Wednesday, February 15, 2017

US made much more whiskey last year, but bartenders still recommend the biggest brands

Bartenders' most recommended spirit
Here are two unrelated bits of whiskey news, one surprising and one kind of depressing.

First, the TTB, the federal agency that oversees alcohol, released its 2016 statistics last week. A number that jumped out at me is the amount of whiskey produced in the U.S.: 166 million gallons, compared to 147.9 million gallons last year, a 12% increase.

To give you an idea of how huge an 18.1 million gallon increase is, last year the U.S. produced only 6.6 million gallons of vodka, gin and rum combined.

Now, that's production and not bottling, which means most of this whiskey is not going to be on the market soon. In fact, the amount of whiskey bottled last year went down slightly from 2015, and was less than half of the amount of whiskey produced. This is good news; hopefully that huge new batch of 2016 whiskey will spend some years in barrels.

The Distilled Spirits Council said last week that American whiskey was a $3.1 billion business in 2016, and with so much more whiskey in the pipeline, that number should go up. And if it were to go down, if Americans for some reason were to move away from whiskey, that would be good news too, as all that new whiskey would age even longer while waiting for buyers.

Another report released last week was a slap in the face for fans of artisan spirits.

A company called Actûrus (for those of you who don't speak Welsh or Kurdish, two of the five languages that use "û," it is pronounced like the first vowel in "douchebag") has asked bartenders for 11 years in a row which spirit they recommend in several categories.

It turns out that this year, Û.S. bartenders really, really like mainstream spirits brands.

I don't know if Maker's Mark should count as "craft whiskey" anymore, but it's not like these are bad products. In fact, I just had Grand Marnier last Monday night ... in a soufflé. It was gûd.

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