Saturday, January 17, 2015

How Old Are You Now? - TTB Clarifies Age Statement Rule

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!


Chuck Cowdery said...

It remains to be seen if they will actually notice and disapprove it on COLAs, but this is a step in the right direction.

Justin said...

They can make/clarify the rule but it's meaningless if they don't enforce it.

sku said...

Well, hopefully they will enforce it. There had not been a definitive statement on maximum age statements before so I don't know why you would go to the trouble of issuing the statement without enforcing it, but with the TTB you never know.

M.w. Blaum said...

I've heard that they've been enforcing this from a few producers. Unfortunately, it's still fairly meaningless unless they retroactively pursue the hundreds (if not thousands) of labels that are currently 'grandfathered' in to the 'aged less than 4 years' statement. I don't see that happening any time soon, and with the allowable label changes that don't need reapproval, many existing products will stay the same until they get an audit (which doesn't happen often, from my understanding).