Gillian DiPietro, expanding on her role as Nobler Legal Counsel, passed along this troublesome piece of investigative journalism related to the surge in craft distillation. We all know the numbers by now, but they are worth repeating. According to this Atlantic piece, 81 new “craft” distilleries opened up last year bringing the U.S. total to 315. This is pretty insane considering where we were just a decade ago. But as the piece also suggests, with increased competition has come some increased funny business.
The root of the issue being the fairly flexible designation of the word “craft”. The brewing industry has run in to this issue as well, and for the most part has let the small batch beers battle it out over taste and value. But one can never forget, the power of some intelligent marketers. It seems, in one specific example in the article, a vodka being touted as a “craft” and “local” high-end product was actually pretty stock in character. Commodity neutral grain spirit, purchased through an industrial supplier, fed through some charcoal filters, bottled and labeled doesn’t exactly represent the historical spirit (see what I did there?) of distillation. And since those folks were charging a pretty penny for their product, it makes matters even worse.
But the good news is, that’s a pretty difficult scenario to pull off and maintain without getting “caught”. And it’s really only viable as a quick product solution for spirits like vodka. But I tend to agree with the writer and those he interviewed. As consumers, much of the ownership is on us. If we want to drink the best of the best (or even the cheapest of the cheapest) and have opinions on it all, we should probably do the research to know where and who is making the stuff. And I’ve got faith, because the “craft” drinkers of the world, tend to be quite interested in doing the dirty work. So bring on the “craft” spirits competition. The more the merrier.
Photo above from The Atlantic