Latest blog entries - Beverage Journal, Maryland and Washington, DC Mon, 19 Aug 2019 20:44:04 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb When Julianne Came Home to Bella's Bellas_Liquors-HOME.jpg

Julianne Sullivan's life story up until this point reads almost like one of those Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas TV-movies that permeate both networks each year from Thanksgiving on. She grew up and graduated from high school in scenic, small-town Cape St. Claire, Md.; moved away and established a thriving career in real estate, working in such major markets as Los Angeles and New York City; only to return home to Cape St. Claire to run the charming, small business that's been in her family for decades.

The business?  Bella's Liquors, which was started by her grandmother and grandfather -- a Navy man and Pearl Harbor survivor who put himself through night school and eventually earned an accounting degree -- with financial help from Sullivan's great-grandmother. "They started it as a bar and restaurant, and they had a license to sell on and off," she recalled. "That was 1964, and my grandfather saw that the off-premise business was really picking up. So, he expanded that. Around 1974, he moved to the location we're at right now … and we've been here ever since."

Sullivan has been at the helm as Bella's proprietor since December 2017, having left a cushy executive's post in the Big Apple. What's been the big difference? "Retail never ends!" she exclaimed, with a laugh. "I was in apartment management specifically. When I left, I was at the very high corporate level. I had paid holidays and weekends off. But retail? Retail is all day, every day. You get your orders in, then you make a new order. And over and over again. It's never-ending. It's been a huge learning experience for me these 18 months-plus. It's been like being fresh out of college and learning a brand new job."


But it's been the Hallmark/Lifetime moments that have made the lifestyle change worth it. "I do love meeting people," she said. "We're a small community. Cape St. Claire has that old town feel. We have a 4th of July parade. We have a big strawberry festival each June. You can walk to your local grocery store or to where you get your hair done or to the Ace Hardware store. I did graduate high school from here. So, I came back to something that was familiar."

She also came back to a lot of relatives. "Pretty much everybody in the family has worked here!" she noted. "My mother works here now. My Aunt Christine, my sister, my nephew, and my stepdaughter all work here. Of course, I work here."

Sullivan was set to become the full owner of Bella's Liquors on July 10 (this interview was conducted nearly a week prior).  "The Liquor Board has to approve me buying everybody else out," she noted. "I'll basically be buying out my mother and aunt." Moving forward, she hopes to do her grandfather -- who passed away in May 2018 at the age of 99 -- and his memory proud. 

She also hopes to take a little of what she learned in real estate and apply it to packaged goods. "In apartments, customer service is key," she remarked. "If your customers aren't happy, they're not coming back. So, whether it's happy with their apartment or happy with the wine selection you're offering, it's all about the service you provide. We may not carry everything, because we're a small store. But we're happy to order whatever you want or refer you to another local store in the neighborhood."

She especially loves pointing customers to Maryland brands. "We're a big Navy area being so close to Annapolis, so we get a lot of out-of-town people here. If they're driving, they're like, 'What can I take home that's 'Maryland?' And we'll tell them, 'This is from Baltimore, this is from Dundalk, this is a Boordy wine.' Whatever the case may be."

Finally, she hopes to continue gaining insights and assistance from the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA), of which she is a proud member.  "For the last year, I've been attending the meetings and learning all of the different laws. It's also been good to network with the owners of different businesses that are very much like your own. It's been especially interesting to learn the intricate nature of how legislation affects us, affects small businesses. For someone like me who came from the corporate world where I didn't realize how such laws can affect you, it's been a real eye-opener!"

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Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) August 219 editions Wed, 31 Jul 2019 11:45:24 -0400
Trade Wars … Tariffs ... Taxes ... Trade_Tax_Tariff_HOME.jpg

Over the past few months headlines repeatedly scream about an impending trade war between the U.S. and, depending on the week, just about everybody else. Among the debated questions – who really pays the higher tariffs?  Of course, the media could never be helpful enough to explain that the ultimate consumer price/producer profit impact will vary with the product in question, strength of demand, availability of alternate products or sources, etc. Suffice it to say that adding costs is rarely a good thing, and that increased government revenue from tariffs will almost always be an expense shared in varying degree by buyers and sellers. 

The beverage alcohol business is in the unenviable position of being a weapon/victim of both the U.S. and many trading partners. Alcohol beverages often seem to be selected for new tariffs that will get the attention of the other side. Even though trade disputes about unfair practices impacting free trade in alcohol beverage products are generally fairly minor, we keep getting drawn into the battles we initially played no role in. 

Enough is enough! Leaders of the U.S. industry have issued a rare joint letter asking to please be excused from fights that don’t really involve us.

Comments were submitted to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) urging the removal of spirits, wine and non-alcoholic beer from its draft list of European Union (EU) products being targeted for proposed retaliatory tariffs.

The preliminary list of targeted EU products includes brandy, liqueurs and cordials, wine and non-alcoholic beer, as well as many other EU products. The issuance of the proposed list is part of a long-standing dispute at the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding civil aircraft subsidies and is unrelated to the beverage alcohol industry.

In the submission, the beverage industry groups stated they “strongly oppose the inclusion of beverage alcohol products in the proposed retaliation list” and warned that the tariffs will have numerous unintended negative consequences, including on U.S. jobs, U.S. consumers and on U.S. companies that export to the EU, some of which already face retaliatory tariffs to that market.

The proposed retaliatory tariffs on certain beverage alcohol products could lead to a loss of approximately 6,600 to 45,800 U.S. jobs, according to an industry analysis.

The EU responded to the U.S. draft list with its own preliminary list of U.S. products that it would target for retaliatory tariffs in a related WTO dispute, which included wine, rum, vodka, and brandy.

The groups stated, “We are gravely concerned that this escalation would compound the negative impact of the tariffs on a sector that is already feeling the damaging impact resulting from unrelated trade disputes.”

The joint comment was submitted by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, American Craft Spirits Association, American Distilled Spirits Association, Kentucky Distillers’ Association, Wine Institute, WineAmerica, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, American Beverage Licensees and the National Association of Beverage Importers.

Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) July 2019 Editions Wed, 10 Jul 2019 10:16:42 -0400
Vodka: All-American Spirit… Or Nyet? Tito’s Handmade continues to be a market leader and the centerpiece of Texas’s burgeoning vodka scene.

Tito’s Handmade continues to be a market leader and the centerpiece of Texas’s burgeoning vodka scene.

By Jack Robertiello

When Burnett’s, a top ten vodka brand with dozens of flavored versions, underwent a redesign last year, those in charge of the brand decided it was time to proclaim front and center: “Made in America.”

Is the renaissance of American whiskey alerting consumers that some pretty good clear spirits are made here? Perhaps it is social, or political, or even just a regional trend? Whatever is behind the boomlet, American vodka is suddenly considered something worth cheering about. Thirteen of the top 20 best-selling brands are American-made, as are many fast-emerging brands. Meanwhile, as the ultra- and super-premium tier of the vodka business sags, the price tiers below are filled with growing American brands.

All in all, a great time to be an American vodka. 

“American-made vodka trends are the strongest they’ve ever been,” says Frank Polley, VP of Trade Marketing for Tito’s, now second only to Smirnoff in U.S. volume. “We’re also seeing the expansion of the American-made vodka segment with many new brand and line extension launches throughout the year. American-made vodka is definitely driving growth in the category.”

Vodka being famously fast to market, the category has seen a remarkable number of new brands succeed. “Over the past decade, the lines between domestic and imported vodkas have blurred as Americans are purchasing more domestically-produced vodkas,” says Michael Sachs, Director of Spirits Marketing at E. & J. Gallo Winery, whose New Amsterdam Vodka debuted in 2011 and is now a top seller. “American vodka brands are focusing on quality of original ingredients and the care put into production.”


“American vodkas are in a good position as competition among higher-end brands leads to price slashing,” says Reid Hafer, Senior Brand Manager in charge of Burnett’s and Deep Eddy for Heaven Hill Brands, although she notes competitors in the $10-$15 and $15-$25 tier where most American vodkas sell are also cutting prices.

While the flavor craze churned vodka sales madly a decade ago, that tide has receded; unflavored vodka commands 85% of all vodka consumed in the U.S., points out Bernadette Knight, Senior Director of White Spirits for Skyy-owner Campari America: “American-made vodkas are in a strong position. Vodka remains the number one spirit consumed in the U.S. and the category has shown small but consistent year on year growth. Consumers are looking for authenticity, quality and provenance, three things that American-made vodkas, especially Skyy, have been able to deliver on.”

Brands that have focused on particular regionial markets have shown that organic growth sometimes works best. For example, a majority of Seagram’s business is off-premise and in the West, predominantly California, says Katherine Foley, Seagram’s Brand Manager at Infinium Spirits. (By comparison, Infinium also sells Crystal Head, which sells globally.) Meanwhile, new legal-age consumers are up for grabs, says Foley: “The growth with American vodka is spurred by Millennials, and this consumer market communicates and purchases dominantly through digital platforms, particularly social media.”

Skyy’s latest flavored vodka is trendy Cold Brew Coffee.

Skyy’s latest flavored vodka is trendy Cold Brew Coffee.


While talk of “terroir” is usually the turf of wine, not vodka, regionality still plays an important role in some vodkas, increasingly so with craftier producers. No discussion of regional vodka can get far without mentioning “Our” Vodka—a group of distilleries (doubling as bars) in major global cities, each existing precisely to create a namesake vodka for their locale. American outposts include LA, Detroit and New York, with Miami coming soon. The project attracted the attention and investment of Pernod Ricard.

One might infer that vodka is the new “oil” in Texas, where Tito’s Handmade, having emerged stronger than ever after a labeling controversy, is now surrounded by a bevy of Texas-made vodka brands. Deep Eddy has big plans, having just opened a brand new Tasting Room (replete with round-trip transportation available from downtown Austin). Western Son and Dripping Springs have added to the local lore, especially with respect to flavors (Western Son’s portfolio includes prickly pear; Dripping Springs makes one from hand-zested Texas oranges). Just launched, Frankly Organic, made in Austin, is certified organic, non-GMO and gluten-free—in five all-natural flavors.

Water quite naturally is a favorite point of distinction in vodka, as it comprises 60% of the finished liquid. Water is so central to Leaf Vodka that they produce two—one from Rocky Mountain mineral water, the other from Alaskan glaciers. Ocean Vodka boasts of the high mineral content of water drawn off the Hawaiian coast. American Harvest proudly taps water from “deep beneath the Snake River Plain.” Spring 44, located in Colorado’s Buckhorn Canyon, is literally named after its water source.

Ingredients are another area where small producers can stand apart from the big distillers. The top-rated American vodka at this year’s Ultimate Spirits Competition was Boyd & Blair, made from potatoes near Pittsburgh. BET (pronounced “beet”) is made in Minnesota from sugar beets (not red beets, so the vodka is still clear); Comb (Port Chester, NY) is made from honey; Clear Creek (Oregon) distills apples into vodka, while Core (Hudson Valley, NY) starts with apple cider. In Nevada, Bently Heritage distills Source One Vodka from 100% estate-grown oats.

Hangar 1 Vodka, launched in 2002 and made from a mix of grain and wine grapes, recently took it one step further to create Hangar 1 Rosé Vodka, which blends the straight vodka with a Northern California rosé wine.

Of course, let’s be realistic: authentic vodka can sprout up practically anywhere; and sometimes the image is as carefully crafted as the spirit. Consider “Blood x Sweat x Tears,” made in Oregon from Pacific Northwest winter wheat and pure Cascade water. But that’s not all… it’s made in a converted laundromat, “handcrafted with grit and fury,” and its matte black bottle is illustrated with Oregon landmarks.


Some American vodkas have used the local platform to expand nationally. Maybe the best example from Texas is Deep Eddy, whose Ruby Red Grapefruit helped the brand break out. Idaho’s 44 North and Dry Fly Washington Wheat Vodka are two more in multiple states. The New York metro area has at least two brands that have thrived regionally: Recipe 21 and Voda.

Recipe 21 was created in 2012 by Roc House Brands’ owner LiDestri Foods as an on-premise-focused brand for local distributors to expand their market, says Joe Ragazzo, VP of Sales for Roc House. The 12-flavor brand now distributes in 11 states. “We have a favorable quality-price proposition, with good packaging and taste that over-delivers for the price. That got us into many on-premise accounts in the well, and now we are moving off-premise, too,” notes Ragazzo.

Voda may sound imported but it’s all-American, says Charles Lynch, VP of Spirits Sales & Business Development for Royal Wine Company, which sells the brand in five states and the metropolitan NY area. “There is a consumer that is very price-sensitive who is looking for value and quality,” reasons Lynch. “You can say that vodka is six different categories, and while the super- and ultra-premium are taking price cuts and fighting for market share, that is good for those brands like Voda that are already aggressively priced.”

Square One Botanical, Basil and Bergamot, all of which use between 7-8 botanicals each.

Square One Botanical, Basil and Bergamot, all of which use between 7-8 botanicals each.


With purity always a vodka signature, it should be no surprise that organic vodkas are proliferating.Nationally distributed organic vodkas include Ocean (Hawaii); Koval (Chicago), made from local rye, milled on-site; and Prairie Vodka, made from organic Minnesota corn, in cucumber as well as neutral. In California, Humboldt Distillery’s Organic Vodka is filtered through virgin activated-carbon made from coconut shells; and Crop Harvest Earth’s full line claims to be distilled so efficiently that it needs no filtering.

Allison Evanow, Founder and CEO of organic producer Square One notes that their brand has distinct appeal for consumers, “who prefer quality over marketing hype,” and bartenders. “Because of their knowledge of spirits, they know that this is a big commitment for us as organic rye is not as readily available nor as easy to distill as organic wheat or corn yet it delivers a fantastic flavor profile. Bartenders have really embraced our multi-botanical approach to three of our spirits.”

For American vodkas overall, the ascent of organic offerings is just one of the numerous consumer trends that bode well for the future. As Tito’s Polley puts it: “Over the last ten years, American-made vodka has slowly built a reputation for producing some of the best-tasting vodkas in the world. The changes in the economic landscape across the world have led people to reevaluate their priorities and that’s impacting their choices.”



Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.     

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) July 2019 Editions Wed, 10 Jul 2019 08:49:36 -0400
Botanicals Without Borders MSS_Spritz_Lifestyle

Hendrick’s Gin, widely credited with opening new botanical frontiers in the 1990s, released not one but two extensions this year, Orbium and Midsummer Solstice.

By Jeff Cioletti

Ever since it emerged on the scene more than three centuries ago, gin, for all intents and purposes, has been identified as a quintessentially British spirit—or, at the very least, British by way of Dutch, thanks to the influence of the latter’s genever on the former’s iteration.

The most iconic brands—Beefeater, Gordon’s, Tanqueray, Bombay and their ilk—hail from either England or Scotland and tend to adhere to a “dry,” juniper-forward style with “London” in its very name. It wasn’t until the 1990s when Hendrick’s came along and pushed the boundaries on what the spirit could be that people and the industry really began to think differently about gin.

And two decades after that, gin has become about as untethered to a geographical place as it is to a singular style, becoming a spirit that truly belongs to the world. That’s thanks to a combination of factors: evolving drinking habits worldwide, the global craft spirits movement and, in no small part, the elevation of the dusty, old gin and tonic to a classy, stylish drink.

Iberia As Trend Setter

The industry has bartenders on the Iberian peninsula to thank for that last point. The Spanish “Gin-Tonic” (sans the ‘and’) emerged in stemmed, wide-mouthed goblet glass with fresh, innovative garnishes complementing the particular flavor profiles of the gin in the vessel. Gin culture exploded in Spain and Portugal and spread across Europe.

“What happened in Spain had more to do with the on-trade,” says Spiro Malandrakis, industry manager for alcoholic drinks at Euromonitor International. “Bars continued to move more and more toward premiumization, mixing [gin] with better mixers, adding a little flair to the actual cocktail ritual.” According to the market research firm, global on-premise gin revenue totaled nearly $9.4 billion, while off-premise sales topped $6 billion—a combined $15.4 billion—in 2017.

The active gin market has attracted an appropriate wave of new labels. It also helps that, unlike whiskey and other brown spirits that call for barrel-aging, gin is faster to market. “On the production side of things, the story is how these small-scale producers have popped up everywhere in a category that was sidelined,” Malandrakis says. With craft gin producers springing up on every populated continent, you might say the hottest trend in global gin is the explosion of new local-minded ones. Gin’s juniper mandate is proving to be like a bloodline that keeps the multi-generational family connected as it grows. Beyond juniper, botanicals are being gathered and infused as never before, not merely as points of distinction, but as genuine captures of terroir.


A decade ago the prevailing trend was to source pedigreed botanicals from all over the globe. Today the pendulum is swinging toward a mix of traditional (juniper, coriander, angelica root, citrus, Orris root, cardamom, licorice, cassia, cinnamon) and local botanicals.

Global, Meet Local

Consider Germany’s Black Forest, a region best known for schnapps production, with more than 10,000 mostly minuscule farm-based producers turning surplus fruit into brandy. But, since 2006 it’s become home to a gin brand that has built a sizeable cult following: Monkey 47. The 47 is the staggering number of botanicals the spirit contains, a third of which come from the Black Forest itself, including angelica root, acacia flowers, bramble leaves, lingonberries and spruce shoots. 

The gin bug has crossed the Pacific as well. Two years ago, global spirits giant Beam Suntory launched Roku Japanese gin—“roku” meaning “six,” a nod to the number of Japanese botanicals in the brand, which are combined with eight traditional ones. “The Japanese botanicals—Sakura flower, Sakura leaf, yuzu peel, sencha tea, gyokuro tea and sansho pepper—are harvested in accordance of ‘shun,’ the tradition of enjoying each ingredient at its best by only harvesting at its peak of flavor and perfection,” says Marilyn Chen, Brand Manager for House of Suntory. A selection of different pot stills are then chosen to ensure the best flavor is extracted from each botanical.” Chen says the result is a “complex, yet harmonious gin” with a smooth, silky texture. 

Global start-ups aside, we need not worry about England or Scotland being left behind. Among the notable UK-based brands launched this century: Bulldog, the first gin infused with poppy and dragon eye (related to lychee). Others popping up to reinforce the U.K.’s spiritual claim to gin importance: Brockmans, Cotswolds, Fifty Pounds, Portobello Road and Carounn. The Botanist Gin, launched in 2010 by the whiskymaker Bruichladdich, features 31 botanicals—nine traditional ones plus 22 that are foraged on the island of Islay in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. 

On top of myriad botanical combinations, gin makers are tinkering with unusual distilling and finishing techniques. In Finland, Kyrö Distillery makes two rye-based gins, both including some botanicals foraged from local forests. Their American-oak-matured Koskue typically accounts for 10 to 20% of Kyrö’s gin sales, but in the U.S. it’s more of a 50-50 split, notes Head Distiller Kalle Valkonen: “The barrel-aged product, really seems to fit your palate on that side of the Atlantic.” Barrel-aging is picking up advocates, such as FEW and Koval in Chicago; Bluecoat (PA) and Tom’s Town (Kansas City). Big Gin (Washington State) uses bourbon barrels. In California, Benham’s and No. 209 both batch gins in ex-varietal wine barrels. 

As with botanical recipes and wood-finishing, distillation techniques can provide interesting selling points. Many distillers boast of vapor infusion; others. infuse before and/or after distillation. Hepple Gin, and English gin launched in 2015, uses a threefold process for extracting botanical flavors: heavier ones are distilled with the grain, lighter examples are vacuum distilled, and juniper is extracted using carbon dioxide.


Selling Complexity 

With Euromonitor predicting robust growth of 5% CAGR, vaulting annual U.S. sales from $15.4 billion in 2017 to nearly $20 billion by the end of 2022, the “new normal” in the gin market presents some novel challenges for bars and retailers alike.

Fortunately, gin does have some natural hooks on which re-sellers can hang their hats. In some cases, a stand-out botanical can become a simple selling point. Like citrus? Malfy, from Italy’s Adriatic Coast, has two lovely citrus-forward gins, one lemon, another blood orange. New Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle incorporates sun-dried lemon peels, lemon verbena and “vapour-infused fresh hand peeled lemon,” leaving no doubt as to its citric intentions. Brockmans showcases blueberry; Carounn has apple; Puerto de Indias and Beefeater Pink lead with strawberry. With the simplicity of an “alpha” botanical comes the simplicity of usage: using a signature botanical as a garnish often makes a naturally copacetic Gin & Tonic.

Though hardly sweet, Caledonia Spirits’ Barr Hill Gin is finished with raw Vermont honey. On the savory side, Hendrick’s got the party started with its cucumber and rose character. Dry Town Gin from Colorado features sage; Gin Mare from Spain incorporates rosemary, thyme, olive and basil; Uncle Val’s (California) makes a “peppered” gin. And for something really different, from Ireland comes Drumshanbo, infused with dried gunpowder tea 

Gin points of distinction go even further than botanical and origin. O.R.E 118 is the first raw vegan Gin. Prairie and Farmer’s gins are both made in America and organic. Tanqueray Malacca and Fords Gin both lay claim to being “bartender’s gin.” Pink gins (in addition to the strawberry-tinged Beefeater Pink and Puerto de Indias) include Gin Lane 1751, Wölffer Estate and The Bitter Truth.

Geography is also a selling point. Nothing says gin has gone global like a display that features spirits from India (Jaisalmer); Brazil (McQueen and the Violet Fog); Australia (Four Pillars); New Zealand (Scapegrace); Roku (Japan); and Germany (Monkey 47).


Gin also appeals to big suppliers; Beam Suntory created Roku in Japan in 2017.

Gin’s Next Gem: Old Is New Again?

Gin’s globalization accelerating, plus a vibrant craft gin movement here in the U.S., but don’t be surprised to see an ancient type of gin join the party. Genever (pronounced juh-NEE-vuhr) remains the largest spirit category in the Netherlands and Belgium, might best be thought of as the “O.G.” (“Original Gangsta”) gin. Used in Medieval times for supposed medicinal benefits, genever by the 17th century was one of Europe’s largest exports; recipe books from the 1880s show that about one quarter of U.S. cocktails were based on the spirit.

Genever all but disappeared from the world stage following the two World Wars and Prohibition. But today, genever is in the midst of a three-year U.S. marketing campaign, keyed by five genever brands (Bobby’s-Notaris, Bols, deBorgen, Rutte and Smeets). Genever’s main distinction, being distilled from malted grain mash and often aged in oak casks, lends itself easily to being positioned as “the missing link between Gin and whiskey,” notes Sandie van Doorne of Bols International. She asserts that genever’s character—“smooth and malty with a botanical finish”—makes a great alternative in cocktails such as the Collins and the Martinez. Bols has carved out a special cocktail niche for the Red Light Negroni—Bols Genever, Campari and sweet vermouth, served in glasses shaped like inverted light bulbs.

Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.    

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) June 2019 Editions Mon, 17 Jun 2019 11:25:47 -0400
BCLBA Rockin’ at the Races MD-BEV-JOURNAL-81_20190609-120752_1.jpg

Some VIPs in attendance were Jane Springer, Executive Director, MSLBA; Goose Kaiser, Past President, BCLBA; Dan Minnick, Former Delegate and Owner of Minnick's Restaurant; Jeri Zink, Executive Director, BCLBA; Paul King, President, BCLBA (King Liquors); and Jack Milani, Legislative Chairman, BCLBA/MSLBA (Monaghan's Pub).

Members of the beverage alcohol industry recently gathered for the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association’s (BCLBA) Rockin’ the Races event at the Timonium Fairground Grandstand Concourse.  Industry members from all three tiers and from all over Maryland joined the fun.  Attendees enjoyed live music, bartender competitions, corn hole toss competitions, beer, wine and liquor tasting stations, local restaurant tasting stations, pig on a pit, pit beef, raw oysters, money wheels, liquor wheel, betting on the ponies and much, much more.


 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) June 2019 Editions Sun, 09 Jun 2019 08:05:11 -0400
Brown-Forman Retailers of the Year B-F_Home.jpg

Seventeen independent beverage licensees from states across the country have been recognized as Brown-Forman Retailers of the Year. Nominated by their state licensed beverage associations for commitment to their state associations, dedication to the beverage alcohol industry and their success in business, these licensees were honored in a ceremony at the ABL Annual Meeting. 

For more than two decades, the Brown-Forman Retailer of the Year awards have celebrated retail beverage licensees who engage in the responsible sale and service of beverage alcohol, are committed to their state beverage associations, and demonstrated excellence in innovative retailing. ABL congratulates all of the honored businesses and licensees for their outstanding and continued contributions to their state associations, the industry and their communities.

“America’s independent beer, wine and spirits retailers support a dynamic and exciting industry, while striving to both encourage and promote the responsible enjoyment of beverage alcohol by adult consumers,” said ABL Executive Director John Bodnovich. “These retailers have gone above-and-beyond the call of duty in their businesses, their state beverage associations, and their communities with their commitment to outstanding beverage alcohol sales and service.”




Michael Ball | Silver Run Liquors | Westminster, MD:

Michael Ball is the owner of Silver Run Liquors in northern Carroll County, MD.  Ball has been in business with multiple lo
cations for over 25 years.  He is an active member of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) and serves as a member of their Board representing Carroll County.  He also is a long-time supporter of local charities (High Schools, Fie Departments and youth sports) in the community his business is part of.




Gary Rogow | ABC Liquors | California, MD:

Gary Rogow is the owner of ABC Liquors in Lexington Park, MD.  Rogow serves as Secretary for the Saint Mary’s County Licensed Beverage Association and is on the MSLBA Board of Directors and Legislative Committee.  In his local community, Rogow supports Hospice, Community Alcohol Coalition, Ambulance, Fire Company and Police organizations.  


Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  



Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) June 2019 Editions Sun, 09 Jun 2019 07:25:38 -0400
The 2019 Maryland Legislative Session: A Final Report StateCircle_Cap_Sign_HOME.jpg

Despite the profound sadness over the passing of Speaker Busch the day before, work continued on Monday, April 8, until the curtain closed at midnight (sine die).  With that came the end of 90 days filled with new faces in both chambers, and new Committee leadership in the Senate.  This was the first year of the four-year term, following the 2018 election, which brought nearly 60 new legislators or almost a one-third turnover in the 188 member General Assembly.  New legislators constituted over half of the membership of the Senate Education, Health and Environment Committee (EHE), where alcohol bills are considered.  That Committee also had a new Chairman in Senator Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), who kindly spoke to those who attended Lobby Day on February 21st, as did new House Alcohol Subcommittee Chairman, Delegate Talmadge Branch (D-Balt. City).

The goals of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) for this year were largely achieved, thanks to the efforts of our members and in particular our Legislative Committee, which reviewed, discussed and took positions on each of the 164 bills we identified as impacting the industry, amidst the nearly 2,500 total bills filed.  Our Legislative Committee’s work was made more difficult than usual, since nearly half of the bills were introduced just ahead of the deadline during the week of February 4th, almost 30 days into the Session.  This was a symptom of the 2018 election, which gave legislators, particularly new ones, less time than usual to prepare their legislation.

Below is a summary of the major issues and their outcomes.  A detailed summary of the outcomes of all local legislation is avaialble from the MSLBA.


Senate Bill 801/House Bill 1010--Brewery Modernization Act of 2019 passed after a compromise was reached between the MSLBA and the Brewers Association of Maryland (BAM).  This was the culmination of 2 years of MSLBA’s time and attention, following the passage of legislation in 2017 on these same issues.  Despite substantial brewery growth in the State in recent years, both in the number of them and the barrelage produced, BAM sought further changes in the law.  While BAM also sought changes during the 2018 Session, there was really no communication among the interested parties that year, and no legislation was adopted.  Early in the 2019 Session, MSLBA met on numerous occasions with BAM representatives and reached an agreement that the General Assembly ultimately agreed with and adopted.  The terms of the agreement are as follows:

> No change in operating hours for Class 5 Breweries (grandfather provisions still apply);

> Law remains that Class 5 Brewery “may” receive retail license, not “shall”;

> BAM will not introduce, support or instigate local or state legislation on these provisions for the rest of this 4 year term.

> Increased tap room limits of 5,000 barrels for both Class 5 and Class 7 (microbreweries);

> Class 7’s can brew up to 45,000 barrels per year (which was already the law in two counties);

> Microbreweries can have two locations with separate tap room limits, but law will clearly state that a person cannot have more than 2 microbreweries anywhere in the State.

> There are other minor provisions.


Also on the brewery front, SB 704/HB 1080 Alcoholic Beverages - Beer Franchise Agreements - Notice of Nonrenewal or Termination passed.  This bill reduces, from 180 to 45, the number of days that a brewery must wait before terminating a franchise agreement, if the brewery produces 20,000 or fewer barrels of beer per year. Such a brewery is authorized to terminate or refuse to continue or renew a franchise agreement without good cause and is no longer required to give its franchisee an opportunity to correct a deficiency if that is the reason the agreement is being terminated. The bill requires a termination agreement and arbitration, and takes effect January 1, 2020. For a brewery that produces 20,000 barrels of beer or less each year and that is party to a franchise agreement existing before January 1, 2020, the terms of the agreement relating to compensation and repurchasing of inventory must continue unless otherwise mutually agreed by the parties.

With these two pieces of legislation, the law is settled on breweries for a number of years and the industry can now spend its time promoting all Maryland products through our “Buy Local” efforts.


We had numerous local bills that proposed to allow manufacturers to sell products other than their own.  This is part of a national trend and one that has taken hold in our surrounding states, so we can expect this to be a battleground in the coming years.  One of these passed, but most died.  HB 866/SB 667 Allegany County – Alcoholic Beverages – Licenses passed, which allows the Board in Allegany to issue a Class L license to any manufacturer, allowing them to sell their own products or products of any other manufacturer.

HB 354/SB 104—Washington County-Alcoholic Beverages—Wineries—Special Event Permits failed.  The legislation sought to make permanent a bill that passed two years ago, allowing wineries in Washington County to sell beer and liquor at special events.  MSLBA opposed this because it sets a precedent of allowing manufacturers to sell alcohol other than what they produce.  In the end, we had agreed to extend the legislation for another year to work on a long-term solution, but for whatever reason, the amendments to accomplish this were not adopted.

HB 936 Harford County - Alcoholic Beverages - Multiple Licensing Plans, and SB 928/HB 1337 Carroll County—Alcoholic Beverages-Class D Beer, Wine and Liquor License, would also have allowed manufacturers to sell products other than their own, but were defeated.  

HB 549 Class 1 Distillery License - On-Site Consumption Permit also passed, which authorizes a local alcoholic beverages licensing board in the State to issue an on-site consumption permit to the holder of a Class 1 distillery license. The permit authorizes the sale of mixed drinks made from liquor produced by the distillery for on-premises consumption. A local licensing board must require the permit holder to abide by all applicable trade practice restrictions and comply with existing requirements for alcohol awareness training.


HB 508—Prohibited Acts-Defense to Prosecution for Sales to Underage Individuals  failed.  For the second year in a row, this legislation fell victim to the political process and died in the Senate.  In 2018, it died in the House.  So it has passed both chambers, but unfortunately not in the same year!  This bill was an MSLBA initiative that would update the law setting out a good faith defense to serving a minor to include reliance upon an ID scanner for age verification.  We will try again in 2020.

HB 1057—Alcohol Awareness Programs Certification Requirements-Alterations was withdrawn by the sponsor after it had passed from the House to the Senate.  This bill would have required anyone serving alcohol to have alcohol awareness training.  MSLBA did not object to the bill, but on further analysis agreed that there were issues that needed to be considered in more detail before any bill was passed.  These included laws in some jurisdictions that permit some employees to serve but not pour alcohol, and the availability of training programs in certain parts of the State.

HB 180—Motor Vehicle Administration—Licenses and Identification Cards—Electronic Credentials passed, which enables the MVA to create an electronic credential that can be issued in addition to, but not in place of, a normal hard-copy identification.  MSLBA asked for and got an amendment to the legislation clarifying that this credential MAY be accepted as proof of age, but does not have to be.  The credential requires an electronic verification system operated by the State, so if a retailer does not have that system, they do not have to accept the credential and can demand the hard copy of the identification.



HB 109/SB 285—Environment-Expanded Polystyrene Food Service Products—Prohibitions was passed, which prohibits, beginning July 1, 2020, a person from selling or offering for sale in the State an “expanded polystyrene food service product”.  These are defined as a product made of “expanded polystyrene” that is (1) used for selling or providing food or beverages and (2) intended by the manufacturer to be used once for eating or drinking or generally recognized by the public as an item to be discarded after one use. It includes food containers, plates, hot and cold beverage cups, trays, and cartons for eggs or other food, but does not include (1) food or beverages that have been packaged in expanded polystyrene containers before receipt by a food service business; (2) a product made of expanded polystyrene that is used to package raw, uncooked, or butchered meat, fish, poultry, or seafood; or (3) nonfoam polystyrene food service products.

SB 694/HB 777-Credit Card Processors-Merchant Processing Agreements passed, which prohibits a credit card processor from assessing or charging a fee, fine, or penalty of more than $500 if a business entity cancels a “merchant processing agreement” before the expiration of the initial term. Additionally, a credit card processor may not assess a fee, fine, or penalty if a business entity terminates the merchant processing agreement after the expiration of the initial term. The bill does not apply to an agreement that may be terminated without fees, fines, penalties, or liquidated damages, or to a business entity that employs 50 or more employees or estimates that it will generate more than $2 million annually in credit card or electronic commerce transactions. The agreement must disclose the amount of any early termination fee, fine, penalty, or liquidated damages, the expiration and renewal dates of the agreement, and the customer service contact information of the processor. The information must be provided on the signature page of an agreement and be initialed separately by the business entity.

MSLBA was formed to represent the interests of the retail alcohol beverage operator in legislative and executive matters in connection with the sale and distribution of beer, wine and liquor, and to promote friendly relations between members of this association and allied branches of the beer, wine and liquor industries.

Beverage Alcohol Licensees who are not already members are encouraged to join.  Membership information is available by contacting the MSLBA office: 410-871-1377, 410-876-3464 or

The Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association, Inc., is a non-profit trade association whose members are alcohol beverage licensees throughout the State. 

    Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.    

Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) May 2019 Editions Sat, 11 May 2019 14:21:43 -0400
Cannabis: Friend or Foe to Alcohol?  HOME_cannabis.jpg

Know this much to start: the United States is embarking on its greatest decriminalization effort since the end of Prohibition. Until the federal government gives its legal green light to cannabis, a confusing and difficult transition will remain difficult and confusing. But the states-rights pattern has been established, and while no one can (yet) say for certain what will happen in regards to beer, wine, and spirits consumption, cannabis is entering the Conversation faster than you can say “don’t bogart that joint.”

“My friends in Colorado, Washington and Oregon are quite candid about potential lost sales, but most are sanguine about the future,” says Kansas City’s Doug Frost, MW, MS. “It’s tremendously challenging because no one knows how the next steps unfold, other than that every state will want a piece of the cannabis tax pie. Regardless, the genie ain’t going back in the bottle.”

Knowing that, what’s the best way to prepare for what’s going to happen? First, understand the parts that make up the legal cannabis market, from a joint to weed-infused consumer products. 

Second, accept that the legal and regulatory hurdles will remain hurdles even after cannabis goes mainstream—becoming, perhaps, even more complicated than alcohol’s three-tier system.

Finally, recognize that the alcohol industry is at the biggest crossroads since the end of Prohibition. Younger consumers, who seem less interested in beer, wine, and spirits than their parents and grandparents, will have another option for their time and money.

Moving forward, usage patterns, product development and legislative action are all areas that promise to impact the beverage alcohol industries.



From an overall industry viewpoint, it makes sense to position cannabis as an addition to the adult arena of recreational options. As Chris Stenzel, President of Constellation Brands’ Wine & Spirits Division, noted in a recent interview with Beverage Media, the firm’s $4 billion investment in Canadian company Canopy Growth reflects a belief that cannabis can complement alcohol. “At Constellation, we talk about the three stool legs of the business: Spirits, wine and beer, and we believe cannabis will become the fourth leg to the stool,” said Stenzel.

The operative golden question—“Will people drink less alcohol?”—is beginning to be asked and answered. There is some data on the issue, but several studies contradict each other about whether legal marijuana will cannibalize beer, wine and/or spirits. A 2017 Georgia State study found legal cannabis reduced alcohol consumption over the long term, and alcohol “purchases decreased by 15% in counties in states with medical marijuana laws.” On the other hand, a 2018 study from the Distilled Spirits Council which analyzed data from 3 states with longest track record (CO, WA, OR) found no such change after recreational legalization. Utilizing state-level tax receipts and actual alcohol shipment data in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon for the two years prior to recreational marijuana legalization and post-legalization, they concluded: “overall alcohol sales mirror national trends and there is no pattern of declining spirits sales in any of the markets analyzed.”


The ink is barely dry on a detailed report by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis and BDS Analytics, released in February 2019. “Though not yet mainstream, cannabis adoption is certainly growing in states where it is legal and does pose a risk to the beverage alcohol industry in the future,” said Brandy Rand, IWSR’s U.S. President. Among the nuggets in their report:

  • Up to 40% of adults 21 and over consume cannabis in states where it is legal.
  • Millennials represent 45% of “dualists” (those who consume both cannabis and alcohol).
  • Two-thirds of cannabis users in fully legal states also consume alcohol; however, only about one-third of alcohol consumers in these markets also consume cannabis.
  • On average, cannabis and alcohol dualists are more likely to drink beer (especially craft beer) and spirits; fewer drink wine.

There may be evidence that legal weed slows beer sales in general, on the theory that younger consumers will smoke a couple of joints or pop edibles instead of drinking a six-pack if the price is about the same. But, analysts caution, that decline has been traced to slowing consumption among aging beer drinkers and not competition from cannabis.

There also seems to be a sense, says Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm, that any change in alcohol consumption will happen at the lower-priced end, in mass-market wine, beer and spirits. Producers like Grahm aren’t worried about “weed as one of the existential threats to the wine business.”

And legal cannabis may boost alcohol tourism. Anecdotal evidence from Colorado suggests the possibility of increased tasting room sales, thanks to the influx of legal weed tourists. “It’s almost as if we’re getting a new audience,” says Karen Hoskins, owner of craft rum producer Montanya Distillers in Crested Butte, CO, describing been her experience in the aftermath of Colorado’s legalization. “They’ll come into the tasting room, and when they’re done, ask us to recommend a dispensary.”

Ultimately, presuming recreational cannabis becomes the norm, availability is going to be a critical factor in whether smoking will hit alcohol more at higher or lower price points. Another wild card is “vaping”—and how the youth-driven popularity of this intake method impacts smoking and drinking.


Not to be discounted in any discussion of cannabis: follow the money. Legalization in Canada has opened the faucet on investment—and it is big fish entering the pond. Constellation Brands, most notably, now owns 38% of Canada’s Canopy Growth. “Constellation has been pretty good at identifying long-term consumer shifts and reacting—buying and exiting assets,” notes Rob McMillan, Executive Vice President and founder of Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division in Napa. “They are shedding some wine assets and some point to that being an end to wine and a nod to cannabis and beer, but I think it’s more to do with shedding lines that aren’t in line with premiumization strategies.”

More signs of marijuana mainstreaming: Southern Glazer’s Great North Distributors subsidiary has agreed to distribute marijuana producer Aphria’s products in Canada to both provincial and private retailers. AB InBev formed a $100 million research partnership with Tilray Inc.’s Canadian subsidiary High Park Co; and Molson has teamed up with Quebec-based Hexo Corp. Both big brewers plan to develop non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages. And possibly a tipping point, PR-wise: Martha Stewart will advise Canopy Growth on a line of hemp-based CBD products—for both people and pets.


Of course, as the Canadian example is rapidly proving, the free market system is raring to go with new product development. Here, it becomes critical to distinguish types of products we are likely to see—some THC-based, some CBD-based.

Looking at beverages specifically, one 2019 estimate found that U.S. sales of cannabis-based drinks was worth $86 million in 2018 but were likely to grow to more than $1 billion by 2023 and $1.4 billion by 2024. Another, by Canaccord Genuity Group, similarly, forecast a $600 million market for cannabis-infused beverages by 2022. 

Sounds big. Now for the catch. For one thing, as of now, beverages represent less than 1% of the overall legal cannabis market. Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be a cost-effective infusion process for THC drinks, which analysts see as crucial to the category’s growth. Essentially, alcohol is water-soluble and cannabis is not. That means alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, but the THC in cannabis takes far longer when ingested rather than inhaled—people feel the effects of beer, wine or spirits within a drink or two; it can take an hour or longer for a marijuana brownie to kick in. So the trick with cannabis-infused drinks will be to find a way for them to mimic alcohol’s effect on the drinker, which has met with mixed results so far.

One person in position to assess the direction of new product development is Smoke Wallin, who started in his family’s traditional distribution business, and is now CEO of Vertical Wellness, a company specializing in CBD products. As Wallin sees it, CBD products are the hotspot to watch, especially since 2018’s Farm Bill gave hemp legal status since hemp is a good source for CBD, but not THC. Even more important: “The number one characteristic of CBD is that it is anti-inflammatory,” notes Wallin, which means new CBD products are going to compete with over-the-counter medicines like Advil. He estimates that Health & Wellness products will comprise about 60% of the CBD market, and food and beverage about 40%.

Vertical Wellness currently has 12 beverages in active development. However, as a veteran of the industry, Wallin knows the products will have to taste good: “If it doesn’t stand alone as a beverage, it won’t work. People will just switch.” The one thing that is absolutely not in doubt: CBD-laced beverages are apt to enjoy a quick route to market. Wallin reports, “We are seeing huge demand from major retailers and distributors. They are all looking for a way to play in the space.”


It should surprise no one that distributors are positioning themselves to seize opportunity. Case in point: Southern Glazer’s officially partnering with a marijuana producer in Canada. The interest in cannabis may be seen as a defensive move, at least in part, to protect splintering market share. “Cannabis concerns me because it’s the shiny new thing that consumers are attracted to,” Steve Slater, EVP, General Manager Wine Division, Southern Glazer’s, said on a “Trends” panel at Vinexpo New York in March. “There is a share of discretionary income that can be used for beer, wine and spirits—and now cannabis.”

The next pressing question: Will alcohol’s three-tier system be used to regulate legal cannabis? Analysts expect the Treasury department’s Tax and Trade Bureau, which oversees alcohol, to handle marijuana regulation. But that’s all anyone agrees on. 

Most legal states use the opposite of three-tier—a vertically integrated system that doesn’t separate the producer and retailer. It’s OK for a company to grow marijuana and sell THC products in its own state-licensed retail outlets, something that three-tier was designed to stop. But the situations are different, confirms attorney Rebecca Stamey-White, a partner with Hinman & Carmichael LLP in San Francisco: the goal with vertical integration was to emphasize local control, and to avoid the complications of three-tier.

On the other hand, notes Ron Kammerzell, a consultant for the legal weed industry and former senior director of enforcement for Colorado’s department of revenue, three-tier is almost inevitable once the federal government gets involved. How else will it be possible to collect federal taxes? And if cannabis commerce becomes national, businesses will naturally want to trade across state lines and states will want to collect taxes from out-of-state cannabis producers. Three-tier, with its reliance on wholesalers who have almost 100 years of experience in dealing with these concerns in alcohol, can do all of that, Kammerzell says. Plus, the second-tier has the confidence and trust of state regulators.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association, the trade group that represents alcohol distributors, showcased a plan to Congress in December 2018 that would set up a national three-tier cannabis distribution system based on the alcohol model. “We think long-term this is really better for the industry, for society, for our businesses to provide the model of the beverage alcohol industry as an example of what effective safety and regulation looks like,” Michelle Korsmo, WSWA’s new President, told Beverage Media in a recent interview.


As pot history gets written (and rewritten and rewritten), much will ultimately hinge on how the states fall, domino-like. New Jersey and New York are of special interest. Both Governors have already expressed their support for legalization. And the proximity and ease of transverse from NJ to NY means that if one state legalizes, it will put instant pressure on the other.

A behind-doors committee in New York has already begun work on suggested guidelines for legislation. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, many believe their state provides the best evidence that a distribution system for cannabis can and should be modeled on the state’s alcohol control. Fred Leighton, second-generation retailer of Bayway World of Liquor in Elizabeth, NJ, contends: “As a system that both controls a substance in terms of public safety, and has made a wide range of products available, no state does it better than New Jersey.”



    Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.   


Read More]]> (Beverage Network) April 2019 Editions Thu, 11 Apr 2019 08:09:57 -0400
Irish Eye's Reasons to Smile Bushmills043

Irish Whiskey keeps growing—in size, selection and value

With all the new distilleries, brands and line extensions emerging from Ireland, whiskey retailers have an unprecedented array of choices that show no sign of narrowing. Accordingly, the proverbial Irish eyes are still smilling broadly at this vibrant sector. Powered by Irish whiskey’s inherently smooth style and the swelling popularity centered on a handful of powerful, widely available brands, the category is not just small and mighty—it is expanding dramatically in breadth.

Take two recent additions stretching what Irish whiskey can be: Dingle and The Sexton. Dingle produces distinct small-batch single malt releases—the third finished in ex-bourbon and Port barrels. The Sexton arrives as an especially young (four years old) malt whiskey meant for category novices and cocktail makers.

After decades of relying on the light and fruity blended triple-distilled spirit that predominates, Irish styles are exploding. Single malts and pure pot still expressions, of course, but also grain whiskey, double distilled variants, peated malts and extended aging and finishing in non-traditional barrels—rum, marsala, or exotic woods like acacia. There’s even an Irish rye now. 

Just about everything good that is happening in whiskey overall is happening with exuberance in the Irish sector.

“There are some great opportunities in innovation,” says Colum Egan, Master Distiller of Bushmills. “There are a lot of consumers who have been drinking Irish whiskey for some time who looking for something new and innovative within the category. Most of us are coming out with different and new expressions that appeal to different sectors of the market.” Bushmills jumped in two years ago with Red Bush, aged in ex-bourbon barrels rather than a mix of those and Sherry casks.

Egan recently ended his chairmanship of the Irish Whiskey Association, and says ensuring that traditional techniques and understanding were available to new entrants—about 20+ distilleries now operate, up from four in 2014, with as many as 20 in development—was the reason the group was founded.


The Caskmates program has brought Jameson critical recognition beyond the brand’s identity as a favorite shot.

The Field Thickens

Major producers are tickled in general with the competition. “It is great for the category, for the growth of Irish whiskey in the U.S. and for the consumer,” says Sona Bajaria, Vice President, High End Irish Whiskey, Pernod Ricard USA. “At Midleton we have an open-door policy. We want to maintain the quality and integrity of Irish whiskey and as such offer our support and expertise to these distilleries in their set-up phases.”

The basis for optimism is strong: Irish whiskey remains one of the fastest-growing categories. Sales internationally are predicted to hit 13 million cases by 2020, up from 10 million in 2017. Recent Nielsen reports put Irish at an annual 12% growth rate here with Ultra-Premium Irish up 7.4%. “We predict the category will continue to grow rapidly as consumers explore new innovations,” says Bajaria.

On the flip side, younger brands are certainly aware—and appreciative—of the way that Pernod Ricard’s Jameson in particular has popularized Irish whiskey, setting the table, so to speak, for new entries.


As the Irish shelves are already not nearly as crowded as more established sectors like single malts and bourbon, the playing field has a wide open and level feel to it, which spurs innovations—like Tullamore D.E.W. Cider Cask Finish

New & Different

Launched in 1999, Bernard and Rosemary Walsh scored in Ireland with their ready-to-drink Irish coffee, which became the Hot Irishman, and cream liqueurs years before developing two distinct Irish whiskies. In 2007 they launched The Irishman; Writers’ Tears Copper Pot debuted here in 2015.

The Teeling family had been in the whiskey business since 1782, but brothers Jack and Stephen have the family name in the spotlight by experimenting with diverse barrel finishes; releasing a rare “single grain” whiskey; and opening the first new distillery in Dublin in 125 years in 2015.

Operating on her family farm in County Clare, a mile from the coast, Louise McGuane is a leader in the revival of whiskey “bonding,” which practically disappeared in the 1930s. For the J.J. Corry brand, named after a legendary nearby whiskey bonder, she blends and matures whiskies from multiple sources.

Lambay Irish Whiskey is a crossover project between the House of Camus and the Baring Family’s Revelstoke Trust. Lambay Small Batch Blend is malted barley and grain whiskies, blended, triple distilled and matured in bourbon barrels with a Cognac cask finish. Lambay Single Malt is unpeated, tripled distilled and finished in Cognac casks that have been exposed to the sea air and maritime winds on Lambay Island.

But no new entry in Irish whiskey has come close to the impact of that latest new name: Proper No. Twelve. Created by mixed martial arts champion Conor McGregor, Proper No. Twelve sold out its initial run last fall in less than one month. A blend of Irish grain and single malt whiskey, Proper No. Twelve pays homage to Crumlin, aka Dublin 12, the neighborhood where McGregor was born and raised and which is known for its rich soil and pure spring water.


Red Spot is among the multiple ultra-premium Spot whiskies produced by Pernod Ricard at the Midleton Distillery.

Emerald Road Ahead

Most industry watchers expect robust growth to continue. “I see Irish whiskey still only scratching the surface of consumer interest in the U.S.,” says Powers Brand Leader Ken Reilly. “Irish whiskey only represents 6% to 8% of the U.S. whiskey market, well behind American and Scotch whiskey. The challenge for all non-Jameson brands is to overcome the lack of understanding of Irish whiskey as a distinct subset of whiskey, and to reinforce the unique profile that Irish whiskey offers the drinker.”

“With several Irish whiskeys already bringing to market limited releases, other innovations and special bottlings will likely become a mainstay as the category grows,” says Slane Irish Whiskey co-founder Alex Conyngham. “There will be challenges resulting from increased competition in the marketplace, although this will encourage brands to further differentiate through innovation and flavor profile, which means more choice for consumers.”



Bushmill’s is supporting Red Bush with aggressive online content and social media marketing.

Eye on American Tastes

The U.S. market has been dominated by Jameson with Tullamore and Bushmills the most prominent other brands. But the popular style has its limits, says Jack Teeling, Managing Director of Teeling Whiskey Company. “Shifting consumer tastes are driving the segmentation with consumer and trade interests in more unique and interesting Irish whiskey.”

“By continuing to introduce new offerings that drive interest and relevance among brown spirits drinkers, we’ll continue to generate growth within the Irish whiskey category,” says Ivan Hidalgo, Managing Director, Kilbeggan Distilling Company.

Others are eagerly looking to expand the palate. “We always strive to be at the forefront of trends in the industry,” says Conor Neville, Brand Manager, Tullamore D.E.W. “Innovations such as Caribbean Rum Cask and Cider Cask were two of our most recent successful launches. Because of their popularity, we’ve incorporated Rum Cask into our permanent portfolio and have reintroduced Cider Cask for a second fall season,”

Some distilleries focus on particular areas of tinkering. Teeling not only explores finishes, but tweaks its yeast mix and malt selection. Slane uses three types of casks, one a heavily toasted and medium char virgin oak cask, unusual in Irish whiskey.

Jameson has had success with Caskmates done in exchange with craft brewers, notably Caskmates Stout and Caskmates IPA. “With Jameson Caskmates, we have seen the power of crossing over categories by tapping into consumers’ love of craft beer,” says Jameson’s VP of Marketing, Paul Di Vito. 

For the high-end Pernod brands, finishing techniques, like Redbreast Lustau, and Red Spot, launching in the U.S. in early spring, are significant. Recently, The Spot Range experimented with the releases of Green Spot Château Léoville Barton and Green Spot Chateau Montelena, the first single pot still Irish to be finished in wine casks.

And if consumers respond to the new iterations, the flood will continue. “Trying out different woods and flavor profiles wouldn’t make sense if the market wasn’t open to it,” says The Sexton’s Master Blender, Alex Thomas. “The consumer wants something different and for me as a blender that’s a dream come true.”


    Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) March 2019 Editions Wed, 06 Mar 2019 15:41:32 -0500
It's Miller's Time … with National Premium Beer National_Premium_0001.jpg

Tim Miller has gone from being a successful oilman to the owner of National Premium Beer. But he doesn't really see it as that big of a leap. During a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, he remarked, "I tell people, 'It's the same thing!  We're using the same kind of practices we used in the oil business, and I'm still delivering liquid. It's just in a can or a bottle and not in a truck'"

Miller was indeed the third generation to head his family's oil business, joining right after college and running it until 2001.  Working at his grandfather’s company over the years, he developed an appreciation for vintage advertising, signage, and fuel pumps.  After Miller sold the company, he became a Realtor with Benson & Mangold in Easton, Md. But his interest in antiques and old signs persisted. One day in 2002, he saw some vintage beer signs in an antique store and thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to bring back an old beer brand?'"

But it wasn't until eight years later, when a Wall Street Journal ad touted an old brand auction in New York City, that he decided to climb that particular mountain.  One of several beer brands up for bid was National Premium, an old Maryland beer originally marketed as the upscale version of National Bohemian (i.e., "Natty Bo").  What he purchased that day were basically the words "National Premium Beer." He would soon add the trademark, then the original formula with help from brewer Ray Klimovitz.

Miller then connected with Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company in Dover, Del. After speaking with CEO Jim Lutz, he contracted with the company as his brewery, Jack Ehmann as his brewmaster, and together they relaunched National Premium Beer just prior to Memorial Day in 2012.

b2ap3_thumbnail_National_Premium_0003.jpgNearly seven years later, Miller is in the early stages of self distributing. "We've been doing self distribution now for about two months," he confirmed, during our chat in mid-January, "and we've really been connecting with our customers, the stores, the restaurants.  We still have distributors in some parts of the state, and we're very, very happy with them.  And, sure, I could always go out and talk to a store operator or owner all I wanted.  But I couldn't really sell them anything.  I'd just hope that everything went through after I left, which it usually did.  But it's just nice to have direct sales feedback from what you're doing."

Along the way, the former oilman has come to learn a lot about the beverage some call "suds," others call "brewskie," and still others call a "cold one."  He remarked, "People love beer!  They love talking about it.  They love drinking it.  They love hearing stories about it.  I've found they want to know everything they can about National Premium.  The questions and stories keep coming, too.  I'll get, 'Oh, my grandfather was a pipe fitter at the original brewery.' There's always some kind of connection."

He remembers being immediately attracted to the colors of the National Premium label, specifically purple for the Baltimore Ravens and orange for the Orioles. "There's a lot of heritage with that crest and the classic look of it," he said.  "And there is the nostalgia factor. We have the classic beer taste (Pilsener) that might remind you of a beer you stole a sip from your dad or your grandfather.  It's crisp, clean, and satisfying."

b2ap3_thumbnail_National_Premium_0002.jpgOver the years, he has expanded his company with the addition of the old "Wild Goose Brewery" assets and subsequently re-released Wild Goose Snow Goose and Wild Goose IPA.  But it's his re-launch of National Premium that continues to garner the most attention. 

He stated, "At its peak, the Wild Goose brands were in 13 states, and National Premium was a global brand.  I think it was everywhere except the Middle East.  We've been out for seven years in May.  We've done Delaware and some other areas, but for now we're focused on Maryland."

Looking ahead, in addition to stepping up self-distribution, Miller is eagerly anticipating the new canned version of National Premium beer becoming available.  He concluded, "The brewery in Dover that makes National Premium just got a canning line.  They've done a couple runs of it.  So, maybe by mid- to late April, it'll all be ready.  We're really excited about getting cans.  Pools, boats, golf carts -- National Premium will become even more of a warm weather, summertime kind of beer."

For more info, call 410-310-3553 or email

    Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.   

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2019 Editions Wed, 06 Mar 2019 15:33:24 -0500
Smart Short-Cuts Bee-Hive

Bar Biz: Some save time, some add flair… 
little things can really elevate a bar’s game

While most of the attention in Cocktail World lands on bars and restaurants pushing the limits or carving out narrow niches, the vast majority of operations that serve drinks have a myriad of concerns beyond drink-making. Given that and increased customer knowledge and expectations, what is the average bar and restaurant to do to up their cocktail game?

Kim-Mixing_hi-resIf you ask  consultant and author Kim Haasarud of Liquid Architecture (pictured), for clients that are relatively new to craft cocktails, keeping it simple but better is the right approach.

“Those simple, three-ingredient cocktails are really in fashion right now and there are so many really good spirits out there. You can make some pretty great drinks using simple ingredients,” she says. Drinks like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds score very high on most drink menu surveys, she notes, and any number of tweaks—adding a dash of Chartreuse to a Margarita, or an amaro to spice up a Whiskey Sour, or using split bases, like bourbon with Cognac or tequila with mezcal—can smartly customize standard recipes.

A Visit to Tweakville

As limited drink menus with perhaps a dozen cocktails have become common, non-craft bars can easily take advantage of the trend by creating a list of classics with special tweaks. Among those three-ingredient classics, Haasarud suggests that the broad range of vermouths and amaros well-priced and with a wide flavor palate allow an operator to tweak drinks like Negronis and Manhattans. For example, suggests menuing a Negroni three ways, changing the gin and sweet vermouth brands to craft something unusual.

Another easy change: tap into the wide selection of adult sodas available to improve the Highball game in Palomas or Cuba Libres, for example.

Some upgrades are even more basic, but can easily create a higher-level cocktail game, says David Commer of Commer Beverage Consulting. “Ingredients are the big thing, like fresh lemon and lime, and other better ingredients like fresh juices. One of the things I struggle with in consulting with newer beverage operators is they want to pick wings off butterflies to make drinks with and it doesn’t have to be that complicated,” he says.

Simple Does It 
Three-ingredient classics such as an Old Fashioned and a Cosmopoliltan are especially ripe for tweaking.

Fresh juices and house-made simple syrups with flavor tweaks can move complex drinks into the realm of possibility for the average bar, Coomer says. “Infusing syrups is a good way to get cool flavors done in advance so that drink assembly is simpler—things like rosemary lemon sour or hibiscus tea-infused vodka.” For restaurant-first operators, prep cooks accustomed to measuring and mixing can easily take on pre-batching and ingredient assembly, putting the tasks in professional hands.

Both agree that from mixing ingredients together for speed scratch it is a short hop to batching drinks in advance. “For clients that are high volume, they should definitely consider batching. This is something the pros are doing at some of the top mixology bars in the nation and with this you can have very complex cocktails that can be created in three steps,” says Haasarud.

Speed scratch and batching also help create a level of consistency that is hard to achieve in the average bar with a varying level of bartender skill and experience.

For one client, Omni Hotels, Haasarud added smaller versions of new cocktails as shots. “They are like small tastes that allow a group to come in and instead of ordering a round of Kamikazes they can have some of the new cocktails in shot form. It allows guests to be more experimental at a lower cost—$5 rather than $15. It’s an easier way to sell cocktails and helps guests be exploratory,” she says.

First and foremost, though, is better training, says Haasarud. “If you’re going to invest anything in your program, don’t invest in a huge amount of spirits a bartender doesn’t know how to use, invest in training so they know how to shake and stir a cocktail properly.”

   Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.   

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) March 2019 Editions Wed, 06 Mar 2019 15:14:11 -0500
Hunter Douglas of Hank's in DC IMG_3291

Hunter Douglas is the bar manager at Hank’s Oyster Bar Dupont Circle and just-opened Hank’s Cocktail Bar, part of the Washington, D.C.-based Jamie Leeds Restaurant Group.

Beverage Journal: How does Hank’s Cocktail Bar, an industry hangout that originated in Petworth and is soon to re-open in Dupont Circle, differ from the oyster bar, where guests eat lobster deviled eggs and sip libations like the I Dream of Pralines (pecan-cinnamon-infused bourbon, Licor 43, burnt sugar, ginger/orange bitters)?

Hunter Douglas: Hank’s Cocktail Bar is our playground and a space to dive into some of the District’s most exciting beverages, but both concepts share the philosophy of JL Restaurant Group by featuring the use of fresh produce and seasonal ingredients. Customers leave having experienced consistently well-made cocktails to fit their mood, and there is an opportunity to play and be overly adventurous, enjoy a slight variation of your favorite or stick to what you know and love in either place. 

BJ: There are now four locations of Hank’s Oyster Bar. How has the group’s beverage vision evolved along with the growth of the JL Restaurant Group portfolio? 

HD: JL Restaurant Group establishments now have regionally-recognized bar programs that are built on the success of our past initiatives. The aim is to be playful while remaining grounded in classics. For example, a few of the new menu categories at Hank’s Cocktail Bar are “We Invented the Remix,” “Beertails” and “Size Matters.” We’re serious about our cocktails, but want the atmosphere to be comfortable, social and a D.C. must-visit.

BJ: Eco-friendly measures are thankfully becoming more prevalent behind the bar these days. How are you responding to this shift?

HD: We’re currently focusing on developing and implementing sustainable practices. I want to move beyond simply making cordials and adjusting acid in old juices to reconfiguring how we view everything from water usage to the products we carry to utilizing waste. One of the cocktails on the new menu, She Who Lives in a Shell, uses recycled oyster shells that are shucked during service and washed to infuse dry vermouth with a briny, mineral flavor.

IMG_3289Upshur Street Familia

An unlisted ingredient in this cocktail is progress. Or perhaps nostalgia. Upshur Street was the previous location of Hank’s Cocktail Bar, which relocated to the second floor of the Hank’s Oyster Bar near Dupont Circle. 


1 ¼ oz Lunazul Tequila Blanco

¾ oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur

1 oz fresh Pineapple Juice

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Ginger Syrup*

1 oz Dry Cider (Austin Eastciders Original recommended)

¾ oz Angostura Bitters
Method: Build all ingredients, except bitters, in tin and shake. Pour over a footed highball filled with crushed ice. Garnish with Angostura Bitters, an orchid, and dehydrated lemon.

*Ginger Syrup: Peel ginger and blend with equal parts sugar and water by weight. Strain and refrigerate.

   Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.   

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) March 2019 Editions Wed, 06 Mar 2019 15:00:48 -0500
Cognac in Motion 1-(2)

Hennessy’s “Master Blender’s” series, representative of the trend toward creative limited editions, is composed exclusively of high-quality eaux-de-vie that have been set aside specifically to be used at the Master Blender’s discretion.


Taking After Whiskey, The Classic French Brandy Is Getting Hot, Trading Up And Branching Out 

By Jack Robertiello

When it’s a good year for Hennessy, it’s a good year for Cognac. That’s been the case for some time in the U.S., as the dominance of the market leader only seems to grow. However, other brands are finding ways to build on their bases and some are breaking out with new iterations and market approaches.

That’s needed because while we’re the world’s largest market, the U.S. drinker prefers the least expensive expressions.

“What makes the U.S. different is the mix is heavily skewed toward the VS category, whereas worldwide the main products that sell are VSOP and above,” says Alexandra Albu, Sales and Marketing Director for Groupe Camus. “Obviously, the mixology trend which is so strong here is not as developed worldwide. A lot of VS cognac is poured behind the bar with the return to pre-Prohibition cocktails.”

VS accounts for about 70% of U.S. volume; of that, Hennessy captures about 60%, Rémy Martin about 15% and Courvoisier about 10%, according to Wall Street’s Bernstein Research.


Courvoisier’s trio of age-designated Cognacs will be joined in 2019 by a limited-time Sherry Cask offering—emblematic of recent innovation in the category.


Success Trickling Up 

“You can see the growth has been made mainly by the brand leaders,” acknowledges Bertrand Verduzier, International Business Director, Cognac Frapin, but he sees a halo effect: “More interest into what’s inside the bottle, more interest in how it is made, where it comes from and what’s behind the production—that’s where we find interest.”

As he suggests, Americans are starting to look for education and to trade up; according to the Distilled Spirits Council, the combined Brandy and Cognac categories accounted for about 16% of the industry’s value growth in 2017.

According to Patrick Raguenaud, President of the producers’ association BNIC, the U.S. market continued to be strong in 2018, with total volumes shipped up about 7% over the 12-month period ending October 2018. “Consumption is trending up with a faster growth of aged categories (+13.4%) compared to young categories (+4.2%). We are seeing in the U.S. market the arrival of a generation of consumers interested in authentic spirits, a generation that favors the know-how and the expression of the terroirs. This generation is interested in understanding and learning.”

Consumer interest in Cognac has never been stronger and the growth in the category reflects this, says Stephanie Kang, Director, Cognac for Beam Suntory. “We’re excited to see the future of this category, because many trends within spirits have not fully trickled down to Cognac to the extent of other categories, like bourbon,” says Kang. “More Millennial consumers now view Cognac and other luxury spirits as ‘approachable luxury,’ creating more stable demand than luxury durables.”


Cognac also works as a novel substitute, with Courvoisier here replacing gin in a French 75.


Strengths Within the Category

Beyond the luxury marketing and nightclub scene that has long been the brandy’s core, cocktail culture has benefited Cognac as has consumer demand for affordable luxury. The base of consumers interested in Cognac has broadened recently, says Hennessy’s Senior Vice President for the U.S. Giles Woodyer. “They are embracing the category for its rich history. Cocktail culture will remain a thriving area of interest among millennials, and this will play well to the strengths of Cognac, highlighting the heritage as well as the mixability of the spirit.”

For Guillaume Lamy, Vice President, Americas, for Cognac Ferrand, the current trends are a payoff at just the right time. “For 15 years or so we were growing, mostly from the on-premise and craft cocktail movement, and as of today we are also doing a lot of education with consumers.


Most Cognac sold in the U.S. is VS, which is usually mixed; VSOP and XO, more apt for sipping, are expected to gain share.


Adding SKUs, Pushing Limits 

Ferrand has continued tinkering with their Renegade Barrel program, limited annual releases with a twist. The first finished Cognac in Sauternes barrels, with the second labeled an eau de vie de vin aged in oak and chestnut barrels. The first expression fell within Cognac rules, while the latter does not. The limits of those rigid rules are being explored by other bottlers to escape the VS/VSOP/XO/up ladder of age and price.

“We love the U.S. market because people love to experiment,” says Ferrand’s President, Alexandre Gabriel, who also bottles a double reserve Cognac blend of 7-10 and 20-year-old brandies finished for a year in Banyuls casks. “We’re reconnecting with old traditions that the barrel-proof and high-end bourbon consumer understands.”

Woodyer believes new ideas within the category will drive Cognac into the future, including offerings that change the perceptions of what Cognac has been, from higher proofs to changing traditional flavors. Hennessy’s Master Blender’s Selection series is an example.

Small producers are purposefully diversifying their portfolios not unlike Scotch and other high-end brown goods. Frapin, for instance offers two distinct XOs (Château Fontpinot and XO VIP), as well as a bottling highlighting Grande Champagne, and a cigar blend.

Of course, Cognac has long been able to produce releases from certain years, estate or regions. One vintage-dated example is Hine’s Domaines Hine Bonneuil 2008, the third expression in a collection of single grand cru, single estate, single harvest Cognacs.

Also just arriving: Camus XO Borderies Family Reserve, a single-estate Cognac produced in the Borderies, the smallest in the Cognac appellation, known for aromatic brandies. Camus also distinguishes itself in the market by using small pot stills and distilling on the lees in order to extract maximum flavors.

Broadening the base at a time when the category is surging and more consumers are entering the category makes perfect sense, especially as American consumers are constantly looking to new ways to enjoy their favorite tipple. “There is still room for innovation at every stage of the production process, says Ned Duggan, Vice President, Brand Managing Director, D’Ussé Cognac. From the aging in casks made of oak from different varietals or origins, to finishing in casks that have before contained other wine-based products, there are already a lot of options.”

  Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.    

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) February 2019 Editions Thu, 24 Jan 2019 14:31:47 -0500
Maryland's 2019 Legislative Session StateHouse_Jan19.jpg

A Beverage Biz Look Ahead at the 2019 Session

The 2019 General Assembly Session is just around the corner, and the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) is once again gearing up to play a big role in looking out for the beverage industry's interests.  This means guys like MSLBA Legislative Chairman Jack Milani and lawyer and MSLBA lobbyist J. Steven "Steve" Wise are expected to step up and drive the discussions.

So, what's different about this coming year?  For one … legislator turnover!  "We just had statewide elections back in November," Wise observed, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "Somewhere between 25 percent and roughly 30 percent of the General Assembly will be new.  So, it will be even more of an ongoing effort to educate legislators as to how our industry works, the issues that are important to us, the small businesses that are affected by everything that is done with alcohol in Annapolis, and so forth. This will be the most important thing MSLBA and the other industry associations will do in 2019!"

Milani concurred, adding, "This year, with so many new faces, it's really important for our members to know their legislators, reach out to them, and educate them a little bit.  If people really care about their businesses, it's not too much to ask them to take a little more time out to contact these people who represent you in your district and to get involved.  A lot of times, it's just a matter of reaching out, having lunch with them, or just going to see them at their office.  There, you can explain to them the things that are most important to our industry."

He continued, "We've found that most legislators are more than willing to talk with you about the issues.  If nothing else, it opens up a dialogue.  So, if there is a bill that will obviously affect us and our interests, they now know people in the industry and will hopefully reach out and get our feedback."

As for the issues that will matter most in the months to come, Wise was quick to answer. "There will certainly be continued discussion about whether beer and wine should be offered in chain stores and supermarkets," he said.  "This won't be new to the General Assembly, but it will be new to the new members and it will come up."

Both men agreed that "dram shop" liability is another issue that will likely generate some dialogue in the new year.  If it is ever adopted, this legal doctrine would permit vendors of alcohol to be sued by individuals who have suffered injury at the hands of a patron of that vendor.  Consequently, the owner of a bar or tavern where a customer unwisely opts to drink and then drive and hits another vehicle could be sued by the occupants of the other vehicle.

Wise also advises Beverage Journal readers to keep a close eye on the Supreme Court and the case of Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Clayton Bird (Tenn. v. Byrd).  He stated, "It deals with whether states can require residency for purposes of retail alcohol licenses. It's another case where the Court is going to have to weigh the 21st Amendment versus the Commerce Clause, and it will have implications for every state including Maryland.  I have no idea which way it will go.  It's not in my wheelhouse to predict what the Supreme Court is going to do.  Whatever their decision will be, we'll have to read it carefully."

Wise, an attorney with the law firm of Schwartz, Metz, and Wise in Annapolis, went on to describe Tenn. v. Byrd as the "most significant Supreme Court case since Granholm v. Heald" in 2005. The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision ruled that laws in Michigan and New York that allowed in-state wineries to ship wine directly to consumers, but prohibited out-of-state wineries from doing the same, were unconstitutional.  

Another thing Milani and Wise agreed on was how Governor Larry Hogan's recent re-election would be good for the state's beverage interests.  "I think the governor's re-election is good for all small businesses, not just those in our industry," remarked Milani, who has co-owned Monaghan's Pub in Woodlawn since 1990.  "Gov. Hogan has taken the time to really emphasize small business.  His cabinet and his people have been pretty easy to work with, too.  It's been nice to have a governor who actually appreciates us!  The guy has certainly proven that he listens to people's thoughts and proposals and their considerations.  Even if you don't agree with him, you can't fault him for listening to ideas."

Wise was equally positive.  He called the Hogan administration "super" and added, "They know that the alcohol industry is made up of Maryland businesses.  Thus far, they've been very helpful, have had an open door, and we don't have any reason to believe that won't continue for the next four years."

This is certainly a critical time in both state and national politics.  For many reading this, the goings-on in Annapolis and Washington can appear overwhelming.  But Wise and Milani both urged Beverage Journal readers -- from bar and restaurant operators to packaged-goods store owners to brewers and winery proprietors -- to get involved.

"You have to be aware of what's going on," Wise advised.  "The best way to do that is through the industry's trade associations.  There's the MSLBA at the retail level and on up the chain to the Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association.  More than most industries, what's done at the state level on alcohol regulation has an immediate and recognizable impact on your business.  That should be reason alone for folks to sit up and pay attention."

Milani concluded, "If you're going to be in this industry, you should really take the time to understand the rules, regulations, and laws.  And I can't imagine why you wouldn't be a member of a trade association.  MSLBA has a full-time lobbyist in Annapolis.  We have legislative committees.  We need you to be involved.  It's foolish to make such a big investment and then not know what's going on around you." n

[Note: MSLBA President Darren Barnes was unavailable to comment for this article.]

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) January 2019 Editions Wed, 26 Dec 2018 14:04:21 -0500
Next Up: GEN Z Stocksy_comp_1762723

Think Millennials are a tricky bunch? Meet Generation Z…

By Kit Pepper

After 15 years on center stage, Millennials are about to have to share the spotlight with a new generation whose arrival will rock the consumer scene: Generation Z (or iGen), born from about 1996 to 2012.

The oldest of this group are just 22, but already Generation Z is drinking about 20% less than Millennials did, according to a 2017 survey by Berenberg Research. The same survey predicts this generation will consume 10% less alcohol per capita than Millennials through age 49.

This is huge because Generation Z is huge: 86.43 million U.S. residents in 2017 (Statista) versus 71.86 million Millennials and 73.47 million Baby Boomers, the latter a population that is beginning to decline. If marketers have paid avid attention to the wants of Millennials in recent years, it is in part because that generation will surpass the population of Baby Boomers in 2019, becoming the largest consumer generation. But Generation Z is already the largest generation by far and will soon be independent consumers themselves. Understanding what today’s 21-year-old finds compelling may help the drinks trade capture the imagination of these newest legal consumers.

Digital Natives Are Different

Queena Zeng is a 21-year-old consultant for JÜV Consulting, which is staffed exclusively by members of Generation Z. She cites her generation’s status as digital natives—they can’t remember a time without Internet—as the most important factor influencing how they process and interact with the world. Their ownership of smartphones is almost universal—98% as of 2017, according to Nielsen.

And Generation Z spends so much time online that it has radically changed their behavior and development, even compared to Millennials who are only slightly older, according to psychologist Jean Twenge. She attributed the difference to smartphones in a 2017 article in The Atlantic: “The Millennials grew up with the Web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night.”

Zeng says social media is one big reason for the projected decline in alcohol consumption among Generation Z: “We know that social media actually makes us less physically social—we meet up with people less. And alcohol is a social event.” There’s also new competition for the activities other generations traditionally fell back on. “We’re embedded in this digital world with so many other distractions…alcohol is one of the other things we would consume or do for fun.” Lastly, she says, “Social media kind of monitors our behavior, too. It presents our self to others.” Knowing that all behavior, good and bad, will end up online has an effect on what activities will be chosen.

Authenticity Is Key

Authenticity has been a catchword in Millennial marketing but it is the number-one value of Generation Z, according to Zeng. To explain why it matters more to her generation she circles back to their status as digital natives who receive almost all information online. “We’re trying to figure out what’s real or not, constantly,” she says. “Because we’re exposed to so many different things…we’re able to understand, learn what is real.” Authenticity may be a currency for brands and businesses, but for individuals, “authenticity is being true to self in this digital realm.”

This affects how Generation Z filters the information they receive. Zeng stresses that Generation Z is not naïve about how marketing works. She uses social media influencers as an example: “We recognize what is happening here, we understand that they’re getting paid; do we really like the product?” For brands and businesses, authenticity boils down to being able to offer something this generation can stand behind—a “story” that speaks to their wants and concerns.


When starting her import business, Mika Bulmash (above, right) had the idea to forge collaborations between established U.S. winemakers and those in emerging regions. She connected Helen Keplinger of Napa Valley (left) and Ntsiki Biyela in South Africa helped Biyela self-fund her own winery.

Stand for Something

Queena Zeng is “worried about what is going to happen in the next 20 or 50 years, politically, environmentally… Our generation really wants to fix the problems that we have and help each other out—globally.”

Generation Z are more likely to support companies that share their values. “We care about what companies are doing. We understand that they can make a difference in this world, and we want them to succeed,” says Zeng.

And there are many ways to make a difference. When Mika Bulmash started her importing business Wine for the World, her background in international development inspired her to “make the world a little bit of a better place.” She came up with the idea of collaborations between established U.S. winemakers and emerging ones from up-and-coming regions. The collaborations tend to create opportunities: The wine made in 2013 by the team of Helen Keplinger of Napa Valley and Ntsiki Biyela, in South Africa, helped Biyela self-fund her own winery, Aslina, last year.

In the store, supporting a worthy cause with purchase is an easy way for younger consumers to do good. The wine label Proud Pour makes specific promises with the sale of each bottle of California Sauvignon Blanc or Oregon Pinot Noir toward restoring oysters or planting bee habitat. And Elephant Gin’s handwritten labels each carry the name of a legendary elephant or one now being protected by partner groups. The trend of social-cause tie-ins has picked up of late. Other examples include Amarula Liqueur (elephants); Bee’s Box Wines (10% of profits to; and several wineries (notably J. Lohr and Sutter Home) that raise funds for breast cancer awareness and research.


Generation Z consumers are considered more likely to support companies that share their values. Proud Pour, created by Berlin Kelly, spells out specific charitable causes on the wines’ front labels; Sauvignon Blanc supports oyster reefs; the Pinot Noir supports bee habitats.

Healthy Planet, Healthy Body

For socially conscious Generation Z, the health of the planet and personal health aren’t radically different. Concern for animals and the rise of plant-based eating has boosted veganism by 600% in the U.S. between 2014 and 2017 alone, according to a 2017 Global Data trend report. Organic food has grown from 3.1% of the total food market in 2009 to 5.5% in 2017, based on Organic Trade Association figures. The healthy living trend has caught the attention of adult beverage suppliers and on-premise businesses.

Imperial Lamian in Chicago boosted revenue by offering non-alcoholic cocktails and bubble tea.

Diageo, for one, offers Ketel One Botanical, with lower alcohol (30% ABV), no artificial flavors or sweeteners and no sugar. The company has also invested in Seedlip, a “distilled non-alcoholic spirit” that is made for use in alcohol-free cocktails and is sugar and sweetener free, with zero calories.

The drinks trade, too, is moderating its consumption in an effort to create a sustainable work life. This year at Tales of the Cocktail, William Grant’s opening party was entirely teetotal, with 20 booze-free cocktails on pour—an experience likely to boost alcohol-free options on bar menus across the country. 

Culture also has an impact on the consumption of alcohol. Imperial Lamian in Chicago offers a menu of authentic Chinese food to a clientele that is about half Asian, says Beverage Manager Gerardo Bernaldez. He realized two years ago that some of his guests “aren’t into drinking” and added six non-alcoholic cocktails, which “increased revenue by, like, $5000 a month.” Many of those drinks have now been replaced by bubble teas with, so far, no change in demand. Generation Z is the most multicultural generation yet, according to U.S. Census statistics, including more young people whose cultures de-emphasize alcohol.

8 Seconds—More or Less

The infamous 12-second attention span among Millennials is now 8 seconds for Generation Z. But what frustrated parents might consider a character flaw is actually a symptom, once again, of life as a digital native. Constant input, both online and off, creates the need for sorting. Anything boring or irrelevant is discarded in a few seconds; items considered engaging or meaningful may get more time, or be passed along to friends. As Queena Zeng puts it, “If we like what you’re trying to communicate to us, we’ll pay attention. If there’s that storytelling that really appeals to us, we’ll listen.”

The Treasury Wine Estates brand 19 Crimes takes storytelling literally. Introduced in 2012, it won early followers for its quirky branding—a different 18th-century British criminal on each label and collectible corks that reveal the crimes committed. But in July 2017 the brand launched an augmented reality app that animates the mugshot on each label, allowing the convict to tell his or her own tale. 19 Crimes had sold 100,000 cases by 2014 and was slightly over 1 million cases in 2017. Less than a year later, Treasury confirms that 19 Crimes is a 1.5 million case brand and there have been more than 2 million downloads of the app.

Not everyone has augmented reality at their fingertips. Authentic reality still works too. Brent Kroll, founder of Maxwell Park, a wine bar in Washington, DC., says, “Everyone should be collaborative: It’s the future of somms, wine bars.” He wants guests to feel like “you’re creating an experience for them.” Engaging monthly themes, a constantly rotating by-the-glass list, and a reputation as a favorite hangout of off-duty somms gives the place a genuineness that invites guests to feel like insiders.

And retail customers were captivated by South African winemaker Ntsiki Biyela’s story when she made a sales trip to New York early this year. Twenty years ago Biyela was a domestic worker applying for study grants and took what she was offered: enology. When she arrived in Stellenbosch to start her courses, she had never tasted wine and didn’t speak Afrikaans, the language she would be taught in. Six years later she was the first black woman winemaker in South Africa.

A Final Word

Asked what businesses should do to reach Generation Z, Queena Zeng says, “The most important thing is definitely to listen. At the end of the day, businesses are for people. If they listen to what people want, it’s a win-win situation.”

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.    

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) December 2018 Editions Thu, 29 Nov 2018 05:36:27 -0500
Building Success: on the restaurant scene BuildingSuccess_0001.jpg

What happens when a noted property developer and one of Maryland's most reliable plumbers team up? They're hoping the end result will be "two new great places to eat and drink!" 
John Roe has partnered with Len Bush (a.k.a. "Len the Plumber") and are hoping a building they own and are renovating at 37 W. Cross St. in Baltimore's Federal Hill will be 2019's newest hotspot for wining and dining.

Roe, who began his professional career managing his father's tavern in Laurel before transitioning into commercial real estate brokerage in Baltimore during the late 1990s, had ironically been trying to reach the owner of this particular building for a couple years. But he could never get a return call from him. "It appeared to be vacant, and it was one of the larger buildings in Federal Hill," he recalled. "Finally, an agent we knew asked if we'd like to take a look at 'some building in Federal Hill.' When she drove us up to it, I couldn't believe it! It wasn't formally on the market, but she was good friends with the owner so she arranged a tour. After that, we knew we had to have it."

Bush described the structure as "love at first sight." He added, "This property had all the character and charm of an old industrial building that I knew we could breathe new life into. Sitting in the heart of Federal Hill, it's one the last remaining historic properties left undeveloped in the area."

So, what makes it ideal for restaurant/brewpub use? First and foremost, Roe noted, there are numerous food and beverage establishments in the Federal Hill submarket that are operating successfully in converted rowhomes. They tend to be long and narrow – anywhere from 12 to 14 feet wide, which can present its own challenges. Roe noted, "Our two spaces are much more conducive to modern food and beverage operations in that they are much more open – roughly 50 x 90 and 50 x 120. Location is another great advantage for us. Cross Street Market is currently being redeveloped one block to our east, and the Stadium Square development, comprising 300 new luxury apartment units and over 300,000 square feet of Class A office space, is directly behind us."

Roe and Bush are actually developing a mixed-use project on the site, with the two restaurant spaces (6,080 sq. ft. and 4,446 sq. ft.) on the ground floor, and 23,000 sq. ft. of offices on the second and third floors. Their team includes such local pros as Chris DeLuca (project manager) of McHenry Project Consultants, interior designer Kelly Ennis of The Verve Partnership, and FH Harvey Construction as general contractor. 


Chris DeLuca of McHenry Project Consultants is but one of the many local professionals John Roe (pictured right) and Len Bush have on the team.

The partners are hoping to secure restaurant tenants that will complement each other in some way. At the same time, two very different food and beverage concepts would likely work just as well.  Roe remarked, "In a perfect world, we don't necessarily want two restaurants with the same, or at least similar, concept. There are a number of different food and beverage concepts currently enjoying great success. We feel confident we can secure two restaurant tenants that can feed off of each other's success."

Roe and Bush have secured both Federal and State Historic Tax Credits for the project, which was a challenge. "There are very strict guidelines with regard to renovations on the existing building, and so the challenge has been trying to create a modern office and retail project out of a 1930s-era industrial building," stated Roe, who spent 10 years of his career brokering commercial property transactions on behalf of buyers, sellers, tenants, and landlords.

Bush chimed in, "The biggest reward will be realizing the energy at the property that has been envisioned from the outset. I've always been passionate about rebuilding an older property, particularly industrial, and breathing new modern life to it." 

Through the process, both men have kept a steady head and "had each other's backs." In addition, both relied on past counsel. Roe stated, "I'd say the most important deal-making advice I've tried to follow is simply making certain I understand how the other side views a proposed transaction. If I understand what the critical components of the deal are, I can better manage expectations on both sides."

Bush, who started Len the Plumber in 1996 at the age of 30, agreed.  He added, "I think it’s the same philosophy that has guided me through my business career. Be passionate about details and deliver the best product possible."

Roe and Bush are aiming to deliver the base building in March 2019. 

For more info visit You can reach John Roe at or 410-960-9554. 

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  


Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) December 2018 Editions Thu, 29 Nov 2018 05:07:56 -0500
2018 Holiday Gift Guide HolidayGift_0001.jpg

For wine and spirits merchants, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. Also the most harrowing.

In November in particular, time and space collide as stores hustle to make room for season-specific merchandise. As is the case every year, suppliers have dug deep into their sacks of merchandising and marketing tricks to create gift-worthy pre-packed wines and spirits.

The idea behind Value Added Packs—aka VAPs, as they are often called—is simple: to make gift-giving even easier for shoppers. People love shortcuts. People love “extras.” VAPs deliver both. Whatever their motivation, VAPs offer prepackaged routes to gifting success—a resolution to which merchants and shoppers alike aspire.

Of course, not every VAP is going to suit your current store and clientele. Be mindful of stocking new products at varied price points—for the Prosecco budget and Champagne budget, so to speak.

Here are a few tips to incorporate these seasonal special-editions into your store:

  • Whatever you decide to carry, make sure your staff is given the details they need to explain the “added value” item; it’s not always obvious.
  • Avoid overkill. Huge piles of any product tend to make them look cheaper. One table or shelf section devoted to gifts will require less shifting of product and still score shoppers’ attention.
  • Be prepared to accommodate a good-ol’ bottle gift. Have gift bags available—as simple as mylar bags with yarn or as fancy as a spinning floor rack of decorative bags.
  • Keep small items near the cash register as impulse buys. This includes corkscrews and accessories that take up little space, as well as stocking-stuffable 50ml miniatures. This year maybe try some canned wine.

No matter how many of this season’s VAPs you stock, it’s important not to overlook perhaps the most important added-value of all when selling product to the public: Smile early and often!


1 Corralejo ‘1821’ Tequila in golden box.

2 Tito’s Handmade Vodka with festive bottle sweater.

3 Avión ‘Reserva 44’ Tequila by Waterford.

4 Champagne Piper-Heidsieck in red ‘lipstick’ canister.

5 Opici Toscano Twist red wine in twist-neck bottle and fiasco.

6 Nolet’s Dry Gin Reserve with gold trim and signatures.

7 Mionetto Prosecco Brut in bubbly gift box.

8 Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon in tin case.

9 Louis Roederer 2009 ‘Cristal’ Champagne, gift-boxed.

10 J. Mossman 15 Year Old Scotch in ornate bottle and box.

11 Chandon Brut ‘Baublebar’ limited edition.

12 Wemyss ‘Kiln Embers’ Blended Scotch, gift-boxed.

13 Pallini Limoncello with Deruta ceramic cup.

14 Case of 12 Mionetto Prosecco 187mls in signature box.

15 Laphroaig ‘Cairdeas’ Single Malt in canister.

16 Cinzano Prosecco in gift box.

17 Stroh ‘160’ Spiced Rum with baking cups & recipes.

18 Veuve Clicquot Champagne ‘cosmetic tube’ canisters, in Rosé & NV Brut.


1 Absente Absinthe with 2 branded rocks glasses.

2 Bloom London Dry Gin in a window box.

3 The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask gift box.

4 Hpnotiq Liqueur with flask and recipes.

5 Casamigos Blanco Tequila with logo shaker.

6 Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne in ‘Wonderland’ tin.

7 Riazul Silver Tequila with shaker, glass & recipe.

8 Mavem Aguardente (Aged Brandy) in window box.

9 Antica Sambuca with 2 shot glasses

10 Malfy Gin ‘Con Limone’ plus 2 branded glasses.

11 Bartenura Moscato in blue gift bag.

12 Martell ‘Blue Swift’ Cognac gift box.

13 Grey Goose Vodka (1L) in tin with magnetic letters.

14 Goslings ‘Dark ‘n Stormy’ cocktail set with 2 cans of ginger beer.

15 Gemma di Luna Pinot Grigio in carrying canister.

16 Deep Eddy Vodka with 6-foot-long string lights.

17 Van Gogh Vodka set of 50ml minis; original plus 3 flavors.

18 Grand Mayan ‘Ultra Aged’ Tequila in handpainted ceramic bottle.

19 Johnnie Walker Blue Label gift box with 2 glasses.


1 Sobieski Vodka (1.75L) with ‘Mule’ recipes.

2 Piper-Heidsieck Champagne with insulated red zipper sleeve.

3 O’Mara’s Irish Country Cream Liqueur with glass mug.

4 Gran Duque d’Alba Spanish Brandy with snifter & recipe.

5 Smirnoff ‘Peppermint Twist’ Vodka in scratch ’n sniff bottle.

6 Roscato set of 2 wines: Smooth & Dark.

7  Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvée in red gift box.

8 Lambay Irish Whiskey Single Malt in window box.

9 Hennessy VSOP Cognac Sazerac cocktail set.

10 Dozen Roses Wine gift pack with 3 bottles of wine. XOXO

11 Kahlúa with branded mug and ‘Cider Caliente’ recipe.

12 The Macallan Rare Cask Batch No. 2, gift-boxed.

13 RumChata with 2 branded shot glasses.

14 Tippy Cow Rum Cream ‘Peppermint Bark’ seasonal edition.

15 Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch with 2 rocks glasses.

16 Absolut Vodka with 2 50ml minis: Lime & Grapefruit.

17 Cognac Frapin ‘Extra’ in red plush case.

18 Captain Morgan   Original Spiced Rum (1L) with ornament shot glass & 50ml Apple Smash.

19 Grand Marnier Liqueur with 2 branded glasses

20 The Dubliner Irish Whiskey & Honeycomb Liqueur in gift box.


1 Kerrygold Irish Cream with 2 branded rocks glasses.

2 The Arran 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch and  2 nosing glasses.

3 Tanqueray & Tonic set with goblet & recipes.

4 Glenfiddich 12 Year Old with signature shape tin.

5 The Dubliner Irish Whiskey with gift box.

6 Heineken 1.5L limited-edition magnum bottle.

7 Speyburn 10 Year Old Single Malt plus 100ml Speyside-sourced water.

8 Buchanan’s Deluxe 12 Year Old Blended Scotch with branded shaker.

9 Patrón Silver Tequila (1L) limited edition in gift tote.

10 Henriot 2008 Vintage Champagne gift-boxed.

11 Tomintoul 16 Year Old ‘Speyside Glenlivet’ Single Malt with dram glass.

12 Western Son Lime Vodka plus 3 minis (original, blueberry, watermelon).

13 Riedel Syrah/Shiraz glasses, set of 2.

14 Jameson: 3 200mls (Caskmates Stout & IPA; Original) in carrier.

15 Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey in sturdy gift case.

16 Absolut Lime limited edition in sequin jacket.


1 Dom Pérignon ‘P2’ Champagne in sliding-door gift box.

2 Stemmari ‘Hedonis’ Riserva Sicilian red wine.

3 Casamigos Mezcal with branded shaker.

4 Maker’s Mark ‘46’ with 2 rocks glasses.

5 Brockmans Gin with jet black embossed canister.

6 Rotari ‘Flavio’ Trentodoc sparkling wine, gift-boxed.

7 Cooper & Thief red wine with 2 branded whiskey glasses.

8 Set of Boondocks American Whiskey & 8 Year Old Bourbon

9 Bartenura Demi-Sec sparkling wine in netted leather pouch.

10 Khortytsa ‘De Luxe’ Vodka in black window case.

11 Justin ‘Isosceles’ Meritage red blend, gift-boxed.

12 Dos Maderas Triple-Aged Rum with 2 glasses.

13 Ferrari 2009 ‘Perlé Nero’ Trentodoc sparkling wine, gift-boxed.

14 Camus ‘Extra Dark & Intense’ Cognac in embossed gift box.

15 Highland Park ‘Valknut’ in designer gift box by Jim Lyngvild.

16 Carolans Irish Cream with branded ice cream cup.


Black-Group-R-copy17 Highland Park 12 Year Old ‘Viking Honour.’

18 Baileys Irish Cream with ‘mine’ & ‘yours’ cups.

19 Ardbeg ‘An Oa’ Islay Single Malt Scotch.

20 Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon with ice mold and glass.

21 Champagne Bollinger R.D. 2004 Extra Brut, gift-boxed.

22 Riedel tumbler sets: ‘Spey’ & ‘Fire.’

23 Barenjäger Honey Liqueur with beer glass & recipes.

24 Chivas Regal 12 Year Old with 2 branded glasses.

25 Zyr Russian Vodka in black pouch.

26 The Dalmore 12 Year Old Single Malt & 2 distiller’s glasses.

27 Maker’s Mark Bourbon holiday gift box with 50ml mini.

28 Lunetta Prosecco in chillable case (becomes an ice bucket).

29 Glenmorangie ‘Signet’ in matte black box with gold trim.

30 The Glenlivet 12 Year Old with 2 branded glasses.

31 Virginia Highland Cider Cask Finished Whisky, gift-boxed.


1 Camus VSOP ‘Borderies’ Cognac in carrying case.

2 The Glenrothes Single Malt ‘Bourbon Cask Reserve’ gift box.

3 Damrak Amsterdam Gin & Q Tonic set.

4 Cesari wood case with 2 Pinot Grigio, 1 Merlot.

5 Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut Art-de-Vivre gift box.

6 Hennessy XO Cognac in handsome gift box.

7 Deanston Highlands Single Malt with 2 branded rocks glasses.

8 Champagne Henriot 2005 ‘Cuvée Hemera’ in gift box.

9 Chamucos Reposado Tequila with cut-out gift box.

10 Mezan XO Rum with 2 branded cocktail glasses.

11 Amaro Montenegro with tumbler & recipe.

12 Dom Ruinart 2007 Vintage Champagne in gift box.

13 Beefeater London Dry Gin (1.75L) in graphic London tin.

14 Bolla Pinot Grigio & Chianti wines in wood box.

15 Novo Fogo Cachaça Caipirinha kit with muddler & 2 drinking jars.

16 Ao Yun 2014 Chinese Cabernet Sauvignon in ornate wood case.

17 Amarula Cream Liqueur with 2 branded rocks glasses.

18 Glencadam ‘The Remarkable’ Single Malt Aged 25 Years.


1 Louis Roederer 2012 Rosé Champagne with 2 glasses.

2 Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne, deluxe gift box.

3 Absolut Grapefruit (1L) limited edition in red sequin jacket.

4 Krug Grand Cuvée Champagne in maroon gift box.

5 Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey with 2 branded glasses.

6 Alfred Gratien Brut Champagne, gift-boxed.

7 Alfred Gratien Brut Rosé Champagne, gift-boxed.

8 ‘Disaronno Wears Trussardi’ set with 2 crystal flutes for Prosecco cocktail.

9 Bloom Jasmine & Rose Gin in decorative box.

10 Camus VS Cognac with urban nightlife decorative box.

11 Rotari Rosé sparkling wine gift set with 2 tulip flutes.

12 Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey with branded flask.

13 Chandon Brut Rosé ‘Baublebar’ limited edition.

14 Carpineto gift set with Dogajolo Bianco & Rosso wines.

15 Ruinart Brut Rosé Champagne in center-cut gift/display box.


1 Two bottles of Codorniu ‘Anna’ Blanc de Blancs Cava with branded ice bucket.

2 Jacquart ‘Experience’ Brut Champagne, gift-boxed.

3 Avión Silver Tequila with 2 branded glasses.

4 Martini & Rossi Collezione Speciale Asti in silver gift box.

5 Johnnie Walker Black with 2 branded tumblers.

6 Ferrari Brut Trentadoc sparkling wine, gift-boxed.

7 Gozio Amaretto Liqueur with copper mug.

8 1852 Kurant ‘Crystal’ Vodka, gift-boxed.

9 Gift set of Artesa wines: Carneros Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.

10 Crystal Head Vodka with 2 skull shot glasses.

11 Yeni Raki Anise Liqueur with 2 branded glasses.

12 Ketel One Vodka with 2 glasses and recipes.

13 Louis Roederer NV Brut Premier Champagne in graphic gift box.

14 Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur with 2 branded glasses.

15 Caorunn Scottish Gin with Bittermens spiced cranberry bitters.

16 RumChata holiday mug with 8 mini Chatas.

17 Roederer Estate ‘L’Ermitage’ Brut sparkling wine, gift-boxed.

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.   

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) November 2018 Editions Fri, 26 Oct 2018 08:23:15 -0400
Riggs Liquors Fans the Flames of Reopening JohnYoo_0001.jpg

Riggs Liquors in Northeast Washington, D.C., has risen from the ashes like the Phoenix of lore.  That mythological bird lived in the desert, consumed itself by fire, then later rose renewed from its own ashes. By most accounts, the phoenix lived for 500 years before rebirth. Riggs was only down for 18 months.  But don't say "only" to owner John Yoo.  He thought he'd be back up and running in six months after an accidental blaze destroyed his store in December 2016.  It wouldn't be until June of this year.

So what happened?  In late 2016, Yoo was having some work done on the front overhang of his store's roof section in preparation of a new awning.  The workers had stripped it all down to the bare metal.  But because the metal itself was heavy, they opted to do the work on a Sunday because there would be no people interfering with the job.  

"They decided to remove the awning with blowtorches to cut through the metal," Yoo recalled, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "Unfortunately, that caused a spark on the inside of the building, and that caused the fire.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.  The people doing the work called the Fire Department when they saw smoke coming out of the building.  But by that point, it was too late."

"There were so many aspects of [reopening] that were SO difficult!" he exclaimed.  "Dealing with insurance, dealing with general contractors.  It just took so long.  Everything takes it time.  Insurance needed to run its course.  Unfortunately, with the general contractor … let's just say, I wasn't his only client!"

Yoo continued, "I had never been through a situation like this.  Had I had someone I could reach out to a little more, who maybe had gone through this, that would have been helpful in navigating the finer aspects of what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.  I'm not going to say I'm an expert now, but I learned a LOT!"

What did he learn?  "I learned that when you find a general contractor, make sure you sign a timed contract with them.  'This needs to be done by then, that needs to be done by this date.'  Unfortunately, I didn't put any of that in my contract."


On a positive note, rebuilding Riggs Liquors gave Yoo the opportunity to make improvements that were not possible before.  The difference between the old store and the new is quite remarkable.  Yoo said, "Truth be told, back when I purchased this store in 2002, it was not a good-looking store.  I made some improvements over the years, but it was nowhere near where I wanted it to be.  Every cloud has a several lining, so I took this opportunity to totally redo the store.  My customers who were with me 'before,' their jaws dropped when they came in for the first time and saw the 'after.'"

The biggest improvement, according to Yoo, is the flow of the store.  Before, Riggs Liquors was very cluttered.  "I now have just as much, if not more, product on the floor," he stated.  "But it's now shelved and displayed in such a cleaner manner.  People can now walk more comfortably down the aisles.  It's no longer one person having to wait for another person, because they couldn't be in the same aisle at the same time.  Just the overall beauty of the store is so much better than what it used to be."

Yoo has also taken the opportunity to upgrade his store's product selection.  Before the fire, Riggs Liquors was a big beer store.  "I was known as the biggest beer retailer in the city," Yoo said.  "I think I am on my way back to that.  But now I am focusing more on craft beers and expanding my imports to more than just Corona and Heineken.  I had a decent selection of wines before.  But now I have it laid out to where customers can find the Cabernets, the Merlots, there's a French section.  I'm trying to become more of a general market store."

Yoo intends to stay out ahead of the curve moving forward.  Chiefly, he plans to bolster his store's presence online and via social media to appeal more to 21st century customers. "I'm not old, but I'm not necessarily young," he concluded.  "I'll be 48 later this year.  The social media stuff doesn't come easy to me.  I want to be more outgoing in that way to my customers.  I want to post about upcoming wine tastings, get people excited about new products that are coming … get people excited about Riggs Liquors!" 

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) November 2018 Editions Fri, 26 Oct 2018 08:18:12 -0400
Retirees Return Retirees_0001.jpg

Retirees Honor Past Breakthroughs and the Current Breakthru at Twice-Yearly Gatherings

Twice a year in March and September, three dozen or more beverage industry retirees meet for a special breakfast or lunch to reconnect, share old "war stories," and find out the latest goings-on in the business they dedicated most of their adult professional lives to.  The group is comprised almost exclusively of retirees from Breakthru Beverage Group LLC … or rather Charmer Sunbelt, which merged with Wirtz Beverage Group in 2015 to create Breakthru Beverage Group.

William "Bill" Morawski, a 30-year company veteran, heads the group and puts together the various gatherings.  He recalled, "Bob Bireley was the salesman who started this in 1996.  He ran this twice a year as a biannual breakfast event from 1996 through 2011.  In 2011, his health was failing, and Bob asked me to take the reins.  I reluctantly did, but I'm glad I did and I've been doing it ever since.  Bob passed away in 2012."

Morawski continued, "The people who come are retirees.  I think we have about 90 active people on the roll.  Traditionally, we get somewhere between 35 and 40 who show up for each event as some of those 90 are out of state now.  I think we had 38 at our last luncheon.  So, that was a pretty decent turnout.  We have a friends list as well, and they are some suppliers that we have dealt with over the years who have been close to a lot of the salespeople and office people. So, they're on our list as friends, and they're invited also.  There might be two or three out of that who show up."

"In the early years, we had it all over the place," Paul McDaniel, a former sales representative who retired in 2006, recalled.  "Wherever we could find a place that would take us!  The Holiday Inn in Timonium was a big one.  They'd cater for us.  Eventually, we started doing more luncheons."


Retirees Carmen Meo and Mel Mazer are pictured here with Breakthru Beverage East Region President Kevin Dunn and former President Joe Davolio, who remains on the company’s Board of Directors.

So what are the highlights of attending?  It's pretty uniform for each industry pro.  Laurence "Larry" Zabriske, former Vice President of Spirits, stated, "The highlight of these luncheons has remained constant over the years, and that is getting to see the other retirees and find out how they are doing. The company was known for the longevity of service by many of its employees.  So, in many cases we spent 20, 25, or 30 years working for and with each other.  This length of time created strong bonds and friendships that have lasted beyond our employment."

McDaniel agreed, adding, "The highlight is seeing all of the salesmen that I haven't seen in six months and learning about what the company is doing now as opposed to what it used to do.  It's nice to hear what's going on.  And most of us think, 'Oh, I'm SO glad I'm not there now!' As you would imagine, a lot of us are technologically challenged.  So, we'd have a problem.  But I guess they'd teach us and we would learn."

Morawski often refers to McDaniel as the retiree group's "acting secretary."  But McDaniel bristles at the suggestion.  "I don't have a title," he insisted.  "I just help out as best I can, keeping a spreadsheet on all of the retirees, their addresses, their phone numbers, their spouses' names.  We pass them out at each meeting so everybody knows how to get in touch with everybody.  But it's Bill who does most of the hard work."

It helps that one of the group's main members is still active at Breakthru Beverage Group. Former President Joe Davolio remains on the company's board of directors.  "So, I'm asked by Bill Morawski to give some comments about what's going on now," he said, "like with our negotiations regarding possibly merging with RNDC and where that stands.  It is a privilege for me to do that and to field questions from the folks."


Here are Dave Berzellini, J.J. Parker, Rick Hackett, and Frank Frick.

The retirees' most recent get-together was at company headquarters.  A luncheon took place on Sept. 12 that indeed drew 38 members of the group.  Most agreed, it was one of the best gatherings yet.  Zabriske recalled, "The event on Sept. 12 went extremely well.  In addition to a core of retirees that are regulars at these events, a number of others who reside outside the Baltimore metro area were in attendance, which added to the fun and excitement of the day.  The key takeaway for me, and a very obvious one, is that time doesn’t stand still, and we should take advantage of these get-togethers and enjoy each other while the circumstances of our lives permit."

Davolio added, "I think it was great to have it at the company and everyone seeing what they were a part of building over the years, what the company has become now.  Its size and scope.  It gives all of us a good feeling.  I've suggested offering a formal tour at a future get-together.  No more than maybe a half-hour, because some of us old-timers can't walk around a warehouse that big!"

A larger-size warehouse is, of course, not the only big change the business has undergone since many of these folks retired.  Perhaps the biggest difference in the industry today is the consolidation of business, first at the supplier level, which has in turn led to a consolidation of business at the wholesaler level. "Thirty five or forty years ago," Zabriske pointed out, "suppliers looked at their business in the U.S. on a state-by-state basis.  One supplier might have different brands in three or four wholesalers within a state.  Today, it's looked at nationally.  As a result of this change, suppliers are looking for a wholesale company who can drive their strategic vision and represent their lines from coast to coast and not state by state.  Ideally, they would like to deal with one cost-effective company that can guarantee identical and effective implementation of their programs in every market."


Retirees Carmen Meo and Susan Wellman.

Davolio shares this assessment.  He went one step further in reporting, "The business has shifted away from personal relationships and more towards performance contracts.  It's still important to build trust between suppliers and distributors, and distributors and our customers.  But the performance contract rules everything now.  That's a big change."

With so many things different, it's good to maintain some sense of history and connectivity.  And the twice-yearly get-togethers for company retirees fits that bill. Zabriske stated, "The group sort of represents a collective memory. We each remember different things, which when taken together provide a rich history of the lives we spent together."

Morawski wistfully concluded, "Maybe we worked for one another sometimes.  But we all became friends.  And now I think everyone just enjoys getting together, seeing how each other's health is, and what everyone is doing in their spare time."

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) November 2018 Editions Fri, 26 Oct 2018 08:08:25 -0400
Mastering the Amber Spectrum (Whiskey Wisdom) Barrel-HiRes-DSC_9327-Edit

Whiskey options abound at Barrel, a whiskey and cocktail bar in Washington, DC.

Staying On Top Of Whiskey Types Is Vital To Presenting The Category Optimally

By Jeff Cioletti

The spirits-drinking public may be far more savvy about whisk(e)y than in eras past, but that doesn’t mean carrying a vast selection of the spirit is a license to print money. With total whiskey revenue up 5% and the super-premium tier up nearly 10% in 2017, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, there’s been an explosion of new brands, expressions, barrel finishes, all vying for the attention of consumers who range from aficionados who demand to try something they’ve never sampled before, to the novice drinker who’s curious but often overwhelmed.

That’s why it’s key for those actually selling fine whiskies to maintain an educational base that’s always at least a step ahead of the consumer’s. It’s the role of the on- and off-premise retailer to guide their purchases based on actual information and professional experience—and avoid BS.

“I still hear people saying stuff that just isn’t so,” whiskey expert and author Lew Bryson cautions. “I heard someone say ‘Jameson is a blended whiskey, you know, like Seagram’s 7.’ It’s better not to say anything than to say the wrong thing. You’re not only hurting the whiskey’s reputation, you’re hurting your store or your bar’s reputation.”

Another all-too-common error: listing whiskies that are actually out of stock. It is not unusual for accounts to come into a rare bottle; when you do, play up just how special it is as a temporary addendum to your regular menu, advises Bryson: “Put stuff you only get one bottle of on a special page that you can replace. Don’t make it part of a bound bible of any kind.”


Members of the Reserve Chambers Club at Harry’s in NYC enjoy upgraded glassware and custom-stamped ice, among other perks.

At the most basic level, every whiskey seller needs to be able to frame the diverse types. Parker Girard, Beverage Director at Washington, DC, whiskey and cocktail bar Barrel, likes to use a geometric analogy. “This is the way I describe it to people: Whiskey is a very broad term, think about it as a rectangle,” Girard explains. “If bourbon is a square, then Scotch is a parallelogram, rye is a trapezoid and so on. They all kind of fit into this broad category and there are really sort of special circumstances that make each thing unique.”

Girard is also a fan of a particular metaphor he gleaned from distillery tours: “The difference between bourbon and rye is the difference between cornbread and rye bread—it’s one of the best analogies I’ve heard, as far as the make-up affecting the flavor and all that.”

Here is a guide to selling whiskey by type—plus some contemporary tips from seasoned re-sellers.

Moonshine It’s more of a marketing term than anything else, selling the allure of distilling’s illicit heritage (especially in and around Appalachia, though distillers all over the country are making the stuff). Moonshine is essentially unaged whiskey, a.k.a. “white dog.”

Bourbon Bourbon’s mash bill needs to be at least 51% corn, though many tend to have much higher corn content. The remaining can be any combination of rye, wheat, barley and other grains. It must be aged in previously unused charred-oak barrels. In order for it to be called “straight bourbon” it must be aged at least two years. The flavor has some sweet elements from the corn, as well as some pronounced vanilla and caramel notes from the barrel.

Rye If you’re looking for something spicier, rye whiskey is it. Its mash bill must be 51% rye, and the higher the rye content, the more rich, robust and engaging the spicy flavor and aroma. Like bourbon, if it’s been aged for at least two years it can be called straight rye. 

Tennessee Whiskey Tennessee and bourbon are quite similar. In fact, both require 51% corn in their mash bills and both must be aged in new charred-oak barrels. The big difference is the pre-barrel filtration: Tennessee whiskey distillers apply the Lincoln County Process, which involves charcoal filtration—either by pouring it through charcoal or letting maple charcoal chips steep in the liquid. It’s done to pull out some of the harsher flavors and produce a whiskey that’s a bit smoother. 

Blended Scotch “Blended” means it’s a blend of both malted barley and unmalted grain whisky from a number of distilleries. If the label says “blended malt whisky,” it’s a blend of single malt whisky from a number of distillers. Blended whisky often may be the less expensive option (depending on age), but it’s a common myth that blends are inferior. Flavor-wise, they’re typically less subtle and delicate than single malts.

Single Malt Scotch All the contents of a bottle of single malt Scotch have been produced at the same distillery. Blending is still involved, as a single malt is a combination of multiple barrels from that distillery to achieve a consistent flavor profile. Single malts can range from smoky and peaty—particularly if they’re from Islay—to fruity (a common characteristic among many Speyside malts). Flavor notes are a bit more delicate than blended Scotch, often with a dry, nuanced finish.


Irish Whiskey Irish whiskey, especially from large, mainstream brands, often has been regarded as the bridge from other spirits categories, like vodka, into whiskey. It’s known for its smoothness and approachable flavor. Unlike Scotch, most Irish brands are distilled three times; high-volume, mainstream brands usually are distilled on column stills, which makes them smoother. Now, Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey has emerged as a super-premium tier of the category, characterized by dark fruit and spicy notes.

Japanese Whisky The Japanese style of whisky is largely based on the Scotch tradition. But recently Japanese distillers have been beating the Scotch at their own game, garnering international awards and accolades. There is a similar single-malt and blend divide; the latter type tends to be quite popular in highballs.




 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) October 2018 Editions Wed, 26 Sep 2018 10:13:56 -0400
Single Malts: Old is New Again Heritage-4

The Granddaddy Of Fine Scotch Whisky Aims To Stay Relevant And Fresh

By Jack Robertiello

Ask most people in the Scotch whisky business for their opinion about American whiskey innovation, and you’re likely to get a bit of a “Been there, done that” in response.

It’s not that the changes in American whiskey don’t impress or encourage Scotch single malt producers—distillers are an affable clan of mutual admirers, and they are generally pleased that, with whiskey boundaries being broken at all levels. It’s just that perhaps the “new” whiskies are not so novel.

“We’re extremely excited about the innovation taking place across the category and the impact that has on how consumers and trade perceive single malt Scotch,” says Patrick Caulfield, Brand Director, The Glenlivet. “Innovation is driving 50% of total category growth.”

“This is a great time to be a whiskey drinker—there are tons of innovations, and in order to stay relevant as a brand and to keep people interested in you in the total whiskey category which is cluttered with new things, the expectation from the consumer and the trade is you almost have to be bringing out new releases,” says Michael Giardina, Brand Marketing Director for Glenfiddich. “If you’re not innovating in the category today you’re probably going to fall behind.”

Rather than argue their place in spirits as innovation pioneers, established Scottish distillers are rising to the challenge, and embracing it as a chance to expand their reach. As Caulfield notes, the current market “represents a huge opportunity for The Glenlivet to forge unique and meaningful connections with an increasingly diverse mix of consumers.” 


Glenmorangie is classic brand adjusting their portfolio and packaging to stretch their appeal to a new generation of whiskey drinkers without losing current fans.

Perpetual Innovation

Single malt producers have a right to feel that they’ve been waiting for the world to catch up to their whiskey tweaks. Barrel finishes? Glenmorangie broke that barrier as a successful commercial concept almost 30 years ago. Smaller barrels? Laphroaig Quarter Cask has become a steady performer. Barrel-proof? Countless limited time offerings from distillers including Glenlivet, Ardbeg, Aberlour and many others. Unusual ingredients? Back to Glenmorangie and their Signet, made with dark chocolate malt.

Still, the whiskey renaissance here continues to recruit new consumers, and it pushed producers to try new things, says Stephanie Jacoby, Vice President of Scotch, Diageo North America: “This new generation of whisky drinkers is branching out across brands and taste profiles, inspiring Scotch brands to offer products that do not conform to the traditional look and feel of the category.”

Classically, whiskey consumers tended to stay in their lanes, with some bourbon drinkers eventually migrating to single malts. But the new whiskey drinker is considered promiscuous and open, and that has opened the doors earlier for malts. “While North American whiskey continues to grow and provide a challenge for Scotch, we see that many of the new Scotch offerings that don’t have the traditional look and are attracting a new generation of drinkers,” says Jacoby.

Consumers, parched for new ways to sip their drams, will continue to push for new flavor twists, most agree. Says Sam Leotta, Brand Director Americas for The Macallan, “The unprecedented increased demand for single malts is something the entire industry has been facing, which has in turn driven a new age of innovation for all producers. Moving forward, the industry will have to continue to innovate, while also recruiting new consumers into the category and the brands.”


The Glenlivet Packhorse cocktail

Creative Limits?

But Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s Director of Distilling, believes there are limits: “There are only so many things we can do and still legally call ourselves Scotch malt whiskey. Because of that, ourselves, William Grant, Diageo and others have probably already done it or are in the process of doing it. But I will continue to push the boundaries as far as I can.” That means innovations like last year’s rye cask-finished Glenmorangie Spios (Scots Gaelic for spicy), the ninth release in the Private Edition range.

For The Glenlivet, experimentation includes the Nàdurra Peated Whisky Cask Finish and Founder’s Reserve, which Caulfield says has been the best performing innovation within the category in the U.S. in the last three years. Recently they also launched The Glenlivet CODE, with no cask information or tasting notes, challenging customers to “Unlock the Taste” through a digital experience. 

Diageo has turned its attention to one of its less well-known malts, Mortlach, with three new editions released this summer—Mortlach 12-Year-Old, 16-Year-Old and 20-Year-Old. And this fall we will see Diageo’s annual Special Releases collection, composed of ten rare single malts.

The Macallan expressions have proliferated to the point of deserving a scorecard—Sherry oak, double cask, triple cask matured, and other limited lines. Even when sold out, the prestige associated with such limited editions adds to The Macallan’s reputation.


The Macallan expressions have proliferated to the point of deserving a scorecard—Sherry oak, double cask, triple cask matured, and other limited lines.

Underdogs Achieving

This search for the new and the different also benefits brands not recently among the top performers in the U.S.—Glenfarclas, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh, now owned by Brown-Forman, are expected to be seen more now that the owner’s distribution capabilities are employed.

Rachel Barrie, Whisky Maker for BenRiach, The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh, says playing with peat, casks, age and maturation methods is now de rigueur, especially for new consumers. “The consumer wants to know more and seeks out more interesting products, and it appears to me there is a quest for flavor more than ever before,” she says. With peated and non-peated ranges, a collection of barrel finishes as well as a limited triple-distilled variant, BenRiach especially seems poised to emerge with a reputation for something Barrie calls “maltology, typically described as a the ways whiskey gathers tastes that are greater than the sum of the parts.”

The whisky tide has lifted some of Scotland’s newer distilleries, such as Isle of Arran Distillers, opened in 1995 as the only whisky producer on the island. Last century’s vision is now yielding dividends, in the form of a classic 10 Years Old, a new 18 Years Old, plus the official Robert Burns whiskies, which tap into the legendary national poet of Scotland, whose birthday is now recognized as a reason to celebrate the Scotch culture worldwide every January. 


Bunnahabhain is among those distillers adding new expressions while also retooling their classic age statement bottling.

Ageless Wonders

Reports on how non-age statements are being accepted are mixed—it’s an innovation forced by success, the by-product of distillers proactively taking pressure off short stocks of aged whisky. As Lumsden says, the more they are tasted, the better the market understands the concept, but still, no single variant has broken out, Giardina says: “Age still holds a lot of importance in this market. Most top sellers are age statement whiskies.”

Glenfiddich has managed their age statement core range with a twist; the 21 Year Old is also labeled Rum Cask, while the 15 is the Solera. Sort of like killing two marketing birds with each expression. They’ve also created their Experimental Range, just joined by Fire & Cane, a mix of peated and unpeated whiskies finished in rum casks. Stablemate The Balvenie has seen growing popularity for its Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old, and recently introduced a second vintage of its The Balvenie Peat Week 14 Year Old. The Dalmore has developed a potent mix of Age Statement and Non-Age-Statements; for instance, this year The Dalmore Portwood Reserve joined the likes of the sextuple-wood King Alexander III and 18 Year Old.

Mix It Up

Caulfield, like Lumsford and Jacoby, also credits the cocktail renaissance for finally developing a taste for malts, introducing even more new drinkers to its particular flavors. Not only are drinkers in general giving malts a try earlier than in the past, but more women seem to be gravitating to Scotch, say many marketers.

Two issues are of significant importance: stocks are limited and, as Lumsden points out, if China continues to develop a taste for malt and if India relaxes tariffs, the pressure on supply will be vastly increased.

Meanwhile, amid the steady hum of innovation, distillers will need to keep an eye on their hard-fought reputation for high-quality whisky. “Innovation is certainly a way to spur interest and recruit new drinkers to the brand, however I’d argue that it’s still more important to maintain the quality and handcrafted character our fans have come to expect,” says Giardina.

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) October 2018 Editions Wed, 26 Sep 2018 10:08:53 -0400
Is Whiskey the New Wine? Allison-Parc,-Brenne-2

Brenne, sourced in France by Allison Parc, is fruit-forward whiskey aged in Cognac casks; she smartly followed up the initial release with a 10 Year Old.

The Liquids are Different, but the Trajectory Begs Comparison

By W. R. Tish

Those selling wine in the varietally charged 1990s remember how a 60 Minutes report on The French Paradox kicked off an unprecedented run of wine popularity. As Americans came to embrace The Grape, consumption rose steadily, and the market exploded with expressions: single-vineyard wines, reserve wines, varietal extensions, new labels, cult wines, kitsch wines, Euro-style blends, proprietary blends, alternative packages, and so on. The wine boom reverberated loudly if not clearly for decades.

Today, brown goods are enjoying a similar type of explosion—products seem to be appearing at warp speed, diverse in styles and origins, reflecting varied techniques, and stratified in price, prestige, usage and appeal.

The proliferation of brown goods naturally makes a merchant’s job more challenging—it means editing the expanding whisk(e)y universe down to a sampling that works for your clientele. Unlike wine, whose character is influenced by myriad aspects of grape, place and treatment, whiskey operates within a more focused playing field, and its inherent logic is ready to help sellers connect buyers to whiskies that appeal to their tastes and curiosity. While every bit as handcrafted as fine wines, whiskies are apt to reach shelves with distinct selling points—calling cards, if you will, that can make for concise, compelling, shelf-talker-length stories.

Age Statements Jim-Beam-Black---US-(high-res)

Whiskey does not develop further in the bottle, which makes age statements, rather than vintages, the de facto measuring stick. Single malts represent the pack leaders, with pricing escalating naturally with age. Interestingly, supply pressure in recent years has some leading brands to abandon age statements purposefully and successfully, e.g., Elijah Craig 12 Year Old becoming Elijah Craig Small Batch. Jim Beam Black, featuring Extra-Aged on its front label, positions itself as a smoother, mellower complement to the ever-popular White Label. Others have retooled to position themselves in the contemporary market; Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old, for instance, re-launched to acclaim in 2010 at 102.6 proof, with a declaration of no chill-filtration and no added coloring.

Strength Matters

Overproof whiskies carry an air of authenticity and uniqueness, and have helped inject terms like “cask strength” into the whiskey lexicon. Michter’s has developed a collectible reputation based on their varied finishes and proofs; Distiller Willie Pratt believes that bottling at barrel strength yields a richer, more full-bodied whiskey, as seen in such examples as Michter’s US*1 Barrel Strength Rye. Bottled in Bond whiskies are becoming more common, bearing both high proof and retro appeal. Historically defined, bottled-in-bond whiskey must be the product of a single distillery from a single distilling season, aged a minimum of four years, and bottled at 100 proof.

Jameson-Caskmates-IPA-Edition-Wood Finishes

Shifting a whiskey into a freshly used barrels that contained a different liquid is a classic—and utterly intuitive—means of shaping a different final product. Bourbon barrels may only be used once—in turn, bourbon-barrel-finished releases have become quite popular among international distillers. Sherry barrels are classic; Laphroaig Cairdeas Fino Cask, the brand’s latest annual limited edition, which imbues notes of toasted almonds, dried fruit and sea salt alongside the whisky’s signature peaty character. Even wine (Woodford Reserve), Port (The Dalmore) and beer barrels (Jameson) have gotten into the whiskey act.

Other Finishes

Barrels are not the only way to generate of distinct liquid. Consider Clyde May’s “Alabama style” whiskey—a bourbon with dried apples added to barrels as they age. Stillhouse Black Bourbon is the first ever to be rested in roasted coffee beans. Tap 357 is rye-driven Canadian whiskey, aged in bourbon barrels and finished with a touch of maple syrup. Oak & Eden comes bottles with piece of an actual barrel. Lambay, a new Irish whiskey, purports that their unpeated, triple-distilled spirit benefits from exposure to the sea air and maritime winds on Lambay Island.


Stillhouse is among the increasing cadre of distillers toying with novel barrel additions—in their case, roasted coffee beans.


Flavored whiskey is not like flavored vodka, presenting a narrower range, and flavored whiskey fans tend not to overlap with single malt enthusiasts—but smart merchants will have a spectrum of flavor options available. Cinnamon, Honey, Vanilla and to a lesser extent fruit (Cherry, Apple, Peach…) and Spice are among the 21st-century hits. 

Limited Editions 

The creativity of marketing departments has been a byproduct of the whiskey boom. Limited editions abound. Among the prime providers: Heaven Hill, with multiple brands; The Macallan; Michter’s; Buffalo Trace; even Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s have done a nifty job of releasing a stream of evocatively conceived projects. (Jim Beam “Repeal Batch” is hitting shelves this fall.) Highland Park has cornered the whiskey market in terms of editions honoring Gods of ancient Norse mythology.

In taking on different shapes and concepts, these special editions often arrive with compelling backstories. To wit: Jefferson’s “Ocean” bottlings, which have been aged aboard a ship crossing the Equator multiple times. And eye-catching packaging is yet another way brand teams are reaffirming their market presence; a good recent example is Bulleit’s “Tattoo Edition.”


Highland Park has embraced Viking imagery in developing their portfolio, packaging and promotions.

Collectibility & Giftability

Aside from limited editions, evocative labels are another way that whiskies can project simple yet endearing appeal, enhancing their giftability. J.J. Corry is made by a woman distiller who has revived the tradition of bonding—as in blending and maturing select casks of Irish spirits; Brenne is another woman-led whiskey, sourced from France’s Cognac region. Hunters might enjoy Bird Dog; John Wayne film fans can drink The Duke; outdoors enthusiasts would appreciate Boone and Crockett Club, a bourbon label from the nation’s oldest conservation organization, founded in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt.

Craft factor

On top of the brand stories and special bottling accounted for by mainstream whiskies, the craft arena is of course brimming with novel producers. Local distillers, specialists and evocative labels can colorfully round out any wine shop’s or back bar’s stylistic selection.

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.   

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) October 2018 Editions Wed, 26 Sep 2018 10:01:19 -0400
Phil Prichard: Distilling Good Stories and Great Rum Phil_Prichard_0001.jpg

"I enjoy being the dog in this dog and pony show!" exclaimed Phil Prichard, founder, president, and master distiller of Prichard's Distillery in Tennessee.

The dog and pony show he is referring to is his recent visit to Maryland to press the flesh with customers, sales personnel, and anyone else who will be associated with moving his products here in the years to come.  He made several key account calls, touring Total Wine & More locations in Laurel and Towson, Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis, Wine World Beer & Spirits in Abingdon, Ronnie's Beverage Warehouse in Forest Hill, Wells Discoutn Liquors in Baltimore, and more. 

"I'm doing what I enjoy the most," he stated, "and that's getting out on the road, meeting people, and introducing them to our products.  At one time in my life, I ventured into the restaurant business.  And I found that people always wanted to meet the guy who was cooking their food.  The same is true of the guy who distills the spirits.  People want to meet me.  It just gives the folks a good and comforting feeling to meet the actual guy who makes their whiskey or their rum or whatever they're drinking."

Prichard has a folksy way about him.  But he's a driven man, for sure.  Talking with him for just a few minutes makes you want to roll up your sleeves, help him serve his tasty spirits, and listen to the stories he spins about his experiences in the industry.  One of his favorite tales is the decision he made years earlier to move from a career as a dental technician and into the beverage business (after a brief stint raising and breeding Norwegian Fjord horses in upstate New York).

"I started this distillery better than 20 years ago," he recalled.  "I walked into my banker, I looked at him, and I said, 'Mike, I want to build the first distillery in Tennessee in almost 50 years … and I'm going to make rum!'  I can still hear the laughter as I walked out the door.  I didn't get any financing from my bank!  And I found that building a distillery is very, very capital intensive.  But we've managed, by hook or by crook, to build a very substantial distribution network all based on the quality of our products. I'm not going to tell you we're in every state, but we are in every major market throughout the United States."

Among Prichard's Distillery's top products are seven signature rums: Prichard's Fine Rum, Cranberry Rum, Crystal Rum, Key Lime Rum, Peach Mango Rum, Private Stock Rum, and Spiced  Rum. "Rum is my passion," stated Prichard.  "If I can't sell rum in Maryland, I'll just stay away [laughing]!"

He stated that the Peach Mango Rum is his "go-to."  But as summer gives way to fall and apple season comes into play, Prichard expects his company's Spiced Rum will pick up in sales.  "With either a hot apple cider or a cold apple cider, it's just a really nice and refreshing treat as a cocktail for the autumn season," he said.  "Then, as the holiday season kicks in, we find people's tastes migrate to our Cranberry Rum.  Someone told me the other day they love to baste their hams in Prichard's Cranberry Rum.  That's some expensive basting, but it's a mighty good use!"

Prichard's Distillery's product portfolio also includes five liqueurs and a half-dozen whiskeys.  The former includes two of Prichard's best-known offerings, Sweet Lucy and Sweet Lucy Cream.  The latter includes a Doubled Barreled Bourbon and a Double Chocolate Bourbon. But don't mistake that second one for a dessert drink. "Bourbon by its very nature is sweet," Prichard noted.  "People who like bourbon like it because of its sweetness.  But when we add chocolate, it actually tempers that sweetness down and brings in a little bitterness.  The chocolate notes in our Double Chocolate Bourbon are so subtle that a lot of people don't even realize there's chocolate in there.  The chocolate note comes in on the back end, very quietly."

Phil Prichard didn't come to Maryland quietly.  He definitely made some noise while he was here in late August.  And he hopes to visit the state again, concluding, "I think Maryland will be a good place for us to focus our products, especially our rum portfolio. It's a pretty diverse market with diverse tastes.  And that plays well into where our focus is." 


At the Baltimore offices of Bacchus Importers are Jason Lockerman, Phoenix Rising Group; Lou Zwirlein and Tomas van den Boomgaard, both with Bacchus Importers; Phil Prichard; Todd Schneider, Bacchus Importers; and Scott Folkins, Phoenix Rising Group.


At Wells Discount Liquors in Baltimore are Diana Abbott and Joann Hyatt, both with Wells; Phil Prichard; and Susan Olson, Phoenix Rising Group.


Phil Prichard at Ronnie’s Beverage Warehouse in Forest Hill is with managers Adam Dorsch, Megan Hunter and Jeremy Abshire, all with Ronnie’s.

  Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) October 2018 Editions Tue, 25 Sep 2018 12:40:50 -0400
UBC Guide to The World's Best  UBC_Guide_2018_0001.jpg

Ultimate Beverage Challenge 2018: 
Identifying The World’s Best Spirits, Cocktails, Ciders, Sakes & Wines ...

Ultimate Beverage Challenge® (UBC) conducts two major international beverage competitions: Ultimate Spirits Challenge® (USC) each March and Ultimate Wine Challenge® (UWC) each May.So, since 2010, why has UBC become the bever-age industry’s most trusted and respected evaluation company? Answers UBC’s Judging Chairman and Co-Founder F. Paul Pacult, “Three crucial factors have made UBC the world’s foremost authority of beverage alcohol quality. First is our rigorous, innovative meth-odology that creates a level plaor every spirit and wine that’s submitted to USC and UWC. We introduced the industry’s strictest analytical processes by institut-ing a unique multi-level evaluation system that allows more than one panel to analyze each entry. In order for spirits and wines to display their virtues, they are served at optimum temperatures. UBC is the only competition company to insist on so 8 beverages so judges remain alert and fresh. Entries are tasted blind with like-with-like spirits and wines to ensure that each entry is dealt with fairly. Our goal is one-pointed: to provide unbiased, accurate ratings.“Second, because of UBC’s uncompromising and stringent procedural standards we must hire the world’s foremost authorities as our spirits and wine judges. By that I mean our generation’s most prominent and acknowledged beverage specialists, such as Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, award-winning authors and journalists, consultants and buyers, bartenders, bar owners, and food and beverage managers. In addition to the UBC judges, we employ the most capable and experienced organizational team in the world to guarantee the smooth operation of each competition.“Third, UBC has its own dedicated facility in Hawthorne, New York, a mere 35 minutes north of Manhattan, where both USC and UWC are conducted. By creating a pristine, calm, and conducive environment for our staff and judges, we have brought forward the entire concept of beverage competitions. The UBC Evaluation Center provides brick-and-mortar proof of UBC’s total commitment to doing things right. It’s the UBC way, where shortcuts are never allowed.”If these reasons aren’t enough for you to believe in UBC as being the world’t beverage competition company, visit the UBC website for more at

 Click Here for the complete results and ratings.  (This is a large file, be patient while it downloads.)

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) October 2018 Editions Tue, 25 Sep 2018 12:19:53 -0400
Shaun Stewart: The Methodology of Mixology shaun_Stewart_HOME.jpg

After attending college at The Art Institute of Philadelphia for video production and graphic design, Shaun Stewart then began the journey that eventually led him to Edinburgh and back. The trip had nothing to do with film, but everything to do with his creative direction.

Shaun started off around food and beverage and continues today to find ways to stay interested. He's worked up and down the I-95 corridor creating new cocktails and honing his skills. 

Shaun came to Maryland from New Jersey looking for a new challenge and a new adventure. Initially it was a beer centric background that landed him a job helping to open up the Arundel Mills Buffalo Wild Wings, but he would come much further.

What Kind of Bartender Do You Want to Be?

Shaun first helped to open the House of Blues in Atlantic City where he was asked a question by his trainer that would shape his future. "The guy who trained me asked me what kind of a bartender I wanted to be. And I didn't know the answer to that. It ended up being that I needed to know why I'm doing what I'm doing."

By that, Shaun wants to know why two particular spirits work well together or how come one style of beer is brewed a particular way. "If I'm doing cocktails I need to know why is this classic done this way? If we have a beer program let's make it the best beer program it can be."

That's when he began doing more research and learning to go into different style bars and restaurants and learn techniques and spirits and more that he hadn't known of before.

"I grew up going through beer and shot, just turn and burn, then slowly coming into this area now that I'm in." 

That "area" is the world of craft cocktails, far from the kind you would see at your chain restaurant down the street. Looking up to bartenders who use the creativity, knowledge, and history of bartending, inspired him to answer that trainer's question. He wants to have fun by sharing and learning constantly.

"It went back to finding those cocktail bars that I wanted to go to and watching them have fun doing what they're doing. I felt that to be a different kind of fun. Not just pouring beers and having good fun with friends. It was more of giving an education to someone. I can have a conversation with somebody and have them learn something."

What happens when someone doesn't want the education? His answer is simple and nonchalant. Read the guest, if they're curious, dive in. If not, it almost seems as if it's his goal to make them curious without ever impeding on the guests experience. His approach is that of a professor rather than a showman.

"If you can get that one person to listen to you, or learn that one thing, or pronounce that word properly; little things like that are things I love when people get it."

Continuing the Journey

One of Shaun's current projects gives him the chance to take a step back and help a friend with an equally impressive knowledge of spirits at Gravitas in Washington, D.C. That friend, Mary Kelly, heads up the spirit program for the soon to open restaurant and bar.

Staying busy, and staying more local to Baltimore, Shaun now works behind the bar a few days a week at The Outpost in Federal Hill after friend and Executive Chef Jessie Sandlin reached out.

"When I go home to Philly all I want is a Kenzinger. That's our local beer and that's just all I want. Having something super approachable that you can get into, but also that you've found an appreciation for something that you've branched out to."

Shaun continued by explaining his way of staying knowledgeable and educated on the trends and direction of the beverage industry. Reading about and tasting, even what may not be applicable now, may be in the future. 

"Even when someone tastes me on something and I know it's not going to be something for the bar, I still want to taste it, because I may be able to use it for something else, or for an event."

The Perfect Hot Toddy

Last year Shaun won Glenfiddich's Experimental Bartender of the Year and went to Edinburgh for ten days with ten other bartenders from around the world. His cocktail was,  "The Great Gatsby meets Harry Potter." 

The competition involved the back story, presentation, and taste of the cocktail. The all-around competition requires knowledge and precision to create a perfectly executed and extraordinary experience. 

The old school, pre-prohibition style cocktail consisted of a scotch base with a Japanese feel. This involved using a tea siphon where the heat of liquid in the bottom chamber infuses herbal ingredients in a separate upper chamber. 


• A tea siphon 

• Glenfiddich 12 Year

• Hot Tea

• Bookers Bitters

• Vanilla Almond Syrup

  Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Douglas Mace) September 2018 Editions Mon, 27 Aug 2018 14:39:05 -0400
Hardened Watermen Enjoy the Smooth Touch of SeaGlass Seaglass_HOME.jpg

On the evening of July 12, Town Center Market in Riverdale Park, Md., played host to a special wine tasting event in which customers came and sampled all of Trinchero Family Estates' SeaGlass wines from the Central Coast in California's Santa Barbara County.  They included SeaGlass Rose, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  For every bottle of SeaGlass that was sold that night, the Trinchero family donated a portion of the proceeds to the Maryland Waterman's Association (MWA).

Among those in attendance was Nicole Crews, Trinchero Family Estates' District Manager for Maryland and Washington, D.C.  She remarked, "This was a featured event at Town Center Market to introduce their customers to SeaGlass Wines and how they could help out a great local nonprofit organization. The account really wanted to take it to the next level, so we decided it would be fun and educational to incorporate a seafood element."

And did they ever!  The event featured an oyster tasting complete with a local professional oyster shucker in attendance.  "So you could have a few oysters, drink some great wine, and give back to our local watermen," remarked Crews.

She noted that the proprietors of Town Center Market, formerly known as Dumm's Corner Market, were eager to do their part in helping improve the health of Maryland's waterways, which includes the Chesapeake Bay in its watershed.  Founded in 1973, the MWA is a non-profit organization that represents the interest of commercial fishermen, seafood processors, wholesalers, and ancillary businesses in the seafood industry across the Old Line State.  For more than four decades, the association has worked to ensure a future for independent watermen and seafood businesses statewide.  Since its inception, the organization has collaborated with local and state legislatures and the state's agencies to ensure that regulations and laws are fair to the industry.

Crews noted that the Trincheros were drawn to the MWA for three reasons: one, the association's true dedication to the seafood industry; two, its efforts to preserve Maryland's beloved coastline; and, three, an eagerness to help protect marine wildlife for generations to come.  In addition to the special tasting event that evening at Town Center Market, Crews said $1 per case from every case of SeaGlass wine that is sold from March until August 2018 throughout Maryland is being donated to the Maryland Waterman's Association from Trinchero Family Estates.


She stated, "As one of the leading wine companies in the United States, Trinchero Family Estates has remained a family-owned Napa Valley-based company since the Trinchero family purchased the Sutter Home winery in 1948.  Now, with over 1,000 employees, approximately 10,000 acres of vineyards, more than 40 brands, and millions of customers, we are the custodians of our environment and our communities."

Crews continued, "As an agriculturally-based company, we have a responsibility to our community and our roots -- the land and the people behind the growth of our business and our brands.  We strive to set the standard and be an example of environmental stewardship, charitable giving, and responsibility. Trinchero Family Estates has been committed to corporate social responsibility for decades, from sustainable farming and innovative philanthropic initiatives to the way in which we run our business and live our lives. The Trinchero family and management team is dedicated to not only creating quality products for consumers, but ensuring they are produced sustainably and enjoyed responsibly. The company strives to uphold the values established over 65 years ago."

And those values mean more events like the one at Town Center Market.  Crews played a key role in putting together the evening and was kind enough to share some of the keys to putting on a good wine tasting event?  Number one is find the right account to partner with.  Two, there must be great communications when organizing such an event. Advertising through social media has also become a must, she added.  And in this particular case, having the proper people from the account -- Trinchero Family Estates, Republic National Distributing Company, and the Maryland Waterman’s Association -- all in attendance for the event was a big key.  "It was a very successful evening," she concluded, "one that told the story of the wine and the partnership with the organization."

  Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) September 2018 Editions Mon, 27 Aug 2018 14:32:14 -0400
Dragon Distillery: Breathing Fire into Canned Cocktails Dragon_Dist_HOME.jpg

In Frederick, Md., here be dragons!  Well, actually, here be the Dragon Distillery.  It's the brainchild of founder Mark Lambert, a huge Dungeons & Dragons fan who wanted a beverage business that would specialize in small batch artisan spirits made from the finest locally sourced ingredients.  He and his staff have breathed fire into this niche with such colorfully named products as Medieval Mint Flavored Vodka, Basilisk Bourbon, and Joust Gin.

Dragon Distillery's latest line is a series of canned cocktails that are appealing to a wide range of drinkers.  Lambert, in a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, explained why: "The product is easy.  You just grab it, you go!  It's easy to take to parties, or when you're going out on your boat, or at the pool.  It's a can, so there's no glass that can break.  It's quick to chill, and it's ready to drink."

There are three canned cocktails in the current line-up, all lightly carbonated.  The first is Dragon's Draft, a bourbon and cream soda.  "At 38 proof, it's a little strong," Lambert conceded.  "But it's delicious."  The second is the Dragon Mule, which is Dragon Distillery's take on the classic Moscow Mule.  It's vodka with Barritt's ginger beer and lime in a faux copper can.  Third, there is the Golden Dragon, which is based on Dragon Distillery's Longbow Lemon Citrus Flavored Vodka.  "We take that and add in a small-batch tonic made in Washington, D.C., by [True Syrups & Garnishes], along with a lemon-lime soda," noted Lambert.  "Both the Dragon Mule and Golden Dragon are 20 proof."

As with all the company's bottled spirits, each canned cocktail features a dragon drinking in some way.  Lambert remarked, "We don't take ourselves too seriously, and our can designs reflect that.  Like our Dragon Mule  has a dragon holding a copper mug drinking a Moscow Mule.  One of the reasons we're doing the canned cocktails is because we're trying to push the envelope of what people can get here locally.  We have a pretty large product portfolio, in general.  But we're always looking to add to it."

One example of that envelope pushing is the Dragon Dog Frederick Rye.  "We love our collaborations, in particular," Lambert said.  "Dragon Dog Frederick Rye is a rye whiskey we do with Flying Dog.  Flying Dog brews the rye mash, sends it over, and we ferment it, distill it, and barrel it."

In addition to such collaborations, Lambert's business has benefited from being a member of the Maryland Distillers Guild.  "The Guild is fantastic!" he beamed.  "It's a very collaborative group of peers.  In other industries, there's a lot of competition.  But I find in the distillery business, especially through the Guild, everybody's willing to help and everybody's willing to share when you have a problem or need information."

As far as the secret of Dragon Distillery's success, Lambert acknowledged that the answer isn't anything revelatory.  "We just listen to our customers," he replied, "and we generally create products based on their feedback.  A lot of distilleries vow only to make one product.  'I'm going to do whiskey, and that's all I'm going to do!'  Well, that's great.  But as a small craft distillery, we find that many people come in who have a wide range in interests.  They'll say, 'Oh, I don't drink whiskey' or 'I don't drink vodka.'  We try to have something for everybody."

He continued, "The canned cocktails grew out of that.  We get a lot of people who come in with their significant other, and one is a spirits drinker and the other is not.  With the canned cocktails, we can say, 'Why don't you try this bourbon and cream soda?'  They've been amazingly popular."

To date, Dragon Distillery hasn't pushed its canned cocktails out to a lot of liquor stores, because Lambert didn't want to get ahead of production.  "We're addressing those concerns and slowly offering them up to more liquor stores around the state," he concluded.  "A year from now, I'd like to have six to eight canned cocktails, and I'd like to be in the majority of liquor stores in Maryland."

  Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) September 2018 Editions Mon, 27 Aug 2018 14:26:36 -0400
Under The Influence? Sept18 Influencers_V2

By Vicki Denig

More & More Brands Embrace Image-Driven Marketing.
But How Influential are ‘Influencers,’ Really? 

They’ve upended the fashion world. Their impact has transformed the health, fitness and beauty industries as well. And today, we are increasingly feeling their impact in the wine business.

We’re talking about Social Media Influencers. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines “influencers” as “individuals whose effect on the purchase decision is in some way significant or authoritative.” By establishing some credibility in a specific industry, or merely accruing a large audience (Kim Kardashian has 115 million followers!), Social Media Influencers have access to a coveted—largely Millennial—demographic.

For companies of any size, the appeal of harnessing Influencer power to promote brands is obvious: According to online publication Social Media Today, Influencer marketing delivers 11 times higher return on investment than traditional forms of digital marketing and 94% of marketers who’ve used Influencers to market their products believe the tactic was effective.

But how does this translate in the wine world? What does it mean to market and sell wine in a culture where communication is conducted in snaps and posts? As more and more suppliers, retailers and wine professionals invest significant time and resources into social media marketing and engaging Influencers, one has to wonder: Just how many additional cases are moving as a result?

Whose Opinion Matters? 
SAY CHEESE What does a big pink camel have to do with wine? Both are fun—and together they make great photo ops for Instagram, etc. Whispering Angel brings the big pink camel to tasting events and festivals, ensuring lots of social media action. Hashtags, e.g., #Pinknic2018, are one way that like-minded posters or people at the same event can connect their posts.

What does a big pink camel have to do with wine? Both are fun—and together they make great photo ops for Instagram, etc. Whispering Angel brings the big pink camel to tasting events and festivals, ensuring lots of social media action. Hashtags, e.g., #Pinknic2018, are one way that like-minded posters or people at the same event can connect their posts.

There is no shortage of voices out there, and suppliers are eager to align their brands with the most powerful—not necessarily the most wine knowledgeable. It’s becoming more and more common to scroll through Instagram and see posts of self-declared “lifestyle experts” extolling the virtues of various wine brands. These “sponsored content ambassadorships” are sometimes paid for, but trips, meals, free product and VIP treatment at events are also common currency.

Paul Chevalier, National Fine Wine Director of Shaw-Ross International Importers, states that Château d’Esclans, producer of rosé star Whispering Angel, doesn’t employ, pay or “fill cellars” of Influencers, but rather, invites them to events hosted by the brand. And once they are there, the presence of a lifesize pink camel practically guarantees Instagrammable moments with The Palm by Whispering Angel, their latest social-media-friendly label.

Chevalier notes that Influencers’ level of wine knowledge is not imperative to their marketing of the Whispering Angel brand, though the producer must maintain a balance, so as to still be perceived as a serious wine company. “You don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard,” he explains.” he says. “And we don’t want it to become too fictional.” Whispering Angel’s Instagram is run by a PR team that Chevalier keeps an eye on. When asked if he believes that working with Influencers has boosted product sales, he answers without hesitation: “For sure.”

Stuart Kirby, Director of Media and Promotions at E. & J. Gallo, reveals that the company has relationships with a select group of Influencers, but does not confirm or deny whether or how they are compensated. “Our Influencers undergo an extensive evaluation process ensuring the brand’s objectives and priorities are met,” he says, adding that wine knowledge level is dependent on the specific campaign. “For some of our popular brands, like Liberty Creek, it may be irrelevant whether the Influencer knows much about wine,” he says, “whereas for a brand like William Hill Estate, Influencers need to a higher level of wine knowledge to communicate the nuances of the brand authentically.”

Sept18 Influencers2Chevalier is quick to credit the overall success of Whispering Angel to a mixture of marketing techniques, including social media, partnerships, print ads and write-ups. “I don’t think you could just count on social media; I think that a good mix is healthier,” he says, noting that the brand’s clientele isn’t just Millennials. “[People] in their forties and fifties are probably not all over Instagram.” 

View from the Street

Do retailers see the Influencer impact? Michael Wartell, Senior Manager of Information Systems at BevMax, a retailer in Stamford, CT, believes, “Everything still depends on the quality of the brand. The [Influencer] name will sell the bottle once; the beverage quality will make it repeat.” He notes that despite the industry’s constant inundation with new products, very few end up sticking, as people generally fall back to their favorites. Wartell reveals that BevMax’s consumers still seek 90+ scores, as well as the “personal touch” of staff recommendations.

Lindsay Berg, Marketing Director at Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits in Atlanta, GA, believes authenticity will always have a stronger pull than that of an Influencer-based promotion. “I think wine consumers’ decisions are influenced by social media posts only if they trust and know the person or company posting, even if just by reputation,” says Berg, adding that Tower uses social media to only promote wines that staff members enjoy and believe in.

“I’ve been involved with a few campaigns with social media Influencers and I can’t say if it’s had an impact,” says Jeff Harding, Beverage Director at New York City’s Waverly Inn. “I think it’s basically a new form of advertising and people are trying it out as a way to reach a generation of people attached to their phones. I think the verdict is still out.”

Influencers with Pedigree 
Sept18 Influencers3

DEEP DIVE Patrick Cappiello also found that he was able to transfer social media success to some of the small producers in his distribution company, Renégat

Many wine professionals bemoan the rise of digital Influencers, but more than a few have realized the value of cultivating their own social media audiences. They combine large reach with highly-trained palate: call them “qualified Influencers” if you will.

Sommelier and restaurateur Patrick Cappiello (29,400 followers) is a prime example: “Social media is not a traditional thing that I’ve done,” says Cappiello. “I’m 45 years old. When I came into the industry, there was no social media; things evolved quickly.” He initially joined Instagram because his ex-girlfriend was an artist and all of their friends were using it. Then he followed the advice of a peer. “When I joined, no wine people were on Instagram,” he recalls. “Raj Parr [sommelier turned winemaker] got into it next, but told me I needed to get on Twitter. He told me, ‘You’ve got a great wine list, but you’re never going to get people to drink the wines unless they know they’re there.’” 

Cappiello followed Parr’s lead and, almost instantly, the results came in. “I’d post a picture of a bottle and get a lot of feedback. People were coming into the restaurant saying ‘I saw the wines you were pouring by the glass.’ I thought: Wow, this is an unbelievably powerful tool.” Cappiello’s also reminds that chatter on social media is still tethered to reality: “We need to remember that there’s an end to the transaction, people are going to buy the wine and taste it, and if consumers are smart enough to realize that they were falsely led, hopefully the reaction is that it doesn’t last. 

What everyone seems to agree on is that only qualified Influencers, like Parr and Capiello, will ever have relevance in the fine wine space. “The fine wine industry is a pretty small place, with products that don’t scale well and don’t want to engage with their customers that way,” says Morgan Harris, a San Francisco-based sommelier. Influencers are relevant to more mass-market wines because it’s a different audience, he believes: “We’re living in this attention economy, so brands and businesses that want to do volume will engage with Influencers, because they are really looking for that blue ocean audience so that they can grow.”

Chances are that by the time we can actually measure the value of social media Influencers—wine savvy or not—digital marketing will have moved on. “The word on the street is that there is a lifeline to this whole thing,” says Chevalier. “I do like the idea of going more towards video; you can tell a story instead of just a cute picture, and add value to things.”

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) September 2018 Editions Mon, 27 Aug 2018 14:05:59 -0400
Up With Blends Jane-Walker-Cocktails-and-Neon-copy

Premiumization Lifts Blended Scotch; Pure Malts Add To The Momentum

By David Lincoln Ross

While single malts have enjoyed much of the Scotch whisky spotlight in recent decades, blends still rule Scotch volume in the U.S. And recent patterns are worth watching. With an uptick in releases of cask-conditioned Scotch aged in Port or Sherry barrels, new bottlings of 12-, 15- and 18-year-old blends, plus a growing array pure malt offerings, premiumization is energizing the blended Scotch category in ways not seen in at least a generation.

For the first time in years, blended Scotch is on the rise, says Kevin Doherty, Beverage Director at Tanner Smith’s, a bar and restaurant located near Broadway in New York. “Sales of pure malts or vatted malts are on the up and up. They fill a gap in cocktail bars where you want a single malt flavor without paying a higher price.” Tanner Smith’s features Pig’s Nose and Monkey Shoulder, both at $15.


Merchants, too, see gains for premium and above Scotch blends and pure malts. Calling attention to pure blends is key to generating sales, says Hudson Funk, Manager of Hokus Pokus Liquors, Alexandria, LA: “I promote blended malt Scotch whenever possible; they’re maltier, more approachable and more affordable than many single malt Scotches.”

Sept18 Blended Scotch 

Yet there remain real challenges. When total Scotch whisky imports in the U.S. dipped from 7.4 million cases in 2016 to 7.1 million in 2017, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, single malts held tight at 2.1 million cases; the decline came from blends. Yet within that dark cloud, a silver lining is emerging: an uptick in the premium and super-premium sub-categories, says Shefali Murdia, Brand Director for Chivas Regal, Pernod Ricard USA. “It is promising to see the ‘Premium and Above’ price tier growing [+1.5%], which clearly represents a growth opportunity for Chivas.”

Scotch marketers add that blends at all price points are well positioned to capitalize on broader whisky trends. Brian Cox, Bacardi’s Vice President, Dewar’s, observes: “When you take this premiumization dynamic and combine it with the current continued brown spirits renaissance across all whiskies—North American Whiskey, Scotch, Irish, others—it is abundantly clear that blended Scotch is well positioned to grow through numerous bright spots of untapped opportunity.”

Diageo USA’s Johnnie Walker Senior Brand Manager Sandhya Padmanabhan, also sees evidence of greater consumer interest in Scotch blends, which has revealed the strength of name brands in the category: “While the blended Scotch category has lagged in industry growth, Johnnie Walker remains leader of the pack, maintaining consistent growth and a steady performance.”

And when one looks at the growing importance of Latin/Hispanic demographic, Buchanan’s Senior Brand Manager Tara King, also of Diageo USA, is likewise upbeat: “Buchanan’s has experienced continuous growth in the past 10+ years. More recently, since the launch and continued momentum against its powerful campaign ‘Es Nuestro Momento,’ Buchanan’s saw its largest share gain in 14 quarters.”

Viewed from a global perspective, blended Scotch sales are poised for a welcome worldwide rebound. Eileen Livingston, Senior Director Scotch, International Marketing, Beam Suntory, says of Teacher’s and the overall Scotch market; “For the first time in five years, blended Scotch is returning to growth in 2017 (+0,7%); expecting to further grow +2% in the future (CAGR 2016-2021) led by Premium and Blended.”


7T5A1990Millennial Matters

As Millennials represent the largest drinking demographic segment, courting them seems natural, although they are notoriously resistant to overt marketing.Pricing comparisons help, notes Steven Rubin, owner of Boston’s Huntington Wine & Spirits. “Millennials are drinking less, consumption is down and bourbon has definitely cut into blended Scotch,” says Rubin. “While it’s hard to promote to Millennials, [we] put vatted, pure and blended malt Scotch brands right next to the store’s single malt shelves, so customers can see the price advantage.”

Smart merchants also recognize the importance of staff training and tasting. At Pop’s Wine & Spirits, Island Park, NY, Manager Victor Doyle applauds the Diageo team and its distributor, Empire Merchants’ United division, for hosting a session in which the staff tasted through the entire Johnnie Walker range. Doyle adds that even though blended malts may cost a bit more than a standard blend, “pure blended malts fit in nicely to the store’s Scotch section and most Millennials are willing to spend a little more.”

Blended Scotch cocktails remain “very popular with our customers,” says Sharif Nagaiya, bartender at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City. He adds the best-seller is the house Whiskey Sour, which features Johnnie Walker Black, simple syrup and fresh-squeezed lemon juice ($24). The bar also stocks Dewar’s ($17) and Red Label ($16).

With classic cocktails humming along and premiumization and innovation enlivening the category, Scotch blends and pure malts are far from “on the rocks” these days, and savvy retailers and beverage pros should look forward to profiting from these brands, especially during the upcoming holidays.

Sept18 Blended Scotch3

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) September 2018 Editions Mon, 27 Aug 2018 13:58:49 -0400
Ellicott City's Second Devastating Flood Ellicott_HOME.jpg

Industry Again Unites after Second Devastating Flood

On the afternoon of May 27, 2018, Ellicott City's historic Main Street flooded again after the region got more than eight inches of rain in the span of two hours.  Businesses, including numerous bars and restaurants, were heavily damaged.  And National Guard member Eddison Hermond Jr. lost his life trying to help people.  The town was still recovering from a July 30, 2016, storm that dropped six inches of rain on the community, produced massive flooding, killed two people, and damaged and destroyed businesses and homes.

Maureen Smith, Executive Director of the Ellicott City Partnership (ECP) echoed what many interviewed for this article had said: "This time around has been very different from 2016!" she exclaimed.  "With this latest flood event, the Ellicott City community has an understanding that parts of town may need to be envisioned anew to ensure long-term sustainability.  The ECP is working closely with all stakeholders, including county, state, and federal entities to significantly increase the resilience of Ellicott City."

She noted that, so far, all but one of the members of Old Ellicott City's bar and restaurant family have decided to stay.  June indeed saw the reopening of the Manor Hill Tavern, The Wine Bin, Judge's Bench Pub, La Palapa Grill & Cantina, the Matcha Time Cafe, and the Syriana Cafe.  "They will be joined in July by Pure Wine Café, and the second floor of The Phoenix Emporium will be open to welcome guests," she noted.  "It's also worthy to note that The Trolley Stop, located just across the Main St bridge in Baltimore County, took no damage and never closed its doors.  Sadly, one of our local coffee shops, Bean Hollow, has decided to relocate." 

Some of the businesses were prepared this time, having already gone through disaster two years earlier.  Among them was E. Randolph "Randy" Marriner, President and CEO of the Victoria Restaurant Group and proprietor of Manor Hill Brewing.  He said, "Fortunately for us, after the 2016 flood, we rebuilt the back sides of our buildings and raised the foundation walls with 18 inches of reinforced concrete … in essence, creating our own storm water management system that collects and channels all the rain water to the side alley.  It worked.  The only damage we sustained was food and beer spoilage from three days without power."  

He added, "After our power was restored, we were ready to reopen on June 1.  However, the town was closed due to the State of Emergency.  So we decided to 'open' from Noon to 5 p.m. every day to feed, provide air conditioning, and clean bathrooms to anyone that was credentialed to be there, be it the first responders, Public Works employees, business owners, or residents.  All for free, and to be that beacon of hope for everyone else.  We were the first restaurant to reopen to the public on June 16."


Another operator on the verge of re-opening when we chatted just before the July 4 holiday was Timothy Kendzierski, owner of Ellicott Mills Brewing Co.  He said, "We should be open next week.  We're doing better, and part of it is because of some of the things we did structurally to our building.  It also helped that the county was so responsive this time.  We got the water on quick.  We got the electricity on within a day.  We were able to save the beer.  We couldn't have saved the food, of course.  I think it's definitely been important that everyone at the top of the hill where we are is opening up and their lights are on.  Once Main Street is open, that will breathe a lot of life into the town."

Businesses and other stakeholders in Old Ellicott City once again benefited greatly from an outpouring of support from their fellow bar owners, restaurant operators, breweries, and other related businesses in Howard County and statewide who banded together to hold multiple fundraisers.  One of the first to mobilize was Hysteria Brewing, holding a fundraiser on Memorial Day, May 28, donating 50 percent of all proceeds from the day's sales.  

Event and Marketing Director Gina Mattera stated, "We reached out to local businesses such as Bullhead Pit Beef and Giggy's BBQ to serve food, both of which also donated a portion of their sales. A mother of a local 7-year-old reached out who wanted to host a lemonade stand, which raised over $300!  Our neighbors Lost Ark Distilling opened up for their doors for the day and also donated 50 percent of their proceeds."

In addition to announcing the event on various social media platforms, Mattera and her colleagues relied on word of mouth and various local news and media sources to spread the word so soon after the tragedy.  "Our fundraiser raised about $5,000," she said, "Our customers were overwhelmingly supportive.  Some arrived early to offer to help set up. Others offered pop-up tents and folding tables when we needed more due to the weather.  And, of course, many showed their support by attending the event!"

On June 7, Heavy Seas Beer donated 50 percent of all revenue for the evening in their tap room to the Ellicott City Partnership.  Amanda Zivkovic, associate brand manager handles Heavy Seas' tap room charitable events.  "Back in 2016 when the first flooding happened in Ellicott City," she recalled, " we held a fundraiser here at the brewery to help raise money and to collect items to help clean up Ellicott City. Because the past fundraiser was so successful, we knew we had to do it again."


In addition to Heavy Seas' donations from the event, the Pieces of Eight onsite food truck donated 10 percent.  Like Fisher, Zivkovic promoted the event mainly through social media. "Our Facebook event for the fundraiser had over 4,000 folks interested," she said.  "The event was definitely a success.  We were able to raise over $4,000 for the EC Partnership in one night.  We had folks coming up to us all night, clearly moved by the amount of people coming together for a cause.  It is humbling to be a part of a community that is so dedicated to its people. At the end of the day, that’s what beer is all about -- coming together."

The proprietors of Pub Dog Pizza & Drafthouse hosted a fundraiser at their Columbia location on Tuesday, June 19 from 7 p.m. to close, where 25 percent of all sales were donated to the Ellicott City Partnership to help the residents and businesses in Old Ellicott City rebuild.  Caitlin Fisher, Marketing Manager for Pub Dog, remarked, "I mainly promoted the event on social media and created a Facebook event that generated a lot of interest in the weeks before the event.  The fundraiser was a huge success, and we were able to donate $1,384 to the Partnership.  All of our customers were in high spirits for the event, and it was amazing to see so many people come together for a great cause.

One of the more recent events as this article approached press time was the June 23 one hosted by Jailbreak Brewing.  Becca Newell, Director of Marketing for Jailbreak, declared it a huge success.  "We had six Main Street vendors -- businesses that lost their storefronts in the flood -- that set up pop-up stores in the brewery, selling goods, such as women's accessories, T-shirts, house wares, records, freshly made beignets, and handcrafted chocolates. We also had bar staff from The Phoenix Emporium at a pop-up bar in the brewery, crafting 'beertails,' including a Feed the Monkey Orange Crush and an Infinite Old Fashioned.  Fifty percent of that Saturday's beer sales, along with proceeds from a basket auction, were donated directly to those businesses. More than $5,000 was raised."

She continued, "The most rewarding part was seeing everyone at the fundraiser having a good time, whether it was drinking a beer and sharing food with friends, or purchasing something from one of the vendors, or hanging outside in our pop-up beer garden with their dogs. The support from those who attended was amazing! The challenging part was making enough room in the brewery for each vendor.  The original plan was to host the entire event outside, but due to the unfortunate weather forecast, we had to move everyone inside. It was a rush to get it done, but it all worked out in the end."


Other Maryland tavern and restaurant businesses that held special benefits included: Laurel's Tampico Grill, which donated 50 percent of all alcohol and food proceeds -- including to-go meals -- from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on June; The Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House in Relay, which donated half of all sales in its Test Taproom on June 9 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Armand's Chicago Pizzeria in Silver Spring, which donated 20 percent of all sales on June 10 from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Not to be outdone, Paulie Gee's and Baltimore Whiskey Co. teamed up for A Drink for Ellicott City.  Held on June 8 from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. at Paulie Gee's, the entire bar tab for the evening was donated to the Ellicott City Partnership.

Kendzierski and his neighbors played key roles in putting together the July 15 Resurrect Festival at Game Baltimore in the city.  Running from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., it was a day of music and comedy, food and drink that benefited the Ellicott City Partnership and displaced restaurant employees.  "The Resurrect Festival has gotten our minds off of things a little bit," Kendzierski said in his early July interview. "It's allowed us to all do something positive together while we've all been waiting to open.  Just the collective 'watching people come together' has been a pretty amazing thing."

The human factor hasn't been forgotten either.  Restaurants and other businesses across the Baltimore metro area quickly responded with an outpouring of job offers for flood-affected employees.  "Keep Ellicott City Working," a Facebook page created after the 2016 flood to connect people with jobs, listed well over 50 opportunities immediately after being revived in late May.

Even non-industry players got involved this time around.  The sci-fi, superhero, and fantasy fans that run Galactic Comic Con sent all proceeds from the June 16 event's auctions, raffles, and special Lego sales to Ellicott City.  The event was held at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship.  The Woodstock Maryland Music Festival on June 24 sent part of its proceeds to the Ellicott City Partnership.  St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City hosted its Banjos, Blue Jeans & BBQ event on July 1, with all proceeds donated to relief efforts.  Tickets were $15 per person.

Still to come is the 2018 ECStrong 5K, an event that began in remembrance of the 2016 flood.  This year's event will support relief efforts for the damage sustained this year, as all proceeds from the $35 registration fee and additional donations will go to the Ellicott City Partnership.  The course will wind its way near downtown Ellicott City.

Smith of the Partnership remarked, "Old Ellicott City's strength is community.  From the local who pours the perfect cocktail to the patron who enjoys it, we're all family.  Our family has faced more than its share of hard times but it has pulled everyone together.  Area establishments have given displaced Ellicott City staff jobs for as long as they need them.  Restaurant and bar regulars go out of their way to attend as many fundraisers as possible.  They've even answered the call to help their favorite businesses dig out of the destruction.  We stand united and #ECStronger together."

Jailbreak's Newell added, "In short, we believe in supporting our local community. The longer version: We love our Ellicott City neighbors and were devastated to hear about the flooding. Over the last couple of years, we've been part of the Ellicott City SpringFest and the Main Street Music Fest, where we've become friends with many of the local business owners.  So, we knew whatever fundraising we did, we wanted to ensure it supported them directly!"

But the future doesn't seem quite as rosy and optimistic this time around as it was in 2016.  Two devastating storms and floods in as many years will do that.  Kendzierski lamented, "It was sort of like experiencing the same death twice in a row.  People are saying it's worse this time because the damage was more widespread.  It wasn't just our little town.  It was Elkridge and Catonsville and Baltimore City.  It was all over the place this time.  Also, it's an election year, so people want to blame politicians who have been there two years for 40 years of bad planning.  The narrative in the media has changed somewhat, too, from ECStrong and 'Rebuild!' to 'Why are you even bothering?'  Hey, we own our building.  We've been here for 21 years.  Some people have been here for generations.  It's like asking people to kill an entire community."

Marriner echoed this journalist's exit question back to him.  "So now what? " he parroted. "Some have said 'Give up, don’t rebuild, walk, no run away before it happens again.'  Others have said, 'Fix the problem before you rebuild.'  There is no easy solution.  Some very hard decisions need to be made about potentially removing some of the hardest hit buildings on lower Main St. to widen the river channel to better manage and control the flood waters and eliminate future opportunities for loss of life.  In six years, Ellicott City will celebrate 250 years since its founding.  I plan to be here!"

  Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) August 2018 Editions Wed, 25 Jul 2018 19:54:49 -0400
2018 Bartenders to Watch Aug18_Bartenders to Watch

Celebrating eight bartenders at the forefront of establishing women’s leadership behind the bar


Text by Jack Robertiello         ⊗        Portraits by Andrew kist

One of the sometimes overlooked but significant changes wrought by the blossoming of Cocktail Culture across the country has been the surge of female bartenders at every level of the business.

It’s no longer really a phenomenon as an entire new generation of bartenders, male and female, know no other environment except one where mentors, bosses, brand ambassadors, bar owners, educators and bar stars are as likely to be female as male. Still, given the recent #MeToo spotlight glaring on what many women have endured across industries including the bar and restaurant world, it seemed time to revisit the annual Speed Rack competition to gather our 2018 Bartenders to Watch.

To be sure, we don’t celebrate and profile these bartenders because they are women; rather, Beverage Media decided that the eight uniquely qualified finalists in the immensely successful annual Speed Rack competition deserved attention because it takes top-class skills to get through the nerve-racking, speed-focused heats to finish in the top eight.

Speed Rack just completed its seventh annual season in the spring, visiting seven cities in heats for the coveted title of Ms. Speed Rack USA. More than 200 women threw down along the way, with a higher level of scrutiny introduced to narrow down the participants to the last eight standing, wrapping up with finals held in Chicago at Revel Fulton Market. (Space for individual bartender portraits and group cover shot for this issue was graciously provided by the Ace Hotel in Chicago, at their rooftop Waydown Bar.)

Co-founders Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix started the Speed Rack challenge in 2011 as a charitable platform for female bartenders, and have since raised more than $850,000 for breast cancer prevention, treatment and awareness.

Speed Rack founders Ivy Mix (left) and Lynnette Marrero originally met through the organization Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails; the first Speed Rack was staged in 2011. // Above, this year’s champion, Haley Traub, works at two cocktail-centric NYC venues, Dutch Kills and Fresh Kills. // Right: 16 finalists competed at Revel Fulton Market.

Speed Rack founders Ivy Mix (left) and Lynnette Marrero originally met through the organization Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails; the first Speed Rack was staged in 2011. // Above, this year’s champion, Haley Traub, works at two cocktail-centric NYC venues, Dutch Kills and Fresh Kills. // Right: 16 finalists competed at Revel Fulton Market.

“When we had the idea, we wanted this to be a platform for females behind the bar,” says Mix. “It still is, but seven years later, there are so many more women in the world’s best bars. There’s now a sense of sorority, and celebration that is showcased at our events.”

The sense of sisterhood proved so organic and powerful in fact that this year three local hospitality pros organized “Chicago Style,” a four-day conference of lectures, panels and workshops surrounding the actual Speed Rack finals. One of the Chicago Style founders, Caitlin Laman, had actually won Speed Rack in 2014 while living in San Francisco.

“In many ways, we’ve succeeded in our original mission. We’ve arrived, but we continue to grow and we definitely plan to raise a lot more money,” Marrero adds.

Speed Rack’s vibe of camaraderie was mentioned often by this year’s competitors, with many citing a sense of community that continued long after competing in previous events. Marrero says the relationships among the women have developed over time as they share ideas and career advice. Some of this year’s contestants even cite the competition videos as career inspiration, which also has helped make the event more competitive, entertaining and widely-supported.

Julia Gordon

City: Chicago, IL

Bar: Lost Lake

B72A9396-copy-2Unlike many of this year’s bartenders to watch, Julia Gordon had an inkling she’d ultimately be involved in food and beverage one way or another: “My educational background is primarily focused in the anthropology of food—its influence and importance to human civilization. All I have ever really wanted to do is eat everything, so it makes sense that I started making cocktails to accompany that!” In fact, she’d love to be hosting a food travel show on the Discovery Channel.

That interest in food and drink as cultural phenomena translates to her spirit choices as well. “I really love clairin, a sugarcane distillate from Haiti, and mezcal, an agave distillate from Mexico, because they are both produced in such unique ways that are still so deeply rooted in the history and culture of the people that consume them.”

The Midwest regional wild card entrant makes a point important to many of the Speed Rack women this year: “One significant movement in our industry that I’m really excited about is bars switching to be more conscientious about the waste they produce, like composting, recycled garnish, and using paper straws (or none at all).”

As for the Speed Rack competition, she believes the camaraderie that develops between the women that compete has had a major impact on the industry and the participants. “Women bond not only with their peers that season, but also with former participants who offer their advice and precious free time to help train anyone looking for help,” notes Gordon.

And the advice and help she offers novice bartenders reflects that: “Wear sensible shoes! Drink lots of water! Don’t go out to a late bar after closing—go to sleep!”

Haley Traub

City: New York City

Bars: Dutch Kills and Fresh Kills

B72A9337-copy-2This year’s U.S Speed Rack champion, New York’s Hayley Traub, has seen her career take off rather quickly. Originally moving to the big city to study drama, like many actors she found the hospitality business offered a way to survive. “Though I had some initial success in the acting world,” she recalls, “I quickly realized that bartending afforded me a different creative outlet that brought me so much more joy and satisfaction.”

Her command of cocktail knowledge helped her enormously in the Speed Rack competition, she says: “I come from a bar family that focuses on Prohibition-era classic cocktails and modern variations on them.”

Like many younger bartenders, she strives to find a work/life balance. “Mental health is extremely important to me as well and something that often gets overlooked in the service industry. I used to be ashamed to talk about the mental health issues I’ve struggled with for years, but it’s now a dialogue I openly engage in,” she notes.

Traub, who works at two of the better-known cocktail-centric bars in NYC, says pushing to learn when entering the bar world is crucial today: “Go to that tasting that’s happening earlier than you’d like to start your day. Attend the event where you’re not going to know anyone. Sit at that new bar you’ve been hearing about by yourself. Don’t let the fear of feeling slightly uncomfortable keep you from taking advantage of the multitudes of learning opportunities.”

Animal welfare is a passion, and the Minnesota native has a secret professional yen: “There are these places back in the Midwest called pizza farms where they make pizzas for guests using whatever ingredients were ready to harvest that day, and I would love to create a similar concept for cocktails. In fact, if any pizza farms back there are looking for a cocktail program…”

Jessi Weinstein

City: Washington, DC

Bars: Hank’s Oyster Bar On The Wharf and Hank’s Cocktail Bar

B72A9475-copy-2Jessi Weinstein, when asked about how she stays fit, healthy and sane, replies with a classic bartender retort: “I’m pickled from the inside.”

That kind of acerbic wit is an under-appreciated attribute for many young bartenders, but Weinstein, a self-described art school chick, says she’s definitely “the weird kid; my senior year self portrait was a lifesize rag doll. I brought her all over the place and took pictures with her. Eventually, I moved to DC to be young, dumb and with a boy. I started studying psychology. Regardless of what I was studying, I wanted to talk about and further understand humanism.”

She loves the challenge of Speed Rack: “It’s really special to see how much you can do when you challenge yourself and others around you to be their strongest, smartest, most strategic, fastest selves.”

As for issues of sexual harassment, Weinstein says, “Unfortunately, sexual harassment is something most of us have dealt with. Over the years my approach has changed. When I was younger, I allowed certain things, making excuses for coworkers’ or operators’ behavior, but now as an operator I vow to never turn a blind eye, to always confront disparity and give all resources I have to ending unsafe work and life environments.”

But no matter how open the business is to women now, she reminds young entrants that a proper service mentality is essential: “You either bleed hospitality or you don’t, and I really care, regardless of if you want a beer and a shot or a Ramos Gin Fizz.”

Cooking and eating her way through Peru is a dream, but meanwhile she consoles herself with her favorite tipples: a citrusy gin Martini or Death’s Door Gin on the rocks; “The second one on dirty rocks will change your life!”

Araya Anderson

City: San Francisco, CA

Bars: Rye and Horsefeather

San Francisco-based Araya (Raven) Anderson loves wine so much, it was once her shooter of choice.

B72A9610-copy-2Making wine, in fact, is still her dream job: “Working in a vineyard, owning a vineyard, working with my hands to create something magical and delicious. I also really like the idea of working towards something that’s not really necessary for the world to survive, but that still brings people together. I’ve always said if had to drink one thing for the rest of my life, I could easily give up everything for wine. It’s so mysterious and complex. It’s versatile, it pairs amazingly with food. And it tastes so good!”

As a student at UC-Berkeley, Anderson chose to study sociology for its versatility, although in hindsight, “the versatility is both a blessing and a curse because it didn’t help narrow down career ideas very much. I always joke that bartending is a pretty appropriate use of my degree, since I’m forever observing how people behave out in the real world.”

She believes acting on issues of sexual harassment in a systematic way is crucial today. “We run a program at my bar called ‘Ask Angela,’” she explains. “We’ve mounted posters in the restrooms encouraging women (or anyone really) to approach any bartender if they are feeling under threat and ask for ‘Angela.’ Our staff is trained to know that means the individual needs help getting out of the bar discreetly and safely and we are there to aid in that process. My mom’s name also happens to be Angela so I love that it feels like my mom is out there helping women everywhere to be safe.”

If Anderson weren’t bartending (or making wine) today, she’d likely be working on a Master’s in psychology to become a therapist: “Which is funny since most people joke that talking to your bartender is like the cheap form of therapy. But I’ve always enjoyed helping people and I really value the emotional connection between individuals.”

Kayla Hasbrook

City: New York City

Bar: Scampi

B72A9561-copy-2Former psychology and communications major Kayla Hasbrook always knew she liked learning about different personalities and what makes people tick, which fits her life now: “I still get to use a lot of that training behind the bar, but it was the combination of hospitality and creativity that I found in bartending that really made me fall in love.”

But she’s ever mindful of the pitfalls this sort of career presents. “Bartending is extremely demanding both physically and mentally. In order to be successful in this line of work I have made self-care a priority,” says Hasbrook. “I hit the gym three or four days a week with friends, which makes me accountable in the morning and less likely imbibe post-shift, and I practice yoga or run on my ‘off’ days. At my best I eat mostly a plant-based diet, but I have a huge sweet tooth which I give in to all the time. It’s about balance, right?”

Also important is the company a young bartender keeps, she says: “Surround yourself with strong women you look up to—women who will not only challenge you to work hard and be better professionally, but who can be a sounding board and a haven for courageousness.”

She advises novice bartenders to range beyond drink in training their palates: “Start paying attention to how everything tastes. Watch grandma cook.”

Lately, aperitivo and lower alcohol drinks are starting to develop a bigger following, Hasbrook notes. “It looks like Americans are starting to realize that drinking culture doesn’t have to mean getting super drunk. You can also see it in the increased popularity of things like session beers and availability of delicious vermouths, Sherry and amari.” She’s also seeing the return of frozen drinks—“And no one is upset!”

Madelyn Kay

City: Chicago, IL

Bar: Beatnik

B72A9524-copy-2Madelyn Kay, though based in Chicago, won the Southeast regionals, and she saw an entirely different sort of bar in her future when at college. “I have a degree in political communication from the University of Texas because I used to want to be a lawyer, much against the advice of every lawyer I know. I’m happy I finally listened and chose my passion instead.”

Kay, like most other women, has some thoughts for younger bartenders about harassment. “I’ve dealt with my experiences by sharing them with others. It can be uncomfortable and sometimes scary, but telling your truth and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is an important part of the path to acceptance and healing,” says Kay. “Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like they are more important or powerful than you, or that they can offer you something if you either give in to their unwanted advances or stay silent about them.”

She notes that sometimes younger bartenders hit the party-hearty route and cautions that their time will come: “Don’t make fun of your older friends for getting hangovers. Karma is real, and girl, those hangovers are coming for you.”

To avoid that fate and to stay fit she hits the gym, does yoga and tries to eat well, “But I also enjoy going out for drinks and eating freshly made pasta. It’s all about balance. A lot of it revolves around making intentional choices to take care of yourself and being comfortable with saying no when you need to,” she adds.

Among current bar trends, Kay cites the return of the Scotch Highball and an overall focus on health, wellness and promoting a work-life balance as important today.

If she weren’t tending bar, Kay has some wanderlusty ideas: “I would love to be a travel blogger and photographer. I want to see and experience every part of the world, and getting paid to do it under my own creative direction would be the ultimate dream.”

Katie Renshaw

City: Chicago, IL

Bar: Drumbar

B72A9381-copy-2Katie Renshaw meandered her way along, as many do, before heading behind the bar a couple of years ago: “Before I was a bartender, I was a web developer, a coder. Before that, I was a musical theatre actress. However, I had always been interested in flavors and all things culinary, starting with my watching Top Chef, no less. Where I was from, that kind of food didn’t exist.”

She started teaching herself to cook when young, and had considered dropping out of theatre school in favor of culinary school. “Near the end of college, I became a huge cocktail and spirits nerd,” she recalls. “When I grew tired of constantly auditioning and being told “No,” I went to a one-year program where I learned to code and got an apprenticeship right out of the program that led to a job. I did that for a couple years but I was creatively starving, and my love for cocktails and spirits was growing every day.”

Once insecure about her inexperience, she hesitated to become a bartender before making the plunge. “I wish I had spent less time doubting myself! I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to do the things I have in such a short amount of time,” notes Renshaw.

Juggling two types of jobs (she reps a brand as well) means creating a life/work balance is important: “I try my best to get enough sleep, drink enough water, and do yoga when I can. I also try to be adamant about my schedule at the bar, and how many shifts I can realistically handle and stay healthy and rested.”

Her favorite part about Speed Rack is the camaraderie with the other women: “The Speed Rack finalists become this amazing support group throughout the trials of the competition; not only do you get to meet kick-ass women from around the country, but we all become part of this family that constantly lifts each other up.”

Chelsea DeMark

City: Washington, DC

Bar: Hank’s Oyster Bar

B72A9653-copy-2Like Weinstein, Chelsea DeMark slings drinks at Hank’s Oyster Bar, albeit this one on DC’s Capitol Hill. The Mid-Atlantic winner of the Speed Rack regionals puts the value of the competition in perspective. “As bartenders we’re never done learning, and I know there is so much to glean from the amazing humans that participate in Speed Rack,” says DeMark. “The fact that everyone keeps an open mind and doesn’t hesitate to share their experiences and knowledge shows a real evolution of female competition. Women can be so aggressively competitive, so it’s nice to see the support even though we’re up against one another.”

Like so many other young bartenders, making drinks for a living wasn’t an early goal. “I studied math and philosophy and then realized I had no idea what I wanted to do with my expensive degree,” she recall. “All I knew is that the things that made me happiest were using my creative talents and having meaningful conversations.”

If she had known what lay ahead, she would advise her younger self: “Be smart but unassuming. Explore your palate, learn to describe it. Work for people who respect you, and whom you respect.”

She’d love to move to Paris to become a craft cocktail bartender at a chic discotheque “and eat fromage for my breakfast by the Eiffel Tower every morning,” but less poetic possibilities include event-planning, “or perhaps a botanist; plants are interesting.”

Her drinks? “Tequilas in the summer, whiskies in the winter. Their versatility for use with seasonal ingredients speaks to me.”

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) August 2018 Editions Wed, 25 Jul 2018 19:32:56 -0400
Great Whites (and we're not talking Shark Week) grapes

Lohr Focuses On Cool-Climate White Wines

By Kristen Bieler

Unlike many California winemakers, Kristen Barnhisel doesn’t worry much about acidity. “In Monterey’s cool-climate Arroyo Seco region, we have plenty of acidity every vintage; building texture into our wines is what I’m focused on,” says Barnhisel, the white wine winemaker for J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines.

Working with Jeff Meier, J. Lohr’s President and longtime Director of Winemaking, Barnhisel works solely on crafting the estate’s white wines, a position that founder Jerry Lohr has always emphasized. “Jerry has always known that this kind of focus is what is required to achieve the kind of quality we are looking for,” Barnhisel explains.


Although most famous for robust Paso Robles Cabernets like the iconic Hilltop and the much-loved Seven Oaks, J. Lohr began in Monterey in 1972. Recently, the winery has been quietly increasing their focus on white wine production with new plantings, experimental clonal selections and innovative winemaking techniques. Their commitment to whites has paid off in a growing line-up that ranges from Rhône-style blends to Burgundian-inspired Chardonnays, with Rieslings and Sauvignon Blancs in between.

Arroyo Seco Visionary

“Jerry first planted Chardonnay in Arroyo Seco over 45 years ago,” says Barnhisel. “He’d spent a decade searching for the ideal place to plant his first vines, and saw the potential for cool-climate varieties here.” His pioneering hunch proved correct; thanks to the chilly breezes off nearby Monterey Bay, well-drained soils and intense fog, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes yield intense minerality, bright acidity and layers of flavor. Other vintners soon caught on, and the Arroyo Seco AVA was officially established
in 1983.

Those original 280 vineyard acres have long been responsible for J. Lohr’s most famous and best-selling white, the Riverstone Chardonnay (almost 500,000 cases today), and have over time been expanded upon in size and scope to include small-volume, clone-focused wines. There are now nine different Chardonnay clones here, as well as more recent plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, which also thrives in the rugged coastal climate. “The valley pulls wind down the valley which shuts down the vines and gives us a longer growing season and fruit with greater complexity,” explains Barnhisel. 

The region’s longer growing season is particularly evident in J. Lohr’s October Night Chardonnay, a richly layered and beautifully balanced wine named for the time of year and day when it is harvested. “All grapes for this wine are hand-picked and hand-sorted in the vineyard at nighttime so the grapes maintain maximum freshness,” Barnhisel describes. A sister wine, the Arroyo Vista, shows a very different side of Chardonnay—more high-toned elegance—reflecting the diversity of soil and clone types.

New White Winery, New White Grapes

Jerry Lohr’s dream of having a winery dedicated to white wine production in the Arroyo Seco came true in 2015 when J. Lohr opened their 100,000-square-foot Greenfield winery adjacent to their vineyards. “The ability to process the grapes immediately has been incredible,” says Barnhisel. “You can taste the difference in the freshness of the grapes. With less travel time and less oxygen exposure, we have better phenolics, mouthfeel and texture.” 

Barnhisel also applies her white wine expertise in Paso Robles, where J. Lohr planted Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc at the Gean Vineyard in 2010. Located in the Adelaida District, it’s the western-most vineyard in Paso Robles and is atypically cool for the AVA, a result of its coastal proximity. “It’s really winemaking on the edge here—2017 was the first year it didn’t frost,” says Barnhisel.

The winemaking team is working with Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet here, and the Rhône whites are proving ideally suited to the day/night temperature swing and calcareous shale soils. The only downside: small acreage. Cynthia Lohr, Co-owner/Trade and Brand Advocate, notes that the Gesture tier—including a lush, ripe Viognier and RVG (Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc) blend—was originally only for club members and visitors. “Interest in these wines has exploded in recent years,” she notes, prompting their public, if limited, release. “Kristen’s deft touch with these wines speaks to both her connection to the vineyards and to the grapes.”


There is room for expansion in Arroyo Seco, where new vineyard blocks are almost ready to utilize and the team plans to plant additional new clones of Riesling. Though the region has been the spiritual home of this family-owned winery for nearly five decades, there is still so much to discover here, maintains Barnhisel: “It’s incredibly rewarding to find that perfect place where fruit flavors, aromatics, alcohol, acidity, texture and palate length all come into perfect balance,” she explains. “I’m always looking to achieve greater, richer texture and longer finish in these wines and that’s a journey that never really ends.”

Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) August 2018 Editions Wed, 25 Jul 2018 19:17:02 -0400
A Case For Vodka July18 Vodka
It’s hard to call a spirit ‘neutral’ when there’s so much diversity within its category 

By Jeff Cioletti

Vodka hasn’t attracted the sort of feverish fandom that, say, whiskey and agave spirits have, but that, in a sense, is by design. If vodka is truly doing its job and being everything it’s supposed to be, it’s neutral—without color, aroma or flavor (mostly). What’s to get excited about?

Well, it still outsells every other spirit—that’s pretty exciting.

The fact of the matter is that vodka’s blank slate character empowers it to play exceptionally well with other ingredients in cocktails, helping it become the largest spirits category by volume—71.3 million of the 226.1 million 9-liter cases that make up the total U.S. spirits universe, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. 

That means nearly a third of the spirits that legal drinking age Americans consumed last year was vodka. And, as large and mature as the category is, it still managed to post more than 2% volume growth in 2017.

If there’s ever been a “something for everyone” category, it’s vodka. And that “everyone” includes even the “craft” and “authenticity”-minded consumers who gravitate toward brown spirits.

“If you pick up a magazine, it’ll say that whiskey is the top trend, and now that the female demographic is invested, it continues to rise,” observes Sly Cosmopoulos, Corporate Mixologist at Republic National Distributing Co. (RNDC). “Then I pick up another magazine and it’s tequila, and then in another magazine it’s ‘poor tequila, mezcal is taking over.’ And then another and it’s gin, with all the different botanicals.”

Often forgotten among those sexier headlines is vodka. But it’s no less relevant. “When you’re dealing with the mass market, the general public, the average consumer—open the front door and look up and down the street in the neighborhood—it’s still vodka,” says Cosmopoulos. “With all the different price points and styles and flavors, there really is a different vodka for every age and demographic.”

Value vodka still rocks

Low price doesn’t necessarily mean low quality. Since there’s no aging involved with vodka, it’s bottled and distributed quite soon after distillation and doesn’t have to sit in a barrel for a couple of years not making any money. Vodka tonic drinkers typically aren’t looking to break the bank and they can’t go wrong with something along the lines of Georgi, Popov, Burnett’s or New Amsterdam, all of which sell off-premise for around $13 and under for a 750ml bottle. And there’s a good reason value vodkas come in large bottles, too: they are crowdpleasers that don’t bust budgets—perfect for parties.

Value-priced vodkas are also ideal for infusions, which are a real cash cow for Washington, DC’s Eastern European eatery Russia House Lounge—whose menu boasts some 200 vodkas. “I just use different house vodkas and go for the best deal,” says Russia House general manager Andrew Embree, “As long as it’s a decent vodka, when you infuse it correctly, it takes any of the kick out of it.” Russia House sells infusions—everything from pickle, horseradish and mango to roasted tomato and habanero—for $10 a shot, so it’s a highly profitable endeavor.


Brands continually reinforce vodka’s flexibility in cocktails by serving up easy recipes and delicious imagery. Seen here: Absolut Citron “Champagne Popper”

Flavors: Evolution, Not Revolution

Of course, not all flavors have to be homemade. And it was not too long ago that you could barely think of flavors that had not already been tried. And the sub-category itself was ripe for parody. Flavored vodka may have taken a bit of a hit recently—the segment lost 400,000 cases last year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council—but there always will be a place at the bar and on the retail shelf for ready-to-drink flavors. The segment is just evolving away from gimmicks.

“It’s been seven or eight years since the huge confectionery [flavored vodka] trend, the whipped cream, the Fruit Loops flavors,” says Cosmopoulos. “We’re steering away from that and we’re starting to see lighter flavor profiles.”

At the Value end, Burnett’s and Pinnacle remain flavored vodka anchors. But also at more premium price points, with the exception of Tito’s, practically every big brand-Absolut, Stoli, Smirnoff, Svedka, Cîroc, Ketel One-has distinctive (and valuable) flavors in their franchise. And continued promotions by established vodkas that remind consumers how easy and rewarding these variations can be. Meanwhile, some national brands-Van Gogh, for one-have become synonymous with flavor, while craft-scaled brands such as Charbay and new labels like Western Son are gaining traction.FS_Absolut_Paradise_750ml_vit

Old stand-bys like citrus will remain on-trend, as will spicy, peppery expressions. Absolut was among the pioneers of both. In 1986, seven years after the brand launched its original vodka, it unveiled Absolut Peppar and, two years later, it introduced Absolut Citron. Both remain in the Absolut portfolio today. Last year, the brand launched Absolut Lime—and launching this summer: Grapefruit.

The Skyy Vodka portfolio also includes a number of tropical and citrus offerings within its Skyy Infusions line. Among those are Citrus, Texas Grapefruit, Blood Orange and Pineapple. A sign of the times: the lastest Infusion is a re-boot: Watermelon is back, but now it’s “Sun-Ripened” and featuring real fruit.

Meanwhile, Austin Texas-based Deep Eddy, now part of Heaven Hill brands, has gained as much attention for its Ruby Red Vodka—which includes real grapefruit juice—as it has for its 10-times-distilled original.

One of the flavored vodka game’s biggest rising stars of the past few years has been cucumber. “Everyone would say that cucumber was a really hard flavor to capture in a bottle, but now we’re seeing a lot of it,” Cosmopoulos adds. In 2016, Svedka combined a pair of the hottest trending flavors when it introduced Svedka Cucumber Lime. And, in April of this year, the venerable Stolichnaya brand launched Stoli Cucumber. 

Focus is another trend. One longtime leader in the flavor arena, Van Gogh, scaled back last year from 24 flavors to 15. Double Espresso is their best-selling flavor overall, followed by Açai-Blueberry, suggesting people still have a taste for the exotic. That’s what keeps driving a brand like Figenza, whose fig flavor doubles as a bit of a curiosity for consumers looking to try something a bit different, and as an interesting cocktail enhancer to mixologists.


Taking over an old glass factory outside Pittsburgh, Boyd & Blair was only the second distillery in Pennsylvania since Prohibition; their vodka is made from local potatoes.


The Local Team scores big

Vodka is an incredibly crowded category and it’s notoriously difficult for a new brand to break through. But if the craft beverage movement has taught us anything, it’s that local sells. Brands like Tito’s and Deep Eddy may be national players now, but both are still very much Austin brands with fiercely loyal followings around the Texas capital.

“If a brand is local, then that is a selling point for that particular area,” says JR Starkus, Nevada-based master mixology for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. He points to the Frey Ranch Estate Distillery in Fallon, Nevada as an example. “You want to do local, here’s someone who’s doing it local on their farm, at a single distillery. But that’s tied into how close you are to the source. It doesn’t mean anything in Texas—Texans are going to do Deep Eddy and Tito’s.”


Marketing emphasis has shifted away from number of times distilled and types of filtration; here, potatoes rule at Chopin.

Ingredients for success

Another element that Nevada’s Frey Ranch has going for it is its grain base—made from an uncommon combination of corn, rye, wheat and barley. That wouldn’t have mattered a handful of years ago, but today’s consumers are increasingly attuned to how their spirits are made and the ingredients with which they are made.

“Consumers are savvier now than they’ve ever been and they’re more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies,” says Cosmopoulos. “They realize, ‘I want potato vodka,’ ‘I want wheat vodka,’ ‘I want rye.’ A lot more people are taking a look at the base ingredient.” 

That’s what convinced Belvedere and Sobieski to play up their respective rye bases in marketing and prompted Chopin to release its “Single” line of spirits distilled only once to retain the character of its base—be it wheat, rye, barley or potato.

Potato remains a classic base, and arguably carries more cachet today than it ever has, thanks to producers who treat it conscientiously. Examples besides Chopin include Karlsson’s Gold (Sweden), Boyd & Blair (Pennsylvania), LIV (Long Island), Blue Ice (made with Idaho potatoes); Gorgeous (Montana); and Chase from England, created by the family behind a famous Tyrrell’s potato chips for some serious potato pedigree.


Grey Goose incorporates its estate in France into much of the brand’s content and imagery.


Grey Goose probably gets much of the credit for making people start to care more about bases. Few people were talking about “winter wheat” before the Sidney Frank-launched, now-Bacardi-owned brand exploded onto the market. And now it’s part of the everyday vodka drinker’s lexicon, tied to no single country. Ravo, for instance gets as much mileage playing up its Swedish winter wheat base as Grey Goose does with its French crop.

Grey Goose also got people talking more about water sources, as well, being sourced from a pristine French spring. It certainly has helped pave the way for the success of brands like Global Spirits USA’s Leaf Vodka, whose water sources are front-and-center on its label. One iteration is made from Alaskan glacial water and the other with Rocky Mountain mineral water.

The growing ingredient orientation also has enabled smaller brands to distinguish themselves by showcasing their off-the-beaten-path bases. That’s a definite selling point for Argentina’s Primo Vodka, made from Malbec grapes. Cîroc is certainly the best known of the grape vodka niche, but it’s far better known for its association with brand partner Sean “Diddy” Combs than its base. A similar case can be made for Bedlam Vodka from Durham, NC-based Graybeard Distillery. Bedlam’s base is rice—more commonly associated with saké, but not so frequently linked to vodka.

As for some really out there ingredients, Fair Vodka is made in France from quinoa. Hangar 1, the Alameda, California distillery adept at offbeat fruit vodkas such as Buddha’s Hand, also created a Fog Point expression using water harvested from San Francisco Bay fog. Black Cow, made in England from the milk of grass-grazed cows, is not in the U.S.; but in suburban NYC there is nice vodka made from honey, called Comb. And Peony Vodka, from the Hudson Valley, includes nine natural ingredients, most importantly the essence of its namesake flower.


Ingredients are emerging as more important, such as rye at Belvedere.

Organic: the New Purity

As vodka marketing tactics go, “X-times-distilled” is starting to feel nostalgic. Consumers bought into the idea that each distillation would render the spirit even more pure. Ditto filtering—from charcoal to diamonds—again in the name of purity. Well, here is a radical idea: the purest spirit starts with pure ingredients—and in that respect, organic vodkas separate themselves logically and provide a natural selling point.Prairie-750-mL-High-Res

American Harvest Organic Vodka, recently repackaged, is made from organic Rocky Mountain wheat, certified organic ingredients and water from deep beneath the Snake River Plain. The Snake River actually runs under the Square One distillery; they use organic rye as a base. Prairie, also recently redesigned, is proudly made Minnesota, starting with single-vintage organic yellow corn grown on family farms, without herbicides and pesticides (Prairie also make Cucumber). The Crop line is a veritable organic garden with flavor extensions cucumber, tomato and lemon. Ocean Organic Vodka, made in Maui, is made using sugar cane and ocean water, naturally. And from Europe, Punzone uses organic Piemontese wheat and water from the Italian Alps; Kanon is made from organic wheat in Sweden.

A Sense of Place

Most brands showcase their place of origin in one way or another, but some wear it on their sleeves. Think Khor Vodka, which proudly highlights its Ukrainian heritage. Khor takes its name from Khortytsa, a famous, natural wonder of an island on Ukraine’s River Dnieper.

Lvov Vodka, made from beets, proudly wears a map of Poland on its label.

And, while there are so many vodkas coming out of Poland—which claims to be the birthplace of the spirit, much to Russia’s consternation—few own their homeland as much as Lvov, whose package contains a very detailed map of its region of origin. More Polish pride can be found in Wyborowa and Luksusowa and 1852 Kurant Crystal Vodka.

Of course, Russia remains well represented by evocative brands such as Beluga, Hammer & Sickle, Legend of Kremlin, Ruskova and Russian Standard.

Then again, the great thing about vodka is you can make it anywhere—that factor can elevate locales from around the globe. Ketel One, Van Gogh, Vox and Effen all hail from the Netherlands. Finlandia comes from Finland, Reyka from Iceland, Three Olives from England, and Ao from Japan. Absolut and Svedka come from Sweden, as do Purity and Ravo. Canada supplies Crystal Head, Iceberg and Pearl. Don’t forget Slovenia Vodka, whose brand team includes chef Peter X. Kelly, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Bill Murray—not to be confused with the Slovakian vodka Double Cross.

Royal Treatment

Finally, sometimes consumers just want to splurge, especially if they’ve got money to burn or they just want to live the celebrity lifestyle—if only for one night.

Italy’s Carbonadi vodka is very much tied to its luxurious image—thanks in part to its price tag. “Carbonadi will probably run you $80 to $100 off premise, but in one of the Las Vegas night clubs, a bottle will probably run you $1,000,” says Starkus.

Similarly, Stoli Elit, easily recognizable by its sleek, silver and black bottle, usually costs around $60 to $75 a bottle off-premise, with a hefty markup in bottle-service-style establishments. Then there’s Stoli’s Elit Pristine Waters series, which sources from exotic, remote locations. Bottles often run upwards of $3,000—off-premise!

“There’s definitely a pocketbook that goes along with something like that,” Starkus says. “People purchase it simply because they can. In the world of the mega-rich and super-rich, they want to show each other up and show you what they have and you don’t.”

But there is also a practical side to luxury vodka, especially off-premise—it arguably makes a safer gift than more particular-tasting spirits at similar price points.

Image No Longer Everything?

Vodka’s blank slate character naturally provides ample freedom for creating brands, from the fanciful to the commemorative. Consider Mamont, a Siberian vodka, was launched by an explorer to celebrate the discovery of the Yukagir Mammoth; its bottle is modeled after the tusk.

Then, of course, marketers have always had fun with vodka: Bong Vodka’s bottle embodies its name; Black Death became a perennial Halloween hit; Crystal Head embraced both celebrity ownership by Dan Aykroyd and chic/cheeky skull-shaped packaging. Some vodkas draw inspiration from local history and geography; others tie in to causes (Heroes, Salute, Simple, Equality). The list of image-driven vodka brands is long, as vodka’s neutral character continues to act as a very willing enabler.

Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.   

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) July 2018 Editions Mon, 25 Jun 2018 21:32:35 -0400
City Slickers Toast The Urban Winery Urban_Winery_HOME.jpg
The Urban Winery in Silver Spring, Md., not only bills itself as the closest winery to the nation's capital, its proprietors also tout their business as the first winery in the overall D.C.-Maryland-Northern Virginia region to be located in an urban environment.  
The Urban Winery proprietors are husband-and-wife team Damon and Georgia Callis, and their passion for the grape has proven infectious.

"Georgia is the winemaker, and I'm basically her business partner," said Damon Callis, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "We'd been making wine together as amateurs for 18 years.  But we started to see a lot of the opportunity that arose in Silver Spring and in Maryland, in general."

He continued, "The concept of an urban winery is not new.  It's actually been around for a long time.  Even before Prohibition, much of America's wine industry was created in an urban environment and was distributed.  It was only after Prohibition where players like the Mondavis started to create this farm-style wine approach in the U.S.  In reading up and studying the history, there really wasn't an urban winery in the Mid-Atlantic.  The closest one was New York.  We fell in love with the [idea].  Making wine is fun.  But sharing it with others and then them coming back and sharing it with people they know is what keeps us going every day."

Callis made it clear that he and his wife are not farmers.  They get grapes from such far-flung locales as California, New York, and Pennsylvania.  They've also developed relationships with various farmers throughout Maryland, from the Eastern Shore to Carroll County. "Contributing to our local economy and our local agriculture is very important to us," he said.  "But what's really important is knowing the palettes of our customers and giving them a very different experience when they come to our tasting room. The Urban Winery experience is Taste … Learn … Create.  Our wines range from Merlots from Maryland to Zinfandels from California.  We make dry, white wines.  But we also make some semi-sweet white wines that are fabulous, and we're also making white wines with hops.  VidalPA is one of our newest products that we're releasing in cans.  We also have a Bourbon Barrel Merlot."


Other popular favorites now being served include their Silver Spring Red 2015 - Vinter's Blend, the Silver Spring White 2015 - Vinter's Blend, and the Bole Legacy Zinfandel 2014.  The Urban Winery is a good place to get a bite to eat, too, with a menu that includes such tasty dishes as Greek meatballs, lamb lollipops, and spiced chicken wings.  Customers are urged to pair the food with an array of wine tasting flights.  

Georgia started making wines at a young age, learning the trade from her Greek immigrant father, Anthony "Bole."  When Damon met Georgia, he soon learned that to impress Dad, he had to make wines with them.  The rite of passage became more than just a way to get in good with his girlfriend's old man.  Winemaking became his passion, too.

But he had no idea it would become a career.  He was a Marine and eventually became a financial planner.  Georgia, meanwhile, was a registered operating room nurse.  Their backgrounds have only served to make them better business operators.  

Damon especially leans on his military experience, living and working by the Golden Rule: "Prior planning prevents poor performance.  My training has given me the perseverance to say, 'I'm going to charge that hill.  I'm going to climb it, reach the top, plant my flag there, and proclaim it mine..'  That's the attitude you have to have.  You have to have a chip on your shoulder, because there's so much competition in this industry.  You have to accept and embrace challenges each and every day. "

He added, "Making wine in an urban environment is extremely challenging, more so than in a rural environment with the time restrictions, the amount of space, the cost per production in space.  We're bringing the wine to the people versus bringing the people to the wine, and that's very rewarding."

Also  rewarding has been the wine education the Urban Winery has been able to provide the general public. Classes are offered on a regular basis in the Winery's barrel room.  There is a limit of 10 people per class, during which three wines are explored each with a specific regional focus.  "Wine Ambassadors" talk about the differences of each wine in sight, nose, and palette and then invite their students to sample small bite pairings created just for the class.

Callis concluded, "We have an environment where people can challenge themselves, challenge their palette, get out of their box, and enjoy wine as it should be … amongst friends.  We aren't trying to be the Mondavis.  We just want to be Damon and Georgia Callis of Maryland, producing awesome wines."

Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 


Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) July 2018 Editions Mon, 25 Jun 2018 21:14:10 -0400
Belle Isle Spirits Shines BelleIsleSpirits_HOME.jpg
When mentioning the word moonshine to many, images of a low-quality, home-brewed, bootlegged concoction immediately come to mind.  Much of it has to do with how moonshine has been portrayed for decades in mostly Southern-themed pop culture.  
Granny from the 1960s TV series, "The Beverly Hillbillies," ran a moonshine still by the Clampett family swimming pool.
In the video game, "Redneck Rampage," moonshine is used as a power-up that increases fighting ability (like Popeye's spinach).

And then there are the references in countless songs over the years.  And not just country favorites like George Jones ("White Lightning") and Florida Georgia Line ("Get Your Shine On").  But crossover artists like Aerosmith (who were "gettin' crazy on the moonshine" in their 1989 rock hit "Rag Doll") and funk band Parliament (their classic "Moonshine Heather").

Enter Richmond, Va.-based Belle Isle Spirits, whose stated mission has been to revive the art of moonshine. So far, they've been very successful at doing so.  The Beverage Journal recently asked Belle Isle co-founder and CEO Vince Riggi how he and his colleagues have managed to convince so many people to give their products a try.  "For the consumer," he said, "people inherently want to experience something new and exciting.  Belle Isle helps facilitate that journey by providing a unique product that's not quite like anything they’ve ever experienced before.  There is something that sticks about our product.  On the bartender side, we're another tool for their toolbox that provides them with a canvas to create delicious cocktails, and again, provide that unique experience for their clientele."

At tastings, Riggi has recorded a very common response among first-time drinkers: "Utter surprise!" he exclaimed.  "'This tastes better than my favorite vodka' is probably the most frequent comment we receive.  That's soon followed by 'Where the heck can I buy this?!'"

Belle Isle recently entered the Maryland-Washington, D.C. market.  Eager for distribution, the company partnered with Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits midway through 2017.  "Partnerships are extremely important to us at Belle Isle," stated Riggi, "and so far we couldn’t be happier with the working relationship we've established with Southern in the Maryland/D.C. market. Maryland specifically, has become our second largest market by volume, trailing only our home state of Virginia. We are on pace to sell roughly 12,500 cases in 2018, and the Maryland/D.C. markets will play a large role in that success."


He continued, "We have a rock-star team in the Maryland and Washington markets that work hand in hand with our distributor on a daily basis, while also receiving support from our team at headquarters.  It always takes a village."

It also takes a plan and, in Belle Isle Spirits' case, some high-quality ingredients.  For Gregg Brooks, the company's Director of Production, that means using such things as organic corn.  "Every batch of our product starts with corn grown between three family farms," he stated, "all grown organically without pesticides or GMOs.  We distill our spirit lower than vodka yet higher than whiskey, which allows the characteristics of the corn to really shine [and] makes this a very approachable and 'sippable' premium spirit. Using nothing but real ingredients in the infusions is also of the utmost importance to us."

Some of the company's infusions have really taken off.  Honey Habanero, for instance, has proven especially successful.  Brooks said, "We’re very lucky to have some great partnerships in sourcing these ingredients, most of them Virginia companies.  Our honey comes from the Shenandoah Valley provided by Bubba’s Sweet Nectar.  Our habanero peppers are from Old Dominion Organic Farms in Southwest Virginia. The coffee beans we use in our Cold Brew product are Fair Trade Organic and Rainforest Alliance certified, sourced from our good friends at Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co.  The grapefruits for our Ruby Red product are organic and sourced from Texas and California." 

Looking ahead to the second half of 2018 and beyond, Riggi and his colleagues are eager to roll out the company's Blood Orange infusion starting July 1.  Belle Isle will also be participating in its first-ever Tails of the Cocktail in New Orleans July 17.  The company will host the opening night pool party at Hotel Monteleone.

Riggi concluded, "We’re big believers in drilling an inch wide and a mile deep.  Rather than just scratching the surface of a market, we want to become the local craft option for all our touch points. This time next year, if you were to contact our distributors, our network of retail/restaurant partners, along with the nonprofits we work with, and all of them have continued to have an amazing experience dealing with Belle Isle, that's about as good as it gets right there."

Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) July 2018 Editions Mon, 25 Jun 2018 20:59:28 -0400
Argentina’s Fresh Take argentina_HOME.jpg

Winegrowers are taking deliberate steps to lighten up Malbec and more

By W. Blake Gray

 If you haven’t tried Argentine wine in a while, you might be surprised. Malbec, the country’s definitive wine that has earned its status here by punching above its price point, is changing. Musclebound Malbec is no longer the norm; there’s a trend toward picking earlier and using less new oak. In short, Argentina is lightening up.

This is not just a trend for boutique producers, or at one price level. Some of Argentina’s most important exporters—including Catena, Susana Balbo, Trivento, Kaiken and Trapiche—are intentionally making most of their wines lighter. “Ten years ago, one of the most important elements was concentration. Density,” says Trivento Chief Winemaker German di Cesare. “Now it’s not so important.”

Moreover, unlike in neighboring Chile, where large wineries have sometimes made stylistic changes based on the demands of foreign markets, Argentina has a big domestic wine market. Most of the wineries making lighter wines now are doing it because they think it’s the way it should be done. 

“We like picking Malbec probably one or two points [of potential alcohol] earlier than in the past,” says Eddie del Pópolo, General Manager for Susana Balbo. “I like clean fruit and nice freshness. I don’t like overripeness. I like balance. If I have to define balance, it’s probably around 13½, 14, maybe 14½ percent alcohol. It depends on the region.”


Hitting the Reset Button

To understand why this is happening now, consider how rapidly the Argentine wine scene has evolved. As recently as 25 years ago, most Argentine wines were low-quality easy drinkers meant for the domestic market. The country only began exporting in earnest in the late ’90s—at the peak of Robert Parker’s influence. It’s easy to see why wineries who had never before been graded by foreigners would chase the fruit-forward, high-impact style that would seem to generate high scores and market success.

Well, it worked for a good couple decades. With Argentina’s exports to the U.S. dropping recently, that could be an incentive for change. But the dozen or so winemakers I spoke to just seem to think more balance is better. And now, after two decades of trying to make quality wine, they have the technical understanding of viticulture and enology they need to make the wines they want.

“In the past, we picked all this area at the same time,” Trivento’s di Cesare notes. “But now we know that the soil, the area is all different. We used to pick first Malbec and then Cabernet. We used to pick Cabernet in May and have a very high alcohol and low acid wine. Now we realize each grape and each place have its own identity. Now I don’t like to pick too late because you lose all identity when you pick overripe grapes.”

The learning curve is apparent both in the vineyards and wineries. At Ruca Malen, Malbec for the “Terroir Series” upper range of wines is sourced from cool, high-altitude micro-climates in Uco Valley (55%) and Lujan De Cuyo. Then, only half the wine sees oak (12 months); the other half stays in tank, which winemaker Noella Torres believes best preserves the grape’s raspberry-cassis profile.

Silvio Alberto, formerly of Achaval Ferrer, recently took charge at Bodegas Bianchi and is looking forward to keeping the wines in check: “I like a big company because you can achieve phenolic maturation without big alcohol content.’

Kaiken winemaker Gustavo Hormann says that winery owner Aurelio Montes Jr. developed an affection for making lighter wines when he was running Kaiken, and his since taken it back to Chile to implement at Montes.

Laura-Catena-02Not surprisingly, the delibrate shift toward lighter Malbec also extends to other grapes. Luis Reginato, vineyard manager for Catena’s Adrianna Vineyard, says the winery cut back dramatically on new oak for their top-end Chardonnays, White Bones and White Stones, because “we are doing a lot of work and research in the vineyard and we want people to taste the fruit.”

Moreover, Catena just introduced a new appellation series of Malbecs priced right in the sweet spot for U.S. drinkers, and the Malbecs from Lunlunta and La Consulta appellations are labeled at just 13% alcohol. If there were any doubt at all as to Catena’s intentions, their very latest new Malbec, the 2015 “Argentino” is priced on par with the notoriously powerful Catena Zapata, yet its Malbec expression is a world apart: smooth, unapologetically ripe, and layered in a way tasters may question whether it is 100% Malbec (it is).

Most of the U.S. market hasn’t noticed yet. But you will. Just keep tasting the wines.

“We entered USA in October 2016,” says La Celia General Director Sebastián Rios Dempster. “The people say, ‘This is not Argentinian wines. I never drank these kind of wines before.’ Argentinian wines were more full, more heavy before. Maybe this is the future.”

Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) July 2018 Editions Mon, 25 Jun 2018 20:52:37 -0400
Fruit Brandies: Ripe for Attention fruit_brandies_HOME.jpg

Fruit Brandies—A Small But Booming Niche—Present Opportunities

By Jack Robertiello

In central New Jersey, famed applejack maker Laird’s has been doubling production each fall for the past five years.  Out in Indiana at Huber’s Starlight Distillery, new orchards have been planted and brandy production has been increased to accommodate booming sales of apple and peach brandies. 

Click Here to check out the entire article as it appeared in The Journal.  


Read More]]> (Beverage Network) July 2018 Editions Mon, 25 Jun 2018 16:24:27 -0400
Rum's Time Sampling from barrel at Flor de Caña.

As Premiumization Reaches Rum, The Action Is In Aged Expressions

By Jack Robertiello

When Gruppo Campari threw open the doors to their $7+ million expansion of Appleton Estate distillery in the hills of Jamaica in January, it was only the latest step in their effort to upgrade the reputation of the best-known aged Jamaican rum.

This expansion comes after recent double-digit growth for Appleton Estate Reserve Blend and Rare Blend 12 YO, the introduction of 21- and 50-year-old expressions, and the swapping of J. Wray for Appleton on the Gold and Silver rums, leaving Appleton as an aged-only brand.

It only makes sense; for the past few years, the turn-of-the-century drivers of rum sales—inexpensive white and the cornucopia of flavors—had fallen from favor, as American drinkers increasingly turned to older, more complex and sophisticated spirits. Only in the super-premium end does rum show growth these days, and as a result, companies are dusting off older expressions, introducing limited editions and barrel finishes, and venturing into the select cask business in which retailers and restaurateurs get a crack at having their own bespoke bottles.

How badly has rum lagged in the premiumization boom? According to rum king Bacardi, the 15% premium share of the category is puny compared to what’s going on in tequila (53% share) and whiskey (43%).

The attention to rum’s ageability received a potentially significant boost  this spring : Bacardi rolled out two new premium products (Bacardi Añejo Cuatro and Gran Reserva Diez) joining Reserva Ocho and Gran Reserva Limitada in their range of ages and prices (srp $19.99 through $100). Bacardi is backing it with a campaign that trumpets accurate age statements, a topic of debate throughout the rum world for years.

“Premium rum is really the last frontier in the spirits category that is unconquered, and we’re excited to be launching these new expressions,” says Ned Duggan, Vice President, Brand Managing Director for Bacardi. 

Pushed to the front of the campaign and highlighted on labels is the “undisturbed aging” concept, an idea that many rum producers and aficionados support as a way to codify rum’s ageability.

“With the idea of minimum aging, we really want to educate consumers and the trade that we are using Puerto Rican regulations which dictate the age on the bottle is the youngest in the blend,” he says, so that rums as old as six may be included in Cuatro, as old as 10 in Ocho, and above 10 in Diez.

The numbers on Bacardi’s range of aged rums reflect the youngest rum in the blend—in line with how whiskey age statements are presented.The numbers on Bacardi’s range of aged rums reflect the youngest rum in the blend—in line with how whiskey age statements are presented.
Confronting the (Lack of) Standards

The quandary for rum producers trying to establish basic aging and labeling standards is that each country sets its own rules for rum-making and many quality rums bear age statements that don’t match under what U.S. consumers and trade think they mean.

IMG_3138For example, the celebrated rums from Flor de Caña, which while small volume in the U.S. have found favor among many bartenders, include age expressions of four years, five years, seven, 12, 18 and 25 years, the latter of which routinely retails for more $140. But what those ages mean is elusive; the rules in producing country Nicaragua provide that in the case of the older spirits, “all products above 4 years are a blend of rums of similar ages,” according to a spokesperson for importer William Grant and Sons. But not, as whiskey aficionados are accustomed to, basing the age statement on the youngest spirit in the blend.

Similarly, other countries allow labeling of a “solera” method as well as an age statement, as with Zacapa and Botran from Guatemala, something solera method creators in Jerez would never allow. In the case of rums with both a number and “solera” on the label, chances are it simply means there is a bit of rum with that age statement contained in the blend.

Other producers applaud Bacardi’s labeling approach as a key move by a category leader to push aged rum to the forefront. John Eason, coo/evp, of Don Q-producing Serralles USA, believes that if suppliers would agree to an age statement definition and to declare added sugar content, rum’s fortune’s would improve. He adds, “In two years the EU will require nutritional information on all spirits. In Germany and some other countries, companies have to disclose whether they add color or caramel to their products. Rules like these help distilleries that make ‘honest’ rums; rums that don’t use additives to mask the quality or aging process.”

Moves to expand aged rum’s prominence get applause from folks like Martin Cate, owner of the tiki haven Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco: “What we’re finding success with are things that have evidence of authentic and minimum aging. My guests look for country of origin, provenance, not too much marketing lingo,” says Cate. “And when they hear about minimum age and no additives, these are the things they want more of.”

Bacardi’s vast facilities to produce rums at every price point and in every style

Bacardi’s vast facilities to produce rums at every price point and in every style

Fast-Tracking Awareness 

XO3It’s only a question of how quickly the evolution will occur, says Dorothee Heriard Dubreuil, Director of Brand Marketing for Mount Gay. “Consumers are more educated today and they want quality products. With the only portion of the rum category growing being premium rums $25 and up, I have a feeling the next coming years are the moment where we will see the trend heating up.”

Mount Gay, in addition to an XO and a double-matured Black Barrel rum, offers a limited release 1703, aged 10-30 years, and a one-off Origin series, which this fall will include a peat-smoked XO expression, the sort of experimentation she says the category needs.

Ben Jones, who heads up Spiribam, the importer of Martinique’s Rhum Clément and Rhum J.M, as well as St. Lucia’s Chairman’s Reserve Rum and Guadeloupe’s Rhum Damoiseau, also credits the range of origins and styles available here now for the improved reputation of aged rums. “Finally we’re starting to see a lot of different brands from different places with real heritage, brands with gusto and good stories, and we’re at the dawn of the premiumization of aged rums,” he says.

Newcomers are also entering the aged category. Rum Co. of Fiji is currently making its U.S. debut with two tiers, Bati (premium) and Ratu (extra-aged). Ratu Dark Rum is aged 5 years (which includes many older stocks) and is filtered through coconut shell charcoal, which renders it ultra-smooth. Their other claim, not unlike one hears in the wine world: “When you make rum with sugar cane from Fiji’s volcanic soils, you end up with richer, purer juice,” says Heath Baker, President.


Part of Bacardi’s push for standards includes the idea of “undisturbed aging.”

Part of Bacardi’s push for standards includes the idea of “undisturbed aging.”

Roll out the barrels

After years of admiring what whiskey and tequila producers have done with single barrel programs, Clément is now on the third year of a limited cask program for a network of rum specialists, important as rhum agricole is still less understood by consumers and the trade than the dominant molasses-based rums.

Plantation, a collection of Caribbean rums aged in France, has already offered single barrels to the market, and while they have worked mainly on-premise, Guillaume Lamy, Vice President-Americas for importer Cognac Ferrand, also sees great opportunity off-premise.

“Today consumers are more educated and starting to realize the world of rum is just as fascinating as Cognac or whiskey. Now retailers are starting to realize that having a $25 to $28 rum on the shelf is a valuable thing,” says Lamy. “We have to thank the whiskey guys for guiding the consumers to higher price points. A lot of retailers see the price of whiskies, and they know at some point customers will be looking for alternatives at the similar price point.”

Brands like Goslings are joining the special bottling fray as well. “All ours are aged premium—our Old Rum is aged 16 to 20 years and we’re seeing a lot of attention being drawn to that,” says Malcolm Gosling Jr., who just picked up a listing for the aged expression in the important Pennsylvania control market. Goslings, too, has limited releases in the planning stages, including a single barrel called Papa Seal aged from 12-17 years. He’s considering a biannual release of different barrel-finished expressions in the future.

That increased attention to origin, finish and style is essential, says Don Q’s Eason: “Pirates, captains, and sea monsters aren’t going to cut it anymore. The consumer is clearly becoming more educated and moving on from that.” 


 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  


Read More]]> (Beverage Network) June 2018 Editions Wed, 30 May 2018 11:16:55 -0400
Black Panther at Red Lounge black-panther.jpg

When DC's Red Lounge Caught the 'Black Panther' 

The whole world has gone Marvel Comics crazy.  The latest "Avengers" sequel smashed opening day and weekend records at the box office.  Before that, "Black Panther" shocked the world by becoming the third-highest grossing film of all time in North America, appealing to a wider demographic than ever before for a "comic-book film."

Not everyone was surprised, though.  Back in February, Jason Kelley and Greg Jackson Jr. sensed a pop-culture phenomenon was about to happen and sprang into action.  Their Washington, D.C.-based event production company, The Wave, put together a "Black Panther"-themed pop-up bar that was hosted at the Red Lounge on U Street in the nation's capital.  It was only supposed to run one weekend.  Interest was so high in the event, dubbed Enter Wakanda DC, that Kelley and Jackson extended it a second weekend the following Friday-through-Sunday.

"We realized very quickly that it was far bigger than our original intention," Kelley recalled, during a late April interview with the Beverage Journal.  "Some people stayed at the pop-up bar for five, six hours.  It definitely celebrated the moment, the movie, and our culture."


Jackson concurred, adding, "Pop-up bars are great because they invite people to experience entertainment, not just watch it. You can be in it and socialize in it. I knew how big 'Black Panther' was going to be for me and for Jason and, frankly, for the entire black community as well as for comic-book enthusiasts.  So, we started with the basic idea of 'We need to get together and celebrate this moment.'  It started as just a Happy Hour.  We were going to have a Happy Hour and then go to the movie afterwards.  But there was a huge amount of interest around the Happy Hour … more so than seeing the movie.  So, that's when I called Jason and said, 'Hey, why don't we just run with this thing and try to make it a full-out pop-up bar.'  I'd been to so many that I knew the format from a customer side."

Enter Wakanda DC, which featured DJs playing hip-hop and Afrobeat on two floors of the Red Lounge, themed food and drink specials (the M'Baku shot, named after Winston Duke's heroic character in the movie, was especially popular), and art from local painters.  Pages from the original "Black Panther" comic lined the walls.  Additionally, there was a photo booth that gave fans an opportunity to take selfies with set props from the movie.  Attendees were also able to get their faces painted like the Wakandan warriors from the film

Kelley remarked, "With every event, we try to give our friends and people in our community a platform to do the things they love.  The pop-up bar manifested that in literally every aspect.  Even down to the bar menu and the bar staffing.  The staff we used was not the staff that was traditionally at Red Lounge.  The actual staff was there on site.  They cooked the food and worked with us throughout the process.  But from the different drinks to the art itself, that was all locally sourced."

The story of The Wave is almost as interesting as the saga of the Black Panther.  It was started two years ago in D.C. as a group chat.  Kelley recalled, "It was a way to tell our friends where to go to brunch, to Happy Hour, and so forth.  We first had 13 people in the course of a week.  That went to 100 people, which went to 400.  Now, we have over 25,000 users in about 25 different cities."

A George Mason University alum, Kelley spent five years working at CNN.  He gave tours of the cable news network's Atlanta studios by day and worked in nightclubs in the evenings.  While pulling that double duty, he developed the desire to create events connecting high-caliber people.  He moved back to the Washington area in January 2015. For his part, Jackson's talents have previously been put to use as a community organizer and campaign strategist.  After surviving an act of gun violence in 2013, he served as Mayor Muriel Bowser's Director of Community Relations & Services.  He and Jackson connected at a brunch in March 2016 and hatched the idea for The Wave.


The Wave has gone on to host a number of black bar crawls in around the District of Columbia.  The next event they'll be involved in is Freedom Day on June 16.  The Wave will help present a new spin on the annual Juneteenth Barcrawl, with the entire U Street corridor taken over for the day.  Multiple DJs will be placed up and down U Street, with drink specials all along the way.

Kelley concluded, "The challenge is gaining the trust of others to believe in your vision and be willing to take a risk on creating different experiences.  When they do, it's very exciting."

  Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) June 2018 Editions Wed, 30 May 2018 11:04:02 -0400
Fruit Forward Fruit-Forward.jpg

Ready-To-Drink Sangria Is Having A Moment

By Jeff Cioletti

 Beverage segments come and go with the ebb and flow of consumer trends, but one category that’s had a dependably steady, yet relatively quiet presence on the scene has been ready-to-drink sangria. There are some periods in which it’s more fashionable than others, but it’s always somehow managed to adapt to evolving consumer habits.

Ready-to-drink sangria is a relatively tiny segment, accounting for about 4.7 million total cases and revenue of about $193 million in the 52-week period that ended in late March, according to Nielsen. Volume grew about 4.1% and revenue climbed about 3.5% over the prior 12-month period. Domestically produced sangria represents the larger slice of the market, 3.7 million cases to imports’ 972,459 cases. But import volume grew faster during that period, surging 9.6% versus domestic growth of 2.7%.

“Sangria is something that attaches itself to a lifestyle,” says Darren Restivo, Marketing Director and Principal at Biagio Cru Wine & Spirits, which has been active in the sangria segment for about 15 years. “Just like rosé is pretty much a lifestyle, sangria has become a lifestyle—it beckons to being on the beach, at concerts, part of wedding celebrations, at Thanksgivings and Christmases.”

Biagio Cru’s sangria portfolio includes Lolailo, a 6% ABV offering made from Tempranillo and Bobal grapes blended with Valencia orange, lemon, herbs and spices; the 8% ABV Sol de Ibiza, using organic Tempranillo and Syrah, combined with organic citrus fruit; and the Tempranilla-based Swashbuckler, the company’s draft option that’s a considerably stronger 15% ABV. “Swashbuckler is very much made to hold up to a pitcher of ice,” Restivo says of the super-sized ABV.

From Kegs to Cans

Glunz Family Winery was an early mover in the U.S. RTD sangria business. As far back as 1976 sangria was one of four wines—in addition to a chablis, a burgundy and a blush—that Joseph Glunz was marketing in kegs.

“He started those four categories of draft wine,” says winemaker and general manager Matt Glunz, Joseph’s son. “Then draft sort of went away after a while as people got a little more into drinking wine, drinking varietals. The generic categories went away. But sangria kind of kept on going.”


In the ’90s, the company started packaging its De La Costa brand in 1-liter swing-top bottles (though it is still available in draft form). Soon Glunz was selling De La Costa in Whole Foods, which saw an opportunity to cross-merchandise it in the produce section.

Now marketed nationally by Bronco Wine Co., De La Costa is available in White, with a Sauvignon Blanc base, and Red, made from a blend of Zinfandel and Merlot—both combined with extracts from fruits like lemon, lime and grapefruit. It differs from most Spanish-style sangrias in that De La Costa closer to a full-strength wine at 11.5% ABV—any dilution comes from the ice over which consumers will pour it. “We pick the grapes a little earlier so the acid is a little more present in the wine to balance the sweetness of the sugar we add,” says Glunz. “We ferment everything dry and add back a little sweetness for consistency.”


In April, Glunz launched De La Costa in cans after Matt Glunz’s brother, Stephan, the winery’s operations manager, did extensive research on canned wine. “Canned wines are really geared toward summers and summer-type activities,” says Glunz. “[Stephan Glunz] was like, ‘listen, there’s nothing more summer than Sangria.” Plus, the one-liter glass bottle is a non-starter on golf courses, poolside and on boats.

Biagio Cru also offers a canned version of Lolailo, which it launched late last year. “Ready-to-drink sangria is becoming even more ready to drink thanks to cans,” says Restivo.

Many other familiar importers and producers have been active in the space:

opici-family-sangria-Opici markets its own brand of 7% ABV red and white sangria bearing the family name. The red uses a Tempranillo base, while the white is crafted from the Airen variety. Both are blended with natural fruit essences
and spices.

eppaEppa, a “SupraFruta” Sangria from Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, is crafted in California with certified organically-grown grapes. The “SupraFrutas” in question are organic pomegranate, blueberry, blood orange and açai juices.

MIJA, from Latitude Beverage Co., makers of 90+ Cellars wines in both red and white, is 9.5% ABV and sourced and produced in New York, without artificial additives or preservatives. Its fruit juices include pomegranate, açaí and blood orange and the flip-top bottle is reusable.

Beso Del Sol recently followed up the success of its flagship sangria—which sold more than 200,000 cases last year—with a pair of sparkling, 10.5% ABV line extensions. Beso Del Sol Sparkling White is made from Airen grapes, with all-natural peach and mango flavors and Beso Del Sol Sparkling Rosé blends Tempranillo with all-natural citrus, peach and mango flavors.

Reál, imported by Shaw-Ross, is produced and bottled by Cruz Garcia in Spain. Reál ranges from 7 to 10% ABV and uses primarily Tempranillo and Granacha varietals and 100 percent citrus flavors.

EdHardyTetraPAckEd Hardy Sangria, in red and white, is part of the lifestyle-driven, tattoo-happy Ed Hardy brand portfolio. Available in bottle, box and 500ml Tetra Pak, it has strong name recognition among Millennials.

RIUNITÉ’s June 2017 addition of a sangria made a lot of sense as the brand’s Lambrusco swims in the same fruity, red waters, so to speak. Available in 750ml, 1.5L and cute little 187mls, Riunite is made from Lambrusco, Merlot and Sangiovese grapes and real orange juice; bottled at 7% alcohol.

René Barbier doesn’t market a RTD sangria, but they have been leveraging the category’s popularity for a major promotion kicked off this year. The brand is including sangria recipes in the form of neck-hangers on 750ml bottles and on the back panel of René Barbier 3L bag-in-box Mediterranean Red (Merlot and Tempranillo) and Mediterranean White (Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada). The company also is hosting sangria tastings across the country.

And, if the category’s current trajectory continues, expect to see more brands to pop up in the next couple of years.

“It’s been wild since we started [selling sangria] and now the category is just flooded,” says Glunz. It’s interesting to see how quickly a category can fill up. We were out there with three or four others and now there are just hundreds of other premixed sangrias.”

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) June 2018 Editions Wed, 30 May 2018 10:57:10 -0400
Extreme Cocktails Sable’s Message in a Bottle has dual serving vessels for distinct aged spirits.

Mixologists Continue To Push The Limits Of Ingredients & Technique

By Jack Robertiello

If you can find it a TGI Friday’s, can it still be extreme? 

As cocktail trends ebb and flow with the drive to be fresh and intriguing, it’s hard to make a splash without reaching for extremes. Which may be how a drink made with charcoal was featured at one of the largest mainstream chains last year.

What seems a bit extreme today will head in one of two directions usually: to become a widely accepted ingredient or technique, or be sent straight to the ashbin of cocktail history—remember drink spherification? Perhaps solidified cocktails seemed too much like Jell-O shots, but whatever the case, some things simply don’t stick.

Smoke has: even syrup supplier Monin offers hickory smoke in a bottle, and with many ways to smoke a cocktail— from bespoke barside fires, to hand smokers, charred planks and cold-smoked ice cubes, smoke is now a regular part of the bartender’s flavor kit.


As noted above, charcoal has emerged as an ingredient, driving enough curiosity that last year Friday’s rolled out a limited time offering called the Black Friday, essentially a Long Island Iced Tea, turned a dark color from activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal is said to have detoxifying effects, but adds little flavor. Many bars have toyed with it—for example the Black Magic Mimosa at San Diego’s Madison on Park; and The Batman at Jimmy at the James in New York City, made with rum, charcoal, pineapple juice, lime juice, agave, and mint.

Trash Tiki hit the zeitgeist at a time when bar folk have increasingly looked for ways to address the collateral waste of drink-making. So often, being “green” seems like eating your vegetables, but Trash Tiki, created by UK bartenders Kelsey Ramage and Iain Griffiths as a pop-up and online platform, demonstrated as they toured the U.S. their ideas for extreme recycling in the spirit of sustainability. “We’re going to show you that reducing your environmental impact has an emotional and economical impact that should put a smile on your dial,” says Griffiths.

The duo’s recipes use fruit stock from citrus shells; coconut cream replacement made with whey and egg yolks; and apple pulp whiskey sours, among others.

The idea is spreading—bartender Jess Lambert (Boleo in The Gray Hotel, Chicago) makes cocktails with stale bread. At LA’s Honeycut, the Deadly Fog uses orgeat syrup made from steeping avocado pits. Mission Chinese in NYC featured the Sufferin Succotash, made with coffee grounds steeped in Cognac.

For Fine & Rare’s Smoking Old-Fashioned, guests can select the wood smoke—hickory, applewood, mesquite or cherrywood.

For Fine & Rare’s Smoking Old-Fashioned, guests can select the wood smoke—hickory, applewood, mesquite or cherrywood.

Beyond Bacon

There are still plenty of bacon or Waygu beef-washed drinks around, but now, fat washing of a different type is emerging. At Alta in San Francisco, the Lemon Bomb is made with Santa Teresa Rum, butter, lemon juice, pomelo syrup, egg yolk, sea salt, topped with an egg white and lemon foam. At Travelle in Chicago, Corn, Bread and Butter includes brown butter fat-washed white whiskey. At Buffalo Proper in Buffalo NY, the Tijuana Tea Time employs red peppercorn oil; at the Velveteen Rabbit in Las Vegas, duck fat-washed brandy appears.

Technological advances like draft cocktail systems have finally lodged solidly in the bar business—for example at newish Parlor Pizza Bars in Chicago, Sangria, Margaritas, Punches and cold-brew coffee cocktails all pour from taps. 

With the help of suppliers, other forms of fast service cocktails are possible, as Beam Suntory rolls out their Japanese-style highball machines. There’s a very happy user in Chicago’s Lowcountry owner Pan Hompluem.

“It’s quick and easy, but more importantly, the Suntory Toki Highball machine creates a  level of carbonation that makes a familiar product unique and superior. The difference between a highball made from a canned product or soda gun versus the machine is night and day. It allows us to pour the perfect ratio without ever touching a jigger,” says Hompluem.

The machine can produce effervescent water with other brands, making highballs of any type and carbonated cocktails easier to serve.


the White Star Line cocktail at Fine & Rare, NYC, is at the extreme high end of price ($80) as well as complexity; it includes squeezed-to-order grapefruit and lemon juice.

Slow Ride, high prices

Add to that category sous vide cocktails, once a demonstration tool but now found more frequently in application. Lauren Corriveau, of Nitecap in New York City, for Boogie Wonderland infuses Maurin Quina with cacao nibs. And at Portland’s Trifecta, Colin Carroll infuses Jameson Black Barrel, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and Dolin Génépy des Alpes with charred sugar maple.

As cocktail prices nudge higher, some places are taking the leap to include pricey spirits. High-end service can include drinks like what’s available at Sable Kitchen and Bar in Chicago where the “Message in a Bottle” with Glenfiddich 21-Year, Zaya Gran Reserva 12-Year Rum and Bual Madeira is served in a double-barreled bowl on glass tray with crystal glasses. 

Creator Mike Jones served the drink in a sphere within a sphere with pour spouts which hold different spirits. Priced at $75 a pop, the order provides a small sample of the Scotch on the side.

On the menu the “Lap of Luxury” drinks start at $40. “We have an incredible collection of spirits and people don’t necessarily understand that making drinks with them can bring them to another level,” he says.

And then there’s the illicit; tobacco has once again made a return in drinks, but the big grower is cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found in cannabis extolled for its pain relief properties. At Hollywood’s Gracias Madre, the CBD Snow Cone is made with agave, lemon, hibiscus and CBD. In a twist, it’s featured in the “On the Wagon,”  alcohol-free portion of the drink menu.

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) June 2018 Editions Wed, 30 May 2018 10:49:14 -0400
A New Day For WSWA WSWA_Recap.jpg

The Need For Evolution And A Commitment To ‘Stand Out’ Highlight The Annual Wine & Spirits Wholesaler Convention

By Kristen Bieler

This year was the 75th anniversary of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America convention. Held in Las Vegas from April 30th through May 3rd, the convention also marks the last year of WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf’s leadership after 18 years with the organization. Among his parting words of advice: “A unified membership has been the key to our success.”

General session attendees heard from former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Sidney Frank Innovation Award Winner Rob Sands (CEO Constellation Brands) and Lifetime Leadership Award winner Robert Harmelin (EVP, Allied Beverage Group), among others.

The relentless pace of change in the industry was a theme echoed in many speeches. “I think everyone knows that the great brands of today are entirely different than the great brands of yesterday,” said Sands, stressing how critical it is to understand what consumers want.

Yet the most dynamic call to action came from incoming WSWA president Barkley Stuart, EVP and Director of Government Affairs, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, who declared the focus of his year at the helm will be diversity. The recruitment and advancement of women and minorities is long overdue in the wine and spirits industry, and it’s hurting business, he explained: “If we do not ensure that diverse ideas get heard, then we are not doing our jobs as leaders. It’s the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do.” (See our interview with Stuart). 

As an important first step in this direction, Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum has joined the WSWA Board as the first female officer. McCollum was also awarded the WSWA Women’s Leadership Council’s first-ever Icon Award.

Six new products were selected to compete in the first-ever “Brand Battle,” pitching their brands before a team of judges including Charlie Merinoff, Co-Chairman of Breakthru Beverage Group. A California-based small-batch gin brand, Gray Whale, took home the trophy. “Brand Battle is essential for new suppliers to learn what’s important as they’re looking for their niche in the marketplace,” said Wolf.


1. Constellation Brands CEO Rob Sands, recipient of the Sidney Frank Innovation Award 2. Sue McCollum, Chairman & CEO, Missouri’s Major Brands and recipient of Women Leadership Council’s Icon Award 3. 2018 Brand Battle winner, Marsh Mokhtari, Co-Founder & Master Distiller of Gray Whale Gin (center, with trophy), poses with judges Charlie Merinoff, Meredith May, Bill Rancic, Tobin Ellis, Syd Ross, Marc Sachs and Steve Slater

Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) June 2018 Editions Wed, 30 May 2018 10:41:10 -0400
Rosé: Wave Hits Wall? Rose

Soaring demand meets explosive supply with a Provençal twist

 By W. R. Tish

For a category that represents less than 5% of the overall table wine market in the U.S., rosé has taken on extraordinarily high visibility, spilling over into pop culture and social media—in turn strengthening the trend.

Pardon the pun, but the outlook for rosé is still rosy, right? The category’s double-digit growth just begins to hint at the pink success story. Over the past four years, rosé has almost quadrupled in volume and jumped in varietal wine rank from #17 to #9, according to Nielsen. Rosé’s largest segment is $11-$15, so premiumization is already at play. Plus, consumption is still accelerating. Americans drank 67% more rosé in 2017 than they did in 2016, and that year was up by 44% over 2015.

Beyond stats, this pale pink liquid has grabbed America by the buds, delivering fruity refreshment with an aesthetic (read Instagrammable) bonus. Rosé has joined the broader culture—from sweatpants to fashion shows, gummies to wedding favors—lending its pink halo to rosé cocktails, cider and spirits; inspiring social media hashtags à la #brosé and #yeswayrosé; even prompting marketers in other arenas to go pink when propping wine.

Ah, the sweet—I mean dry—taste of success. On-premise, off-premise, in all three tiers, it is crystal clear that rosé is a bona fide trend, not a fad. Yet success has brought an onslaught as producers around the globe angle in on the action, threatening to overwhelm the trade. Confidence in consumer demand is high; over-supply, on the other hand, could be problematic.

Two forces are at play here: Provence rising above the rosé pack, and the rest of the market exploding. We may find 2018 to bring both a glut—driven by the New World, new brands and new extensions—and a tangible tightening if not outright shortage of Provence coming off a good but tough 2017 harvest.

Provence Ascendant

Perhaps the most significant sub-lesson of the current boom is that Provence—the spiritual homeland of rosé— is ruling the rosé roost. Suppliers report strong demand and in many cases are posting gains above the category pace. More important, Provence has set the standard for the industry for style, consistent quality and recognition. As Brian Mitchell, Beverage Director at the Connecticut-based Max Restaurant Group, notes, “People remember Provence rosé, and ask for it. They even expect to pay more for it.”

The Max Group is ready for the pink wave circa 2018. Provence rosés are in place by the glass at all the Max restaurants, plus one less expensive rosé—and at the flagship, a whole page of rosés beckons at the front of the list.

But rosé is neither place- nor grape-dependent. Dry pink wine is easy (and fast) to make, practically anywhere. The pipeline is getting stuffed. Samantha Dugan, French buyer for The Wine Country in Long Beach, CA, says the parade of 2017 samples started this year in early January. “Over-supply is a huge issue right now,” says Dugan. “Not only am I seeing probably three times the suppliers as I usually do, they are coming in with back vintages trying to get us to take a stand on those as well. It’s like everyone got the memo about rosé and they all ran out, without doing too much research, and got them some. It’s sort of nuts.”


HOT TICKET: Last year’s inaugural RoséFest drew 800 people to Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley for a big pink al fresco party with 30+ Napa wineries pouring. This year, on June 9th organizers expect 1,000 pink fans; before the end of March, more than a third of the tickets were pre-sold, and a new VIP level added for 2018 sold out completely.

HOT TICKET: Last year’s inaugural RoséFest drew 800 people to Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley for a big pink al fresco party with 30+ Napa wineries pouring. This year, on June 9th organizers expect 1,000 pink fans; before the end of March, more than a third of the tickets were pre-sold, and a new VIP level added for 2018 sold out completely.

Success Breeds…Supply

Relative ease of production and obvious demand are creating perfect-stormlike conditions: nobody is making less rosé for 2018, and many suppliers are making more. New labels keep coming, and established lines keep extending—to wit, Cavit and Kendall-Jackson are releasing rosés for the first time with their 2017s, in sufficient quantities to be featured nationally.

E & J. Gallo staked a claim in Provence last year, launching Fleur de Mer with the 2016 vintage. Also new from Gallo within the past two years: Barefoot Brut Rosé; Dark Horse Rosé in cans; Prophecy Rosé; Edna Valley Vineyards Rosé; and Gallo Family Vineyards Sweet Grapefruit Rosé. 

Last summer Josh Cellars launched their first rosé, and it quickly became the best-seller in its price tier and third-largest largest SKU within the category. The robust young Josh is flanked in the Deutsch portfolio by the brand-new Fleurs de Prairie (Provence) and Layer Cake (first rosé vintage 2015), among other rosés.

Delicato launched two rosés last year: Noble Vines 515 and the 3L Bota Box Dry Rosé, which soared to the #8 rosé by volume among domestic rosés. A Bota Mini (500ml, $5.99 SRP) is joining this year. Delicato sold 199,000 cases of rosé in 2017 between Bota and Noble Vines; in 2018 they hope to ship 195,000 cases of Bota Rosé alone. May18-Rose-4

Pink wines are comprising powerful mini-portfolios within some companies. Kobrand has 11 rosés in the portfolio, from Argentina to Tavel; Louis Jadot and Fuedo Maccari were added last year, Tenuta de Salviano (Umbria) this year.  Frederick Wildman & Sons has 13 rosés on offer, and Rapitala from Sicily on the way.  Bronco Wine Co. has more than a dozen rosés, from California, Oregon and beyond; best-seller, not surprisingly, is their Côtes de Provence rosé, Sables d’Azur.

The Winebow Group has been especially busy stocking their pink departments. Their national import portfolios, Craft + Estate, Leonardo LoCascio Selections and MundoVino, comprise a total of 36 rosés, including seven sparkling, from around the world; 12 are new within the past two years, thanks in part to acqusitions. Some recent highlights include a new look for Fat B*stard (distinct from the rest of the line); a Pinot Noir rosé by Clean Slate from Germany; Provence rosé in cans from Amble + Chase; and three rosés from Greece.

Treasury Wine Estates, already keepers of the Provence gem Château Minuty (which was up 89% in 2017) and a cache of New World pinks, is adding “L’Etre Magique,” a Côtes de Provence rosé under their brand new Maison de Grand Esprit label.

Chateau Ste. Michelle is releasing its very first rosé, 100% Syrah that previously was a wine club offer only. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ Tenet Wines label has just added a Costières de Nimes rosé called “Le Fervent.” Erath, SMWE’s Oregon winery, made a limited-release 2016 rosé of Pinot Noir; they made enough 2017 to join stablemate 14 Hands Rosé on the national circuit.

It is interesting to note that 2017 was a big year for launches, and those debuts are naturally ramping up this year. Opici Wines’ Grenache-driven Provence rosé, Âme du Vin, earned a Wine Spectator “Top 100 Value of 2017” accolade in its first vintage, 2016; import quantities are being doubled for the 2017 vintage. Rodney Strong released 2,500 cases of a 2016 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Rosé in a handful of markets. It was a rosy success—15,000 cases of 2017 are being released with some bundled with other Rodney Strong wines, à la “Red, White and Rosé.”

The Wine Country in Southern California, has been pushing rosé for 20+ years. “Côtes de Provence is king, without question for us,” says veteran buyer Samantha Dugan. “The new rosé-driven domestic producers tend to price themselves out and come winter I am still looking at $20 domestic rosés and all my Provençal wines in the same price are gone.”

The Wine Country in Southern California, has been pushing rosé for 20+ years. “Côtes de Provence is king, without question for us,” says veteran buyer Samantha Dugan. “The new rosé-driven domestic producers tend to price themselves out and come winter I am still looking at $20 domestic rosés and all my Provençal wines in the same price are gone.”

Carving up the Big Pink Pie

The next logical question is: Can Americans drink all this stuff? As Constance Savage, VP of Supplier Relations at Kobrand, puts it, “The offering of rosé wines continues to increase for 2018, yet while the pie is continuing to get bigger, each slice gets smaller. The summer of 2018 will be a telling season and we will be carefully watching the market’s reactions. One of the questions is: Will we see some ‘fatigue’ at some point?”

The month of May, of course, is too early to tell. However, it is certainly not too early to say that, Provence aside, it is a buyer’s market at the re-sellers’ tier. Rob Bralow, GM of the retail store Blue Streak and owner of the wine bar BLVD in Long Island City, NY, notes: “I have completely stopped pre-ordering, except for extremely limited wines. There is enough rosé year ’round that I do not feel obligated to lock into a set number of cases.” In the wine bar, Bralow is carrying fewer options by glass, but more by bottle: “I find that customers do not really want more choice when they are out with friends—they want to pick between two or three options.” In the shop, he plans to stock about the same number of wines as last year: between 16-24 brands over the summer, expecting some to sell out by mid-August.

The very notion of “rosé season” is changing. Whole Foods is running a huge “special price” promotion that started the week after Easter and ends May 31st.Among the dozen (eight of which are touted as exclusive) featured wines: rosés from Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece, as well two Provence rosés in both 750ml and magnum.

Pink Positive 

Kendall-Jackson’s inaugural rosé, a 2017, is bottled under screwtop.

Kendall-Jackson’s inaugural rosé, a 2017, is bottled under screwtop.

Indeed, even with possible over-supply looming, there are plenty of positive signs—and still much room for growth. Marcy Whitman, Palm Bay International SVP of Marketing and Brand Development, explains why Palm Bay feels now is a perfect time for Cavit to enter the rosé fray: “We believe that the rosé category still has a lot of growth ahead.  There will be continued inroads as far as expanded seasonality and more growth in the consumer base as more men turn to rosé. In addition, the on-premise has not caught up with consumer enthusiasm for rosé and Cavit [at SRP $8.99] is well positioned to take advantage of all of these trends.”

Overall, there is plenty of tempered optimism in the wine industry with regard to the Great Pink Drink. “There’s no end in sight to rosé’s popularity,” observes Steve Slater, EVP and GM of the Wine Division for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. “Even while there are many new entries in the U.S. market, the core brands are not suffering. What’s different is that we’re seeing more domestic entries, from places like Oregon, Napa and Sonoma. And they are copying what’s popular in terms of the dry flavor profile, and pale, salmon-colored pink.” With only a handful of brands earning strong loyalty (Whispering Angel is one), Slater adds that American consumers are willing to try new rosés, especially by the glass. Not surprisingly, The Palm by Whispering Angel, just released at the lower SRP of $14.99, is aiming to solidify the brand’s trend-setting cachet.

Trend Without End?

Expect more packaging experimentation—especially among new brands. Even within Provence, known for its very traditional shape, suppliers are testing alternatives. Castel, importers of Aime Roquesante, a best-selling brand both in France and the U.S., has big plans for large formats—but they will have to wait until they have enough 2018 vintage wine to execute.

The reality of quality rosé in cans is happening. Winebow’s Amble + Chase and Pacific Highway’s Pure Provence are hoping that Provence’s cachet will translate from glass to aluminum.

The rest of France should continue to benefit from Provence’s halo; areas to watch: Côtes du Rhône (#1 brand Belleruche outpaced even Provence last year, growing 79% over 2016); the Loire Valley (second in volume behind Provence, and offering distinct styles); Vin de France (this young designation’s flexibility is ideal for creating new brands).

Glut and shortage concerns aside, we can all expect more experimentation with blends and different grapes, perhaps even styles. As Provence continues to try to separate itself from the rest of the big Pink Wine Sea, wineries (and marketers) in other wine nations are bound to keep chasing the leader.


Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) May 2018 Editions Fri, 27 Apr 2018 09:19:46 -0400
Ice so Nice: Slushes are All Grown Up


By Jack Robertiello

Slushies and such are all grown-up, thanks to technology, creativity…and rosé.  Of all the beverage types that joined in the contemporary cocktail revolution, frozen drinks were left wallflowers, uninvited to the cool kids’ table.  Outside of Tiki, which has always welcomed the qualities that frozen offers, it was a style mostly left to chains churning out schooners of fruit-laced Margaritas and Daiquiris. In the past couple of years, creative cocktail makers with a well-developed sense of fun took advantage of equipment and ingredient evolution to whip up tasty adult treats.

Interestingly, in a rare recent burst of influence from chain restaurants, frozen drinks are making a return to their place as fun and easy ways to drink. 

A good example is the Italian-themed Carrabba’s, the 200+ unit Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands’ chain. Their most popular limited-time offerings last year, according to research firm Datassentials, was the rosé-based Italian Ice Frosé. Currently, the Carrabbellini, a frozen version of the Bellini made with peach purée, schnapps and sparkling wine, leads the drink menu.

Pretty In Pink May18-Frozen-Cocktails-2

The many versions of Frosé—a rosé-based drink that includes, depending on the maker, liqueurs, citrus, sugar, vodka and other ingredients—exploded into drink consciousness last year. In fact, Zack Silverman, co-founder of frozen mix supplier Kelvin Slush Company says their frosé blend is now their best seller.

In New York City, Bar Manager Devin Kennedy opened Cote Korean Steakhouse with a Frosé; his version includes rosé wine, a slightly bitter Italian aperitivo, pineapple liqueur and sugar, run through a high-end machine that allows continuous drink service.

After that early success, Kennedy decided to create a series of frozen wine drinks, and recently added the Riesling-based “Friesling.” Getting the flavor balance right was key. “I wanted to match the aromas and flavors you associate with the wine,” he says. “With Riesling, it’s apricots, peaches, stone fruit and white flowers. And I was looking for ingredients to enhance the qualities of wine.” The ultimate combination— Riesling, peach liqueur, St-Germain and lemon—needed no additional sugar.

Launched in January, a time one would associate with brisk winds, not brisk frozen drink sales, the Friesling was a hit, selling about 30 an evening; not bad considering Cote sold about 60 Frosés a day last summer. The drink will run into the summer and be replaced by the Frosé. Then, for the fall, Kennedy is considering a frozen red wine-based drink.

Many operators are using slushy machines on a variety of popular drinks. Abuelo’s, a multi-unit Tex-Mex chain, serves a layering of frozen Sangria and Margarita in their Sangria Swirl, combining the chain’s two top-selling drinks, according to Brian Bell, Vice President – Beverage for owner Food Concepts International. At the 12 Perry’s Steakhouse & Grilles located in Texas, a house version of Frosé, the Rita Rose Olé, is a Margarita-ish mix of rosé with tequila finished in Cabernet barrels.

Even Taco Bell Cantina, the fast-casual, urban-targeted Taco Bell off-shoot, is offering frozen drinks with a kick. Called Twisted Freezes, in orange, cherry, blue raspberry and pina colada alcohol-free form, the drinks can be customized by guests with rum, tequila or vodka. And Chipotle is testing—in Manhattan—a Frozen Paloma Margarita made with Sauza Tequila, citrus juice and agave syrup.

Frozen’s foray back into drink consciousness has even crashed the dessert menu. In Davidson, NC, bartender Blake Pope at Kindred created “Take Two of These & Call Me Amaro” as a dessert drink. Made with Fernet Branca, St-Germain and lime juice in a slushy machine, the drink is a constant on the menu.

At Arbella in Chicago, bartenders use science to freeze their custom cocktails. The drink ingredients are combined in a bowl, then liquid nitrogen is poured into a vessel around that bowl, transferring the freezing temperatures without adding ice. The cocktail freezes as the mixture is whisked continuously.
Mixology + Technology 

“We had tossed around the idea of having it on the cocktail menu but after some debate it totally made sense to live on the dessert menu, given its digestif qualities” says Pope. “Fernet tends to be a bit aggressive so we needed to find some ingredients that could assist in balancing it. St-Germain offers a delicate floral contrast that really assists with the balance. Then we add fresh lime juice to brighten up the acidity and now you’ve got the perfect trifecta of bitter, floral and acid.”

Pope credits improved equipment quality for the frozen drink’s return: “There are so many great machines on the market. We’ve seen a lot of bar programs shy away from the overly serious attitude and from a more playful spirit. That’s what we’re all about. Nothing says fun quite like a well prepared frozen drink.”

There are those who push the limits. At Chicago’s Arbella, Beverage Director Eric Trousdale serves drinks employing liquid nitrogen. “It’s absolutely the best way to do frozen cocktails. It doesn’t add any dilution and results in the smoothest texture and mouthfeel,” says Trousdale. The Queretaro, named after a summer treat sold in that Mexican city, features tequila, lime juice and Cointreau, frozen to order, and topped with a red wine float.

And it provides a “smoke show,” he adds: “We always look at it as the cold version of a Blue Blazer. A lot of people haven’t seen it done and it certainly turns heads. It’s one of those things where when you make the first one, you know you’re about to get ten more orders.”

It’s exactly what Kennedy thinks: “Who doesn’t love the texture of a frozen drink? It’s instant escape, and you can make them with high quality ingredients and still make very high margins on them.”

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 

Read More]]> (Beverage Network) May 2018 Editions Wed, 25 Apr 2018 10:53:39 -0400
Rethinking Gin In a Post-Juniper Era, The Spirit is Flexing Its Muscle—and Style


By Amanda Schuster

Many Americans still associate the category with bracing, herbaceous expressions traditionally associated with the designation London Dry. But that reputation deserves to be retired. Juniper, of course, is the defining botanical in all gin, but it has come to be handled more palatably than ever, even in bang-for-buck brands like Burnett’s and New Amsterdam. And a boomlet of new ventures shows there is much room for play in creating other vibrant, complex flavor profiles from alternative ingredients. For those looking beyond the typical dry expressions, here’s how some brands have rethought gin.

Exotic Gin

Bombay Sapphire, in its iconic blue bottle, brought an element of luxury and spice-road intrigue to the London Dry designation when it launched in 1987. However, in 1999, just as cocktail culture was poised to explode, a new wave of “ginthusiasm” was born when Hendrick’s Gin debuted with its “unusual” addition of rose and cucumber in its recipe, adding garden freshness to the dry gin flavor spectrum.

hendricksMore recently, Monkey 47 emerged from Germany’s Black Forest to delight gin fans and the bar community with its bold, yet balanced array of botanicals (the name refers to the number used), including fruits, herbs and spices such as cranberry, mint, sage, chamomile and spruce shoots.

And for a novel plot twist, Nautical Gin (launched in 2015) features 15 globally sourced botanicals, including Pacific kombu, a coastal vegetable rich in vitamins and minerals that provides a subtle hint of sea salt and minerals to the spirit.

The Organics

A handful of producers pride themselves on jumping through all the necessary hoops to be labeled as certified organic, giving these gins added green appeal. A few to try: Prairie Organic Gin (with sage and delicate spices); Farmer’s Botanical Organic Gin (with lemongrass and elderflower); Koval Organic Gin (certified kosher, and made with wildflowers and woodland spices).

Fruit-Forward Gin

Citrus peels are an obvious ingredient for gin because the aromatics are so complementary to the grassier notes of juniper. Some element of citrus is typically included in most gin recipes, but a few producers really push it into the spotlight. Malfy Con Limone uses indigenous lemons grown along the Italian coasts of Amalfi and Sicily to give its gin a juicy lemon-drop accent. In Sonoma County, D. George Benham’s Dry Gin uses homegrown Meyer lemons to highlight other botanicals such as peppermint, coriander and star anise. 

Harvesting from another part of the orchard, Brockmans Gin incorporates grapefruit and blueberries and into its botanical mix—and both are amplified when a G&T is served with a grapefruit peel twist and a few fresh blueberries.

From Floral to Funky

Gin flavors can also be derived from other less obvious sources from the natural world. For a fresh and flowery variation, Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers in Ontario, Canada, selects rose petals and rose hips for its slightly sweet, pink-tinged aperitif-style Rosé Gin. Toward the opposite end of the flavor spectrum, Gin Mare (translated to “gin of the sea”) looks to its Mediterranean roots, combining Arbequina olives, Italian basil, Greek thyme, Turkish rosemary and Spanish citrus. BenhamsBottle1

For peated whisky or mezcal drinkers seeking another way to lighten up for the warmer seasons with a smoky tipple, ESP (Empire Spirits Project) “Smoked” Gin is technically juniper-forward, except the juniper is dried with applewood smoke before added to the botanical mix. Uncle Val’s Peppered Gin packs a pick of peppers—roasted red bell, pimentos and black peppercorn—to add a unique savory character.

Give it the Barrel Treatment

A decade ago, Maison Ferrand released its first Citadelle Réserve aged for a few months in French oak, the first such gin on the mainstream market. Gin producers barrel-aging the spirit is no longer a surprise, but finding the appropriate botanical selection and wood treatment to achieve balance is key. A few to try: Distillery 209 Barrel Reserve (one variant in ex-Napa Chardonnay, another in ex-Napa Cabernet casks); Bluecoat Barrel Finished Gin (three months in American oak); and for a more whiskey-esque gin sipping experience Hotaling’s (formerly Anchor Spirits) Barrel-Finished Genevieve Gin, a copper pot-stilled, genever style malt gin, aged 33 months in ex-rye barrels. 

Chief Gowanus New Netherland Gin, a joint project between New York Distilling Co. and drinks historian David Wondrich, was created from an 1809 recipe that uses rye as a base for a copper pot-stilled gin aged three months in American oak. Even the old guards of the gin/genever category have rolled out the barrels, such as Bols Barrel Aged Genever aged in French oak for 18 months.

Spinoffs + New Classics

As informed drinkers look to gin’s past for cocktails to mix at home, classic brands have unveiled historic offshoots and whimsical variations to compete with boutique gins. For Tanqueray, limited releases have included Old Tom, Bloomsbury and Malacca. Beefeater most recently went for a broader botanical infusion with 24, and the summery London Garden limited edition.

Meanwhile, London Dry has hardly been left behind among today’s gin artisans, inspiring innovative small-batch efforts, such as Fifty Pounds, whose juniper-forward gin also incorporates “classic” botanicals angelica root, coriander, liquorice root, grains of paradise, lemon and orange rind, and savory, rounded out by three secret ones.

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 


Read More]]> (Beverage Network) May 2018 Editions Wed, 25 Apr 2018 10:43:23 -0400
Sovereign Brands' Dave Hochrein The new Mid-Atlantic Region Manager for Sovereign Brands has made the jump from a long tenure in spirits to a heavily focused wine supplier with a newly focused attention on spirits


Dave Hochrein is the new Mid-Atlantic Region Manager for Sovereign Brands, a family company of fine wines and spirits owned and operated by the Berish brothers.  Hochrein previously served as Proximo Spirits' Regional Director for Maryland and Washington, D.C., from September 2014 to March of this year.

"It was great to be recognized by this family-owned company that has taken an interest in what I have been able to do in the mid-Atlantic," he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "I am able to expand into a bigger region now, covering Delaware to Virginia as well as West Virginia. The Maryland and D.C. markets are integral to Luc Belaire’s footprint. But this also gives me a chance to expand into a control state market of Virginia with wine and call on chain stores.  Being the only employee in the mid-Atlantic, I’ll be using my experience to hit the trade and distributors as much as I can as we grow."

Having big brand experience with Bacardi and Proximo over a 22-year career, Hochrein stated that it has been an immediate excitement that every sales call he has made in the early going has had an impact on his new company. "With red hot growth in sparkling and rose wine, our brands Luc Belaire and Cloud Chaser Rose are really good items within what is happening," he remarked. "The company has a knack for developing good tasting products within the segment they want to attack. Take Bumbu Rum, for example. This product is like nothing I have ever tasted, and we can’t keep it in stock!"

Even though it's only been a couple of months, Hochrein is already putting his personal stamp on the job. He prefers the personal approach. "I have really valued some of my relationships through the years from distributor managers, sales reps and really good on- and off-premise retailers," he stated. "These folks help you make brands move. At this level, you need partners to foster growth. I always work to find more true partners, whether it’s a retail partner helping you with sell-through or a sales partner helping you drive your message and plan."

  Asked to describe his work and leadership style, two words came immediately to mind: inclusivity and positivity. In Hochrein's view, information in this business is power. "Half of the problems with execution is not being informed and prepared to act," he explained. "If you can keep your teams informed and make them part of the plan, they tend to 'own' the process more.  I like input before, during, and after things are done. And it's not just negative input that can make a program better. Momentum can also lead to more momentum with brands. We catch lightning in a bottle all the time with brands and consumers. I love trying to catch lighting, but sometimes it stings you and that’s OK, too. Leading is a lost art but one I take seriously."   

Hochrein has never left the beverage business since starting as a merchandiser for Churchill Distributors, now Breakthru Beverage Group. Along the way it's been the people and the variety of work that has kept him going. "If you invest yourself in it, the rewards are everywhere," he said. "From being able to see the world with educational trips  and incentives to finding lifelong friends who are also business associates and competitors. In the beverage business, you can 'Live to Work and Work to Live.' I’ve been doing both for a while! A former boss used to call me the 'happiest man on the planet' as I tend to have a sarcastic quip or a smile during tough meetings, I think it’s because I’ve always loved the business and its rewards."

So, does this veteran of both sides of the biz have any advice for newbies entering our industry today? For sure, he was ready with a couple of quips that he delivered with a smile. "My advice revolves around eating!" he exclaimed. "When faced with a massive task, ask yourself, 'How do you eat an elephant?' One bite at a time!"

He added, "Also, you aren’t entering the beverage industry. You are becoming a lawyer and a firefighter! Every day will find its way to putting out a fire or defending your case. Honestly, don’t fall into the laziness of hiding behind other people to do your work. Own your business, show up and follow up, and the rewards are everywhere."

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2018 Editions Wed, 25 Apr 2018 10:27:58 -0400
MISC. Distillery ... by your own rules Misc_May18_HOME.jpg

MISCellaneous Distillery opened in December 2016, selling its Risky Rum product via a tasting room on Main Street in Mount Airy.  The brainchild of Dan McNeil and Meg MacWhirter, the business has taken off since then.  Wholesale sales began in mid-2017.  Before long, MISCellaneous Distillery had launched four more products -- Dew Point Rum, Diametric Whisky, Restless Rye Whisky, and Virtuous Vodka -- with more on the way.

One of the things that distinguishes the operation is MISCellaneous Distillery sources 100 percent of its Rye from a Carroll County farm and all of its sugar products from Domino Sugar in Baltimore. MacWhirter says the local partnerships are very important.  "We find these Maryland connections are an important part of our story," she stated, during a recent interview, "and they help us connect with our customers and accounts even if they haven’t been able to see us at the distillery.  We have great partnerships with both Hickory Hollow Farm and Gravel Springs Farms for grain, allowing us to grow and distill our products in the same county. We then send protein-rich spent mash back to Hickory Hollow for them to feed their cattle."

She continued, "Since Maryland is too far north to grow sugar cane, it was very appealing to work with Domino Sugar to source our molasses and sugar for our rums to make sure we are keeping Marylanders employed. As we grow into new categories, we are continuing to look for local inputs and ingredients wherever possible."


MISCellaneous Distillery currently self-distributes its entire line of products. MacWhirter concedes there are challenges and rewards with going this route.  "We located our distillery in a very central location to help aid our self-distribution efforts," she stated.  "But, being small and new, we have to spend a significant amount of time and attention getting our name out to consumers and introducing bars, liquor stores, and restaurants to our products and our brand.  Getting to meet the consumers, owners, and buyers has been very fun and rewarding. We feel that our products are different from anything else on the shelves or behind the bar, but the only chance we’ll get to introduce them to the public is one sale at a time. It’s always a thrill to share our products with a new potential account and get a 'Wow!' reaction."

McNeil and MacWhirter have been saying "Wow!" a lot since getting into the beverage business.  Both came from outside the industry.  The former hails from the political world, having run campaigns and events.  For her part, MacWhirter worked on international development efforts including a stint in the Peace Corps.

She believes her time with that organization informs her work today. "As a Peace Corps volunteer," she said, "I worked with an amazing group of women in Grenada.  They modeled resilience and creativity in the face of big challenges, and they did so with a lighthearted and playful attitude.  I know their influence shapes my work style today."

MacWhirter still craves being associated with larger groups and organizations today.  For instance, MISCellanous Distillery is a member of the Maryland Distillers Guild, an affiliation that has greatly benefited the business's bottom line.  "As part of this community of distillers," she explained, "we benefit from having a forum to learn from each other and we can combine forces in working to improve laws that constrain our growth. Plus, the Guild has a great series of festivals scheduled in 2018 where we can all share our products with customers who enjoy drinking and learning about local spirits."

She and McNeil work well together, because they both enjoy different parts of the business.  McNeil is a production man through and through.  MacWhirter says it's not uncommon for him to spend 12- to 16-hour days back-to-back "making as much as he can to fill barrels and fill shelves."  By contrast, she enjoys the interaction with customers and serving their needs.

She has especially enjoyed connecting with the public via MISCellanous Distillery's tours and tastings.  "It’s an opportunity to create a personal connection with our consumers, hear their questions, and show them the process of how spirits are made," she concluded.  "We are proud to make every drop of our spirits on site from raw ingredients.  Having people come visit is a great way to share with them what we are about.  That said, as we grow, we know we won’t have the luxury of meeting most of our customers in person.  So, we created unique and engaging packaging and branding that represents us well and helps serve as a proxy for a trip to our town and distillery."

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 

Read More]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2018 Editions Wed, 25 Apr 2018 10:17:06 -0400
Santa Carolina Reserva Relaunch SantaCaroline_May18_HOME.jpg

Santa Carolina Reserva is a tribute to Carolina Íñiguez –the wife of the winery’s founder Luis Pereira.  This wine seeks to reach people who are keen on enjoying every moment and always find an opportunity to turn an ordinary day into a special occasion.

Carolina is a woman who knows how to enjoy life. She can turn even the simplest of moments into a grand one. She, like no other, understands the power of small details and reminds us that any moment can become a great occasion and that there is always a good reason to celebrate.

Carolina Reserva is born out of that inspiration. It is not afraid of innovating in order to create new sensations. The label represents that: is simple, light, fresh and modern. 

Santa Carolina describes itself as, "a wine to enjoy every day, perfect to share amazing moments with your loved ones or to have a great time simply on your own. With its particular aromas and flavors, each variety of Carolina is the perfect embodiment of the Santa Carolina winemaking philosophy, which seeks to portray the indissoluble links between our winegrowing valleys, the climate and the fruit." 

Carolina Wine Brands is one of Chile's leading wine groups and producer of five brands: Santa Carolina, Casablanca, Ochagavia, Antares, and Finca el Origen in Argentina.

Santa Carolina is Carolina Wine Brands’ flagship brand. With a history spanning over 140 years, Viña Santa Carolina was established in 1875 by Luis Pereira; who named it after his wife, Carolina Iñiguez. 

Located in Santiago, the winery’s facilities and underground cellar are a National Monument and are open to the public at large. With sales in excess of 25 million bottles, Santa Carolina’s wines are available in over 90 countries.

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.

Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) May 2018 Editions Wed, 25 Apr 2018 10:02:50 -0400
Sailor Jerry & Aleethia Supporting our Troops Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and The Aleethia Foundation have again joined forces in supporting wounded, injured and/or ill service members and their families through the early phases of the healing process at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.


Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, named to honor the life and legacy of Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins, formed the creation of The Norman Collins Initiative at The Aleethia Foundation. The Foundation is designed to raise funds for Aleethia in its ongoing efforts to support wounded/injured/ill service members in their rehabilitation and healing process.

“Aleethia is excited about the expanded support through the Norman Collins Initiative,” stated Hal Koster, Executive Director of the Aleethia Foundation. “We are a volunteer organization that exists because wonderful organizations like Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum have shared our vision of support.”

Norman Collins served in the Navy before making his home in WWII-era Honolulu. He established his legendary tattoo shop that quickly became a must stop destination for sailors on Shore Leave who would wait in line to receive Collins’ iconic, Americana flash artwork. Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum continues to honor Norman Collins and his legacy through programs and partnerships “that honor the man and what he stood for.”

Since October 2003, over 55,000 meals have been served to service members and their families who have participated in Aleethia’s “Friday Night Dinner” program. The wounded/injured/ill service members are not only facing difficult medical problems but many are away from their families and friends. A night out from the hospital helps them and any traveling family members to get away from their health issues for a short time and relax. This all helps in the healing process. The “Friday Night Dinners” are about recovery, fellowship and community as much as they are about food. With the help of donations from supporters, The Aleethia Foundation is able to continue to support the tradition of the Friday Night Dinners, to provide special grants and to provide direct and immediate assistance to the wounded/injured/ill service members.

Breakthru Beverage has taken advantage of the national partnership to support the cause on a local level. Throughout April, May and June, a donation will be made to the Aleethia Foundation for every case of Sailor Jerry Rum sold.

 Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal.  


Read More]]> (Stephen Patten) April 2018 Editions Wed, 04 Apr 2018 07:51:48 -0400
Yes we CAN! toc_can_wines

Wine’s Latest Format is Busting Out With New SKUs. But are Consumers On Board?

By Jeff Siegel 

What are you supposed to believe about canned wine? Are cans the next big thing, given that sales were up 52% last year—growth that far out-paced every other part of the category? Or are they the next Moscato—here and mostly gone, given that each massive sales increase is from a tiny, tiny base.

According to Nielsen, the market share for cans in 2017 was one-fifth that of 187ml bottles, and the airline-sized pour owns a grand total of 1.1% of the U.S. wine market. So, we are really talking about sliver of a fraction of the overall wine market.

In this, cans are just one of the contradictions that make the 21st century U.S. wine business such a conundrum. Yes, cans are a fresh industry favorite, with phenomenal growth, incredible press, hip winemakers, cool packaging and key investments by some of the biggest of Big Wine.

But they also use a still evolving technology, their sizes are inconvenient for the shelves and cold boxes used by many retailers, and a recent Mintel survey found that consumers see quality as even poorer than that of that perennial whipping boy, screwcap wine, by 18 percentage points. Ouch.

In other words, how will cans cut into the wine business’s almost century-old reliance on glass bottles closed with some kind of cork—still about 75% of the market?


Speculation Situation

“That’s the big question,” says Christan Miller of Full Glass Research, a wine marketing and research consultancy. “Are cans going to become a distinct category and not fade away? There are some very smart people who disagree with me, but I think cans have a couple of things in their favor.”

Miller says those advantages, which include interest from a younger demographic, could position cans to one day become as popular as 3L premium box wines like Black Box and Bota Box—currently about 3% of the market, according to Nielsen. “I don’t know that cans are going to be a large category,” he says, “but I think they will be a permanent one.”

That’s enough of an impact, even if cans don’t get any bigger than premium boxes, for important parts of the wine business to make sure they have cans in their portfolio. E. & J. Gallo extended their uber-popular Barefoot line into canned spritzers and has just given the green light to put Dark Horse in cans. The $2 billion Treasury Wine Estates is reportedly developing several canned products, including one for its best-selling Sterling label.

Know, too, that Big Wine sees an opportunity for cans in the wake of beer’s continuing sales lethargy. Investment banker Goldman Sachs, citing Nielsen numbers at the end of last year, found a slight decline in beer penetration across the U.S. year to year, as well as a shift away from beer to wine and spirits among those ages 35 to 44.

“Yes, consumers and retailers care about wines in the can,” says Roberta Blacklund, the national wine category manager for the 29-store Lucky’s Market chain, with 11 stores in Florida and eight more planned by the end of this year. “There’s no breakage of glass, and they’re easy to stock and store. Consumers at Lucky’s really like the convenience and ease to travel.” Blacklund says Underwood, perhaps the best-known can brand, has been a “huge hit” since March 2017, selling almost 300 cases.

Winemaker Charles Bieler has used almost every kind of packaging during his career—Tetra Paks for Bandit; glass for the Bieler et Fils and Charles & Charles wines; kegs for his Gotham Project; and soon a 250ml two-pack of cans under the Gotham Project label.

Bieler says canned wine has a future, and he’s worth listening to. “It’s a legitimate format that’s here to stay and I look forward to more discussion from other producers about the wine, and why it’s interesting and delicious,” he says. “And I want to hear less about the can itself.”

In this, Bieler sees cans growing from their less than one percent share of the U.S. market to something like the popularity of 187ml bottles and 3L premium boxes. This assumes, he says, that quality—still problematic for much canned wine—improves and becomes the reason for canned wine, instead of a marketing play.

“The idea that the only way to consume wine is with a bottle and a cork is changing,” says Bieler, whose Bandit boxes sell about 400,000 cases a year. “Consumers are continuing to experiment with different formats for different occasions and different times, and cans are part of that experimentation.”


Usage: Where, When & How?

Historically, Americans have bought wine at a traditional retailer to drink in the evening, and most studies support that pattern. But is that because we want to stop at the wine shop to pick up a bottle for dinner or that the packaging—a glass bottle with a cork-like closure—predisposes us to do that? After all, it’s difficult to have a glass during the day when you need to keep a bottle and a corkscrew at work—a far cry from popping the top off a soft drink. Apr18-Can-Wines-3

But will alternative packaging, like cans, change that dynamic? Conventional wisdom suggests that cans will appeal naturally to outdoors enthusiasts—hikers, campers, boaters—and other contexts where glass can’t go (concerts, beach, picnics, alfresco situations). But some producers are sensing that single-serve convenience may be the cans’ usage wild card.

Jordan Sanger, Vice President for importer Winesellers Ltd. in Niles, IL, says his company sold most of their 3,500 cases of Tiamo cans, packaged as a 250ml four-pack, to traditional wine retailers last year. But many accounts were far from traditional. Golf clubs, public and private, wanted to sell the cans from their beverage cart. And there was also interest from fast casual restaurants like True Food Kitchen; cans were the ideal packaging for younger customers who prefer that format and wanted to have a glass or two with their meal. In fact, the interest from non-traditional retailers is one reason Winesellers is doubling its production this year.

“That may be one of the selling points for canned wine,” says Sager. “It may help wine consumption move into different dayparts and different areas than it has been consumed before.

Youth Movement

Most importantly, canned wine advocates see it as the silver bullet that could attract younger consumers who don’t seem as interested in wine as their parents and grandparents. Baby Boomers powered the three-decade U.S. wine boom, but embraced glass bottles and cork and cork-like closures and have shown little interest in anything else. Talk to any can advocate, and the answer is the same: “Younger consumers are more open and more willing to try different things than older wine drinkers. They don’t think wine is supposed to come in a glass bottle with a cork.”

Which is all well and good, but its market share and market penetration remain surprisingly low given all of the good things that have happened. How are are those two compatible?

For one, says Miller, it does seem, both intuitively and from the numbers, that younger consumers are more willing to try cans than the Baby Boomers. But these younger consumers are already wine drinkers, and they don’t need to be converted to the category. It still remains unclear whether cans will bring younger beer and spirits drinkers to wine, he says. Apr18-Can-Wines-4

Further complicating the issue: consumer perception of quality, as noted by the Mintel survey. Only 13% said they believed quality was as good as bottle quality, compared to 23% for premium boxes and 31% for screwcaps.

Winemaker Adam LaZarre, who has just introduced a canned Pinot Noir for the venerable Cycles Gladiator label, says cans offer several challenges. First, the pH can’t be too low, or the wine will eat through the can. Second, should the wine be made to be served ice cold, as if it just came out of the cold pack or an ice chest, or for normal wine temperatures? Third, he says, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus yet on grape quality. Will bulk be good enough, or will the market support a more premium canned product—and at a more premium price?

Meanwhile, among several can sizes, only one is close enough to the 12-ounce beer can to fit on retailer shelves and in cold boxes. Currently, canned wine is being sold in 250ml, 375ml and 500ml packaging, often in a four-pack. But only the 375ml is close to the standard 12-ounce beer size. How ready are retailers to reconfigure shelving for canned wine—perhaps at the expense of other items?


Still, those who are optimistic about the can’s future say those are questions that will be answered as the product gains market share. The summer of 2018 could prove pivotal.

“Anything that brings people to wine is good for wine,” says David Lombardo, the Wine and Beverage Director for Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy in Manhattan, who serves 250ml cans of Archer Roose Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenere as part of his by the glass program. In this, he says, they’re easy to store and there are fewer shrinkage problems. “If they’re honest and accessible wines,” says Lombardo, “they can succeed. It’s all about the juice inside.”

Of course, in any discussion of canned wines, the reality of the category’s tiny scale is still a huge issue. “Distribution is still pretty limited on canned wines, and a large proportion of wine consumers haven’t heard of them or haven’t encountered or noticed them,” says Christian Miller of Full Glass Research. “That being said, that’s part of the reason there is still considerable upside to cans.”

r mcdonough-1584 copyBumpy Learning Curve

So, what have we learned so far? For one thing, size matters. Central Coast producer Field Recordings was an early adopter of cans—including a Paso Robles red blend, “Fiction,” in 500ml cans. Alas, based on feedback, the “tall boys” are being phased out, but the winery is full speed ahead with 375ml cans for several labels, including the flagship Alloy Rosé and varietals; Antipasto Sangiovese; and Tin City Americano, which is red wine co-fermented with coffee beans.

Meanwhile, a mini-lesson from cider: Strongbow discovered that a limited-edition of 5.1oz (150ml) cans was a great trial-driving vehicle for bringing people to not only the brand, but the cider category in general. Based on a 2017 spring offering, the brand learned that 90% of mini-can buyers were new to Strongbow and 74% were new to the cider category. The results were so encouraging that Strongbow is planning to reintroduce the 150ml limited editions each spring and fall. 

Above all, the only certainty seems that the market for cans is far from figured out—but that it is prompting a tremendous flurry of innovation. In fact, some of the industry’s biggest players are leading the experimentation.

In addition to Gallo and Treasury Wine Estates, Francis Ford Coppola—long enjoying success with Sofia bubbly in 187mls (with attached straw)—has now added the Diamond Collection. Terlato has translated success with their Seven Daughters line into cans as well. Latitude Beverage, the company behind 90+ Cellars, created Lila Wines and sold 33,000 cases in 2017; now adding a rosé, they expect 50% or more growth year after year. And Prosecco giant Mionetto is getting into cans with Bollicini.

Perhaps the future of cans is all about fun—no more, no less. Witness The Winebow Group’s Stella. For years the value-priced line featured a cream label with a few metallic stars—because “Stella” means star in Italian/Latin. A major revamp spawned a colorful, Vespa-riding, pony-tailed young Stella. And her Pinot Grigio is now in both 3L boxes and four-packs of 250ml cans.

And The Winebow Group is hardly done in the canning deparment, having also just announced the launch of Amble + Chase Rosé, a premium can wine sourced from Provence. The name pays homage to the winemaking process; during the long growing season, the winemaker will “amble” through the vineyard, but at harvest his pace becomes a “chase.” The 2017 rosé in 250ml cans will retail for $18/four-pack.


Hometown Heroes

Apropos a trend on the upswing, canning has germinated coordination among tiers. Portland-based Eastside Distilling has added custom canning capabilities via their MotherLode subsidiary—and announced it in conjunction with a local start-up, Dear Mom Wine Co. Founded last year by two (ex-)high school friends, Dear Mom makes a Syrah-driven red blend, a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir rosé and a Rhône-varietal white blend, with sparkling yet to come.

Grover Wickersham, CEO of Eastside, speaks of being in on “the ground floor” of wine in cans: “We expect to launch this month [March 2018] with our first production and ramp the business as fast as we can reasonably and practically do so.” The custom canning line is designed to produce Ball Corporation’s popular “slim can” in 187ml, 200ml and 250ml sizes. For Dear Mom Wine Co., MotherLode will be canning 187ml cans, allowing for a four-pack (SRP $15.99) to be the equivalent of a 750ml bottle. Dear Mom expects to increase production from 6,000 cases in 2017 to 16,000 cases in 2018 with current distribution in Oregon and Washington and planned expansion into the Northeast and Florida in 2018. Apr18-Can-Wines-5

While wine is apparently the hotbed for new canned brands, cocktails remain well represented. Examples include Gosling’s authentic Dark ’n’ Stormy (250ml); Jose Cuervo sparkling Margarita in 200ml cans; Hochstadter’s 84-proof Slow & Low Rock and Rye in 100ml; and Novo Fogo’s sparkling version of Brazil’s beloved mixture of lime, sugar and cachaça, the Caipirinha, in 200ml cans.

Add malt–based canned cocktails and the blossoming array of spiked seltzers and your friendly neighborhood cold box could easily slip into chaos. No doubt the coming summer season will be an important one for determining the fate of wine in cans.

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