The Potemkin Temptation or, The Intoxicating Effect of Rhetoric and Narrativity on American Craft Whiskey
Imbibers beware: Many American craft whiskey distilleries aren’t “distilleries” at all. They neither distill whiskey nor barrel age it. Instead, they purchase stock whiskey from industrial alcohol plants and then, after diluting it to bottle proof with local water, sell it as their own.; ; Trained readers can spot the “tells” that give these Potemkin whiskeys away. But most consumers cannot, and are duped into paying a premium for what they thought was an artisanal product from a particular place. Meanwhile, “bona fide” craft distillers—those who do make authentic craft whiskey—struggle to compete.; ; The legal response has been predictable and inadequate. It will remain inadequate unless reformers take seriously the ways rhetoric and narrativity lure both consumers and producers into fooling themselves. For while the Potemkin Temptation is unavoidable, its effects can be curbed.