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Spirits: Craft whiskey distillers are over a barrel

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Jason Wilson has raved about high-quality whiskeys that have yet to be found in area stores, in part, he says, because of a system that makes it more difficult for craft distilleries to distribute their products. (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)
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Closer to home, in Virginia, you can find great single-malts and ryes from Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville and a beautiful unaged whiskey (as well as a slightly aged rye) from the recently opened Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. in Purcellville.

But there are so many more whiskeys whose arrival here we're awaiting. There is, for instance, an interesting microtrend of whiskey distilling in the mountain states, Colorado in particular. Stranahan's, in Denver, makes one of my current favorites, and Peach Street Distillers, in Palisade, Colo., makes an exquisite, spicy and complex bourbon. If you can find them, buy them.

As part of the ADI festivities in Louisville, the craft distillers were invited to a reception at the headquarters of liquor behemoth Brown-Forman. It was a discordant scene: a group of small distillers with lots of interesting facial hair, tattoos and rough-and-tumble work clothes, sipping Woodford Reserve in the posh tasting room with the suits from Brown-Forman. The party was hosted by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade group, which recently offered affililate memberships to distillers who produce fewer than 40,000 cases per year.

Brown-Forman -- maker of Jack Daniel's, Southern Comfort and Finlandia, among other brands -- probably could have bought out every single craft distiller in attendance. But that didn't stop a corporate executive from joking to the crowd, "You know, we're just a small craft distiller ourselves."

There were laughs. And later, privately, there was a little grumbling among the microdistillers. But who knows? If the future is indeed rosy for American whiskey, the next Jack Daniel's just might emerge from this group.

Wilson can be reached at food@washpost.com.


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