Artisan Spirit: Summer 2022

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sour mash










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




ADVOCAAT 37 Eggs and alcohol combine to make this Dutch liqueur

Protecting trade secrets and legal considerations

Year in review


Crawford Distillery combines community and commitment to create acclaimed spirits

BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE: VIKRE DISTILLERY Vikre uses distilling to do good for their community

45 49







A brief overview of a very popular still type, and whether it may work for you

And a move beyond

The journey of Liba Spirits

How design psychology can drive consumer connection

Retail privileges require distillers to wear a retailer’s hat

BOTTLES, BARRELS, & BARLEY 64 A glimpse into the varied nature of current supply-chain woes

FOCO 70 Building a home for craft distilleries in Fort Collins, Colorado





Fire and Life Safety Corner

Greek distillery Kástra Elión’s vodka features a unique ingredient

Our evolving relationship with bacteria in the distillery









Turning legends into liquor

The science behind estimating proof like a moonshiner

More customers or more product?




The Archangel's gift

from the COVER




The past, future, and unpredictability of North American barely


of Skaneateles, New York





Crawford Distillery in Havre, Montana. Image by Amanda Joy Christensen. See their story on page 49.

When you need high-purity

grain neutral spirits for

se tzers

ISSUE 39 /// SUMMER 2022 PUBLISHER & EDITOR Brian Christensen CREATIVE DIRECTOR Amanda Joy Christensen SENIOR WRITERS George B. Catallo

Devon Trevathan

CONTRIBUTORS Dr. Harmonie Bettenhausen Kris Bohm Meg Burnham Mitch Codd Carrie Dow Elena Fossati Doug Hall Reade A. Huddleston, MSc. Paul Hughes, Ph.D. Aaron Knoll Stacy Kula Rich Manning

La Shay Mayfield Kevin O’Brien Scott Prange Michael T. Reardon, P.E. David Schuemann Gary Spedding, Ph.D. Grady Szuch Gabe Toth Lisa Truesdale Allison Williams Wes Wooddell

PHOTOGRAPHERS Kris Bohm Nick Cabrera Amanda Joy Christensen Carrie Dow DYLAN + JENI

Katherine Garrigan Thadeus @ Krow Hill Digital LLC Devon Trevathan Robie Ziegler

SALES & MARKETING Ashley Monroe You’ve come to the right place. Our grain neutral spirits have a clean and consistent taste profile perfect for hard seltzers and RTD cocktails and are available as Non-GMO Project Verified. Help your brand stand out in an increasingly crowded space! Contact GPC today.

ARTISAN SPIRIT is a quarterly publication by Artisan Spirit Media. ArtisanSpiritM ArtisanSpiritM

U.S. Produced | Gluten Free

General Inquiries (509) 944-5919 Advertising (509) 991-8112 PO Box 31494, Spokane, WA 99223

For more information, call 563.264.4265 or visit us at

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.

© 2022 Grain Processing Corporation

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. 2232007_GPC_Seltzer_ArtisanSpirit.indd 1

4/12/22 2:32 PM


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.

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.

What’s the one piece of advice every new distiller should know?


The spirits world is a community, not a competition. While we might be fighting for the same shelf space and attention from consumers, the reality is that this industry is one of the most familial industries around. Everyone knows everyone and is generally willing to help out or give advice. If you enter the industry thinking you’re an island, that’s how you will be treated, which is a lonely, hard place to be. Just look at the story of the Heaven Hill fire and how all the other distilleries in Kentucky stepped up to help out their industry friend. — Colin Blake

Plan ahead! Letting your supplier know what you foresee in your crystal ball won't commit you to anything, but it's the best way to make sure they keep you on their radar screen and respond instead of react.



We are humbled by the support of our sponsors. With their help, we can further our common goals of supporting creativity, innovation, and integrity within the industry we all love so much.

BSG is focused on supplying craft distillers with the best ingredients from around the world. The craft distilling market trusts BSG to deliver the finest ingredients at competitive prices, without sacrificing customer service. With distilling malts and grains from Rahr Malting Co., Weyermann®, Simpsons, Crisp and Malting Company of Ireland, as well as a full range of yeasts, yeast nutrients, enzymes, botanicals, and finishing products, we have a wide range of distilling ingredients to help you create high quality, artisanal spirits.

Cage and Sons Distilling Systems build premium distillation systems and equipment for premier distilleries. Every element of Cage and Sons equipment is designed and crafted to provide you with the very best distilling experience at an affordable rate because we know that bottom line matters, but so does function. At Cage and Sons, adequate is never an option, and we continue to develop and design new high functioning, cutting-edge distillation systems that enhance the distillation industry. Cage and Sons works every day to bring you the very best distillation systems for the very best value.

Unlike other agencies that work within a blinding myriad of industries; our focus is 100% within the spirits, wine, beer, and other alcohol sectors. This specialization has allowed us to become experts in the alcohol beverage category. We have an exceptional understanding of design that sells, complemented by professional project management and flawless production oversight. The result has been strategic solutions that consistently produce both critical acclaim and strong measurable return on investment for our clients.

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

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.

Standing out in a crowded marketplace is an ongoing challenge for wine and spirits producers today. MCC’s experienced team of label engineers take a consultative approach, helping guide your project from inception to finished label. Whether it's an existing design, or a highly embellished new project, we are poised to give your brand the look it deserves. Housing many different printing technologies under one roof allows us to match our passion and expertise to your project, each and every time, without compromise. This ensures that your final packaging always achieves the desired look. With MCC and Fort Dearborn recently joining forces, we are poised to provide all spirits customers with amazing service and quality products.

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.





Process aids for higher ethanol yield and fermentation consistency.

View our extensive offering of craft distilling inputs at

©2022 Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits

A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: I wracked my brain trying to decide on a topic to cover in the letter from the editor for this issue of Artisan Spirit. The mood feels odd in the industry right now. We are moving beyond a pandemic that somewhat stubbornly clings to our daily lives. All the while indicators of a future recession feel ever-looming, but there are also “now hiring” signs wherever you look. It feels hopeful and dour, somehow at the same time. While struggling with these conflicting emotions I overheard a quote mentioned offhandedly, “You can’t roll up your sleeves if you are too busy wringing your hands.” That phrase just hit right. More so because it was attributed to an industry friend, Robin Blazer, owner of Willie’s Distillery. Robin passed away earlier this year and she was a genuine badass. Taking some time to chat with other distillers the sentiment was repeated. “It's hard out there right now, but we don't get to quit.” The distilling industry isn't going anywhere, and now is the time to roll up those sleeves because we all do our best work when we band together. Especially when times get tough. So that's what we are doing. The distilling industry has a lot going on right now and we are damn proud to bring you the news and education needed to help you thrive. We are coming up on a decade of publication (you are going to be plenty sick of me mentioning that on our actual anniversary next issue) and I’m still awestruck by you all. Thank you again for being our friends and partners in this grand adventure.

With greatest appreciation,

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






GUILD & INDUSTRY REPORTS Early spring and summer are historically common seasons for guilds to meet in person and hold elections, and this year was no different. In addition, the drumbeat for direct-to-consumer (DTC) access continues to swell. Almost every state and all major distilling associations are unified in building a state-by-state strategy for DTC. Just like the Federal Excise Tax fight before it, expect to see every update in the foreseeable future highlighting the importance of DTC. Brian Christensen Editor Artisan Spirit Magazine

AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION Summer of 2022 is upon us and craft distillers have navigated a whole new raft of challenges over the past months. Rolling shortages have plagued producers over the course of the pandemic, so ACSA has started working with the Glass Packaging Institute to identify glass bottle manufacturers willing to sell additional stock bottles as a new benefit to ACSA member distilleries. The costs of our inputs continue to rise, from freight to barrels and beyond. Ninety percent of distilleries are independent producers making less than 5,000 nine-liter cases annually, and our distilleries need all the help we can get to keep our businesses viable as we emerge from the restrictions of the pandemic.

Meaningful reforms to the industry to help small producers gain market access are still lacking. The dream of all our entrepreneurs who launch is to make delicious and innovative products for our customers. The secret is that the large entities in all tiers of this industry continue to consolidate, while the small, independent distilleries will find the funnel of market access which leads to volume much more difficult to enter as this process continues. ACSA is a nonprofit; the board of directors is made up of independent distillers who are determined to support small producers' interests, and who are accountable through elections to those we serve. This keeps this organization laser-focused on the 13

interests of small distilleries, from advocacy to education, and we would love to see more small distilleries joining us and their state guilds so we can work together to make the changes we need to build a spirits market that works for independent producers to grow their brands. Our members give back to the industry

and connect with one another by attending conferences and through service on committees. We advocate on Capitol Hill, educate one another at our annual conferences and webinars, and mentor the next generation of craft distillers. This work and service builds our community and gives back tenfold in the connections we form with one another.

Find out more about American Craft Spirits Association

Rebecca Harris President, Head Distiller, Catoctin Creek Secretary, Board Member, STEPUP Foundation President, American Craft Spirits Association

AMERICAN DISTILLING INSTITUTE “We can have a robust marketplace, and we can be safe. But instead of addressing valid regulatory concerns and making them part of the discussion when discussing liquor regulatory reform, the opponents of DTC are using regulatory concerns to block legislation to maintain the status quo. The industry needs DTC, and consumers want it.” — Sean O’Leary, The Irish Liquor Lawyer 2022 is the year of direct to consumer (DTC) sales. The American Craft Spirits Association, the Distilled Spirits Council, and the American Distilling Institute have launched a coalition to get DTC shipping laws changed. State guilds are crucial to this struggle and will be vital partners. DTC laws must be changed to allow all distillers to ship into and out of every state. This change is vital to grow the industry. Please go to to add your voice and join the revolution. In ADI news, we are returning to New Orleans this summer for a one-day Rum Summit on June 7 at Lula Distillery, which is also the eve of DISCUS’s annual conference. You can register for the summit through, or look for links through our e-news in the coming weeks. ADI 2022 returns this year with a new look

to reflect a modern, determined, and forward-looking industry. The 19th annual ADI Conference moves to the Americas Center Convention Complex in St. Louis, Missouri and runs from September 14 to 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, which would bring us back to our pre-COVID numbers. In addition to being the world’s largest gathering of craft distillers and suppliers, the event is chockablock full of exciting first-ever features. The jam-packed agenda features more than 50 topic-specific breakout sessions and workshops, distillery tours, and tastings. Registration opens on March 1 at The St. Louis conference kicks off Wednesday, September 14 with a corn whiskey master class. This course will feature a session on distilling theory followed by a visit to Wood Hat Distillery. The distillery and its founder, Gary Hinegardner, are featured on the Cover of Distiller Magazine’s winter 2022 issue, as well as several other pre-convention workshops, including our first-ever workshop on finance for distilleries. Also on Wednesday the 14th will be the Legislative Summit, hosted by DISCUS for the US guilds, and will focus on US guild

collaboration on current topics of regulatory interest and actionable items for our industry’s state leaders. Wednesday’s events culminate with an opening-night 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 the 15th, the 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 the 16th features a visit to the Gin World event at the St. Louis Grand, one of the world’s largest gin consumer events. The day after the 2022 conference, on September 17, ADI convenes the Gin Summit Visit at the St. Louis Grand hotel. Please see ADI’s monthly e-newsletter and for updates and registration details on all upcoming 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. Erik Owens President, American Distilling Institute

CRAFT MALTSTERS GUILD Craft malt providers across the country continue to report strong demand as a result of global supply chain constraints and market disruptions associated with the invasion of 14

Ukraine. Many have cultivated long-term relationships with local growers in their region, ensuring a stable supply of small grains during periods of market fluctuation.

In mid-to-late February, the guild hosted a successful virtual Craft Malt Conference over the course of two weekends, February 18-19 and February 25-26. More than 200 W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

attendees tuned in from 24 states and 18 countries. Topics included regional barley breeding, local grain shed development, and the emergence of American single malt whiskey. For the 2022 Malt Cup, 25 malthouses submitted 58 entries spread across three malt style categories: Pilsen, Pale, and Pale Ale — all base malts. Each entry is scored based on both technical specifications and flavor. Over 100 judges across the United States were involved in this year’s contest. Winning entries were announced in a live streamed awards ceremony on February 19 during the first weekend of our annual conference. Rabbit Hill Malt of Shiloh, New Jersey, was named Best in Show and took home the coveted traveling Malt Cup with their gold medal winning Pilsen malt. Along with the Malt Cup, the guild also named the 2022 Soles of Malt Award recipient. This award is given annually to a person or organization that demonstrates both passion


Rabbit Hill Malt, Shiloh, NJ SILVER: Admiral Maltings, Alameda, CA BRONZE: Riverbend Malt House, Asheville, NC GOLD:


Wyoming Malting Company, Pine Bluffs, WY SILVER: Gallatin Valley Malt Co., Manhattan, MT BRONZE: Gold Rush Malt, Baker City, OR



Voyager Craft Malt, Myall Park, NSW, Australia

SILVER: Wyoming Malting Company, Pine Bluffs, WY BRONZE:

Root Shoot Malting, Loveland, CO

and support for the craft malt industry. The Malt Academy, part of the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC) located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was selected as this year’s award recipient. The Malt Academy has provided in-house training and assistance for

our industry since 2010. Yueshu Li, director of malting and brewing operations, accepted the award on behalf of CMBTC. Lastly, the Advanced Class in Craft Malt Production will be returning for 2022. This class is designed to provide students with a strong technical background in all aspects of malting science, process, and technology. The course covers a variety of topics related to the agricultural, engineering, and occupational safety issues involved with operating a malthouse. This year’s class will be hosted by the Southern Illinois University Fermentation Science Institute located in Carbondale, Illinois Learn more about the Advanced from May 16-19, Class in Craft 2022. New for this Malt Production year, students in the class will have the unique opportunity to gain hands-on malting experience via SIU’s pilot malting facility. Brent Manning Board President North American Craft Maltsters Guild


On March 23, the U.S. and UK announced an agreement in the steel and aluminum dispute, under which the UK will remove its 25 percent retaliatory tariff on American whiskeys effective June 1. With this agreement, all retaliatory tariffs on U.S., EU and UK distilled spirits have been removed or suspended. We toast the Biden administration for its resolve in bringing a stop to these punitive tariffs on American whiskeys and securing the return to duty-free trade in spirits across the Atlantic. With the removal of the UK’s debilitating retaliatory tariffs on American whiskey exports, U.S. distillers are ready to fire up the stills and resume sharing the special taste, heritage and quality of American products with our UK consumers. In addition, DISCUS issued a statement on behalf of the Toasts Not Tariffs Coalition applauding the Biden administration for the 16

agreement. The DISCUS-led coalition consists of 50 U.S. trade associations representing the entire three-tier chain of the U.S. beverage alcohol sector united in opposition to U.S., EU and UK, tariffs on beverage alcohol products. Ship My Spirits – Straight from Distiller to Doorbell

Along with the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and American Distilling Institute (ADI), we launched “Ship My Spirits,” a grassroots coalition with the common goal of modernizing the spirits marketplace by allowing direct-to-consumer shipping of distilled spirits, in New York. The New York legislature is currently considering two bills, S4245-A/A3275-A and S556/ A2513, which would permanently allow distillers to ship their spirits products directly to adult consumers just as wineries have done for more than a decade in the state., the coalition’s website, has an interactive map where consumers can click on their state to learn about the laws regulating spirits shipments and other data related to the spirits industry’s impact in the state. For example, the site notes that the spirits industry supports 94,000 jobs in New York and has an economic impact of more than $8.5 Visit billion. Visitors can take action through the site by sending letters to their legislators on the issue in less than three minutes. Unveils Public Art Campaign in New Orleans to Stop Underage Drinking partnered with New



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.

Orleans artist and activist Brandan “BMike” Odums to launch a city bus wrap featuring the Ask, Listen, Learn underage drinking prevention program tied to Alcohol Responsibility Month and prom and graduation season. The bus is part of a broader prevention effort in New Orleans to encourage the city youth to say “yes” to a healthy lifestyle and “no” to underage drinking. The event was attended by staff; Board chairman Marc Bromfeld, Edrington; Tom Cole, chairman of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America; representatives from the New Orleans Mayor’s office; Leah Kelly, Brown-Forman; and Odums. Thanks to the work of parents, educators, and a broad coalition of local and national partners, underage drinking among America’s youth is at an all-time low. Efforts such as this bus wrap help keep conversations Read more about between parents and bus in NOLA kids top of mind, which helps prevent underage drinking rates from rising. The bus will be in circulation through June 22, 2022. DISCUS Launches Guild Supporter Program

DISCUS announced a new “State Guild Supporter Program” designed to engage and organize the network of state distiller guilds across the country and alert them to public policy issues affecting the industry at every level of government. Over the past decade, the number of small distilleries in the United States has grown from a couple hundred to more than 2,300, representing a significant grassroots base advocating for policies that

benefit spirits consumers and distillers small and large. By partnering with distiller guilds through this new State Guild Supporter Program, DISCUS can identify shared advoRead the full State Guild cacy goals and support Supporter Program each other in educating announcement legislative leaders about the economic contributions of our spirits industry and the jobs we create in communities across the country. Promoting Energy Efficiency and Cost Saving Opportunities for Distilleries

With representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and ENERGY STAR, DISCUS launched the ENERGY STAR Guide for Energy Efficiency and Cost Saving Opportunities for Distilleries. This vital resource gives distillers the necessary information to promote sustainable environmental practices critical to responsible manufacturing. The guide was developed based on experiences from distilleries and the wider industry, with the goal of helping distilleries reduce environmental impacts, while also saving money on operating costs. Read ENERGY STAR Guide for Energy Sustainable environEfficiency and Cost mental practices are Saving Opportunities for Distilleries critical to the continual production of the high-quality, agricultural-based products that spirits consumers enjoy.

Engaging Responsibly

DISCUS is one of more than 85 organizations and companies that have signed the Association of National Advertisers #EngageResponsibly pledge, a collective commitment to tackling online hate speech. The Take the #EngageResponsibly #EngageResponsibly pledge campaign was founded by Pernod Ricard. “We started this journey two years ago with a single dream: To bring the industry together and build a movement to fight online hate speech and create safer spaces for our consumers and communities alike,” said Pernod Ricard North American Chairman and CEO Ann Mukherjee, who serves as the campaign’s co-chair. DISCUS Annual Conference

Join us at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans for our Annual Conference June 8-10! The DISCUS Annual Conference is the premier industry event for America’s spirits industry leaders, decision makers, and supply chain partners. Don’t miss the compelling and thought-provoking conLearn more tent, as well as the opabout the portunity to celebrate DISCUS Annual Conference with colleagues and make new connections at a variety of events, including a parade down Bourbon Street and a NOLA cocktail class.

Chris R. Swonger President & CEO Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and

NATIONAL HONEY BOARD There’s nothing like a meeting of the minds of the brightest craft distillers in the country to get the juices — or bourbon, tequila, rum, and other spirits — flowing. The National Honey Board’s Honey Spirits Summit is an exclusive event designed to gather a select 18

group of craft distillers for an intensive twoday seminar on honey. Honey is an all-natural sweetener that offers a variety of functional and flavor benefits when used in spirits, and the Honey Spirits Summit offers two days of:

> NETWORKING: Stop, collaborate, and listen

to distillers from across the country. You never know, your next conversation could lead to a new honey spirit collaboration as it has in years past. > TECHNICAL SESSIONS: The National Honey


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.


Board’s distilling research has paved a significant path to learning how honey impacts spirits and how to distill from honey. Sessions include sensory panel analysis and tastings.

and then wash them down with some of the best honey spirits in the world. > DISTILLERY TOURS: Need to taste test

more? Tour a distillery and sample spirits made with honey specifically for the Summit.


Sample honeys from around the world

favorite! Attendees suit up and visit an apiary, where they are given an upclose and personal peek inside an active hive.

> APIARY VISIT: A Honey Spirits Summit fan

Learn more about the 2022 Honey Spirits Summit

Keith Seiz Ingredient Marketing Representative National Honey Board


California has been working on legislation throughout COVID-19 with the legislature, ABC, and the Governor’s Office. March 31, 2022, saw the Governor’s emergency orders come to an end and with it DTC shipping. CADG has been actively pursuing SB 620 during this two-year session. The bill passed out of the senate in March, and awaits a hearing in Assembly G.O. very soon. There are significant language changes that have been negotiated that will be released shortly. There is AB 2303 California Agave Growers legislation that we are also supporting. A new board of directors was elected

recently as well. The first meeting was held April 20, 2022, with Erica Steller, Amador & Dry Diggings Distillery, vice president; Mike Brown, Camarillo Barrel Works, secretary-treasurer and board members at large including: >

Karl Anderson — Shelter Distilling, Mammoth Lakes


Bill Auxier — Surf City Still Works, Huntington Beach


Paul Chakalian — Joshua Tree Distilling, Yucca Valley


Nicholas Hammond — Pacific Coast Spirits, Oceanside


Tara Jasper — Sipsong Spirits, Windsor


Kris Koenig — Golden Beaver Distillery, Chico


Adam Spiegel — Corning and Company, Rohnert Park


Greg Stark — Stark Spirits, Pasadena


Alex Villicana — RE:FIND Distillery, Paso Robles

A separate special election for president took place at CADG's board meeting in early May. The board plans to focus on membership and growing the guild’s presence throughout the state and assisting DSP’s as the economy continues to open up. The new website,, is also available and will promote members and activities. Cris Steller Executive Director, California Artisanal Distillers Guild


The Florida Craft Spirits Association, a membership organization consisting of 44 Florida distilleries, is proud to announce the official launch of the Florida Distillery Trail, a 39-stop distillery tour across the Sunshine State. "We are thrilled to be announcing our distillery trail, which has come to fruition in only our second year as an association,” said David 20

Cohen, president of the Florida Craft Spirits Association. “We are also happy to report that we have had over 100 percent retention of our members from the previous year, which speaks to the strength of our industry in this state. With the help of Visit Florida, we will make the Florida Distillery Trail one of the best in the country." The Florida Distillery Trail consists of 39 distilleries spanning from the panhandle to the southernmost point of the state. Along the trail, visitors will get a chance to experience

the rich landscapes, must-see landmarks, and vibrant blends of culture that embody the Sunshine State. To embark on the trail, explorers can get their free passport booklet at any participating distillery location. Along the trail, tourers will collect stamps in the special booklet at each stop on the route. For every 12 stamps collected, visitors will receive a commemorative gift to mark their achievement. Commemorative gifts include an association t-shirt, a tasting glass, and a gift basket filled W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M



with Florida crafted spirits. The trail can be completed distillery-by-distillery or in

regions at a time. For more information, visit


on Governor Kathy Hochul's push for “ToGo” cocktail legislation in the budget. This session has shown us the true power that money has on the legislative process. The retail and wholesale lobby and their PACs opened their “war chests” to block nearly every alcohol related bill. We have been told that a “toxic” environment exists around any alcohol bill for the remainder of the session due to the spend and highlighted in recent news articles highlighting Southern’s campaign donations to NYS Leadership. One positive item, which was pushed by our bill sponsor, made it into the budget. As a result, NYS SLA will be going through a review, which could modernize the industry.


In March, the New York Distillers Guild held its annual members meeting at the Villa Roma Resort in the Catskills. The turnout was tremendous with NYS Tax, SLA and Economic Development leaders attending. A main topic of discussion was the legislative agenda for 2022 and beyond: >

Direct to Consumer Shipping


Production tax parity


Craft Beverage License class parity

Legislators this session have been focused

Toiaya Crawford Plan A Management (813) 203-7616

While politics will come into play, the craft beverage industry's voice will be heard and unfair trade practices exposed in an effort to create a fair landscape. The process is expected to be completed throughout 2023. We are still optimistic for our bills moving forward. In the absence of capital, it will take continuous advocacy and the voice of the consumers to push beyond the control of our opposition. The campaign is a great example of a consumer campaign with all organizations working together (ACSA, DISCUS, ADI and State Guilds) to call for consumers to let their legislators know that DTC is wanted. Brian Facquet Founder & Distiller, Do Good Spirits


The Distillers Association of North Carolina held its annual business meeting on March 14 at Southern Distilling Company in Statesville, North Carolina. More than 70 people attended the meeting including representatives from 25 distilleries and 13 vendors who showcased their services and products for distillers. Principal Members voted to elect three members to DANC's board of directors to serve for the 2022-23 term. The board of directors then elected officers. Meet DANC's Board of Directors: >

Leah Howard, President — Cultivated Cocktails


Bruce Tyler, Vice-President — Weldon Mills Distillery


Ashlee Ellis, Treasurer — Old Nick Williams Company


Rhonda Pedersen, Secretary — End of Days Distillery


Jonathan Blitz — Mystic Farm & Distilling Company


Richard Chapman — Bogue Sound Distillery


Chad Slagle — Two Trees Distilling Company


Pete Barger, Immediate Past President — Southern Distilling Company

Chairman Hank Bauer of the North Carolina ABC Commission was the keynote speaker for DANC's annual business meeting.

He noted that when he was appointed to serve as the chairman of the ABC Commission that governor Roy Cooper directed him to support North Carolina's distilling industry. He is focused on modernizing North Carolina’s ABC system and managing the control system like private industry. Chris Swonger, CEO and president of DISCUS, attended the meeting to provide an update on their work to reduce taxes on spirits based RTDs and to expand DTC shipping for spirits. Rhonda Pedersen, DANC board member, facilitated a strategic planning session about how DANC can support North Carolina's distilling industry. Members offered their ideas for marketing North Carolina spirits and improvements to the ABC system that would benefit craft distillers. Leah Howard President, Distillers Association of North Carolina, CEO, Cultivated Cocktails



The Texas Distilled Spirits Association (TDSA) partnered with the Texas Restaurant Association, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, and the Texas Wine and Grape Growers

Association to celebrate Texas Independence Day with a Come & Drink It TX event. More than seventy members of the Texas legislature and their staff attended the event. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

Texas restaurants continued the celebration throughout the month of March by serving Texas spirits cocktails and Texas distillers returned the favor by promoting their restaurants and drink specials. We hope to make Come & Drink It TX an annual event. TDSA will be having its next membership meeting on Tuesday, June 14, in Austin, Texas. Following the meeting,

we invite all TDSA members to stay for a mixer where we will enjoy light bites and Texas spirits. For more information, please email

Amber L. Hausenfluck Government Affairs, Texas Distilled Spirits Association

suppliers! tillers and is d f o e c n groups. onal audie reach a nati spire fellow in to d y n it a n u s, e rt g o st challen on this opp lve your late ’t miss out so n o to D s n ? G io st IN e TION MISS ED! quest sugg GET INVOLV OR ASSOCIA pporters, re TO D su M IL it O U G ru .C c G R A re U M ries, IS YO SPIRIT latest victo N@ARTISAN Share your EMAIL BRIA






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& YOUR CRAFT SPIRITS BRAND If there was ever a time to consider lead times and logistics as they relate to your craft spirits brand, it is now.


hipping delays. Supply chain complications. Widespread shortages. Freight costs have skyrocketed, and lead times have doubled or tripled. Raw material scarcities, labor shortages, natural disasters, wars, and enduring effects of the COVID era have impacted industries around the world, and in some cases, changed the landscape altogether. These upheavals have created huge financial and logistical barriers to entry for new craft spirits brands, as well as first-time challenges for existing brands.

HOW CAN YOUR SPIRITS BRAND STAY AHEAD OF THESE CHALLENGES? THE KEY IS UNDERSTANDING THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION. Here is how shortages and delays affect the spirits industry and how companies are pivoting to avoid them: GLASS BOTTLES Contrary to its meaning, orders for “stock” bottles take anywhere from four months to more than a year to be fulfilled, and it is almost impossible to find a warehouse with bottles readily available. Some bottle vendors are unable to take on new clients for up to a year. Stock bottles are only produced a few times annually — once a warehouse has depleted its supply, it is out of stock until the next production run. As a craft distiller, you must battle bigger players for the precious few stock bottles — this may mean your order will be canceled or your pricing will increase as supply decreases. Extended timelines and lack of availability have caused craft spirits producers to consider custom glass bottles. Custom bottles are made-to-order and cannot be purchased by other spirits producers as they are unique to your brand. While this route requires an upfront investment (design, mold costs, initial orders), the payoff is control of the supply chain, having bottles to fill and sell, and the opportunity for the bottle to set your brand apart with a higher perceived value.


T-TOPS The timeline for custom T-Tops, previously around two months, has stretched to six months. Customers with quick turnaround projects are choosing to use stock instead of fully custom pieces to avoid missing deadlines. CAPSULES In past years, it was safe to assume that the lead time for capsules was around six weeks to two months depending on material — currently, the timeline is four to six months. To compensate, brands are ditching customized capsules for clear PVC safety seals that show off their closure or forgoing the capsule altogether for a paper tamper evident label. LABELS As the world returns to normal, producers are eager to hit the “unpause” button on their projects, meaning label printers are busier than ever. Scheduling your time on press early is essential as timelines change weekly depending on availability of raw materials and type of paper. Some of the more popular paper stock options that were once readily available have had their lead times expand from several days to upwards of six weeks. Brands need to consider having artwork available to print earlier and discuss a production schedule for future runs with their label printer. 27

SHIPPERS Lead times for custom printed shippers have ballooned from approximately one month to upwards of four months. To mitigate this, distillers have been repurposing the standard shippers that come with their bottle by adding stickers with custom branding. SHIPPING CONTAINERS At the root of many of these shortages, you find one common cause — a lack of shipping containers. Used to transport finished goods and raw materials worldwide, a scarcity of shipping containers leads to delays in transport, less availability of product, and higher costs of goods. It looks like pricing is going to start dropping, but as of now, the cost to ship a container can be a staggering $20,000 versus the $5,000 of recent years.

HOW CAN YOUR SPIRITS BRAND ADAPT TO THE CURRENT SUPPLY CHAIN LANDSCAPE? Your vendor partners are your best friends. They are key parts to your process; they will work with you every step of the way to meet your deadlines and fulfill your needs. Sizing your label so that it can fit on multiple bottle molds can provide you sourcing flexibility, if you need to shift from one mold to another or use multiple bottles for your production. Another way to mitigate these backups is to buy in larger quantities to create your own backstock. No matter what, it’s always a good idea to think ahead, plan for the worst, and have a Plan B to ensure you have the supplies you need when you need them. Now is the time to start planning.

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










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o manufacture distilled spirits as an estate distillery in the state of Nevada, the law requires under code NRS 597.200 that “85 percent of the agricultural raw materials from which the distilled spirit is manufactured, in the aggregate, were grown on land owned or controlled by the owner of the distillery.” Code NRS 597.237 states that “none of the spirits manufactured at the estate distillery can be derived from neutral or distilled spirits manufactured by another manufacturer.” As an estate distillery, Bently Heritage must operate by these stipulations. This article will focus on some advantages and disadvantages of growing grain as an estate distillery and ways to maintain grain quality for both malted and unmalted grain. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

ADVANTAGES TO GROWING YOUR OWN GRAIN CONDITION OF THE GRAIN The main advantage of operating as an estate distillery is the ability to work directly with the farmers to ensure that quality standards are being met throughout the growing process. Knowing the condition of the grain reveals information about the consistency and condition of the kernel, including moisture content, objectionable odor, insect infestation, and damage by frost, heat, mold or rot. There are many factors that affect grain profile, including varying weather patterns. The growth and condition of the grain can easily be affected by the amount of sunlight, which can vary within a field. In addition, all grain types may not germinate at the same rate, even on the same plot of land. It is common practice in barley growing to harvest different batches from different spots of the same plot of grain when the barley is intended to be malted. This

provides more consistent malting as protein levels and germination rates would be more consistent in the batch. Keep in mind that not all grain types should be treated equally. Some should be handled with more delicacy than others during different growing and harvesting periods. For example, barley intended for malting should be grown and harvested with care to prevent problems, such as processing issues, off flavors, poor yeast growths and yields, milling issues, varying protein content, moisture content, and plumpness. For all grain types involvement in grain growth helps identify issues early on, keeps all of the same grain profiles separate from one another, and ensures it grows more consistently.

RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FARMERS Building a working relationship with the farmers not only allows the distiller to know the farming conditions, but control over varietal choices. Understanding the varietal of grain allows for more consistency, especially in growing varietals that lead to changes in overall flavor profile. Most heirloom 31

grain varieties can only be purchased in small amounts. Being able to plant and grow seed stock for uncommon grains prevents having to worry if and how much is available. Moreover, this allows for the spirit to be unique to one’s specific area, bringing the component of terroir to the finished spirit. Having “locally grown and made,” etched on each finished bottle is a warming, revitalizing, and provides a feeling of pride.

PREDICTABLE SOURCE With a captive supply, the distiller has access to a predictable amount of raw material for future use. This gives access to a guaranteed supply of grain that can be closely regulated by cost, avoiding the commodity market’s ups and downs. With grain commodities, there are limited grain types that can be selected from which are grown and selected predominantly based on quality and yield but not on sensory characteristics. An advantage of an estate distillery is having the freedom to choose any varietal that will grow in the region, instead of being bound to the grain commodity market’s prices and varietal options. When choosing a non-commodity grain varietal, the flavor profile has the possibility of being better while yields and quality could be better or worse. The distillery has the power to test and grow whatever they choose.

STORAGE With proper equipment, grain can be stored for long periods of time. Some advantages to having a grain silo include large storage capacity; ability to automate, reducing labor and running costs; and protection from natural elements. Depending on the number of silos, grain grown under the same conditions can be stored together for consistency. Having uniform grain is important, especially for the malting process in order to avoid varying rates of seed germination. Temperature and aeration within the silos are essential for producing high-quality malt. Varying field conditions in barley intended for malting can result in steeping issues, making it difficult for the barley to reach its appropriate moisture levels. This results in inconsistent breakdown of starches and proteins when malting.


Monitoring the silo’s interior temperature can also help to reduce grain deterioration and prevent storage losses. As raw unmalted grain accumulates inside the silo, grain respiration, moisture, insect infestation, mold, and fungus can create hot spots. Grain respiration occurs when the grain “breathes in,” removing oxygen from the air and consuming part of its stored food (glucose and proteins) from its endosperm. The grain will then “breathe out” by releasing heat, water vapor, and carbon dioxide. Adding a fan can force air through the grain bed to help preserve quality after harvest and create optimal conditions for the grain. This in turn can help reduce the moisture content, lower the risk of unwanted microbial and fungal growth, and decrease the chances of grain shrinkage. Animals and bugs can infest and cause damage to all grain types. Insects such as grain beetles feed on mold, producing large numbers of offspring in a short amount of time. Using a third-party vendor to monitor pests and insects will help protect the grain from scavengers and contamination.

IN-HOUSE STANDARDS WITH QUALITY Building in-house grain standards helps to establish consistency. Creating an in-house testing method for how the grain will be accepted before it reaches the distillery can allow for the development of a quality department that is able to monitor mill trends and grain quality for any type of grain.

DISADVANTAGES TO GROWING YOUR OWN GRAIN CROP FAILURE Although the grain is within close proximity, not all of the process is fully controllable or consistent. The reliability and stability of the grain can potentially pose an issue. Since the distillery is responsible for all of the grain supply, it must consider how to handle a poor growing season. What if varying conditions cause the grain to be out of specifications, such as over-fertilization or high nitrogen content? The quality has suffered and there is a whole year’s crop worth of grain needing to go somewhere. These disadvantages can lead to a production slow down or worse, putting it to a complete halt. Unlike larger companies, an estate distillery does not have the luxury of purchasing any outside grain. So if the grain supply is low or lacking quality, the distillery will have to work around what is available and evaluate if the grain is salvageable or needs to be completely discarded. If the grain is usable but outside of the distillery’s standards, (e.g. milled grain results in high fines from sieve analysis, sensory notes are slightly off, W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

EXAMINING QUALITY IN THE GRAIN or beta-glucans are too high), the distillers would have room to maneuver but it could affect the product down the line. For example, if malted barley’s beta-glucans are too high, the distiller can add beta glucanase to compensate. Ultimately, the distiller has to work around the grain’s faults. If the distiller chooses not to use the grain, disposal solutions need to be considered. Does the grain need to be discarded as feed or composted? Losses from discarded grain including labor, time, and grain costs are non-trivial.

STORAGE FAILURE When storing grain long-term, failures can occur. This can result in a partial or complete loss of grain. Storage failure issues include temperature regulation loss, increased moisture (creating mold), and inadequate drying cycles (causing uneven drying of the grain).

MAINTAINING FARMER RELATIONSHIPS There are many advantages to having access to the farmers that grow grain for the distillery, but open communication is key to maintaining grain quality. A great deal of care is required during harvesting and conveyance to minimize hull damage. Specifically, when the grain is going through the malting process, a damaged hull can result in unsuitable barley for malting. Trying to mill this malted barley is difficult and can result in the grain being pressed instead of gently cracked. This leads to significant issues during wort run off after completing a cook.

WATER SUPPLY Bently Heritage Distillery faces unique issues associated with its location in the high desert. Water is not readily available, the air is less humid, and irrigation to the land is required. To run the field operations requires maintaining water rights. Limited water supply drives up costs.

COST Selecting the grain varietal is a huge advantage, but customizing varietals can be expensive. If a variety is an “heirloom,” the seeds could be difficult to find. If the current commodity market is lower than the input costs, the possibility to purchase the cheaper alternative does not exist as the commitment has already been made. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

Once the grain is harvested, it is imperative to implement strict quality standards to maintain batch consistency and ensure the highest quality grain is being provided for the distiller. Testing the grain can help to develop in-house standards, identify trends, and provide trustworthy consumer safety. Testing methods including visual inspection, moisture content, and sensory for all grain types. Preliminary tests for malted barley can be utilized to validate the quality of the grain.

PRELIMINARY TESTING FOR MALTED BARLEY It is helpful to send a sample of grain to an accredited facility for testing and verification of the harvested dried grain. Some facilities such as Montana State University can test the grain for protein content, moisture content, kernel weight, test weight, falling number, plumpness, thins, germination, DON (deoxynivalenol) and more. Having these results can help determine if the grain is suitable for malting. Many of these tests such as germination activity, moisture, plumpness, kernel weight, broken and skinned percentage can be performed in-house and should be performed to develop an in-house standard and analyze trends. The first things to look for are protein levels, falling number, and DON. High protein levels can present issues with water uptake and uneven modification. This can cause trouble downstream for the enzyme package distillers may require. Falling number is essential for measuring the amount of alpha-amylase in a sample (the ability to convert starch to sugar). This test indicates if any pre-harvest sprouting occured in the field. If there was a late rain or snowfall in the season when the barley was in its drying phase, the kernels that have already sprouted are essentially dead for the malting process. Small levels of germination produce alpha-amylase which is deleterious to the malting process. For DON, also known as vomitoxin, levels need to fall under 1ppm. The goal is to not have any DON present because it can grow when you malt any affected grain. Another thing to look for is germination. Measuring the germination

energy, capacity, and water sensitivity is a fairly quick process and can help identify if the grain is dormant or dead. Typically for germination energy, if less than 95 percent of the grain kernels in a sample germinate, the grain may be dormant, need more time, or is considered dead. The germination capacity is determined after a three-day growth process. Grain that did not grow after three days is considered dead. For water sensitivity, this is tested over three days measuring the growth of the seed at lower and higher volumes of water. Grain is considered water sensitive if the seeds in the higher volume of water have a reduced germination of 30 percent or less. Broken and skinned percentage is a useful test to perform. This test utilizes visual inspection to separate broken kernels (any missing part of the kernel), skinned kernels (fallen or loose husk around the embryo or exposed embryo), and good kernels. Increased amounts of skinned and broken kernels decreases the quality of malt. The husk acts to protect the embryo and shield it from water. With missing husks it is common to see germination numbers go down and uneven water uptake. This leads to uneven modification and breakdown, along with damage during the kilning process.

VISUAL INSPECTION Visual inspection can provide a high-level overview of the grain. It can indicate possible issues that can occur before and downstream of the distillation process. A visual inspection should be done on both the whole and milled grain of all types to gain knowledge on storage conditions including dryness, color, and the presence of mold. For malted barley, color is indirectly related to flavor. Kilning of sugar and soluble protein precursors produces color. Therefore, with longer kiln times and higher temperatures 33

darker color can result in different aromas and flavors compared to a lighter color at lower temperatures. Another important aspect is the particle size of the grain when milled. A roller mill will preserve more husk, producing larger particle sizes than of the same fraction taken from a hammer mill. Typically, a hammer mill is used for unmalted grain and a roller mill for malted grains. This will result in different grain sugar extractions when mashing and alcohol yield when fermenting. A sieve analysis can be performed to evaluate these differences between whole, roller-milled, and hammer-milled grain. Sieve analysis is a method that separates the grain by particle size. The grain is separated into coarse, fine, and powder, which makes it easier to visually see and calculate the percentage of grain in each sieve layer. When roller milling, the grain is less pulverized, resulting in less fines and a higher percentage of coarse material. Hammer milling crushes the grain and utilizes faster speeds and finer screens to produce a finer grind. Having too much of one particle size has the potential to be problematic during production. For whiskey grain, high fines can result in difficulties running on conveyance, straining liquid from wort, increased pressure of the mash cooler, inadequate hydration, and clogging during lautering. High coarse material in bourbon grain can result in clogging of the continuous still, lower sugar extraction, and lower ethanol yields. Utilizing a sieve test as part of the visual analysis can provide many benefits. It is a rapid testing method and can help to identify insect infestation, presence of foreign materials (plastic, metal, etc.), particle size, and any undesired grain parts, like chaff, during the milling process. 34

MOISTURE Moisture content is one of the most important factors to maintaining grain quality in barley. Moisture can impact the durability of the grains’ germinative ability and resistance to spoilage. There is an inverse relationship with moisture and grain quality. As moisture increases, the length of time the grain can be stored decreases because the grain will spoil sooner. Low moisture content can cause the unmalted grain to become brittle and break during storage and handling operation. This can be caused by prolonged drought seasons, improper watering, and poor temperature regulation of the silos. Low moisture content can also affect the malting process, causing increased friability and poor protein and sugar conversion. High moisture content can facilitate the production of mycotoxins, DON, or ergot, which can lead to deterioration of the grain. Storage molds can cause damage within the kernel before external growth or symptoms are visible, killing the seed embryo and causing discoloration. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring fungi-producing toxins found in grains such as wheat, corn, rye, barley, and other food products. Exposure in large quantities by inhalation, absorption, or consumption to mycotoxins can result in disease or death in humans and animals. DON is a

byproduct of a fungal disease called fusarium head blight, which can affect cereal grains such as wheat, corn, and barley. This can result in increased free amino nitrogen (FAN) and soluble protein, lowering quality and yields. Ergot is a type of a fungus commonly found in rye that contains a number of highly poisonous and psychoactive alkaloids. Ergot infection in grain can cause a reduction in yield and quality of grain. High moisture content can occur from extreme wet conditions, improper drying and storage of the grain, and insects. Insect infestations or bird damage can increase the risk for mycotoxin contamination in the grain. Insects are attracted to the increased moisture and heat, encouraging mold growth even in properly stored dried grain. High moisture can also lead to loss of flavor and low distilling yields. Although both low and high moisture content can lead to processing issues, higher moisture content is more problematic. A major issue regarding high moisture content is fluidity or movement of the grain. Improper fluidity of the grain can affect the silos, conveyance, and truck. At Bently Heritage, oats tend to be the biggest issue when it comes to fluidity. Oats have a higher protein and lipid content. When hammer milled, they become compact and do not flow as well as rye, corn, or barley would. During delivery, they can be difficult to unload out of the transfer truck and move through a conveyance system during the transfer to the cooker. Proper drying and storage limits growth of mold or other spoilage organisms. Moisture can be measured using a tabletop moisture analyzer. This technology utilizes infrared radiation to heat the sample of grain to the point that there is no longer moisture left in that sample. The loss of moisture is measured and calculated using the loss on drying method. Benefits to this simple and rapid testing method include identifying insect infestation and the condition of the grain. It can also be useful in storage condition optimization. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

SENSORY Sensory can help to identify attributes of the grain before it goes into production, giving clues as to the condition of the grain. Early detection of unpleasant aromas helps to minimize unnecessary labor, costs, and helps to develop trends. Before a new batch of grain is milled, time can be saved by utilizing sensory evaluation to determine if the grain is acceptable for use. Sensory analysis can help to identify microbial growth for all grain types. Microbial growth can give the grain a sour, damp, or moldy odor, akin to an old cellar or mildew. These are not favorable aromas in the final spirit. It is important when conducting sensory analysis to think about how the grain grows. Asking questions such as: Are these typical or common odors that the grain type would normally emit? What was the environment or growing conditions of the grain? Would this carry over or be extracted out during the downstream processes? Steeping a small sample size of milled grain


in hot water can extract many different flavor and aromatic characteristics comparable to what would be extracted during the cook for malted and unmalted grain. Potential flaws or notable characteristics can be analyzed from the steeped sample. It is essential to keep in mind that notable characteristics can be good or bad. Although the preference is to always have acceptable characteristics, it is good practice to also note and pick out the flaws as well. Creating a database of common characteristics for each grain type can be a helpful and beneficial tool. There are numerous benefits to sensory testing. It provides a quick assessment of extractable flavors and aromas for each grain type. It also gives a close representation of what the wort would be like during production. Additionally, it helps to create a database of sensory characteristics specific to each grain type to ensure and monitor quality. There are many advantages and disadvantages to operating an estate distillery. An estate distillery provides opportunities to

understand the condition of the grain. There are also many testing methods that can be implemented to provide quality in the grain that is grown such as sieve, moisture, and sensory analysis. Keeping a record will help to establish an in-house standard for validating grain quality. Operating as an estate distillery gives the ability to have complete control over every part of the operation from growing, harvesting, malting, milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling, aging, bottling, labeling, and distributing. La Shay Mayfield grew up in Northern Nevada, where she got her master’s degree in Biotechnology at the University of Nevada Reno. She is a Quality Assurance Analyst at Bently Heritage Estate Distillery. When she is not working in the lab, she enjoys camping, watching movies, and spending time with her family.

REFERENCES: 1. 52 NRS § 597.200 (2017) 2. 52 NRS § 597.237 (2017) 3. S.B.199_R1, vol. 1, 2017, p. 1-8. Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy Congress, www.leg.state.




For many Northern Europeans alcohol and egg drinks are as common as peanut butter and jelly in the United States; and nowhere is that more visible than in the Dutch liqueur known as advocaat.

everages made from a mixture of alcohol and eggs are not the most common in the United States. Indeed, aside from the occasional glass of eggnog or a particularly well-made egg white cocktail like a Pisco Sour or a Gin Fizz, I suspect that most Americans never see the two mixed. However, for many Northern Europeans alcohol and egg drinks are as common as peanut butter and jelly in the United States; and nowhere is that more visible than in the Dutch liqueur known as advocaat. So, what exactly is advocaat? Well, to find that answer we need to do a little digging into regulations. In chapter four of the Beverage Alcohol Manual, the TTB defines advocaat as “an egg flavored distilled spirit product.1” Although this is generally correct, it does not give much indication about what to expect when handed a bottle of advocaat. Luckily, our European counterparts have a bit more to say on the subject. The 1989 EEC ruling that established the definition and identities of various liquors for the European Union states that advocaat, or eierlikor as it is known in Germany, is defined as a flavored or unflavored spirit drink that contains a mixture of egg yolk, egg white, and sugar or honey. Specifically, the EEC regulations state that the amount of egg yolk in the finished beverage must not be less than 140 grams per liter and the amount of sugar or honey must not be less than 150 grams per liter. If a product contains less egg yolk,


it must be called liqueur with egg and not advocaat.2 Now that we know what advocaat is, it’s time to learn about its history and what makes it a unique spirit. Advocaat’s origins, like the beverage itself, are a bit opaque. Mixtures of alcohol and egg products have existed in one form or another since the inception of both. However, advocaat as a unique beverage is a somewhat newer concept. One of the most popular advocaat origin stories claims that it was first introduced to Dutch settlers of the new world during the 17th century. In the early 1600s, Dutch settlers established colonies along the coast of what is now Brazil. These Dutch colonists interacted extensively with the indigenous population and were taught to make a drink out of crushed avocado, sugarcane, and rum, which they called advocaat.3 The drink became immensely popular with the colonists and incorporated into their daily life. However, the Portuguese forced the Dutch settlers out of Brazil in the late 1600s, thus cutting them off from their supply of avocados. Some colonists returned to the Netherlands and attempted to grow avocado trees there, but the trees did not fare well in the colder Dutch climate.4 Fortunately,

some enterprising merchants discovered that egg yolks had almost the exact same consistency as avocado pulp. They quickly began making and selling their own version of advocaat which became even more popular than the original.5 While entertaining, this story lacks one important feature: evidence.3 Although it is true that Dutch colonists would have been introduced to avocados, there is little evidence that an avocado and rum drink existed in Brazil during colonial times, or for that matter ever. In all likelihood, advocaat has existed in one form or another for many years, and its current iteration came about along with the popularization of distilled spirits in the 17th century. As for the name, advocaat is also the Dutch word for lawyer and the 1882 edition of the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche taal, also known as the Dictionary of the Dutch Language, states that advocaat was named after lawyers because it was a popular practice among the profession to drink advocaat before having to speak in public.6 Whatever the truth is about the origins of advocaat, there is no denying it has a colorful and interesting history. The recipe and production methods for advocaat are relatively simple; however, many producers keep their exact methods and ingredients a secret.5 Production begins by selecting the base alcohol. For many Dutch producers, brandy is traditional, however, as mentioned above, there is no regulation on the type of alcohol used, and there are many producers that use neutral alcohol or rum.1,7,8 Next, the eggs are selected. Some producers use only egg yolk, which creates a particularly thick finished product. The eggs are mixed with a sweetener, either sugar or honey, and spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, to create a thick emulsion. Some producers will add cream if they prefer a lighter, less heavy flavor. Other ingredients can also be added to the 37

REFERENCES mixture at this point to create a “flavored” advocaat. Once the egg emulsion has been thoroughly mixed, the alcohol is carefully added to create the final product. The product is then bottled with many larger producers pasteurizing the bottles to ensure shelf stability.5,7 Most commercial advocaats range in concentration from 14-20 percent ABV, however, there are some that are bottled at other concentrations.8 Advocaat is widely produced and consumed throughout the Netherlands, Belgium, and Northern Germany yearround, though it is especially popular during the Christmas season. It is often consumed neat or on the rocks as a digestif, although some mix it into their coffee. Especially thick versions of advocaat are often used as a topping sauce for dishes such as waffles and pancakes and it is also popular in ice cream and custard recipes.7 Other countries also consume advocaat on special

occasions. During Christmas In the UK, advocaat is mixed with sparkling lemonade and lime juice to create a cocktail known as a snowball.9 In Northern Italy, winter imbibers consume a cocktail called the Bombardino, which mixes advocaat, brandy, and whipped cream.10 Although advocaat may seem like a strange drink to consume yearround, it could be considered a hidden gem. Its silky sweet flavor makes it the perfect accompaniment to many occasions, and once you try it you may find yourself looking for all sorts of excuses to break out a bottle. Luckily, the internet is filled with great recipes and ideas on how to utilize advocaat.7 Who knows? Maybe advocaat will become just as popular as bourbon cream in your after-dinner coffee. The chances are slim, but in the world of spirits, anything is possible.

1) Beverage Alcohol Manual Vol. 2, 2007. Chapter four Class and Type Designation. Available from <> [April 5, 2022] 2) Council Regulation, 1989. Council Regulation (EEC) No. 1576/80. Available from < en/text.jsp?file_id=126926#JD_EU030_15> [April 5, 2022]. 3) Domine, A., 2008. The Ultimate Guide to Spirits & Cocktails, Tandem Verlag GmbH. Pp. 632 4) By The Dutch, 2022. Origins of Advocaat. Available from < http://> [April 6, 2022] 5) Verpoorten, 2022. About Us. Available from <> [April 6, 2022] 6) Devries, M. & Te Winkel L.A., 1882. Woordenboek der Niederlandische Taal. Gravenhage. Pp. 827 7) Simons, M., 2020. DIY Advocaat Recipe. Available from <> [April 6, 2022] 8) DeKuyper, 2022. Warnicks. Available from <> [April 5, 2022] 9) Nice, M. 2022. BBC Good Food Classic Snowball. Available from < recipes/classic-snowball> [April 5, 2022] 10) Inside the Rustic Kitchen, 2019. IL BombardinoItalian Eggnog Drink. Available from < bombardino-italian-eggnog/> [April 6, 2022]

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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tarting a new distillery and inspiring innovation by bringing to life new, creative, and possibly disruptive spirits is an exciting time. Often working around the clock, these are the times when distilleries are distracted with the legwork of impressing investors, obtaining licenses, establishing a brand, perfecting spirits, and negotiating complicated relationships with potential distributors to get products out to the market. While it may not be top-of-mind, it is especially important during these early days to strategize how to protect emerging trade secrets that yield a competitive advantage while still encouraging the development of new ideas and open communication. But how does a distillery reach that balance? Take it one shot at a time.

SHOT 1: WHAT MAKES YOUR DISTILLERY SPECIAL? Established and new distilleries alike want to maintain a collaborative reputation in the distilling community, but also protect the ideas that make them a unique player in the market. How is this possible? The first step is to determine what ideas belong to the distillery versus its employees. Distilleries can protect a myriad of information so long as it has commercial value and reasonable efforts are taken to maintain its secrecy. For example, protectable information may include closely held distillation processes, recipes, marketing strategies, distribution processes, customer lists, and even pricing. Once confidential information is disclosed, a distillery can take steps to mitigate the potential damage from the disclosure, but it cannot un-ring the bell. It is therefore imperative to take steps to identify the information that demands protection and to keep that information confidential from the outset, such as by limiting access to the information to only those employees who need to know it to perform their job duties and requiring employees to sign agreements that they will not disclose the information. But what about information, resources, and ideas that employees develop while W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


working for the distillery? Does the distillery have an ownership interest and the right to prohibit employees from disclosing such information? It depends. While some states restrict a distillery’s ability to claim ownership over employee work product, generally a distillery can claim ownership over, and protect from disclosure, ideas or resources that were developed in the course of employment and related to its business. However, for a distillery to be entitled to an ownership interest, it should obtain an explicit inventions assignment agreement from the employee that all work product created in the employee’s scope of employment that is related to its business is assigned to the distillery. This takes us to the next step — reaching an understanding with employees on what information they are obligated to keep confidential.

SHOT 2: LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS. The culture of the distilling industry thrives upon collaboration and trust, and handshake agreements often carry significant weight. But obtaining signed agreements from employees

is one way to honor commitments to collectivism and resource sharing while taking a more textured approach to clearly identify what is yours and what is theirs. This will emphasize that employees must maintain the confidence of what they learn about your distillery in the course of their employment or face consequences. Inviting lawyers to the party may not be your first instinct (or even a second or third) when thinking about expanding or improving your business, but to prevent headaches down the road, having a legally binding non-disclosure or non-competition agreement at your fingertips is good practice. To improve the likelihood that the non-disclosure or non-competition agreement will be enforced, it should be tailored to the employee’s scope of employment, specifically identifying the information the distillery wants to protect, describing the employee’s responsibilities in protecting that information, and providing a duration for those obligations. Distilleries also would be wise to strategize the timing of when to present these agreements to employees. Some states require that new employees be provided the agreements prior to starting or current employees

Established and new distilleries alike want to maintain a collaborative reputation in the distilling community, but also protect the ideas that make them a unique player in the market. How is this possible? 41

be provided some sort of incentive to accept the agreement above and beyond their continued employment. Other states allow companies to condition continued employment on the employee signing the agreement. As such, depending on the state where the agreement is being signed, distilleries may want to present the agreement on or before the first day of employment, or delay presenting the agreements until they are prepared to offer employees an incentive in exchange for their signature. State laws also may dictate whether distilleries can include provisions restricting employees from working for a competitor. It is therefore highly important that companies consult with legal counsel before presenting or trying to enforce these agreements to avoid potential penalties or risk having their nondisclosure or non-compete agreements held unenforceable. Once the employees sign the agreements, the distillery should keep a copy in the employee’s personnel file and provide the employee with a copy. If an employee is separated from the distillery, they should be reminded of their obligations under the agreements they signed to not disclose the distillery’s confidential information and be asked to reaffirm their understanding of the same. These agreements also should periodically be reviewed and modified to identify newly developed or acquired protected information and to ensure compliance with ever-changing state laws. With each modification to the agreement, the company should obtain a new signature and may need to provide an additional incentive to the employee (depending on the state). After the agreements are signed and securely placed in the employee personnel files, we hope you will never have to be concerned about disclosure of company secrets again. But, if an issue arises, we move on to the next step — enforcing the agreement.

SHOT 3: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THINGS GO A-RYE? What do you do if your current or former employee discloses your prized distillation process or recipe (or any other protected secret)? Because you read this article and took the recommended steps to protect your secrets, you have some options to address the situation and mitigate any damages. The below are potential steps for a distillery to take after learning confidential secrets have been improperly disclosed:

> You may be able to seek an immediate injunction and ask for the employee to be prevented from any further disclosure, the information to be returned or destroyed, and to prevent any protected information from being used for commercial purposes by any outside person or another distillery.

> You may be able to file a civil claim for

breach of contract and seek damages for economic harm caused by the disclosure. This option requires the distillery to prove that it was negatively affected by the disclosure, such as demonstrating lost profits.

> You could contact the employee who disclosed the information to remind them of their

obligations under the nondisclosure agreement and demand they sign another agreement indicating they will delete or destroy any confidential information in their possession, not further disclose the information, and agree to pay a hefty penalty if they further disclose the protected information. This option may be most appropriate when the disclosure of protected information was not commercially significant. By way of example, the distillery may not want to pursue legal action if an employee discloses protected secrets to their roommate who is not working in the distilling industry, but still may want to remind the employee of the gravity of their agreement to not disclose the protected information and the consequences of disclosing protected information.

These are just some options to address an improper disclosure of company secrets. Distilleries should consult with legal counsel when an employee discloses protected information to explore all of their options and potential claims against the disclosing employee.

NOW I NEED A DRINK! No one wants to think about disgruntled employees muddling a growing distillery with a unique footprint in the industry or threatening profitability, but avoiding these difficult conversations and topics early can have devastating consequences down the line, including losing the right to claim ownership over a one-of-a-kind idea. By taking early and definitive steps to protect confidential information, distilleries can reduce the likelihood that their confidential information will be disclosed to outsiders, thereby allowing them to remain focused on fun stuff like developing their brands and encouraging open communication.

Meg Burnham is an Senior Associate in the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, based in the Firm’s Bellevue, Washington office. Her practice concentrates on a wide range of employment and labor law issues involving a variety of industries, including the alcohol beverage industry. Her practice includes counseling on everyday employment issues such as changes to federal and state employment laws, employee onboarding and terminations, employee trainings, and advising on how employers can proactively avoid litigation. She also has an active litigation practice representing employers in an array of employment disputes. Scott Prange is an Senior Associate in the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, based in the Firm’s Seattle, Washington office. Scott empowers clients to command the workplace for competitive edge by fostering a workforce that is agile and cohesive. He works with employers across a variety of industries, including the alcohol beverage industry. He provides strategic counsel on wide-ranging employment-related matters, with an eye on establishing a strong culture of proactive compliance, and defends employers during all stages of litigation and alternative dispute resolution, with an eye on creatively diffusing conflict when it arises. 42


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Written by KEVIN O’BRIEN



pirits industry mergers and acquisition (M&A) activity in 2021 picked up right where it left off at the end of 2020. After the pandemic related disruptions in the broader M&A market in early 2020, the second half of the year experienced robust activity. Spirits M&A activity in 2021 was driven by similar factors as in prior years — premiumization, distributor consolidation, and low interest rates. The year saw fewer overall transactions than in previous years but reinforced certain trends that have been observed in the recent past. As a primer, it should be noted that the U.S. spirits industry once again outperformed its beverage alcohol counterparts during 2021. Spirits volume in the U.S. grew by 9.3 percent during the year, far eclipsing wine and beer which both saw negative growth rates. Continuous annual growth in the spirits industry has led the category to account for over 41 percent of U.S. beverage alcohol revenue. In fact, since 2011, the percentage of U.S. alcohol dollar sales has increased from 34.1 percent to 41.3 percent, FIGURE 1 Spirits % of U.S. Alcohol Dollar Sales an increase of more than 21 percent. These Source: Distilled Spirits Council growth trends continue to support investments by leading beverage alcohol suppliers +21.1% to capture additional market share in one of 41.3% 39.6% the few growing segments in the industry. 35.9% 34.1% Additionally, 2021 welcomed the return of the very important on-premise channel. This is of interest because nascent spirits brands are developed in the on-premise channel where consumer trial is most effective — this trial tends to lead to off-premise purchases. With the pandemic related disruptions of 2020, the on-premise channel cratered with a year-over-year decline 2011 2016 2020 2021 of almost 44 percent. Fast forward one year and the growth rate exceeded 50 percent. The shift from off-premise Off-Premise On-Premise Total to on-premise was dramatic and ultimately resulted in the overall cat53.0% egory growing year-over-year. The increase in on-premise business certainly benefited up and coming 18.0% spirits brands seeking to establish 7.7% 9.3% 1.0% a presence in an ever competitive marketplace.



On-Premise vs. Off-Premise Spirits Volume Growth (2020-2021) 2020 2021 Source: Distilled Spirits Council W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

-44.0% 45

As the spirits industry continues to grow, large beverage premixed vodka and tequila shots. To understand why there has alcohol supplies continue to make investments in the space. been a spate of investments in the RTD category, look no further Similar to prior years, super-premium priced products than recent growth metrics. (greater than $35 per bottle) remained an attractive price As outlined earlier, the overall spirits industry grew by 9.3 perpoint for investment. Additionally, the whiskey and mezcal cent year-over-year. During this same period, the RTD cocktails categories continued to be areas of interest. Continuing a category grew more than 40 percent. This growth rate was the trend from 2020, the most notable M&A activity during the fastest out of all spirits categories in 2021. While the categoyear took place in the emerging ready-to-drink (RTD) cockry is still emerging, DISCUS estimates that it may eventually tails category. reach about $7 billion. If this prediction comes to pass, the In 2020, several major beverage alcohol companies made investments that have been made in the last two years should investments in the growing RTD cocktail category. AB InBev, provide favorable results. With a total of eight investments, Bacardi, Beam Suntory, and Brown-Forman all placed bets in it will be interesting to observe whether some of these inthe RTD category. This trend continued in 2021 with four advestors “double up” on brands like Diageo and AB InBev ditional RTD-related transactions being announced. Signaling or remain focused on driving growth in one brand. With their belief in the category, Diageo, one of the largest suppliers more investment in the category the competition will in the industry, made two RTD investments during the year. The certainly become more challenging so being well-capfirst was the announcement that they made a majority investitalized to provide market support will be critical for ment in Texas-based Lone River Ranch Water. This is primarfledgling brands. ily a seltzer brand but Diageo leveraged the strong branding to While RTD cocktail investments were the most launch “Ranchrita”, a premium RTD margarita. Their second inprevalent during the year, there were many other vestment was the acquisition of Loyal 9 Cocktails, a brand made investments across other spirits categories. The tewith vodka and 100 percent real fruit. These brands, along with quila/mezcal category followed RTDs with the Diageo’s own RTD line extensions, have positioned Diageo to be second-fastest growth rate during the year, increasone of the leaders in the category. The Company is so bullish reing more than 30 percent. Mezcal has been a nice garding RTDs that it was reported their North American arm is growth story in the industry and has continued investing $80 million in expanding its RTD production capacity to to attract investments by leading suppliers. more than 25 million cases annually. Constellation announced making a minority AB InBev, the world’s largest beverage alcohol company, coninvestment in Dos Hombres, the celebrity tinued to diversify their business by taking a minority position in brand led by Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul the rapidly growing Canteen Spirits. The brand experienced rapid of Breaking Bad fame. Shortly thereafter, growth in its short life having exceeded 500,000 in case sales for Diageo announced it has acquired Mezcal 2020. This brand will join their expanding “non-beer” portfolio that Union. Diageo had been working in partincludes Cutwater Spirits, Goodridge & Williams, and Babe Wine. nership with the brand since 2016 providThe last investment in the RTD category was made by E&J Gallo, ing distribution support. This partnership the largest wine company in the U.S. The company announced the proved successful and led Diageo to acacquisition of LIQS, a premixed single-serve shot brand. The brand quire the brand outright. first targeted the off-premise but quickly expanded into on-premise The third-fastest growing category venues around the country. The portfolio primarily consists of various during 2021 was Irish whiskey, which



Five Fastest Growing Categories by Dollar Sales (2020-2021) Source: Distilled Spirits Council


RTD Cocktails






Irish Whiskey


Single Malt Scotch


saw an increase in dollar sales of 16.3 percent. Reflecting the increased consumer interest in the category, two transactions were announced. The first, another ceTarget lebrity related transaction, saw Grupo Cuervo take majority ownership of Ceder's Conor McGregors’ Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey brand. Grupo Cuervo prePaul Masson viously held a minority position in the rapidly expanding brand but reportedly negotiated a controlling long-term deal La Hechicera worth up to $600 million. McGregor and the other founders will retain some ownership interest and maintain active roles Lone River Ranch Water in the business. The other Irish whiskey transaction related to SPI Group’s acquisition of Ireland’s Walsh Whiskey. This Luxco portfolio includes the super-premium The Irishman and Writers’ Tears brand. Loyal 9 Both transactions signal that the growth of Irish whiskey has staying power. There have been limited transactions in this RumChata category recently so it may be an area of interest for investors in the coming year. One of the largest transactions of the Canteen Spirits year occurred when MGP Ingredients announced the acquisition of Luxco. Proper No. Twelve MGP has long been known as a leadWhiskey ing spirits industry contract manufacturer but has been shifting some focus to developing, or acquiring, their own LIQS brands. Luxco's brand stable includes Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey, Daviess Dos Hombres County Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Yellowstone Bourbon Whiskey, El Mayor Tequila, and Everclear. With reMezcal Union ported sales of nearly five million cases in 2020, this acquisition represents a sizable Ireland's Walsh shift in MGP’s strategy to diversify their Whiskey business model to capture additional margins on their own branded products. MGP may look to add additional brands Abasolo to their growing portfolio in the coming years as it looks to compete with the industry’s largest players. Pernod Ricard, a prolific acquirer of Breckenridge Distillery brands, continued their torrid pace of investments during the year. They started the year announcing the acquisition of a majority stake in UK-based Ceder’s, an alcohol-free brand. They had previously worked with the company as their exclusive distributor in the UK but did not own an equity stake. Pernod Ricard announced another majority investment, taking a stake in La Hechicera, a Colombian W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


Notable Spirits Industry Transactions in 2021

Source: Zepponi & Company



Pernod Ricard

Non-Alcoholic Spirits


Value Brandy

Pernod Ricard

Super Premium Rum


RTD Cocktails

MGP Ingredients

Brand Portfolio


RTD Cocktails

E&J Gallo

Premium Liqueur

AB InBev

RTD Cocktails

Grupo Cuervo

Super Premium Irish Whiskey

E&J Gallo

RTD Cocktails


Super Premium Mezcal


Super Premium Mezcal

SPI Group

Super Premium Irish Whiskey

Pernod Ricard

Super Premium Mexican Whiskey

Tilray, Inc.

Super Premium American Whiskey


ultra-premium rum. Finally, Pernod Ricard acquired a minority stake in Mexican whisky brand Abasolo from Casa Lumbre. The deal follows a similar arrangement from last year when Pernod took a minority stake in Casa Lumbre’s Ojo de Tigre mezcal brand. At some point Pernod Ricard may look to absorb all the transactions in the last several years but for now they appear motivated to continue expanding this super-premium portfolio. Other notable transactions that occurred included another deal involving E&J Gallo with the acquisition of popular premium-priced cream liqueur RumChata. Sazerac also bolstered their portfolio acquiring the large volume, value-priced brandy Paul Masson from Constellation Brands. This was in follow-up to acquiring numerous brands from Brown-Forman the previous year. Finally, in late December it was announced that Tilray was acquiring Colorado-based Breckenridge Distillery. Tilray is a publicly traded global cannabis-lifestyle and consumer packaged goods company. This marks their first foray into the spirits space but not in the alcohol industry. The company had previously acquired SweetWater Brewing Company. These strategic investments will help the company to diversify its revenue mix and provide strong platform brands to leverage if THC-based products become federally legal in the U.S. Overall, 2021 was an active market for spirits industry M&A. There were numerous transactions completed by familiar industry players and the introduction of some new faces. As the leading growth segment of the beverage alcohol industry, spirits brands will continue to transact in order to bolster the portfolio’s of leading suppliers. Additionally, there remains strong interest in the space from private equity firms that are still flush with investor money that has yet to be deployed. While there will continue to be numerous transactions there are some concerns with the broader economic market. Increasing interest rates, continued supply chain issues, and geopolitical dynamics may damper the enthusiasm of the general M&A market. That being said, brands that continue to show impressive growth and strong underlying financial metrics will remain attractive now and into the future.

Kevin O’Brien is a Principal with Zepponi & Company, a leading beverage alcohol M&A firm. Dedicated to the beverage alcohol industry, Kevin has presented on various accounting and finance related topics for the American Craft Spirits Association, Wine & Spirits Daily, and American Distilling Institute.




NORTHERN EXPOSURE Crawford Distillery Combines Community and Commitment to Create Acclaimed Spirits


ay up north in the city of Havre, Montana, roughly 30 minutes south of the Canadian border, stands an indisputable labor of love. The town of some 9,300 people is where spirits enthusiasts seeking adventure along the Montana Hi-Line will find Crawford Distillery. The microdistillery, founded and operated by husband-and-wife duo Neil and Alyssa Crawford, produces award-winning vodka, moonshine, rum, and whiskey within their 8,000-square-foot space, a significant upgrade from the tiny 600-square-foot facility the distillery originally called home when it launched in 2017. But what they make merely hints at the passion behind the project. Neil hasn’t quit his day job just yet. This isn’t unusual on its own. Plenty of microdistilleries start off as side gigs with roots laid down in a person’s spare time. It’s his vocation that makes his story unique. As an employee of the United States Border Patrol, the U.S. Navy veteran must leave his booze behind for long stretches of time to go south and help keep watch over the U.S./Mexico border. “He usually goes to either Arizona or Texas for thirty days at a time every ninety days,” explained Alyssa, who also wears the hat of head bartender. “Thankfully, we’ve got things to the point where the process runs like a well-oiled machine.” In an industry where having an authentic story to share with customers can be essential to success, Crawford’s tale of a distiller routinely traveling some 1,400 miles to perform a government job for several weeks at a time ranks rather high on the intrigue scale. It’s a story that requires some context. 50


From the Sunshine to the Hi-Line Crawford Distillery’s seeds were planted in 2015 when Neil and Alyssa moved from San Diego to Havre so Neil could primarily work on the U.S./Canada border. They were instantly smitten by what they saw. Havre’s small-town charm was an ideal spot to raise their daughters, and its surrounding bucolic environment provided Neil ample opportunity to indulge his hunting and fishing hobbies. While Alyssa admits the shift from big city to small town did require a period of adjustment, she’s also quick to credit the move for Crawford’s existence. “We probably couldn’t have done this back home,” she said. “The pace of life and the cost of living up here made it a much easier decision to go for it.” Indeed, it wasn’t long after they settled that Neil, already a spirits enthusiast, got bit hard by the distilling bug. He squeezed in trips to distilling workshops, learning enough to gain the confidence to strike out on his own. It was a bold leap: Neil didn’t intend to quit his job, even if keeping it meant being occasionally pulled down south and away from the juice for long stretches. Still, it was a leap that needed to happen, if only to nourish the soul. “We had to give distilling a try,” Alyssa said. “If it didn’t work out, that would have been fine. At least we wouldn’t have sat around wishing we would have seen if we would have been able to do it.” They started cranking out their juice from the solitary 50-gallon pot still that anchored their original 600-square-foot distilling space, using ingredients sourced from local farmers. This approach allowed them to quickly connect with the community, but their reputation didn’t just grow because word travels fast in a small town. Crawford collected numerous awards in 2019, including USA Distillery of the Year honors from the Asia International Spirits Competition. The one-two punch of award recognition and support from the community caused enough rapid growth to compel Neil and Alyssa to move it to a bigger facility in town in early 2020 — right before COVID-19 took hold. “We literally opened the new place thirty days before the world shut down,” Alyssa said.



Fortunately, the community rallied around the distillery during this critical time, snapping up bottles and gift cards and dropping off raw materials that were in short supply on their doorstep daily. The response fortified the sense of community Neil and Alyssa developed since moving to Havre’s compact confines. It’s a feeling that gets reinforced whenever they travel back to their old stomping grounds. “We miss the big city sometimes,” Alyssa admitted. “But, whenever we do visit San Diego, we always say that we can’t wait to go back to Havre.”

A Definitive Destination Distillery There are no international airports near Crawford Distillery, nor are there any major metropolitan areas. The nearest city of over 100,000 people, Calgary, isn’t even in the U.S. It’s not quite the northernmost distillery in the Lower 48, but it’s close. Its remote location requires purpose from those interested


in visiting. According to Alyssa, Crawford tends to be the final stop for road-tripping out-of-towners exploring the Hi-Line, a journey featuring scenic volcanic peaks and the historic and archaeological museums that mark the portion of The Montana Dinosaur Trail that runs along its main drag, U.S. Highway 2. She’s gotten good at spotting these travelers. “You can always tell when people haven’t been to Havre before,” she stated. “They’re always shocked by how

friendly and welcoming everyone is around here.” While the Crawfords obviously aim to send these surprised travelers back home with a memorable experience and perhaps a bottle or two, they also strive to ensure they leave with a little extra knowledge. They took a deep dive into the city and the state’s past when they started distilling, working closely with community members to learn as much as they could about the area’s rich

“It takes several hours for many of our guests to get here. When they do arrive, we want them to feel like they’re family. We feel that sharing stories about where we come from helps us do that.” ALYSSA CRAWFORD

Co-Founder & Head Bartender, Crawford Distillery


bootlegging and moonshining history. Each label, such as their Milk River Moonshine and their Old Fort Whiskey, contains nuggets of the info learned, from tales of intrepid souls sneaking hooch through the Hi-Line’s backroads on horseback, to locomotives dropping off supplies to the roughneck residents of longgone Bullhook Bottom en route from St. Paul to Seattle. These bottle-bound tales provide education, but Alyssa hopes they also help guests forge a deeper connection with the brand. “It takes several hours for many of our guests to get here,” she said. “When they do arrive, we want them to feel like they’re family. We feel that sharing stories about where we come from helps us do that.” W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

An Eye Toward the Future and the Past Crawford’s growth has gone beyond needing a bigger building. They upgraded their equipment to a 30-gallon Specific Mechanical still last fall, and this expansion dovetails nicely with some concrete and potential plans. They’re releasing their first bourbon by late 2022/early 2023, and they’ve contemplated making gin, honey whiskey, and flavored vodka down the road. Most importantly, the end of Neil’s north-tosouth exploits are in sight: He’s eligible for retirement from the U.S. Border Patrol in five years.

The future feels as wide open as the Big Sky Country they call home. But while they’d love to expand beyond microdistillery status one day, they have no intention of forsaking the communal soul that drives the heart of the spirit. For Alyssa, recognizing and honoring their surroundings is foundational to their continued success. ”It’s very important for us to take a step back once in a while and appreciate our location,” she said. “If we were in a different state than Montana, I don’t know if we would have survived.” Crawford Distillery is located in Havre, Montana. For more info visit or call (406) 262-0461. 53


VIKRE DISTILLERY Written by Gabe Toth


Photography provided by Vikre Distillery

This is the first article in what will be an ongoing series called Beyond the Bottom Line. These articles will feature distillers and distilleries who are focused on more than their profit-and-loss statements, but also environmental factors, social issues, and employee well-being. These businesses and individuals exemplify a spirit that looks beyond themselves to their place in the community and the wider world.


ike so many craft spirits ventures, Vikre Distillery in Minnesota is a passion project. But unlike most of those, owners Emily and Joel Vikre weren’t pursuing some long-held interest in distilling. She comes from a background in food policy and applied nutrition, while he worked in international global health programs. They also held experience in nonprofit work and social justice issues, and were looking for a way to tap into those things locally. “Joel and I did not get into distilling because of a passion for distilled spirits,” Emily Vikre said. “Our passion was really for Duluth, and we wanted to start making things instead of spreadsheeting and powerpointing.” She said they looked around and saw grain, great water, peat, botanicals, cooperages, and a wide-open opportunity to tap into those local resources, be part of the community, hire local people, and create a gathering place to help create community. “Everyone was starting breweries, but nobody was taking that next step and starting distilleries,” she said. They saw it as a chance to create a platform for different environmental and resource-driven issues. She explained that they’ve set social and environmental goals, alongside their sales goals, every year since opening in the latter part of 2013. She laughed while explaining, “We’re better W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

at hitting our social and environmental goals,” Vikre said. A background in and focus on social and environmental concerns doesn’t mean the products are an afterthought, though. They’re a liquid representation of the distillery’s priorities, from raw materials to final packaging. “Our first big (priority) was local sourcing of grains,” Vikre said. “Some of our grains come directly from farms that we know, and some come from a local grain elevator.” They release a rye whiskey every March using

rye grown on an organic farm owned by close friends, and in October they will come out with Sugarbush, a whiskey made from a bourbon mash and aged in port barrels with maple staves and finished in bourbon barrels previously used to age maple syrup. They’ve also gotten organic certification for their core lineup of gins and akavits, which has involved choices in Vikre’s ingredient sourcing and cleaning processes. She described their core lineup of gins, vodkas, and aquavits as “inspired by Lake Superior, the Northwoods, and a kind of nature and culture interpretation of terroir.” “Each product is flavor-based storytelling, capturing the essence of a vignette of personal history [and] place in the belief that a connection to the deeply personal is also a connection to the universal,” Vikre said. “And

the products are a celebration of botanicals and culinary creativity and the deliciousness of the water of Lake Superior, the world's largest body of fresh water.” In addition, they’ve recently released three canned cocktails inspired by light, aperitif-style recipes. They include Frenchie, a spritz-style cocktail with aperitivo; the Briar cocktail, a fortified wine infused with bay and vanilla and blended with fruit and rhubarb juices; and the Vélo, a take on the Italian spritz using rhubarb and citrus aperitivo, wine, and soda water. Vikre said the cocktails are an outgrowth of her experience growing up part-time in Europe, where a light, bitter, appetite-priming cocktail, and the socializing that went with it, was often part of the culture. “It’s that lighter, more social, more present, healthy approach

“Joel and I did not get into distilling because of a passion for distilled spirits. Our passion was really for Duluth, and we wanted to start making things instead of spreadsheeting and powerpointing.” — Emily Vikre 55

to drinking alcohol [that] has always been a big thing for me and how I operate,” she said. “There are so many people doing gin and tonic, old fashioned, very classic cocktails in cans, which is great. To me, the real opportunity I saw lacking is the cocktails that are light and require a lot more ingredients and would have you opening several bottles that you don’t want to keep on hand.” Along with those cocktails, they’ve released a trio of modifiers that have been part of their in-house cocktail program for years: a citrusy, bitter amaro; an aperitivo that’s lighter, citrusy,


and bittersweet; and an herbal liqueur with garden herbs, a little bit of sweet spices, and a touch of local honey. After tackling their grain supply chain, Vikre said they followed up with a focus on reducing water usage (as well as the accompanying bill), installing a closed water loop that runs outside the building for cooling. “It’s so cold in Duluth so much of the year that we can just use the ambient air temperature to cool our water off,” she said. The distillery has also put in place a packaging reclamation and reuse program. They

“We do trash audits to see what is causing the trash we have. That has caused some real changes to all of our employees’ lunch ordering habits.” — Emily Vikre switched to screen-printed bottles to streamline the ability to take bottles back, sanitize, and reuse them. (Bottles with damaged screen printing are diverted to usage in the bar.) After that was a zero-waste push. The staff consolidates the trash every day, weighing it multiple times a

week before pickup, and tabulating it on a scorecard to see how they did for the week. “We do trash audits to see what is causing the trash we have. That has caused some real changes to all of our employees’ lunch ordering habits,” Vikre said. In one audit, they noticed that a big source of trash was the food prep gloves they use and the trash bags themselves, which prompted a switch to gloves and bags that will break down in the landfill. She said they divert a lot to compost and recycling, producing “less trash per day as a production facility and cocktail bar than the average American individual produces.” They changed the types of totes used in some cases and make sure the totes get sent back. Supersacks are reused as long as possible and sent to a local archery group for target practices when worn out. Some of the packaging was changed from plastic to recycled paper, and they swapped out regular stretch wrap for a compostable variety. That change required them to connect with a partner who could recycle the plastic, and they’ve had to get composting set up for the building as well. “A big part of the work that we’ve done is improving our supply chain, what’s coming in, what’s going out, to try to divert things away from the landfill,” Vikre said. “There’s a good amount of added labor.” The Vikres were well ahead of W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

the curve in their focus on supply chains, preferring to source as close to home as possible. For years, they had to dig and search to find local vendors, because the small local providers weren’t setting up a booth at the national events. It took extra legwork and extra research to identify partners who were a fit for their values. “It’s often easier to find the stuff that gets pitched to you at the conference,” she said. “They [national and international vendors] have huge sales forces that are in your face to make sure you know that you can buy from W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

them. The small farmers and small manufacturers don’t.” She said they notice the difference in costs when working locally, whether it’s t-shirts made of more sustainable materials, screen-printed bottles, or local malt. “Our bookkeeper is always giving us glares, ‘Why are you buying the most expensive version of this? Why are you paying people more?’ Our margins aren’t very good,” she said. However, focusing on small local suppliers in the middle of a global pandemic has helped to ease some — though certainly not all — of the troubles that

many distillers and other producers have been experiencing. Local supplies and materials bypass many of the issues currently impacting users of supplies like glass bottles produced overseas. “In many ways, being a thoughtful and sustainable and locally focused business has made it easier, because it’s made a lot of questions non-questions,” Vikre said. “We’ve certainly not been exempt from supply chain issues. A bigger issue has been shipping and shipping delays. Half the time, something will be shipped and no one will know where it is.”

While the spirits and canned cocktails drive the business, Emily and Joel are ultimately focused on making their part of the world better, or at least fighting off interests that would degrade it. They embrace the Triple Bottom Line philosophy, which considers the distillery’s social and environmental impact as equal priorities with the company’s profits. “A big part of what we’ve been doing in recent years is partnering with nonprofit organizations that work on maintaining the waterways around here,” Vikre said. That includes the St. Louis 57

River Alliance, where Joel sits on the board of directors, and Friends of the Boundary Waters, where Emily is on the board. She said the boundary waters that delineate the border between Minnesota, and by extension the United States, and Canada is one of the largest protected areas in the country. “It’s a very contested area because there are a lot of copper sulfide mines being proposed by these huge international conglomerates,” she said. “They want to come in and open up these mines that use toxic chemicals as part of this process. They say it’ll be fine, and that it won’t contaminate the water, and yet there are zero instances where these mines have not contaminated the neighboring waterways.” To counter these efforts, they


push back directly as well as work with local governmental entities to diversify the local economies, bring broadband access, support tourism and outdoor recreation, and in general provide opportunities that help the local economies feel less dependent on the mining companies for jobs. They work with other local charities and nonprofits, as well, helping with events and donating space for meetings. The tasting room offers a variety of nonalcoholic cocktails to help everyone feel welcome. “Our zero-proof cocktail menu is basically as big as our cocktail menu to make sure that we’re communicating to people that you don’t have to drink alcohol to have fun,” Vikre said. The Vikre Distillery workforce features a majority of women in

leadership roles and on the production team, including the head distiller, head brewer, and lead bottler. The LGBTQIA community is also well-represented on the staff, she added. When COVID-19 hit, they focused even more attention onto their community and their staff well-being. “It was the crazy tourist season, and there’s pressure to maximize profit,” Vikre said. They had to close for a month and a half, furloughing staff, but were clear that they intended to get everyone back to work. Once they were able to reopen, they kept service outdoors, even after it was allowed inside again, until they could put a safe indoor system for service in place. “It’s been really hard, because we want to keep people safe and we want to keep people

employed, and how do we balance that?” she said. “We just knew that the safety of our staff comes first.” The need for hand sanitizer early on was helpful, not just for the public but also for their staffing concerns. “When we looked at what our community needs and the fact that we could make hand sanitizer, it wasn’t even a question for us. But then we wound up reaping all sorts of unanticipated rewards.” They’ve solidified their sales base in their home markets and been able to broaden their offerings with the new cocktail lineup, adding staff in the process. She said they’re hoping to expand their existing distillery space, which is an exciting opportunity to reconsider how and where they get their energy and


move towards reducing carbon emissions. They’re also at an inflection point, considering how to take on bigger projects, and which projects to target. “We’re looking at what are the next social or ecological initiatives,” Vikre said. “We’ve done the things that are obvious to us, so now we’re looking for the less obvious things. Can we get ourselves to a scale and a financial point where we can do some of the things that we can’t right now?” All of these initiatives — past, present, and future — require more work than a distiller would normally put in when sourcing

merchandise or glass, buying stretch wrap, or picking up a to-go lunch for the staff, but at Vikre Distillery, it’s just become second nature in what they do. “Everyone is on board with those values, you know that’s part of what we stand for,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a big deal to us until we go to a different place and you see all the things that people are throwing away. And you’re like, ‘Where’s your compost?’ You go places that don’t even have recycling bins, and your mind gets a little blown. “We believe in it. At every juncture it’s a real decision.”

Vikre Distillery is located in Duluth, Minnesota. For more information visit or call (218) 481-7401.


“We’re looking at what are the next social or ecological initiatives. We’ve done the things that are obvious to us, so now we’re looking for the less obvious things.” — Emily Vikre


A Touch of Magic:




ngelica is a plant thought to be so divine and magical that it could only be a gift from the archangel Raphael.1 As one of the only aromatic plants native to the Nordic region of Europe, this plant surely must have seemed amazing — edible leaves, edible stems, and aromatic, edible roots. Botanically, its scientific name Angelica archangelica pays homage to this folk story. Modern gardeners might know the plant better by its secular name, “Garden Angelica.” Today, many drinkers know it best as a core botanical in gin. Among those core botanicals, it’s one many drinkers are the least familiar with on its own. Ask the average consumer “what angelica tastes like” and you may be, at best, met with a shrug. However, while angelica is somewhat obscure in the day-to-day, it remains an important part of our food culture through distilling, where it is widely used. This ‘divine’ botanical is among the ingredients in several herbal bar staples, including both green and yellow Chartreuse. Further, it is used for aromatizing vermouth and figures in the botanical bills of absinthes and aquavit. Sometimes it even gets top billing — GrandTen Distilling produces an Angelica Liqueur. 1


Tucker 2010


Angelica archangelica’s natural sweetness might not impress us today, but for cultures where naturally occurring sweeteners are rare, it is a crucial part of their food cultures.

BOTANY of ANGELICA Angelica is a member of the Apiaceae family. It has umbrella shaped flowers and is closely related to hundreds of commonly cultivated plants including carrot, parsley, caraway, dill, fennel, and anise. While the plant is native to the Northern parts of Europe, it quickly became widely cultivated throughout the European continent. The plant has an unusual growth pattern. As a biennial, it only grows roots and leaves in the first year. During its second year, it can shoot up to six feet in height with towering, semi-sweet stalks, prized as candies and vegetables in some cultures. Angelica archangelica’s natural sweetness might not impress us today, but for cultures where naturally occurring sweeteners are rare, it is a crucial part of their food cultures. While many historical recipes for spirits and spirit drinks include other parts of the plant, it’s the root systems that are most important to distillers. Like many ingredients in spirits and spirit drinks today, we can trace its path from historical uses to early pharmacies all the way to our pantries.

ETHNOBOTANY of ANGELICA Angelica roots were a famine food for the residents of the Faeroe Islands; however, in some Nordic cultures the roots and rhizomes were a core vegetable. Before tobacco, angelica roots were the only stimulant available to Greenlandic peoples. It was sometimes used in place of tobacco — during difficult times angelica roots were chewed in Norway, and young Swedes sometimes used the roots as snuff before moving onto tobacco. Similar to many other ingredients prominent in European spirits, angelica roots also had a long history as a medicinal cure. A 1589 Swedish plague cure was simply distilled wine and angelica root. One distilling compendium, published in English in 1725, included four cures for the plague using the root.2 It seemingly could do anything. Drinking a 2

Smith (1725)


decoction of the root was a cure for scarlet fever and intestinal distress. It was even a remedy for sweating.3 Recreationally, angelica root was frequently used in drinks because of its strong aromatic properties. In Swedish cultures, the roots were sometimes added to reindeer milk. In Iceland, adding angelica schnapps purportedly imparted native teas with enhanced healthful properties. Norwegian peoples made tea from the roots, but also used ground roots to further flavor other spirits, including Cognac.4 The previously noted 1725 distilling manual included recreational angelica drinks as well. Golden cordial was created by macerating four pounds of roots overnight before distilling and later sweetening.5 This combination of uses and a natural slight sweetness in a region without many natural sweeteners explains how the plant became ubiquitous across a range of spirits. It’s perhaps best known for its use in gin alongside coriander, orris root, and juniper. However, its use is far wider than many realize. Among other brands, it is an ingredient in Chartreuse, Benedictine, Dubonnet, FernetBranca, and regional liqueurs like Norway’s St. Hallvard. In other words, angelica root has an important and prominent place in European and modern-day distilling culture.

ROOT COMPOSITION Among angelica roots, one of the most important aromatic contributors is a compound called pentadecanolide. In perfume, it is one of the most important naturally occurring 3

Brøndegaard (1987)

4 Teixidor-Toneu (2020) performed an extensive ethnobotanical overview of angelica across Nordic cultures. 5

Smith (1725)

ingredients, having “delicate musk note [that] is less animalic” than others.6 The 6th edition of Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients describes it as “extraordinarily persistent,” and perceptible by the human nose in quantities as low as one to four parts per billion.7 Sometimes simply just called “Angelica lactone,” it can be used as a flavoring agent in its own right. At 75 parts per million, several orders of magnitude above its aroma threshold, it is said to have the flavor of “vanilla bean, powdery, creamy, licorice.”8 Sutherland has listed it as one of the “Main flavour-active components of some botanicals used in gin manufacture.”9 Further, it is this compound that sometimes gets cited as the “fixative”10 in angelica root. Thus far it has not been found in any published GC/MS analysis of commercially available gins. However, spirits, liqueurs and amari that use directly macerated angelica, or include angelica oil are likely to prominently feature this aroma because of its potency. While this single compound might be incredibly important, it composes only a small portion of the makeup of angelica root. Many of its core terpenes overlap closely with the core terpenes of juniper. High quantities of α-pinene, δ-3-carene, and limonene mean that angelica root can seamlessly fade into the background of a distilled gin, and even help amplify some of the traditional “pine” character that pinene can add. Lopes studied angelica distillation and found that there was a higher concentration of monoterpenes like α-pinene, δ-3-carene,and limonene in earlier 6

Rowe (2006)


Burdock (2009)


Burdock (2009)


Varnam (1994)


McGovern (1967)


fractions and compounds like angelica lactones don’t begin to appear until much later in the distilling process — as a percentage it only made up less than one percent of the first fifth of the experimental distillation, but it was 3.51 percent of the last fifth.11 How and where you distill angelica root has been shown to make a difference, at least in terms of yield. Immersing the root material in boiling water reduced oil yield; Chalchat’s study suggests vapor distillation without maceration to improve the yield per amount of plant material, though the study found no difference in the composition of the end product.12 When we talk about angelica root, there’s also three components to the root. The rhizome or the tuber, the root, and the smaller rootlets. In terms of flavor profile, the differences were trivial,13 however, there were massive differences in oil yield. Thick and thin roots yielded a better ratio of oil per gram of plant material.14 Angelica root was more geographically consistent, while showing a much greater seasonal and year-to-year variation than other plants.15 For example, β-phellandrene is a major component of angelica root harvested in summer. It increased by 36 percent16 in one study. Distillers looking for a consistent product (or growing their own) should be keenly aware of this difference which can change the flavor profile of the root. However, summer harvested roots also had a higher oil yield. Unlike some other plants which exhibit a strong sense of terroir, angelica is consistent across a wide range of geographies and source/origin variances are less likely to be a major consideration. Drying method also has an effect on the flavor profile of the root. Air drying rapidly increased the portion of the oil that was α-pinene; while slow natural drying yielded more δ-3-carene. Pentadecanolide was maximized after a 24-hour dryer or after 2 months of natural drying. In the case of natural drying, it rapidly dropped off after that.17 If you are drying your own roots, there are some interesting variables here that a grower or distiller can manipulate to generate angelica with a different profile. Most commercially available sources are mechanically dried. For those looking to work with angelica root in applications where distillation is not a requirement, there are commercially available extracts that are TTB approved for use.


Lopes (2004)


Chalchat (1997)


Chalchat (1997)


Bernard (1997) and Chalchat (1997)


Chalchat (1997)


Lopes (2004)


Chalchat (1997)



Yield by processing method and root part

Oil Yield

Process Method



















Root part

thick roots

thin roots


Sources: * Letchamo (1995)


Angelica root, GC/MS by location Serbia*














β-phellandrene 13.20%† limonene Sabinene
























Sources: * Acimovic (2016), ** Paroul (2002), *** Fraternale (2014) † There was imprecision in the Acimovic study where they were not able to authoritatively differentiate between β-phellandrene and limonene in the GC/MS; therefore they listed them together.



ANGELICA IN FUTURE PRODUCTION While not as well known or understood by consumers, angelica continues to be a part of many distillers’ and drinks producers’ toolkits. Its intense, distinct aroma and complementary profile make it an ideal candidate in everything from absinthe to gin to vermouth. While producers may be more intimately familiar with its woody, warming, slightly floral, slightly herbaceous tea flavor profile,18 the fact that it can be quotidian and yet obscure at the same time seems rather — magical. 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. 18

Burdock (2009)

archangelica L. Herba Polonica, 65(4). Fraternale, D., Flamini, G., & Ricci, D. (2014). Essential oil composition and antimicrobial activity of Angelica archangelica L.(Apiaceae) roots. Journal of medicinal food, 17(9), 1043-1047.

Aćimović, M. G., Pavlović, S. Đ., Varga, A. O., Filipović, V. M., Cvetković, M. T., Stanković, J. M., & Čabarkapa, I. S. (2017). Chemical composition and antibacterial activity of Angelica archangelica root essential oil. Natural product commu- Fraternale, D., Flamini, G., & Ricci, D. nications, 12(2), 1934578X1701200216. (2016). Essential oil composition of Angelica archangelica L.(Apiaceae) roots Bashirova, R. M., GALKIN, E., & and its antifungal activity against plant ABDULLAEV, F. (2014). Phenolic pathogenic fungi. Plant Biosystems-An Compounds of Fresh Roots and International Journal Dealing with all Rhizomes of Garden Angelica Angelica Aspects of Plant Biology, 150(3), 558-563. Archangelica L. International Journal of Secondary Metabolite, 1(1). Holm, Y., Vuorela, P., & Hiltunen, R. (1997). Enantiomeric composition of Bernard, C., & Clair, G. (1997). Essential monoterpene hydrocarbons in n‐hexane oils of three Angelica L. species growing extracts of Angelica archangelica L. roots in France. Part I. Root oils. Journal of and seeds. Flavour and fragrance journal, essential oil research, 9(3), 289-294. 12(6), 397-400. Brøndegaard, V. J. (1987). Folk og Holm, Y., Galambosi, B., Heikkinen, flora. Dansk Etnobotanik. Rosenkilde og J., Zs, G., & Hiltunen, R. (2012). Bagger. Essential oil composition of Angelica archangelica root from Northern Finland. Burdock, A. G. (2009). Fenaroli's Handbook of Flavor Ingredients (6th ed.). Обзоры по клинической фармакологии и лекарственной терапии, 10(2), 58. CRC Press.

Lactone from the Oil of Angelica archangelica L. Chemistry & biodiversity, 1(12), 1880-1887. McGovern, T. P., & Beroza, M. (1967). Effect of fixatives and other chemicals in extending the activity of the insect attractant trimedlure. Journal of Economic Entomology, 60(2), 379-383. Nivinskiene, O., Butkiene, R., & Mockutë, D. (2003). Changes in the chemical composition of essential oil of Angelica archangelica L. roots during storage. Chemija (Vilnius), 14(1), 52-56. Nivinskienė, O., Butkienė, R., & Mockutė, D. (2005). The chemical composition of the essential oil of Angelica archangelica L. roots growing wild in Lithuania. Journal of essential oil research, 17(4), 373-377. Rowe, D. J. (Ed.). (2006). Chemistry and Technology of flavors and fragrances. Blackwell.

Smith, G. (1725). A complete body of distilling explaining the mysteries of that science, in a most easy and familiar manner Kerrola, K., Galambosi, B., & Kallio, H. ; ... in two parts. by G. Smith .. Printed for Chalchat, J. C., & Garry, R. P. (1997). (1994). Characterization of volatile com- Bernard Lintot. Essential oil of angelica roots (Angelica position and odor of angelica (Angelica archangelica L.): optimization of disarchangelica subsp. archangelica L.) root Teixidor-Toneu, I., Kjesrud, K., & Kool, tillation, location in plant and chemical extracts. Journal of Agricultural and Food A. (2020). Sweetness beyond desserts: composition. Journal of essential oil the cultural, symbolic, and botanical Chemistry, 42(9), 1979-1988. research, 9(3), 311-319. history of angelica (Angelica archangelLetchamo, W., Gosselin, A., & Hölzl, J. ica) in the Nordic region. Journal of Culea, M., Keul, M., Tamas, M., (1995). Growth and essential oil content Ethnobiology, 40(3), 289-304. & Bathory, D. (2005). GC-MS of Angelica archangelica as influenced CHARACTERIZATION OF Tucker, A. O., DeBaggio, T., & DeBaggio, ANGELICA VOLATILE OIL. Annals of by light intensity and growing media. F. (2010). The encyclopedia of herbs: A the West University of Timisoara. Physics Journal of Essential Oil Research, 7(5), comprehensive reference to herbs of flavor 497-504. Series, 47, 52. and fragrance. Timber Press. Lopes, D., Strobl, H., & Kolodziejczyk, P. Forycka, A., & Buchwald, W. (2019). Varnam, A. H., & Sutherland, J. P. Variability of composition of essential oil (2004). 14‐Methylpentadecano‐15‐lac(1994). Beverages: Technology, Chemistry tone (Muscolide): A New Macrocyclic and coumarin compounds of Angelica and Microbiology. Springer.

Congratulations on 50 years of producing beautiful distilling equipment. TOM MANHERZ President & CEO • Wolfhead Distillery

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ost distillers have probably figured out the continue through 2023 before possibly bad news already: Supply chains on improving as current issues unwind all manner of crucial items are a mess. themselves. But there’s more bad news: The light Richard Chapman, senior vice at the end of the tunnel is, for now, president and chief supply chain just a pinprick on the horizon, an unofficer with Saxco, a global suppliknown distance off. er of packaging materials for the Supply chain issues have stacked food and beverage alcohol indusup since the beginning of the tries, said the current situation is COVID-19 pandemic, including the worst he’s seen in his 30-year lockdowns and staffing issues that career working in supply chains. A TH TO impact production and transportation, major factor is the prolonged nature W RITTE N BY G ABE skyrocketing demand for barrels, a historof the disruption, which has now exically bad domestic harvest of malting barley, tended for more than two years and inthe Great Resignation, war in Europe, and potencorporates multiple global issues. In the past, tial union contract issues that would further disrupt ophe said, there might be strikes, catastrophic weather erations at major West Coast ports. occurrences, natural disasters, or other occurrences, but From grain to barrels to bottles and cans, distillers of these would generally be resolved in six to nine months. all sizes are feeling the pinch of rising prices and reduced “At this time, it’s a perfect storm where a lot of things availability. By some accounts, the current situation will are happening,” he said.

A glimpse into the varied t nature of curren supply-chain woes




While the headlines in the United States have focused on backlogs at domestic hubs, Sean Gallagher, senior vice president and general manager at Saxco, said things are just as bad on the other side of the The storm began, of course, with COVID-19-related factory cloPacific. “We hear about the backlog at the Port of Los Angeles, but sures, as well as worker illness impacting productivity at ports, shipthe number one backlog is in Southeast Asia,” he said. “There’s more ping companies, and other parts of the global supply chain. The reships waiting over there than there are over here.” strictions that various countries put in place to tamp down waves of The immediate response to these disruptions was a natural one, pandemic reduced many manufacturers’ ability to produce essentials Gallagher said. “People recognized as soon as the pandemic started such as bottles and closures. A factory that has to shut down for an that these long supply chains are a risk,” he said. “What’s the natural outbreak or operate with reduced staffing directly results in lessened reaction to that? Let’s try to move back towards domestic. Well, evcapacity in the overall system. erybody had that reaction, and the domestic capacity is just not there. Early this year, the war in Ukraine added another layer of complexThere’s just no great solution because domestic capacity has been reity to the supply chain, impacting fuel prices and glass supply. When duced so much that now it’s a struggle to try to get back.” a glass plant in Ukraine was bombed, it added pressure elsewhere on It’s an issue spread across many industries, including those that the system by removing capacity and creating more demand on other have an indirect impact on the spirits world. One example is microplants and other suppliers. “The war has an immediate impact on the chips. Combined with a shortage of truck drivers impacting commerglass supply chain process. It takes out capacity, it puts more pressure cial shippers’ ability to move freight around the country, a shortage on all the other suppliers that are already tight to begin of microchips impacts the ability of both commercial and with,” Chapman said. consumer-facing companies to grow their truck fleet, Simultaneously, slowdowns at shipping or to simply maintain their fleet size as trucks go hubs led to cargo ships loaded with ship“People recognized out of service. ping containers queued up at major as soon as the pandemic However, the gut reaction to simply make ports around the world, unable to get started that these long supply microchips — or bottles, or any number cargo unloaded and moved out in a chains are a risk . What’s the of other goods — domestically overtimely fashion. In turn, that capacity looks the limits of the local supply chain. — both the ships and the containnatural reaction to that? Let’s try to “There’s just not enough domestic caers — sitting idle results in ineffimove back towards domestic. Well, pacity to support domestic demand,” he cient usage and effectively reduces eve ryb od y said. Domestic facilities in a variety of had that reaction, and the the capacity of the global shipping industries closed over the years as people network, raising costs and reducing domestic capacity is just not there.” found equivalent and more cost-effective availability of materials coming from options internationally. overseas. — SEAN GALLAGHER Even if someone had the foresight and capSenio r Vice President and Shipping containers unloaded at the General Manager, Saxco ital in the spring of 2020 to build a new bottling ports are now sent directly back overseas, plant in the United States, Gallagher said, they still rather than moving further into the country. had to overcome upstream supply chain issues. He said This change in practice is preventing farmers in the there was new capacity coming on-line during the pandemmiddle of the country from refilling the containers with ic, but because a lot of the equipment used to make glass is made in grain for export. Despite the shortened circuit from and back to their Italy and other parts of Europe, there were significant availability and destination, demand for containers remains through the roof. importing issues. “Even if you can get a container, it costs you five times, six times “We’ve had suppliers that were in the middle of building new furwhat it used to cost to ship something from Asia or Europe to the naces or retooling their machines, and they got stopped because they US,” Chapman said. He noted that the increased shipping costs are couldn’t get the product here, they couldn’t get the people to help simple supply-and-demand economics; demand is high and capacity install it, the experts, and that caused additional delays,” he said. is backlogged, leading to a dramatic increase in freight costs. Ocean freight companies are extremely profitable at the moment, he said, but by and large it’s part of the cyclical feast-and-famine nature of the industry. “This is their time to make hay while they can,” he said. “They’re recouping losses that they had before.” Now, with a July 1 deadline for a new contract for more than 20,000 Grain will likely be a pain point for distillers in the near future, as union workers at dozens of West Coast ports, primarily at the Port of well. A record-breaking bad malting barley harvest in 2021 is combinLos Angeles and Port of Long Beach, an existing logjam at internaing with international factors to strain the global supply of grain this tional shipping hubs could suddenly become much worse. Chapman year and potentially further out. (More on the poor barley harvest noted that the last time the longshoremen went on strike, it lasted for and how distillers can adjust can be found on page 73.) eight or nine months.





Understanding and Countering the


The bullwhip effect, named for the sinewave pattern exhibited when downstream demand is aggregated and graphed at different levels of the supply chain, is a common metric applied to multi-layered supply chains. It is a measure of the disconnect between buyers and suppliers and can have a significant impact on supply chains, potentially leading to increases in manufacturing costs, staffing issues, reduced product availability, and general lower profitability throughout the supply chain. In its simplest form, a 1:1 bullwhip effect involves replenishing a product daily based on the day’s demand. Few companies can manage that sort of responsiveness, so a more realistic calculation involves weekly, monthly, or periodic replenishment for multiple products. For a simple example, consider the hypothetical demand of two products, X and Y, over four weeks. For product X, weekly demand is 90 cases, 101 cases, 95 cases, 114 cases. For the second product, demand is 47 cases, 138 cases, 176 cases, and 39 cases. Both of these products have an average demand of 100 cases/week, but we can look at the data and immediately identify that one product has much higher demand variability than the other, requiring greater expense in buffer stock. Beyond the gut-level identification that monthly demand for product X is easier to forecast than demand for product Y, we can quantify this. When we take the difference between the mean and the actual demand, and then square it so that positive and negative values don’t cancel each other out later, we have the variance. For the first data set, the variances would be 100, 1, 25, and 196. If we average these numbers out to 80.5 and take the square root, we have the standard deviation, 8.97. When we apply the same statistical methods to the second set of demand data, we get variances of 2809, 1444, 5776, and 1521, averaging out to 2887.5. Our standard deviation for demand for this product is 53.74 with the same mean of 100. A higher standard deviation means that a distiller must keep a higher volume of product on hand to meet potential demand. Lower standard deviation means a more reliable level of demand with less variability, resulting in lower capital outlays for buffer capacity. When graphing demand, higher variability is indicated by sharper peaks and valleys in the demand line. If a distiller’s distributor responded to an average demand of 100 cases per week by ordering 100 66

cases per week from the distillery, it would result in a much smoother graph than if the distributor ordered more sporadically, such as 400 cases once a month or 1,000 cases per quarter. Taken to the extreme, there would be an enormous amount of logistical, staffing, and capacity issues if our hypothetical distributor were to order 4,000 cases once a year. The bullwhip effect quantifies this impact by dividing the variability of orders by the variability of demand. Rather than an admittedly unrealistic 1:1 ordering system that minimizes the disconnect between demand and ordering, this once-a-year approach maximizes it. A distillery, which maintains relationships with both buyers and sellers, is looking both upstream and downstream in the supply chain. Increased visibility into their distributor’s weekly sales, versus monthly reports or no visibility, helps the distiller to pivot production to meet unexpected demand trends. Similarly, how that distiller orders materials and communicates with suppliers can increase or reduce the impact of the bullwhip effect upstream from them. Communication with a supplier about what the distiller expects to need in the near term and over the coming year helps with planning, while smaller but more consistent order sizes reduce demand variability for the supplier. (On the other hand, factors that encourage large, sporadic orders — such as order minimums or high shipping charges — have the opposite effect, increasing demand variability and the bullwhip effect.) At the moment, the bullwhip effect is severe, largely due to supply factors out of the distiller’s control. In response, many distillers and other businesses have to make decisions in their business’ self-interest that further increase the bullwhip effect, such as buying large quantities to hedge against later shortages. Distillers and other manufacturers can

also muddy the supply chain by placing phantom orders with multiple suppliers that create false demand in the system, only to later cancel the unmet orders causing the demand to evaporate. Both actions are responses to high variability in supply, which creates a higher need for buffer or safety stock, leading to higher costs. The tools a distiller or business owner has to manage the current supply issues are limited, but valuable. As Gallagher discussed in the main article, having a Plan B that uses more generic but more available options can mean the difference between getting product onto shelves or not. Consolidating multiple SKUs with different package types into the same package can also help by hedging against supply variability for a unique package or increased demand on a given SKU. A distiller can more accurately predict the sum demand for four SKUs that share a common package than for four SKUs with different packages and their own separate variability to manage. This is one of the truisms of forecasting: Aggregate demand forecasts are more accurate than individual. If a distiller tries to forecast each product for daily or even weekly demand, there will be tremendous variability, whereas short-term fluctuations will average themselves out more over longer forecasting periods and across multiple products. This is part of the reason that suppliers can better forecast demand for a stock bottle — one that is used by a large number of distilleries — versus a unique bottle specific to a single distillery. Variability among the many distilleries, to a certain degree, averages out, while demand for the single-destination bottle can be much more volatile. At a gut level, many distillery managers may also recognize this principle as the reason that a distillery can better forecast their need for a material that is used across multiple SKUs (low variance) compared to an obscure botanical or unique W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

ingredient used for only one product (high variance). Increased visibility among supply chain partners, both upstream and downstream, can also help to reduce variability. Knowing what will be available upstream and what demand exists downstream allows for better planning, smoother operations, and reduced costs. “We’re signing POs for 2023 right now, knowing that our suppliers are packed and they have their own peccadillos at the moment,” Gallagher said. “What we believe helps us is to provide certainty for what they can expect from us in 2023.” More producers in a wide variety of industries are moving away from the just-in-time supply chain model that was increasingly commonplace as a way to reduce supply chain costs. Increased safety stock of materials, ingredients, and finished goods can help to buffer against variability in the supply chain. Finally, reducing complexity in the supply chain — originally incorporated to lower costs — helps to mitigate variability. This may mean eliminating unique package types, simplifying the product lineup by eliminating slow-moving SKUs, or finding substitutes for hard-to-find ingredients. Localization can also help eliminate many of the geographic hurdles that exist in global supply chains. While most distillers probably don’t have a “local” bottling plant to source from, they may be able to find farmers and maltsters to partner with, or local botanical growers/ suppliers, label manufacturers, merchandise suppliers, and print shops. In addition to simplifying their supply chain, distillers can reap other ancillary benefits through localization, such as supporting local jobs, reducing transit-related carbon emissions, and increased community involvement. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

China has experienced an historically bad wheat crop because of flooding, while significant portions of the world’s barley, wheat, and corn are grown and held in Russia and Ukraine. Some of last year’s crop remains inaccessible because of war and sanctions, and Ukrainian farmers have missed planting and harvest seasons in the first part of 2022, which will ripple forward into continued shortages. Ukrainian farmers currently face fuel shortages and lack of access to farmland because of the war, and the future of the conflict remains uncertain with the potential to drag on and continue impacting food supplies. The New York Times reported on March 20, “For the global food market, there are few worse countries to be in conflict than Russia and Ukraine. Over the past five years, they have together accounted for nearly 30 percent of the exports of the world’s wheat, 17 percent of corn, [and] 32 percent of barley.”1 U.S. maltsters and grain consumers will experience minimal direct impact from a loss of imports, with most food imports coming from Mexico and Canada, and Canada in particular serving as a major supplier of malting barley. However, just as a distillery might not source bottles from Ukraine yet still feel the war’s ripple effects, American distillers, brewers, bakers, chefs, and consumers in general are already experiencing increased prices and may face shortages of specific grains or grain-based products before the market rights itself. (A little perspective here: In many poor countries, the impact of grain scarcity can result in broad and deeply felt food shortages that lead to social upheaval and even political revolution, rather than a more expensive bowl of cereal, pint of beer, or loaf of bread. Many of these countries actually subsidize wheat flour and bread to head off such unrest.) In addition to the war’s impact on current grain supply, Russia and Belarus — which also faces sanctions — produce a large amount of the world’s fertilizers. This drop in supply has already begun to cause food and fertilizer prices to rise, and a dearth of fertilizers will impact harvests 1

later this year. With costs for energy, fertilizer, and other inputs rising and the potential for inflation to continue reducing purchasing power, across-the-board cost increases to farmers will ripple out to impact the price and availability of grain and grain-based products. A major question that distillers, and virtually all producers of consumable goods these days, face is how much of these cost increases can be shouldered by the business and how much is the consumer willing to bear, especially in a world of rising gas and food costs.

A COMPLEX WEB A large amount — but as will be illustrated with barrels, not all — of the current supply chain disruptions are rooted in the interwoven, interdependent nature of modern supply chains. More of a supply web than an end-to-end chain, the international system adds layers and layers of complexity in pursuit of increased profit margins. For example, American distillers may use glass produced domestically or from Italy, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Pacific Rim countries such as China and Indonesia, or some combination of these choices for different products. These global supply chains rely on long lead times, and buyers over time became comfortable with that reliance even if they didn’t fully understand the complexities involved. “When you didn’t see supply chain as a huge risk, why are you going to buy something here at 30 percent more when you can buy it internationally?” Gallagher said. He said the market for spirits bottles is particularly ripe for disruption because of the diversity observable on the shelf. Much more than brewers or vintners, who generally tap into a smaller number of sizes, shapes, and colors, distillers are looking for something that is readily identifiable and jumps off the shelf. “Historically, spirits customers have always wanted something unique, and a lot




of times that extends to packaging,” he said. “For example, I can’t sell a Smirnoff bottle to another customer. At its inception, it was designed for one purpose.” However, that variety on the shelf creates additional complexity in the supply chain. It results in more different bottles for a supplier to stock, more bottle molds that need to be proEven for some domestic supply chains, disduced for the bottling plant, and more changeovers for the bottling plant that take away from tillers are running into hurdles that can signifiproductive runtime. When overall capacity is constrained, it creates pressure towards simcantly impact their operations. Richard Hobbs plification and increased usage of standardized bottles that can be made in long production of Barrel Mill finds himself in the same situation runs. “What they prefer to do is run a stock bottle longer. That’s more efficient and satisfies as most, if not all, American cooperages. Facing more customers,” Gallagher said. steel costs that have tripled by spring of 2022 This situation puts distillers in a bind, choosing between long or indefinite lead times on (and probably risen further since), rising costs their desired product, or manageable lead times on a more standardized product. “You want for energy, and the increased costs and limited exactly what you want until the answer is, ‘I have no idea when I can promise that to you.’ availability of labor, he said they had to impleThen it goes to, ‘Ok, well, what can you promise me’?” he said. ment three price increases in four months after Many distillers facing sourcing challenges are pivoting towards more available materials, none over the previous four years. and Gallagher said they’re spending more time with customers who are considering different He noted that while touring Kentucky in 2021, stock packaging options. he saw the rickhouses “going up ev“They are not doing exactly what they wanted to from a brand marketing erywhere,” he said. “There’s standpoint, they’re making some concessions there to make sure they can “I wouldn’t only so many barrels. The get some product to market,” he said. “They’re pivoting to items they demand is what’s rebe sur prised this can procure locally or that they can get their hands on with some ally pushing it. You year if we see brands certainty this year. I wouldn’t be surprised this year if we see have all of the big brands up and down the spectrum, brands that we all know on up and down the spectrum, boys doubling the shelves, if we see them in some kind of different container, brands that we all know on the and tripling and it’s not going to be a marketing-driven decision. It’s going capacity. The shelves, if we see them in some to be a supply-chain-necessity decision.” cumulative efThat decision-making process should be applied to bottles, kind of different container, and it’s fect of 2,500 closures, barrels, raw ingredients, and anything else that might not going to be a marketing-driven craft distillbe impacted by the current disruptions, he said. Distillers eries definitedecision. It’s going to be a supplyshould be identifying what are the alternatives to a best-case ly makes an scenario. chain-necessity decision .” impact.” “You have to have your Plan A and Plan B modeled up,” He said the — SEAN GALLAGHER Gallagher said. “Plan A is 100 percent perfect with a lot longer lead current shortage Senior Vice President and times and a lot of unknowns. Plan B is starting to remove some of those General Manager, Saxco is a different animal (unknowns), less ideal on a marketing, unique perspective, but maybe from the one the industry more durable from a supply chain perspective.” experienced a decade ago, when Plan A involves all of the unique factors that a distiller is looking for. As an example, a big shortage in barrels resulted from wet seaGallagher noted a certain square, cobalt blue bottle with foil and embossing. Bottle molds sons that prevented the harvest of enough oak don’t transfer among bottle plants because of variability in machines, sizes, hangers, and other to meet demand. This time around, the high factors, so a given mold is for one bottle at one specific plant. And, he added, “If it happens to demand for oak is a primary factor. A significant be in Ukraine, I’m now hosed, and mold development is going to be nine months at best case.” labor constraint exists in the logging industry, Assuming that the plant which produces that unique bottle has not been bombed, evacresulting in an inability to increase supply as uated, or converted to a national defense effort, it is now focused on optimizing production demand jumps. “Being a logger is a tough damn runs by doing large batches of stock bottles. It will eventually get to the blue bottle in question, job. A lot of young people don’t want to get into Gallagher said. With more planning, higher order volumes, more lead time, and lack of sensithat profession,” he said. tivity on cost, a distiller can still get what they want. Talk of a shortage of good oak trees is premaMost small distillers can’t afford to write such a blank check for specialty bottles, though, ture, Hobbs said. There are concerted efforts or wait indefinitely for their arrival. So, he said, the question becomes, “What’s good enough to more responsibly manage forests, but that’s to keep you on a shelf right now?” The bottle could be spray-coated domestically to match the a proactive step and not a response to a lack of color, the embossing might get eliminated, and a unique square might become a round bottle supply. “There’s plenty of oak out there right that’s run by multiple different plants. This is Plan B, which holds some of the key attributes of now. There’s only so many people willing to get the brand identity but is much more flexible. “There’s not gonna be a silver bullet,” Gallagher it, and there’s only so many stave mills, and only said. “Right now everyone is going through that. It’s still a free-for-all as everyone is trying to so many cooperages,” he said. figure out that Plan B.” 68


Barrel Mill produces a variety of barrel sizes: five, 10, 15, 30, and 53 gallon. Because of the inefficiencies in changing over the equipment, Hobbs said they do long runs of a specific size to optimize production. By early 2022 his 53s were sold out for the year, and all other sizes were mostly sold out with some limited availability in the fourth quarter. During the last major shortage, he said a number of other small cooperages opened, but it’s not a business that can be started quickly and easily, requiring both capital and expertise to be successful. Some of those cooperages are still in business and some are not. “It’s not something you just do. It took us years to figure it out,” he said. In an effort to become more vertically integrated, the cooperage purchased a stave mill about five years ago. While most staves come from their own mill, they still source some material from other mills, and price increases through both avenues are in line. “There is a commodity market. We’re still competing with furniture makers and anyone else that likes good white oak,” Hobbs said. “Wood across the board has gone through the roof. The prices have gone up significantly, but we’re right in line with our stave vendors. They won’t even guarantee prices for more than two months now.” Because they produce so many different sizes, with 15s and 30s being the most popular, Hobbs said their approach in recent years has been to ask customers for a wishlist, what they reasonably expect to need for the year, so that production can be planned efficiently. When they saw the current shortfall coming, they sent an email to customers to reiterate the seriousness of the situation and the need to get their requests in. “Some people didn’t take it serious, and there’s gonna be a lot of people who get zero barrels this year,” he said. Alongside his existing customers are the range of distillers reaching out to ask about availability. There are contract distilleries, distilleries from abroad, new distilleries with no cooperage lined up, longtime craft distillers whose contracts elsewhere have been slashed, and even some of the larger players. With a production capacity of about 70,000 barrels annually, restricted in part by more manual processes, smaller sizes, and time for changeovers, The Barrel Mill has had to turn down 50,000 barrels’ worth of orders by early 2022. That additional demand, coming in requests for 15,000 53-gallon barrels here, 20,000 53s there, isn’t reliable enough in the long-term to build out more capacity, even if it could be done quickly. (It can’t.) The same thing happened at the last barrel shortage; large distillers who would normally never give Hobbs the time of day suddenly had his number. “If I could help them, I would, but we first and foremost take care of our customers that helped get us to where we are today,” he said. Hobbs is hoping for a market correction in the foreseeable future, but more realistically expects that scarcity will be an issue at least through 2023. “I think it’s gonna be tight for a while,” he said. “We’re hiring more people and trying to find more efficient ways to produce, but this is a medium, long-term situation.” W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

DIVERSIFICATION FOR RISK MITIGATION Despite the short-term upheaval, Gallagher doesn’t believe the current disruption will change the way supply chains look in the longer term. He likened it to burning yourself on the stove; the memory will be fresh for a while, and an increased number of companies will focus on domestic sourcing, but the memory will degrade over time. “In the near- to mid-term, everyone is going to have the scars from the supply chain. But I think five, six, seven years from now, we’re going to have new companies starting with younger individuals who don’t have those scars. I think it’ll be a matter of time before they say, ‘Why am I paying more domestically, why don’t I go internationally and buy it less expensive?’ and it’s right back into the cycle,” he said. Chapman noted that a glass plant, for example, is a ten-year investment that could conservatively cost $100 million and two to three years to get up and running. Restrictive permitting and NIMBY-ism in the United States make it a difficult process, and the near-term demand has to be balanced with long-term expectations. “[Bottle manufacturers] have to be careful about making that investment and then having too much capacity so that five years down the road you’re having to close that asset and you haven’t even gotten the payback,” he said. Depending on the commodity, he said he sees the disruption easily lasting through 2022. It’s possible that demand and capacity reach closer to a point of equilibrium in 2023 or 2024, with a lot of “if ”s: “If things loosen up, if ocean freight comes down, if the ports clear up,” he said. In discussing when the market may stabilize, Gallagher pointed to the endless ability of forecasters to be wrong. He said he talked to a number of supply chain experts in early 2020 about when things might get better. His and many other estimated timelines have long passed, and “it’s still terrible,” he said. Buyers, though, might learn a lesson from the current supply chain upheaval and diversify their sourcing. As Chapman said, “If you work with one manufacturer, you get one answer.” Whether by working with a supplier that is tied in to a broad number of manufacturers or directly connecting with several manufacturers, he thinks that distillers will lean more towards risk mitigation and keep numerous avenues open to potentially meet their needs rather than relying on a single source. “In the past, people were optimizing their supply chains where they were very comfortable with, ‘I have one supplier, maybe they’re located in China, maybe they’re located in the US,’” he said. “There are customers who are talking to us at a scale who never would have talked to us before. They felt that they had everything locked up, but their supply situation is tenuous and they’re looking for options.” Gallagher echoed a sentiment making the rounds among other supply-chain professionals, indicating the transition from a goal of optimizing supply chains with minimal overhead towards a situation where producers are trying to ensure that they can get something on the shelves. “The world has moved from just-in-time supply chains to just-in-case.” Gabe Toth is lead distiller at The Family Jones Distillery in Denver and Loveland, CO. A former craft brewer, his passion for fermenting and transforming ingredients also extends to sausage and meat curing, cheesemaking, and pickling. He can be found up in the mountains or at 69


Building a Home for Craft Distilleries in Fort Collins, Colorado WRITTEN BY LISA TRUESDALE


t’s no secret that Fort Collins, Colorado, is known for its large breweries, like New Belgium, Odell, and the granddaddy of them all, AB InBev. What might be a secret, though — one that’s starting to get out — is that it’s also home to several small craft distilleries, run by folks who are just as passionate about their spirits as brewers are about their beers. Here are just three places to try on your next visit.



Elevation 5003 Distillery During her 15 years as a brewing manager at AB InBev, Loren Matthews enjoyed dabbling in distilling as a hobby. “From brewing, it’s a natural progression to distilling,” she said. She bought a small home still, experimented in her free time, and fell in love with the process. In 2015, she took a leap of faith, leaving her job and starting a distillery completely on her own, since her husband kept his full-time job at New Belgium. Intent on a hyper-local, grain-to-bottle focus, Matthews wanted a company name that also had a local feel. “It’s the [official] elevation of Fort Collins,” she explained, “and, bonus, we also have three kids.” For Matthews, “local” and “sustainable” aren’t just feel-good buzzwords; they're a way of life. It certainly can’t get any more local than the juniper berries she uses in her Timber Ridge Gin, since they come from bushes she planted in her own backyard. She sources the apples for her apple-flavored vodka from a nearby CSA, and because apples destined for pressing and juicing don’t need to look pretty, she happily accepts the “uglies” that no one else wants, ones that would just rot on the ground. She needs just the peels of lemons,

limes, and oranges when making her Caribbean-style Falernum Liqueur, but she saves the juices for cocktails, or dehydrates the slices to use as garnishes. Even her production area is as eco-friendly as possible: “I save precious water by using a closed-loop glycol system,” she said. Though Matthews is mostly a one-woman show, she relies on a small staff for help in the cozy tasting room in a busy shopping center, and in her production area. She also counts on one very faithful volunteer — her retired dad. “He doesn’t have a schedule; he just shows up when he wants to get out of the house,” Matthews said, laughing. “He doesn’t want to help with production, but he’ll do whatever else I need him to, like shop for supplies. He’s been very supportive.” Through it all, Matthews strives to put her own creative mark on everything she makes. “Being stagnant is boring, so I’m constantly tweaking things, and I’ve become a better distiller over time,” she said. “You’re not going to find a copy of my spirits in another bottle with a different label.”

CopperMuse Distillery

play mini golf. In the Art Deco–influenced interior — a theme that carries through to the gorgeous label artwork featuring copper accents — they offer small plates and shareables alongside their extensive, handcrafted spirits menu that includes hibiscus gin, whiskies, rums, and dozens of unique vodka infusions, like lavender, cherry, jalapeno, Oreo, banana, horseradish, honey and dill, beef jerky, or bacon. “Yes, bacon, real bacon,” laughed Hevelone. “It’s perfect in a Bloody Mary, and it’s also good with coffee and cream.” Hevelone and Trantham have created

When opening CopperMuse in 2014, Jason Hevelone and Heather Trantham wanted to honor the city’s “excellent craft brewing heritage” by applying the same standards of quality to a distillery. Not content to handcraft just their spirits, they also hoped to “handcraft a complete tasting experience.” They found the ideal location in the city’s old town — a plaza called the Exchange, featuring outdoor seating areas, green spaces, and a host of complementary businesses like an ice cream shop, a craft brewery, and even a place to


Photos provided by Elevation 5003 Distillery

a true community at their distillery. The calendar is jam-packed with events like Tuesday Trivia, Wednesday Bingo, monthly comedy showcases, bartending classes, VIP tastings, and special pairings. They hope to soon resume their popular (preCOVID) volunteer bottling crew events, where CopperMuse fans can spend an afternoon helping in the production room, in exchange for a small cocktail party and a bottle to take home. “That’s the beauty of craft distilling,” said Hevelone. “You can experiment, be adventurous, and be creative.”


Feisty Spirits Distillery The co-owners of Feisty Spirits know their distillery is small, and they know it’s in a location that isn’t going to get a lot of walk-in traffic. But that’s okay with Jamison Gulden and Joan Eurich, because they’re not in the business to be big. They’re in it because they really like whiskey, and they believe that if non-whiskey-drinkers try theirs, they’ll start liking it, too. “I appreciate complex, unique flavors,”

said Gulden. “When I first got started, what I found lacking in what the big guys were producing at the time was excitement. Somebody needed to make whiskey with flavor and character, whiskey that’s easier to drink, with less burn.” Feisty Spirits’ whiskeys all have music-themed names, like Rhapsody and Wild Thing, but that’s where the similarities end. “Each whiskey is unique,” Gulden said. “There’s a big variety of flavor between our four main spirits, although our best seller, Better Days Bourbon, is the most traditional of the four.” The way they accomplish the variety, he says, is by “thinking outside the box” when it comes to grains. “There are hundreds of grains, and thousands of varieties. Why stick to just four?” He uses the four basics, of course

— yellow corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley — but he’s also used blue corn, quinoa, millet, spelt, triticale, and many others, for what he calls his “nonconformist whiskey.” Although the tasting room is off the beaten path, the unique whiskeys continue to draw the visitors in, and special tasting events help too. Eurich creates pairing menus with foods like Girl Scout cookies, chocolates, cheeses, and flavored, roasted pecans from Rocky Mountain Pecan Company. “Joan is so good at finding the food and the spirit that really complement each other,” Gulden said, adding that Eurich also spends hours getting the cocktail recipes “just right.” As for the distillery’s location in an industrial area a few miles from downtown, Gulden doesn’t stress too much about it. “We were the first distillery in Fort Collins, more than 10 years ago, and we’re still here.”

Feisty Spirits photos by Thadeus @ Krow Hill Digital LLC




s the 2022 barley harvest season approaches, we reflect on how the 2021 harvest is compelling us to take a hard look at the changing global landscape, which is wreaking havoc on our supply chain. Its chaos comes in many forms: unpredictable climate and weather, a pandemic, a trade war between China and Australia, and now a global political situation in Eastern Europe. The approach that malting barley users have historically taken is to react as little as possible, knowing that barley stock reserves lay in wait. However, it may be worthwhile to consider how to be proactive in this situation. How can you support other (local) craft producers? How can you make sustainable decisions that support your goals? How can you make decisions about your own barley/malt in an environment where the quality may not always be what you’re accustomed to? How can you know more about what your grain is saying to you? W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

The Past, Future, and Unpredictability of North American Barely Written by Dr. Harmonie Bettenhausen and Gabe Toth In the United States and Canada, the 2021 harvest season was plagued by both drought and excessive rains. This resulted in a significant reduction in crop volume. The majority of North American barley is grown within the North Central (Montana, Dakotas, Idaho) and Northwestern (Washington, Oregon) regions of the United States and Western Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba). Drought throughout the summer of 2021 was persistent and rendered yields almost 40 percent lower than in 2020, despite high seeding rates in Canada. Further, the drought hit during critical plant growth stages, resulting in lower kernel plumpness, higher protein, and lower extract.

The opposite, or a combination of both, occurred in some of the Midwest (Michigan, Ohio) and Northeast (New York, Connecticut) regions of the U.S. as crops were plagued with excessive rains during harvest, resulting in pre-harvest sprouting damage and, in some cases, the loss of entire crops. Because of the widespread adoption of lean or “just-in-time” manufacturing principles, which rely on supply chain reliability to allow manufacturers to hold minimal levels of inventory, there was less 2020 barley remaining at the end of the 2021 growing season, though many maltsters, brewers, and distillers may still be blending what remains of the 2020 crop with the 2021 crop and have not yet experienced the true issues with the 2021 crop. 73

Let’s start with droughtaffected barley Drought-affected barley, with its low kernel plumpness and high protein, means reduced starch content. To a distiller, the primary result will be lower spirit yields, but thinner, high-protein grain can also prove challenging to process through your system. These thinner grains can also be challenging when setting your mill. Physiologically, this happens during the filling phase of barley development, late in the growth cycle of the plant as the kernel is trying to fill out starch granules. The plant effectively creates the same amount of protein, but less starch is stored away in each kernel, proportionally increasing the amount of protein. In order to resist desiccation during periods of excess heat and dryness, the plant is encouraged to create a tough protein matrix. During malting, it is necessary to ensure this matrix, composed of β-glucan, is broken down sufficiently, requiring a higher degree of modification — which means ensuring uniform hydration to start. Water must get to every part of the kernel so that the enzymes can travel and achieve proteolysis (protein breakdown). In thinner kernels, there is less distance that the water has to travel to hydrate the kernel, but the increased level of protein is more difficult to fully hydrate.

Drought-affected barley, with its low kernel plumpness and high protein, means reduced starch content. As a maltster, it is important to take care to grade and size kernels appropriately in order to ensure complete and uniform hydration. There are three main things happening during hydrolysis: cytolysis (cell wall breakdown), proteolysis (protein degradation), and synthesis of enzymes. Hydrolysis begins at the embryo and travels up the grain towards the endosperm (Figure 1 [1]). Grain modification must be tuned such that β-glucans of the endosperm cell walls are sufficiently degraded to allow filterability of the wort. However, pushing this too far causes the starch reserves in the endosperm to be overly utilized by the embryo, synthesizing alpha amylase and modification of protein. Without proper cytolytic modification of the drought-affected grain, one can expect decreases in extract and friability (the ability of the malt to be crushed and an indicator of malt modification). The tradeoff to promoting cytolysis to fully break down cell walls is typically excess proteolysis as seen by high soluble protein (SP), soluble/total ratio (S/T), and free amino nitrogen (FAN). An elevated level of protein equates to a higher level of building blocks for these compounds, and the products of proteolysis are the basis for yeast nutrition during

fermentation. FAN, which is the measure of amino acids available for yeast, is just a portion of that soluble fraction, but an excess can affect quality of the downstream product for all-malt distillers. Soluble protein is the measure of the part of the protein that enzymes have rendered water soluble, and since there are more building blocks (protein), this will be amplified and can cause viscosity and processing issues. Increases in enzymatic content as reflected in measurements of diastatic power (DP, an indirect measure of beta amylase) and alpha amylase (AA) are also expected, but at the cost of lower extract and only if a maltster is able to supersede the existing poor quality.

Can distillers who use barley for its enzyme package take advantage of high-protein crop years? For a distiller not relying on exogenous enzymes (enzymes created externally to the grain) for conversion, this barley may be a boon during cooks with rye, corn, or wheat. Enzymes are important because they convert


Coleoptile Scutellum


Storage proteins GAs

Proteases Amino acids


Radicles 74

Aleurone layer

Amilaceous endosperm W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

starch (long chains of glucose molecules) from grain into more fermentable sugars in order for the yeast to turn them into alcohol. The yeast can only do their job if they have fermentable sugars. Alpha amylase will not convert the starches alone; it needs beta amylase (measured indirectly as DP) to fully break down starches into glucose, maltose, and maltotriose (the single, double, and triple units of glucose that yeast primarily digest). Malted barley is the most commonly used malted grain in distilling as it has high DP.

Now…what happened to the barley in those areas that experienced excessive rain (and some that experienced rain at the wrong times in the presence of drought)? Pre-harvest sprout damage (PHS) occurs when barley sprouts in the field while it is still maturing due to elevated moisture (rain at harvest). Many North American barley varieties lack dormancy (the ability to resist premature sprouting) and the effect of this is the loss of the viability (the ability to live) of the seed. Research by Dave Thomas ( JIB 1986) reported that while dead barley kernels yield decent extract (79% FG, DB), they result in low wort color, low FAN, low AA, low DP, high wort viscosity, and high conversion times [2]. Poor barley germination can be more impactful than slightly higher protein or beta-glucans in the malthouse and in the brewhouse/distillery. Moderate to severe PHS will result in low germination energy and rapid deterioration of vitality and vigor in storage. This low vigor affects the rate at which alpha amylase is synthesized during germination. PHS combined with higher protein can lead to water sensitivity of the barley, as well. Whereas PHS barley will absorb water at a higher rate than normal, barley with higher protein imbibes water much more slowly and in a less uniform way. Note that PHSdamaged barley does not mean water-sensitive barley. For a maltster, this means extensive malthouse adjustments during steeping and germination to ensure uniform hydration


and modification of the barley. During the steep, water-sensitive barley can be encouraged to sprout in the presence of more oxygen (air rests) and shorter steeps, which essentially “makes it thirsty” for more water to imbibe. Small changes to germination (time, airflow, temperature) are worth exploring in order to get the most out of the barley in these situations. If this is not achieved, increased β-glucans and decreased friability will be seen on the certificate of analysis due to the loss of viable kernels and/or too much heterogeneity in hydration.

Flavor and color Higher protein may also result in turbid end products that require further clarification, due to the insufficient degradation of protein, higher BG, and higher concentrations of phenolic compounds. As the progenitor of flavor, higher protein may also lead to off-flavors, as yeast may not consume the entirety of amino acids during fermentation. However, higher FAN can be utilized by bacteria such as lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and has the potential to impact ester and organic acid profile of the wash through continued bacterial metabolism of protein sources. Malted barley does carry a heavy (and varied) microbial load, including LAB, which do not require oxygen for growth and love a relatively low pH (6 to 3.5), both conditions found in most alcoholic beverages. Lower FAN can result in sluggish fermentation and the production of fusel oils (i.e. isoamyl alcohol, banana/tropical aromas) by yeast which may carry over into the distillation. The use of common comparative tools may help during these uncertain times. Many craft maltsters utilize an easy test to evaluate the difference among batches malted with different varieties, different crop years, different terroir — the malt hot steep. This is essentially

a quick mash, filtered, and observed (organoleptically) to determine the condition of the malt and how it compares to previous batches. This test may help the distiller to identify issues with quality, flavor, and color. Any and all data points can help to determine what the grain is saying [3, 4]. It is also worth noting that lower-protein varieties of barley may have a difficult time developing sufficient flavor. The quality of barley may keep changing and we may have to adjust our current standards — not to what we desire for the creation of beverages, but to the actual parameters of the crops the world can produce.

What can you do? Diversify. Consider your supply chain while trying to be less reactionary and more proactive. Have a conversation with your local farmers and maltsters about how you can support them and prepare them for what type of product you want/need. Be willing to blend different malts from different suppliers. Don’t just assume that since you cannot get your normal grain with exceptional quality that you can run to your local maltster and they will be able to fill a huge order. Consider that not all barley is the same and adjustments will need to be made to your process if the quality is outside your normal parameters. As a craft distiller, you may feel the squeeze, but your size allows you the flexibility to adjust and to supplement your production by looking at unique, single variety grains your local producers and maltsters may have to offer. There are many options, locally, regionally, and nationally for sourcing a steady supply of grains that may offer you novel flavors, great enzyme packages, and the ability to connect with the people that support the same love for agriculture (and a great spirit) that you do.

The quality of barley may keep changing and we may have to adjust our current standards — not to what we desire for the creation of beverages, but to the actual parameters of the crops the world can produce. 75

For the distiller who must rely on a specific, possibly contracted, supplier, there are also tools that can be applied in the distillery. Opportunities to know one’s maltster are increasing as the craft malt industry grows. The maltster has the best, most recent information available on your malt, and may be able to provide unquantifiable insights into the choices they made in malting and the experience they’ve had with a particular batch or lot. When maltsters are faced with PHS and/or drought-stricken barley, the choices they make in the malthouse are not going to create optimal malt, but are aimed at getting the best out of a bad situation. The decisions made in the malthouse may impact the path for a distiller to optimize a particularly difficult harvest. A certificate of analysis (COA) is the gold standard that should accompany every batch of malt that comes into the facility and will help to inform process changes. Specific data fields may vary, but will include most or all of


the key pieces of data noted above, including assortment (plump/thin), moisture content, color, extract, viscosity, FAN, protein, SP, friability, beta glucan, AA, and DP. A more complete discussion of the COA can be found in the Winter 2020 issue of Artisan Spirit, but many factors on a COA are interrelated and there are a few key data Read points a distiller should Decoding a Certificate be on the lookout for of Analysis with 2021 malted barley. High protein levels (>13 percent) may be linked to high FAN (>200 ppm), low extract (<80 percent), and high levels of thin kernels (>3 percent). As previously noted, there may be an increase in enzymatic content, as well. When dealing with malt that has these characteristics, the first thing a distiller might consider is to simply adjust their grain bill.

With a drop in potential yield from 80 percent to 70 percent, for example, an all-malt distiller using 1,000 pounds of malt in a batch will see a theoretical loss of about 100 pounds of extractable starch. Distillers working with high-protein malt may also consider adding a protease — protein-degrading enzyme — to help break down some of the protein and unlock starch that remains bound up. With malt that has experienced late moisture and PHS, the distiller may be facing a higher starch content (relative to other components), low protein (<11 %) and a potential deficit of FAN. In the case of low FAN, the distiller should keep an eye on the health of their fermentation and be prepared to add a nitrogen-based yeast nutrient if necessary. Because pre-harvest sprouting effectively jump-starts the malting process, germinating the seed while still in the field, the maltster may be managing an unusually large percentage of kernels that are effectively dead. The seed may still offer good potential extract,


but it cannot be germinated a second time and may have high levels of beta-glucan (>140 ppm) and low amounts of enzymes (<30 degrees Lintner for AA and <80 degrees Lintner for DP) because it did not have the opportunity to reach full modification. This state is correlated with low friability and is known as glassy malt. For brewers, this malt is a bigger issue that can impact long-term product stability. However, for distillers, high beta-glucan content can still result in slow or stuck mashes, as well as lost extract. A beta-glucanase (beta-glucan degrading enzyme) can be added to reduce mash viscosity and potentially unlock additional starches. For grain lots with low levels of AA or DP, it may be beneficial to add an amylase and/or a glucoamylase enzyme if those are not already part of the recipe. A technical sales rep from the distiller’s preferred supplier can generally offer specific product and dosing recommendations based on the distiller’s unique challenges. Finally, distillers can take some solace in the fact that another barley harvest is around the corner. However, while the impacts of the weather last year were extreme, the future impact of climate change is unknown and likely on-trend with the experience of the 2021 harvest.


Distillers can take some solace in the fact that another barley harvest is around the corner. Distillers would be well-served by familiarizing themselves with the tools that are available, including close partnerships with their growers, a strong understanding of the data available through a COA, and an understanding of exogenous enzymes. Dr. Harmonie Bettenhausen is the current Director of the Hartwick College Center for Craft Food & Beverage where she is focused on collaborative research and extensive testing involving grains, malts, beer, and spirits. She completed her Ph.D. in the Heuberger Lab at Colorado State University where she specialized in flavoromics and investigation of wheat, barley, malt, and beer. Her publications have covered not only these topics, but also areas as broad as peppers, wheat, and chocolate. Harmonie has been involved in the brewing industry since the early 2000s and now extensively investigates the relationships of the barley, malt, and beer metabolome to sensory and quality factors. She is an active member of support organizations such as the Brewers Association, American Society of Brewing Chemists, Craft Maltsters Guild, and American Society of Mass Spectrometry.

SOURCES 1. Diaz-Mendoza M, Diaz I, Martinez M. Insights on the Proteases Involved in Barley and Wheat Grain Germination. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2019;20(9):2087. PubMed PMID: doi:10.3390/ijms20092087. 2. Thomas DA. A NOVEL RESULT OF MALT FRIABILIMETER ANALYSIS: CASE-HARDENED MALT. Journal of the Institute of Brewing. 1986;92(1):65-8. doi: https://doi. org/10.1002/j.2050-0416.1986. tb04374.x. 3. Bettenhausen HM, Barr L, Omerigic H, Yao L, Heuberger AL. Mass Spectrometry Metabolomics of Hot Steep Malt Extracts and Association to Sensory Traits. Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists. 2021;79(4):394-406. doi: 10.1080/03610470.2020.1869499. 4. ASBC. American Society of Brewing Chemists - Hot Steep Malt Sensory Method. In: Chemists ASoB, editor.: American Society of Brewing Chemists; 2017.




hile Upstate New York is not unfamiliar with the production of beverage alcohol, the area has a much stronger association with wine than spirits. Yet at the top of one of its famous Finger Lakes is the town of Skaneateles, home to Last Shot Distillery and its co-owner and distiller Chris Uyehara. Uyehara has a background unique to both the Finger Lakes and distilling. He’s a native of Hawaii who chose to leave the beaches and tropical climate of Honolulu after falling in love with a girl from New York in college — the opposite of most Upstate natives, who


often escape the challenging winters to settle in places that offer more moderate seasons. He has also worked in flavor his whole life as a chef trained in patisserie, different varieties of cuisine, and sugar work. Uyehara moved to Upstate New York after he and his wife realized how much more affordable real estate was in the area, and he quickly began a career working in different eateries in Skaneateles, a small, upscale enclave at the top of Skaneateles Lake, which is widely considered the cleanest of the Finger Lakes, so much so that surrounding

municipalities use its water unfiltered. “I’ve been a chef around here, opened restaurants, designed and opened a patisserie, designed and reopened Rosalie’s Cucina bakery,” said Uyehara. Following different gigs he landed a particularly enviable position as a chef at Savannah Dhu, the multimillion dollar hunting lodge and conference center built by the late mall magnate Robert Congel. Savannah Dhu spans 3,9000 acres of Wayne County, New York, about 40 miles west of Syracuse, and is entirely fenced in to allow for big game hunting. During his tenure there, Uyehara


cooked for executives from Italian luxury brand Salvatore Ferragamo, decision-makers from the department store chain Macy’s, and the many other guests that Congel invited up to his palatial cabin. “I did everything there, I was a pastry chef and I was a fusion cuisine chef there,” said Uyehara. “I cooked game, but I did Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Phillipino, Samoan, Tahitian, all that different type of cuisine but with the game from the area.” After 10 years at Savannah Dhu, Uyehara made a significant change in his career. He left the cushy position at the lodge and shifted to teaching at Syracuse University, for which he was paid significantly less money. He says that the move was inspired by a meaningful conversation with one of his own teachers, a Swiss chef who had been instrumental in guiding Uyehara when he was a young man


in the game. “He told me, ‘What do you do when you achieve all your goals?’” Said Uyehara, who replied to his teacher that he didn’t know. “He grabs my hand and says, ‘I teach everything I know to young buffs like you that want to learn because when I die it’s gone, so I want to share my passion with you.’” A move to teaching was actually not as much of a surprise for Uyehara as one might think — after all, it was in his DNA. Uyehara’s father had been an accomplished master chef and baker in Hawaii who would regularly host young chefs at their home, teaching them as much as he could. “Sometimes when I lecture at the school I laugh ’cause I says, ‘Oh shit, I just heard Dad,’” said Uyehara. His father’s motto — which is at play in the production of Last Shot’s spirits — was that the first ingredient should always be quality. Trying to make an exceptional dish, or spirit,

without exceptional raw materials is like trying to make a ladder out of breadsticks; it just will not work out the way you would like. Uyehara knew that from years working in the kitchens at a variety of restaurants and patisseries; when it came time to make one of Last Shot’s most lauded spirits, their Chocolate Crème Brûlée Liqueur, Uyehara trusted the knowledge that he had gained, even though the cost of ingredients was significantly higher because of it. Uyehara uses Madagascar vanilla and a blend of fine chocolates in the cream liqueur. “What the problem is [the vanilla is] almost $400 a gallon, $275 a gallon of chocolate,” he explained. “But that won five gold medals and double gold and Wine Enthusiast top [100 spirits of the year].” In this instance, the proof was in the crème brûlée. It was at Savannah Dhu that the idea for Last Shot first started to develop. While he


was there, Uyehara met and apprenticed with a chef who owned a brandy distillery with his father further upstate. After talking with him, Uyehara was convinced to consider a distillery for retirement rather than opening a bakery like he had been planning. They had made beer at the lodge; couple that with his experience as a baker and Uyehara felt confident that his understanding of fermentation could aid him in his move into distillation. He began to experiment, constructing a homemade still to practice on and reading as many books as he could find on the subject. He took a class at Cornell University, after which he was ready to look for property, but nothing was turning up. Eventually he was connected to his future business partner John Menapace through his daughter. Menapace had a great building just a few minutes away from downtown Skaneateles that was mostly being used for storage and turned out to be the ideal spot for Last Shot in more ways than one. “After we started the paperwork and everything, I found out that this was a distillery in the 1800s,” said Uyehara. “Part of the Kellog family.” Last Shot’s location isn’t the only time in this company’s history that fate and family seemed to coincide, nor is Uyehara the first person in his lineage to have distilled. His grandmother emigrated to Hawaii at just 15 years old. She was a picture bride, meaning she had seen only a single picture of her husband-to-be, who already lived on the island, before boarding a boat and making the long journey from Japan to Hawaii. They lived there together when Hawaii was not a state but a territory; Uyehara’s grandfather was a laborer on a sugarcane plantation, where the conditions were similar to that of enslaved peoples in other parts of the country. “Portuguese were the first guys who came so they became supervisors,” Uyehara said. “They would whip the workers in the fields; you weren’t working they would whip you.” His grandmother could distill and would make booze for his grandfather, who would drink it while playing cards with friends on Friday nights. One night a supervisor came around inquiring about what they were drinking. After a taste, the supervisor asked if he could have some to take with him. “They said, ‘We can make [it] for you, but leave W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

my friends alone,’” explained Uyehara. His grandmother made a small jug for that supervisor every week and it kept her husband and his friends from getting whipped. Now Uyehara honors her with a product inspired by something his grandmother was purported to have made. “They had crushed pineapples, so skins and everything, they throw ‘em in a bucket. Sugarcane juice in the bucket from the plantation and they’d ferment it.” Finally she would distill it on a rudimentary system made up of a bucket, a stainless steel container, a wok, and a heat source. Uyehara has taken inspiration from this family beverage to make Yoshi’s Sugar Shine, so called because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau would not approve it as a rum due to their use of brown sugar as the base. He has brought his patisserie

background to bear while workshopping this product, relying on old tricks to establish a strong pineapple aroma on the nose. A photo of his grandparents in Hawaii in the 1800s will feature on the label. It’s the latest addition to Last Shot’s varied portfolio, which also includes cream liqueurs, vodka, gin, a spirit distilled from maple, and white whiskey. Unaged moonshine made from 100 percent corn and an unaged bourbon are among their seasonal offerings. Their vodka is done in a European style, so it retains more character from the corn and particularly the malted red wheat than neutral vodkas would be expected to have. Uyehara looked to Hendrick’s as a North Star for their gin; it’s a contemporary profile, with cucumber, Meyer lemon, orange, and a higher proportion of coriander than juniper. 81

The focus for Uyehara is primarily the whiskeys, including their bourbon. When Last Shot was still in its early days, Uyehara tasted an array of higher-end bourbons including Weller, which he ultimately became fixated on. He wanted to re-create the profile as closely as possible, so he began to research the mashbill, piecing as much available information together as he could from media coverage and books. Once he was confident that he had defined it to a reasonable degree, Uyehara focused on reverse engineering the yeast strain. He tried a variety of yeasts, knowing what profile he was interested in, but no single one was quite right. “So what I do is I blend my yeast, but you can’t blend too much cause they fight against each other,” he said. Uyehara deployed this same approach when he appeared on an episode of season three of Moonshiners: Master Distiller, a competition reality show that pits distillers against each other to make variable types of spirits on small stills that they themselves must construct from parts. It was an opportunity for Uyehara to utilize many of his skills developed throughout the process of creating Last Shot. The title of the episode was World War of Whiskey — Lorna Conrad of Corsair Distillery made a scotch-style whiskey, Curtis Wickliffe made a bourbon, and Uyehara was tapped to make a Japanesestyle whiskey. Through intuition and his understanding of flavor, Uyehara made a whiskey that earned him the title of that episode’s master distiller, and also forged strong relationships with his competitors and other distillers who have appeared on the show. Uyehara’s story has many chapters, but his legacy will now forever include this foray into distilled spirits, which he hopes to pass on to future generations of his family one day. Uyehara and Menapace were the first to bring back aged whiskey production to Onondaga County in New York, though it certainly seems that won’t be the final spirit explored by the folks at Last Shot.

Last Shot Distillery is located in Skaneateles, New York. For more information visit or call (315) 554-8241.



Written and photographed by KRIS BOHM

What’s a



and Why You (May) Need One


hen it comes to making whiskey and selecting the equipment to do so, one solution is to look to those leading the industry. The leaders of the bourbon industry are those folks selling millions of cases of whiskey annually in countries all around the globe. The older distilleries in Kentucky made the decision decades ago to distill their whiskey on stills that are very different from the pot stills used by many craft distillers. While distillation of whiskey has its history firmly rooted in small backwoods pot stills, the modern production of bourbon is a very different business from where it began centuries ago. The vast majority of whiskies you will find behind your local bar today were all distilled on continuous column stills. Whether it is bourbon, rye, Canadian or Irish whiskies there is a good chance that nearly every bottle you find was distilled on a continuous still, either entirely or in some part. Together, we will explore the history, theory, and economics of continuous stills with the goal to help you consider if a continuous still is the right choice to make your whiskey.



The Leap to

INDUSTRIAL DISTILLATION The science of distillation reaches back thousands of years, with history pointing to distilling being invented in the first century AD. The concept of continuous distillation first began to surface in Europe in the early 1800s. Many variations of the continuous still were created during this time. The first well-documented continuous still was named the Coffey still after its inventor Aeneas Coffey. This still was reported to have been patented and built in 1830. Reports indicate

his still was much more efficient than the traditional batch or pot stills of the time. What makes a continuous still more efficient is that it uses less energy and labor per proof gallon produced and also could produce much larger quantities of spirits per hour that traditional batch stills. The Coffey still was recognized by distillers as a better choice of equipment to produce distilled spirits on an industrial scale. As continuous distillation grew in popularity through the 1800s, many refinements were made to the original Coffey design, which led to several manufacturers building continuous column stills.


the Still Work?

If you are reading this, there is a pretty good chance that you have a basic understanding of distillation science. The most important concept one must come to accept when seeking to understand continuous distillation is the following. Continuous column stills are not pot stills. The principles and physics that drive the operation of a continuous still are very different from a pot still. If you already know and understand how batch distillation works then you must set aside this knowledge if you want to seek and understand how continuous distillation systems work. Here is a breakdown of the operating principles of a continuous column still. We will trace the 10 steps that happen in a continuous still as a distiller takes fermented wash and turns it into distilled alcohol.

1 2 3 4


Fermented beer or wash is continually pumped from a holding tank called a beer well into the still and injected into the column above the stripping plates. As the beer is piped to the still it first passes through a heat exchanger that preheats the liquid before it enters the column. The preheated beer then enters the column and meets rising steam in the still to flash evaporate the alcohol out of the beer. The alcohol that is extracted out of the beer is carried as vapor up into the upper portion of the still where it is continuously recifited until it meets the target proof that is controlled by the still operator.


5 6 7 8 9 10

As the alcohol is rectified and the proof increases, the tails and fusels with their higher boiling point are left behind.


Alcohol Proof Measurement System

The heads and methanol, which have a lower boiling point, remain vapor and are vented off the still. The alcohol that we want to collect moves as vapor on to the condensers, which continuously separates the heads from the hearts. The alcohol is then condensed, passes through the spirit safe, and is pumped to a holding tank. Thanks to gravity, the water and solids of the beer slowly move down the stripping plates of the column to the bottom of the still. By the time the beer exits the bottom of the column, it has less than .05 percent alcohol remaining inside.

SIZE, SCALE, and Cost While continuous column stills are generally efficient and cost-effective, this does not mean they are inexpensive to operate. For example, an 18-inch continuous column still will consume on average nine gallons per minute of fermented whiskey mash. A continuous column still being run for eight hours a day, four days a week, will be distilling upwards of 16,000 gallons of mash per week, yielding around 45 53-gallon barrels of whiskey weekly. The amount of grain needed to make this much whiskey and the barrels to put it all in add up to a fairly sizable budget.

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The RIGHT EQUIPMENT for Your Distillery Pot stills are excellent for distilling small batches of spirits. They are not so effective to produce industrial quantities of spirits. In most instances, the biggest hurdle distilleries face as their sales increase is having the capacity to grow production to keep up. If your distillery is ready to start producing large quantities of whiskey, or if you are thinking about starting a distillery, it may be worth considering a continuous column still in your operation. Kris Bohm is the owner of Distillery Now Consulting LLC. In his spare time Kris can be found pursuing adventures on two wheels and defending his beer mile record. ;






An INTRODUCTION and a Sip of Wine— A Noble Effort


roma and flavor wheels have been used as important tools in sensory evaluation by consumers and, more significantly, for the training of sensory panelists for several decades now. [https://www. html]. We shall see an early parallel development of such instruments aiding scientists and consumers to better gauge the profiles and qualities of beer, wine, and spirits. So follows a brief history of sensory evaluation and flavor wheels particularly in regards to an American consumer perspective. A few more technical points and definitions provided along the way will assist in the further development and understanding of sensory evaluation for the craft distiller. We begin this story with wine and its flavor wheel. For U.S. consumers, this is the most familiar one. It began in earnest in the realm of enology, and quality control perceptions of white and red wines by Ann Noble, who conducted research on wine flavor compounds in the department of viticulture and enology at UC Davis.


Her work involved the detection and identification of varietal wine aroma compounds, and this led to more technical flavor descriptions. Until then hedonic terms were used by consumers and untrained individuals. Hedonic means relating to or considered in terms of pleasant (or unpleasant) sensations, a concept or term dating from the mid-17th century (Greek hēdonikos, from hēdonē ‘pleasure’). In other words, hedonics relates to the degree a consumer accepts and is satisfied with a product, often using their own expressive terminology — harmonious, smooth, round, harsh, balanced, etc. Such words do not qualify a product from the viewpoint of its actual aromatic composition or desirable traits. Consumers in such testing might be asked to define one or more specific attributes, provide free-choice words to profile a product, or asked about the relative importance of each of a few listed attributes, based on a product comparison along with competitor samples []. Then line scales were introduced to determine relative “intensity” or “perception” of an attribute. For example, a nine-point hedonic scale pioneered by the Quartermaster Food Institute for the Armed Forces in


1957 (Peryam and Pilgrim, 1957; cited on the web and in Lim, 2011 and Wichchukit and O’Mahony, 2014) (1,2), was used to measure the level of liking of food products. A 5-point hedonic scale was used for flavored liquid milk (1 = dislike very much, 2 = dislike slightly, 3 = neither like nor dislike, 4 = like slightly, 5 = like very much) (3). Most of us are familiar with these widely adopted scales through participating in surveys. Although we begin to digress here, scaling of attributes will be shown as important for trained tasters who can better describe the flavor profile of wines, beers, and spirits. The flavor terminology and wheels initially developed to give more accurate qualitative descriptions later assisted in delivery of quantitative information with respect to human-sensorially-detected flavors in products. The quantitative evaluation based on tests allows trained evaluators to better understand the approximate concentrations of the perceived components present in a food or beverage by means of learning their own detection threshold values. Called Best Estimate Thresholds (BETs), the sensory panel members first learn about compounds and how to describe them. Then increasing amounts of pure, specific components are presented to them in the matrix (beer, wine, spirit, or other product) of study until they have their “aha” moment. “I smell the acetaldehyde (mind perceiving or imagining green apple, bruised apple, florists’ shops).” This continues for many beverage and food flavor attributes that will be represented in flavor wheels and texts and tables in published books and other literature. This process is of course more involved (see later), but this simple description will have to suffice for now. The ideal is to use actual chemical terms if possible. We will examine this in relation to both beer and whiskey flavor wheels shortly. The protocols/ procedures for such testing and training can be found by members of enological, distilling, or brewing societies, etc., and in various methods manuals, books, and papers discussing sensory evaluation (4). The crux of this paper is that our industry needed defined terminologies for odorants/ volatile flavor molecules for types and styles


of alcoholic beverages. Noble worked on this for wines (1984-87) and a wee bit earlier for Scotch whisky and beer. However, flavor wheels are now superseded in the beer world by hierarchical family trees of flavor component terms (more on this later). This was necessitated by the massive increase of beverage information. The information used in such tools is becoming unwieldy as the identification, the concentrations present, and the threshold values for compound detection are determined within beverages. For now, we continue to deal with the famous wheel format. There are both simple and complex versions of flavor wheels with most appearing as two- or three-tiered layers of expanded information, honing-in on even more precise descriptors for the aromas (flavors) that can be detected in a beverage. A note here, since most flavor comes from aroma and there are only a few basic tastes — sour, sweet, salty, bitter, umami, and possibly fatty taste (receptors for fats have been postulated or now discovered) and a few other “tastants” — these are often titled aroma wheels. However, flavor wheels as titled work just as well in my opinion for naming purposes and sometimes include tactile sensation terms such as pain, cooling (camphoraceous), or warming (balsamic or spicy). The wine flavor wheel took time to build, but serves as a tool and memory jogger for those assessing wines. The wheel removes those general, non-specific vocabulary terms and allows for a more judicious evaluation and identification of good wines from bad (i.e., those with desirable versus undesirable flavor qualities). It also provides more precise descriptors by using the common or chemical names for those sensory attributes. Enologists can then go back to the process to find where these flavors arise, learn how to control them, and/or fine-tune the process(es) to ensure product quality and consistency. It can be used in competitions to determine the most qualified entries and present awards to the best examples. Before moving on to the beer world, a side note and nod to the perfume industry. When assessing a perfume, the evaluator is taught to think in terms of animal, vegetable, mineral,

fruity, and citrus (as a separate fruitiness class). Think you detect fruit? Banana, perhaps? Well then, is it an unripe green, a ripe yellow, or overly ripe or rotten banana? So, for the wine wheel the general terms are center stage. Here are two examples, fruity and vegetative. The rung for fruity taps into citrus and berry and then out to a third tier.For citrus it’s grapefruit and lemon, while for berry it’s blackberry, raspberry, strawberry and, noted for some wines, the strong black currant or cassis note. These most specific terms are in the outer tier; more than 80 (the most often perceived white and red wine aromas) out of an estimated 800 aroma compounds found in wines. The wheel can be purchased or viewed via a good web engine search (see An earlier version was presented and discussed by Noble, et al. (5).

Next Comes a Larger Glass — That of BEER — With Many Styles To Work With After the wine wheel discussion, we now move to beer. The International Beer Flavor Terminology was developed by the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) in collaboration with the European Brewery Convention (EBC) and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA). The work provides brewers, researchers, judges, and marketers with a simple terminology system and improves communication among beer industry professionals. From this work arose the Beer Flavor Wheel, now under the direction of the ASBC. However, a move away from the wheel to the family tree format is increasingly common today as noted above and referenced below. The latter format combined the original flavor wheel developed by Meilgaard, Dalgliesh, and Clapperton in 1979 with updated and detailed terminology provided by brewing experts (6). These authors were associated with the Stroh Brewing Co. in the U.S. and the Brewing Research Foundation in the UK. This lexicon provided for the standard method for tasting beer — standard descriptors with flavors/aromas all 87

organized in a logical way. Since brewing beer is a part of the spirit process, the wheel serves distillers well, too. The core of the Beer Flavor Wheel defines taste and odor. The first tier rings out to general class terms that define the initial aroma perceptions: aromatic, fragrant, nutty, cereal (for the malt and grains used in brewing), roasted, phenolic, fatty, and sulfury. For taste the terminology is oxidized, sour, etc., and mouthfeel and fullness (tactile sensations). The second tier breaks down the general classes into subgroups: sulfury into sulfitic, sulfidic, and cooked vegetable, for example. The third tier then hones in on more well-defined terms to pinpoint more specifically the sensory impressions, i.e., cooked vegetable into parsnip/celery, DMS (dimethyl sulfide), cooked corn, etc. Using the same process as perfumers, think of core words that describe your sensory perception — apple, then tart apple, red apple, green apple, and so on. The wheel then guides us to the actual chemical term — esters for example — ethyl acetate (ethereal, fruity, sweet, with a grape and cherry nuance and solvent-like), ethyl hexanoate (sweet, pineapple, fruity, waxy and banana with a green, estery nuance with red apple/ aniseed accents sometimes claimed), and isoamyl acetate (sweet fruity, banana-like with a green ripe nuance and pear-essence-like), etc. That green apple perception might be acetaldehyde (pungent, fresh, aldehydic, refreshing and green, and we can add bruised or green apple to those descriptors and “florists’ shops”). Obviously, much training is needed to understand the nuances and identification of such components involved in the product’s flavor profile. It also helps the sensory panel team get on the same page and to define who is most/least sensitive or aroma blind to certain compounds. (A useful starting point to learn a bit of chemistry and sensory descriptors for compounds seen in the literature or mentioned in a competition setting is: .) Using flavor wheels and accessing websites like the Good Scents Company allows you to improve your sensory skills and acuities, along with smelling the roses or the pine forest as you pass. Eat different foods, try new


delicacies, and chew over them in your mind to improve flavor memory. Sniff and assess the air around you. Build your vocabulary! Meilgaard built terminology to address primary, secondary, tertiary, and even quaternary components of beer. Defining beer then consisted of 1300 or so components with 800 or so arising from fermentation. He also looked at relative flavor intensity of molecules and defined the intensity via assigning flavor unit values (FU); the ratio of a given compound’s concentration in a beer to its threshold (detection) value. If a compound (its amount or concentration) in a specific beer style was at twice its threshold value, it has an FU of two (empirical flavor units). The threshold for — recognition corresponded to the lowest physical intensity at which a stimulus is correctly identified. Descriptors with relevance to odor, taste, mouthfeel, warming sensation, and after flavors were established. A full table is presented in Sensory Analysis-12 by the ASBC (9). Primary notes with FU’s of two or more have a clear impact on the product and include ethanol, certain esters, and higher alcohols (fusel oils), with defective notes including diacetyl (buttery), hydrogen sulfide (eggy, rotten eggs) and DMS (cooked corn, vegetal). Components with 1.0-2.0 FU’s were considered detectable and identifiable, 0.5-1.0 FU’s were perceptible but scarcely identifiable, and those components in the 0-0.5 range assigned as not directly perceptible. FU values between 0.5-2.0 flavor units include other esters (isoamyl acetate, fruity pear/banana and as noted above), (ethyl hexanoate — red apple, aniseed, spicy) and butyric acid (cheesy, baby vomit). Many more components, concentration levels, and detection threshold limits engage in the volatiles fraction and, therefore, flavor profiles, with many noted in the outer tier of the beer flavor wheel. To accommodate the wide variety of beer styles, these matrix compositions and sensory profiles and properties vary widely. Much work was needed to construct the details for both desirable and undesirable flavor notes. Our understanding of how volatiles are perceived, and the interplay of active synergistic and antagonistic effects play a crucial role in overall perception. Such understanding comes largely from Scottish whisky

research (see below). The distiller interested in understanding sensory work for spirits should also view this paper by Meilgaard, Reid and Wyborski referencing standards for beer terminology (7). Distillers can start with this publication (7), the others cited here, before delving into more current literature for compositional details of their target beverage. The study’s goal was to provide a specific chemical compound for each outer term descriptor for training purposes. Subjects were tested by means of spiking samples with the pure compounds hoping to achieve a high degree of expertise and sensory acuity. However, this did not prove feasible for every descriptor, as reference standards were not always readily available, obtainable, or safe to use. As for the wine wheel, subjective terms such as good, bad, young/mature, balanced, unbalanced were not included. To sum up three kinds of descriptors, class terms and first-tier terms both contain terms familiar to most people, while the second-tier terms, together with any reference substances, formed the theoretical backbone of the system. Alternate flavor wheels were developed and even a flavor stability wheel looking at oxidation, and aging deterioration of beer were developed. Beer style-specific wheels came along later. Several works associated with Meilgaard and the American Society of Brewing Chemists provide more historical, though still relevant, approaches to setting up sensory training (6-8, 9, 10). This will again be seen from the distilled spirit pioneers of sensory evaluation of Scottish whisky below. The wheel was not regularly updated as initially envisioned and has remained the same since it was first published over 40 years ago. While still potentially useful, it is a bit outdated as more terms were defined and a move from wheels to more useful maps — family trees with a hierarchy — were developed by the ASBC in conjunction with Lindsay Barr ( The interested reader is encouraged to find out more from the American Society of Brewing Chemists and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.


Calling all SPIRITS Folks to Start Here — On to Scotland and a Wee Bit of Whisky Cheer! Broader definitions regarding the sensory terms mentioned above will now come to bear on the pioneering and exciting ongoing studies conducted in Scotland. Teams from each beverage sector — beer, wine, and distilled spirits — developed in parallel their own unique and common definitions of flavor volatiles and learned much from each other via their respective scientific publications and international meetings. Professional societies from all these beverage sectors will continue to learn, producing even more sensory work. That said, while different classic spirits producers have many flavor wheels available for consultation, when it comes to spirits flavor wheels and lexicons, it is Scottish whisky folks leading the way. Beginning with the Scottish Whisky Research Institute and Heriot Watt University along with the Aviemore (19821998) and later Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conferences (2002-Present), these organizations perform ongoing research and disseminate information. Overall, we can see the trend in dates of development for wine, beer, and spirits sensory lexicons with newer approaches, state-of-the-art technologies, and scientific instruments providing us with much more “big data” and information today. A working party set up by Pentland’s Scotch Whisky Research Ltd. (which included luminaries such as the late James Swan and Sheila Burtles) developed a flavor vocabulary, which formed a focus tool for all stages of Scotch whisky production and written in the paper, “The Flavour Terminology of Scotch Whisky” (11). The program’s full details can be found in that paper, including references to Meilgaard and others involved in the beer flavor terminology program and the works of Dr. Noble. Starting again with aroma, and flavor (by mouth), the first tier included mouthfeel and nasal effects, and general heading terms: phenolic, feints (tails for US distillers), cereal, aldehydic, estery, sweet-associated notes, woody, oily notes (such as rancid, fatty, buttery), sour-associated notes (vinegar and cheesy), sulfury, stale, and primary tastes


(sweet, sour, salty and bitter). Umami as a taste sensation comes to the fore much later. The third-tier appeared in a table format providing a plethora of more specific terms (11). For example, sour-associated notes in the first tier gave way to second-tier words such as sickly, cheesy, and vinegary, with cheesy leading to lactic and butyric third-tier terms and vinegary as the more specific name acetic acid (ethanoic acid). First-tier esters — fragrant, fruity, and solvent — gave rise to perfumed, roses, banana, pear drops, apple wine-like, paint thinner, and nail varnish remover terms. We now have specific, chemically-defined and named esters linking these flavor impressions. In addition, a wood-maturation flavor wheel was presented with characteristic woody notes (raw fresh cedar/newly sharpened pencils, pine-like, resinous, and saplike descriptors) and prior barrel-use notes of bourbon (including vanilla), sherry (walnut-like — pale sherry, burnt rubber — dark sherry), brandy-like, and rum-like, plus sour cask, musty cask, etc. Since that time, more detail and accuracy has been added to that initial tool as the US bourbon and Canadian whiskey industry groups learn from the Scottish research programs and develop their own wood maturation and whiskey wheels. It should be noted that much Scottish whisky is matured in bourbon and other prior-use spirit and wine barrels. Information, like the liquids, now flows in both directions. Following on Pentland’s research, a seminal paper then appeared on the origins of flavor in whiskies. Authored by Lee, Paterson, and Piggott, the work presented the world with a revised whisky flavor wheel (12). Peaty and floral, cheesy, grainy, and grassy were added as first-tier general terms, and the second- and third-tier terms expanded. Woody had a split to cover defective wood notes, extractives, and new wood flavor terms. As for the later development of the beer flavor wheel, reference compounds for assessor training were added and threshold values for compounds determined. Full details of origins, descriptors, and threshold data for many more whiskey compounds were covered by these researchers (12). Even more recently the Scotch Whisky Research Institute flavor wheel was unveiled by Frances Jack — an ongoing project adding

details all the time. This whisky wheel can be viewed in the book “Whisky and Other Spirits” (13), which covers up-to-date research into Scotch whisky and other spirit flavors. The wheel also appears in an excellent short article entitled Scotch Whiskey Tasting Toolkit [ media/1714/swa-tasting-toolkit_2020.pdf]. Moreover, we can expect new developments from Frances Jack and Annie Hill and their research students. A prospective new-make spirit flavor wheel in the works for example (Hill, personal communication).

SUMMARY, with a Bit of TEQUILA in the End Notes Use of all these wheels, along with accessing the papers and web references, will enable distillers to further their knowledge and expertise in their own evaluations of distilled spirits. While these new tools and tables provide expanded information for distillers, using the wheels as memory aids and training guides should also benefit competition organizers as they build style guidelines. Commonly used in wine and beer competitions, style guidelines are sadly lacking in the spirits industry, especially in the US. Overall, the craft distilled spirits industry still lacks detailed sensory protocols and is missing threshold data for components in their spirits, at least beyond whiskies. Of course, drawing on the Scotch whisky data for such spirits helps, but more is needed for gins, brandies, rums, and other spirit types. The US had no research equivalent body like the Scotch Whisky Research Institute until the creation of the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits at the University of Kentucky. Having just held its third annual conference, the institute will create a partnership to better promote activities for bourbon/whiskies and beyond. In recent discussions with the team, they mentioned the need to implement more robust sensory training programs for students and local distillers. Issues for craft distillers to ponder include the creation of esters when spiking acids into 40 percent ABV alcohol, as noted in a course taken by the author, and a major enterprise brewer moving into distilling,


straightforward. More work is needed to put craft distillers on a level playing field with respect to evaluating their own higher-alcohol and matured products. The appearance of many scientific papers, especially in the last decade, are bringing us in tune with more






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components in spirits, from determining what the typical concentrations are in various spirits to uncovering their origins and controls. Controlling for both desirable flavor notes — aromas and tastants — and eliminating unwanted flavors and taints is now possible through sensory understanding and expert-driven perceptions. An earlier article by Johnny Jeffery and this author published in Artisan Spirit CIT RU goes into detail about key SA RO MA flavors found in spirS FR its, their origins, UI TY AR their control


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along with other experiences in evaluating spirit beverages. Reactions and flavor volatile release (or suppression) are different depending upon ethanol and water ratios, and the presence of a mixed bag of congeners. Extending knowledge for threshold testing from the wine industry, the brewing arena, and the Scottish research groups is not


points, and their descriptors. To complete that article, Artisan Spirit presented a new version of a whiskey wheel (14). Hopefully, it’s been shown that sensory evaluation and understanding of flavor production in all stages of production is a major part of distilling quality assurance and control programs. Other flavor wheels now exist for brandy, gin, mezcals, and beyond.Some are based on academic studies, while others are simply marketing infographics or enthusiast-driven tools. While many spirits are well represented with useful and relevant terms and sensory programs in place, more is needed. The mezcal and tequila industry is making strides into better sensory evaluations and training the distiller and marketing teams to better relay details to consumers, and to participate in quality control testing and judging competitions. The author’s small piece on mezcals, including tequila, in the previous Artisan Spirit issue provides some discussion on this

topic. Research on Brazilian sugarcane spirits, Japanese shochu and Chinese baijiu, including maturation in various woods, is also increasing these days. A chapter on flavor by VillanuevaRodriguez and Escalona-Buendia and edited by one of the authors of the original and ongoing Scotch whiskey wheel studies is included in a useful new paper discussing “What Turns a Product into a Traditional One” and considers the underpinnings and ramifications of tequila/mezcal and other spirits sensory and marketing efforts (15, 16). A start on a decent flavor wheel outside of the usual marketing hype was initiated by Ana Maria Romero Mena, who presented a wheel of sorts in 1999 [https://www.experienceagave. com/tag/ana-maria-romero-mena/]. An adaptation and translation of that wheel is presented here in the


FIGURE 2 Selected terms added to a Spider Alcoholic (Radar) Chart profile that can be used based on scaling to ascribe and rate detected Piquant/ Vinegar attributes in a tequila product undergoing sensory evaluation. Vanilla Line plots with tagged end numbers e.g., 1 and 5 could be used for a panelist or consumer to rate a Wet product, though training Straw is needed to ascribe intensity values to such named descriptors. See text for how a hedonic Woody consumer test scale Resinous might work. The diagram Wood presented represents just one opinion of key notes to include for tequila Dried evaluations. For other tequilas, Fruit blanco (white), reposado (rested) and anejo (aged) and mezcals other terms need to be considered. A work in progress!

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form of a new flavor wheel construct (See Figure 1.) with the caveat that this must only be a starting point to build more technically relevant training tools for the mezcal and tequila producers and their consumers (16). An adaptation of the Mena wheel was also entertained recently by the Tequila Aficionado Media and Lisa Pietsch and Mike Morales []. This wheel can be used to select terms to build sensory ballots and we can move forward from there. (See example in Figure 2.) Furthermore, the wheel might prove useful in conjunction with my article on mezcals in the last edition of Artisan Spirit. In conclusion, keep the sensory wheels a turning and the sensory training going, and it will help distillers produce higher quality spirits and consumers to better appreciate their favorite spirits and tipples. While alternative schemes and tools to represent food and spirits


Rancid Coconut 91

The B2B Cream Liqueur Experts

flavors exist, flavor and aroma wheels are still useful and can increasingly be found online. We must continue to build on the pioneering development of wine, beer, and Scotch whisky wheels with more academic insight into other alcoholic beverages. For those involved in sensory work, a review of the papers cited here would be rewarding in terms of improving sensory evaluation of distilled spirits. Current technologies are defining in greater detail the constituents of foods and beverages, and producing new works; works waiting to be discovered, researched, and mulled over. Furthermore, this provides more opportunity to sample new and distinct brands in greater depth. So, cheers! Drink, be a little merry, and learn all about the wonderful world of flavor. Now that is how to define the spirit! 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).

REFERENCES All in-text cited web references were last accessed and active March 27, 2022. 1. Lim, J., Hedonic scaling: A review of methods and theory. Food Quality and Preference 2011, 22 (8), 733-747. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2011.05.008. 2. Wichchukit, S.; O'Mahony, M., The 9-point hedonic scale and hedonic ranking in food science: some reappraisals and alternatives. J Sci Food Agric 2015, 95 (11), 2167-78. DOI: 10.1002/jsfa.6993. |

3. Zhi, R.; Zhao, L.; Shi, J., Improving the sensory quality of flavored liquid milk by engaging sensory analysis and consumer preference. Journal of Dairy Science 2016, 99 (7), 5305-5317. DOI: 10.3168/jds.2015-10612. 4. Meilgaard, M. C., Current Progress in Sensory Analysis. A Review. Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists 1991, 49 (3), 101-109. DOI: 10.1094/ ASBCJ-49-0101. 5. Noble, A.; Arnold, R.; Buechsenstein, J.; Leach, E.; Schmidt, J.; Stern, P., Modification of a Standardized System of Wine Aroma Terminology. Am J Enol Vitic 1987, 38 (2), 143-146. 6. Meilgaard, M. C.; Dalgliesh, C. E.; Clapperton, J. F., Beer Flavor Terminology. Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists 1979, 37 (1), 47-52. DOI: 10.1094/ASBCJ-37-0047 7. Meilgaard, M. C.; Reid, D. S.; Wyborski, K. A., Reference Standards for Beer Flavor Terminology System. Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists 1982, 40 (4), 119-128. DOI: 10.1094/ASBCJ-40-0119. 8. Meilgaard, M. C., Testing for Sensory Threshold of Added Substances. Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists 1991, 49 (3), 128-135. DOI: 10.1094/ ASBCJ-49-0128. 9. American Society of Brewing Chemists. Flavor Terminology and Reference Standards (International Method). Methods of Analysis – Sensory-12 1986, DOI: 10.1094/ASBCMOA-Sensory-12. 10. Sensory Threshold Determination of Added Substances in Beer. Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists 1993, 51 (4), 181-183. DOI: 10.1094/ ASBCJ-51-0181. 11. Shortreed, G.W.; Rickards, P.; Swan, J.S.; Burtles, S., The flavour terminology of Scotch Whisky. Brewers’ Guardian 1979, 2-6. 12. Lee, K. Y.; Paterson, A.; Piggott, J.; Richardson, G., Origins of Flavour in Whiskies and a Revised Flavour Wheel: A Review. Journal of the Institute of Brewing 2001, 107. DOI: 10.1002/j.2050-0416.2001.tb00099.x. 13. Whisky and Other Spirits. Technology, Production and Marketing. Edited by Inge Russell, Graham G. Stewart, Julie Kellershohn. Third Edition. 2022. Academic Press 14. Spedding, G; Jeffery, J., Distilled Spirits and Key Flavors. Smelling Roses, Fruit, Stinky Feet and Much More in My Glass. Artisan Spirit 2015, 12, 53-58. 15. Villanueva-Rodriguez, S.J.; Escalona-Buendia, H.B., 18 Tequila and mezcal: sensory attributes and sensory evaluation. In Alcoholic Beverages, Edited by J. Piggott. Woodhead Publishing. 2012; 359-378. 16. García-Barrón, S.E.; Guerrero, L.; Vázquez-Elorza, A.; Lazo, O., What Turns a Product into a Traditional One? Foods. 2021, 10 (6), 1284. DOI:10.3390/ foods10061284.



Written and photographed by DEVON TREVATHAN


NOMADIC DISTILLING The Journey of Liba Spirits

Nomad (n): a member of a people having no permanent abode, and who travel from place to place to find fresh pasture for their livestock.


remember the moment that my business partner Colton Weinstein and I decided to launch Liba Spirits. We were sitting on his couch in the living room, talking about what our next professional moves could be. The year before, we had taken a trip to Australia that opened our eyes to a world of unexpected flavor through the native ingredients and botanicals that were used in the food and drink we tried. It had only been a few months that I even knew Australia had an existing craft distilling industry, let alone one that made use of such diverse production W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

techniques and ingredients. Some of the spirits we’d tried there were classic and familiar, like the Tasmanian whiskies that continue to take home prestigious awards at competitions each year, but others were less conventional. A particular highlight of the trip was a guided tour at Something Wild in Adelaide, a company that supplies Indigenous food to restaurants and consumers around the country. At their warehouse facility that day we had the opportunity to taste a battery of local botanicals and herbs, including Karkalla Punnet, a native Australian succulent, lemon myrtle, and seaweed foraged off the coast. We sampled flavors from across the spectrum, some that I had never experienced before. Though it wasn’t clear to us then, that trip to Australia planted a seed. It took months to germinate and eventually mature into the

crystalized idea of a nomadic distilling company in which Colton and I would travel, renting space in distilleries to make our own spirits, but that is where this concept first took root. Fast forward almost a year and there we sat, on that couch. We both brought up an idea that had been kicking around in our heads independently: gypsy distilling, as it’s been referred to within the industry, or nomadic distilling as we like to call it. Why couldn’t we pack up a couple suitcases and all the knowledge that we’ve gained from a combined 18 years in the industry and go somewhere to distill a spirit that is indivisible from the place where it was made? As a business model it was a logistical minefield, but it was feasible to us, and that was what mattered most. 93

Without a doubt, the concept of using hyper-regional ingredients and distilling practices to innovate familiar spirit categories was exciting to us, but equally influential were the financial realities at play. As two non-executive distillery employees who had never worked in another industry, we did not have quick access to the kind of capital necessary to build out a facility. We’re talking about a project that would cost tens of millions of dollars. It was the price tag that we worked out when we wrote an extensive business plan for a traditional facility, detailing the exact size that we would want to start with, the length of time it would take to recoup investment, how we could scale up production, and what that project would look like based on available data that we had from past and present jobs. It was a great concept, but it felt more distant to us than the faraway destinations we hoped to go to distill. To raise the kind of resources necessary would have taken years, which isn’t itself a deterrent, but when that aspect was fully understood and compared to our alternative idea, nomadic distillation came out the clear victor. We may not have had deep

pockets, but we had true passion for this industry oozing out of every pore and, more importantly, the knowledge of how to distill a variety of ingredients on an assortment of still types and systems. At the time we thought that was enough. There wasn’t much data that we could harvest from past places of employment when it came to this model; it was new to us and absent in all the business plans at the distilleries where we’d previously worked. Which makes perfect sense: This is not the easiest business model to operate. You probably wouldn’t do it if you didn’t feel you had to. It has required us to sacrifice just about everything — homes, cars, safety nets, regular social groups, regularity in general, kitchens on occasion, 401ks, healthcare, etc. We have and will miss important birthdays, be unavailable to loved ones during moments of crisis, and get close to someone just to take off for months at a time. The feasibility of this business depends on the fact that, individually, both Colton and I are untethered — neither of us is married, has children, or had a mortgage. Being untethered comes with its own set of complications, but for us it’s worth it. This is how we have navigated nomadic distilling, so far. It begins with the destination. Where do we want to go to make a spirit? The answer — a surprise to no one I’m sure — is just about everywhere, but fortunately circumstance often steps in and dictates the viability of a potential production locale. Common considerations include whether or not we can make a spirit there that falls into a recognizable (e.g. “marketable”) category; the historic distilling practices of the region; what raw materials and ingredients are available; and access, as in can we get to this country and if so find a distillery to work out of? One of the first countries that came up when we began to brainstorm was Mexico.

This is home to an incredibly rich distilling culture and two of the most recognizable and talked about spirits in the world right now, mezcal and tequila, on top of other less-saturated categories that are equally appealing to us, including raicilla, sotol, and pechuga. It satisfied just about every need, but the question of access had us stuck. It isn’t that there is no way to get in touch with Mexican distilleries but all the ones we spoke to were so unbelievably busy, and this would be our first production run. Even if we were lucky enough to gain access to a distillery there, how could we promise them that we would be finished in a specific period of time when we hadn’t yet worked out exactly how long this would take? The idea for a Mexican spirit went back up on the shelf to be revisited at a later day. Instead, we set our eyes on Europe. The question of what distillery we are going to work with typically follows once we’ve narrowed down a destination. It is no insignificant request to ask a distillery owner to open their doors to us. We intend to come in and use their space, equipment, facilities, and ideally suppliers to make our own product. There is scheduling to work out, and liability is a significant factor, but we like that we are offering them something of value in return. Thanks to the small distillery boom over the past few decades, there are many moderately sized distilleries around the world, and it’s rare to find a distillery of that size running its production 24/7, so we can give these distillery owners an opportunity for a passive revenue stream. As an owner, you often get caught up in your own business and production schedules and forget that, by virtue of having a functioning distillery, you’re sitting on quite a few valuable assets that can bring in cash during slow seasons. The distilleries that we have either worked out of or indicated we’d like to work out of in the future tend to share a number of characteristics, like their size, which is typically small to medium; the fact that they produce spirits that we either like or respect; they have a schedule that allows for us to come into the distillery and make our product; and they are

This is how we have navigated nomadic distilling, so far. It begins with the destination. 94


It’s further reinforcement of something we always knew — the beauty of this business lies in the people who make up our community.

owned or operated by distillers who are open to welcoming in two people who, while familiar with the industry, have not previously worked on their exact system. Fortunately for us, there are a lot of individuals in this business who fit that bill, and they all seem to be as enthused about the idea that is at the core of Liba as we are. Not only have many distilleries told us they are open to having us, their excitement about what spirit this opportunity could deliver matches our own. It’s further reinforcement of something we always knew — the beauty of this business lies in the people who make up our community. Perhaps we’ve just been lucky, but our interactions with other distilling folks have been nothing short of life-affirming. It never ceases to amaze me that, while traveling, I often find myself talking to a practical stranger who, less than an hour after we meet, is offering to connect me with their entire local community and other passionate makers all because we share the same work. Liba may be powered

by a desire to explore the concepts of terroir and provenance in spirits, but it could also be described as a love letter to the broader beverage community around the world. As you can probably imagine, the reality of operating a nomadic distilling business has been far more complicated and troublesome than we could have ever imagined. The fact that the lifespan of our business overlaps almost exactly with COVID-19 probably hasn’t helped; the last two years has been incredibly inhospitable to a traveling business, and launching a spirits brand during a period of such inconsistency for on-premise establishments was a challenge. But we’ve made it this far, and I think we have a lot to show for it. More importantly, there are many lessons we’ve learned along the way that we are happy to share with you all here in the pages of this magazine, one that has been so good to me for so long. Come back in future

issues to find different installments of the saga that is Liba Spirits, and feel free to reach out to either Colton or myself if you have comments or questions. We always love to hear from our community on topics big, small, and anything in between. Devon Trevathan is the co-founder and president of Liba Spirits. Visit for more information.

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HEURISTICS How Design Psychology Can Drive Consumer Connection

Two seconds. That’s how long it takes the average consumer to make a purchase decision. Of course, this increment varies as the product relates to category, price point, and relative location on the shelf, but the staggering takeaway is that brands are all competing to connect with lightning-fast decision makers and impulse-driven consumers. Given such a challenge, the margin for error or wasted time is slim to none. Yet over and over, brands fall prey to the same pitfall: thinking of packaging as an hour-long investor pitch instead of a 30-second elevator pitch. As alluring as it may be to weave a textured narrative about organic claims and top-of-the-line ingredients, the reality is, consumers buy based on immediate emotion and excitement. Details like water sourcing and purity of processing are hugely important when crafting amazing products, but less impactful during the most crucial two-second window. So what’s the solution? How can brands differentiate themselves from the surrounding competition, scrap the same tired playbook, and actually use those two seconds to inspire trial, connection, and loyalty? The answer is heuristics.

Oak & Eden Finished Whiskey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . unpack’d STRUCTURAL DESIGN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . unpack’d LABELS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MCC label PHOTOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nick Cabrera BRAND DESIGN



Mushroom Revival �������������������������������� unpack’d PHOTOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nick Cabrera BRAND DESIGN

HEURISTICS DEFINED Pour a glass and bear with me as I give you a quick breakdown of heuristics, and I promise I’ll bring it back to the point before you finish sippin’. Heuristics play an incredibly important role in how we navigate the many different worlds we live in. They make us feel happy, excited, scared, bewildered, or inspired, and they give our brain a more accessible way to process our environment. In fact, heuristics have helped humans make sense of life since the time of our knuckle-dragging forebears. Simply put, heuristics are mental shortcuts that help us in decision making.

the HUMAN BRAIN and DECISION MAKING Considering all the technological developments since the era of our cave-dwelling ancestors, it may come as a shock to learn that our brains are still the fastest, most complex processors on the planet. Think about it: We spend all day absorbing, evaluating, and understanding our environment. It’s been estimated that the average human brain operates at about 100 teraflops (roughly 100 trillion calculations per second) and makes about 35,000 decisions a day. With such a steady influx of data to be filtered, our brains needed a way to mitigate being overwhelmed. Cue the evolution of heuristics! In addition to better hygiene and overall fashion sense, it’s this evolution of processing power that separates us from the neanderthals of the past: Where cavemen relied on heuristic shortcuts to recognize things like predator and prey, we use heuristic shortcuts to relate to our world, and in so doing, relate to the products that fuel our lives.


Heuristics play an incredibly important role in how we navigate the many different worlds we live in. They make us feel happy, excited, scared, bewildered, or inspired, and they give our brain a more accessible way to process our environment

SEMIOTICS: MORE THAN MEETS the EYE The discussion of heuristics as it relates to designing successful packaging would be remiss without the introduction of semiotics. Where heuristics are broadly defined mental shortcuts, semiotics has to do more specifically with the interpretation of symbols, and in design can be thought of as visual shortcuts. For example, the image of a heart is associated with love, a cross with Christianity, and a red octagon with “STOP,” to name a few. A soft-silhouette glass bottle is even trademarked by Coca-Cola thanks to its semiotic power. But packaging semiotics can (and should) extend beyond container shapes. Fonts are key. Color is key. Shape is key. Whether the design is simple or complex, an amazing design will serve as a shortcut for consumers. As designers, we’ve come to intuit this. 97

Mushroom Revival BRAND DESIGN

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . unpack’d Nick Cabrera

PHOTOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

GREAT BRAND BUILDERS are HEURISTS Brand strategists and designers are “heurists” by definition: we create heuristics for others. As such, successful implementation of semiotics probably seems like second nature to those tenured in the industry, but years of experience doesn’t exempt creators from careful consideration of how they’re employing heuristics. For example, while it would take most American purchasers two seconds to connote the image of a red octagon with the word “STOP,” this semiotic would be lost on Japanese consumers, who would resonate more with a red inverted triangle. Consider the fact that the swastika once had a positive connotation associated with well-being and peace in its original Sanskrit form. Deliberations like this are what separate good packaging design from great packaging design — and in some cases separate great packaging design from disastrous packaging design (we don’t recommend putting a swastika on your label to evoke peace). This can often be the sole difference maker in the crucial purchase-decision window.

EXAMPLES of this at WORK Take Blanton’s, for example: In another context, a horse might have a completely different meaning. In the case of Blanton’s, it connects to its Kentucky roots, but it connects in an emotional way that brings to mind the feeling of being “at the Derby.” Yet it doesn’t stop there. The eight unique closures can be lined up to create a horse in motion. More than spelling “Blanton’s” for a collector, this creates brand enthusiasts while nodding to the trustworthiness of time dating back to 98

the first expressions of animation and film. Another example is Oak & Eden whiskey. The producers finish the whiskey in-bottle with the use of a spiral of wood. The helix-shaped piece of wood becomes a symbol in and of itself as the soul of the spirit — the thing that breathes life and flavor into the liquid. But what happens when answering the call of semiotic excellence is more challenging? An example here is a recently rebranded mushroom supplement company called Mushroom Revival (no, not the psychedelic kind). The aim was to bring greater awareness to the strong functional benefits of various mushroom species for things like cognitive function, energy, and anxiety (a tall task for a two-second window). Of course, increasing text size to highlight functional statements was key, but even more important was the imagery — the semiotics. After

some text manipulations, big questions still loomed: How can you inspire an emotional shortcut that reframes an entire industry? How can the whole of Mushroom Revival’s mission fit into a single elevator pitch? How can they inspire trial, connection, and loyalty? The solution: Show, don’t tell. Ink blots were created with each physical mushroom species and they arranged the prints to embody the very function they provided. Calm was communicated with blue and ripples like that of a Zen garden or a spa pool. Energy was communicated with vibrant yellows and swaths of orange ascending steeply upward. These design decisions provided emotional shortcuts to the product benefit while also teaching consumers about the deeper power of mushrooms. In the case of this rebrand, semiotics transformed into emotions, and in turn, consumers transformed into fans.

Wes Wooddell is founder and CEO of unpack’d. Visit for more information.






t’s no secret that the alcohol industry has exploded in growth and popularity over the last decade. Where once it was difficult to get even piecemeal legislation approved, now sweeping alcohol reform is passed with consensus. Those politicians that were formerly reluctant to take on alcohol legislation because of lingering Prohibition idealism, now eagerly support bills that never could have passed ten years ago. With the passage of new legislation year after year, the lines once strictly drawn between the three alcohol tiers have become blurred, with the manufacturing tier acquiring privileges historically held only by wholesalers and retailers. States are now vesting distillers with the ability to self-distribute, offer sales by-the-drink and by-the-package on site, and even have off-site retail outlets. COVID-19 further changed the landscape of the industry, forcing decisions about alcohol delivery both by-the-drink and by-the-package and direct shipment. Although delivery methods were initially authorized to help businesses, and especially restaurants, survive the pandemic, many states thereafter made the temporary legislation permanent, forever changing the landscape of the industry and we dare say propelling it forward a good twenty years.


With the passage of new legislation year after year, the lines once strictly drawn between the three alcohol tiers have become blurred, with the manufacturing tier acquiring privileges historically held only by wholesalers and retailers.



While these changes have been good for distillers, they also present unique challenges that may require critical thought about how best to adapt the distillers’ original business model. Put simply, retail privileges require manufacturers to wear a retailer’s hat. Distillers now have to consider issues that, until recently, only affected the retail tier. For instance, when making retail sales, distillers must learn to prepare sales tax returns and pay sales tax to the state when selling by-thedrink and by-the-package; marketing now requires strategic changes since sales can be made in person to the end consumer; delivery in-state and direct shipment out-of-state creates a number of logistical issues; and legal issues affecting the retail tier can be very different than what a distiller is accustomed to. When a distiller is allowed to operate an onsite bar or restaurant, it is exercising a retail privilege. In these cases, the distiller is often subject to the same legal requirements imposed upon retailers. For example, many states require that restaurant and bar employees have alcohol beverage server training to educate those employees

on how to avoid illegally selling alcohol to underage youth and intoxicated patrons. That training usually requires the employee to attend several hours of class for a fee. Similarly, most health departments require those handling food to get some type of food handler permit and/or food manager certification attesting that the employee is qualified to handle unpackaged food and food equipment for the public. These permits and certifications also require several hours of paid classes. Many states now require this same training for a distiller’s employees working at an on-site bar or restaurant. This article addresses only one of the many new legal challenges facing distillers exercising retail privileges, but it is an important one that is often overlooked, even in the retail industry. When an employee seeks or is required to have training by law, who pays for the employee’s time while training for the license? Who pays for the course or license? What should the employer do or not do for the employee? Failure to properly address these issues can subject the distiller to steep penalties and long-term consequences. 99



The answer is, “it depends.” Under the federal law that governs employee wages, known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must pay their employees at least the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25/hour) for all time worked unless some exemption or exception applies,1 for instance, where your employees are exempt from overtime because they are paid a salary and otherwise meet the criteria for that exemption. Generally speaking, compensability of an employee’s time while training or obtaining licensure depends on whether the time spent by the employee in doing so is predominantly for the benefit of the employer or of the employee. Regulations related to the FLSA provide that “attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time if the following four criteria are met:”

1) Attendance is outside of the employee’s regular working hours;

2) Attendance is voluntary; 3) The course, lecture, or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job; AND

4) The employee does not provide any productive work during such attendance. If any one of these four factors is not satisfied, then the employer must compensate the employee for the time spent completing the course or training. Items

2 and 3 are the biggest barrier to a determination that the employee’s training time is not compensable because the concepts of “voluntariness” and “directly related to the employee’s job” are somewhat subject to interpretation. Indeed, the courts that have tried to apply this test do so with some inconsistency. In conducting its investigations, however, the Department of Labor2 will regularly tip the scale in favor of the employee where there is a close call, and it will conclude the employee should have been compensated for the time spent. It is also worth noting that where employers take advantage of the “tip-credit” provisions of the FLSA (so that they may pay waitstaff or bartenders less than $7.25/ hour by counting on tips as a supplement to wages), the reduced-rate should not be applied when a server is completing training.3 For example, if the employer is paying its waitstaff $2.13/hour for their server work, that is fine, but once they are not engaged in that work, and instead are training for a license or certification, the employer must pay them either the full federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour or the state minimum wage, whichever is higher. Employers should also be clear on how employees record time spent completing the course, studying (if applicable), and taking the test so that their pay can be properly calculated. Remember, too, that overtime will need to be paid if the employee works more than 40 hours in the workweek in which the training takes place.

1 Employers should note, however, that states can increase the minimum wage – the federal minimum wage is simply a floor. For instance, in West Virginia the minimum wage is $8.75/hour, whereas the minimum wage in Ohio is $9.30 – all employees in these states must be paid, at a minimum, this higher wage. 2 The Department of Labor is the federal agency tasked with enforcing the FLSA. There are also similar state departments of labor which will also police wage and hour disputes, when it is warranted. 3 Employers using the “tip-credit” provisions of the FLSA to pay waitstaff and bartenders need to be certain that they are giving proper notice to servers before applying it, that they are monitoring the tips to ensure that the servers are making enough each workweek (and supplementing their wages when they are not, and that they are not applying this reduced minimum wage for work unrelated to the tipped duties or for side-work comprising more than 20 percent of their time in a week. The Department of Labor (and hungry plaintiffs’ lawyers) are targeting employers who use the tip-credit to pay servers and if an employer is not in perfect compliance, it may find itself involved in one of these costly cases.



Who pays for the fees for the course or licensure can also be answered with an “it depends.” It can depend upon the state in which you live, as well as the circumstances under which the employee is seeking the training or licensure, and the employers’ policies. Where employers have determined that they can require the employees to reimburse them for training opportunities or licensure, however, they need to proceed with caution. At no time can an employer make a deduction from an employee’s paycheck for this type of expense if it will cause the employee to make less than minimum wage for the hours worked in the week in which the deduction will be made. For example, if an employer is paying an employee $7.25/hour for 40 hours of work in a week, and then deducts $40.00 out of the employee’s pay as reimbursement for training/licensure, the employer has violated the FLSA (and possibly state laws in some states) because the employee will now have been only paid the equivalent of $7.25/hour, well below minimum wage.4 Thus, where employees are only making minimum wage, the employer must not make such deductions.


OPTION 1: An employer can pay for the training and pay for the cost of the licensure. Then it is unquestionably complying with the law. There are no close calls, no penalties for misinterpretation of the regulation, or misapplication of the facts to the law – making it the most conservative approach. Also, taking this route may help employers attract and retain talent that might go elsewhere if they believe an employer does not believe in investing in its employees. Given the current shortage 4 It is also worth noting that some states have requirements about what types of deductions can be made by the employer, how the agreement to make those deductions must be documented, and how much can be deducted per pay period. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

of workers and the cost associated with training and onboarding, anything an employer can do to set itself apart from other employers in a positive way to attract or retain talent is of value.

OPTION 2: An employer can require licensure as a prerequisite for candidates applying for a server job. To do this properly, an employer should put this requirement in the job advertisement and screen out candidates who cannot meet it. Screening out candidates in this way would allow an employer to avoid the costs of training and licensure, but this option may limit the applicant pool. Again, this is also a conservative approach. OPTION 3: An employer can contact its favorite employment lawyer (shameless plug) and see if, under the facts of the specific situation, an argument exists that the fourpart test above is satisfied such that it does not have to pay for the time it takes the employee to become licensed or certified.

(NOT A GOOD) OPTION 4: An employer can decide it just will not pay for the time and pray for the best. Obviously, this option is the most risky, and is not advised. Wage and hour cases are expensive because they are seldom covered by insurance, the penalties can be steep, and they often turn into class actions. On top of those hazards, attorney’s fees are available to an employee’s lawyer if the employee prevails, and insurance rarely pays for wage disputes.

BOTTOM LINE: These issues can be a trap for the unwary. Employers need to make decisions with their eyes wide open for potential landmines, determine where their priorities are with respect to monies spent, and then determine which option is the best fit for their business Stacy Kula is the Team Leader of the Alcohol Team and the Hospitality & Resort Team in the Lexington, Kentucky office of the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson PLLC. She works closely with the alcoholic beverage industry, representing distillers and other manufacturers in all aspects of their operations, including TTB and ABC permitting and defense against allegations of misconduct and alcohol violations. She has acted as lead ABC counsel to a number of licensees in multi-state transactions, obtaining licenses in numerous jurisdictions and conducting nationwide research projects. Despite practicing in the bourbon epicenter, Stacy’s favorite alcohols are spiced rum, gin, and limoncello — but she's always willing to sample the newest product on the market! Stacy can be contacted at (859) 219-8222 or Allison Williams is a member of Steptoe & Johnson PLLC and regularly counsels clients in the hospitality industry on labor and employment issues such as wage and hour, discipline and discharge, employee handbooks, and discrimination/harassment in the workplace. Allison’s favorite cocktail is an Old Fashioned. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

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imiting flammable liquid quantities to maintain code compliance is a constant challenge for many distilleries. Model building and fire codes restrict the quantities of various hazardous materials as a means to keep an area or building from being classified as a high hazard occupancy. High hazard occupancies have very strict requirements and limitations for such things as building construction type and size, occupant egress, secondary containment, fire sprinkler system, etc., often leading to excessive construction costs or limitations to your facility. Model building and fire codes such as the International Building Code (IBC) and International Fire Code (IFC), often adopted and amended by local jurisdictions, provide maximum allowable quantities (MAQs) for flammable and combustible liquids. These liquid MAQs are

provided with increased allowances if a building has an automatic fire sprinkler system and/or with storage in fire rated cabinets. MAQ limitations are based on designed control areas which need to be determined and constructed during the design phase of your distillery. A control area is defined by the International Building Code as: Spaces within a building where quantities of hazardous materials not exceeding the maximum allowable quantities per control area are stored, dispensed, used or handled.

A control area is a room or space that is separated from adjacent spaces by a fire-resistance rated partition, floor, and/or ceiling assembly. The IBC and IFC allow a specific number of control areas based on their locations above or below grade level. For example, you are permitted up to four control areas on the first floor with 100 Liquid maximum allowable quantities (MAQs) percent of the MAQ; however, you are only allowed three control areas are provided with increased allowances if a on the second floor with 75 percent building has an automatic fire sprinkler system of the MAQ. By providing control areas, you are able to increase your

and/or with storage in fire rated cabinets. 102



MAQs without having to be classified as a high hazard occupancy. Let’s break this down with a sample project: You have a one-story distillery with a production area, storage area, and tavern. The building will contain an automatic sprinkler system throughout. Your distillery will have various spirits which are all classified as a Class IB or IC flammable liquid. The IBC classifies these areas as:





Production Area – Group F-1 Occupancy


Storage Area – Group S-1 Occupancy Tavern – Group A-2 Occupancy The IBC and IFC allow up to four control areas on the first floor with 240 gallons (120 gallons with another 120 gallon increase for the fire sprinkler system) of flammable liquid for each control area. This will allow you up to 960 gallons within your building without having to classify it, or portions of it, a high hazard occupancy. This will allow you to design your facility to the specific requirements of Group A-2, F-1, and S-1. The example is a very basic starting point but allows you to determine your limitations. Most of your liquid quantities will be within the production and storage areas and further considerations need to be made with regards to your equipment sizes and distilling processes. You may need to consider separating your blending tanks, bottling area, and distilling area in order to maintain less than 240 gallons. If tanks or stills must exceed 240 gallons, then you may need to designate a portion of your production area as a high hazard. The benefit of a high hazard occupancy is that you have far less restrictions on your flammable liquid quantities and uses. Furthermore, if you have a space designated as a high hazard occupancy, then you are still allowed additional control areas in the remainder of the building. The use of multiple control areas is beneficial if you have limitations on your building size, building construction type, exposure to adjacent buildings or lot lines, if you don’t have the capability to install a fire sprinkler system, etc. Installing or creating a secondary containment area is also another significant challenge, especially for buildings within densely developed areas, as there may not be a means to contain large quantities of liquids.



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Control areas are required to be separated from other control areas or other adjacent spaces by a fire-resistance rated barrier. Typically, control areas require a UL Listed one-hour fire-resistance assembly which utilizes various construction materials. Many UL Listed wall assemblies are as simple as ⅝-inch Type X gypsum with wood or metal studs; however, research should be performed during the design phase to determine the most appropriate materials based on building construction type and material cost. Openings within fire-resistance rated wall assemblies are also required to be fire-resistance rated. This includes doors, windows, and penetrations for electrical and mechanical equipment. Doors and windows are required to have The utilization a 45-minute fire-resistance rating and be of control areas self-closing. Self-closing doors may hinder your may allow you distilling operations, to increase your so you may want to consider fire-rated rollliquid quantities up doors or full swing without having doors with magnetic hold-opens. If you have to re-classify a fire alarm system withyour building in your building, you may tie in the roll-up to a high hazard doors or magnetic holdoccupancy opens and provide local smoke detection. This and meet the will allow the doors more restrictive to automatically close upon activation of a requirements. local smoke detector during a fire event, while maintaining a clear opening during normal operations. The utilization of control areas may allow you to increase your liquid quantities without having to re-classify your building to a high hazard occupancy and meet the more restrictive requirements. Careful considerations should be made during the design phase of any project to stay within the building and fire code limitations while assuring that you can still maintain an effective distilling process.

THIS IS THE CONVENTION YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS! Michael T. Reardon, P.E. is a fire protection engineer and president of Reardon Fire Consulting, P.C. For more information visit



Written by RICH MANNING Photography by DYLAN + JENI

ANCIENT COUNTRY, MODERN PROGRESS Greek Distillery Kástra Elión’s Vodka Features a Unique Ingredient.


odka seldom surprises. It’s traditionally this way by nature, since it’s a neutral grain spirit typically built on grains or starches and bottled before it can become something spirit nerds think of as more complex. As such, it’s a category that organically invites jaded feelings. However, this sentiment can work in the favor of vodka brands actively trying to do something different. When such a bottle hits the market and the juice is good, it carries the potential to compel more than a few stubborn eyebrows to raise.



The Greek vodka Kástra Elión possesses the power to potentially elicit a surprised response, and not just because they package the spirit in an elegant white and blue ceramic-style bottle that would not look too out of place in front of the Acropolis. Hailing from the port city of Nafpaktos, the distillery uses Greek olives along with grains to produce their juice. They don’t use a smidgen of olives for the sake of slapping such a claim on the bottle, either — more than one-fourth of their mash bill consists of the traditional Mediterranean fruit. According to Kástra Elión Co-Founder and President Mike Camello, creating an olive-driven

vodka stemmed from a eureka moment he had with his father-in-law, Kastra Elion’s Master Distiller and other Co-Founder Frank Mihalpoulos. “We are avid vodka drinkers, and we feel that there is always room for category innovation,” Camello said. “One day, we realized no one had really used olives in vodka, and thought they would lend themselves well to the vodka process. Frank has done a lot of extensive work on olives and is also an olive oil producer, and olives are an important part of Greece’s culture and its traditions. That’s really how the idea of Kástra Elión was born.”

“We did not set out to make an olive-flavored vodka, but to make a vodka that tapped into the particular attributes from the olive fruit in order to get the mouthfeel, smoothness, and overall complexity that makes our product.” — MIKE CAMELLO Kástra Elión Co-Founder and President

A METICULOUS PROCESS Using olives to produce vodka isn’t an easy task. The olives themselves have more in common with grapes than grains, and sourcing the olives used for Kástra Elión’s blend isn’t too far removed from the process of harvesting the fruit needed for a killer Napa cab. “All the olives we source are from the Nafpaktos region,” Camello said. “Nafpaktos is located on the western part of Greece, across from the Peloponnese [region] by the Corinthian Gulf. The mountains behind the Corinthian Gulf and the and the Peloponnese’s mountain chain form a truly unique microclimate that ultimately produces a great olive varietal.” Much like a grape, an olive’s flavor profile and nuance changes ever so slightly with the seasons. This requires Mihalopoulos to lean on his olive oil–production expertise to make on-the-fly adjustments to the blend with every crop of hand-picked olives, to secure the juice’s consistency. To an outsider, this process of sourcing, harvesting, and utilizing olives may appear to contain a type of unique romanticism that doesn’t feel too far removed from the perception of winemaking. Yet as any veteran vintner may tell you, such sweeping affectations tend to conflict with the reality of producing a product that matches expectations. In the case of Kástra Elión, the journey from idea to bottle was a painstaking one. “We spent two years working on the formula that is today’s recipe,” Camello said. “We spent time exploring different types of olives and regions. Once we found the blend we liked, we then really tweaked the ratios until we felt we created the right, unique experience.”

TELLING A LONG, LAYERED STORY Kástra Elión’s roots run deeper than its 2020 launch date. Despite the vodka being a father-in-law and son-in-law operation, the label’s website touts the spirit as a brand three generations in the making. This added lineage is a direct nod to Frank’s father George, who introduced Frank to the olives from the Nafpaktos region when Frank was a kid and



planted a seed of interest that would ultimately germinate into a career. This acknowledgement of Kástra Elión’s status as a family affair is only part of the history lesson. Camello and Mihalopoulos named the bottle after an ancient castle that overlooks the Nafpaktos region’s olive groves. The name, along with the bottle design and the vodka itself, is positioned to be an entry point for imbibers to feel comfortable digging into Greece’s rich culture and traditions, particularly since tippling was central to Greek society dating back to the days of ancient civilization. “History and tradition were a big part of what we wanted the brand to stand for,” Camello explained. “From the beginning, we wanted to make something that Greece would be proud of, so we felt that it’s important to infuse Greece’s rich history into the brand and represent it well.” The brand’s story also hinges on a rather significant clarification. Kástra Elión is vodka produced from olives. It is not olive-flavored vodka. Keeping that differentiation fully intact within the brand’s story is critical to Camello and Mihalopoulos, to the point where discussions regarding flavor profile aren’t necessarily the chief focus. Camello explains, “We did not set out to make an olive-flavored vodka, but to make a vodka that tapped into the particular attributes from the olive fruit in order to get the mouthfeel, smoothness, and overall complexity that makes our product.” They follow this philosophy through on their websites and shelf talkers, which forego pinpointed flavors in favor of highlighting essences such as peppery undertones, buttery smoothness, and a rounded finish. Ripe olives are mentioned, but they are framed as a subtle note.

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A WARM RECEPTION Kástra Elión launched in 36 U.S. states in March, and immediately started collecting acclaim. The swift positive reception validates Camello’s and Mihalopoulos’ hunch that an olive-driven vodka might work. It also helps quell their concerns about consumers potentially dismissing it as a quirky product in a pretty bottle. Ultimately, Camello hopes that the buttery smooth olive-and-grain vodka can be the conduit that inspires people to seek out other Greek brands. “I think there are a lot of amazing Greek products that haven’t been discovered in the U.S.,” Camello said. “We pride ourselves in trying to shed more light on the amazing things Greece has to offer.”



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Written by MITCH CODD Analytics via ELENA FOSSATI



arly American whiskey is probably not something everyone is reminiscing fondly of or trying their hardest to replicate. Side-by-side, I can’t imagine an “Early Settlers Fine Rye” would hold a flame to one of the modern-day, science-driven, and highly refined whiskeys we have come to know and love. I don’t intend to kill nostalgia of a simpler time or badmouth anyone who says their great grandfather made the best whiskey in the county. I think everyone recognizes the formative years of whiskey, and other spirits around the world, were incredibly impactful on the evolution of the spirits winning awards today. I also believe certain aspects of those early recipes and protocols are worth carrying forward, perfecting, and building upon to craft the spirits of the future. A great example of one of these early concepts, used, refined, and highly popularized today, is the sour mashing technique. In modern-day bourbon production it is by far one of the most common techniques used in fermentation; some brands print it loud and clear on the front of their label. It evokes nostalgia in customers as they read it, suggesting a tie to tradition and time-tested methods. Beyond that, it has many real-world benefits to fermentation and distillation that go well past a marketing spin. In this article, we will look at how sour mashing came to be and how it is used today. We will also look at how sour mashing works and why

Our Evolving Relationship with Bacteria in the Distillery


the often maligned lactic acid bacteria are so important in this process. We will finish with some ways we can continue to improve and refine this method and leverage modern science to craft a better sour mash whiskey, utilizing historical ideas but with a more nuanced and controlled approach. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

SOUR MASH ORIGINS The exact beginning is hard to pin down of this style of fermentation. The formation was most likely amorphous in nature and probably more a consequence of the era’s technology than anything else. Early fermentations were rough and dirty, incredibly inefficient, slow, and low yielding. The idea of enzymes, like amylases, responsible for an efficient mash/cook conversion, weren’t even established or theorized until at least the 1830s. Fermentations would start out with a heating of the water and addition of grain, but there weren’t tight temperature windows to follow, and pH certainly wasn’t considered, at least initially. Sometimes, if a supply was available, a bread yeast would be pitched into the fermentation once it cools, and it would be left for a few weeks to finish off the sugar that was present. This usually resulted in a mash that was still fairly high in sugar, very high in starch content and probably teeming with an incredible array of microbial life. However, this inefficiency was recognized and in order to combat this, portions of the spent mash often were “recycled” into the next batch after they were distilled out. We can consider this recycled portion of the spent mash “backset.” This allowed for a second chance to use those residual sugars, but it also allowed the grain in that recycled portion to get cooked in the distillation process, releasing even more sugar from starch, as well as nutrients from the dead, cooked yeast and bacteria. This recycle of grain that had been heated to high temperatures for long periods of time would be similar in mechanism to the cook or mash stage we use today. By doing this, early distillers would have seen a dramatic increase in their total yields due to the “cook” stage they introduced in distillation, recycling sugar and nutrients. This was the early formation of the sour mash procedure. More often than not, that “backset” sat around for a while in buckets or “slop barrels,” maybe a few days or more at a time. Because of this rest time, it allowed for a strong microbial community to set up in the spent mash, mostly consisting of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria of all shapes and sizes. Many distillers used this as their inoculum — their yeast pitch — for the following batches. This could be thought of as analogous to a sourdough bread starter, where lots of wild yeast and bacteria thrive in the starter and are the primary fermenters of the dough. They produce a distinct flavor and impart it on the final product, the bread. Nowadays, sourdough is thought of as artisanal, depending on

who made it and what “starter” they used. This is the exact same concept as a sour mash fermentation. The bacteria and wild yeast that set up home in a distillery have distinctive characteristics and metabolisms, and they produce a unique product giving us different expressions of the same technique and grain bill, varied by distillery and locations. Due to all these benefits of the early sour mashing process, distillers have latched onto this idea and carried it forward in their recipes. Most people attribute the popularization of this method to James Crow of Old Crow Bourbon, but he likely was not the first. In fact a recipe from Catherine Carpenter in 1818 has a loose mention of this concept as well. Either way, the idea took hold in distilling and is used widely today for many of the same benefits.


In modern distilleries we still receive worthwhile benefits of the recycle due to the nutrient recapture, but most of the other benefits mentioned are not applicable anymore due to advances in technology, such as highly efficient mashing and cooking procedures and tailored yeast strains that are commercially available. So why is it still such a widely used practice? Sour mash today has benefits beyond what were recognized earlier. Recycling spent mash has the effect of lowering the pH of the fermentation when it starts and bringing in weak acids that were produced in the previous fermentation, hence the “sour” in sour mash. This allows for an ideal pH for mashing chemistry, a bit of control of bacterial infections we don’t want, and those weak acids brought in to affect the development of congeners in fermentation, distillation, and the maturation process. It also allows for our indigenous population of bacteria to contribute their individual characteristics and attributes to our product, creating wonderful flavors to carry into the spirit. The largest distilleries also utilize backset because it makes sense financially. By utilizing the mash we already spent so much time and money to heat up in distillation, we can transfer that heat to other aspects of the process and save a lot on utilities. It also saves money on waste-stream treatment, effluent cost, and the water bill, which can be significant. These reasons are less romantic, but still useful. For all these reasons, sour mash is a viable practice. However, in the world of whiskey and spirits, flavor rules and taste sells. It would be tough to argue that the sour mash procedure does not affect the flavor of the final spirit, especially as modern advances in analytical chemistry and the understanding of The bacteria and wild yeast that set up home in a distillery the biological processes further our have distinctive characteristics and metabolisms, and they knowledge in flavor and aroma development. The driving force behind a produce a unique product giving us different expressions of the great deal of these changes and effects are due to the influences of lactic acid same technique and grain bill, varied by distillery and location. bacteria. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


THE BACTERIAL WORLD In recent decades, the role of probiotics has exploded and shifted the paradigm of health. Modern science has taken a more nuanced approach to understanding gut function and not just assume all bacteria are bad. This same concept also shifts into other, more obscure areas such as the brewing world. A decade or two ago, sour beer was a niche product. Through the revival of long-lost methods of kettle souring and promoting bacterial growth alongside the yeast, sour beers have gained prominence in bars and breweries around the world. So much so that we now have the option of buying a variety of food-grade bacterial cultures to ferment a beer intentionally. The acceptance and approachability of these fermentation styles is greater than ever, and the finished product is unique and beloved by a large portion of the customer base. In the history of fermented beverages, many fermentations would be allowed to spontaneously ferment, as in whatever microbes are ambient are allowed to take over and finish the fermentation. Casein-point, the early whiskey “sourdough”-style inoculation. It was just a random assortment of whatever wild yeast and bacteria were floating around the air or on the grain that week, that took over the spent mash. However, as the science and art of distillation progressed, hundreds of tailored and intentional strains of yeast were selected for and now are commercially available to any distiller, and the benefits are clearly accepted across the industry. These strains will get the highest yields, produce a wide array of predictable flavors, ferment quickly and efficiently, and are incredibly consistent. This means you can dramatically alter the flavor of your final spirit just by playing with different yeast strains and produce the exact same spirit repeatedly. The same is becoming true of bacterial strains, allowing for incredible control and consistency over the sour mash process. This opens up a whole new approach to distillers that has Certainly, there are never been possible in the past. Sour mashing has always craft producers making been hard for craft producers to manage. Certainly, there fantastic sour mash are craft producers making fantastic sour mash whiskeys, whiskeys, but for but for much of this industry, there are limitations. Namely, much of this industry, most craft distilleries are not running consistent, recurring there are limitations. fermentations back-to-back. This means storing backset is Namely, most craft difficult from batch to batch, distilleries are not or not viable at all for some producers. It also means running consistent, that a lot of inconsistency is brought into the equation, recurring fermentations based on the large number of variables at the time of

back-to-back. 110

storage and transfer, which will affect what/how much bacteria or wild yeast will take over at that time. But, if we take the lessons of other industries, like brewing or wine, and apply them to ours, there is a lot to be gained. Dried yeast producers are getting into this world, giving distilleries of all sizes the ability to pitch a selected, safe, and favorable strain of bacteria into their fermentations, replicating the sour mash process with ease and consistency. These dried bacterial strains get pitched alongside the yeast strain of choice and require no other changes to the fermentation process and, most importantly, no backset. Because the strains of bacteria were specifically chosen to ferment with a distiller’s yeast, they play well together, with no ill effects to yield or kinetics. This microbial synergy in the fermentation results in a flavorful spirit, distinct and different then the same spirit produced with just yeast.

MICROBIAL SYNERGY Not all bacteria will complement yeast in a fermentation. I think we are all aware of the dangers of unwanted bacterial contamination in our fermenters. They can wreak havoc on kinetics, producing off flavors, kill yields and can be very difficult to get rid of. That’s why it is so important to have a strain to use that has been intentionally selected for through rigorous R&D, with characteristics that lend itself well to our desired goals. Good bacteria for this use should have several notable characteristics. First, and probably very obvious, we want these bacteria to produce favorable flavor compounds and aromas. The bacterial world is incredibly diverse, with a large pool of unique enzymes and metabolisms. Choosing one that fits this bill seems obvious but is of the utmost importance. Also, and perhaps just as important, the bacteria need to play well with the yeast in fermentation. We can use a bacteria that produces incredibly complex flavor compounds and makes whiskies with the most amazing hint of peach, but if that fermentation doesn’t have high alcohol yields, or the bacteria causes the yeast to produce high levels of diacetyl or some other stress compound, there’s no reason to take that to production. We need good synergy for this technique to work. Another important characteristic to look for is the bacteria should be homofermentative, as in it does not produce acetic acid. In very small amounts, we can see some benefit from this compound; it is a base component of many chemical reactions in whiskey and other spirits that produce esters. Think ethyl acetate, isoamyl acetate and phenylethyl acetate, major components of a spirit’s perception. However, when you produce too much of this acid, you start to shift the balance of these compounds and the spirit may deteriorate in quality. This compound also increases in concentration in maturation from wood extraction and oxidation. Acetic acid can also dramatically affect yeast health and yields in fermentation. The amount of acetic acid that will be produced by the yeast is certainly enough to produce a quality spirit. In general, lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are the group of bacteria that tend to dominate fermentations and can meet the goals that we set previously. The primary metabolism of LAB, as their name suggests, W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

would be lactic acid production, but there are myriad other acids and compounds that these bacteria produce, as well as native pathways that manipulate these acids and other compounds in fermentation. This has the observable effect of lowering the pH of the fermentation just like recycling spent mash does. This lowering of pH influences the yeast and what flavor compounds they produce, but beyond that, it has its own influence as well. Lactic acid bacteria have a diverse array of enzymes that are unique to these organisms such as esterases, aminopeptidases, phenolic decarboxylases, etc. With that, comes the ability to produce, destroy, and modify an array of flavor compounds that would not be possible with just yeast alone. The fermentation process is one big chemical reaction with thousands of complex interactions taking place at various time points throughout. With high concentrations of various alcohols, such as ethanol or higher alcohols, as well as the low pH environment created by the acids, we get condensation reactions taking place to form novel esters or to boost the concentrations of esters that form the backbone of these spirits profiles. Some strains of lactic acid bacteria can cleave certain esters into smaller compounds with low sensory thresholds and desirable aromas. This is all to say, in search of unique flavor producing methods and techniques, LAB represent a huge opportunity.

IN PRACTICE It’s been about two years since this option became commercially available to the craft spirits market. Since then, the idea has been tested around the globe in plenty of recipes and styles. The most obvious use of a dried bacterial culture would be in sour mash whiskey production, and specifically a bourbon grain bill. Since bourbon has such a long history of sour mash use, it is an easy area to test out these new technologies and techniques. It gives a baseline to compare to, a known desired outcome to shoot for, and metrics to follow along the way to monitor and evaluate successes. One distillery that took this on as a project in 2020 was Montgomery Distillery in Missoula, Montana. Head distiller Chad Larrabee decided to experiment with this technique in a few different bourbon recipes. The plan was to use identical bourbon campaigns with and without the bacterial additions and test the results. The only change would be a pitch of a small amount of dried bacteria alongside the yeast pitch in the experimental campaign. The first result noted in the experimental fermentation was an immediate pH drop. The fermentation went from a typical starting pH of around 5.5 down to under 4.0 within the first day. Despite being a major departure from normal fermentations, this was great news as it meant the bacterial pitch was doing its job and pumping out that lactic acid and other unique flavor compounds early in the fermentation when alcohol concentrations are still low. After watching the pH plummet, the fermentations progressed as normal. The pH settled around 3.9 for the remaining 50 hours or so and the yeast finished all available sugars within the typical 72 hours. By the end of fermentation, the only thing different was the pH.

FIGURE 1 pH Measurement During Fermentation pH, as a key process indicator for this experiment, can show the activity or inactivity of bacteria in the fermentation. Through production of weak acids, namely lactic acid, the pH of the fermentation shows a significant drop in the early stages, when the bacteria pitched has itsFIGURE highest activity level. Fermentation 1 pH During 7.5 pH Con1 pH LP1 pH LP2 pH LP3

7 6.5


6 5.5 5 4.5 4 3.5 3 0










Through HPLC laboratory analysis, it was found that the total ethanol content did not change with the addition of the LAB culture, but the bacteria did its job and produced about 15 times the amount of lactic acid typically found in this fermentation, settling out to around 0.7 percent w/v. Interestingly, but not unexpectedly, the acetic acid concentrations dropped, likely due to the intentional bacteria outcompeting any native contaminants that would typically produce this acid. This may not have been the intent of this trial, but was an interesting side benefit. The lactic acid increased significantly, but it was verified that this increased acid production did not cut into the yields. Through distillation, not a lot changed. However, by the end, the new make spirit was noticeably different, and it was agreed that the bacterial fermentation had a positive effect. “The whole process was extremely easy, and we had no reservations continuing the trials,” said Chad. The trial commenced and several more runs

were completed using this new method, allowing for the feints recycling to reach a steady state and produce a fully formed spirit. When put to a blind sensory panel within the distillery, there was general agreement that the new spirit showed more balance and complexity than before and a significant increase in floral notes. Chad explains, “The LP spirit presented a softer nose and more mouthfeel, compared to the bourbons we produced without the bacteria. It was slightly more floral too, overall impression was that it's generally better in terms of nose, palate and finish, etc.” After a full year of barrel aging, it was pulled out again and the sensory panel agreed that the effect the bacteria had on this fermentation was significant and favorable. This result seems to be the consensus across various grain bills. The ester content and the noticeable favorable aromas seem to increase in the final spirits when bacteria are used to sour the fermentation.

FIGURE 2 Blind Sensory Panel Results A new make spirit from an experimental run (with bacterial pitch) compared to the standard new make spirit from the distillery (the control). When put to a panel of 10 sensory experts from around the world, the experimental run shows a clear and marked difference to the control spirit. Generally, the spirits with DistilaBact LP show an increased complexity and more fruity and sweet notes. Spirits diluted to 20% FIGURE 2 Aroma Profile: Sensory Blind Panel ABV for sensory. Aldehydic/Vegetal Characters 3.5 3



2.5 2 1.5 1



0.5 0



Sweet A - NMS LP#2 (3rd run)


Spicy C - NMS LP #2 (3rd run)

Control Ave


This general organoleptic consensus also appears to be backed up by lab-derived analysis. Through the use of gas chromatography, it was possible to analyze the concentrations of various molecules that are influential in aromatic profiles and sensory characteristics. Time and time again, there was various upregulation of molecules like isoamyl acetate and ethyl hexanoate, ethyl caprate and caprylate, and several other esters. There were also changes in things like higher alcohols and aldehydes with a bit more variability. This appears to underpin one of the main experimental goals: identify a considerable change in which the types and amounts of congeners are produced in fermentation. One of the more interesting findings when using the lab to analyze the spirits is the effect the grain bill has on these molecules. The use of DistilaBact LP gave consistent results from fermentation to fermentation and distillation to distillation. However, from grain bill to grain bill, the results varied. There may be a doubling in ethyl acetate production on a high-corn bourbon, but in a wheated bourbon with 51 percent corn, that ethyl acetate may not change or may decrease from the control. The same is true for higher alcohols such as the butanols, as well as some esters. Overall, sensory panels have consistently seen increases in floral or fruity notes or sweetness perception, but the reaction seems to be dependent on the grain bill’s make-up as to which changes are seen. This is likely caused by the changing environment and sugar composition that the bacteria has available to it. Just as the role of yeast in distilling has evolved over time, so too can the role of bacteria. We have always had bacterial influence in our fermentations. Historically, it has a complicated and nuanced story — something we fear as contamination, but something we promote through sour mashing methods. In the future, it will be something we can utilize to better suit our goals in the distillery.

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.


Mitch Codd is a microbiologist by trade and a certified craft spirits nerd. He started his career working for a biotech company, engineering yeast strains for improved performance in Brazilian sugarcane fermentations, where he gained invaluable knowledge of yeast metabolism, stress responses, microbial interactions, and the ecology of fermentations. This knowledge transferred seamlessly to his current role with Lallemand Biofuels and Distilled Spirits, where he works with US craft producers to improve and innovate their production process by applying sound biological principals and a deep understanding of the process. This project was also supported by the work of Elena Fossati and her team at the LBDS R&D laboratory, where all GC and HPLC analysis was conducted.





Written and photographed by Carrie Dow


istory and mystery fill North Carolina’s Outer Banks. In the centuries since Europeans discovered these visually stunning barrier islands, the region has taken a harsh toll on ships traversing America’s East Coast. There are more than 3,000 known shipwrecks along its 130 miles of shoreline beginning with the wreck of the English vessel The Tiger in 1585. The most recent — Ocean Pursuit on March 1, 2020 — won’t be the last. “If you see how the Outer Banks stick out on a map,” said Scott Smith, co-owner of Outer Banks Distilling, “we have all these shifting sand bars.” Noting that Cape Hatteras, which joins the upper northsouth section of the islands to the lower east-west stretch, is where the Equator’s tropical Gulf Stream meets the Arctic’s chilling Labrador


Current; that area, he stated, “is incredibly treacherous.” There was often rum where the ships sailed, and locals took advantage of this. Smith said that when ships wrecked and washed ashore, residents would search for sellable cargo, preferably rum barrels, and hide them from ship owners by burying them in the sand dunes, usually under the area’s two tallest dunes not far from the distillery. They called them Kill Devil Hills — kill-devil being one of rum’s earliest monikers. Today one of those hills is part of the Wright Brothers National Memorial honoring a different installment of Outer Banks history. “The town is named after rum,” said Smith referring to the municipality for which the distillery’s products are named. “We have the history of rum here that we’re really passionate about.”


“When we select the shipwrecks, we try to find one that has an interesting backstory or may in some way relate to the raw ingredients. Sometimes we select a ship that has recently been found. That way it encourages people to get out, see the wreck, and explore our beaches.” — SCOTT SMITH



Outer Banks Distilling came together when four friends, including Smith, who worked at a local craft brewery — two as brewers, two as bartenders — held late-night illocutions about making the spirit that fueled Outer Banks (OBX) lore, especially since no one else around was doing it. The concept came easily, but opening a distillery did not. “We pitched this to a lot of different banks before we got the go ahead,” said Smith. “People didn’t quite understand… They’re like, ‘We don’t know how to fund this.’ They’d seen breweries, but not distilleries.” The next challenge he mentioned was operational. “At the time in Kill Devil Hills there was no sewer system. Everything is septic. Downtown Manteo [on Roanoke Island between the Outer Banks and the mainland] was the only sewer system in Dare County.” Using patience and persistence, they began construction in a 7,200-sq. ft. brick building originally home to a furniture store in January 2014 and opened to the public a year later. “We do molasses-based rums,” Smith said. “We do everything from raw ingredients. We do our own pretreatment on it, fermentation and distillation, barrel aging, bottling, all done on site.” The distillery also ties their rum to OBX history with the Shipwreck Series, a limited release of specialty rums made from different types of sugarcane from around the world, including turbinado, panela, and muscovado, aged for two years in a variety of used barrels, such as chardonnay, bourbon, or apple brandy. The team then selects a famous Outer Banks shipwreck to name the rum after and prints the ship’s story on the bottle. “When we select the shipwrecks, we try to find one that has an interesting backstory or may in some way relate to the raw ingredients,” explained Smith. “Sometimes we select a W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

ship that has recently been found. That way it encourages people to get out, see the wreck, and explore our beaches.” With so many wrecks, they won’t run out of names anytime soon. The first Shipwreck rum was named The Irma, which has a special connection to the distillery because they have the ship’s wheel on display in their building. In 1925 The Irma ran aground just offshore of Kill Devil Hills, but the U.S. Coast Guard rescued the entire crew. Depending on weather and tides, the wreck is still visible. Released in 2016, The Irma was made from a blend of molasses and demerara sugar and aged in four 10-gal barrels from Tuthilltown Spirits of New York — two previously holding Hudson Baby Bourbon and the other two Manhattan Rye. Outer Banks acquired the barrels from Big Ugly Brewing in Chesapeake, Virginia, and returned the barrels when finished so the brewery could age several beers. The distillery’s flagship rums are Kill Devil Silver, Kill Devil Pecan made with North Carolina pecans and honey, and Kill Devil Gold aged for 18 months in used bourbon barrels from A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Smith said the silver is the most difficult to produce. “You can’t hide anything,” Smith stressed. “It’s 180 proof and as pure as you can get.” The distillery has another limited-release rum called Angels’ Share used to raise money for local charities. Previous releases have benefitted the Outer Banks Community Foundation and North Carolina Community Foundation. Both provided relief to coastal areas including the Outer Banks that were hit by Hurricanes Florence and Dorian in 2018 and 2019 respectively. “It’s made out of Red Ribbon cane molasses,” a once-popular Southern commercial cane they get from Mississippi, Smith explained. “It’s not as easy to get ahold of, but we’re able to fill a few barrels a year and set them aside. Every time we launch a batch of it — it’s not cheap; we sell it for $49.99 — we personally pay all the taxes so every dime that comes in goes back out [to the community].” While the pandemic stopped distillery tours, they have been able to keep the on-site cocktail bar and retail space, The Wheel House, open for visitors. Along with The Irma’s wheel, guests can also view a ship’s wheel mounted above the bar that came from co-owner Matt Newsome’s grandfather’s tugboat. While COVID-19 delayed some releases, they are catching up quickly. What the future does not hold for Outer Banks Distilling is whiskey, gin, or vodka. “When we originally started, we talked about doing whiskey,” said Smith, “but as we got more into it … there were so many people making it that we were like, ‘Let’s just focus on one spirit and do it the best we possibly can.’ To me it makes sense — if you’re on the coast, you make rum.”

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Outer Banks Distilling is located in Manteo, North Carolina. For more info visit or call (252) 423-3011. W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M



Written by Paul Hughes, Ph.D. and Grady Szuch


or those of us that have seen some of the moonshine TV programs, the idea of shaking new-make spirit in a Mason jar and correlating observation of the bubbles (so-called “beads”) with a good estimate of proof is unlikely to be news of the day. The concept is attractive, though. There is no requirement for anything more than a Mason

jar and an eye that isn’t too bleary! But how reliable is it? We certainly couldn’t envisage the TTB adopting it as a primary method, but nonetheless as a quick-and-dirty method it seems to have merit. At the risk of being proposed for an IgNobel award, and as part of our thinking for a $1000 QA/QC lab for distilleries, we

Fig. 1. Relative surface tension of water – alcohol mixtures at 20°C. For higher proof spirits the dependence of surface tension on %ABV becomes progressively less than at lower proofs. 1.0 0.9 0.8

Relative surface tension

0.7 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.0 0







Alcohol by volume






wanted to delve a little deeper. A proposed rationale for the correlation between proof and beads is that ethanol and ethanol/water mixtures have lower surface tensions than water (Fig. 1) and that this lower surface tension reduces the stability of the air/water interface and results in an increase in the mean size of bubbles. To explore this further we should explain what is meant by surface tension, which requires a segue into a brief description of the phenomena of intermolecular interactions, particularly in the liquid state. From fundamental principles, the relative mass of a molecule influences its volatility. As an example, the simplest alkane methane, CH4 , with a molecular mass of around 16, is more volatile than ethane (C2H6 , molecular mass of 30), which boils at temperatures of more than 70 degrees C higher, at atmospheric pressure. This increase in boiling point continues as we add carbons and is a good demonstration of how molecular mass influences boiling point. However, not all molecules are so well-behaved. The forces between adjacent molecules in alkanes are weak and so there is relatively little interaction between them. This is in contrast with many other chemical entities where intermolecular W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M

interactions are much stronger, due to these other volatiles. Fig. 2. Intermolecular interaction between adjacent water with water being one of the most In contrast, salts and sugars molecules. The partial charge separation of each O – H bond stand-out examples. With a mogenerally increase water creates molecular “magnets” that attract through space. lecular mass of 18 (vs. 16 for surface tension, so in prinBroken line indicates a hydrogen bond. methane), the difference in boilciple the presence of these ing points is a huge 286 degrees could lead to an underesδ+ C at atmospheric pressure and is timate of proof. The senδ+ almost all due to the substantial sitivity of the beading test intermolecular forces between to salts and fermentation adjacent water molecules. These volatiles at typical concenδδ+ δso-called hydrogen bonds can be trations in water-ethanol thought of as molecular Velcro, mixtures is the subject of keeping the adjacent molecules in ongoing research in our δ+ the body of the liquid (Fig. 2). This laboratory. phenomenon causes distillers disOur contention is that comfort, as it means that forcing water molthe beading test is dependent on surface subsurface molecules, so there is a net force ecules from the liquid to the vapor phase retension. That being the case, there is a pracpulling surface hydrogen bonded molecules quires a significant amount of energy input tical aspect that complicates surface tension towards the main bulk of the liquid. This and is reflected in parameters such as heat measurements in pure water and low diluhydrogen bonding stabilizes the bubble-air capacity and latent heats of vaporization. tions of ethanol in water. That is that the surinterface. When ethanol is introduced, it Adding ethanol to the mix complicates faces of the test containers such as Mason disrupts the hydrogen bonding, weakening the situation. Anyone who has proofed spirjars need to be scrupulously clean and, most the interface (as demonstrated in Fig. 1). its with water will appreciate that perceptiimportantly, be free of any surfactants, such The higher the proportion of ethanol, the ble heat is generated, and gas bubbles are as detergents. Even low concentrations of lower the surface tension becomes. Bubble formed due to this increase in heat, forcing detergents can significantly reduce surface lifetimes are reduced as the air in the bubble dissolved gas out of solution. This heat gentension (in a manner analogous to ethanol, can escape more easily due to the lower deneration is an indication that there is a change higher alcohols, and esters), and, therefore, sity of air relative to ethanol-water mixtures. in the arrangement of molecules in the bulk indicate a falsely high proof. In practice this As shown in Fig. 1, increasing concentraliquid. Another indication of interesting beshould rarely present itself as a problem as tions of ethanol in water have progressively havior is the so-called volume contraction there is seldom a need to measure ethanol in less impact on the resulting surface tenwhen mixing ethanol and water. Mixing a water at less than 10 percent ABV. sion. This can be interpreted as a decrease liter each of water and ethanol yields meaAs a final thought, the temperature of in sensitivity of the beading evaluation, so surably less than two liters. Somehow the the sample is moderately important, as surthat at higher ethanol concentrations beadmolecules “pack” better when mixed, so face tensions are lowered as temperature ing is less of a reliable indicator of proof. that the density of the resulting mixture is increases, so in our assessments we have Nevertheless, we’re able to reliably detergreater than that predicted from a weighted found that a temperature of 20 ± 5 degrees mine differences in samples of neutral grain mean of the densities of the two compoC should be sufficient for this crude test, spirit in water that had differences of 5 pernents. Finally, the viscosity of ethanol-wabut for the most reliable results it seems that cent ABV, up to around 70 percent ABV, ter mixtures is dependent on the relative lower-proof liquids (below around 60 perwhen two samples were shaken side-by-side concentrations of water and ethanol, with a cent ABV) that are free of surfactants, salts, simultaneously. This helped us to conclude maximum viscosity close to three times that and sugars would be ideal conditions for that indeed proof can be estimated in this of water at around 50 percent ABV. these determinations. way, if the observer was sufficiently expeSo what do intermolecular forces have rienced with the test so that they held a to do with the surface tension of bubbles? “memory” of beading performance. Paul Hughes, Ph.D. is assistant professor of food In this case, a bubble is a pocket of air, with Another aspect that should be borne in science and technology at Oregon State University small proportions of water and ethanol mind is that higher alcohols and esters, such in Corvallis, Oregon. For more information visit vapors. At the boundary of the liquid-air as those produced during fermentation, will or call (541) 737-4595. interface, there will be hydrogen bondhave a greater impact on the surface tension Grady Szuch is a passionate senior undergraduate ing interactions, pulling the surface molof mixtures than ethanol. So for a typical researcher majoring in Fermentation Science at ecules towards each other. There will also pot-distilled new-make spirit, estimates of Oregon State University. be hydrogen bonding between surface and proof are likely to be systematically high










Written by DOUG HALL Illustrations provided by WOODCRAFT BOURBON BLENDER



More Customers or More Product?


hen 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 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. 120


This means being just as fanatical with the raw ingredients, the storyline, the taste, and the presentation of your cocktails as you are with your spirits. It means that your whiskey maker takes ownership of how their spirit is translated into cocktails. For example, we have a bourbon that naturally pairs with orange. As such, we’ve found that when we add a little orange to our sour versus just straight lemon juice, the result is a magical taste experience. As a craft distiller you spent hours running experiments to create your products. Apply that same mindset to the creation of your cocktail experiences. To win with cocktails you need to “own the finished cocktail.” W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M



The primary determinants of cocktail appeal are percent alcohol and sweetness (BRIX Level). There are three fundamental segments of consumers. There are those that like their cocktails to be BOOZY (high alcohol content/low sweetness), those who prefer BALANCED (moderate alcohol content/moderate sweetness) and SWEET (low alcohol content/high sweetness). Featuring cocktails for each segment means enabling a “wow” for more consumers. On our cocktail menus we continue to explore ways to display percent ABV and degrees Brix — a measure of dissolved solids that indicates body or residual sugar — for each cocktail, similar to how craft beer quantifies bitterness units.

TO A 3. SHIFT TEACHING BAR MINDSET We think of our bar as a teaching bar. It’s where our consumers learn what type of cocktails they like best and how to make them with our spirits. At our locations, a bartender’s job is to teach and sell bottles. They do this by listening to consumers following a simple system of listening based on a framework of percent alcohol and sweetness. A simple question of what consumers drink most often allows us to translate their preferences into a cocktail that plays to the strengths of one of our spirits. Importantly, our staff ALWAYS explains what they are doing when they are making a cocktail — what is being mixed, how much, technique, etc. They always hand the consumer a card with the recipe on it, noting that they can buy the spirit needed in our bottle shop. We’ve found that when you change the staff mindset from “cocktail artist” to “cocktail teacher,” new bourbon customers are developed. Most importantly, they develop an emotional bond with our brand as we are the ones who took the time to teach them. How cool is that? W W W . ARTISANSPIRITMAG . C O M


When the bar is extremly busy, it’s not practical to have extensive oneon-one conversations with consumers. To make sure we keep teaching we’ve created systems. First, we have a set of three cocktails that can be made in batches that we offer as a tasting flight in small glasses that fit on a small piece of barrel stave. With the stave we provide a postcard with the recipes for the three cocktails. In addition, when someone orders a “full drink,” we make creating the drink an “event” that we present so everyone can hear and see the cocktail being made. The simple truth is that most consumers are virtually illiterate when it comes to cocktails. Therefore, when we take the time to teach them, they leave with a new confidence and we grow our sales and profits.

Doug Hall is co-founder of WoodCraft Bourbon Blender and the Brain Brew Distillery with locations just outside Cincinnati and on Whiskey Row in Louisville. He is also founder and chairman of Eureka! Ranch International, an innovation training and invention firm. 121



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