Diageo defends its ‘craft’ Bourbon credentials18th July, 2014 by Amy Hopkins
Diageo has defended its right to market its products as âcraft spiritsâ, arguing that ânot all small distilleries are craft, and not all craft distilleries are smallâ.
The UK drinks giant experienced criticism when it launched its Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company â a programme which bottles âforgotten whiskiesâ and markets the product under a new identity.
Upon the launch of the programme late last year, Larry Schwartz, president of Diageo North America, declared to investors at a conference: âWeâre going to be the number one craft distiller in North American whiskey in the US. Why? Because we have the whiskies.â
Although there is no binding legal definition of craft whiskey in the US, a number of commentators argued that whiskey owned by a company such as Diageo â the worldâs largest alcoholic drinks group â could not be constituted as craft.
However Ewan Moran, master of whiskey for Orphan Barrel, told The Spirits Business that the âconversations and debatesâ surrounding craft were what made the sector âso interestingâ.
âAs for what is or isnât a âcraft spiritâ, thatâs up for debate and can vary across categories such as single malts and Bourbons,â he said.
âEveryone has their own opinion and should have the right to voice it, just like all those in the business have the right to be creative and innovative with the products they sell.
âCraft is about artisanship, passion, experience, great liquid, great products. Not all small distilleries are craft, and not all craft distilleries are small.
Moran added that he believes the lack of official definition in the craft sector is a âgood thingâ and that the âbest parts of distilling have always been flexibility and innovationâ.
He also said that while Orphan Barrel was not directly working with other craft whiskey distillers, then project could lead the project to work with âdozens of other distilleries around the world”.
Three whiskeys have so-far been released through the Orphan Barrel programme â Barterhouse, Old Blowhard and, most recently, Rhetoric.
The Spirits Business recently reported that two noted US craft distillers, Lance Winters from St George Spirits, and Chip Tate from Balcones, do not believe an official, legal definition for craft spirits would not be âbeneficial to the sectorâ.
For a more comprehensive overview of issues surrounding the production of craft spirits, see the July issue of The Spirits Business.