Guest comment: The myth of micro-distilling

The author is a New York City writer and editor. This commentary appeared on The Atlantic magazine's online site.

By Clay Risen

In a recent profile of New York-area micro-distillers, The New York Times praised the way that, like craft charcuteries and urban apiaries, these small-bore labors of love churned out a better product than their larger, more established cousins. "Virtually all craft distillers use small pot stills rather than the huge column stills used by the industry giants," wrote author Toby Cecchini. "Though more labor-intensive, these more faithfully capture the essence of fruit and grain, and let a distiller precisely select what part of the distilling run to use to create the most nuanced styles and flavors."

... I've written admiringly of some of the distillers he mentions in his piece, including Tuthilltown, Breuckelen, and Kings County, in this space over the past year. It's hard not to love people who spend their free time making alcoholic beverages. But there's a difference between praising their efforts and lauding the outcomes.

When it comes to the craft food movement, one of the operating assumptions is that smaller is better. Corporate ownership and large-scale production are not only karmically bad, but they guarantee an inferior product. Two guys carving up meat in a rented kitchen, we're told, will always do better than Oscar Mayer.

This is, of course, ridiculous.

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