It's Monday - you need to ease into things. So take a moment and get to know the great folks at Hudson Valley Distillers. It will give you something to look forward to. Like that cocktail you're going to enjoy later.
Let’s get a few misnomers out of the way. With regard to spirits, small is not necessarily better than large. Local is not inherently higher in quality than something distilled a thousand miles away. After all, we’re not talking produce. While the terms “craft” and “local” are bandied around more than they probably should be, it’s paramount to define that there does exist a relationship between the two.
No spirit should be deemed craft unless it is locally-owned. It is important to recognize that local-ownership is distinct from the generically, nondescript "local." We need not be tethered to only those distilleries that are located within a 50- or 100- or 200-mile radius of where we live. We should, however, support distilleries that are owned by people that live within 30 minutes of their still(s).
This has nothing (or, at least, very little) to do with quality and everything to do with economics. A crucial part of sustainability is supporting the local economies in which we participate. Every dollar you spend on a locally-owned spirit goes much further in supporting small-scale manufacturing, mindful entrepreneurs and small independent businesses.
Using restaurants as a model, let’s compare the local benefit of independents vs. chains. When money is spent at a chain restaurant in the US only 34.5% of those dollars recirculate in the local economy, whereas 65.4% of revenue recirculates when it is spent at an independent (www.civiceconomics.com). The comparison isn’t perfect, but the parallels are consistent enough when it comes to talking and thinking about locally-owned spirits vs. multinational brands. Diageo wants your dollars, but it doesn’t need them in the way that Joe, the distiller down-the-street does. More to the point, Diageo doesn’t recirculate those spent dollars back in the US with the efficiency that Joe would.
There are a lot of new and small spirits brands popping up these days that are claiming to be craft. Next time you come across one, find out where the owner lives. Hopefully, it’s within driving distance of the distillery.
Scott Rosenbaum is a wine, spirit, and cocktail evangelist based in Jersey. He works to source and distribute craft spirits that come from distilleries that uphold the values he believes in: small-scale production, transparency and honesty, local ownership, and minimal manipulation.
There is a reason why Keith Bodine, distiller and co-owner of Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery is smiling; April is single malt whiskey making month.
Keith works with fruit most of the year, Maine-grown apples, blueberries, cranberries, and rhubarb made into wines and brandies, but in April the distillery takes on a bread-like aroma as thousands of pounds of Maine-grown barley are mashed, fermented into barley beer, and distilled into Maine whiskey. Bodine started distilling whiskey from Maine-grown barley back in 2011 and has been aging it inside his Union based distillery. He prefers to age his whiskey the old fashioned way, over a long period of time, to give it time to develop complex, interesting flavors and aromas.
Come experience Maine whiskey at Sweetgrass in April!
April 5th, 5 to 7 pm, single malt mashing and fermentation
April 12th, 11 am to 2 pm, fermenting barley beer and 1st pass, stripping run in the still
April 19th, 5 to 7 pm, spirit run in the still and ‘white dog’ discussion
April 26th, 11 am to 2 pm, whiskey barrel selection and aging
No fee or reservation required!
Learn more at www.sweetgrasswinery.com
Each year, the American Distilling Institute hosts the largest, and most respected, spirits judging devoted entirely to legit craft spirits. This year MicroShiner was on hand to capture the awesome spectacle that is the tasting of 900 bottles of the finest spirits of 2017.
The judging is complete - look for the award winners to be announced at the ADI Conference in Baltimore on April 4.
Washington D.C. has several craft distilleries, not to mention the significant number of distilleries in the surrounding area. Which may seem odd because here we have the nation’s capitol, where laws are made and bills are passed. Where the decision to enforce Prohibition started. So when legal distillation becomes common in and around even the nation’s capitol, it’s then you realize how awesome this country really is.
So when I found myself suddenly heading to D.C., visiting a distillery was a must. I stumbled across One-Eight Distilling. Their name originates from Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution. A section which also breaks down counterfeiting currency. This all intrigued me. Not to mention I really like their logo. It’s pretty rad.
They are located near Union Market in one of the capitol’s rare industrial sections. I pulled up on a day they were closed to the public. (Which is usually how I try and play it. I enjoy being catered to.) I was greeted by Sandy Wood, the co-founder who also happens to be an attorney.
Sandy happily explained their spirits and poured me a taste right off. Now here is the part where I explain how amazing, unique, and completely sophisticated each and every spirit was. Which is of course the case. But what I loved the most was the BALLS these two guys had. Sandy, a lawyer, and Alex Laufer, head distiller who worked in biotechnology prior. These guys ditched their jobs to fulfill their dream of making hooch. Yes, starting a business takes a SET.
Not surprisingly then, when it comes to their spirits, most of them were pretty much…experimental! And certainly not in a bad way. They produced a decent vodka, a solid gin with botanicals I have never experienced, one being Spicebush or Lindera. Spicebush is native to the D.C. area and other parts of New England thanks to its humid climate. Local herbs is always a plus.
The spirits that got me pumped was their “Untitled” line. It should have been called “Cojones line.” That’s the only way to describe them. Not only does it consist of various whiskeys with different mash bills, but even different casks. For instance…Take a Tennessee sour mash whiskey, then age it for four months in a Sandeman Tawny Port cask. This will get you “Untitled Whiskey No. 5.” With subtle chocolate notes, dried fruit and that classic sour mash mouth feel. This takes a coin-purse.
I really had to tip my hat to the 1-8 team. They nailed it. From their barrel aged gin to their rye heavy bourbon, each and every one was beyond unique.
I get passionate because there is a great deal of risk, a risk any distiller would love to take, but few do. I once read of an amateur distiller who worked at a cookie shop. This shop was throwing out hundreds of oatmeal raisin cookies. Instead of letting them see the garbage can, this guy fermented them and made an Oatmeal Raisin Whiskey! (Of course it was amazing. It was a fucking oatmeal raisin cookie. Like after school snack for adults.) These are shots most craft distillers don’t take because of the risk involved.
Now mind you, I don’t know how well One Eight Distilling is doing on the shelves, because I am located in California. (Check out their Where to Buy page for retailers that ship.) The Untitled line consists of seven aged Whiskeys along with one barrel aged gin. If you get the opportunity to taste one… please do, and take a moment to appreciate the people at One Eight Distilling with the stones! To roll-the-dice!
Brian Cary is a sky slash skin diver, image maker, former porn industry hack, muy thai heavy bag, and wannabe mixologist based in Healdsburg, CA. He moonlights as Master of Spirits Media at MicroShiner.
If they know their onions, we know what big timers in the Big Apple will be up to next month, as the 4th annual NYC Craft Distillers Festival is taking over The Bowery Hotel come Saturday, March 25th. This sockdollager is set to a Roaring Twenties theme, so a Jazz Age band will keep the struggle jumping while you taste giggle water from more than 60 craft labels. And if you want to avoid being pegged a wurp at this modern equivalent of a Gatsby gala, you best pull out your glad rags and be togged to the bricks.
There are two sessions, one from 1 to 4 p.m. and another from 7 to 10 p.m. Cost for the first session is $95 ($150 VIP, which includes admission an hour earlier) while gaining entrance to the evening will run you $100 ($164 VIP).
Its sure to be the bees knees, so get your tickets here
We could all use a little injection of humanity right now, so for this edition of #DrinkingMusic we're offering up LiveHuman, a free-improvising collective that channels bebop freedom with the audacity of hip-hop, driven by a kick-ass rhythm section with one of the baddest turntablists in the game. And one of the most righteous musical expressions we've heard in a long time.
A pocket orchestra comprised of DJ Quest, drummer Albert Mathias, and upright bassist Andrew Ross Kushin, LiveHuman is a no-holds-barred search for a turntable jazz synthesis, a journey that reaches its apex on the new album ScratchBop, which drops next week on [Cosmic]. Get it, drink some absinthe, and remind yourself of what it means to be human.
Until then you can wet your whistle with the single magic 4 beginners - cheers!