Artisan Spirit: Spring 2022

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Artisan Spirit(s) OF THE YEAR












Updates from guilds and associations within states, across the nation, and beyond!



Brand Buzz with David Schuemann


A brief overview of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program













Put your digital ambassador to work

Regulatory considerations and plausible implications

Take your customers on an emotional journey

How craft distillers can ride out malted barley shortages


Access a different segment of the flavor spectrum

2022 ARTISAN SPIRIT OF THE YEAR 38 Recognizing a distiller of distinction



of Morretes, Brazil

ARAGA 93 A milk-based spirit popular among the people of the Eurasian steppe

MEZCAL: EVERY SIP BEGINS WITH A. An eighty-plus named family of agavebased distilled spirits



Tracking the category's remarkable growth


Interest in gin colored with butterfly pea flower has shown an impressive durability




A beneficial collaboration between Visit Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs Distilling

ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER 59 Comingled bottlings bring together different spirits





How has the TTB’s 2020 Standards of Identity change impacted craft vodka?

Mena Killough parlayed her extensive herbalist background into a blossoming distilling career












Lost Irish Whiskey brings a global perspective to a traditional spirit

Legal considerations for water procurement and handling of wastewater

Added flavor dimensions

How does one approach the implementation of exogenous enzymes in a craft distilling process?

Recognizing some of the distilling industry’s award winners from 2021











Fire and Life Safety Corner

Create a conversation around your distillery

Adding a coda to the revolution in bourbon that never was...

from the COVER

Part 2

Triple Eight Distillery in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Image by Amanda Joy Christensen.

ISSUE 38 /// SPRING 2022


PUBLISHER & EDITOR Brian Christensen


CREATIVE DIRECTOR Amanda Joy Christensen


SENIOR WRITERS George B. Catallo Devon Trevathan

Margarett Waterbury

CONTRIBUTORS Corey Day Carrie Dow Doug Hall Reade A. Huddleston, MSc. Paul Hughes, Ph.D. Olivier Jamin Aaron Knoll Nathaniel Kreel, Ph.D. David Letteney Rich Manning

AGED SPIRITS AND NEW FILL BARREL STORAGE AVAILABLE FOR LEASE • Second storage warehouse available for lease Feb. 2022 • 55,000 SQFT Bourbon Whiskey storage facility in Midway, KY

Alexis Mason Emily Pennington Heraclio Pimentel Michael T. Reardon, P.E. David Schuemann Gary Spedding, Ph.D. Gabe Toth Lisa Truesdale Lauren Voke Wes Wooddell


• Horizontal racking and palletized storage

Amanda Joy Christensen Ladye Jane David Letteney Michael T. Reardon

• Long & short term storage solutions • Meets DISCUS and FM global standards

Red Production Melissa Skorpil Long Yau

SALES & MARKETING Ashley Monroe Office 859-214-7000 Tyler Harris 859-806-5855 Mark Harris 859-321-2049

ARTISAN SPIRIT is a quarterly publication by Artisan Spirit Media. ArtisanSpiritM ArtisanSpiritM General Inquiries (509) 944-5919 Advertising (509) 991-8112 PO Box 31494, Spokane, WA 99223 All contents ©2022. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. Neither Artisan Spirit Media nor ARTISAN SPIRIT magazine assume responsibility for errors in content, photos, or advertisements. While ARTISAN SPIRIT makes every effort to ensure accuracy in our content, the information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. We urge our readers to consult with professional service providers to meet their unique needs. At ARTISAN SPIRIT, we take the opportunity to enjoy many different craft spirits and adult beverages. However, it’s also our responsibility, and yours, to always drink responsibly. Know your limit, and never drink and drive.

ARTISAN SPIRIT’s number one goal is to share and celebrate the art and science of artisan craft distilling. But please remember to follow all the laws, regulations, and safety procedures. Be safe, be legal, and we can all be proud of the industry we love.

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3/4/22 1:18 PM

Your One-Stop Advocacy Shop There’s only one place America’s spirits producers, supply chain professionals and service partners can find unrivaled individual service, unmatched business resources, unequaled industry access and unbeatable advocacy might – the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). DISCUS is the U.S. spirits industry’s top advocate in Washington, our nation’s state capitals and around the globe. Our team of best-in-class government affairs specialists, policy experts, lawyers, economists, scientists and communications professionals are at your service – fighting every day to create a political climate and policy environment that strengthens your business and the spirits economy in the United States.

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• Access to exclusive monthly webinars developed for members • Complimentary access to the DISCUS Summary of State Laws & Regulations Relating to Distilled Spirits website: Compilation of laws, regulations and rulings governing the sale and distribution of distilled spirits in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia ($995 value for a one year subscription) • Additional product savings updated monthly on the DISCUS Member Portal • Discounts on DISCUS events, including the DISCUS Annual Conference • And much more


Our mission at Artisan Spirit Magazine is to share and celebrate the art and science of artisan craft distilling.

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.

Founded in Boulder, CO in 2016, Arryved is a point-of-sale based software company specializing in the food, beverage, and entertainment industries: distilleries, breweries, cideries, wineries, brewpubs, restaurants, and music venues. In five short years, it grew from being an idea scribbled on a taproom coaster to a revered platform serving over a thousand happy customers across the country. Arryved is a team of tech geeks with relentless passion for, and extensive experience in, the hospitality industry, as both employees and consumers. The goal is simple: Deliver a flexible, reliable, team-centric platform that puts service first in every way. Arryved’s flexible, all-in-one system simply makes business easier, so you can focus on enjoying life — distilling craft spirits, lifting up your staff, and creating core memories within your community. We’ll cover the rest.


What changes or evolutions would you like to see the industry, as a whole, make in the next 5 to 10 years I would like to see the U.S. overhaul its distribution rules for alcohol in order to create more freedom and uniformity across states and allow craft producers of all sizes a less complicated way to market, more channels to sell their products through, and the ability to self-distribute. I would also like to see the industry work together to secure and sustainably manage white oak forests for barrel production so that the trees that will be used to make barrels for tomorrow’s great bourbons will never be in danger of disappearing. — David Schuemann

Diversity, of both spirits and community. As the spirits category overall continues to grow, the things that the team hear often talk the most about are new interesting spirits and up coming spirits categories. Expressions from less popular categories, or experimentation in popular ones, are where there is opportunity to stand out. A lot of those up coming categories and experimentation are coming from new, unrepresented voices that we haven’t historically seen in the spirits world. The larger our community and offerings are, the better it is for the industry as a whole. — Colin Blake

When there is a solid partnership between supplier and distiller, supply chain issues can be navigated. We would like to see this trend continue even when the existing global obstacles are cleared.



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.

Boelter is a strategic partner to the most successful distilleries, breweries, beverage distributors, wineries, and cidermakers in the country. With over 90 years of beverage industry experience, we provide guidance and essential promotional products to ensure that through every service and season, our partners are performing at their peak. Our key product categories include glassware, tap handles, coasters, cups, and barware, but we pride ourselves on our willingness to work hard to serve our customers — whatever their need may be. We are passionate and enthusiastic because we believe we have a purpose that transcends the day-to-day work that we all do.

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.

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 and

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.

Southern Distilling Company is one of the largest artisan distilleries in the nation. We offer product development, contract distilling (standard and custom mash bill whiskeys, rum, and agave spirits), barrel warehouse aging, batching, blending, bottling, and co-packaging of award-winning products. We also keep an extensive inventory of aged bourbon and rye whiskey available year-round. Our spirits are distilled in top-of-the-line Vendome Copper & Brass Works continuous column stills. Our product development services include working with you to perfect an existing recipe and consultations to help you create your own recipe. We can barrel and warehouse age your product to meet both short and long-term goals. At Southern Distilling Company, you get standout spirits that make brands unforgettable.

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.



Farm to finish. The best results come from the best ingredients. Tap BSG as your single source for the biggest selection of quality malt, grain, yeast fermentation and process aids that will make your spirit stand out and deliver consistent flavor. Run with the best.


A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: Finding something to celebrate over the last few years hasn't always been easy. Disaster bingo went from being a silly online meme to an all too real worldwide phenomenon. Yet even when you think people are about to break, more often than not, that's when we see the best of us stand up. It was that idea which prompted us to begin honoring an individual distiller with the Artisan Spirit of the Year Award. This is not my award to give. Instead the recipient is selected by a committee of distilling peers. During the first two years a committee of industry professionals recognized first, Nicole Austin, and then in the subsequent year, Chris Montana. Proving the point of the award both Nicole and Chris agreed to help be members of this year's committee along with five other team members. I won't spoil it here, but be assured that who they chose to honor was both unsurprising, and a curveball at the same time. Aside from honoring the distillers that make this industry special I also never want to skip out on a chance to thank each one of you, our readers. For almost a decade now (upcoming anniversary issue tease) we have dedicated ourselves to serving the distilling industry. And every day we are humbled by the kind words, honest feedback, and massive support we receive. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

With greatest appreciation,

Brian Christensen (509) 944-5919 /// /// PO Box 31494, Spokane, WA 99223




since 1912

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.




GUILD & INDUSTRY REPORTS If you expect to find multiple mentions of DTC and tax parity in this edition's Quarterly Guild Report, then you will not be disappointed. Many state guilds are fighting similar battles with the help of national associations, industry lobbyists, and a supportive consumer base. Take a moment to read up on each state's successes and setbacks, and continue to share news and information with each other so the industry can continue to build on our collective goals. Brian Christensen Editor Artisan Spirit Magazine

AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION Happy 2022 from the American Craft Spirits Association! We are recovering from our most successful convention ever, in Louisville last December. We were able to gather in person before the newest variant of COVID took hold and the feedback has us very excited for our next time together this year. A new year also brings a new focus on advocacy as both our federal lawmakers and those in all our states get back to work. We are focused on supporting DTC efforts in many states, as well as looking at how we can best support members who have entered the RTD sphere. Stay connected with your

state guilds to keep up with the latest efforts locally, but know that ACSA is working hand-in-hand with state leadership to support your businesses. During the convention, ACSA and the STEPUP Foundation, a nascent nonprofit spearheaded by ACSA to promote diversity within the spirits industry, announced their 2022 inaugural class of interns, mentors, and participating distilleries. The first interns are Yakntoro “Yaki” Udoumoh, a Maryland native and Howard University alum who is currently a bartender at the Columbia Room in Washington, DC; and Erin Lee, a Canadian transplant to Brooklyn and certified tea sommelier who 13

will transition into the distilling industry from a career in fashion. The STEPUP mentors are Chris Underwood, a STEPUP board member, CEO of Young’s Market Company (a subsidiary of Young’s Holdings), and chairman of the board of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America; and Sailor Guevara, who in addition to writing, creating content, and podcasting, is also the founder and acting CEO of Guevara Spirits based out of Stuart, Florida. The participating distilleries are Cascade Hollow Distilling Company of Tullahoma, Tennessee; Eight Oaks Farm Distillery of New Tripoli, Pennsylvania; and Westward Whiskey of Portland, Oregon. The participating distributor is Republic National Distributing Company. Both interns are visiting their first distilleries, and we are incredibly excited to have

this program underway. There is so much to do to grow it beyond this two-person class in the years ahead, and if you haven't already, check out to find out ways that you can support this initiative. Good Deeds Malt Whiskey, a limited-release blend of whiskey from nine craft spirits producers, of which 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit ACSA’s STEPUP Foundation, has been created as an easy and delicious way for everyone to get involved. The Craft Spirits Data Project results have been released to the public. A couple of highlights: The industry continued its growth despite the pandemic, although the rate of growth was impacted. Distillery and tasting LEARN MORE ABOUT GOOD DEEDS MALT WHISKEY

room sales make up 47.7 READ THE FULL percent of all sales for CRAFT SPIRITS small craft distilleries (an DATA PROJECT REPORT increase year on year), while out-of-state sales make up 70.9 percent for larger craft distilleries. Direct sales at the distillery are important for all craft distillers but especially important for small craft producers (between 0 and 10,000 proof gallons removed from bond annually). Out-of-state business is particularly important for large producers (between 100,001 and 750,000 proof gallons removed from bond annually). Let's all hope 2022 brings more predictability to our industry! For more information visit Becky Harris President, Chief Distiller, Catoctin Creek President, American Craft Spirits Association

AMERICAN DISTILLING INSTITUTE The American Distilling Institute is coming out of the pandemic at full steam.

Despite COVID-19 travel restrictions, American Distilling Institute’s August 2021 Craft Spirits Conference in Louisville drew 1,400 attendees and more than 180 exhibitors. What’s more, the event proved to be a model for safe in-person events, with zero reported cases, thanks to dogged preparedness and attendee compliance with safety protocols. Two workshops were held post-conference with the same success. And now, on to 2022! Here are just a few of the exciting things we’ve got on our roadmap. After a few spring webinars, plus online and in-person workshops, ADI will return to New Orleans for a one-day Rum Summit on June 7 at the Hyatt Regency, the eve of DISCUS’ annual conference. Registration details will be available on and in our e-news in the coming weeks, and registration will start in March. ADI2022 returns this year with a new look to reflect a modern, determined, and forward-looking industry. The 19th-annual ADI Conference moves to the America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis, 14

Missouri, and runs from September 14–16 with renewed focus on education. ADI expects record attendance in 2022 of more than 1,900 attendees and more than 190 sponsors and exhibitors, back to our normal preCOVID numbers track. In addition to being the world’s largest gathering of craft distillers and suppliers, the event is chockablock with exciting first-ever features. The jam-packed agenda features more than 50 topic-specific breakout sessions and workshops, distillery tours, and tastings. Registration opens March 1 at The St. Louis conference kicks off Wednesday, September 14 with the Corn Whiskey Masterclass. This class features a theoretical session followed by a visit to Wood Hat Distillery. Wood Hat Distillery and its Founder Gary Hinegardner are featured on the cover of Distiller Magazine’s Winter 2022 issue. There will also be several other pre-convention workshops, including our first ever financial workshop for distilleries. Also on September 14, is the legislative summit hosted by DISCUS for the US guilds. The legislative summit will focus on the US

guilds’ collaboration on legislative topics of interest and actionable items for our industry’s state leaders. The day’s events culminate with an evening of spirits tasting in collaboration with the Missouri Craft Distillers Guild at the Marriott Grand St. Louis, steps from the convention center and our headquarter hotel. On the morning of Thursday, September 15, the ADI Conference kicks off with a keynote from Anne Brock, the Gin Guild’s Grand Rectifier and the much-celebrated master distiller at Bombay Sapphire. The evening of September 16 features a visit to the Gin World event, one of the world’s largest gin consumer events, at the Marriott St. Louis Grand. The day after the 2022 Conference, September 17, ADI convenes the Gin Summit at the Marriott St. Louis Grand. Please see ADI’s monthly e-newsletter and distilling. com for updates and registration details on all our events. The 2022 Conference promises to be our biggest ever, and it’s the perfect set-up for next year’s 20th anniversary conference in 2023. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

For those who plan on attending the 2022 Conference September 14–16 in St. Louis,

don’t miss any issues of ADI’s e-newsletters, which will feature famous travel and beverage

reporter Virginia Miller’s reviews of the best bars and restaurants in “the Lou.” Erik Owens President, American Distilling Institute

CANADIAN CRAFT DISTILLERS ALLIANCE 2022 heralds in a new era for the craft distillers of Canada

Craft distillers from across Canada came together in the last quarter of 2021 to officially form the Canadian Craft Distillers Alliance (CCDA); a national association officially incorporated on January 1, 2022! The national association came into existence after years of dedicated hard work by a committed group of craft distillers and regional distillery associations from right across the country, but ultimately only occurred due to the overwhelming support of the nation’s almost 300 domestic distilleries. CCDA was born out of a desire to unite all of Canada’s craft distillers, so that they can more effectively lobby government as a strong, united, singular voice to achieve changes with the archaic Canadian liquor laws, and specifically with the federal level excise taxation model.

In effect, it was through working together on two successive National Excise Parity Campaigns, that the Canadian distilling scene was catalyzed, and the national alliance was born. The directors of the newly formed CCDA are representatives from each province and/or territory spanning the nation, with the inaugural executive being made up of the founding President, Tyler Dyck, VicePresident, Meredith Schmidt, and Treasurer/ Secretary, Lauchie MacLean. Achieving excise parity with the US is the top priority and mandate of the Alliance, but the longer term goal is also to bring Canada’s national distillers together on issues spanning national and regional interests. “With more than 250 craft distilleries across Canada and no united voice, we knew we needed to act swiftly and decisively if we

were ever going to have a chance at a sane taxation structure that encourages and rewards domestic growth, while also remaining trade compliant” says Tyler Dyck (President CCDA), “We are looking forward to working more closely with our US colleagues to learn better from them how they achieved their amazing win with government, a win that was not only overdue but that also one that led to such phenomenal domestic craft distillery and agricultural growth in the States. We won't let up until we reproduce that same success up here, north of the border!” The Canadian Craft Distillery Alliance held their inaugural AGM in February of 2022 to reaffirm their mandate, and to re-activate their “Lift Canada’s Spirits” national excise parity campaign. Visit for more info. Tyler Dyck President, Canadian Craft Distillers Alliance

CRAFT MALTSTERS GUILD Craft malthouses across the United States finished 2021 with strong sales. This rise was driven by supply chain issues and increased consumer awareness of brewers’ and distillers’ use of local malt. The Craft Maltsters Guild also witnessed a substantial increase in the Individual Brewery or Distiller members over the past year. This tier of membership is connected with the Craft Malt Certified™ Seal Program, which recognizes breweries and distilleries making a substantial commitment to using locally sourced ingredients and, more specifically, craft malt. Along with promoting a greater awareness of craft malt, last year the guild worked with J Jackson-Beckham, principal at Crafted for All, to develop a diversity, equity, and inclusion mission statement, official organizational 16

code of conduct, and scholarship program. Jackson-Beckham presented best practices for building diversity, equity, and inclusion into the supply chain to our community in early November. We plan to continue our work with Crafted For All into the new year, with the goal of continuing to expand access to craft malt education to a broader audience in the coming years. In mid-to-late February, the guild hosted a successful virtual conference over the course of two weekends, February 18-19 and February 25-26. The conference was originally designed as a hybrid in-person and virtual event but was shifted to 100 percent virtual due to the dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases associated with the Omicron variant. Most speakers were able to present remotely

and the conference program was largely unchanged. June Russell, Director of Regional Food Programs at the Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming, served as the keynote speaker for the event. Russell’s work over the past decade focused on developing new markets for grains, flour, and other staple crops in New York City and its surrounding area. During the conference, she provided valuable insights on how maltsters can work with their local communities to expand awareness of locally sourced ingredients in the craft beer and spirits markets. Becky Harris, board president of the American Craft Spirits Association and chief distiller at Catoctin Creek Distillery, provided an excellent summary of the continued W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M



Process aids for higher ethanol yield and fermentation consistency.

View our extensive offering of craft distilling inputs at

©2022 Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits

growth of the craft spirits industry. In addition, a roundtable discussion featuring distillers and maltsters from around the nation covered the American single malt whiskey (ASMW) category, the economics of the craft distilling industry, and the dynamics of working with craft distillers, as well as the hope of the direct-to-consumer sales movement. The AMSW category offers an exciting opportunity to highlight the unique flavors that local malt can contribute to this emerging style. Lastly, the guild will be hosting two classes in the latter part of 2022. The Advanced Class

in Craft Production is designed to provide students with a strong technical background in all aspects of malting science, process, and technology. This class will cover a variety of topics related to the agricultural, engineering, and occupational safety issues involved with operating a malthouse. Our second course, the Malt for Brewers Workshop, is designed to forge a deeper connection between the main ingredient in beer and the brewer. This course covers the basics of malt production, how to read a certificate of analysis, and brewhouse techniques for getting the most out

of your malt, especially when brewing with craft malt. Both courses are being scheduled with dates to be determined; please visit for more information and registration. Jesse Bussard Executive Director North American Craft Maltsters Guild

Brent Manning President North American Craft Maltsters Guild

DISTILLED SPIRITS COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES We closed the year with great news from Japan as the country officially agreed to recognize bourbon and Tennessee whiskey as distinctive products of the U.S. effective December 22, 2021. This ensures that only bourbon and Tennessee whiskey produced in the U.S. according to official U.S. standards may be sold in Japan. Japan is the 44th country to protect these categories. Recognition by Japan is tied directly to DISCUS requests to the U.S. government to secure distinctive product recognition for these products. The U.S. effort to secure agreement by Japan began during the multi-year negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which the U.S. withdrew from in 2017. While Japan committed to do so as part of the TPP agreement, it was nonetheless retained thanks to the continued efforts of DISCUS and the U.S. government. As part of this process, in July 2021, DISCUS submitted a comment to the Japanese government in support of its proposal to formally adopt this recognition and also requested that similar protection be extended to American single malt and American rye whiskey. We’ll continue to seek opportunities to urge Japan to extend similar protections for American rye whiskey and American single malt whiskey. We are starting the new year working to finally put an end to the U.K.’s retaliatory tariff on American whiskeys. DISCUS continues to urge U.S. officials to quickly reach an agreement with the UK to restore duty free access for American whiskeys to the UK. Since June 18

2018, American whiskey producers and supply chains wholly unrelated to the steel and aluminum dispute have suffered from the imposition of the UK’s retaliatory tariff. Between 2018 and 2020, American whiskey exports to the UK have decreased by 53 percent. The UK’s 25 percent retaliatory tariff must be removed so our industry can recover from the harsh economic impacts and significant supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. Retaliatory tariffs and the threat of additional tariffs are major barriers at a time when we should be focusing on recovering from the pandemic, creating jobs, and promoting growth and investments in both the UK and the U.S. In the states, legislatures across the country are in full swing and our team is working to expand consumer convenience and access to spirits products through legislation on cocktails to-go, direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipping, and ready-to-drink (RTD) canned cocktails. DISCUS is currently monitoring 1,619 alcohol-related bills. The DISCUS team, alongside coalition partners American Craft Spirits Association, American Distilling Institute, and the California Artisanal Distillers Guild, were able to secure an extension on the temporary direct-to-consumer shipping measure in California right before the new year with help from Spirits United advocates. The coalition is now focused on moving to permanently allow DTC shipping for spirits through the California legislature. We will continue to

monitor other states across the country including Delaware, Maine, and New York that offer potential for permanent direct-to-consumer shipping legislation. States such as Pennsylvania and Washington have seen movement on readyto-drink legislation for expanded distribution or tax reductions. Our team continues to demonstrate to legislators the significant tax discrepancies for products with the same alcohol content both on the state and federal level, as approximately 62 percent of craft distillers not producing spirits-based RTDs identified unfair tax rates as a barrier to entry. DISCUS and were also proud to have critical impaired driving prevention measures included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act at the end of 2021. The law provides important new resources, long sought among traffic safety advocates, to prevent impaired driving by installing innovative advanced prevention technology in new vehicles, which is estimated to save more than 9,000 lives each year. States will also be better positioned to address impaired driving in all forms, including multiple-substance impaired driving — an emerging threat on our nation’s roads. More than 100 attendees, including 80 analysts and members of the media, joined the DISCUS Annual Economic Briefing at the beginning of February. This year’s briefing featured a panel led by myself, Christine LoCascio, chief of public policy, and Philip McDaniel, CEO and co-founder of St. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

Custom Mash Bills + Guaranteed Consistency + Contract Distilling OUR CR AF TED RECIPES AND CUSTOM MASH BILLS MAKE SURE YOU WON’T BLEND IN


Augustine Distillery and chair of the DISCUS Craft Advisory Board. We highlighted that the U.S. spirits industry experienced solid sales growth in 2021 due to consumers continuing to elevate their cocktail experiences with super-premium brands, combined with the gradual reopening of bars and restaurants. We also reported that supplier sales in the United States were up 12 percent in 2021 to a total of $35.8 billion. In presenting an overview of 2021 spirits

sales trends, we reported that the premiumization trend accelerated in 2021 with more than 82 percent of the spirits sector’s total revenue increase coming from the sale of high-end and super-premium spirits brands. McDaniel reported that many distilleries continue to face significant challenges from supply chain disruptions, including difficulty securing glass bottles, closures, and labels, as well as rising costs of materials and transportation. On a positive note, McDaniel stated

that the uptick in tourism across the country would help support the recovery of small distilleries, which rely heavily on tasting room sales. We are also excited to host the DISCUS Annual Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, from June 8–10 this year. We’ll have much more conference news on the way but hope you will mark your calendar to join us this summer! Chris R. Swonger

President & CEO Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and


The end of 2021 had many surprises in store for California Artisanal Distillers Guild (CADG). As usual we worked at raising funds for legislation and preparing for the 2022 battle over Direct To Consumer Shipping. We had hearings with the Senate G.O. committee that had promising results. We are continuing the work to see Senate Bill 620 Allen/Dodd

to passage. CADG has worked with ACSA, ADI, DISCUS and the wholesalers, teamsters and retailers to find a common bill that all can support. The Covid pandemic continues to cause issues for DSP’s statewide. Tasting room traffic was up for the holidays, but employee shortages, bottle inventory and county restrictions had us all scrambling to keep up. The Governor gave us a last minute extension to DTC shipping with an emergency order through March 31, 2022. This assisted many

with fulfilling late holiday and Valentine’s Day orders. We did lose a great member from Blinking Owl to a promotion. Our Vice President Ryan Friesen accepted a job as head of distilling at The Connacht Distillery in Ireland. Ryan was a champion for all California distillers and his tireless work was seen by both CADG members and prospective members alike. This is a very big loss for us at CADG, but we wish him all the greatest success in this new position. Cris Steller Executive Director, California Artisanal Distillers Guild


The 2021 year seemed to have come and gone! The Colorado Distillers Guild recently voted in a new Communications Director — Kelsey Bigelow with Ironton Distillery. We are excited to have her join our board to help with several projects! I was also elected as President for a second term. I’m looking forward to getting some projects off the ground that weren’t possible through the pandemic. The Colorado Distillers Guild was awarded the Colorado Recovery Assistance for Tourism grant from the Colorado Tourism Office to assist the guild in revamping our 20

Colorado Spirits Trail. Most of our non-legislative efforts will go toward focusing on relaunching this program and the grant will allow us to do so. We are also working towards offering educational sessions to our members from vendors and sponsors throughout the year. The Colorado Distillers Guild has a variety of issues we had planned to pursue in this coming legislative session and over the next few years, but none of them will likely be addressable for several years. Key among them are Direct To Consumer (DTC), increasing the number of tasting rooms we’re allowed to operate, ideally to move to parity with wine and restructuring Colorado’s excise tax for

Ready to Drink products (RTDs). Regarding DTC it is on our legislative agenda, but it isn’t likely here in Colorado anytime soon. The wholesalers are vehemently opposed and as such we’ve been unable to get anyone to even consider legislation. The State of Colorado has said they will not allow anyone to move forward with legislation until we can get the wholesalers to move to neutral. Regarding tasting rooms, each category of alcohol manufacturer here in Colorado has different rules for tasting rooms. Our distilled spirits manufacturers currently are allowed two. Wineries, in contrast, are allowed five. We’d like additional tasting rooms, and ideally, we’d like parity with wine. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

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Next, we're interested in restructuring how Colorado’s excise tax is assessed on Ready To Drink (RTD) products. Our RTD products are currently taxed on beverage liter, regardless of ABV, meaning that we’re paying a huge amount of tax on water for our RTDs. Ideally we’d like to have RTDs from all three categories of manufacturer; Beer, Wine (including

Cider) and Spirits, taxed in the same manner and in a manner that is not cost-prohibitive for the growth of the RTD sector. As stated above, the Colorado Distillers Guild’s legislative goals may not be achievable for several years. This is due the State of Colorado’s attempt to get legislation passed this session (2022) to allow a re-write all

current liquor laws over the next two years. This move will effectively stall our legislative agenda for everything for at least the 2022 session, if not longer. We are looking forward to rolling into 2022 and wish you all the best.

Meagan Miller President, Colorado Distillers Guild Owner & Vice President, Talnua Distillery


On February 1, members of the Florida Craft Spirits Association (FCSA) headed to the state capital in Tallahassee for a day of saying thanks! Florida law makers are always

being asked for their support, and last year's SB46 was such a huge win for us that we decided to show up and just say thank you. The visit gave us time to share stories about our distilleries and get to know our legislators a little better. Plus, it's always a good time when you get a bunch of distillers in a room.

The FCSA will hold its annual meeting on March 29th in New Smyrna, Florida where we will officially launch the Florida Craft Spirits Trail. Head to www.floridacraftspirits. org for more information on the trail (coming soon!) or joining the FCSA. David C. Cohen President, Florida Craft Spirits Association


The 2021 year was wild in Maryland. The industry garnered support from the legislature to extend emergency provisions for

shipping and delivery. Cocktails to-go was continued, as well — both through 2023. We have 40+ licensed distilleries in Maryland and have another 15 in the startup phase. Two Maryland whiskeys made Fred Minnick’s

top 100 whiskies of 2021: Sagamore Spirit Bottled in Bond and Old Line Spirits Madeira Finish. The Guild will host three events in 2022, including a Rye Symposium leaning into our deep spiritous history. Kevin Atticks Executive Director, Maryland Distillers Guild


The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has announced nine appointments to the inaugural N.C. Spiritous Liquor Advisory Council created in the 2021 session of the N.C. General Assembly. Two principal members of the Distillers Association of North Carolina

(DANC) — Pete Barger of Statesville’s Southern Distilling Company and Brian Call of Wilkesboro’s Call Family Distillers — were appointed and will represent the distilling industry on the advisory council. The advisory council was a DANC priority during the 2021 legislative session. The Council’s goals include growing the spiritous liquor industry in the state, improving the state’s rank as a spiritous-liquor producing state, raising awareness of the industry and the quality of

the products, developing a plan that identifies problems and constraints of the industry and offer advice and recommendations to the Commissioner of Agriculture. DANC will hold its Annual Business meeting in March at the Southern Distilling Company. The agenda includes Board of Director elections and a presentation from Hank Bauer who is the new ABC Commission Chairman. Pete Barger President, Distillers Association of North Carolina, Principal partner, Southern Distilling Company


The Texas Distilled Spirits Association


(TDSA) held its 2021 fourth Quarter Meeting on December 14 at Treaty Oak Distilling. At the meeting, TABC Executive Director General Bently Nettles shared an update on the new AIMS program, which

should streamline licensing, audits, product registrations and tax reports for distillers. TDSA principal members selected the following board members to serve for the next two years: Treasurer Cayce Kovacs, Hill W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

Country Distillers; Secretary Dee Kelleher, Dripping Springs Distilling; and Director Robert Lerma, Treaty Oak Distilling Co. These board members join Mike Cameron, President, Devil’s River Whiskey and Director Joanna Salinas, Still Austin who will continue serving. TDSA wants to thank outgoing board members, Kelly Railean, Todd

Gregory and Nate Powell for their support and guidance over the last two years. TDSA’s 2022 1st Quarter Meeting will be held February 8 at Yellow Rose Distilling in Houston.

Amber L. Hausenfluck Government Affairs, Texas Distilled Spirits Association

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PROSPERING Prospero Equipment Corporation is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Since our beginnings as a family-owned and operated home winemaking company we have been providing high-quality equipment and expert service to the beverage industry. Our customers have played a key role in our evolution and expansion into an international company that provides processing and packaging solutions to wineries, distilleries, and breweries across North America. As an industry leader, we will continue to utilize the latest technology and innovations, offering the best available solutions for generations to come. Thank you to our customers, friends, and staff. We couldn’t have done it without you.


Since we first began more than 15 years ago we have been satisfied Prospero customers. We’ve continued to go back to them for all of our production equipment needs. No matter the category, we are always met with unique and effective solutions. From bottling lines and packaging support equipment to brew houses and now distillation systems, Prospero offers solutions for our production needs. We congratulate them on 50 years of bringing innovative solutions to the craft beverage community, and we look forward to continuing to work with them.

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his is the third article in our series where we’ll cover the increasingly popular marketing-driven route to develop your spirits brand and bring it to market. This method saves a huge amount of regulatory and facility-focused time and resources, freeing up bandwidth and capital for you to focus on brand development, marketing, sales, distribution, and expansion. This method is far less expensive than developing your own distillery and will allow you to maintain control of your recipes and production by partnering with and outsourcing to an existing distillery. It’s important to note that the marketing-driven path is not mutually exclusive from setting up your own distillery in the long run. READ A STORY OF TWO ROADS PART 1


Outsourcing isn’t without its challenges, though, as there may be production limitations, however, in many cases local regulations will still allow you to develop your own physical location and ultimately grow into your own distillery if you desire. One of the first questions to ask is, what should you budget for when setting up a marketing-driven brand with outsourced production?



TIME Selecting your distillery partner will be a critical component in saving you time to market. Outsourcing production allows for the acquisition of product exponentially faster than setting up your own facility and producing/ aging your own product. Many distillery startups have outsourced initially to get to market more quickly while they navigate permitting and other time intensive groundwork. If your long-term plan is to set up your own distillery, the marketing-driven route can provide a faster road to market and cash flow. There have never been more options to outsource production for craft distilleries, even for aged product. The demand for aged bourbon, however, has increased over the past few years, and back stocks are shrinking quickly, so establishing a reputable and dependable partner is critical to this path. Developing your brand strategy and story is key no matter your route to market, and the marketing-driven route will allow you to focus more time and resources on the crucial questions. No matter how simple, your brand story must be focused and connect with your consumers. After all, this will become the backbone of all your outgoing communication and will directly affect your marketing strategy, including your packaging. Whether you work on this yourself or with a partner, we recommend allocating three to four months for this activity to fully vet the options and lay the proper blueprint for your brand. Allowing yourself time to focus on brand story development versus facility issues can be an advantage and a massive time saver when trying to get to market as quickly as possible.

Once your brand story is established, you will need to develop your brand name and brand identity — this consists of your logo, brand packaging, the overall look and feel of your brand, and its personality. For this process, we recommend allocating three to four months and an additional five to ten months for dry goods, government approvals, and bottling. It should be noted this timeline continues to extend based on the current state of the supply chain. For example, even stock glass bottles can have lead times upwards of 12 months from the time of order depending on the mold selected.

BUDGET These costs can include business and financial plans, brand development, including name development, logo and packaging design, market testing, and legal fees. Depending on how much of this you can bootstrap, you should plan on anywhere from a minimum of $25,000 and upwards of $150,000 or more depending on your needs. Production costs vary greatly depending on the kind of product(s) you want to source but are far less expensive than the millions of dollars that permitting, construction, and development of your own distillery can cost.

PRODUCTION Explore both local and regional distilleries, as well as larger rectifiers for production. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. Outsourced production opportunities will vary depending on the kind(s) of products you’d like to develop and whether the products need to be aged. 29

Custom recipe development can run anywhere from $3,000 and up depending on your specifications, whether it’s a white spirit or dark spirit, and the number of recipe variables you want to explore. Custom blending and finishing of spirits can run $5,000 and up for white spirits and anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 for dark spirits, depending on how long it takes to finalize your desired flavor profile. A good target quantity for year-one launch is around 2,500 cases with the ability to scale quickly within that year to 5,000 cases of product. Pricing will vary greatly depending on quantity of product, timing, and the age of the product being sourced, but the results can be immediate and fast-track your brand to market even if your long-term goals are to distill your own product. Develop a budget that considers not only your launch needs for the first year but also provides flexibility for expansion based on increased distribution so that you are not undercapitalized for expansion to support future demand.

Whether the capital is coming from your own pocket, a bank, or investors, a strong and well-thought-out business and marketing plan will be critical components to both your short- and long-term success. When developing your budget, consider any facility costs, licensing, legal advice, financial plans, brand development as well as market testing and ongoing costs such as sales support, brand ambassador costs, advertising, PR, social media and other promotion for your brand.

DISTRIBUTION & EXPANSION Develop a well-thought-out strategy for sales. Can you sell directly to consumers? If so, how and where? Will you go the three-tier

distribution route instead? Another important thing to consider is your product mix. Will you offer an aged product such as bourbon, or quick-turn unaged products such as vodka, gin, or RTD canned cocktails, or a mixture of both? How will this impact your outsourcing costs and marketing strategy?

No matter which path to market you choose, proper planning and budgeting helps avoid unexpected delays in timing and unplanned expenses. Ultimately, the decision is a personal one that should be based on your long-term vision, timing, and budget. Adventure awaits! Success doesn’t happen overnight, but well-laid plans will always be your best path to owning your own spirits brand.

David Schuemann is the owner and creative director of CF Napa Brand Design. For more info, visit or call (707) 265-1891.


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A Brief Overview of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permitting Program and Why You Should Care


ater quality is crucial to the success of any distillery. Accordingly, a distillery should pay special attention to the water going into its product from start to finish. Equally important, and often ignored, is what happens to the water that does not make it into the bottle, i.e., your wastewater. Understanding the latter is necessary to ensure compliance with applicable local, state, and federal water quality standards and related discharge requirements. Below is a quick overview of the national permitting scheme under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), the nation’s foremost law regulating the quality of surface water.

In a nutshell. Among other things, the CWA requires a person to be covered under a permit prior to the “discharge of a pollutant” from any “point source” into “navigable waters.”1 These permits are commonly known as National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. In many states, such permits are administered by a state agency authorized to oversee the NPDES program in that state. For example, California’s NPDES program is administered through the California State Water Resources Control Board and the various Regional Water Quality Control Boards, while Kentucky’s program is administered by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. Note that a state-run program may require broader coverage than the CWA and could further regulate discharges into state waters. A map of states authorized to administer the NPDES program is available on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website.2 Depending on the type of discharge and the state permitting scheme, a discharger may be able to obtain coverage under a general permit, rather than applying for an individual NPDES permit specific to the discharger’s facility. Dischargers must comply with the requirements of any individual or general permit authorizing the discharge. An NPDES permit is typically valid for up to five years. 1

See 33 U.S.C. §§ 1311, 1342, 1362.

2 EPA, NPDES Program Authorizations (as of July 2019), sites/default/files/2021-02/documents/authorized_states_2021.pdf. If a state has not been authorized to administer the NPDES program, the permitting program is administered by the EPA through its regional offices. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

So, who needs a permit? As previously stated, the CWA’s permit requirement applies to anyone discharging a “pollutant” from any “point source” into “navigable waters.” “Pollutant” is broadly defined and includes chemical wastes, biological materials, sand, cellar dirt, industrial wastes, and ... heat. Yes, even heat. The CWA’s definition of “industrial user” includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing alcoholic liquors by distillation.3 “Point source” is also broadly defined by the CWA, but essentially is an identifiable and confined conveyance such as a pipe, channel, conduit, or container from which a pollutant is or may be discharged. As may be evident, many discharges from distilleries fall within the parameters set forth above. However, not every discharge of pollutants is subject to the CWA. Specifically, the CWA’s permit requirement is focused on discharges into “navigable waters.” The CWA defines “navigable waters” as “waters of the United States.”4 For purposes of this article, it is safe to assume that this includes oceans, coastal waters, and many rivers, streams, creeks, and lakes, among other bodies of water.5 Permits are also required for discharges that are the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from a point source into navigable waters.6 What this all means is that distilleries should consult an attorney or qualified environmental 3 “Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing alcoholic liquors by distillation, and in manufacturing cordials and alcoholic cocktails by blending processes or by mixing liquors and other ingredients” are classified under Standard Industrial Classification (“SIC”) Code 2085, which is under the category of “Division D— Manufacturing.” U.S. Dep’t of Labor, Description for 2085: Distilled and Blended Liquors, (last visited Jan. 20, 2022); see 33 U.S.C. § 1362(18). 4

33 U.S.C. § 1362(7).

5 The meaning of “waters of the United States” has been litigated for several decades and subject to reinterpretation by the federal agencies that oversee the implementation of the CWA. Most recently, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers issued a proposed rule updating the definition of waters of the United States. Revised Definition of “Waters of the United States”, 86 Fed. Reg. 69372 (Dec. 7, 2021), 6

County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Federation, 140 S.Ct. 1462, 1468 (2020).


professional to determine whether a distillery’s specific discharge is regulated under the CWA. That said, not all discharges require an NPDES permit. For instance, a distillery that discharges into a municipal sanitary sewer system does not need an NPDES permit. However, the locality operating the system may have its own permitting requirements and regulations regarding industrial wastewater dischargers. A discharge to land also should not require an NPDES permit unless that discharge is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from a point source into navigable waters (but, even if an NPDES permit is not required, such discharge is very likely to require coverage under another discharge permit, such as waste discharge requirements in California). Additionally, a distillery may need to seek NPDES permit coverage if it discharges into a municipal storm water system.

Enforcement. Mark Twain famously said, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting.” While violation of the CWA or state law may not lead to physical fights, ambivalence toward state and federal discharge requirements may subject a distillery to governmental agency enforcement action, or possible enforcement action under the CWA’s “citizen suit” provision, which allows affected members of the public to initiate costly lawsuits against dischargers for minor 7

33 U.S.C. § 1365.

8 Office of Att’y General, Commonwealth of Virginia, Attorney General Herring Secures Guilty Pleas from Shenandoah Distillery for Environmental Violations (Nov. 5, 2021), 9

33 U.S.C. § 1319(c)(1)-(7).

10 Cal. State Wat. Res. Control Bd., Statewide General Waste Discharge Requirements (WDRs) for Wineries, programs/waste_discharge_requirements/winery_order.html (last updated Dec. 20, 2021).

violations.7 For example, in November 2021, a Virginia distillery agreed to pay a $700,000 penalty for violations of Virginia’s State Water Control Law for allegedly dumping more than 40,000 gallons of industrial wastewater into a local stream.8 The discharge was not permitted by the terms of the distillery’s permit. Dischargers may also be subject to criminal penalties for certain defined conduct, such as knowingly making false statements in records or reports.9 That’s right — CWA violations can result in monetary or criminal penalties.

Final thoughts. This brief article covers one very discrete aspect of discharge requirements imposed by federal law. State and local authorities may have additional requirements for wastewater discharged in other contexts such as to land, groundwater, or state waters. For instance, in January 2021, the California State Water Resources Control Board adopted general waste discharge requirements for certain winery waste that is discharged to land.10 All this is to say that, as the craft distilling industry continues to boom, chances are that this growth will catch the eyes of regulators, lawmakers, and the general public. For this reason, it is important to keep up to date with changes in applicable laws regulating the discharge of industrial wastewater from facilities. If you have any question regarding whether your facility is complying with local, state, and federal wastewater discharge requirements, consult an attorney.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to be a source of general information, not an opinion or legal advice on any specific situation and does not create an attorneyclient relationship with our readers.

Corey Day is an alcohol beverage attorney and litigator at Stoel Rives LLP and can be reached via email at or by phone at (916) 319-4670. Heraclio Pimentel is an environment, land use, and natural resources attorney and litigator at Stoel Rives LLP. Heraclio can be reached via email at or by phone at (916) 319-4645.

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he key to quality assurance Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry is a separation technique used in the spirits industry is to QUANTIFY AND IDENTIFY CHEMICAL COMPONENTS OF A SAMPLE. having a skilled team that is passionate about the product FIGURE 1. Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer in the Bently Heritage Estate Distillery Laboratory. that they represent. While there are many modalities of testing in the scope of qualiGas Chromatograph Headspace Sampler Mass Spectrometer ty assurance, one of the most technical and analytical is Gas Chromatography (GC) Mass Spectrometry (MS), or GCMS. GCMS is a separation technique used to quantify and identify chemical components of a sample. The GC and MS work in combination to produce reliable analytical data on each sample. In gas chromatography, samples must be injected onto the column to start the separation process. Although there are many ways to sample, at Bently the column, which would affect the efficiency sampled and injected onto the gas chromaHeritage Estate Distillery headspace samof the stationary phase (coating on the inside tography column. There are many advantages pling is used because of the nature of the samof the column) over time. Headspace samples being tested. In headspace sampling, the of using headspace sampling as opposed to pling also increases detection limits by only liquid sampling (directly injecting the liquid vial containing the sample is heated to create introducing a concentrated sample of volatile sample onto the column). Headspace saman equilibrium between the liquid phase and pling introduces only volatile compounds compounds, which allows us to better quanthe gas phase in the sealed vial. Once this tify compounds at very low concentrations. onto the column, which prolongs the life of equilibrium is established (concentrations After the headspace has been sampled, it is the column by minimizing the amount of in the liquid phase and the gas phase are introduced to the gas chromatograph. non-volatile compounds that interact with constant), the gas phase (i.e., headspace) is W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


FIGURE 2. (Right) Schematic of a capillary gas chromatography column. (Left) Inside the oven of the gas chromatograph.

A GC contains a very long and thin capillary tube. This tube can be up to 120 meters and as thin as 0.32mm in diameter. The tube has a coating on the inner surface that separates a sample into its constituent compounds due to the column interaction, and difference in boiling points of each compound. The coating on the inner surface can be polar, non-polar, or inert, depending on what the column will be used for. The sample is vaporized and sent through the capillary column using a carrier gas. The carrier gas has no interaction with the column, as it’s sole function is to allow the sample to flow through the column. Depending on the chemical structure of each of the components in the sample, they will interact differently as they pass through. If a compound interacts strongly with the column, it will be retained for longer on the column and elute from the column after a long period

of time. If the compound has very little interaction with the column, it will pass through and elute quickly. A good way to think about a gas chromatograph is to use the analogy of a distillation. Distillation is a technique that uses a difference in boiling point to separate heads (low boiling compounds), from hearts (mainly ethanol), and from tails (high boiling compounds). Gas chromatography utilizes this same principle using a long capillary column. Some components will bind so strongly to the column that they would not elute at room temperature. A temperature program is also used to increase the temperature in the oven (where the capillary column resides) as the components are interacting with the column to lessen the interactions and allow them to elute. Each gas chromatograph needs to be tuned for the samples that it will analyze. The main factors that influence the elution

FIGURE 3. Schematic showing the relationship between concentration of component and area under the curve on the corresponding chromatograph.


rate of components are, polarity of analytes, polarity of column stationary phase, thickness of column stationary phase, length of column, and oven temperature program. As the components elute, a graph called a chromatogram is generated by a computer program. In this graph, the area under the curve is proportional to the concentration of each of the corresponding components. If only a gas chromatogram was used, the technician running the instrument would have to know ahead of time the identity of each of these component peaks. This is where combining a gas chromatograph and a mass spectrometer is beneficial. Mass spectrometry uses charged particles to break compounds into their component ions, which then can be concentrated and identified using an ion library database. As each compound elutes from the gas chromatography column, it enters the mass spectrometer and is bombarded with electrons, which break weaker bonds in the molecule and ionizes it. These ions, because they have a charge, can be concentrated via lenses and moved via magnets in the quadrupole. Once these ion clouds have been concentrated, they are moved to a detector which translates them into an electrical signal that the computer software can read. The fragmented ions serve as a “fingerprint” of the component, which can be searched for in compound libraries. These “fingerprints” are known as spectra. Think of these libraries as Google searches for the compound. Each spectra corresponds to a unique chemical, making compound identification easy. For example, below is the spectra for acetone. When the electrons bombarded the acetone eluting from the gas chromatography column, it was broken up into W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

ions with masses of 15, 43, and 58 m/z. The spectra show the relative abundance of each of these ions. The computer program searches a library of about 600,000 compounds and finds the compound with the matching spectra. This tells the operator that the compound eluting is in fact acetone. In broader terms, the mass spectrometer allows the operator to identify compounds in the original sample without any prior knowledge. The reason this is so useful when used in combination with gas chromatography is that it allows users to separate, identify, and quantify the chemical makeup of a sample. GCMS is used in many chemical industries and is growing in popularity in the spirits industry. GCMS is used to identify the exact chemical makeup of a spirit, providing a sort of “fingerprint” for each spirit. This technique has been used in the Scotch whisky industry to identify fraudulent spirits, which a certain producer claimed to be of high quality but in fact were adulterated lower quality whiskies.


GCMS is used in many chemical industries and is GROWING IN POPULARITY IN THE SPIRITS INDUSTRY. GCMS is used to identify the exact chemical makeup of a spirit, providing a sort of “fingerprint” for each spirit. GCMS could also aid in the maintenance of batch consistency. For instance, gin samples from separate batches could be run to determine the amount of certain terpenes in each. If there is a large discrepancy between batches, corresponding botanicals could be checked for freshness. Or better yet, botanical samples could be run using headspace sampling on the same GCMS to determine amounts of key terpenes that would help in adjusting the flavor of each botanical in a gin distillation. In addition, if off flavors are found via sensory input, a sample could be run to determine which chemical component was causing this, aiding in tracking down the source of the off note. Certain chemicals (such as methanol) have maximum allowable concentrations in

order to be sold internationally. Using GCMS, a distillery can certify in-house that they are below the maximum allowable concentration, which would save time and money for third party testing. Finally, GCMS can be used to run scientific trials to write industry funded research papers (white papers) in order to further the technical knowledge of spirits manufacturing. However, it may be some time before this technology is widely used in the craft spirits industry because of the high capital investment and the requirement of having skilled individuals to run the equipment. David Letteney is quality assurance technician at Bently Heritage Estate Distillery.







Two years ago the team at Artisan Spirit Magazine announced our first ever “Artisan Spirit of the Year.” The annual recognition is not chosen by the team at Artisan Spirit directly, instead, a group of industry peers takes on the monumental task of nominating and selecting an individual who personifies the aspects of quality production, mentorship, community building, innovative thinking, and leadership. The industry is full of exceptional people and supremely talented distillers, which makes it extremely difficult to choose an individual who deserves to be highlighted. So this year’s committee of distilling peers didn't pick an individual. Instead they selected two incredible people to share the honor. It is our great honor to recognize Johnny Jeffery and John McKee as the 2022 Artisan Spirit(s) of the Year.


he first time Johnny Jeffery visited his new friend John McKee in Butte, Montana, he quips that John took him “cold springing” — a frantic dash through subzero weather to plunge into a promised hot spring that turned out to be more lukewarm than toasty. Consider it a highly effective instance of trauma bonding. The two are still fast friends — close enough that they volunteered to answer one another’s interview questions when we sat down with them, the co-recipients of this year’s Artisan Spirit Distiller(s) of the Year award. Read on to learn more about how both got into distilling in the first place, why personal values belong in business, and how the landscape of the inland West inspires their work.

How did you each get into the distilling industry? John: Can I answer for Johnny? OK good.

Johnny was in music, mostly in the background — rigging, the production side, not on the front side making it. Also, at some point in his past he was a hardcore endurance runner, and he used to do product reviews so he could get free shoes. During that time he decided to go to Michigan State University’s master’s program. When he got in, he was trying to get an artisan distilling program going, and it wasn’t flowing the way everyone wanted to go. So then he went and launched Death Door’s massive expansion and did a kickass job there. After that he went down to Santa Fe and started making


“A lot of the old-school in distilling is about finding and keeping the secrets. We built community on information-sharing, not on the intellectual property we built and kept in a vault.” ­­— JOHNNY JEFFERY

“I don’t care what kind of mountain man or hermit you are, somebody made your axe blade. You can’t do it alone, and as soon as you think you can, you’re doomed to fail. You need collaboration.”

some of the best whiskey out there in the guise of Colkegan. He had been consulting in the industry forever, and that led him to Bently Heritage, where he’s been since the very start of the idea. He’s taken abandoned buildings and dry ground and turned it into a massive distillery with a bitching backstory. Now he lives in Reno with his wife and kids who are tragically, tragically smart, and he’s currently the general manager of Bently Heritage Estate Distillery in Minden, Nevada.

Johnny: You did pretty good! All right, so

John grew up in Butte. He moved around and eventually studied environmental engineering and was doing biofuel stuff, like building truly massive municipal plants to turn cities


over to sustainable fuels using waste oil and grease trap oil and butter. And coming out of that, he had a little bit of a collision with a personal dream where his “retire-at-40” mission kind of fell apart. So he went back to Butte with his lovely wife and said, ‘What am I supposed to do now?’ There they were, looking around at this community they both adored, and said, what if I took that experience and started something to support this community and create jobs and build wealth and employ people and clean things up a bit? So they launched Headframe [Spirits], based on their idea of making spirits and building something cool for the community to center around, and here we are. He is a pillar of this community. I have seen the way people react to him cruising around town.


S E L ECT I O N GUIDELINES Base Selection Standards: › An individual (not a business) › A distiller (active or retired) › Having the fundamental skills in distilling, blending, fermentation, aging, etc. › Recognized as a quality producer › Distillery size is not a consideration (craft or macro) › Distillery ownership is not a requirement

Education & Values: › A steward of knowledge who educates passionately › Fosters community › Collaborates › Not a “jackass” (aka, no history of shouting people down, pretentiousness, bigotry, sexism, etc.)

Innovation: › Willing to push boundaries while still understanding and learning from tradition › Not afraid to learn from failure

Advocacy & Leadership: › A leader in legislative or community issues and regulations (state/ federal/guilds/associations) › Industry advocacy to customers and others outside the boundary of the distillery › Celebrity status within the distilling industry is not a selection requirement



2020 Artisan Spirit of the Year


2021 Artisan Spirit of the Year



P.T. Wood


Courtney McKee *


*Self recused during final round of selection

Jake Holshue


You’ve both been really active in the Good Guys Distillers group. Why has that organization been so meaningful to you? John: It matters to the people who are in it. That’s been the reason for its longevity

and ongoing success. The people in it care to be there, and care to give their time. A phrase I steal from my wife all the time is that it allows for professional vulnerability. We’re all known in the industry in one way or another, but we all make mistakes, and you don’t want to go onto a random forum and say, ‘I didn’t ferment this right.’ You want a place where you can ask questions and trust the answers and that the people you’re communicating with have your back.

Johnny: We were all seeing each other at conferences, chatting each other up, making

phone calls, but this was a way we could maintain those relationships with people we were seeing year after year. At first, we needed a place to maintain relationships. Then it became apparent there is this need to share information in a safe place. And now, we’re finding there’s a need for meaningful work outside of professional development. We’re starting to piece together some projects to work on as professionals that support the industry. Like the Good Deeds project.

What’s something important you each learned from the Good Deeds project? John: What I learned is that it was way too long in the making. Somebody should

have been doing this five or ten years ago. This should have happened a long time ago. Hopefully other people will take note and try to duplicate it, or do other versions or projects with the same impact.

Johnny: A big thing I learned is that a lot of people feel helpless to make meaningful

differences with issues that feel huge and intractable. When you present a concept and offer to be the avenue through which some good can be done, a ton of people immediately step up because they’re looking for ways to contribute and they don’t know where to put the energy they have to offer. There’s so much desire in people to try to fix the world we’ve broken, and just taking the first steps is what gets things moving.

Mark Shilling


You’re both located in the Intermountain West — John’s in Montana, and Johnny’s in Nevada. How do those locations impact your approach to work? John: I’ve lived all over, but I grew up here.

There’s a map I saw once, it’s a major streets map of the United States. You go east of the Mississippi, there’s this grid system that goes all the way to the East Coast. West of the Mississippi, it follows the rivers. It looks more like a tree. We’re just a little more spread out, and it yields a different ethos. My brain works differently when I’m here versus in upstate New York or in Indiana.

Johnny: I grew up in Chicago, in the city, and it

took me a while after leaving Chicago to recognize the changes that happen when you’re surrounded by space and can see the sky. As much as I love cities for the generative energy they provide, there is something about the fact that in most of these Western cities, you can hop in the car and in half an hour be where there are trees and rivers and mountains and let your brain lose from the grid John was talking about — which is more than physical. It’s a metaphysical grid, it structures your thinking. It’s human creation, not nature-oriented. There’s a beautiful kind of openness in having access to raw nature out here.

Both Headframe and Bently Heritage have important values-based aspects: environmental sustainability, community and corporate responsibility, and various third-party certifications. Why is that important to each of you?


Johnny: In every aspect of the world we have

built we’re seeing the consequences of doing things without a values-based approach. Economically, socially, we fall to our knees at the altar of capitalism and national interest and all the things built up as the monuments of our cultures. It’s not working very well. We can’t come together around crises. We can’t come together to decide we don’t want people to be homeless. All of the waterways are polluted. We’re surrounded by mines and superfund sites. What I would hope from a 300-year lens looking back, people would say there was a cultural transition here, where people started considering the long-term consequences of anything they did, from the almost-meaningless act of composting banana peels to the communities we build to do things for one another.

John: I really believe in the value of collab-

oration. We don’t do anything solo. Nobody can actually do anything on their own, period. I don’t care what kind of mountain man or hermit you are, somebody made your axe blade. You can’t do it alone, and as soon as you think you can, you’re doomed to fail. You need collaboration. That’s why there was all that cool energy when we did the ask with Good Deeds. People couldn’t help but say yes, they were all like, ‘Me! Me! Me! I want to do it!’ There’s a thing there we all look for. When we were coming out of the caves, we were coming out in groups. We weren’t going out onto the savannah by ourselves. We would go out as a team.


What’s something you believed early in your career, but feel differently about now? Johnny: At the beginning, I thought I was going to learn all the secrets and

then succeed based on the secrets I had. And the thing I learned quickly at MSU was that my value in the industry was in what I could figure out and tell people that they didn’t know, not the secrets I keep. It’s not an industry where a lot of information is easily available. A lot of the old-school in distilling is about finding and keeping the secrets. We built community on information-sharing, not on the intellectual property we built and kept in a vault.

John: When I was with the biodiesel company, we were publicly traded on

NASDAQ. It was like, fine, I’ll work six months in a row without a day off living in a hotel in Chicago with this concept that there would be some early retirement payout, like I could just be done. But there’s no reason to retire now. Now what I’m enjoying is this constancy of something new I have to learn every single day. Two days ago, it was a little thermostat on a radiator in my tasting room that wasn’t working. Now I know how to fix it. It’s a stupid little example, but it’s something I appreciate. I am wicked, wicked happy when I am not the smartest person in the room, because that means I have the right people in the room because I’m going to learn something.


It’s been a super-long day at the distillery, you worked through lunch, and now it’s 6:30 and you’re starving. What’s on the menu? John: First, I’m putting on a song. Fridays, when I’m blowing

out and I’m tired, I go put on Song for Shelter by Fatboy Slim. Then I lean back in my chair, and usually by this point I also have a whiskey. Then we’re going to cook something. It’ll be something light, fun, easy, and it’s going to be started off with Song for Shelter in the back of my brain.

Johnny: My mom’s family is Italian and it never mattered

what you were eating, you were in the kitchen all day, things were getting cooked, food was appearing, whatever it was was delicious, but whatever it was was just what you were doing together. As long as the room is full of people you love, it doesn’t matter what you’re eating. The food is just the vehicle.

John: You should take his answer and make it my answer.


Written by DEVON TREVATHAN Photos provided by NOVO FOGO


t’s unusual to find a distillery that centers the concept of terroir in its messaging; even more uncommon is one that is certified carbon negative and committed to removing 36 species of native trees from the threatened list. That is just a couple of highlights in the story that Novo Fogo, a distillery located near the town of Morretes within Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, is trying to tell.

The Novo Fogo brand was started in 2010 by Romanian native Dragos Axinte, whose family moved to and settled in Seattle when he was 18 years old, and his wife Emily Axinte. A previous business venture brought Dragos to Brazil, though he’d already had an emotional connection to the place — as a child, he’d read books about and had become obsessed with Brazilian football stars like

Pelé, and then more broadly the Brazilian football world. As an adult working in the country, however, it was cachaça that drew him in. While the Novo Fogo brand started in 2010, the founders did not immediately have a distillery to work out of. They looked all over Brazil to find one but were firm on having it meet some particular requirements, being zero-waste and USDA-certified among them. Fulgencio Torres Viruel was the founder and president of the distillery that they ultimately acquired in 2015, and he partnered with the Axintes as well as Dr. Agenor Maccari Jr., who specializes in post-harvest food technology, particularly in beverages. Maccari joined the team as the master distiller. Cachaça is the most popular alcoholic beverage from the country of Brazil, whose government defines it as a spirit distilled from fermented sugarcane juice with an alcoholic


strength between 38 and 54 percent by volume and an allowance of up to six grams of added sugar per liter. It was introduced to the country by the Portuguese in the 16th century when settlers brought with them sugarcane cuttings and copper pot stills and grew its production over the next several decades through large sugar plantations. Centuries later, industrial scale production was implemented, and there developed two broad styles of the spirit: ‘traditional’ style, which is made on copper pot stills in small batches, and ‘industrial,’ made on continuous column systems. Novo Fogo’s production would certainly be considered traditional, as in harkening back to pre-industrial times. They grow their own sugarcane on the land that houses the facility in Floresta Atlântica, or the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil, without use of any chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers, and any sugarcane they use not grown on their own property is purchased from farming operations within Brazil who function with a similar ethos. Their field team 44

hand-harvests the cane with machetes in lieu of machine harvesting or field burning. Within hours of harvest, and without pasteurization, the cane is pressed to begin the first step of production and transferred to the distilling building on the property. The specific kind of sugarcane used by Novo Fogo for their cachaça is very important to the operation: Currently, they use a varietal called cana havianinha (ah-vye-ahNEE-nya) for their distillation, but they are actively experimenting with other varietal plantings to see what, if any, would make for a better choice. “The main concern for us is going to be general productivity, so a sugarcane varietal is robust enough to survive an organic agricultural operation because we don’t use any chemical interventions,” said Luke McKinley, marketing director for Novo Fogo. Certain characteristics like hardiness are generally needed for any varietal of sugarcane that Novo Fogo would consider farming on their property to use in their production, but they are also looking at other concerns. “I was asking our technical

director Bruna here, what sort of qualities are you going to look for in that next cana havianinha substitute?” said McKinley. “And she joked that she’s looking for an aquatic species of sugarcane because it’s been so rainy and there's just been so much water in between the rows of sugarcane.” Water-logged roots are a major concern for an organically farmed operation, as it presents abundant opportunity for fungus or rot to develop. Some of the varietals they’ve planted experimentally have shown early indications that they are more resistant than others, so those have been planted in larger quantities. Other less-promising varietals are turned over, and on and on they go with their experimentation. It’s a long process that will likely take decades but Novo Fogo clearly has every indication of creating a lasting entity in the region. Farming your own raw materials on-site is a complicated endeavor that requires a huge amount of effort for the kind of return that you can expect, but Novo Fogo has anchored its brand on the terroir that they feel their W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

spirits exhibit. “There is sea salt in the air, there is kind of the funk of the grass, the lime blossoms, the passion fruit blossoms, banana blossoms, all those end up in the air, and they end up in the sugarcane so the sugarcane is sweet and it’s salty,” said Dragos. The character of their cachaça could be described as elegantly existing at the crossroads of savory and tropical. It’s because of this intimate tie to the land that Novo Fogo has invested so much into studying and experimenting with the varietals of cane they use. Not only are the farmers at Novo Fogo contending with a hilly, jungle-like location where they must grow sugarcane without chemical intervention, they’re also dealing with the ever-more-present effects of climate change. Weather patterns in the area were once quite predictable — usually a heavy rain cycle followed by a consistent dry period. Each year, however, they present as more and more erratic, sometimes even destructive, like a bomb cyclone that hit the coast of Brazil in 2020 and sent high winds sweeping over the distillery. “When high winds come


“There is sea salt in the air, there is kind of the funk of the grass, the lime blossoms, the passion fruit blossoms, banana blossoms, all those end up in the air, and they end up in the sugarcane so the sugarcane is sweet and it’s salty.” DRAGOS AXINTE

Founder & CEO, Novo Fogo

through this area, it looks like a giant hand just smothered our sugarcane,” McKinley explained. “When that cane breaks there’s a little fissure in the cane that can pose a risk to the fermentation because bacteria and critters can get in to the cane, compromise the quality of the juice, and therefore compromise the quality of our fermentation.”

It’s the unfortunate catch-22 for people who commit themselves to engaging with agriculture in a more conscientious way: Typically, they are the ones who feel the most potent negative effects of climate change. Novo Fogo can access cane through partnering with farm distilleries around the country who they have worked with in the past, but the list is small and those operations are in much the same boat. It’s not as easy as going to the country’s bulk sugarcane processors and buying pasteurized juice. They have set up their business in such a way that working toward a better climate future isn’t just philanthropic, it’s essential for their survival. The lineup of products released by Novo Fogo, which includes an American oak-aged cachaça, American oak and zebrawood-aged cachaça, American oak and Brazilian oakaged cachaça, and American oak and Brazilian teak-aged cachaça, is built around their silver cachaça, which is the base for all their aged expressions and canned cocktails. The silver cachaça starts with the sugarcane from the fields, which is harvested by hand


and then pressed on site. The resulting juice is collected in a room where it’s put through a series of filters to remove particulates and, depending on the Brix measured, possibly dosed down with a bit of water. This is the furthest that they go with standardizing the juice prior to fermentation. Novo Fogo’s fermentation relies on wild yeasts, but they don’t merely leave it up to those yeasts that are present in the air or on the stalks. At the beginning of every harvest cycle, the distillers make a starter, kind of like a sourdough or kombucha mother, wherein they take a bucketful of freshly harvested sugarcane juice and add to it a bit of lime juice to bring down the pH and some rice flour as a starchy medium for the wild yeast to latch onto. This starter is added to the first batch of sugarcane juice at the beginning of the harvest, and once that batch is fermented into sugarcane wine, a portion of that is taken and added back into the second batch of fresh juice that’s ready to ferment. Their fermentations run quickly; because of the high sugar content inherent in freshly pressed juice, the process of fermenting almost always takes less time than it would for, say, barley and corn. They use fermenters with dimpled bands through which hot and cold water can run to maintain a consistent temperature during the process. In Novo Fogo’s case, their sugarcane juice ferments completely in 24 hours; the final result is about eight percent. The folks at the distillery also recognize that so much of the flavor that their cachaça exhibits is because of this crucial step. “The whole objective of this cachaça, which goes into barrels and becomes everything else — but [the silver expression] is kind of the purest representation of that — is that we want to preserve the flavor and the identity of the sugarcane, because it’s so clean, it’s so healthy,” said McKinley. “We process what this becomes very minimally.” Once fermentation is complete, the wine is moved into three linked components — boiler, still, and chiller — the first of which is used to start the heating process. The distillation setup is organized to conserve as much energy as they can. Vapor is run back through the preheater with a serpentine pipe inside the vessel, so it arrives at the chiller already cooled somewhat, which they have calculated saves them about 20 percent of the energy they would use. The still is fueled with steam from a fire fed with bagaço or bagasse, the dried-up pulp leftover from the 46

pressing of the sugarcane stalks. Steam from the bagasse-burning furnace heats the sugarcane wine in their pot still; they collect the center or hearts cut from that and recycle the remaining distillate to use as fuel, to start fires, or to use as a cleaning agent. One hundred and thirty liters of drinkable cachaça is yielded per batch on their 1,200-liter system. Following distillation, their silver cachaça is moved into inert stainless steel tanks to rest for one year. Following that rest period in stainless, they do not utilize chill-filtration for their cachaça. A portion of Novo Fogo’s products see influence from wood via aging, which they say is reflective of its native country: According to the folks at Novo Fogo, the vast majority of cachaça consumed in Brazil is barrel-aged. They use American oak in some portion for all their aged spirits, but the sub-family of products dubbed the Two-Wood Series utilizes both American oak and native Brazilian woods to age their spirits, including zebrawood, Brazilian nut wood, and Brazilian teak. For this reason and many more, not least of which is the influence that Brazil’s rainforest has on the entire planet’s climate, Novo Fogo has been committed for years to a reforestation program that they’ve built into their business. The Un-Endangered Forest is a project that they created that “aims to reverse the journey towards extinction of several threatened native Brazilian tree species,” according to their website, by sourcing seeds and saplings of native and rare trees that are then fostered in their local nursery and planted on their property and partnering properties. This project has contributed to Novo Fogo’s carbon negative status via the offsetting of carbon output, coupled with their overall reduction in use. You could say that the goal with Novo Fogo is to introduce a traditional Brazilian spirit, cachaça, to the North American market at an approachable price point and style, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but that would severely undercut the medley of missions that its founders have initiated. It seems that Novo Fogo is actually one of those rare breeds in this industry — a savvy and well-articulated brand that feels a genuine responsibility to do right by the land and community through which they have made their products.

Visit for more information. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

US Craft Spirits Five Years into the


he year 2021 marks the fifth year Park Street and the American Craft Spirits Association have partnered to release the Craft Spirits Data Project (CSDP) to track the evolution of the craft spirits category in the US. In that time, the category’s growth has been remarkable and the newly released CSDP illustrates that even a global pandemic can’t stop the craft spirits category from expanding. That’s not to say it wasn’t a challenging year for craft. The CSDP showed that employment in the craft spirits industry was reduced by nearly half, declining from 30,800 full-time employees in 2019 to just under 17,000 in 2020. But despite the decline in workforce, the craft spirits category persevered, surpassing 12 million 9-liter cases in retail sales and $6.7 billion in sales in 2020, up from around 5 million cases in 2015 and $2.4 billion in sales. Craft now represents 4.7 percent of the total spirits volume in the US and 7.1 percent of the WRITTEN B Y EMILY PEN N IN G TO N value. For comparison, US craft beer represented a 12.3 percent volume share of the entire beer category in 2020, and when we began this report craft Spirits Retail SalesSales by Volume, 2015–2020 Retail Sales by Value, 201 Craft Spirits Retail Sales by Volume, 2015–2020 CraftCraft Spirits Retail by Value, 2015–2020 Craft Spirits 9L Cases (000) $ Billions spirits only represent9L Cases (000) $ Billions ed 2.2 percent of spir14,000 14,000 $8.0 its volume and 3 per+7.3% +7.3% +9.8% +9.8% 12,006 cent of value in 2015. 12,006 6.7 $7.0 12,000 12,000 11,189 11,189 In 2020, craft spirits 6.1 6.1 saw value growth in$6.0 10,000 10,000 crease by 9.8 percent 9,021 9,021 4.8 4.8 $5.0 and volumes increase 8,000 8,000 7,160 7,160 by 7.3 percent in the 3.7 3.7 $4.0 US. Both rates are re5,842 5,842 6,000 6,000 3.0 spectable, but they rep4,9303.0 4,930 $3.0 2.4 2.4 resent a deceleration 4,000 4,000 from previous growth $2.0 rates which were closer 2,000 2,000 to 20 percent. We be$1.0 lieve this is a pandemic 0 0 $0.0 anomaly as many craft

Craft Spirits Sales Grew in 2020, Craft Spirits Sales Grew in 2020, ButtoGrowth Rate Decelerated to Single Digits But Growth Rate Decelerated Single Digits

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

20152016 20162017 20172018 2018 2019 2019 2020 2020 2015

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2




Craft Distiller Sales as a Share of Total U.S. Spirits Volume and Percent


Craft Spirits Market at 7.1% in Value and 4.7% in Volume


% of total U.S. business


More Than 54% of the U.S. Craft Business Takes Place Outside of the Home State 12,081


21.8% 2016

21.2% 2017

54.0% 2018

100% 2019 0.9%

100.9% 2020

producers refocused 7.0% resources to hand Share Volume Craft Distiller Sales as a Share of Total U.S. Spirits Volume and Value 5 sanitizer production 6.0% Percent Share Value or sales, which is not 5.0% 4.6% reflected in any of the 8.0% data captured in the 3.9% 3.8% 7.1% 4.0% 6.9% CSDP report. 7.0% 3.2% 3.0% The consumer de3.0% 2.6% 5.8% 6.0% 2.2% mand for craft spirits 2.0% in the US continues 4.7% 5.0% 4.6% 4.6% to draw in hungry 1.0% 3.9% 3.8% 4.0% entrepreneurs from 3.2% every state. In the five 3.0% 0.0% 3.0% 2.6% 2015 2016 2017 2018 years that we’ve been 2.2% tracking the craft spir2.0% U.S. craft spirits currently has an estimated market share of 4.7% in cas its category, the num1.0% ber of active distillers The U.S. craft market share in value is estimated at 7.1%, up from 3% i has nearly doubled U.S. craft spirits is clearly a contributor to the trend towards premiumi 0.0% from 1,163 in 2016 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 to 2,290 in August SOURCES: TTB, ACSA, IWSR, STATE ABC BOARDS, STATE GUILDS, TEAM ANALYSES 2021. And there is U.S. craft spirits currently has an estimated market share of 4.7% in cases, up from 2.2% in 2015 likely still runway to The U.S. craft market share in value is estimated at 7.1%, up from 3% in 2015 Ninety percent of craft distillers are defined as small producers in grow in many places as 52 percent of craft distilleries are located in U.S.New craft York spirits(180), is clearly a contributor to the towards premiumization the U.S. thetrend CSDP (producing less thanin5,259 9Lmarket cases annually), 8.2 perjust 10 states led by California (190), Washington cent are considered medium producers (5,260–52,576 cases annual(135), Texas (135), and Pennsylvania (117). Additionally, at the time SOURCES: TTB, ACSA, IWSR, STATE ABC BOARDS, STATE GUILDS, TEAM ANALYSES ly) and just 1.6 percent are what we consider a large craft producer this data was collected there were nearly 500 producers in the plan(52,577–394,317 cases annually). However, that small percentage of ning phase that did not count toward the 2,290 total. large producers makes more than half (56.6%) of all craft spirits produced in the US. Newer, smaller producers often rely on sales in the tasting room or with local retailers until they build up the resources to expand outward into other states. When the CSDP report launched, the majorSources of Case Sales – Total U.S. Craft Spirits Industry, ity of craft spirits sales took place in home states, but Domestic and Export 2020 9L Cases (000) over time that ratio shifted and in 2020 54 percent of 104

12,185 7.1%


6,523 5.8%


4.6% 2,560





2.6% 2,998 Sales at DSP

21.8% 2016

Home state, but outside premises

21.2% 2017

Other U.S. states

54.0% 2018

Total U.S. business


Total business

100% 2019 0.9%

100.9% 2020

% of total U.S. business

For the purposes of this research, craft spirits are defined as distilled spirits that are produced in the U.S. by licensed producers that have not more than 750,000 proof gallons (or 394,317 9L cases) removed from bond, market themselves as craft, are not openly controlled by a large supplier, and have no proven violation of the American Craft Spirits Association Code of Ethics.




Nearly Nearly 60% 60% of of thethe Business Business of of Medium Medium Nearly Nearly 60% 60% of of thethe Business Business of of Medium Medium total craft spirits sales took place outside the home state. Craft Craft Producers Producers Takes Takes inin the the Home Home State State Craft Craft Producers Producers Takes Takes in the the Home Home State The logicalin conclusion is that enoughState craft spirits producers U.S. are growing andSpirits expanding to move the needle for the Sources Sources of Case of Case Sales Sales – Medium – Medium U.S.U.S. Craft Craft Spirits Spirits Producers, Producers, Sources Sources of Case of Case Sales Sales – Medium – Medium U.S. Craft Craft Spirits Producers, Producers, 9L Cases 9L Cases (000)(000) Domestic Domestic andand Export Export 20202020 entire craft spirits category, which is a promising trend. 9L Cases 9L Cases (000)(000) Domestic Domestic andand Export Export 20202020 There was a dip in the percentage of craft spirits sales 88 3,974 3,966 3,966 8 8 but that 3,974 3,966 3,966 that took place on-site in 2020, is likely due to the fact that many craft distilleries were shut down due to state Covid restrictions for a period of time. However, 1,602 1,602 D:H?@ 1,602 1,602 D:H?@ craft spirits producers invested a record $759 million into their businesses in 2020. The average investment amount was $343,400. Craft spirits producers said their top moti1,210 1,210 D:@D? vations for investments were expanding to meet consumer 1,210 1,210 D:@D? demand and increasing visitor space. Overall, 2020 may have been a challenging year, but the US craft spirits category is poised for continued growth. D:DCF 1,154 1,154 D:DCF 1,154 1,154 Some major factors that will determine how big the category can get include the push for permanent direct-to-conSalesSales at atHome Home state, state,Other Other U.S. U.S. Total TotalU.S. U.S. Export Export Total SalesSales at atHome Home state, state,Other Other U.S. U.S. Total TotalU.S. U.S. Export Total sumers laws for spirits, theExport reduction inbusiness export tariffs, and DSP DSP but but business outside outside states states business DSP DSPbusiness but but outside outside states states business business premises premises consumer demand for premium, local products. premises premises

29.1% 29.1% 30.5% 30.5%

40.4% 40.4%

100% 100%

0.2% 0.2% 100.2% 29.1% 29.1% 30.5% 30.5%

%%ofoftotal totalU.S. business



40.4% 40.4%

100% 100%

0.2% 0.2%


Emily Pennington is senior manager of content & marketing at %%ofoftotal total U.S. U.S. business business Park Street. For more information visit or call (305) 967-7440.

1/2 PG H AD





Interest in gin colored with butterfly pea flower has shown an impressive durability. WRITTEN BY AARON KNOLL


roclaiming a “New Blue Spirit,” a 1991 Sunday Times advertorial proclaimed, “The launch of Bombay Sapphire, a high-strength gin in a startling blue bottle, aims to convert British G&T drinkers to the concept of designer gin.”1 This “game-changing” blue bottle was credited with fuelling the gin renaissance.2 Over a decade later, spirits importer Michel Roux told the Wall Street Journal, “We are certainly counting very much on the reaction of the blue color,” to justify the post-distillation infusion of iris to give Magellan Gin a distinctive blue hue.3 But now what’s blue doesn’t stay blue. Today, the new blue changes colors. Thanks to the peculiar properties of the butterfly pea flower, these gins are a deep

shade of blue in the bottle. Once mixed with an acidic ingredient like lemon juice or tonic water, it turns pink. Pioneered by the Australian-based Husk Farm Distillery with their Ink Gin, launched in 2015,4 the trick has often been copied. Distillers the world over have released gins colored with butterfly pea flower. Some of these gins have quickly become big sellers. Canada-based Victoria Distillers’ Empress 1908 Gin rapidly caught on in some markets, to the point where it only trailed Hendrick’s in terms of premium gin brand sales,5 selling over 7,000 cases per month.6 United States producers; however, largely sat out this trend due to regulatory hurdles. That may be set to change. In October


The Sunday Times 1991.


Scenery 2015; Brennan 2016.


Knowles 2013.


Freeman 2017.


Lawton 2003.


Guilfoyle 2020.


2021, the FDA approved “aqueous extract of butterfly pea flower (Clitoria ternatea) as a color additive in various food categories,” including alcoholic beverages.7 While the initial novelty of color-changing gin may have worn off, they’ve shown an impressive durability. Buoyed by the success of Empress 1908, interest remains and these “blue” hued gins are still piquing consumer interest behind bars and on store shelves. They’ve proven to be a reliable product expansion for some smaller distillers, like Nova Scotia’s Compass Distillers who are on their 27th batch of Gin Royal in only two years on the market. 7 United States, Food and Drug Administration 2022.



Butterfly Pea Clitoria ternatea

Red Sweet

The butterfly pea or Potato Asian pigeonwing (Clitoria Ipomoea batatas ternatea L.) is a widely naturalized perennial herb Mangosteen grown for its use in food. (husks, peels) The edible flowers are the Garcinia mangostana source of the blue hue; however, in Thailand the leaves IMAGE ADAPTED FROM: Rawdkuen, Saroat, et al. “Application of anthocyanin as a color indicator in gelatin films.” Food Bioscience 36 (2020): 100603. of the plant may be fried, while the young seed pods are eaten as a vegetable. A food coloring derived from cabbage, for “If it’s infused for too long, it sorta starts to The plant thrives in the tropics but can tolerexample, is pinkish-red at the acidic end of take on a bit of this grassy, vegetal character ate light frost, short-term flooding, and a wide the scale; green on the basic end of the scale, from the flowers.” He describes it as “minor,” range of soil pH’s. Its relative hardiness has and roughly colorless at neutral. Butterfly but it’s something “you definitely notice.” led to butterfly pea being used as a cover crop pea flower is the most pH sensitive of these P.T. Wood of Wood’s High Mountain for coconut and cocoa plantations. However, colorings. It changes color not just based Distillery was inspired when he first enit found its way into gin not through agriculon whether it is acidic or alkaline, but the countered a Spanish color-changing gin. “It tural utility, but through traditional medicine. intensity of the acid. At pH 2 it’s red, violet really intrigued me, so I just wanted to try it.” An Ayurvedic remedy for snake bites could between pH 4 and 6; and then blue at pH 7.12 In 2017, they began product development. be created from a decoction of flowers, roots, “We started with our Treeline Gin, which is and stems.8 A brightly hued tea made from the our baseline, and then we just macerated the flower is drunk for a host of purported health flower into that.” However, the flavor of the benefits, such as weight loss, treating anxiety or flowers was key to Wood and the team. “We improving brain function. Some research supreally, really liked the kind of earthy, floral ports the existence of some cognitive benefits. “What's really neat is when you are workquality.” The mechanism and compounds responsible ing with it, the color change starts to happen Stability is the greatest challenge a distiller 9 for those results is not clear. Before gin, tea was immediately...and it looks really cool,” Alex will experience when working with butterfly many people’s first exposure to butterfly pea. Wrathell, head distiller at Compass Distillers pea flowers and their extracts. “We put it in The colors of the flowers themselves are the says with a smile. “You just kind of see these the window, out in the front of the distillresult of a class of compounds called anthocyrich blue lines, seeping down from the flowery and let it bake in the sunshine,” P.T. said, anins. Broadly, depending on their chemical ers.” The Halifax, Nova Scotia distillery, simdescribing how they tested their macerated structure and the pH of the solution they are in, ilar to many other creators of color-changing butterfly pea flower prototype. “It was color they can span a wide range of colors from red to gin, achieves the effect through maceration. stable for a month or so and then it turned deep almost blackish blues.10 Anthocyanins are Their process starts by proofing the gin. The this kind of funky brown color.” Compass found in a wide variety of foods: Cabbage, berflowers are added to an infusion bag, the Distillers’ first batches lost their color entireries, corn, and grapes to name a few. type brewers often use for hops, and placed ly after a few months. While beautiful and vibrant, the greatest right in the gin, for a “few days, typically.” Though butterfly pea flower is more stable challenge with colorings based on anthocyaHowever, a careful balance drives dethan other anthocyanin-based colorings,13 it nins is stability. However, that’s where buttercisions about how long the steeping lasts. is still prone to degradation and is especially fly pea differentiates itself. The flowers include Wrathell describes the challenge, to “...maxtemperature sensitive.14 Held at room tema subclass of anthocyanins that have a “much imize the amount of coloration you get, beperature, there was no perceptible change higher color stability.”11 cause it will fade in the bottle over time, so over a two week observation period.15 At 80 you’re trying to prolong the duration of rich degrees F the anthocyanin content degraded color you get in the bottle…without detract8 Mukherjee 2008. ing from the taste of the base gin.” He adds,



Jaine 2003.


Marapaung and Pramesthi 2020.


Marapaung and Pramesthi 2020.



Rawdkuen 2020.


Jiang 2019.


Marapaung, Lee and Kartawiria 2020.



§ 73.69 BUTTERFLY PEA FLOWER EXTRACT by 50 percent over four weeks;16 at even higher temperatures the degradation in color is more pronounced.17 The effect of UV light is much the same as heat.18 Some colored gins, like New Zealand’s Scapegrace, are bottled in colored glass to reduce the color degradation effects of light. Wood described looking at shaded glass as “kind of a bummer … but not having brown gin on the shelf ultimately was more important.” However, studies of stability have shown that the presence of sugar can prolong color stability, provided pH remains constant.19 In other words, the color changing effect is preserved while increasing the resistance to heat induced color change. The type of sweetening agent didn’t matter either. Sucrose (table sugar), glucose (honey) and maltose (malt sugar) all improved the stability of butterfly pea flower colorings.20 Compass Distillers’ Gin Royal adds both honey and royal jelly (about 10 percent sugar by volume) after distillation. Though their inclusion has a positive impact on color stability, they were included to help add “balance” when mixing with tonic water. Finally, the presence of headspace — that is the amount of gas between the top of the liquid and the seal — can accelerate thermal degradation, especially at warmer temperatures (greater than 86 degrees F). At ambient room temperature in the dark, headspace did not matter.21 In other words, if your drink with butterfly pea flower is protected from heat and UV light, a half full bottle will retain color as well as a full bottle. The issue of headspace is less a challenge at the distillery, but more of a problem in the market. Behind the bar, it may lose color if it doesn’t move at a certain pace. In the home, it may lose color if owned by an occasional drinker or as part of a gin collection.


Marapaung, Lee and Kartawiria 2020.


Chu 2016.


Tantituvanont 2008.


Chu 2016.


Marapaung and Pramesthi 2020.


Marpaung 2017.


the PATH FORWARD for AMERICAN DISTILLERS Despite the approval of butterfly pea flower as a coloring agent, it’s important to note that what has been approved by the FDA is the extract, not the flowers. American distillers looking to produce a color-changing gin, at least for now, will be limited. Wood has looked into using Sensient’s butterfly pea flower extract, and a few challenges present themselves. Firstly, the extract must be refrigerated. He joked that when he was looking into it, the minimum order size was enough to make “twenty thousand bottles or something crazy.” Furthermore, if you were hoping to add the taste of the flowers, the extract is not going to cut it. It is just the coloring. “We're trying to kind of reformulate our [gin’s] botanical list to re-mimic that original flavor that we really liked, but,” he continued, “I think from an industrial standpoint, the extract makes a lot more sense. It's got a lot more color stability to it.” It remains possible that the ingredient itself will one day be formally approved, though P.T. isn’t so confident that it will be driven by a small distiller. He and his business partner explored the process required by the FDA, but the amount of lab work, time, and money to gain that approval was too onerous for them to take on. Further, whoever does that work will have to be motivated by the particular and subtle flavor of the ingredient as opposed to the color changing aspect. While much of the color-changing spirits phenomenon has come from the world of gin thus far, gin isn’t the only spirit where the extract can be applied. Rick Hewitt founded Unicorn Vodka, a vodka infused with the extract. Bartenders around the world have been infusing other spirits with butterfly pea flower, especially tequila and rum, for their in-house cocktail programs. It seems likely that we’ll see some attempts in coming years to bring the color-changing craze to new categories.

(a) Identity. (1) The color additive butterfly pea flower extract is a dark blue liquid prepared by the aqueous extraction of dried butterfly pea flowers from Clitoria ternatea. The extract is further processed by ultrafiltration to remove residues of plant products, followed by concentration and pasteurization. Citric acid may be used to control the pH. The color additive contains anthocyanins as the principal coloring component. (2) Color additive mixtures for food use made with butterfly pea flower extract may contain only those diluents that are suitable and are listed in this subpart as safe for use in color additive mixtures for coloring foods. (b) Specifications. Butterfly pea flower extract must conform to the following specifications and must be free from impurities, other than those named, to the extent that such other impurities may be avoided by good manufacturing practice: (1) pH, not less than 3.0 and not more than 4.5 at 25 °C. (2) Lead, not more than 1 milligram per kilogram (mg/kg) (1 part per million (ppm)). (3) Arsenic, not more than 1 mg/kg (1 ppm). (4) Mercury, not more than 1 mg/kg (1 ppm). (5) Cadmium, not more than 1 mg/kg (1 ppm). (c) Uses and restrictions. Butterfly pea flower extract may be safely used for coloring alcoholic beverages, sport and energy drinks, flavored or carbonated water, fruit drinks (including smoothies and grain drinks), carbonated soft drinks (fruit-flavored or juice, ginger ale, and root beer), fruit and vegetable juice, nutritional beverages, chewing gum, teas, coated nuts, liquid coffee creamers (dairy and non-dairy), ice cream and frozen dairy desserts, hard candy, dairy and non-dairy drinks, fruit preparations in yogurts, and soft candy in amounts consistent with good manufacturing practice, except that it may not be used for coloring foods for which standards of identity have been issued under section 401 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, unless the use of added color is authorized by such standards. (d) Labeling requirements. The label of the color additive and any mixtures prepared therefrom intended solely or in part for coloring purposes must conform to the requirements of § 70.25 of this chapter. (e) Exemption from certification. Certification of this color additive is not necessary for the protection of the public health and therefore batches are exempt from the certification requirements of section 721(c) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. chapter-I/subchapter-A/part-73/ subpart-A/section-73.69



SOURCES While slightly more restricted than distillers in other countries, American distillers no longer need to sing the blues and sit out this moment in the gin zeitgeist. Despite being initially labeled a fad, these spirits have remained surprisingly strong sellers, and continue to inspire and intrigue with a simple chemistry trick in tasting rooms and bars around the world. 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 in 2009.


Brennan, Aisling. "Industry Raises Glass to Ink Gin." Daily News, Sep 17 2016, p. 2. Chu, Boon-Seang, et al. "Effect of sucrose on thermal and pH stability of Clitoria ternatea extract." Int. J. of Food Processing Technology 3.1 (2016): 11-17. Freeman, Aleza. “Empress 1908 Gin Is the Spirit of Summer.” Empress 1908 Gin Is the Spirit of Summer, Old Liquors Magazine, 30 Aug. 2017, empress-1908-gin/. Guilfoyle, Kyle. “Empress Gin: 8 Things You Should Know about: Nimble Bar Co..” Empress Gin: 8 Things You Should Know, Nimble Bar Co., 16 Oct. 2020, Jain, Neeti N., et al. "Clitoria ternatea and the CNS." Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 75.3 (2003): 529-536. Knowles, Andy. “Champions of Design: Bombay Sapphire.” Champions of Design: Bombay Sapphire, Campaign, 8 Jan. 2013.

Jiang, Tian, et al. "Degradation of anthocyanins and polymeric color formation during heat treatment of purple sweet potato extract at different pH." Food chemistry 274 (2019): 460-470.

Mukherjee, Pulok K., et al. "The Ayurvedic medicine Clitoria ternatea—From traditional use to scientific assessment." Journal of ethnopharmacology 120.3 (2008): 291-301.

​​ awton, Christopher. "Vodka's Old L Rival Turns Blue to Gin Up Sales." Wall Street Journal (1923-), Jul 30 2003, p. 2.

Seeney, Belinda. "In Good Spirits." The Courier - Mail, Sep 08 2015, p. 40.

Lim, T. K. Flowers. Vol. 7, Springer, 2014. Marpaung, Abdullah Muzi, and Bernadetha Prisca Rizki Pramesthi. "Effect of pH and added sugar on stability of color, anthocyanin content and phenolic content of Clitoria ternatea, Ipomoea tricolor and Brassica oleracea extracts." Agriculture and Natural Resources 54.3 (2020): 273-278. Marpaung, Abdullah Muzi, Michael Lee, and Irvan Setiadi Kartawiria. "The Development of Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea) Flower Powder Drink by Cocrystallization." Indonesian Food Science & Technology Journal 3.2 (2020): 34-37. Marpaung, Abdullah Muzi, et al. "Thermal degradation of anthocyanins in butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea L.) flower extract at pH 7." American Journal of Food Science and Technology 5.5 (2017): 199-203.

The Sunday Times, 1991. New Blue Spirit. pp.1, S2. Tantituvanont, Angkana, et al. "Preparation and stability of butterfly pea color extract loaded in microparticles prepared by spray drying." Thai Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 32.1 (2008): 59-69. Rawdkuen, Saroat, et al. "Application of anthocyanin as a color indicator in gelatin films." Food Bioscience 36 (2020): 100603. Rawdkuen, Saroat, and Pimonpan Kaewprachu. "Valorization of food processing by-products as smart food packaging materials and its application." Food Preservation and Waste Exploitation. IntechOpen (2019). United States, Food and Drug Administration. "Listing of Color Additives Exempt from Certification." Code of Federal Regulations, Government Printing Office, 2022.


PARTNER POWER Visit Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs Distilling

Written by RICH MANNING /// Photos provided by VISIT CHEYENNE


n December 13, 2021, Pine Bluffs Distilling in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, held a virtual craft cocktail class, where guests would learn how to make a fig old fashioned with their new straight rye whiskey expression through a provided cocktail kit. This wasn’t unusual on the surface. After all, virtual tastings and remote cocktail sessions have become common in the pandemic era. What made it unique was the event’s sponsorship. It was backed by Visit Cheyenne, a convention and visitors bureau (CVB) promoting the southeastern Wyoming city and surrounding Laramie County, including Pine Bluffs. A CVB promoting a distillery makes plenty of sense, because distillery tourism is a bona fide enterprise. However, Visit Cheyenne sponsoring Pine Bluffs’ virtual cocktail class felt like one of the tightest possible embraces a municipal-related agency can have for an industry some people still see as perpetrators of unholy vice. While it may appear to be a somewhat progressive step in the annals of

city–distillery collaboration, neither party involved view it as such. Rather, they consider it a practical tool that’s utilized toward a mutual goal. “Visit Cheyenne tries to promote tourism to the area, and so are we,” said Chad Brown, owner of Pine Bluffs Distilling. “If we come up with ways that might encourage people to come out here and check us out, that’s a win for the community.” “A spot like Pine Bluffs Distilling creates a sense of place and communal engagement,” explained Jim Walter, vice president of Visit Cheyenne. “Because of that, they’re very important to use them to promote Cheyenne and get people connected with the local Cheyenne experience.”

An Organic Sell It’s natural for a group promoting Cheyenne to tout whiskey as a selling point. Wyoming is the land of open space and distinct ruggedness, of cowboys both past and present. Visit Cheyenne doesn’t shy away from this frontier

spirit: References to trains, boots, rodeos, and the Wild West greet visitors on the website’s home page. Whiskey isn’t mentioned, but words aren’t always needed to understand that whiskey drinking is part of the historic narrative. This aura of sweeping romance concerning the days of yore lays a foundation for Visit Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs’ partnership, but it’s the framework for a much richer story. In Visit Cheyenne’s case, the city’s frontier soul serves as a bridge that connects its history and Old West reputation with its modern arts, culture, and culinary scene. “Our goal is to make people stop, stay at least a day or two, and realize we’re a cool community,” explained Andi Jaspersen, Visit Cheyenne’s experience and marketing manager. “The best way to do this is to make sure we weave today into yesterday.” “You mention Cheyenne to people and they will immediately think of the Old West and cowboys,” added Walter. “But Cheyenne

“Visit Cheyenne tries to promote tourism to the area, and so are we. If we come up with ways that might encourage people to come out here and check us out, that’s a win for the community.” — CHAD BROWN

Owner, Pine Bluffs Distilling



“You mention Cheyenne to people and they will immediately think of the Old West and cowboys. But Cheyenne is also a modern city that’s on the northern range of the Denver metro area. The partnerships that stand out are the ones that create experiences with this in mind.” — JIM WALTER

Vice President, Visit Cheyenne

is also a modern city that’s on the northern range of the Denver metro area. The partnerships that stand out are the ones that create experiences with this in mind.” A craft distillery like Pine Bluffs nestles into this pocket remarkably well. The fact that whiskey is involved organically connects the distillery to the region’s past, something that Brown fully acknowledges. “Whiskey is the drink of the West,” he said. “It always has been. Look at the television shows based in this part of the country, like [the AMC show] Hell on Wheels. Everyone on that show drank whiskey. It’s always been the Wyoming way.” At the same time, the grain-to-glass processes Brown uses to create the one vodka and seven whiskeys in the


spirits lineup puts them squarely in modern times. “It’s not the easy way, but it’s the right way,” Brown stated. The best example of this ‘right way’ is Brown’s hyper-focus on locality. He sources his ingredients from a roughly 20-mile radius, a decision that allows him to promote the region’s terroir and how it impacts the whiskey’s flavor. Brown not only sees the distilling process as a unique way to promote Cheyenne and Laramie County to visitors dropping by but also to drum up intrigue in an industry that’s still quite young in Wyoming despite its old whiskey legacy. “Craft distilling is in its infancy here,” he added. “There’s only seven craft distilleries in the state, so there’s a lot of education still to come.”

“Craft distilling is in its infancy here. There’s only seven craft distilleries in the state, so there’s a lot of education still to come.” — CHAD BROWN

Owner, Pine Bluffs Distilling


Building the Partnership A solid relationship isn’t just produced by mutual goals. Personalities must mesh well. Benefits must be defined. Promoted elements must be worth promoting. “We know our job is marketing,” Walter said. “As marketers, if we’re going to put lipstick on a pig, so to speak, the best thing to do is to talk to the lipstick maker and the pig farmer.” In Pine Bluffs’ case, talking to the lipstick maker also meant ensuring product quality. “Our number-one priority is to make sure the whiskey’s great,” Walter explained. “We quickly learned that it checks off all the boxes, which makes it an easy sell for us.” Brown’s passion for advocating Cheyenne’s regional influence further fuels this ease. “Chad stood out to us because he’s so committed to community,” Jaspersen said. “That commitment makes him a great example of what a good business can do for a community.” According to Brown, the close relationship he’s built with Visit Cheyenne allows him to take deeper dives into the history of Cheyenne and Laramie County. This makes

it easier to carry out his distillery’s mission of honoring the frontier spirit of the past while pointing toward the frontiers yet to come. Being a trusted partner has also allowed Brown to come up with a few mutually promotional ideas of his own. “Last year, we rented a party bus and took guests out to visit the farms that grow our grains,” he said. “When we told Visit Cheyenne about it, they loved the idea. They said that we should be doing more things like that.” The depth of trust shared by Visit Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs Distilling makes an idea like the former sponsoring the latter’s online cocktail class seem like a natural, if not downright logical, move, especially at a time

when virtual meetings and online tastings became de rigueur. Whether more events like this occur in a post-pandemic world remains to be seen, but even if that doesn’t happen, the push behind the mission that connects Visit Cheyenne and the distillery will remain as strong as ever. “We want people to come and have a great ‘off the beaten path’ experience,” Brown said. “For us to say that we’re helping bring craft whiskey fans to our community is really exciting.”

Pine Bluffs Distilling is located in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. For more info call (307) 245-3000 or visit

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.



One of These Things Is Not Like the Other W Comingled bottlings bring together different spirits WRITTEN BY MARGARETT WATERBURY


hen people talk about “blending” in the context of spirits, they’re usually referring to one of two things: Mixing a light-flavored whiskey with a richer one to create a product that lives somewhere between the two, or mixing multiple barrels of an aged spirit to create a batch that’s similar to the one that came before. In both cases, the constituent components are made from, roughly, the same basic ingredients. But a small number of producers are challenging the notion it has to be that way. Bartenders have mixed entirely different types of spirits for generations: the Vieux Carré, the Long Island iced tea, Tiki concoctions that need a Gantt chart to successfully construct. Why shouldn’t spirits bottlers partake in a little concocting of their own? The result is more bottles that contain not just different styles of whiskey or rum, but two spirits that come from entirely different categories and are made from entirely different primary ingredients. The approach opens up an uncharted territory of flavor possibilities — and an entirely new challenge when it comes to marketing to consumers.


It’s mostly sold out by now, but you might be able to find a few bottles left on store shelves. Which shelf ? Funny you should ask...


One of the earliest movers in the comingled spirits category was Alabama-based Red Eye Louie’s. The brand traces its roots back to 2010, when father-daughter team Chander and Nina Arora hit on the idea of a product that mixed vodka and tequila. A former textile chemist, Chander used a “thermal blending technique” to unite the two spirits, creating their first product: Vodquila. Rumquila and Whisquila soon followed. A zaftig bottle emblazoned with a sombrero-wearing skull gives the Red Eye Louie’s lineup a light-hearted, party vibe — the kind of thing you’d reach for if the occasion called for a tray full of shots, or something to take along to the beach with your friends. But not all spirit combinations scream “spring break.” Compass Box, the Londonbased whisky maker specializing in Scotch whisky blends, took a super-premium approach to comingled spirits with the launch of Affinity, a blend of Scotch whisky and Calvados. The combination was inspired by the home blending experiments of Compass Box founder John Glaser, who made it a habit to reach for one of two spirits every time his wife made tarte tatin: Calvados, a French apple brandy made in Normandy, one of the regions of France closest to England, or Compass Box’ Spice Tree, a spicy, warming blend of Scotch whiskies finished in French oak casks. One day, he decided to try mixing the two together and we can assume that dessert at the Glaser household was never quite the same. “Calvados, a bit like Scotch whisky twelve years ago, has this fuddy duddy old person’s drink reputation among the French populace at large,” said James Saxon, assistant whisky maker at Compass Box. As a result, when Glaser approached Thierry Bénitah, the head of Maison du Whisky in Paris, about creating a commercial product that blended of Scotch and Calvados, Bénitah was skeptical. “Thierry was saying, ‘Do not do this; it is not a good idea’,” said Saxon. Still, Glaser was undeterred. He partnered with Calvados producer Christian Drouin to sourcesome eight-year-old Calvados from the Pays d’Auge, one of the most prestigious AOCs (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) in the region. Then,

he began a series of blending experiments to hone in on the right ratio of whisky to brandy. After several dozen iterations, the Compass Box blending team arrived at a ratio of about one-third Calvados and twothirds Scotch whisky, a proportion that lets Calvados’ distinctive fruity character shine through. “We could have buried the Calvados in there as a subtle note, but the concept, for us, really demanded that both of these spirits played equal roles,” said Saxon. “Calvados is an even more boisterous, intensely flavorsome spirit than malt whisky, so even though it’s just under forty percent of the recipe, it feels like it’s a double act in every possible respect.” The whisky used in the blend includes a number of components, including Highland malts aged in French oak casks at a range of toast levels, blended Scotch aged in refill sherry casks, and an undisclosed Speyside single malt aged in first-fill sherry casks. Saxon said that last ingredient was key to creating a harmonious marriage between the two spirits. “We realized that what was required here was two contrasting powerhouses, rather than using slightly subtler components,” said Saxon. Saxon said Compass Box has explored other hybrid spirits in the past, but Affinity is the first one they’ve released. It’s mostly sold out by now, but you might be able to find a few bottles left on store shelves. Which shelf? Funny you should ask. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s been tricky for retailers to figure out where to shelve it — with the whisky or with the Calvados? “We don’t have a shelf halfway between Calvados and Scotch whisky,” said Saxon. “It does … capture the imagination in that regard.” With its rich tradition of blending (in the traditional sense), Scotch whisky has provided fertile ground for other experimental cominglings. Another soon-to-be-released hybrid spirit is Baiskey, a blend of Scotch whisky and baijiu from Scottish-based company Kylin Spirits Group. Marissa Jiang, the UK director of Kylin Spirits Group, says the concept grew from a desire to create a product that would appeal to both Chinese and Western drinkers. “Just like how Western drinkers find it hard W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

to drink baijiu, a lot of Chinese consumers cannot adapt to the taste of whisky,” said Jiang. “So we thought, OK, how do we create a product that can bridge this gap?” She said Kylin Spirits Group hopes that Baiskey will literally unite whisky and baijiu drinkers, helping to connect people across cultures. “We live in a globalized world, and Chinese drinkers, businessmen, or just local Chinese communities have friends in their circle who are not Chinese,” said Jiang. “It’s about bringing everyone together.” To create Baiskey, the team partnered with two leading producers: whisky maker Max McFarlane, formerly of Edrington; and Shen Caihong, master distiller at Luzhou Laojiao, the oldest continually producing baijiu distillery in the world. It took two years and more than 300 recipes to create a harmonious blend of the two spirits. “It was not easy to find the perfect balance,” said Jiang. Baiskey is currently for sale in China and will be released in the UK in early 2022, followed by the rest of Europe and the United States. According to McFarlane, the spirit has a “pleasantly balanced aroma, with evidence, but not strong fragrance of Chinese baijiu, accompanied by a fruity scent.” He describes flavor notes like licorice, sweet cream, star anise, and salted butterscotch in the final product. As out-there as this mini-trend sounds, it’s possible to view it as the logical conclusion of the finishing-mania that has seized the whiskey industry. Depending on how


they’re treated, used casks often contain a significant quantity of their previous contents. In his 1972 book Sherry: The Noble Wine, author Manuel M. González Gordon estimated a used solera butt could absorb up to 25 liters of wine or about five percent of the total volume. Even a smaller bourbon barrel could contain a couple of gallons of liquid soaked into the staves, ready to mingle with whatever goes into the cask next. That ratio could go up for casks that previously held non-distilled beverages such as beer, wine, or sherry, which are often treated with additional shipping liquid to ensure casks don’t dry out during transit. Of course, producers treat used casks differently. Some shave, re-toast, and re-char the staves, practically eradicating the presence of the previous contents. Others pour new spirit straight into the soaking-wet casks, mingling a not-insignificant amount of whatever the previous contents were with the new spirit. It’s not “blending” in the sense of pouring one spirit into another, but it achieves a similar sort of goal in a somewhat more subtle fashion: Giving one spirit a hint (or more than a hint) of the flavor of another. It’s a funny crosscurrent for an industry that’s obsessed with categories — but for a certain kind of producer, boundaries exist to be transgressed. 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.

It’s a funny crosscurrent for an industry that’s obsessed with categories — but for a certain kind of producer, boundaries exist to be transgressed.



A gain for

NEUTRAL GRAIN How has the TTB's 2020 Standards of Identity change impacted craft vodka?



rior to April 2020, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) defined vodka through its stanFrom a practical standpoint, the TTB’s revision brings clarity to how vodka dards of identity as “to be without distinctive character, is perceived. “The scientific definition of vodka is one thing. The public’s defiaroma, taste, or color.” This description caused problems. nition is another,” said Umberto Luchini, founder of Wolf Spirit Distillery, in It didn’t necessarily hinder sales — it’s still the best-sellEugene, Oregon. “This created a disconnect within the category.” ing spirit in the US with nearly 80 million cases moved in The new definition helps to fix this disconnect. What’s more, it does so in 2020. But it hurt the spirit’s reputation within the industry a way that reaches down to the level of the consumer, who judges a vodka’s and among craft spirits geeks who unwittingly relegate the merit on taste rather than adherence to standards of identity. It’s a bridge spirit to be dull. The description also turned vodka into a that some craft distillers thought was a long time coming. “The TTB is comdreadful category to judge at spirits contests. If a tasting ing around to modern times by changing panel got the neutral grain spirit foisted the definition,” said Danette Newton, upon them for a round of assessment, othco-founder and CEO of Lass & Lions er tables would likely know about it due to Unfettered by the shackles of Vodka in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “In a the panel’s copious amounts of bitching. way, it almost felt inevitable.” restrictions on character, craft This changed on April 1, 2020, when While vodka’s new standard is more in the TTB revised its definition of vodka. In brands can potentially attain more tune with public perception, it doesn’t necan instant, the restrictions on distinctive essarily aid the casual vodka drinker. This character, aroma, taste, and color were confidence in how they present is fine — they bought vodka before the lifted. Judges rejoiced, or at the very least change, and they’re still buying vodka after their vodkas, particularly since became less salty about getting served vodthe change. The craft sector, on the other ka tastings. More importantly, the revision hand, stands to gain quite handsomely they no longer need to worry about caused excitement for craft distillers who from this revision. Unfettered by the shackhad devoted time trying to help the spirit a craft enthusiast busting their les of restrictions on character, craft brands overcome its reputation as liquid boredom. can potentially attain more confidence in chops over flavor or aromatics. As we approach the two-year anniversary how they present their vodkas, particularly of the change, the excitement hasn’t worn since they no longer need to worry about off yet, as the opportunity for advocacy a craft enthusiast busting their chops over on behalf of the oft-maligned spirit is still abundant. “The flavor or aromatics. This confidence could lead to the kind of deeply nerdy change matters to us, because there are still a ton of peoconversations traditionally reserved for other spirits. “There are all kinds of ple in the industry that just say, ‘vodka’s vodka,’” explained variables that go into producing a vodka, just like there are all kinds of variAndrew Bozcar, vice president of Grand Teton Distillery in ables that go into producing whiskey,” Bozcar stated. “But nobody ever talks Driggs, Idaho. “Nothing could be further from the truth.” about that. I’m hopeful that this eventually changes.” 62


New TALKING POINTS One of the reasons why distillers may be a bit more bullish on diving into vodka’s nuts and bolts is due to arguably the most verboten of the previous restrictions — taste. Because flavor is now no longer off the table, some distillers feel they can spend more time talking about where these formerly frowned-upon notes originate. The bulk of the flavor discussion is likely to focus on the base material used to make the vodka, which can come from a variety of categories including grain, fruit, or vegetable. “Any grain can be used for vodka, from sorghum to quinoa,” Bozcar noted. This can not only open the conversation to the type of grain being used to create the expression, but it can also be extrapolated as part of a larger conversation regarding terroir. This type of deep discussion can add leverage to the notion that vodka deserves attention from craft spirits aficionados. This notion leads the conversation to spirits competition. The old TTB standards of identity put judges in a quandary when vodka was served. As a judge, do you give a vodka a good score because it has enjoyable characteristics, or do you give it a bad score because it deviated from the TTB’s definition? Speaking as someone who judged the occasional spirits competition prior to April 2020, I can assure you that the struggle was real. Some producers knew it was a struggle too. So much so, it created a measure of trepidation when it came to entering bottles. “To be honest, I scaled back entering my vodkas into competitions,” Luchini confessed. “The main reason I did that was because it was tough for us to know how we were going to be judged. It was almost like buying a lottery ticket.” Now that the definition’s changed, so has Luchini’s level of reluctance. “I’ll definitely enter more competitions,” he stated.

The FUTURE of VODKA Although the TTB changed vodka’s standard of identity nearly two years ago, changing people’s opinions on the neutral grain spirit is still a work in progress. Distillers acknowledge it’s going to take a few years for vodka to gain greater acceptance in the craft spirit sector. Even though it may take a while, the hope is that vodka’s expanded definition will lead to more craft vodka aficionados who can pick out subtleties and nuances with the zeal of a whiskey snob. It’s just going to take a little guidance to get there, however. “Vodka’s been a bastard child in the spirits world for so long,” Newton said. “If we can talk about it and educate people on what vodka can be, then maybe we can make it cool.” 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 He can be reached at W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

For more information visit





Mena Killough parlayed her extensive herbalist background into a blossoming distilling career.

s a horticulturist, Mena Killough enjoyed working with plants. As an herbalist and vice president of the North Carolina Herb Association, she would take plants and create special hydrosols “I had all these different while working for organizations as varied as the Carolina Panthers and the Duke Mansion. As a bartender, she used both skills to comtypes of education that bine herbs and alcohol into unique cocktails. didn’t seem to connect, “I had all these different types of education that didn’t seem to connect, but somehow within me I made them connect,” stated but somehow within me Killough, a graduate of the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine in Asheville, North Carolina. It was while bartending at Kiki/Tattoo I made them connect.” bistro and bar in Charlotte that she had a desire to take her skills to the next level through spirits distillation. As she began exploring that ­— Mena Killough option, she ran into the steamroller that was COVID-19 shutting down the restaurant. However, as they say, when one door closes ... “I was given the opportunity with Unknown Brewing to launch their hand sanitizer program,” she said. Brad Shell, the brewery’s owner, had an 80-gallon still he used to make small-batch, experimental spirits under the name Wood & Grain. That program, like at many other distilleries, quickly switched to desperately needed hand sanitizer. Needing additional help, Shell contacted an out-of-work Killough. “I’d always wanted to learn spirits distillation, but was kind of afraid of making somebody go blind,” she admitted with a laugh. “I got used to working on the column still, which was new for me. With the plant water, I was working on a small alembic. That helped build my proficiency and getting comfortable on a larger system.” While at Unknown, Killough was encouraged by her new boss and some friends to try another opportunity, competing on Discovery Channel’s Moonshiner: Master Distiller TV show. “I had only been distilling a month before I went through the vetting process,” she acknowledged. “I thought, ‘You know what, if I make it, surely I won’t win, but it’ll be a great learning opportunity.’” Not only was she selected, the episode’s absinthe focus was right up her herbalist alley.


“I had been growing all these herbs in my garden that would be great components for absinthe and dug them out and put them in little pots and put them all in my car. It was like a little greenhouse going all the way to Tennessee,” she quipped about the drive to the TV studio. Despite competing against two better-established West Coast distillers — and much to her own amazement — Killough won. Along with being the best representation of the spirit (high proof, deep green color, turns cloudy when cold water added), the show’s judges thought her distinctive touches like the addition of raisins in the mash and lemon balm, mugwort, and yarrow for coloration and flavor made her absinthe the winner. Last spring another opportunity sprouted, moving her to North Carolina’s capital. The partners behind Trophy Brewing Company decided during the shutdown to convert their downtown Raleigh brewery/eatery Trophy Tap + Table into a new restaurant with a distillery so they could make their own spirits for the bar program. “When the pandemic hit, we took a step back and thought about what makes our other places special to us,” said co-owner David “Woody” Lockwood. “It’s always been connecting people to the process.” After renaming the operation to Young Hearts, Lockwood and his partners went looking for a distiller, however, they couldn’t find quite the right person. “We went on the hunt for someone like-mind“We’ve worked around brewers ed,” described Lockwood. “Everybody wants bourbon. We want bourbon too, but we know who just want to come in, that’s going to be down the road so we were lookbrew their beer, and hand it off ing for herbal and bitter, those fun Italian liqueurs. Someone who we interviewed who was really to the bar and don’t want that qualified — we loved him — he was just laser-focused on bourbon. We were like, we don’t think connection to the guest, but our visions align for this project.” That same inknowing the person that made terviewee later told Lockwood he knew someone who was the right fit. That person was Killough. that product also has a mind of “We’ve worked around brewers who just want to come in, brew their beer, and hand it off to the how it’s going to end up in your bar and don’t want that connection to the guest,” said Lockwood, “but knowing the person that glass is a lot of fun to watch.” made that product also has a mind of how it’s going to end up in your glass is a lot of fun to watch.” ­— David “Woody” Lockwood



Young Hearts opened in August 2021 with vodka and a now locally popular gin designed by Killough. She is thrilled to put her botanical knowledge to use with these distinctive spirits. “I’m looking at the botanicals and reading the cell wall and how the steam is going to move through the gin basket,” she noted. “I also like to manipulate where I place the botanicals through the system. It depends on the structure of the plant. Sometimes you think some things are delicate and need to go in a certain spot, but the way they get moistened you realize they should go in the pot.” She also considers how people will experience the finished product. Young Hearts gin is a perfect example. “It’s very citrus-heavy, but I carry most of the citrus flavor through botanicals,” she stated. “Lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena, those herbs are uplifting, really bright and shiny. That’s what I want people to feel when they’re drinking my gin. I want them to feel their inner sparkle.” She also purposely built a ‘wet’ gin to complement the restaurant’s food. “That was a consideration of how I wanted the gin to sit in your mouth,” she noted. “You’re having a dining experience. Do you really want a super-dry gin? No, you want to be able to get digestion going and having a wet mouth is the first step of digestion.” She recently put the finishing touches on an amaro and she’s lobbying Lockwood for a second gin basket. “I want to get a second basket put on so that different botanicals can sit in different places. It carries over differently,” she explained. While her botanical background makes many things easier, there is still trial and error in the creative process. It’s a process she enjoys because it helps her get the spirits where she wants them to be. “I love formulating and playing,” she emphasized. “I think that part of it is really understanding what the essence of that spirit is and letting it talk to you instead of you trying to manipulate the situation.” Young Hearts Distilling is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. For more information visit or call (919) 424-7817.





here are so many factors to consider when it comes to the daunting task of finding the perfect facility for your new distillery. Whether your facility is for production, storage, a local tavern, or a combination of all uses, key considerations need to be made in the early stages of a purchase or lease agreement.

The requirements for the various fire protection and life safety elements of your facility need to be reviewed and discussed as there may be limitations or added costs which may not be realized until later in your design process. While many of the minimum building and fire prevention code requirements can be handled after your purchase, there are a few significant requirements that can make or break your determination on the right building and/or location. Fire sprinkler and fire alarm systems are considered active fire protection systems and will most likely be required for your facility. Building codes have specific criteria on when a fire sprinkler or fire alarm system is required such as: building size, occupancy type, occupancy loads, and level of hazard. Once it is determined if these systems are required, further design considerations need to be evaluated such as sprinkler design criteria, water supply requirements, and level of fire alarm detection and notification. Existing fire alarm systems should be evaluated for expandability as the system may not meet the needs for your operations. Fire alarm systems have limitations to the number of field devices (smoke detectors, modules, strobes, etc.) they can handle due to maximum circuit loads or maximum number of zones. The age of the fire alarm system is also a key consideration as specific fire alarm models are often replaced with newer models and may become unsupported.

Fire sprinkler systems are specifically designed to the hazard they are controlling during a fire event. 68


Fire sprinkler systems are specifically designed to the hazard they are controlling during a fire event. The level of hazards present in buildings such as offices, restaurants, and storage facilities are significantly different and require the sprinkler systems to perform at specific water demands to control the fire. For example, office buildings typically require a water density of .10gpm/sq.ft. and require sprinklers to activate over a 1,500 sq. ft. area, while a flammable liquid storage facility may require a water density of .60gpm/sq.ft. and require sprinklers to activate over a 3,000 sq.ft. area. There are many additional sprinkler design criteria such as maximum sprinkler coverage areas, minimum water flow durations, and sprinkler location criteria. Existing sprinkler systems may not meet the hazards within your proposed facility and may require modifications or a complete replacement of the sprinkler system. Available water supplies should also be carefully evaluated as existing domestic water supplies may not have the necessary residual flows and pressures necessary to meet the water demand requirements, often leading to the addition of fire pumps or water supply tanks. Local building codes have specific requirements for building height and area limitations based on the type of building construction. Construction types vary from non-combustible (Type I or II), to non-combustible exterior with combustible interior (Type III), to heavy timber (Type IV), to combustible (Type V). Building codes break down the limitations to building heights, sizes, and number of stories based on this construction type in conjunction with the occupancy classification(s) and fire sprinkler protection. When evaluating a building, the construction type and overall building size should be examined with your proposed occupancy classification. The existing building may have been compliant with a business occupancy, but may not meet the requirements with a factoWhen evaluating a building, the construction ry occupancy (production). If you determine that the facility is compliant with your proposed occupancy (or occupantype and overall building size should be examined cies), you should also consider modifications to your facility with your proposed occupancy classification. in the future. By choosing a facility that is “maxed out” per the limits of the building code, you limit your abilities to expand within that facility in the future. Your existing facility may be located within the same building footprint with other tenants or be located within close proximity to other buildings. Buildings with multiple tenants typically contain fire-resistance rated demising walls to allow for adjacent tenants with differing occupancy classifications. Demising walls may be constructed with concrete masonry units (CMU), brick, gypsum board, or a variety of construction materials. These demising walls need to be evaluated to determine their hourly fire-resistance rating as the fire rated separation requirements for occupancy classifications vary. If your new facility is to be considered a factory occupancy and is adjacent to a storage facility, your demising wall may be W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


required to have a one- or two-hour (fire-rated doors and windows) may fire-resistance rating depending on if be required. Separation distances and Performing due diligence for the you have a fire sprinkler system. If you exterior wall construction should be have flammable liquid storage and are closely evaluated to determine comvarious fire protection, life safety, classified as a high-hazard occupancy, pliance or the feasibility to make modand building code requirements those hourly fire-resistance rated sepaifications. Similar to the previously rations may be higher. The reconstrucdiscussed code requirements, your early on in the procurement tion of a separation wall can be costly facility may be compliant with the stages will help you with properly and should be evaluated early on to original occupancy classifications but determine the modifications necessary may no longer be compliant with your budgeting your project and to meet code compliance. intended use. Building codes also contain specifPerforming due diligence for the preventing future design issues. ic requirements to the fire-resistance various fire protection, life safety, and rating of exterior walls based on the building code requirements early on separation from neighboring buildings and property lot lines. These in the procurement stages will help you with properly budgeting your requirements are based on various factors such as construction type, project and preventing future design issues. An effective design of your occupancy classification, separation distance, and fire sprinkler protecdistillery will not only help you be more productive and grow, but will tion. The exterior walls of buildings located within 30 feet of adjacent assure the appropriate safety measures for your staff, customers, neighbuildings and lot lines may require a fire-resistance rating. Additional bors, and your business. requirements such as glazing limitations and opening protectives Michael T. Reardon, P.E. is a fire protection engineer and president of Reardon Fire Consulting, P.C. Visit for more information.




Create a conversation around your distillery

Public Relations, or PR, efforts could be described with some accuracy as an octopus: one entity with many different arms, all working in tandem to create a conversation around your distillery. If you are running your own PR, it’s unlikely that you will be able to see satisfying returns from just one of the many tools in the toolbox. Instead, you will have to maintain several different continuous endeavors. Among them are content marketing, outreach, and social media marketing.

CONTENT MARKETING Content marketing encompasses multiple formats of company-generated content that adds context to the product or service you offer. Blogging is a big aspect in content marketing and can be a successful tool. With minimal startup costs and resources, blogging is one of the most accessible tools to young businesses, though it is important to try to post regularly. The actual content of the blog posts should and will change as you explore different ideas. What’s key is to remember that the blog acts as an opportunity to showcase your expertise in your field. You have inherent and potentially untapped value that you can offer consumers through the knowledge that you’ve gained about distilling, spirits production, and cocktails. To succeed, you should think of your content as W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

an effort to create and communicate that value to your customers through multiple channels and in different, fresh formats consistently over time. Sounds easy, huh? Yet it’s not as bad as it appears, or at least it’s more manageable that you might guess. First and foremost, don’t feel as though you need to immediately be posting on the blog twice a day every day. It’s unsustainable, especially at first as you get your bearings, and not likely to make the best impression on your audience. Focus instead on creating quality content rather than an enormous quantity. In the beginning, set an achievable goal — perhaps two blog posts a month, each totaling at least 1,200 words. The content of these posts should be related to the aspect of your business that makes you unique, usually referred to as your “unique selling proposition” (USP). This can act as a great guide for the body of your posts, so if you have not developed and written down your USP then it’s


recommended that you do so. Your USP is elemental to setting your business apart from the competition, and as such it plays to your strengths and is based on what about your products make them uniquely valuable to consumers. That same element should be featured repeatedly throughout your blog posts in a variety of formats, including articles, listicles, PowerPoint presentations, videos, and more. The format of these posts should be changing and evolving, and you need to track the response to understand what delivery options work best for your audience. Be sure to cross-post the content on your blog to different social media platforms to maximize the impressions that you can make. The key to what you create, regardless of the specific format, is to offer episodic content, or content that is delivered in digestible amounts over regular intervals. This approach encourages website visitors to return to your site regularly to check what’s new for your page. Search engine optimization (SEO) elements such as word length, word choice, and backlinking will become important in time but don’t need to be top of mind right away. SEO can be an area of growth and focus as you continue to build out your online presence and the content offered on your website. Be sure to take time to research the basics of SEO before you start to apply it; the best approach when dealing with a website is a proactive one. 71

SOCIAL MEDIA Social media has become an integral part of PR and marketing for nearly all small businesses. Its influence is impossible to ignore, and yet many entrepreneurs don’t feel as though they’re scoring a slam dunk consistently with their social media. Just like in distillation, there are ways to maximize the output that you get from resources that you’ve invested into this exercise. First would be to truly familiarize yourself with what different social media platforms are for and what kind of content excels on each. In this same vein, you shouldn’t feel as though your company needs to be committing the same amount of effort on every different platform; pick the one that best suits your selling point and invest more into that. Each platform that you choose to use can focus on certain aspects of your messaging. Don’t feel as though you have to do everything — do less but make sure that what you are doing is the best quality that you can offer. This is the time to brush off that buyer persona that you likely created early in the lifespan of your company and cross reference it with social media demographics to narrow down what channels will suit you best.






All about discovery

Micro blogging social site limits each post to 280 characters

Social sharing site with 1+ billion users worldwide

Social sharing site revolving around pictures and videos (up to 1 min especially)

Business oriented

Largest opportunities: décor, crafts or DIY, cooking/recipes, health, fashion

Largest penetration in the US, can be one of the more time-consuming to gain traction

Largest opportunities to communicate with consumers in a non-obtrusive way

Participation using hashtags

Corporate brands giving potential and current associates a place to connect

User demos – 14.8% male, 77.1% female, 8.4% unspecified

6,000 tweets sent per second

1 million links shared by users every 20 minutes

Brands like Nat Geo (very focused on visual representation/ media) flourish

310 million users

440 million monthly active users

206 million daily active users

Largest demographic of users between 25-35 years old

1 billion monthly active users

57% of users are men, 43% women

Defining your objectives with your social media will help narrow down the options to find which you should invest in more heavily. On top of that, being clear with what you want out of the efforts is going to help you narrow down the format and style of your content. Some common objectives used by companies on social media include:


• Improve and make more accessible their customer service by creating and investing in another channel through which customers can reach out with questions, concerns, or complaints;

• Generally gain exposure and increase brand awareness;

• Identify new leads or prospects similar to existing customers, possibly through clubs or online communities;

• Boost sales overall by increasing traffic to your site.

• Discover and gain insight into the needs, wants, habits, and preferences of your customers and target audience;


OUTREACH An essential aspect of PR, reaching out to publications and journalists, is perhaps what people think of most concisely when considering this topic. While intuitively most business owners will know this is something they have to do, they might be concerned about exactly how they should go about it. Five essential rules to keep in mind are: 1. Research your target publications – Make sure that the publications you’re contacting are read by or appeal to the audience that you would consider your “target.” By doing so you are not only ensuring that the effort you put in to make contact doesn’t go to waste, you’re also offering the publication something exciting for their readers. 2. Discover your story – As makers of a product, you must realize the power and potential inherent in the story you’re trying to tell. The product might intrigue your consumer but the story behind it will keep them coming back. 3. Create a pitch or press release – Whether or not a pitch or press release is appropriate to send will depend on the circumstance, but you should have both at the ready for when you are contacting journalists and publications. A press release is a better tool when you’re announcing some kind of change or update, such as a new product release, and a pitch is best deployed when you initially make contact with a journalist. 4. Connect with the journalist – Just as important to making contact with a journalist is attempting to connect with them. With social media and the online presence most journalists have now, you can easily interact with them well before you approach them with a pitch. Doing so is easy and fosters a relationship before you make a request. 5. Leverage – Once you’ve received coverage from a journalist, do not be shy with it. Post that to your website, all your social media accounts, and include it in your newsletter if you have one. It might be wise, as well, to add icons to your website such as “as seen on.” Courting social media accounts or influencers follows some of the same basic principles listed above, though in this instance there’s even more reason to interact with them regularly before you make a request of them. Influencer marketing has become extremely popular the last few years, but the approach you take should be tailored to it specifically.

The easiest way to leverage the networks created and sustained by influencers is to pay them directly for posts. The next logical question, however, is how much you should pay for said post. It’s hard to understand exactly how much each post is worth and, more importantly, there’s a chance that an influencer might expect you to quote them an amount first. To get a better sense, consider the following:



Micro (10,000-100,000 followers)

$100-500 per post

Mid (100,000-500,000 followers)

$500-5,000 per post

Macro (500,000-1,000,000 followers)

$5,000-10,000 per post

Mega (>1,000,000 followers)

$10,000+ per post

This is a baseline, and there’s a good chance that influencers you would want to interact with won’t fall strictly in these boxes. Be sure to get metrics from the influencer that you hope to work with and do some calculations to see what price is worth it. If a person has 500k followers and is promising you $5,000 in sales, then you likely would be comfortable spending $800-$1,000 for their services. There are also different ways to compensate influencers for their work beyond simple cash. You can set up a commission system so that both you and the influencer will have a reason to work as hard as possible on the post or series. A portion of any sale that has been generated by the person you’ve arranged to work with will be returned to them as payment for their time. One strategy to use when approaching influencers is to create an arrangement that guarantees you a minimum of 5–7 posts. It’s very hard to make a lasting impression on an audience with just one picture or post, so creating a series spread out over a couple of weeks would vastly improve your chances of seeing a return on your investment. If you do so, try and leverage the more consistent work to bring the price per post down to a place that you are more comfortable with. The best approach when it comes to PR is to just do it. Rarely will you feel as though you are always conducting your PR outreach perfectly, but that’s not your job, and most people will understand that. Don’t allow other moneyed brands to muscle you out of your earned media — go forth and get your story out there.

Devon Trevathan is the co-founder of Liba Spirits, a nomadic distilling company that focuses on capturing a sense of place in every bottle. She also continues to write about spirits and cocktails, including the science behind distillation and the history of drinks culture. Devon travels constantly these days; if she's not working, she's probably exploring her surroundings in the best way she knows how—her mouth (AKA through food and beverage). You can find her online @devontrevathan or @libaspirits across all platforms. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M




Takamine Whiskey is adding a coda to the revolution in bourbon that never was, or perhaps opening a whole new chapter in the way that whiskey production is imagined.


Produced using 100 percent pearled barley — no malt, no exogenous enzymes — the Japanese spirit relies on koji to convert starch to fermentable sugars and is named for the researcher who nearly jump-started the use of koji in American bourbon production more than 100 years ago. Jokichi Takamine was already a successful Japanese chemist and researcher when, in the 1890s, he was awarded the first biological patent in the United States for the production of the diastatic enzyme while conducting research for the U.S. Whiskey Trust in Peoria, Illinois. Takamine had developed a method to convert starch for bourbon production — traditionally reliant on malted barley for its enzymes — faster, more efficiently, with higher yield, and amazing flavor, according to Chris Pellegrini of Honkaku Spirits, which imports Takamine whiskey. The secret was koji (Aspergillus oryzae), a fungus that produces a wide variety of enzymes and is used in the production of sake, soy sauce, and miso. When combined with the reach of the Trust, a large proportion of bourbon production in the country was poised to be made using koji. However, Pellegrini said, the part of the facility where Takamine was doing his research mysteriously burnt down, and when the fire department arrived in response to the fire, they found the water shut off. “It was going to essentially put the maltsters out of business if he was successful. It was going to change bourbon entirely,” he said. “It was this point in American history where something was so close to flipping. The bourbon we drink today could have been made with koji. Koji whiskey could have been an American thing.” By the time Takamine had recreated his research, Pellegrini said, the Trust had been broken apart by the state as part of the broader trust-busting era. “They had actually started producing whiskey, they had barrels and barrels of it,” he said. “Nobody knows what happened to it, they probably blended it into other products or something.” It was a rare failure for a quietly humble man who made multiple fortunes on his research, including isolating a diastase enzyme for fertilizer and isolating the hormone adrenaline. “This is one of his failed experiments, and we felt, let’s try and run it back a little bit,” Pelligrini said. “It could have been so consequential.” That’s why, when he and his partner at Honkaku came across the barreled whiskey stashed away at Shinozaki Brewery and Distillery, they wanted to import it under the Takamine name. The Takamine family has the name in a trust, but they were convinced to grant Honkaku commercial rights to the name, the first time the family had done so.


Koji is generally used in parallel fermentation, where the Aspergillus is converting starch to fermentable sugar while, simultaneously, yeast is taking up the sugar and fermenting it into ethanol and CO2. Production of the whiskey involves no boil, no mash tun, and a very clean fermentation, Pellegrini said. The distillery relies on pearled barley, which has been polished to remove the husk and bran, leaving behind only the starchy endosperm. The use of koji results in a “remarkably high” ABV after fermentation, which is conducted in stainless vats and requires regular stirring to release heat. Once fermentation is completed, the mash is pot-distilled twice and barreled at a low ABV, in the mid-40 percent range, because of a unique approach the distillery relies on. “They use water to push the whiskey around the distillery, so it just naturally, slowly gets diluted little by little,” Pellegrini said. Because of the low barrel entry proof, the finished spirit is bottled at 40 percent ABV. Shinozaki relies on 90 percent oak sourced from Missouri and coopered at the Ariake Sangyo Cooperage in Miyazaki Prefecture, as well as 10 percent used bourbon. While Pellegrino said the vast majority of sake is made with yellow koji, which tends to accentuate the fruity and floral notes that yeast are producing, it’s not used as frequently in Japanese distilleries, which are predominantly located in the subtropical southern end of the country. For example, in Kagoshima Prefecture, on Kyushu island south of Fukuoka Prefecture where Shinozaki is located, Pellegrini said there are more than 110 active distilleries in one of seven prefectures on the island, a physical space smaller than Connecticut. “There’s a lot of distillation done down south, where it gets super juicy hot in the summer. The further south you go, the less sake is made and the more distilling you find,” he said. A large portion of shochu and all awamori are produced in that part of the country, relying on white and black koji — which both create high levels of acidity — to create stable conditions even in a difficult environment. “You can pretty much have an open fermentation out in the jungle, and nothing is going to survive if it drops in there. Koji and yeast, up to a point, are impervious (to the high levels of acidity),” he said.

“Our sympathies lie with koji. We want to spread the story of koji as much as possible, and Takamine right now is the biggest part of that story, just because it’s so easy to communicate.” — CHRIS PELLEGRINI, Honkaku Spirits


The native microflora are also essential to the proper flavor profile for these longstanding Japanese distilleries, he said. These distilleries have built up decades of those populations settling in and reaching an equilibrium with one another and the local conditions. “You clean the wall, you clean the roof, you’re going to change the drink. It’s a very sacrosanct, historic endeavor,” Pelligrini said. “I’ve heard of rickety old distilleries, one more typhoon and the thing is going to collapse, but you’ve got decades of flora. If you replace that roof, you’re starting from zero. You’ve lost the lineage of your drink. I’ve heard of a distillery building around the building to protect it. They just built a shell around it to keep the elements at bay.” At Shinozaki, there are trees that are growing in the distillery, extending through the roof. “They just couldn’t cut the trees down. They’re these huge, beautiful trees, but they’re in the damn distillery,” he said. The distillery has “an excellent barrel program” and likes putting up a variety of fun projects, including shochu, which by law has a limit on how much time it can spend in the barrel. “They cling to tradition, but they’re always looking for something fun. It’s been a fun learning experience for all involved,” Pelligrini said. While Takamine is the flagship product for Honkaku Spirits, their goal is to introduce a variety of koji-based products to an American audience. Pelligrini worked in beer and brewing before falling down the rabbit hole of shochu and awamori, traditional Japanese distilled spirits that rely on koji to convert a variety of starchy media. Prior to founding Honkaku, he was a university professor and had been designated an ambassador for shochu and awamori by the Japanese government. His partner, Stephen Lyman, wrote the book The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks and is, likewise, a category ambassador for the government of Japan. As they build a portfolio of spirits from Japan, he said, they felt that koji whiskey was a great starting point. “Our sympathies lie with koji,” Pellegrini said. “We want to spread the story of koji as much as possible, and Takamine right now is the biggest part of that story, just because it’s so easy to communicate. Everybody gets whiskey, everybody understands that, and when they hear about, ‘This is a koji whiskey,’ and they hear about Dr. Takamine’s story, then we’re off and running.”


Unfortunately, there are labeling issues on both sides of the Pacific. In Japan, Takamine can’t be called “Japanese whiskey” because of recently passed regulations on the industry that require malt. Meanwhile, in the United States, the TTB prohibited them from calling it “koji whiskey,” allowing instead for “koji-fermented Takamine whiskey” on the label. In addition to Shinozaki, other members of the industry have been barrel aging interesting stuff for many many years, he said, including a small limited-release shochu made with roasted barley. Most of the portfolio Honkaku (which means “authentic” in Japanese) offers is shochu. “A long time ago we started having these conversations with our friends in the industry, small distilleries we had been working with. We go and help them when they’re short-handed at the distillery,” Pelligrini said. “We talk all around the world about their drinks, and finally these opportunities came along.” Part of their enthusiasm for koji-based products comes from what Pelligrini describes as a depth of flavor that the fungal addition provides. It’s more satisfying at a certain level, whereas, he said, “When I’m drinking a Scotch, I often feel like the middle is lacking.” He believes it’s the savoriness that the koji adds to a product giving it an extra layer that’s often missing and creating a more full flavor profile. Koji is known to produce a variety of proteases that are


relied on to break down the proteins in soy and other media, creating products like soy sauce and miso that are heavily reliant on the sensation provided by glutamate, known as savoriness or umami. “It’s hard to articulate, I think, especially for American consumers, whose concept of savory really just comes from meat. People like meat because it’s satisfying, but tomatoes have umami, and a lot of different types of cheese are just chock full of umami,” Pelligrini said. “When you get an appreciation for that, I think you can recognize it in a lot of drinks. Once you can put your finger on it, it makes everything else in the drink easier to understand. It’s not salt, but it has that same sort of enhancing quality to it.” As their flagship product is concerned, a little extra age also helped. The product they had selected in 2019 was eight years old, and that’s how Takamine is labeled. However, COVID-related delays left the spirit aging in the barrel for another year and a half before it was packaged and put on a boat. When the sales team in New York finally opened samples of the finished product, “they were beside themselves,” Pelligrini said. “They were screaming about it, ‘This is a grand slam.’ It had just turned that corner. What we had decided on was very very good, but now it’s one level better.”

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Written by Devon Trevathan

The Essentials of Distillery Websites M

ore likely than not, the first and possibly only place that a person has interacted with your business in the last two years has been online, probably via your company’s website. Websites have always been important, but the shift to the digital space since the pandemic should have reprioritized them for all business owners. They are your most important digital asset and, these days, one of your most important assets, period. Certain design trends have taken over the website development space in recent years, including the horizontal scroll, multimedia experiences that tie in visuals, text, video and audio, and 3D images. It almost feels inaccurate to call any retro design choices a “trend” since they always seem to be coming back into style, but particularly in fonts and typography, designs that are inspired by yesteryear, are popular once more. When paired with muted colors — think the subdued counterpoints to more saturated reds, yellows, greens, and blues — you have a very trending aesthetic that can be seen on websites across different industries currently. Another popular choice for modern websites is to include some element that is interactive, with parallax scrolling being a favored feature. Developed around 2010, parallax scrolling is a design technique in which the website background moves at a slower pace than the foreground, creating a 3D effect as viewers scroll, adding depth to the experience. According to Nic Reed, CEO and founder of 253 Media, a web design, SEO, and paid ad agency based in Utah, “The difference between a good website and an incredible website really comes down to content interactions, something that’s going to make me stay on the website longer, something that’s going to make me excited to be


there.” Reed said that utilizing something like parallax scrolling or some other feature that adds depth and movement, by the numbers, inspires visitors to stay on your site four times as long as they normally would. “Now they’ve been on your site four times longer than they would have, now they’re four times more involved with your brand.” It's not only the design features of your website that matter; content is of equal importance. 253 Media have helped a handful of distilleries create websites or revamp their existing ones, and a couple of consistencies within this business have stuck out to Reed. The first question he asks a client is, what’s the differentiating factor of their company? “Fifty percent of the brands we talk to have no idea why someone should buy their whiskey,” said Reed. They may think that creating a beneficial website is as simple as throwing their contact information, some photos, and the distillery’s address into a template and hitting publish. The process is more involved than that; in fact, it’s more akin to the creation of an experience. Visitors to your website should leave with a sense of that intangible quality that sets your products apart from the rest, which you can create through very tangible design choices and information added to your website.

In general, try thinking of your website as your digital brand ambassador. Consider all the elements that you would want a sales rep employed by your company to communicate to potential buyers. This would include the value and unique qualities of your business, but it would also encompass the tasting notes for each of your products, significant details of your distillations, and your personal background. Now translate that to your website. “I have to be so ingrained in knowing that’s the brand for me, that’s the whiskey for me,” said Reed, “that I’m going to go to the store and look at 15 other whiskeys on the shelf and say that’s the one that I want.” Decide what it is that sets your company apart from all the rest — perhaps it’s the grain you use, or the labored production methods that you feel result in your products’ distinct flavor profile. Maybe you fashioned your own still by hand. Whatever the specifics, your company’s differentiating factor needs to feature prominently on your website. This


may mean that you work it in above the fold, meaning it appears in the space of your website that’s immediately visible when someone lands on your homepage. If that’s not possible, it’s best to communicate this message within a couple scrolls down the front page. From there, you can add more details and pieces of information to flesh out the full picture of your distillery, including tasting notes, the backstory to the company’s origin, biographies on the founders, high-quality photos, production notes, and a blog. “Other things that people can do that I encourage a lot of distilleries to do — very few of them do a very good job of this because it’s a lot of work — is in-house [cocktail] recipes,” said Reed. “Not only does that help your SEO side of things as well, it creates a resource for people to come back to your website.” Creating and posting in-house recipes on your blog is a great way to create content for your website and trade on a potential area of expertise. Reed says that tying selective or distinct expressions that you offer into your cocktail recipes is another boon, as it creates a cocktail that couldn’t easily be replicated with a spirit other than one that’s a part of your portfolio. The purpose of all these actions is to create an experience that connects a visitor to your brand, meaning that if done correctly the person reading your recipe will be motivated not only to make the drink but to buy your product to use while doing so. An added benefit, of course, to creating

“Other things that people can do that I encourage a lot of distilleries to do — very few of them do a very good job of this because it’s a lot of work — is in-house [cocktail] recipes. Not only does that help your SEO side of things as well, it creates a resource for people to come back to your website.” — Nic Reed

CEO and founder of 253 Media


blog posts regularly and routinely updating your website is that it improves your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is primarily concerned with designing and operating your website with the intention of showing up sooner in the Google results page when people search relevant topics. “The more content and the more often you update your website, the more Google and the Google bot will crawl the website,” said Karen Locke, creator of High Proof Creative, a branding and marketing agency specifically for the beverage industry. “So, I think adding content [yourself] can be a great way to come up in Google searches.” SEO can act as a guide to the content that a distillery creates, which is a great way to rope in social media. Looking at keyword ranking is a standard way that a professional agency might help a distillery. In SEO, keyword rankings refer to the specific position of your content on the search engine results page (SERP) following a related query. If someone enters terms that relate to your page’s subject matter into Google, your URL is shown in some spot on a page, and this would be your keyword ranking. A ranking of #1 would mean that your web page shows up first when people search for a particular term. “A creative agency can look at what keywords you’re ranking for and then what keywords the competitors are ranking for and help you outrank your competitors in a Google search so that when someone’s looking for a distillery to visit, you’ll come up first,” said Locke. To rank on Google based on their variety of algorithms, you need to be making the most out of competitive keywords while also offering quality information. While indexing the main content of each page that it looks at, Google checks for the purpose of the page, the quality and amount of content, the information about the site and its creator, the reputation of the site, and user interaction on the page, including time spent there and bounce rates. Google favors sites that exist at the cross-section of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, and it wants to show the most high-quality, relevant results at the top of its search engine. So, while you create content for your social media profiles, don’t forget to

tie it back into your site by fleshing out those ideas with authority and expertise in posts and pages, which you can then direct followers to visit. Well-developed SEO is probably best left up to the professionals, but brand owners can make strides to improve the visibility of their site entirely on their own. Websites aren’t just for conveying key information about the distillery anymore — they can now act as a marketplace to sell your products. Depending on the state, distilleries can use a white label marketing service, which are companies that build out a page that’s linked on the distillery’s website and reflects the look and feel of the brand, acting as an extension rather than seeming like a third-party marketplace, even though they are the ones to host and operate the page in question. In seven U.S. states — Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and North Dakota — and D.C., distilleries are allowed to ship spirits directly to the consumer, opening up the option for e-commerce from their websites. Incorporating e-commerce functionality into a website can be difficult, depending on what you want it to do and look like. More elaborate e-commerce options will require a professional web design agency, but on a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla, simple e-commerce functions can be added to a website using plug-ins. Sales can then be made using the main website. If your website is hosted by a simplified website builder like Squarespace, e-commerce function is already an option that can easily be executed within the software, though customization will be limited. Distillery owners using e-commerce, and thus direct-to-consumer shipping, should be wary of their compliance throughout the process, as this kind of action is still relatively new in this business. There are some best practices to keep in mind. First, you should be sure that you are maintaining the appropriate licenses on both the state and federal levels, including registration with The Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), State Departments of Revenue, and state Alcohol Beverage Control departments when applicable. Regardless of whether a sale of alcohol has been made online or in store, applicable federal, state, and local taxes must be paid, and it’s the responsibility of the W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

distillery to ensure they’re doing so if they’re selling from their website. Certain software have automated compliance processes that can aid a distillery in determining the different taxes that apply in the states to which they ship and the rate that needs to be charged by the distillery. Of equal importance to paying taxes is age verification. As the seller, you assume the responsibility of ensuring that the shipments you send are made to consumers who are at least 21 years old. It’s a good practice to have your website protected with an age gate, which would require visitors to affirm they are at least 21 years old before entering, regardless of whether you are selling from the site. Some states, however, also require that you collect the purchaser’s date of birth at the point of sale to be reported later; check with your state to see if that is the case. In this changing landscape, distilleries that

are selling directly from their website should always be prepared for a potential audit. To do so, be sure to maintain accurate and extensive records. Critical examples include federal and state tax returns, purchase records, records of tax payments, Certificate of Label Approvals (COLAs), production records, and registration of production records on both the federal and state level. You should also avail yourself of the changes that are taking place to avoid fines or charges, or have your licenses revoked. The best way to situate yourself for success is to be proactive — bake compliance into your website from the start and be prepared to invest money to do so. Ensure compliant shipments and maintain the software that is meant to assist you while you’re operating e-commerce.

Websites are as essential as labels these days — no distillery or spirits brand can exist without them — but if handled correctly, your website can go beyond a prerequisite to become a benefit.

Websites are as essential as labels these days — no distillery or spirits brand can exist without them — but if handled correctly, your website can go beyond a prerequisite to become a benefit. Even if you don’t have the money to invest in a perfectly polished site, you do have an interesting story to tell. Ensure that it’s reflected by your digital ambassador.

Devon Trevathan is the co-founder of Liba Spirits, a nomadic distilling company that focuses on capturing a sense of place in every bottle. She also continues to write about spirits and cocktails, including the science behind distillation and the history of drinks culture. Devon travels constantly these days; if she's not working, she's probably exploring her surroundings in the best way she knows how—her mouth (AKA through food and beverage). You can find her online @devontrevathan or @libaspirits across all platforms.







Regulatory Considerations and Plausible Implications

MERGING WITH OR ACQUIRING A BUSINESS IN THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY New market entrants may not be familiar with the complex regulatory framework that surrounds the alcohol beverage industry and potential limitations on future business endeavors.



here has been an increase in mergers and acquisitions activity (M&A) in the alcohol beverage industry in recent years. These transactions have resulted in the entry of various new players into the alcohol beverage industry, such as private equity investors and non-alcohol beverage companies. New market entrants may not be familiar with the complex regulatory framework that surrounds the alcohol beverage industry and potential limitations on future business endeavors. Private equity investors are typically highly diversified, so investing in a business that involves the sale of alcohol may be a relatively new pursuit that might represent a fraction of their overall interests. However, private equity investors should be aware of the implications of having an ownership interest in a business that sells alcohol. When considering merging with or acquiring a business involved in alcohol sales, it is crucial to have a full understanding of the cross-tier considerations and pre- and post-close licensure and qualification requirements imposed on this heavily regulated industry. This article will touch on such nuanced aspects of the alcohol industry regulations that frequently affect prospective transactions by new market entrants.


KNOW BEFORE YOU GO When evaluating a potential transaction, one of the first questions should be whether consummating the transaction would violate any state or federal alcohol beverage control laws. Among the most important of these laws is the so-called “tied-house” law. Before America’s failed experience with Prohibition (1920-1933), suppliers of alcohol beverages frequently exerted manipulative influence over retail outlets by “tying” themselves to the retailer through partial or total ownership, exclusive arrangements, or other business relationships that allowed the supplier to dictate the retailer’s actions. When Prohibition was repealed by ratification of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, Congress passed the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act) to create what is now commonly referred to as the three-tier system for alcohol industry regulation by the federal government as well as the states. The three-tier system structure provides for three independent levels for alcohol distribution: 1.

THE SUPPLIER TIER, Those industry members who manufacture directly or through importation supply alcohol beverages;


THE DISTRIBUTOR TIER, the middle tier of

wholesalers who purchase alcohol beverage products from the suppliers and resell those products to retailers; and


THE RETAILER TIER, the licensees authorized to purchase alcohol beverages at wholesale from the distributors and resell those products to end-use consumers.

Under this three-tier system, a person or business generally is prohibited from having a direct or indirect financial interest in more than one “tier.” Three-tier system compliance issues often arise in the context of private equity investors. If these investors have existing interests in one tier (e.g., an interest in a restaurant licensed as an alcohol beverage retailer), regardless how small, they may be precluded from obtaining an interest in another tier (e.g., a wholesaler or manufacturer) unless an applicable exception to the cross-tier interest prohibition exists.

If private equity investors have existing interests in one tier, regardless how small, they may be precluded from obtaining an interest in another tier unless an applicable exception to the cross-tier interest prohibition exists.


Experienced alcohol beverage regulatory counsel should advise the private equity investor on any applicable exception to the tied-house rules that may permit the transaction to proceed. Alternatively, the private equity investor may have to consider relinquishing an alcohol beverage license in one of the two tiers or explore legislative changes that would create an exception to the cross-tier interest prohibition for the private equity investor’s two interests. Other considerations when evaluating a potential transaction are the target’s alcohol license(s) and corresponding requirements. The FAA Act granted states the authority to regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol beverages within their state. Each state has adopted rules and regulations that, in many cases, vary from the rules and regulations passed in other states. In some states, local municipalities further regulate alcohol sales within its municipality (e.g., through limitations on the zoning districts in which alcohol may be sold or through additional local licensure requirements). This results in more than 50 agencies having jurisdiction, and imposing differing requirements (including licensure requirements) over alcohol beverage licensees. Because of the heavy regulation associated with alcohol beverages, new market entrants should engage an experienced alcohol beverage regulatory attorney who can conduct comprehensive regulatory due diligence on the target company as well as advise on all applicable alcohol beverage rules and regulations. For example, pre-closing diligence should confirm the target company holds all requisite (where applicable) federal, state, and local alcohol beverage licenses, and that such licenses remain in good standing by avoiding enforcement action and complying with applicable sales tax, excise tax, and record keeping obligations. Potential M&A candidates also need to be aware of the numerous filing and disclosure obligations imposed by federal, state, and/or local licensing agencies. When businesses licensed to sell alcohol beverages are involved, those obligations include pre- and/or post-closing change in ownership notification requirements for the target company in connection with consummation of the prospective transaction. These filing requirements can vary depending on the nature of the transaction, such as whether the transaction will be an equity or asset deal or result in a direct or indirect change in ownership of the licensee. Failure 81

to submit these filings in a timely manner can adversely affect the target company’s operations, necessitating a cessation of the licensee’s alcohol-related operations until the requisite filings and disclosures are received, processed, and approved by the pertinent regulatory agencies. To this point, the transaction purchase agreement should be structured to ensure that change-in-ownership requirements imposed by alcohol beverage regulatory agencies are met on a timely basis. For example, if the transaction involves a licensed business operating in a jurisdiction where there are pre-closing change-in-ownership qualification requirements, the buyer should require the seller to provide written proof of

such notification as a condition to close the transaction. Notably, disclosure requirements also may arise in connection with updating alcohol beverage licensee information. For example, officers, directors (or managers or general partners, as applicable), and certain owners of the buyer usually have to be disclosed and may even be required to undergo a criminal background check and fingerprinting in connection with the alcohol beverage licensure process. These individuals typically cannot have certain historical issues (e.g., conviction of a felony or alcohol-related misdemeanor) or hold a direct or indirect financial interest in another tier. Finally, if the transaction involves the acquisition of a supplier or wholesaler, there may be change-in-ownership or consent requirements (or protections) imposed on the target company under Officers, directors (or managers or general partners, as applicable alcohol beverage distribution relationship laws, which are euphemistically referred to as applicable), and certain owners of the buyer usually have alcohol franchise laws. These are state statutes that provide remedial protections to certain categories to be disclosed and may even be required to undergo of alcohol beverage wholesalers relative to their rea criminal background check and fingerprinting in lationships with the suppliers whose products they distribute. Although these so-called franchise laws connection with the alcohol beverage licensure process. will not derail a proposed merger or acquisition, they can impact materially the post-closing operations of the licensed business.



Given the various nuances in the alcohol beverage regulatory framework, it is critical that prospective buyers of alcohol industry members engage experienced alcohol regulatory counsel to guide them at all stages of the transaction. Once a transaction has closed, new market entrants should continue to engage said counsel to advise on how to operate the target company in a compliant manner under applicable alcohol beverage rules and regulations. For example, new market entrants that have historically operated in the beverage industry, but not in the alcohol beverage industry, will have to learn how their operations in the alcohol beverage industry must vary from their operations in the non-alcohol beverage industry. Many of the alcohol industry’s unique restrictions, e.g., limitations on how industry members may advertise products and interact with one another and the means by which alcohol beverage products may be sold, vary greatly from the regulations governing other streams of commerce, and often are far from intuitive. Alexis Mason is an Associate with GrayRobinson’s Nationwide Alcohol Beverage Law Group who practices trade regulation and compliance guidance associated with mergers and acquisitions in the alcohol industry. Mason’s experience includes work on multi-billion dollar beverage industry mergers, combining her corporate law and alcohol law acumen. Before joining the firm, she gained experience as in-house counsel for REEF Technology. While at REEF Technology, she conducted research to determine regulations applicable to certain business models in various jurisdictions and advised stakeholders regarding such regulations.


Given the various nuances in the alcohol beverage regulatory framework, it is critical that prospective buyers of alcohol industry members engage experienced alcohol regulatory counsel to guide them at all stages of the transaction.

Lauren Voke is an Associate with GrayRobinson’s Nationwide Alcohol Beverage Law Group. Prior to becoming an associate, Voke was a law clerk supporting the legal department of an international alcohol beverage company, where she developed a deep understanding of America’s three-tier alcohol beverage system, tied-house issues, trade practice compliance, and federal and state alcohol licensing. Voke counsels corporate clients on alcohol licensing and general regulatory compliance, with a focus on complex matters concerning alcohol, tobacco, food, marijuana and CBD, and gambling and sports betting activities. GrayRobinson’s Nationwide Alcohol Beverage Practice can be reached at (866) 382-5132





the RITUAL of UNPACKING We all know the sanctity of opening our favorite alcoholic beverage. Envision, for example, the sound of a cork being persuaded out of a wine bottle, followed by the familiar “glug-glug” of the liquid against the crystalline glass. Imagine the perfect pour of a smoky scotch, the aroma filling your nostrils with peat and your mind with memories of hunting adventures. The importance of these experiences cannot be understated; it’s as integral a component to the drink as the product itself. But allow yourself to step outside the spirit space for a moment and think about other things that inspire real satisfaction when opening them. Perhaps it’s the slow draw of a new iPhone box, or the beautifully solid sound of a Tesla door opening. The unboxing of a platinum set of NBA cards, the cracking and peeling of a boiled egg, or even the classic key and peel of a simple sardine can are all experiences that hold meaning beyond just access to a product. Each of these instances encapsulates an important step in ritual. Rituals carry emotions within them, which is what we always aspire to — no matter the category, the product, or the strategic positioning of the brand.

Deep Eddy Vodka . . . . . . . . . . unpack’d PHOTOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Melissa Skorpil BRANDING & PACKAGING DESIGN



The Gladstone Axe �������������������� Biggar & Leith David Jenkins, Jenkins Studio STRUCTURAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Weston Heights PHOTOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Red Production DESIGN DIRECTION


HABITUAL vs RITUAL If we think about the products we create through this more emotional lens, we can start to think about bringing joy to the entire experience of our products. When a product represents more than its content alone, it opens the door to relishing the preciousness in the middle. Suddenly a product is not just a product, but rather a journey worth savoring, thinking about, and cherishing just as much as the treasure at the end. Using sight, sound, and touch, semiotics (or the meaning derived from a sign, symbol, sound, or surface texture) elevates how we engage with products. It’s almost always more than “nose” and “palate,” but it’s never less. The difference between habitual and ritual is the difference between a mindless transaction and emotion-laced meaning.

PREMIUM/QUALITY BRANDS LEVERAGE RITUAL Premium cues play an important role in high-end packaging like cosmetics, cannabis, and alcoholic spirits, but complexity (and its consequent expensiveness) isn’t what makes ritual so sacred. Instead, the impact of ritual lies in triggering an emotion, memory, or meaning in even the smallest of ways. It might be a subtle indention in a glass that allows for an ergonomic thumb position, cueing the precision of a rich pour and indicating the precision in a rich distilling process. Maybe a label with the image of a toe being dipped in a natural spring evokes the connection between nostalgia, purity, and overall quality of the spirit. Or perhaps slow removal of hand-dipped wax signals the ritual applied to every aspect of the bottle, down to the cork and seal. There are many ways to accomplish this goal and choosing the perfect set of solutions is a process of understanding business goals and objectives, unique truths about your product and culture, consumer needs and desires that intersect with those truths, and so on. We can dive deeper into some of these things at a future date.


WHAT DOES YOUR PACKAGING SAY? The high-level takeaway is this: Spending more time on proper packaging is evidence of a few important things: 1. You understand both the pain points and the pleasure points of your best and most ideal consumers; 2. You’re more than a product — you’re a brand with a personality and a point of view; 3. If you show a little more thoughtfulness on the “outside,” then it elevates the expectation of what’s on the inside. In marketing, cognitive dissonance comes into play when outside verbal and/ or non-verbal communication doesn’t match the excellence of the product inside. It creates an inconsistent belief that affects consumer behavior and attitude. Does your package communicate the same quality that your product does? Further, we know consumer purchasing decisions happen in a fraction of a second. Does your packaging communicate quickly and succinctly? These mental shortcuts in communication are called “heuristics.” What your packaging says is key, and as much as we like to think our products are distinct, unique, game-changing, and without rival, the reality is more stark: Consumers today have an almost unlimited assortment of choices and options. Setting yourself apart comes from an authentic understanding and celebration of the ritual associated with your product. 85


Consider the way you use sugar, grains, heat, wood, and time to create something that stimulates the senses and brings delight to a person. In the same way, branding and packaging can use cues, color psychology, semiotics, and heuristics as shortcuts to emotions — engaging more senses, surprising people with discovery, and building excitement. When you invite people to share in the ritual of your brand, you’re helping them skip past the transactional, emotionless experience of opening a commodity.

The era we’ve entered assumes near-commoditization of products and services. What separates the good from the great is the emotional connection we have with the products we consume. Odds are that if you were to personally spend 15 minutes tasting your product with someone and sharing your excitement for care and quality, a consumer would walk away enthusiastic, bottle in hand. But of course founders, manufacturers, and distillers don’t have the time or ability to pitch 1:1 like this, so we use familiar rituals as shortcuts for deeper connection. This means that it’s more important than ever to engage people with your brand and product Garrison Brothers through packaging that levers emoBRANDING & PACKAGING DESIGN . . . . . . . . . Garrison Brothers tional triggers. PHOTOGRAPHY ��������������������������������� Melissa Skorpil


Think of this as unpacking as an emotional journey to the treasure that is your product. Wes Wooddell is founder and CEO of unpack’d. Visit for more information.



A Tough Season for Malting Barley Highlights Supply Chain Vulnerabilities O

regon State University professor Pat Hayes doesn’t mince words when it comes to the North American 2021 barley harvest. “It was a bloodbath,” said Hayes. “If [Martin] Scorsese did a movie about malt, 2021 is what it would look like.” The size of the crop in major North American barley growing regions (which includes Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia) shrank about 40 percent between 2020 and 2021. Heat and drought were the major culprits. Dryland growers were hit especially hard, but even irrigated barley suffered in the extreme high temperatures that descended on the inland Northwest last summer. “In some places you just couldn’t get enough water onto the crop to deal with the water demand because of the heat,” said Hayes. Other regions, such as Oregon and California’s Klamath Basin, lost access to irrigation water altogether. Adding insult to injury, widespread rain just before harvest led to pre-harvest sprouting, which is when the grain starts to sprout while it’s still on the head. The resulting

crop is both smaller in quantity and higher in protein content than expected, leading to a painfully familiar set of circumstances in the COVID-19-disrupted economy: Reduced inventory and higher prices. Many of the largest malt suppliers have sent out pricing notices telling customers to expect to pay more for malt in the months to come, and to get in orders well in advance. “The reduction in 2021 barley crop availability will mean supplies will be very limited over the course of the year,” said Scott Garden, director of research and technical services at Great Western Malting Company. “For some maltsters, imported barley may be necessary to ensure supply.” Imports might help avoid a shortage, but they probably won’t keep prices down. Global trade continues to be rattled by slowdowns in ship and truck transit. Barley in particular was also impacted by a 2020 trade dispute between China and Australia that led to a Chinese tariff of more than 80 percent on Australian barley, which led many Chinese companies to shift their purchasing to other sources and altered

the global trade balance. At the same time, 2020 sales of alcoholic drinks increased 23 percent in China, which the Financial Times reports was the largest increase of any major market. That, in turn, boosted demand for malting barley in China so acutely that some maltsters turned to feed barley to fill the gap, a situation Nikkei Asia described as “unprecedented.” Intense demand led to a willingness to pay more, driving up malt barley pricing in exporter nations around the world. American distillers and brewers are already starting to see the effects. Campbell Morrissy, head brewer at pFriem Family Brewers, says he’s seen “across the board” increases in malt prices impacting everything from workhorse base malts to the specialty malts pFriem relies on to brew around 100 styles of beer each year. That’s taking place against a backdrop of higher prices on many other supplies, including cans. “Nothing is reliable anymore,” said Morrissy. “You have to be really tight on incoming materials. You can’t just place a phone call and hope it shows up.”

“The reduction in 2021 barley crop availability will mean supplies will be very limited over the course of the year. For some maltsters, imported barley may be necessary to ensure supply.” —SCOTT GARDEN

Director of research and technical services, Great Western Malting Company



Protein Problems While every lot is different, maltsters are reporting exceptionally high protein levels in the 2021 barley, often nearing 14 percent. Brewers and all-malt distillers usually look for moderate protein between 9.5 percent and 12.5 percent. Plumpness, which refers to the size of the individual kernels, is often inversely correlated with protein: High protein usually means low plumpness, as if barley were an adherent of the Paleo diet. Both factors are linked to moisture and heat stress. This matters in economic and qualitative terms. Fermentable sugars are produced from the endosperm, the starchy interior part of the grain. Thinner kernels have a higher ratio of husk to endosperm, which means you need more grain to produce a given amount of alcohol — and that means increased ingredient cost and storage needs. A high husk-to-endosperm ratio can also lead to hazy beers, and make it harder to produce very pale-colored beers. Neither of those factors are deal breakers for distillers, although handling concerns could necessitate modifications in the distilling process. Not everybody sees high protein as a terrible thing. Many older or heritage grain varieties have high protein content as a matter of course, and some small distilleries are willing to make a tradeoff between yield and what

they perceive as better flavor. “The big companies want malt to produce more alcohol, and they could care less about the flavor,” said Rob Masters, head distiller and partner at The Family Jones in Denver and Loveland, Colorado. The Family Jones sources all of its grains from local farms, including non-commodity varieties like Abenaki flint corn. “Us craft distillers care more about protein and flavor development. That’s why we’re able to play with heirloom grains.” Higher protein levels can also mean increased diastatic power, or the ability for malted barley to help convert carbohydrates in other grains like corn, wheat, or rye into fermentable sugars. “Distillers may be seeing a slight uptick in quality in their malt supply in the form of higher enzyme content,” said Garden. “For some, this may be a bit of a ‘silver lining’ in what is a challenging year for malt.” Hayes and Morrissy both advise purchasers to keep an eye out for blended malt barley lots. A mix of two or more malt lots with different protein levels can improve the figures on a specification sheet, but it doesn’t handle the same way that a single lot of homogenous malt might. “Some blending is probably carefully and professionally done, and some could really make life a nightmare for the end user,” said Hayes.

In 2021, Smaller May Have Been Better While the largest maltsters struggle with the fallout from 2021, some small craft maltsters are entering 2022 virtually unscathed. Jesse Bussard, executive director of the North American Craft Maltsters Guild, said that craft maltsters in the Northeast, MidAtlantic, and Midwest actually had a pretty good harvest. “Because most of our craft maltsters are sourcing barley from within a 500-mile radius of their malthouse, they may not be affected by those negative conditions” in the Northwest, said Bussard. “The quality could possibly be way better on craft malt than maybe some of the malts being sourced from Western states.” Bussard also said craft malt pricing and availability has held relatively steady. Masters said he’s experienced that dynamic firsthand. The Family Jones purchases all of its malted barley from Root Shoot Malting in Loveland, Colorado, which is about five miles away from the distillery. Masters said it’s one of the only things he buys that hasn’t recently gone up in price or become harder to get. “We’re getting elbowed out in the glass market, we’re getting elbowed out in the barrel market by the big guys. But in the malt market, we’re OK, because we have a relationship with our farmer,” he said.

“We’re getting elbowed out in the glass market, we’re getting elbowed out in the barrel market by the big guys. But in the malt market, we’re OK, because we have a relationship with our farmer.” —ROB MASTERS

Head distiller and partner, The Family Jones



Looking Forward: More of the Same Climate change means the West can expect more hot, dry growing seasons like 2021. Already, major maltsters have a watchful eye on the 2022 harvest. “As with any agricultural crop, there is always the chance that Mother Nature won’t cooperate and that shortages will exist,” said Garden. “It will be necessary to have an adequate 2022 crop to ensure supply.” Just planting more barley isn’t necessarily a solution, particularly since there are few other viable markets for barley that don't meet malting specifications. “What if you wind up with too much good barley? Then you’ve got to pay for something you’re not going to use, or you turn your back on those farmers,” said Hayes. “It’ll be sold for feed at a loss.” Oregon State University and other universities are working to develop barley varieties better suited for local conditions. In the West, heat and drought tolerance are key. In the


East, which tends to have wetter and more humid summers, it means resistance to fungal diseases. Bussard said craft maltsters often work directly with local universities with small grain breeding programs to develop varieties adapted to their specific region that stand the best chance of success in a changing climate. “A great example from New York is Cornell University creating the Excelsior Gold barley variety,” said Bussard. “It’s adapted and designed for New York environmental conditions.” Other possible agronomic strategies for a more flexible and resilient barley ecosystem include fall-planted barleys, which are seeded in the fall, overwinter as small plants, and are harvested in the spring; and multi-use barleys such as naked barley, which can be used for food, feed, and malting. When one component in a supply chain fails, everyone who depends on that supply chain suffers. When a supply chain is so highly concentrated or globalized that everybody depends on the same one, the pain is widespread, extending even to the end consumer

in the form of higher prices. “If we can’t get the powers that be to deal with climate change directly, then it becomes a user fee, and we’ll all pay a user fee on our spirits and beers,” said Hayes. As climate change increases the likelihood of supply chain disruptions for every agricultural product, the benefits of smaller, shorter, more local supply chains are thrown into stark relief. Just ask Masters. “I got a call in late December saying [our glass supplier] isn’t going to live up to the orders I put in in June, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it,” he said. “But my stills are running and I’m still putting whiskey in barrels, because I get my grain just right up the road.”

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.




acuum distillation is still a rarity in the industry; the vast majority of producers use traditional distillation methods to separate alcohol and other molecules from a water mixture. Whereas high heat is the catalyst to reaction in traditional or simple distillation, vacuum distillation adjusts the atmospheric pressure, lowering it and thus depressing the boiling points of certain elements in the wash. This can have a number of benefits. For distillation using high temperatures, the time of the process is often extended, the efficiency compromised, and flavor compounds may decompose or be subject to changes. One obvious use of vacuum distillation would be to distill fresh ingredients such as flowers. Dwayne Bershaw, lecturer of enology at Cornell University, explains that some volatiles can get ‘cooked’ because of the temperatures required to do alcohol distillation at atmospheric pressure. He further explains, “But by lowering that pressure you’re also lowering the boiling temperature of the solution, so hopefully you’re not cooking some really delicate aromatics that you think you might be getting.” It can be difficult to capture the flavors of fresh honeysuckle or lavender, for instance, when you distill those using heat. The high temperature can result in unsavory character from the ingredients cooking, restricting the full availability of potential flavors.


Using vacuum distillation creates the opportunity for a talented distiller to access a different segment of the flavor spectrum. This is important for producers who regularly use fresh ingredients in their distillation. “When I hear about [vacuum distillation], I mostly think of people in the gin production category, stuff like that, where they’re trying to get these really interesting aroma volatiles,” said Bershaw. Many distillers who want to incorporate the flavors of ingredients like cucumber or florals might opt to use extracts, vapor distillation, or maceration, however, each of these methods come with some drawbacks. Instead, a distiller could reach for their tabletop vacuum system, which can distill ethanol at room temperature by reducing the pressure inside the vessel to nearly zero. Once distillation has begun, the ethanol vapor travels through a cooling coil

Vacuum distillation can be used in tandem with other distilling techniques, such as vapor distillation, to make an elegant and subtle spirit.


until it condenses back down into a liquid. This method can be used in tandem with other distilling techniques, such as vapor distillation, to make an elegant and subtle spirit. This tandem approach is popular because of the rarity of having a vacuum still that’s any bigger than a tabletop setup, which could negate any of the efficiency gained by distilling at low temperatures, since the system would have to be recharged so frequently to complete even a modestly sized batch. The process of vacuum distillation relies on pressure changes to facilitate the distillation, as opposed to heat in atmospheric distillation. Typically, traditional atmospheric distillation takes place between 170 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit; with vacuum distillation, the necessary temperature range changes. At six percent of atmospheric pressure, or 42 mm Hg compared to 760 mm Hg, the temperature at the top of the column only needs to be 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and at the bottom 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The main draw for distillers to use vacuum distillation is that this process does not “cook” their ingredients. Traditional distillation often will alter the flavor of a fresh or floral ingredient because it’s cooked, which changes the delicate aromas that otherwise exist within that material. While obviously a benefit for gin distillers who are hoping to use this technique, other distilled spirits can be made with vacuum distillation in part or in whole to achieve a radically different profile. Take, for instance, shochu, which is made by both atmospheric and vacuum distillation, depending on the desired aroma and profile. The higher temperature used in traditionally distilled shochu evaporates most of the liquid in the fermented mash; what results is a distillate with a thick, rich flavor and aroma, commonly made from base materials such as barley or sweet potato. Vacuum-distilled shochu has a typical profile and flavor that could be described as mild or concise, compared to its traditionally distilled counterpart. Another application of this technology would be brandy, or eau de vie. So many of the flavors inherent in the fruit that we distill aren’t able to come over or are lost in the process of traditional distillation. “Whenever I do apple brandy distillation with my students, one of the first really yummy aromas that comes off the still is this really nice high-tone apple note,” said W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

The process of vacuum distillation relies on pressure changes to facilitate the distillation, as opposed to heat in atmospheric distillation. Bershaw. “I think that we’re losing that because I can smell it in the vapor coming out of the still before we’re actually collecting distillate, so it’s probably something that we’re missing because of that.” Along with the baked or stewed apple, pear, and other fruit flavors that are typically found in brandies, a vacuum-distilled brandy could provide fresh apple and pear notes, which would make for an interesting addition to the flavor spectrum already available. While some traditional cognac or brandy producers will say that not using a traditional still — in fact, not using a direct-fire still with extremely high heat — means that you’re not creating the same chemical makeup necessary for that type of spirit, it seems like consumers could be more adventurous. Seeing the subtle but existing embrace of characterful vodkas or the overwhelming support for smokey, savory mezcal as opposed to the popular tequilas of the past indicates that there is room for new styles of traditional spirit types. The problem, as is often the case when trying to make an innovative and commercially profitable spirit, is educating consumers. There’s already a dearth of comprehensive distilling knowledge amongst casual or even motivated imbibers; to add vacuum distillation on top of a weak foundation would be a difficult task. Brian Thompson, chief executive officer of Arcane Distilling based in Brooklyn, New York, knows that their approach of making a grain spirit on a vacuum still is unusual and will require an equally novel approach to the marketing of the liquid, but he’s not deterred. Vacuum distillation already exists in the gin world, though it’s not always emphasized; why can’t it become a part of the production of other types of spirit? “The way we really talk about it now is that because the flavors in Arcane are created during the fermentation process, our 91

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distillation process Perhaps the is really just sort of most challenging capturing and preserving that moaspect of ment in the beer’s introducing a life,” he said. The production vacuum-distilled process at Arcane product into almost always seems to zig when the domestic you expect it to consumer market zag. They make a would be that drinkable beer to start, fermenting the character it it, and then distillcreates is often ing on a vacuum system. Following at odds with distillation, their this country’s spirit goes through a slight finishing preferred style process but they of spirit. do not age it in the typical sense. “Additional aging would actually be detrimental because those flavors would degrade,” said Thompson. “The real volatile hop aromas especially would sort of disappear.” Perhaps the most challenging aspect of introducing a vacuum-distilled product into the domestic consumer market would be that the character it creates is often at odds with this country’s preferred style of spirit. There seems to be a notion that all good spirits are full-bodied and heavy with flavor (see: peated whisky, bourbon, or high-ester rums). Some consumers will always assume cask-strength spirit to be not just stronger but of a better quality than its proofeddown alternative. How does a spirit with elegant, unusual flavors, more subtle than strong, perform when the tastebuds of consumers seem calibrated to appreciate high intensity at all times? It will be a slow build, but that’s not to say that appreciation for distilled spirits exists in a vacuum.

Devon Trevathan is the co-founder of Liba Spirits, a nomadic distilling company that focuses on capturing a sense of place in every bottle. She also continues to write about spirits and cocktails, including the science behind distillation and the history of drinks culture. Devon travels constantly these days; if she's not working, she's probably exploring her surroundings in the best way she knows how—her mouth (AKA through food and beverage). You can find her online @devontrevathan or @libaspirits across all platforms. 92


One of the most popular beverages among the people of the Eurasian steppe is a milk-based spirit is known as ...


ilk and alcohol are not always obvious bedfellows. Aside from the occasional sip of eggnog or white Russian, most people in Western countries don’t like to consume milk and alcohol at the same time. However, for some people that live on the Eurasian steppe, milk and alcohol are inexorably linked. The reason for this is that, unlike most other countries, the majority of the alcohol they consume is actually made from milk. This milk-based spirit is known as araga, and although it might sound strange to most outsiders, it is one of the most popular beverages among the people of the Eurasian steppe. What exactly is araga and where did it come from? Like many home-grown alcohols, the answer to that question can be a little complicated. The word araga is only one of several commonly accepted terms for distilled spirits throughout Mongolia and Eastern Russia. Linguistically araga probably comes from the Arabic word araq, which also gave us the Turkish word raki (See my previous article for more details).1 In the Eurasian steppe, araga is traditionally defined as the distillate produced from milk that has gone through alcoholic fermentation. However, there is no true legal definition for araga, which means that many aspects, including the proof of the drink and even the source of the milk used, can vary immensely depending on where you are and who you are talking to.2 The best way to understand araga is to learn about how it is made and the people who make it. The nomads of the Eurasian steppe have been known as hearty people and milk has always played an important role in their everyday life. The nomadic lifestyle of the region’s inhabitants makes traditional agriculture difficult and one of the few consistently available sources of nourishment is the excess milk produced by the herds of animals many families keep.2 Reliance on milk and its associated products is especially great during the summer and fall months, when most cattle are being fattened and there is little meat or other sustenance available. Because milk is such an important foodstuff, the nomads of the steppe have created highly sophisticated methods to preserve and use milk efficiently.3 Indeed, milk and its by-products have such an important place in the culture of many groups from the region that it is considered sacred. Fresh milk is often used in religious rituals and is a common gift given to honored guests or newly married couples. Milk also plays a role in almost every drink that is consumed on the steppe. Tea is always drunk with milk, as are many other beverages.2 The wasting of milk is considered to be rude and uncivilized, and uses are found even for milk that has gone bad.4 It is little wonder then that these people would find a way to distill milk into an alcoholic beverage. When the first batch of araga was made is unknown. However, koumiss, which is the precursor to araga, was actively being produced W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


by the people of the Eurasian steppe as early as the fifth century B.C.E. The ancient Greek writer, Herodotus, made mention of koumiss production in some of his early writings, and there are many Chinese accounts of the drink throughout the ages.2 The knowledge of distillation was probably brought to the steppe in the 13th and 14th centuries by warriors returning from Genghis Kahn’s conquering of the Middle East, therefore, it is safe to assume that araga production began around that time.5 Because araga production requires a large amount of milk, the drink has become somewhat of a status symbol among the people of the steppe.2 It is often prepared by small family units for special occasions. While the consumption of araga is generally restricted to elders, it is sometimes administered to younger members of the family as medicine.2,6,7 As mentioned previously, the first step in making araga is to make koumiss. Koumiss is a general term for any alcoholically fermented milk. Koumiss can be made from almost any milk, however, mare’s milk is particularly valued because it contains the right amount of fats, proteins, and amino acids.3 Some groups also use camel’s milk as it has a very similar profile, however, it is often considered inferior. The process for making koumiss is relatively simple, though it often takes years of practice to perfect. First, fresh milk is gathered. It is important that the milk used is as fresh as possible and that it has never been boiled. If the milk has been boiled, it will not ferment correctly.2 The milk is placed into a large leather sack made of ox-hide along with a starter culture containing a mixture of organisms — mostly lactobacilli, lactococci, and yeast.3 Alternatively, a small amount of loumiss from a prior batch, or even the remnants of previous koumiss batches that are stuck to the walls of the bag, can be used as the starter culture. The organisms in the starter culture act in symbiosis to begin fermenting the available milk sugars. During fermentation, it is important that the mixture remains aerated, or else the yeast and other organisms will die. In order to accomplish this, the bag is routinely shaken or hit with a large stick. This movement also helps to speed up fermentation, especially when the milk used is particularly thick. Fermentation takes anywhere from three to five days depending on the amount of shaking and the desired level of attenuation. The result is a lightly alcoholic milk that has between 1.5 percent and three percent ABV.2,3 Once fermentation is complete, distillation takes place in a special still known as a shuuruun.7 A shuuruun is a type of pot still that is sometimes colloquially known as a wok-still. The base pot of the still is traditionally made from a poplar tree trunk that has been hollowed out. The tree trunk is then placed into a pot with water and koumiss is added to the hollowed-out space inside. A second large metal vessel is then placed on top of the tree trunk and filled with cold water to act as a condenser. Any gaps between the condenser and the pot are sealed with either mud or sometimes felt.8 The water in the outer pot is then boiled and as the koumiss heats up, the alcohol vapor slowly condenses 93

on the upper metal vessel and drips out of the shuuruun along a specially carved trough. It is important that the distillation proceeds slowly, so as not to scorch the milk proteins that are left in the koumiss. The newly distilled araga is known as arhi and generally has an alcohol strength of between five percent and 20 percent ABV.7 At this point the araga is ready to be consumed, however, some distillers will redistill the araga as much as five times, producing a beverage that can contain up to 80 percent ABV. This is somewhat rare, however, because it requires a large amount of koumiss to produce.7,2 To this day, araga production is almost entirely done by private households for personal consumption. There have been some attempts to commercialize production, but they have not been widely distributed outside of Mongolia and Eastern Russia. However, that does not mean that drinkers in the West will never have the chance to try milk-based spirits. There are a number of companies that have begun experimenting with their own versions of araga. In the UK, Black Cow Vodka is made from wasted whey produced by a Dorset, England creamery and in the US Vermont Spirits’ White Vodka touted itself as being made from milk in the tradition of the Tuvan people of Siberia.9,10 Who knows, perhaps in the near future milk spirits will have their own aisle in the liquor store.


Reade A. Huddleston, MSc. in Brewing and Distilling, is a beverage industry consultant based in Tampa, Florida. He is fascinated with all things drinkable and is always searching for strange and forgotten spirits. If you would like to contact him about said spirits, or anything else, please email him at

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REFERENCES 1. Qaqan, 2012. Araga. Available from <https://qaqan.wordpress. com/2012/07/25/araga/> [ January 10, 2022] 2. Zhukovskaya, Natalia. 2008. The Milk Food of the Mongolian-Speaking Nomads of Eurasia in a Historical and Cultural Perspective. Acta Ethnographica Hungarica. Vol 53(2). Pp 307-314. 3. Bae, I., et al. 2002. Traditional Dairy Products by Lactic Acid Bacteria in Mongolia. Korean Journal of Food Science and Resources. Vol. 22(2). Pp 183-191 4. Demberel, Sh., et al. 2016. Ethnic Fermented Foods and Beverages of Mongolia. Ethnic Fermented Foods and Alcoholic Beverages of Asia. Vol 1. Pp 165-192 5., 2004. Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. Available from <> [ January 11, 2022] 6. Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity,. Araga Milk Vodka. Available from <> [ January, 11 2022]

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7. Gastro Obscura, 2022. Araga. Available from <https://www.> [ January 10, 2022] 8. VK.Com, 2015. Shuuruun. Available from <> [ January 11, 2022] 9. Black Cow Vodka, 2022. About Us. Available from < https://www.> [ January 11, 2022] 10., 2009. Review Vermont White Vodka and Vermont Gold Vodka. Available from < review-vermont-white-and-vermont-gold-vodka/#:~:text=Vermont%20 White%20Vodka%20is%20the,no%20milk%2Dlike%20character%20 here.> [ January 12, 2022] W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M



here are more than two hundred species of the plant genus Agave, making it one of the most interesting and complex groups of plants in the world, filled with great diversity and adaptations. One such adaptation includes the production of a single massive inflorescence (group or cluster-of-flowers — the largest here among plants) where after growing for sometimes more than 30 years, the rosette of leaves (pencas) and plant body die shortly after the flowering (1). So, what has all this got to do with mezcal? Without the agave plant there would be no mezcal. As will be shown, agave plants store their energy reserves in the form of carbohydrates that are different from starchy raw materials found in cereal grains or the free sugars as with fruits, used as the source of fermentable sugars for other classic spirit styles. Commonly referred to as inulin, their story is more complex and they will be referred to as fructans and agavins more so than inulins. Distinct species and varieties of agave (wild harvested or cultivated stocks) used for mezcal production will present a vast array of nuanced flavor profiles, especially based on variations in processing conditions. Typically for mezcal production, the agave plants need to grow for about 8-12 years, and they will have their flowering stage terminated to ensure the stored energy reserves — fructans — are not consumed but remain stored in the stem, heart, or pineapple (píña) of the plant, thus making them ready for the distiller to make the most efficient use of the subsequently hydrolytically released, and, therefore, fructose-enriched fermentable sugars. Table 1 provides brief details regarding the agave plant family. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


The word mezcal (mescal or mexcal) translates from cooked or baked maguey, deriving from the Nahuatl words metl (maguey) and ixcalli (baked). Agaves (magueyes in Spanish) being the most important aboriginal food in arid and semiarid Mexico prior to the emergence of agricultural practices.(2, 3). Mezcal then is a generic name designated to all Mexican-produced agave spirits and includes products called mezcal, tequila, bacanora, raicilla, and sisal, along with effectively up to eighty total, regionally named types (1-4). The baked core or hearts of certain agave species, as noted above, being used for the various “family member” mezcals. Figure 1 shows a general map of the main production regions for the mezcal, tequila, bacanora, raicilla and sisal distillates. Table 2 illustrates the main mezcal types covered here, along with agave species often used for each type and the denominations of production origin/regions. Sidebar One presents more details on known key species of agave used for mezcal production with specific flavor profiles delivered to the final distillates via the use of such species.


An Eighty-Plus Named Family of Agave-based Distilled Spirits

The use of agave plants for beverage production had a rich cultural history prior to the introduction of distillation techniques to make mezcal spirits (2-5). That complex history can be recounted via referral to the previously noted citations. What is clear is that an amalgamation of pre- and post-Columbian techniques through American, European (Arab-Spanish culture), and Asian influence, along with developments of the Mexican peoples, most certainly did take place early in the 16th century, along with the evolution of regionally dependent techniques and processes (6). Current production methods and techniques (as noted below) are based on those used during the colonial period, with minor variations/differences and improvements applying to mezcal as the “original” main type of agave-based spirit. In comparison, the type of mezcal we have come to know as tequila is made today with ever improving technology. [Note — confusion arises here

as mezcal is the general class of agave-based distilled beverages but is also a distinct type of mezcal as defined historically. The other mezcals are often named after the local regions where they originated or after the agave species used for their production.]

TABLE 1 — General taxonomic details and characteristics of agave species CHARACTERISTICS OF AGAVE

Family: Asparagaceae Subfamily: Agavoideae (formerly known as family Agavaceae)

A large family with a complex and changing taxonomic categorization. Agave and eight related genera fall within the subfamily Agavoideae and under family Asparagaceae: 143 genera with over 3500 species. Over two hundred species of the Agave plant alone being noted.

Agaves: Perennial plants found widely in Mexico especially scrub and forested regions. Growing better in mountainous regions between 1000–2000 meters elevation. Plants exhibit succulent leaves, a system of superficial roots, thick cuticles in the epidermidis of the leaf and with waxy surfaces. These latter features, coupled with specific metabolic systems, allow them to grow under environmentally challenging geographies and climates. Agave plants are comprised of two main parts: (1) large leaves with spines, (penca = leaf; from some agaves the source of a strong/tough type of fiber — sisal fibers with that name also given to a lesser-known type of mescal — Sisal mezcal), and (2) the píña or pineapple which is the primary location of the agave fructans; the source for the fermentable carbohydrates for mezcal production (píña or cabeza = stem and leaf bases). Being well-adapted to several types of habitats, agave plants can grow to 1.8 meters tall with their succulent rosetta of leaves and largely buried or “hidden” stem and can weigh up to 250 Kg wet weight. The thick fibrous stem forms along with a flower and carbohydrates are laid down as an energy storage source over a life-span range of from 8 to 20+ years.



FIGURE 1 — Mezcal producing regions of Mexico


Mezcal A. angustifolia, durangensis, potatorum, salmiana


Bacanora A. angustifolia Tequila A. tequilana Weber var. azul Raicilla A. maximiliana Sisal A. fourcroydes (A. sisalana)





San Luis Potosi


Guanajuato Mexico

Jalisco Michoacán Guerrero Oaxaca

Mezcal producing regions (color coordinated) deduced from key references cited in the text (most notably, 7 and 8). Mezcal, bacanora, raicilla and tequila being the main named mezcal family types considered herein.

TABLE 2 — A summary of the main types of mezcal described in this article,

common agave species utilized and designations of origin/regions of production MEZCAL TYPE AGAVE SOURCES




Agave angustifolia, A. asperrima, A. weberi, A. potatorum, A. salmiana var crassispina, et al. Many species depending upon State — local flora. A. cupreata, A. inaequidens, A. americana var. oaxacensis, A. karwinskii, A.marmorata. A. rhodocantha, A. durangensis — also a named species for mezcal. A. fourcroydes (Henequen A. fourcroydes Lem) in Yucatan?

Six districts of Oaxaca (see Figure 1). All of Guerrero, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and Durango, one municipality of Guanajuato, and eleven of Tamaulipas. A large area not connected tightly with natural agave species distribution or “Mezcal” regions.

Agave tequilana blue variety [Agave tequilana var Azul]

181 municipalities of Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoácan, Guanajuato, and Tamaulipas. Region associated with the natural distribution of the agave species and a long history of tequila production.

BACANORA Agave angustifolia Haw.

Thirty-five municipalities of Sonora. Associated with a long-established production of bacanora


Agave defined only by its common name: Raicilla. Though others quote: A. angustifolia, A. inaequidens and A. maximiliana.

Seven municipalities of Jalisco. Coincides with the raicilla process. The agave species not so well characterized (but see left).


Agave sisalana [May be related to A. fourcroydes]

Southern Mexico — Yucatan [Regarded as a variant of Tequila, though not produced in Tequila DO territories.]

Main references drawn upon (10-12) and unpublished charts created by G. Spedding. See Sidebar One for more detail on agave species The text and Table 4 covers some more detailed notes on the flavors and flavor profiles of mezcals. See Sidebar Two for information on regulatory bodies and agencies.


In general, agaves will have reached at least eight years of age and exhibit the right signs of maturity prior to harvesting. In readiness for mezcal production the leaves (pencas) are removed from the plant and the heart (corazón, mezonte) is cut just above the ground, the shape resembling the pineapple or pinecone (píña), except for A. karwinskii, which forms a strongly woody stem which more resembles a yucca plant than a pineapple. Harvesting is known as jima and is done manually by jimadores with special cutting tools, machetes or circular sharp blades on a long stem called coas. Careful harvesting to remove the green parts of the leaves is important to prevent the development of unwanted bitter substances during cooking. The growth, harvesting, and preparation of the agaves are succinctly described, along with the names of all the workers involved in the process, by Tello-Balderas and Garcia-Moya (13). As noted earlier, the fermentation substrate sugars arise from a different type of storage carbohydrate than found within the raw materials used for most other classic spirits. After harvesting, the agave hearts are transported to the distillery (14). Fructans, classified according to the type of chemical bonds present and the degree of branching of their chemical structures, exist in the form of large-molecular-weight polysaccharides and short-chain-length oligosaccharides. These are built up of glycosidically linked “fruit sugar” fructose molecules (the monosaccharide building block). As glucose molecules can also be involved in bonding with fructose, a great diversity of fructans exist and, due to two configurational bonding patterns, the fructans are highly branched molecules. These carbohydrates are known as inulins, agavins, graminans, and branched neo-fructans and, due to their branching patterns and sizes, the overall spectrum of such molecules differ between different Agave species. Furthermore, the concentration of these carbohydrates increases with the age of the plant. Moreover, agricultural conditions, climate, and species can all ultimately impact the efficiency of sugar utilization for mezcal production and potential flavor profiles. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


In addition to the fructans, mezcal producers must pay attention to another class of heterogeneous structural polysaccharides called pectins. Like the agavins — having varying degrees of polymerization and branching — these carbohydrates exist in the cell walls of higher plants. Cooking the agave píñas leads to the generation of methanol and this is a compound subject to regulations as to final amounts allowed in any spirit beverage. As for the fructans/agavins, the methanol content in mezcal varies and is dependent upon the species of agave, maturity of the plant, geographical origin, harvesting system (and making a clean harvest of the píña without leaf tissues), cooking temperature, grinding, shape of the still, and management of the distilled fractions.


PRODUCTION of MEZCALS The denomination of origin was granted for mezcal in 1994. Originally limited to five states, it included Oaxaca, Guerrero, Durango, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas. Subsequently, municipalities from the states of Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, and Michoacán were added in 2001, 2003, 2012, respectively, with Puebla added in 2015. This persists today, despite the knowledge that mezcal is in fact touted as produced in at least twenty-six of the thirty-two states of the country. The main regions producing the various mezcals are shown in Figure 1 and noted in Table 2 — The Types of Mezcal. Sidebar Two presents a brief outline of the denominations of origin and rules and regulations pertaining to mezcal production, safety for consumption purposes, and overall product quality. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

A guide to agave species used in the production of mezcals.

Notes include common names/aroma and flavor descriptors.

A. americana cv. subtilis Also known as chato, sahuayo. Maguey ash or white. A. angustifolia Haw. The most widely distributed maguey — good yield and mild flavor. Widely cultivated in Oaxaca and Guerrero. Many subspecies/varieties. Other names: doba-yej, maguey de flor, mezcal del monte, bacanora, sprat, espadilla and espadin. Common names for several varietals of A. angustifolia used for coastal raicilla: Cenizo (literally “ashy”), Chico Aguiar, and Pencundo (literally “spiky”). The aromas of mezcal made with this species noted as orange peel and wet woods. Flavor: slightly smoky and follows with a fruity aftertaste. A. cupreata Sweet and “bronco” like as described for the mezcal and peoples/cultures of the Balsa basin region of Mexico. A. cupreata (Berger) aka. papalote/papalometl maguey, ancho, chino (kite or Chinese), cimarron, tuchi. Used in Guerrero. In Nahuatl Papalometl means maguey butterfly so named due to the shape of its leaves, wide, like the wings of a butterfly. Its scientific name A. cupreata means coppery agave, due to the color of its thorns. It is distributed throughout the Sierra Madre del Sur from the state of Guerrero to the eastern part of Oaxaca. It is a mezcal with lactic aromas and mineral characteristics. A. durangensis Exclusive to Durango (municipalities of Tamazula, Mezquital, Nombre de Dios and Durango) and Zacatecas — used for pulque and mezcal beverage production. A wild agave of variable size of broadleaf that might also be semi-cultured. Also called cenizo. A. fourcroydes Lem. The leaves of A. fourcroydes yield a fiber

also called henequen, which is suitable for rope and twine but not of as high a quality as sisal (see A. sisalana below). It is the major plantation fiber agave of eastern Mexico, being grown extensively in Yucatán, Veracruz, and Tamaulipas. It is also used to make licor del henequén, a traditional Mexican alcoholic drink.

A. karwinskii From arid areas of southern Mexico (Tehuacán Valley/central valley of Oaxaca). Has many variants to its name. Agave karwinskii (Zucc) maguey cirial or cuishe, bicuixe, tobasiche, barril — herbal and intense flavor — usually mixed with other agaves to soften the result.

Tobaziche, sub-species of Agave karwinskii commonly cultivated. The aromas of the mezcal of maguey tobaziche are described as reminiscent of the scent of chamomile and piloncillo along with predominant mineral notes. Following the initial taste of mineral and herbal flavors, the aftertastes are described as fruity and with slightly toasted qualities. Mothercuish, like a tobaziche, but with the most abundant leaves. One of the most voluminous varieties of A. karwinskii. Its rosette detaches itself from the ground because it grows on a trunk that rises high from the ground. It is an endemic maguey of the Sierra Sur de Oaxaca and the Central Valleys. Its aromas are always mineral like the smell of sand. It is a mezcal with a smoky taste and very mineral notes. Cuish, another member of the agave species karwinskii family, characterized as looking like a “maguey tree.” It has green-yellow leaves with black spines. In the valleys of Oaxaca, it takes between 9–11 years to mature. It is an agave that has much morphological diversity, so different names have been given to the same species such as madrecuish, barrel, or cirial. Aromatic notes, with a slight smell of pennyroyal. Taste: smoky and mineral-like.

A. marmorata Roezl Known also as variety maguey tepeztate (or tepextate). Arid regions southern Mexico. With “beautiful inflorescences” also has ornamental and ceremonial uses. Tepeztate with life cycle commonly noted as 16–18 years. The scientific name A. marmorata means maguey marmoreado (marbled) due to specific white colorations to the plant. Its striking inflorescence has important ceremonial uses. Commonly one of the magueys with the most complex aromas and flavors that range from mineral and lactic, to herbal and fruity.

A. maximiliana Mezcals made using this plant were banned for a period in Sinaloa (18th century) A common species used for raicilla mezcal is A. maximiliana (Baker). Also known as lechuguilla, manso, tecolote. A. oaxacensis Domesticated variety aka. dulce arroqueño with a long-life span. Arroqueno Agave americana var. oaxacensis. One of the largest known magueys. It is a sub-species that grows naturally only in the central valleys and southern highlands of Oaxaca. Taking 16–18 years to mature. Arroqueno de Santa Catarina Minas, distilled in a clay pot, is noted as a very fruity mezcal on the nose and on the palate with notes reminiscent of plum and melon. A. potatorum Known as the tobalá, a wild, highly prized maguey species for mezcal production in Oaxaca. Said to carry complex and sweet flavor. AKA Tobala agave with wide leaves and red spines. Its scientific name can translate to “drinkers maguey.” One of the most recognized magueys and resultant mezcal names in Oaxaca. The tobala mezcal from San Baltazar Chichicapam is said to present sweet aromatic notes and intense notes of cooked maguey. Taste: herbal, and with fruity aftertaste.

While tobalá has commonly been classified as Agave potatorum or Agave seemanniana, studies from the last decade have confirmed that these plants are more than often hybrids between the two species, resulting in infinite morphological expressions. This shows the complexity of understanding the overall taxonomy of this vastly numbered species.

A. rhodacantha Qualities and its isolated growth in the highlands (Sonora to Oaxaca) led to the name “Mexican” for this species. The yellow Ixtlero and gives rise to the name called “creole mezcal.” One of the largest magueys — taking between 8–10 years to grow. The aromas of the distillate from the central valleys of Oaxaca are described as sweet pumpkin and ocote (resinous pine). Taste: intense smoky flavor and green leaves. A. salmiana Broadleaf species from the highland’s region of Potosino-Zacatecano. Naturally and culturally integrated. The main wild agave species is sometimes considered to be A. salmiana subsp. salmiana crassispina (Trel) (sometimes called verde/ green, bronco/rough, manso/meek or cimarrón/maroon). A. seemanniana Jacobi Known as maguey chato. (See A.

potatorum above)

A. sisalana Possibly related to henequen A. fourcroydes with that plant’s arrival in Yucatan via the port of Sisal (see A. fourcroydes above). A rarer and little discussed mezcal class is Sisal. A. tequilana Weber, Var azul The Tequila mezcal species (named after the town in Jalisco). Located in the states that have the denomination of origin of tequila: Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoácan, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas.

The plants are like those of the species A. angustifolia, varying in its characteristic blue color and softness of its leaves and lower regions. A. tequilana (blue Agave) is a medium-sized species that forms a spreading succulent rosette with thin, rigid blue green leaves. The high production of sugars, mostly in the form of fructose, in the core of the plant is its most important characteristic, making it suitable for the preparation of alcoholic beverages. The varietals and traditional cultivars lost over time leaving behind only the blue variety. A total of fifty-three agave species, thirty-seven of which are wild collected from forests, with twenty incipiently managed and/ or cultivated recently are used for spirit production as noted and cross-referenced elsewhere (9). Details drawn upon from cited references, with the caveat that data will be incomplete and, especially, in view of the complexity of taxonomic relationships could be subject to revisions as more insights and studies become available. Owing to a range of factors affecting the characteristics of the harvested agave plants, including temperature, humidity, natural cycles, and average yearly rainfall during the extended growth periods, the spirit products obtained in each region are often completely different from that found in any other region. As such, cultivation, selection and harvesting, climate and geography, the species present or adopted from any one region (wild or cultivated) and how the agaves are processed contributing to a diversity of favor profiles for the mezcals.



A Quick Word about GI’s, DO’s, NOMs and NORMAs. Geographic Indications (GI), Denominations of Origins (DO), Official Mexican Standards (NOM/NORMA, NMX)

Mezcal and Tequila have existed under protected Geographical Indications (GI) for several decades. The Designation of Origin Tequila (DOT, 46 years old) and Designation of Origin Mezcal (DOM, 26 years) are noted here as to their development as legal documents. The rules, suggestions and regulations presented in these documents helping ensure the quality of mezcal and promoting the integrity of the industry. The Norma Oficial Mexicana (Official Mexican Standard), abbreviated NOM, is the name of each of a series of official, compulsory standards and regulations for diverse activities in Mexico. They are more commonly referred to as NOMs or NORMA’s. These documents, prepared following the guidelines of the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), are set to regulate products, processes, and services when these may constitute a risk to people, animals, vegetables, and the environment in general. The NMX (Normas Mexicanas) form other guidelines. NMX's are voluntary standards and reference guides, and they are obligatory when a Law, Regulation or NOM obligates their use. Mezcal producers apply for a NOM and their assigned 4-digit number is representative of the distillery where the tequila is made for example and denotes that the bottle is authentic tequila produced in Mexico. Mezcal and Tequila fall under the following Official Mexican Standard classification/NOM status: NOM-070-SCFI-1994/NOM-070SCFI-2016, Alcoholic Beverages – Mezcal-Specifications/NOM006-SCFI-2005/ NOM_006_ SCFI_2012, Alcoholic BeveragesTequila – Specifications, and Bacanora: NOM-168-SCFI-2004 Alcoholic Beverages-BacanoraPreparation-SpecificationsPackaging and Labeling. Details presented here were in part drawn upon from such documents and can be found on the worldwide web.


Mezcal is now defined as a 100 percent maguey or agave Mexican-distilled alcoholic beverage. Earlier regulations allowed two types of mezcal production based on sugars derived from agaves and/or supplemented with up to 20 percent other sources. It is also further noted as an alcoholic beverage produced from one or more agaves, of which 14-20 species are often listed as most common, with Agave angustifolia, A. cupreata, A. salmiana, A. potatorum, A. pacifica (maguey), A. palmeri (Lechuguilla), and A. inaequidens the most notable (2, see Table 2 and Sidebar One). Mezcal is obtained through the fermentation, via the spontaneous inoculation or addition of cultured microorganisms, of extracted juices from the matured heads (píñas) of cooked maguey or agaves. This is then followed by the distillation of the fermented musts (or worts). The agave plants must have been harvested in the territory covered by the November 1994 resolution and as provided in subsequent modifications. Mezcal distillates are also classified into various categories, including white, matured in glass, rested, aged, “abocado con” and “distilled with.” See Figure 2 and Tables 3 and 5 for classifications and terminology.

SPECIFICALLY, TEQUILA! An INTRODUCTION and DEFINITION Between the 18th and 19th centuries, the mezcal produced in a small town called Tequila located in the northeast of the state of Jalisco “began to acquire fame for its extraordinary quality.” The word tequila, under one interpretation, derives from the Nahuatl word tequillan, tequitl relating to tribute, tequitl meaning work or employment, and tlan meaning place (15). There are other explanations and word origins not covered here. Tequila is produced exclusively in the territory of its appellation of origin and regulated under the ruling of the latest implementation of its norma: NOM-006-SCFI-2012. See Figure 1 for a map of the territories of production and Table 2. Produced now exclusively from Agave tequilana Weber, which has been considered as the king of the agaves (16, 17),it was originally produced in the valleys of Tequila and Atotonilco in the state of Jalisco, and in adjoining areas of the states of Michoacán, Nayarit, and Guanajuato. In recent times, its cultivation has been introduced in the state of Tamaulipas. Again, further detail may be found in Table 2, Types of Mezcal, agave species utilized, and designations of origin (18-22). The two categories of tequila are 100 percent agave

tequila and tequila, sometimes called “mixto,” which has the allowable addition of up to 49 percent of other fermentable sugars, e.g., from cane, molasses, corn, or other sources, during fermentation. Following this classification, three types of tequila exist, derived from either 100 percent agave or mixto tequilas: blanco (white), reposado (rested) and añejo (aged). The NOM regulations also specify the maximum permissible levels of ethanol, higher alcohols, methanol, aldehydes, esters, and furfural — all compounds arising from the process. See Tables 2 and 3, and Sidebar Two.



The goal of mezcal distillers (mezcaleros) is to efficiently recover the hydrolysable and fermentable carbohydrates from the agave plant píñas, along with other key compounds. Those components will impinge on flavor and provide nutrients for the microorganisms involved in converting the subsequently liberated sugars into, primarily, ethanol and other important flavors. Then recovering those desirable components, eliminating others, and, finally, refining the product — via dilution to appropriate alcoholic strength and, optionally, by flavor addition or by maturation in contact with wood — finishes the process. Certified mezcals are classified by local regulations (currently NOM-070-SCFI-2016) in three general classes — industrial, artisanal, and ancestral mezcal — in accordance with the allowed procedures used. To affect the conditions as outlined above, the preparation of mezcal must comply with the following four stages utilizing the appropriate equipment: > Cooking: Cooking/baking piñas or the juices of maguey/agave in earthen pits, brick ovens, or autoclaves. This stage hydrolyzes the complex carbohydrates, liberating fermentable sugars and nutrients from the agave. > Milling: Tahona, Chilean or Egyptian mill Trapiche, or other mechanical mills. Squeezes the fermentable juice out of the agave fibers (bagasse). > Fermentation: wooden containers, animal skins, masonry basins (concrete or earthen W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

FIGURE 2 — Mezcal, Artisanal, and Ancestral classification with product classes detailed tanks) or stainless-steel tanks (sometimes even plastic tubs today). Sugars are converted to alcohol and congeneric flavor molecules produced through the metabolic activities of microorganisms.

COOKING: Cooking of maguey or agave heads or juices in pit, elevated stone ovens, masonry or autoclaves. AGAVE: Cultivated vs. wild maguey (agaves) most likely used. Espadin! GRINDING: Tahona (rotary stone), Chilean or Egyptian mill, trapiche (drawn by mule/horses), harrowing machine, mill train/heartbreaking/shredder mills. FERMENTATION: Wooden containers, masonry basins or stainless steel tanks. Sometimes plastic tubs/vats used today. Cultured yeasts likely used — more flavor control. DISTILLATION: Alembic stills — continuous or columns — copper or stainless steel columns. Most modern part used — Firewood or gas heat. Less smoke/flavor with gas heat. More consistent flavor possible.


> Distillation: alembic pot still made of copper or stainless steel, continuous/column stills made of copper or stainless steel. Separation and concentration of alcohol and flavor volatiles MEZCALIONS from solids ICAT CL ASSIF and undesirable Based on: ding, Cooking, Grin congeners happens. The n, tio ta en Ferm success for this stage of Distillation specifications operations is part art and science, as well as the unique experience of each distiller.

COOKING: Cooking of maguey or agave heads in pit (earth) or elevated masonry ovens. AGAVE: Use of wild or locally grown agaves. GRINDING (manual): With mallet/canoe, tahona, Chilean or Egyptian mill, trapiche (wooden roller mill) or harrowing machine. Maybe today shredder/electric mills. FERMENTATION: cavities in stone, soil or trunk, masonry basins, wooden or clay containers, animal hides/skins, whose process may include the fiber of the maguey or agave (bagasse). Fermentation may be spontaneous — wild yeasts/bacteria giving rise to flavors based on their metabolic actions. DISTILLATION: Direct fire in copper boiler stills or clay pot and clay, wood, copper or stainless steel cap/montera, whose process can include the fiber of the maguey or agave (bagasse). Retains smoky flavor — mainly made in micro-distilleries.

Artisanal Mezcal

A summary of the processes involved COOKING: Cooking of maguey or agave heads in pit ovens. Well furnaces Ancestral Mezcal — stone or earth pit. in the production of each class — mezcal, artisanal and ancestral — is presentAGAVE: A. angustifolia Haw (Sprat) ed in Figure 2. See Figure 3, Table 5, the GRINDING: Mallets (mazo), Stone wheel (tahona), Chilean or Egyptian mill. glossary of important terms pertaining FERMENTATION: Cavities in stones, soil or trunks, masonry basins, wooden or clay containers/ barrels, animal skins/leather. Process may include the fiber of the maguey or agave (bagasse). to mescal production to get a full grasp Spontaneous inoculations of local microbes. of the various certified classifications DISTILLATION: Direct fire in a clay pot and a clay or wooden hat/cap (coils). Process can include and the tools and implements of the the fiber of the maguey or agave (bagasse). trade used for processing the raw materiRetains smoky flavors (pine/mesquite woods used for fires). Flavors from earth/stone/mud contact als into finished mezcals. Ancestral mez(local microbes impact). Agaves covered with stones, palms, agave leaves (pencas), etc., during cooking/baking. cal is defined as the spirit manufactured by exclusively pit-cooking and mallet or stone-milling the maguey (agave) with a final NOM-070-SCFI-2016 distillation comprising a direct heating of the a) White or Young : Colorless and translucent mezcal that is not subject to any type of subsequent raw fermented material in clay pots sealed process after distillation other than proofing down. with clay or wooden jackets. Thermal regulation is ensured in part through the b) Matured in Glass : Mezcal stabilized in a glass container for more than 12 months, underground or in a space with minimal variations in light, temperature and humidity. presence of the agave fibers (bagasse). The use of stainless steel in ancestral c) Rested : Mezcal that must remain between 2 and 12 months in wooden containers that guarantee its innocuousness, without restriction of size, shape, and capacity in L, in a space mezcal production is not allowed. with minimal variations in brightness, temperature and humidity. L Artisanal mezcal distillers may MEZCSAES d) Aged — Reposado : Mezcal that must remain more than 12 months in wooden use mechanical shredders for CL A S containers that guarantee its innocuousness of capacities less than 1000 L, in a space with milling, and either copper alemminimal variations in brightness, temperature and humidity. Containers of white oak or with bics or stainless-steel vessels for oak wood. Aging not as common for mezcal as for the tequila class. distillation. The use of autoclaves for e) Focused or Flavored (“Infused”) with Abocado Con : Mezcal to which ingredients must be cooking or diffusers (see below) to directly incorporated to add flavors, such as the maguey worm (larvae), damiana (shrub with aromatic flowers), lemon, honey, orange, mango, among others, as long as they are authorized by extract juices from cooked agave or colthe corresponding Agreement of the Ministry of Health and other NOM regulations. umn stills for distillation are, as of now, f) Distilled with (Destilado con) : Mezcal that must be distilled with ingredients to incorporate prohibited for artisanal mezcal. Each of flavors, such as turkey or chicken breast, rabbit, mole (the condiment), plums, among others, in these three categories of mezcal can be terms of this Official Mexican Standard. Other ingredients used locally — iguana/cooked pork. made with any agave Pechuga the most well known. and bottled between Only mixing mezcal of the same category and class is allowed. 35-55 percent ABV. Summary graphic of the production of mezcal (the more modern means of production), artisanal (small scale — craft) and ancestral mezcal. Details from the current NOM for mezcal and from references cited in the text. Summary also of the product classes allowed based on current regulations and specifications. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


FIGURE 3 — Production process outlines for the mezcals, including modernized tequila production Or today a DIFFUSER




Extraction by diffuser




Hydrolysis (boiling)

(1) Cooking/ Baking


Roller Mill

Earth/ Stone Pit



(5) Resting/ Maturation


(3) Fermentation


or Canoe (canoa) + Mallet (mazo)


Juices +/- Bagasse on to FERMENTATION, then DISTILLATION


(4) Distillation

Dilution Egyptian or Chillean Mill/Tahona


(2) Milling

Raw Materials



Addition of other sugars for Mixto Tequila

2nd Distillation Rectification

1st Distillation Ordinary (ordinario)

Pot Stills Stillage

Culture Propagation

Stillage Vinasses


This figure is based on several works of Miguel Cedeño (19, 20), lecture notes taken by the author from presentations made by the esteemed Mr. Cedeño and several other works. Brief details about the Diffuser technology found in the text and the Manual Del Técnico Tequilero (24).

NOTES on the COOKING of AGAVE – MEZCALS Agave is cooked in ancestral pits/stone furnaces using volcanic rocks heated red hot with firewood and then covered to protect the loaded agave pineapples. Whole or split agaves are then manually placed inside and covered with branches, sheets, or other lightweight material (Figure 3). Cooking time lasts between 48 to 72 hours. The surface layer of the oven may then be allowed to cool down after cooking, or the cooked agave píñas can be removed while still hot prior to the next stage — grinding (molienda). Overall, this is quite an inefficient process due to the loss of honeys (the resulting sugar syrups) partially due to caramelization and poor management of the cooked agave. Stone furnace surfaces also harbor microorganisms and, as the agave is exposed to the environment, this can also impact yield of alcohol during fermentation. The flavor characteristics of the mezcals obtained in this process include smoky aromatics and a strong flavor of cooked agave. They 100

may also carry notes of hay or palm — as palm leaves may be used as coverings in the pit ovens. In addition to pit ovens, tall kilns with back-flues and rear pit ovens, fueled by firewood, have and may still serve the same purpose for cooking. Again, it is noted that the descriptions of the milling methods and the designs of the mills used for the extraction of the agave sugar juices or honeys, are outlined in Figure 2, with such tools of the trade showing the ingenuity of early cultures in the manner of food and beverage preparation. Descriptions of the terms are presented in Table 5. Juices, now as musts or worts with or without attendant agave fibers (bagasse), will then be readied for fermentation.

Fermentation – Mezcals Traditionally, spontaneous fermentation would have been used as there was little understanding of the indigenous microorganisms involved in the then-mysterious conversion of the sweet honeys into alcohol and other flavorful ferments. A complex interplay of microorganisms is involved and has been

extensively studied but is not further discussed here. The metabolic activities of yeasts and bacteria contribute to the flavor profiles of the resultant mezcals.

Distillation Processes in Mezcal Production Alembic and column stills have been traditionally manufactured with copper. Stainless steel sees more use today. The role of copper in the removal of unpleasant aromatic sulfur compounds such as thiols present in distillates exerts a favorable effect on the sensory character of tequila and mezcal. Two stages are involved in substitution of the earlier used one-stage distillation system to meet official regulations. For the record, distillation in Oaxaca is sometimes accomplished using stacked clay pots (23). Some mezcal distillation operations are conducted with agave bagasse and firewood as a heat source with the traditional mezcal classification seeing more use of gas heat today. Distinctive sensory notes in mezcal include soil, smoke, and acidity. The compounds conveying these qualities are clearly all collected during the distillation. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

The PRODUCTION of TEQUILA As noted above for other mezcals, the sugars for tequila fermentation need to be liberated from the agave fructans (inulin/agavins) by the process of hydrolysis (splitting in the presence of water), and this may be achieved via chemical, thermal, or enzymatic mechanisms or a combination of these methods. In the case of tequila, 100 percent of all the sugars must come from the agave plant. In mixto tequila a maximum 49 percent of total sugars may be derived from processed cane sugar (glucose and fructose), from corn, or molasses (therefore largely sucrose) (24). Important organoleptic volatiles are also produced from the manipulation of sugars during cooking and later the fermentation processes that add to the character of the finished tequila. Overcooking of sugars can lead to caramelization and methanol production. The conversion of too much sugar also leads to reduced ethanol yield. These are not as much of an overarching concern today as will be shown below. While stone ovens were originally used, and still are in rural locations, today three different processes and equipment types are used to conduct the hydrolysis of agave polysaccharides: (1) Masonry ovens: The agave is cooked with direct steam from boilers. Such masonry furnaces saw widespread use until the 1970s; (2) Stainless steel autoclaves with agave cooked using straight steam from boilers; (3) A newer method involves the mechanically efficient extraction of the raw agave juices with the hydrolysis of the extracted polysaccharides conducted in stainless steel cooking tanks, provided with heat exchange system steam derived from boilers and delivered by means of a stainless steel or copper metal coil or a plaster to a unit called a diffuser. See Figure 3, Stages 1 and 2, and the diffuser. The main characteristics of today’s tequilas, in comparison to the classic mezcal methods, is a strong smell of cooked agave, caramelized sugar, and a sweet taste. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

If diffuser technologies are not used, once cooked and then cooled down, the agaves are conveyed to a mill — shredded with rotary knives and washed under pressure to dissolve the resultant sugars from the hydrolysis (Figure 3, Step 2). The material is then pressed in a mashing unit, extracting the syrup and leaving behind the fiber known as bagazo or bagasse. The extracted juice or maguey honey is mixed with that collected from the ovens (minus the so-named first running’s of “bitter honeys”).

Fermentation – Tequila For tequila 100 percent (100% agave sugars), fermentation will utilize only the agave-derived juices. If mixed (mixto) tequila is to be made, then 49 percent of other fermentable sugars are added in the tanks. Various sugar sources are permitted (Figure 3, step 3). The classic fermentative yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the main workhorse organism used today. However, and not detailed here, the evolution of understanding of the microbiology of tequila must fermentation has led to a more careful use of selected yeast species — Saccharomyces and various non-Saccharomyces yeast species involved.

Distillation – Tequila Fermented musts (or worts in brewing parlance) form the starting raw material for distillation in most standard or conventional operations. These contain solid particles consisting of agave fibers (cellulose, pectin), yeasts, proteins, mineral salts, and organic acids, with an alcohol content between four and up to 10 percent by volume. Distillation of tequila can be conducted by using differential and/or continuous fractionation with different conditions such as reflux, heads and tails cuts, utilization of equipment manufactured with copper or stainless steel, and heat supply rates. Pot stills and rectification columns are used today by distillers, but the pot still is the most common with two copper pots in tandem (Figure 3, Step 4). Figure 3, Step 4 shows a more classic twostage still system — a stripping or ordinary still followed by the rectification or enriching still used for separation of the more volatile compounds. The first — a “breaking” or ordinario still — distilling the fermented must or mash to remove those solids noted above including yeast, proteins, and salts. Tequila ordinario, 2530 percent alcohol by volume, and vinaza (vinasse) are the major products. Vinasses are deep

brown liquid residues generated during distilling and remain in the bottom of the still, the equivalent of stillage in other spirits’ production processes. Other volatiles will still be present and include heads (acetaldehyde, methanol, and ethyl acetate) and tails (amyl alcohol, other fusel oils, other ethyl esters, other higher alcohol esters, furfural, and sometimes acetic acid). Some distillers will separate the first volume of distillate (the heads) and this cutoff is recycled to fermented must or pumped to a heads and tails storage tank. The second-stage distillation, rectification (rectificación), takes the heart cut (the tequila ordinario) from the first still to obtain tequila rectificado, which is purer and higher in alcohol content, up to 55 percent v/v, and containing desired congeners, the flavorful molecules. Heads and tails fractions constitute further waste product. Distillation continues until runoff distillate has an ethanol content around 25 percent ethanol v/v. The distillate obtained after this cutoff is called tails. How the distiller makes the cuts will vary from distillery to distillery. Separating the heart fraction from the head and tail fractions allows the still operator to attain a spirit cut or fraction, with the appropriate concentration levels of congeners conveying the desired organoleptic characteristics, while also avoiding undesirable components such as methanol and the earlier generated furfural and related Maillard compounds. This stage of the operation provides another variable leading to nuanced differences between brands. The primary product of this second distillation may be sold as tequila blanco (if bottled: diluted to 30– 42 percent ABV) or rested or aged (see Table 3). As to continuous distillation systems, these are described in detail elsewhere (25). It is noted here, however, that the quality of the distillates produced using only pot, pot and column, or simply modern column stills will be quite different. This also applies to the amount of copper that the spirit is exposed to during distillation.

Maturation of Tequila As noted, especially in Table 3, there are officially noted and classified process types or classes of matured-in-wood mezcals. Full details of resting and maturation, which is common for tequilas though recently more mezcals have been subjected to it, of mezcals are briefly outlined in Figure 2 and Table 3. 101


Jalisco is associated with the production of another 100 percent agave artisanal mezBacanora cal style/type known as raicilla. As of June Bacanora is a variety of 100 percent agave 2019, it is produced (under degree of a demezcal with classification under NOM-168nomination of origin in both the mountain SCFI-2004, made using Agave angustifolia and coastal areas of Jalisco and Nayarit, sevHaw., in the mountainous regions of the eastenteen municipalities between both states ern part of the State of Sonora (2). The name is (see the map in Figure 1). Raicilla is made derived from the town’s name of Bacanora and with distinct types of agaves: rhodacantha produced in an artisanal way. This mezcal is and angustifolia along the coastline, and distinguished from other mezcals due to adopwith maximiliana, inaequidens and the “gition of a procedure known in Sonora by the ant mezcal agave” valenciana included in the term “resaque” (26). This involves, during the mountain regions. Made in the artisanal way, rectification stage operation, the mixing of the with wooden and copper utensils, with the Raicilla first distillate heads components (a carefulsensory characteristics of the raicilla arising The cultural heritage of the west coast ly collected fraction of high alcohol content) from the properties of the medium in which mountain region Costa-Sierra Occidental of arising out of the alembic into the second stage the agave grows, as processed from the natural elements such as earth and water, along with oak TABLE 3 — Summary of all mezcals classes including bacanora, raicilla and tequila firewood to cook the pineMEZCAL AGING PERIOD NOM or Reference to apples (28). A specific NOM (See footnotes) CONTAINER TYPES Classification and Notes CLASS TYPE does not yet exist for raicilla, White or Young (Blanco or Not Aged NA though it is covered under Joven) the DO, General Declaration Matured in glass (Madurado At least 12 months Glass containers en Vidrio) NOM-070-SCFI-2016 of Protection of the Racilla Rested (Reposado) 2-12 months Wood containers Designation of Origin (DOF: Max. 1000 L wood 06/28/20129). The classes Aged (Añejo) At least 12 months containers of raicilla spirits are noted NOM-006-SCFI-2012 Silver (Blanco) Not Aged NA in Table 3. In addition, as for Joven or Oro: a product of Not Aged the mixing of white tequila Gold ( Joven or Oro) NA other mezcals, raicilla may be (See far right column) with aged, extra aged, or ultra-aged tequilas. May also aged or matured in glass over oak (Quercus alba) be a product resulting from A mellowing period White Aged (Reposado) or holm oak (Q. ilex) twelve months, underground the blending of silver tequila of at least 2 months barrels or tanks with caramel coloring, or somewhere with minimal natural oak or oak extracts, Extra Aged (Añejo) At least 1 year variation in light, temperaglycerol, or sugar- based Max. 600 L wood syrup to soften or mellow containers Ultra-aged (Extra Añejo) At least 3 years ture, and humidity. Storing the flavor of the spirit. in glass (especially buried White (Blanco) Not Aged NA underground) is a traditionGold ( Joven o Oro) Not Aged NA al practice that is stated to White oak or holm oak NOM-168-SCFI-2004 Aged (Reposado) At least 2 months barrels or tanks soften the raicilla over time without lowering the alcohol Max. 200 L white oak or Aged (Añejo) At least 1 year holm oak barrels content. It may also be made Young, White, or Silver Not Aged NA “abocado con” — “flavored (CMPR 2018) DOF: At least 2 months to White oak or holm oak 06/28/2019 or infused with” ingredients Golden (Dorado) No NOM in place yet. 1 year barrels or tanks Under development/ connoted elsewhere in the text More than 1 year, White oak or holm oak sideration. Aged in glass and Aged (Añejo) and “destilado con” — “disand less than 2 years barrels or tanks flavored with and distilled with categories also in place. tilled with,” a pechuga proWhite oak or holm oak (See Figure 2) Grand Aged At least two years barrels or tanks cess, in which fruit, meat, or The Tequila category Silver (Blanco) is transpar- made of other wood species may also be used by The result of the blends of white bacanora with other ingredients are present ent though not necessarily colorless and under- some distillers for aging and blending. Caution: rested and / or aged bacanora is considered as stood to be without additives and with distillates Joven — young or gold tequilas — amber color young or gold bacanora. In mixtures of different in the still during a distilladiluted with water. However, certain regulated can indicate the age of a tequila, however, the bacanoras reposados, the age for the resulting amounts of sweeteners, coloring agents and fla- class of oro or gold tequila may simply be tequila bacanora is the weighted average of the ages and tion (29, see Tables 3 and vorings may be added post-distillation and rest- plus caramel coloring and/or artificial flavoring volumes of its components. In mixtures of dif5). This is only permitted in ing for less than 2 months in oak or Encino oak as noted above. ferent aged bacanoras, the age for the resulting containers is permitted. Blanco bottles labeled bacanora is the weighted average of the ages and The result of blending aged tequila with exartisanal and “ancestral tradi“joven” thus typically contain a small amount volumes of its components. Such is the same for of aged tequila blended with unaged tequila. tra-aged tequila is considered aged tequila. The the other classes of mezcals — the respective and tion” categories. Tequila añejo is tequila aged in American or result of blending extra-aged tequila with ul- most current NOMs always carry the full details.





rectified spirit to adjust the alcohol content in a process to “compose” it. This ends up conveying a different palate profile to such mezcals, giving them distinguishing flavor characteristics with descriptors including smoke/smoky, citric, leather, and straw (27). Bacanora has white, rested, or aged types (see Table 3). In October 2000, a declaration of protection for a denomination of origin for Bacanora, which confined it to thirty-five municipalities in the east and to the state of Sonora, was issued and presented a month later in the Official Gazette of the Federation representing this spirit.

European oak barrels for at least a year. Barrels


tra-aged tequila is considered extra-aged tequila.

Instead of covering just mezcal, as in Figure 2, this Table provides a general summary of the four main mezcal classes covered in this paper. This table built in part upon the information in the publication by Carador-Martínez, et al. (34) and updated with current information from respective regulatory documents.


TABLE 4 — A concise summary on the origins and descriptors of mezcal flavors. Mezcal aromas and tastes (flavor) Mezcals have distinctive and unique aromas and flavors with regional and brand differences inherent in their make-up. Moreover, they convey quite different flavor profiles compared to most other distilled beverages, while still harboring the more common distilled spirit volatiles. From raw materials,through all stages of production, flavor molecules or precursors to flavor volatiles arise or are extracted or chemically manipulated to collectively yield an ultimate flavor profile. All classes of chemical components are present in the final spirits, and a very brief outline only could be presented here (see Table 4). Differences between mezcals and the tequila class type will be apparent in the richness of Maillard compounds for example, presence or absence of smoky notes (from the use of wood, with mesquite sometimes used for mezcal baking operations) and nuances of the earth — soil, mud, plus acidity from bacterial activities (12). Less smoky character in tequila in general and an even cleaner profile for tequilas is made via the implementation of diffuser technology (see Figure 3).

SENSORY EVALUATIONS and EXPECTATION of CONSUMERS Trained sensory teams will use technically correct terms and chemical names to describe products being assessed. A review of the literature, both scientific and promotional in nature, reveals the descriptors that sensory panelists in training or those workers looking at consumer opinions will use to describe mezcals. Generic flavor wheels may be found in the open environment — the worldwide web. These are tools to guide the evaluator to look for specific flavor nuances (memory joggers) to seek out the keys to defining the profile of the spirit under the nose and as it tastes. However, with a suggested eighty or so named mezcals in the entirety of Mexico, only selected basic information could be illustrated here (and that for the more common classes). To assist, a figure has been provided illustrating key terms applicable to mezcals and to the tequila class specifically and the differences and similarities in flavor descriptors to look for when assessing future mezcal taste experiences. See Figure 4 and refer also to Table 4 for specific flavor descriptor information and to see how, why, and when these flavors might arise (23, 27, 28, 30-33). With a high degree of training and an overall understanding of the flavor profiles and origins, it is W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

Raw material or process stages associated with the origin and formation of the flavors associated with mezcals, along with some chemical species and common names. Plus, notes of general flavor descriptors ascribed to the sensory perceptions of the listed volatiles.



Components: Plant — carbohydrates (sugars), organic acids, amino acids, lipids, terpenes derived from metabolic activities of the plant.

Components: Esters, alcohols, acids, terpene manipulation and many other metabolites — sulfur compounds, ketones.

Specific chemical compounds: Lipids including fatty acids, glycerol, and sterols. Many flavorful terpenes.

Specific chemical compounds: Ethanol the key desired alcohol. Ethyl acetate — main ester produced. Isoamyl acetate and other ethyl esters. Ketones include diacetyl (2,3-butanedione). Aldehydes and acetals possible.

Flavor descriptors or notes of sensory characteristics: Those free fatty acids passing through to finished product providing some oily notes and dairy/musty flavor characteristics. Cooked agave has odor-flavor notes of browning reactions as noted below. Agaves also donate spice flavors, due to the presence of eugenol and wood related compounds (vanillin and syringaldehyde), as well as terpenes with floral and herbal notes. Volatile acids can donate sour attributes and vanilla and other woody notes may appear in white/silver tequilas as derived from the agave plants. Agave flavor, and the fruitiness and vinous character are provided by fermentation (more on this below).

COOKING Components: Important organoleptic volatiles are also produced from the manipulation of sugars during the cooking and later fermentation processes that add to the character of the finished spirits. Overcooking of sugars can lead to their caramelization. Via the complex Maillard reaction combinations of amino acids and sugars lead to flavorful products. Cooked agave thus has odor-flavor notes of browning reactions that are reminiscent of caramel, molasses, or raw brown sugar. They are also similar to cooked pumpkin and overripe or fermented fruits. If mud/earth pits used for cooking — microbes present can add acidic contributions to flavor. Mud and earthy notes and specific firewood and plant materials used as coverings also provide smoky and other notes. Specific chemical compounds: Important Maillard chemistry by products include, furfural, acetyl furan, 5-methylfurfural (5-MHF) and derivatives of pectins (heteropolysaccharides which are mixed sugar polymers). An issue with respect to pectins is the release of methoxy groups responsible for methanol production. Firewood and charring of agave pineapples produce some phenols like guaiacols. Flavor descriptors (general for the Maillard compounds) or notes of sensory characteristics: Toasted, burnt, nutty, caramel, candy-like, meaty, astringent. Phenols convey smoky, burnt, and spicy notes. Acids from bacterial action: acetic and lactic — vinegar and dairy notes. Three major furans of note and that have been used to discriminate mezcal brands are: • Furfural (brown, sweet, woody, bready, nutty, almond, caramellic with a burnt astringent nuance) • 5-Methyl Furfural (sweet, brown, caramellic, grain, maple syrup-like) • 2-Acetyl Furan (sweet, nutty, almond, cocoa, caramel, coffee, roasted and with a sweet, baked-goods like characteristic)

MILLING Continued Maillard reactions. Bitter substances from residual leaves/tissues possible. Mud and dirt from pit coverings may convey earthy, musty notes etc.

Flavor descriptors or notes of sensory characteristics: Esters are solventy, fruity and floral. Ethyl acetate — solventy and fruity nuances. Iso-amylacetate — fruity, banana, pear nuances. Diacetyl — buttery, dairy-like yogurt notes. Aldehydes — green/fresh green floral and woody notes. Fermentation provides a vinous character due to the production of higher alcohols Terpene transformation and release, carried out by yeast, also contribute to herbal-floral characteristics. Among impact compounds, phenylethanol has been reported as odor-active, with a floral odor, with β-damascenone contributing to a fruity-winey aroma. These compounds reported as odor-active components with indications that 3-methyl butanol and phenylethyl acetate generate a fermented fruit note.

DISTILLATION Distillation — second or rectification stage. Alembics and columns have been traditionally manufactured with copper — today stainless steel gained higher relevance. Copper is noted as exerting a favorable effect on the sensory character of tequila and mezcal due to its role in removing unpleasant aromatic sulfur compounds such as thiols present in distillates. Specific chemical compounds: Leads to 45-50% ABV, ethanol and methanol plus the higher carbon length alcohols — more than three carbon atoms. The alcohols 2-butanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol (active and isoamyl alcohol isomers) and 1-pentanol form the bulk of the fusel oils. Flavor descriptors or notes of sensory characteristics: High concentrations of phenylethanol (floral, honey, roses) and the amyl alcohols (banana, pear) add some of the leading floral and fruity aromatic and flavor characteristics to mezcal. Other higher alcohols can lend harsh solventy, rubbing alcohol-like and bitter flavor impressions.

MATURATION Components: Estery congeners, higher alcohols, and acids plus many other metabolic compounds from the raw white or flavored spirit. Plus, lignin-, hemicellulose-, tannin-derived wood components, lipids, oils, terpenes, lactones, furfural, and related compounds plus phenolics derived from the wood. Specific chemical compounds: As a major class of compounds found in spirit beverages, key esters are of note in mezcals. (Most flavor studies to date made on tequila samples). Certain terpenes, higher alcohols and fresh/green earthy acetals also show increased aroma-flavor intensity in mature versus non-mature spirit. The source material, the size of the barrels used in maturation (surface contact), as well as the duration of spirit contact, generate different volatile profiles in tequila and can offer a variety of sensory nuances. Oaky, nutty, and spiced flavors, as well as enhanced vanilla and caramel notes, are found in the rested and aged tequilas. With prolonged aging, the woody bouquet may override the agave notes.


FIGURE 4 — General sensory descriptors for mezcal and tequila with differences and similarities highlighted

MEZCA L Mineral Earthy/ Land (tierra) Fermented Chemical Wood (madera), Smoke (humo), Ash (olor ceniza) Alcohol Spices (especias), Herbal (hierba) Candy (caramelo) Fruity (frutal) Floral Citric (citrico)

Agave — cooked (maguey cocido — olor a maguey cocido), burnt (olor a maguey quemado) notes Tastes: Sweet (sabor dulce), sour (sabo agrio), salty, bitter (aftertaste sabor residual amargo) Sensations: spicy (picante), hot (calor), unctuous (untuoso), rough (aspero), cool (fresco)

Other terms: fruity — strawberry, jelly (gelatin), green grass, cedar wood, petroleum, vitamins, musty, menthol, plastic, wet earth and leather.

Ge n

Ge ne


eral Similaritie

Lemon Fruity Agave Caramel

Woody Guaiacol Vanilla

Solvent Straw Burnt Smoky Mud Rancid

Stronger Alcohol Piquant Acetic Herbs

M e ral ly D z i ff ca l s


s utela s b i r i erent Attot Te qu

T EQ U I L A Smoked Piquant Almond Anise Varnish Citric Rancid coconut

Fermented Fruity, Dried Fruit Flowery Resinous wood Wet straw Vanilla

Three month old Gold (Oro) Tequilas:

Smoke Almond/cherry Caramel Cork Citrus

Mint Plastic/cherry Vanilla Vinegar/ fermented

in compar i son

Based merely on few studies, the figure shows notable descriptors to evaluate mezcals and tequila styles and brands (29-34). Mezcal and tequila are essentially represented here, however, with notes drawn from bacanora and raicilla sensory research. The key terms covered here but recalling that there may be eighty different regionally named mezcals further work is needed in this arena. This table should provide a good starting point.

TABLE 5 — Glossary of a few important

angustifolia (Espadín or Espadilla), and A. potatorum (Papalometl).

Abocado Flavored or infused mezcal. Mezcal that has been “softened” by the addition of one or more natural products, flavorings or colors allowed within the legal and health/sanitary regulations. This category includes all mezcals that have an insect, fruit, or herb included the bottle.

Cabezas de mezcal Heads of mezcal. First fractional part of the distillation that is separated and sometimes discarded. Also called “tips.” Also known as Puntas de mezcal – “points or heads of distillation.” Flavorful and high in alcohol, they are sometimes used to adjust the final alcohol content of mezcal.

Fructano Fructans. The class of polysaccharides formed as straight or branched chains of fructose, with a terminal glucose unit. Found in all species of agaves. Their synthesis is carried out in the leaves but is transported to the plant stems to serve as an energy store. When suitably hydrolyzed it provides the fermentable sugars for mezcal production.

Agavina A specific name given to agave fructans.

Campana An internal part of an alembic where certain items (fruits, chicken breasts, etc.) are placed/suspended with the objective of producing distillates with certain characteristics (fruity mezcal, mezcal de breast – pechuga, etc.)

terms pertaining to mescal production.

Alambic/Alembic A copper-pot still used to make artesanal mezcal. Its evaporation chamber is separated from its condensation chamber by a gooseneck. There are four parts that make up the alembic still system: Pot: Contains the mixture of substances to be separated – buried within a cubic structure under which logs are placed that generate heat required for the separation of alcohol from the fermented must. Montera: Captures vapors generated after heating the mixture and leads them to the condensation/recovery stage. Based on its shape it is also often known as a bell. Turban: An elongated tube responsible for conducting the vapors towards the cooling section. Serpentine: Typical of distillation systems this is a spiral-shaped tube, immersed in a tank with water. The purpose being to cool and, therefore, to condense the vapors coming from the pot. Ancestral mezcal Applied to mezcals made from maguey heads cooked in conical floor ovens, ground using a tahona or manually using mallets, fermented with maguey fiber, and distilled with direct fire in pots of mud and with wooden hats. Artesanal mezcal Artisan mezcal. Type of mezcal obtained through a production process based on in traditional techniques. It is considered as a product of good complexity where the congeners produced during fermentation are present at a medium level, giving rise to the notes of cooked agave and the “green” notes of the plant.


Canoa Canoe. Lined concave bowl or cavity or made of wood (e.g., hollow tree trunk) that is used for manually mashing the cooked agave. The agave is pounded and ground up via the use of wooden mallets. Larger canoas may also be used for fermenting cooked agave. Colas de mezcal Tails of the mezcal. “Queues” or cuts. Tails of the distillation – the last running’s. The tails are separated as are the heads. Cuerpo de mezcal Body of mezcal. The desirable spirit fraction resulting from mezcal distillation – the heart – collected in between the tips (heads) and the tails Difusor Diffuser. Machinery for industrial production of mezcal – mainly tequila (or mezcal in Oaxaca). Allowing for the efficient extraction of the carbohydrates from raw agave by means of diffusion. Such equipment replacing the traditional cooking and grinding stages of mezcal production. Hydrolysis of the fructans to fermentable sugars then achieved by means of an autoclave. May also be used to extract juice from cooked maguey. Ensamble Mezcal made from two or more types of agaves to obtain a mezcal with particular and desired characteristics. Example in the state of Puebla the species combined are A.

Furfural A notable chemical compound from within the class of compounds known as furans. An aldehyde derived via cooking reactions – Maillard reactions and caramelization of sugars. Conveying nutty, burnt, and almond aromas to mezcals its concentration is regulated based on health reasons. This compound is limited to a maximum of just 4 mg/100 mL of absolute ethanol in all classes of tequila. Also derived from agave lignocellulosic components. Gusano blanco White (maguey) worm. Acentrocneme hesperiaris, is the larva of a butterfly, which grows in the leaves, stalks, and roots of the maguey. It is white (except brown head and limbs), and in Mexico it is eaten fried. Is related with the chinicuil, which is also a red colored edible worm, yet parasitic to the maguey plants, but red. The worm is added to certain brands of mezcal during the bottling process. It is suggested that this tradition began around the year 1940. See Mezcal con gusano below, and the text. Gusano rojo Red (maguey) worm. Hypopta agavis, also called “chinicuil” or “tecol” – more correctly known as Comadia redtenbacheri Hammerschmidt, Of the order Lepidoptera (a moth though some might call it a colored night butterfly) and native to North America. The name derived from chinicuil or chilocuil – Nahuatl chilocuilin, “chili worm.” These larvae/caterpillars are of a reddish in color and up to 5 cm long. This species attacks the maguey plant and causes damage but are also edible and has by custom been included as a “flavoring” ingredient in mezcal. Belatobes is a

Zapotec word that applies to maguey worms (H. agavis), which are added to some mezcals in the state From Oaxaca. See Mezcal con gusano. Heartbreaking mill Mechanical or electrically driven implement used to tear the heads or pineapples of cooked agave. Varied types and sizes. Workings through the application of rotary discs and hammers. Horno Kiln. The Space where cooking of the heads of agave (pineapples) takes place. There are several types of ovens, which vary by region based on variables such as shape, capacity and the materials used for their construction. Industrial mezcal Type of mezcal obtained through a process characterized by use of semi-automated equipment such as diffuser or distillation columns. It is cataloged as a product with truly little expressiveness and poor congenerics. Commonly made with added flavorings and sugars sourced from commodities other than agave. Note: Since the latest NOM for the mezcal category (i.e., not Tequila) the diffuser in not allowed for use. Maguey Common name for agave. The preferred term for agave in Oaxaca. The Spanish conquistadores brought the word with them from Hispaniola. One type of agave can have different names depending on the region. Therefore, the name is given by the producers of mezcal. Etymologically, the word maguey, is derived from the Greek meaning “admirable.” in Nahuatl it is called “Metl.” Maillard reaction When amino acids and sugars react under heat conditions a rich reaction cascade known as the Maillard reaction takes place – much like the toasting of bread, to yield many flavorful compounds, with rich, sweet, caramel, toasted, nutty and burnt nuances. Under extremely high heat conditions sugars react together to create similar components and other complex sugar derivatives with similar flavors. One compound, furfural (2-furaldehde) is of note and concern as it is carcinogenic. See Furfural.

suggested that an assessor might be able to pinpoint the place of production of these agave-based spirits. A tall order maybe, but as mezcals gain in worldwide popularity it may be a worthy challenge to sample glasses of a selection of spirits to see what you can learn. Sensory characteristics of a product are considered today a key quality factor, often adding a sense of place, and so sensory programs and the understanding of flavor profiles are becoming of evermore importance to the modern

Methanol A compound which needs to be regulated in amount for human consumption purposes. Mezcal abocado This type of mezcal is usually infused with herbs, plants, fruits, insects, or animals. The intention being to modify flavor. Flavors such as caramel or colorants are also included under this term. See Abocado. Mezcal añejo Aged mezcal. According to the NOM-070, this type of mezcal is aged in wooden barrels for more than one year. Mezcal blanco White mezcal it is the same as mezcal joven. Mezcal de pechuga Mezcal of breast. Meaning (poultry) breast. In this type of mezcal a fully defatted turkey or chicken breast is placed inside the alembic still during (typically a third) distillation. Other ingredients such as the breast of a rabbit or iguana (the latter in the mountainous regions of Guerrero and Michoacán), fruits (pineapples, bananas, apples guava, raisins), almonds mole (the Mexican condiment), cinnamon, white sugar etc., may be incorporated. In the state from Puebla, the breast is hung inside the alembic with a net or with a thread and at the steam distilled from the fermented wort passes through the breast and the mezcal acquires that characteristic aroma and flavor. Defined as the Destilado con class in the Norm. The Ejutla District of Oaxaca is known for “Mezcal of fruits” – when distilling in an alembic includes a puree made with various fruits (banana, apple, pineapple, etc.), and mezcal that is obtained acquires a taste and aroma of the fruits used. Mezcal joven In English means 'young mezcal'. According to the NOM-070, this type of mezcal is unaged. Therefore, it is transparent, and the flavors and aromas are those from the agave and derived from components generated during the production process. Mazo Large wooden mallet used for hand-mashing cooked maguey in ancestral processes. Mezcal raicillero Raicilleros typically W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


day mezcalero and tequilero. It is important for the producer to highlight the sensory characteristics of each product within the brand, and to know, or to show, how that profile derived from its traditional manufacturing method (now including diffuser technology for tequilas), as well as the relationship to its geographical origin (33). 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). Acknowledgments. I would like to thank Dr. Ana G. Valenzuela-Zapata for the useful comments she made over the past two years in response to questions I posed to her regarding agave and mezcal. Any errors or omissions here remain my responsibility. This brief review has arisen out a major work submitted by me for a book chapter to appear in a new Distilled Spirits volume in 2022. Knowledge and information was gained from hundreds of documents represented in the statements both here and in that book chapter manuscript. Overall, I hope that I have done justice to this vast topic. Finally, I note a good many new papers have been published, or are due out soon, in 2021 and beyond which are, and will, help us to further unravel the details of the vast richness of beverages and flavor enjoyment that agave plants, the fermentation of their hydrolyzed juices, and their subsequent distillation have provided us for hundreds of years.

call agaves by their older names of “mezcales.” A mezcal raicillero is any agave varietal used to make raicilla. Madurado en vidrio “Matured in glass.” One of the categories of mezcal as defined by the Norm or NOM. Mezcal reposado Rested mezcal'. According to the NOM-070, this type of mezcal is aged in wooden barrels for two months to one year. Metl Nahuátl word for “agave.” The word “mezcal” is derived from metl ixcalli – “cooked agave.” Mezcaleros Name given to a person who has some relation with mezcal through its production or distribution. Mezcal afrutado Fruity mezcal. Mezcal to which fresh or dried fruits were added at the time of distillation. Providing components lending certain visual or organoleptic characteristics such as distinguishing colors, aromas, or tastes. Ordinario Liquid condensed from the first distillation of maguey juice. When re-distilled (rectified), it becomes mezcal. Palenque Oaxaca term for a traditional mezcal distillery. Often part of the mezcalero’s home or property. It is characterized using family labor, traditional technology and local materials (including cultivated or wild agaves). The term also applies to a shallow round hole, built with stones, in which the agave pineapples art cooked. Palm leaf Plant leaves used to cover the heads of agave during cooking, especially in the states of Michoacán and Guerrero, where the species Brahea dulcis (Soyate palm) exists. Such trees are common on cliffs in rough terrain and dry woodlands. Penca Spiky and fleshy leaf of the maguey. Píñas Name given to the heart of the maguey. Is the part used for mezcal production. Raicilleros Producers of raicilla in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Also called Taberneros. Rectificación Second-stage distillation. Process used after the first stage mezcal distillation to achieve the desirable alcoholic level (greater than 40% ethanol by volume), and flavor and taste. Refinado is also a similar term for final adjustments of spirit qualities. Shredder mill Machine used for shredding W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

agave into a fibrous mass by means of rotors, hammers or strings with variable capacities. Tahona Tahona Chilena: circular stone pool or cement grinding in which another circular stone*, of approximately five hundred kilograms turns, that being pulled around by a pack animal (horse or mule). This type of mill is called Chilean mill, Chilean tahona, Egipcio o chileno, or Egyptian mill. In some mezcal regions it is also called trapiche or tahona. Of Egyptian origin, it was the main piece for the crushing of minerals given its efficiency in the Chilean region, hence also came to be referred to as an Egyptian mill. *(Molino) The large stone wheel used to crush the baked/roasted hearts of agave rendering them into a fermentable mash. It is typically pulled by a donkey or a mule. Taverna A traditional raicilla distillery. Tepache In this context, fermented maguey juice ready to be distilled. Tequila A regional alcoholic beverage obtained by the fermentation and distillation of musts derived from cooked agave heads or hydrolyzed juices of the species A. tequilana Weber (azul = blue variety) and produced in territory covered by a denomination of origin. Musts – derived from the agave plants may be supplemented or enriched and mixed with other sugars up to a proportion of no more than 49%. Tequila is a liquid that can be colored, when has matured, or has added coloring ingredients. Approved sweeteners, coloring agents and flavoring as allowed by the Ministry of Health are used to provide or intensify color, aroma and/or flavor. Tequila should taste of the materials from which it has been produced Tequileros Name given to a person who has some relation with tequila through its production or distribution. Vinasses Liquid waste resulting from the production of mezcal. It is an acidic liquid extremely aggressive to the environment. Vinatero Person (in Sonora) in charge of supervising the production of bacanora – equivalent of the master mezcalero. Terms derived from many references cited in the text and with special acknowledgement to the author of the Mezcalero Breviary for a complete dictionary of terms (35). Some of the detail here is repeated in the text and the other tables. Terms only covered by their definition here will assist understanding of mezcal types, production and flavors etc., as introduced in the main body text.

Kelsall. Nottingham University Spirits as Influenced by Agave Species and Production Processes. Press. 1999; pp 225-241. Beverages. 2018, 4 (1), 9. 1. Eguiarte, L. E.; Jiménez 26. Bacanora, In, Denominaciones Barrón, O. A.; Aguirre-Planter, E.; doi:10.3390/beverages4010009. De Origen. Orgullo De México. Scheinvar, E.; Gámez, N.; GascaInstituto Mexicano de la Propiedad 13. Tello-Balderas, J.J.; GarcíaPineda, J.; Castellanos-Morales, de México. 2016. Moya, E. The Mezcal Industry G.; Moreno-Letelier, A.; Souza, in the Altiplano PotosinoV. Evolutionary ecology of Agave: 27. Álvarez-Ainza, M.L.; GarcíaZacatecano of North-Central distribution patterns, phylogeny, Mexico. Desert Plants. 1985, 7(2); Galaz, A.: González-Rios, H.; and coevolution (an homage to Prado-Jaramillo, N.; Acedo81-86. Howard S. Gentry). Am J Bot. Félix, E. Análisis Sensorial 2021, 108 (2), 216-235. doi: 14. Martínez, S.; Nuñez-Guerrero, y de Compuestos Volátiles 10.1002/ajb2.1609. M.; Gurrola-Reyes, J.N.; Rutiaga- Minoritarios en Destilados de Agave angustifolia Haw Quiñones.; Paredes-Ortíz, A.; 2. Bahre, C.J.; Bradbury, D.E. (Bacanora). (Sensory Analysis Soto, O.N.; Flores-Gallegos, Manufacture of mescal in Sonora, and Minority Volatile Compounds A.C.; Rodriguez-Herrera, R. 4. Mexico. Economic Botany. 1980, in Distillates of Agave angustifolia Mescal An Alcoholic Beverage 34(4), 391-400. doi: 10.1007/ Haw (Bacanora)). Biotecnia. From Agave Spp. With Great BF02858316. 2015, Vol. XVII (3); 22-29. Commercial Potential. In Alcoholic Beverages, Volume 7: 3. Zizumbo-Villarreal, D.; 28. Gutiérrez-Coronado, M.L.; Colunga-GarcíaMarín, P. Early co- The Science of Beverages. Edited Acedo-Félix, E.; Valenzuelaconut distillation and the origins by A.M. Grumezescu and A.M. Quintanar, A.I. INDUSTRIA Holban. Woodhead Publishing. of mezcal and tequila spirits in DEL BACANORA Y SU 2019, 113-140. west-central Mexico. Genetic PROCESO DE ELABORACIÓN Resources and Crop Evolution. BACANORA INDUSTRY 15. Lappe-Oliveras, P.; Moreno2008, 55(4), 493-510. doi: Terrazas, R.; Arrizón-Gaviño, J.; AND ITS PROCESS OF 10.1007/s10722-007-9255-0. PRODUCTION. Ciencia y Herrera-Suárez, T.; GarcíaMendoza, A.; Gschaedler-Mathis, Tecnologia Alimentaria (Food 4. Bruman, H.J. Alcohol in Ancient Mexico. The University of A. Yeasts associated with the pro- Science and Technology) duction of Mexican alcoholic non- 2007, 5 (5), 394-404. doi: Utah Press. 2000. distilled and distilled Agave bever- 10.1080/11358120709487718. 5. Valenzuela-Zapata, A.G; Buell, ages. FEMS Yeast Res 2008, 8 (7), 29. Arrizón, J.; Arizaga, J.J.; P.D; Solano-Pérez, M.D.; Park, 1037-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1567Hernandez, R.E.; Estarrón, M.; H. ‘Huichol’ stills : a century 1364.2008.00430.x. Gschaedler, A. Production of of anthropology - technology 16. Prado-Ramírez, R. Tequila and Volatile Compounds in Tequila transfer and innovation. ACM and Raicilla Musts by Different mezcal distillation technology Crossroads Student Magazine. Yeasts Isolated from Mexican : Similarities and differences. 2013, 8, 157-191. Agave Beverages. In Hispanic In Sustainable and Integral 6. Jiménez, E.S.; Oregón, F.T.; Foods, American Chemical Exploitation of Agave. Antonia Nonato, J.C. Conocimiento y Society: 2006, Vol. 946, pp 167Gutiérrez-Mora (Ed). CIATEJ. empleo de destiladores de mezcal 2014; pp 72-76. 177. doi:10.1021/bk-2007-0946. en el siglo XVI. Influencia y ch014/10.1021/bk-2007-0946. 17. Gentry, H.S. Agaves of continuidad en tres experiencias ch014. de fábricas mezcaleras de México Continental North America. University of Arizona Press. 2004. 30. Mozqueda-Balderas, R.; (Knowledge and use of mezcal Delgado-Alvarado, A.; Herreradistillers in the 16th century. Cabrera, B.E.; López-Vargas, S. Influence and continuity in three 18. Gaytán, M.S. The perils of protection and the promise of Evaluacion sensorial del mezcal experiences of mezcal factories in authenticity: Tequila, mezcal, de la localidad de Totomochapa, Mexico.). Universidad Autónoma and the case of NOM 186. Tlapa de comonfort, Guerrero, de Guerrero (UAGro) ca. 2017, Journal of Rural Studies. 2018, Mexico (Sensory evaluation (article undated). 23 pages. 58, 103-111. doi: 10.1016/j. of mezcal from the town jrurstud.2017.12.017. 7. Lopez Romero, J.; Ayalaof Totomochapa, Tlapa de Zavala, J.F.; Aguilar, G.; Peñacomonfort, Guerrero, Mexico). 19. Cedeño, M. Tequila proRamos, E.; Ríos, H. Biological AGROProductividad. 2018, 11, 81. duction. Crit Rev Biotechnol activities of Agave by-products 1995, 15 (1), 1-11. doi: 31. Villanueva-Rodriguez, S.J.; and their possible applications 10.3109/07388559509150529. Escalona-Buendia, H.B., 18 in food and pharmaceuticals: Biological activities of Agave 20. Cedeño Cruz, M., 15 - Tequila Tequila and mezcal: sensory extracts. 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G., Authenticity: Encyclopedia of Food and Health, inaequidens, A. cupreata and the The Case of Tequila. In Caballero, B.; Finglas, P. M.; domesticated A. hookeri. Analysis Authentication of Food and Wine, Toldrá, F., Eds. Academic of their evolutionary relationAmerican Chemical Society. Press: Oxford. 2016; pp ships. PLoS One. 2017, 12(11), 2006, Vol. 952, pp 273-287. 283-289. e0187260. doi: 10.1371/journal. doi:10.1021/bk-2007-0952.ch018 B978-0-12-384947-2.00688-7. pone.0187260. 10.1021/bk-2007-0952.ch018. 33. García-Barrón, S.E.; Guerrero, 10. Renard, M-C.; Arista, D.R.D. 23. Medina, M.G. Rethinking L.; Vázquez-Elorza, A.; Lazo, 10 The geographical indicaMezcal: A New Materialist O. What Turns a Product into a tion of mezcal in Mexico. In, Approach. MSc. Thesis. Traditional One? Foods. 2021, Geographical Indication and Wageningen University & Research. 10 (6), 1284. doi:10.3390/ Global Agri-Food: Development 2018. foods10061284. and Democratization (1st 24. 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Lost Irish Whiskey brings a global perspective to a traditional spirit


) o s t o n ( AIMLESSLY

According to their ad campaign,

This is more noble than it may initially look. Their mandate is meant to promote exploration and adventure, the type of wandering that’s not done aimlessly. It also captures an ethos in tune with the Irish people and their penchant for wanderlust. “There are seventy million people of Irish descent in the world, and only five million Irish people living in Ireland,” explained Donna Stewart, an Irish expatriate serving as Lost Irish’s lead ambassador for the western United States. “Part of Irish culture is to leave Ireland in search of a better life. When they leave, they either stay abroad or bring back something from other places when they do return.” This latter sentiment of bringing something back to the homeland provides Lost Irish with its foundation. The whiskey is an ambitious exploration of the impact that global flavors can have on Irish whiskey, a spirit that can only be produced in Ireland according to the European Union’s Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). It is indeed Irish whiskey, but its aging process involves seven different casks sourced from six continents: U.S. bourbon and Caribbean rum casks from North America; Colombian rum casks from South America; Spanish sherry casks from Europe; South African brandy casks; Australian tawny port casks; and Japanese Mizunara oak casks from Asia. “This is a concept that’s bigger than whiskey,” explained Lost Irish co-founder Tim Herlihy. “It’s really a tip of the hat to where Irish people have settled around the world. By making the whiskey the way we’re making it, we’re really living out this part of the Irish story.”

Wandering Origins The idea that eventually spawned Lost Irish came from equal parts obsession and wanderlust. Prior to the pandemic, Herlihy gave into his own sense of curiosity and left Ireland to canvass the United States, hitting all 50 states in 30 days to find the country’s best Irish pub. During the excursion, he realized it was an adventure that could happen on a global scale. “You’ll find Irish pubs in every country. You can find a proper Irish pub in Nepal or Mongolia,” Herlihy stated. “Ireland really is the world’s biggest small country.” Rather than punishing his bank account by expanding his journey on foot, Herlihy and his business partner (and childhood friend) Neil Sands hatched the notion of stuffing the world into a bottle of Irish whiskey. “The world’s become a smaller place. Now we’re able to get casks from around the world,” he said. “When we came up with Lost Irish, we thought that [if] we were really going to make a whiskey, let’s really push the envelope.” This creation put Herlihy on a path marked with detours into the unknown. He was equipped with an industry roadmap — he spent more than eight years as a brand ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W. before W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


Lost Irish Whiskey wants you to get lost and stay lost.

“Part of Irish culture is to leave Ireland in search of a better life. When they leave, they either stay abroad or bring back something from other places when they do return.” — DONNA STEWART

Irish expatriate, Lost Irish’s lead ambassador for the western United States

launching Lost Irish, and a partnership forged with the Mexican spirits group Casa Lumbre helped move the concept forward. However, this didn’t necessarily mean he knew how to read it completely. “I had no idea about corks, glass, and those kinds of things,” he admitted. “I did have a few unfair advantages because of my time in the industry, but I really didn’t know what I was doing.” Herlihy acknowledges those industry benefits came in handy when it came time to gather the casks around the globe. Some casks, like the North American bourbon and South American rum casks, were easy to secure. Others weren’t. Australia especially produced a massive headache. Port restrictions caused by COVID lockdowns led to severe delays in shipment, compelling Herlihy to lean on his industry connections and a little ingenuity. “I ended up having to have Australian tawny port barrels lent to me so I could properly store the whiskey until my barrels arrived,” he said. 107

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The international arrangement of casks imparts global influence into the whiskey as it ages, but there is also plenty of Irish backbone in the juice. The finished product is a blend of three different Irish whiskey styles, with each style delivering its own purpose: Grain for sweetness, malt for fruitiness, and pot still for spice and creaminess. The decision to utilize three different styles in the blend came primarily from a philosophy of ‘more is more,’ according to Herlihy. “If you have more paints to paint with, you’ll get more colors,” he explained.

Preparing the Journey Made in Kenosha, WI

John McGinn (262)-909-7267


2022 Judging of Craft Spirits ACSA’s 9th Annual Judging of Craft Spirits is open for entries. Enter your products into the ONLY craft judging competition assembled, organized and overseen by you, the distilling community. ACSA’s blind-tasting competition recognizes the best craft spirits in the categories of vodka/grain, gin, brandy, rum, ready-to-drink, whiskey, and specialty spirits. Due to COVID-19 we will not be accepting international entries in this year’s competition. Registration Deadline: March 25, 2022 Receiving Deadline: March 31, 2022

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It’s common for a distillery to start spreading the word about a product well before it’s ready to launch. It’s also common for this strategy to sync up to an estimated launch date. Thanks to COVID causing supply chain disruptions at every turn, Lost Irish didn’t have this debut target set. In fact, it didn’t even have a ballpark figure. “We didn’t know when the whiskey was going to get here,” Stewart said. “We all just accepted that the date was ever-changing.” Despite this uncertainty, Stewart said that they didn’t want the spirit’s marketing campaign to also lag. To promote this brand with a question mark for a market entry, they turned their campaign strategy into a slow burn. Their Instagram account launched before the web page, and elements of the brand’s story methodically dropped on the social media format over a controlled measure of time, deliberately revealing details about the distillation process and the casks’ countries of origins. They also sprinkled in images promoting global exploration, a tactic that, according to Stewart, allowed the target audience to understand the essence of the spirit yet to come. “We didn’t want to just do bottle shot after bottle shot,” she said. “People value experience, so we knew our campaign wanted to build on that principle.” Lost Irish finally launched in November 2021. Early returns indicate that the spirit was worth the wait. Herlihy is pleased about the reception his globally infused take on Irish whiskey has had thus far, but he is also optimistic that its use of international casks will prompt imbibers to engage in more expanded liquid adventures. “I hope people see the casks we’re using and get inspired to keep exploring other spirits,” Herlihy said. “So they can get further and further lost.” For more information visit





he number of craft distilleries in the United States has Once an application is approved, the applicant will be increased dramatically in the last few years, with the given some time to “prove up” the water right and demondemand for craft spirits growing and slowly catching up to strate to the agency that the water is in fact being put to as that of craft beers. As with many industries, this growth beneficial use in accordance with the conditions imthe brings to light its fair share of challenges. One such posed by the agency. At that time, the water right may “pr ior challenge is that distilling requires large amounts of be deemed “perfected” and will be appurtenant to the appropriwater, and releases similarly large amounts of wasteland, meaning it will automatically follow the land ation” system water with high amounts of organic and nitrogen when purchased. Talking about land purchase, one of water law, or compounds, low pH, high temperature, and may also be well-advised to look into the avail“first in time, first other potential pollutants. This often creates a ability of water rights when considering the purin right.” This means need for wastewater or stormwater permits, chase of a property with an existing distillery that in times of drought, which can be lengthy and costly as regulaor with plans to develop a distillery. If a signifwater users with an older wators are not yet as familiar with distilling icant amount of water is required for operter right will be prioritized over processes, as opposed to the winemaking ations of the distillery, a prospective buyer more junior users. process, for example. In this article we should proceed with some due diligence Generally, relying on groundwahighlight some legal issues and considto determine the validity of water rights ter (through a well) or surface water erations regarding water procurement associated with the property, if any, to (through a stream diversion) requires and handling of wastewater, and how assess whether enough water is availthe user to apply for a water right. There to get ahead of those issues to miniable to operate said distillery. are exceptions to the permit requirements for mize risks of non-compliance. groundwater: For example, some states allow a WASTEWATER & property owner to use well water for commercial STORMWATER ACCESS TO WATER or industrial purposes without a permit if that use is ISSUES Distilleries use almost 12 limited to 5,000 gallons per day. This may allow some Water considerations for distimes as much water by volcraft distilleries to operate without a groundwater pertilleries do not stop at proume as they produce alcohol, mit, but as operations and water use increase, permit recurement, but also implicate which, depending on the size quirements could be triggered. stormwater runoffs and the of the distillery, may require Because of the delays associated with securing a water discharge of wastewater from ensuring that adequate water right, it is good practice to keep track of water usage to unthe distilling process. Those resources are available. This is derstand how business growth may in turn trigger the need for discharges are considered less of an issue for craft distillpermit, and work with a water attorney or a water consultant to industrial wastewater regueries located within municihelp identify hurdles that could come up in the permitting prolated under state and federal pal boundaries and served by cess. Generally, when assessing a water right application, a state law and generally require an a water utility, but distilleries agency will look into whether the proposed use could cause inindustrial discharge permit relying on well water or anothterference with a more senior, established water right. A water and/or a National Pollution er source of water may need to consultant may be able to provide a feasibility analysis lookDischarge Elimination Permit obtain a permit from the releing into the likelihood of an application being granted, (NPDES) or the state equivavant state agency, especially in and may be able to assist in finding alternatives, such lent. Distilleries may be regulatthe western United States where as purchasing a portion of an existing water right, ed through a municipal permit if water is not always readily availif no further water is available for approdischarging to a municipal wasteable. Most western states, including priation in a particular area. water system or through a state perCalifornia, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, mit if discharging to the ground or to and Washington, follow what is referred to surface water. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


At Prairie Malt, we love whiskey, bourbon and craft spirits. It’s our distinct honor to supply passionate distillers like you with the world’s finest malts so you can continue crafting perfection. Learn more at


Our World Is Yours.

Permit requirements may differ depending on the volume of wastewater discharged and the concentration of contaminants of concern (COCs) found in the wastewater. Low concentrations may result in the implementation of monitoring measures and reporting requirements, while more problematic discharges could result in pretreatment requirements to limit the impact of the wastewater on a municipal system or the environment. Because distilleries’ wastewater typically requires much more treatment than typical wastewater, businesses served by a municipal wastewater system are generally required to pay a higher charge for service to reflect the higher treatment costs. Importantly, dischargers are generally required to obtain a permit prior to beginning operations. Working with an environmental attorney or environmental consultant may help you understand better which permits may apply to your operations to avoid any risks of non-compliance. Proactively engaging with the relevant agencies and providing information as to the nature of your wastewater may also help establish a good working relationship with those agencies resulting in reasonable permit requirements. If you are already operating without a permit and realize that you may be doing so in violation of applicable state or federal laws, many states have voluntary non-compliance reporting programs, allowing the owner or operator of a facility to voluntarily disclose a non-compliant situation and avoid punitive damages, limiting liability to the payback of permitting fees for the time that the facility operated without a permit. Liability exposure can increase in the case of known violations. In one rather extreme case, a state’s Attorney General’s office and Department of Environmental Quality assessed criminal charges against a distillery after an investigation revealed that the distillery knowingly discharged industrial wastewater with excessive zinc and copper levels into a stream, highlighting the dangers of known non-compliance.

CONCLUSION The growth of craft distilleries in the U.S. has been exciting to follow, but with that growth necessarily comes increased scrutiny from regulators. Whether it relates to water quantity or water quality, it is important for craft distilleries to understand which regulations apply to them to come up with the right permitting strategy and avoid any regulatory headache down the road. Working with water or environmental attorneys or consultants, and with the relevant governmental agencies, will go a long way in ensuring compliance with applicable laws. Olivier Jamin is an environmental, water, and land use attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine, where he advises clients on due diligence, permitting and regulatory issues with a particular focus on water. Olivier works with a variety of clients but especially enjoys helping wineries, breweries, and distilleries make sense of federal and state regulations that may apply to their operations. 110



he qualities of spirits are determined by a range of factors. In terms of color the most common contributors are wood extractives, caramel, and, for specific spirits, chlorophyll (green) and hibiscus (red) can be used, as well as palettes of natural and synthetic coloring agents. Flavors come from a broad range of ingredients and additives, as

Fig. 1. Examples of a monoterpene (C10H16 ; limonene) and a sesquiterpene (C15H24 ; humulene) and identification of their prenyl subunits.

Written by PAUL HUGHES, PH.D.

Added flavor dimensions


well as ethanol and a range of secondary metabolites derived from fermentation. A major class of volatile flavors is derived from plant materials, primarily from the socalled essential oils.1 Whilst essential oils are often referred to as terpenes, in fact terpenes are only one group of chemical constituents of essential oils. The term ‘terpenes’ refers strictly to hydrocarbons that are made up of two or more prenyl groups (Fig. 1).

Oxidized terpenes are known as terpenoids and, together with carbon and hydrogen, contain oxygen functional groups. This does not quite complete the essential oils portfolio, as terpenoids can, occasionally, contain sulfur. This results in a wide range of chemical entities with a correspondingly broad scope of physico-chemical properties (Fig. 2). For the sake of brevity, the term ‘terpenes’ will be used here to encompass all of the chemical components of essential oils. It is important to recognize that there is another major source of volatile, non-terpenoid

1 Essential oils are defined as hydrophobic (ie oily) liquids isolated from plant materials, typically by a distillation process.

Fig. 2. Examples of essential oil components, including mono- and sesquiterpenes and mono- and sesquiterpenoids. HO


Prenyl (3-methyl-2-butenyl) fragment R/S-alpha-pinene alpha-bibolol

R/S-alpha-phellandrene limonene



Two prenyl components of limonene














para-cymene 4-terpineol terpinolene OH

geraniol Three prenyl components of humulene W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


nerol OH



maceration/ extraction

Terpene component (in solution)

Terpene component (in botanical mix) “basket” distillation

Terpene component (in vapor phase)

Terpene component (retained in mix)

Terpene component (in vapor phase)

class of compounds derived from “phenylpropanoids,” including the highly flavor-active anethole, eugenol, and vanillin. Although these can be important flavors, which mainly derive from lignin degradation, they are outside the scope of this review. Any distilled spirit that requires the use of botanicals, either in the still or in a post-distillation maceration, will contain terpenes. Terpenes can come through from the initial carbohydrate source used for alcohol production, a feature that can, for instance, adversely affect the neutrality of neutral grain spirit. These can be further removed from the final spirit, for instance by adsorption onto activated carbon.2 More often, though, the terpenes in spirits are desirable and distillers work diligently to ensure the appropriate profile of terpenes in the final product. The quantities of terpenes in the final product can be modest. For instance, in a typical gin recipe around 10g of botanicals are used per liter of ethanol/water. With oil contents of botanicals ranging from one to eight percent (w/w), if we assume a generous average three percent (w/w) oil, a complete recovery of oils will result in 300mg oil recovered per liter of spirit distilled. Put another way, that is equivalent to six to eight drops per liter3 or, more realistically, around 0.01 percent (v/v) of the final product volume. In principle, 100mL of oil concentrate can provide a 1000-liter tote

2 Adsorption to activated carbon is not directly related to the volatility of adsorbed components and therefore offers an alternative mechanism for spirit preparation, in addition to distillation. 3 Drops are not rigorous units! Based on a water drop from a Pasteur pipette measuring around 40 mg (ca 40 μl).



of gin from an alcohol/water mix. For products such as absinthe, this is not as straight-forward. The botanical input for a typical absinthe recipe requires around 20 times the botanical load relative to gin for the initial maceration prior to distillation. For this reason an absinthe is generally sold at high proof to keep the terpenes in solution. The traditional addition of ice, water, and sugar all help to reduce the solubility of the contained oils so that they come out of solution to form a stable haze, commonly referred to as a louche. Whilst louching is generally undesirable in gins and wood-matured spirits (in the case of the latter this is principally due to the presence of long-chain fatty acids and phytosterols that are extracted from wood), it is a desirable trait in absinthe and is often looked for by the aficionado. Interestingly, absinthe louching is relatively long-lived and can persist for months. Other botanical-based spirits, such as Pernod, Ricard, and pastis are also susceptible to louching when water is added. Whilst the impact of terpenes extracted from botanicals may or may not be relevant for the physical attributes of a botanical spirit, it is undeniable that they are highly relevant for the resulting flavor of the target spirit. Detailed analysis of botanical extracts reveals that many of the individual chemical components are common to a wide range of botanical species. For instance limonene is found in coniferous and broad-leafed trees as well as in the fruits of citrus trees. With its characteristic citrus flavor it is readily detected in botanical spirits, but because of its widespread occurrence it can be introduced using a wide range of botanicals. For gins, juniper, citrus

Terpene component (revodered in spirit)

Modified terpene component (revodered in spirit)

Fig. 3. Potential routes of volatiles through the distillation process, based on maceration and “basket” approaches. In this context “modified terpene” refers to heat-induced chemical change ( e.g., thermal isomerization of limonene to, say, myrcene). peels, and coriander seeds are all significant citrus flavor contributors so there are many options for adding this flavor note. These botanicals, however, do not only contribute citrus flavors. Sesquiterpenes such as humulene and caryophyllene usually coexist not only in hops and cannabis but also in a range of herbs and spices including black pepper, juniper, cinnamon, and coriander. There are numerous sensory descriptors of these sesquiterpenes, including spicy, herbal, and woody. These are but two examples of the complexity of the composition and sensory attributes of these terpenes. There are various points to bear in mind here. First, building a botanical flavor profile requires balancing equivalent flavor contributors across the relevant botanicals, as indicated for citrus above. Reflection on these multi-source options suggests that, depending on which botanicals are used to build this attribute, terpenes will affect the final sensory performance of the product depending on which botanicals are relied on for final production. The presence of specific terpenes in botanicals does not guarantee that they will be fully recovered in the final spirit. Invoking W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

the historical proverb “there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip,” the introduction of a portfolio of flavor compounds at the onset of distillation does not mean that they will be meaningfully transferred to the final spirit (Fig. 3). Here we consider two of the main configurations for a distilled botanical spirit ( i.e., one where most if not all of the flavor qualities are distilled rather than added post-distillation) — maceration and “basket” or vapor entrainment. In either case there is a physical process required to release the terpenes from their plant matrices. As with many biological entities, a robust containment is required to retain the integrity of the contents, whether that is a coriander seed, juniper berry, or, indeed, a yeast cell. Thus one option can be to physically break down the botanical prior to exposure to the “extraction solvent”, (i.e., an ethanol/water mixture). Traditional absinthe processes extract botanicals using a lofty – and impressively flammable – 85 percent ABV, as the high alcohol concentration will enhance the rate of terpene extraction from the plant material. However, those familiar with hydro-extractive distillation will recognize that the efficiency of terpene recovery into the final spirit is enhanced by reducing the proof of the maceration prior to distillation. In any case, whether distilling a macerate or relying on a basket, some terpenes will be left behind, while others will be volatilized and find their way into the condenser and the final spirit.4 There is a subtlety here. The absolute yield of terpenes is not everything. After all, many terpenes impact the final flavor of spirit. If the distillate is merely too concentrated, then in principle a multi-shot approach can be applied, diluting the distillate with neutral alcohol before proofing to sales strength. A trickier problem is if the distillate is out of balance based on the terpene profile, so that there is little option for dilution remediation and may require blending with other batches or redistillation, both of which can hog resources. I was told in the 1990’s that for complex problems I should apply heuristics. Not wanting to look uneducated, I said “ah, of course.” When I got home I picked up my dictionary to find that the concise definition of heuristics was “trial-and-error.” Given the complexity of botanicals and their expression in the final product, I’m drawn to the same, slightly unsatisfactory, conclusion!

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Paul Hughes, Ph.D. is assistant professor of food science and technology at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. For more information visit or call (541) 737-4595.

4 This is potentially a moot point, as there is virtually no information that explicitly considers adherence of volatiles to copper or steel surfaces as a function of the multitude of possible parameters, such as compound affinity to a given surface, cleanliness of the surface, viscosity of adhering terpene, co-solvation etc.





how ENZYMES WORK Enzymes are powerful organic molecules necessary for all life’s functions in all living things. A good example of necessary enzymes are catalases, which are found in animals, including in the human liver. This enzyme performs its function so fast that without it, the chemical reaction would take more than 31 years to occur in its absence. Enzymes are unique in their source and how specific they are to a certain function and can vary in how well they perform chemical processes under specified conditions, such as pH and temperature. Enzymes are extremely fast in their process, however, the same enzyme from two different sources can vary greatly in how they perform. This, among other factors, has a large impact on how an enzyme product performs better compared to a similar type product. The choice to use exogenous enzyme products is inherent to a company and craft distiller’s own goals, commonly associated with marketing the process and product. Not using enzyme products such as a thermostable alpha amylase to hydrolyze starch results in lost yields that can affect a company’s bottom line. Depending on the conditions, desired outcomes or situation at hand, the use of enzymes can support craft spirit production as processing aids to:


ver the past decade and perhaps more, few products used in the production of potable spirits have been as divisive a choice as exogenous enzymes produced by biotechnology companies. Perhaps the growth of the craft spirits industry and lack of training or other outside factors such as unknown financial expenditures make the use of enzyme products an afterthought. Initial capital investments such as site build outs, equipment, licensing, and permits are every craft distiller’s number-one line item(s). These are next followed by ingredient decisions — primarily sugar sources — for fermentation such as types of grains, sugar cane, and grapes.

EVOLUTION of ENZYMES in craft distilling Without the distiller even knowing or understanding the basics of biochemistry or enzymology, enzymes are a significant contributor to the process from beginning to end. First, malt is a cereal grain, most commonly barley, that has been harvested, steeped, and kilned, allowing native enzymes to be expressed and stored in the grain until further use in the mashing process. Yeast produce enzymes throughout their entire life cycle, enabling the microorganism to bud, grow, and support life processes in their exposed environment. In addition, metabolic processes in yeast for carbon and nitrogen 114

uptake and emission are based on a series of enzymatic steps. How, when and where exogenous enzyme products are used allow a craft distiller to produce distillate in a way that is non-energy intensive, at a low cost, and in a timely manner. Thus, enzymes are already present in the process, but are they effectively utilized? Enzymes have been studied for many years, largely driven by the brewing industry, to understand how and why processes were successful or unsuccessful to establish production consistencies. The etymology of “enzymes” derives from Latin “en” meaning “in” or “inside” and “zyme” meaning “yeast.” Zymology is the study of yeast. Enzymology is the study of what is inside yeast—enzymes! Major advances in enzyme products for craft distilling are built on decades of learnings and knowledgeable applications.

• Help lower energy input, • Reduce costs, • Save time and labor, and • Use feedstock ingredients as efficiently as possible to improve yields and nutritional quality of fermentation, leaving very little on the table as lost revenues. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

IMPLEMENTATION process So, how does one approach the implementation of exogenous enzymes in a craft distilling process? This four-part series will walk through different groups of enzyme classes (First, thermostable alpha amylases, followed by glucoamylases, non-starch polysaccharide hydrolases and proteases) depending on application in the distilling process. Each enzyme class will have different environment requirements and function on different components of the feedstock. Glucose is a six-carbon sugar with associating hydroxyl groups with the chemical formula C6H12O6. In starch, glucose is linked as a polysaccharide (meaning “many sugars”) in either a straight chain orientation at the first and fourth carbon atoms and denoted as an alpha-1,4 bond (amylose) or in a branched chain at the first and sixth carbon atoms as an alpha-1,6 bond (amylopectin). The ratio of these bonds depends on the source of starch such as sweet corn versus waxy corn. When any cereal grains or root tubers are used for spirit production the first step in the process is milling to fracture the feedstock and access the starch granules. Next, a slurry mix with water and possibly a buffering component such as thin stillage/backset or acidulants such as lactic or citric acid is made, however this is not required. When starch is heated in the slurry mix, the starch crystals begin to swell allowing water molecules to enter. The starch swells and creates friction, leading to increased viscosity up to the point of gelatinization. Then, an enzyme called amylase is required to hydrolyze the linkages between each glucose molecule in the polysaccharide. An alpha amylase will hydrolyze, or break down, alpha-1,4 bonds at random locations while a beta amylase is more systematic in hydrolysis that results in maltose, a dimer (linked pair) of glucose. Native malt amylase enzymes are most active at 65 degrees Celsius and stable only a few degrees beyond this, around 70° to 75 degrees Celsius the enzymes are denatured by heat and all activity is lost. This improper handling of the malt in the W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

mash cooking by heating beyond the temperature of the enzyme’s denaturation will result in the swelling of the starch without any viscosity break. To alleviate this, exogenous heat-thermostable enzyme products are employed to complete the hydrolysis of starch; these products are stable up to 85 to 95 degrees Celsius.

product CONSIDERATIONS Returning the focus to what an enzyme is, these processing aids are an organic, naturally produced, specifically folded amino acid chain that possess a specific functionality. The performance of this specificity is optimized in a small range of conditions such as pH and temperature. Field biologists source organisms from all environments and conditions throughout the world. These include hydrothermal vents in the ocean, salt lakes, arid deserts, and tropical rain forests. Then, under laboratory and biofermentation conditions, enzyme potentials are exploited through a selective trial process. Once “discovered,” enzymes are produced in expression systems, separated, clarified and filtered from any cell debris, then finally packaged for the consumer end use. Enzyme products from biotechnology companies are free from foreign DNA and contain no living microorganisms due to the clarification and filtration process monitored by rigorous quality assurance programs. A thermostable alpha amylase is a great example of an exploited enzyme sourced from a hyperthermophilic (meaning “very high heat loving”) bacteria produced for industrial process applications. Enzymes can take a substrate, for instance starch, and efficiently convert it to a product, a long-chain dextrin, in a continuous manner until all the substrate is depleted or until the environment becomes unfavorable for optimum activity, such as a change in pH or temperature.

The amount of an enzyme product used in a process is equally important. Too much could lead to excess cost and sometimes too much processing of substrate that could give unwanted results. If too little product is used, then the complete processing to the desired product may not be achieved or the time investment to completion may be too long. Trialing product for optimization under the guidance and recommendation of a technical assistant is important to achieve successful results. For decades, enzyme products have benefited industrial processing. As industrial producers shift to more sustainable processes requiring lower inputs of energy and chemicals, enzymes provide a simple solution to an essential need. Just as they support life on this planet, naturally derived enzymes support the production of craft spirits through faster processing, using less energy input. Enzymes can help ensure that less product is wasted, thereby improving yields that lead to more product.

Dr. Nathaniel Kreel, Ph.D. received his doctorate in Biochemistry from Ohio State University and has worked inapplication technology and product development of enzyme products for the technical biofuel and potable spirit industries. He can be reached at

For decades, enzyme products have benefited industrial processing. As industrial producers shift to more sustainable processes requiring lower inputs of energy and chemicals, enzymes provide a simple solution to an essential need. 115



CELEBRATE Recognizing some of the distilling industry’s award winners from 2021


ast year was a weird one for the craft distilling industry. The pandemic’s rolling tide constantly changed the narrative about a return to relative normalcy, and this fluctuation caused an uneven dose of disruption. Some events and conferences cautiously returned to in-person gatherings, while others played it close to the vest and engaged virtually for one more year. For distilleries, shifting regulations on everything from distillery visits to DTC laws — not to mention labor shortages — made getting through COVID Year Two a challenging slog. Yet the show must go on in the face of these hurdles. This also means awards must be distributed, as they should. After all, awards recognize any combination of merit, talent, skill, and a desire to do good for the community. After two years of struggle, they are shining moments that produce bright pops of joy amid a difficult landscape. As 2022 rolls along and question marks persist about what the industry’s future will look like, it feels appropriate to look at those that earned hardware in 2021 for their efforts. Each award is more than just a cool medal, plaque, certificate, or obelisk that looks nifty on a tasting room shelf. After another year of unorthodox twists and THE ASCOT AWARDS Craft Distiller of the Year turns on top of the industry’s usual histrionics, they provide hope that excellence, and the happiness such excellence can inspire, is still possible even if the world feels like it’s falling apart. The inaugural ASCOT Awards


(Awards listed in alphabetical order by organization)


Best in Show

Hauling in ACSA’s top prize is an exclamation point for this relatively young label, which officially launched in 2019. At the same time, the award feels like a coronation of sorts for Master Distiller Marlene Holmes and Master Blender Heather Greene, who reaped the rewards of a potentially risky move. Equipped with roughly 50 years of experience between them, the duo applied their knowledge and skills into the craft sector. The move paid off. The winning bottle itself is a multistate affair: Indiana rye is carefully batched in the distillery’s warehouse in Blanco, Texas before being finished in port wine casks. The result is a testimony to the supreme knowledge and skill of the hands involved. “What makes this whiskey special is both the Milam & Greene team and the wily Texas weather,” Greene stated. “Anyone who’s spent time in the [Texas] Hill Country knows the uncertainty of weather, and so creating a consistent flavor is tricky. Quite simply, this whiskey couldn’t exist anywhere else. It’s a real testament to a sense of place. I think that’s why it’s so wonderful.” 116



Artisan Spirit of the Year That Chris Montana provided a beacon of hope during 2020’s tumultuous times speaks volumes about the excellence of his character. He could have easily turned inward after Du Nord’s warehouse was burned in the unrest following George Floyd’s murder. He did not. In fact, he continued to outwardly help those in the Twin Cities. This help continues through the actions of his Du Nord Foundation, an organization committed to stemming the local tide of racial inequality. Montana does these things not for personal glory, but simply because he’s a terrific — and terrifically modest — human being. “It is humbling beyond words to receive this honor from the very people I look up to and whose lead I hope to follow,” Montana said. “It is particularly impactful when I think of what the team at Du Nord had to fight through these past couple years. Du Nord is a small team of nine people, not one, so it is the whole team, and the mentors who helped us along the way, who got us here, so I will say on behalf of all of us: Thank you, we hope to live up to this honor.”

might be new to the awards circuit, but they carried instant clout. Their founder is Fred Minnick, a celebrated spirits writer and veteran tasting judge. The man knows his stuff, and so does his tasting panel. The pedigree involved makes Garrison Brothers Distillery hauling in Craft Distiller of the Year an impressive score. The win further solidifies the Texas distillery’s status as a beloved brand. It also helps keep the Lone Star State’s reputation for top-shelf craft spirits strong. “The ASCOTs are a blind competition, and our judges only assess the whiskey by its merits,” Minnick explained. “For Garrison Brothers to do so well, that's because our judges loved its flavor profile. That said, this brand consistently does well amongst the critics and in blind competitions. They've put Texas whiskey on the map and have garnered a cult following in the process. And that's all about the whiskey.” W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


Distillery of the Year

Winning top honors from a competition designed by the on-premise industry for the on-premise industry is impressive. All the components that move bottles in the market are present: The whiskey is terrific, the brand’s story is exceptional, and their commitment to quality is sublime. They’re also using their brand for good: The efforts of Uncle Nearest founder and CEO Fawn Weaver helped bring fellow distiller Jackie Summers’ hibiscus liqueur Sorel back to the market after a hiatus, further shining the spotlight on Black- and minority-owned spirits businesses in the process. “When we started Uncle Nearest five years ago, we set out to cement Nearest Green’s name in history and tell the world what we knew: That he was one of the best whiskey-makers of all time,” said Katharine Jerkins, Uncle Nearest’s chief business officer. “This honor solidifies the amazing work our team has done to continue his legacy, and we could not be more proud to be awarded Distillery of the Year.”


American Craft Producer of the Year First off: Icons of Whisky is based in the UK — it’s sponsored by Whisky Magazine — so whisky is spelled properly. No matter how it’s spelled, however, the fact remains that a craft distillery from the small town of Denison, Texas winning the award is a big deal. While Ironroot Republic’s win pushes their excellent juice onto the international stage, it also allows the concept of Texas craft spirits to further penetrate the collective consciousness of drinkers around the globe. This is important — Texas craft had one hell of a year on the awards circuit in 2021, so it would be quite wise for spirits aficionados everywhere to take notice. Fortunately, it looks like plenty of people have done just that. “Winning the American Craft Producer award from Whiskey Magazine was life changing,” said Robert Likarish, Ironroot Republic’s Founder and Distiller. “Having won a number of awards over the years, we were not prepared for what came with winning at their World Whisky Awards. Our business tripled overnight. It’s enabled us to produce more and experiment more. For us, it was truly a blessing.” W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M





Impact Award for Emerging Leaders

Equality, diversity, and inclusiveness are crucial concepts for the distilling industry to promote. Alex Castle’s efforts go a long way in making sure these concepts don’t devolve into mere empty buzzwords. Her status as Tennessee’s first post-Prohibition female head distiller merely scratches the surface of the impact she’s had and will continue to have on the industry. Castle’s recognition by DISCUS serves as recognition of all the achievements she’s made in her career thus far, but it also points towards more great things to come. “As president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild, a member of the DISCUS Craft Advisory Council and the first female head distiller in Tennessee since Prohibition, Alex embodies everything this award stands for,” said Chris Swonger, President and CEO of DISCUS and “She is an exemplary leader who is working to make the spirits industry stronger, more inclusive, and a welcoming industry for all.”



The Tasting Alliance Distillery of the Year Japan tends to gather the lion’s share of attention in the Asian whiskey market. This hyper-focus on a particular country helps make the win by this Taiwanese distillery so impressive. The accolade serves as a reminder that exceptional whiskey can be made anywhere if there are passionate people that understand how to harness the art and science of distilling properly. While Kavalan’s win may come as a pleasant surprise to some, it wasn’t necessarily a shock to the judges, who’ve long admired the product. “Kavalan has been entering SFWSC for about a decade. Every year they win multiple Double Gold medals,” explained SFWSC Executive Director Anthony Dias Blue. “I must say, their products are among the most consistently top quality of all the entries submitted.”

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 He can be reached at 117

Introduction written by GARY SPEDDING



he inaugural edition of the Journal of Distilling Science ( JDS) presented four papers detailing important current topics of main-stream interest. The authors detail important advances for food and beverage quality control and sanitation issues when shifting between potable and non-potable alcohol products production within the same facility. The last point related to the shift in 2020 to hand sanitizer production at US craft distilleries. It has proven to be an issue in reverting back to potable spirit making while retaining the normal sensory qualities of spirit. Solid state fermentation systems or starters and double parallel fermentation (combined sugar release and fermentation) — as seen for baijiu production — are becoming of more importance to distillers outside of China, Japan, and other Asian countries. The topic of maturation of spirits in or on wood has also become of increasing interest as a result of dwindling supplies of oak, distillers trying to better understand the speed of maturation, to seek alternate wood-derived flavors for differentiating matured product styles, or simply to make use of indigenous tree species. And, in relation to maturation and spirits dilution, a key method for Franklin M. Chen, Nada Abdi, and Nolan Torres spirits producers to accurately dilute their wares is University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, 2420 Nicolet Drive, Green Bay, WI 54311 essential. In the case presented here the dilution is ABSTRACT : The meaning of the partial molar volume, the analytical methods for for essentially a binary solvent system — ethanol finding the partial molar volumes and the additivity theorem of the partial moand water with low congener content (low solids) lar volumes are explained. The additivity theorem of the partial molar volume is — traditional spirits. The situation is more comused for whisky alcohol strength dilutions and for single-shot or multi-shot gin plex with highly sweetened or flavored products. in both flavor dilution with grain neutral spirit and alcohol strength dilution. It is hoped that this latter topic and indeed all topics of relevance to distilled spirits production KEYWORDS : Alcohol by volume (A % v/v), Alcohol by weight (A w/w), Partial molar volume, Additivity Theorem, Alcohol strength dilution, Single shot or multi-shot gin flavor will provide more detailed information in short dilution, Grain Neutral Spirit (GNS) order in forthcoming issues of the JDS.



CHINESE BAIJIU – FINDING A CHANNEL TO DESIGN A DEFINED STARTER CULTURE Bowen Wang, Huiyi Hao, Hehe Li, Jinyuan Sun, Baoguo Sun Beijing Laboratory for Food Quality and Safety, Key Laboratory of Brewing Molecular Engineering of China Light Industry, School of Light Industry, Beijing Technology and Business University, Beijing, China ABSTRACT : Qu (a starter composed of multiple microbes, enzymes, and nutrients) is essential for initiating Chinese baijiu fermentation and is usually prepared in an open system to enrich the starter complex with microorganisms from the local environment. However, with the challenge of increasing manufacturing and labor costs, traditional spontaneous fermentation cannot meet the


growing industrial needs for standardization and modernization. Nowadays, the development of a synthetic microbiota built up from selected and cultured microorganisms enables the repeatable, standardized production of fermented foods. The use of such synthetic microbiota to convert raw materials into foods can hopefully reproduce the smells and tastes of traditional products. This review

critically summarizes the properties of traditional qu and discusses the potential of a defined synthetic microbiota to revolutionize the production of such fermentation starters for future baijui production. The prospects and challenges in dealing with the identification, selection, cultivation, and incorporation of microbes into such synthetic microbiota (or new ecological complexes) are specifically related to developing a fully defined and effective mixed-starter culture for use in traditional fermented food production are detailed here. KEYWORDS : Baijiu, defined starter, enzyme,

microbiota, Qu, synthetic microbiota


LIGNIN-DERIVED PHENOLIC COMPOUNDS IN CACHAÇA AGED IN BARRELS FROM TROPICAL WOOD SPECIES Mariana C. Castro, Giovanni C. Silvello, André R. Alcarde (Escola Superior de Agricultura “Luiz de Queiroz”, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Pádua Dias 11, CP 9, 13418-900, Piracicaba, SP, Brazil) ABSTRACT : This study investigated the lignin-derived phenolic compounds in cachaça aged in barrels made from tropical woods. Cachaça was aged for 36 months in toasted new wooden barrels made from amburana (Amburana cearensis), cabreúva (Myrocarpus frondosus) and castanheira (Bertholletia excelsa). New barrels made from European oak (Quercus petraea) and American oak (Quercus alba) were also employed. Cinnamic aldehydes, benzoic aldehydes and benzoic acids were analyzed at the end of the aging time. A significant effect of wood species was observed on all the studied phenolic compounds. Syringaldehyde and the benzoic acids were the main low-molecular-weight compounds in aged cachaça. All the phenolic families under study were at higher concentrations in cachaça aged in amburana barrels. Cachaça aged in castanheira barrels displayed the highest ratio of gallic acid to vanillin, whereas

that aged in cabreúva barrels exhibited the highest ratio of syringaldehyde to vanillin. Cachaça aged in barrels made from amburana had the highest sum of lignin-derived phenolic compounds, followed by cachaça matured in American oak and cabreúva barrels. Amburana showed a great potential to provide lignin-derived phenolic compounds to cachaça during aging. Cachaça aged in oak barrels exhibited the highest contents of ethyl acetate and acetic acid, whereas the samples aged in European and American oak and amburana barrels reached the highest total score in sensory evaluation. The aging process in new tropical wood barrels, singly or complementarily to oak, enhanced the flavor complexity of aged cachaça and broadened and diversified its taste and aroma profiles. KEY WORDS : sugarcane spirit, aging, tropical woods, lignin,

phenolic compounds

INVESTIGATION OF APPROPRIATE CLEANING SOLUTIONS FOR REMOVAL OF DENATONIUM BENZOATE FROM DISTILLERY EQUIPMENT Lauren E. Mehanna 1, Kara A. Davis 1, Shankar C. Miller-Murthy 1, Tracy A. Gastineau-Stevens 2, Bert C. Lynn 2,3, Brad J. Berron 1,3 Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA Department of Chemistry, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA 3 James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA 1 2

ABSTRACT : During the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol distilleries pivoted their production lines to manufacture hand sanitizer. Denatonium benzoate is a bittering agent and denaturant in hand sanitizer and is detectable in trace amounts. As a result, transitioning from hand sanitizer back to distilled spirits creates products with bitter flavors. Several cleaning methods were studied to determine their effectiveness in removing denatonium benzoate from materials in distillery equipment. Hydrogen peroxide and activated carbon were most effective in

removing denatonium benzoate in the solution phase, with more than 40 percent removed compared to the original solution concentration. Strong acidic and basic cleaners were ineffective, with less than 10 percent of the original compound removed. When tested as cleaners on the distillery materials, hydrogen peroxide and activated carbon methods were no more effective than other rinsing (water, glycerol) or extraction (pure ethanol) cleaners for removing denatonium benzoate. Chemical compatibility, specifically with concentrated

ethanol, plays a large role in the permeation of denatonium benzoate into and out of some materials. Hard materials, such as metals and rigid polymers, have good compatibility with ethanol, resulting in little swelling and denatonium benzoate penetration when soaked with sanitizer. Since they retained little denatonium benzoate, they are cleaned by simple rising. However, elastomeric materials vary greatly in their compatibility with high proof ethanol, leading to swelling or breakdown in the presence of hand sanitizer and a greater amount of denatonium benzoate leaching into the material. While ethanol effectively extracts denatonium benzoate out of the elastomers, it damages the material, requiring more frequent replacement. KEY WORDS : COVID-19, hand sanitizer,

denatonium benzoate, distillery cleaning, compatibility

Visit for more information. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M




For more than 35 years I created products, brands, and marketing for some of the most prestigious whiskies in the world — The Macallan, Highland Park, Johnnie Walker. When I co-founded a craft distillery I thought it was going to be easy. What I’ve learned is that I was wrong. It’s hard. It’s really hard. This two-part series outlines my 10 biggest lessons traveling from big whiskey to a craft distillery.



Create Profitability Through a Diversity of Profit Streams

When I really understood the math of the three-tier system, it was clear that it wasn’t going to deliver the kind of profitability that I felt my team deserved given how hard we work. To grow our profitability I borrowed from the playbook of big whiskey. In Scotland they make big profits from single malts; however 80 percent of their volume comes from blended whisky that they mostly purchase, blend, and package. In the U.S., Sazerac makes some of the most expensive bourbons in the world. At the same time, over 80 percent of their volume is in low-priced Canadian and U.S. whiskey. In both cases the profit per bottle is low on the 80 percent; however, it covers overheads and makes the big profits on the 20 percent possible. In our case we had a high-volume Noble Oak collaboration and a small three-tier business. What was missing was a high margin/high profit business. The idea was a simple one — custom 120



bourbon. It was not a new idea. In fact it was the way bourbon was sold when it was born in the 1800s. You would take your clay jug to a barrel blender or whiskey merchant to get it filled to your personal tastes. To make custom bourbon work we identified what we called “Death Threats” — TTB, State of Ohio, three tier, customization system, bottling speed, and costs. Then, step by step we problem solved and created reliable systems for quickly and profitably delivering custom bourbon a bottle at a time. Custom bourbon has changed our math model. Today, 70 percent of our profits are from custom bourbon bottles for on-trade and consumers and our revenue per person for those visiting our distillery has doubled. Again, just like with big whiskey, our other profit streams pay the overhead and custom bourbon delivers profits. My advice is to diversify your income streams. For us it’s custom bourbon. For you it might be focusing on very old whiskey, prestige contract brands, making a deep commitment to high-value experiences, or even VIP curated brands.



Confront Reality — The Three-Tier System Doesn’t Care about You

When sales managers work on big whiskey brands, your sales are important to your distributors, on-premise, off-premise, control states, etc. As a craft distillery, you just don’t matter to their business. Don’t take it personally. The percentage of new products from big whiskey brands that ever reach 20,000 physical cases in a year is in the very low single digits. Add in low capitalization and lack of resources for craft and the number is even lower. It’s no wonder your phone calls and emails go unanswered and support for your brand is minimal to non-existent. Whining about the situation will not change it. Frankly, it’s likely you are getting your “fair share” of their time based on your sales volume. To address this we do three things: 1) Give three tier meaningfully unique offerings; 2) Don’t whine; and 3) Be the easiest to sell. Again, as detailed in Part 1 of this series, having a meaningfully unique product is the first key to success. When you offer something that no one else offers, at a fair price, you win. When you offer the same old same old bourbon in another fancy, expensive bottle, you lose. Whining to managers about your lack of support does not help. The next time they have some resources to focus on craft brands, it’s human nature that whiners’ brands will get less support. Our team focuses on developing events, promotions, and limited editions that are “no brainers” for buyers to buy. When you give a distributor sales person something that is an obvious “wow,” they are more likely to support it as it will be an easier sell to their customers. For example, we recently created a simple demo for our Dexter Three Wood Bourbon using pieces of wood to show the difference in the grain of new oak versus 200-year-old oak along with the layers of flavor from adding maple and cherry wood. It brings to life our “wow” difference and is meaningful and fun to share. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M



Use Cocktails to Grow New Bourbon Customers

Only 12 percent of consumers in the U.S. drink bourbon. As a craft distiller, you realize this when doing a festival or bar event and see how few people drink bourbon when you go table to table. Fortunately, big bourbon doesn’t “love” cocktails as they feel they will lose their “branding” advantage when in cocktails versus neat or on ice. This gives craft distilleries an opportunity to use cocktails to grow new bourbon customers. One of the many ways we do this is to offer cocktail flights. Each cocktail is crafted to



Creating a Culture to Win

Early on it became clear that to win against big whiskey — or to even make a dent in the industry — we needed to have a culture that was faster, smarter, and more creative. To build this we did three things: 1) Make great bourbon to build pride in our work; 2) Build systems to enable success; and 3) Confront reality on problems and mistakes. You can’t create a culture to win if you don’t make a great product. When family, friends, and consumers love your bourbon, employee pride grows and you create a culture to win. As W. Edwards Deming, the father of manufacturing quality, taught that 94 percent of problems are due to the system; six percent are due to the workers. When the leaders of a craft distillery focus on system improvement versus “beating the workers,” a culture of teamwork is ignited. We do this by committing to our Standard Operating Procedures. We document, we teach, we learn, we revise. That is how we survive and thrive. It takes work to define your operational systems on paper so that they are clear and easy to understand. However, when you do, it enables employees to become part of the system, to improve the system, and to win at their jobs. With a craft distillery you can’t waste time, energy, and money on things that don’t work. Early on my co-founder Joe Girgash and I set a culture of brutally honest truth-telling. When something doesn’t feel right we say so. This ignites debates — sometimes loud debates. However, it always makes a positive impact on our business.


work best with one of our bourbons from easy-drinking to full-flavored to smoked. We serve them in shot glasses on barrel stave pieces. In marketing materials we feature a big green START button beside those that are best for those new to bourbon cocktails. The purpose of our cocktail program is to create new bourbon drinkers who buy bottles. To do this, our bottle shop features a “teaching bar” to educate consumers how to make our cocktails at home. When we get it right, it’s not uncommon for our cocktail program to grow our average bottle sales per person by 30 percent. Building a cocktail program that grows bottle sales takes as much commitment as creating a new bourbon. You need to create recipes, test with customers, recreate, test again, and repeat till you get them great.

Take a hard stance with your team on industry rules. When you do you create a culture of integrity, with employees, on premise, off premise, and with distributors.


Two Non-Negotiable Rules

As an innovator I love to break traditions and rules. However, when it comes to the distillery there are two non-negotiable rules: Rule #1 — Don’t put Doug and Joe in Jail. Rule #2 — Have Fun. The first rule recognizes the reality that the spirits industry is highly regulated. There is a complex maze of local, state and national rules. And many of these rules are antiquated and simply stupid. How crazy a rule is doesn’t matter. The rules are the rules. My advice to distillers is to take a hard stance with your team on industry rules. When you do you create a culture of integrity, with employees, on premise, off premise, and with distributors. Creating a distillery will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. As you do it be sure to have fun in the process. You are part of a great industry offering products that, when consumed in moderation, bring joy to the world. Bourbon celebrates life’s special moments. Bourbon is a uniquely American institution. So you and your team deserve to stop, celebrate and enjoy the adventure.

Doug Hall is the co-founder and CEO of Brain Brew Custom WHISKeY, WoodCraft Bourbon Blender Franchising and founder / chairman of the Eureka! Ranch. He has spent 40+ years creating and commercializing innovations for companies such as Nike, Walt Disney, Diagio and over the past 22 years The Macallan of Scotland. 121





CF Napa Brand Design

Whalen Insurance

Creature Theory

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White Dog Trading & Storage, LLC


DISTILLING EQUIPMENT Bavarian Breweries & Distilleries

BARREL RACKS Western Square


BARRELS Independent Stave Co.

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Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.



Fort Dearborn Company 31

Cage & Sons Distilling Systems

7 & 15

Prospero Equipment Corp.


Rudolph Research Analytical


Specific Mechanical Systems


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Zhejiang Zhangda Light Industrial Machinery Factory


DISCUS Academy

Niagara Label

PACKAGING Liquor Bottle Packaging


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McFinn Technologies



Brad-Pak Enterprises




Total Wine & More

Imperial Packaging



8 & 17

Phoenix Packaging






Corsair Artisan Distillery Southern Distilling Co.

28 8

Tapi USA

Mother Murphy's



INGREDIENTS Briess Malt & Ingredients Co. BSG Distilling

108 63

Spokane Stainless Technologies, Inc.



GNS & BULK SPIRITS SUPPLIERS Southern Distilling Co.

American Distilling Institute



Prairie Malt



American Craft Spirits Association 30

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Iron Heart Canning Company






Journal of Distilling Science

Ferm Solutions

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EDUCATION Moonshine University



Spirits United

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ARTISAN SPIRIT sponsors 122


Beginning production in the USA in 2022.

Making innovative bottle closures for over 60 years. (610) 222-9109 1020 E. Main St. Norristown, PA 19401


A SHINING STYLE FOR SUMMER SPIRITS Perfectly balanced, the slightly curved contours of the TSAR bottle allude to the papakha, the famous headwear worn in the former Russian Empire. The TSAR’s compact design proudly features a refined, functional and harmonious style. With a timeless inverted conical design container and short neck, it is also available as a 50 cl bottle. A pure, compelling and ideal shape for customization, it is an attractive choice for all kinds of spirits. Saverglass Inc. | | Haute Couture Glass 2950 Cordelia Road, Fairfield (CA)94534 : (707) 259-2930 | East Coast (NJ) : (201) 825-7100 Pacific North West (OR) : (707) 337-1479 | Mid West (KY) : (502) 365-2333

Articles inside



pages 120-121


pages 118-119
A TIME TO CELEBRATE article cover image


pages 116-117


pages 109-110
WANDERING (NOT SO) AIMLESSLY article cover image


pages 106-108


pages 114-115
MEZCAL: EVERY SIP BEGINS WITH A article cover image


pages 95-105
ARAGA article cover image


pages 93-94


pages 90-92


pages 87-89
TAKAMINE WHISKEY article cover image


pages 74-76


pages 77-79


pages 64-67


pages 84-86
IN-HOUSE PUBLIC RELATIONS article cover image


pages 71-73


pages 68-70


pages 80-83
A GAIN FOR NEUTRAL GRAIN article cover image


pages 62-63
BLUE HAS SOLD A LOT OF GIN article cover image


pages 51-54
NOVO FOGO article cover image


pages 43-47
A STORY OF TWO ROADS – PART 3 article cover image


pages 29-32


pages 59-61
MINDING YOUR WASTEWATER article cover image


pages 33-34
2022 ARTISAN SPIRIT OF THE YEAR article cover image


pages 38-42
PARTNER POWER article cover image


pages 55-58
A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR article cover image


pages 10-12