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What is a "craft" distillery?

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What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby Alzarius » Sun Jan 30, 2011 5:13 am

While watching Ralfy's recent Springbank series, I heard him refer to Springbank as a "craft" distillery. What is a "craft" distillery, and what is it that sets it apart from other traditional distilleries? Smaller production, or something else? I also hear about "artisanal" distilleries too.... are these pretty much the same as craft distilleries?

Which whisky producers (Scotland and elsewhere) would you say are craft, or artisanal, and why?
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby Ganga » Sun Jan 30, 2011 5:31 am

Las Vegas Distillery would definitely be a craft distillery. They will be producing a lot of different products and are willing to try to make something unique. Not sure why Springbank would be considered a craft distillery unless it has to do with the peated (Longrow) and triple distilled (Hazelburn).
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby pkt77242 » Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:24 am

I agree with Ganga, I don't consider Springbank a craft distiller. I believe craft distillers are considered to be a distiller that only does a small amount of production see here http://knol.google.com/k/bill-owens/def ... dhv4kka/3# or here http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 02872.html or here http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/stor ... tory4.html

I am not sure any Scottish distiller produces such small amounts. I think of Mccarthy's or a distillery like that when I think of craft distillers.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby Alzarius » Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:35 am

What about Kilchoman?
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby pkt77242 » Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:47 am

Possibly Kilchoman, this website http://www.whiskygalore.co.nz/webstore/ ... urerid=100 at about 90 or 100 thousand litres. which is between 23,000 and 27,000 gallons. But I don't know if that is pure alcohol or distillate that is at low enough proof for barreling.

Also the numbers on that site look old and I believe that they have increased production, though I doub they have doubled it.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby rogerdodger » Sun Jan 30, 2011 12:35 pm

Not sure Ralfy is referring to the number of bottles produced. I think he uses "craft" to describe a distillery that does pretty much everything themselves, from local barley sourcing through to bottling. I also thinks he includes the fact that the whole project has a "local" touch, is not too highly computerised and is not in the hands of a large corporation a la Diageo. Clearly these therefore produce smaller amounts of whisky, but I don't think that's his starting point. This obviously doesn't tell us anything about the quality of the whisky, but the "craft" is something worth preserving, particularly in light of growing global competition.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby AdamMY » Mon Jan 31, 2011 5:07 am

Collector57 wrote:It seems to me that to classify a distillery as "craft" just because it has a small output, is ridiculous.
Craft is about skill and attention to detail and so on. It's nothing to do with size. I suspect all these definitions from people saying it means "below 50000 gallons" or whatever arbitrary figure they choose, are written by people running small distilleries.

The product could be drain-cleaner material and they would still call it craft. That's nonsense.


My take on the term, is based off of beer, in which case a craft brewery is typically a small scale brewery. I mean I think it is somewhat debatable as to whether or not Sam Adam's is actually craft or not. But if you want to go with the attention to detail and such, which tends to fit a lot of the smaller breweries, but it could also have to do with the depth of what they are offering.

The breweries that are not considered Craft beers often produce a rather small range of standard offerings, which in terms of whisky may be the Glenfiddich, and Glenlivet who seem to do very little exploration in terms of the Distilllery bottled offerings. So some craft distilleries if you go by the range of exploration and offerings they have may be Macallan, and Glenmorangie to name a few.

But I really have no clue how to abstract the definition I have in my mind of Craft Breweries, to distilleries, part of which is because in my mind I believe you need an incredible amount of start up capital, and have a large production base to even make it in most countries, esp. the US.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby pkt77242 » Mon Jan 31, 2011 5:57 am

Collector57 wrote:It seems to me that to classify a distillery as "craft" just because it has a small output, is ridiculous.
Craft is about skill and attention to detail and so on. It's nothing to do with size. I suspect all these definitions from people saying it means "below 50000 gallons" or whatever arbitrary figure they choose, are written by people running small distilleries.

The product could be drain-cleaner material and they would still call it craft. That's nonsense.


I have to disagree with you Nick. How is that quantifiable. Who's definition of attention to detail are we going by? Yours or mine or someone elses? I don't like measuring by size but at least that is measurable (though I agree how do you set the size of production. Seems arbitrary to set it at a 60000 gallons os so)

I personally think craft has to do with innovation and not being owned by a large company ( I think of springbank or glenfarclas but mosly springbank)

But again that is rather arbitrary and so it doesn't work. My innovation definition of innovation could be different from yours or anyone elses.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby MacDeffe » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:38 am

Personally I associate the word craft with homemade and or selfmade, which makes springbank a craft distillery. I do associate it with a production method were quality is considered more important than quantity

I think the term is harder to justify in the whiskybusiness in say the brewing business

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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby The Third Dram » Mon Jan 31, 2011 5:30 pm

pkt77242 wrote:I personally think craft has to do with innovation and not being owned by a large company... My innovation definition of innovation could be different from yours or anyone elses.

I'm pretty much with your take on this subject, Sean, though I'd also (in this day of technological impetus) tend to view any distillery's decision to return to a more hands-on, traditional mode of operation at the various stages of processing as an 'innovation' of sorts.

As far as many of the industry spokespersons are concerned, however, the term 'craft distillery' would seem to cut a far wide swath. That '16 Men of Tain' campaign that Glenmorangie launched many years back is a prime example.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby dramtastic » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:38 pm

I believe the following can be classed as a craft distillery :)

http://nonjatta.blogspot.com/2008/04/vi ... chibu.html

Privately owned, operated and born of the passion of one man. And for the low production volume crowd, yep that as well. NC and NCF whisky. :D
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby Drammed » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:32 pm

The OP was refering to what Ralfy Mitchell refers to "craft" presentation and that answer is a whiskey that has 3 things.....

non chill filtered
no E150a added (carmel)
above 46% abv

The Springbank makes a "craft" presented whiskey so he refered to the distillery that way. My .02 anyway.

Cheers 8)
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby Willie JJ » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:00 pm

I think this is a clear case of what George Bernard Shaw referred to as 'two nations divided by a common language'. In this case it seems to extend on the East side of the Atlantic to Denmark (and Germany Rodger?) as Steffen, Rodger, Nick and I all hold one understanding of the term and everyone on the West holds another. I don't doubt that Ralfy, as a Scot, had a sort of handmade, do it all yourself attitude in mind when referring to Springbank (we can always ask him of course). I fully accept that it may mean something different in North America. One thing I don't quite get Sean is what is it about the word craft that makes you think that it is in any way measurable? To me and I suspect everyone else on this side of the pond it is the antithesis of that.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby Drammed » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:46 pm

Here is the link to Ralfy's Craft vs. Branded whiskey vlog.

http://whiskyreviews.blogspot.com/2009/ ... st_17.html

cheers
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby rogerdodger » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:48 pm

Willie JJ wrote:I think this is a clear case of what George Bernard Shaw referred to as 'two nations divided by a common language'. In this case it seems to extend on the East side of the Atlantic to Denmark (and Germany Rodger?)


Yep, from Norfolk (England) but now based in Germany.

Willie JJ wrote:as Steffen, Rodger, Nick and I all hold one understanding of the term and everyone on the West holds another. I don't doubt that Ralfy, as a Scot, had a sort of handmade, do it all yourself attitude in mind when referring to Springbank (we can always ask him of course). I fully accept that it may mean something different in North America. One thing I don't quite get Sean is what is it about the word craft that makes you think that it is in any way measurable? To me and I suspect everyone else on this side of the pond it is the antithesis of that.


Interesting observation. I wouldn't have picked up on that one, but I suspect you might well be right. It could simply be word usage and interpretation based on cultural understanding.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby Alzarius » Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:07 am

Thought I would get a pretty good discussion going with my question. I, too, think of the word "craft" as meaning being more hands-on, and coming up with a product that's not "mass produced". Yes, definitely hard to define, but is interesting to compare what we think of as craft distilleries.

Really, I had no clue what Ralfy meant when he referred to Springbank as "craft"- he's so into the NCF, NC, > 46% thing that maybe that was really all he meant. But more interesting is what WE interpret as a craft distiller.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby Willie JJ » Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:15 pm

You must be the exception that proves the rule Alzarius :wink:
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby Ganga » Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:40 pm

All seem to be in some agreement about the "hands on" being part of craft. Given a certain production level (whatever that is), a distillery is going to rely more on automation.

I'm going to propose that a distillery can be both craft and non-craft. That is a standard range will have a formula with periodic quality control checks. Yet the distillery will produce the "occasional" product that is crafted towards a specific goal where the casks are selected to achieve the goal. Discuss.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby John Barleycorn » Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:31 pm

Craft distilling is an American concept; it's all about being flexible, of not being confined, restricted or entrenched in one approach in producing the final product, i.e. changing the mash bill, or obtaining the wash form an outside source, or using a different type of still (making a malt whisky in a column or Faraday Still). In my opinion there are no craft distilleries in Scotland for the simple reason that they are all restricted by The Scotch Whisky Association, the mash has to be 100% malted barley; the wash has to be produced on site and distillation has to be via a pot still, any changes and it is not a malt whisky. Yes, you can use peated or non peated barley and yes, you can mature in different types of casks, but this is merely tweaking at the edges. Most, if not all, craft distillers in the US tend to be small independent producers with a range of products of which whisky is one and as a result produce smaller batches. The nearest to a craft distillery in the UK, in my view, is Penderyn.
Malt Advocate did an article on craft distillers in 2009 (Volume 18, Number 1) which I found very informative.

Cheers John
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby lockejn » Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:42 pm

I think the term "craft" cannot be objectively tied to output volume. I think it's all about the distillery's production philosophy and, to a significant extent, how that translates to actual product. As a matter of course, many "craft" distillers probably have relatively lower output simply because producing excellent and/or authentic whisky is more important than producing lots of whisky (and likely more expensive). Clearly, with suitable resources and determination, these objectives need not be mutually exclusive.

Does this definition of "craft" introduce a degree of subjectivity in classifying some distilleries? Absolutely. I don't see a problem with that, in fact I appreciate the shades of gray as they give us geeks something to yak about.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby Willie JJ » Tue Feb 01, 2011 8:38 pm

John Barleycorn wrote:Craft distilling is an American concept;

It is if you use it in the American sense ...
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby John Barleycorn » Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:54 pm

Willie JJ wrote:
John Barleycorn wrote:Craft distilling is an American concept;

It is if you use it in the American sense ...


Of course you have to use the American sense. They coined the term; they developed the craft distilling movement, they are the ones thinking outside the box. The last time a Scotch distiller thought outside the box, in relation to whisky distilling, was Loch Lomond Distillery; when they produced a malt whisky using a column still, the SWA had a fizzy fit. If I was in the situation of starting up a distillery I would base it in England or Wales were there are fewer restrictions.

Cheers John
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby Willie JJ » Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:14 pm

John Barleycorn wrote:
Willie JJ wrote:
John Barleycorn wrote:Craft distilling is an American concept;

It is if you use it in the American sense ...


Of course you have to use the American sense.

We're going to have to agree to disagree on that one. Just because someone has used a word in a certain way does not preclude it from having other meanings.
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby rogerdodger » Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:33 pm

John Barleycorn wrote:
Willie JJ wrote:
John Barleycorn wrote:Craft distilling is an American concept;

It is if you use it in the American sense ...


Of course you have to use the American sense.
Cheers John


I agree with Willie on this one. There is no patent on the use and meaning of a word or phrase. Something can develop in one place or culture and alter its meaning when transferred to or used by those of another linguistic or cultural background. The use of absolutes doesn't help in illustrating differing interpretations, as it seems have been illustrated in this discussion.

But, as Willie said, we can agree to differ.....
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Re: What is a "craft" distillery?

Postby reemanclark » Tue Mar 12, 2013 11:01 pm

Hi,

Craft is not necessarily small but generally relates to being hand-crafted. OK, some of the larger distilleries claim 'craft' but you could debate this as it is generally still a standard process day in day out. We at Strathearn Distillery will be small and every batch will be unique. So we solve the problem by labeling ourselves a craft micro-distillery.

But then, what is a micro-distillery ?

Cheers

Tony
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