The Hardest State to Start a Distillery

The Hardest State to Start a Distillery

Saying which state is the hardest to open a craft distillery in is a hard question to answer. The laws and regulations in one state are different than another, plus there’s the federal regulations to deal with, but they each poses their own unique problems that will be harder for some to beat than others. Some states have old laws still on the books from back during prohibition, others laws are there because of modern moralist/ temperance fanatics. Then you have the ones that are there to protect the people making all the money. 

It’s Always About the Lawyers 

It’s a sad testament as to our current system when a lot of the answer depends on how good your lawyers are, and how much money you have to throw around at the politicians. Some of the laws regarding distilleries are so arcane and confusing that all it takes is one thin skinned bureaucrat to find a loophole that will either keep a distillery from ever opening or at the very least delay it from getting off the ground for months or even years.  

Big time distilleries have already seen what’s happened to big beer makers like Anheuser-Busch InBev. That’s the Belgian company who makes Budweiser. Let’s be honest. Budweiser is the fast food of beer. Craft beers and spirits are the good, family owned restaurants. A single craft beverage maker doesn’t hurt Anheuser-Busch InBev one bit, but craft breweries and distilleries hit the big boys like a swarm of bees.  

A person’s favorite craft beverage might not be available the next state over, but when they travel to that next state, they know to try the native craft beverage instead of the nationally available bottle of horse urine. Craft distilleries will do the same thing to big name distilleries, and the big boys know this. So they are taking precautions. 

Protecting the Big Boys 

States like Tennessee have laws and regulations in place to protect big players in the industry, and to be overly fair, protect their own reputations for what it means to be Tennessee Whiskey. To be able to legally call something Tennessee Whiskey, a distillery has to be made in Tennessee. That’s the no-brainer part. But a new law, conveniently enacted in 2013, states that all Tennessee Whiskey produced has to be filtered using what is called the “Lincoln County Process” before being aged. And in case you didn’t already know it, Lincoln County is where Jack Daniels calls home. So if you are in Tennessee and have a liquor recipe that has been in your Tennessee family for a couple of hundred Tennessee years, you can only legally call it Tennessee Whiskey if you make it the way Jack Daniels tells you to.  

States on Board 

Other states have taken an opposite approach and decided to get in on the growing craft distillery boom. Washington State has around 80 of them, Colorado around 50, and Michigan follows up with about 40. So if your state is working hard to keep new jobs and industry from taking root, one of these places might be for you. It could even be used as a clever bit of marketing. Crazy Baby: The Tennessee Whiskey Made in Washington Because we Couldn’t Afford the Politicians.