Here are some cool things craft distillers around the country are doing right now.
Tom’s Foolery Distillery near Cleveland has established itself making apple brandy but since they got the old Michter’s barrel-a-day still, they’ve been laying down bourbon. Erik, their first employee, is a brewer by training so they’ve been experimenting with different malts and using two to three times the normal percentage of malt in their bourbon mashes. The first one was 64 percent corn, 14 percent rye and 21 percent malt. That was with a standard whiskey malt. They just finished running several batches with Vienna malt, and a mashbill of 36 percent malt, 57 percent corn and 7 percent rye. Next up: Pale Ale malt. They're getting help from the previous owner of the still, David Beam, and the last master distiller at Michter's in Pennsylvania, Dick Stoll. Beam never operated the still so the last man who did was Stoll, in Pennsylvania more than 20 years ago.
Finger Lakes Distilling in upstate New York has just added a warehouse building for both aging stock and finished goods, both of which had been stored in the distillery itself. Why? Because their aging stock has grown to more than 400 barrels and they were running out of space in the production area, which they need for additional fermenters that are coming soon. They also recently received a Good Food award for their McKenzie Rye Whiskey. The Good Food Awards honor "producers of exceptionally delicious products that also promote sustainability and social good."
Garrison Brothers Distilling will begin to bottle a new batch of its Texas bourbon on February 1st, so it won’t be long before new stock shows up in stores. It usually sells out fast and Texans trying to find it were frustrated in their hunt by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), which had a crazy rule that prevented Garrison Brothers from telling consumers which stores still had it on the shelves. Garrison sued the TABC and won. That was just before Christmas. Now when stocks run low at retail, the distillery will be able to post on their website a list of stores that still have bottles to sell.
A few misguided micros think they can build themselves up by trashing the big whiskey-makers. The more enlightened envision a rising tide that raises all ships. Some of the latter are even sourcing ("curating" is the new term) whiskey from majors to sell as their own brands, alongside products they make themselves. Utah’s High West was a pioneer at this and has several, mostly using rye whiskey, the best-known being their original brand, Rendezvous. West Virginia’s Smooth Ambler has a new one called Old Scout that is a five-year-old straight bourbon bottled at 49.5% ABV.