Dear curious reader,
Wonder about craft spirits ? How would you define it though ? Is it handmade or made in smaller batch ? Is it reviving traditions and reawakening all spirits? What is exactly that makes the definition starts and ends ? As far as I know most of the industrially manufactured spirits need a human’s hand. And as far as I also (unfortunately) know, many “craft spirits” as being the brainchild of rich guys who give 10K to another distillery another 5K for great graphic design and cleaver marketing launch and call themselves crafts (See the great interview of Theo Ligthart about that subject HERE)
The definition is unclear, often claimed by the wrong persons for the wrong products hiding artisan spirits makers and real innovators. So where and how will the future be ? My intuition is ….
1 it will still be about small quantities and producers who get their hand dirty
2 the focus in reviving traditions is approaching the end. Don’t we have all the gins we need? Can’t any big corporation also do it ?
3 the future of craft spirits will be in experimenting : new base material ! new ingredient ! new distillation or new maturation processes !
Only those with agile and innovative minds will thrive and a good example to this intuition is Nicolas Julhès and his brother with La Distillerie de Paris. He talked about it lately at a Cocktail Spirits Paris 2017 series of talks.
He is alcool convinced that the future of craft spirits is not into making what industrial spirits makers are doing in smaller. Isn’t it lost energy ? He is also convinced that is it is only about tradition it will also not last long, as the bigger corporation are actually, sometimes, even more into traditions than smaller companies founded early 2000s.How to possibly compete ?
To survive and thrive, and bring something new, Julhès advises to go into experimentation, look up at other fields such as Perfume making or Gastronomy. As far as he is concerned he looked up at chefs, less Haute Cuisine than Bistronomy for their knowledge of products. This is where it goes to find about possible base ingredients and starts experimenting. He works with very small quantities to allow himself to try different processes parallelly (changing casks, maturing the same products in different types of casks and different lengths). In the end he has only very small quantitates of a very wide range of products from the same base ingredient. He will then decide which one to pursue, which one to stop. He allows him to go quick as would someone quickly prototyping a new object in a Fab Lab.
Which are the ingredients being explored now and that excites him ? He mentions sorgo and palm tree.
He recently launched a spirits based on maple syrup. Not only it is strongly excellent, with a nutty length and beautiful dryness, but it was quite a challenge to develop. He chose this ingredient also for its sustainability : taking syrup from the tree is not damaging the tree. Indeed the sugary liquid is naturally expelled by the tree before the sap rises. This is this sugary liquid that will be let to dry to eliminate water, and then distilled. It is the first time that distillation of maple syrup actually worked.