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Vodka’s Neutral Days Are Over

Photographs courtesy of Crater Lake Spirits / Rootstock Spirits / American Liquor Company / Frankly Organic

The sluggish category sees new energy from innovative technologies and a craft-driven push towards terroir-expression, new ingredients, and an emphasis on flavor

By Brad Japhe

Vodka remains far and away the most consumed category of spirit in the United States. But although it accounts for one-third of all spirits sales (according to Nielsen)—with whiskey a distant second at 25 percent—vodka has been on a slow and steady decline for over a decade, according to data from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. And it rarely enjoys the top-shelf placement of, say, craft gin or Japanese whisky.

Yet there are new signs of life in the category. Growth—and excitement—in the vodka space today are being fueled by craft-minded distilleries who are flipping the script on vodka. And their numbers are growing: In 2010 there were less than 400 craft vodka brands on American shelves; a decade later, there are over 1,500.

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Guide to Ecommerce Delivery and Shipping

Online shopping / ecommerce and retail sale concept : Shopping cart, delivery van, credit card, world globe logo on a laptop keyboard, depicts customers order things from retailer sites using internet

A primer on what small and medium-sized operators need to know about the fast-changing laws around taxes, shipping, and technology—and how to capture some of that business

By Christy Frank

Pick up any industry publication over the last year and you’re almost certain to read a story about the growth of online beverage alcohol sales during the pandemic. Some of the figures are mind boggling: Drizly reported increases of 350 percent year-on-year, ended their fiscal year up 115 percent, and IWSR reports an 80 percent increase in the value of ecommerce alcohol sales overall. 

This news makes it clear that customers are ready and willing to purchase wine and other alcoholic beverages online. Less clear is what retailers can do to meet this demand and get a piece of the action—while following federal, state, and local regulations.

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Wells Discount Liquors: A Mother-Daughter Affair


Over the last 18 years of writing for the Beverage Journal, I’ve penned numerous columns in which I profiled packaged-goods stores run by fathers and sons. But it’s rare when I come across an establishment operated by a . . . mother and daughter!

So it is with Wells Discount Liquors in Baltimore. JoAnn Hyatt and her daughter, Roxann Rogers, don’t just operate any store. Wells is one of the oldest and largest businesses of its kind around, first opened in 1937 and boasting more than 10,000 square feet of space. As such, it has one of the largest selections of wine, beer, and spirits you’ll ever see.

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Defunding the Defunders


As I write this, June 13, numerous media outlets are reporting that businesses in Baltimore’s historic Fells Point neighborhood are fed up with unchecked criminal activity.  

With an abundance of history and no short supply of restaurants, bars and hotels, the Fells Point on-premise industry has drawn patrons from Baltimore City, the surrounding suburbs and from around the country.  A once festive bustling nightlife is in danger of transforming into a scene from John Carpenter's Escape from New York.  The recent buzz can be attributed to one particularly deadly night where three people were shot in two separate incidents.

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