They also can do the following:
1. While their own whiskey ages, sell unaged spirits such as vodka, gin, rum, and white dog (whiskey distillate before it’s put into barrels) that can be distilled, bottled, and sold immediately.
2. Focus primarily or solely on sourcing pre-made whiskey from another distillery such as MGP, based in Indiana. Barrell is a prime example of a company that does this well. They source all their whiskey but take additional steps to blend or finish those whiskeys prior to retail. Some might argue that this technically doesn’t even count as a craft distillery since no actual distilling happens. They might be more accurately called an independent bottler, like Gordon & MacPhail is for Scotch.
3. A mix of options 1 and 2. Source whiskey until their own whiskey is ready to bottle, and then either fully replace the sourced whiskey or blend the two. High West (formerly a craft distillery but now owned by Constellation Brands) did this with their Double Rye, blending sourced and homemade whiskey. Since 2018, they only use their own whiskey for the Double Rye. Many of their other products, such as Bourye, are still made from sourced whiskeys.
There is no one best option, just the one that distillery owners think is the best for them. Each of the three options is viable and there are numerous examples each one being successful. Option 2: Sourcing, is an especially interesting path. A subsequent article on craft distilleries will go into more detail about sourcing, why some companies do it, and more.
Craft distilleries are here to stay, but not all of them will survive. The successful ones will find the best mix of doing something unique and something traditional, selling something younger and something older, and ultimately sell a great product that people love.