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What the heck is that?

“Craft whisky” refers to whisky made by distilleries that are small, independently owned, that prioritise quality over efficiency and profit. 



Who cares?

To have an idea of how popular craft distilleries are, observe how their bottles are regularly snapped up and sold out within seconds by drinkers and punters, before reappearing on the secondary market at an astronomical price of over a thousand US Dollars for a NAS expression.

Some whisky drinkers have expressed cynicism over use of the word “craft”. The term is prone to abuse and can be used on the label of any whisky. But although there is no precise definition or certification for craft distillers, craft whisky lovers are in broad agreement on which distilleries have such qualities.

An example is Springbank Distillery in Scotland which unlike other modern distilleries, uses traditional non-mechanised processes, from malting barley by hand to using direct fire to heat its copper stills (modern distilleries use steam).


Floor malting at Springbank Distillery.


Another example is Chichibu Distillery from Japan which painstakingly sources for Japanese local barley - a rarely-grown crop in Japan. It also uses Japanese rare Mizunara oak as wood for its washbacks. The Mizunara allows special strains of yeasts and probiotics to grow, imparting a more intense, fruity flavour to the spirit.  


Chichibu’s Mizunara oak washbacks (Image Source: Skurnik).



Why should I care? Should I try craft whisky?

We live in a time when large companies with sensible shareholders would not condone the expense incurred to use less efficient tools and methods to make their whisky. This is why craft distillers - who are known for their commitment to tradition and quality over making a profit - are deeply respected in whisky circles.   

Interestingly, they often run such a small operation that they cannot afford to hire a marketing team. This forces distilleries to focus on quality and letting the product speak for itself. Bottles also often come in very limited quantities, so the opportunity to taste whiskies such as Springbank, Chichibu, Shizuoka or Kanosuke should not be taken lightly. Definitely try one for yourself if you ever get the chance.


Click here to learn all about craft whiskies!