Thursday, June 13, 2013

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Chuck Cowdery on Non-Distiller Producer Whiskey

Blended, not distilled,
by St. George Spirits
Non-distiller producer whiskey — NDP whiskey to those in the abbreviation-prone trade — has been around a long, long, time. Non-distiller producers buy bulk spirits and resell them under another label. It's a completely honorable business model. Regardless of the abuse that model sometimes suffers by resellers of rum, whiskey, and (notoriously) vodka, some very nice spirits are sold by people who do not operate the stills on which it was made. They may — or may not — blend, age, or flavor the bulk spirits. Regardless, they are not the distillers of that particular booze.

You may sometimes hear such spirits referred to as "found" whiskeys, as if some Kentucky distiller rounded a corner in an unused part of a rambling old rickhouse and ran smack dab into a forgotten lot of barrels just a'settin' there. It's a disingenuous term, "found" whiskey. NDP is clunky, but more accurate. The reason it is interesting from a consumer's point of view is that, in general, brands would rather not have buyers know that the distillery named on the bottle may not in fact exist. Whiskey writer Chuck Cowdery calls brands that go to great lengths to craft images of these fictional distilleries "Potemkin distilleries." It's a good term.

But how are consumers standing there in the liquor store to know which whiskeys are made by distillery on each label and which are not? In a blog post today, Cowdery proposes that genuine, actual, echt craft distillers develop common language that Potemkin distilleries cannot truthfully use...and then plaster it on everything. As an example, he cites copy from one of our favorite of America's newer distilleries, Balcones Distilling in Waco, Texas:
100% of Balcones whisky is mashed, fermented and distilled at our distillery. We never resell whisky from other distilleries or source aged whisky barrels for blending under the Balcones label. This is authentic craft whisky.
Language like that would go a long way to letting drinkers who actually makes their spirits. Read the rest of Cowdery's three-point proposal here.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cowdery is a blowhard. He makes mountains out of molehills.