Thursday, September 12, 2013

Brown is back! Craft is key...

Very much like the craft beer movement that has gone mainstream, Brown liquors are back and their category in our industry is exploding. Just ten years ago they were a dead or dying section in almost every store. We were watching as the generation that had made Whisk(e)y so popular with brands like Seagrams, J&B and Fleischmans were aging and as more and more time went by our need for these staple brands became less and less.

I am not sure how old you are but I'm around 50 and my generation was primarily drinking vodka, beer, and wine while brown liquor was left to our parents and more so to our grandparents. I didn't know what an "Old fashion" was and frankly... well... it sounded old fashion. What a "Sidecar" or Manhattan were, were also a mystery and my generation had left them for the history books with no real interest in finding out why the past generations made them their daily pre-dinner cocktail.

More recenty, like with the craft beer movement we have seen an interesting twist with lots of experimenting and much more attention being paid to the art of producing the products with different personalities and a nod to the history of the category. Small brewers are using local products and ancient recipes and techniques to unseat the establishment and shake the foundation that the big brands have been using to churn out the major brands for more than a generation.

Artisanal distillers have done the same thing by using different woods and reusing Sherry, Cognac or Port barrels with lighter or heavier toast to impart layers of flavors to their products and make them unique also. More thought is given to the grain blend and how long they stay in barrels before release. All of these factors lend certain characteristics that make them interesting and while you can make a good, consistant Bourbon or Scotch in mass quantity, we are seeing that the nuances have gotten lost over time.

These sometimes small and seemingly unnoticed differences of the last generation that gave rise to "Big box" have noticed that what is missing is more noticecable than we had ever realized. We were lulled to sleep with mediocrity that is now being shown for what it is. Stores like ours and The Fairfield Cheese Company where you talk to someone that truly cares about their craft have become very relevant and the craft distillers that produce smaller, better made products are where people want to spend the money.

When you find something that is "different" and it comes alive when you taste it, you remember it, you remember where your were when you tasted it and are excited to share it with your friends. Suddenly you don't need the giant bottle, something that you can sip and enjoy, its "quality" is much more important than the quantity of mediocrity that you spend your money on. More importantly, rather than pushing all of your hard earned money into a few pockets that are owned by giant corporations, people are spreading their money around and helping the small guy with a good idea and an american dream.

The upcoming season should see an explosion in the world of craft or artisinal Whisk(e)y similar to the one that is winding down in the world of Rosé from this past summer. With all of the influence of NYC and its trending mixologists the "Old fashion", Old Fashions and Manhattans are also likely to be on the drink menu this season. The primary difference will be the quality of their ingredients.


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