Monday, February 27, 2012

Whiskey Law: Have a COLA and a Smile

US regulations require the federal Alcohol Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) to preapprove all alcohol labels used in the United States. Companies wishing to sell any form of alcohol must apply to the TTB for a Certification of Label Approval (COLA). Through this process, the TTB reviews the label for compliance with federal regulations.

The COLA approvals are publicly available through the TTB's on-line database. This is actually quite helpful to consumers because it allows you to view the labels for any approved spirit.

For instance, say you hear about the release of a new high-rye bourbon and you're wondering it is sourced from LDI in Indiana. Just go to the TTB, search by the name of the whiskey, click to see the "printable version" and look for the tell-tale "Distilled in Indiana" on the label. The COLA approval will also tell you the name of the company that requested the approval, which can be helpful in searching through whiskeys that aren't forthcoming about their provenance.

Since this is a preapproval process, you can also find out what whiskeys might be coming out in the future. For instance, a search of "E.H. Taylor," Buffalo Trace's new line of limited releases, produces a number of results, including this application for an E.H. Taylor Straight Rye.

Similarly, if you are a Scotch fan, a search for Murray McDavid or any other independent bottler will show you what new Scotch releases might be coming our way. Before any press release goes out, you know the inside scoop!

Now go ahead, spend the rest of the day geeking out and searching for labels.


Tim Read said...

Very cool! Thanks for sharing this! Clever way to get the inside scoop. I'd wondered how word of the E.H. Taylor Rye was out there so long before release (especially when the next release ended up being Kentucky Phoenix & not the Rye). I may have to peruse this..

Joshua Feldman said...

Totally cool, Stu. What an awesome label on the EH Taylor Rye. I want some! The fact that you are wise to this cryptic avenue of information shows how deep into the game you are. Amazing! Kudos!

sku said...

Thanks Joshua. Just to be clear, this is not something I discovered or that is a secret. It's just not highly publicized and I thought people would be interested in the info.

Anonymous said...

Very handy tip Sku. Now I can peruse online retail exclusive cask selections for more info (ABV%, cask type, etc.) before pulling the 'preorder' trigger.

Oh, and glad to see Pernod's gone to the trouble of having U.S. labels approved for The Glenlivet Single Cask Edition: Helios 20, Gaurdian 18, and Josie 17.

Lazer said...

Geek alert! I just found this.

Its from heaven hill, for something called Elijah Craig Small Batch. Does that mean no more 12?

Thanks for the tip sku. Keep up the good work.

Lazer said...

wow I'm an idiot. I didn't scroll down to see that the 12 is still on the label. sorry. I'm not a total idiot, the label never said small batch before.