The Case Against Craft Whiskey

Whiskeys vying for preeminence // Photo by Jeff Seidenstricker

Whiskeys vying for preeminence // Photo by Jeff Seidenstricker

Minnesota is abuzz with all of its new local spirits, but should we temper our enthusiasm? Let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment: what’s the case against ordering craft spirits?

Portland-based bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler, bar manager at Clyde Common and noted cocktail columnist, penned a recent think-piece in which he advises against ordering grain-based craft spirits.

His thinking goes like this:

“Whiskey is a pretty industrial product made from grain, like cornflakes. The quality of the raw materials is not as important as the methods used to make it. So the stuff made by the guy who just started last year won’t be quite as good as the stuff that’s been made for over a century by the people who invented it.”

But he limited this logic mostly to whiskey, saying that fruit-based spirits like Cognac will always be better from a smaller producer, in the same way that fresh-squeezed orange juice straight from the orchard will always be better than the industrial stuff from concentrate.

It’s a provocative argument, certainly one that won’t make him any friends in the craft community. On the one hand, new producers are indeed hamstrung by relative inexperience. And there are plenty of first-run whiskies from tiny new distilleries that will make you long for some good old Jameson.

On the other hand, it’s odd to believe that specific grains are so immaterial to the final product. For example, one sip of the creamy, unctuous Syva Vodka from Far North Spirits will make you a believer in the virtues of family-farmed AC Hazlett rye.

What do you think, Growler Nation? Is Morgenthaler right? Are craft whiskeys not as good as we’d all like to think?

Read the full opinion: [H/T Food Republic]

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