Neutral Grain Spirits

Albuquerque has developed quite the reputation for our Breweries – with almost 60 breweries and taprooms within 30 minutes of town. Many of these breweries have developed regional and national recognition for their quality beers. So what if, upon deeper inspection, you discovered that once a week a tanker truck drove down from the some manufacturing brewery outside St. Louis (for example) and pumped beer into your favorite brewery’s tanks, only for that brewery to label it as their own? Would you feel cheated or deceived? I certainly would!

While this practice is somewhat rare among the brewery world, it is actually quite common in the distilling world. It is estimated that as much as 90% of all vodka in the US is manufactured in one of 4 factories. I could literally call up the factory and ask for drums of vodka, gin, rum, agave spirit, or anything else you can think of. I could even ask for aged products like whiskey, all delivered to my distillery and bottled and sold to you, the unsuspecting customer. The government tries to protect the consumer, which is why the back of every spirit bottle will have a declaration along the lines of “Distilled by…” or “bottled by…”. But there is a catch – if a nefarious distiller wanted to obscure the origin of their spirit, they could pump it through their still as quickly as the can – and then legally claim that they had Distilled that spirit.

The term for the products sourced from large factories is generally called Neutral Grain Spirits, or NGS. NGS actually refers to a highly concentrated ethanol without extra flavor or refinement. Large factories with distillation columns several stories high and costing millions of dollars will pump out thousands of gallons of ethanol and then becomes virtually every vodka brand you can name. Ever heard someone claim that all vodka tastes the same? Well, they have become unwittingly aware of the practice of using NGS. These factories process millions of pounds of grain at a time thus earning the power of scale. I certainly understand the economics of using the quickest, cheapest method of putting a product in front of customers. Buying NGS is easier and less expensive than making it from scratch.

In using NGS these distilleries have ignored the very reason you have chosen craft over factory-manufactured goods. Our customers choose craft beer over Budweiser because they care about the ingredients and processes to make their beer – they want to see the equipment and people in action. And our customers choose craft spirits for the same reason!

We have struggled at Broken Trail with how to communicate with you, our customers, that our products and processes are genuine. Every batch of spirit, beer, and syrup is made from scratch in our humble facility in the brewing district. This is why on every bottle of alcohol we proudly display that the Original Fermentation and Distillation is done by us. That is our pledge to you – that you can come to our distillery and see the vodka fermenting and the bourbon distilling. And most importantly, we guarantee you’ll taste the difference.