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Four craft spirits brands to watch for in 2017

SPONSORED — The holidays might be over, but you’ve got an entire year ahead to make your spirits bright. Already, 2017 is promising to bring craft spirit enthusiasts reason to clink a glass all year long. Our picks for top craft spirits reflect each brand’s product innovation, recognition within the craft industry, room for growth in the market, ability to scale to meet increased demand and unique or interesting products or business models.

Fill your highball with one of the brands poised to make a huge breakout in the coming year.

Heritage Distilling Company (Gig Harbor, Washington, and Eugene, Oregon)

If accolades say anything about a company’s future, Heritage Distilling’s looks awfully bright. Winning more awards than any other craft distillery in North America in the past three years, Heritage has become the best-known craft brand in the Pacific Northwest. With three tasting rooms in the area and two more under construction, this brand is already making a showing in California, New York, Illinois, North Carolina and Washington, D.C.

Newbies to Heritage might want to try out the BSB Brown Sugar Bourbon, one of the distiller’s biggest hits across the nation. Its flavored vodkas and Batch No. 12 bourbon, vodka and gin are also popular picks – particularly for crazed Seahawks fans (you heard it here).

This year is bound to transform Heritage into a nationally known distiller, particularly because the brand is currently in plans to expand even more with the construction of a new, larger Washington location — soon making them one of the top volume craft brands nationally within two years.

FEW Spirits (Evanston, Illinois)

Not all big players look the part. This unassuming — but major — powerhouse in the craft space is focused on its core lineup of rye whiskey, bourbon, American style gin and barrel-aged gin. With its clean packaging and a high-end, quality product, it’s easy to spot a FEW spirit on the shelf. With distribution currently in Illinois, New York and California, FEW’s reach is bound to expand in the coming months. The bottom line: FEW presents an interesting brand for any company looking to access the craft market with a clean, focused and uniform look. So have a glass — or a FEW.

Balcones Distilling (Waco, Texas)

Breaking up is hard to do, but Balcones Distilling in Waco, Texas, is proving that moving on — and thriving — is far from impossible. After undergoing a public and painful fight with its former founder, the new owners may see 2017 as the year they start realizing the fruits of their labors.

Featuring a selection of consistently great products, including multiple award-winning whiskeys, everything about Balcones is poised for explosive growth, particularly due to its increased capacity and ability to scale.

You’ll recognize Balcones by its eye-catching labels. Don’t worry, the product is just as good — if not better — than the packaging.

Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. (Fort Worth, Texas)

Ask any Texan: Whiskey is serious stuff. Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. in Fort Worth couldn’t agree more. While the state has long been dominated by vodka producers, Firestone & Robertson (along with Balcones) are proving that everything is bigger and better in Texas — even whiskey. It’s hard to miss the brand’s spirits on the shelf, thanks to the giant Texas on the label. Stemming from a long line of top-notch lineage, Firestone & Robertson is well-funded and poised to stake its claim as a top craft brand this year. Ready to try it out yourself? The distillery just released its latest batch of product, so get the inside taste today.

A changing industy

While you’re enjoying your next craft spirit, keep in mind some recent mergers and acquisitions are promising to continue transforming the industry. In 2015, Mahalo Spirits Group invested in Bardstown Bourbon Co. of Kentucky, financing a $25 million distillery. The same year, Angels Envy Bourbon sold to Bacardi for $150 million. Hood Rivers Distillers of Oregon acquired Seattle’s Big Gin last May, and Constellation Brands acquired High West Distillers of Park City, Utah in October. Most recently, Davos Brands of New York acquired Aviation Gin of Portland, Ore., and Remy Cointreau of France acquired Seattle’s Westland Distillery.

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