Distilleries are responding to visitors’ needs and preferences
These attractions also represent how the spirits industry is reacting to changing demographics and attitudes. Many younger people are drinking less, and older Millennials are seeking spots that are fun for parents, but are also friendly to growing families. The latter is why Rieger built in changing tables, a nursing lounge, and one under-21 distillery tour each day. It’s also about attracting a generation that values experiential learning, Rieger says.
“People want to get their hands on things and connect with a distillery in that way,” she says, whether that means enjoying a drink, inhaling the aromas coming off the barrels in the warehouse -- or yes, gliding down a 40-foot slide.
For some distilleries, changing up the formula is about building loyalty as much as maximizing real estate and bringing in money (and mindshare) while producers wait for whiskey, brandy and other spirits to barrel-age, a process that can take several years.
Frank Coleman, senior VP of public affairs and communications for the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) credits this “Napafication” to the effect of more relaxed laws in many states and increased cultural acceptance of distilled spirits. “So many distilleries across the nation are seeking to maximize the tourism connection,” he says.
“People take cocktail culture so seriously, it can be snobby,” says Rieger about new distillery offerings. “At the end of the day, (distilleries) should be fun and drinking should be enjoyable.”