Daily Beast story on 'pseudo-craft' producers in the USA
New Transparency in Craft Production Revealed.
A Note from Scott Harris, Founder of Catoctin Creek.
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.