This is the first post from Sonja Kassebaum, an Illinois-based distiller and fan of good drinks. She documents her interests at Thinking of Drinking.
You might not know it (yet), but there are a number of small distillers and spirit companies out there making amazing products. They may not have huge marketing budgets like Diageo or Pernod Ricard to get the word out, but they have passion, and many of their products are worthy of your attention. With distinctive flavor profiles and character that could not be obtained through mass production, this expanding array of small producers is slowly changing the face of the spirits industry.
I recently talked by phone with Allison Evanow, the founder of Square One Organic Vodka. She will be moderating the Artisan Spirits panel discussion at Tales (less than a month away!). At this session, you’ll have a great opportunity to explore this trend in depth with pioneers from several aspects of the artisan spirits movement, including:
- Lance Winters, distiller at St. George Spirits, where they have been making a wide array of great small-batch spirits for many years (one of their stills is pictured at right),
- Neyah White, well-known mixologist from Nopa in San Francisco, who uses many artisan spirits in his beverage program,
- Eric Seed, proprietor of Haus Alpenz, the company behind several acclaimed artisan spirits introduced in the U.S. recently, and
- Bill Yorks, Spirits Manager at Quality Wine & Spirits, a Georgia distributor carrying a range of artisan spirits.
The panel will explore the meaning of the term “artisan spirit,” and the journey required to get a product to the market. Taking an inside look at the spirits industry, the panel will discuss the barriers for small producers due to market domination by large companies and distributor consolidation, as well as the role of mixologists and cocktail aficionados in this movement.
The group will also examine whether this trend is limited to cocktail & spirits geeks, or whether this movement could transform the way the general public drinks. Will it be like the microbrewing industry? In answering that question, the panel will explore the who/what/why of this trend, and how the industry and consumers are responding so far.