Craft distilling fanning Bourbon innovation boom

30th January, 2013 by SB Staff Writer

The craft distilling boom is bringing a wave of innovation to American whiskey, a sector previously renowned for being set in its ways. Neil Ridley assesses the impact on the UK.

Hudson whiskey

A spirit is born: Hudson is New York State’s first locally distilled Bourbon

If there’s one category seemingly destined to adhere to the classic “If it ain’t broke…” maxim, it’s Bourbon.

Rigorously regulated and steeped in tradition, Bourbon is all about big, bold but relatively invariable flavour profiles. However, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), US spirits sales reached over US$18bn in 2011, with revenues of $3.5bn in the super-premium segment alone.

With case sales in the US rising at a steady rate year-on-year across the last decade and the largest gains being realised in the high-end and super-premium categories, Bourbon and American whiskey producers are finding a greater need to look for innovative products to entice new and existing consumers.

So where does this leave the redoubtable all-American spirit in the UK? “Eighteen months ago we identified the UK as our key market,” explains Dan Priseman, brand ambassador for Four Roses, “as the rest of the world looks towards new trends here, especially the London bartending community. There’s currently a real fascination with classic cocktails and recipes dating back to the 1800s, which call for Bourbon or rye whiskey, which has definitely helped fan the flames.”

Why rye?
In line with this resurgence in the classics, consumers are responding well to a raft of more innovative products hitting the UK shelves from the US whiskey sector, not least in the rye whiskey category, something which has kickstarted a flavour revolution in the perception of US whiskey the past two years.

“Rye is undoubtedly growing in stature as a premium status product, with significant UK and worldwide growth,” notes Philip Wilson, director at UK spirits distributor Eaux De Vie. “This has led to the major distilleries having to allocate products, which of course raises the ‘stock value’ of rye. In particular, we have seen incredible fervour for both Rittenhouse Rye and Pikesville Rye.”

While both these whiskies are still produced in a traditional way (ie adhering to regulated mash bill recipes and maturation methods), their distinct flavour profiles represent a new challenge to an emerging group of whiskey-savvy drinkers.

One Response to “Craft distilling fanning Bourbon innovation boom”

  1. jason stone says:

    “the results are seldom called “Bourbon”, since they breach the Federal guidelines governing the spirit.” – when making bourbon, there are specific regulations and rule sets one must adhere to in order for a drink to be labeled as such. technically, skipping a step might not lead to “bourbon” but all these distilling experimentation could lead to something…else..maybe better. speaking of distilling, those are large copper whiskey stills in those pics. if you dont produce good tasting drinks from those, I dont know what else can.

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