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The golden age of American whiskey?

SPONSORED — No, actually. It’s the brown age.

That’s the color we look for in our great whiskeys, and the world’s appetite for America’s dark spirits is written all over the trends in the distilling business whether it’s the growth of young, ambitious distilleries like Heritage Distilling Co., out of Gig Harbor, Wash., or global giants like Suntory Japanese Whisky, a house that is nearly 100 years old, and in 2014 paid $16 billion to purchase Jim Beam.

And for those interested in whiskey – which increasingly translates to “everyone” – here are some of the top trends to watch for in 2018:

Going with the grain

The recipes have always mattered. After all, there’s a law requiring that the mash used to make bourbon be at least 50 percent corn for the resulting liquor to be labeled as straight Kentucky bourbon.

But never have the exact proportions and ingredients mattered more for customers, and there will be increased focus on the types of grains used in the whiskey in every way from incorporating grains that are not typically used in whiskeys – like quinoa – to grains that are specified right down to the region they’re grown in.

Heritage Distilling Co. gets its corn and wheat from Eastern Washington from family farms like Scrupps’ in Odessa while the rye used for bottles like “Dual Barrel Old Fashioned Ready Rye” comes from Vancouver, Wash.

Expect to see more distillers being increasingly specific about their grains in 2018.

Over a barrel

What started as a storage vessel in the aging process has become not just an essential part of the recipe, but a variable that can be used to impart a different flavor. Using barrels formerly used to store something else as part of the finishing process, can add a specific flavor, and results in some very interesting creations.

Brewers are in on the act, too, and you can expect more and more alliances with distilleries creating different flavor combinations for both beer and spirits.

These unique combinations lend themselves perfectly to the limited-edition releases that distillers hope will create a cult following much in the way limited-edition beers have for microbreweries.

Spirited references

Did you notice liquor ads during the football season? Because they were there for the first time in decades, our country’s top pro-football league authorizing the airing of one liquor ad per game. NBC has also commissioned a sit-com dubbed “Sour Mash,” which is set in a distillery.

It’s all part of the momentum that is building up behind American spirits.

Whether it’s small local distilleries or massive investment from legacy distillers like Buffalo Trace in Kentucky, whisky has become big business, and there is a global appetite not just for whiskey, but for American whiskey in particular throughout 2018.

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