IS THERE POOP IN YOUR GLASS
DON'T PANIC! ABOUT RTDs
ON THE JOB IS THE JOB
Drink With Your Eyes™® Drink With Your Eyes
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TABLE of CONTENTS A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
QUARTERLY GUILD & INDUSTRY REPORTS
Updates from guilds and associations within states, across the nation, and beyond!
CLASS IS IN SESSION
Two shochu experts aim to educate the country on obscure Japanese spirits
A STORY OF TWO ROADS
Brand Buzz with David Schuemann
A big step up from White Claw
LEGAL LANDMINES IN THE READY-TO-DRINK COCKTAIL CATEGORY
How states categorize canned cocktails has serious repercussions for producers
WHY CUTS ARE CUTS AND WHY “BAD STUFF” IS NOT WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR… From the Good Guy Distillers
CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL BY DISTILLERY EMPLOYEES 39 And the importance of an alcohol use policy
Considerations for joint tasting rooms and shared spaces
A DISTILLER’S GUIDE TO CREATING AN RTD COCKTAIL 46 Six things you’ll want to consider
HOW IMPORTANT IS AROMA?
THE BASICS OF BARREL REPAIR 80 Never mix up the croze and the chime again
BUSINESS MAY BE BUSTLING, BUT DON’T FORGET YOUR WEBSITE POLICIES
of Orange County, California
Part two: Appealing to a new generation
Part two: Shochu flavor profiles
Online, the details matter
FROM THE SOURCE
SHELTER POINT DISTILLERY
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR UTILIZING SPENT DISTILLERS GRAINS AND STILLAGE
DOING SOMETHING NEW
Spring 44 and Great Wagon Road distilleries go the extra mile for their water
Hemp in the distillery
SINGLE CASK MADNESS
In American whiskey, consistency is no longer the ultimate goal
of Campbell River, British Columbia
WHAT SHE’S DOING IT FOR
LaShana Daniels is using spirits and cocktails as a vehicle for positive change
THE STRAIGHT POOP ON CRAPPY SPIRITS 59 Digging deep for new (and old) botanical flavors
Exploring the science and art of craftmade cocktail enhancers
Kasama Rum presents a new spin on an old category
Preliminary results from a focused initiative
Thoughts from the outer reaches of distilling
A.G.U.A. – TO SUSTAIN OR NOT TO SUSTAIN ...the soul of the spirit
FOUNDATIONS OF CRAFT DISTILLING
from the COVER
Cover image by Amanda Joy Christensen.
Issue 35 /// Summer 2021 PUBLISHER & EDITOR Brian Christensen CREATIVE DIRECTOR Amanda Joy Christensen SENIOR WRITERS George B. Catallo Devon Trevathan
CONTRIBUTORS Matt Adkis Candace Lynn Bell Isabelle Cunningham Corey Day Carrie Dow Andy Garrison Ashley L. Hanke, Esq. John Henry Reade A. Huddleston Paul Hughes, Ph.D. Johnny Jeffrey
Aaron Knoll Rich Manning Craig Pacheco Kurt A. Rosentrater, Ph.D. David Schuemann Nichole Shustack Gary Spedding, Ph.D. Matt Strickland Gabe Toth Scott Weddle
PHOTOGRAPHERS Jenny @aestivaltide Amanda Joy Christensen Chanda Daniels Jean Duthon
Lendel Marshall Oliver Mulligan Roberto Rosa
SALES & MARKETING Ashley Monroe You’ve come to the right place. Since 1943 Grain Processing Corporation has supplied the beverage industry consistent, high-purity grain neutral spirits. And of course we offer a full complement of sensory, analytical and customer service to back up every order. You can rely on GPC for quality and value with delivery that’s on time and hassle-free.
ARTISAN SPIRIT is a quarterly publication by Artisan Spirit Media.
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All contents ©2021. 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.
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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.
© 2021 Grain Processing Corporation
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.
4/5/21 10:15 PM
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.
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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.
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.
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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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.
Founded in France in 1897 and based in the USA for more than 30 years, Saverglass provides for the premium & super premium spirits and wines. Over the years, the Saverglass Group has distinguished itself by its undeniable quality of glass coupled with innovative decoration techniques. Today, one of Saverglass’ main asset lies on its product offer: 110 original designs and 425 references which represent the largest selection on the market! Thirsty for genuineness, Saverglass has created exclusive bottles dedicated to Artisanal distilleries: The Craft Spirits collection is designed to convey the image of authentic, locally sourced and rare high-quality products. Recently, the Group has strengthened its presence and service offering in the US by opening an ultra-modern bottle manufacturing and decorating plant in North America.
Southern Distilling Company is one of the largest state-of-the-art craft distilleries in the nation. In addition to our own award-winning Southern Star Bourbon and Double Shot Bourbon Cream Liqueur product lines, we also offer contract distillation services of standard and custom mash bill whiskeys, barrel warehousing, product development, and co-packaging services for spirits brand owners. Our spirits are distilled on top-of-the-line Vendome Copper & Brass Works continuous column stills. Our product development services include working with you to perfect your recipe or consulting with you to help you create your own recipe. We can barrel and warehouse age your product to meet your short and long-term goals. At Southern Distilling Company, you get “Your Product, Made Your Way.”
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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A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: The summer issue is usually an upbeat affair for us at Artisan Spirit. We often cover the happenings of the spring convention season, get excited about upcoming tasting events, and spend time visiting distilleries, farms, and vendors. However, it’s somewhat bittersweet that while we and the world get closer to that normality, it still remains just slightly out of reach. Perhaps more impactful and sobering was the recent loss of two of our beloved industry peers, Gable Erenzo and Tomas Estes. I wasn’t lucky enough to know Tomas personally, but it’s clear that he was loved and respected. On a closer note, I did count Gable as a friend, and it’s difficult to even begin processing his passing. Everyone I spoke with in the wake of his loss was eager to share a story and re-experience the laughter and joy he charged into every day with. No words can ever bring solace to these losses, but the mark Gable and Tomas left on us, and the world, will not soon be forgotten. Despite the loss and melancholy, this year will indeed see conventions finally return (Summer ADI, Fall DISCUS, and Winter ACSA), and our team is nearly vaccinated and back on the road so that we can continue to listen and share industry stories. It may be a small silver lining in a year that held so much loss, but I can’t wait to hold my friends close. To grieve, celebrate, and cherish each other’s good company. I’ll see you all soon.
Brian Christensen (509) 944-5919 /// email@example.com /// PO Box 31494, Spokane, WA 99223
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Y R T S U D N I & S D T L R I O P U RE G Y L R E T R A QU
he summer 2021 guild reports begin to see many distilling guilds broadening their focus, from largely legislative, to include events and guild management. A number of states have undergone the process of electing new members, and paying tribute to long serving members who have passed the torch. We are excited to see state guilds grow their marketing, event, and membership initiatives.
— BRIAN CHRISTENSEN
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AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION ACSA's Government Affairs committee has been very active advocating for craft distilleries to be included in hospitality relief efforts by the federal government and was pleased that the RESTAURANTS Act was included in the COVID relief package. The DTC committee has stepped up its efforts in several states to assist distilleries and guilds in modernizing state alcohol laws to allow distilleries to directly access their customers. This is likely to be a project over the next several years and we are excited and energized to help usher in this potentially transformative change in the industry. I hope these actions bring new opportunities to members and new data which will help us make inroads going on to new states.
Signups have begun for the annual convention, now scheduled for December 4-6th in Louisville, Kentucky. I am half-vaxxed and excited to attend many of the seminars, as well as visit with industry friends in real life. I am also eager to connect with some new vendors to give me alternatives to address some of the shipping issues I dealt with this spring! I am eager to get back on the road and hope that you and your businesses are having a prosperous summer. For more details on memberships, see www.americancraftspirits.org. Becky Harris President, Chief Distiller, Catoctin Creek President, American Craft Spirits Association
AMERICAN DISTILLING INSTITUTE As the US and the world begin to finally, tentatively, break through our collective year-long pandemic-induced hibernation, the American Distilling Institute (ADI) is guardedly optimistic about resuming the myriad in-person activities that make our industry tick. The annual 2021 ADI Judging of Craft Spirits — an event central to the core mission of ADI — has been pushed a few months out until late May, whereas in recent years the judging, hosted in Tiburon, California, has taken place in late January. We are fortunate that we won’t need to skip a full year, owing to the fact that general lockdowns in California began just a few weeks after our 2020 judging event. As of this writing, our submission rate is fast approaching pre-pandemic levels. To be sure, we are enforcing a conservative collection of measures to keep judges and staff safe during our first in-person gathering since
last year. Unfortunately for the first time, we are only able to host US judges at this year’s judging event. We have also mandated a vaccination requirement, and there will be strict mealtime food-handling procedures, cleaning protocols, and social distancing considerations in accord with county mandates in place as of the time of the meeting. Just as importantly, the same rigorous approach holds true for our upcoming Craft Spirits Conference & Vendor Expo, scheduled this year in Louisville, Kentucky on August 23–25. Ours will be the first craft spirits industry conference held in-person since February 2020. We will have more than 40 breakout sessions, more than 170 vendors and suppliers, multiple regional distillery tours, and our first-ever full-day Bourbon Summit during the week of the conference. Of course, all of the same rigorous safety
measures and considerations as recommended by the CDC and local health officials will be in place by the time of the meeting for the protection of our attendees. This includes plentiful hand sanitizer stations, strategic seating arrangements for breakout sessions, and careful food-handling procedures that will limit potential exposure while still maintaining the sense of comfort and familiarity ADI conferences are known for. As the global pandemic freeze-out begins to thaw, ADI firmly believes that, along with so many of our craft spirits colleagues, we can safely and enthusiastically resume our in-person events this year, and pick up where we left off with a full-steam-ahead mindset. We look forward to seeing you in Louisville! Brad Plummer Director of Communications, ADI Editor in Chief, Distiller Magazine
DISTILLED SPIRITS COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES Following the one-year anniversary of the U.S. lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to press legislators further to provide the relief and support our industry still needs through creative solutions such as cocktails to-go and the immediate removal of retaliatory tariffs on distilled spirits. In March, DISCUS led the creation of the Toasts Not Tariffs Coalition. The coalition unites 48 US associations representing all tiers of the beverage alcohol industry, including distillers and vintners who make the products, importers and wholesalers who distribute the products, and liquor stores and restaurants that sell the products. American whiskey exports to the EU have declined by 37 percent and the UK by 53 percent since the imposition of tariffs in June 2018. We activated advocates through Spirits United1 on several campaigns to urge members of Congress to tell the Biden administration to work with the EU and UK to immediately suspend tariffs on American whiskey
before the EU doubles the tariff on June 1, and to permanently eliminate tariffs on all distilled spirits. DISCUS also continues to engage directly with the White House, United States Trade Representative, Department of Commerce, and Department of Agriculture to underscore our concerns and share projections on the devastating impact a 50 percent tariff would have on our American whiskey exports. In addition to these efforts, I remain proud of the work of Responsibility.org, which is celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. This important milestone symbolizes the deep commitment of an organization focused on eliminating underage drinking, ending drunk and impaired driving, and empowering adults to make a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices as part of a balanced lifestyle. Marking this anniversary provides us the opportunity to reflect on the progress Responsibility.org has made advocating for alcohol responsibility over the past 30 years
while looking ahead to the future. Since Responsibility.org’s inception in 1991, drunk driving fatalities have decreased 36 percent and lifetime alcohol consumption among our nation’s youth has decreased 45 percent. While Responsibility.org cannot claim sole credit for these reductions, the organization has played a significant role in helping to reach these historic low levels of drunk driving fatalities and underage consumption. We remain committed to strengthening a broad-sweeping culture of alcohol responsibility in the United States. Motivated to rid our nation’s roads of impaired drivers, I was compelled to lead DISCUS and Responsibility.org’s joint efforts to support the introduction of the RIDE Act (Reducing Impaired Driving for Everyone Act) in the US Senate. The RIDE Act is the companion bill to the HALT Act in the US House of Representatives, which we also supported. The legislation would mandate a rulemaking process at the US Department of
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Process aids for higher ethanol yield and fermentation consistency.
View our extensive offering of craft distilling inputs at lallemandcraftdistilling.com.
Transportation to require advanced impaired equivalents (with calorie counts) and driving detection technology to ultimately be the reminder that “there is no beverage installed in new vehicles, which could save of moderation, only the practice of mod9,400 lives in a year. eration” DISCUS has been named one of the > Discussion of potential USDA Strategic National Partners in health benefits and risks VIEW ALCOHOL & MODERATION disseminating the 2020-2025 Dietary associated with alcohol, BROCHURE Guidelines for Americans. Through this and a recommendation partnership, DISCUS has released a that consumers discuss new Alcohol & Moderation brochure2 their alcohol consumpas a resource for a wide variety of tion with their physician audiences featuring key information Across the country, about moderation and responsibility, DISCUS state lobbyists including: continue to press for
> The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
recommendation for moderate drinking: up to 1 drink/day for females and up to 2 drinks/day for males, for adults who choose to drink > A brief explanation of why recommendations differ for males and females > The definition and examples of drink
permanent COVID-19 relief measures that will not only aid the suffering hospitality industry but expand market access for consumers. Cocktails-to-go measures continue to advance in state legislatures with more than 30 states currently allowing cocktails to-go in response to COVID-19. Seven of those states plus Washington D.C.
have made cocktails-to-go permanent. Finally, we hope you will join us in Austin, Texas, from October 6-8 for our second annual DISCUS Conference. You can register online3 for the opportunity to hear the latest on mission-critical policies, connect with spirits business executives at networking events, REGISTER learn from indusFOR DISCUS try thought leaders, CONFERENCE and walk away with tangible insights to boost your business. Looking forward to seeing folks there, but until then — stay safe everyone! Chris R. Swonger President & CEO Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and Responsibility.org
NATIONAL HONEY BOARD Across the United States, honey bees are busy. After a long winter spent keeping the queen warm and conserving food and energy, honey bees are leaving their hives in search of spring and summer forage from flowering plants, trees, and shrubs. Similar to honey bees, the National Honey Board is busy ramping up a variety of activities designed to promote honey’s use in distilled spirits. At the top of our priority list is the commencement of our fourth annual Honey Spirits Competition. This free competition is open to any distillery that distributes products in the United States that use honey as a flavor, sweetener, or distillate. We will be judging spirits in 12 categories and providing gold, silver, and bronze medals based on each individual spirit’s score. Last year, Hatch
Distilling’s gin garnered Best in Show honors with a unique product distilled from honey that featured a botanical list of local white spruce tips and juniper berries. Enter this year’s free competition at www.honeyspiritscompetition.com. In addition to soliciting competition entries, we’re also looking for distillers to attend our free, three-hour Virtual Honey Spirits Summit. This popular educational series provides distillers a crash course in using honey in spirits, from the bee to the filtration of spirits with honey. Register at www.honeyspiritssummit.com Finally, we’re putting the finishing touches on two research projects that we will be detailing at our Honey Spirits Summit. The first study, conducted by Central Coast
Distillery, looked at the impact of various yeast strains on the flavor of a spirit distilled 100 percent from honey. There were some interesting findings from the research, but the consensus from a sensory panel was that the product distilled with a yeast typically used for vodka provided the best results. The second project, in partnership with Ballmer Peak Distillery, looked at various techniques for using honey as a botanical in the distillate vapor path. Again, we discovered some interesting results that will be detailed at our next Honey Spirits Summit. Keith Seiz Ingredient Marketing Representative National Honey Board
2 https://www.distilledspirits.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/DISCUS_Brochure_AlcoholModeration.pdf 3 web.cvent.com/event/c480f0ca-64a4-4ec2-9932-02706630fd74/summary
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Fairmont Hotel, Austin, Texas October 6th-8th 2021
Craft distillers turn to us because we are the industry’s trusted advisers, using every tool available to help them thrive, grow their business and tell their hometown story on a national stage.
Building For the Future
Now, we are once again convening America’s Spirits industry leaders, decision makers and supply chain partners to determine the future of our sector and discuss strategies to help your distillery continue to drive innovation and succeed in the modern distilled spirits marketplace.
AMERICAN STATE GUILDS COLORADO COLORADO DISTILLERS GUILD After more than a year of enduring a global pandemic and as vaccines are being distributed and administered, it feels like we can finally begin to breathe again. Our Guild committees have hit the ground running on many initiatives including revamping our Colorado Spirits Trail, working with Colorado State University and OSHA to focus on safety guidance programs for our members, and launching a new passport program called the "Liquid Arts Passport" in collaboration with the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology (CAVE), the Colorado Brewers Guild (CBG), and the Colorado Cider Guild. On the legislation side, our team has been working hard on a variety of things:
> Unfortunately, despite a heavy lobbying effort, we were not able to make any headway this legislative session on Direct To Consumer (DTC) shipping. > However, it looks like we have been able to defend our ability to sell cocktails-to-go from our tasting rooms. > We were able to self-deliver cocktails and bottles over the last year or so, but
FLORIDA FLORIDA CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION The Florida Craft Spirits Association has been busy establishing their first roster of members and officially kicked off the inaugural year with a meeting at Copper Bottom Distilling in Daytona Beach, Florida. Thirty-five distillers got together for the day to swap war stories, review our annual goals, and plot out two of our largest initial efforts. The Florida Distillery Trail should be up and running by the end of the year, which will show-
it appears we may be losing that ability.
> It seems likely that we will be able to increase the production cap on what our distillery-pub license holders can manufacture. This will give our distillery pubs, and their wine and cider counterparts, parity (by number of servings) with what brewpubs can produce, making it easier for this category of distilling license holder to effectively grow their business and brands. > We also have been able to gain some COVID-related sales tax relief for our sales rooms. At the national level, we have been working on a variety of issues in conjunction with ACSA, ADI, DISCUS, and other state guilds, including:
> Pushing to get distillery tasting rooms (along with beer, wine, and cider) added into last year’s year-end COVID stimulus package (as hospitality businesses), an effort that may provide additional SBA debt relief to some of our members. We were able to get Representative Jason Crow (D-CO) to co-sponsor a bill in the US House with Representative Jennifer Wexton (DVA) to accomplish this, and that bill
case all FCSA members in a fun, entertaining, and informative format. The passport will be distributed at all FCSA member distilleries and provides a unique path through old and new Florida. In addition to the distillery trail, FCSA will be organizing the first distillery-ed Craft Spirits Festival in September in Tampa, Florida. The format is still being determined, but more information will be released through social media and our partners at Visit Florida. Last, but certainly not least, Florida distillers may have something to celebrate come July 1. A key piece of legislation made its way through the house and the senate and is head-
has dozens of co-sponsors at this point. In the U.S. Senate, we’ve worked with other state guilds to try and get a similar bill together and are hoping to do so in the near future. > Lastly, we’ve undertaken several efforts related to international trade, including sending our own letters to the White House and USTR on the current UK/ EU tariff issues related to US whiskey and spirits (in coordination with other state guilds), getting Governor Jared Polis of Colorado to write letters to the White House and the USTR on the same issue, and getting Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) to support similar outreach from the US Senate. As the weather gets warmer and communities are starting to open back up, we are looking forward to hosting our in-state adventurers and out-of-state explorers alike! We look forward to seeing you all in person again soon to share a dram over stories from the year of COVID. Meagan Miller President, Colorado Distillers Guild Co-Founder & Vice President, Talnua Distillery
ed for the governor's desk shortly. By the time you are reading this, we will have official word on the bill passing and might possibly be reaping the much needed benefits of the bill. If passed, the bill will allow Florida distillers to begin selling cocktails, made exclusively from products produced on-premise, as well as many other benefits. FCSA will have members at both the ACSA and ADI annual conferences, so if you see us, please say hello! David C. Cohen President, Florida Craft Spirits Association President & Head Distiller, Manifest Distilling
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A barrel should be more than an aging vessel, it should be a partner in achieving your desired flavor profile. Using science-based research and experimentation, ISC barrel experts collaborate with world-class distillers to create innovative barrel solutions for their unique spirits.
MARYLAND MARYLAND DISTILLERS’ GUILD As we look toward the second half of 2021, Maryland distillers have many reasons to be optimistic. The passing of key legislation in the state’s General Assembly secured industry members options to offer direct-to-consumer shipping and delivery to in-state residents. Part of this package lifts the 2.25L off-premise sales cap from distillery tasting rooms. This legislation is crucial to Maryland distilleries that, in the wake of COVID-19, have made sizable investments in innovative models that are meant to safely meet consumer demand for locally produced spirits. The Maryland Distillers Guild is grateful for the guidance and dedication of our hired lobbyists at Rifkin Weiner Livingston, LLC, who helped get these actions across the finish line. Hiring these lobbyists was made possible through the generous contributions by our members
NORTH CAROLINA DISTILLERS ASSOCIATION OF NORTH CAROLINA The Distillers Association of North Carolina (DANC) met in-person in May at Broadslab Distillery for the first time in eighteen months. Members discussed the progress of our legislative agenda at the North Carolina General Assembly and heard presentations from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and the North Carolina ABC Commission. After a long hiatus, members particularly enjoyed the fellowship of an in-person meeting. DANC’s legislative agenda is progressing
OREGON OREGON DISTILLERS GUILD The Oregon Distillers Guild had a great turnout for the virtual membership meeting in March. David Schleef with 503 Distilling was added to the 2021-2022 board of directors, joining: Brad Irwin, Oregon Spirit Distillers; 20
through a special assessment. The Maryland Distillers Guild currently represents 37 operating and startup distilleries, as well as 13 affiliate members. Our community of professionals continues to produce and promote high-quality spirits. In April, the Maryland Distillers Guild elected a new board; adding Crystal Rivera from Puerto Rico Distillery as treasurer, Braeden Bumpers from McClintock Distillery as secretary, and Brian Treacy from Sagamore Spirit as president, while holding over Monica Pearce from Tenth Ward Distillery as vice president. The outgoing board members reached their maximum terms. Jamie Windon, LYON RUM, and Max Lentz, Baltimore Spirits Company, deserve incredible thanks for their contributions and help with the guild. Their invaluable leadership is why we have the guild today. The new board looks forward to helping guide the Maryland Spirits Collaboration Program. This is a fantastic way to promote
distillery partnerships and earn revenue to support guild needs, such as additional lobbyist work. The funding of our guild happens two ways; membership dues and tickets sales to events. Without events in 2020, this new venture will help offset lost revenue. Obviously in 2020 we had no events, but the guild was still able to hire a lobbyist, which paid off big for Maryland distilleries. We are eager to see all the innovative products produced when distilleries put their creative minds together. As the warm weather arrives, we are thrilled to see groups gathering safely at farmers markets, tasting rooms, and distillery tours. We are also seeing an increase in hiring. These are all signs of perseverance and prosperity.
through the legislature. The ABC Omnibus Bill which includes all DANC’s priorities has passed the House of Representatives and is being considered in the Senate. If enacted, the ABC Omnibus Bill will significantly improve the regulatory environment for North Carolina distillers. This legislation expands opportunities for North Carolina distilleries including authorization to:
in other states that do not require reciprocity
> Sell our spirits in closed containers on Sundays and holidays > Sell mixed beverages made with our spirits and one 50 milliliter mini-bottle to consumers at special events such as trade shows and conventions > Sell our spirits directly to consumers
Tom Burkleaux, New Deal Distillery; Emily Jensen, Thinking Tree Spirits; Jill Kuehler, Freeland Spirits; Laura Baumann, Heritage Distilling; Jamie Howard, Sinister Distilling; Cristian Krogstad, Westward Whiskey; and Rick Molitor, New Basin Distillery. Officers are as follows: Tom Burkleaux, President; Emily Jensen, Vice-President; Laura Bau-
Brian Treacy President, Maryland Distillers Guild Sagamore Spirit
The bill also makes other technical changes that clarifies language describing distillery production, tour requirements, and law related to the sale, possession, and consumption of spirits at a distillery. To promote our legislation, DANC has partnered with Spirits United to encourage North Carolina consumers and supporters of the distilled spirits industry to contact their legislators to support the ABC Omnibus bill. Pete Barger President, Distillers Association of North Carolina, Principal Partner, Southern Distilling Company
mann, Secretary; Jamie Howard, Treasurer; and Brad Irwin, Past-President. A special thank you to past-president Brad Irwin. For more than four years, he’s done the lion’s share of the work in our industry’s efforts to make lower tasting room taxes a reality. Irwin remains on the ODG board as the legislative chair.
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For the past three years, the ODG has worked for lower tasting room taxes. With SB316 in the current session, we feel good about our chances to finally get this done. During this time, we’ve called on membership to help with lobbying efforts. SB316 - Reduces Tasting Room Tax from 33 percent to five percent. Our bill has passed
the Finance Committee and is in the Ways and Means Committee. From there it will go to the floor for a full vote. The Finance Committee did recommend that there is a 6-year sunset clause. In April, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission approved minimum floor pricing for distilled spirits. The formula for the minimum
pricing is based on proof per ml. For example, the minimum price for an 80 proof 750ml is $8.40, whereas the minimum price for a 151 proof 750ml is $15.95. This change prevents large suppliers from selling below cost.
Wyoming Distillers Guild Cocktail Week, and likely an in-person guild tasting/cocktail event in the fall. She is increasing membership through allied trade partnerships with nonDSP industry members, including packaging suppliers, retailers, equipment manufacturers, etc. The online and social media presence is nearing its launch where each member distillery will be featured at various points throughout the year, with the aim of growing more recognition of the great producers in our state.
We are all looking forward to seeing how things grow over the next year. It’s been a good start to 2021 — it’s nice to not be making hand sanitizer!
WYOMING DISTILLERS GUILD With the new addition of our executive director, we are seeing large potential for the growth of our guild here in Wyoming. She has tasked herself with all the things that we as a board could never get done, as we are all too busy making booze all the time! Our new branding is awesome, check it out! We are excited to see her working on unique fundraising opportunities through retail partnerships, a
Tom Burkleaux President, Oregon Distillers Guild, New Deal Distillery
Travis Goodman Secretary/Treasurer, Wyoming Distillers Guild Partner, Jackson Hole Still Works email@example.com
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A STORY OF TWO
Is it better to build your own distillery, or outsource your production?
ike many start-up businesses with limTWO PATHS TO MARKET ited resources, the answer lies in your FOR START-UPS time and investment parameters: how quickly you want to get to market, what 1. The first path is referred to as the your flexibility is to change course once Facility Driven route. This is where launched, and how to plan for and supyou seek your own licensing, physical port expansion. distillery, and/or tasting room to deIn this first of three articles, we’ll exvelop your liquid(s) and then develop plore the two primary roads to market for and market your own brand(s). start-up distilleries. We will outline what it 2. The second path is referred to as the takes to follow each path and the pros and Marketing Driven route. This is cons of each option. The next two articles where you outsource your product will delve into the nuances of each path either by sourcing existing product in an effort to provide the best informafrom another distillery or custom tion for new distilleries and their brands. developing your product with another Of the many considerations when esdistillery that produces it for you. tablishing a distillery and brand(s) and The decision between these two paths bringing them to market, one major deshould be given serious thought, accountcision is the structure of your distillery: ing for both budget and timeline to market. Do you want to build a branded house From our experience, far too many startor a house of brands? In branded house ups, boot-strapped for resources and time, architecture, your distillery name is the choose the Facility Driven route. This path brand and acts as an umbrella encomoften leads many distilleries to discover passing all your products into a single they are quickly overleveraged and unable identity. In a house of brands structure, to properly finance their facilities and/or all the products produced by your comare woefully inadequate to support a proppany bear their own unique brand names er marketing and sales plan. The result is as opposed to your distillery name. a lack of flexibility and an inability to shift We won’t dive further into the nuances course if demand drops or exof these options here. pand if success is attained. For However, I recommend READ BRANDED HOUSE vs. HOUSE OF BRANDS example, many distilleries are you read my article, unable to meet demand because Branded House vs. they don’t have enough capital House of Brands in the to support expansion. There are Summer 2017 issue of pros and cons for each path. Artisan Spirit Magazine.
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PROS AND CONS AT A GLANCE OPTION
This path requires you to invest in your own distillery, raw materials, inventory management, equipment, and staff. Pros:
Allows for ultimate customization and personalization
Potentially provides a physical location for consumers to visit
Allows for optimal artistic freedom, experimentation, and control of distillation
Provides the opportunity for an additional revenue stream through custom distilling for other clients
Creates tangible ties to the local community
Requires a larger total upfront investment
Less flexibility and ability for dynamic expansion
Longer lead times to launch
Potential long-term and inflexible mortgage or lease requirements
Can leave little budget remaining for brand development, marketing, and sales
Significant red tape with licensing, zoning, and facility set up
This path means outsourcing production, which allows you to focus investment on recipe development, production, and sales and marketing allowing for budget flexibility and the ability to shift course based on demand. Pros:
Significantly lower up-front investment and greater flexibility
Potentially less flexibility in recipe development and production control
Faster time to market and less red tape
No ability to generate additional revenue through contract distilling
No consumer-facing physical distillery, however, developing a tasting room is still possible in some locations
Potentially slower local “buyin” and community building
Vulnerability to potential supply shortages
Allows for resources to be focused on efficient production vs. facility setup and allows for proper brand development, marketing, sales and expansion Allows for ability to build physical distillery later after capital is more liquid and lessons have been learned Access to established distilling talent and mentorship
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. V I S I T M O O N S H I N E U N I V E R S I T Y. C O M
There is no perfect answer for every entrepreneur, and there are even opportunities to operate, or transition, between strategies. Whatever route you take there are steps you can take to maximize your chances of success.
In our next segment, we’ll explore planning, requirements, and start-up costs associated with the traditional road to market — a Facility Driven distillery.
David Schuemann is the owner and creative director of CF Napa Brand Design. For more information, visit www.cfnapa.com or call (707) 265-1891.
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LEGAL LANDMINES IN THE READY-TO-DRINK COCKTAIL CATEGORY BY NICHOLE SHUSTACK AND ISABELLE CUNNINGHAM
he ready-to-drink or “RTD” cocktail category has exploded in recent years, and it’s occupied not just by craft distillers familiar with a carefully made cocktail. Brewers, distillers and even vintners alike have joined in, capitalizing on consumers’ desire for a premade, no-fuss beverage. The most unexpected thing to have emerged with the rise of RTDs is the complex legal issues surrounding these products, some of which the industry is just beginning to grapple with. Most of the legal landmines stem from the fact that the legal regulatory landscape in the vast majority of states has not caught up with the rapidly evolving alcohol industry. That leaves ready-to-drink cocktails, much like hard seltzers, as not having a specific “class” or “type” in most states. Manufacturers looking to enter the space have lots of options when it comes to creating a new product, subject to what licenses the manufacturer holds and what those licenses allow them to produce. Generally speaking, ready-to-drink cocktails can be spirits-, malt-, sugar-, cider-, or even wine-based. In this regard, the base of the RTD product is arguably the key factor in determining how the product will be treated from a legal perspective. This categorization is important as it impacts licensing needed to manufacture, distribute and sell the product, applicable franchise law, available channels of distribution, and excise tax rate charged to the manufacturer. For a distiller, the obvious path into the RTD space is likely through a spirits-based ready-to-drink cocktail. While distillers are likely aware of the nuances in the regulations applicable to a distilled spirits product, entering a category with manufacturers from all across the industry with a much lower alcohol-by-volume provides an opportunity to think critically about how distilled spirits products are treated under the law compared with other alcoholic beverages, particularly when competing with them in the same market and category. As distillers know, spirits-based products enjoy the luxury of not being tied down by restrictive franchise laws, as fewer than 12 states have some franchise protection for spirits, as opposed to roughly 17 states with wine-specif-
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ic franchise laws and 48 beer franchise states. This allows distillers in most states to almost continuously evaluate their wholesalers and, in the event a wholesaler is not performing, move the brands. Their beer and wine counterparts are much more restricted in their ability to terminate a wholesaler’s right to distribute their brand of RTDs after entering into an agreement with a wholesaler. Similarly, to produce spirits-based RTDs from a licensing perspective requires the same permits as their full-proof counterpart products. So distillers have to do very little to no work, from a licensing perspective, to produce these lower ABV products. While there are some advantages in distillers choosing to make an RTD product, there are also some challenges. Outside of a few states, lower-proof RTD spirit products are treated the same as a full proof product in terms of channel distribution and excise tax rates. Many states restrict where products can be sold, or what “channel” they may be distributed through, based on the category of the product. Generally speaking, beer and wine can be sold in many more places than spirits, such as grocery or convenience stores. While some states like Florida have modified their regulations to allow for low proof spirits to be sold at grocery and convenience stores, many have not. This has left spirits-based RTD growth somewhat stunted in states. Similarly, excise tax, or “privilege tax,” is typically calculated based on the category of product, as opposed to ABV. At the federal level, excise tax for a 12-oz. can of six percent ABV RTD product is $0.05 for a malt-based product, $0.10 for a wine-based product, and $0.15 for a spirits-based product. State discrepancies are even worse. In Washington State, a spirits-based product is taxed at $32.52 per gallon, as compared to a malt-based product, which is taxed at $0.26/gallon, regardless of the ABV. While there has recently been pressure for states to reevaluate this tax burden on low-proof spirits, that advocacy has been met with resistance from industry members working to keep the excise tax rates as they are today. All of this begs the question: Is it really fair for similarly based ABV products to have such a huge discrepancy in their treatment under the law? Many THE LEGAL distillers are pushing for updates to REGULATORY the federal and state regulatory landscape to create a new categoLANDSCAPE HAS ry for low proof “other” prodNOT CAUGHT UP WITH ucts, such as low-proof spirits THE RAPIDLY EVOLVING and sugar-based seltzers. ALCOHOL INDUSTRY. LIKE On a federal level, container size restrictions also come HARD SELTZER, READYinto play. While malt beverTO-DRINK COCKTAILS DO ages can be in any container NOT HAVE A SPECIFIC size, spirits and wine-based products must be sold in certain, “CLASS” OR “TYPE” pre-determined container sizes. IN MOST STATES. All of these complexities are the result of a disjointed attempt to fit inno31
vative products into categories that already exist in the law, whether it actually makes sense to put them there or not. A change in a product’s treatment or classification, particularly under state law, often comes from simply an official “Advisory” or “Guidance Document” issued by a state regulatory authority, the unpredictability of which can be difficult to weather, particularly for smaller suppliers. This lack of recognition of low-proof RTDs as its own category of product isn’t just happening in the spirits world, but also with other products like hard seltzers. Recently, Oregon issued clarification pertaining to the classification of hard seltzers in the state, impacting most of the major players in the market. Product classification by a state has a number of impacts, most notably affecting the excise tax rates and licensing needed to produce, import, distribute, and sell the product. Oregon’s guidance indicated that a sugar-based hard seltzer, which had previously been treated as a malt beverage and taxed accordingly, was no longer going to qualify as such. If a manufacturer had been reporting its hard seltzer product as a malt beverage, but based on this new guidance was required to reclassify it as a wine or cider product, the manufacturer was going to be responsible for both paying the excise
tax rate of the category the hard seltzer was newly assigned to, as well as for any tax liability incurred as a result of “misclassification” of the hard seltzer product back to Oregon’s last audit period. Outcry from those looking at massive tax liability and some quick lobbying efforts halted this change, but the experience was instructive, particularly for industry members dabbling in an area that is relatively new to the market, to state regulators, and to legislatures alike. Like hard seltzer, ready-to-drink cocktails are not a clearly defined category under existing alcohol law. Whether or how fast the regulations will catch up to the industry will have an impact on the success and future of innovation in the RTD spirit space. If left untouched, the discrepancy of channel restrictions and excise taxes could severely curb innovation of spirits products and lessen consumer choice in the market. From franchise issues to excise tax, the topics discussed here are just a taste of the nuanced and complicated legal landscape that governs the distribution of RTDs, and alcoholic beverages across all categories. Consulting with competent legal counsel with experience in the industry is crucial to ensuring compliance with applicable federal and state regulations.
30 years of progress. Like the 30 years before, it will take the leadership, commitment and united effort of people like you — distillers who want a better, more responsible future for us all. Join us, and let’s define the future of alcohol responsibility, together.
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e l l i v s i u o L • Three days of education and 60,000+ sq feet of exhibitions • Keynote Speaker is Dr Anne Brock, Master Distiller, Bombay Sapphire • Rest assured. ADI is working with the venue and hotel to ensure safety and health guidelines.
Craft Spirits Conference & Expo The Kentucky Distillers’ Association is pleased to welcome ADI’s annual conference back to Kentucky, where we can showcase and share the innovative government affairs, tourism, and social responsibility efforts fueling Kentucky’s Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. — KDA President Eric Gregory
Moonshine University is thrilled to welcome ADI to Louisville, the epicenter of distilling in the U.S., for their 2021 Conference. The distilling landscape in Louisville has changed dramatically since ADI was last here in 2015 with the addition of several beautiful new distilleries. We love seeing so many friends and alumni back in town and look forward to meeting new distillers just entering the industry. — Kevin Hall, Head of Corporate Development, Moonshine University
GOOD GUY DISTILLERS
Why Cuts Are Cuts
and why “bad stuff” is not what we’re looking for…
WRITTEN BY JOHNNY JEFFREY
ne thing I often hear from distillers talking to the public about how stills work and what they’re doing with heads, hearts, and tails is that they’re cutting all the bad stuff out and keeping all of the best in the product. This may be shorthand to keep things simple when speaking about how the still works, but I think it also leads to misunderstandings that demonize some compounds that are pretty critical to production, especially if we’re considering aging timelines. First, the easy stuff: Yeast makes ethanol but during their life cycles, to cope with stresses both toward the beginning and throughout the fermentation, they rely on metabolic strategies that produce a bunch of other molecules. These are other alcohols (propanol, butanol, amyl), aldehydes (acetaldehyde), and esters, among others, and in high concentration or in isolation they can be pretty hideous in their sensory impacts. Concentrations of compounds coming off the still and their relative impact at any given moment are a function of the volatility ratio in the pot. At the beginning of a finishing run, with the highest ethanol concentration relative to later in the run, the lowest boiling point compounds will be coming off at high
concentrations. So, the acetaldehyde, acetone, and ethyl acetate concentrations are high at the beginning. We cut much of this out as their low boiling points (high volatility) give them a greater impact on the aroma of the spirit, not to mention that many of them are toxic in the concentrations they’re appearing in during the early part of the run. Keep in mind, though, that those high concentrations are not representative of the concentrations at which they would appear in the finished spirit and that just because the concentration drops after the initial part of the run does not mean that they are done. They’re still coming out but in lower concentrations, so less detectable. During the distillation, depending on so many things it’s hard to name them all, these can nestle nicely in the background of the spirit, or punch through with intensely negative attributes, overwhelming the nose of the spirit in really unpleasant ways. Ethyl acetate, for example, is a critical element of well-matured bourbon. It is produced during aging and its development can be an indicator of the process. Ethyl acetate on its own? Fingernail polish remover. In the background of the spirit? Tropical fruit.
On the tail end of the distillation the concentrations of propanol, butanol, etc. start to climb as the ethanol is removed from the pot and the boiling temp goes up, driving larger molecules out. These compounds have chemical/biofuel qualities and again, in high concentrations, are unpleasant. They are also the precursor feedstock for maturation chemistry. If we cut all of the “bad stuff ” out at this point, there will not be enough feed for the chemical reactions that take place in a barrel to produce complexity. An example of a process that could compromise our ability to easily evaluate this balance is a hybrid pot still single pass distillation of whiskey. If two or three trays are used to go straight from fermented wash to finished spirit, the trays will concentrate congeners to the point where their impact will be extremely high early and late in the distillation. If the distiller reacts to them as “bad” compounds, it can lead to a spirit whose congener balance is off and will not mature properly. With low availability of higher alcohols, esters won’t be produced, other oxidation reactions won’t occur, and the resulting spirit will have qualities of new make and oak, but none of the rich texture and finish you’d expect from an aged
With low availability of higher alcohols, esters won’t be produced, other oxidation reactions won’t occur, and the resulting spirit will have qualities of new make and oak, but none of the rich texture and finish you’d expect from an aged spirit. To say it in fewer syllables, the “bad stuff” is the good stuff.
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spirit. To say it in fewer syllables, the bad stuff is the good stuff. Chemical reactions require precursors. Most oxidation reactions, making use of only oxygen, temperature, possibly some mild catalysts (like char layers or dissolved copper), and time, are equilibrium reactions. These compounds come together, react, form byproducts, fall apart, and react again, until an equilibrium is formed where the precursors and byproducts are in a kind of balance, forming and falling apart at a rate that makes it appear stable. Equilibrium reactions require high enough concentrations of precursors to produce impact from the byproducts of the reactions. Low concentrations will either not react at all, or the equilibriums will have such low resulting concentrations of byproduct that their impact will be minimal, or the precursor impact may be higher than the resulting byproduct, giving the spirit a “tails” character. Cutting out the “bad stuff ” in the distillations of spirits destined for barrels is cutting out the feedstock for complexity. I’d say in-
stead that we’re tailoring the spirit for its intended purpose. Spirit destined for 10 years in barrel will tolerate high congener loads as the volatility of low boilers (heads) will allow them to leave the barrel over time or react out, becoming less volatile and hostile to our delicate mucous membranes and producing interesting aromas. High boilers will have time to esterify/oxidize with other molecules, improving their sensory qualities and their overall contribution to the characteristics of the spirit. Some of these reactions involve an increase in molecular size and therefore weight, and result in higher boiling points, making them less flashy, causing less burn, and lengthening their residence time on the palate. The long finish in a well-matured spirit is in part the result of an increase in higher molecular weight compounds whose resulting boiling points
are high enough that they stay on the tongue longer, lengthen the experience, and eventually volatilize and are sensed. Others of these reactions take compounds whose boiling points are so high they would never volatilize and esterify, increasing their volatility. Oils are a great example of this. Their boiling points are high enough that they’d never produce smells in the finished spirit. However, bonded to high alcohols, they form esters that are volatile and complexify the aroma in the floral/fruit bandwidth. Tailoring cuts to the intended timeline of the spirit sounds so much better than “cutting out the bad stuff.” It’s the difference between taking out the trash and making art. We’re selecting the notes that will make the finished piece, like a writer figuring out how many words make a perfect technical article.
Johnny Jeffery is a graduate of the Artisan Distilled Spirits Program of Michigan State University and Head Distiller for Bently Heritage Estate Distillery, in Minden, NV. He has worked as an industry consultant for over a decade and is co-founder of Good Guy Distillers, a group of industry professionals who try to spread good information and do good deeds.
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Consumption of Alcohol by Distillery Employees And the Importance of an Alcohol Use Policy Written by Ashley L. Hanke, Esq.
y the very nature of a distillery’s culture and workplace environment, the consumption of alcohol by distillery employees is common. In fact, for some employees, the consumption of alcohol is part of their job description. From formulation, quality control, and education to consumer tastings, the consumption of alcohol by distillery employees is sometimes inevitable. Some would even say it “comes with the territory.” But from a legal standpoint, since employers are generally responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees, allowing the use of alcohol in the workplace can expose an employer to legal liability and loss of revenue, including but not limited to equipment damage, lower employee productivity, employee absenteeism, improper or inadequate production, employee injuries, and steep insurance premiums. However, with proper guidance, policies, and employee training, distilleries can set ground rules when it comes to alcohol consumption in the workplace and implement a distillery-wide Alcohol Use Policy that helps to manage both employer and employee expectations when it comes to alcohol use, time, place, and manner restrictions, appropriate employee conduct, and consequences for violations of the policy.
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Why Implement an Alcohol Use Policy? Although many distillery employers may include brief sections in employment agreements whereby the employee represents and warrants that they will perform their duties in a professional and workmanlike manner, the vagueness of this type of language leaves the employee with little to no guidance on how to conduct themselves in the workplace. However, a properly drafted Alcohol Use Policy can provide clear guidance to employees about an employer’s expectations of alcohol use in the workplace, as well as added protections for employers by making clear their position on certain “no tolerance” policies, repercussions for violating an Alcohol Use Policy, and associated risks and safety concerns for all employees.
Considerations When Drafting an Alcohol Use Policy: > Although most non-alcohol companies have the ability to outright prohibit employee alcohol consumption in the workplace, the consumption of alcohol by distillery employees is a bit more complicated.
> While some distilleries may be able to prohibit all alcohol consumption on the job for distillery employees holding certain positions, such as administrative positions or retail gift shop salespersons, other employees, such as distillers and tasting room professionals, cannot avoid consumption, even if minimal, for purposes of quality control, formulation, or education.
> Therefore, a realistic Alcohol Use Policy should be tailored to a distillery’s individual workplace culture. The policy should be specific and make clear that, while limited alcohol consumption may be permissible for employees in certain positions, all other
Sample Alcohol Use Policy Language: > You agree that you will not take part in any activities detrimental to the distillery or its reputation. As such, you agree that you shall promptly and faithfully comply with all reasonable instructions, directions, requests, rules, and regulations of distillery, including [INSERT ALCOHOL USE SPECIFICS].
> In order to keep abreast of new distillery products, tasting room professionals may reasonably consume a samplesized amount for educational purposes only. Samples are limited to [INSERT SAMPLE SIZE].
> You agree that you will not suggest, advocate, condone, or participate in the excessive, abusive, underage, or irresponsible consumption of beverage alcohol products, or provide or furnish beverage alcohol to any person below the age of 21, or otherwise commit any act or do anything that is or shall be an offense involving moral turpitude under Federal, State and/or local laws, that may tend to bring you or the distillery into public disrepute, contempt, scandal, or ridicule, that might tend to insult or offend the community or that might tend to injure the success of the distillery or any of its products.
employees whose job duties can be performed without the consumption of alcohol should be prohibited during work hours.
> For employees who are required or expected to consume alcohol, the employing distillery should implement clear guidelines that limit consumption to a defined amount or serving size per day, as opposed to an open-ended statement, such as “only as necessary to perform the job,” which could leave the employee with too much discretion in determining appropriate consumption amounts.
Other Considerations: > Dialogue: If your distillery has not considered the potential risks and liability of employees drinking on the job, you may want to start by engaging in a discussion with employees by acknowledging the downsides of drinking on the job, such as safety considerations including the operation of equipment, employee reputation, performance, making careless mistakes on the job, or not meeting the employer’s expectations.
> Education & Training: Once you have drafted an Alcohol Use Policy, you should educate all employees on the Alcohol Use Policy and answer any employee questions that may arise. Without providing employees with concrete examples of what is and is not acceptable in the workplace, employees are left guessing what constitutes appropriate behavior and are more likely to engage in misconduct, potentially exposing the distillery to liability.
> Enforcement: The Alcohol Use Policy should be strictly enforced and updated periodically to reflect changes in the law and other applicable advancements. In addition to training new employees, trainings for all staff should be held on an ongoing basis. Employers should have a mechanism in place to frequently monitor alcohol consumption and follow up in the event of misconduct.
> Seek Legal Advice: It is always advisable to seek legal advice before choosing your distillery insurance coverage, drafting employment agreements, or implementing an Alcohol Use Policy. Ongoing legal review should be conducted of all company policies. While there may not be a “one size fits all” approach to drafting and implementing an Alcohol Use Policy, especially in the distilling industry where the consumption of small amounts of alcohol may be part of an employee’s job duties, ignoring the issue of alcohol consumption in the workplace exposes both the distillery and the employee to liability and safety issues that can easily be avoided or mitigated through the proper implementation of an Alcohol Use Policy.
Ashley L. Hanke, Esq. is an attorney at Malkin Law, P.A., a law firm serving the alcohol beverage industry. Ms. Hanke’s practice focuses on a wide variety of regulatory and compliance issues involving alcohol beverage industry members. Nothing in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as specific legal advice.
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CAFÉ CULTURE Considerations for Joint Tasting Rooms and Shared Spaces Written by Craig Pacheco & Corey Day
n response to the historic economic disruptions that have hit the hospitality industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, most state alcohol regulatory authorities loosened existing regulations to allow new routes to market that fit within the new public health guidelines. In addition to popular rule changes like permitting cocktails-to-go and third-party delivery of alcohol beverages, many states revised their rules regarding outdoor service of alcohol beverages. Outdoor service in new locations was wildly popular in the summer of 2020, and a new café culture developed in many cities on the sidewalks and streets outside on-premise establishments. On the East Coast, a candidate for mayor of New York City has proposed restaurant recovery measures including providing incentives for owners of vacant storefronts to “lend” their vacant sidewalk space to adjacent bars and restaurants businesses.1 On the West Coast, Washington State just passed a bill extending relaxed regulations for on-premises establishments (including distillery tasting rooms) until July 2023, which came on the heels of another bill that created a blueprint for so-called “joint tasting rooms” where a distillery can now team up with another licensed producer to share an on-premises consumption space, either at the distillery itself or at an off-site location dedicated to on-premises consumption and retail sales. In California, joint tasting rooms have been allowed since 2019, and distilleries can have a shared tasting area with adjacent breweries, wineries, and distilleries under the state’s regulations. Because space outside restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, and distilleries is limited and many craft producers tend to be clustered near each other, communal-use spaces emerged as an economical way for neighboring producers to share resources and get liquid to lips. In many instances, however, such spaces have not been officially permitted for service, and there are not clear rules providing for accountability where multiple licensees use a shared space for serving customers. The new regulations working their
way through state legislatures seek to provide clarity in this respect. In April, Washington State joined other states that have extended or made emergency regulations permanent for on-premises establishments and producers with tasting rooms. The new law extends curbside service and delivery of alcohol beverages, cocktails-to-go, cocktail kits, and growlers until July 2023. In the meantime, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) will conduct a study to determine the long-term effects of making these new rules permanent. With respect to outdoor dining, the bill requires the WSLCB to adopt new rules or revise current rules to allow for outdoor service by on-premises licensees, including distilleries. However, the bill states that the WSLCB “may” (not “shall”) adopt requirements providing for clear accountability at locations where multiple licensees use a shared space for serving customers. Since the state is not mandated to write the rules for determining liability for everything from slips and falls to accidents resulting from over-service, it falls to the businesses themselves to do so. During the pandemic, Washington also adopted a new law allowing for “joint tasting rooms” to be operated between a distillery and any other licensed producer. The new law allowing joint tasting rooms requires the producers to share staff and even share a POS system, but they must store their alcohol beverage products in separate spaces and keep separate financials. Under the new regulations implementing this law, each licensee will be jointly responsible for any violation or enforcement issues, unless it can be demonstrated that the violation or enforcement issue was due to one or more licensees’ specific conduct or action. In light of these regulations, we lay out some considerations for
1 www.yangforny.com/policies/a-strong-recovery-for-nyc-restaurants-bars-and-eating-establishments W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
contracts between licensees to address these potential liabilities for communal-use spaces. When drafting a contract with your neighbor for a communal space, it’s a good idea to think through various issues that could lead to one or both of you getting sued. There are the obvious ones, like the above mentioned slips and falls, and over-service. However, there are also less obvious concerns, like employee injuries, fights, and natural disasters. The simple solution is to consider joint indemnification language. Basically, each party agrees that if some claim arises that may have been caused (in whole or in part) by the party, they will be responsible for the defense of the other party (and any potential liability that results). A clear example would be if your neighbor’s employee spills a cocktail in the shared area and a patron slips on it, suffers an injury, and files a lawsuit. Because you both control the space, the patron will probably sue you both. With joint indemnification, your neighbor should be responsible for defending the lawsuit and any subsequent liability since it was their employee who spilled the cocktail. Additionally, the contract should specify that each side will carry a certain minimum amount of insurance that both covers the shared space and also lists the neighbor as an additional insured. Speak with your insurance broker to make sure you have the right coverage for the space, using the above items as a starting point, and then specify in the agreement what the insurance must cover. Consider who will be responsible for maintaining the space and
how, whether that be by clearly identifying who is responsible for what, or by having one party pay the other a specific rate for general upkeep. Finally, if you’re in a state that allows it, take a long hard look before deciding to share employees or a POS system. Employee wage and hour laws are often hard enough to comply with before throwing in joint-employer issues and headaches. For further reading on contractual provisions to consider and include, take a look at Auditing Your Obligations: A Contract Law Primer, in the Spring 2020 issue of Artisan Spirit Magazine Spring 2020. In summary, a communal space may be perfect for bringing in more customers, but with everything else you do in your business, think about potential liability and consult a lawyer. DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to be a source of general information, not an opinion or legal advice on any specific situation and does not create an attorney-client relationship with our readers.
Craig Pacheco is a corporate attorney at Stoel Rives, specializing in alcohol beverage regulatory law and transactions (https://www.stoel.com/people/p/craig-a-pacheco). Corey Day is an alcohol beverage attorney and litigator at Stoel Rives (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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A DISTILLER’S GUIDE TO
CREATING AN RTD COCKTAIL Written by Scott Weddle
n 2020, when many states created temporary allowances for togo cocktails, distilleries welcomed it as an opportunity to supplement lost income. Now, even as vaccines continue to roll out and restrictions begin to lift, some distillers are exploring how to make their favorite to-go cocktails permanent in the form of ready-to-drink or RTD options. RTD cocktails were already on an upward trend pre-COVID, and the popularity of the category doesn’t seem to be waning. If you are a distiller who has thought about launching an RTD cocktail line, then now might be the time to do it, but there are six things you’ll want to consider first.
1) NAIL DOWN YOUR BEVERAGE CONCEPT
Before you do anything, you’ll need to crystallize your beverage concept. Developing a commercial product is very different from simply batching up cocktails in your bar or tasting room. RTD cocktails need to be formulated for quality and consistency and those formulations need to be submitted to the appropriate regulatory bodies. Not only that, but there’s a flood of RTD cocktails out there already. Where will your product fit in the market? Who will it serve? How will you connect it to your existing business? In our experience, projects tend to fall into one of two categories: Clients either want to create a lower-calorie, lower-ABV drink, or a higher-proof cocktail that approximates the “bar experience.” Regardless of how you choose to position your product, this vision will ultimately direct different aspects of your formula during the development process. The best way to avoid mistakes, save time, and set yourself up for success is to clarify your concept first, then flesh out the technical aspects of that vision with your product development team.
2) CHOOSE THE RIGHT BASE
Once you’ve clarified your concept, you should begin to explore the possibilities for sourcing or producing your alcohol. In RTD cocktails, there are generally four broad alcohol-base categories to choose from, each of which have their own flavor, color, usage rate, and cost implications. Before you make the snap decision to use your own spirits, review your options. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
SUGAR BREW Sugar brew has become increasingly popular as a lowABV cocktail or seltzer base in recent years. Sometimes called “sugar beer,” this type of alcohol base is typically made by fermenting sugars from cane, beet, or corn. From a development perspective, sugar brew is an attractive option for its neutral flavor and colorlessness. Because it’s naturally gluten-free, it can also be a great fit for RTD products positioned as an option for consumers with gluten sensitivity, but if you’re trying to meet a calorie goal, keep in mind that you’ll need to account for about 1g of sugar and 2g of carbs per 12 fl oz (in addition to the calories in the alcohol itself). MALT BASE A malt base is made from fermented, partially germinated grains. Malt bases can come in the form of a “Neutral Malt Base” (NMB) and will give a more beer-like profile to an RTD beverage. That could be a benefit for attracting and converting beer drinkers, if that happens to be part of your marketing plan. Like sugar brews, the remaining sugars and carbs in the base will contribute calories on top of those provided by the alcohol. This will be a trade-off you’ll need to consider if calorie count is important to your product. WINE BASE Wine bases offer another, although more expensive option, where taxes are concerned. Standard wines are made from fermented fruits, like grapes. Depending on the wine used, the flavor and color of your finished product can be affected. If you’re planning to market your product to established wine drinkers, then a specific wine style might work well for your base. Of course, you can always opt for an “Other Than Standard” (OTS) wine, which is a neutral base used often in the development of RTD products. Keep in mind that most wines naturally vary from one vintage to the next, so the ability to source a consistent wine base will be critical to making sure your RTD cocktail tastes the same when you manufacture it over time. SPIRIT BASE You’re definitely familiar with this one: A spirit base is produced by distilling any variety of sugars, grains, fruits, or botanicals. If you’re interested in making a premium or higher-ABV product, or in approximating the “bar experience,” then a spirit base may be an attractive option for you. Now, you might be thinking, “Why wouldn’t I pick a spirit base? Forget sourcing, I can just use my own stuff!” While that sounds great on the surface, there are a couple of factors to consider. For example, you’re a small craft distillery with a two-year-old bourbon and you want to make an RTD bourbon and cola. Do you really want to take that super-valuable barrel of bourbon (which, in a few years, is going to be even more profitable) and put that into a cocktail? Probably not! It’s likely in your best interest to hold onto the good stuff, and instead, buy an alternative product that still accommodates your RTD being called a bourbon and cola. Not only do you get the drink you want, but it may be more economical for you in the grand scheme of things. It’s also worth noting that spirits like tequila, gin, whiskey, and rum will all have more flavor and/or color implications than a vodka or Grain Neutral Spirit (GNS). Unless it’s important to your brand and target market, you might be better off reducing your costs by using a neutral spirit, sugar brew, malt, or wine base. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
3) CONSIDER YOUR LABEL
While you weigh the implications of each base listed in #2, don’t forget that taxes and regulations will vary at the federal, state, and local levels, and that will have an impact on your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). Not only does that raise the question of product cost, but also in what you ultimately want your label to say. Why does this matter? Because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has very strict guidelines for labeling requirements on beverage alcohol products. Where RTD cocktails are concerned, the TTB outlines specific limitations on the allowable types and amounts of additives — like sweetener and color — and how they must be disclosed on the label. These are often stipulated in the legal definitions of established cocktails, known as “recognized” cocktails by the TTB. For example, if you want “Gimlet” specifically on your label, then it needs to contain “gin and lime juice, oil, or natural lime flavor” in allowable amounts, using approved materials, and everything must be disclosed in a very precise way on the label. You can use these guidelines for formulation guidance to maximize your ability to meet the requirements needed to be approved and labeled accordingly. The same process applies for RTD cocktails not classified as “recognized” by the TTB such as a bourbon and cola cocktail (as opposed to a whiskey and cola).
4) SELECT STAND-OUT FLAVORS
There’s already a lot of RTDs out there — so how do you make your product stand out? Flavor is a great place to start. While classic cocktail re-creations and flavors like mango, black cherry, lime, lemon, and grapefruit have become go-tos for many, brands are increasingly looking for ways to move beyond these staples and separate themselves from the competition. Whether you’re interested in creating the next hard seltzer or something similar to what you’d order at a bar, there’s still ways to do it differently. Here are a few trends to think about while you wait for inspiration to strike: Even as consumers continue to seek out new, sophisticated flavor combinations to dazzle their taste buds, they seem to enjoy being grounded by flavors they recognize. One route could be offering up a fresh take on something familiar. Instead of a classic lemon-flavored hard seltzer, for example, maybe use botanical alternatives such as bergamot, yuzu, or citron. Although these flavors have similar profiles to the standard lemon flavor, they can convey an increased perception as “premium” and “exotic” to consumers. The same goes for replicating the bar experience. Don’t just re-create the same traditional cocktail recipe; give it a fresh take. Don’t be afraid to innovate!
Sticking with our lemon theme, instead of making a hard lemonade, maybe add a hint of lavender or hibiscus for an elevated, flavorful twist. Pairings that strike this comfortable balance allow consumers to approach new flavors with an appropriate frame of reference while feeling like they’ve just indulged in a more sophisticated experience. Finally, if you already have a popular to-go cocktail that you serve at your distillery, then you can reference that kitchen recipe and help to approximate that profile in a commercially viable formulation.
5) FIND THE RIGHT PACKAGING
Unfortunately, sticking your RTD cocktail in a can might not be so easy right now. Packaging has become a real concern for the beverage industry, specifically with regards to canned products. A combination of rising demand, aluminum tariffs, and coronavirus-related supply chain disruptions has contributed to an ongoing global can shortage. You’ll need to consider the consequences of opting for packaging that may not be readily available, or explore the prospects of using an alternative (like glass) and what that might mean for your brand and costs.
Another factor to consider when choosing packaging should be shelf life. The only thing standing between your precious liquid and the elements is your packaging, so your selection will need to be compatible with your product’s unique needs. Will sunlight degrade your product? Will certain ingredients in your beverage stick to your packaging? Is your packaging compatible with your required shelf-stability processing method? These are only a few concerns you’ll need to address before making a decision. In some cases, you could expand your packaging options by adding chemical preservatives. In an RTD cocktail, a combination of sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate is the most popular option, as it does not impact flavor like some other methods.
6) EXPERTS AND CONSULTANTS
It goes without saying that finding the right partner to develop your RTD cocktail will be a huge advantage for guiding your decision-making in each of these areas, as well as preventing mistakes early in the process. After all, if you’re going to launch a beverage brand, you want to make sure you do it right the first time.
Scott Weddle has been with Flavorman since 2010, working in Production, Purchasing, Fulfillment, Quality, and Business Development. A Louisville native, Scott attended both the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.
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How important is aroma? Written by Aaron Knoll
f I close my eyes I can perfectly imagine the aroma of Smith and Cross Jamaican Rum, does anything else smell like that? That’s not the only reason we judge spirits by their aroma, however; some of that has to do with spirits judging’s cultural antecedents, specifically wine judging. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, there’s the chemistry of olfaction and how it’s tied into our human sense of taste. The question is: When we judge a spirit, how much of the focus should be on aroma? Wine predates the existence of spirits by several millennia; therefore, it’s unsurprising that an appreciation for tasting may be as old as the drink itself. “Who can entertain a doubt that some kinds of wine are more agreeable to the palate than others,”1 wrote Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder in the first century CE. The language to describe wines remained rather static across Europe for millennia. The language of a 17th-century text explaining how to taste says there are four types of wine: Sweet, acute, austere, and milde.2 This list barely differs from that of Aristotle.3 In other words, the language of flavor mimicked that of taste alone.4 Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Thomas Reid wrote, “Yet, of five hundred different tastes in cheese or wine, we can hardly describe twenty, so as to give a distinct notion of them to one who had not tasted them.”5 A 17th-century revolution in aesthetic philosophy 1 Pliny 14:8 and 15:14 2 Shapin 2012 3 Johansen 1996, “pungent, bitter, sharp or oily” which to be fair, is a vast improvement from “earth, air, water and fire” used by some of Aristotle’s contemporaries. 4 Shapin 2012
6 Locke, 1690
5 Quoted in Shapin 2012
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was about to take place: The language of scent and aroma became part of how we talk about taste and flavor. This seems natural to us today. Biologically speaking, much of what we describe as flavor is the result of retronasal olfaction. Flavor is the result of molecules volatilizing as you drink or chew. The molecules move through the shared cavities of your nose and mouth, hitting your olfactory bulb. While your mouth is perceiving sweet, salty, sour, umami, or bitter, your olfactory system is engaging with all of these volatiles to create the nuance of flavor. The barrier to this evolution was aptly captured by philosopher John Locke when he wrote, “the variety of smells, which are as many almost, if not more, than species of bodies in the world, do most of them want names.”6 Our lack of language to describe aroma was a major barrier to us moving beyond simple taste descriptors to the more elaborate language of modern tasting. Wine was among the most readily accessible examples of this. Therefore, wine and wine tasters were among the first to codify a shared language for how to taste. Maggie Campbell, judging chair for the American Craft Spirits Association, looks to her background in wine for help “I'm in the Masters of Wine program, which is all about objective tasting.” When Campbell first dipped her toes into the world of spirits judging, she described her initial reaction. “I had really big questions about a lot of the judging protocols ... they were not near the standard that I had seen in other competitions, not near the standard we would expect in wine,” she laughed, recounting how upon sharing her thoughts, another said, “If you have such strong opinions, why don’t you run it?” So she did.
Why wouldn’t we judge aroma?
Why should we judge aroma?
In spirits and wine judging when we talk about aroma, we mark a clear line between the point of sipping. While taste and aroma are inextricably, biophysically tied — in judging we draw an arbitrary line. Aroma is a deliberate “sniff ” of a spirit before tasting. Once a spirit touches your palate, everything that follows is considered “taste,” even though it’s a melange of two senses — maybe three, if you include trigeminal effects. If the two are so closely tied, why might there even be a question about the importance of aroma? David T. Smith, lead steward for the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits and spirits judge in his own right, outlines a few reasons why it might be fair to question its validity. “When you're judging it, it’s usually a freshly opened bottle. You're taking a very small snapshot of a taste,” he said.. “Imagine, you take the lid off a bottle of gin and then suddenly the room is full of these beautiful cardamon or pink grapefruit aromas. Well, that's lovely. But the reason why you can smell all that stuff is because the stuff is volatile. And if all of those aromas are filling the room, that means they're not staying in the gin.” His second point is about the consumers who use these awards as guideposts. The context in bars and homes where people consume these spirits is often radically different from the context in which they’re judged. In many competitions, a spirit is poured and served neat. Both Campbell and Smith point out that in some competitions, mixers or even cocktail preparations may be available, though that is far from the norm. “So once you've mixed it, how much of the nose are you going to get?” Smith asks rhetorically. “If you've got a garnish in, that you're going to get the garnish — or mixer or whatever. It's going to mask a lot of those things. Then you mix it with ice ... that's going to reduce how aromatic it is.” All of these elements create an environment where the average consumer is often experiencing a different product than the judge is at a standard competition. Campbell explains how she mitigates this. “Hopefully the level of judges we’re selecting, are accounting for and thinking through these things, and have enough experience evaluating and tasting out in the world that they're thinking about how all these things could interact in different directions.” A great example of how this interpretive judging leads to better outcomes in Campbell’s opinion is in how a judge assesses a spirit with some burn on the nose and trigeminal heat on the palate. When sipped neat, this may dominate the perception of it. “It might taste hot to you now, but it might drop off.” She added, “maybe it needs that drive so it doesn't fall apart. [...] How is the alcohol delivering the flavors across the palate.. especially in things like gin or vodka or rum? How is that dilution going to affect and interact with that?” Smith adds that context is important. “Almost all competitions use a uniform set of criteria for all spirits. If you’re dealing with whiskeys or brandies or something that [is] meant to be tasted neat…that is a different experience than if you’re judging gin...” While competitions aim to provide a steady baseline, ultimately the judge must be present. She must think about what she’s tasting, the context of the category, the awards, and the space where these awards will ultimately live.
“I always say aroma is your second taste,” Campbell said. ”The visual is your first, right?” In many places, before you can even get a consumer to sip your spirit, they need to get past these first two senses. When consumers are taught how to taste, often by [a] bartender, distillers, or tasting room staff, taking a deliberate nose of what you’re about to sip is almost a prerequisite. This especially underscores the importance of nose when a tasting room is a likely consumer’s first experience of a product. As Campbell described it, “Aroma can tell us a lot, not just about how a spirit was made, but if it works for it.” There are other good reasons why a spirits competition might want to include aroma as a category. Both the American Distilling Institute’s and American Craft Spirits Associations’ judging do more than simply score and award medals. They provide detailed notes to the distillers, with each judge responsible for describing various facets of the spirit. Campbell describes an anecdote in American distilling that, to her, illuminates the benefits of categorically assessing aroma. ”Five years ago that was a note we saw a lot [from our judges] — ‘your still is dirty’ [...].” Campbell recounted asking, “Does our industry have an issue where maybe people aren't trained to clean stills? Now we don’t ever see that note.” Campbell goes on to explain that you can catch a number of flaws with aroma, “Was there too much sulphur in that wine barrel that you picked? Did they use the right yeast? Did they use a POF-plus yeast that smells like banana runts and nail polish remover? Or did they use one that smells like clove and pineapple? Was the fermentation really hot, so the base material is much less pronounced? Or was the fermentation really cool and you're getting a lot of purity of that base ingredient on the nose?” Good spirit judges don’t merely ask what ingredients or botanicals are here; they ask what their role is. Smith said aroma is part of the full package. “There is a question about penalizing something that doesn't have a really strong nose. Could you be the best with a very quiet nose? Probably not because I think having a lovely nose is part of that little X factor, the kind of thing that pushes it to be the top of the top.”
The role of aroma going forward Luca Turin, a physicist who studies scent and aroma, wrote that the special thing about smells is that each is unique. “The uniqueness goes right down to the molecule level…there are no synonyms.”7 Within this uniqueness lies its evocative 7 Turin 2007
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power, especially in the professional tasting arts. A smell may evoke your grandmother’s perfume or it may evoke visions of an uncleaned pot still. But it’s evocative all the same. In spirits judging, the role of aroma and scent plays an important supportive role. Is it perfect? Probably not. It’s nearly impossible to anticipate the myriad cocktails where a spirit might be put to use or the subtle transformations in the back of someone’s liquor cabinet. However, aroma remains, and most of what we describe as flavor is actually smell. So it seems that much of the distinction between aroma and taste in spirits judging may be semantic. Its cultural context has shaped how we experience not just alcoholic beverages, but virtually everything we consume. It is biophysically tied to our system of taste. It is part of our cultural language of flavor. 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.
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Sources Fengmei Zhu, Bin Du and Jun Li (October 19th 2016). Aroma Compounds in Wine, Grape and Wine Biotechnology, Antonio Morata and Iris Loira, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/65102. Hartung, Alexis. “Factors Considered in Wine Evaluation.” AWS Journal. Vol. 31, No. 4. 1999 Hodgson, Robert T. “An Examination of Judge Reliability at a Major U.S. Wine Competition.” Journal of Wine Economics, vol. 3, no. 2, 2008, pp. 105–113., doi:10.1017/s1931436100001152. Johansen, Thomas. “Aristotle on the Sense of Smell.” Phronesis, vol. 41, no. 1, 1996, pp. 1–19., doi:10.1163/156852896321051765. Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690. Scolar Press, 1970.
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The Natural History. Pliny the Elder. John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A. London. Taylor and Francis, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street. 1855. “Our History.” IWSC International Wine & Spirit Competition, iwsc.net/about-us/our-history. Peynaud, Emile, et al. The Taste of Wine: the Art and Science of Wine Appreciation. J. Wiley & Sons, 1996. Shapin, Steven. “The Tastes of Wine: Towards a Cultural History.” Rivista Di Estetica, no. 51, 2012, pp. 49–94., doi:10.4000/estetica.1395. Turin, Luca. The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell. Harper, 2007.
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MADNESS In American Whiskey, Consistency Is No Longer the Ultimate Goal WRITTEN BY MARGARETT WATERBURY
onsistency is one of the distilled spirits industry’s guiding stars. Just as a McDonald’s cheeseburger in a Florida drive-through should taste the same as one from an airport kiosk at SEATAC, shoppers should feel confident that the bottle of bourbon they just bought will taste the same as the last one. Beyond the American consumer’s general dislike of surprises, the growth of ever more complex cocktails has made predictable flavor profiles more important than ever before. No bartender wants to be reformulating their eight-ingredient Boulevardier recipe with each new bottle they open. But there’s another kind of consumer cropping up, one driven not by consistency, but by novelty. Once the exclusive domain of Scottish independent bottlers (and the now hard-to-find Blanton’s), single cask releases are everywhere in the American spirits market, from bar and store picks, to distillery-only releases, to private casks bought by independent whiskey clubs. These one-of-a-kind whiskeys embrace inconsistency, showing off the sometimes unexpected flavors found in a single barrel. And for many of the most dedicated single cask fans, the more surprising, the better.
There’s another kind of consumer cropping up, one driven not by consistency, but by novelty.
Castle & Key
“Sometimes, an imperfection I’d flag in a blend could be really unique in a single barrel in a way that’s pleasant, demonstrative of something special and uncommon.” — BRETT CONNORS, Castle & Key Distillery W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
Castle & Key Distillery in Millville, Kentucky, launched its first whiskey — Restoration Rye — in 2020. The following year, they introduced a single barrel–only brand called Slow Hands Rye Whiskey. Instead of selecting single casks to fit a particular flavor profile, the team chose some of their most unusual casks to showcase. The inaugural release was sold from the distillery tasting room, with one barrel released each Friday over the course of a month. Even with a reservation system implemented due to COVID-19 and a cap on the number of bottles each customer could purchase, every cask sold out within two hours of release. Brett Connors, blender and brand ambassador at Castle & Key Distillery, was unsurprised. He cites the proliferation of bourbon education, and the increasing scarcity of once widely distributed premium whiskeys, as factors in the incredible demand. “There is such an interest in American whiskey currently,” said Connors. “Every day, there are more consumers, and they’re looking for the same volume of goods. But most distilleries aren’t increasing production, so it’s harder to get limited-edition batches than ever before.” The inherently limited-edition quality of single barrels isn’t the only draw. Single cask releases, especially those like Castle & Key’s that focus on character rather than consistency, also offer consumers the opportunity to own something truly unique in terms of flavor. Even when a single cask isn’t perfectly balanced or harmonious, sometimes it’s the quirkiness that wins consumers over. “I think about it as a marriage,” said Connors. “My wife is perfect. I’m not perfect, but she loves me as a result of my imperfections and my idiosyncrasies. I think that’s what is so interesting about single barrel whiskeys. Sometimes, an imperfection I’d flag in a blend could be really unique in a single barrel in a way that’s pleasant, demonstrative of something special and uncommon.” Despite clear demand for single casks, Connors says Castle & Key remains committed to its larger-batch products. Blending offers unique opportunities to create complexity, and not all barrels make a good single cask release. Connors says just five to 10 percent of the casks they taste make the cut as single barrels — and even then, some of the best casks end up in the blending vat anyway. “We come across barrels where we’re like, ‘Wow, it’s almost a waste to blend them,’” he said. “We spend days trying not to use certain barrels. But if you need that component in a blend, it’s a disservice to the blend not to utilize it.” 53
Beast Masters Club It’s not just producers who are on the hunt for something distinctive. Beast Masters Club, an online whiskey club and podcast, has tapped into a fervent hunger for big, bombastic whiskeys among the nation’s most enthusiastic consumers. Co-owner Steve Zeller says the club got its start after his daughter was born. With regular trips to the bar off the table, he and his wife started buying nice bottles of whiskey to drink at home. That snowballed into writing whiskey reviews, piquing the interest of friends, who eventually agreed to go in on a barrel with Zeller and his wife. One thing led to another, and a friend convinced him that pairing single barrel picks with themed podcasts replicating the experience of an in-person barrel pick, complete with distiller interviews, would be a hit. “I thought, nobody wants to listen to me slurp on whiskey, that’s ridiculous,” said Zeller. Yet he also knew firsthand the power of getting closer to the source. The first barrel pick Beast Masters Club did in person was at Wild Turkey with Eddie Russell. There, in a cobwebby rickhouse surrounded by Bourbon Country’s rolling hills, Zeller says his understanding of what whiskey is changed. “[ Russell] is just rolling out barrels, popping the bung, sticking the thief in, and pouring right into your glass out of the barrel. You’re like, ‘This is the best drinking of my life. This is how to do it. This is an experience that people need to have.’” Four years later, Beast Masters Club has sold almost 100 barrels, releasing one approximately every two weeks. Each one is accompanied by a 45-minute podcast. They’re sold entirely online, and they often sell out within three minutes of the site going live — even before Zeller and his team can send an email to their list that the site is live. “People are camped out on the site waiting for them,” said Zeller. “It’s exciting that people are that into it, but we also get a lot of hate mail.” The club’s name is a hint about the kinds of whiskeys they like to choose. “We’re looking for the biggest, baddest, spiciest, higher-proof ones.” He compares his taste to the Blockbuster employee who always recommends “the crazy zombie movies.” Zeller thinks single casks will always offer a more memorable experience than a blend, especially for the most devoted consumers. “I think a single barrel, if you know how to pick barrels, or you find somebody whose taste you agree with, is always going to be better than a blended one.”
“I think a single barrel, if you know how to pick barrels, or you find somebody whose taste you agree with, is always going to be better than a blended one.” — STEVE ZELLER, Beast Masters Club
Lost Lantern “Almost every time we think a single cask is going to be difficult to sell, it sells out. Which means people are really looking for interesting things.” — NORA GANLEY-ROPER, Lost Lantern Whiskey 54
Lost Lantern Whiskey in Burlington, Vermont, isn’t turning the light off on blends just yet. Co-founders Adam Polonski and Nora Ganley-Roper say they were inspired by Scottish independent bottlers when they launched their business in 2020. One particular inspiration, Douglas Laing, is known not only for its single casks, but also for its Remarkable Regional Malts, a blended malt line with fanciful names inspired by the regions of Scotland. Lost Lantern’s American Vatted Malt isn’t regional, unless you consider the Pacific Northwest, New England, Texas, and the mid-Atlantic as parts of the same “region.” The first edition features six American single malts from across the country, including peat-smoked and mesquite-smoked whiskey. “Both have really unique flavors, but they come together in an interesting way that you can’t get in a single barrel,” said Polonski. Ganley-Roper and Polonski see blending as an opportunity to create new flavors that would be impossible to find in a single cask, while single casks are a chance to showcase distinctiveness. Working with whiskeys from distilleries across the country only amplifies the potential impact of blending, particularly when working with a palette as diverse as the modern craft landscape provides. Yet single casks are also a big part of Lost Lantern’s business. They’ve already released two batches of single casks designed to introduce drinkers to their favorite craft distilleries across the country, and they’re planning to drop a new collection every quarter. Ganley-Roper thinks their curated approach to single casks can provide a valuable avenue for consumers to discover new producers. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
“There are over 2,000 distilleries in the United States,” said Ganley-Roper. “Nobody has the time and money to sift through that.” When releasing single casks from a distillery, Lost Lantern often picks at least two — one in the “introductory” lane, which highlights the house style of the producer, and a second that shows something distinctive, often with a unique finish or experimental grain bill. “Almost every time we think a single cask is going to be difficult to sell, it sells out,” she said. “Which means people are really looking for interesting things.” The combination of unusual and rare means single cask whiskeys are often highly collectible. It’s not unusual for consumers to buy two; one to drink, and one to save indefinitely. Others might plan to resell their single casks at a profit on the gray secondary market. Ganley-Roper thinks that might be missing the point. “We don’t want our stuff to be showing up in secondary,” she said. “Our goal is not to have it be this crazy collectible, but everything is right now.” “We want people to drink it,” said Polonski. At the same time, he’s sympathetic to the impulse to collect rather than consume. “It’s always a weird feeling when I finish a bottle of a single cask,” he said. “It’s like, ‘That’s the end of that.’ I understand why people are hesitant to open them sometimes.”
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. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
What She’s Doing It For
LaShana Daniels is the force behind Do It For The Cocktail Culture, and she’s using spirits and cocktails as a vehicle for positive change. Written by Devon Trevathan Photography by Lendel Marshall
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aShana Daniels faced a very familiar setback at the start of the pandemic last year — working in hospitality in Los Angeles, specifically event management, she found herself suddenly without a job and living in a very expensive city. So she regrouped and moved back over to the East Coast where she was raised and where her family lived. There, from the confines of her New York City apartment, she started up an Instagram page that has since taken flight, one that celebrates the stories of Black history through cocktails and connection. Daniels has always been an ardent fan of history. When she was 13, her family moved from the Bronx to Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. She went from living in an extremely diverse neighborhood, populated by people from all backgrounds, to a district that was predominantly white, which was reflected in the curriculum of the school. It was most definitely a culture shock. “There was a growing population and a growing diversity within the school, and a lot of people were looking for that history, those stories, different perspectives of what was maybe standardized in the school as it was,” explained Daniels. A peer in Daniels’ chorus class shared a similar passion for the history of Black Americans and decided to organize an annual field trip to allow fellow students the opportunity to learn more. That same year the students headed to Philadelphia, where they visited the African American Museum. While Daniels had been eager for any trip that allowed her to get out of the classroom, the experience began to resonate with her once they were in the museum. “It was just very eye-opening, and I saw the value and importance of it,” she said. The student who had organized the trip was a senior, so Daniels stepped up and offered to take over the next year’s outing. This time, she took the students to Harlem, where her family is from. They extended the trip that year, visiting the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which was created during the Harlem Renaissance by Arturo Alfonso Schomburg and is committed to the preservation and exhibition of materials focused on African experiences and the African diaspora. Afterwards, the students went to one of the one of the most established soul food restaurants in Harlem. “That was one of the first times I incorporated all the skills that I’m using in the page, like the planning, the organizing, the history, all of those things in a fun way,” said Daniels. “That was like my prelude to what I’m doing now.” By which, of course, she means Do It For The Cocktail Culture, the business Daniels started on Instagram last year. The page tells the stories of wellknown and undersung figures and events throughout Black history. It does so through posts that can be organized into series, including Slavery & the Liquor Industry, Black Owned Wine/ Spirits Brands, and “Cocktale” Hours, which focus on the story of individual figures, diving deep into their history and providing new context to well-known stories.
THE KIND ONE COCKTAIL (inspired by Matthew Henson) PHOTOGRAPHER:
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Jean Duthon, @jduthon
THE JACOB LAWRENCE COCKTAIL (inspired by Jacob Lawrence) PHOTOGRAPHER:
Though this idea had always been brewing inside Daniels, a specific incident inspired her to act. After she’d moved back to New York, Daniels was thinking about how best to pivot to the digital event space. Then on May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minnesota. “I was on social media like a lot of us, just consuming information, sharing information, and then I decided to start educating myself again, because I used to be really into it and I love history, but I got back into learning about Black history specifically,” said Daniels. She came across a post from a mixologist who had created a drink to honor Marcus Garvey’s Pan-African flag. Daniels reached out to the person responsible and shared with him a story about video-game pioneer Jerry Lawson, and together they made a cocktail inspired by his story. From that turbulent time, Do It For The Cocktail Culture was created. Daniels’ Instagram page has grown and changed in ways that she couldn’t have anticipated since its inception. Ideas have branched out and taken on lives of their own, and plenty of bartenders, businesses, and spirits experts have been in touch requesting to collaborate with Do It For The Cocktail Culture. “Once I started to learn more about the spirits industry and then about Black history, I started understanding the contributions that people have had within this industry but are not necessarily celebrated for it,” she said. This is represented in one of her series called Slavery & The Liquor Industry, which is full of potent examples throughout history of influential Black makers and distillers not getting the credit that they were due. A familiar story of such a phenomenon
EL MAESTRO COCKTAIL (inspired by Pedro Albuiz Campos) PHOTOGRAPHER:
Roberto Rosa, @cantinero_creations
is that of Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green, the namesake of Nearest Green Distillery in Shelbyville, TN, who taught Jack Daniels to distill. For so long, whiskey has been culturally ascribed to white men in particular; at least that’s what so many people seem to assume. “Little do they know Black people have made it and we were the ones who were the tastemakers, who were refining that process in the distillery back when it was created.” The amount of research, editing, and creative direction required to relay the information on Daniels’ page is not insignificant. Daniels isn’t completely alone behind the scenes but the production remains a small one. To put together each new post, from research to publication, is an arduous and time-consuming process. Recently, Daniels decided that she wanted to dive into the history of slavery in liquor in Cuba specifically, so she enlisted her friend Faith, who has helped her research in the past and since become the head researcher and editor at Do It For The Cocktail Culture, and the two began combing through information. It ended up being a very long process, and trying to compile all the relevant information proved challenging. “Dissecting the whole institution of slavery that happened in Cuba and the different people who had it, the different controllers at the time and all that stuff, it’s like how do I tell this story in ten slides on Instagram?” said Daniels. It seems, however, that Do It For The Cocktail Culture won’t be solely restricted to the internet for much longer. As vaccinations continue to rise and states open up more, you can expect to see the page transition into the physical world with in-person events and collaborations later this year.
Follow along by visiting www.instagram.com/forthecocktailculture.
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STR AIGHT POOP on C R A P P Y S P I R I T S
Digging Deep for New (and Old) Botanical Flavors
WRITTEN BY MARGARETT WATERBURY
uman culinary tradition admits few sweeping generalizations. One culture’s yum is often another’s yuck, and for every culinary taboo, there’s another community that relishes the item in question. But here’s one I feel fairly comfortable advancing: Poop is to be avoided. By definition, it seems, feces have already been eaten. What could we possibly gain by consuming them again (other than perhaps an unpleasant case of E. coli)? I’d even argue there’s something biological in our deep-seated aversion to coprophagia, the same built-in danger detector that repels us from rotten meat and fires up the adrenaline when we hear a stick break while we’re out in the woods alone at night. That is not how Les and Paula Ansley feel. After returning to South Africa from 17 years abroad, the Ansleys took their children on safari, where a ranger explained how elephants digest just one third of what they eat. Because elephants’ digestion is so inefficient, they spend up to 18 hours each day eating, sometimes taking in nearly 450 pounds of leaves, fruits, roots, and other plant matter in a single 24-hour period. “At the end of the day, most of that is just left on the ground in the form of elephant dung,” said Ansley. Several weeks afterwards, Ansley awoke to an elbow in the back from his wife. “Paula says, ‘I’ve had an idea. Do you think we can make elephant dung gin?’ And I said ‘Uh, OK, sure,’” said Ansley. Neither Les nor Paula had any experience in the drinks industry. So they partnered with Roger Jorgensen, the “grandfather of craft gin in South Africa,” to develop what would become Indlovu Gin. “Roger said right from the beginning, ‘If you’re going to make gin from shit, you can’t make a shit gin. You’ve got to make a good gin. Because otherwise, people aren’t going to buy it’,” said Les Ansley. First order of business? Figure out if it was safe. Ansley says elephants are one of just a small handful of herbivores whose feces are suitable for direct use in spirits (pandas are another). The key factors are rapid gut transit, low gut bacteria, and,
when vegetation is abundant, that they don’t eat anything that’s harmful to humans. During periods of drought or other scarcity elephants will eat euphorbia, a plant that has an irritating latex sap. However, laboratory tests revealed that it would take about 33,500 bottles of gin infused with dry-season elephant dung to reach a level of euphorbia toxicity for human beings — a point at which other problems would surely have already presented themselves. Once they learned they wouldn’t be inadvertently poisoning their consumers, the Ansleys had to figure out how to process the droppings. “Elephants eat a lot of mud, because they eat roots,” said Ansley. It takes several washing cycles before the dung is free from grit and earth, leaving behind the lightly digested leaves, roots, and branches. These “elephant foraged” plant materials are infused into Indlovu Original after its primary maceration and distillation with juniper, angelica, and citrus, lending flavor as well as color to the final product. Bottles come with GPS coordinates of the wildlife reserve and the date where the dung was collected, information Ansley likens to a “vintage.” Fifteen percent of profits support wildlife conservation efforts in South Africa, helping to ensure a steady future supply of elephant evacuations. Best of all, the flavor seems to work. “It’s an earthy, grassy flavor, a deep type of flavor, a rich type of flavor,” said Ansley. “It’s not flowery or sweet.” He says Indlovu Original pairs well with flavors like coffee, dark chocolate, and oranges, and particularly shines in a café corretto. At the moment, it’s not distributed in the United States, but the company’s COLA was recently approved by the TTB (something Ansley reports with audible surprise in his voice), and they’re planning a North American launch in the near future. Indlovu has gotten a lot of attention for its unique formula, but it’s far from the only example of biological waste in beverages. One of the oldest and strangest instances may be ambergris, a rare sperm whale excrement prized for its haunting
animalic aroma. The origins of ambergris, like the creature that produces it, remain slightly mysterious. Sperm whales’ primary food source is squid and cuttlefish — meaty creatures that contain just a few hard pieces. As sharp beaks and other indigestible bits accumulate inside the digestive tract of the whale, it secretes a fatty substance to protect itself from punctures. Eventually, it all fuses together into a hard, slightly waxy lump called ambergris. It used to be thought it was ejected by the whale as vomit, but most experts now seem to agree that it exits via the other end. When first produced, ambergris is dark in color, with an intense and unpleasantly feculent character. But as it bobs along the surface of the ocean, slowly oxidizing, it begins to transform, lightening in color and fragrance. Pure white ambergris, which has spent the longest sailing the seas free from its cetacean host, is the rarest and most desirable variety. Eventually, it will either dissolve entirely, or wash up on shore to be found by a lucky beachcomber. “Lucky,” because ambergris is fantastically expensive. Highly sought after by the modern fragrance industry for its musky, floral, ambery, marine aroma, a pound can sell for $10,000 or more. Throughout history, it’s been used for perfumery, incense, and, yes, spirits and cocktail recipes, where it was valued for its primary aroma characteristics as well as its fixative properties, extending an otherwise fleeting sensory experience. Seth O’Malley, a Portland-based distiller with training in perfumery, says ambergris or ambergris tincture is a key ingredient in some Victorian-era punches, where it helps lend gravitas to citrus-forward concoctions. “The same things that take place when a perfume evaporates off your skin take place when eating or drinking, just in fast motion,” said O’Malley. “When you have a punch that’s all citrus, sparkling wine, and gin, fortunately that gin will have fixatives that give it some structure, but you could end up with something ephemeral on the palate — a short-lived tasting expe-
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rience. So if you add ambergris, everything will hang around longer. It will extend and prolong the flavors of everything else.” According to the Endangered Species Act, ambergris isn’t legal to possess in the United States, although it is recognized as safe for human consumption, and a few intrepid bartenders, including cocktail historian David Wondrich, have incorporated it in recipes for punches and Negus cocktails. But in other countries, including New Zealand, the U.K., and the EU, it’s permitted based on the fact that collecting it after it washes up on shore is harmless to the whale. Because it’s so rare, synthetic forms, including ambroxine and ambroxide, are now widely used in perfumery and functional fragrances around the world. “People would be surprised when they smell those molecules and white ambergris, especially in an extracted form, actually how familiar and ubiquitous it is,” said O’Malley. “It’s used really widely in ‘fresh’ men’s fragrances, in its synthetic form, and it also shows up in dryer sheets and laundry detergents.” Sheep dung smoke sits on a different end of the sensory spectrum, making it unlikely to appear in any fabric softener formula. But for Eva-María Sigurbjörnsdóttir, distillery manager at the Eimverk Distillery in Garðabær, Iceland, it’s a key flavor in Icelandic cuisine. Without its unique, earthy character, some dishes just don’t taste right. “Smoked meat tastes so much better when you use the sheep dung rather than just birch or something else,” she said. “If I’m getting smoked lamb meat, I want to have it sheep-dung smoked.” Here, on the outskirts of Reykjavík, Sigurbjörnsdóttir and her family produce Flóki Icelandic Whisky, a line of malt whiskies distilled from Icelandic malted barley. The family grows the barley themselves, something that’s only been possible on Iceland since the climate began to warm. Eimverk’s Flóki Sheep Dung Smoke Reserve incorporates that signature sheep dung smoke aroma during the malt drying process in much the same way that Scotch whisky highlights peat smoke (think of it as “ruminant reek”). “I come from a country where
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we’re used to eating weird food,” said Sigurbjörnsdóttir with a shrug. What reads as “weird” today — at least to residents of more temperate climates — stems from historic necessity. Before the advent of geothermal and hydroelectric power technology, Iceland lacked many options for fuel. There’s no coal, and it’s too far north for trees to grow. While there is some peat, the temperatures are so low that it takes a very long time for the peat to regenerate, making it unsustainable. But what Icelandic people did have — in abundance — was compacted sheep dung. Because of Iceland’s long, harsh winters, sheep spend about nine months out of the year eating, sleeping, and yes, pooping, indoors. “If you put twenty in a house, and they’re there all winter, you’re not going to be able to use the house in two years because of the buildup,” said Sigurbjörnsdóttir. “So you needed to dig it out so you could sustain the house.” But resourceful Icelanders knew sheep shit wasn’t just a problem; it was also an opportunity, and a valuable one at that. After so many months of being trodden on, peed on, and layered with grass and hay, the dung was compacted into a dense, fibrous material that looked much like peat. And, like peat, it could be cut into pieces, dried, and then burned to generate heat and cook foods like lamb, sausages, and fish. Iceland isn’t the only place where people have landed on herbivore dung as a readily available fuel source. Cow, sheep, and even camel dung have been used historically for heating and cooking fires in resource-poor times and places around the globe, from ancient Egypt, to 19th-century Europe, to the modern day in Central and South Asia. It’s not clear how long the flavor of sheep dung smoke will remain part of the Icelandic culinary repertoire. Today, there are only two sheep farmers on the island who keep their sheep in traditional winter houses where dung can accumulate the old-fashioned way; others have transitioned to modern winter houses with grated floors
that make waste removal easier. Flóki Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve makes it possible for people around the world to experience a small taste of that traditional flavor while we still can. Based on the product’s success with tourists, it seems to translate surprisingly well to non-Icelandic palates. Sigurbjörnsdóttir says many people are attracted to the silliness of Flóki Sheep Dung Smoke Reserve at first, but after they taste it, they find out they actually enjoy the flavor. “We get a lot of press, we’re selling, and we have a ton of customers — including repeat customers,” she said. “Even though people think it’s goofy, you’re like, fine, you still bought the bottle.” Perhaps it’s that scintillating feeling of transgression without any real stakes that helps make products with poo successful, something like the little thrill we experience when we watch a scary movie in the safety of our own beds. We seem to like it so much, in fact, that we want to extend the experience to others. The duty-free markets in Iceland’s and South Africa’s international airports are major sales channels for Flóki Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve and Indlovu Gin, including the Original formula as well as doody-free Pink and Orange versions. What better souvenir, after all, than a bottle of the good shit. 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.
Exploring the Science and Art of Craft-Made Cocktail Enhancers
Written by Rich Manning Photos provided by Tippleman’s
here are two types of cocktail syrups. The first type, simple syrup, is a category all its own and earns its name. It’s a basic one-to-one ratio of sugar and water that can be whipped up at home in a couple minutes, or even quicker if there’s a microwave involved. The second type demonstrates that syrups don’t have to be simple. In fact, they prove they’re more fun when they’re not. Poke around online or at your neighborhood bottle or specialty food shop, and you’ll see artisanal expressions that can’t easily be replicated at home — funky and delicious flavors like pumpkin butternut spice, barrel-aged cola, and lime-jalapeno. It’s wild, wonderful stuff, and they’re made by people equipped with a deep love of craftsmanship and a keen interest in experimentation.
The Science of Craft Artisanal syrups typically start off as randomly sparked ideas. Inspiration could come just as easily from spotting an herbal sprig sticking out of a roadside field or a farmer’s market kiosk as it can from reading up on Colonial-era beverages. Some of these ideas never see the light of day; those deemed worthy of exploration become part of a scientific process. There is a bit of variance to this part. For some brands, it’s as simple as tasting the results of fresh, blended herbal and fruitbased infusions in a tasting lab. For others, it’s a little more intense. “We do have a scientist on board, Bob Pellegrino,” explained Emily Lawson, founder of Pink House Alchemy in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Pellegrino deploys a wide range of equipment and a battery of techniques like centrifuge clarification to ensure each new creation carries the ability to work well in a drink. Applying such scientific rigor allows for a better understanding of how to transform ideas into art. It also provides plenty of room for some tasty ‘eureka’ moments to occur. “We’re constantly looking for moments that make you take a step back and realize what you did made whatever you’re working on better.’” Using science to perfect the art of craft syrup production will indeed elicit its fair share of “oohs” and “aahs,” particularly if you think science is cool (and it is cool). But there’s a practical side to its usage, one that grows
When you’re doing things on a small scale, producing syrups isn’t too complicated. But when you start scaling up production, things not only get more complex, but they also get potentially dangerous.”
increasingly evident as a company starts transforming from a small outfit to a larger establishment. “When you’re doing things on a small scale, producing syrups isn’t too complicated,” explained Joe Raya, owner of Tippleman’s, a Charleston, South Carolina– based syrup maker with a chemist on their payroll. “But when you start scaling up production, things not only get more complex, but they also get potentially dangerous. You have to get science involved at some point, just to be safe.”
The Importance of Ingredients It takes more than science to make a tasty syrup. The tasting labs and scientific doodads are neat and fun, but like any product that treats the word “craft” with the respect and dignity the term should command, the right ingredients are the soul of whatever new creation occurs. This can allow for an unfussy perspective that distills the creative process down to its essential roots. “In a way, our products are very old-fashioned,” said Laura Menz, creative director of Muddle & Wilde in Los Angeles. “We’re just using simple, honest ingredients like cut fruit, herbs, and spices and working to find harmonies within those flavors.” Syrup ingredients abide by the craft beverage playbook: fresh, sustainable, and secured
— JOE RAYA, Tippleman’s
from trusted sources whenever possible. Most of the time, they’re a combination of fruits and botanicals, but there is the occasional exception. Tippleman’s, for example, uses freshly drained Willett bourbon barrels to make a couple of their cocktail syrups. Freshly drained isn’t an exaggeration, either. “If Willett empties them on a Thursday, they’ll be onsite by that Friday,” Raya said. Once the ingredients are secured, they become test subjects. Sometimes they’ll stand alone, save for a few supporting players like cane sugar and water. Other times, they’ll mix and mingle with other fruits or botanicals to create an inspired combination. When they’re successful — and they often are — these get-togethers can transform into sublime juxtapositions of flavor sensations on the palate: sweet pairs up with smoky; floral blends with citrus; tart marries piquant spice. These blends can yield a wealth of sumptuous syrups that can occasionally land outside the box, which is kind of the point. “We juggle twelve to fourteen flavors at a time,” explained Moira Gilbert, Muddle & Wilde’s CEO. “The wide range of flavors helps push our customers’ palates.” At the same time, these artisan syrups are just that — syrups. Yes, they can be added to club soda and star as a non-alcoholic delight or even a mocktail, but they’re primarily support players for that end-of-the-day cocktail whipped up at a home bar. This tidbit tends to be a prime mover in the creative process. “When I’m developing a syrup, I usually have a cocktail in mind,” Lawson stated. “I’ve made it a habit to visit bars during the creative process to understand what new things
We juggle twelve to fourteen flavors at a time. The wide range of flavors helps push our customers’ palates.” — MOIRA GILBERT, Muddle & Wilde W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
may be happening out there. I’m also a big bourbon and Scotch fan, and I love finding new spirits, so I pay attention to what distillers are working on so my syrups can complement what they’re doing.”
How It Started, How It’s Going There is no clear-cut path to a career in producing artisan syrups. Oftentimes, it just happens. Lawson was studying to be an oncologist when she became fascinated with craft syrups at a farmer’s market and was inspired to play around with some lavender in her kitchen. Raya and his wife ran a craft-focused bar in Charleston and started making different syrups out of necessity. Gilbert and Menz got immersed in the process because they wanted to see if they could create a syrup for a whiskey that wouldn’t overwhelm the spirit’s distinctive taste. Today, Pink House Alchemy, Tippleman’s, and Muddle & Wilde all boast a loyal fan base
When I’m developing a syrup, I usually have a cocktail in mind. I’ve made it a habit to visit bars during the creative process to understand what new things may be happening out there.”
— EMILY LAWSON, Pink House Alchemy
that showed them plenty of business-sustaining love during the pandemic. This makes it easy to make a sweeping statement about how their successes point to a passion for craft, not to mention a love of cocktails. This is true, but just saying that feels as simple as the basic water and sugar concoction commonly made at home. These artisans are creators of cool craft concoctions, elixirs that can enhance a spirit’s sterling legacy by adding their own inimitable touch of flavor and complexity in a cocktail. It’s an excellence made possible by the wonders of science, and while some customers may not catch this part of the equation, that’s
okay in the grand scheme of things. “It’s great when people know about the science behind the syrups,” Lawson said. “But what I really like hearing is a customer saying my syrups are abnormally delicious.”
Rich Manning is a freelance food and drink writer based in Fountain Valley, CA. He lives about 15 minutes south of Disneyland, but he hasn’t gone there in ages — he’d rather visit the nearby breweries and distilleries instead. You can check out some of his other written hackery by visiting richmanning.pressfolios.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The best spirits begin with the right equipment. prosperoequipment.com FOUNDED BY
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A .G.U. A . To sustain or not to sustain the soul of the spirit WRITTEN BY MATT ADKINS AND JOHN HENRY
hat drives your decision when choosing a product? Sustainability is increasingly on our customers’ minds. A recent national report revealed eight out of ten consumers are changing their purchasing preferences based on social responsibility, inclusiveness, or environmental impact. Customers increasingly want to know how companies live their values and whether, by choice or necessity, distilled spirits brands are communicating sustainability plans and environmentally responsible investments. And what core substance is at the heart of any spirit, distilled or human? Water. Water management is one of the most important parts of the distilled spirit industry’s sustainability equation. Consumers are flooded with options as they make their spirit selection: Exciting spirit categories, emerging brands from all around the world, eye-catching marketing, and social media compete for attention. Let’s add in the sustainability factor. With so many categories and countries in the distilled spirit market, how can consumers determine whether a spirit manufacturer or brand is doing “enough” to claim they are committed to environmental sustainability? It’s time to make it easier for distilled spirit brands to make positive environmental contributions. Taking cues from the outdoor community, we’ll share how the spirits community can do this. Personally and professionally, we cherish the outdoors. Our respective brand teams do too, and we all benefit from its many fruits. Over the past 50 years, the seven principles of Leave No Trace were continually refined and organized to more sustainably use our collective outdoor resources. The premise of Leave No Trace is to “provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors.” Understandable, intuitive principles like “Take only pictures … Leave only footprints” help anyone and everyone minimize their impact on the areas they’re enjoying. These simple principles shaped our outdoor behaviors before sustainability and environmental protection became mainstream.
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Water management is one of the most important parts of the distilled spirit industry’s sustainability equation.
It’s time for shared common sustainability principles. Let’s make it easier for small craft distillers to adopt environmentally sustainable principles.
But what does sustainability mean for spirits? The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) offers sustainability guidelines, the American Distilling Institute (ADI) has a sustainability group for producers, and the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) has judging criteria for sustainably produced spirits. All of these organizations provide definitions and standards for sustainability that overlap to some degree. On liquor store shelves, some brands have Fair Trade, Fair For Life, or 1% for the Planet logos on their bottle labels, and these certifications provide a level of confidence to consumers that a third party is involved in vetting an organization’s environmental commitment. DISCUS lists responsible water use as one of their recommended sustainability strategies: Innate facility design and irrigation methods make for efficient use and re-use of local water resources in crop growth and production. Minimum fertilizer use is encouraged to reduce impact on waterways. Wastewater is thoughtfully managed and even reused in some cases. (DISCUS, 2020) Distilleries of all sizes face the consumer-driven challenge of improving the sustainability of their production line. Let’s look at the supply side. As mezcal suppliers, we propose starting with what we know, Mexican spirits. There are certainly brands in mezcal that meet some or all definitions for sustainably produced spirits, and we celebrate these gains. However, awareness of DISCUS’s sustainability strategies does not mean that a small mezcal producer can change their process overnight to meet international CRM (Consejo Regulador del Mezcal) production standards, let alone sustainability standards. Often, the compliance or certification costs are too high for a small producer to achieve in the near-term. That leads us to the small craft distiller’s dilemma: How can they affordably adopt the uncertain, fuzzy sustainability standards of their international spirits consumers? On the demand side, how is a consumer expected to select their influencers? And how do producers choose which definitions and standards to follow if the consumer isn’t explicitly demanding a certain sustainability standard for their spirits? This is a problem craft producers of all sizes face. It’s time for shared common sustainability principles. Let’s make it easier for small craft distillers to adopt environmentally sustainable principles. We propose a call to action that starts small with attainable results for mezcal and other spirits producers. We’ll start with a focus on the soul of all distilled spirits: water. 1. We, the Mexican spirits enthusiasts and suppliers, want to lead a shared wastewater management exploration over the next several months, and in turn crowd-source and compose a Leave No Trace-type set of principles. We propose starting first with distilled agave spirits, learn lessons, and then move to other spirit categories. 2. We want to provide all spirits producers with achievable, realistic, and commercially viable standards to strive for in their respective productions and align those with simple principles that spirits consumers appreciate and seek out. 3. We strive to travel along this path in full transparency, like water itself. To turn ideas into reality, we’re teaming up with students from the Autonomous University of Chihuahua to study potential positive agricultural uses of wastewater from Mexican spirits (sotol, mezcal, tequila). Students will apply for the ADI research grant, studying sotol production locally, and we will connect those students with tequila and mezcal producers interested in this initiative.
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As members of the now-global Mexican spirits supplier community, we want to start the flow of action by building momentum on a small segment we can measurably improve: the water sustainability of agave and sotol spirits production. We want to build from focusing on wastewater management to eventually creating principles in other sustainability areas that will be commercially viable for spirits producers, resulting in positive environmental improvements. We think and hope consumers will share the commitment to sustainability that they reward in other consumer goods categories by supporting spirits brands that endeavor to improve their sustainability strategies. We propose that consumers would be able to quickly determine whether a brand was committed to sustainability if a certification logo similar to Fair Trade were on a spirits label. With water, the soul of spirits, in mind, we propose the Association to Green Up Alcohol (A.G.U.A.) seal on the back of a bottle label, signifying that the producers followed the principles we create as a community. We don’t have all the answers. And speaking of transparency, we’re struggling to find the “right” place to start. The environment can’t wait for “right,” though, and the soul of our spirit is telling us it’s time to explore, unite, and share practices to make it easier to be a force for positive change. To our fellow craft producers and spirits community members: Please join us. We look forward to developing these guiding sustainable spirit principles together with you. Connect, tell us what you think, and help shape the current of positive change.
To our fellow craft producers and spirits community members: Please join us.
We hope you are interested in helping launch this shared sustainability initiative. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you.
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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FOUNDATIONS of CRAFT DISTILLING WRITTEN BY GABE TOTH
s the American craft spirits world grows, new and would-be distillers do not always have access to the best information on the fundamentals of distilling. What worked for grandpa in the woods, or a friend’s method on their garage still, doesn't always translate into making the best possible product for a commercial operation. To that end, we hope to provide some basic, foundational distilling knowledge for new craft distillers and those who have not been formally trained in a series of articles READ FOUNDATIONS that cover key foundational OF CRAFT DISTILLING components of distilling at a 1: MASHING craft level. This article, Fermentation, continues and builds on the content from the Mashing/ Cooking article in the previous issue of Artisan Spirit Magazine (ASM). While the principles laid out in the subsequent articles are not always hard and fast rules, there are often good reasons that they have become guiding principles. Rules can be broken, but one should learn the rules in order to know how best to break them. As much as possible we will attempt to explain the reasons for these principles or best practices.
Finding Your Foundation Fermentation is essential to distilled spirits, because it converts sugars into the ethanol necessary for later distillation. Beyond that, it sets the stage for many of the flavors that will (or won’t) wind up in the final distilled product. All spirits must be fermented prior to distillation. Along with the grain-based spirits described in the previous article, that includes fruit-based, sugarcane-based spirits, and many others. 68
Brandy and eaux de vies (unaged brandies) can be produced from any fruit, though grapes have been the de-facto fruit associated with brandy. (Spirits produced in the European Union must be made from grapes to be labeled as brandy.) Fruit spirit traditions, much like whiskey traditions, are built off of the availability of certain ingredients in a given area. Apple- and pear-based spirits have centuries-old traditions in America and northern France, while other fruit spirits, such as peach and apricot, have found homes in craft distillers portfolios in regions where those fruits are bountiful. In Germany, kirsch or kirschwasser
is a common cherry-based eau de vie. For fruit fermentations, the fruit is generally pressed and the juice fermented. Fruit mashes can also be fermented with pureed fruit. To use stone fruits — fruits with a pit, such as peaches, apricots, and cherries — the pits have to be removed prior to distillation and are often removed prior to fermentation. The pits of stone fruits, despite their alluring bitter almond character, contain amygdalin, which can be broken down enzymatically to release cyanide, a potentially lethal toxin. Another family of spirits that includes rum and cachaca relies on sugarcane or W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
byproducts of sugarcane processing for a sugar source. Sugarcane can be pressed for juice or processed to remove most of the sugar, leaving behind molasses residue. Molasses is composed primarily of sugar, but can also retain high levels of ash and other solids as a result of processing, giving it a distinctive flavor. Aside from the fine particulate in molasses, fermentations that rely on sugarcane are generally composed of liquids.
Our Friend Yeast As mentioned in the previous article, corn and rye lack a husk, which is what allows malted barley mashes to be lautered. To produce bourbon, rye, or other spirits that rely heavily on these grains, the mashes are fermented and distilled on-grain. Malt whiskey is generally made by fermenting the lautered wash, which will contain little to no grain solids. There is an old saying in the beer world: “Brewers make wort. Yeast makes beer.” This step remains just as essential for spirits production as it is for beer, wine, or cider. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the primary yeast used for distilling, brewing, and cidermaking, as well as breadmaking. Members of the fungi kingdom, yeast are alcohol-tolerant single-celled microbes that multiply by division. Hundreds of commercial strains are available that vary in fermentation capacity and organoleptic qualities. Yeast commonly operates along two different metabolic paths. In the presence of oxygen and adequate nutrients, it will consume sugar and create buds — small protrusions that will grow and eventually split off into separate yeast cells. Once all available oxygen is consumed or a lack of nutrients otherwise limits growth, yeast will consume sugar and convert it into a roughly 50/50 (by weight) mixture of carbon dioxide and alcohol, with trace amounts of a wide variety of additional compounds. When yeast is first introduced to an appropriate medium, fermentation will experience an initial lag phase as the yeast takes up oxygen. Following this stage, which generally takes 12 to 24 hours, yeast propagation will enter the log (logarithmic) growth phase until it reaches a peak population. While oxygenation of wort is de rigueur in W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
beer fermentation, it is less uniformly applied to distilling media. (These are technically beer and wine — distiller’s beer and distiller’s wine — albeit not of a type one would want to drink casually.) Some distillers prefer to add an adequate amount of yeast to complete fermentation without oxygenation. Other options include an aeration stone put in-line on the way to the fermenter or vigorous splashing going into the fermenter. Both options have their limitations; an aeration stone is more equipment-intensive, but splashing will limit the amount of oxygen that can be dissolved into the fermentation medium. When using an aeration stone, which injects fine bubbles of gas that dissolve more easily into the media, there is also the choice between using air (roughly 21 percent oxygen) and a tank of oxygen at 90 percent purity or greater. However, the need for oxygen is not open-ended. An excess of oxygen can lead to excessive yeast reproduction, leading to too much sugar being diverted into yeast growth and less being available afterward for ethanol fermentation. Because different strains of yeast produce different levels of flavor-active metabolites, certain yeasts are often used for specific spirits to enhance or augment the flavors of the fermentation base (fruit, grain, sugarcane). Some yeasts have also experienced selective pressure to be better at producing more neutral-tasting fermentations, good for vodka or other neutral spirits that can be used for the
base of gin and liqueurs. Other yeasts used for spirits and beer can create a dizzying array of fruity and floral esters — including citrusy, tropical, and banana notes — as well as phenols such as 4-vinyl guaiacol (clove, spicy, herbal). More than 90 fermentation esters have been identified, according to Russell and Stewart (2014, 139). While beer brewers will usually repitch yeast from one healthy fermentation into another, this is less commonly done in distilling. A small contingent of distillers will use this practice and may purchase a more expensive liquid yeast culture for fermentation. Reusing yeast lowers the per-batch cost of liquid yeast. However, most distillers rely on dried yeast, which has a lower cost and a longer shelf life, adding new yeast into every batch. A limited group of brewers and winemakers, and a very limited group of distillers, also rely on members of another family of yeast, brettanomyces, to add further potential for variability into the yeast flavor canon. Generally described as “wild” yeasts (despite being available as commercial cultures), brettanomyces are usually associated with funky flavors and long-fermented, farmhouse-style beers. Schizosaccharomyces and other boutique, high-ester microbes can also be found in some rum fermentations. Many distillers will also allow for — or encourage — truly wild growth in their fermentation. These microbes generally include lactic acid bacteria, acetic acid bacteria, and wild
yeasts. They are introduced from the environment, the distiller’s raw materials (some thermotolerant microbes will survive the heat of mashing), equipment (pumps, hoses, gaskets), and fermenters that haven’t gone through a full cleaning and sanitizing cycle. Lactic acid bacteria, such as lactobacillus and pediococcus, are generally anaerobic (preferring a zero-oxygen environment), while acetic acid bacteria, such as acetobacter, are aerobic (preferring an environment with oxygen present). Both will take up sugars and create organic acids — which can make their way into the final spirit and esterify — and other flavor components such as esters and diacetyl. (More on this in the distilling and aging chapters.) High levels of contamination can actually reduce spirit yield by diverting sugar down non-ethanol metabolic paths, but a vigorous, healthy log phase and fermentation will keep bacterial populations in check until the yeast become inactive. At that point, ethanol-tolerant bacteria will become the primary active agent in the fermentation. Another group of distillers, often those informed by a craft beer background and largely overlapping with those who will repitch yeast, prefer to maintain clean, sanitized mashing and fermentation equipment to produce clean-fermented wort, relying only on the flavors of the specific yeast introduced for fermentation. These distillers will often pasteur-
ize their wort through boiling, and may rely on yeasts traditionally associated with beer production that create a wide variety of esters to replace the flavor complexity created by wild yeasts and bacteria. Fermentation vessels are usually stainless steel, but wooden fermenters are not uncommon. Stainless can be cleaned to a sanitary state for “clean” fermentation, but wood will irreversibly become home to whatever yeast and bacteria are present in the fermenting wash or mash. Open-top fermenters, likewise, encourage the inoculation of yeast and bacteria from the ambient air into the fermentation. Taller fermentation vessels increase hydrostatic pressure in the vessel, reducing fusel and ester production. When production facilities scale up, this can be a source of variability if plant engineers don’t design and commission new, larger fermentation vessels with a similar height-to-width ratio as their older fermenters.
Temperature Fermentation temperature plays a critical role in the flavors developed during fermentation. Yeast have a range of temperatures at which they are operable; each strain has its own optima, but the range for distilling and ale yeasts generally ranges from the mid-60s into the 80s F. Warmer fermentation temperatures boost yeast metabolic rates, increasing fusel alco-
hol and ester production, but not all esters are created equal. Some yeasts produce a desirable flavor profile at 66 or 68 degrees and become increasingly unpalatable above 70 degrees, while other yeasts thrive above 70 or even 80 degrees. Traditional distilling strains can be more robust — more ethanol tolerant and heat tolerant. Temperature control — or lack thereof — is important to consider in designing a plant or when working out a fermentation profile. The process of fermentation creates heat, which needs to be either countered via a glycol or other temperature-control system, or the fermentation can be started at a low enough temperature and allowed to free rise. The strength of the fermentation medium will be a factor in the free-rise option; a higher concentration of sugar equals more metabolic activity and more heat created by the yeast. Fermentation will require less time to finish at higher temperatures than lower temperatures, allowing for increased throughput in the distillery. This must be balanced with the need to achieve a desirable flavor profile, though. Depending on fermentation temperature, pitch rate, and yeast health, fermentation can finish in anywhere from two days to a week. Additional time that the distiller’s beer or wine is allowed to sit after reaching terminal gravity, the “funkier” it will be due to bacterial activity. Many yeast strains will also flocculate — clumping up and settling to the bottom of the fermenter — after fermentation is complete. Some distillers have adopted the brewing practice of removing the settled yeast from the bottom of the fermenter before distillation, which impacts the flavor of the distillate and lowers yield.
Pitch Perfect The necessary amount of yeast is dependent on conditions unique to each fermentation, such as temperature and wort strength or mash liquor-to-grain ratio. Not enough yeast (underpitching) can lead to unhealthy yeast, off-flavors, and increased levels of bacterial contamination. Unhealthy yeast can produce increased levels of sulfur compounds (hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and dimethyl sulfide); higher alcohols such 70
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as propanol, butanol, and isoamyl alcohol; and acetone. Small traces of some of these off-flavors can actually be desirable to add complexity or evolve during oak maturation into other compounds, but elevated levels can easily taint a batch. Unhealthy yeast may also fail to take up the precursor compounds for diacetyl (the compound that flavors movie theater popcorn “butter”), leaving the door open to potentially develop diacetyl in the wash. Aldehydes such as acetaldehyde, a common beer off-flavor and a metabolic intermediary that is usually reduced to alcohol, may remain after fermentation, but as a general rule are volatile and will generally be carried off either by CO2 or in distillation. Unhealthy yeast can produce these at elevated levels, leading to off-flavors in the fermented wash. Finally, an unhealthy fermentation will affect the amount and types of fatty acids produced in fermentation. Fermentations generally finish at 10 percent ABV or below, with many in the range of five to eight percent. Higher gravity fermentations can be enticing, but without temperature control and enough high-quality yeast, the yeast can become stressed. Stressed yeast will produce higher levels of the undesirable flavors previously described, and potentially not finish fermentation. Even under optimal conditions, a high-gravity fermentation is a stressful environment due to the osmotic pressure of a high-sugar medium. The high concentration of sugars outside the yeast can cause strain on the yeast cells as they try to reach equilibrium with the surrounding environment. A stuck fermentation (one that doesn’t reach terminal gravity) can be the result of unhealthy yeast, not enough yeast, not enough nutrients, or a fermentation temperature that gets too hot or too cold for the yeast. Most grain fermentations have enough nutrients in the wash or mash to provide the necessary nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) for healthy yeast growth. However, fermentations that are fruit- or sugar-based may require the addition of a yeast nutrient to ensure proper fermentation. Underpitching (using too little yeast) can also lead to increased levels of bacterial activity due to decreased competition from the yeast. Dried yeast is generally added at a rate of W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
less than .5 percent of the grain weight. In the United States, liquid yeast will usually be sold based on fermentation volume. (A similar product, cream yeast, is also common in Scotland.) Proper methods for counting yeast to repitch are beyond the scope of this article, but calculating a pitch based on pitch weight is more accurate than volume. Yeast can be counted precisely for a repitch using a diluted yeast sample stained with methylene blue, a hemocytometer, and a microscope with a 40x setting. Hydrating dried yeast in warm water (about 100 degrees F) prior to adding it to the fermentation medium isn’t strictly necessary, but the extra heat compared to rehydrating at room temperature can help the dehydrated yeast cell to be more pliable and properly absorb water. If you compare the yeast to a raisin, with most of the water (and therefore most of the yeast mass) removed, rehydration is intended to reinflate the fruit before subjecting it to fermentation conditions. A slightly warmer temperature allows all of the wrinkles and folds that are created on the surface of the yeast cell during drying to unfold and open up without breaking or stressing the cell wall. Distillers should track fermentation progress with hydrometers. A refractometer can be used to gauge the starting Brix or gravity, but it will become inaccurate as fermentation proceeds due to the different refractive properties of water and ethanol. Liquid chromatography, or HPLC, and density meters can be used to gauge the
progress of a fermentation. Some fermentation media, including molasses or a grain mash that was not properly converted (containing lots of remaining unfermentable dextrins) can finish fermenting at a higher gravity than expected. Certain grades of molasses in particular can contain high levels of ash, which is unfermentable. Dextrins can make up as much as 10 percent of a wash when the yeast is pitched, but, if the mash was not pasteurized, will continue to break down enzymatically until the fermentation reaches a pH that deactivates the enzymes. (The pH of a fermentation will drop from somewhere between the low 5s and low 6s into the low 4s or upper 3s.) Fermentation of a wash or mash that has not been pasteurized to denature the enzymes can often finish with zero or nominal residual sugars, i.e. full conversion of starch. Because ethanol is lighter than water, these fermentations will read below zero on a hydrometer, potentially as low as .9 for a highABV wash. We will continue on with Distillation in the next issue, followed by Aging/ Packaging in the Winter 2022 issue. The content laid out in these four articles will form the core of a future publication that will more fully explore and elaborate on these and other essential topics, so any omissions, errors, or questions are welcome and we will work hard to make this material as thorough and accurate as possible.
Gabe Toth is lead distiller at The Family Jones Distillery in Denver and Loveland, CO. A former craft brewer, his passion for fermenting and transforming ingredients also extends to sausage and meat curing, cheesemaking, and pickling. He can be found up in the mountains or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CL ASS IS IN SESSION Two Shochu Experts Aim to Educate the Country on Obscure Japanese Spirits WRITTEN BY RICH MANNING /// PHOTOS PROVIDED BY HONKAKU SPIRITS
How do you turn the masses on to a brand-new spirit category that’s actually centuries old?
his is the challenge facing Christopher Pellegrini and Stephen Lyman, the onetwo punch behind Tokyo-based Honkaku Spirits. Launched in 2020, Honkaku Spirits isn’t a particular brand. It’s a Winebow-distributed portfolio that allows them to introduce the American market to traditional Japanese spirits like shochu and awamori, spirits that are virtually unknown in the West despite being around since at least the mid16th century. The organization’s burgeoning portfolio of 72
artisan labels acts as a means for them to carry out their ultimate mission of educating the American market on the brilliance of these categories. There is a lot of knowledge to share, and each term, category, and designation associated with the categories goes deeper down a rabbit hole that spirits aficionados may be inclined to fall into with unabashed glee. For Pellegrini and Lyman, this process starts with simply convincing these consumers the spirits exist. “Right now, we are starting from essentially
zero,” Pellegrini said. “Shochu and awamori awareness in the U.S. is extremely low. The TTB does not even recognize these spirits categories, even though more shochu is produced annually in Japan than tequila in Mexico. Of course, we hope to have a successful business that helps establish these categories worldwide, but the only way that happens is through education.” The first step in this educational journey may involve informing bartenders and the average consumer of what shochu is not. To the untrained ear, “shochu” sounds an awful lot like “soju,” the easy-drinking, low-proof potable that restaurants without a hard liquor license can use to build cocktails in some states. The differences between the W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
two spirits become obvious with even slight enlightenment: For instance, shochu ends in “chew,” not “joo,” and shochu is Japanese, not Korean like soju. However, Americans aren’t in the soft glow of this illuminated stage yet, and they may need some help getting there. Issues like California allowing shochu under 24 percent ABV to be sold as soju puts up further unwanted roadblocks to this step, particularly since some shochu makers deliberately mislabel their spirits as soju to promote market penetration in the Golden State. Cutting through this misinformation could cause headaches, but Pellegrini doesn’t see it as a pain. “The soju conflation certainly creates consumer confusion, but this also creates an opportunity [to educate],” he said. “And fortunately for us, we do not feel pressure so much as the opportunity.” Understanding the difference between shochu and soju provides a needed foundation that enables consumers to learn more. That’s when the fun can truly begin.
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A Wealth of Information to Share It may take a beat to get familiar with some of the basic terminology associated with these traditional yet esoteric spirits. When Pellegrini and Lyman extol the virtues of Honkaku Shochu, they’re referencing traditionally made, single-distilled shochu. When they discuss Ryukyu awamori, they’re talking about a rice-based spirit closely related to shochu distilled in Okinawa, the city located on the Japanese archipelago of the same name, formerly known as the Ryukyu islands. It’s a familiarity well worth developing, if only because it’s so fascinating. Awamori’s differences from shochu are nuanced and procedurally driven, but there’s enough variance to make its profile unique. Shochu is a particularly deep category to plunge into. The spirit’s versatility is Swiss Army knife–like, as its base ingredients range from the expected like rice, barley, and buckwheat to surprises like sweet potato, pumpkin, aloe, and kelp. The two spirits share a common essential core in
koji, a starch source studded with koji kin, or mold spores. While it’s not important for consumers to know what koji is, it’s vital for them to know what it does. “Honkaku shochu and Ryukyu awamori have to be made with koji in the primary fermentation,” Lyman stated. “That in [and] of itself isn’t the most important thing to understand. The most important thing is that koji itself imparts umami and is a natural flavor enhancer for the other ingredients during fermentation. Therefore, these drinks are highly aromatic and flavorful.” The role of mold spores in the creation of shochu and awamori may strike some consumers as a bit funky. However, Lyman doesn’t see it as a big deal, especially as people’s culinary sensibilities evolve. “Explaining to people that shochu and awamori are made with mold, which is the most important part of the process, can be a bit off-putting,” he explained. “Fortunately, koji-fermented foods have become all the rage among Western chefs and home fermenters in recent years, so this is becoming easier to broach.”
The Right People for the Role Pellegrini and Lyman, American expatriates currently living in Fukuoka and Tokyo, respectively, are uniquely qualified to bring shochu and awamori to the U.S. Saying the duo have impeccable credentials runs close to undervaluing how important they are to the Japanese spirits industry. Both serve as category ambassadors for the Japanese Cabinet Ministry. Pellegrini was the first person to be certified as a Shochu Kikisakeshi (specialist) by Japan’s Sake Service Institute. He’s also one of a few people to carry this certification and also gain recognition as a Shochu Advisor by the Sake School of America. Lyman was the first person to obtain the latter certification, and his book The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks earned a 2020 James Beard Award nomination. Pellegrini’s book The Shochu Handbook: An Introduction to Japan’s Indigenous Distilled Drink was the first non-Japanese guide of its kind to be published and provides Western readers with an exhaustive guide to the category. Both books are wellsprings of information, crafted to be reference-ready companions for anyone eager to drill down into shochu and awamori’s intricacies. Pellegrini and Lyman also have the presentation skills needed to guide the curious into a better understanding of the spirits, which has been vital as their ability to reach others spills into various forms of media. “We have both served as university professors, so we have a lot of experience trying to keep students engaged and entertained,” Lyman stated. “We have been able to leverage those skills in capturing the attention of our listeners. This has also made the transition to public speaking and radio or television appearances easier than it might have been otherwise.” 74
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An Important Mission Pellegrini and Lyman’s work to expand shochu and awamori knowledge comes at a critical crossroads. Times are tough for Japanese spirits in general, and there is a worry that if awareness and enjoyment of these categories doesn’t expand to a broader, international audience, some distilleries may go under. This makes Pellegrini and Lyman’s mission personal. They’ve befriended many shochu and awamori makers over the years, including several family-owned brands that have provided the two with a level of warmth and hospitality that can oftentimes surround the proper enjoyment of a handcrafted spirit. According to Pellegrini, they are hopeful that their efforts through Honkaku Spirits will return the favor. “We began this journey to help these small family producers making amazing, handcrafted spirits to find new markets,” he said. “While we certainly feel pressure to sell these products in order to help our wonderful suppliers survive a crashing domestic alcohol market due to Japan’s shrinking and aging population, we are both optimists.”
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“We began this journey to help these small family producers making amazing, handcrafted spirits to find new markets. While we certainly feel pressure to sell these products in order to help our wonderful suppliers survive a crashing domestic alcohol market due to Japan’s shrinking and aging population, we are both optimists.” — Christopher Pellegrini In April 2021, Honkaku Spirits put this mission in motion with the launch of The Shochu Collection, an eclectic assortment of shochus split into three different product lines. Each line — The Obi Collection, the Honkaku Harvest Reserve Collection, and the “C&S” Collection — showcases the flavor versatility within the shochu category. If this initial round of market penetration paves the way for long-term success, consumers can anticipate seeing a greater prolifera-
tion of shochu and a solid awamori presence in American liquor stores, bars, and restaurants. The goal is for the spirits to experience what Lyman refers to as their “mezcal moment” within the next five to ten years, where they go from obscure categories to household names. Given what may be at stake for the distillers, one can’t help but hope for Pellegrini and Lyman’s efforts to pay off. For more info visit www.honkakuspirits.com.
c h i c
CANNERY Written by Devon Trevathan
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anning is in fashion, and — as with all good trends — there is a rush of hopeful entrepreneurs entering the space. The thing about canning, however, is that the casual feel of the final product can deceive producers into thinking that the process is simple, which it is not. This is doubly true when canning cocktails, since they tend to contain ingredients that run the risk of unintentional secondary fermentation. Distillers should be mindful when they are making the leap into canned cocktails. Making a ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail in a can is not the same process as distilling and bottling high-proof spirits. In many ways it more closely resembles brewing, in terms of sanitation and equipment requirements. “Some beverages require post-fill pasteurization, others will use chemical stabilization, others will use velcorin (an antimicrobial agent),” said Roger Kissling, vice president of sales and customer management at Iron Heart Canning, a mobile canning operation headquartered in New Hampshire. “Pretty much all of them except for chemical stabilization require some level of facility capability.” As an employee of Iron Heart Canning, a mobile canning company, Kissling has witnessed the growth of RTDs in the past few years. He said that RTDs are likely the fastest-growing segment of their business currently, particularly sparkling beverages and tequila-based drinks. He also knows all the requirements necessary to make a stable canned cocktail. If a distillery’s only interest is a still cocktail, that can alleviate some of the equipment requirements and necessary level of investment. However, there is still the matter of stabilization. Still cocktails can be blended and batched in a more typical, non-pressurized tank, (rather than requiring a more expensive pressurized tank that can hold carbonated beverages)
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and then packaged from there. They will be canned and nitro dosed, but that alone is not an insurance policy against secondary fermentation. First, the cans themselves are not going to be sterile during the canning process, particularly since most canning happens in an open-air environment. Companies like Iron Heart can only certify that their cans are sanitary. “I usually say you want to rely on two strategies, either a chemical preservation in the form of potassium sorbate, sulfites, there’s various options there,” said Kissling, who also mentioned sodium benzoate, a common chemical preservative that will already be familiar to some distillers. “There’s also the pasteurization option, but that’s a huge capital investment.” The same is true for velcorin dosing capabilities, which is another way to improve cocktail stability but also requires specific equipment, meaning a robust investment at the start. “The easiest and fastest path to market is you rely on sanitary packaging but you back that up with [a] sanitary batching process or flash pasteurization of certain components as you blend, and then you use some level of chemical preservation to ensure that, as well as sanitary packaging, you are lowering that risk of fermentation to an acceptable level,” he explained. Getting in on the explosive rise of carbonated cocktails requires a capital investment for most distillers if they are hoping to produce everything in-house. The ability to carbonate a beverage means that the distillery will need brite tanks that hold pressure, which are not exactly standard in craft distilleries, as well as a glycol system, since packaging products with carbonated in-line fillers requires temperature control. Another consideration is capacity. Distillers might commit to a minimum starting level of equipment, launch their carbonated RTD, and then quickly find out that they have reached their production ca-
pacity and need to scale up, which requires further investing in more equipment. Another consideration to add to this mix is the number of SKUs and how they affect efficiency. When a mobile canning team like Iron Heart comes to the distillery, they operate best in a system that doesn’t have to reset completely for each new product. Kissling recommends “multiple vessels, because it speeds up the batching process and chilling process and carbonation process where you can piggyback different batches in order to obtain a more constant throughput.” One way to free yourself of this operational stress is to contract or co-pack with an outside facility to produce your RTDs, which Kissling says he endorses. There are some downsides, of course; you won’t have total control over the final product since you will be handing off a portion or the entirety of the production to someone else. And there’s always the question of cost, but considering the investment required to get a small distillery RTD-capable, the cost might not be as prohibitive as you might think. Given all these variables, it might seem surprising that a young entrepreneur would willingly commit to the RTD space, especially if they were going to do so using fresh lemon juice, wildflower honey, and a four-year-old rye whiskey made in New York from homegrown grains, like Amanda Victoria does. She had a vision when she started Siponey with her business partner, horticulturist Joseph Mintz. Victoria is a tried-and-tested member of the cocktail industry, starting in hospitality before moving into bartending during the height of the late-aughts cocktail renaissance. After working at places like Pegu Club and PDT in New York City, Victoria decided to get into the supplier side of the industry, working in education for French spirits, including Lillet. She spent years learning from some of the largest and oldest spirits producers in the business, during which time she found a particular passion in heritage and generational production stories. That translated into a passion for ingredients and production integrity, all of which were foundational when she launched her own brand of canned cocktails in 2019. Victoria had seen firsthand the undertaking of starting a prestigious spirits brand, like a Scotch whisky. “I’d love to make a whisky, but how can I honor my past as a bartender as well? And of course, like so many others at that moment in some way or form, I thought maybe making a canned cocktail would be the route to go.” She and Mintz knew from the beginning that they did not want to sacrifice integrity just to conform to a new container, so they committed themselves to eschewing the easy route. They would create a real cocktail, made with the same quality ingredients as the high-end bars where Victoria had worked, in a can. Excitement and pride weren’t the only emotions driving the Siponey co-founders, however. There was also a fair bit of frustration. “I was just angry at what White Claw was selling to the consumer and this vehicle,” said Victoria. “Wow, I’ve spent so much of my career behind the bar educating one customer at a time on why the quality of fresh ingredients, the fresh citrus, and using the right ingredients, the right spirits are so important, and then White Claw comes and dumps a whole bunch of something, something grain, something question
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mark, and doesn’t bother to educate.” She knew that there had to be a counterpoint to the cans of synthetic flavoring and malted beverages that were flying off the shelves. Someone had to come and pick the bar up off the floor and put it back where it belonged. This was not going to be easy in practice, especially with the added wrinkle of having to be good for the environment as well as a person’s palate, to which Siponey dedicated itself from the beginning. Victoria works with production teams to bring the vision of their cocktails’ flavor to life in a scaled-up format. They have two labs they contract with to constantly track every element of variable change that can happen inside the can. “On any given day we’re tracking shelf life beyond the twelve-month mark now because we’ve gotten to a really solid place with our current formulation,” she explained. After coming to this product initially with the mindset of a
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bartender, Victoria quickly realized the value of working with food scientists and other professionals who can offer the information and expertise necessary to scale up such an endeavor. From regular testing and monitoring, they were able to determine with certainty that a secondary fermentation does not occur inside Siponey products during a yearlong period, even when the cans were being shipped in the dead of summer or simply not staying in a cool, shaded environment. Yet despite all of the effort that Victoria and Mintz have gone through to differentiate their products, elevating them to a standard that should be more common, it’s disheartening to know that, on the shelves of the liquor store, Siponey could easily end up rubbing shoulders with those mass-produced bubbly malt beverages. This highlights one of the problems in the canned cocktail market, and possibly one of its opportunities: So few
consumers understand RTDs well enough to know that there should be segmentation. Education is crucial here, and that’s something distillers should know as they consider breaking into this market. Yes, canned cocktails are popular right now, but if you are a producer who cares about the integrity of your process, success won’t be as easy as filling up the can and trucking it to the local liquor store. There could well be more work involved, and you should be prepared for that possibility
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.
T H E
B A S I C S
W RI T T E N
PH O T O G R A P H E D
M AT T
S T R IC K L A N D
ot long ago I released my first book, Cask Management for Distillers. (Available through White Mule Press and Amazon, with a possible feature film starring Tom Cruise as a barrel if I could just get his agent to call me back.) The book covers an array of subjects including cask chemistry, warehouse conditions, wood types, and so on. The final chapter, however, covers one of my favorite topics: barrel repair. I know. I can just hear your neck popping with the vigorous nod of agreement on that one… Barrel repair is more art than science. It is also sadly misunderstood and not often talked about in our industry. Perhaps it’s not ‘sexy’ enough. No matter. I thought it would be fun to tackle this subject head-on. Barrels are made out of wood. Jaw-droppingly obvious, I know. However, wood is organic, dynamic, and somewhat mutable. Therefore, it can sometimes feel like the cask has a mind of its own. My casks will seemingly be perfectly impregnable to air or liquid during some months of the year and then all of a sudden, a change of seasons brings rapid changes in climate and I get little leaks developing all over the warehouse. It drives our owners into a panicked frenzy before I have to explain to them that barrels do in fact leak from time to time and that there is no cause for alarm. If I’m being completely honest, most of the time I don’t even bother with fixing the developing leaks as I know that most of them will seal on their own within a few days. It’s all part of the natural cycles and rhythms of my warehouse. Then again, every so often I come across 80
figure 1: BARREL ANATOMY a cask with a leak that causes me immediate concern. I know that if I don’t take the appropriate corrective action quickly, I will run the risk of losing some valuable liquid. So, I break out the repair kit. This is one of those scenarios where the best offense is a good defense. I try to institute preventive measures early on in the life of the cask so that leaks don’t have a chance
to form in the first place. This involves selecting good cask wood, inspecting the cask thoroughly upon delivery, and storing it in the appropriate conditions. I then ensure that the cask is well treated and inspected again just prior to filling. Finally, I try to make sure that the filled cask is placed inside a climate-appropriate warehouse and that conditions don’t change too quickly. Even with all these W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
measures in place, I still get the occasional leaker and a repair will be in order. In order to better understand proper barrel repair, we need to first get a grip on some basic barrel anatomy. In Figure 1, I have drawn arrows to the major anatomical features of a standard cask. For the purposes of our discussion, some of these are more important than others. When it comes to barrel leaks, the most common source points are the croze, head joints, stave joints, bung, and chime. In my experience, the croze and head joints are the worst offenders, as their seating against the longitudinal staves is necessarily a bit more precarious during the initial cask raising. This is usually not much of an issue for new, virgin-wood casks, but in barrels that have been subjected to the stresses and rigors of a maturation warehouse for many years, these features will permit leaks to form more easily than other parts of the vessel.
FIXING LEAKS Leaks are best fixed before you fill the cask, but they are obviously an issue after the cask has been filled with spirit as well. They can seemingly form out of nowhere and you should always be on the lookout for the little wet drip trails they leave in their wake. Large distilleries such as Jim Beam or Jack Daniels will sometimes have fulltime leak hunters on staff whose sole job is to search the recesses of their vast warehouses for the telltale signs of spirit leaks. If you’ve got hundreds of thousands of casks maturing, then it would make sense to hire some folks with a keen eye towards ensuring that they don’t preemptively leak away all your liquid. For the rest of us, however, we can fix 99 percent of the leaks ourselves. Leaks can form anytime in the warehouse. If the barrel hasn’t been filled yet, the leak is probably just the result of the wood being a bit dried out. Properly swelling the wood with water prior to spirit filling will usually take care of those kinds of leaks. In the warehouse, leaks can form from the stress of racked barrels sitting above a cask, seasonal climate changes, work-
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er-related damages, and more. As mentioned, most warehouse leaks will honestly seal on their own over a few days. My guys regularly report to me about cask ‘x’ or ‘y’ having developed a small leak somewhere and my initial response is usually that unless the cask is seriously trickling spirit from the leak point, to just wait a few days and see if it closes on its own. If it doesn’t or gets worse, then we intervene. Otherwise, I prefer to just let nature take its course. For the times that we do have to intervene, we have a variety of tools ready to go at our disposal. In Figure 2, you see quite a few of the tools I commonly use in my distillery for repairing and maintaining casks. The most important ones are the wooden spiles, wedges, flagging, bung puller, and hoop driver. Everything is mostly optional. There are two things not shown that I would suggest you also have for cask repair. One is a good 20V drill with a 1/8” or 5/32” drill bit. Second, you should pick up some barrel wax. Beeswax is the best wax for casks in my opinion, though there are quite a few others that work. I prefer beeswax because it is fairly soft and easy to work with
at room temperature. Other waxes are harder and don’t putty into leaks or barrel creases as easily.
THE LEAK TYPES There are so many types of leaks that can form in cask wood. Most are more minor nuisance than serious worry. However, if you see a leak that persists for more than a few days, you will want to intervene and repair it. The most common places for leaks to form are. 1. The croze 2. Head joints 3. At the ends of staves in the chime 4. In the stave joints There can be other leak points that you may come across. Bungs may leak and need to be replaced. Pinholes might form in the middle of staves and need a repair. However, the four points listed are the most common. (And in my experience, they occur in the listed descending order of likelihood with the croze being the most common.) You’ll note that
figure 2: BASIC COOPERING AND CASK REPAIR TOOLS 81
of the four points listed, three of them are in the head. That’s not a coincidence. The barrel head gets a lot of stress placed on it from rolling the cask and from other casks sitting on top of it.
IDENTIFYING THE LEAK POINT Once you have an idea that a leak exists and the general area of origin, you now need to find the exact point of origin. This is easy to do. Take a clean cloth or paper towel and wipe away at the general leak area until it looks dry. Then shine a small flashlight onto the area and look for the tiny glimmer or shine of liquid emerging from the wood. That’s your leak. Next, take a small piece of chalk and mark the leak point so you don’t lose track of it.
LEAKS IN THE CROZE AND CASK WOOD JOINTS The croze is where I spend most of my time spotting leaks. It is essentially a seamed joint where the head pieces fit into the stave ends and leaks just love to form there. My first line of attack for fixing a croze leak is to apply a thick layer of barrel wax. For this, I will roll the cask over so that the leak point is hopefully above the internal liquid level, which keeps liquid from seeping through the leak hole while I wax it. Simply take a piece of barrel wax and vigorously rub it into the croze seam. You want to thoroughly cover the leak point and extend the wax a few inches along the seam to either side of the leak. Once I’ve laid down a good thick coat of wax, I like to take the back of a pocket knife blade to gently press the wax 82
deeper into the croze to ensure a tight seal. Unfortunately, sometimes wax just won’t cut it. The leak will persist, and you will lose precious spirit beyond what the greedy angels would normally take. So, what do you do? Well, this requires a bit of barrel surgery. For the following repair, you will want to decant the contents of the barrel into a temporary storage tank. You need the cask to be empty, because you’re going to have to remove the barrel head, which requires loosening a series of hoops and staves. Once the cask is empty, stand it on its head with the leaking croze sitting on top. Take a
hoop driver and with a rubber mallet begin tapping upwards on the head hoop, slowly working your way around the circumference of the cask. The hoop will eventually become loose and you can remove it. Put it aside and label it as the head hoop. Tap the next hoop (usually the quarter hoop, but on larger casks there may be two head hoops) and remove it. (Some hoops have small hoop nails in them to keep them stable on the cask and will need to be removed using a pair of vice grip pliers.) You should continue removing hoops until you reach the bilge hoop, which you will want to leave in place. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
At this point, you can take a flathead screwdriver and carefully insert it into the croze where the leak is located. Slowly pry back the stave around the leak, back away from the head pieces. The next step is easier if you have someone to help you. You will now want to insert a piece or two of flagging and make sure it lines the seam in the staves where the heading pieces sit. Use a separate flathead screwdriver to gently push it in tight against the stave wood. You can even rub the flagging down with some barrel wax for an extra layer of protection. Once the flagging is set, you can push the staves and head pieces back into place. You need to be careful with this step to make sure the heading sits perfectly back in
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the croze. If the heading is off at all, you may have just made a bigger leak. Once the heading is back in place, you can put the hoops back on, using the hoop driver to tighten them back down. Finally, before filling the cask back with your decanted spirit, I suggest filling it first with some water to check that your repair is sound. If it isn’t, then just dump the water and adjust the repair as needed. This technique can be used to fix a variety of leaks. Basically, anytime you have a leak that fits along a seam in the cask that necessitates some flagging, the method above should be followed. The pictures on the previous page show one of my distillers fixing a leak in the stave joint of one of our ex-calvados casks.
PINHOLE LEAKS The other common leak that shows up in the warehouse is the pinhole leak. Fortunately, these leaks are easier and less involved to repair. As before, you will want to wipe away and dry the leak area to pinpoint the exact origin point. Once you’ve identified the leak origin, you can take a drill with a 1/8” or 5/32” drill bit and drill a small hole where the leak is. Quickly insert a wooden spile into the hole and carefully tap into the wood with the hammer end of your bung puller. If the spile is not completely flush with the wood and you find it unsightly, you can scrape the risen section off with a chisel or barrel scraper. Occasionally you will come across a leak that is more elongated and not merely a pinhole. These leaks aren’t common, but they do happen. The repair is similar to the pinhole fix. Identify the leak origin and mark it. Take a chisel and insert the blade into the small leak channel. Gently tap the back end of the chisel handle with a hammer to even out the leak spot and deepen it a bit. Next, take a small wooden wedge and insert it into the newly deepened channel. Carefully tap the wedge deep into the leak and chisel off any remaining wood that sticks out above. 83
GOING OLD SCHOOL There are some quirky older methods of leak repair that I’ll provide for your barrel repair edification. I’ve tried these and several more over the years and you know what? They actually work … sometimes. I’ll leave it up to you to see if any of these techniques are worth keeping in your barrel-repair arsenal. The first one I’ll discuss involves the use of rye flour. As any whiskey distiller or brewer will tell you, rye flour becomes a sticky cement-like goo when water is added. In fact, many an old timer moonshiner used rye to seal the joints of their makeshift stills. We can actually do the same thing with some cask leaks. To make rye paste, simply buy some fine rye flour from the grocery store baking aisle (or if you have a hammer mill in your distillery, you can make your own). Add small amounts of water, constantly stirring to ensure even hydration. Eventually you’ll get a
thick paste. This paste can be applied to a leak and when allowed time to dry, should form a good seal against any additional spirit trickling out. It helps to apply the paste to a leak point that has been well dried and rotated above its liquid level. The other technique I’ll quickly discuss involves the use of chalk … and garlic. It sounds weird but it does work. Once again, rotate the cask so that the leak will stay dry during the repair process. Take a peeled piece of garlic and rub it into the leak. Then take a piece of chalk and rub it into the garlic, pressing the garlic in further. Allow the mixture to dry for a few hours. This strange mixture of garlic and chalk does a pretty good job of forming a seal impervious to liquid flow.
The techniques presented here are just a smidgeon of the repair processes that you might someday need to employ in your warehouse. However, these have served me well in my cask programs for many years and I’ve been able to fix many confounding leaks and save untold amounts of spirit from running down the floor drain. Practice these techniques whenever the opportunity arises in your own barrel program (and trust me, “opportunities” will inevitably come up). Eventually, you will get to a Zen-like state of barrel repair master. Or at the very least, you won’t pull out your hair from that ever-persistent croze leak coming from the cask in the back corner.
Matt Strickland is the Master Distiller (he hates that title) for Distillerie Cote des Saints in Quebec where he focuses on single malt production. He has a Master's in Oeonology and Viticulture from Oregon State, is a faculty member at Moonshine University, and is the only American to sit on the Board of Examiners for the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in the UK. His spirit spirit is Peruvian pisco and he does not believe that listening to Journey has to be done ironically.
Do you own or operate a distillery? Are spent grains & stillage causing problems for your business? Join us in Louisville to learn how to turn these into money. New technologies are being developed to expand their use into markets such as animal feeds, cellulosic ethanol, biochemicals, and other value-added materials. As the beverage industry continues to grow, this is a must-attend event! More information at: https://cvent.me/2Pb8Kr or at www.distillersgrains.org 84
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PHENOMENAL SPIRITS written by Devon Trevathan photos provided by Phenomenal Spirits
here are some challenges that are all too common to anyone starting a spirits brand, such as route to market, and then there are difficulties that are more acute, ones that fall into a category that could be labeled as “once in a lifetime” without any element of exaggeration. Launching a spirits company during a global pandemic when bars and restaurants are closed, person-to-person contact is nearly non-existent, and distributors have been thrown into a tailspin would certainly qualify as such an unparalleled experience. That was the situation that Phenomenal Spirits’ founder Karthik Sudhir was in when his first two products hit the American market in March 2020, and despite incredible odds he has managed to make lemonade out of some very sour lemons. Sudhir was raised in India as a national track and field athlete for the country. He eventually made his way to the United States with nothing more than a couple of old duffel bags, a broken laptop, and $400 in his pocket. He forged his own path in the tech industry, quickly climbing the ranks and taking opportunities in different parts of North America. “The thing about software is,
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the money is in software but there’s no touch and feel. It’s intangible. There’s no feelings, there’s no emotions,” said Sudhir. After years of traveling and working in tech, he knew that he was ready to make a play at what he really loved: spirits. He credits that fondness to his upbringing. “Growing up in India, that’s an integral part of life. We’ve got cricket and we’ve got booze.” A stint at Moonshine University was the natural next step, where Sudhir learned more about the process of distilling, including the fact that he had no desire to himself become a distiller. He still loved the blending and product-creation side of the business, but believed that the actual distilling work would be better off in the hands of someone else; that person turned out to be Matt Witzig, formerly of Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Distillery. Phenomenal Spirits as a company was officially beginning to take shape. Sudhir was well-versed in the world of business, including analytics and market research, so he quickly started to put together the numbers, honing in on untapped categories within the spirits industry that were projected to ex-
perience significant growth. Mezcal sprang to the top of the list, so did ultra-premium rum. In 2016, he began the process of connecting with a mezcal producer in Oaxaca to source the spirit. After three separate trips and many hours identifying a range of suitable products, Sudhir decided not to continue with the deal, a decision he says he does not regret. “To be able to do business with the Zapotec in Oaxaca you need to know minimum Spanish, English will not cut it,” Sudhir explained. Phenomenal Spirits turned its sights to rum instead. “There is a lot of Caribbean rum. The agricoles are up and coming too, but there’s no Central American pure rum as such,” said Sudhir. “Unadulterated, not caramel added, not color added, not too much sugar added.” Phenomenal Spirits is devoted to making spirits that they feel are phenomenal, and for its operators that means aged products. From those parameters came the company’s first product from its inaugural brand, Ron Izalco, a 10-year-old blend of Central American rums aged in ex–bourbon barrels and bottled at 43 percent ABV. Sudhir, who is based in Orange County, California, took an approach to launching Ron Izalco in 2018 that was atypical. Instead of adhering to conventional wisdom, which says brands must be started in your backyard and grow to neighboring markets before going regional, then national, and finally international, Phenomenal Spirits began at the end, so to speak. They launched at the Bordeaux Rum Festival that summer, and quickly penned deals to distribute in other countries within Europe, including Denmark, Poland, and the U.K., before ever selling a bottle in the U.S. “The pulse for the rum is in France and the U.K.. Those are the two biggest rum-drinking markets in the world in the super premium [category],” said Sudhir. “For about 15-18 months I focused [on] Europe, made the needles move because the buzz is everything,” he explained. “If you
want to create an international brand, you have to be at the right place, in all the lighthouse accounts in all the lighthouse markets, so that’s what I did from a route-to-market perspective.” Riding this wave of success, Sudhir decided after a year and a half that it was time for him to bring Ron Izalco stateside. He got his first distributorship deal in Washington DC and opened up in that market in February 2020. The pandemic slowed their early momentum to a standstill. A pallet’s worth of product sat untouched in a warehouse for six months. Distributors wouldn’t return his calls or emails, and bills were beginning to pile up: rental fees, legal costs, retainers, and employee payments, all of those overhead costs that you anticipate to offset with the sales that come from a robust and open market. Discouraged but not deterred, Sudhir went into problem-solving mode. “I sat down and started thinking, okay, something else has to be done because you cannot expect to do the same thing and get different results, so I pivoted the model saying we are going to go e-commerce, we are going to create a launchpad for our product.” It was one of the fews areas in the industry that saw explosive growth during the worst of the pandemic. Sudhir reached out to Curiada, a new online retailer of distilled spirits that had kicked off after lockdowns started, and presented them with an offer. Phenomenal Spirits would launch all of their products through Curiada, and they would provide investment dollars, social media dollars, content, whatever was needed to create brand awareness through Curiada’s platform. On July 1 2020, Phenomenal Spirits did just that, and in a time of extreme uncertainty and dread nationwide, Sudhir seemed to pull off the impossible — his product sold and did so quickly, despite not being in many on-premise accounts, having no tasting room, and not being aided by a personal touch. Sudhir further invested in the e-commerce and digital marketing space, no doubt buoyed by his experience in tech. He chased down other online retailers and spirits enthusiasts clubs, racking up partnerships with organization after organization, offering exclusive caskstrength releases for the clubs, and doing lots of digital PR. “We were persistent and I was W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
like, e-commerce needs to be 20 percent of our annual sales minimum, and we are actually going beyond that,” said Sudhir. Perhaps most impressive of all is the fact that Phenomenal Spirits has been able to successfully create brand buzz through a marketing approach that has been entirely digital. Sudhir thinks of their brand awareness strategy as having three different layers, the first being the e-commerce channel and second the enthusiast clubs and societies, both of which are discussed above. The third layer, however, is the PR professional that they hired early on after launching Ron Izalco in the United States. Investing in PR does not seem to be as regular a marketing effort as some others in craft distilling, but Sudhir has realized the incredible benefit that such a move can offer a young brand, especially in this new space that is so digitally centered. Every time there’s a launch, such as the release of Phenomenal Spirits’ second brand, RY3, their PR person makes sure that the correct information is disseminated through the appropriate network of writers, websites, and magazines. So far, Sudhir has been very
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pleased with the investment. Like Ron Izalco, the formulation for RY3 (“rye three”), was influenced by both Sudhir’s palate and the numbers that he had been running since getting into this business. Rye whiskey’s growth has been steady over the past few years, to such a degree that some of the macro companies are taking action to relaunch old rye brands, invest in acquisitions, or start up something new. But it was im-
portant to Sudhir that Phenomenal Spirits offers a rye whiskey that had a unique angle and was more approachable than your standard high-rye — a bourbon-drinker’s rye, as he put it. His solution was a blend of three different whiskeys. “We got the 95/5 (95 percent rye, five percent malted barley) from MGP, we got the 100 percent from Alberta, and we got a light whiskey component,” explained Sudhir. They also made sure that each component was accessible and that the blend was scalable should they receive investment or have the opportunity to sell off the brand entirely. Sudhir, and Phenomenal Spirits by extension, is always looking ahead, even when they’re forced to react to the effects of a global pandemic. As the craft industry experiences the resurgence that most believe is coming its way, brands could potentially benefit from some elements of Sudhir’s approach. After all, numbers never lie.
Visit www.phenomenalspirits.com for more info about Phenomenal Spirits.
PA RT T W O : APPEALING TO A N E W G E N E R AT I O N W R I T T E N B Y D E V O N T R E VAT H A N
A new generation of consumers is coming up, and their likes and dislikes have been formed in novel ways that differ from those of older consumers...
e’re coming out of the woods now, and the way forward looks a bit more clear. Let’s continue to discuss how the industry can change in the future and what factors are influencing that change. A new generation of consumers is coming up, and their likes and dislikes have been formed in novel ways that differ from those of older consumers. However, we have already seen that the new generation of alcohol consumers readily turn to small or craft brands. Seventy five percent of the workforce is anticipated to be made up of millennials by 2025. Considering the values and buying behavior of Gen Z and millennials as our industry regroups following recent hurdles could create economic opportunities and predict upcoming trends.
AUTHENTICITY To the newest set of legal-age alcohol consumers, the idea of authenticity holds great appeal. They have subsisted on a steady diet of corporate marketing buzzwords and glossy sales terms for most of their lives, and the authenticity that is crafted by some smaller brands is a welcome antidote. One of the most straightforward ways for a distillery to project authenticity is to be transparent with their marketing materials. Opening up and inviting in consumers, offering a surplus of real information, sharing personal stories — these actions will stand out to fresh audiences, regardless of any of the stylistic choices made by the owners of the distillery. “It’s not about the spirits or distillery looking old or looking new, but simply looking unique, meaningful, and authentic to who they are and what they stand for,” said Matt Ebbing, founder and chief creative director at Ebbing Branding + Design. Despite having some differences in the way that they choose to interact with brands, generations like millennials and Gen Z are still susceptible to some traditional forms of online marketing. Take email marketing as an example. In a survey conducted by Campaign Monitor, 90 percent of millennials reported checking their email at least once a day, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering how many millennials are working now. Eighty one percent of Gen Z said the same thing. Meanwhile, Gen Z reports receiving fewer emails than millennials. This shows that there is an opportunity for brand owners to reach new audiences through traditional means, though they will want to employ clever language and intriguing titles to get these audiences to click through the emails. Both millennials and Gen Z reported favoring email marketing that offered some kind of direct benefit to them, as opposed to emails that are overly promotional. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT Discussions around the health of the planet and the environmental impact of doing business are increasing in every industry, and the new generations are not shying away from that conversation. It may not be a requisite for either Gen Z or millennials, but showing the ways in which your distillery is addressing sustainability could be the factor that pushes them to purchase your bottle over that of someone else. There are many ways in which a distillery can begin to mitigate their carbon footprint, but a common one is packaging. “You have to look at that environmental impact as holistically as possible, and it’s the package but it’s also the transportation of a heavier container versus a lighter container and things of that nature,” said Don Wright, owner and chief strategic officer at Wright Global Graphics. “What’s the end of life of a full cycle of reusability on that container.” There hasn’t been any big move away from the spirits industry’s favorite packaging material, glass, quite yet, but there are some who are exploring different avenues to bring highproof spirits to consumers. Isidoro Cherem of BPS Glass is seeing it on the supply side of the packaging industry. There will always be the classic super premium flint glass bottles, but the market is opening up to invite in other creative packaging solutions, like a super-hard carton lined to ensure a long shelf life. Something like that would attend to one of the drawbacks of glass, which is that it’s heavy to ship. For producers who have spent a tremendous amount of energy and money making a super-premium product, however, it seems unlikely that anything other than glass would be an acceptable container to communicate the high quality of the liquid inside, but Cherem thinks that the tides may be changing. “People with time are going to be more receptive; the bottle doesn’t have to be how it’s always been,” he said. “There’s different ways to express our identity and what makes us unique through our packaging, and a lot of these ways that are going to be developed in time are going to be more sustainable.”
CREATIVE LICENSE The pandemic showed us that normal life doesn't need to be narrowly defined — employees can work remotely, niche brands can succeed, and insects can be a normal source of protein (that last one might take a bit longer to catch on). Do distillers have the same kind of ability to exercise their creative license? The success of brands like Screwball and the meteoric rise of ready-to-drink cocktails indicates that there is 89
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a real thirst for creative approaches to making alcohol. “Flavored whiskeys are really on fire, flavored tequilas are really on fire, and RTDs, ready-to-drink cocktails, are really popular if you can get cans,” said Al Murphy, assistant vice president at Mother Murphy’s Labs. Renewed interest in alcohol that was once deemed disreputable by any serious imbiber is likely spurred by new consumers, who have taken their adventurous approach to food and translated it to their drinking habits. Being adventurous as a distiller can have its advantages, but there’s still the problem of navigating our distribution system in the states. “A lot of times you just need someone to have enough breadth and depth of the distribution where they take a shot at something and see how the market responds to it,” said Murphy. That’s the drawback, though; few distillers who are in that position feel like gambling their hard-earned brand awareness (and money) on something that’s completely out of left field. So while interest in more unique and esoteric spirits may be fermenting, supply on a regional or national level still seems unlikely. Perhaps there’s an answer to that in online retail. New consumers are extremely familiar with shopping online — they have already been using that medium to buy everything from toilet paper to used cars for years. Online retailers could become the intermediary between adventurous distillers/producers and consumers seeking out the bold and unexpected in spirits today. A quick look around the inventories of both Curiada and Flaviar reveals that, while far from a collection of oddities, they are currently listing some unusual products: aloe liqueur, cider eau de vie, Latvian Black Balsam, mastic from Greece. These products may not easily find a home through traditional distribution channels but are now available to a large audience via the internet. Are they truly pushing the boundary of what alcohol can be? Perhaps not, but new audiences likely do not yet have the kind of foundational knowledge that’s necessary to explore to that degree. This is a time for creativity among small producers, but that creativity is not quite limitless. 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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SHOCHU Part 1 of this topic was presented in the previous issue of Artisan Spirit. Shochu largely being a rice, sweet potato, barley, buckwheat, or brown sugar-based spirit created by fermentation and distillation. Part 1 covered the production of Shochu with Awamori (Thai-rice-based spirit) as the first entry point to this wide-ranging flavored beverage. Some hints on flavor production, based on the different starchy raw materials, molds and yeasts used to make this spirit beverage were covered in that first part of the article. Part 2 now presents a more in depth look at the wide spectrum of flavors to be found in Shochu.
PART TWO: Shochu Flavor Profiles WRITTEN BY G ARY SPEDDING, PH.D.
So, what does shochu taste like?
As a reminder, authentic shochu is known as Honkaku Shochu — a moromi mash created using koji mold indigenous to Japan, main ingredients (key ones respectively discussed in Part 1 — last issue), and the use of the single distillation process, leading to flavor and character reminiscent of the original raw materials. The base ingredients dictate the major types. However, we must make note as to what shochu must not be made with, nor look or perhaps taste too much like. Strict rules govern the materials which can be used in shochu production. It cannot be made with any major ingredient that would tend to make it like other classic distilled spirits. It cannot be made with fermented (malted) grains to make it more like a whiskey; fruits, with the exception of the date palm, or it would be like brandy; sugar, honey or maple syrup etc., to make it like rum^; undergo specific filtration using white birch carbon — too much like a vodka process, or using juniper berries (think gin). ^Note an exception regarding rum-like ingredients is the brown sugar to make Kokuto (see above) distilled only on Amani Island in the Kagoshima prefecture. Shochu, during aging, can become amber in color — again, if this makes it appear like whiskey, there are rules of dilution to bring the color down by blending with lighter colored aged shochu. Finally, while some small amount of sugar (under two percent of total weight) can be added, it must be labelled as “single distilled shochu” — it cannot be considered Honkaku anymore. [Other rules may be found under the Liquor Tax Act of Japan, and via materials issued by the Sake Service Institute, the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, and the Sake School of America.].
A GENERALITY OF SHOCHU FLAVORS
Even with just the base five main ingredients (rice, barley, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, and buckwheat), there is a whole spectrum of variants on shochu production and flavor profiles. Shochu is characterized by the flavors associated with the raw materials. We should note that processing has an impact (see koji below) as does the type of distillation used. While awamori spirits distilled under atmospheric distillation systems have many components present and a rich bold taste, they retain good spirit quality after aging and have an aroma reminiscent of burnt or scorched sugar compounds — furfural for example (brown, sweet, almond, woody, bready, baked bread, nutty, caramellic with a burnt astringent nuance) — produced by Maillard reactions during the heat of distillation. The aroma and taste that signifies awamori is summed up in a neat article from the Okinawa Regional Taxation Office, including the awamori flavor wheel. (40, 41). Covering the aromas of vanilla (see below), matsutake mushrooms, apples, male goats, and sweet notes plus ethanol. Ethyl acetate, isoamyl acetate, and ethyl caproate are closely associated with shochu flavor (See Table 1 for associated flavor descriptors). Of course, like saké, shochu carries with it
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many amino acids and other Maillard-born umami and modified sugar compounds. The concentration of amino acids in the mashes is suspected to affect the aroma of barley shochu via the Maillard reaction, thus the type of barley and the use of barley koji for 100-percent barley (mugi) shochu will affect this aromaticity. The characteristics and threshold of detection values for many aroma compounds contributing to the overall flavor qualities of honkaku shochu and awamori were reported recently (42). This information will greatly aid in the sensory evaluation of shochu and some notes about the components detected and examined are covered elsewhere within this article. To facilitate an understanding of flavor in terms related to molecular names quoted below, Table 1 has been provided covering the volatile chemical component name and basic descriptors. Some of the papers noted in the legend to Table 1 provide some detection and recognition threshold values for about a dozen or so compounds. As only a few threshold values are known, it was decided to leave them out of this current discussion; however, such values would be necessary to know for a serious flavor training in shochu sensory evaluation.
Common or Chemical Name
Flavor compounds in Shochu
Alternate or Chemical Name
Ethyl isobutyrate Common or Chemical Name Alternate or Chemical Name
Acetyl methyl carbinol
Aroma/Flavor Descriptors Fruity, acrid, green, or bruised apple, melon, florists’ shop. Pungent, fresh, aldehydic, refreshing and green Sharp, pungent, sour, vinegar, overripe fruit Sweet, butter, creamy, dairy, milky, fatty Minty, medicinal. Pine, terpene, lilac, citrus, woody, and floral with a lemon and lime nuance Fruity, flowery, minty. Apple. Woody, floral, herbal, green and fruity - plum, grape, raspberry and sweet with spicy tobacco nuances Bitter-sweet, oily, almond, cherry, nutty and woody Sulfury, rubbery, meaty, vegetable, brown, cooked, beefy, nutty, and coffee like
3-Buten-2-one, or 4-(2,6,6-trimethyl-1-cyclohexen-1-yl)
Floral, woody, sweet, fruity, berry, green
Floral. Sweet, honey, floral, rose, fruity notes and light yeasty notes
Butyric acid Butanoic acid
Acidic, sour, cheesy, dairy, creamy, rancid butter odor
Fatty, waxy, soapy, rancid, sour
Acetic acid, or 2-Phenylethyl ester
Cheesy, fruity, phenolic, fatty, goaty, sweaty, pungent
Rancid, soapy, sour, cheesy, fatty
Caproic acid Octanoic acid
Isobutyric acid, ethyl ester, or Ethyl 2-methylpropanoate
Aroma/Flavor Descriptors Cinnamon, balsamic. Sweet balsam, fruity, berry, punch, spice and green, cinnamon, honey, vanilla and floral Fruity, citrus, sweet. Pungent, ethereal, fruity, rum and egg nog nuances
Isovaleric acid, ethyl ester, Ethyl 3-methylbutanoate or Ethyl isopentanoate
Fruity, sweet. Strong banana, pineapple, apple, tutti Frutti, green, blueberry and wine-like
Mild, fatty, fruity, oily
Ethyl-2-methylbutyrate Ethyl 2-methylbutanoate
Ethyl-3-(methylthio)propanoate Ethyl methyl mercaptopropionate, or Ethyl 3-methylsulfanylpropanoate
Furan-2-carbaldehyde, or 2-Furfuraldehyde
Fatty, tallow, oily, buttery, dairy, milky, waxy Fruity, (pineapple, apple). Fruity, fresh, berry, grape, pineapple (skin), mango, cherry, apple peel, papaya Sulfury, onion, garlic, rummy, vegetable cooked pineapple, tropical Flowery. Floral, juicy, green, tropical, plum, pear, peach, cilantro, metallic, angelica Ethereal Vinyl, seaweed. Sweet, woody, bready, nutty, caramellic, with a burnt, astringent nuance
Flowery, citrus. Floral, rosy, waxy and perfumy and citrus/high quality lemon fruity peach like nuance
Medicinal, smoky. Woody, phenolic, bacon, savory, smoky, medicinal, vanilla
Trans-3,7-dimethyl-2,7-octadien-1-ol, or (2E)-3,7-Dimethylocta-2,6-dien-1-ol 2-Methoxyphenol
(E)-2-Hexenal, or Trans-2-hexenal
3-Methylbutyl acetate, or Isopentyl acetate
Grassy, green grass. Fresh, green leafy, fruity, vegetable, citrus spicy, green apple, herbal Fruity (banana, pear). Sweet, fruity, banana and pear-like with a green ripe nuance, solventy/estery
Flowery, (rose) citrus. Floral, rose, sweet, green with fruity citrus notes, leather
3-Methylbutan-1-ol, or Isopentanol
Oily. Fusel, alcoholic, whiskey, brandy, fruity, banana, ethereal, cognac
Sweet, buttery, creamy, milky, buttery/ movie popcorn
2-Methylpropan-1-ol, or Isobutanol
Ethereal, winey, fusel, whiskey
Fresh, aldehydic, herbal, green, malty
Dihydro-2-methyl-3(2H)-thiophenone Sulfury, fruity, berry
2-Methylpropanal, or 2-Methyl-1-propanal
Dimethyl disulfide (DMDS)
Sulfurous, vegetable, cabbage, onion
3-Methylbutanal, or 3-Methylbutyraldehyde
Sulfurous, vegetable, tomato, corn/sweet corn/asparagus, oysters, cabbage, and green radish
Dimethyl trisulfide (DMTS)
Pickles. Sulfurous, cooked onion, fried onion, savory, meaty, garlic-like, gassy
Solventy. Ethereal, fruity, sweet, paint thinner-like, solventy
Fruity, sweet. Tutti Frutti, juicy fruit, pineapple, cognac
Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) Methyl sulfide
Acetic acid ethyl ester
Butanoic acid, ethyl ester
Ethyl caproate Ethyl hexanoate
Ethyl caprylate Octanoate
Pineapple, red apple with hints of aniseed. Sweet, fruity, pineapple, green banana Adzuki bean-like. Wine-like. Fruity, pineapple, brandy nuance, creamy, fatty, mushroom
3-Methylbutyric acid or 3-Methylbutanoic acid
cis,cis-9,12-octadecadienoic acid, or (9Z,12Z)-octadeca-9,12-dienoic acid
3-Hydroxy-2-methyl-4H-pyran-4-one, or 2-Methyl-3-hydroxypyrone
Stuffy aroma. Fruity, ethereal, dry, green, chocolate, nutty, leafy, cocoa, peach and fatty Buttery, nutty. Sour, sweaty, cheesy, old hops, dairy, acidic, sour, pungent, creamy, fermented, waxy and berry Mild, fatty, coconut, bay oil, waxy Flowery, citrus. Citrus, orange, lemon, floral, waxy, aldehydic, woody, floral, green blueberry Faint, fatty Caramel. Sweet, caramellic, cotton candy, jammy, fruity, bread, baked
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Common or Chemical Name Alternate or Chemical Name
3-Methylsulfanylpropanal, or Propionaldehyde, 3-(methylthio)
Methyl 2-hydroxybenzoate, or Benzoic acid, 2-hydroxy-, methyl ester
Methyl-3-furanthiol (Fish Thiol) 2-Methyl-3-furanthiol, fish thiol, or 2-methylfuran-3-thiol
Common or Chemical Name Alternate or Chemical Name
Sulfurous, mushroom. Musty tomato, potato, vegetative, mold, ripened cheeses, lamberger, onion, beefy, brothy and with egg and seafood nuances. Potato (cooked, fried)
Sickening, putrid, acidic, sweaty, rancid, dairy-like with milky and cheese nuances
Sweet, creamy, phenolic, brown, and powdery with vanilla beany nuances
Wintergreen, mint, sweet, salicylate and root beer, balsamic
Benzaldehyde, 4-hydroxy-3-methoxy-, or 4-Hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde
Fishy. Sulfury, fish, meat, salmon, tuna and roasted
1-Pentanoic acid 4-Hydroxy-3-methoxybenzoic acid
1-Octen-3-ol (Mushroom alcohol) Oct-1-en-3-ol
Sweet, vanilla, creamy chocolate, vanillin, spicy, phenolic, and milky Mushroom. Mushroom, earthy, green, oily, fungal, raw chicken, oily, vegetative, umami sensation and savory brothy Nutty, peanut, musty, potato, earthy, powdery, roasted, cocoa, nutty, fatty, oily, roasted nut, roast beef
Waxy, fatty, soapy, creamy, cheesy and with rich mouth feel
Flowery, citrus, fruity. Neroli, citrus, magnolia, lemon, bitter, green, and fruity and with a terpy (terpene) nuance
Acetone, ethereal, fruity, camphoraceous, chemical, fruity, green
Green, floral, waxy, woody with fruitycitrus and melon nuances
2-Ethyl-5(6)-methylpyrazine 2-Ethyl-5(or 6)-methylpyrazine
Nutty, coffee, roasted coffee, hazelnut, cocoa, barley roasted barley
Tetradecanoic acid 2,6-Octadien-1-ol, 3,7-dimethyl- or (2Z)-, (2Z)-3,7-dimethylocta-2,6-dien-1-ol
3,7,11-Trimethyl-1,6,10-dodecatrien-3-ol, or 3,7,11-Trimethyldodeca-1,6,10-trien-3-ol
Alcoholic, earthy, fermented, fusel, peanut, nutty, fruity, apple/pear, bubble gum, tequila, musty, yeasty
Fatty, vegetable oil, lard, tallow, fried potato
(Z)-9-Octadecenoic acid, or (Z)-Octadec-9-enoic acid
Heptan-2-one or Methyl amyl ketone
Fruity, spicy, sweet, herbal, coconut, woody, cheese, fruity, waxy, green, banana
Musty, rummy, nutty, cereal, caramellic, fruity, malted, fermented, cocoa, coffee
Hyacinth, foliage, green
2-Methylbutyraldehyde Acrylaldehyde, methyl- or Methacrolein
Waxy, creamy, fatty, soapy with a Criscolike fatty note, lard and tallow-like mouth feel and a dairy nuance
Meaty. SuIfurous, meaty, vegetative, brothy and savory with a metallic nuance, onion, beefy
Winey, fermented, bready, cocoa, chocolate, fruity, nutty, berry
Sweet, banana, fruity, estery and ripe with a juicy fruit note, tropical
Honey, floral, hyacinth, rose, sweet, powdery, fermented, cocoa, chocolate with slight earthy and spicy nuances
Fruity, dry, green, chocolate, nutty, leafy, cocoa. Peach, fatty, ethereal
Pungent, acidic, cheesy, vinegar, dairy with a pronounced fruity lift
Pungent, sweet corn-like, roasted, hazelnut, barley, roasted barley
3-(Methylthio)propyl acetate, 3-Methylsulfanylpropyl acetate, or Methionyl acetate
Flowery (rose) citrus. Green, rose, red rose, spicy, fresh, geranium, herbal and woody
Sulfurous, fruit, overripe fruit, roasted, cheesy, gassy, vegetable
Valeraldehyde or Valeric aldehyde,
2-Phenylacetaldehyde or Phenyl acetaldehyde
Propanoic acid or Pseudoacetic acid 1,4-Diazabenzene cis isomer: 4-Methyl-2-(2-methylprop-1-enyl) oxane Methyl thioacetate
Odorless, mild, fatty, waxy
Table 1 Legend: The table represents a listing of over 80 compounds noted in various types of shochu, and as presented in the text of this article. It will hopefully aid the reader in understanding the flavors associated with the molecular names cited in the text. Note the terms include aroma and taste descriptors, which are obtained under different conditions depending upon the resource or flavor team doing the research. However, as taste is technically a concept, dealing with a few actual tastants (on the tongue — gustatory responses) but largely with aroma detection (olfactory reception — both by orthonasal and retronasal routes) the selected descriptive terms should be relevant for providing a broader understanding of the nuances associated with flavor profiles of foods and beverages — or at least, providing an entry into more involved sensory evaluation and training. Data obtained from many of the references cited here, but specifically from Shiraishi, et al., (23) Osafune, et al., (42), Taira, Tsuchiya and Furudate (51), Tamamura, et al., (53), Yoshizaki et al., (54), Ikenaga, Lavin and Acree (57), Oishi, et al., (60), Fukuda and Han (61,62), Starowicz, Koutsidis and Zielinski (67), Asikin, et al., (69) and Yoshizaki et al., (70). Data include common names and chemical nomenclature — the most important take home messages though are the flavors associated with each type of shochu profile. [No attempt was made to make a column of common names and then one with purely chemical names, so chemicals read top down essentially, and simply, alphabetically, and then generally according to position number of molecular substituents. Alternative names or conventions appearing in the leftmost column. Redundancy seems to have been avoided — i.e., terms appearing twice with the two chemical name headings seems not to be an issue.] Floral, fruity, vegetal, sulfury, and phenolic notes etc., will be seen and different chemical classes — acids, alcohols, esters etc., are often clustered. Each chemical class is recognized for the generality of the aromas/flavors they often convey (esters: fruity, floral for example). Some
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2-Methyl-3-furylmethyl disulfide, or 2-Methyl-3-methyldisulfanylfuran 2-Methylbutyl acetate
3-Methylbutyraldehyde or 3-Methylbutanal
Ethyl amyl ketone or Octan-3-one
4-Methylpentan-2-one, or sobutyl methyl ketone
2-Methoxy-4-vinyl phenol, or 4-Ethenyl-2-methoxyphenol
Herbal, mushroom, cabbage, asparagus, potato, cheesy Fresh, herbal, lavender, sweet, mushroom, ketonic, cheesy and moldy with a fruity nuance Green, vegetative, herbal, fruity and dairy nuances Dry, woody, fresh, amber, cedar, peanut, roasted peanut, smoky bacon
papers go into details of the concentrations of some of these components present in shochu examples and also the concentrations at which the trained taster can detect and then recognize them; these are called threshold values (16 listed in Osafune, et al., Ref. 42). Lists in those cited papers are extensive and cover many more compounds than noted in the respective texts. Most of the sensory descriptors, noted here, were obtained from The Good Scents Company — a really valuable on-line information system resource for flavor information: www.thegoodscentscompany.com. During the preparation of this article, a new potentially useful resource tool was discovered: www.perflavory.com. Other Flavor base resources are, however, available both free, and via subscription. The terms in blue ink are derived from the papers (e.g., 23, 42, 53, 60), or from the author’s own records of such sensory descriptors. It should be noted that flavor molecules are not perceived and do not behave as in isolation — this means that some of the flavor descriptors will apply to one matrix with the variant terms possibly applying to another shochu (see Ref. 60 for details). The text of this article illustrates those components which are unique to, or at higher levels, for specific shochu types — thus enabling sensory or even chemical discrimination (see β-damascenone and imo — potato — shochu for example here and also rose oxide levels). Physical concentration, threshold values, solvent effects and the total chemical composition or formulation play huge roles in release and perception of volatile molecules. Some volatiles act alone, some synergistically (“boosting the impact of neighbors”) and some antagonistically (suppressing or masking others). In other words, sensory impressions rely on a complex interplay of components, environment and even the integrity of the sensory organs and health of the assessor. Sensory research also suggests that we can somewhat reliably pick out only 3 or 4 flavors with any degree of accuracy from a complex mixture. Caveat emptor: Do not assess a shochu for competition purposes alone!
F L A V O R
A Note on Rice Koji and Rice Spirit (Kome Shochu)
P R O F I L E S
Once again, we state that shochu is characterized by the flavors associated with the main ingredients used. Some odor compounds have been identified and quantified from the main material second moromi mash stage (more on this below). However, while the importance of koji cannot be overstated from the viewpoint of production of active enzymes, allowing for conversion of starch to sugar and protein to amino acids, until recently little work had been done to uncover its flavor contribution secrets (23). It is strongly suggested, of course, that rice koji has a marked effect on the flavor of Japanese liquors such as saké and shochu. Rice koji production occurs over around 45 hours post-mold inoculation. The odor associated with steamed rice evolves over time into that described as the flavor of chestnuts, mushrooms, and Indian ink. Rice koji‐ shochu shows strong sweet, caramel, and roasted odors along with strong, heavy tastes. Such sweetness and umami notes are features of shochu flavor though the range of flavors is narrower than for saké. Isobutyraldehyde (aldehydic/aldehyde, floral, fresh, green apple, fruity), isovaleraldehyde (aroma: fatty, rancid, pungent, sweaty; flavor: fruity, dry, green, chocolate, nutty, leafy, cocoa), 1‐octen‐3‐ol (aka matsutake alcohol — mushroom, earthy, fungal, green, oily, vegetable, umami, savory, brothy, floral, herbal, lavender), and 2-phenylacetaldehyde (green, floral, hyacinth, clover, honey, chocolate, cocoa, mandarin, sweet pea) have been identified as the main contributors to the typical odors of rice koji. Ethyl caprylate, ethyl caproate, and ethyl 2-methylbutyrate are also noted as active in the specific odor of rice koji-based shochu. Guidance on these and other shochu volatiles and associated flavor descriptors can be found in Table 1 (23).
Awamori (Thai Rice) Shochu
Vanillin (vanilla flavors) and phenols conferring clove-like and smoky, burnt nuances are also important in sake and shochu beverages. The Aspergillus fungi play crucial roles in the generation of these compounds with enzymes known as feruloyl esterases involved. These enzymes release ferulic acid from the cell walls of rice and other cereal grains, and these are then converted to aromatof the ic derivatives such as 4-vinyl guaiacol (4-VG), vanillic acid and vanillin during the fermentation and shochu types aging process (3, 9, 43-47. Table 1). It is proposed that ferulic acid in the moromi mash results in the formation of 4-vinylguaiacol during distillation and that the 4-VG is converted to vanillin and vanillic acid during storage of model solutions of shochu (46). Vanilla is a particular characteristic associated with aged awamori (aged in clay pots) (9). The aging process goes by the name shitsugi — accelerated aging in earthen pots — whereby fatty acids and volatile acids, such as acetic acid, are stated to be neutralized by calcium and or magnesium ions released from the pots (detailed in 9). While the process removes fatty (rancid, cheesy, dairy) and acidic aromas, a more modern approach relies on spirit aging in stainless steel and utilizing ion-exchange resin filtration or activated charcoal filtration. However, recall from above that white birch charcoal cannot be used otherwise the spirit would be more “like vodka.” One must NEVER call shochu Japanese vodka for vodka it most certainly is not! Three important papers from Tamaki, et al., published in 1986, inform us of changes in esters, higher alcohols, free fatty acids, and sulfur compounds of Awamori during its aging (48-50). Further work from this group also showed that the oxidative decomposition of ethyl linoleate by air during maturation led to a rancid odor (journal abstract located — journal article not found). For the esters and alcohols, significant differences between unaged and matured awamori noted included the components: ethyl acetate, ethyl oleate, and ethyl linoleate. For sulfurs in kame-aging (porous earthenware) decreases were seen in dimethyl sulfide (DMS), dimethyl trisulfide (DMTS), 3-(methylthio)-propanal, dihydro-2-methyl-3(2H)-thiophenone, ethyl-3-(methylthio) propanoate, and 3-(methylthio) propyl acetate. Interestingly, no changes were found for dimethyl disulfide (DMDS). For the fatty acids certain compounds increased during maturation in kame: acetic acid, isobutyric acid, isovaleric acid, valeric acid, capric acid, lauric acid, myristic acid, and total fatty acids. Others, however, showed no distinct changes: propionic acid, butyric acid, caproic acid, caprylic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid. In relation to all changes there can be differences between individual kame in porosity and the solubility of metallic ions present in the kame which differentially affect the aging changes. During maturation in non-porous containers (stainless-steel or glass-lined tanks), on the other hand, caprylic acid, capric acid, lauric acid, and myristic acid components tended to increase, however, no distinct changes 94
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were shown by acetic acid, propionic acid, isobutyric acid, butyric acid, isovaleric acid, valeric acid, caproic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, and total fatty acids. Such studies provide clues for looking at unaged vs. aged awamori brands. [Again, see Table 1 for flavor details related to all these chemical species. It is important to build up the flavor vocabulary to better appreciate any food or beverage.] Other studies of flavor changes during aging of awamori have been made with compounds showing up as different in aged vs. unaged: 2-methyl propanal, 3-methyl butanal, pentanal, and some minor note ketones such as 2-butanone, 4-methyl-2-pentanone, 2-heptanone, and 3-octanone, benzothiazole, and, again, DMTS (51). Arising from the moromi is the normal fragrant aroma of isoamyl acetate — this compound is not found when certain lactobacilli bacteria-contaminated moromi occurs. Other quite volatile compounds — isobutyl alcohol, 1-octen-3-ol, nerolidol, 2-methylbutyl acetate, methyl salicylate and S-methyl thioacetate — have also been cited in major Japanese research to be important classifying awamori and shochu compounds (52). Moreover, this latter compound set can be used to distinguish awamori shochu from other shochu types. More than 40 other compounds were discovered in that research and 18 compounds followed concentration-wise with three, five to six, and 10-12 years aged awamori, with the details published in Japanese in 2016. Distinguishing the changes in aroma between awamori stored after distillation and those associated with awamori kuusu during aging have also been the subject of published research observations (53).
Imo (Sweet Potato) Shochu
Sweet potato (imo) shochu was and still is often preferred for its flavor (29). Monoterpenoids have been found present in sweet potato shochu and intensively studied. The flavorful compounds geraniol and nerol are enzymatically released from their precursors via an enzyme derived from the rice koji. These compounds in turn are transformed to linalool and α-terpineol by heating under acidic conditions and to citronellol by yeast (29, 55), creating floral, citrus-like, and fruity aromas. Discrimination of sweet potato shochu from other types can also be determined by looking at α-terpineol and guaiacol, thus via components with aromatic qualities and conveying much flavor (56). Mention must, however, be made about a compound called β-damascenone — especially in conjunction with sweet potato shochu (30, 54) — present in imo-shochu and not in other types (26). Steamed sweet potatoes have little of this compound and, while some is produced during fermentation, it is later degraded by the yeast. Most β-damascenone present in the final product is produced during distillation. The formation of this compound can be controlled a little during production and is a high variable based on the sweet potato cultivar and confers upon the shochu its key aromatic scent and sweetness component; sweet, floral, and with a stewed apple-like nuance and hints of red fruits. Moreover, β-damascenone has an extremely low odor detection threshold and may also be likened to sweet jam along with hints of rose, berry, plum, and tobacco. Imo-shochu made with purple sweet potatoes exhibits a yogurt-like odor based on component anthocyanins (color pigments of plants) with the key flavor component being diacetyl (buttery, dairy, butter W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
popcorn). Shochu made from orange flesh sweet potatoes, colored in part due to carotene, can convey cooked carrot or pumpkin-like nuances here, the characteristic component being β-ionone. Shochus made using the favored cultivar Joywhite, which show fresh, vibrant fruity flavor profiles, are noted for the presence of linalool (a component found in gins and in hops used to flavor beer of course). A bit more here on floral and rose-like flavors (63). Two isomers of rose oxide were detected in sweet potato shochu, quantified, and their aroma thresholds determined. Rose oxide is interpreted in the brain as a sweet floral and rose-like odor. Its sequence of formation was elicited, whereby the terpenic compound geraniol was converted by S. cerevisiae yeast during fermentation into another flavorful terpenic compound, citronellol. The citronellol is now known to be further converted to the rose oxide by a reaction occurring at low pH, and with heat, during distillation. Furthermore, using white, black, and yellow koji to make shochu, an evaluation was made comparatively on the determination of the presence of a selection of terpenic compounds; linalool, α-terpineol, citronellol, nerol, and the cis- and trans- forms of the rose oxide (63). Such results show that playing with different koji molds can be used to influence and manipulate overall flavor profiles in both global and subtly interesting ways. Finally, as noted above, the cultivation period for sweet potatoes can affect flavor qualities with respect to compounds such as the monoterpene alcohols, β-damascenone, rose oxide and fatty acid esters, β-ionone and diacetyl, ethyl octanoate, ethyl cinnamate, 2-methyl-3-(methyldithio) furan (5, 26, 57). Unique to sweet potato shochu — 2-methyl-3-(methyldithio)-furan, 2, methyl-3-furanthiol plus four other components — are stated to provide the savory character to such shochu (57).
Mugi (Barley) Shochu
Not as many extensive references apply specifically to the flavor of barley shochu, unlike the other types. Two Japanese articles, however, give us some clues (59, 60). Early reporting noted that furfural was an important sensory attribute in barley shochu — noted as sweet and smoky, with both low detection and recognition threshold concentrations (59). The later work of Oishi, et al., then guides us into the complex world of flavors, with 4-vinyl guaiacol, furfural, diacetyl, β-phenethyl acetate, acetaldehyde, isoamyl acetate, ethyl caprate, ethyl acetate, isoamyl alcohol, and dimethyl trisulfide (DMTS) potentially serving as reference standards for the sensory analysis of barley-shochu (60) (see Table 1 for flavor descriptors). As an ingredient for beer brewing, clues can also be gleaned from papers related to that beverage and noting that barley genotypes are described sensorially in terms of cereal, floral, fruity, grassy, honey, malty, toasted, toffee, and sweet. However, we can state that grain-like notes will be present and that mugi-shochu is generally regarded as aromatic and flavorful with umami characteristics. According to Iwami (31) the enzymatic activities of barley koji and the amino acid content affect final mash components. The key fruity esters seem to be common to most shochu types — ethyl acetate, isoamyl acetate and ethyl caproate, and the amyl alcohols (see above) are at notable levels (42). In addition, several examples are aged in oak 95
casks and have some light whiskey attributes. Melon, white grape, soy, white pepper, and barley notes, plus umami and jasmine tea have been described in relation to some commercially available barley-based shochu. General description guidelines for barley shochu also include the terms barley, fragrant barley tea, burnt barley, roasted peanuts, roasted brown rice, caramel, smoky, vanilla, whiskey, woodsy, fruity, orange peel, apple, and flower. Let your tasting experiments begin! Barley shochu types are gaining in popularity, with some now made in America.
Soba (Buckwheat) Shochu
Buckwheat shochu has been examined for its flavor-contributing volatiles, with more than 20 components of note determined (58). Tartary buckwheat has seeds that are strongly aromatic compared to the common buckwheat, and its volatile compounds (including many aldehydes) have been investigated with a view to distinguishing and using different species of buckwheat (65). Gas chromatography and sensory analyses, via a method known as GC olfactometry, was performed in another study, one of only a very few published reports on buckwheat shochu. In this method, the operator “sees” the fingerprint profile of compounds passing through the instrument. At the same time, a trained sensory person sniffs at a port from which some of the eluting molecules are passed. They identify the aroma and correlate their descriptors with the peak profile and ultimately the identity of the molecular species — the flavor volatile — is known. Ethyl cinnamate with low odor threshold was found to be one of the most important aroma-actives. A comparison of many compounds found in buckwheat, rice, and barley shochu showed typical fruity esters to be quite common in all three, with ethyl caprylate (like adzuki bean in aroma — “green” and “grassy” when uncooked changing to “roasted” and “nutty” when cooked) and the light buttery nut-like quality from isovaleric acid plus notable methional (sulfurous, potato), β-phenethyl acetate (floral), phenethyl alcohol (floral), ethyl isobutyrate (fruity), and the aforementioned ethyl cinnamate (floral) of note in the buckwheat examples, along with other fruity, oily buttery, dairy, sulfury, and floral compounds (58, 67). A series of papers appeared in the journal Breeding Science in 2020 dealing with the classification, genetics, nutritional and health properties of buckwheat including a paper by Suzuki, et al. (38). This latter review discusses the flavor properties of buckwheat. Buckwheat flavors consist of many volatile compounds including carbonyl compounds and fatty acids that can, through oxidation, lead to flavor degradation and staling of buckwheat and food and beverages made from it (38). Indeed, as an aside, Arai et al., (38) mention that buckwheat is hardly used in koji making due to growth inhibition of the shochu koji mold. While this might not correlate with flavor issues, it does seem to indicate that buckwheat is not a highly preferred substrate for shochu production and that more research might be needed with examples of the product made with it. Suzuki, et al., cover a lot of ground in terms of taste, color, sweetness and umami and bitterness properties conveyed by buckwheat (38). A compound known as fagopyritol (2-O-alpha-D-galactopyranosyl-D-chiro-inositol) is associated with sweetness in buckwheat flour and, along with amino acids, will participate in the Maillard reaction 96
to generate some interesting flavor notes. Tartary buckwheat (also named “Bitter buckwheat”) has seeds with a strong bitter taste. That taste is associated with an important class of plant compounds called flavonoids and one of note, quercetin (38). Notes in the literature indicate that it is the common buckwheat, not the Tartary variety, used in shochu production, but other observations have indicated the opposite (see buckwheat shochu in Part 1). Clearly there could be major flavor differences depending on the variety used. For those perhaps wishing to make such shochu, an evaluation of available raw materials and their properties will need to be understood. The production, uses, and cultivars of common buckwheat in Japan have been detailed by Motonishi, Tsutsui, and Mikami (64). A listing of over a half-dozen buckwheat cultivars and their properties, including flavor assessments, will be found in that Motonishi, Tsutsui, and Mikami reference, along with their own extended listing of up-to-date references on the topic (64).
Kokuto (Brown Sugar or Sugarcane) Shochu
As noted before, kokuto-shochu has a flavor of unrefined sugar (6). Such products have rich sweetness and sometimes complexity to their sweet character. A comparison of volatiles between this type of shochu and rum was made and isobutyl alcohol, isoamyl acetate, ethyl iso-pentanoate, and pyrazines (formed via heating of amino acids and peptides) were found to be higher in kokuto-shochu than rum, thus providing distinguishing features. Furan is also present in the shochu and this is derived from the reaction of pentose sugar and amino acids via the Maillard reaction, likely during later heating stages of production. When compared to imo-shochu, levels of pyrazines were also found to be higher in the kokuto, along with acetic acid, acetaldehyde, and acetoin. Thus, these volatiles are responsible for the characteristic flavor profiles of kokuto-shochu (6). Attempts to enhance the flavor of kokuto-shochu using various approaches are also recounted by Iwasaki, et al., (6). With respect to a product produced from raw sugar as a substrate, the importance of the Maillard reaction cannot be underscored enough and the compounds generated here lend to the burnt sugar-like, caramel, and sweet notes of kokuto flavor. Again, it is noted that controlling the spectrum of the flavor volatiles is possible with alterations in processing of sugar and to mash conditions as outlined elsewhere (6). Finally, some other Japanese research should be noted based upon findings on volatiles and kokuto-shochu. In relation to kokuto-shochu not being like rum to an appreciable degree, as per regulations, another interesting study in rum classification and comparison to kokuto shochu showed a significant difference in 38 volatile compounds with β-phenethyl alcohol, isoamyl caprate, ethyl crotonate noted specifically in the text, along with another 35 volatile compounds noted within the published tables (61). The study is useful from the perspective of sugar (saccharine) ingredients used for such spirits as well as for sensory evaluation of brown sugar-based spirits. Finally, in a comparison of kokuto and other shochu varieties, 2,5-dimethylpyrazine and 2-Ethyl-5(6)-methylpyrazine (aka coffee pyrazine) stood out in relation to the kokuto shochu — both these representing Maillard-type compounds — richly aromatic and flavorW W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
ful with nutty, peanut, musty, earthy, powdery, slightly roasted descriptor notes, with a cocoa powder nuance and coffee beany, nutty, grassy, roasted coffee, hazelnut, cocoa, barley, roasted barley aroma/flavor qualities respectively. Ending here on a sweet coffee note, hope you are still awake and reading!
This two-part article has hopefully presented the basic details of the main raw materials used for Japanese shochu production and opened up a world of references and facts that will help the reader better comprehend the flavors of, and to evaluate examples of the wide world of types and styles of this lower alcohol content spirit beverage, a beverage which is produced in a completely different way from many traditionally recognized distilled spirits. Part 2 has revealed a wide range of flavors and sensory information related to, and produced from, the raw materials and production processes of shochu manufacture. We see that shochu beverages certainly cover the world of flavors, from fruits to flowers to vegetables and even into other realms such as meaty and dairy notes. A food and drink lover’s gastronomic paradise, helping one become a shochu gastrophile or perhaps, more appropriately, a shochu flavorphile? Once again, the parting message is to go forth and enjoy examples of this fascinating beverage. 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. Acknowledgments: My thanks are given to Toshio Ueno of the Sake School of America for reviewing and commenting on the manuscript. Readers interested in learning full details of saké and shochu should consider the courses and certification programs at the Sake School of America. Any errors, omissions, or misinterpretation of facts in this article remain my responsibility — however, it should hopefully provide a decent entry into the topic. It covers quite fully the currently available, relevant literature (in both English and Japanese — with some Full list of References are less than expert available in Shochu, Part One translations no doubt). Let the in the Spring 2021 issue of shochu conversaArtisan Spirit. tion continue. It is a fascinating beverage and may be a healthy spirit to consume, in moderation of course, based on its components and properties.
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ARE YOU READY? North Star Leasing has already partnered with many distilleries across the country to help them adapt and change to a new way of doing business. We’re standing by to help as things now open up. Get the equipment you need to succeed, while holding onto your cash. APPLY NOW
Business May Be Bustling, But Don’t Forget Your Website Policies 98
With so much traffic being driven to a company’s website and social media platforms these days, it may be an excellent time to review and update relevant policies and practices. Written by Candace Lynn Bell
or many makers of craft alcohol, the past
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> A conspicuous link to the TOU/EULA posted on the home page, often in a noticeably larger font and/or in a color that contrasts with the page’s background, to assist users to “find” the TOU/EULA. It is helpful if the link’s location is not cluttered with other links, information, or other content.
> Alternatively, include general language, such as: “By using this Site or any related products or services, you agree to be legally bound by the terms accessible through this link.”
> A third alternative is to use an “I AGREE” click box. Click boxes should not be pre-checked. Click boxes also should include language, such as: “In exchange for good and valuable consideration, by clicking the following I AGREE box, you agree to be legally bound by the terms of the agreement found here [insert hyperlink], and acknowledge that you have read and understand the terms of such agreement. I AGREE [ ].” nearby or in the box.
> Lastly, on some websites, instead of the above alternatives, users are forced to scroll through the TOU/EULA before clicking on the “I AGREE” box.
The goal is to try and have the TOU/EULA be noticed and agreed to by some action of those who use or access the site.
> Provide a link on the homepage of the website that reads PRIVA-
tops. CY POLICY. The link should stand out and be highly noticeable to any person who accesses or uses the website, no matter what type of device is used to access the website.
> The policy should be easily printable by the end-user as a separate 99
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document — not cluttered with banners and footers and other embedded elements.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance While makers of craft alcohol are generally aware of the various requirements under state and federal law related to alcohol with which their websites must comply, website owners have recently asked if their website is subject to compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (the ADA). You may never have given this issue consideration, but more and more online service providers are being sued over their failure to comply with the ADA. At a minimum, ADA compliance requires the online service to provide some functionality for users with disabilities. For example, does your website accommodate a person who is visually impaired? Is your website compatible with screen reader software, or have a caption for any audio content for people who have hearing impairments? Does your website have a telephone number for people to call for assistance such that hearing impaired individuals can utilize telephonic compatibility software to ask customer service questions? If your website has information for reservations to your tasting room, distillery, or brewpub, does the site mention the handicap accessibility features of those spaces? Failing to include these types of accommodations could see your company sued for the failure of its website to comply with the ADA. With more and more consumers connecting with craft alcohol makers through websites, complying with the various laws and regulations that affect websites needs to be just as much a business priority as complying with the various federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to the production distribution and sale of alcohol. Addressing the issues upfront can put a company in the best position possible to meet an inquiry or complaint. Candace Lynn Bell is an intellectual property attorney with Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC Buffalo, New York office. If you have any questions, please contact author Candace Lynn Bell at email@example.com.
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FROM the SOURCE WRITTEN BY CARRIE DOW
When you have access to the planet’s best natural resource, making booze is easy. For Spring 44 and Great Wagon Road distilleries, the hard part — and much of the fun — is retrieving it.
The mountain road to Mulligan's property. Mulligan's Civil War-era built cabin. BOTTOM: Little Nelly in the Blue Ridge Mountains. TOP:
’m sitting at the bar in Great Wagon Road Distillery’s new tasting room in Charlotte, North Carolina, waiting to sample owner Oliver “Ollie” Mulligan’s finest liquid. Since I’m participating in Dry January, I won’t be sampling whiskey or gin. I’m tasting the water that Mulligan drives more than two hours away to retrieve. It does not disappoint. “This water, when you drink it, it fills you up,” said Mulligan, joining me in a taste. “Such body and presence.” Mulligan didn’t intend to open a distillery. The transplanted Irishman had spent the last 20-plus years working around the U.S. as a communications engineer for companies like AT&T. He knew he wanted a change, but wasn’t sure what that would entail. Something else he wanted after marrying and settling in Charlotte permanently was what many of us aspire to — owning a bucolic mountain property with a quaint cabin. He found it in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. “We got the cabin many moons ago,” he began. “It was built pre–Civil War and the main water supply was a spring up on the hill. It’s pretty rustic. We dropped the well [below ground] so we could have constant pressure. One of the locals helping with the renovations was going on about how good the water was for making whiskey. As an avid whiskey drinker, it stuck.” The idea was almost derailed when the local showed Mulligan inside the original tank. “[It] was a big concrete trough with a rusty tin thing over the top of it with cobwebs everywhere,” said Mulligan, shaking his head. “He says, ‘This is your water’ and kicks the thing off the top. I look in it and there’s about six lizards in there. I said, ‘I’m not drinking that!’ He says, ‘Those aren’t lizards, they’re salamanders, and unless you see them in the water, you don’t drink it, because they’re only in the freshest water.’” When Mulligan
PHOTOS BY OLIVER MULLIGAN
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began distilling, he named his first spirit Salamander Vodka. “I was up there yesterday,” he added before finishing the last of his water. “There was a salamander in the filter air tank, so we know the water’s good.” Across the country in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Jeff Lindauer of Spring 44 Distillery in Loveland tells me about the slice of paradise he inherited from his father. “My dad was a huge outdoorsman,” began Lindauer. “Fishing, hiking, [and] he was a technical climber. He went looking for some property that was as remote as he could find to feed that passion. The property he found is 160 acres of private land that is surrounded by a couple hundred thousand acres of national forest.” That property, purchased in 1969, has a mountain spring that his dad had tested before securing the water rights. Lindauer says the person at the city office told his father that the mountain water was better than what flowed from city taps. Lindauer grew up hiking the rugged three-mile trail to the property with his father to camp. For both, drinking from the spring was as much a reward for the journey as it was rehydration. As an adult he took friends camping up there, and in 2007, one of his closest buddies told him the spring water tasted good enough to bottle. “The initial idea was to take this high-end premium bottled water to market,” he explained, “but I had a really hard time trying to figure out how to make money. What I would have to charge based on getting the water out and packaging it, it was too much. People in Europe, they will throw down seven or eight Euros, maybe 10, for a 750-milliliter bottle of still water. Not in the U.S.” With that idea evaporating, another one came up. “I met up with a cousin who sold his homebrew business,” he continued.
Spring 44 in the Rocky Mountains. Spring 44's Tinkerbell doing her thing in winter. BOTTOM: Jeff Lindauer driving Tinkerbell to the spring. TOP:
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SPRING 44 DISTILLING W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
“I mentioned the crazy bottled water idea to him and he said I should check out craft distilling. That was the domino that knocked down all the other dominos.” With a key ingredient already in their possession, both Lindauer and Mulligan had to figure out how to get the water out of their respective mountain ranges. Mulligan has a 2012 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins diesel 4WD truck he calls Little Nelly. He makes two trips filling a 275-gallon tank roughly every two to three weeks. “She’s as sure-footed as an old mountain goat and would pull you into the middle of next week,” he gushed about his girl. Lindauer says his drive is an hour and half if the weather is good, or as good as weather can be in a mountain range called Never Summer. He uses a 2000 Ford F-250 he affectionately calls Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell can haul 450 gallons of water at a time and Lindauer organizes the trips into what he calls a campaign, making multiple trips in a compressed amount of time. His facility currently holds 4,000 gallons of mountain water and, depending on production needs, he does a campaign about once a month. He makes the trips himself unless the weather is bad. “In [bad] weather you want to have another person with you in the event you need to winch a tree out of the road,” he laughed. To make things even easier, he outfitted Tinkerbell with snow tracks. “It used to be a lot more difficult trying to haul water out of there,” he chuckled. “Now it doesn’t matter. I’ve hauled water through fifty inches of snow, because that vehicle can go anywhere.” During good weather, Lindauer uses a second truck called Mavis. She’s a Dodge Ram 3500 flatbed that can haul upward of 1,000 gallons of water. Both distillers only use their precious water for proofing. There’s no sense in boiling off all those flavorful minerals. They are also willing to share their water’s test results to prove it’s worth. Lindauer posts his results on the distillery website. Mulligan pulls his latest copy from a folder at the bar. “In normal commercial vodka,” Mulligan explained, “they usually add sugar to it. They don’t have to disclose it if they add below a certain amount. We made our vodka with just corn ethanol and spring water and it tasted great. And the reason is,” he said, reading from his water analysis sheet in a formal tone, “‘your water is classified as slightly hard due to the levels of calcium and magnesium.’ So the mouthfeel that people are going for by adding sugar and glycerin, we get from the minerals.” Can anyone taste this amazing water? “Absolutely!” exclaimed Lindauer. “We have it on a tap that goes into a keg and keeps it ice cold.” Mulligan keeps a few bottles in a refrigerator in the back. You just need to ask. It was the best thing I drank all Dry January.
Great Wagon Road Distillery is located in Charlotte, North Carolina. For more information visit www.gwrdistilling.com or call (704) 469-9330. Spring 44 Distilling is located in Loveland, Colorado. For more information visit www.spring44.com or call (970) 414-0744.
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JOINT RESEARCH hemp in the distillery WRITTEN BY PAUL HUGHES, PH.D.
n recent years, as more U.S. states legalize Cannabis sativa, its products have received increasing attention not only for medical and recreational uses but also in broader contexts for grains for foods, extracted secondary metabolites for flavors and essences, and fiber for textiles and construction products.
Whilst attitudes about the reputation of cannabis will undoubtedly remain entrenched for years to come, the increasing recognition of hemp (plants that contain ≤0.3% Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or Δ9-THC) components as having many potential uses, and the relaxation of the laws governing the use of cannabis, have stimulated explosive commercial interest and research activity in cannabis. Including possible applications within the distilling industry. In the early 20th century, the first major federal limitations were put in place by the introduction of excessive vendor and grower taxes under the auspices of the Marijuana Tax Act (MTA) of 1937, a year before Popular Mechanics magazine identified hemp as a billion-dollar super-crop. In 1969, President Johnson was of the view that the MTA raised insignificant tax revenue and, in 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 repealed the MTA and led to the classification of marijuana as a schedule I narcotic, alongside other infamous substances such as heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy. Starting with Oregon in 1973, individual states began to relax cannabis laws. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medical applications, sparking a trend that spread to a majority of states by 2016. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use, followed closely by other states such as Oregon. To date, cannabis is still prohibited at the federal level. Nevertheless, whilst the mention of cannabis/marijuana/hemp undoubtedly draws attention to cannabinoids and terpenes, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the hemp plant is much more than these potentially biologically active components and that there is the possibility that hemp could find its way into distilleries. Here, we will exW W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
plore the application of hemp-related products in their broadest sense in distilleries. The introduction of cannabinoids into distilled spirits has piqued the attention of the alcoholic beverage industry. Whilst there are more than 100 reported cannabinoids, the most common are Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”, 1), cannabidiol (“CBD”, 2) and their carboxylated precursors (3 and 4 respectively). However, other species are being investigated thoroughly, such as cannabinol (5). As relatively large organic molecular entities, it is not surprising that their solubility in water is modest (ca 2.8 mg/l for Δ9-THC). This is a significant limitation for relatively water-rich, lower-alcohol beverages such as beer and hard seltzer, especially in the context of what might be considered as a single dose of five mg for a mild “high” from THC. But for spirits, the situation is rather different. There are some indications that up to one gram of THC will dissolve in one ml ethanol which, based on the five mg/dose, is equivalent to 200 single doses. Therefore solubility of cannabinoids is unlikely to be a practical issue for either the solubility or physical shelf-life of hemp-infused spirits at conventional ABVs. There are some subtleties that need to be considered. Firstly, while on paper compounds (1-5) look similar, they have significant differences in their three-dimensional shape and electronic distribution, which are important for neuro-receptor binding and therefore biological activity. Currently, there is active ongoing research to understand how the various cannabinoids work in synergy to create specific biological effects. In the context of distilled spirits, there is a good case for understanding the additional interaction of cannabinoids with ethanol. The existence of (3) and (4) is interesting in that, in common with 105
other compounds with a keto- or OH an enol-group adjacent to a carH boxylic acid moiety, they can readily decarboxylate in the presence H of bases and under the influence of heat. These carboxylated comO pounds have much less biological activity than (1) and (2), so their release increases the potency of the biological effects. There is also a chemical inconvenience, in that OH gas chromatographic analysis will H result in at least partial decarboxylation (due, for instance, to the use H of heated injectors) of THCA and CBDA, giving falsely high analytiO cal results. This can be particularly germane when trying to test to ensure that the Δ9-THC content of hemp plants is less than 0.3 percent (w/w). In this regard, HPLC OH is often the preferred analytical approach, as analytical temperatures in this context are usually at or H H around ambient. In a crude analogy with hops, HO hemp can be resolved not only into resins but also essential oils. If we consider cannabinoids to be the major component of the resin fraction, then what of the major esOH sential oil components of terpenes and terpenoids? Terpenes are hydrocarbons that are naturally ocH H curring in many plants and are an essential feature of many botanical aromas and flavors. (Terpenoids HO are hydrocarbons that also contain oxygen functional groups such as cyclic ethers, hydroxyls, and carbonyls.) There is a lot of discussion OH about the terpenes and terpenoids developed in hemp plants, not least because putative health benefits are increasingly associated with specific compounds. It should, O though, be borne in mind that many if not all of the terpenes and terpenoids found in hemp samples are not unique to hemp but are found in the essential oils of many plants, including botanicals used for gin production. As gins can vary substantially in their flavor, so the terpene and 106
terpenoid levels in different genetic selections of hemp can also vary. Currently there is much interest in the systemic effects not only of pure compounds but their interactive effects. Given the convenient matrix of, say 40 percent ABV spirits, there is a broad palette of terpenes, terpenoids, and cannabinoids that could be used to formulate final products, with other botanicals proΔ9-THCA(3) viding still greater opportunities for product diversification. CO2H The biological activities of the various hemp components, either in isolation or as part of a mixture of terpenes, terpenoids and cannabinoids, does not complete the story with regard to the potential value of hemp to the distillery. Perhaps one of the most exciting developments is the CBD (2) growing use of “hempcrete” in construction. Championed particularly in France since the 1990s, and more recently in Canada, hempcrete is a construction material made up of the inner core of hemp stalks (known as hurds or shives), sand, and a binding agent such as lime. As such it is also known as a biocomposite material. Although hempcrete lacks the CBDA (4) strength to be used on its own for construction, it does have some CO2H outstanding features that make it a material of interest for distillers. Hempcrete is highly fire-resistant, is thermally insulating, and is not brittle like concrete. It also permits the passage of humidity, although being bio-based there is a need to protect hempcrete from rising dampness, CBN (5) so it cannot be used directly on the ground without a damp course. Nonetheless, its fire-retarding properties, and the fact that it is bio-based and is considered carbon-negative, make hempcrete a viable consideration for new builds and retro-fitting of structures such as physical firewalls in areas of high fire risk such as rooms used for storage of high-proof spirits. Currently there is a lack of certification standards to use hempcrete for construction in the U.S., which necessarily limits its incorporation into building codes and the
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securing of building permits using this material. As with many aspects of the legal position of hemp, the situation remains fluid and is likely to shift in the foreseeable future. The other major component from hemp that can be considered “structural” are hemp fibers. Whilst hempcrete can be considered to be a rather modern innovation, there is evidence to suggest that hemp fibers have been woven since at least 10,000 years ago. For fabric, it was considered to be a “poor man’s” choice, due to its roughness, but its durability is at least 50 percent greater than cotton. Significant technological advances with hemp fiber processing have been made to soften hemp fibers since the 1980s. Ironically, hemp fiber is being increasingly considered as a replacement for petrochemical-based fibers, a 180-degree change from around 100 years ago as petroleum-based synthetic fibers reduced demand for hemp fibers in the early 20th century. The applications of hemp fiber for distilleries are perhaps more subtle. Paper, cardboard, and packaging materials produced from hemp fibers are a viable and potentially more sustainable base material than those made from wood, so opportunities exist not only for distilleries but for other industrial and domestic applications. As hemp fiber produces paper and cardboard that are tougher than tree-derived pulp, the recycling options for hemp-derived materials are enhanced simply because of the relative robustness of hemp fibers. Perhaps one of the most noteworthy claims for hemp is as a replacement for petrochemical-based “plastic” parts. This is already happening, with car manufacturers such as Volvo, Porsche, and BMW incorporating hemp-based bioplastic composites in their manufacturing operations. The sustainability credentials are enhanced by the superior strength and lightness of the hemp-based materials. Clearly, such bioplastics can have a substantial future in the distillery, not the least for use in logistics fleets. The potential for hemp-based products in a distillery extends far beyond the components that might first spring to mind: i.e., terpenes, terpenoids, and cannabinoids. Construction and packaging materials are all ripe for the incorporation of hemp-based derivatives, not only for sustainability claims but also for additional desirable properties and generally enhanced performances. Legislation in place since the 1930s has substantially limited research into and application of hemp-based derivatives, but there seems to be a growing momentum to re-explore these opportunities. With that in mind, Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center in Corvallis is actively pursuing research and partnerships around the world to fully exploit the many hemp-based opportunities this new-old crop provides.
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www.americanwinepump.com www.americanbeerpumps.com 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. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
Made in Kenosha, WI
John McGinn (262)-909-7267
Shelter Point Distillery I
n many ways, Jacob Wiebe is living the dream. He followed his high school sweetheart back to her family farm in Oyster River, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. Not knowing what he was going to do besides stay in love with a girl, he ended up working on her father’s farm — which eventually became a world-class distillery that he now manages. Oh, and he married the girl as well. The dude has made good. The interesting thing is that when it comes to Shelter Point Distillery, Wiebe’s story, or at least the serendipitous contextuality to it, is not that unique. The circumstances and foun-
dations seemed to be filled to the brim with similar tales of good folks making great things happen. If this wasn’t the booze industry, the whole affair wouldn’t be too out of place as the setting for a made-for-TV Hallmark movie. Shelter Point was started by one Patrick Evans. In 2005, he and his family purchased a farm in Oyster River. The original idea was to expand the family’s dairy operation. Of course, the life of a dairy farmer can be a bit brutal on mind, body, soul, and circadian rhythms. It wasn’t long before Evans realized that dairy just wasn’t the life for him. Over the next few years, he began brainstorming with
Written by Matt Strickland Photos provided by Shelter Point Distillery
friends and family to come up with a good value-added usage for the land at hand. He was looking for the best return on investment per acre. Given Canada’s extensive history of barley production, it wasn’t long before he began to consider the humble Hordeum vulgare as a possibility. Once barley entered the picture, the logical evolution of this idea was to build a distillery to use all the planted grain. Make whisky and the people will come with dollar in hand. However, if you’ve ever built a distillery before (and if you’re reading this magazine, there’s a higher than normal probability that
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you have indeed done such a thing) then you know the sheer enormity of the work involved with such an endeavor. And Patrick wanted to keep the 380-acre farm going at the same time. This was not a small project for the weak-willed. Fortunately, Evans and his family are no mere mortals. Wiebe recounts one of the many “isms” that his father-in-law has become known for around the farm and distillery. “You only need half a day to be successful. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first twelve hours or the second twelve hours.” (Another that I really enjoy: “You don’t need more people to do the work. You just need a stronger back to carry the load.”) It’s that mindset, that ethos, that is eagerly shared among the skeleton crew staff at the farm and distillery that seems to have fomented, molded, and wrought the distillery into existence. Having never distilled before, Evans decided that he needed to wrap his head around the whisky industry. So he traveled. He went to Scotland. He went to Ireland. He headed down to Kentucky. Evans wanted to under-
stand on a very fundamental, back-to-basics kind of level how whisky was made. From all these travels he was also able to envision how his distillery would fit into the whisky world at large, through product and core values. Solidifying his vision involved creating a conceptual chimera where he took some of the more traditional whisky production values he witnessed in Scotland and married them with the highly evolved Southern hospitality and charming tourism culture of the Kentucky bourbon distillers. Shelter Point filled their first barrel of single malt whisky on July 4, 2011. The distillery has been comfortably cranking along ever since. The distillery and the farm are symbiotic. Every year, Evans and his team plant 200 acres of barley. They have a total of 250 acres that are available for planting, but the farm practices a bit of crop rotation to ensure that the soil doesn’t get exhausted. The remaining acreage will often have either rye or wheat planted on it, which may then be fed into specialty whiskies that the distillery occasionally produces.
Wiebe says that the farming aspect is one that he very much still enjoys. He and Evans handle the vast majority of the grain farming despite their myriad other duties surrounding the distillery. However, Wiebe notes that sometimes sitting in a tractor for 12 hours is a welcome respite from the constant onslaught of emails and phone calls that he has to field for the distillery production and sales operations. He also points out that there is something wonderful, almost magical, about being able to say that he planted the grain for the whisky he’s drinking. He had his hands in the soil and raised the barley that was eventually mashed, fermented, and distilled into one of Shelter Point’s many drams. The one aspect of grain processing and production that Shelter Point does not currently handle is the malting. Every year they harvest approximately 300 metric tons of estate-grown barley and then send it off to Gambrinus Malting in Armstrong, British Columbia, to be turned into malt. However, there may be plans for building a malting facility onsite in the not-too-distant future.
He points out that there is something wonderful, almost magical, about being able to say that he planted the grain for the whisky he’s drinking. He had his hands in the soil and raised the barley that was eventually mashed, fermented, and distilled into one of Shelter Point’s many drams. 110
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The distillery has grown to the point that they use about twice as much grain as the farm can actually grow. The West Coast of Canada has variable growing conditions for barley. One year the farm may get two metric tons per acre of harvestable grain, and the next year may only yield one ton per acre. Evans and his crew have to be ready to pivot, using more or less non-estate grain depending on how cooperative Mother Nature is choosing to be that year. Inside of the distillery, the malted grain is milled and fed into their 7,500 L (2,000 gallons) mash tun. Mashing yields 5,000 L (1,300 gallons) of wort that is cooled and transferred to one of six 7,500 L fermenters. The yeast is pitched, and fermentation begins. This is all par for the course. Where Shelter Point differs is that their fermentation times will vary from three to seven days, depending on the time of year. The reasoning for this time differential is more born from pragmatics than anything else. During the summer months, the farm is a busy place. Shelter Point doesn’t keep a large workforce and so the distillery slows to a single shift per day so W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M
that the employees can spend more time helping on the farm. Because they have less time to spend on distillery operations during these months, the distillers will turn up the fermenter cooling to slow the fermentation down to reach a more manageable seven-day ferment, which results in a wash with a lot more esters. During cooler months post-harvest, the distillery switches back to a two-shift operation and so they push the ferments to a three-day cycle. This produces a wash with much fewer esters and heavier grain character. The end result of this program is that the distillery is able to produce a few different types of whisky just by varying their fermentation times. Once the fermentation is done, the distiller’s beer is fed into a 5,000 L (1,300-gallon) stripping still. The resulting low wines are then redistilled in a 4,000 L (1,060-gallon) spirit still. Both are traditional pot stills that wouldn’t be out of place in any Scotch whisky distillery. This is fitting because these paired stills were actually produced
by the Scottish firm, Forsyths. Whisky is the bread and butter of Shelter Point’s portfolio, but they do like to dabble in gin and vodka as well. Certainly, they could have gone the route of many distilleries and purchased neutral grain spirit from a reputable supplier and their lives would be immeasurably easier. Instead, they opted, like a growing number of small distilleries, to produce their own NGS from grain. To do this, they purchased a 1,000 L (264 gallon) 20-plate column system from Specific Mechanical (which is conveniently located on the mainland, just across the water from the distillery). This still allows them to produce small lots of gin, vodka, and the base for their Sunshine Liqueur, a concoction of maple, orange, and spices. The distillery doesn’t produce an immense amount of these products. Wiebe tells me that they make around 7,500 bottles of gin a year, and perhaps 5,000 bottles each of the vodka and liqueur. However, these products smartly showcase the skills 111
of the distillery and provide an added avenue for consumers to taste the terroir of Vancouver Island in different contexts. The grain spirit coming off the still is diluted to 63.5 percent ABV and then placed into cask for the long sleep. Canada, like many countries around the world, requires a maturation period in wood for a minimum of three years before you can even attach the word “whisky” to a liquid. Shelter Point’s cask program is primarily composed of ex-bourbon casks, approximately 60 percent. The remainder of the program is made of virgin oak, and French oak in the form of used wine casks from local wineries (British Columbia has several acclaimed wineries). Wiebe said the program also includes small lots of more experimental casks. They are currently keeping around 3,000 full casks in storage, and are laying down 800-900 barrels per year. The warehouses onsite are old repurposed dairy barns. The casks are kept in a palletized system to best make use of the available space. And while the law requires a three-year maturation period, the typical release age for Shelter Point’s whisky is around five years. Wiebe said that this year will see the release of their first 10-year-old whisky, an important milestone for any distillery.
Shelter Point is located in one of the most beautiful parts of Canada. The farm, the ocean, and the surrounding land command a high level of respect. So, it’s only natural that Evans and his team feel a certain amount of responsibility to care for the land and the environment. The distillery approaches this from several angles. First, they spread their spent grain back onto the field as a form of natural fertilizer. The residual nitrogen-containing compounds left in the grain after mashing help to prepare the soil for next year’s crop. Birds also like the spent grain, and flocks come from all over to visit the field. They in turn will add more nitrogen to the soil as they leave their droppings on the ground. All the water from the distillery comes from a local well that is fed by the nearby glacier. This gives the distillery an abundant source of cool, naturally filtered water from which to make their wares. Also of note is the fact that all the employees live onsite. This is a bit of a throwback to the Scotch whisky heyday, where all the plant personnel lived in a small community
surrounding the distillery. Admittedly for Shelter Point, this kind of living situation has more to do with being able to run the farm than anything else. However, the side benefit is that their carbon footprint is somewhat reduced since transportation to and from work is virtually eliminated. Finally, the distillery gave control of some of their land along the Oyster River to Ducks Unlimited as an “eco-gift.” Ducks Unlimited is an organization that focuses on habitat conservation for waterfowl such as ducks and other wildlife. This area is now part of Bear Creek Nature Park and includes a number of forested areas for local deer, bears, and beavers as well as wetlands for birds such as wood and bufflehead ducks. There’s also a fish hatchery for local salmon populations. Shelter Point Distillery lies at this incredible confluence of nature and the hardworking land stewards of Evans and his team. It is as much a part of the land as the land is a part of it. This year marks 10 years of production for the distillery, and they certainly have a lot to celebrate.
Shelter Point Distillery is located in Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada. For more information visit www.shelterpoint.ca or call (778) 420-2200.
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g n i m Rum Ashore Kasama Rum Presents a New Spin on an Old Category
WRITTEN BY RICH MANNING P H O TO S P R O V I D E D B Y KASAMA RUM
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ou won’t see any pirates or sailors on Kasama Rum’s label. Pin-up-style wenches and exotic birds aren’t there, either. Instead, palm fronds and unobtrusive pops of color stand in their place, surrounding an eponymous wordmark that informs the consumer of its small-batch status and age statement. It’s minimalistic compared to the bigger, more familiar brands that tend to drive rum’s narrative with heaps of high-seas bombast. It’s also addition by subtraction — the bottle pops off the shelf because of its lack of nautical fluff, which was the goal behind its labeling in the first place. “We wanted Kasama to be different and stand out, which is why we decided to use a bottle that was ungendered and colorful,” explained Kasama founder Alexandria Dorda. “I love rum, but I don’t always want to drink with a cartoon pirate.” Stepping away from the seafaring tropes is of the utmost importance for Dorda, a second-generation industry professional whose father co-founded the vodka brands Belvedere and Chopin in his native Poland. Doing so naturally focuses the rum’s story elsewhere, and Kasama’s redirection leads to a tale that largely remains unknown to the typical American consumer.
A Sense of Place and Story
A New Kind of Rum
Kasama’s origins aren’t from a Caribbean port of calle. At 80 proof, Kasama drinks like the antithesis of an overproof Jamaican rum. Instead, the juice hails from the Philippines, a country It’s a lighter, more nimble spirit whose pineapple and vanilla characteristics aren’t splashed with enough clear blue water, white sand beachcompletely draped by a multitude of hefty spice notes. There is spice here, but es, and lush seaside greenery among its roughly 7,100 they’re from a different influence. Kasama ages the rum seven years in American islands to rival the best of rum’s commonly associative oak bourbon barrels, and this container imparts nuanced peppery characteristics tropics. This isn’t necessarily a surprise outside the States that give the rum an unexpected depth. — the Philippines is one of the biggest rum producers in A rum with just 40 percent ABV may seem like sacrilege to old-school rum the world. Yet its rum-making prowess barely registers drinkers who tend to stack their tiki bar with various forms of navy-strength among casual U.S. rum drinkers, making the Filipino grog. This makes it somewhat of a bold move. labels that have entered the American market in recent But it also gives it potential to be a solid years feel like an anomaly instead of an expected category. sipping option for those who may According to Dorda, this lack of knowledge Is partially due to otherwise be intimidated the narratives that commonly shape the category. “One thing by rum’s hale and I’ve always wondered about rum is, why don’t most brands hearty reputation. ever tell stories about the place they’re from?” she said. “Sharing those kinds of stories seems like a very obvious thing to do, but over the years, it just hasn’t happened all that much.” Properly focusing Kasama’s story to provide enlightenment meant slightly distilling the brand’s overall narrative. The rum is bottled in Poland after it’s produced, however, mentions of that tidbit are kept to a minimum even though it gives the brand an added punch of international flair. Pushing that element to the background sends the brand’s origin story to the forefront, which Dorda feels is crucial. As a person of Filipino descent — her mom comes from the Philippines — her mission behind Kasama isn’t just about educating Americans about the Asian archipelago’s sturdy ties to rum-making. “Filipinos are proud of their heritage, but they feel invisible at times,” Dorda said. “It’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited about Kasama. I want to use it to tell the story of Filipino culture and share this sense of communal pride with the rest of the world.” Dorda’s overarching aim with Kasama provides an excellent lesson for new distillers when they reach the packaging stage of their spirits. All bottle designs tell a story, but good bottle designs allow distillers to tell their story on their terms. These terms can be anything the distiller chooses — history, location, a particular ingredient, a distilling method, and more. If done properly, the story can be steered into a deeper, more personal place, extending the ability to share the producer’s creative passion with the consumer in a way that goes beyond the juice. In Kasama’s case, the allusions to the Philippines’ tropical paradise on their label don’t beckon the consumer to party with rum’s usual cast of caricatures. Rather, they invite the curious imbiber to discover a unique sense of place and tradition in a part of the world that may catch them by surprise.
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Dorda settled on Kasama’s proof to meet that goal, which she believes can be attained due to past precedent with other spirits. “Nobody was sipping tequila ten or fifteen years ago,” she said. “It was just a shot spirit, but it isn’t that anymore. I want to help do something like that with rum, and I really think a rum like Kasama can breathe fresh air into the category.” Brazen? Perhaps, but on brand. Dorda does see herself as a bit of a category disruptor. Yet hers is not an empty confidence. The distilling industry has been an integral part of her family’s life since she was a toddler, so she’s not a rookie dipping her toe in the game. She’s also a millennial who’s willing to embrace her taste-making generation’s tendency to use spirits as a conduit for togetherness. Her rum acknowledges this approach in some of its other branding and marketing elements: Kasama is the Filipino word for “friendship,” and its semi-official tagline is “The Sunshine Spirit.” These aren’t the affects that evoke the traditional celebrations of tipsy sailors or a slumped-over Ernest Hemingway, and Dorda feels this makes it more appealing to a broader swath of the crowd that’s coveted by anyone with warehouse space and a legally operating still. “There’s nothing wrong with being into the pirate thing, but pirates generally aren’t fun for the millennial generation,” she said. “There are obviously some that are into that scene, but for the most part, their fun comes from experiences, like traveling or spending good time with good friends. We want to be a brand for everyone, but we also want to be a brand for them.” Dorda’s instincts appear to be validated thus far. Kasama has been generating a steady stream of praise since its February launch, specifically for its light, sip-worthy quality. This acclaim carries the potential to turn the rum into a popular product as the pandemic wanes and opportunities for getting together present themselves in a much safer way. And who knows? Over time, it may even pique the interest of traditional rum-drinking salty dogs who need the occasional break from the high seas and scallywags.
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Visit www.kasamarum.com for more information about Kasama Rum.
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challenges and opportunities for
Utilizing Spent Distillers Grains and Stillage
Preliminary results from a focused initiative Kurt A. Rosentrater
Stillage and Distillers Grains A Growing Issue
Executive Director, Distillers Grains Technology Council Associate Professor, Iowa State University Faculty Fellow, James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits Phone: (515) 294-4019; email@example.com
Brad J. Berron The beverage alcohol industry is currently experiencing unprecedented Research Director, James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits growth throughout the United States. In conjunction with this expansion, Associate Professor, Chemical and Materials Engineering , University of Kentucky the quantity of spent grains (in many forms, including stillage, wet grains, and dry grains) produced over time has grown in parallel. After all, fermenAmanda LeFevre tation uses the starch, not the protein, fat, fiber, or mineral components. Deputy Commissioner, Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection For large distilleries, drying the stillage into distillers’ dried grains (DDG) Kari Johnson and selling it as livestock feed can be a viable option. For smaller distillEnvironmental Consultant, Kentucky Departeries, selling the wet grains to livestock farms has been found to be effecment for Environmental Protection tive as well. For some urban distilleries, however, these options may not Don Colliver be cost-effective, so disposal to the city sewer system has been common Professor, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering , University of Kentucky practice. Unfortunately, increasing environmental impacts and increasing Associate Director, Kentucky Industrial Assessment Center water-treatment costs are making these disposal options less attractive. Faculty Fellow, James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits This industry has continually evolved over many generations, and technological innovations and process changes continue to be implemented to improve process efficiencies, but these can also affect the resulting co-product streams. As a consequence, new questions, challenges, and opportunities for utilizing stillage and spent grains have arisen. As the quantity of these materials continues to grow, it is vital that these issues are addressed, so that value-added uses for these co-products continue to be developed, commercialized, and augmented — especially as the number of distilleries continues to grow throughout the U.S. Understanding the constellation of issues surrounding stillage and spent grain use is an essential step that must be undertaken as this industry continues to grow. In order to determine the needs of the companies that produce distillers grains, as well as the customers that may utilize them, three primary questions should be asked: 1. What are the major issues that currently impact or have the potential to affect the value and use of stillage and spent distillers grains over the next several years? 2. What research should be conducted to address these issues? 3. What are the priorities for this research?
Figure 1 Typical whole stillage dropped from a fermentor, ready for some type of value-added use. Every distillery will have unique whole stillage solids/moisture, physical properties, and chemical properties due to a variety of mash bills and production practices used. 116
To answer these questions, the Distillers Grains Technology Council (DGTC) and Iowa State University have teamed up with the James B. Beam Institute and University of Kentucky, as well as the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, to conduct surveys, hold discussion sessions, and facilitate focus groups. Input has been solicited from beverage alcohol producers, technology and equipment providers, commodity and trade groups,
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animal nutritionists, feed industry representatives, livestock producers, researchers, and university and government personnel. Our multi-pronged approach has included the following activities so far: 1. An online Distillers’ Grains Forum was held in December, 2020 by the Kentucky Department for Energy and Environmental Protection, which entailed a series of presentations and discussions to foster conversations and collaborations on stillage challenges. 2. The James B. Beam Institute’s annual industry conference in March 2021 was an online series of talks focused on spent grain challenges, technologies, and approaches for reuse. 3. Three focus groups were held online in March 2021, where guided discussions solicited specific feedback on the three questions posed above. The three focus groups included: a. Dewatering and value-added uses b. Dewatering technologies at high volumes c. Dewatering technologies at craft scale 4. The DGTC Symposium will be held on October 25 & 26, 2021, in Louisville, Kentucky, where a series of speakers will cover all aspects of distillers grains production, quality, and use. This article reviews results from the first focus group (dewatering and value-added uses), which was held in March 2021.
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major themes and issues affecting
Spent Distillers Grains and Stillage Utilization General
› Demand for alcohol continues to increase, so does demand for
› Many small distilleries lack the financial capital to
grain, water, energy, etc.
finance large-scale stillage processing operations.
› Design of equipment and facilities. › Perhaps micro or ultra filtration technologies could help dewatering. › Environmental impacts — phosphorus, microbes, water content. › Potential solutions will depend on volumes of stillage › Energy consumption in plants (for drying spent grain into produced. DDGS).
› How can our industry continue to grow responsibly and sustainably?
› Wet vs. dry spent grains. › What about mobile dewatering technologies vs.
permanently installed equipment? › Mycotoxin content potential. › Food-grade beverage co-products may not be the same as biofuel Education co-products. › Land application of stillage is not a sustainable solution for the › Educating livestock producers on the use of spent grains. › How can we capture value from the non-fermentable beverage industry. grain components? › Natural gas supply and other utilities will also be critical › Tech-transfer to producers and the public. considerations. › Product consistency/variability — color, particle size, nutrient › There is a great need for education in terms of stillage quantity and quality.
› Rapid, non-destructive tests — (NIR). › Shovel-ready & bolt-on-ready projects are needed now. › Standard analytical laboratory methods. › Sustainability issues continue to gain importance among
uses and alternatives
Livestock End-Use Challenges
› We need to consider multiple grains coming into distilleries, not
› Availability and pricing of alternative feeds. › Correct nutrient values for specific species. › Effect on feed efficiency. › Effect on growth rate. › Fiber is not good for monogastric diets. › Grain protein is the Holy Grail for spent grains/
› What about other higher-value uses (e.g., human foods)? › What about yeast in the stillage? › What opportunities exist for spent grains? › What scale/size is required for economic viability
› Maximum inclusion rates. › Monogastric livestock & poultry are key for proteins. › Nutrient digestibility. › Probably cannot rely on beef & dairy cattle alone.
› Seasonality in spent grain nutrient content. › Species-specific livestock markets — beef, dairy,
› This means water consumption, wastewater, energy consumption, CO2 emission and capture.
› Can stillage be processed into human food products? › Other options for spent grains use beyond livestock - crop fertilizer, foods, industrial.
› Value-added products that can be made from spent grains. › What about harvesting and utilizing the color compounds &
co-products to be used as animal feeds.
Will need to target monogastric animals too.
› Spent grain form — grain, pellet, cake, tub. › Target animals — need more research for poultry, swine, fish, pet foods.
micronutrients (e.g., phytosterols).
› May need to consider long-term contracts for stillage supply in order for economic viability.
› There is no one-size-fits-all solution for all distilleries. › Will need a concentration of beverage distilleries in order to make this economically viable.
› Would a centralized collection & drying system be feasible in areas with a high concentration of distilleries?
› What other technologies could be implemented at centralized depots (beyond dewatering)?
› Distribution problems — distance from markets. › For centralized processing facilities, 40-50 mile delivery radius would likely be the maximum distance for transport.
› Geography matters…don’t want to overlap with
competitors. Perhaps could collaborate via central depot for processing.
› Shipping costs need to be considered. Transport of water is expensive.
› Storage and handling of wet products.
Overview of First Focus Group
Figure 2 Nutrient content and digestibility affect opportunities for utilization. Stillage and spent grains represent concentrated protein and fat (the larger agglomerations in the image), fiber (the long narrow piece in the picture), and minerals of the grain used for fermentation.
Research needed to address these issues
› Converting high-value components into human food products or ingredients. › Removing oil and selling to biodiesel or livestock feeds. › Digestibility data for various livestock is critical to understand. › FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) needs to be considered for the production of livestock feed ingredients.
› New revenue streams from stillage. › Producing higher protein levels for livestock feeds. › Use as culture media for microorganisms might be a very interesting path to
At the first focus group, there were representatives from multiple organizations, including: Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, University of Kentucky, James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits, Iowa State University, Distillers Grains Technology Council, Kentucky Distillers Association, Land O’Lakes/Purina, Northern Crops Institute/North Dakota State University, The Andersons, Inc., and others. The guided discussion followed and explored the three key questions mentioned earlier in this article. A summary of the participant feedback follows.
Major Issues Through our discussions, many issues that need to be addressed have arisen (Table 1 provides a summary of many of the comments from the focus group). It has become apparent that, although opinions vary throughout the participants and industries, several common issues and themes have emerged. More work is needed to determine the optimal utilization of stillage and spent grains in livestock diets. Many livestock producers are still concerned about growth performance effects, as well as ultimate impact on final carcass, milk, and egg quality. Dairy and beef are predicted to continue to be strong outlets for distillers grains, while swine and poultry are segments which have very strong growth potential for the foreseeable future — especially for the protein components. Energy and water use will impact the sustainability of the beverages, as will the byproduct disposal or reuse strategies. Material handling and storage is also a concern, as this can severely constrain the ability to ship distillers grains — especially spent grains with high water content. Nutrient variability, from a specific plant over time, as well as between plants, is also a concern to many livestock producers, as they demand a consistent product for use in their feed rations.
› How can we implement separation systems in distilleries (e.g., water vs.
Through our interactions during this past year, several avenues for research that could address some of these major issues have emerged (Table 2 summarizing feedback from the first focus group). Most of these ideas focus on investigating, developing, and commercializing value-added uses for stillage and spent distillers grains. Only limited feedback was provided vis-à-vis use in livestock feeds (which has been the traditional means of use), but the feedback focused on utilizing valuable components from the grains (e.g., proteins and lipids); and developing and optimizing methods for dewatering, component separation, material handling, and logistics would have industry-wide implications.
› How can we separate high-value components from lower value (e.g.,
› How do we consolidate the information better for end users and distilleries? › How do we continue the conversation and move the industry forward? › How do we deal with stillage logistics (e.g., high cost of shipping water)? › Will a co-op / central depot approach work for regions with concentrated
After examining the collected responses from stakeholders, it appears that several research priorities could be discerned that can help address some of the major issues impacting the industry (Table 3 summarizes many of these priorities). This list can inform researchers at universities, federal laboratories, technology providers, and distilleries themselves, as well as funding agencies. According to the feedback received, the highest priorities revolved around scale-appropriate technologies for the separation of water and high-value nutrient compounds from the stillage and spent grains. Additionally, the
› Using stillage for green power sources for plant utilities.
Top research and development priorities
› Get up to speed on new technologies being developed and commercialized at varying production scale. nutrients)?
proteins, phytochemicals, fibers, etc.)?
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focus group coalesced around the ideas of stillage material handling, shipping logistics, and examining the economic feasibility of a central depot for collecting stillage from multiple plants/operations, and then separating and processing for higher value uses of the nutrient components. The other issues discussed above, while they are also important and need to be pursued for the long-term sustainability of the industry, were somewhat lower on this focus group’s priority list. Overall, our efforts during the past year to gather information regarding major issues, research needs, and priorities have proven quite informative. Although the spent distillers grains and stillage arena is diverse, and many ideas and opinions exist throughout the industry, we were able to distill the collected information into several common themes and priorities. The remaining question is: “What’s next?” It appears that many of these issues need to be further explored and clarified. Based on current information, though, clear direction has been provided in terms of what the alcohol industry needs to address to overcome the challenges associated with effectively utilizing spent grains. Undoubtedly, this research will be undertaken by private companies, universities, and government agencies working to improve the use of stillage and spent grains, and will directly benefit alcohol manufacturers, livestock producers, and other stakeholders.
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Next Steps Our work is far from over. This article summarizes results from our first focus group in our ongoing effort to learn more about challenges and industry needs and priorities. Stay tuned for future articles, which will provide more details on developments on the issues discussed here as well as other aspects of our stillage efforts, activities, and findings. We will continue to vet potential technologies and approaches to stillage and spent grains reuse and utilization, we will continue our conversations with stakeholders, and we will continue outreach efforts to distilleries and other alcohol producers. And don’t forget about the DGTC Symposium in October, where we will have a day devoted to stillage and spent grains, and a reverse-pitch competition to present multiple technology strategies that could be used to address the stillage challenge. Thanks to everyone who has participated so far. If you would like to join our conversation, please contact us to be added to our mailing list.
Kurt A. Rosentrater, Ph.D. is with the Distillers Grains Technology Council in Ames, IA. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (515) 294-4019.
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DOING SOMETHING NEW
thoughts from the outer reaches of distilling Written by Andy Garrison
know some have had a different experience, but in my home life the pandemic’s curtailment of anything fun like parties, travel, restaurants, and community college pottery classes produced a Groundhog Day-like slog of sameness. At the same time, the distillery where I work, a boutique distillery that does a lot of custom distillation work, was a constant rollercoaster of strange, perhaps frightening, opportunities and ideas. With supply chains disrupted and business models shifting rapidly, we were approached by many different folks hoping that distillation could help them make the best of a tricky situation, or at least shrink the physical volume of their problem by five to six times. These included ideas like turning abandoned keg beer into bierschnaps, trying to salvage wildfire-smoke affected wine, making hand-sanitizer out of transit-damaged Barolo, and buying truckloads of exotic fruit from orchards whose typical customers evaporated. Some of the projects were similar-but-different to our usual work (i.e., I know how to make brandy, but how will smoke change it?!?). Others, like trying to distill medlars, an ancient and unusual fruit, dropped us into new territory with little guidance on how to proceed. As I sit here now, with a hard-won glass of medlar brandy in hand, I thought I would share how I tackle doing something new with the hopes it might help others as they explore ideas and engage creatively with the unknown. Inspiration has struck — you’ve got a great new idea, the marketing department (real or imagined) is conjuring up the “Introducing the World’s First … ” emails, and you’re feeling ready for your profile in Pioneering Spirits. This is a good time to shift from thinking of the idea as “new” to seeing it as “new to me.” It can be a blow to the ego to confront the concept that you’re not the world’s most fertile mind. Making alcohol and distilling are fundamental crafts practiced for centuries or millennia by millions of clever people all over the world, many of whom were thirstier than
we can possibly imagine, so claiming that your product is the first is nearly impossible. Instead of being discouraged by the impossibility of doing something NEW, I find it inspiring to be connected through the practice of distilling to so many others throughout space and time. Not being “new” also means there is likely information out there and knowledgeable people who can help me along my way. Time to take a breath and start doing some research. Google is a decent place to start, but the triple-team of Prohibition, industrialization, and wimpy American tastebuds means English is not always the best language for many distilling research projects. In the case of my medlar brandy idea, it seemed plausible that such an old and quasi-edible fruit had been used for distilling, but damned if “medlar brandy” turned up any useful results. However, after switching Google to French or Italian, results began to flow. After translating a colloquial French term (cul-du-chien) into German (Hundsärsch), I was watching German news segments about medlar distillers! Even if you cannot speak another language, you can still read the bibliographies of foreign books and papers, which are a great source of information, especially coupled with scholastic search tools (which a non-student like me can access through any local public library). When unusual raw materials are involved, the periodicals of food processors and the perfume industry are often much more useful than distilling-specific resources (the archive of Perfumer & Flavorist has been particularly helpful for me). Text research is not always so successful because many distilling traditions are poorly documented and much of human experience goes unrecorded. Unfortunately, my solution to this is to send a lot of emails and make phone calls to anyone I think might know what I want to know. Some won’t respond, but it’s important to remember that everyone is busy and answering your questions
Making alcohol and distilling are fundamental crafts practiced for centuries or millennia by millions of clever people all over the world, many of whom were thirstier than we can possibly imagine, so claiming that your product is the first is nearly impossible. 120
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Instead of being discouraged by the impossibility of doing something new, I find it inspiring to be connected through the practice of distilling to so many others throughout space and time. about distilling alligator flesh or Job’s tears is not the most critical task on most people’s schedule (though that doesn’t mean they don’t care). The best way to get a response is to not waste people’s time (hence “do your research” first) and remember that collaboration is a two-way street. Be prepared to reveal the details of your project if you truly want help. Distillers can tend towards the secretive or cabalistic, and I have received many questions over the years from people who obviously wanted information without wanting to reveal what they were doing, which can be insulting. My projects often seem to fall into fairly non-commercial niches where producers are typically enthusiasts and happy to talk with me, especially if you focus on the distilling side and try to respect how people earn a living. In my medlar saga, plaintive letters ultimately led me to sampling ripe and unripe fruit at the USDA medlar germplasm orchard and connected me to a handful of cider makers who shared their horrible experiences processing medlars (FYI — don’t expect to press them). So now you’ve reached an inflection point: Due diligence research complete, peer outreach conducted, you’ve maybe got a plan for the how, but it’s important to not skip the why. Understand what your objective is: Are you trying to develop a viable new product? Make something novel for marketing purposes? Gain an understanding of a raw material or process? The answer will generate a further subset of questions which need to be resolved before proceeding. If you want to create a product with sales legs, is there sufficient supply of whatever it is to scale up? (with medlars, the answer was a hard NO.) If you are searching for hype, will consumers or journalists understand what you are doing, or is it too technical or hair-splittingly specific? If you are trying to understand something, do you need to produce something saleable or can your production plan focus on data collection rather than on guessing what will make the tastiest spirit? What some of those questions hint at is the very real possibility that when you try to do something new, the outcome will not be what you expect. There can be some great surprises, but also total failures, and many stages in between. Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose on that outcome. Remember, this is new, and you don’t actually know what you are doing despite all your research. Financial pressure might drive you to release something you aren’t happy with, a sad fate for your grand idea — often resulting in unhappy consumers to boot. Making one large failed batch might nip a potentially fruitful idea in the bud, especially if you have to justify the expense to someone else. Smaller trials give you an opportunity to apply incremental learning and experience to
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separate a bad idea from a badly executed good idea. One of the upsides of the hand sanitizer craze was finally unloading ten years’ worth of failed experiments and the warm feeling of knowing our scorched buckwheat schnaps and yogurt-fermented apple brandy helped keep people safe. While the mind naturally gravitates towards the rewards a successful idea will reap, it’s important to spend time brainstorming what could go wrong and how you will deal with it. New kinds of fruit, new grains, and new techniques can all produce new kinds of messes like jammed mills, clogged pumps, stuck mashes, and burnt residue in the still. If it’s new to you, it is probably also new to whoever built your equipment. It can be vexing to destroy a piece of equipment you need later in the day for your flagship product. Many problems are more manageable at a small scale. Three hundred gallons of unpumpable medlar sludge can be moved easily with a bucket; 3,000 gallons will not be so easy. Schedule things for when there is plenty of time to deal with issues (i.e. not the morning before your wedding, sorry again Margarett) and always leave plenty of time to clean everything up before leaving. Once the floors and walls have been washed and the still de-medlared, it’s extremely valuable to document the experience, from the research stubs through the trials and triumphs of production. In the moment it can seem like some details (particularly tragic or physically uncomfortable ones like falling into a bin of medlar pulp) are unforgettable. However, life is long and who knows when you’ll be revisiting this. I use a searchable notes app and am more than occasionally surprised by what I’ve learned and then forgotten. Label samples more completely than you think you need to and link the samples to records that someone else could understand (ie., not just painter’s tape that says “Lab Sample”). I also find it’s beneficial to give myself plenty of time and space before evaluating the results, to allow myself to mentally move on from the experience of making it (and the resultant smells and tastes) to better focus on the real flavor and potential of the distillate. My last piece of advice is borrowed from Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies for confronting creative problems, which has a card that simply reads ‘COURAGE!’ If you are as anxious as I am (unlikely, but possible), doing something new provides ample opportunities for fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The downside of risk is easy to see, but that doesn’t mean a potential upside doesn’t exist. You might create something great! And if not, well, it’s always possible we’ll need more hand sanitizer in the future. Andy Garrison is Head Distiller at Stone Barn Brandyworks, where he’s worked since 2012. He makes a mean bowl of oatmeal, but there’s kind of a trick to it. Andy.email@example.com 121
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