We wanted to check in and see what’s been happening with gluten claims, in connection with alcohol beverages. LabelVision data shows virtually no references to gluten until 2012. Then, TTB approved the first label with a nice, clear reference to “gluten free.” That label is below (potato vodka, brand name Spud). After rapid growth, from 212 to 2016, the gluten references seem to be leveling off, so far in 2017, at about 2016 levels. TTB’s policy is here (TTB Ruling 2014-2, Revised Interim Policy on Gluten Content Statements in the Labeling and Advertising of Wine, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages).Continue Reading Leave a Comment
The plaintiff in a would-be class action lawsuit against Sazerac voluntarily dismissed all his claims in late January, ending the litigation. The case (Parker v. Buffalo Trace Distillery, Inc. et al.) began in November of last year, and concerned a subtle change on the label of Sazerac’s “Old Charter” brand of bourbon whiskey. The older and newer labels are above, side by side.
Among the various changes, the old label says, “AGED 8 YEARS,” while the new label simply displays the number “8.”
Plaintiff Nicholas Parker alleged that the Old Charter bourbon sold under the new label was no longer aged for 8 years, and that Sazerac’s continued use of the number “8” on the label caused consumers to believe that the bourbon was aged for 8 years. Sazerac responded with a motion to dismiss the complaint, alleging that Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approval of the label provided Sazerac with a “safe harbor” from Mr. Parker’s claims.
Just two weeks after Sazerac filed its motion to dismiss, Mr. Parker voluntarily dismissed the action. This voluntary dismissal meant that the court did not have to rule on the merits of Sazerac’s safe harbor defense, or Mr. Parker’s claims. If the Tito’s “Handmade” Vodka cases are any indication, it is likely that the safe harbor defense would not...Continue Reading Leave a Comment
The whiskey rules are pretty strict when it comes to straight whiskey. It has to be aged two years or more, in oak. But for many other types of whiskey, the rules have gotten pretty lax, and it seems like it only has to be aged but a moment.
Where you have a whiskey not designated as straight, it’s ok to age it let’s say one month, but the regulations require an age statement, any time the total age is less than four years. Here are a few examples of such age statements, roughly from shortest to not so short.
- High West Silver Whiskey. STORED IN OAK FOR MERE SECONDS (2013)
- High West Silver Whiskey. MINIMALLY AGED IN TOASTED OAK (2016). This label is also noteworthy because it is one of the very few that actually mentions TTB, and such administrivia as class/type codes, right on the front label. WHISKEY is big but the actual c/t is quite small.
- Old Natchez Trace Rye Whiskey. RESTED FOR ONE MINUTE IN A USED WHITE OAK BARREL.
- Clark New Whiskey. BARRELED FOR MAYBE 5 MINUTES; STORED 5 MINUTES IN REUSED COOPERAGE. ...
Right there on the label of this beer, almost every part of it, Austin Beerworks makes it clear that you should proceed with maximum caution. You should not even think about consuming this beer with KFC, while wearing lederhosen, or while operating heavy machinery of any sort.
The label is not new, but it is a tad out of the ordinary. It pokes gentle fun at the oh so serious Government Warning Statement, mandated by Congress since the 1988 Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act. In the early years, after this Warning became required on most every beer, wine and spirits label in the U.S., it would have been essentially unthinkable, to allow any fun-poking, aimed in this general direction. To wit, one of the Government’s biggest objections to the Black Death Vodka labeling and packaging, was that it tended to mock the — oh so serious Warning. This label shows that a lot of beer has flowed under the bridge since then, and there has been a general chilling out.
It probably also helps, that the real Warning does appear at least twice, and with good, solid prominence and contrast. But, that base having been covered, Austin revs up for a snarknado. I can’t list all the snarky comments and warnings, because there are so many....Continue Reading Leave a Comment
TTB put out Ruling 2016-3 at the end of September. It relates to spirits formula approvals, and is intended to cut some of the burdens for spirits companies and for TTB. It’s also sort of long. Word says it is 3,573 (carefully chosen) words. My mission is to break it down to 15% or less.
The gist is, TTB will help you avoid formula approval for many products in these big categories: vodka, rum, whisky, brandy. Some details, on each category, are below. If you want the whole story, you can go to the Ruling, and the elaborations at Industry Circular 2016-1 (for imports) and Guidance 2016-3. Rather than knocking out the formula approval requirements in the spirits regulations, TTB explains: “TTB will not accept for review new formulas submitted for products approved under this ruling. This ruling serves as the approval that is required by §§ 5.26, 5.27, and 19.348.”
- Vodka. The Ruling takes advantage of the fact that vodka already has a narrow standard of identity and explains that if you are clearly within it, the Ruling should be used instead of submitting a formula. Only a bit of sugar and citric acid allowed.
- Rum. The standard is not quite so narrow, as compared to vodka, but it’s...
After a full day wrangling booze labels, I heard a good story about bacon labeling on the way home from work (bringing home the bacon, as it were). The radio story emanated from a Bloomberg web story, “Why Supermarket Bacon Hides Its Glorious Fat.” The story touches upon the intersection of our love-hate relationship with fat and with government, and also upon labeling issues and wily businesspeople. Explaining that bacon has “one of the most unusual and underappreciated packaging formats of any supermarket product” it says:
The standard one-pound package shows the bacon slices fanned out, with only their leading edges exposed. The industry term for this is a shingle pack—a reference to the way the slices overlap. Because those front edges tend to feature more lean muscle than the fattier back edges, and because the face of the top slice is invariably covered by a paperboard flap containing the manufacturer’s logo and other branding information, the consumer sees a relatively unbroken field of red protein, creating the illusion that the bacon is leaner than it is.
Lest the bacon packaging hide the fat too much, the U.S. government requires the packaging to show the real story, at least on the back window. The window allows the consumer:
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to see how the bacon truly looks...