neutralized with acid before the water is used. The Columns and membranes, though, are commonly used for water column is regenerated with hydrochloric acid (HCl(aq)) to replenish treatment for the removal of species on the molecular scale, such the bound protons and wash off the calcium and magnesium ions. as ions (i.e. salts) and organic materials. These come in various Deionization and demineralization systems are often used in forms: series, replacing anions such as chloride with hydroxide anions, Ion exchange resins (IER) and cations with protons. In the example below the cation (strong Reverse osmosis (RO) acid) resin loses protons as they are replaced by metal cations present in the water. So for instance if sodium chloride is present in Ultra-/nano-filtration (UF/NF) the water, the sodium is bound and hydrogen chloride is released. Crossflow filtration (CF) Passing this acidic water through an anion (strong base) resin then Ion exchange resins function by swapping ions present on the exchanges resin bound hydroxide moieties with anionic species stationary phase of the resin with ions in the mobile phase of the such as chloride. The resulting water is depleted in both anions water flowing through the column. Depending on the ions that are and cations, the extent of which is dependent on both the loading being swapped, there are various classes of IER. Cation exchange of protons and hydroxide ions on the columns and the levels of salts resins, used for water softening, swap the water hardening calciin the feed water. um ions in the water with resin-bound sodium ions (Fig. 2). While
• • • •
FIGURE 2. Schematic of cation exchange resin functionality R
Ca2+ + 2Na+
Water-borne calcium ions are exchanged for resin-bound sodium ions. WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
Cation resin – Strong acid (H+): H+ + M+An-
M+ + H+An-
Anion resin – Strong base (OH-): OH- + H+An-
An- + H2O
In some circumstances, it is necessary to remove excessive levels of nitrate. During fermentation, contaminating organisms such as lactic acid bacteria can reduce nitrate to nitrite. The latter is regarded as toxic, causing methemoglobinemia which restricts oxygen
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supply from the body to blood. So, while nitrate is also considered harmful, its removal precludes the potential for nitrite formation. Standard strong anion exchange resins can be used to capture nitrate, but they generally have a higher affinity for the sulfate dianion than for nitrate. Selective nitrate resins reverse this affinity, enhancing the capture of nitrate by around one to two orders of magnitude relative to the standard resins. However, if the standard resins are allowed to overrun their operational parameters (i.e. the resin is saturated with nitrate), simply continuing to run water through the resin after it has been fully loaded with nitrate allows sulfate to exchange with nitrate, a phenomenon known as nitrate dumping. Regeneration is typically achieved with sodium chloride, which in turn can be removed by standard deionization and demineralization operations. The resulting recovered nitrate is feasibly destroyed either biologically or reduced with aluminum powder. An option that has gained traction steadily in recent years is reverse osmosis, and it has indeed emerged as a convenient technology even for domestic water purification systems. Conventional osmosis is the phenomenon whereby the separation of two environments with a semipermeable membrane results in water flowing from the more dilute side (ie higher water concentration side) to the more concentrated side. Indeed, this is a common mechanism for some organisms, like plants. Reverse osmosis forces water from the more concentrated to the more dilute side of the membrane. This is achieved by applying pressure on the concentrated side of the membrane. Water permeates, while an increasingly concentrated solution of salts, organic molecules and particles accumulate in the retentate. In cases where chlorine is present and/or the organic content can be high, carbon filtration can be helpful. Carbons come in a wide range of particle sizes and affinities for the various potential contaminants. It is therefore essential to match required performance with the most appropriate carbon chemistry. At the outset of Part I, we commented that the first question that should be made for determining a location for a new build distillery is about water. What is the local capacity for drawing water? If there’s a need to sink a well will there be abstraction limitations? What does the water quality look like? Here we’ve described the various approaches and technologies that can be employed to adjust water quality for the various needs in a distillery. The capacity and well considerations are in the hands of the new build developer.
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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FIND FAMILY HISTORY IN EVERY BOTTLE AT NORTH CAROLINA’S BOGUE SOUND DISTILLERY
WRITTEN BY CARRIE DOW P H O T O S P R O V I D E D B Y B O G U E S O U N D D I S T I L L E RY
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ogue Sound Distillery owner Richard Conoley Chapman is a big dude — tall, broad shouldered, with a square jaw to match. I have no doubt when he says he was an offensive tackle for the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the mid1960s. “I have two ACC championship rings,” he declared. “I was fortunate enough when I was there, we won third in the nation and played in the Liberty Bowl.” His soft voice belies his imposing stature, and I find myself leaning in to hear better. That’s because Chapman has a story to tell — several, actually — and I want to catch every word. “Everything we have has to have a story behind it or we won’t do it,” he said about his products. Opened in 2018, Bogue Sound Distillery backs up to its namesake waterway in eastern North Carolina. On the sound’s other side is NC’s Crystal Coast, an area known for sport fishing and sandy beaches. Chapman’s goal is twofold, make his distillery known for exceptional spirits throughout the state, and to share his family history. Chapman talks about his great-great-grandfather, John A.P. Conoley, whose name and picture appears
on every Bogue Sound whiskey bottle. John Alexander Patterson Conoley was a Confederate soldier in the Second North Carolina Calvary’s Company D under the command of Major General J.E.B. Stuart. “[Conoley] was wounded five times and captured once,” Chapman said. “When he was captured, he was put in the Old Capitol Prison.” Chapman adds that the location of the former military hospital and prison is where the U.S. Supreme Court is today. When Conoley arrived, he was tended to by a Union nurse named Vitzellen. “All the family would say was she paid particular attention to him,” Chapman whispered. “Made sure his wounds didn’t turn septic. He made her a promise that when he was traded back to Stuart that if he lived through the Civil War, he would name his first daughter after her.” With that, Chapman points to a photo in a large shadow box on the tasting room’s wall. “So in 1868 this lady was born.” That lady is Alice Vitzellen Conoley, Chapman’s great-grandmother. The tradition continued with Chapman’s mother, Cornelia Vitzellen Moffit in 1926, the inspiration for Chapman’s Vitzellen Vodka. Chapman’s Bombshell Gin pays homage to his father, First Lieutenant Harold J. Chapman, pilot of the Carolina Queen B-17G bomber during World War II. “He was on his sixth mission when he was shot down,” Chapman said gravely. “Half the guys were killed. His left wing was blown off. He bailed out and was captured. Spent almost two years as a prisoner of war. He was captured at 185 pounds. When he got home, he was 102 pounds.” He points to his father’s dog tags in another shadow box but changes from his somber tone. Bogue Sound currently produces several grain spirits — bourbon whiskey, salted caramel whiskey, and peanut butter flavored whiskey — all using corn he grinds himself on a 1908 Williams round mill that was found on property his son renovated in Oxford, North Carolina. Chapman studied textiles in college, but when much of that industry moved overseas, he built new businesses in construction and real estate. You could say distilling is his fourth career. I asked him why start a distillery when he could be fishing full time on the Carolina coast. “Why do this at my age?” he reiterated. “My wife has a honey-do list about two pages long and I don’t want it!” His laughter echoes
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“Why do this at my age? My wife
has a honey-do list about two
Alcohol Proof Measurement System
pages long and I don’t want it!” — RICHARD CONOLEY CHAPMAN
throughout the tasting room before his voice drops again. Distilling, he says, runs in the family. “See [John’s wife] Sara Conoley, she was really a Curry. Her relatives were caught distilling in Scotland illegally so they cut [their still] up and brought it on a boat to Wilmington.” According to family folklore posted to the distillery’s blog, Edward Curry’s farm was raided in the 1700s so Curry moved his family and his 30-gallon copper still to North Carolina where he made brandy and single malt whiskey. The still eventually passed down to John and Sara, but it was stolen from their barn in 1840 with the thief leaving $10 behind in its place. In 1905, U.S. revenue officers confiscated the still in Cumberland County and took it to the state museum in Raleigh where it remains to this day. I ask Chapman what’s next for his distillery. He mentions rum and lowers his voice again. “John Newland Maffitt was a unique fellow,” Chapman began. “At thirteen he joined the Navy and worked on the USS Constitution.” Readers might be more familiar with the ship’s nickname, Old Ironsides. “Then he and another guy totally mapped the entire coast of the United States all the way around to Texas. His father was from New York, but his uncle was from the South. When the Civil War came up, he heard he was going to be arrested because of his uncle so he joined the Confederate Navy. He had a ship built in England that sailed the Caribbean called The Florida. He was called the Prince of the Privateers because he captured over 24 vessels and brought those supplies back to the South.” Although not directly related to Chapman, all variations of the Maffitt name, including his mother’s, derive from the same Scottish clan. John Newland Maffitt Coconut Rum and White Rum will appear in late December or early January 2021. Another story told, and another product to be proud of for Chapman and his family.
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Bogue Sounds Distillery is located in Bogue, North Carolina. For more information visit www.boguesounddistillery.com or call (252) 354-9131. WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
REACHING THE NEXT GENERATION
Somrus’ Indian-Inspired Cream Liqueurs Add Depth to a Category WRITTEN BY RICH MANNING /// PHOTOS PROVIDED BY SOMRUS
We tend to abuse the word “exotic.” What may initially appear outside our orbit and compel us to use the word often falls into our wheelhouse upon further scrutiny. I realized this in the middle of my interview with Monica Badlani, co-founder and COO of the award-winning Indian cream liqueur brand Somrus. In the middle of discussing how Somrus’ new coffee cream liqueur connects with Indian flavors, Badlani mentions that one of its key ingredients, chicory, provides the backbone for the legendary coffee served at Café du Monde in New Orleans. Just like that, a deeper understanding occurs, one that connects Badlani’s own Indian heritage to my American experiences, particularly my own encounter with overindulging in café au laits and sugar-dusted beignets. It’s a dynamite discovery, one that demonstrates why food and drink truly matter. Our exchange also crystallizes a key objective behind what the Chicago-based brand hopes to achieve within the market. “At the risk of sounding cheesy, we’re looking to create the next generation of cream liqueurs,” Badlani said. Using the term “next generation” isn’t as cheesy as one may initially think when you consider the category. Cream liqueurs entered the public consciousness with the introduction of Bailey’s in 1973, so they’re new compared to old-school liqueurs like Chartreuse and Cointreau. They also came of age at a time when bartending innovation and customer curiosity were mired in their sad nadir. The era’s negative effects were still hovering over the category when Badlani and Somrus’ other co-founder and CEO, Pankaj K. “PK” Garg, launched the brand in 2014, even as consumer interest in craft distilling and proper cocktails buried most memories of the spirit scene’s bad old days. This is where the “next generation” sentiment kicks in: Their initial rum-infused chai cream liqueur demonstrated a push toward overcoming the categorical hangover caused by too many cement mixers and Russian Quaaludes. “It’s never been about us just getting to market,” Badlani explained. “We’re always trying to get new people into the category, especially since consumers are now more educated about what may be out there.” Somrus’ trio of cream liqueurs — chai, mango, and coffee — aren’t necessarily designed to be a direct competitor to Bailey’s. They’re far more sophisticated, with each expression pulling in different spices, ingredients, and flavors commonly found in Indian cuisine. The chai cream, for instance, builds upon its base
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Monica Badlani, co-founder and COO of Wisconsin cream and Caribbean rum with layers of cardamom, turmeric, saffron, and pistachios. The mango cream references India’s status as the world’s largest producer of the fruit. The market gap these flavor expressions fill goes beyond a retailer’s shelf space. Unlike most countries, India has never been a player in the liqueur or cordial category — hard spirits and beer have traditionally been more their speed. “Lots of people are surprised to find this out,” Badlani said. This unexpected sense of newness provides a blank canvas for cocktail creation. It also paves the way for foodies to build drinks that pair with Indian food. This may seem a touch strange at first, since cream-based liqueurs don’t easily come to mind when discussions of food and drink pairing go down. Take a step back and consider India’s culinary traditions, however, and using a selection from Somrus’ libations library in a drink to match with saag paneer or chicken vindaloo makes a whole lot of sense. When built into a cocktail and enjoyed with Indian fare, they replicate the flavor, texture, and mouthfeel of classic regional beverages like lassi, which are designed to temper the heat that some may find a bit aggressive. The liqueurs’ low ABV further contributes to the cocktail’s silky, palate-soothing properties. It’s a thrilling reveal to experience if you’re geeky about connecting culinary dots, particularly if you’re the stripe of geek where the right food and drink creates the metaphorical shovel needed to dig deeper into a country’s or region’s history and culture. That said, Badlani points out this connection doesn’t necessarily have to be the endgame for everyone indulging in the brand. “We want our brand to capture the vibrancy of India, which is great for those who want to dig into the culture,” Badlani said. “At the same time, we also want to encourage people to create their own experiences. The flavors are accessible enough to do this. We already see this with other beverages. If you ask a Starbucks customer about what’s in their chai latte, they may not realize the flavor comes from cardamom, but they will tell you they like the flavor.” WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
Honoring this approach to craft presents unique challenges as a producer grows and maintaining high product quality becomes more complex. Somrus finds itself in such a period of upswing, partially fueled by the numerous awards they’ve earned, including back-toback Double Golds at the prestigious San Francisco International Spirits Competition. They’ve prepared for this challenge by embedding growth strategies that emphasize consistent adherence to painstaking quality control, such as expanding to increase production runs without increasing batch sizes. As Somrus moves forward with these craft-focused growth schemes, Badlani can’t help but look back at the brand’s early days, when innovation and cream liqueurs were still viewed in mutually exclusive terms in the off-premise market. This reflection takes on more significant meaning these days as the bar and restaurant industry continues to endure COVID-19’s relentless battering. It also inspired action; last April, Somrus joined forces with the nonprofit organization Children of Restaurant Employees (CORE) to launch “Small Brand, Big Heart,” a fundraising initiative that raised funds to support service industry families affected by the pandemic. “There were lots of restaurants that took a chance on us in the beginning,” Badlani explained. “It was important for us to help them now since they helped us out then.”
Badlani’s mission to position Somrus as a next-generation cream liqueur is far from complete. “I still see bartenders who will hide cream liqueurs on their bar shelves, so customers don’t ask for them,” she said with a chuckle. Despite these holdouts, there’s more than enough interest in Somrus’ flavors to allow the label to help move the categorical needle towards something more exciting and refined. Visit www.somrus.com for more information.
KNOWN: W H AT I W I S H I ’ D LET ME TELL YOU
SCIENCE AND OF E R U T A N V O L AT I L E G N I G A L E R R A B THE
K A . V I E RT H A L E R WRITTEN BY MAR
e I pulled a remember the first tim sample. , No. 3 char It was from a 30-gallon rel coopered in American white oak bar
Minnesota. my first-ever In the barrel, one of new make was batches of bourbon h-wheat distillaresting. It was a hig ievably floral tion that was so unbel ted pre-barrel, and sweet that, when tas with the possiyour mind would dance , and patience bilities of what time, oak would do to it. my absolute So, you can imagine later when I horror a few months ng, drew some knocked out the bu with the thief, of that golden nectar and it was horpoured it into a glass… icate distillate rific. That beautiful del this overly age had somehow becom . gressively tannic THING se, especialsen any ke It didn’t ma nth before, the ly because just a mo t original distha barrel had embraced exactly what we tillate and was doing had anticipated. the distillate I was aghast. Had d there been Ha somehow gone bad? that I hadn’t something in the barrel Had the wood noticed before filling it? had something somehow warped, or that it had abcome close to the barrel k? sorbed some horrific fun
As the horror began to set in, we had to wonder — did we just waste countless gallons of spirits on faulty barrels? What, exactly, had hap-
pened? It required a quick call to some of my mentors. The answer, it turns out, was that what was happening was what exactly ed pos sup s wa e Th . pen to hap ng. spirit was agi It was aging in efluctuation. And som ation, the spirtimes during that fluctu e solution was it becomes garbage. Th try it again. simple — wait a bit and bunged the reSo, we nervously ut our standard barrels and went abo nths later, that production. A few mo k in full force beautiful spirit was bac ind it. beh with the biting tannins at I wish I’d So, let me tell you wh ng. known about barrel agi
WHY DO W E IT S? BA RR EL AG E SP IR Because it tastes good. cool. Let’s You wanted more. Okay, get nerdy. ectively does Aging spirits in oak eff : It works as a three different things as a coloring flavoring agent, it works filtration agent. agent, and it works as a per. Typically, Let’s dig a little dee barrels. And spirits are aged in oak
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t specifically not just any oak, bu American white oak. aren’t other That’s not to say there that can funcoak varieties out there e heavy lifters tion well for spirits. Th the aforemenyou’ll often see are oak, Spanish/ tioned American white nch oak. GrantEuropean oak, and Fre n 250 differed, there are more tha the Northern ent oak species within are used for me Hemisphere alone. So e been largely spirits and some hav or notes they ignored because the flav lack of a betimpart to spirits are, for The same goes ter term, hot garbage. other species of for barrels made from part astringent, wood — they can im gusting notes acidic, or outright dis h high-proof wit when put into contact spirits.
I M E, M Y OA K, AN D
ique because Oak is particularly un amount of outit produces a higher called tyloses. growths/extragrowths tyloses work Overly simplified, the king, making it to keep oak from lea a water-tight especially qualified as turing. wood for barrel manufac up of celluThe oak itself is made lignin, tannins, lose, hemicellulose, steroids, piglactones, oils, acids, ally, inorganic ments, sugars, and fin compounds. roximately Cellulose makes up app , hemicellulose 45 percent of the oak around 30 per15 percent, and lignin rks as the buildcent. The cellulose wo providing the ing blocks of the wood, doing much lly structure but not rea es to impartof anything when it com an aging spirit. ing flavor/coloration to t that cellulose This is due to the fac at-labile.” That isn’t what we call “he s not change basically means it doe heat. with the application of llulose withice hem Conversely, the e. It is made in the oak IS heat-labil t, when subup of wood sugars tha elize to create jected to heat, caram WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
lovely roasted flavors. It also adds color to the oak upon application of heat. Also susceptible to heat is the lignin. From a functional standpoint, it works to support the cell structure and fight microbial against attacks. Lignin is responsible for those lovely vanilla notes you get on a wellaged whiskey. Also, like the hemicellulose, it provides color when heated.
LI GN IN S Lignins are what des” — comwe call “aromatic aldehy tinct aromatic pounds that have a dis them from es ring which differentiat nds. other chemical compou on four main us foc to ng We are goi t impart disaromatic aldehydes tha e notes to the tinctive and detectabl in the oak barspirits that are aging oned earlier, is rel. Vanillin, as menti illa notes that responsible for the van rel-aged spirits. you often find in bar in more comConiferaldehyde brings cker and cinplex notes of graham cra imparts more namon. Syringaldehyde to the spirit. es floral and “green” not ldehyde, which Finally, we have sinapa adjacent.” It’s we often call “vanillaing that it ofjust a fancy way of say vanillin, also fers similar notes to the more dominant working to bolster the flavors of the vanillin.
TA N N IN S
most widely Tannins are probably astringency known as providing the like black tea and “bite” in things used and purand red wine. In foc impart balance poseful amounts, they
t aged spirits to the flavors and preven sweet. From a from becoming overly tannins also chemical standpoint, the portant role in serve an incredibly im nins work as terms of oxidation. Tan il or the salt in the bitters in a cockta ance the flavors a dish — there to enh throwing other surrounding it while o sharp relief. less noticeable notes int
LA CT ON ES
hiskey lacSometimes called “w bonds within tones,” these chemical h as cocosuc the oak impart flavors wood. These nut, celery, and fresh around 20 particular lactones are can oak than times higher in Ameri , which is why they are in French oak profiles are so these particular flavor American-style often associated with whiskies. major role in Lactones also play a iskey because the final flavors of wh — sometimes they impart an oily uthfeel to the called buttery — mo spirits.
IT ’S GO N N A BU RN IS FO R M E TO SA Y TH
lied to oak in Fire was initially app staves pliable order to make the oak and crafted into enough to be shaped ple much more barrels. However, peo tful than myself intelligent and insigh n of heat to wood realized the applicatio bon layer. Simulcreates an active car g created flavor taneously, that charrin st and char laycompounds in the toa e and delicious ers that imparted uniqu ced within the flavors to the spirits pla barrel. ors like vanilla, Toasting produces flav ard,” and a LOT almond, clove, “barny of smoky flavors. active carbon Charring produces an barrel filtrainan layer that will work as some of those tion system, shaving off and sulphury more unpleasant rubber m a barrel that notes that can come fro d has simply been toaste complexities of Skipping the massive that happen as the chemical changes rring, the quick part of toasting and cha rring the wood and dirty reason for cha -heat-treated baris that aging in an un dumping your rel would simply be like o a sawdust bin. precious new make int
E AA AA AA N D BR EATH
idea of what Now that we have an terms of chemithe barrel is doing in to talk a little bit cal changes, we need once you place about what is happening fully prepared your white dog into the barrel.
there are three As mentioned above, a spirit matures things that happen as ally, we had menwithin a barrel. Origin tion, and filtrationed flavoring, colora terms would be tion. More accurate and transformasubtraction, addition, tion. ’re not just While aging a spirit, you lignins and tanadding things like the porous nature of nins. Because of the g in chemical wood, you’re also pullin barrel. Think bonds surrounding the e brininess that in terms of the uniqu es aged right is often found in scotch along the coast. not only is In terms of subtraction, barrel working the char layer on the less-desirable to filter out some of the during fermentacongeners developed poration break tion, oxidation and eva tes. down unpleasant off-no ition, we’re When we talk about add on rates of each focusing on the infusi we were looking of the chemical bonds aks down at a at earlier. Each one bre a different hudifferent temperature, l content, etc. midity, a different alcoho ut transformaFinally, let’s talk abo racted from the tion. Compounds ext spirits and you barrel combine with the transformative resee an honest-to-God ehydes that were action take place. Ald oxidize to create produced from lignin n meet the ethaacids. Those acids the m esters. Love nol in the barrel and for tobacco notes in those chocolate and can thank the a well-aged spirit? You barrels for that transformative power of alchemy
BR IN G IT BA CK TO GE TH ER
to the original So, to bring it back : Why did these quandary from years ago like lighter fluid barrels end up tasting one point of samdipped in charcoal at and evolve with pling, but then mellow some more time? process works It’s because the aging As the ethanol much like breathing. s, it pushes into heats up and expand rking into the the charred wood, wo
pores of the oak. nooks, crannies, and contracts from As it cools down, it wood. those spaces within the contraction, and With each expansion ctions are taking different chemical rea spirits as well place within both the oned above, the as the wood. As menti extract from the very first chemicals to tannins. Those wood are going to be the beasts work as astringent, bitey little anced flavor, but building blocks of nu levels can comwhen present in high into undrinkable pletely tip the tipple territory. t as distillers, This also means tha narily aware of we must be extraordi rels are aging the environment the bar sitting in a gain. If your barrels are s are constantly rage where gas engine prised if those running, you can’t be sur og and gas vapor unpleasant notes of sm permeate your barrels. wn all those What I wish I had kno takes patience, years ago is that aging the chemical rean understanding of hin the barrel, actions taking place wit s of what volatile and an acute awarenes wing anywhere compounds I was allo near an aging spirit. I mentioned That particular barrel named the best eventually went on to be national competiKansas whiskey at a w, being aware tion. So, it goes to sho extract, as well of how and when spirits your barrels, will as what’s surrounding g run. pay dividends in the lon ram @whisBe sure to follow me on Instag I’m working on s ject pro t ren cur see kyicarus to exp t eriments and at Tenth Ward. I’ll often pos facing as well. I’ll re thoughts on challenges we’ ething you wish som is at ask you all, too: Wh you’d known? ad Distiller at Mark A. Vierthaler is the He y in Frederick, pan Com ng Tenth Ward Distilli r a dozen internaMaryland and has won ove has made. He lives tional awards for spirits he Moose, and the oclab with his wife Jenn, silver that wanders into nk sku or casional groundhog tilling Company his backyard. Tenth Ward Dis dedicated to disis a woman owned distillery, al and award-winion tilling unusual, unconvent inary. Ord Off g ning spirits by Wardin
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SPIRIT & CO.’S INFUSED SAUCES BRING FOOD AND DRINK TOGETHER WRITTEN BY RICH MANNING
/// PHOTOS PROVIDED BY SPIRIT & CO.
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 peel back a layer to examine what can make a collaboration work before one’s even officially created.
“What would happen if I did that ?” This question anchors the production of almost every new spirit a distiller makes. It may be a blatant shout or a barely audible whisper, but it’s there. It’s also one that naturally extends to the creation of spirit-infused foods, when just a smidge of bourbon, vodka, rum, or another spirit can alter the flavor course of a sauce, spice, or rub and elevate it to new heights of deliciousness. In the middle of a pandemic, forging collaborations built around this simple inquiry may be difficult. Spirit & Co. already has the answer
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to this question. Located in the Chicago suburb of Westchester, IL, the company launched a wide range of wine- and spirit-infused sauces in 2020, proactively made in-house, fueled by curiosity and a passion for building elevated food and drink experiences. How the product line came into being provides distilleries with keen insight on what to look for in a culinary partner should the urge to cross the aisle into the specialty food landscape occur.
Nick Spencer’s no stranger to the specialty food scene. The London native left the misery-inducing confines of the corporate world in 2009 to launch Jolly Posh, an artisanal company specializing in bacon and British sausage. The ensuing decade provided a cavalcade of lessons on what kind of business and marketing strategies worked and faltered, but it also gave him a deeper understanding of the consumer’s
evolving tastes and sophistication. “Specialty foods and craft distilling went bonkers in the last decade,” Spencer said. “Experiencing this growth as part of the industry provided several lessons about the importance of providing and enjoying elevated food and drink. Those that care about what they consume want clean, fresh, high-quality products. When you’re talking alcohol, these aren’t the people drinking the well vodka anymore.” These teachable moments fueled Spencer’s desire to create Spirit & Co.’s eclectic line of liquor-infused sauces, and he scratched that itch. Rather than seeking out a distilling partner off the bat, he bought spirits he enjoyed and added them to the recipes, calibrating the blend until it elevated the taste to match his demanding standards. This trial and error spawned a range of spirits-infused products, such as bourbon-infused BBQ sauce, tequila-kissed green chile hot sauce, Italian tomato ketchup accented with vodka, and honey mustard imbued with Irish whiskey. The spirits Spencer currently uses to produce Spirit & Co.’s wide range of products aren’t explicitly mentioned on the bottles, but savvy folks can spot clues on their marketing sheets. Information regarding the bourbon-infused BBQ sauce, for instance, features a nuanced reference to
Nick Spencer, Spirit & Co. Owner Evan Williams. This clandestine approach allows the consumer to focus on the sauce as a complete product, which according to Spencer is critical for a new product to be embraced by the specialty food marketplace. “For the most part, the customer isn’t going to be too concerned by where the spirits come from,” he said. “What customers really want to know is that the people behind the product care about what they’re making. If they know that, they’ll
trust the ingredients you’re using.” Spencer puts plenty of effort into this trust-building. From a compositional standpoint, Spirit & Co.’s sauces check the culinary boxes one would hope they do. There aren’t any artificial preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup in any of the products, and the natural ingredients used provide a sense of artisanal flair, something further enhanced by the spirits’ presence. “Our vodka and Italian tomato ketchup is a good example of this,” Spencer said. “We use San Marzano tomatoes in our ketchup because they produce this fresh, bright flavor. When we add vodka to the recipe, and it brings out these fantastic spicy notes. That really explains the philosophy behind the use of alcohol in the sauces. They aren’t there just for the sake of being there. They must have a purpose that enhances and deepens the flavors.” So far, these efforts seem to be paying off. Spirit & Co.’s initial Kickstarter event reached its goal within 24 hours. Spencer is working on capitalizing on this interest by building sales traction through the relationships he’s already established within various distribution channels. While the pandemic has made this a slower process, he refuses to let that cause too much interference. “Everyone has taken a hit from
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COVID,” he said. “The only real reaction we can really have to it is figuring out how we’re going to respond as a business. For us, the best thing we can do is to work on leads today so we can make sales tomorrow.” Additionally, Spencer is focused on using Spirit & Co. to bring about good at a time where kindness is increasingly critical. A portion of the brand’s proceeds go to Starlight Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit delivering activity-driven experiences to hospitalized and critically ill kids. “It’s important that our products carry an ethos built around helping people,” Spencer said. “While we want our customers to enjoy our sauces, we also want them to feel good when they’re bought.”
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Glass Top Manway Currently, Spirit & Co. does not have any distilling partners lined up. Forging a partnership with a like-minded distillery is part of the long-term strategy, and any collaboration of that nature would likely include some cross-promotional space that explains what makes the spirit special. However, Spencer stands firm on the search being a meticulous process until the precise fit emerges. “There are several factors that could lead to a good partnership,” he said. “But the only thing that really makes a partnership work is when you make a connection that feels right, and that only happens when you find someone that exactly aligns with your interests.” In the case of Spirit & Co., this interest takes root in a simple yet fundamental philosophy. “Our main purpose behind the brand is to help bring good people, good food, and good liquor together,” Spencer said. “That’s truly the bread and butter of life.” This sentiment contains a valuable nugget for distilleries to bear in mind when approached for a culinary collaboration: The passion for quality is oftentimes a through-line connecting spirits and food. If a potential artisan food partner asks about working on a spirit-infused food collaboration, chances are they have the bones of a good product already. More importantly, they’re judging your spirits just as much as you may be judging their food product. Don’t think of this as scrutiny, though. If anything, it’s mutual respect in action.
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IN THE * * * * *
WRITTEN BY READE A. HUDDLESTON
et’s face it; this year has been hard for just about everyone. We’ve witnessed out-of-control wildfires on two continents, a global pandemic, a trying election season, and that’s barely even scratching the surface of the craziness that has been 2020. This is precisely why we can agree that, come the holidays, we all deserve a nice stiff drink. Therefore, I have decided to devote this article, not to yet another obscure spirit, but rather to three holiday drinks from around the world. So kick back and enjoy a little holiday spirit, even if you are just sitting at home wearing your comfy pajamas. Anyone who has spent time in Germany during December has likely visited a local Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market). Indeed, during the Christmas season it seems that no matter where you go, you will find at least a few temporary stands selling seasonal sausages and treats such as gingerbread and chocolate-covered fruit. However, as delicious as these luxuries may be, what really draws people is not the food, but the drinks. Germans have truly made an art out of crafting holiday tipples to warm the spirits of thirsty Christmas shoppers. The average Weihnachtsmarkt has merchants selling a dizzying array of beverages aimed at all age groups; however, of these myriad beverages, the king of the German Christmas drinks is the Feuerzangenbowle. Feuerzangenbowle, which in German translates directly to “fire tongs punch,” is a relatively easy and straightforward drink to make. However, the true key to its greatness is in the presentation. To make it you begin by mixing citrus, typically orang-
And other fine Christmas drinks from around the world
es and lemons, with red wine, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and other Christmas spices. You bring this mixture to a simmer and wait for the flavors to mingle. Once the flavors have melded, it is time for the fun to begin. You take a special cradle and place a loaf of brown sugar above the drink. You then soak the loaf in high-proof alcohol, traditionally rum, though sometimes other liquors are used. Once the loaf is soaked you set it on fire and allow the sugar to melt and fall into the drink. This step is not unlike what is sometimes done with Absinthe, and it is what gives Feuerzangenbowle its name. Once all the sugar has melted into the drink, it is stirred and presented to the waiting consumer. For those who have not seen a Feuerzangenbowle prepared in person, it is truly an awe-inspiring sight. Each stand in a Weihnachtsmarkt serves their own unique Feuerzangenbowle with slight differences in recipes and serving styles. Ultimately, though, every German knows that it’s not really Christmas until they’ve seen the last bits of flaming sugar drop into a nice cup of Feuerzangenbowle. For our next holiday concoction, we will cross the Atlantic Ocean and visit an island that is not normally associated with holiday drinks. In Jamaica, as well as across much of the Caribbean, no holiday celebration would be complete without a glass of icecold sorrel punch. Like much Caribbean cuisine, sorrel punch is a transplant from West Africa. Sorrel, which is the common Caribbean name for Hibiscus sabdariffa, has been consumed by West African cultures for countless years. Many West African
peoples, such as those from Ghana, are known to drink a type of tea made from sorrel known as bissap, which is nutritionally beneficial thanks to its high Vitamin C content. When these people were taken as slaves by Europeans to work on sugar plantations throughout the Caribbean, they brought both sorrel and the tradition of drinking sorrel teas with them. Soon people began to mix rum and other spices with this tea, and sorrel punch was born. Sorrel punch is traditionally made during November, December and January — when hibiscus is in bloom throughout the Caribbean. Although there are many different regional variations, the basic recipe for sorrel punch remains relatively constant. First sorrel, either dried or fresh, is steeped in water to create a brightly colored tea. Then spices such as cinnamon, clove, and allspice are added and allowed to steep. In Jamaica, ginger is often added as well. Once the spices have combined, rum, sugar, and often a dash of citrus juice is added. The mixture is then cooled before serving. Sorrel punch is one of the great blank canvases of the Caribbean’s drink culture. Almost any spice can be added to it and it will still have that unique sorrel punch flavor that makes it so interesting. When concocting sorrel punch, feel free to experiment and make it your own. Finally, the last drink that we will talk about is the Eastern European staple known as Krupnik. Unlike the other two drinks mentioned, Krupnik is not considered an exclusive holiday drink. However, for many people in countries like Lithuania and Belarus, no holiday celebration would be complete without a glass. WWW.ART ISANSPI RI TMAG.CO M
Nailing down the history and definition of Krupnik is a difficult task. Supposedly, Krupnik was invented by Benedictine monks in the 1600s and was mostly used as a medicine. Indeed, in Poland, Krupnik is still often classified as a medicinal tincture. Soon after its invention however, people began to consume Krupnik as a recreational drink, and it became very popular with the citizens of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth around the holidays. Today, many Eastern Europeans brew their own Krupnik. That said, you can also find commercial versions of it on the shelves of many liquor stores around Christmastime. So, what exactly is Krupnik? Well, put simply it is a honey and spice infused vodka, and making it is incredibly easy. All one has to do is boil some honey with spices. Almost any spices are acceptable, though vanilla, orange, and clove are some of the most common. After the honey and spices have cooled, add them to your vodka of choice and allow it to rest for at least 10 days. Traditionally higher-proof vodkas beWe work well together. tween 90 and 100 proof are preferred but they are not required. Once your Krupnik has rested, filter off any sediment and serve either warm or chilled. Krupnik is an excellent drink on its own, but it can also be used in punches or other cocktails to give them an added holiday kick. Interestingly, there are a number of craft distilleries in the United States that make their own Krupniks; and Krupnik even has a distant cousin drink here in the United States known as Boilo. For those unfamiliar, Boilo is a hot mixture of alcohol — generally whiskey or moonshine — ginger ale, and spices that is often served out of a slow-cooker during the holidays. This drink, which is especially popular in and around the northeastern and central parts of Pennsylvania, can trace its roots back to Lithuanian miners who moved to the United States. This means that, while you might not have known it, you may have already had a glass or two of Krupnik at a past holiday party. These are just a few examples of some of the great holiday drinks that are enjoyed around the world. Almost every country has at least one special drink that is specifically connected with the holidays. I encourage you to do some research; you may just find your new favorite holiday tipple.
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. WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
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