To elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers.
From the Desk of Margie A.S. Lehrman,
Chief Executive Officer
March 31, 2020
Dear Friends in Our Craft Spirits Community:
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I’ve been singularly focused on how we plan, prepare and execute to ride out this invisible attack on our personal and professional lives.
Taking some time to walk this morning, with music propelling me forward, I was struck by the country singer sharing the sentiment, “I just want to go home.” It seemed to capture everything I have been feeling. I crave the staff call where we lightheartedly talk about upcoming vacation travel plans rather than how we most efficiently disseminate newly released TTB and FDA guidance; I long for outreach from a distiller who is inquiring about how to register for our convention rather than where to find and how to package bottles to fill with hand sanitizer; and on a personal note, I yearn to hear my 90-year-old mother (who lives alone) proudly boast that she won a game of pitch at the local senior center rather than tell me how many episodes of Judge Judy she watched in one day—alone. I recognized in that one song how I ache for the safety of my former routine. My previous life. My prior home.
While there is solace in knowing that we are pivoting as a country and no one is spared, the heart can also become heavier knowing the extent of the outreach and impact of the virus. And yet, in looking at what we have accomplished as a community since the coronavirus struck, I am overwhelmed by our strength and fortitude and what we have accomplished TOGETHER.
This issue of The Monthly Mash features some of the amazing work created by a team of craft distillers who immediately stepped up to create a COVID-19 Working Group. From advocating in Congress, TTB and the FDA; to creating and delivering customized webinars; to analyzing and preparing plain English documentation to navigate the world of over-the-counter non-prescription hand sanitizers and solutions; to postponing our 1,000-person Distillers’ Convention & Vendor Trade Show in Portland, Oregon, that should be taking place right now; to presenting a shortened, albeit lively, awards show for those who medaled in our craft spirits competition; we’ve each played a role in keeping us moving forward. Of providing hope. And, in spite of how awful it is right now, I know there are more good things to come.
Resilience is a topic I’ve often reflected upon, having my mother widowed at 36 with three children: my brother and sister and I were just 8, 7 and 2 years old, respectively. How did my mom carry on with such a positive spirit? How did we continue to believe that a golden ring was within our reach, regardless of what life threw at us? My mother taught us quickly that togetherness mattered. A lot. She taught us that some things are not our fault—they just are. She taught us there are still many things to be grateful for and we needed to count each and every blessing. And, she taught us that nothing lasts forever. This too will pass.
So, this letter is to you, my distillery family, in sticking together and reminding each other to not give up hope, even when things feel grim. Hold onto your family, embrace your teams from a safe distance, check in with each other, and know your ACSA “family” is here to support you.
Wishing you health, safety, and peace,
ACSA Responds to COVID-19 Pandemic
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, ACSA remains committed to our mission of elevating and advocating for the community of craft spirits producers. ACSA has been working closely with industry leaders and partners to assemble information to help distillers respond during this unprecedented time. Our website has a growing list of resources, including:
Federal guidance for production of hand sanitizer and sprays
Stimulus Package Includes Repeal of FET for Hand Sanitizer Produced Under FDA Guidance
On Friday, the President signed a a $2 trillion economic stabilization package to support the economy wracked by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill, which was approved by the House on Friday after unanimous approval in the Senate on Wednesday, contains a number of provisions to help craft distilleries, which are considered small businesses. These include SBA loans that can be forgiven, an employee retention tax credit, delay in income tax filings, and particularly, a repeal of the FET for hand sanitizer produced under FDA guidance.
If you’ve looked at the FDA registration form and felt overwhelmed, you’re not alone! This webinar covers how to get your facility and hand sanitizer product registered with the FDA with step-by-step guidance. (Presented on March 27)
In a business and industry so linked to being social, what do you do in a time of social distancing? Hear possibilities and creative solutions to take your tasting room to your customer base when they can’t come to you. (Presented on March 25)
This webinar offers an industry outlook resulting from COVID-19. Discover how to sales forecast the next 3, 6, or 9 months and how to review your cash flow in line with this. The webinar also addresses how to share the news with your investors and where else to get support. (Presented on March 25)
In these uncertain times, it’s not uncommon to experience elevated feelings of panic, anxiety, or depression. Those already living with anxiety or OCD may be having an especially hard time. This webinar focuses on COVID-19’s effects on our lives and livelihoods as we explore ways to stay mentally healthy and to help support mental health in our workplaces and homes. (Presented on March 20)
In ACSA’s third installment in our complimentary COVID-19 webinar series, we answer your questions on hand sanitizer creation, from FDA and TTB considerations to the production side. (Presented on March 23)
With nearly every state reporting confirmed cases of COVID-19, its impacts on our lives have been far-reaching. What does COVID-19 mean for your tasting room? Join us as we discuss its implications on your business and tasting room. (Presented on March 17)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ACSA postponed its 7th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show, which was originally scheduled to take place in late March in Portland, Oregon. It will be rescheduled for late summer.
We recognize many of you, like our ACSA team, have been preparing for over a year to visit Portland. We share your disappointment. Your health, however, is our paramount concern. We will notify you as soon as we reschedule. We cannot thank you enough for your understanding, support, and well wishes during a difficult time for all. We extend our heartfelt wishes that you and your families remain in good health.
ACSA Announces 2020 Judging of Craft Spirits Awards
ChainBridge Distillery Williams Pear Brandy Takes Best in Show
During this uncertain time, our ACSA judging committee and Board of Directors are eager to bring you a worthwhile distraction. Together, they decided that the show must go on as scheduled, and were thrilled to announce the medalists for ACSA’s 2020 Judging of Craft Spirits in a virtual awards banquet on Monday. The awards ceremony was originally scheduled to coincide with ACSA’s 7th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
ChainBridge Distillery of Oakland Park, Florida, earned Best of Show for its Williams Pear Brandy. The distillery was founded by distiller Bela Nahori and his family, who first discussed the idea of opening a distillery over Christmas dinner several years ago. The Hungarian-born Nahori was an accountant living in Ohio, but he comes from a long line of alcohol makers. On March 27, 2019, the family’s Christmas wish came true when they opened ChainBridge. Click here to read a Q&A with Nahori that appeared in the September 2019 installment of this newsletter.
ChainBridge also earned Best in Brandy in the Best in Class awards. Other distilleries honored include:
The Notch Nantucket Island Single Malt Whisky 12 Years
Medalists were hand-selected among a pool of nearly 500 entrants. This year, entries were submitted from 42 states across the country in seven main categories: Whiskey, Gin, Rum, Vodka & Grain Spirits, Brandy, Specialty Spirits, and Ready to Drink (RTD), a new category added this year. Back again for a second year, ACSA also awarded a series of Innovation Awards, which aim to recognize remarkable spirits whose flavor profiles may stray from their category’s signature notes. In addition to a Best of Show and the Best of Class Distinctions, the judging panel awarded 23 Gold, 81 Silver, and 173 Bronze medals.
The virtual awards ceremony was hosted by Maggie Campbell, Chair of Judging Competition (Privateer Rum), and Dan Garrison (Garrison Brothers Distillery). Judging took place in October at Cardinal Sprits in Bloomington, Indiana. We are grateful to Campbell (ACSA’s Vice President), Colton Weinstein (Corsair Distillery), Jeff Wuslich (Cardinal Spirits) and all the volunteers who ensured a professionally run competition.
Independent Stave Company has been a fixture of the spirits community in its many forms for more than 100 years, as it’s been crafting oak barrels and other cooperage products since the early 20th century. And in that time the industry has enjoyed many successes and navigated through more than its share of challenges—not the least of which is the current COVID-19 pandemic. Account manager Chad Spalding offers some of his thoughts on that, as well as some of the more positive trends and developments within the world of craft spirits.
How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting your business and how are you adapting during these times?
Currently our top priority is the health and safety of our employees. We are following all state and federal guidelines and in most cases we are going above and beyond what is recommended. While some of our customers have moved to the production of sanitizer or temporarily shut down, the vast majority of our customers continue to operate and we are focused on meeting their supply demands. Our supply chain is currently in operation and we have adequate inventories to last for many months. We are addressing this crisis one day at a time and looking at every opportunity to support our employees, customers and communities.
On a brighter note, what are some of the biggest trends in craft spirits that you are watching in 2020 and beyond, and why?
Lots of exciting things going on right now, such as secondary barrel finishing to add complexity to traditional spirit flavor profiles. The American single malt category is also getting a lot of attention as it looks for opportunities to define itself in the market.
What are some of the biggest questions/requests you get from spirits producers?
As a barrel producer we get a lot of interesting questions from distillers looking at ways to use oak to their advantage. Common requests are ways to improve color, flavor and perceived maturity. We have many options that can increase extractives and facilitate oxygenation.
Can you briefly walk us through your lineup of barrels, and the distinguishing differences between the Classic, Cooper’s Select and Cooper’s Reserve?
The main feature that differentiates our barrel portfolio is wood age. The Classic barrel is the most popular, it features six-month air dried wood and comes in char levels 1-4. Our Cooper’s Select barrel has been gaining a lot of momentum in the market and features 18-month wood age. The Cooper’s Reserve barrel is made with 24-month air dried material and is offered in American, French or European oak. All of our barrels come with different toast and char level options, and can be modified to fit your barrel program.
You all rolled out a Small Batch Series in 2019, right? What has the reaction been so far and what type of growth do you see for those?
Our Small Batch Toasted barrels were released in 2019 and was a direct result of 10-plus years of experimentation by our R&D Department. The Small Batch Wave and Spiral Cut barrels have been a part of our lineup since 2017, and have been well received in the market. The presentations and tastings we have been doing are generating a lot of excitement, anyone who sits down with us understands the value, difference and impact the Small Batch Series can make to a baseline product, LTO or other premium offering.
Are there any other new products or initiatives coming soon or in the years ahead that you’re excited to share?
ISC is always looking for new and innovative products to make the best spirits in the world. We currently have thousands of barrels laid down across the U.S. with different mash bills and barrel options, so we will continue to test and experiment, and release new products in the future. One new option our sister company, Oak Solutions Group, just released is our High Proof Series of oak adjuncts. This series offers four different toasts, giving distillers the ability to dial into specific flavor targets to enhance the profile of their spirit.
From Craft Spirits magazine
Can anyone in the U.S. ever really make ‘agricole’ rum?
The fifth bi-monthly edition of Craft Spirits magazine is coming to your inbox in April. In our cover story, we’ll present a detailed, numbers-driven look at the State of the Craft Spirits Market, based on the 2020 Craft Spirits Data Project , a partnership among ACSA, Park Street and IWSR.