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Dennis Carr On Anchor Distilling’s Diverse Whisk(e)y Portfolio

May 17, 2017

A pioneer of the U.S. craft spirits category, San Francisco-based Anchor Distilling reached a volume of 230,000 cases last year, largely on the strength of its whisk(e)y range. The company’s lineup includes Old Potrero rye, Taiwan’s Kavalan and Japan’s Nikka, among others, with newcomer New Zealand Whisky Collection joining the fold this year. SND recently caught up with Anchor Distilling president Dennis Carr to get an update on progress.

SND: What does the New Zealand Whisky Collection bring to your portfolio?

Carr: We’re launching the New Zealand Whisky Collection in a couple of months. It’s sourced from a distillery that went defunct years ago and has stocks that have been sitting in barrels, kind of aging unintentionally—there’s even 25-year-old whisky there. We’ll be releasing it slowly over time. We’ll do about 200 cases this year, releasing four expressions in 375-ml. bottles (retailing from $85-$230). The distillery is currently rebuilding, and they plan on developing the brand based on this concept.

SND: On the American whiskey side, how is Old Potrero doing?

Carr: Old Potrero is doing well. We just don’t have enough. We put in a new still at the end of last year, doubling our capacity to 20,000 cases. We’re just starting to lay down more, focusing on the straight rye, which is a little more approachable for today’s rye whisk(e)y palate. But it’s a four-year aging process, so it’ll be a few years until we have significantly more liquid to release. Right now, we sell everything we make.

SND: From Taiwan, you have Kavalan ($90-$425 a 750-ml.). How is that brand faring?

Carr: Kavalan (up 170% to 8,500 cases last year) is one of the most exciting products in our portfolio. It took a while for people to understand whisky from Taiwan, but it’s now starting to grow beyond the whisky aficionados into wider markets. The big challenge is in forecasting. How do you forecast for 170% growth? Kavalan is very regimented in the way they produce. There’s a long lead time, but they do have enough resources to meet demand.

SND: What about Nikka? Any supply concerns on that front?

Carr: We still get a decent allotment of Nikka 17- and 21-year-old. We’re also importing Miyagikyo and Yoichi single malts, which previously had 12- and 15-year-old age statements. They’ve since released non-age-stated versions of those two items, offering a bit more flexibility. We’re growing Nikka at 40% a year (the brand reached 35,000 cases last year). We could sell more than we get, but we have enough to keep growing it.

SND: Are you exploring entry into any other whisk(e)y segments?

Carr: We’re actively searching for a Scotch brand, and we don’t have an Irish whisky, for example. But trying to find the right brand—something that is both very high-quality and a compelling proposition—is the key.

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