As the young, developing craft distilling movement matures and begins offering longer-aged whiskeys, they will compete with the established distillers’ products.
On the flip side, the established distillers are increasingly offering younger, and as is the case with Heaven Hill’s “TryBox Series” (shown in the picture), sometimes even unaged product for sale. In fact, distillers on both sides of the pond are selling unaged spirit.
Craft distillers comprise a rapidly growing, but still relatively low-production, market. I don’t think the large, established distillers have anything to worry about–yet. But they would be foolish to not pay attention.
Just take a look at the American craft beer market and you will see where craft distilling is heading. According to a recent Brewers Association press release, overall beer consumption is down, but the craft beer market continues to grow and capture market share.
The large brewers who made relatively bland pilsner-style beer are now making beer with more flavor–or forming alliances with craft brewers to compete with them.
You are witnessing the same happening within the whiskey industry. Small craft distillers like Stranahan’s and Anchor have been purchased by larger players in the drinks industry. And large distiller William Grant (owners of Glenfiddich and Balvenie) bought the Hudson whiskey brand from Tuthilltown Spirits, the Hudson Valley craft distiller.
Yes indeed, the lines between established distillers and small craft distillers will continue becoming more and more blurred in the future. For the most part, I think this is a good thing. It will be healthy for the whisky industry.
Will there be some downside? Sure! We will have to endure the “weeding out” of the inferior brands and “fly by night” companies that will undoubtedly surface to make a fast buck in this growth market (as we witnessed in the early phases of craft brewing–and that cigar boom a while back).
But the upside is far greater–and well worth any temporary inconvenience.