Stateways

Stateways March April 2018

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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StateWays | www.stateways.com | March/April 2018 44 there are signifi cant differences between them. Peruvian pisco can be made from eight grape varietals in three styles. Chilean pisco can be produced from over a dozen grape varieties, can be distilled multiple times, can ma- ture in wood barrels and producers can bring it to proof with water and add fl avorings. Right now, most of the pisco found on retail shelves and backbars in the U.S. is Peruvian; Chile has only a very small piece of the market. Now comes another brandy contender from South America—singani from Bolivia, which has a different and equally ancient story. "Singani is a celebration of one grape, the Muscat of Alexandria, which by law must be grown and distilled a minimum of 5,200 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia," says Jonathan Brathwaite, COO of Singani 63. In addition, Singani 63 is distilled two times in Cognac copper pot stills and rests a minimum of eight months in stainless steel. Director/actor Steven Soderbergh discov- ered singani while fi lming in Bolivia and has made it his mission to introduce the brandy to the world. Singani 63 is now distributed in every major craft cocktail market in the U.S. "Singani 63 is featured at such renowned cocktail destinations as Death & Co, PDT, Pegu Club, Walker Inn, Trick Dog and Clover Club, just to highlight a few," Brathwaite says. Singani 63 and Ste- ven Soderbergh also own the rights to a top-shelf sipping singani called Don Lucho, which will roll out sometime in the near future. "Soderbergh lives in our neighborhood, which may be the rea- son we sell so much Singani 63," says Keeper. The retailer shelves it alongside the pisco selection. The national spirit of Brazil, cachaca, is a cousin to rum. Made from fresh sugarcane juice rather than molasses. "We shelve cach- aca in the rum aisle," says Bolton at Hi-Time Wine Cellars. "There's a small increase in interest because of cocktail curiosity," he adds. "For cachaca, clever marketing of cocktails such as the Caipir- inha have been extremely effective in creating trial and educating consumers," Beaudette says. Prior to the recent acquisition of cat- egory leader Leblon Cachaca by Bacardi, MHW was the service importer for the brand since its inception 10 years ago. "Leblon founder Steve Luttmann did a phenomenal job separating cachaca from rum so that consumers could taste and experience the differ- ence. He proved that a single brand could help develop and jump start a new spirits category," Beaudette adds. ASIAN INFLUENCES Japanese whiskies are super-trendy right now, but a number of Asian spirits are waiting in the wings for a chance at stardom. Spe- cifi cally Japanese shochu, soju from Korea and the Chinese baijiu. Although soju and shochu are often confl ated, there are dis- tinct differences. Soju is made from rice or other grains and produced by continuous distillation; the fi nal product has a fairly low ABV (around 20%) and is often sweet. Jinro is the dominant brand. Soju is probably most famil- iar to Americans, as a staple offering in Korean restaurants and as the base for low-ABV cocktails in bars that don't have full liquor licenses. What distinguishes shochu from other spirits is the uti- lization of koji (a fungus used in sake making) to convert starches in the base ingredient (barley, sweet potato, rice, sugarcane, plus around 46 other approved base ingredi- ents) into yeast-fermentable sugars. Premium shochu is pot distilled and bottled at a higher ABV than soju. "We carry the big brand of soju, Jinro. It does move," says Huang at Grapes & Grains. The store carries baijiu as well. "From the perspective of an importer, shochu as a category seems to present some market potential within the spirits sphere, especially in light of the tailwinds cre- ated by Japanese whisky and, to a more recent extent, Japanese gin," says Masahiro Takeda, vice president, Sanwa Trading Company/Wine of Japan Import, Inc. "This broader attention to Japanese spirits' craftsman- ship seems to have resonated with a large segment of the consumer market, spurring trickledown interest in sho- chu, be it in straight consumption or in cocktail applications," he adds. In recent years, the Japanese Sake and Shochu Makers Associa- tion has made a concerted effort to engage the U.S. market at both the on-premise and consumer level. ANCIENT METHODS Baijiu, the ancient and celebrated spirit of the People's Republic of China, has so far proven a hard sell here in the U.S., although it has made a few inroads in bars and some retail shops. Crafted according to a centuries-old tradition, baijiu is made from sor- ghum or other grains, which are soaked and steamed, then piled into stacks and inoculated with starter culture. The inoculated grain ferments in stone-lined pits sealed with mud for about a month, after which it goes through steam-distillation and the entire process is repeated several times, which can take up to a year. The liquor is aged for several years in huge terracotta urns and then blended before bottling at a very high proof. There are various styles of baijiu, each with distinctive aromas and fl avors, ranging from light fragrance to sauce fragrance. It's an acquired taste, according to Bolton at Hi-Time, who likens the fl avor to fermented tofu. The store carries 15 different baijiu brands, but most of that business is from online sales. "While the category continues to grow within Chinese communi- ties across the U.S., it is also capturing the attention of mixologists in some broad-market bars and restaurants," says Yuan Liu, senior vice president of business development at CNS Imports. Liu believes that the best way for American consumers to approach baijiu is through cocktails, and then they can try it on its own. "The complex aromas and fl avors of baijiu will appeal to consumers looking for unique ex- periences," he says. • THOMAS HENRY STRENK is a Brooklyn-based free- lance writer with over 20 years experience covering the beverage and restaurant industries. In his small apartment-turned-alchemist-den, he homebrews beer kom- bucha, and concocts his own bitters and infusions. ture in wood barrels and producers can bring it to proof "Singani is a celebration of one grape, the Muscat of lization of koji (a fungus used in sake making) to convert starches in the base ingredient (barley, sweet potato, rice, sugarcane, plus around 46 other approved base ingredi- ents) into yeast-fermentable sugars. Premium shochu is pot distilled and bottled at a higher ABV than soju. Huang at Grapes & Grains. The store carries baijiu as well. Huang at Grapes & Grains. The store carries baijiu as well. category seems to present some market potential within category seems to present some market potential within category seems to present some market potential within the spirits sphere, especially in light of the tailwinds cre- ated by Japanese whisky and, to a more recent extent, Japanese gin," says Masahiro Takeda, vice president, Sanwa Trading Company/Wine of Japan Import, Inc. "This broader attention to Japanese spirits' craftsman- "This broader attention to Japanese spirits' craftsman-

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