Home Life Style The History and Evolution of the Craft Distillation Industry

The History and Evolution of the Craft Distillation Industry

Distilleries come in two formats, large and small, even though when we talk about spirits and liquors only the picture of the huge set-up of large distilleries for mass production comes to our mind. And it happens quite naturally because the names that are now synonymous with drinks and beverages like Patron Tequila, Absolut Vodka, Maker’s Mark Bourbon and Captain Morgan Rum come from giant-sized distilleries that produce millions of gallons of spirits every year.

However, over the past few decades, a new concept of smaller Distillery and Microbrewery has sedately set in and has been doing good business in its niche. The Denver Colorado distillery, a leading name incraft alcoholic industry that belongs to the class of small distillery has won the hearts of spirit connoisseurs who have taken enormous interest in their small-batch spirits that underline their philosophy of Farm to Flask or Grain to Glass.

The advent of the craft distillery

Times are changing, and you would now find some classy spirit and liquor of lesser known brands that boast of its indigenous quality defined by the terms like ‘craft’ and ‘artisan.’ Interestingly, such small distillery products are no less attractive than the reputed brands for those who want to get great taste blended with fun and adventure.

The spirits produced in small scale use local ingredients and in-house filtered water to create the unique taste that adds more punch and life to the drinks. The crafted spirits have been on a roll for almost forty years and have enjoyed their share of boom time on a smaller scale that points to its rising popularity.

What really is craft distillery?

It is alright to say that craft distilleries are small distilleries but how do you define its size? Taking a cue from the literal meaning of the term and with common sense, it is understandable that the concept relates to something that is small and done very carefully. That is all that you can gather to get some idea about the scale of operations of craft distilleries because there are yet no Federal definitions for craft production limits.

Perhaps, some states might have their own ways of setting limits for a craft distillery. However, since 2013, the American Distilling Institute, a privately-owned entity, has set limits that independently licensed distillers with on-site distilling and bottling facility producing maximum 52,000 cases or 750,000 proof gallons yearly to come under the category of a craft distillery.

From brewing to distilling

The craft distillers are nothing short of artisans, passionate about the art and science of producing classy spirits, liquors, and cocktails with lots of care and love. They aim to use the best ingredients and infuse it with special flavors to create some classy drinks that invite seasoned drinkers to come and explore the hidden adventure and passion in the bottles.

The craft spirit movement is similar to the craft beer movement, and it is no surprise that many spirits producers were brewers at first before turning distillers. The move seems quite logical in that the initial processing steps of the two are the same.

History of craft distilling

Craft distilling is new to America, and its seeds were first sown in 1965 when San Francisco based Anchor Brewing was the only non-descript brewing unit dedicated to the craft. Fritz Maytag of the Maytag appliance family purchased the unit and later in 1993 launched the Anchor Distilling, as the first craft distilling unit of the country. The specialty of craft distilling is its focus on using local ingredients.

Precisely said, craft distilling is the product of home distilling movement identical to the craft beer movement. Home distilling is illegal mainly because of safety concerns arising from the fear of exploding stills and chances of accidental poisoning. The law seems to take a very strict stand about home distilling with no signs of slackening and is perhaps the reason why the movement has progressed quite slowly. And there are no signs of easing the law.

A challenging task

Craft distilling is still a niche sector that exists alongside the giant distilleries that for a long time have defined a big chunk of the spirits markets and dominated it with very consistent products and some aggressive marketing through creative advertising campaigns. Despite the increasing popularity of craft distilled spirits, there are no official numbers available about the size and value of the sector of craft distilling.

However, there is no denying that consumers are happy with the products produced by craft distillers that make it a big challenge for them to establish alternative products that are comparable with the reputed brands in quality and taste.

The culture of crafts spirits

Most craft distillers are aware of the stiff challenge that they must face in establishing their products by proving its novelty to spirit lovers, and this has compelled them to develop products that bear their own distinctive marks. The focus is on maintaining the natural appeal in the taste with special flavors of spirits and liquors crafted with lots of passion and love.

This is evident from the natural corn flavor in corn whiskey and the gins that recall the images of hiking across mountainous terrains that surround the distillery. Whiskeys made from unusual grains and left in small casks for aging are quite popular. It is not uncommon to see some craft vodka makers infusing the spirits with eau-de-vie derived from some local fresh fruit.

American craft distillers are especially excited about gins because of the variety of herbal infusions in the spirits that range from juniper to anarray of botanical ingredients with a focus on local species.  The result is the unique taste of each type of gin.

The movement of craft distillation is slowly gathering momentum under the leadership of the American Craft Spirits Association or ACSA founded in 2013. The association that evolved from the American Distilling Institute is taking the lead in lobbying for a change in the laws to remove the hurdles of scaling up the production to aid the growth of craft spirits. Since the production processes are similar to large distilleries, the distillers are hopeful of making some breakthrough.

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