Along with violations of the state of distillation rule, one of my whiskey label pet peeves is the use of maximum age statements, that is, age statements that say "less than __ years old." The TTB regulations state that whiskey that is less than four years old must include an age statement that reads "___ years old." (27 CFR § 5.40(a)). Recently, though, "less than __ years old" age statements have been slipping through, particularly on sourced and craft whiskeys. I find this annoying because it renders the age statement meaningless. Sure, it's less than two or four years old, but how much less? One year? Six months? A week?
Yesterday, the TTB issued a new FAQ on age statements (see section S11) which makes it clear that maximum age statements are not acceptable:
Can the age statement include minimum or maximum ages?
As noted above, age may be understated, but may not be overstated. A minimum age (such as "aged at least __ years") is acceptable, but a maximum age (such as "aged for less than ___ years") is not acceptable.
It's great to see the TTB clarify this issue. Hopefully, this marks the end of two month old whiskey labeled "Less than four years old." Score one for the TTB and the whiskey consumer!