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Craft spirits: Talking 'bout a revolution

Eric Grossman's book 'Craft Spirits' published by DK goes on sale today. In this extract, he explains how pioneers are shifting the global focus away from a handful of enormous companies

Eric Grossman

With an ever-growing commitment to quality and provenance, craft producers and small-batch distilleries have revitalized the industry, shifting the global focus away from a handful of enormous companies.

As with any global trend, it is difficult to pinpoint the origins of the rise of craft spirits. In America, there are at least ten times more micro-distilleries operating today than there were a decade ago, and – despite myriad barriers and regulations – other countries are following suit.

Upstart craft distilleries are changing the way people choose their spirits at shops and bars around the globe.

New producers come from a variety of backgrounds – from home enthusiasts with no formal training to industry veterans who broke away from established distilleries to forge their own path – and all share a desire to carve out their own corner of the booming market. Here are the international trends that are uniting the movement as it spreads across the world.

Heritage techniques to the fore
Some say the modern movement has evolved from the micro-brewing trend in 1970s England. Since then, more distilleries have been set up in London, as decades of regulations and licensing restrictions have been relaxed, and many focus on heritage recipes and traditional methods to produce historically faithful products. Global consumers have paid close attention to these methods, reigniting an appreciation for French brandy and Cognac producers, most of whom exhibit a true devotion to craft production using traditional, hands-on processes.

From farm to bottle
Some trace craft distilling back to the early 1980s, when Californian wineries began experimenting with spirits such as brandy and grappa. Breweries also began using their know-how to make spirits such as whisky, vodka, and gin. More recently, US farmers have joined the game, using grains and other crops grown on site to create quality spirits. This approach is mirrored in the UK, with producers growing their grain and base ingredients, and as craft spirits become popular around the world, farm-based producers in other countries are doing the same.

Size matters
From a family kitchen to a Second World War aircraft hangar, micro-distilleries are cropping up in unexpected places all over the world. Unique distillery locations have transformed how some view the spirits industry, inspiring and empowering adventurous people to try their hand at distilling. This shift is evident in South Africa – although craft spirits are relatively new there, microdistilling has grown rapidly, especially among amateur enthusiasts who want to produce fruit brandies at home. In Japan, small teams of producers have set up tiny distilleries, aiming to replicate the success and quality of traditional Scotch whisky.

Native ingredients
From vodka made with gourmet Swedish potatoes to mezcal made from mountain-harvested silver agave plants, native ingredients often serve as the centrepiece of award-winning products. Producers are competing with one another to see who can source the most exceptional ingredients – gathering cloudberries in the Arctic and baobab fruit from trees in Africa.

Remote locations
Many distilleries use their remote, unique locations as a selling point. Australia is currently enjoying an explosion in the craft spirits sector, and the wonders of the modern spirit and shipping industries make it possible for a consumer in Western Canada to enjoy a gin made with water from a river in Western Australia. It certainly is exciting, by any measure, to see how these spirits allow consumers to enjoy a taste of the unknown.


About Craft Spirits

Craft Spirits by Eric Grossman is published by DK on 2 May 2016, £14.99.

Featuring more than 250 top-tier craft spirits from across the world, Craft Spirits guides you through the producers to watch, the spirits to try, and the cocktail techniques to master. This unique book will help you discover the most respected distillers through illustrated profiles on renowned craft spirits, including information on how each spirit is produced, flavoured and aged, as well as the all-important tasting notes.

Craft Spirits is perfect for budding mixologists, showing you how to conjure up classic and contemporary cocktails at home. Each chapter is devoted to a specific spirit, including vodka, gin, whisky bourbon and rye, rum, brandy and cognac, agave spirits and more. The illustrated step-by-step guide to infusing spirits at home provides plenty of inspiration for flavouring your tipple, from horseradish vodka to rosemary gin and blackberry whisky. The classic and contemporary cocktail recipes featured in each chapter will have you shaking and stirring to perfection, and creating your own bespoke recipes is simple with the ‘signature mix’ guide included alongside each classic recipe.

With an introductory chapter on the history of distilling and a science behind the craft, as well as in-depth features on several of the world’s leading craft-distilleries, Craft Spirits is the definitive guide to an exciting new mixology movement.

About the Author:

Eric Grossman is a spirits, dining, and travel writer based in Boston and New Orleans, USA. He writes extensively about craft spirits and international cocktail trends, most notably for USA Today. He has visited numerous distilleries and judged cocktail competitions. Always eager to share his knowledge, Eric is a true ambassador for the craft spirits industry and is viewed as a “key influencer” by several liquor companies and branding agencies. 


2 May 2016