Whisky week in SF
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Is big bad?

Jordan Mackay discusses liquor at Slow Food Nation last week in San Francisco, and seems to take issue with the choices of slow spirits. Prairie Vodka is owned by Phillips Distilling, Maker's Mark Bourbon isn't made from organic corn, and 4 Copas doesn't provide enough information on their website about their organic nature. All true, but this doesn't necessarily mean these brands are greenwashing.

He then mentions small brands he wishes were represented, like Anchor Distilling, 209 Gin, Del Maguey mezcal, and Clear Creek's Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir. In the case of the fir eau de vie and mezcal, the product celebrate local traditions or ingredients and that's absolutely what Slow Food should be promoting. Good point.

In the case of the gin, at least at 209 they order in high-proof spirit from the same type of Midwestern distillery that Phillips Distilling produces before infusing it with botanicals and redistilling, and additionally you have to truck it all the way to California. It's not that 209 is a bad company- far from it- but it's not like they're growing grain in Golden Gate Park and picking juniper berries from Muir Woods to make the stuff.

I think the underlying prejudice here (not to pick on Jordan; he's just my launch point) is against large companies, whereas small companies get a break in peoples' eyes just for being small. But large companies can accomplish a lot if they want to. Herradura has some pretty major waste and water recycling facilities; bourbon barrels are shipped all over the world to age scotch, rum, and tequila; Distilled Resources and Phillips can afford to get their organic certification to produce Square One and Prairie.
I don't think Prairie Vodka is trying to imply that Phillips is a green company; just that this is a green product. 4 Copas spent a ton of money getting organic certified, and they pay for farmers to get their fields certified.

We should certainly celebrate brands like Del Maguey (and
grappa from Italy, Scandinavian aquavit, genever from Holland, Amarula from South Africa, etc. ) as the Slow-est of booze and use them as an example instead of Prairie and Maker's. And greenwashed brands like Vodka 360 deserve to be called out on it. But I think it's a mistake to give a free pass to small brands just because they're small and to condemn larger ones just for being big.

Get Camper's Book: Tonic Water AKA G&T WTF.