- Clear spirits like vodka, Grappa, White whiskey (often referred to as Moonshine or White Lightning) are the easiest to make since they require no aging. Most pioneers of Craft Distilling started with these products to generate quicker cash flow.
- Clear spirits with the addition of flavorings, like the juniper and lemon to gin or the medicinal and mint flavorings of “schnapps”, are only slightly more difficult to make.
- Brown spirits like whisky and rum get their character from prolonged barrel aging which adds color, flavor, and smoothness. This barrel-aging cannot be emulated by the addition of caramel as attempted by some producers. The production of this type of liquor is the most costly and time consuming but represents the pinnacle of the distiller’s art. Craft Distillers continue to affirm that ‘Whiskey is King’.
- “There is also an opportunity to create new liquor styles. For example, pot distillation of IPA’s yields liquor which has some hop aroma and flavor. The distillation of Belgian style beers will similarly give spirits which retain some of the beer flavor component.”
CQ – What types of spirits do you make?
Brandon Wright: “We make Bourbon, Aged Corn Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, a hopped gin called High Country Gin, and a few other projects through the year.”
Clark McCool: “We make Whiskey, Brandy, Gin, Rum and Liqueurs from our two distillery operations. We have 17 products currently. Our most popular being our Hogshead Whiskey (4 year old malted barley)”
Eric Howard: “We currently have gin out in the market and will release a grappa and our single malt whiskey in 2016. We have other whiskey aging.”
Yusuf Cherney: “Whiskey” (Probrewer would like to note both CutWater and Ballast Point offer a variety of spirits at the time of this contents publication.)
CQ – What spirits would you recommend for a new brewery adding spirits to their product line?
Brandon Wright: “Rum, white whiskey, vodka or gin… don’t put anything out until its ready.”
Clark McCool: “It has been our experience that whiskey is king and if you can afford to make the right choices and properly age your whiskey, in the long run you will happy you did. We have been in a position every year that we wished we had made more whiskey. It is the primary reason we have added a second still at our Edgefield Distillery to boost Whiskey production from 65 barrels/year to 200 barrels /year. But it does take a lot of capital and space. A long term vision is necessary in the spirits business if you want to succeed. We started our product line with a White Dog product and some varietal grape grappa’s, at least those were the first we released. Our program was founded on Whiskey and Brandies made from Oregon and Washington grown grains and fruits/grapes. Today, in 2016, we have the oldest Oregon made and aged Whiskey and Brandy’s on the market.”
Eric Howard: “Distill what you like. It’s very fulfilling knowing that we’re able to distill a product that we can handle from start to finish. Many distilleries are not able to do their own mash, so having the brewery, you can customize your recipes and know exactly where it comes from.”
Yusuf Cherney: “Whiskey. Use income from beer while spirits age.”
CQ – How much ‘cross branding ‘ do you do between your Craft Beers and Artisanal Spirits lines?
Brandon Wright: “We exist as both a distillery and a brewery. We have a brewpub type restaurant attached to our facility. The brand’s identity is tied to both facets of our operation.”
Clark McCool: “With our extensive barrel aged beer program and two distilleries and a winery located so close, we have been able to age beer in wine and spirit barrels, port in brandy barrels, and whiskey in used whiskey barrels that had beer aged in them for 6 months… We have a lot of fun between the departments coming up with new ideas and products.”
Eric Howard: “Since it took us awhile to get our spirits on the market, we focused primarily on the brewery with always a mention to our distillery. Now we’re doing a lot more cross branding.”
Yusuf Cherney: “Lots.”