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Virginia ABC > About > Media Room > 2020 > September is Spirits Month

September is Spirits Month

August 26, 2020

News Release Contact:

Taylor Thornberg/ Amy Ciarametaro - (804) 921-5163/ (757) 535-5829
Email: [email protected]/ [email protected]

Virginia Distilleries Kick Off Fifth Annual September Virginia Spirits Month Campaign

Virginia Spirits Month

Collaborative efforts between the Virginia Distillers Association and the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority continue to support the Commonwealth’s burgeoning distilled spirits industry.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, spirits are high amongst Virginia distillers and imbibers of local craft spirits alike, as the Virginia Distillers Association (VDA) prepares to launch the fifth annual month-long celebration of September Virginia Spirits Month, where it’s “5 O’clock for 30 days,” as the campaign tagline suggests. The annual initiative serves as a launching pad for consumer educational programs which promote the local craft spirits industry while also championing this year’s historic 400th anniversary of Virginia as the Birthplace of American Spirits; where the first batch of corn whiskey was distilled in 1620. The commonwealth has come a long way since 1620, with state support for local spirits producers that is unprecedented by national standards.

Since the inception of the September Virginia Spirits Month campaign in 2016, annual September sales of Virginia spirits have increased by more than 134%, proving Virginians have a strong thirst for local products. As the cornerstone for this year’s September campaign promotions, the VDA produced a series of 25 lighthearted and informative videos featuring product tastings and how-to instructional cocktail recipes highlighting craft spirits from across the commonwealth. VDA and featured distilleries will share daily videos throughout September on social media platforms to promote the “It’s 5 O’clock for 30 days” campaign.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted distillers and producers across the state, regulatory adjustments have provided some relief. Thanks to support from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC), Virginia residents can now temporarily order their favorite bottles of Virginia spirits online and have them safely shipped or delivered directly to their homes.

While many Virginia spirits are discounted all month long at ABC’s retail stores and distillery stores, Virginia ABC will also offer a special one-day-only 20% off  in-store purchases  of ten select Virginia spirits as part of their Virginia-themed “Spirited Thursday” promotion on Sept. 10, 2020, called “Virginia Spirits Day.” Customers can find more information on Virginia ABC’s website: www.abc.virginia.gov/products/promotions.

“The key to success this year, especially during these challenging times, is a willingness to adapt, support and participate in new forms of market access extended to our industry,” explains Gareth H. Moore, President of the VDA and CEO of Virginia Distillery Company, in Lovingston, Virginia. “Unlike prior September Virginia Spirits Month campaigns where we created programming that encouraged consumers to visit our distillery– this year we’re bringing the campaign directly to Virginia consumers. Promotional tastings will all be virtual, but more importantly, we’re able to utilize an impactful form of new market access, specifically Direct to Consumer shipping and delivery privileges which are a win for distilleries, consumers, and Virginia ABC.

If we don’t sell our products, the state misses out on potential revenues.” Moore said.

“Virginia’s distilleries are helping define the commonwealth as a beverage destination,” said Virginia ABC CEO Travis Hill. “We want Virginians to stay safe, and we want to support Virginia distilleries; these Virginia businesses are an extension of Virginia ABC, and supporting this new form of market access via direct shipping to customers means they can continue to employ their staff and operate their businesses during these uncertain times,” Hill added.

“The local spirits industry is a dynamic part of the state’s tourism portfolio, and we’re delighted to champion our local liquor producers throughout September and all year long,” says Rita McClenny, Virginia Tourism Corporation President and CEO. “We’re excited to see how the industry evolves as a result of new forms of market access, creating an even stronger signature industry for the state while embracing the rich and layered history as we surpass 400 years of crafting spirits in the commonwealth,” said McClenny.

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  • Why September?
  • It’s a great bridge-month to enjoy both clear spirits (often enjoyed more frequently in the spring/summer) and barrel-matured spirits (often enjoyed more in the fall/winter).

  • How will we celebrate ‘It’s 5 O’clock for 30 days’ this year?
  • The Virginia Distillers Association and featured distilleries will be sharing daily video footage on social media channels featuring resident “Virginia Spirits Enthusiast – Matt Jones,” as he reviews products and prepares cocktails with fun insights and observations about the uniqueness these Virginia spirits.

  • How many distilleries are there in Virginia?
  • There are 73* active licensed distilleries. There are another 11* pending licenses; which means we will have over 80* distilleries in the commonwealth in the not too distant future.
    *Stats pulled from Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority

  • What types of spirits do Virginia distilleries produce?
  • Barrel-matured whiskeys (e.g. bourbon, rye, single malt, moonshine), gin, rum, brandy, various liqueurs, aquavit, and even absinthe.

  • Understanding our ‘sense of place’:
  • Virginia’s latitude spans roughly 39.5°N to 36.5°S, and 76°W to 83.5°W. We’re located right next to the Atlantic Ocean, which renders a maritime climate for the eastern side of the state (anything east of the Blue Ridge). Due to the distance from the ocean, elevation, and other factors, the mountainous areas west of the Blue Ridge are considered a continental climate. Most of Virginia is humid in the spring and summer. The fall seasons are cool, and our winters tend to experience a significant amount of snowfall especially in central and western Virginia. In addition, there is a large range in the diurnal temperature. This creates a ‘sense of place’ for our spirits for several reasons:
       o The Virginia humidity, heat, and change in temperatures daily and year-round help to extract all the wonderful characteristics imparted by barrel maturation;
       o We’re able to grow many of the raw materials (corn, wheat, barley, rye) used in the production of our distilled Virginia spirits. In Virginia, we take pride in the fact that you can enjoy a Virginia spirit from grain to glass, and from farm to bottle.

  • Types of distillers in Virginia:
  • Virginia distillers are dynamic and experienced. Many were born and raised in Virginia, while others bring their expertise from all around the world to share their “spirit” and knowhow. They range in age (our youngest distiller is 22 and our oldest is 83) and gender, as we have several women distillers that are leading the way for high-quality spirits production.

  • Economic impact of the Virginia Spirits industry, number of Virginians employed by our distilleries and tourism:
  •    o $1.3B in economic impact;
       o 2,169 jobs.
       *Stats based on American Craft Spirits Association 2018 Craft Spirits Data Project

  • National trends:
  •    o The U.S. has approximately 1,835 licensed distilleries (cited by the American Craft Spirits Council);
       o Virginia has 73 licensed distilleries (cited by Virginia ABC);
       o Kentucky has approximately 73 licensed distilleries (cited by the KY Distillers Association);
       o Tennessee has approximately 32 licensed distilleries (cited by the TN Distillers Guild).

  • The Virginia Spirits Trail & Passport Program:
  • Pick up a hard copy at any participating Virginia distillery, or visit the Virtual Virginia Spirits Trail by CLICKING HERE. Consumers can download a copy of the guide by CLICKING HERE as well.

  • How has the COVID-19 health and economic crises impacted the Virginia Spirits industry?
  • Virginia distilleries are resilient and adaptive. Thanks to regulatory adjustments spearheaded by the Virginia Distillers Association, and supported by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority - our industry has benefited from new forms of market access during these unusual times; which have allowed our distilleries to sustain their businesses. Below is a list of recent in-state regulatory privileges enacted as a result of COVID-19 (CLICK HERE for social media graphics):
       o Direct to Consumer Shipping
       o Delivery by way of a distillery employee or third-party service such as Uber Eats
       o Curbside pickup
       o To-go cocktails
       o Sanitizer available
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  • The story of Virginia spirits begins at Berkeley Plantation, in 1620 when English colonist George Thorpe distilled the first batch of corn whiskey in America. Click here to access the 1620 records from the Virginia Company.

  • In the 1700s, Scottish and Irish immigrants brought their recipes to Virginia for “uisce beatha,” Gaelic for “water of life.” The settlers made their whiskey without aging it. The recipe remains the same for traditional Appalachian whiskey.

  • Bourbon County, Kentucky was formerly a part of Virginia until the Louisiana Purchase in the 1780s.

  • George Washington was not only a gentleman farmer but he also owned and operated the country’s largest rye whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon in the late 1790s.

  • In 1810, the U.S. census record indicates there were over 3,600 distilleries operating in Virginia. Many were destroyed later, during the Civil War.

  • During Prohibition, the 1920-1930s, more sugar was imported to Franklin County – known as the “Moonshine Capital of the World” – than all New York City boroughs combined.

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ABOUT THE VIRGINIA DISTILLERS ASSOCIATION (VDA): The VDA is a nonprofit private trade association focused on promotional efforts to increase awareness of Virginia’s growing craft spirits industry, as well as the regulatory and legislative needs of the industry. The Virginia spirits industry represents over $1.3 billion in economic impact to Commonwealth, hosts over 300 thousand visitors annually to state distilleries, and supports almost 2,200 Virginia jobs.  
Web: www.VirginiaSpirits.org     
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @VirginiaSpirits /@VaSpirits

The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) is a major source of revenue for the commonwealth, contributing more than $2.2 billion to the general fund in the last five years. Virginia ABC currently operates 389 state stores, and provides alcohol education and prevention programs for people of all ages. Its Bureau of Law Enforcement oversees more than 18,000 ABC licensed establishments. Now marking its 86th year, ABC remains committed to progress and innovation in carrying out its vision of bringing good spirits and excellent service to Virginia.Web:  www.abc.virginia.gov    
Facebook and Twitter: @VirginiaABC

ABOUT THE VIRGINIA TOURISM CORPORATION (VTC): Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) strives to serve the broader interests of the economy of Virginia by supporting, maintaining and expanding the Commonwealth’s domestic and international inbound tourism and motion picture production industries in order to increase visitor expenditures, tax revenues and employment. Last year, visitors to Virginia spent $26 billion, which supported 234,000 jobs and contributed $1.8 billion in state and local taxes.
Web: www.Virginia.org
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @VisitVa /@VirginiaisforLovers

  • September is Spirits Month