It is not usually my intention to post scandalous content to this newsletter. We try to maintain a to each their own attitude in our business, and don't often wade into controversial topics.
However, we've been overrun with comments about the recent article in The Daily Beast entitled, "Your 'Craft' Rye Whiskey is Probably from a Factory Distillery in Indiana." In the article, Eric Felten reveals to the public what was commonly known in the industry: that most whiskey in the USA being sold as craft is, in fact, nothing of the sort: It is big whiskey, made by a company called MGP in Indiana, charading as a hand-made product.
[MGP] products are well-made, but hardly what one thinks of as artisanal. And yet, much of the whiskey now being sold as the hand-crafted product of micro-distilleries actually comes from this one Indiana factory.
Upstart spirits companies selling juice they didn’t distill rarely advertise the fact. But there are ways to tell: whiskey aged longer than a distillery has been in business is one of the telltale signs that the “distiller” is actually just bottling someone else’s product. ... So how do you open a distillery one year and have 5- or 15-year-old whiskey to sell the next? Not by making it.
You can read the full article from The Daily Beast, here. Now, we rarely wade into these debates, but I will say three things:
(1) We prefer transparency. There are a number of producers like High West and Smooth Ambler who have openly stated on their products that they are sourcing whiskey, curating a rare set of barrels, and in some cases blending them to make something finer. Transparency is good, and I applaud those companies and enjoy their products.
(2) Lying hurts consumers and producers. Whiskey brands that pretend to be craft, but simply bottle the big-boy juice have been deceptive, and it abuses the public trust and denigrates those of us who are doing things by hand.
(3) Catoctin makes our own whiskey. We work very hard to make our own whisky from scratch. You can know that each and every bottle of Catoctin Creek has been handmade by Becky Harris and Greg Moore. Don't believe us? Come and visit any day of the week and see for yourself. As I like to say, "I didn't give up a perfectly good day job, with excellent pay and benefits, to BOTTLE whisky." I wanted to MAKE whisky, and make whisky is what we do.
It was very nice to have The Daily Beast give us, and a few notable others, a shout-out as true producers. We really appreciate that:
Which isn’t to say that no one succeeds in actually making their own craft-distilled whiskey. In addition to Leopold Bros. in Colorado, there are distillers such as Few in Evanston, Illinois, Catoctin Creek in Virginia, and Hudson Whiskey in New York state making good young rye from scratch.
So, next time you reach for that bottle of craft whisky, turn it around. Look at the back. Does it say "DISTILLED BY XXXX"? If it does, rest assured that those guys MADE your whiskey. If it says "CRAFTED/HANDMADE/BOTTLED/PRODUCED BY"... well, you're most likely buying the same Indiana juice sold all over the USA. It may be good, but I wouldn't pay more for it thinking it is craft.
Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2014 (10th Anniversary Edition), reviews Roundstone Rye Cask Proof (batch B12E1), and scores it an 88.5! The review, as these tend to be, is all over the place, like a big happy golden retriever puppy: The rye is chaotic, unexpected, youthful, crazy, and yet, still totally loveable:
A truly huge rye... Through a combination of sheer delicious belligerence and chutzpah has your taste buds swooning. Great fun!
Lew Bryson, in the summer 2014 issue of Whisky Advocate, (re-)reviews Mosby's Spirit, our beautiful unaged rye spirit, and gives it a score of 82:
The second craft rye I'm revisiting. Mosby's is still 100% organic rye and unaged, but the nose is more fun: some green pear and melon esters in there with the grassy rye spice. It's nicely smooth on the tongue, delivers exactly what the nose promised, plus a shot of fresh-cracked black pepper...and a much longer finish these days. Greatly improved; a good white whisky.
Lew also reviewed the Roundstone Rye Cask Proof (batch B12E1), but he didn't find it as pleasing as we do, scoring it a 77. Being honest, the review disappointed us, especially considering the last review from Whisky Advocate was clamoring for more age, and now that we have it, they consider it over-oaked. We truly struggle to see how a whisky that is less than two years old could be over-oaked in 30 gallon barrels. Anyhow, in the interest of transparency, here is that review, for what it's worth:
Single barrel, cask proof. Strong wood aromas; pencil shavings, hot-sawn oak. Hot and tight, intense wood. There's some interesting stuff around the edges, but the wood's blocking it till some sweetness peeks through at the end. Water helps a little, but not enough. Over-barreled.
Market Watch did an interesting piece on a number of women who work at several distilleries across the world, including our own beloved Becky Harris. Amber Drea writes:
After staying home with her kids for 10 years, the former chemical engineer decided to take on distilling duties, while Scott managed the marketing and sales side. “I’ve always been interested in making things,” Harris explains. It also helped that she had a science background. “This business was Scott’s dream job, so he chose well when we got married 20 years ago,” she jokes.
Read the entire article, here.
M. Carrie Allan, spirits writer for the Washington Post, gave us great coverage in the Food section, announcing the release of our new 92-Proof version of the Roundstone Rye:
Catoctin Creek has been curating the barrels it has tucked away, tasting and selecting a few hundred that seemed to be developing deeper and more interesting flavors, and holding them back to use in this release. As a result, the new rye is not only less diluted, but also, at just under four years in barrel, a bit older than the current Roundstone.
That said, Becky says that many old-school whiskey buffs put too much emphasis on barrel age. “I kind of compare it to taking your dog to a dog show, right?” she says. “When people evaluate a rye whiskey, they want it to taste like other whiskeys they’ve had — the ‘breed standard.’ . . . I like to think the craft distilling movement is trying to bring some new dogs to the show, but the show that’s out there — and I’m just rolling with this metaphor now — is run by the people who are deeply invested in a very old stock style of whiskey.” Many younger craft brands, she says, don’t have very old whiskeys. “But they are amazing whiskeys. They may not be a purebred English mastiff, but it’s an amazing dog in its own right.”
Read her full story, plus a great new recipe with the Roundstone Rye 92, here.
Nice coverage for the distillery in the regional holiday gift guides.
The Loudoun Times Mirror highlighted our gift baskets, each of which is put together by Emily to show off each spirit in its own unique way. For example, the Mosby's gift basket has all the fixin's needed (minus the fresh lemons and soda) for a Colonel Langdon cocktail.
Northern Virginia Magazine suggests you get yourself on over to visit our distillery store for the holidays! We couldn't agree more!
Renée S. Gordon does a travel feature for the Philadelphia Sun, and this time, she turns her sights on Loudoun County, and our deep collection of history, entertainment and gastronomic treasures. Happily, Catoctin Creek gets a call out:
Catoctin Creek Distilling Company is in the heart of Purcellville and is the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition. Owners Becky and Scott Harris create small batch liquors that are entirely handcrafted. They make 40,000 bottles annually including their version of moonshine. Distillery tours and guest bartender events are offered.
Catoctin Creek is another of my “amazing females” sites. Becky Harris, a chemical engineer, is the distiller. She is one of the few in the country and [one of a few] female distiller[s] on the East Coast.
[Corrections noted above are our own.]
Read the full story, here.