Moon Mountain is a new vodka launched this week by Diageo, the world's largest drinks company. They have a big promotional push on now so if you haven't heard about it yet, you will.
Diageo loves the new brand's catch phrase so much they've claimed it as a trademark. The phrase is "Crafted. Not Made."
Giant Diageo is not exactly known as a craft distiller, but they are a crafty marketer. They say things in a way that creates a certain impression which may or may not be accurate, but you'll never catch them in an outright lie. The picture above may be as close as you'll get.
They claim Moon Mountain Vodka is made in copper pot stills. The six copper alembics they show are what you will find at Diageo's distilleries in Scotland, but such stills are rare in the American Midwest. They don't actually say these are the stills in which Moon Mountain Vodka is made, but you're entitled to that impression.
They are vague about exactly where Moon Mountain Vodka is distilled. The press release says it is "at a Midwest distillery using a small batch copper pot still." Since it is technically impractical to make vodka in an alembic like the ones in the picture, they presumably mean a hybrid, so called because it is a pot on the bottom with a rectification column on top. Any non-continuous, i.e., charge, still is technically a "pot" though not an alembic. Exactly how Moon Mountain is made, where, and by whom they're not saying.
They hang a lot of the brand image on Master Distiller Gerry Webb. I can confirm that he is a real guy, long time U.S. Master Distiller for all of Diageo's U.S. plants such as the one in Plainfield, Illinois, a 450,000 square foot distillery, brewery and bottling plant, one of the largest in the world. About 26 million cases of spirits and malt beverages are produced in Plainfield every year, including the plant's flagship brand and #1 distilled spirit in the world, Smirnoff vodka.
They disclose that they are bottling Moon Mountain Vodka at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, presumably in the old Schenley plant Diageo owns there.
The Moon Mountain name is interesting because although it is borrowed from a Diageo-owned California winery, it subtly suggests moonshine.
Why is Diageo doing all this? As they told investors earlier this year, "Vodka is the most contested and fastest growing spirits category in the US and this is where we have unleashed our most comprehensive innovation programme. We have protected and extended our well-established brands of Smirnoff, Ketel One and Ciroc with exciting new line extensions. We are tactically introducing brands such as Rokk vodka in the premium tier and Ursus in value tier to compete with the influx of new entrants. At the same time we are strategically introducing Moon Mountain Vodka in the super premium and Godiva vodka in the ultra premium tiers to position us even more strongly as the economy recovers and consumers start trading up."
So crafted? Maybe. Crafty? Definitely!