On October 27, Wine & Spirits Daily (WSD) exclusively published a letter from Tito Beveridge, founder of Tito's Handmade Vodka, who is being sued for deceptive marketing. In the letter, Tito defended his company's use of the term "craft," claiming that pot still distillation is "the cornerstone of craft spirits."
In response to Tito's letter, the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) sent its own letter to WSD from president Tom Mooney. ACSA represents more than 200 members in 36 states.
I have questioned in the past if any of these organizations has the guts to challenge the questionable practices of their most prosperous members. Through this letter, the ACSA has shown that it does. Good for them.
The issue is not 'what is craft?' It is 'what is truth?'
As the nation's leading association of craft spirits producers, we are keenly interested in the way that consumers, the media, and our industry peers view our trade. The latest chapter in this ongoing conversation is an op-ed by our friend and fellow ACSA founding member Tito Beveridge, offering a simple answer to one of the most elusive questions in our industry - what is 'craft'?
ACSA has, from the start, adopted and then actively promoted an inclusive answer to this question. We believe that craft - like beauty - is in the eye of the beholder. Acting on this belief, we have taken action in two important areas:
We broadened our membership eligibility criteria to include independent spirits producers who craft high quality products through methods other than distillation. We believe that inclusion will lead to more innovation, while formulaic definitions (e.g., pot stills equal craft) will stifle it.
More importantly, we adopted a code of ethics that demands honesty and transparency from all ACSA members. As we see it, if a producer is forthcoming about the way that a product is made, consumers can judge for themselves whether it rises to the level of a 'craft' spirit.
We support Tito's call for greater inclusion, but we disagree that any single definition of the term "craft" will bring it about. Instead, we challenge all spirits producers (large and small) to unleash their creativity, to be forthcoming about the way their products are made, and to be honest when they promote them. The public is intelligent, and they will embrace authenticity regardless of the size, home country, or methods of a producer.