The definition of Craft Distilling
In fact, there is not one easy answer to the definition of “craft”. There are several industry organizations, like the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) or the American Distilling Institute (ADI) that have tried to define craft spirits.
The ACSA focuses on sales volume and ownership structures, meaning that only licensed and producing members have a voting membership in the ACSA. The idea of Paul Hletko, president of the ACSA is to fight against untruthful usage of the term “craft”, and therefore the ACSA has established a very strict ethical mandate for all their members as well as mandatory business structures. The idea is to ensure truthful and accurate information for every bottle sold – where and how exactly it was produced – so that consumers are not “tricked” to believe a bottle was made elsewhere due to a fancy label.
The ADI focuses on mandatory business structures to receive its craft spirit certification. Among those are that the spirit must be run through a still by a certified craft producer; the craft distillery is allowed to be owned or controlled by alcoholic beverage industry members who are not themselves craft distillers; the maximum annual sales are not to exceed 100,000 proof gallons; the production must be a “hands-on production”. The idea of the ADI is to demand of their craft spirits producers to use traditional as well as innovative fermenting, distilling, blending, and infusing techniques to produce their craft spirits.
For the majority of the consumers “craft” is used for small distilling companies that are producing on site. Unfortunately, the industry has used some “loopholes” in the past. Currently, there are ongoing changes proposed by the TTB for the labeling laws in the US. This is a step into the right direction to enhance transparency for consumers and ensure true craft quality. Notice No. 176: Modernization of the Labeling and Advertising Regulations for Wine, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages