Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why isn't the TTB Enforcing the State of Distillation Disclosure Rule?


Last year, I posted about the federal regulation that requires most whiskey labels to list the state in which the whiskey was distilled. To summarize, The federal regulations of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) require that whiskey labels disclose the state where the whiskey was distilled. If the whiskey is distilled in the state where the company is located, then the address of the company is sufficient to comply with this requirement. However, if the business address is not in the state where the whiskey was distilled, the state has to be stated separately on the label. (There are some limited exceptions to this regulation, but it applies to most whiskey). See 27 CFR § 5.36(d).

However, it has recently come to my attention that the TTB does not seem to be enforcing this rule. I know of several LDI distilled whiskeys which don't have the word Indiana anywhere on the label. In such cases, the label typically says "bottled in..." the state in which the company is headquartered but does not designate the state of distillation in either the address or otherwise on the label.

This is a big deal. In the world of American whiskey, it's hard enough to figure out which whiskeys are produced by whom even when the state of distillation is clear. Labels are rife with fake distillery names, bottlers of sourced whiskey who imply that they distilled it themselves and other chicanery. At least the state of distillation rule told you if a local company was actually selling Kentucky bourbon, and in the case of LDI, it was especially helpful since the "produced in Indiana" line almost always pointed to LDI.

I've sent the TTB an email asking what their policy is on enforcing this rule. I'm not hopeful, but if I hear back, I'll let everyone know what they say.

10 comments:

ilium55 said...

This also seems not to be done with domestic brandy. Look on a bottle of Christian Brothers or Paul Masson -- the address is likely Bardstown Ky. When I went to the Barton Distillery where one for the other is bottled ( can't remember which) they said the Brandy was distilled in California, sent to them in railroad tankers, and aged and bottled in Kentucky.

sku said...

The regulation I'm referring to, for some reason, only applies to whiskey. Brandy can get away with a "bottled by" statement and still be consistent with the regs.

Chuck Cowdery said...

The answer (and the out for producers) is "(6) The label may state the address of the proprietor’s principal place of business in lieu of the place where the bottling, distilling or rectification operation occurred, if the address where the operation occurred is indicated by printing, coding, or other markings, on the label or on the bottle."

sku said...

Thanks for your response Chuck. Is that your interpretation or the TTB's? The problem I have with it is that the portion you quote is that it is from subsection (a)(6) which deals with the statement "bottled by" on all distilled spirits as part of sub (a).

The state of distillation requirement is in subsection (d) which appears to set up a wholly separate requirement for listing the state of distillation, specifically applying to whiskeys.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Fair enough, but subsection (d) only applies "if the whisky is not distilled in the State given in the address on the brand label." Realizing that caveat, who do you think is in violation? Sazerac wrt Bowman? But Bowman is distilled (redistilled) in Virginia. Otherwise just about everybody else distills in KY and has a KY address, or distills in TN and has a TN address, so who's not in compliance?

sku said...

I don't want to name names because in some cases I believe the bottlers aren't at fault and are just doing what they are told, but there are a number of distilleries/bottlers that are using LDI or Kentucky juice that don't have the state of distillation on the label or the address.

ilium55 said...

Looking at a bottle of Willett Rye on my shelf it states that it was distilled in Indiana (LDI I assume) and bottled in Bardstown. So someone is complying at least.

sku said...

ilium55 and Chuck, I think most of the big producers are complying. It's some of the smaller players that seem to be lacking the state of distillation.

Drink Spirits said...

The TTB is famous for inconsistent rules and enforcement. I totally agree how important point of origin is on whiskey, especially with so much Merchant whiskey coming into the market from small distillers who are bottling and labeling it as their own.

I really respect what Bull Run Distillery did with theirs where they CLEARLY indicated that they did not distill their Temperance Trader Straight Bourbon

http://www.drinkspirits.com/bourbon/temperance-trader-straight-bourbon-whiskey/

I'd love it if the TTB created a NOM system like they do in tequila so you can look up the source of everything.

sku said...

Drink Spirits, thanks for the comment. They actually have a NOM type system for whisky; it's called the Distilled Spirits Plan (DSP) Number but it's only required on Bottled in Bond whiskies.