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American Whiskeys Find Their Middlemen

A decade ago, there were just a few hundred distilleries in the country; today there are more than 2,000, many of them too small to distribute their spirits nationally. That means that while liquor store shelves are overflowing with choices, they present an uneven cross-section of what is actually being made.

March 30, 2021 / 04:34 PM IST
Joe Beatrice, the founder of Barrell Craft Spirits, in Louisville, Ky., March 18, 2021. Beatrice said he and his team will spend up to a month designing a blended whiskey. (PC-Aaron Borton/The New York Times)

Joe Beatrice, the founder of Barrell Craft Spirits, in Louisville, Ky., March 18, 2021. Beatrice said he and his team will spend up to a month designing a blended whiskey. (PC-Aaron Borton/The New York Times)

Some couples bond over music, movies or travel. For Nora Ganley-Roper and Adam Polonski, it was Scotch whisky.

When they started dating six years ago, Ganley-Roper, a manager at Astor Wines & Spirits in Manhattan, and Polonski, a senior writer at Whisky Advocate magazine, found they were both big admirers of Scotland’s independent bottlers, which purchase barrels of whisky from single-malt distilleries and sell them under their own label, sometimes after blending them together.

“I was writing a story about Scottish independent bottlers and asking myself, why isn’t anyone doing this in the U.S.?” Polonski said.

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