As we were laying out our first label for approval, we decided to use the term Original Distillation (coined by the Fed Govt) to define our process. I felt this phrase had a story that needed telling, and using this statement on the label was a subtle way of starting the conversation.
“Original Distillation” simply means we make every ounce of every one of our products from scratch. We buy our raw ingredients from friends and neighbors when we can. When we can’t buy local, such as with our barley malt, we use producers with quality products we can trust. Organic, Non-GMO, wild harvest, local. We take these grains, fruits, herbs, and roots and ferment them on-site to produce and flavor our alcohol.
The reason we feel the need to talk about this is that many craft distilleries and major distilleries buy Neutral Grain Spirits or NGS. NGS is 95%+ alcohol derived from the cheapest commodity grain available to produce the cheapest commodity alcohol available. Distilleries use this as a shortcut to produce their final product with the least expense possible. Many shops use NGS to help with “cash flow”, they don’t have to bother with fermentation or the equipment to extract sugar from base ingredients. It’s like a craft brewery using a bunch of cans of malt extract to make their beer. It’s like a bakery making their brownies from a boxed mix. Only it eliminates even more of the process.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand the short-term economics of using NGS. This commodity product just does not fit the mission of our distillery. We choose to support local agriculture with partiality toward sustainable methods. We want to produce a truly “craft” product, not just a “cash” product. Our methods take more time, more equipment, more local suppliers, and ultimately more money. We are artisans of alcohol, masters of the mash, friends of the ferment and stewards of the still. We will not take shortcuts. We are truly passionate about what we do and the product that has our name on it. We try to do business with like-minded folk.
Note: This blog post originally appeared on the website of Dancing Tree Distillery, which became Fifth Element Spirits, and has now become West End Ciderworks & Distillery.More Blog Posts