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The TTB is accepting public comments regarding changing the CFRs until March 26, 2019.

The proposal is incredibly lengthy:

https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-11-26/pdf/2018-24446.pdf

Here is the TTBs summary, with links:

NEW RULEMAKING IS THE NEXT STEP IN OUR LABELING PROGRAM MODERNIZATION

We are pleased to announce the publication of a rulemaking document (Notice No. 176) in the Federal Register of Monday, November 26, 2018, in which we propose to update, simplify, and clarify the labeling and advertising regulations for wine, distilled spirits, and malt beverages.

This rulemaking is the latest phase of our multi-year effort to Facilitate Commerce through a Modern Labeling Program Focused on Service and Market Compliance, one of the five strategic goals outlined in our current Strategic Plan. In recent years, we have made significant improvements to modernize our labeling program and reduce approval times for labels and formulas by employing a range of strategies, including:

  • Eliminating the need to obtain formula approval in certain instances;
  • Expanding the list of changes that can be made to approved labels without getting a new Certificate of Label Approval (COLA);
  • Updating COLAs Online and Formulas Online to better meet user needs and expectations;
  • Increasing guidance about label and formula requirements by improving content on TTB.gov and offering webinars; and
  • Adding staff to improve overall service levels.

When finalized, the updated labeling and advertising regulations will facilitate industry compliance by simplifying and clarifying regulatory standards, incorporating guidance documents and other current policies into the regulations, and reducing regulatory burden on industry members where possible.

We encourage public comments on the regulatory amendments proposed in the rulemaking document (Notice No. 176), particularly from affected industry members. In addition, we welcome suggestions for other changes to these regulations not specifically proposed in the rulemaking. We are accepting comments through March 26, 2019.

Please see the notice for instructions on how to submit a comment.

 

 

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This thread has been open for over a day and the only response is by the one who posted originally.  I need to scream this in capitals:

GO TO THE POST AND WADE THROUGH THIS DOCUMENT IF YOU THINK ISSUES LIKE A STANDARD OF IDENTITY FOR WHITE OR UNAGED WHISKEY IS IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO WARRANT YOUR ATTENTION.

This is a major revision.  I confess I have not read it -I've just glanced.  But that glance convinces me that it is worthy of the boldfaced, italicized, underlined and blown up font I chose for the above statement.

You can make a difference.  This is a notice of proposed rulemaking and it asks for comments.  I intend to make mine and you should intend to make yours.  If you belong to a state association, get them involved.  Submit comments by the association and by the individual members.  Make your voice heard.  It is going to matter for years.

I will try to summarize the main provisions, like "white whiskey" or a change to the standard for vodka, and post some comments here in a few days.  But in the meantime, take the time to look at the provisions related to part 5- they start at page 60593. 

I may regret this, but if you have concerns, send me a personal message and as long as I am not buried, once I have had time to read the document, I'll try to respond.

 

 

 

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Let me give you a taste of the sort of changes that TTB is contemplating making:

 

The TTB regulations set forth certain rules for how age statements may appear on labels. TTB proposes to update therule, currently found in § 5.40(d), whichstates that age, maturity, or similar statements may not appear on neutral spirits (except for grain spirits), gin, liqueurs, cordials, cocktails, highballs, bitters, flavored brandy, flavored gin, flavored rum, flavored vodka, flavored whisky, and specialties, because such statements are misleading. TTB has seen recent growth in the number of distilled spirits products, such as gin, being stored in oak  containers. However, the prohibition in the current regulations means that a producer cannot use age statements to inform the public how long its product has been stored in oak
containers, and TTB has approved labels using terms such as ‘‘finished’’ or ‘‘rested’’ for these types of products. TTB believes that consumers should be able to make their own  determinations on how the aging would affect the product, and that age statements would provide truthful information to consumers. Accordingly, TTB proposes to allow age statements on all spirits  except for neutral spirits (other than grain spirits, which may contain an age statement). The revision appears at proposed § 5.74(e). Proposed § 5.74 incorporates and supersedes ATF Ruling 93–3, which exempts grappa from the mandatory age statement for brandies aged less than four years. Finally, TTB proposes to supersede Revenue Ruling 69–58, which deals with rules for age statements that have been incorporated in the regulations.

Now, admittedly, I'm a wonk when it comes to regulations, but if you want to be able to say your gin has been stored in oak nine months, that is a meaningful change,not just an item of  wonkish interest.  It is time TTB laid to rest the rested in nonsense by finishing it in this way.

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One more example of the sort of change and then I'll shut up for the day;

TTB is specifically seeking comment on whether the requirement that vodka be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color should be retained and, if this requirement is no longer
appropriate, what the appropriate standards should be for distinguishing vodka from other neutral spirits.

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40 minutes ago, dhdunbar said:

Let me give you a taste of the sort of changes that TTB is contemplating making:

..................products, such as gin, being stored in oak  containers. However, the prohibition in the current regulations means that a producer cannot use age statements to inform the public how long its product has been stored in oak....................................., but if you want to be able to say your gin has been stored in oak nine months, that is a meaningful change,not just an item of  wonkish interest.  It is time TTB laid to rest the rested in nonsense by finishing it in this way.

As an Australian I am not particularly interested in TTB regulations, but age statements can be misleading. 

For example I have some barrels of 9 year old brandy in my distillery. Still quite young when compared with some from Europe. I think a purchaser would expect a reasonable product but still not with the age characters of some older ones.

This brandy is totally undrinkable. It is waaaay over-oaked . It is in 50 litre barrels and has been stored in Australian dry and temperature fluctuating conditions.

The 3 year old barrels are very drinkable.  

Is a customer going to buy the 9 year or the 3 year if they know nothing else?

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The entire age issue should just be eliminated. We know of a local distillery (and there are many more) who are selling No Age Statement whiskey (4 different ones) including one that is labeled as Straight, yet they have had their DSP for less than 3 years, and distribute sell sheets that state the age of the whiskeys are 18-24 months old. So there is absolutely no question that the spirits are less than 4 years old and they require an age statement. The TTB has advised that while they are aware of this, they can not release any information pertaining to the individual distilleries involved and they recommend that we get a group of distillers together to contact our State Attorney General and have them look into enforcement action. 

Then the other day I submitted a COLA app for a reserve Bourbon with NAS and they kicked it back asking for an age. I went ballistic, called the TTB and asked "how can you now demand the age statement verification on the COLA while at the same time do nothing when there is known whiskey out there being sold NAS?" After getting to the supervisory level they very graciously apologized for the kick-back given the circumstances. Since then they have instituted the new  red warning on the COLA app for whiskeys which request age statement verification.

If most distillers comply with the age requirement and some don't, it puts those who do at a distinct disadvantage. It makes young AGE Statement Labeled products look less desirable on the shelf alongside "craft/small producer" NAS spirits that are of the same age or even younger. Beyond that, every time a customer buys a 24 month old NAS "Straight Bourbon" that sucks, they are thereafter less inclined to buy from any other craft distiller, because they think their legally labeled 48month+ NAS bourbon is going to be equally bad/raw.

NOTE TO TTB: If a distiller has had their DSP for less than 48 months, and the label says "Distilled by" that distillery, do not approve an NAS label, and when notified of blatant illegal labels, send an enforcement letter to the DSP  ! Failing that, eliminate the entire requirement for age, and stop putting those DSP's that comply with the law, at a competitive disadvantage. 

The big brands are laughing at this because they know our industry has sleezebags destroying the perceived value of Craft Whiskey by this type of self servig deceptive marketing, which just pushes consumers back to the reliable "Big Brands". 

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Roger raises an issue that should be addressed.  No, not the specific issue of age statements, which does need to be addressed, but the issue of complicated regulations that are put into place, then not enforced because congress does not authorize the money.  Some people take advantage of the lack of enforcement, while others muddle through without knowing they are doing anything wrong. We have lots of examples of how TTB employees can't understand the requirements.  Can any of you tell me the difference between the standards of identity for all of the different types of whiskey?  Can anyone reasonably expect that even an accurate statement of class and type is understood by more than a few in 1000 purchasers?  it is an open invitation to do as you please.  

So, a person who constrains behavior to conscientiously comply with what is required can get hammered by those who don't. 

That is not a situation that calls for increased regulation.  It calls for the kind of revisions that makes what is required enforceable within the budget that TTB can reasonably expect to receive.  That, I think, is what Roger proposes when he says drop all age requirements if TTB is not going to enforce them. I'll propose, more modestly, since I think there is too much invested in "age" to expect that industry will abandon it, that when we look at the proposed revisions, we ask, does it make enforcement easier and can it be enforced.

So, write a comment to the notice of proposed rule making and ask TTB, what are you going to do to enforce the changes you propose to make?  Point out, in the context of public comments on these changes, that the regulations are irrelevant if they are commonly ignored.  

As to age statements on whiskey.  Around 1968 there were hearings that addressed a minimum age requirement, among other issues.  The IRS - at that time what is now TTB was a division of the IRS -  declined to require one, because, it said, they required an age statement, so the consumer was adequately informed and as far as it knew, the age statement requirements were being followed. 

That was true, because the IRS had officers stationed in most DSP, and if they were not there permanently, they were there regularly, because the government held the keys to the storage tanks and barrel storage rooms.  When the government gaugers, as they were known, were not busy with over-the-shoulder supervision, they had time to look at compliance in general, which they did.  There were far fewer DSPs and much more active involvement.  Plus, large distillers  had a lot to lose, and on top of that, there was an ocean of aged product they were sitting on. 

Then, in 19890, the government withdrew and went to post-audit scheme.  It withdrew gaugers from plants and gave the proprietors the keys.  That still worked because the numbers were more in balance and the players had a lot to lose if they cheated. I say, with some confidence, that consumers could, at that time, rely on age statements and the lack thereof as an accurate representation of age.. 

But that was then and this is now. Reasonable  reliance remained true until the number of breweries, wineries, and distilled spirits plant exploded.    The balance shifted, for a number of reasons, toward a situation in which a bottler could get away ignoring the rules of age statements.  Many have.

As Roger points out, the consumer is hardly adequately informed when the requirement for an age statement is widely ignored. So, if the justification for not requiring a minimum age crumbles in the face of an inability  to enforce it (not a lack of desire to, but a real limit on the ability to enforce), perhaps the solution is to require a minimum age. 

In the alternative, if TTB wants to rely on age statements on the label, and not simply pretend that the statements have meaning, then spend a years worth of product compliance budget looking for that violation and only that violation, then,m when found, require recalls and kick butt.,  Announce that next year, some other issue, which TTB is not going to disclose in advance, will become the focus.  Say, the state of distillation, requirements,  for example.  But don't disclose that.  Make persons wonder what will be next.  Roger's note to TTB: "If a distiller has had their DSP for less than 48 months, and the label says "Distilled by" that distillery, do not approve an NAS label, and when notified of blatant illegal labels, send an enforcement letter to the DSP," opens  a way of selecting where to look.  I''m sure there are other ways to select ponds in which TTB is likely to catch fish if it dips its line in there.  

In summary, TTB needs to rely on voluntary compliance.  As Roger points out, that does not work.  So the first question is enforcement strategy.  How does TTB enforce understandable regulations in a way that persons who will ignore them without an incentive to comply,  are motivated to voluntarily learn what is required and do their best to make sure they do what is required.

 

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On page 60593, TTB considers whether barrels smaller than "approximately 50 gallons" really count as "barrels" when storing in oak barrels:

Finally, TTB proposes to define the
term ‘‘oak barrel,’’ which is used with
regard to the storage of certain bulk
spirits. TTB and its predecessor
agencies have traditionally considered a
‘‘new oak container,’’ as used in the
current regulations, to refer to a
standard whiskey barrel of
approximately 50 gallons capacity.
Accordingly, TTB proposes to define an
oak barrel as a ‘‘cylindrical oak drum of
approximately 50 gallons capacity used
to age bulk spirits.’’ However, TTB seeks
comment on whether smaller barrels or
non-cylindrical shaped barrels should
be acceptable for storing distilled spirits
where the standard of identity requires
storage in oak barrels.

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8 hours ago, dhdunbar said:

then not enforced because congress does not authorize the money

The solution is trivial: user fees. Worked to speed and improve NDA approvals at the FDA via Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) in 1992. It can certainly work at the TTB. 

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44 minutes ago, indyspirits said:

The solution is trivial: user fees. Worked to speed and improve NDA approvals at the FDA via Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) in 1992. It can certainly work at the TTB. 

If only it were so.  I agree that a user fee can generate the funds needed to regulation.  I also agree that the solution is trivial once you arrive at it.  The catch is that TTB cannot charge fees that it is not authorized, by law, to charge.  So the trivial solution is only trivial if the industry lobbies congress to authorize fees and congress does it, the idea of which requires a smiley face  :-).   

Such a fee used to exist.  "Once upon a time" there was something called a special occupational tax (there still is on some occupations), which was a fee that was paid to the general fund, but which worked to cover some of the costs associated with regulating an industry that wanted to be regulated, to protect against, say, persons who make the industry look bad by not putting an age statement on something that has barely rubbed shoulders with oak..

But it  was a tax, so it was eliminated. 

Congress could  also authorize  imposing  a fee for permits and registrations, etc.  But again, TTB can't just do it.

As I understand it, The  FDA found itself in something of the same position with GRAS determinations.  Niche players want to use all sorts of ingredients not heard of before.  Think about the exotic gins that pop up with extracts from an obscure desert plant indigenous to a small area in upper wherever.  The onslaught of applications for GRAS determinations was costly - too costly to sustain, since the FDA did not impose a fee to do the research required to declare an ingredient GRAS.  So out of what I think was desperation, if nothing else, the FDA now lets persons declare ingredients GRAS on their own, but only if the persons conduct tests with the same rigor that the FDA would have done if it were doing them. 

I have no idea how that venture into self-regulation is going. Perhaps it is going  better than TTB's unintended experiment in letting people self-regulate label claims, which Roger argues, if I may put words into his mouth, is akin to letting some people with drills punch holes in a ship that was lifting all on the rising tide of craft.

I'm walking on the thin ice of political statements and controversy,.  I know that.  But when TTB undertakes a major revision to its labeling regulations, which will influence how it regulates label claims, for the foreseeable future,  it becomes a political exercise.  We may disagree on the issues, but if you want a say in how spirits are marketed for the next 20 years, now it is time to speak up.   Major players have power, and they will use it,  but if enough small businesses band together, they exert more power.  Don't underestimate the pressure you can bring to the table on this.

 

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Sadly, requiring a minimum age before whiskeys could be sold in in the US would not alleviate the deceitful practice by those intent on scamming the system. Especially If the TTB continues to approve COLA's based on taking the applicants "word for it" with no threat of actual or preceved enforcement. Some DSP's will just lie about that age, vs what they are doing now, tacitly lieing by merely omitting an age statement.   Dirtbags, will be dirtbags. 

Fees are never going to happen, and they probably shouldn't . The Big Brands and DISCUS would never allow it, and they cant help but love the turmoil in the "Craft" industry. More customers for big brands !

Not a day went by this summer in our tasting room where we didn't hear some permutation of "we are coming in here with really low expectations, because we just have had such God awful "craft spirits" up the road. 

Its not really that hard to make even halfway tolerably whiskey. There are just so many "my great gandpappys secret recipes" out there. But when it tastes bad because it is really young, but the customer thinks it is old and mellowed, the whole field takes a hit.

Our Craft Industry can't afford too many of those fake aged whiskey experiences, before we lose credibility.

Most of the scammers just try to run out the clock. They hope that once they are in biz for 4 years, their barrels dumps will get lost in the shuffle, and no one will even bother trying to pin them down.  

Right now the TTB should put out an amendment cancelling all NAS COLA's issued to any DSP than has been licensed for less than 4 years. This entire issue could go away overnight at virtually no expense. 

 

 

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8 hours ago, Roger said:

Right now the TTB should put out an amendment cancelling all NAS COLA's issued to any DSP than has been licensed for less than 4 years.

Alternatively they could explicitly allow NAS whiskeys and let the consumers sort it out for themselves. It's certainly worked for single malt scotches.

Edit: By "sort it out" I mean determine using their $$$ who's going to make it and who isn't

 

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3 hours ago, indyspirits said:

Alternatively they could explicitly allow NAS whiskeys and let the consumers sort it out for themselves. It's certainly worked for single malt scotches.

Edit: By "sort it out" I mean determine using their $$$ who's going to make it and who isn't

 

Sadly, No.  "Scotch/Single Malt"is only NAS because it first carries a regulation that IT MUST BE 3 YEARS OLD. Regardless the Scotch industry is very heavily regulated and inspected for compliance. There-in lies the rub.  A few unscrupulous US distillers know that there is no enforcement here (as pointed out by Chuck Cowdrey a couple of years ago) so they harm us all, while the industry puts it's collective head in the sand, hoping the TTB will actually do something. 

At least companies like High West, et.al. were honest as they were developing their brands by clearly marketing that they were sourcing their whiskey, while their own stock was maturing. 

Anyone who thinks this isn't causing incredible harm to this fledgling industry is not looking at it hard enough. Sure you might gain a bit of local market share due to local word of mouth or your tasting room, but you will more than likely never gain any national traction if your product is suspect while sitting on a shelf where you have no customer interaction. The national dialogue should be "I'm going to try NAS Craft Brand X Bourbon this week to see how it compares to Craft Brand Y (or Big Brand)". Instead we have "Christ, I'm not going to try that Craft bourbon because the last one I had, tasted like S***. Edith, I'll stick with the Big Brand."

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The NAS issue exposes the kind of battles that are going to take place.  If you have an argument you want to make, making it here does no good.  You need to submit a comment to TTB through the portal it provides to do so.  That can make a difference.  That is the message I am preaching.

I don't have a dog in the NAS fight, so I don't personally care how TTB rules.  For some people whiskey is a religion, for others it is a way to make a buck, and for some it is a way they can use religion to make a buck.  I've had clients of each of those stripes and I don't make judgements.  They are all valid, but maybe that is because I'm not religious about it, and maybe it is because I make a buck because some people are.  I insert here, the mandatory smiley face, to say I'm jesting, but ...

For me, personally, it is a matter of drinking Redbreast Irish whiskey - yes Roger, I turn to what I know I can rely on, which is the heart of your argument -  when I drink whiskey and feel happy about it.  

But, If you want to comment effectively, you should know the history of the whiskey standards. 

Indyspirits, you are right, NAS does work for Scotch, and Roger, you are right, it works because the minimum age is build in and enforced.   But how many of you know that the government  has built a wall between American type whiskey, and Scotch, Irish, and Canadian products.  It has officially held,  "The mere desire to conform American regulations to those applicable in foreign countries is not sufficient justification for imposing the proposed limitation."  At the same time,  TTB - well the IRS at that time - addressed all sorts of whiskey issues beyond age.    I refer all of you to Treasury Decision 6945.  It is something anyone who wants to understand how the rules were written needs to read. 

Here are my summary notes, written for myself,  on the age issue:

  • First, the government argued that the proponents had not established a need for a minimum age requirement for “current domestic types of whiskey.”  It argued, “There are no appreciable amounts of immature whiskies currently being sold.”  It went on, “Although some whisky is being offered at less than two years of age, this is, in the main, corn whisky.”  It goes without saying that the conditions then are not the current conditions.  Whiskey less than two years old is now common.
  • But the government then argued, “In any event, the present regulations protect the consumer by requiring all whiskies less than four years old to bear a true age statement.”  Those requirements remain, and nothing I see in the public record indicates that TTB sees a need to revisit   So, the last stated position would seem to be that, even if there are many whiskeys that are less than two years old on the market, the consumer is still protected by the required age statement.  That, of course, presumes that bottlers are including the required age statement. 

And here is what the government concluded from all of that:

  • "The proposal to establish a minimum age requirement for whiskies is rejected. It is preferable to permit the consumer an adequate basis for the selection of whiskies (even immature ones) than to limit his choice by banning them from the market. The mere desire to conform American regulations to those applicable in foreign countries is not sufficient justification for imposing the proposed limitation.

We are, I think, well past the "mere desire to conform" argument.  The argument that there are no appreciable amounts of what the government itself chose to call "immature whiskeys" being sold is certainly subject top challenge.  I refrained for saying that it is absurd.  The ability of TTB to enforce the age statement requirement to protect the consumer - which is the holy grail  under which it marches, even if economic interests probably come to play a far greater role in the decisions it makes -  is also subject to challenge.  And, given those circumstances,  I conclude that the bucket that carries the water of the consumer being best served by not requiring a minimum age, at least for bourbon, rye, wheat, and malt whiskey, leaks through as many holes as Swiss cheese. 

Roger sees, in that, a danger to the reputation of craft.  I think most would agree.  The locavore impetus that is driving experimentation, etc., is in no way guaranteed.  So, if I had a horse in the race or skin in the game - chose your idiom - , I'd be asking, "How, given the history of the regulation,  can you plug the damned holes?

Chuck Cowdery once cautioned, for good reason, that writing regulations is not for amateurs.  It is true, , but it should not prevent you from expressing your concerns and pointing out  the need for those who write them to find solutions to problems that regulation, and the government's lack of enforcement ability, are creating. When it comes to the issues that affect small distilleries, TTB is the amateur, not you.   They need your input.

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2 hours ago, Roger said:

Regardless the Scotch industry is very heavily regulated and inspected for compliance. There-in lies the rub. 

Point well taken.  I never hear rumblings of producers fudging on their NAS labels.  I think about distillers like Kilchoman who, when releasing a 1 year product, couldn't, and didn't call it scotch.  So many craft producers seems to operate like it's a sprint rather than a marathon.

 

 

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It occurs to me that I've said a lot about what you might want to do, but not much about how to do it.  My fault.

To view the proposed rule and any comments related to this proposed rule, go to Docket No. TTB–2018–0007 at Regulations.gov. To comment on our proposals electronically, use the Regulations.gov comment form for Notice No. 176.  To submit comments by mail or hand delivery, see the instructions in the proposed rule.  You also may view the proposed rule as published in the printed Federal Register or as posted online at Federal Register 2.0.

Here is a link to the Treasury Decision. 

https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-1968-01-26/pdf/FR-1968-01-26.pdf

It is a slightly jaundiced pdf print of a microfilm copy.  Those with access to HeinOnline can probably get a clearer copy, but at a subscription price, unless you have access to a library that subscribes to the service.

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On 11/28/2018 at 5:04 PM, Jedd Haas said:

On page 60593, TTB considers whether barrels smaller than "approximately 50 gallons" really count as "barrels" when storing in oak barrels:

Finally, TTB proposes to define the
term ‘‘oak barrel,’’ which is used with
regard to the storage of certain bulk
spirits. TTB and its predecessor
agencies have traditionally considered a
‘‘new oak container,’’ as used in the
current regulations, to refer to a
standard whiskey barrel of
approximately 50 gallons capacity.
Accordingly, TTB proposes to define an
oak barrel as a ‘‘cylindrical oak drum of
approximately 50 gallons capacity used
to age bulk spirits.’’ However, TTB seeks
comment on whether smaller barrels or
non-cylindrical shaped barrels should
be acceptable for storing distilled spirits
where the standard of identity requires
storage in oak barrels.

This seems to be the issue a lot of people are focusing on this week: The 50-gallon requirement would not only stifle a lot of people who have had a lot of whiskey in other size and shape barrels for years, it also stifles creativity. Instead of narrowing the definition of barrel, TTB should be opening up the definition to include more types of barrels -- toasted instead of charred, oak from other continents, larger and smaller sizes. Barrels are a way that distillers define flavor and the more the definition of an oak barrel is restricted, the less creativity we will see in this highly inventive aspect of flavor creation. 

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If you bottle in a 750ml charred oak bottle, does it continue to age on the shelf ? That would great for the fake NAS operators, as at some point their labels might actually become legal.   It's nice that the TTB has all of these regs, but if they aren't actually enforcing any of them, they are really nothing but a competitive disadvantage burden on distillers who actually follow the rules. 

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On 11/28/2018 at 7:51 AM, Roger said:

The entire age issue should just be eliminated. We know of a local distillery (and there are many more) who are selling No Age Statement whiskey (4 different ones) including one that is labeled as Straight, yet they have had their DSP for less than 3 years, and distribute sell sheets that state the age of the whiskeys are 18-24 months old. So there is absolutely no question that the spirits are less than 4 years old and they require an age statement. The TTB has advised that while they are aware of this, they can not release any information pertaining to the individual distilleries involved and they recommend that we get a group of distillers together to contact our State Attorney General and have them look into enforcement action. 

Then the other day I submitted a COLA app for a reserve Bourbon with NAS and they kicked it back asking for an age. I went ballistic, called the TTB and asked "how can you now demand the age statement verification on the COLA while at the same time do nothing when there is known whiskey out there being sold NAS?" After getting to the supervisory level they very graciously apologized for the kick-back given the circumstances. Since then they have instituted the new  red warning on the COLA app for whiskeys which request age statement verification.

If most distillers comply with the age requirement and some don't, it puts those who do at a distinct disadvantage. It makes young AGE Statement Labeled products look less desirable on the shelf alongside "craft/small producer" NAS spirits that are of the same age or even younger. Beyond that, every time a customer buys a 24 month old NAS "Straight Bourbon" that sucks, they are thereafter less inclined to buy from any other craft distiller, because they think their legally labeled 48month+ NAS bourbon is going to be equally bad/raw.

NOTE TO TTB: If a distiller has had their DSP for less than 48 months, and the label says "Distilled by" that distillery, do not approve an NAS label, and when notified of blatant illegal labels, send an enforcement letter to the DSP  ! Failing that, eliminate the entire requirement for age, and stop putting those DSP's that comply with the law, at a competitive disadvantage. 

The big brands are laughing at this because they know our industry has sleezebags destroying the perceived value of Craft Whiskey by this type of self servig deceptive marketing, which just pushes consumers back to the reliable "Big Brands". 

Hello.  The standard for Bourbon requires two years in a new oak barrel minimum.  I'm surprised that you were surprised that an age statement was required for your label. Further, the idea that whiskey has to be 48 months old, is totally refuted by the standard for Bourbon.  I did not see a requirement for an age statement on any other whiskey besides "straight" whiskies.  Where in the standards does it say whiskey has to be 48 months old or it needs an age statement?  I don't mean this to sound contentious, it's a real question.

I understood the long, rambling document to perseverate on the issue of age statements being true. I can understand your chagrin that there are craft distilleries that lie about one thing and another, but not having an age statement is not the same as lying.  If the underlying frustration is with accelerated aging techniques like oak chips and oxygenation not having to be disclosed, then, perhaps that's the better comment to affect policy.  Whether or not the TTB devotes its budget to seeking out the perpetrators of false or obfuscated labels, doesn't release all of us from being truthful.  The world is full of people who cheat, so let your integrity speak for itself.

If the product has a mixture of aged spirits, the age statement has to use the youngest aged spirit as the length of time.  Age statements make little sense in terms of quality of product

when you consider size of barrel and the effect on maturation.  However, it does make a difference to some consumers if there is an age statement. I see no reason not to use age statements if the distiller considers age an important element in the quality of their product. Consumers who do care will pay attention.  Honestly, I see it as a big-endians/little-endians (Jonathan Swift) sort of problem.

Edited by KRS
Clarity

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KRS - Seriously no offense, but after reading your post for the 3rd time, I can still not find one single complete sentence that is either factual, legal or even remotely comprehensible . I have attached the BAM that you might want to look at as you go forward in the industry. In the instant case you might want to peruse Chapter 8.  

The BAM is essentially the "Working Document" and if you want the reference law, please check the CFR's

prost/Roger. 

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On 12/6/2018 at 12:16 PM, fotoski said:

This seems to be the issue a lot of people are focusing on this week: The 50-gallon requirement would not only stifle a lot of people who have had a lot of whiskey in other size and shape barrels for years, it also stifles creativity. Instead of narrowing the definition of barrel, TTB should be opening up the definition to include more types of barrels -- toasted instead of charred, oak from other continents, larger and smaller sizes. Barrels are a way that distillers define flavor and the more the definition of an oak barrel is restricted, the less creativity we will see in this highly inventive aspect of flavor creation. 

We need to get on the same page with our understandings of what the regulation requires and what it does not.  

The standards of identity for all whiskey, except whiskey designated straight whiskey, do not require that the product have any particular age.  That has been proposed in the past and rejected by the government.  The last time of which I am aware was 1968.  After a notice of proposed rule making and a comment period, the government  issued Treasury Decision 6945, which was published in the Federal Register for January 26, 1968.  It addressed four issues decided by that ruling and the government’s rationale for its decisions.  Those rulings reflect the government views on the effect storage in oak has on the character of whiskey.  Because these issues were decided after hearing, they establish clear precedent for any future decisions concerning the whiskey standards.  They come with regulatory inertia.  They should not be ignored. 

In discussing the issue of new versus charred oak, faced with Scotch and other whiskey matured in used oak, the government focused on the proof of distillation standard.  It found, "charred new oak wood is necessary to properly mature these types of whiskies distilled not in excess of 160° proof.     It held, “Reused cooperage does not provide the char and proper balance of wood extractives to mature and develop such whiskies in the traditional manner.” It then concluded that removing the requirement that products designated bourbon, wheat, rye, and malt whiskey be stored in charred new oak would “would facilitate the production of whiskies to be marketed as bourbon, rye, etc., or "straight" whisky which generally lack the distinguishing characteristics of such whiskies,” which, it concluded, would not be in the interests of the consumer.

Now, if you look to the standard of identity for the American type whiskeys (those of the type designated bourbon, rye, malt, wheat and oat whiskey) that the government was addressing, you will that it does not require a minimum period of storage in those sanctified new oak containers that the government "deemed necessary to properly mature" them. It requires storage in new charred oak.  It does not specify for how long.  Age is a separate matter. 

The standard of identity appears in §5.22; the age requirement appears in §5.40.  Age is a shell that is placed over the standard.  Age is defined for the whiskeys in question, as the time spent in new charred oak containers."  Two petitioners had requested that the government establish a minimum period of storage in new charred oak for these whiskeys.  One asked that the minimum be two years; the other asked that it be four year. 

Now, It would seem that the government, buy its insistence on the necessity of contact with new charrred oak,  had created its own hurdle to denial.  Surely, if contact with new charred oak is necessary to mature a whiskey, then it follows that there must be some minimum necessary period of contact to accomplish the transformation into a mature whiskey.  De minimis contact of, say,  thirteen seconds, or even 13 days, and probably 13 weeks, and for some 13 months,  is not going to properly mature a whiskey right off the still.  The government's own "necessary to properly" maturity criteria screams for some time in the barrel standard.    

Yet the the government rejected this proposal.  If it could not clear the hurdle it had constructed, it could walk around it by declaring a no harm no foul rule.  And so the government gave two reasons for not requiring a minimum time in the barrel for whiskey designated bourbon, rye, wheat, oat or malt whiskey.  First, the government argued that the proponents had not established a need for a minimum age requirement for “current domestic types of whiskey,”  because,.it argued, “there are no appreciable amounts of immature whiskies currently being sold.”  It went on, “Although some whisky is being offered at less than two years of age, this is, in the main, corn whisky.” Second, the government said, "In any event, the present regulations protect the consumer by requiring all whiskies less than four years old to bear a true age statement.”  And with that the government left the barn door open.

Well, times change.  TTB, which used to have staff to enforce, no longer does.  And the glut of aged whiskeys that was around in 1968 no longer is.  

So, if you want to argue in favor of a minimum time in the barrel for some types of whiskey, as some do here, then their best approach is to hoist the government on its 1968 petard.  Blow up its justifications for not requiring a minimuy tiome in the barrel.  Argue that the situation has evolved.  Argue that the need to mature has not changed since the government described it, so well, in 1968. Point out that the only reasons the government gave for not imposing a time in barrel standard was that there was little immature whiskey in the market and that the age statement acted to inform the consumer.  Then point out that both those justifications are flawed today. 

Argue that, whatever may have been the case in 1968, that is not the case now.  Argue that immature whiskey is common.  Argue that, if the government cannot enforce the requirement for an age statement, it can enforce a different requirement.  Propose that before the government approves a label for a whiskey for which it has deemed contact with new charged oak necessary to mature properly, the bottler must submit, with the label approval, a formula showing the minimum time in new charred oak was four years or more if there is no age statement.  And for straight whiskey, require a formula that shows two years of more in new charred oak.  Require a statement  that the person submitting the label affirms that they understand the age requirements and that violations of the age requirement will be considered willful and will put the permit at risk. Argue that not to do so facilitates "the production of whiskies to be marketed as bourbon, rye, etc., or "straight" whisky which generally lack the distinguishing characteristics of such whiskies,” which, as the government concluded in 1968, is not in the interests of the consumer.

Now, this is not a part of the proposals that TTB has put forth in the notice, so it is unlikely that they will take action on time in the barrel requirements this go around, but you can make these arguments in support of rejecting the ludicrous 53 gallon - cylindrical standard they want to impose on barrels.  There are better arguments against that definition of barrel, and I will make them, but it is a back door into getting comments on "time in the barrel requirements" on the record.  NPR's of the sort the government has put forth open the doors to other changes.  Look, sometime, at the way viticultural areas came to permeate wine marketing.
 

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Here is a link to the Whiskey Systems survey where you can voice your opinion and feedback on the TTB proposed changes. If you enter in your distillery name and email, we will send you the consolidated meta data once it’s all put together.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2JYXGCY

If you are just looking for a clean, easy to read list of all the changes (distilled down from 132 pages to 1 page), check this link out:

https://whiskeysystems.com/2018/12/14/whiskey-systems-online-summarizes-ttb-proposed-changes/

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