US Distillers Releasing “hemped” Drinks

5th September 2019

Every few years there’s a cocktail that takes the world by storm. Often a TV show is the cause, like the ubiquitous Cosmopolitan from Sex and the City or the Old Fashioned’s from Mad Men. But the latest cocktails have nothing to do with television and are all related to cannabis and hemp.

In the last few years there have been cannabis concoctions from Warren Bobrow, the esteemed mixologist and writer, plus celebrity endorsements from Gwyneth Paltrow whose Goop created a CBD-infused cocktail to ring in 2018.

Now the spirits industry is creating a line of cannabis drinks which can cash in on the growing trend. These are premixed before they even get to the bar, presumably so they can be better regulated. With increasing legislation laws, distillers are realising that they are competing directly with the creators of cannabis products and are doing everything they can to tip the scales in their favour.

There are many forward-looking distillers, such as Ted Dumbauld, who thinks that this could be a real pay off if distillers play it correctly. Dumbauld is the founder of Sono1420 which is a Connecticut-based distillery that produces a “hemped whiskey.”

“About five years ago, a friend of mine had invested in a medical cannabis company in Connecticut, and the company was about ready to go out of business,” Dunbauld said. “So he implored me to take a look at the company and join as a CEO, which I did, and I also invested in the company.”

It was in 2016, drinking whiskey with friends after attending a hemp conference that Dumbauld had a lightning flash of an idea. One that he hopes will pay dividends in the future.

“Wait a second, here's this plant that has not been able to be cultivated in the United States for almost 80 years, and one of the products coming off of the plant are these hemp seeds, which are not too dissimilar from some other grains that are used to make whiskey”

“I thought it might be able to use those hemp seeds to make a very interesting, different-tasting whiskey.”

According to a report from the Department of Agriculture, US farmers have quadrupled land planted with hemp in just the last year. In 2018, 27,424 acres were planted while this year there were 128,320 acres planted. This has been aided in large part by the passing of the Farm Bill which removed industrial hemp and its extracts from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act.

Since that time there has been a huge increase in the amount of CBD and hemp based products, particularly related to lifestyle brands. Skincare lines, pet spas and now, cocktail companies. We’re approaching shark jumping territory with CBD toothpicks, pizza, and even CBD lube.

Is this all just a gimmick?

We’ve seen fads like this come and go before, is CBD really any different? Dumbauld thinks so certainly, he believes that there is real staying power with CBD and hemp-based whiskey products as they create a fuller and richer flavour profile.

“Especially on the finish of our whiskeys, you get a bit of a nutty flavor that you would not pick up and other whiskeys,” he said. “The second thing is that hemp seeds are an oil seed, so compared to the standard grants which are mainly carbohydrates, oil seed has a much fuller mouth feel.”

The truth is definitely there to be seen as both Dumbauld’s hemped grain spirit and rye got silver medals in their respective categories at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition last year.

“It's definitely not a novelty. It's definitely not a gimmick,” Dunbauld said. “We're actually making really, really good spirits.”

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