The past decade has been marked by an explosion in the craft spirits industry. Small producers from every corner of the country now offer bold flavored booze to an expanding market of connoisseurs. Although they’ve added a diversity never before seen in the landscape, micro-producers are not without their drawbacks. Chief among those limitations is insufficient availability. Enter Caskers, a virtual outpost offering an unrivaled inventory of artisanal liquor. They’ll deliver those elusive craft labels directly to your door, anywhere — even Staten Island.
A two-year-old start-up with offices in Manhattan and San Francisco, Caskers is the brainchild of partners — and former corporate lawyers — Steven Abt and Moiz Ali. “[We launched] in 2012 after noticing that the spirits available in one part of the country were different than the spirits available in another part,” says Abt. “As craft spirits, and whiskey in particular, continued to grow in popularity, the inability to get a certain spirit depending on where you live was both frustrating to consumers and posed a real barrier to growth for craft distillers.”
That frustration was also an opportunity not only to fill a niche, but to create a site focused on promoting awareness. “With all the new spirits released each year, it’s incredibly difficult and time-consuming for consumers to learn about products and decide which they want to try, which is why we decided to curate Caskers,” says Abt.
So in addition to offering an exhaustive catalog of à la carte offerings, as can undoubtedly be found elsewhere on the Web, Caskers manufactures brand distinction through club programs, the liquor-store equivalent of a chef’s tasting menu. Starting at $149, it provides quarterly packages containing hand-selected brands adjusted according to customer preference. The client provides general guidelines (e.g., absolutely no vodka or rye, under any circumstance), and Caskers fills in the rest.
“Our goal was never to become the Amazon of spirits, but rather to introduce our members to a small number of products at a time, so they can really learn the story about the spirit and the people who make it,” Abt says.
And for the advanced drinker, enticed more by exclusivity than education, Caskers offers special releases not found elsewhere. “We work with distilleries to try various barrels that they have been aging and, when we find one we like, have the whole barrel bottled for our members,” says Abt.
Next up are two single-barrel whiskeys from Smooth Ambler: Old Scout 8 Year Old and Old Scout 9 Year Old. Bottled at cask strength, these West Virginia–born bourbons boast a significantly high rye content — which can easily be nosed long before even a drop hits the tongue.
Putting the lie to the notion that older equals better, Abt and several of his colleagues preferred the subtleties of the 8 Year Old to its slightly more aged counterpart. A neat pour of each, side by side, and I was obliged to agree. If you want to decide for yourself, you’d best act fast; I suspect neither expression will last long on the site.
Finding a way through the increasingly dense market of contemporary spirits is both wondrous and daunting. Nothing beats accumulating that knowledge empirically, but it’s always nice to have some outside guidance behind the wheel. With the vision of Steven Abt and his team at Caskers, the vast expanse of craft is that much easier to navigate.