The Future of American WhiskeyFebruary 23, 2012
As you probably have guessed, I’m not the only one out there who loves a good American Whiskey. Because whether you’ve been following the specifics or not, our nation’s re-birth in the whiskey world is in full-out growth mode and the obsession with small batch, craft distillation has followed suit. It really blows me away to see projections like those in this article from Serious Drinks that predict the number of American craft distilleries to balloon to over 400 by 2015. But with all the competition sure to brew (or should I say distill), I really love the model and suggestion brought out referencing true elegance in the liquor industry.
The Scotch business years ago, much like the current American Whiskey industry, grew like wildfire as the techniques and processes were perfected with local and regional practices taking shape in the form of Single Malts. But as competition grew, and “master blenders” began to tout the beauty of blended scotch, the single malt distilleries needed to adapt to remain in business. As the article suggests, many of these single malt distilleries sell up to 90% of their output to those same “master blenders”. And the outcome is really ideal for all of us. The pressure to produce high quality single malts keeps the distilleries in business with the blenders and in parallel, allows them to remain focused on their uniqueness; the very thing that got them into business in the first place.
So looking forward, as a number of craft distilleries take form in the states, will a similar model be adapted? I think certainly some aspects will have to. Brands will have to capitalize on the quality of small batches to offer up highly marketable blends to keep a leading edge in the industry. But there is an interesting wrinkle taking shape that may provide for even more stateside excitement. As more of our craft distilleries begin production, more of them are looking to break the mold of what we know as a traditional bourbon or rye. By differentiating from the classic designations, we are in line for some pretty exciting stuff. The times of ordering just any “bourbon” are coming to an end (or probably already have) and we all stand to gain on this one. It’s time to get on board!