There was a time when spirits were distilled by family-run companies. Small batches of rye, bourbon, or rum were made and distributed.
In time, large corporations started buying out these small companies until it seemed like most every item in your local liquor store could be traced back to a few large names.
Bacardi's portfolio includes over 200 brands including Dewar's, Grey Goose, and Bombay Sapphire. Jim Beam's portfolio includes Skinnygirl, Basil Hayden, and Knob Creek.
Why does a smaller company allow themselves to be taken into the corporate fold? By essence of its very product, many spirits have to be aged, which means years of shelling out money before you can even try to sell any product. Then there's the large marketing and advertising budget that's required to launch a new spirit and get the word out that this amazing new libation even exists.
Despite all of this, individuals and small companies are once again turning out small batches of spirits. These spirits tend to have some new twists to them. Ever try a dark gin? Or scorpion mezcal? We did at Tales of the Cocktail. Here are some indie spirits to look out for.
In the 1830s August Bulleit made rye and bourbon at his small distillery in Kentucky. Then, while delivering some spirits to New Orleans, he disappeared and the distillery closed. Over 100 years later, his great-great grandson revived the business. It now makes small batch ryes and bourbons in much the same way it was made in the 1830s. Made from 95% rye and 5% malted barley, it's smooth on its own, and mixes equally well.
Corsair Barrel-Aged Gin
Corsair has two distilleries, in Nashville and Bowling Green. They distill gin, absinthe, and other small batch spirits, but the most interesting is their barrel-aged gin. Normally a clear spirit, this gin is honey-colored, and has a little more body, making for a more flavorful martini.
The B&E stands for breaking and entering because these guys insist that their bourbon is "stolen from barrels" in Kentucky, then brought to California to be bottled. The result? a bourbon that's been yuppified -- smoother, with a little less sweetness. We're thinking it would go great in our next mint julep.
Novo Fogo Barrel-Aged Cachaca
Straight from the rainforests of Brazil, this organic cachaca is aged two years in bourbon casks before it's bottled. The result is a cachaca that you can sip straight without that jet fuel burn that some clear cachacas can have.
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Why shoot the worm when you can have a larger insect to tackle? This 100% agave mezcal from Oaxaca is smooth, potent. Plus, you can eat the scorpion. (Seriously, we asked.)
Blue Coat American Dry Gin and Vieux Carre Absinthe
Both are distilled in Philadelphia by the aptly named Philadelphia Distilling Company. For those you us that love our gin but like home-grown products, this dry gin is great in a dirty martini. The Vieux Carre Absinthe, named after the city of New Orleans, has rich herbal notes and a deep-green hue. The green fairy is now made in America.
Rum made in Colorado? Seriously? Made in Crested Butte, this rum is made with pure spring water straight from mountain snowfall. Sugar cane is flown in from Hawaii. Then, the rum is aged in oak whiskey casks. It might not be Cuba, but it's a full-bodied take on the spirit.