Kansas Clean Distilled Whiskey Kicks the Brown Out of Brown Spirits
"The problem with whiskey is that it's aged," says marketing copy for relatively new-to-market Kansas Clean Distilled Whiskey. If you drink liquor at all on a regular basis, that statement might make you do a double-take. In fact, the company’s entire schtick is based on the assumption that whiskey is considered an old man’s drink, and that it’s too harsh for young, hip folks to really like.
That idea doesn’t jibe with whiskey’s recent and ongoing meteoric rise in popularity — the exact bump that led Maker’s Mark to worry about its dwindling-faster-than-expected supply and consider watering it down. The brown spirits trend is not exactly new, either. A National Restaurant News report from 2010 had this to say on the topic:
"If you’ve been paying attention at all to the cocktail circuit of late, you’ll be aware that brown spirits — whiskeys, rums, brandies, and the like — are on a bit of a tear these days."
Apparently Rochester, N.Y.-based Fabulous American Beverage (maker of Kansas) has not been paying attention of late. However, it is true that vodka remains the top-selling spirit in the U.S., so despite the cachet and hipness of whiskey, producing a lighter spirit lets a company tap into a larger market.
Kansas is light. It's made from amber winter wheat, a lighter grain than the corn, barley, or rye most brown spirits start with. It's then distilled in a column still instead of the usual pot still. A column still is what is usually used to make vodka, because it allows for filtration to a clear, clean spirit. And that’s what appears to come out of Kansas’ still; the company says the distillate is combined with a bit of non-filtered "artisanal" whiskey before being bottled.
So, as Food Republic pointed out, the company has basically created a whiskey-flavored vodka. Kansas even goes so far as to suggest that regular whiskey doesn’t work well in cocktails, while simultaneously ragging on vodka for being flavorless. Is this a "best of both worlds" or a "can’t have your cake and eat it too" scenario?
We haven’t tasted Kansas yet, so can’t pass judgement on that side of things. However, the whole brand has a whiff of trying too hard. For example, the bottles are so unique they are partly made in a boutique perfume bottle factory. What, exactly, is a "boutique" factory? And also, the font. The company wants you to notice that the name of the whiskey is also the logo (wow!). And that the font used was discovered at myfonts.com (wow, again?). Oh, and also that it was kerned by the font’s original designer (maybe kind of cool, but we’re over it already).
If you like big sunglasses, bikinis, berets, and don’t mind being blatantly led down an uberhip promotional path (or mind an all-Flash website), Kansas whiskey is probably for you. If you actually like whiskey, probably not.
— Danya Henninger, The Drink Nation
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