Craft breweries have been in the news for years as one of the biggest trends in food and drink. While these breweries are still seeing success, another industry is on the rise, one that may outgrow craft beers altogether. Local distilleries are opening throughout the country as alcohol fans are beginning to shop local for their liquor too.
What separates these local distilleries from larger production distilleries? By definition these craft distilleries are producing smaller quantities of liquor, but the real difference is in the taste. Craft distilleries pride themselves on producing the best quality, best tasting spirits. These distilleries have the opportunity to be creative with their products and make their own choices about the taste. “We chose to make rum because there aren’t preconceived notions about what it should taste like,” said Derek Ungerecht, Founder and President of Dead Reckoning Distillery in Norfolk, VA, “it gives us a lot of room to experiment with flavors and spices.” Local distilleries often get their popularity from these unique flavors, giving buyers a taste experience they can’t buy at a regular ABC store.
The growth of this industry can be explained by a few factors, perhaps the main reason being the change in many state laws encouraging the growth of small distilleries. States like South Carolina and Texas have changed local laws to allow for larger portions of spirits to be sold. These changes have lead to expansions at various sites to include tasting rooms, restaurants, and gift shops. Local distilleries, like many craft breweries, are now becoming tourist destinations.
Industry experts also point to the larger craft movement as an explanation for the rise of local distilleries. Bill Owens, president of the California-based American Distilling Institute, describes the change as a “renaissance in food and drink.” The popular farm-table movement has spread to alcohol and is now putting spirits at the forefront. From this movement, audiences are demanding better quality, better ingredients, and ultimately a better taste experience. Millennials, in particular, have championed this movement, and it has become clear that they’re not just in it for the actual taste either. Customers want relationships; they want to be able to shake hands with the person who made the drink they just bought and chat with that person about how it was made. “Everyone is used to being so removed from the owners and producers” says Ungerecht, “people are surprised to find out it’s my rum when I’m out at a tasting event, they make a real connection with me and my product.”
What does this mean for fans of a good drink? It’s clear that the unique flavors, expanded services, and friendships you get from a local distillery provide the best drinking experience. So next time you’re craving a good cocktail, skip the ABC store and head to one of many local distilleries popping up around the US - you may just find your new favorite drink!