Move over, Montana brewers and vintners. Micro distillers are the newest craft beverage industry to hit the state. Upon seeing Montanans’ preference for local brews over mass-produced utility beer, Montana distillers are no doubt hoping that concoctions like Glacier Distilling’s Bad Rock Rye will leave Jim Beam jilted.
Throughout the state, moonshiners are working in the light of day, vodka is being bottled, and absinthe and gin recipes are being refined.
According to Max Watman, author of the Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine, this new trend is actually a manifestation of Americans rediscovering their roots. Watman’s research revealed that in 1800, over 14,000 distillers existed (some produced as little as one barrel of spirits a year). That number had fallen to 600 by 1909. After Prohibition ended in 1933, barely a dozen distilleries were left.
Montana alone has nearly hit that number today; eight craft distilleries had opened by January 2012. The American Distilling Institute currently boasts 240 distillers as members, and projects 450 members by 2015. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) defines a craft distiller as a business that yields less than 40,000 cases per year.
Local booze benefits local farmers as well as local drinkers. Distillers are using grains and sugar beets from area farmers and touting their access to the state’s pure, unpolluted water.
Gin, vodka, whiskey and the like are referred to as “spirits” for being the essence of the juniper, vegetable or rye that they came from. What kind of spirit do you get from Glacier snowmelt and local, organic ingredients? Montana spirit.
Flavored vodkas grew by some 20% in 2011 and now account for around 20% of all vodkas sold. Super-Premium brands lead category growth – increasing by nearly 13% in volume.
In 2011, over 16 million 9-liter cases of Bourbon were sold in the United States, generating over $2 billion in revenue for distillers. High End Premium revenues were up 25% and Super-Premium 99%
Since 2002 U.S. imports of Tequila have grown 67% – an average rate of 5.8% per year. in 2011 alone almost 12 million 9-liter cases were sold. While Value and Premium brands were the backbone of the U.S. market, the fastest growth has been in High End and Super Premium brands. High Brands have grown 150% in volume since 2002. Virtually unknown in 2002 Super Premium Tequila volumes have skyrocketed 385% and today account for over 1.7 million 9-liter cases.