Crafty distilleries

Whiskey on the rocks

The craft cocktail trend has spurred an explosion of new whiskeys on the market, many of them claiming to be small-batch, hand-crafted products. But are they really what they seem? NPR's The Salt talks to a blogger who believes that many of these small potatoes distilleries are actually buying whiskey from a larger conglomerate. The blogger, Steven Ury, is an attorney by day but follows the world of spirits in his spare time. He estimates that over 50 different labels actually purchase their product from one source: Midwest Grain Products (MPG), a large alcohol producer in Indiana. 

Ury says that one way to tell if your whiskey really comes from an independent producer rather than a larger distillery is to look at the label. "Does it say it is 'distilled' by that company, or does it say it's 'bottled by' or 'produced by' that company? That sounds like a small difference, but it has a big legal meaning." He also looks for the recipe, because the distillery in Indiana uses 95% rye in its formula.

While Ury likes some of the brands that are bottling the Indiana product under their labels, he also thinks the deception hurts the small distilleries that are making their whiskey in true small batches. "It's not so much a matter of its tasting better or worse, it's more a matter of the consumer knowing what they're getting, and understanding why something might taste a certain way, and why something might taste differently," he says.

Photo of Whiskey on the rocks from Bon Appétit Magazine and the EYB Library.


  • jakl  on  8/3/2014 at 1:10 AM


  • ellabee  on  8/3/2014 at 2:29 PM

    Thanks! A truly worthwhile tip; if you're paying the premium for small-batch spirits, it's important to know whether you're getting a truly small-batch product.

  • hillsboroks  on  8/7/2014 at 2:16 PM

    I am lucky that I happen to live in an area with lots of micro-distilleries and it is fairly easy to visit them, taste their product and see the actual equipment where they are distilling the spirits. I was surprised to learn that there are folks passing off industrial spirits as craft spirits. It seems like cheating! I guess we have to try to buy as local as possible so we can check to make sure we are getting what we are paying for.

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