To succeed in craft spirits, a nearly $4 billion industry, it takes patience and a winning strategy. New whiskey brands, in particular, need years to develop because of the barrel-aging process. For up-and-coming Longtucky™ Spirits, the solution to this waiting game is to enhance the tasting room experience and portray their other spirits in bright cocktails made with pure organic ginger.
Craft Spirits Industry Snapshot
Last year, the number of active craft distilleries in the U.S. grew by 15.5%, totaling $3.7 billion in sales and growing at an annual rate of 29.9%1.
With over 1,800 active distilleries, and more in planning, the industry is projected to be worth $20 billion by 20232.
Many retailers and wholesalers see the potential for craft spirits to grow in line with or surpass the market for craft beer1.
In 2017, investment by the U.S. craft spirits industry increased by $190 million reaching over $590 million in total1.
Community Crafted Tasting Room
“We are primarily a bourbon and rye distillery,” explains John Young, Co-Founder of Longtucky Spirits. “While it’s very exciting, our product is going straight into barrels and will be two years in the making. That’s why we put so much emphasis on our bar area where we showcase some of the other spirits we make here at Longtucky.”
For a small craft distillery, focusing on the tasting room is a smart move given that it will account for an average of 40% of all sales3. Longtucky™ is raising the bar thanks to their prime location, in the heart of Boulder County, and their trendy tasting room.
Getting the most out of a tasting room means creating a memorable environment; Longtucky’s hand-welded copper countertops along with cocktails made with muddled herbs and fresh fruit to accent their vodka, gin, corn whiskey and rum do just that.
Longtucky knows that early-stage success will rely heavily on their unaged spirits. Therefore, the experience of the tasting room, the quality of the cocktails, and overall presentation are essential.
One major point of differentiation for Longtucky Spirits is their formulation of in-house mixers. Their staple is a house-made ginger ale made with real organic ginger and is always on tap. Fresh botanicals like mint, orange rind, and even complex flavors like lavender or turmeric bring out the best of many of Longtucky’s spirits. Beyond flavor, the color of the botanicals provide a visual beauty to the cocktails.
Longtucky’s flavors are on point as well. Google’s Beverage Trends Report shows demand for ginger beverages is growing strongly at a 32% year-over-year growth rate. Other earthy flavors such as turmeric are top of mind for consumers searching for beverages across the different markets4.
In 2018, food and beverages must be as photo-worthy as they are delicious, according to market research firm Mintel5. When connecting with today’s consumers, “memorable experiences” are shared on social media. Therefore, along with flavor, beverage formulators should consider bright, vibrant colors to stimulate the consumer.
“When we make a cocktail with our spirits, that we put so much time and effort into, they become our signature,” says Young. “It is your first impression, and it might be your last. Having a quality product and presentation is essential to our growth, and that’s what we demand when we are finding our ingredients.”
Art takes many forms. For Longtucky the canvas is ginger.
“Craft breweries and even distilleries are beginning to use the freshest ingredients and latest techniques to create cutting-edge, and deliciously consistent products,” Young emphasizes. “Our ginger ale is the base to many of our cocktails, so pure flavor and consistency are crucial.”
Consistency is equally important when sourcing. Longmont, Colorado is a historically vibrant farming community where Longtucky can source its grains from just miles down the road to make their Colorado whiskey. However, ginger is a seasonal tropical root that is much more difficult to source with reliability.
Coincidentally, Longtucky shares a building with ingredient manufacturer Applied Food Sciences (AFS). The partnership became fruitful for Longtucky thanks to PurGinger, an organic ginger extract made by AFS. PurGinger is a popular ingredient due to its high levels of solubility and standardized active gingerol content. From functional beverages, like kombucha, to craft beer, PurGinger is an easy way for manufacturers to scale production and provide consistent flavor in beverage applications.
“I was excited to work with PurGinger,” Young says. “What appealed to us was ease of use. It was taking us three, maybe even four, hours to develop our ginger ale, grating ginger by hand to make our syrup. We struggled with any intention on scaling because that just wasn’t realistic. Working with PurGinger enables us to create a ginger concentrate without having to drain our staff. It is such a fresh flavor and everything you want in ginger compressed into a shelf-stable, dry extract.”