There’s a phenomenon happening that appeals to both craft alcohol enthusiasts and distillers alike: brown spirits continue to boom across the U.S. Whether you’re new to craft whiskey or a seasoned connoisseur, interest in distilled spirits is very high. And that interest is going nowhere for 2020. A recent article for Liquor.com suggests that in 2020, we'll be flooded with whiskey innovations. The article states, "It seems like every whiskey has a bazillion line extensions coming down the pike: limited editions, experiments with mash bills (wheated whiskeys seem to be coming into favor, for example) and fancy barrel finishes, overproof variations that burst with flavor yet are almost too hot to drink." So, what are the craft whiskey trends to watch for in 2020? We spoke to some of our partner distillers to get their predictions.
Ryan Thompson, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Co.
“More and more whiskey expressions and craft spirit expressions are out there, which adds a layer of fun to try, taste and enjoy spirits from different areas when you’re traveling.
American single malts are gaining more and more attention, and will be a category all on its own in the next few years. We’re starting to distill more and more of this, and in 2020 we plan to lie down the most barrels of American single malt we’ve ever made. We’re excited this category is gaining in popularity and are betting it will be for many years to come!
On the smaller category side, Brandies are gaining ever slightly more market share and mixologists are now re-energizing this spirit with throw-back cocktails from Brandy’s hay-day! This is really exciting because brandies add a certain complexity and nuance to cocktails that you don’t find in other spirits.”
Heath Schneider, Iowa Legendary Rye
“You are definitely correct on the ‘bazillion line extensions.’ Who would have thought peanut butter would find its way into whiskey?!
We explored the flavor variations with our white rye as a base and decided it was a temporary trend. We have chosen to stay true to our Prohibition-era heritage by keeping our lineup to five expressions we have with one being high proof. Our high proof (121.2) has been a hit with experienced drinkers and we've sold all of it the moment it is ready at a respectable price point. Our customers love the uniqueness of the cask strength single barrel offering.
In contrast, we are working a grassroots effort with local mixologists to get unique flavor offerings at the bar level. Through social media and our website we encourage bars and restaurants to add cocktail menu items with local craft spirits like ours. This allows the mixologist to set themselves apart from all of their competitors. We will continue to encourage our partners to use this idea as a base for their creative efforts.”
Herb Heneman, Bardstown Bourbon Company
“I do think you’re starting to see the consumer demand more transparency. They’re getting over the legacy play of hidden sources and made up legends. We owe them more than that, and it’s why we are totally open on our side labels about what is in our product, down to the age statement, mash-bill, source, etc. We’re starting to see other brands follow suit, and consumers have responded favorably.
On finishes, I think the sky’s the limit. The level of experimentation is really exciting right now, and drawing more exploratory drinkers in from other categories like wine. At Bardstown Bourbon what sets us apart is the attention to quality and detail in the finishing process. We don’t just buy brokered barrels that are all dried out. Instead, we work directly with fellow wine and spirits makers to dump, gas, seal and deliver partner brands’ barrels to us as soon as physically possible after they are emptied at the source. We leave in all the stems, seeds and residuals in order to impart as much of the characteristics of the wine or spirit in the finish.
Finally, on being modern – I was in a retailer the other day and counted a dozen different bourbon brands that had the word ‘Old’ in the title. You just have to wonder how exciting that is to a 20-something consumer. While we absolutely respect the tradition and heritage of bourbon, we’re laser sharp focused on the future and what it can become, from our brand aesthetic to our distillery experience, and that seems to be drawing in a much younger, more diverse set of consumers.”
If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy craft whiskey and see these trends play out for yourself, check out RackHouse Whiskey Club. RackHouse scours the U.S. looking for the best distilleries with the most interesting stories to curate a unique subscription box filled with full-sized bottles of hard-to-find small batch whiskey. We’re building a community of premium craft whiskey drinkers and you’re invited. Join us!