Let's Talk Hooch a.k.a Blog

Welcome to our blog, appropriately named "Hooch Talk". Stop by often to read about craft distillery industry related materials that are informative for distillery professionals.

Why Vodka Deserves Respect

Why Vodka Deserves Respect

Vodka hasn’t always gotten the respect it deserves, and some of that dismissiveness is understandable, if unwarranted. From a purely scientific standpoint, vodka is literally just water and ethanol. Even the official government definition says vodka is a flavorless alcohol. Translation – it isn’t all that complex or exciting. For distillers, vodka brings its own issues. The repeated distillations needed to make vodka makes it expensive to produce, which is ironic considering how simple and plain the end product is. This leads many of the craft distilleries to make flavored vodka and infusions or as a base for something like gin instead of straight up vodka.

St. Hair of the Dog’s Day

St. Hair of the Dog’s Day

Every holiday that has an alcohol inspired component to it also has the morning after coming right on its heels. Buying the whiskey or hooch is one thing, but the real price we pay is to the hair of the dog. Hangovers suck, even the mild ones. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hugging the porcelain throne or sitting in the way too bright morning light wishing your head would quit pounding. You just want it gone.

Biggest Bar Trends of 2017

Biggest Bar Trends of 2017

One of the first rules of business is that you have to give the customers what they want. It’s a simple enough concept, but some people seem to have a knack for screwing it up. Maybe it’s because they think they already know everything, or they’re so enamored with what they want to do as a business they can’t see what they need to do. Either way, ignoring trends isn't the wisest move a business can make. Even if it isn't a trend, they can be a part of, adjusting plans to handle the impact it will have on the industry is important.

4 Must Have Mobile Apps for Distillery Owners

4 Must Have Mobile Apps for Distillery Owners

Running a craft distillery tends to be like giving a rabid cat a bath in the middle of a tornado. Most of them are run on rather slim margins, and even if they are deep in the black, it isn’t like they are overflowing with personnel. The big, corporate distilleries have foreign investors throwing millions into their stock. Craft guys and gals have their dreams and lots of coffee. That is why they need to take every edge they can get, and productivity apps can be exactly that.

Want to Start a Craft Distillery? Consider This

Want to Start a Craft Distillery? Consider This

The desire to start one’s own distillery always seems to start with a moment of clarity – a drink from some generic, big brand whisky followed by the realization, “I could make better whisky than this.” Even if you’ve been a fan of good craft whiskey for years, you have probably been sipping your favorite brand and imaging what magic in a bottle you could make. After all, the real mark of greatness is that it inspires more greatness. What does it take to start your own distillery? A lot of work for starters, but there are some other things to consider before you begin building your rackhouse.

What Your Distillery Should Watch for in 2017

What Your Distillery Should Watch for in 2017

It's easy to let yourself get too set in a routine, especially if what you've been doing for so long has been working great. The problem is, that sort of thinking can make a person blind to that constant change hanging around in the air. Remember that no matter what you’re doing, or for how long it’s been done, it was once the newest thing or idea that knocked what used to be the new/big thing out of the top spot. Change will happen. How does this affect the craft liquor industry? Well, look at these new trends.

Finding the Perfect Barrel for Hooch

Finding the Perfect Barrel for Hooch

When it comes to distilling, finding the perfect barrel to make your spirits is an easy journey to start, but not so easy to finish. It's like everything in this industry. There is and always will be the cheap and easy way to do things. We've seen liquor manufacturers put great effort into making the most significant amount of booze, for the lowest cost possible. And most of us have also had the misfortune of tasting those results, either from youthful inexperience before we understood how much quality matters, or just because it was there.

Best Craft Liquor Trade Show Giveaway

Best Craft Liquor Trade Show Giveaway

Trade shows are the time for a craft distillery to stand out and shine, and show the world why their brand of liquor is a cut above the rest. The only problem is that everyone else is also doing that, and chances are their product is also excellent – different, but every bit as good. This is when the cold hard gods of marketing need to be called on. Distilleries have to get their product noticed, or they aren’t going to make it. Chances are, you already have the samples ready to go, but there is still more to do.

Inauguration Inebriation

Inauguration Inebriation

Well, the big day is here. Inauguration Day. Now we get to see the peaceful transfer of power from the president to president-elect of the most powerful and influential nation in history. Half of you will see this as a rollback of the progress made on many fronts over the last fifty years. The other half will see today as the first day of a brighter future where the shackles will have been taken off the economy, after nearly two decades of malaise, and prosperity will return to all. To each his own. Don’t let this day, and your views on it ruin your relationships.

A Lesson in Whiskey

A Lesson in Whiskey

Whiskey is not some singular thing. It's about as generic of a term as car or soda. I'm sure that most everyone reading knows this, but let’s be realistic. Not everyone working in the distillery industry is a hard liquor scholar. There are more than a few partnerships where the one who knows the booze side of things handles making the hooch, and the one with the business sense makes sure it gets sold. There are also accountants, IT people, and office managers who help to make sure we can get our drink on who don't know all the technicalities of the various forms whiskey can take.

What Your Distillery Can Learn from Going to Tradeshows

What Your Distillery Can Learn from Going to Tradeshows

There was once some wise individual who said something to the effect, “Just shut up and listen, will ya’.” It’s good advice for life, and it’s something that can work for craft distillery tradeshows as well. Sure, tradeshows are mainly about self-promotion and getting distributors, restaurants, and other vendors to notice your fine spirits. After all, you need to get people to buy your liquor to make money. There is more a distillery owner or manager can do other than promoting their brand, and that is watch, listen, and learn.

Farewell 2016

Farewell 2016

It’s a safe bet that 2016 will go down in history as one of those years everyone will say they want to forget as they talk non-stop about how bad it was to their friends. No doubt there will be endless toasts celebrating its demise this New Years. 2016 had its moments, that’s for sure, but why do we hate it so bad? There have been plenty of worse years, and I’m not talking that far back in history like 1916, 1929-1945, or 1968. 2001 and 2008, 09, and 10 were far more difficult years than 2016. So why the hate? Because we need the catharsis.

Holiday Toasts

Holiday Toasts

The year is almost over and now we turn to our friends and family to share the love and connection we feel to those closest to us. As much as we care about the people around us, sometimes it’s difficult to find the right words at the right time. As nice as it would be to sound clever or insightful, most of us end up droning on with uninspired crap like, “Sam you are awesome. And Linda, you’re also awesome. It’s been great and stuff.”

Distilleries of the Past

Distilleries of the Past

It’s easy to get caught up in the romanticism of the “good ole' days." In the liquor industry, we actively try and do as much as we can the same way it was done a century or two ago, at least when it comes to the actual craft of making the product. Sure, some labor-saving machines increase production scale. And, don't forget the backend lifesavers like accounting software that keep you compliant with the man. But, we still use oak barrels and rackhouses instead of plastic vats and a glorified lab.

Tips for Distillery Managers

Tips for Distillery Managers

Distillery managers have a tough job. On the one hand, they’re working at a company that has to make a profit, just like any other cubicle farm in the big city. On the other, making spirits is more than a job. It’s a calling steeped in tradition. There is an inherent level of passion found in people working at all levels of a distillery that doesn’t exist in companies that make gaskets or slip covers.

Out of This World, or the Next, Cocktails

Out of This World, or the Next, Cocktails

There’s something to be said for classic cocktails and mixers. When you can enjoy the same drink that people were sharing when sitting around the bar arguing whether or not Teddy Roosevelt was going for another term, it shows how durable good taste can be and it shows respect for the traditions behind the liquor.

The Best Craft Spirits for Holiday Gifts

The Best Craft Spirits for Holiday Gifts

With the demise of Turkey Day, the official start of the holiday season is upon us. It doesn't matter if you call it Christmas, Yule, Hanukah, Kwanza, Festivus, or just another Sunday. It's also time for a little shopping. Some of it will be easy. There are our casual acquaintances and coworkers who we will buy gift baskets full of meat and cheese or sweet soaps, and maybe the kids (our own or nieces and nephews) who will want toys, or gift cards if they're teens. What about your real friends and your closest grown up family members? For them, you should get something that they will enjoy and remember.

Drinks to Celebrate or Mourn the 2016 Election

Drinks to Celebrate or Mourn the 2016 Election

Politics is often the third rail of business. Say the wrong thing or admit to supporting a candidate that a customer doesn’t like, and a sweet business relationship can go down the crapper faster than sliders the day after a visit to White Castle. Unless politics is somehow directly tied to your business, you are almost always better off avoiding the subject. Even if you know your political leanings are in sync with a customer or client, word of which side you’re on might get out and cause friction with another one.

Choosing the Right Distillery Software

Choosing the Right Distillery Software

There’s a good chance that, if you happen to be a distillery owner or are part of the management team of one, google has slipped several ads for distillery software into the webpages you visit. There are a ton of choices out there, but just like the liquor industry, there are the top-shelf accounting software suites and the bottom of the barrel rotgut some companies churn out to turn a quick buck. There’s a good chance that, if you happen to be a distillery owner or are part of the management team of one, google has slipped several ads for distillery software into the webpages you visit. There are a ton of choices out there, but just like the liquor industry, there are the top-shelf accounting software suites and the bottom of the barrel rotgut some companies churn out to turn a quick buck.

Advantages of Distillery Software

Advantages of Distillery Software

Owning and operating a distillery requires a lot of working capital and resources, and not just in terms of money. It takes a good deal of time, along with a unique level of expertise, to make the liquor. Then it needs to be marketed and gotten to your vendors, which requires even more experts handling the business side of things. There are also a ton of rules and regulations a distillery must adhere to while doing all of this. Keeping track of it all is a daunting task.

The Best Hot Drinks to Fight off the Chill

The Best Hot Drinks to Fight off the Chill

I might be channeling Yogi Berra a little bit here, but one of the best things about the weather turning cold is keeping warm. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve been running errands all weekend on a damp winter day, or if you’ve been out hunting since before sunup. That chill will seep into your bones, and getting back into a warm house where you can call it a day is one of the best feelings in the world. Why not make it better by topping it off with a hot drink? Here are a few drinks to give you the ideal pick me up.

The History of "Bottled-In-Bond"

The History of "Bottled-In-Bond"

As a small business owner, working in a heavily regulated industry, having to deal with all the rules and red tape to get even the simplest things done can grate on the nerves something terrible. It seems like every other week there is either a new rule we have to work with, or an existing one gets made more complicated. And the government is strict with all sides of the liquor industry. Other businesses can get away with a lot more than we can.

Whiskey Econ 101

Whiskey Econ 101

One of the big questions lots of people asks when they get that first idea about opening a distillery is, “How is the hard liquor market doing?” They probably already heard enough that it’s doing well, but how well? Is it just the big boys raking in the cash or can a small independent operator make a good living?

The Best Hard Drinks for Fall

The Best Hard Drinks for Fall

As fun as summer is, there comes a point where the days sweating our butts off going to the grocery store outnumber the fun days on the lake or being out on vacation. Eventually we want the cooler days and crisp nights of autumn to come around and give us a break from the heat.

Legal Liquor in Alabama and What it Means to You

Legal Liquor in Alabama and What it Means to You

Well about a year ago, The John Emerald Distilling Company put out the first whisky to be legally distilled in Alabama in 100 years. That’s wonderful news. It was a pretty small batch, but a lucky few get to sample some wonder regional liquor from the Yellow Hammer State. It also highlights a major problem facing many men and women with dreams of opening their own distillery.

Finding the Perfect Distillery Solution Supplier

Finding the Perfect Distillery Solution Supplier

One thing about the distillery industry is that nothing ever stays the same. As soon as a new bunch of politicians get elected, there comes the new and/or changed laws and regulations – usually right after we just got used to the old ones. There also seems to be a new trend popping up every other week, for better or worse. And new markets emerge along with other distilleries trying to do the same thing you are.

Distillery Warning: Understand the Olympic Marketing Rules Before Mentioning the Brand

Distillery Warning: Understand the Olympic Marketing Rules Before Mentioning the Brand

One of the more useful ways to market on social media is to ride the coattails of something huge. Some of the first big things that come to mind are the Super Bowl, The NBA Championships, or something like The Olympics going on now in Rio. But before you end any tweets about your new batch of golden whisky with #GoFortheGold, you better pay mind to the rules for using any of the Olympics’ brand recognition on social media.

What You Need to Know When the TTB Calls

What You Need to Know When the TTB Calls

We all know what the TTB is, and we also know that we will all get a visit from them one day. It’s an unavoidable part of running a distillery. A lot of owners like to put on a brave face, and act like getting audited is no big deal. All their books are in order, and they got nothing to hide. The same can be said of most distilleries, but dealing with an agency that has that much power over your livelihood is nerve-racking on principle.

5 Companies That are Rocking 2016 and What Your Distillery Can Learn From Them

5 Companies That are Rocking 2016 and What Your Distillery Can Learn From Them

Each business and industry, including craft distilleries, has its own litany of things that work or don’t work. However, some ideas can cross over. Some companies are built and run by experts while others are built by geniuses who change everything. Take the time to have a good hard look at what innovators in other industries are doing. They might be doing something that can kick your distillery into high gear.

Market Your Craft Liquor—3 Tips for Marketing to the Back to College Crowd

Market Your Craft Liquor—3 Tips for Marketing to the Back to College Crowd

It’s getting close to back to school time. Many of the people running distilleries might not take notice. After all, the first thoughts that spring to mind are crayons, backpacks, and notebooks for the kids. Hard liquor isn’t on the list there. But there is one group going back to school this fall who might be a good idea to market to. College students.

Favorite Presidential Hard Drinks

Favorite Presidential Hard Drinks

Every job has its own bits of stress that goes along with it, and that goes double for being President of the United States. Even during the years without wars and depressions, there’s always the other headaches that come from running the country. Past or present it doesn’t matter. It’s no surprise that most of our presidents liked a drink or three to deal with the long days, or to start one off. Most of them stuck to beers, wine, or various kinds of liquor. Not that there’s anything wrong with those choices, but a few of our past leaders liked drinks that were a little more exotic or exciting.

5 Habits of Successful Distillery Owners

5 Habits of Successful Distillery Owners

It takes more than big dreams and good recipes to run a successful distillery. Just because it’s a passion doesn’t mean that it isn’t a business that needs all the usual attention a business requires. It takes a lot to make a distillery successful. Going in willy-nilly and hoping things spontaneously work out is a sure way to failure. Some industry veterans will give any budding distillery owner tons of advice - some good, some more of an entertaining anecdote. It’s a great way to learn. If you don’t get a chance to talk to one of these gurus, here are five things to keep in mind if you want your distillery to be a success.

The Taxman Loves Your Liquor

The Taxman Loves Your Liquor

We all know that old saying, “The only sure things in life are death and taxes.” It’s also ironic how much liquor is taxed, considering taxes are one of the big reasons we have the occasional drink. We all understand that taxes are a necessary evil…part of the time. We need roads, a strong military, and good schools. What our tax dollars all too often get us are shrimp running on treadmills and schools that produce high school graduates who can’t read the diploma they’re given.

Speakeasies—A Look at Selling Craft Whiskey in the Past

When a mouthy bunch of paranoid people got the beer and liquor banned in the United States, there were scores of restaurants and bars that were forced to shut down. It’s hard to run a business when the very product you sell suddenly becomes illegal. Many of these were old establishments that had been run by the same family for generations, while others were startups built by people reaching for the American dream. All of it was gone, and the fallout was that no one had a place to legally gather and drink with their friends.

What Does Your Cocktail Say About You?

Most people enter a bar looking to meet someone or looking to have a good time. If you look closely enough, you can learn a lot about people based on their beverage of choice. Let’s face it a drunk girl dancing in the corner on a Friday night isn’t the most attractive person in the bar. But, who’s to say that she didn’t have a bad week and needed to let loose. You can’t be too perceptive when it comes to meeting people in a bar. One way to learn a lot about a person is the study the beverage he or she is drinking. Let’s have a look.

A Lesson in Rackhouse and Proof

A Lesson in Rackhouse and Proof

Most people go through life enjoying whatever products they use, without ever considering what it takes to make them, let alone make them good. It’s human nature. We have enough on our minds without wasting time wondering how they get the plastic straws wrapped up in their paper sheaths. Still, some things are more important than plastic straws and people should know how much work goes into making something amazing. And by something amazing, I mean craft whiskey and bourbon, or any worthwhile liquor.

The Hardest State to Start a Distillery

Saying which state is the hardest to open a craft distillery in is a hard question to answer. The laws and regulations in one state are different than another, plus there’s the federal regulations to deal with, but they each poses their own unique problems that will be harder for some to beat than others. Some states have old laws still on the books from back during prohibition, others laws are there because of modern moralist/ temperance fanatics. Then you have the ones that are there to protect the people making all the money.

Backwoods Rebels and Outlaws and the Birth of Racing

Backwoods Rebels and Outlaws and the Birth of Racing

If horse racing is the sport of kings, NASCAR is the sport of rebels and outlaws. It reflects a big difference in the attitudes and history of these sports. Horse racing, as we know it, grew out of war. Kings and emperors would send their best knights and warriors to face off in tournaments, like all the jousting you see in the movies. It was done as a display of wealth and authority. They wanted to let the little people know just how much power and authority their rulers had.

Top 7 Summer Spirited Drinks

Top 7 Summer Spirited Drinks

Seasons often trigger the senses. And as the seasons changes, so does our palate. So it makes sense that certain craft spirits taste better during particular seasons. With summer quickly approaching, it’s time to stock up on the right craft spirits to keep your taste buds tantalized. Here is a list of the seven best spirited beverages for summer.

Prohibition from the Mouths of Those Who Were There

The most trying times can bring out the best in people, or the worst in people. Sometimes though, it brings out clever things to say. Prohibition is definitely one of those times. The people who needed a drink had it bad. The people tasked with stopping them from having a drink had it bad. The people bootlegging the illegal liquor had it bad, but at least they had fat wallets to kind of make things better.

The Manhattan Bootleg Wars

Managing a craft distillery today may be challenging, but it’s no where near as complicated as it was in the 20’s. Distillers today worry about compliance. Those of past worried less about following the rules…In fact, most of the time it was a war between rival gangs about who made the rules.

The Justice System, Jerry Springer, and Jack “Legs” Diamond’s Legacy

The Justice System, Jerry Springer, and Jack “Legs” Diamond’s Legacy

Every moonshiner and bootlegger has a story about how he got started. Most of the time, it’s folks carrying on a family tradition or making a living the only way they know how. Noble reasons or not, bootlegging is an illegal activity, and it can attract the kind of people you don’t dare look at sideways. When it boils down to it, there are two types of outlaws in this world – those who turn to crime because they don’t have any other choice and those who are just plain mean.

6 Common TTB Compliance Issues (And How to Avoid Them)

Running a successful craft distillery requires the mastery of two things: recipes and record keeping. Not only are distillers concerned with creating mouth-watering products that consumers will love, but they also need to essentially track the lifespan of every bottle produced — from its time in the still to the moment it’s placed in a buyer’s hands.

Distilling the Past

Distilling the Past

There is no escaping the impact moonshine and distillers have had on the world and pop culture. NASCAR was born from moonshiners’ modding their cars to smuggle the booze and outrun the cops. The Dukes of Hazard was rooted in this legacy. (Bonus points if you knew the show was based off the 1975 movie Moonrunners, which was inspired by true events.)

Combat the Two Most Common Headaches for Distillers:  TTB Reports and Inventory Control

Combat the Two Most Common Headaches for Distillers: TTB Reports and Inventory Control

For most distillers, TTB audits make them wish that prohibition still existed and that bathtub hooch sold in speak easies was a modern day reality. After all, secretly distilling whiskey and competing with Al Capone himself to sell your brand on the black market is comparably easier than complying with the government regulations in contemporary craft distilling.