If you’ve never heard of the Whiskey Loch look it up.
For the future I do see the distillery business going much more like the craft brewery/brewpub business model. Due to regulations, taxes, and aging requirements I don't believe you'll see it getting as big. If you look back at pre-Prohibition history for brewpubs they operated slightly less prolifically as bars. So how many breweries can there be? Probably a fair percentage of bars/restaurants can turn into brewpubs without the market getting over saturated. In Pgh we have at least 30 with more coming. So how many small distilleries can there be? A lot. With the increase of small distilleries becoming a regional or national player is going to get harder. To do that you'll probably need to be bought out by a larger company.
If you own a distillery and want to get bigger without getting bought out you’re going to need to hire to supplement your weak areas. The biggest issue with small businesses I’ve worked with is knowing the difference between marketing and sales. The two most common new business owners are either Technical or Sales people. Most technical/engineering people don't understand it and most sales people misunderstand it. I personally didn't really get it until I spoke to a CEO of a car company. He explained it to me like this: Marketing is getting people into the store, sales is what happens once they walk in. It's a good model for distilleries. You can market the hell out of something but if it's not in the store then it doesn't matter. And you can work with stores all you want but you need to get people to them. And even if you're in a store you hope that the store promotes your item so it stands out over other choices there. It's a problem that a lot of money can help. It's trying to figure out how to do it with little money to get to the big money that is the trick.
Shelf space is tricky. Like 3dog said smaller stores can do whatever. Larger stores or chains don't necessarily want to deal with little guys. And larger drinks companies can buy shelf space (directly or indirectly) to crowd out the little guys. In PA state stores most of the shelf space is big name only. PA distilleries do get favorable terms. If you're a craft person from outside of PA good luck, I see nothing in my local stores that is even close to craft made. In the end retailers want to sell product, not sit on stuff that won't sell.
I think you'll also see the return of regional specialization. The localness and terroir of grains, fruits, potatoes, sugar cane, etc is already important and will become even more so. Like Europe you'll likely see majority grain spirits in the north and more fruit and sugar based ones as you go south. With the ease of transport you won't see a strong differentiation but it will be there. And with the weather (warmer summers or in the south) you'll see seasonality in people's drink choices. The haute drinks will change too. Currently it's Bourbon. You can guess what's next and hope it works out. That's typical business, trying to stay a step ahead of the customer's interests. Excellent, cheap, or well marketed products will stick around, the rest will probably fall by the wayside.
Two big things I see as changing the future also: Legalization of Home Distilling and the reduction of the FET for craft distillers similar to wine/beer exceptions. Both are in bills being presented to congress with a lot of appeal to the majority party.
SCD - I was betting on Cod Vodka. I called it Codka! I guess I will miss the Anchovy wave. I was so close!!!!!!!!