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bonneamie
10-24-2011, 20:25
Saveur magazine offers some great recipes, and, one of the authors contributing to the magazine drinks American whiskey (or Maker's Mark, anyway):
http://www.saveur.com/article/wine-and-drink/American-Whiskey

I'm not sure that the link allows you to read the whole article. The bias is toward small, local distilleries, to the extent that Four Roses is referred to as a large distillery. But one of our own SB members is quoted at length.
Congrats!!

tmckenzie
10-25-2011, 03:28
looking for the ttb to show up any minute since she quoted me say in do not like they government too much. I cannot tell a lie.

Josh
10-25-2011, 09:42
Great article, and great to seem Tom quoted so much.

This is a more direct link: http://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen/Whiskey-Rebellion/

Gillman
10-25-2011, 11:46
Good article but I don't agree there wasn't much bourbon choice in upstate NY in the 90's. I recall there being lots, in Buffalo and Rochester certainly and surely it would have been the same at the big beverage outlets in the larger cities (Syracuse, Albany, etc.). In fact due to closing of numerous plants since then, the choice in many ways is less now with an exception of course for the new craft distillers.

Gary

Tom Troland
10-26-2011, 15:42
The Saveur article has its merits. But it is infused with a sappy nostalgia and a number of misconceptions that reveal its author's lack of knowledge about whiskey production. For example, the author thinks that using barley malt to convert starch to sugar is the "old-fashioned way". Not to be confused with "commercial enzymes", presumably used by the big boys today. But all the major American whiskey distillers, as far as I know, use barley malt. And the 100% corn Tuthilltown Baby Bourbon she likes so much was very likely produced with commercial enzymes. For that matter, the High West Double Rye the author praises is likely sourced from a big distiller, not the product of a Park City, Utah pot still.

The modern micro-distillery movement is admirable, and it has (and will) produce some memorable whiskeys. And some real turkeys. But the author seems to believe that smaller is better in the distilling business, so she has now given up on the "mass-market stuff". In her nostalgia for a lost and irrecoverable past, she fails to understand that the big distillers of today have figured out how to make outstanding whiskeys on a large scale. They have generations of experience to draw upon and adequate capital to see the production process through. So, for example, your glass of Buffalo Trace or Four Roses or Wild Turkey has been fully aged in barrels of optimum size and stored in warehouses where the conditions have been studied for decades or longer. Micro-distillers simply cannot match that expertise, nor, in my opinion, have they come close to matching the quality of the best bourbons and ryes from all of the major distillers. In today's market, the micro-distillers have produced some interesting products. But the "mass-market stuff", dismissed by the author of the Saveur article, is still the best American whiskey on the market, I believe.

Like many who contribute to this website, I've seen some of the major distillers in operation. They are real people, real craftsmen and craftswomen. They don't just rely on robotic machines to churn out their whiskey. They taste the stuff off the still, they make the necessary adjustments, and they carefully monitor the aging process, just like Tom McKenzie. The difference is that they have much more experience than he does.

All of this is not to demean Tom's work or that of other micro-distillers. Good for them! But good for the major distillers, too. Rebecca Barry may have moved on from the "mass market stuff". She has that right, of course. But I'll continue to enjoy the outstanding products of the major American distillers. All the while, I'll cast an eye on the interesting new products that the micro distillers may develop.

smokinjoe
10-26-2011, 18:01
^
Awesome post, Tom. I get what you're saying. I have high hopes for the Micros, and I really want them to do really great things. But, the big boys are already doing that, now.
:toast:

sailor22
10-26-2011, 18:02
Very good post Tom Troland - Thanks for a clear concise and cogent summary of the current state of micro distilling vs majors. Nailed it as far as I'm concerned.

Gillman
10-26-2011, 18:12
What they said. I think any focus on craft distilling is good, and maybe it just made for a better read to put it in the spotlight in the way the author did. But all here know how good a job the big producers have done and indeed it will be a challenge for the craft operators to carve a permanent niche; still, the best of them will IMO.

Gary

T Comp
10-26-2011, 18:23
...In today's market, the micro-distillers have produced some interesting products. But the "mass-market stuff", dismissed by the author of the Saveur article, is still the best American whiskey on the market, I believe.

...But I'll continue to enjoy the outstanding products of the major American distillers. All the while, I'll cast an eye on the interesting new products that the micro distillers may develop.

I think many of us are nodding our head in agreement. I know I am!

Tom Troland
10-26-2011, 18:48
Thanks to those who commented on my post. We all wish the micro distillers the very best, while we also applaud the major distillers for their great whiskeys. After all, those who work for the majors are every bit as much craftspeople as those who work in the micro distilleries. I continue to be amazed by the high quality of American straight whiskeys from major distillers, even those sold very inexpensively. Just think of the quality of, for example, Old Grand Dad, Four Roses Single Barrel, Buffalo Trace, Old Forester and Russell's Reserve. And all for about $30 or less. Too expensive even at that price? Try some of the Evan Williams regular offerings. Or Ancient Age 10 Year Old. Or Very Old Barton. In this day of $50 designer vodkas, we bourbon drinkers have it very good! Thanks to the major distillers who know how to produce excellent whiskey for very reasonable prices.

CaptainQ
10-26-2011, 19:53
Thanks to those who commented on my post. We all wish the micro distillers the very best, while we also applaud the major distillers for their great whiskeys. After all, those who work for the majors are every bit as much craftspeople as those who work in the micro distilleries. I continue to be amazed by the high quality of American straight whiskeys from major distillers, even those sold very inexpensively. Just think of the quality of, for example, Old Grand Dad, Four Roses Single Barrel, Buffalo Trace, Old Forester and Russell's Reserve. And all for about $30 or less. Too expensive even at that price? Try some of the Evan Williams regular offerings. Or Ancient Age 10 Year Old. Or Very Old Barton. In this day of $50 designer vodkas, we bourbon drinkers have it very good! Thanks to the major distillers who know how to produce excellent whiskey for very reasonable prices.

Bravo Tom! I agree 100%.

cowdery
10-29-2011, 14:37
I tend to use the term 'micro-distilling' rather than 'craft distilling' because although 'craft' can be tough to define, I consider most micro-distillers to be either less or no more 'craft' than the majors, especially when you look at people who don't do their own fermentation, don't mill their own grain, or use non-endogenous enzymes. Skipping the aging process altogether frees them from that aspect of 'craft' as well. So where's the craft?

I can just hear someone at Tuthilltown describing the use of malt as the 'old fashioned way.'

And a person who just runs beer through a still is a still operator, not a distiller.

Tom Troland
10-31-2011, 06:52
As I reflect further on the Saveur Magazine whiskey article, several thoughts come to mind. For one, I sense an ideology in the magazine that products from small, local producers are always superior to those from larger, more distant producers. In heirloom tomatoes, this rule may apply. In whiskey, it does not. The real difference, I suspect, between the micro-distillers and the major distillers is in aging. The micros, with their shiny high tech stills (not exactly “traditional” stills in most cases) can produce good distillates. Especially after some experience. Indeed, I have tasted some very good unaged whiskeys from the micros. But the real art to whiskey making lies in the aging process. Major distillers have enormous experience with aging. They use the right type of barrels, they know the ins and outs of each of their aging warehouses, and they have the patience (and the capital) to age their products fully. In contrast, micro distillers often use small barrels and/or wood chips to hurry up the aging process. And they know comparatively little about conditions in their aging facilities. So their aged whiskeys may lack balance and be sharp on the palate.

Nonetheless, micro distillers add a fascinating new element to the American whiskey scene. With time, some will go on to produce innovative and outstanding whiskeys. Others will fall by the wayside or subsist on a small local clientele. And articles like the one in Saveur, despite the nostalgia and misinformation, help to build and sustain interest in whiskey. What’s not to like about that?

White Dog
10-31-2011, 18:56
As I reflect further on the Saveur Magazine whiskey article, several thoughts come to mind. For one, I sense an ideology in the magazine that products from small, local producers are always superior to those from larger, more distant producers. In heirloom tomatoes, this rule may apply. In whiskey, it does not. The real difference, I suspect, between the micro-distillers and the major distillers is in aging. The micros, with their shiny high tech stills (not exactly “traditional” stills in most cases) can produce good distillates. Especially after some experience. Indeed, I have tasted some very good unaged whiskeys from the micros. But the real art to whiskey making lies in the aging process. Major distillers have enormous experience with aging. They use the right type of barrels, they know the ins and outs of each of their aging warehouses, and they have the patience (and the capital) to age their products fully. In contrast, micro distillers often use small barrels and/or wood chips to hurry up the aging process. And they know comparatively little about conditions in their aging facilities. So their aged whiskeys may lack balance and be sharp on the palate.

Nonetheless, micro distillers add a fascinating new element to the American whiskey scene. With time, some will go on to produce innovative and outstanding whiskeys. Others will fall by the wayside or subsist on a small local clientele. And articles like the one in Saveur, despite the nostalgia and misinformation, help to build and sustain interest in whiskey. What’s not to like about that?

Is it "art" and "experience," or simply capital. Yes, most Whiskey I drink comes from the majors, but if the micros had the financial means to have mutiple rackhouses with multiple floors and multiple ages on their whiskey, then I'm sure the playing field would be a bit more leveled. I'm not trying to knock the majors, but having all those resources is a major component.

Gillman
11-01-2011, 10:09
I was reading one of Michael Jackson's books, New World Guide To Beer, published in the late 1980's. In that book, Jackson theorizes that microbreweries got a kick-start as a result of a prevailing ethos that small is good, which he linked to a well-known book (1973) by E.F. Schumacher, "Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered". Some background on this influential writer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Is_Beautiful

I think the interest in craft distilling is inspired by the same idea. Same thing with small bakeries, artisan sausages, storefront this and that. This is a long-term movement which still has legs. Of course, there is a romance about it not always justified. But when you think on it, didn't Maker's Mark basically do the same thing in the 1950's? They took care to ensure good processes including full aging, but they were in the forefront of this back at the height of corporate (big business) prestige and influence. Jack Daniels sort of did it too, in the early days. What is old is new again, with a twist to be sure (but there always is).

Gary

Gillman
11-01-2011, 10:29
By the way, I would be the last to deny the advantages of production scale, efficient manufacturing and distribution technologies, and the systematic study and research which only larger, long-term organisations are capable of. If none of these existed, there would be no bourbon at my corner LCBO, I'm sure.

It is fair to say I think that in America and I would argue numerous other places, the development of large-scale brewing resulted in a lack of distinctiveness of palate. It was small breweries and sometimes surviving small ones from a previous era who rescued good beer taste in America and elsewhere.

Distilling, due to the factors Tom has pointed out, may prove a different case. We will see. So far I'd conclude that generally speaking, the smaller of the surviving Kentucky distilleries produce the best bourbon. But that is really neither here nor there since none of them are small concerns.

Gray

cowdery
11-01-2011, 14:47
People make a lot of assumptions like that which don't necessarily hold up, about what is 'better,' with 'better' often having a moral as well as practical connotation. Small is better than big, low tech is better than high tech, non-profit is better than for-profit, family-owned is better than corporate-owned, a workshop is better than a factory, traditional is better than scientific, bicycles are better than cars.

And Keebler cookies are made by elves in a hollow tree.

sku
11-01-2011, 15:12
And Keebler cookies are made by elves in a hollow tree.

Well, if that is not true, what type of tree do they make them in?

Josh
11-01-2011, 16:10
Well, if that is not true, what type of tree do they make them in?

They have an interesting "single tree project" going on.

Gillman
11-01-2011, 16:52
Josh, you took the words out of my mouth. :)

Gary

Gillman
11-01-2011, 16:55
But still there is something special about the small producer, and who doesn't like to see when they succeed big time as, say, Sierra Nevada Brewery did, or Apple, or Heaven Hill Distillery, etc.? There is something there which resonates with the average person, and rightly so.

Gary

White Dog
11-01-2011, 18:00
But still there is something special about the small producer, and who doesn't like to see when they succeed big time as, say, Sierra Nevada Brewery did, or Apple, or Heaven Hill Distillery, etc.? There is something there which resonates with the average person, and rightly so.

Gary

Amen to that.:toast:

cowdery
11-02-2011, 09:50
But still there is something special about the small producer, and who doesn't like to see when they succeed big time as, say, Sierra Nevada Brewery did, or Apple, or Heaven Hill Distillery, etc.? There is something there which resonates with the average person, and rightly so.

Gary

This is where Gary and I always part, because isn't our natural affection for the small producer often misguided? Doesn't it often lead to disillusionment and disappointment? That said, I admire Gary's attitude more than I do my own. It's why I love you, man.

Gillman
11-02-2011, 11:27
Chuck, the feeling is mutual. :) Maybe I look on the bright side, but I think too it was influenced by being - as an informed enthusiast/consumer - on the ground floor of the craft brewing revolution. I met many people early on similar to Ken Grossman (CEO of Sierra Nevada) or Fritz Maytag (former owner Anchor Brewing), some of whom have grown their companies exponentially like they, others who kept to a middle ground and are happy with their niche, and others who didn't make it but are part of the history of this movement.

And it was one started by guys in their garages, mostly, Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi did that with a hand-drawn business plan and a disregard for the conventional wisdoms of the big brewing business. The analogies to many of the successes in the semi-conductor field and software businesses are notable.

It's people saying, I think I can do it a different way and people will like it. It may or not happen in distilling, but I love to see them trying.

Gary