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The Thorn in Your Sides.

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In responding to someone off-line, it occurred to me that I've never properly introduced myself. Here goes.

My name is Chuck Cowdery, although I usually use Charles K. Cowdery as my byline. I'm a writer with a background in marketing, mostly sales promotion. A lot of my marketing experience is in the beverage alcohol industry, especially distilled spirits. My passion and the subject of most of my journalistic writing is American whiskey. I started out primarily interested in the history and heritage of it, but have become interested in all aspects, including the production and business sides.

I have also been a producer/director of films and videos, though that's mostly in the past. I don't trust myself with much equipment beyond a keyboard.

I'm 57, so I've been around the block a few times.

I have raised some questions here in which some people have become engaged but which others resent them even being asked. Obviously, I don't consider talking about these subjects a bad thing. I find it really interesting and I learn a lot. That's mainly why I do it.

Frequently, the issues I bring up have to do with terminology. What is a distiller? What is a Master Distiller? What is a distillery? What is distilling? If you think those are just words in the dictionary and you can just look them up, you would be wrong. There are a lot of different ideas, even within the small community of this board, about what those terms mean.

For example, I come from a world where the people who call themselves distillers start with whole grains and end with a barrel-aged finished product. In that world, people who buy bulk spirit and flavor or otherwise alter it, even if a still is involved, are called rectifiers, not distillers.

The extent to which people are playing with terms because they want the reflected glory those terms imply, without actually being those things, determining that is the ongoing struggle.

I got involved with ADI because Bill Owens, whom I love and admire but who is, let's say, not a detail guy, likes that picture of an old alembic and is always going on and on about "craft" and how great pot stills are, but most ADI members seem to be using hybrid stills that are "pot" only in that they are batch, but which have rectification columns exactly like a column still, so they're out there bragging about their "pot still vodka," and I can't figure out what they're so excited about. I am guilty as charged of being close to the American whiskey industry, which is often unfairly derided by single malt enthusiasts for its use of column stills, usually by people who have no idea what they are talking about. Some people here like to slam the majors too, usually from that same position of near total ignorance.

Bill also is a big advocate of buying wash from a brewer. I consider those kinds of short-cuts incompatible with the whole idea of "craft" distilling.

I have also written elsewhere that, in my world, a person who just operates a still, performing no other part of the spirit-making process, is called a still operator, not a distiller.

I'm also constantly shocked by the people who are shocked by these questions and I wonder where they got their ideas about what a distiller or a distillery does.

True micro-distilling is a very new industry and decisions its pioneers make now will have lasting repercussions. I'd like to think I'm making a contribution. Questioning one's assumptions is usually a good thing.

I've had my own mind opened by some of the discussions here

That's where I'm coming from.

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Hi Chuck!!!

As one who's had an opposing view to what you've said, I have to also make it known that I value your contributions. If we all agreed, there would be no progress, misunderstandings or misconceptions may never come to light, and so on.

Rock on with yo' bad self!



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I too have disagreed with some of your comments but very much welcome your discussion points! In the couple of threads I have participated with regards to your observations I feel you have raised some very good arguments. I am not sure there is going to be any way to regulate what is going on out there except as moral obligation to adhere to some standard. In that sense this business, craft or otherwise, will always have its opportunists trying to dupe the consumer but based on the discussions you have started they will find no quarter here.

Keep on keeping us honest.


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