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cowdery
05-09-2010, 17:59
The micro-distillery movement is great. That there would be so many small distilleries in America making--well, anything--I never would have predicted. No one is more amazed than I am and no one is more delighted.

As whiskey enthusiasts, our prime directive is to try as many different whiskeys as we can. That's who we are. That's what we do. So naturally when a new whiskey comes along, regardless of its source, we want to try it, or at least learn a little more about it.

Which is why I want to advise my fellow whiskey enthusiasts, with regard to micro-distilleries, and in the immortal words of Larry David, curb your enthusiasm. The micro-distillers would like you to believe, and some of them actually believe this themselves, that they came right out of the box making products that are superior to those made by the majors. They didn't and they aren't.

In the case of whiskey in particular, what you have is simply a very limited range and the limitation is age. Some interesting things are being done with ages ranging from five minutes to about two years, but that's it. There is very little out there that is older than two years and it shows.

I'm not talking about the High West Rendezvous Rye, or High West BourRye, or Templeton Rye, or Angel's Envy Bourbon, or WhistlePig Rye, which were all made by majors and just bottled and sold by little guys.

In terms of the actual micro-distilled products out there, they're all just very young. Despite what some people say, nobody has figured out how to speed up the aging process.

This is not to say there is no merit in these young whiskeys. There is a lot of merit in many of them, but relative to what we're used to as whiskey drinkers, they're all too young. That's just the reality of what these guys are trying to do.

The other reality is that they are all going to be too expensive for what they are. That's also in the nature of the exercise. Whether or not they're "worth it" is something only you can decide.

So by "curb your enthusiasm," I don't mean "forget about it." What I mean is "don't expect too much." Enjoy these products for what they are and feel good about supporting someone's dream.

Josh
05-09-2010, 18:31
Very well put.

This has been my struggle with the growing numbers of micros here in Michigan. I want to try them. I want to be supportive, but if one of the majors was putting out one of these products, I would be bitching about it all over teh interwebs. Too young, too expensive.

Luckily there's bar that I regularly haunt that carries all of New Holland's spirits. The Zeppelin Bend malt, Freshwater Rum, Knickerbocker Gin and the Hatter Royale Hopquila and their vodkas (which they don't make themselves) are available at the bar.

I tried Zeppelin Bend again last week, just to give it a second opinion. It was much better than I had remembered. I almost ordered a second one. I'm glad I didn't. When the bill came it was $10 for 1.5 oz. For the sake of comparion, about 9 miles away is a Cajun/Creole restaurant that has Blanton's for the same price.:skep:

OscarV
05-10-2010, 06:26
This new wave of micro distilling reminds of all the bad starchy-yeast beer that beer snobs used to lie to themselves about.

DeanSheen
05-10-2010, 07:14
I'm glad this is happening but I'm only sporadically interested in supporting it.

Most micros seem to run $45+ and sometimes that's only for a 375ml. There are too many really good products out there I like in the $50 range that I know I like for me to take a gamble on an entire bottle of the micros.

Thesh
05-10-2010, 12:42
The only micro I have had a chance to try was "Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey." I am happy I tried it, but I wouldn't buy another bottle. I had to force that one down. I guess some people are expecting the micro-distilleries to be closer to the micro-breweries, but there are considerable differences. Beer can be made in weeks vs years (and you can perfect your brew at home before you even start up your business), and the major distilleries already put out a huge range of quality products; with beer, you just don't have that. Maybe in 10-15 years when the micro distilleries really have a chance to age and learn, we might start seeing some really good micro whiskies. For now, I don't think the price reflects the quality by any means.

cas
05-10-2010, 14:15
So how does an upstart break into this market? With the up-front time investment to make a really good whiskey of maybe 6+ years, and the risk of having a multi-year stock of aging juice with no cash returns, how can someone get into the bourbon business?
Craig

MarkEdwards
05-10-2010, 14:25
So how does an upstart break into this market? With the up-front time investment to make a really good whiskey of maybe 6+ years, and the risk of having a multi-year stock of aging juice with no cash returns, how can someone get into the bourbon business?
Craig

By selling young juice to finance the aged juice?

jburlowski
05-10-2010, 14:31
So how does an upstart break into this market? With the up-front time investment to make a really good whiskey of maybe 6+ years, and the risk of having a multi-year stock of aging juice with no cash returns, how can someone get into the bourbon business?
Craig

Usually by trying to sell vodka and / or poor, under-aged whiskey at high prices.

I applaud the movement but am less sanquine about its prospects than others here. I think the economics are just too daunting to see many succeed with a quality product.

Thesh
05-10-2010, 17:28
So how does an upstart break into this market? With the up-front time investment to make a really good whiskey of maybe 6+ years, and the risk of having a multi-year stock of aging juice with no cash returns, how can someone get into the bourbon business?
Craig

I bet you could sell it as blended whiskey quite easily. Start yourself off with a few different recipes, and as necessary, blend with GNS and older whiskies from other distilleries. Don't just try and go out guns blazing with a premium straight whiskey.

callmeox
05-10-2010, 19:27
Curbing my enthusiasm is easy since the flavors I enjoy most in bourbon come from the barrel and faking it doesn't count.

Dropping 10 bucks on a sixer of micro brew is nowhere near the commitment that one makes when soaking 50 bucks into a 375 of young whiskey.

BigRich
05-11-2010, 07:08
Thank you for saying it Chuck. I thought I was the only one.

White Dog
05-11-2010, 07:22
Tough crowd.

Chuck, you're a huge blues fan, so I'll use this analogy. I'd rather spend my money on releases from Fat Possum Records or Yazoo, rather than Capital or Warner Brothers. By the same token, I'd rather spend my money with Koval rather than with Fortune Brands. Many would disagree, but my heart motivates me as much as my brain.

Spending $50 in the interest of discovering a new whiskey is worth it to me, since I feel that your favorite beverage is the one just around the corner. Besides, unlike a $50 bottle of wine, you can enjoy the whiskey over a long haul.

Based on this thread, I don't think we'll ever see the potential of the micros because most people here aren't willing to support them. That's a shame. Diversity makes the whiskey world much more interesting.

SMOWK
05-11-2010, 07:39
I agree with White Dog that the closer the whiskey is to home, the better. I have yet to find a micro that I really liked, but I will keep searching. Someone will get it right at some point. I've started noticing a lot more micros as of late, so in about 6 or more years, we should start seeing some that actually taste good.

IowaJeff
05-11-2010, 07:39
I generally agree, especially regarding bourbons and ryes. I have had some micro-distillery 'single malts' aged in new barrels for a shorter time than most Scotch and have enjoyed them though. I don't think they have speeded the aging process, but it seems that you can extract flavors faster in new barrels. I have no science or evidence to back this up, but it seems to me that some single malts can pick up flavor from a new barrel faster than bourbons and ryes. That could be a result of me comparing 3 yo new barrel single malt to 8 yo used barrel single malt--as opposed to 3 yo new bourbon w/ 8 yo new bourbon.

I think Stranahan's is a great example of a younger microdistillery whiskey that outpaces many of its older, large distillery rivals. I love the stuff, even though I'm generally a bourbon drinker. Even if you don't like the flavor, I think its hard to argue that it lacks flavor/punch or tastes thin, complaints I generally have with younger whiskeys. In Stranahan's case, I don't know that aging it more would add much. I would certainly love to find out first-hand, but I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. I find it packed with flavor, and although not always a perfect proxy for the quality of a whiskey, its dark color belies its age--its darker than many 15 yo Scotch's. Its also made in true microdistillery fashion, from local ingredients.

Microdistilleries also generate a lot of interest in whiskey and I think could force some of the bigger players to innovate and try new things. I always try to buy a bottle of a microdistillery product when I get a chance, even though it can be pricey. Its exciting to try something different and I want to support them. If microdistilleries succeed, they can grow and experiment more-aging more, finishing in different barrels, etc.

callmeox
05-11-2010, 07:40
I don't need to feel edgy by going for the next big thing in artsy craftsy spirits when the mass produced boys do a fine job.

Sorry, but 100 bucks for a bottle of glorified white dog instead of the same price for something that has aged fully doesn't seem like a good investment to me. It's not my job to prop up someone's well intentioned lab experiment or life's ambition.

SMOWK
05-11-2010, 07:42
Microdistilleries also generate a lot of interest in whiskey and I think could force some of the bigger players to innovate and try new things.

My thoughts exactly when I stated that someone will get it right at some point. Trial and error is never a bad thing.

bourbonv
05-11-2010, 08:03
This is a two way street. The people who enjoy whiskey need to support them so they will survive, but at the same time these "craft distillers" need to realise that we don't want to pay all of their debt with one bottling. The distillers need to be reasonable on their prices.

I have hope and some enthusiasm for the craft distillery movement, but I also realise it will take time for them to really produce a good aged whiskey. I suspect it will happen, but not by one of these craft distillers who want to make big bucks in the short run.

Mike Veach

IowaJeff
05-11-2010, 08:59
I'm not a microdistiller and certainly can't speak for them, but I doubt they are making huge profits selling bottles for $50-75. Its just a matter of scale--Jim Beam can make whiskey cheaper than a microdistiller, much cheaper for one just starting out. Its like that in any industry--WalMart can make and sell a dress shirt much cheaper than a local tailor.

Now, to their credit, the big boys in whiskey overall do not scrimp on quality, as in some industries--they consistently put out great products. Where microdistilleries can make inroads is in expirementing with different ways to make whiskey, bringing different flavors and styles to the table, 'local' appeal, and of course, branding. Without small fish nipping at the heels of big fish an industry can become stagnant--putting out the tried and true product but not stepping out and trying new things. Not that that is all microdistilleries can do--I believe given time they can develop excellent products, some are already. The big fish were all little fish at some point.

DeanSheen
05-11-2010, 09:19
I think experimenting with Terroir would be a great way for these micros to make themselves stand out from the pack.

bourbonv
05-11-2010, 09:32
I agree that the micro disitillers are not making huge profits and the economy of scale has a lot to do with that. I do know that many will be tempted to go for a very expensive price because of this fact and if the whiskey is sub par then it will end up hurting them in the long run. They need to balance price with what they make to keep the consumer coming back for another bottle. I will pay $40 for a 375ml if the whiskey is craft distilled and if itshows promise at a young age I may buy another bottle.I will not pay $60.00 for any 375 unless I know it is good. Higher than that and they have lost me as a customer.

Mike Veach

OscarV
05-11-2010, 12:38
Curbing my enthusiasm is easy since the flavors I enjoy most in bourbon come from the barrel and faking it doesn't count.



I don't need to feel edgy by going for the next big thing in artsy craftsy spirits when the mass produced boys do a fine job.



Yep, whiskey is one of things that the big national brands have it over the so-called "hand-craft" guys.
These guys buy their yeast from a lab and grain all ready ground up and do no aging.
It's all about time in the barrel.

ErichPryde
05-11-2010, 12:50
Mike is hitting on something pretty important here. We, as consumers, shouldn't have to pay fifty dollars or more for a product that doesn't warrant it. In some cases, that can do nothing but tarnish a micro's reputation for the future.

callmeox
05-11-2010, 13:24
I guess that the easiest way to describe my feelings on this is that I am having difficulty shifting from "it is expensive because of the angels share is so great over time" to "it is expensive because I don't make a great volume of it at one time"

ErichPryde
05-11-2010, 14:53
I guess that the easiest way to describe my feelings on this is that I am having difficulty shifting from "it is expensive because of the angels share is so great over time" to "it is expensive because I don't make a great volume of it at one time"

But neither of those should be factors. If it tastes like fifty bucks, that's what matters.

callmeox
05-11-2010, 15:40
But neither of those should be factors. If it tastes like fifty bucks, that's what matters.

So, what does 50 bucks taste like? :rolleyes:

ebo
05-11-2010, 15:42
But neither of those should be factors. If it tastes like fifty bucks, that's what matters.
I agree, but, what micro distiller's whiskey actually tastes like fifty bucks?

Fifty bucks is just about the most I spend on bottle of whiskey, most of the time; the exception being Scotch, from time to time. When I spend that kind of money, I expect a very good product... I'm not convinced there is any Micro distiller out there that offers anything I would spend fifty bucks on, when I know I can get much better quality from one of the big boys.

CorvallisCracker
05-11-2010, 15:50
So, what does 50 bucks taste like? :rolleyes:

I'd tell ya, but I haven't had that much money in my wallet since...well, I don't know when...

But, just guessing, probably dry, papery, with inky notes and a trace of cocaine.

Ultra
05-11-2010, 15:51
I'd tell ya, but I haven't had that much money in my wallet since...well, I don't know when...

But, just guessing, probably dry, papery, with inky notes and a trace of cocaine.

:slappin:

..............................

ebo
05-11-2010, 15:56
I'd tell ya, but I haven't had that much money in my wallet since...well, I don't know when...

But, just guessing, probably dry, papery, with inky notes and a trace of cocaine.
:toast:
..............................

nblair
05-11-2010, 17:34
I can understand both viewpoints. However, I have never had whiskey from a micro-distiller so maybe that's why.

I want to hear Kickert's take on this.

Dramiel McHinson
05-11-2010, 18:10
This is a great thread because it shines the light on something that's probably been buggin' a few of us. Bang for the Buck Bourbon...or scotch or wine or beer.

For all that money, where's the bang :searching:

What is the hook that unlocks our wallet and lays the contents at the feet of the well labeled spirit.

Ultra
05-11-2010, 18:16
What is the hook that unlocks our wallet and lays the contents at the feet of the well labeled spirit.

My need to educate myself while I am drinking.

kickert
05-11-2010, 19:55
I can understand both viewpoints. However, I have never had whiskey from a micro-distiller so maybe that's why.

I want to hear Kickert's take on this.

Ha...

I have been following the thread, but I wanted to let it run its course before I chimed in.

I think all the points brought up so far are valid (both in favor and opposed).

Micro-distilling is a business and as such it has to make money (or at least break even). Small scale distilleries have substantially more costs than the big guys per volume. Any artisan product whether its whiskey or brooms or pottery or culinary arts is going to cost more to make than the mass produced stuff... that is how the market works. Micros can't just eat those costs.

I think it easy to think that the small guys are trying to make bank on their early releases. In all actuality, they are probably trying to cut their losses. Because of the size of runs, labor costs are substantially higher. Add to that higher costs charged by supplies and the larger cuts taken by distributors and things start getting really out of whack.

Simply put, small distilleries simply can't afford to put out $20 750 bottles of aged whiskey.

Now... on to the criticisms... There is a lot of shitty whiskey being put out by micros, (just like there is a lot of shitty fruit wine being put out by the small wineries)I won't deny that. If micros want to survive, they have to produce products people want. If the small guys expect people to buy nasty whiskey just to support "the local guy" then they are going to be deeply disappointed (and out of business). There is no way I am going to defend inferior products that are being sold at premium prices. Again, it is like any craft product: you might be able to get away with poor quality sympathy sales early on, but people won't put up with it on a large scale if the quality is not there.

So where does that leave us? Is there a place in the long term for micros? I think absolutely... but not in the role that many on this forum are expecting them to fill. There will never be a micro who can sell a 12 year old wheater for under $25.

If micros are going to succeed it is going to be because they offer the market things the big guys can't (or won't do). Again, it just like brooms and pottery and cooking. People buy hand thrown pots because they are unique and original and have "character." Whiskey needs to be the same way. You won't be tasting whiskeys made from oatmeal and millet and 100% rye from the big guys anytime soon, but you will from the small guys. You aren't going to get the unique taste small barrels gives (not better or worse, but definitely different) from the big guys (partly because they cost almost 10X more per volume) but micros are going to continue to use these techniques.

Of course if those products taste like shit, then they will never succeed in the long run.

I do see the micro distillery movement following the micro brewery movement. Early micro breweries tried to emulate the big guys in the styles of beers the produced. Pretty early on they figured out that wasn't going to work so you saw them take up more innovative product lines... things the large guys were not pursing. Now the companies like InBev are emulating the small guys and the small breweries are really pushing the limits on what is possible (some may even say desirable).

I would venture to say that many, if not most, of SB.com members are not the type of people who will get into the micro movement any time soon. I think that is largely because those of us here have a pretty good idea of what we think a whiskey is supposed to taste like. In a large part micros aren't going to fit that mold.

So in summary: Are there a lot of micros releasing inferior product? Yes. Is that acceptable? No. Will micros always cost more than other whiskeys? Yes. Is there a place for them in the market? I think absolutely, and I think their place is providing unique products that are "full of character."

DISCLOSER: I do work for a local micro-distillery, but just so you know, I am call "The Traditionalist" because of my involvement on this forum. :grin:

cowdery
05-11-2010, 22:15
My point in starting this was neither to praise micro-distilleries nor to bury them, and not so much trying to support the skeptics as to tamp down irrational exuberance.

Any business that doesn't give good value for the money is doomed. End of story. The only justification for any price is the willingness of the customer to pay it.

But this micro-distillery thing is so new, we don't know yet what micros can excel at. One thing they seem to do very well is flavor neutral spirits. I'm not kidding. Some of their best products are their gins and absinthes.

As micro-distilled whiskeys are starting to roll out, we can better understand why micro-distillers have been afraid of whiskey. It's not easy. Look at how long it took Old Potrero to go from 'interesting' to 'good.'

The attached just arrived a little while ago. It is the results of the (supposedly) craft whiskey judging in which I participated last week. The winners here are as good a products as any to try, as you can find them.

Be sure to read the whole thing, especially the story right after the results. Where it says "Chuck Cowdery noted a serious problem," substitute "Chuck Cowdery went postal," to get a better sense of what really happened.

Enabler
05-11-2010, 23:35
Well, I have not had any micro-distiller's whiskey of any type, although I have driven 9 hours to support a micro-distiller's gin (Bendis). However, microdistillers have to rely on idiots (i count myself in this class) to overpay for the product they are getting in the early years. Then, in the fullness of time they have to prove themselves. Those who can prove themselves in the long haul survive, those who do not fall by the wayside.

Many are called, but few are chosen.

So, to those idiots who pay 50 bucks for a 25 dollar bottle of booze, you do the Lord's work. In the end, you may feel the fool, but your sacrifice is not in vain. That special distillery may rise from the ashes of your foolishness and enrich us all.

callmeox
05-12-2010, 03:31
So the big winners in the blind tasting were from High West? LDI beat all of the little guys in a taste test?

nblair
05-12-2010, 04:59
Be sure to read the whole thing, especially the story right after the results. Where it says "Chuck Cowdery noted a serious problem," substitute "Chuck Cowdery went postal," to get a better sense of what really happened.

Good for you Chuck. It doesn't make much sense to give an American DISTILLING Institute award to a whiskey that wasn't distilled by the winner?!? I'd be pretty upset if I had actually distilled a product, entered it in the blind tasting, and some rectified whiskey came out on top.


To go along with the thread though, John Hansell gave it a positive review (http://www.whatdoesjohnknow.com/2009/10/22/review-high-west-bourye-batch-1/). In the comments section David Perkins, who I think is the owner of High West, hints that Four Roses (which I guess could possibly be the old Lawrenceburg, IN Seagram's plant) is the source of bourbon used in the Bourye.

So I haven't had a micro-distilled (or rectified) bourbon from a small producer, but I think the Bourye still shows why handing over a few more $$$ could be worth it. They get to experiment however they want. In this case mixing straight bourbons and straight rye to come up with a well reviewed, quality product. Maybe I'm a sucker, but I can't say I wouldn't try a bottle.

bourbonv
05-12-2010, 06:29
Chuck did "go postal" over the results when it was discovered that the winner was a whiskey purchased on the bulk market, but cooler heads prevailed. Since the whiskey was entered and accepted in good faith and met the requirements set, it was decided the standards of competition was flawed, not the results.

I agreed with Chuck's arguement and the final result.

Mike Veach

jburlowski
05-12-2010, 07:16
Of what I've tasted so far, I only like one micro-distillery product enough to try / buy it a second time. And that was a fully-aged (5+ years), straight bourbon ---- Woodstone Creek. Because it uses a minimum (51%) corn mash bill, it has a different taste profile than the bourbons we are all used to. But at least it is the real deal.

p_elliott
05-12-2010, 07:21
It would agree with Chuck, the rules were flawed from the get go. But the rules are rules lets hope they change them before next year.

Josh
05-12-2010, 07:42
The categories in the contest were odd too. They seem to be using "blended" in a different sense than the legal one.

Anyway, I've already put my two cents in, but I wanted to tell Ben that his post was great. It's great to hear a candid analysis of the micro-distilling movement from the inside. And you broke it down better than I've ever read. Well done.

kickert
05-12-2010, 08:23
The categories in the contest were odd too. They seem to be using "blended" in a different sense than the legal one.

Anyway, I've already put my two cents in, but I wanted to tell Ben that his post was great. It's great to hear a candid analysis of the micro-distilling movement from the inside. And you broke it down better than I've ever read. Well done.

ADI can be pretty idiosyncratic. I found it very odd they had a "moonshine" category and a "unaged whiskey" category. Of course neither are legal categories.

Josh, I appreciate it, but I actually expected you to say something about my "shitty fruit wines" comment. ;-)

p_elliott
05-12-2010, 09:04
Actually I thought Ben hit on something these craft whiskies are being sold more to the novice whiskey drinkers than to the experienced ones. It's more like a fad thing whats in or what's chic. They could care less how it taste they will all say it taste great to be in the in crowd.

DeanSheen
05-12-2010, 09:05
"Chuck Cowdery went postal,"

You don't say. I'm having a hard time imagining you getting upset about this matter.

Hawg73
05-12-2010, 09:38
I have purchased the Tuthilltown Bourbon and Rye, Stranahan's, The HW Rendezvous Rye. They are all a bit on the pricey side but I would buy them again.

OscarV
05-12-2010, 10:43
It's all about time in the barrel.

Wake me when these craftsmen bottle something that has been aged in oak for at least 6 years.

Josh
05-12-2010, 11:14
ADI can be pretty idiosyncratic. I found it very odd they had a "moonshine" category and a "unaged whiskey" category. Of course neither are legal categories.

Josh, I appreciate it, but I actually expected you to say something about my "shitty fruit wines" comment. ;-)

Well I was going to go easy on you, but since you asked for it...

There are great fruit wines out there! People who don't like them are stuck up snobs afraid of their own American wine heritage or haven't ever had good fruit wines! Who decided grapes were the be all and end all?! You should try the following fruit wines, they're better than any dumb wine from the Cote d'Or!!!! b;laslfja;wieufoajsgf0ajwoiu!!!!:smiley_acbt: :smiley_acbt: :smiley_acbt: :hot: :hot: :hot: :soapbox::soapbox::soapbox::duel::bandit::pope::fi sh2:

How's that?

callmeox
05-12-2010, 11:24
Wake me when these craftsmen bottle something that has been aged in oak for at least 6 years.

I believe that Woodstone Creek has two different 6yo bourbon bottlings on the market and each is distinct and enjoyable.

They just don't taste like 91 bucks to me.

OscarV
05-12-2010, 11:25
You should try the following fruit wines,

So are you going to name them?

kickert
05-12-2010, 11:28
Rather than saying that micros appeal to novices, I would say that micros will appeal more to people who are open to more variety in their drinks. By that, I mean people like Josh (who can appreciate good fruit wines and corn whiskey). Micros appeal to the gin drinkers who are willing to enjoy something other than just juniper flavoring their spirit, and to whiskey drinkers who are willing to try spirits made with something other than just the two main bourbon mashbills (Wheat and Rye). People who get into Woodford's Master Distiller's collection and BT Experimental collection are the people most likely to appreciate the work of micros.

If you are looking for a micro to produce something that tastes like it came from one of the big guys, why even bother... you will always be able to get it cheaper from them.

I don't mind the criticisms, especially when they are valid. But... sometimes discussions like these remind me of bourbon drinkers criticizing scotch. Just because it is not your cup of tea, doesn't mean its wrong.

Going back to the comparison to micro breweries... not everyone likes an IPA (and I would argue most "regular" beer drinkers don't like them at all), but that doesn't make the product inferior.

Josh
05-12-2010, 11:55
So are you going to name them?

Well, since you asked...

Butler Winery (http://www.butlerwinery.com/)in Indiana (no relation to the University) makes excellent blackberry and black currant wines. They have a tasting room in Chesterton and the winery itself is located in Bloomington.

Tabor Hill (http://www.taborhill.com/)and St. Julien (http://www.stjulian.com/)in SW Michigan both make very good cherry wines.

Sandhill Crane (http://www.sandhillcranevineyards.com/), in your neck of the woods, makes very good dessert-style blueberry, strawberry and especially raspberry wines.

My favorite winery overall for fruit wines is Peterson & Sons (http://www.naturalwines.net/), near Kalamazoo. It's just one old dude and his wine, and he does it w/o sulphites. Allow at least an hour and a half to visit the tasting room. He takes his tasting seriously and he loves to talk wine and/or politics. One of his sons owns the Contessa Winery (http://www.contessawinecellars.com/)in Coloma. The Cranberry wine is really great, but every fruit wine he makes is good. He makes some mean Lambrusca wines too. The Niagra and Delaware wines stick out in my memory.

Apple Cider and Perrys could be considered fruit wines too. We visited this great cidery in NY called Bellwether (http://www.cidery.com/) last summer. Excellent cider all the way around.

That's all I can think of for now.:cool: Not sure if any of them are actually better than something from Cote d'Or.

OscarV
05-12-2010, 12:13
I don't mind the criticisms, especially when they are valid. But... sometimes discussions like these remind me of bourbon drinkers criticizing scotch. Just because it is not your cup of tea, doesn't mean its wrong.

Going back to the comparison to micro breweries... not everyone likes an IPA (and I would argue most "regular" beer drinkers don't like them at all), but that doesn't make the product inferior.

Back in the day,.... yeah I used that old tired cliche, there were a lot, and still are today, a lot of phony "micro brews" that were offered at "brew pubs" made with quick fix kits to sell mediocre food by shysters.
If you spoke out about these starchy beers you were thought as "not being with it" whatever "with it" was.
This "micro distilling" is looking like the same old movie.
In a decade when all the experimenting is over maybe someone will come up with something good.

BTW, IPA beer is not new to the "micro brewers" of the present scene.
It was invented in England in the 1700's to ship to the troops in India, they loaded it up with hops to last long because of travel, who were oppressing the masses there.

Back to whiskey, to me it's gotta be aged, if it ain't then it's a variation on vodka, not that there is anything wrong with that but vodka is vodka and whiskey is whiskey and they shouldn't be calling it by another name.

barturtle
05-12-2010, 12:19
Back to whiskey, to me it's gotta be aged, if it ain't then it's a variation on vodka, not that there is anything wrong with that but vodka is vodka and whiskey is whiskey and they shouldn't be calling it by another name.

I'm gonna disagree with you, whiskey is distilled to a much lower proof than is the GNS that make up vodka, leaving a distinct flavor of grains representative of it's mashbill. I happen to like unaged and lightly aged whiskey, some quite a lot.

nblair
05-12-2010, 12:39
People who get into Woodford's Master Distiller's collection and BT Experimental collection are the people most likely to appreciate the work of micros.

That is a great point Ben, I think that pretty much sums it up for me.

I really want to try Old Potrero, not because I hear it's the greatest thing ever (which I have never heard), but because it is a unique whiskey you can't get from the major distillers. If I was to buy a micro-distilled product it would be to try something new and different, not find a new daily pour.

kickert
05-12-2010, 12:43
BTW, IPA beer is not new to the "micro brewers" of the present scene.
It was invented in England in the 1700's to ship to the troops in India, they loaded it up with hops to last long because of travel, who were oppressing the masses there.


Of course micro breweries didn't create the IPA, but if you want one here in the US you are probably going to get it from a micro brewery and not one of the main stream guys.

nblair
05-12-2010, 12:46
Back to whiskey, to me it's gotta be aged, if it ain't then it's a variation on vodka, not that there is anything wrong with that but vodka is vodka and whiskey is whiskey and they shouldn't be calling it by another name.


I'm gonna disagree with you, whiskey is distilled to a much lower proof than is the GNS that make up vodka, leaving a distinct flavor of grains representative of it's mashbill. I happen to like unaged and lightly aged whiskey, some quite a lot.

I agree with Timothy here. Oscar have you tried the Party Source Willett 3 Year? It's surprisingly good for a 3 year old bourbon. It just might change your mind.

OscarV
05-12-2010, 12:49
if you want one here in the US you are probably going to get it from a micro brewery and not one of the main stream guys.



Yep, that's true,
I agree 100%,
heck I've made a good living selling main stream beer for the last 32 years but I don't drink it,
but if you want a good whiskey you are going to get it from the main stream guys not a micro distillery.

SMOWK
05-12-2010, 12:56
Of course micro breweries didn't create the IPA, but if you want one here in the US you are probably going to get it from a micro brewery and not one of the main stream guys.

I'm somewhat biased due to the fact that the brewery is 30 mins from my house, but Dogfish Head is by far my favorite IPA producing Micro Brew. I think they may be outgrowing the Micro Brew label though, as I've seen their beer in plentiful quantities as far away as Oregon.

Their spirits, from what I've tasted, are horrible.

CorvallisCracker
05-12-2010, 13:31
I'm somewhat biased due to the fact that the brewery is 30 mins from my house, but Dogfish Head is by far my favorite IPA producing Micro Brew. I think they may be outgrowing the Micro Brew label though, as I've seen their beer in plentiful quantities as far away as Oregon.

Yep you can get it here. I like it (the 60 minute) but I don't buy it often, because it goes for $2.50 - 2.70 per 12oz bottle.

Deschutes Inversion is nearly as good, retails for $8-9 per sixpack, frequently on sale for $6.99 per sixpack or $11.99 for twelvepack.

Not sure what the official cutoff is for "microbrewerey". Deschutes produced 78,425 barrels in 2009.


Their spirits, from what I've tasted, are horrible.

Haven't sampled any but I've read that their rum is pretty bad.

SMOWK
05-12-2010, 13:40
Yep you can get it here. I like it (the 60 minute) but I don't buy it often, because it goes for $2.50 - 2.70 per 12oz bottle.

Wow, I'm getting it for next to nothing then. Cases of the 60 minute go for under $20 here. I usually prefer the 90 minute though, but it's more like $40-50/case. It is 18 proof though, so that sorta makes up for the extra cost.

Have you ever tried a 120 minute? I always have a few on hand, but even around here they go for $5-10/bottle. It weighs in around 40+ proof, so I wouldn't really consider it a beer, more like hop syrup. I usually split a bottle in a snifter with a friend around the poker table.



Haven't sampled any but I've read that their rum is pretty bad.

It is. It took me over a year to finish my first bottle, and not because I was saving it, but because it took that many rum & coke drinkers to pass through my bar.

The vodka, I literally could not give away.

jburlowski
05-12-2010, 13:46
....

Back to whiskey, to me it's gotta be aged, if it ain't then it's a variation on vodka, not that there is anything wrong with that but vodka is vodka and whiskey is whiskey and they shouldn't be calling it by another name.

And then there is that ugly, unfortunate Rain business.....
:hot: :blush: :smiley_acbt: :22:

SMOWK
05-12-2010, 13:48
And then there is that ugly, unfortunate Rain business.....
:hot: :blush: :smiley_acbt: :22:

I could pee in a bottle and label it vein drain. Think it would sell?

jburlowski
05-12-2010, 13:55
I agree with Timothy here. Oscar have you tried the Party Source Willett 3 Year? It's surprisingly good for a 3 year old bourbon. It just might change your mind.

I've tried it. And it is surprisingly good for a three year old. Then again, Hudson Baby Bourbon is surprisingly good for an underaged whiskey from tiny, toy barrels. And that monkey is surpringly good (for a simain) at playing the drums.

The point is to not lower the bar and than applaud when the micro- distiller makes it over. They should be judged by (and I think most would want it that way) by the same standards as the big guys.

cowdery
05-12-2010, 14:07
Another way to look at this is historical. "Common" (i.e., unaged) whiskey was dominant until pretty late in the 19th century and even then, most of the supposedly aged whiskey was a doctored product that contained non-whiskey ingredients. Fully-aged whiskey only became the standard at the very end of the 19th century after government regulation pushed the fakes out of the market.

Lightly aged (less than four years) whiskey was also quite common and popular.

Some of that common or young whiskey was better than others and consumers favored the products that, through the distiller's skill, had achieved the best taste. I don't consider it 'lowering the bar' to judge a two-year-old bourbon against other two-year-old bourbons. I consider it a legitimate style and I'm interested in finding the practitioners who deliver the best product of that type, just like I'm interested in finding the best 10-year-old or the best 20-year-old, which also are not all created equal.

CorvallisCracker
05-12-2010, 14:20
Wow, I'm getting it for next to nothing then. Cases of the 60 minute go for under $20 here. I usually prefer the 90 minute though, but it's more like $40-50/case. It is 18 proof though, so that sorta makes up for the extra cost.

The price I quoted is from a couple of different specialty beer stores here in Corvallis. There is a high-end grocery in Eugene ("Market of Choice") which also sells it, and it may be less there. I'll check the next time I'm down that way.



Have you ever tried a 120 minute? I always have a few on hand, but even around here they go for $5-10/bottle. It weighs in around 40+ proof, so I wouldn't really consider it a beer, more like hop syrup. I usually split a bottle in a snifter with a friend around the poker table.

No, just the 60 and 90. The 120 sounds scaaary.



The vodka, I literally could not give away.

Not even as a fuel additive?

I guess I'm way off topic for this thread (BASEMENT!!!).

On the subject of microdistillery whiskey, I've expressed my opinion on that elsewhere (House Spirits thread in Other American Whiskey forum). A quality whiskey needs to be aged at least four years, preferably longer.

wadewood
05-12-2010, 14:30
Wake me when these craftsmen bottle something that has been aged in oak for at least 6 years.

The Garrison Brothers Bourbon pre release bottle was over 6 months, blend of several barrels and probably averaged 15-16 months. In Nov, they will release a 2 year old straight bourbon.

OscarV
05-12-2010, 14:38
Don't get me wrong, there are some young whiskies that I like.
Mellow Corn BIB is good, Thomas H Handy Rye is a very good youngster as is George Dickel Old No 8.

callmeox
05-12-2010, 16:16
I happen to like unaged and lightly aged whiskey, some quite a lot.


Which of the unaged and lightly aged whiskeys have you purchased and liked and would you purchase them again?



I agree with Timothy here. Oscar have you tried the Party Source Willett 3 Year? It's surprisingly good for a 3 year old bourbon. It just might change your mind.


The Willet 3yo is an outstanding "transitional" example, an adolescent bourbon that retains the grainy flavors of youth but is starting to show the characteristics of barrel aging. At less than $30.00 for a 750ml of unfiltered barrel proof bourbon, it is a great value as well.

Where else can you get that combination of youth and proof or youth, proof and price?



If you are looking for a micro to produce something that tastes like it came from one of the big guys, why even bother... you will always be able to get it cheaper from them.

I don't mind the criticisms, especially when they are valid. But... sometimes discussions like these remind me of bourbon drinkers criticizing scotch. Just because it is not your cup of tea, doesn't mean its wrong.


While your point about the micro -vs- macro style and price is valid, I find it telling that the belle of the ball at the ADI was not a craft distilled product but one made from a standard bourbon mash combined with straight rye blending stock both from a macro distillery. With all of the styles represented, that was best of show. What exactly made that the choice as the best example of an American craft distilled whiskey?

The microbrew "revolution" has flourished and pushed the big boys into copying their styles because they have satisfied a (once) hidden demand for something of a different style or higher quality. American Pilsners just didn't cut it when compared to the new (actually old) styles of beer that the micros are kicking out.

Does the same demand for American whiskey exist? Is there pent up demand for specialty whiskeys, often young and made from non-standard mashbills?

We will find out.

barturtle
05-12-2010, 16:44
Which of the unaged and lightly aged whiskeys have you purchased and liked and would you purchase them again?




I've liked and purchased the following:

Old Potrero 17th and 18th, though I believe the proof is no longer barrel proof on both these, so I wouldn't likely purchase again.
Mellow Corn (I think 4yo is the cut off for young whiskey)
Georgia Moon 100.

There are several others I've liked, but not purchased, as they aren't on the local shelf or I haven't had the money to spend

Willett 3yo
BT White Dog
Young barrel samples of various undisclosed ryes and bourbons.

cowdery
05-12-2010, 16:47
It is very telling that the big winners at ADI were macro-distilled and aged products, although it's also interesting to note that Templeton Rye was entered and won nothing.

The way "Best of Show" was judged was that at the very end of the day they brought us each something like twelve samples. We knew they were all category winners but we didn't know what categories except by what we could intuit. They were just twelve unmarked glasses. We were asked to pick one "best" from among them which, inevitably, was whatever we liked the best.

I came away from that day feeling that all I did all day was drink white dog and it was pretty taxing. I wonder, though, if it had been a plate full of aged spirits with one excellently made white dog if it wouldn't have been the white dog that cut through.

Enabler
05-12-2010, 17:28
The microbrew "revolution" has flourished and pushed the big boys into copying their styles because they have satisfied a (once) hidden demand for something of a different style or higher quality. American Pilsners just didn't cut it when compared to the new (actually old) styles of beer that the micros are kicking out.

Does the same demand for American whiskey exist? Is there pent up demand for specialty whiskeys, often young and made from non-standard mashbills?

We will find out.

I think the analogy between craft distillers and craft brewers is apt, but some is missed.

Craft brewers experimented and produced different beers based somewhat on old styles. I would bet that IPA's here in this country would not be that similar to IPA's in Europe. A friend of mine, beer afficianado, took a beer tour of Europe not that long ago. His take was the in general U.S. beers (craft/micro although Sierra Nevada has exceeded that standard and is great) were much better than European beers. The reason, Euro's are hidebound by tradition. Traditional methods and recipes both by law and custom. American's were much more open to exploration.

I think that the same will be true of micro distillers. They will experiment, perhaps come up with something better than Bourbon (ANATHEMA! Pariah! Cast him from the Pale. I know, I know). But it could happen. And many will be overpriced for not great stuff and fade away. Pioneer Spirits here in Chico just died the death this year.

So, my enthusiasm is more for the long haul. I expect that in 10 years, which I hope to live to unless bad hooch gets me, there will be some mighty fine craft whiskeys that will make my mouth water. In the short term, I am not so sanguine.

flsean
05-12-2010, 17:45
I also think that one major difference between the two that will affect the success of micro distillers is price. Micro brewers succeeded in part because their price point isn't usually exceedingly high, and the difference in price between them and the mass produced stuff doesn't seem that large. It came down to, "well, this nice micro brew sounds good, and the six pack is only a couple bucks more than the swill I normally drink, so I'll try it." If people didn't like it, they were only out a few bucks.

With the micro distillers, the price point is still too high to have as drastic and as quick of an impact. If people don't like the micro stuff, they are usually out a significantly larger amount of money. That and the average consumers, based on the people I deal with at work on a daily basis, really have no idea of the differences between good and bad American whiskey. There is a bit of a conception in Scotch drinkers, but 99% of the customers I deal with have no idea about anything other than brand names when it comes to bourbon and American/Canadian whiskies. Hell, I had a customer today tell me that Jack Daniels was the best bourbon in the world.

sku
05-12-2010, 19:08
And many will be overpriced for not great stuff and fade away. Pioneer Spirits here in Chico just died the death this year.

When did Pioneer die out? They were supposed to be making a whiskey.

sku
05-12-2010, 19:11
It is very telling that the big winners at ADI were macro-distilled and aged products, although it's also interesting to note that Templeton Rye was entered and won nothing.

The way "Best of Show" was judged was that at the very end of the day they brought us each something like twelve samples. We knew they were all category winners but we didn't know what categories except by what we could intuit. They were just twelve unmarked glasses. We were asked to pick one "best" from among them which, inevitably, was whatever we liked the best.

I came away from that day feeling that all I did all day was drink white dog and it was pretty taxing. I wonder, though, if it had been a plate full of aged spirits with one excellently made white dog if it wouldn't have been the white dog that cut through.

Yeah, it seems unfair to everyone to have these aged, macrodistilled whiskeys competing against the micros.

Chuck, did you feel like you could discern real differences in all of the white dog styles? Did you think the winners were mostly obvious? Did you taste some real dreck?

Enabler
05-12-2010, 19:15
When did Pioneer die out? They were supposed to be making a whiskey.

They died slowly over the past year. About two weeks ago was the end. Here is a post I put up: Pioneer Spirits (http://liquorlocusts.com/passages-2010-pioneer-spirits)

I hope it is kosher to do links like this, if not let me know.

And they were doing a whiskey, but just did not end of having the finances to ride out the aging period.

cowdery
05-12-2010, 19:18
Yeah, it seems unfair to everyone to have these aged, macrodistilled whiskeys competing against the micros.

Chuck, did you feel like you could discern real differences in all of the white dog styles? Did you think the winners were mostly obvious? Did you taste some real dreck?

The winners weren't always obvious and we did taste some real dreck, although much less than the last time I did it two years ago. I'm the only person who judged both competitions.

It wasn't all white dog, but it almost all tasted like white dog. There were real differences. It didn't all taste the same, it just all tasted like white dog.

What I found, and someone else pointed this out to me later, was that a spirit intended to be drunk unaged usually should be made differently than a spirit intended to go into wood. The Koval grain spirits are a good example of this. It's the difference between whiskey white dog and eau de vie. So is Perkins's High West Silver oat whiskey, which won in the unaged whiskey category. (In fact, and by law, they all had some minimal aging, five minutes in the case of High West.)

If there was any primary offense in this year's batch, that was probably it. Too many products tasted like white dog that was made to be aged but wasn't, or wasn't aged enough.

sku
05-12-2010, 19:30
Chuck, can you expand on that? How should the white spirit for drinking be made differently than one intended for oak?

I hadn't heard of the High West Silver Oat. Does this mean High West is marketing something they actually distilled?

bourbonv
05-13-2010, 06:27
I agree with what Chuck says and would add that the ADI needs to narrow their categories for judging. We judged all malt whiskey in the same category whether it was two weeks old or two years old. There was a category for "cask strength" where we were judging rye/bourbon/malt/flavored products in the same category because they were all released at "cask strength". It was insane and really unfair in many ways. It is not good to compare aplles to oranges to cherries.

Mike Veach

Thesh
05-13-2010, 11:51
I agree with what Chuck says and would add that the ADI needs to narrow their categories for judging. We judged all malt whiskey in the same category whether it was two weeks old or two years old. There was a category for "cask strength" where we were judging rye/bourbon/malt/flavored products in the same category because they were all released at "cask strength". It was insane and really unfair in many ways. It is not good to compare aplles to oranges to cherries.

Mike Veach

Honestly, I think making those categories could hurt things. There are no distinct styles of unaged whiskies, and that's actually a good thing. It gives the distiller the ability to be creative, without trying to stick to a certain category. Now, if certain categories start to emerge, then that's fine, but there needs to be a general category to allow for creativity.

cowdery
05-13-2010, 15:43
I find it interesting that there is zero discussion about this subject on the ADI's bulletin board (http://adiforums.com/).

kickert
05-13-2010, 16:40
I find it interesting that there is zero discussion about this subject on the ADI's bulletin board (http://adiforums.com/).

Doesn't really surprise me... ADI's forums are more technical / practical. Most people on it are start ups who are looking for tips.

sku
05-13-2010, 16:59
Chuck or Mike, how did they define moonshine as distinguished from white whiskey for the competition?

cowdery
05-13-2010, 17:26
Moonshine was defined as anything being marketed by the producer as moonshine. I pitched a fit about that too.

matthew0715
05-14-2010, 18:18
Moonshine was defined as anything being marketed by the producer as moonshine. I pitched a fit about that too.

Shouldn't someone have called the feds :skep: and had these distillers arrested for selling moonshine, i.e. distilled spirit made in an unlicensed still?

If these distillers were properly licensed, paid all their taxes, etc. then what they were selling wasn't moonshine, dammit! :mad:

-Matt