What’s Artisanal Mean, and Why’s it on my Drink Label?

Artisanal is one of those words they’re slapping on everything nowadays. It used to be organic and now half the products in your local grocer’s have “artisanal” on them. Even alcohol! Which is, of course, where it finally came to my attention.

So…what is this term, why should we care about it, and how does it relate back to my favorite beverages?

To be honest, I had to look it up, because I wasn’t sure that my first instinct — overpriced – was 100% correct. While that might be accurate, it isn’t what the word means. For those of us not living in French-speaking areas of Canada (or France, I guess), the word artisanal means “craft” But that’s still a word I’ve heard so often, I don’t even notice it anymore. I tend to treat it like any other buzzword they put on a label to sell beer.

So I did a little more digging. It appears that artisanal means either relating to an artisan (well, that clears things up, thanks, I thought there was a rule about defining a word by using the word being a bad idea) or a product that is made in a traditional, non-mechanized way.

Oooh. In other words, this is not chemically formulated beverages that are mass-produced in huge factories. People are making these in small batches, by hand, paying attention to the flavors and the ingredients. Which is also probably the reason why products with the word “artisanal” tend to be more expensive, too.

If you look around the internet, there are artisanal beer and liquors all over the place. You know it is serious when bon appétit has a piece on the best canned artisanal beers. It’s a real thing. I started looking into what really constitutes a craft beer, and realized one of my favorite beers is actually considered to be an artisanal beer – Sir John A’s. I guess I don’t pay enough attention. Apparently even the honey they use is local. Not sure what to do with that, but it’s good to know.

That got me curious, so I decided to see if there were other alcoholic beverages out there that are considered artisanal. Turns out, there’s an awful lot of artisanal gin to be had in Canada as well. Hooray! You want to try a really good gin, find yourself a bottle of 66 Gilead Loyalist. The flavor is pretty amazing. It smells a little like lavender and baked bread, and it is quite good.

There’s also Urban Distillery’s Spirit Bear Gin. It doesn’t look like much from the label, but the gin is top notch. And if you aren’t a gin drinker, they make all kinds of other hand-made beverages: brandy, schnapps, vodka, mead honey wine, and even whisky.

After reading so much about it, I realized two things: one – I actually learned something and two – I need to go pick up some of the beverages I’ve been reading about and give them a try!