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Issue 99 - Speaking Out

Whisky Magazine Issue 99
October 2011


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Speaking Out

Dave Broom meets the voice of the craft distilling movement.

You know how many craft distillers there are now?” asks Bill Owens, head of the American Distilling Institute, down the line from his home in California, “340 and of those, I reckon that 154 are making brown spirits. Now, you remember how many there were last time we spoke? 254.” Given that last time was a mere 18 months ago, the increase gives some indication of the continuing momentum of America's craft distilling boom.

The nature of the conversation with this gregarious former brewer, he opened America's first brewpub in 1983, shows how fast things are moving peppered as it is with a baffling series of names of new distilleries, new techniques and developments. Owens himself now finds himself as the spokesperson for a new fast moving American liquor revolution.

But why now? What has happened in America to promote this upsurge in making your own hooch? Owens feels that it is the latest manifestation of a wider cultural shift. “It started with boutique wineries in California, then came the micro-breweries, then it spread to a dynamic, green, food movement with artisanal bread, olives cheese etc. People began to ask where their food was coming from.” It spoke of ‘slowness', flavour and provenance.

Now as a new wave of distillers begins to find their feet, what can we expect? “This next generation, the guys like Chip Tate [Balcones], Darek Bell [Corsair] are artisans who know what they are making and who have the technical skill and a vision. We'll see more di...

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