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View Full Version : There are now more whiskey distilleries in the US Than in Scotland



sku
03-21-2012, 19:22
I consider this a big deal. I keep a list of all of the whiskey distilleries in the US. When I started the list in 2009, there were a total of 36 active whiskey distilleries in the US along with nine that were getting started. The current count of whiskey distilleries on that list is a staggering 129. Now, some of those distilleries do not yet have anything on the market and many are very, very small, but it is still an amazing number, and it is still growing. I update the list more than once per month with new distilleries that I find out about from combing the news, the net at the good old TTB. The list can be found here: http://recenteats.blogspot.com/p/complete-list-of-american-whiskey.html

In contrast, Scotland has 97 active malt whisky distilleries, including new distilleries that are not yet marketing whiskey. In addition, there are seven grain distilleries, making a total of 104 whiskey distilleries in Scotland. So yes, there are more whiskey distilleries in the United States than in Scotland however you count.

Of course, there are a number of caveats that go along with that statement. The United States is obviously a much larger country than Scotland, and many of the American distilleries make only unaged "white whiskey" and other young whiskeys that could not even be legally called whiskey in Scotland. Still, given that 15 years ago there were only about a dozen whiskey distilleries in the United States, this is a remarkable growth rate which demonstrates the popularity of the American craft distillery movement.

Here are some fun facts about American distilleries:

There are whiskey distilleries in 36 of the 50 states.

Kentucky has the most distilleries with 14, followed by California with 12 and Oregon with 10.

Eleven states have five or more distilleries.

Now, I've been a frequent critic of craft distilleries and continue to be, but as I try to keep track of them for my list, I can't help but be impressed by the sheer breadth of the movement and the rate at which they are opening. That being said, lets see how many of them last half as long as the average Scotch distillery. That, not the number in existence today, will be the ultimate test.

http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2012/03/news-flash-there-are-now-more-whiskey.html

Stormeh
03-21-2012, 19:48
Wow, I would have never guessed this to be the case. I've always heard about the big 7 or 8 distilleries in the US but never thought there were so many micro distillers.

I agree Sku, most of the micro distilled stuff I've had has been fairly poor. Hopefully it's improving.

Do you all think more distilleries are good for Bourbon lovers or will they simply saturate the market with inferior products and bring a bad name to American whiskey?

sku
03-21-2012, 20:40
You ask a good question. In the end, I think it is going to be good for whiskey lovers. There is more product and more interest. In the end, there will be a peak in distilleries and a weeding process. The ones that make good quality product (or have effective marketing) will survive, many of the rest won't. My guess is we will continue to see growth for a few more years and then we will start to hear about craft distilleries shutting down. What will be really interesting will be in a few years when we start getting some craft whiskey with some real age on it. Then we will really know if they can compete with the big boys.

cowdery
03-21-2012, 22:26
There's less here than meets the eye. Sku knows this, of course, but some people reading this thread may not. Put up even an extremely modest volume benchmark, say 5,000 gallons a year -- and that will knock out virtually all of the U.S. micro-distilleries, but not one of the Scottish distilleries. I even venture to predict that the smallest Scottish single malt distillery produces many times more than the largest American micro-distillery. I might even predict that every U.S. micro-distillery combined doesn't produce as much as the smallest Scottish single malt distillery. So it really is an apples and oranges comparison.

While I'm sure there are at least a few Scottish distilleries that have financial problems, there probably aren't a dozen American micro-distilleries that can be called going concerns. The vast majority would still be considered start-ups, just barely off the ground.

I also assume you're considering an American micro-distillery to be a 'whiskey distillery' if they've ever made a batch of whiskey, even if only a few gallons.

So, at best, it's stretching a point and, at worst, it's terribly misleading. The American micro-distillery movement has a very long way to go to prove its viability.

sku
03-22-2012, 07:32
Awww Chuck, you're such a buzzkill. All true of course. The smallest distillery in Scotland, I believe, is Edradour. Per the Malt Whisky Yearbook, their capacity is 90,000 liters. Lots of the American distilleries, as you note, have a really tiny capacity, and I think even the larger micros, like Tuthilltown, have a much, much smaller capacity.

It's still an impressive number of craft distilleries, however small, compared to a few years ago.

macdeffe
03-22-2012, 09:21
MWY lists capacities and is quite accurate but not 100%
Edradour isn't necesarily the smallest Scottish distillery anymore.
New contenders are the likes of Kilchoman, Abhainn Dearg and Daftmill. I reckon Daftmill produced around 20000 liters (LPA) last year

Steffen

macdeffe
03-22-2012, 09:36
Great list Sku, I need to calibrate my map with it again :-)

Steffen

Josh
03-22-2012, 09:47
The capacity stuff is interesting, and a good counterpoint to the raw numbers.

I'm currently researching distilling in Scotland in the 18th century and came across this fact. By the mid 1700s, the Forbes family (owners of the original Ferintosh distillery) owned three distilleries in Scotland. Their output at that time was estimated to be 90,000 gallons/341,000 liters a year. They claimed profits of about 18,000/yr.

The profit number is a little deceptive since the family was granted the priviledge of distilling tax-free in the late 17th century after the first Ferintosh distillery was burnt down in a Jacobite riot, but however ones slices it, 18,000was an enormous amount of money in 18th century Scotland, millions of pounds in todays money.

I guess my point is that most of these new distilleries, even the larger ones, are not even at the same point some Scottish distilleries were 350 years ago, in output or profitability.

They do have one thing in common, I guess. In the 1700s, whisky/aqua vitae/whatever you call it was always sold unaged. The "white whiskey" sold by many micros today probably tastes pretty similar to how the 18th century stuff tasted.

cbus
03-22-2012, 09:59
Great list! This may be splitting hairs, but you can add one more to the Ohio list. Watershed Distillery in Columbus has bourbon aging.

sku
03-22-2012, 10:03
I also assume you're considering an American micro-distillery to be a 'whiskey distillery' if they've ever made a batch of whiskey, even if only a few gallons.

That's about right. The list includes any distillery that has produced whiskey for sale or is in the process of doing so (there are about ten on the list that fall into the "in the process" category). Some of these are exceedingly small, producing whiskey only for sale at the distillery or only a short run.

MacDeffe, the Yearbook actually shows Kilchoman as having a greater capacity than Edradour, but I didn't check the other two.

cowdery
03-22-2012, 13:19
Capacity and production are not the same thing.

macdeffe
03-22-2012, 21:09
I never said that. It can be a lot less. I was trying to point out that I doubt the claim that all american microdistilleries combined produces less than the production of the smallest Scottish distillery is wrong. Which could be Daftmill. Daftmill produces less than 20000 LPA !
20000 LPA is around 60 barrels.!

As the micro distilleries will shift production from whiter spirits to matured spirits the american production will go up. This will slowly happen as financial foundations gets more solid. I reckon a distillery like Las Vegas, could by itself lay down more casks than Daftmill annually soon, if not allready...

Steffen

Bourbon Boiler
03-22-2012, 21:22
...
I agree Sku, most of the micro distilled stuff I've had has been fairly poor. Hopefully it's improving.

Do you all think more distilleries are good for Bourbon lovers or will they simply saturate the market with inferior products and bring a bad name to American whiskey?

The product should improve just because there is product that continues to age. I imagine many distilleries would sell a 5 year old product in their 5th year, a 5 and a 6 year in year six, and so on. They need the cash flow, so they get into the barrels a bit early, but eventually the ones that get established *should* be producing something good, or at least interesting. I don't think there are enough distlleries with broad enough georgraphic ranges for any given market to really get saturated with poor products.

tmckenzie
03-23-2012, 03:09
some of the mircro stuff I am afraid will get worse with age. Become over wooded becuase of the way it is distilled. Too clean. Nothing for the wood to work with but booze.

cowdery
03-23-2012, 11:28
I think a lot of people are making what seem like natural extrapolations but we really don't know where this movement is going. Very few of the hundreds of micro-distilleries, probably fewer than a dozen, have an ongoing whiskey program where there are making whiskey on a regular schedule and putting it away for a full maturation period.

Comparisons to Scotland also need to consider that the primary business of every single malt distillery is supplying whiskey for blends. That's the primary business of every distillery in Scotland and yet it doesn't exist in the USA, a big difference.

silverfish
03-23-2012, 20:57
Comparisons to Scotland also need to consider that the primary business of every single malt distillery is supplying whiskey for blends.

Really?! Just curious - do you have a guess (or a source) as
to the % of whisky that is produced for blends and the whisky
that goes to SMS?

macdeffe
03-23-2012, 23:54
Silverfish, Cowdery is wrong again. It seems like a bit of exagaration is needed to get points through in this thread...

I would have used the term "almost every" instead of "every"

I know of a distillery that has not yet delivered a single drop to blends

I doubt distilleries like Glengyle, Abhainn Dearg, Glenglassaugh and Kilchoman does as well

I would also be surprised if the majority of whisky produced at Oban, Ardbeg, Springbank etc. isn't going out as single malt

Steffen

ThomasH
03-24-2012, 05:32
Ohio law changed the other day and now allows distilling in all 88 counties instead of just the 3 biggest. The local newspaper had a front page article about 2 guys who are going to start distilling rum this fall in Minerva, Ohio (15 miles from me). The article also states the ODLC has 10 more applications for distilling permits pending and expects to get more. This particular company intends to distill 10,000 gallonsper year at the start. Will have to go check it out and see if I can't get them to make some whiskey too!

Thomas

cowdery
03-24-2012, 13:11
Glenmorangie sells more of its output as a single than any other distillery in Scotland and it sells less that 50% of its output as a single. (Though it's close.) The business of the scotch whiskey industry is blends. They are approximately 93% of the volume of scotch whiskey produced.

Even if there were a couple of very small distilleries that only sell their whiskey as singles (which I doubt), that doesn't change the fact that producing whiskey for blends is most of what distilleries in Scotland do. Does anyone care to dispute that?

The point remains that comparing the Scottish distilled spirits manufacturing business to the American distilled spirits manufacturing business is an apples and oranges comparison.

bad_scientist
03-24-2012, 13:29
Glenmorangie sells more of its output as a single than any other distillery in Scotland and it sells less that 50% of its output as a single. (Though it's close.)


Do you know what blends have Glenmorangie in them? They're such a tightly controlled brand. I've never seen any independent bottlings personally, unlike most every other label. Serge on whiskyfun.com only lists a few indie bottlings and they're all through the SMSW Society. Come to think of it, Ardbeg, owned by the same guys who own Glenmorangie, most often pops up in independent bottlings via the SMSW Society.

White Dog
03-24-2012, 13:44
Silverfish, Cowdery is wrong again. It seems like a bit of exagaration is needed to get points through in this thread...

I would have used the term "almost every" instead of "every"

I know of a distillery that has not yet delivered a single drop to blends

I doubt distilleries like Glengyle, Abhainn Dearg, Glenglassaugh and Kilchoman does as well

I would also be surprised if the majority of whisky produced at Oban, Ardbeg, Springbank etc. isn't going out as single malt

Steffen

You're right about Springbank and Kilchoman.

(and yes, I am aware that most scotch whiskey goes into blends, but that doesn't change the fact that the majority of Springbank goes into their single malt labels.)

cowdery
03-24-2012, 14:26
You're right about Springbank and Kilchoman.

(and yes, I am aware that most scotch whiskey goes into blends, but that doesn't change the fact that the majority of Springbank goes into their single malt labels.)

I'm happy to stand corrected if someone can supply something like evidence and not just assertions. There are many gaps in my scotch knowledge.

There's a matter of logic here, too. If a distillery's whiskey is popular as a single, it's reasonable that blenders will want to include it in blends, and why wouldn't the distilleries be happy for that business?

Since even if I am wrong on this point it doesn't change the point I was attempting to make about the fundamental difference between the two industries, why does Steffen feel he has to insult me to correct me?

And I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that none of those malt distilleries are making vodka, gin, liqueurs, absinthe or any of the other distilled spirits that are the mainstays of American micro-distilleries.

sku
03-25-2012, 08:04
And I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that none of those malt distilleries are making vodka, gin, liqueurs, absinthe or any of the other distilled spirits that are the mainstays of American micro-distilleries.

Mostly, but not quite that definitive. Bruichladdich, for instance, just released a gin; there may be a few others as well. But unlike the crafts, that's just a side project...their business is whiskey.

That being said, I don't disagree with any of the general points you are making. The Scottish industry is still mostly about blends, though single malts are a growing category, and the average small Scottish distillery is far larger than any American craft distillery.

So I don't think anyone (including me) is arguing that the industries are comparable, I just thought the numbers were interesting given how few distilleries there were in the US just a few years ago. And based on this growth, it's possible that the US could develop a comparably diverse whiskey industry with many large distilleries.

White Dog
03-25-2012, 08:38
I'm happy to stand corrected if someone can supply something like evidence and not just assertions. There are many gaps in my scotch knowledge.

There's a matter of logic here, too. If a distillery's whiskey is popular as a single, it's reasonable that blenders will want to include it in blends, and why wouldn't the distilleries be happy for that business?

Since even if I am wrong on this point it doesn't change the point I was attempting to make about the fundamental difference between the two industries, why does Steffen feel he has to insult me to correct me?

And I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that none of those malt distilleries are making vodka, gin, liqueurs, absinthe or any of the other distilled spirits that are the mainstays of American micro-distilleries.

If a distillery like Springbank is selling most of it's Whisky as a Single Malt under their many labels such as Longrow, Hazelburn, and Springbank at fairly high prices, what would their motivation be to sell off juice to a Diageo for a blend? And while Springbank does make their own Mitchell's Blended Whisky, it's a small part of their production. Just saying.

As for steffen's motivation, don't ask me.

macdeffe
03-25-2012, 09:25
Sorry if my post can be seen as insulting, it wasn't meant so, and I can't see why, maybe its a language barrier, I was translating a danish saying, but these things might be too hard to translate

I think that its very important to be 100% factual and not throw in wrong facts to get your arguments through

I don't get the statement about Glenmorangie either.


Glenmorangie sells more of its output as a single than any other distillery in Scotland

Distilleries like Glenlivet, Macallan and Glenfiddich are selling more malt whisky and so is (at least up to 2010) Glen Grant

Statitics for these can be hard to find but I can recommend Malt Whisky Yearbook, it has got a bit of statitics

Also, as Sku has pointed out, new scottish distilliries do try to survive by selling readier spirits, like this from Kilchoman

http://eshop.kilchomandistillery.com/products/95-kilchoman-new-spirit-bramble-liqueur.aspx

Steffen

Josh
03-25-2012, 10:21
In spite of all these exceptions around the edges, I think Chuck's point still stands. The Scotch whisky market is still very different from the American whisky market. No matter who sells what amount of malt to whom, the Scottish blend market is huge and is the biggest market for Single Malts as a whole is blends. I would be shocked if, aside from LDI, any major American distiller puts much thought into blends. That's one of the biggest differences between the two markets and makes any direct comparison between the two shaky.

Fpst
03-25-2012, 11:18
Sorry, timeout. I just want to interrupt to say good job on the list Sku. There's another distillery, called Dancing Pines, here in Colorado that makes whiskey. Thought you'd want to know.

Ok, gentlemen. Game on. This is a very interesting thread. It'll be nice stumbling upon it a few years down the road when some of these micro start ups either "make-it or break-it."

Fpst
03-25-2012, 11:21
Oh crap, I forgot. Another one here in Colorado called Distillery 291. So far its all un-aged, but I believe they've got some in barrels as we speak.

unclebunk
03-25-2012, 11:43
This has proven to be a very interesting thread to read. Thanks for the list, Sku.

cowdery
03-25-2012, 14:01
Steffen and others have convinced me that I am wrong about a couple of my broad statements and I've also probably rained too hard on Sku's parade. The change in the U.S. spirits-making industry in the last five years is epic, even if it's not very significant in terms of volume. Statistical comparisons are a good way to get a handle on something conceptual and the fact that the U.S. now has more distilleries that Scotland is significant, even if the Scottish whisky industry outproduces the American by about five to one. (Is that right?)

Jonny.Applebury
03-26-2012, 11:25
Do you know what blends have Glenmorangie in them? They're such a tightly controlled brand. I've never seen any independent bottlings personally, unlike most every other label. Serge on whiskyfun.com only lists a few indie bottlings and they're all through the SMSW Society. Come to think of it, Ardbeg, owned by the same guys who own Glenmorangie, most often pops up in independent bottlings via the SMSW Society.

The case with many Glenmorangie and Ardbeg casks being released through the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is likely because the SMWS is owned by Glenmorangie (or its parent company).

Another interesting thing I learned this past weekend is that Bruichladdich sold some Port Charlotte casks to the SMWS in its first year of production of Port Charlotte, but no longer sells their Port Charlotte casks to the SMWS or anyone else. I asked Simon Coughlin, Operations Director at Bruichladdich, this very question this past weekend in Chicago. I was unclear on whether they keep every drop of Bruichladdich malt to themselves, as well.

timd
03-26-2012, 14:40
Regardless of any caveats on the analysis - gross numbers are impressive.

I get the LPA values - and blends vs. straight, etc. - but the net results is an impressive gain in VARIETY & CHOICE of whiskey here in the US - which is only good for us consumers (assuming that more than a handful of these craft/micro distillers can put out tolerable stuff :lol:).

Undeniably it means that things are changing here in the US, and clearly we are at the dawn of a new age for Whiskey for the long-term (even if 3/4s of these guys go belly-up we'll still have triple the number of producers on the books).

Thanks for the insight and tracking the growth!

macdeffe
03-26-2012, 15:25
A blend containing Glenmorangie would most likely be BNJ (Bailie Nicol Jarvie) which is produced by the Glenmorangie company

I've heard unofficial rumours of a bastard malts being Glenmorangie, but I am never sure if these rumours can be trusted so not going to forward them.

Westport is supposed to be Glenmorangie teaspooned with Glen Moray, but its hard to find

Steffen

cowdery
03-27-2012, 12:17
Just-drinks.com reports today that Scotch Whisky exports hit a record GBP4.2bn (US$6.7bn) in shipment value last year, up 23% on 2010.

American spirits exports (mostly bourbon) are worth about $1.3 billion a year. Of course, the U.S. domestic market is many times larger than the Scottish domestic market.

They try their best, but they're a very small country.

MacinJosh
03-27-2012, 21:39
Outstanding list Sku! Thanks for sharing.