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Issue 89 - Let a thousand distilleries Bloom

Whisky Magazine Issue 89
July 2010


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Let a thousand distilleries Bloom

A recent buy-out suggests that the American micro-distillery revolution means business. Charles K. Cowdery reports.

If someone ever writes a history of American craft distilling it may well begin with June 4, 2010. That's when the movement was acknowledged by the larger distilled spirits world with the highest form of recognition any industry can bestow – a buyout.

On that day William Grant & Sons, makers of Grant's Scotch and single malts Glenfiddich and The Balvenie, acquired the Hudson Whiskey line from Tuthilltown Spirits, a New York craft distiller. Grant bought the brand and contracted Tuthilltown to produce it.

Hudson's flagship is Hudson Baby Bourbon, an all-corn (maize) spirit aged for all of three months. It sells for about $40 per 375ml bottle and is found on the smartest back bars in New York City. Grant intends to distribute it, and the rest of the Hudson range, all over the world.

Recognition of another kind came earlier this year from the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), the trade organisation of major spirits producers doing business in the United States, which includes Diageo, Pernod, Bacardi, Beam Global, and the rest of the giants. In February, DISCUS created a Craft Distiller Affiliate Membership programme for companies which produce fewer than 40,000 cases a year.

Small distilleries are nothing new in the United States. San Francisco's Anchor Distillery, maker of Old Potrero rye whiskey, is almost 20 years old. Some of California's artisan brandy distilleries are older than that.

But the national explosion of small distilleries, making everything from vodka t...

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