No one wants to drink what their parents drank…
Mad Men, Prohibition-style cocktails, trendy bars and their mixologists…it all contributes. I’ve heard that whiskey is a fad and that young people will move on to the next thing soon enough. Maybe. Youth is fickle. But here’s a few differences separating the whiskey boom today from vodka craze of the late 20th century.
1. American pride. Whiskey helped form this country and has huge historic roots that run deep in the American psyche. Vodka can’t claim that.
2.Vodka doesn’t take time to make. There is no aging process. It can be produced quickly and can’t compare to the level of “craft” that goes into whiskey production. Modern people love their craft products.
3.The definition of vodka in the U.S. states that “Vodka is a neutral spirits product without distinctive character aroma, or taste.” Whiskey is only distilled twice to retain more flavor compounds and is then aged in charred oak barrels to impart it with much more. Whiskey is a nuanced and very flavorful liquor that differs a great deal from one brand to the next, even if distilled from the same ingredients in the same percentages.
4.Whiskey takes commitment from its producers. Large producers are rivaling the huge overstocked warehouses of the 70’s when whiskey took a nose dive and vodka sales went up. The sting of market losses in whiskey still burn in their collective memories and they know to be careful. But here’s the difference. Whiskey is better now. It may have been that people wanted lighter whiskeys in the past, but tastes have changed and the whiskey being made now (in bulk) rivals that from before Prohibition. Whiskey is back!!
5. The craft beer movement that started in the nineties is still going strong today. Microbreweries became more popular and beer bars began to proliferate. I can’t think of a bar in America that ever opened and served only Vodka drinks. Now whiskey can’t really compare to beer’s resurgence. Microbreweries were fighting the good fight against the beer giants (like Bud and Coors) that beer drinkers no longer wanted, but micro-distilleries have no such fight. No one argues about the quality of the big distillers. However, the movement to bring distilling back to America and provide variety of flavors and new products is just as strong as the beer movement. Beer drinkers and distillers unite!
6. Whiskey is just now finding its footing legally. Home brewing is legal but home distilling IS NOT. The large number of new whiskey entrepreneurs are now changing laws to accommodate the new demand. Laws are what is required to open up competition and allow for more distilleries in the U.S. My own state of Pennsylvania only just passed the law allowing distilleries to operate in 2011, and there are about 70 new distilleries since then!