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TNaq

Question About Spirit Definition Legalities

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Hey all, first post here, been reading for quite some time. I'm in the very early stages of "construction" of a nano or more aptly defined, a pico or even zepto distillery. This will not be my primary income, at least that's not the plan, but who knows what the future may hold, but will be something I want to keep enjoyable - a hobby producing just enough volume to net enough money to make the hobby free plus a small net positive just to make me feel like I'm at least making minimum wage for the toiling while doing everything 100% legally.

My question is, I know that there are federal laws governing spirits - what you label them - e.g. Rum, Brandy, Whiskey, Bourbon, Vodka, but can you create craft spirit recipes and sell them legally IF they are not called and not labeled the aforementioned? For example could you produce a "rye rum" being a recipe of 50% rye, 25% molasses and 25% dark cane sugar and call this "Pirate Spirits" and sell it legally? (this is just an example for the sake of the question)......can one legally sell a spirit that is not a whiskey, not a rum, not a vodka, not a brandy, etc?

Thanks for any knowledge and insight - I'm sure I'll have many more questions in the future and never be able to repay the knowledge.

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4 minutes ago, TNaq said:

My question is, I know that there are federal laws governing spirits - what you label them - e.g. Rum, Brandy, Whiskey, Bourbon, Vodka, but can you create craft spirit recipes and sell them legally IF they are not called and not labeled the aforementioned? For example could you produce a "rye rum" being a recipe of 50% rye, 25% molasses and 25% dark cane sugar and call this "Pirate Spirits" and sell it legally? (this is just an example for the sake of the question)......can one legally sell a spirit that is not a whiskey, not a rum, not a vodka, not a brandy, etc?

Yes, you can. This sheet will show you all the legally defined Classes and Types of spirits:
https://www.ttb.gov/spirits/bam/chapter4.pdf

If it does not fit into one of the defined Classes then it gets categorized as a "DISTILLED SPIRITS SPECIALTY" - "Distilled spirits not defined under any other class · Generally, any class and/or type of distilled spirits that contain or are treated with flavoring and/or coloring materials and/or nonstandard blending or treating materials or processes" and not "Pirate Spirits."

9 minutes ago, TNaq said:

but will be something I want to keep enjoyable - a hobby producing just enough volume to net enough money to make the hobby free plus a small net positive just to make me feel like I'm at least making minimum wage for the toiling while doing everything 100% legally.

And I know you did not ask, but doing what your saying you want to do sounds like the fastest way to probably make a hobby a lot less enjoyable. 

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Adding to hedgebird's comments, all Distilled Spirits Specialty will require formula approval before applying for labels. This sounds kind of minor, but I'm sure it will add to the list of things that makes the hobby less enjoyable.

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58 minutes ago, HedgeBird said:

And I know you did not ask, but doing what your saying you want to do sounds like the fastest way to probably make a hobby a lot less enjoyable. 

It takes a lot more effort to clean up after a smaller distillery than a larger one. If you are too small - you'll put a ton of work into a tiny unprofitable output. Its OK to be small - just not too small. If you love the hobby, be careful starting a distillery. The romance fades quickly and the work is unending.

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TNaq,

 

There is nothing wrong with starting small.  I had a customer purchase a 40 gallon still from me 4 years ago.  Within 1 year they came back and bought a 60 gallon baine marie still. 18 months after that they purchased a 150 gallon Baine Marie, then last year they purchased a 500 gallon steam jacketed still along with a low pressure steam boiler and lots of other equipment.  Now i see his moonshine in all of my local liquor stores and I am over 150 miles from him. I have had several customers start with small equipment then upsize several times.  They say Tito started out with a 15 gallon still and year before last he sold $90,000,000.00 worth of Vodka.

  I started every business that I have ever owned on a shoestring.  I am sure that If I had told someone that I was going to start a distillery equipment business with $1,000.00  with no investors and without borrowing any money and that I would sell $12,000,000.00 worth of distillery equipment in 6 years they would have told me that I was crazy.

Starting a distillery, even a tiny distillery is a lot of work but you can still have fun with it.   If you ever need any equipment, check out our web sites below or email me paul@distillery-equipment.com I'm glad to help you get started.

http://distillery-equipment.com

http://moonshine-still.co

http://triclamp.co

 

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2 hours ago, HedgeBird said:

Yes, you can. This sheet will show you all the legally defined Classes and Types of spirits:
https://www.ttb.gov/spirits/bam/chapter4.pdf

If it does not fit into one of the defined Classes then it gets categorized as a "DISTILLED SPIRITS SPECIALTY" - "Distilled spirits not defined under any other class · Generally, any class and/or type of distilled spirits that contain or are treated with flavoring and/or coloring materials and/or nonstandard blending or treating materials or processes" and not "Pirate Spirits." 

Understood as far as the classification.....I assume this "distilled spirits - specialty" will have to appear on the label as such? Also can the spirit still have a name - just for example, "sweet sunshine"? That was the "pirate spirits" reference - the marketing name, not the classification. 

 

2 hours ago, HedgeBird said:

And I know you did not ask, but doing what your saying you want to do sounds like the fastest way to probably make a hobby a lot less enjoyable. 

This is definitely worth taking under advisement, thanks. I have already own a building with the space for equipment that would easily allow 75 gallons a week proofed spirits if it's single run process, but that's about it - past that relocation and debt will be involved to acquire more space for larger equipment footprint. Thanks for that insight. 

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2 hours ago, Tom Lenerz said:

Adding to hedgebird's comments, all Distilled Spirits Specialty will require formula approval before applying for labels. This sounds kind of minor, but I'm sure it will add to the list of things that makes the hobby less enjoyable.

Understood - this is my biggest uneasiness with all this - it's not the business, not the work, not the long hours - I've owned a 6 bay auto repair business for soon to be 30 years wearing many hats in this business, from actually being in the trenches, being the guy doing all the sales tax filings, payroll tax filings, dealing with the EPA and DEQ - I understand all too well lots of work for just a decent living and what was once an enjoyable occupation turning into just another grind, but the EXPONENTIAL nature of the paperwork and reporting, etc is quite unnerving. 

Can many of these approvals and applications be done electronically, or is most of it paper sent via snail-mail?

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34 minutes ago, Southernhighlander said:

TNaq,

 

There is nothing wrong with starting small.  I had a customer purchase a 40 gallon still from me 4 years ago.  Within 1 year they came back and bought a 60 gallon baine marie still. 18 months after that they purchased a 150 gallon Baine Marie, then last year they purchased a 500 gallon steam jacketed still along with a low pressure steam boiler and lots of other equipment.  Now i see his moonshine in all of my local liquor stores and I am over 150 miles from him. I have had several customers start with small equipment then upsize several times.  They say Tito started out with a 15 gallon still and year before last he sold $90,000,000.00 worth of Vodka.

  I started every business that I have ever owned on a shoestring.  I am sure that If I had told someone that I was going to start a distillery equipment business with $1,000.00  with no investors and without borrowing any money and that I would sell $12,000,000.00 worth of distillery equipment in 6 years they would have told me that I was crazy.

Starting a distillery, even a tiny distillery is a lot of work but you can still have fun with it.   If you ever need any equipment, check out our web sites below or email me paul@distillery-equipment.com I'm glad to help you get started.

http://distillery-equipment.com

http://moonshine-still.co

http://triclamp.co

 

Thanks, Paul. I actually have had correspondence with you about a 105 gallon distill-on-grain setup. I truly appreciate your insight. The slllooow procession of this process is quite unnerving for me, I'm used to making decisions one day and putting it into practice the next. 

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3 hours ago, TNaq said:

I'm in the very early stages of "construction" of a nano or more aptly defined, a pico or even zepto distillery.

Being in the build-out phase ourselves, there are a lot of additional people you need to make happy.  I don't know if you had to get approval to open you repair shop but some cities do not want a distillery.  Even if you are not opposed, there are many building and fire codes you will have to comply with and even though these are National in scope the local interpretation can stop you.  Then there is your state liquor control board that will have a say in how and what you can sell.  Make sure your AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) wants to have a distillery in his city before doing anything else.  

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11 minutes ago, Thatch said:

Being in the build-out phase ourselves, there are a lot of additional people you need to make happy.  I don't know if you had to get approval to open you repair shop but some cities do not want a distillery.  Even if you are not opposed, there are many building and fire codes you will have to comply with and even though these are National in scope the local interpretation can stop you.  Then there is your state liquor control board that will have a say in how and what you can sell.  Make sure your AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) wants to have a distillery in his city before doing anything else.  

Understood. That's where I am now - asking questions of people in-the-know but asking off the record of people who know people - since many questions asked of the wrong person, they cannot be "un-asked". I've already verified that my location is a go for manufacture as well as retail sales. The trigger would be sales for consumption - I'm a no-go for that, but that was NEVER in the plans anyway - that would be classified as a bar and that is another whole can of worms - fortunately my state and local government is alcohol friendly - we have drive-thru daiquiri shops and all that is required to circumvent the open-container law is a piece of freezer tape over the lid. My state recently passed legislation allowing distilleries to also have a retail sales store on premises - so my major hurdle is going to be with feds and the fire marshal....and to my understanding the trigger for major fire marshal headaches is having 10,000 gallons or more stored on site - that's not going to be a trigger - I could be wrong about this, but I will CERTAINLY have all these legal bases covered before any equipment is purchased. One encouraging thing is that a young fella locally just went all-in, sold his house, moved back in with his parents, bought his equipment and opened a vodka distillery in basically the same size and style metal building as I have available and seems to be making a go of it just ever so slightly larger the scale I'm looking to do.....I don't know the guy personally, but I know some people who do and I haven't heard any legislative horror stories he encountered. I'd love to talk to the guy, but I'm still at a point in all this that I'm not ready to let the cat out of the bag yet of my plans - I've got a vodka distillery and a rum distillery all within a 15 mile radius of me, so it's certainly doable - whether it is worth doing for ME still remains to be seen, but I'm still feeling positive.

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Buy a boat instead, you’ll lose the same amount of money but it’ll be more fun doing it.  Porsche might be a good alternative if you don’t like water.

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1 minute ago, Silk City Distillers said:

Buy a boat instead, you’ll lose the same amount of money but it’ll be more fun doing it.

Been there done that! Offshore fishing rig. Bought it when fuel was 2.50 a gallon - eight years and twin Yamaha Offshore Series 150 HP motor replacements later fuel was 4.25 a gallon. Nobody wants to buy a 25 foot boat with two 150 outboards when fuel is 4.50 a gallon, either.

 Boat = Bust Out Another Thousand.....but yeah....it WAS fun while it lasted......could have bought a lot of fish though.

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Distilled spirits specialty are usually labeled with a fanciful name and a statement spirits distilled from X on the front label.   Not a big deal, but you do have to get formula approval first.  Last time I did one, formula approval was less than 2 weeks, but it has taken up to 2 months to get one approved.  

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15 hours ago, TNaq said:

Understood as far as the classification.....I assume this "distilled spirits - specialty" will have to appear on the label as such? Also can the spirit still have a name - just for example, "sweet sunshine"? That was the "pirate spirits" reference - the marketing name, not the classification

It would.  "Sweet Sunshine" or "Pirate Spirits" would be either the brand name of fanciful name, and I believe both are required for the Specialty class along with a product description.
https://www.ttb.gov/pdf/brochures/p51902.pdf

Sounds like your at least familiar with running a business and keeping records, etc. so the un-enjoyable parts might not be a big issue for you.  Best of luck!

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10 hours ago, bluefish_dist said:

Distilled spirits specialty are usually labeled with a fanciful name and a statement spirits distilled from X on the front label.   Not a big deal, but you do have to get formula approval first.  Last time I did one, formula approval was less than 2 weeks, but it has taken up to 2 months to get one approved.  

Thanks, this answers my question. Can this be submitted on the TTB site once you create an account and obtain your DSP?

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1 hour ago, HedgeBird said:

It would.  "Sweet Sunshine" or "Pirate Spirits" would be either the brand name of fanciful name, and I believe both are required for the Specialty class along with a product description.
https://www.ttb.gov/pdf/brochures/p51902.pdf

Sounds like your at least familiar with running a business and keeping records, etc. so the un-enjoyable parts might not be a big issue for you.  Best of luck!

Thanks. I realize the records keeping - especially the accuracy and depth of such will be exponentially greater than what I'm used to, but I don't think it is going to be what would take the enjoyment out of this for me - but that remains in the back of my mind. And thanks again for the knowledge and experience. The thing that is new and formidable to me is having to ask permission for E V E R Y T H I N G and wait for permission.

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Fourmulas are crazy fast now. A week or less. 

Keep in mind that the most creative products typically don't have the best sell through in any place but your own tasting room. People en mass are quite reluctant to part with their 40 bucks in a liquor store when looking at your speciality in a sea of choice, whether you think your persimmon spice double mint latte cream is the best thing on the planet or not.

Tasting room, yes. Liquor store and bar, not so much. 

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3 hours ago, TNaq said:

Thanks, this answers my question. Can this be submitted on the TTB site once you create an account and obtain your DSP?

Yes, once you have your dsp you can start submitting formulas for approval.  Then once you have a formula approval you apply for the cola (label) approval.  All done online.  

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7 minutes ago, bluefish_dist said:

Yes, once you have your dsp you can start submitting formulas for approval.  Then once you have a formula approval you apply for the cola (label) approval.  All done online.  

Thanks. Thanks to all, you guys have been a big help!

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I am going around and around with the 'specialists' at the TTB...  They are saying my 'Brand Name' for a Class-Type 414 Florida Gold Rum cannot be 'Palmer's Tropical'...     (keep in mind I have 5 COLA's approved with just that, we just want to update the labels to a new front and back label..)

 

First they wanted it to have a formula to explain 'tropical'... 

After stating the steps and results from the "Do I need a formula?" for Rum, they backed off of that and came back with 'Tropical is misleading' as it is not the name of our distillery.  (do they understand what a brand name is?)

I tried to explain that it was just a Brand Name, but they were not having it... They said I was misleading the customer because I did not show the relationship between Cotherman Distilling Company, listed as the distiller and bottler on the back, and 'Palmer's Tropical' on the front... So I sent them the COLA approval for Weller, which says Weller on the front as the Brand Name,  and if you look at the approval details, "Weller" listed in Part 1, line 6 as ...  yes...  the "Brand Name"... 

They are saying: "the name Palmer Tropical is misleading because Palmer's Tropical is not the bottler for this product and does not appear on your permit. The words "Bottled For" must precede the brand name on front label so that the consumer is not misled by the true bottler."

I am biting my tongue.... It is a Brand Name, Dammit!    I just wish I tried this a few months ago before the survey they sent expired...  boy they will get an earful next year!!!!!

 

In the background, from the beginning, I submitted a formula for 'Tropical' Rum using at least 51% molasses from south Florida, defined as having a 'Tropical' climate, and mentioned in the method of manufacture 'distill to a spirit that retains 'Tropical' flavors of Rum... It was approved in a few days, and I resubmitted new application and attached the formula...

 

 

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On 7/26/2018 at 7:57 PM, clearwaterbrewer said:

I am going around and around with the 'specialists' at the TTB...  They are saying my 'Brand Name' for a Class-Type 414 Florida Gold Rum cannot be 'Palmer's Tropical'...     (keep in mind I have 5 COLA's approved with just that, we just want to update the labels to a new front and back label..)

 

First they wanted it to have a formula to explain 'tropical'... 

After stating the steps and results from the "Do I need a formula?" for Rum, they backed off of that and came back with 'Tropical is misleading' as it is not the name of our distillery.  (do they understand what a brand name is?)

I tried to explain that it was just a Brand Name, but they were not having it... They said I was misleading the customer because I did not show the relationship between Cotherman Distilling Company, listed as the distiller and bottler on the back, and 'Palmer's Tropical' on the front... So I sent them the COLA approval for Weller, which says Weller on the front as the Brand Name,  and if you look at the approval details, "Weller" listed in Part 1, line 6 as ...  yes...  the "Brand Name"... 

They are saying: "the name Palmer Tropical is misleading because Palmer's Tropical is not the bottler for this product and does not appear on your permit. The words "Bottled For" must precede the brand name on front label so that the consumer is not misled by the true bottler."

I am biting my tongue.... It is a Brand Name, Dammit!    I just wish I tried this a few months ago before the survey they sent expired...  boy they will get an earful next year!!!!!

 

In the background, from the beginning, I submitted a formula for 'Tropical' Rum using at least 51% molasses from south Florida, defined as having a 'Tropical' climate, and mentioned in the method of manufacture 'distill to a spirit that retains 'Tropical' flavors of Rum... It was approved in a few days, and I resubmitted new application and attached the formula...

 

 

Stick to you guns! Call and ask to speak to a manager for the label division. You are correct, a brand name does not have to have anything in common with the distillery name WHATSOEVER. We have 20 different brands all distilled and sold by us, and none refer descriptively to the distillery name. As long as you have the correct "distilled by" or "produced by" identifier on the label, you should be good. You do have to worry if a brand name somehow suggests something false. For example, if there IS a registered distillery named as your brand, then you might not be able to use that name for your brand. Also, if the name suggests something descriptive that is considered misleading, then you can not use it. For example, a brand like "Rum Spring", but it is not rum.

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7 minutes ago, bluestar said:

For example, if there IS a registered distillery named as your brand, then you might not be able to use that name for your brand.

Yup, that must be what is driving it. Your product is sold and marketed by Palmer's Tropical Beverages, LLC. So, if you are going to put that on as the brand, you may have to make clear the relationship of that company to your distillery. If they are one and the same, then it must be listed as a DBA for the DSP. If in fact they are NOT the same, that is where their suggestion that you label it something like "Distilled and botteld by Cotherman Distilling Company for Palmer's Tropical Beverages, LLC". It depends on the relationship of the distillery to the LLC.

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thanks for the support guys...  I ended up getting the two with formulas aback as approved in less than 48 hours, then the two without formulas(same image files) came back a few days later... I think someone was just grumpy or not 100% up to snuff on rules.....  

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