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Getting Labels Approved through TTB- Needed or Not Needed?

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Question: Do all labels for sprits need to be approved through COLAs? 

Reason for Question: I have seen many craft distillers posts of Facebook with their bottles and they dont seem to meet the requirements that I have had to do on my labels to get the approved through COLAs. Such as Alc by Vol or specific statements on the front and a few more things I have seen. 

Is it a must to have every label approved before selling?

This may be a difficult question to answer on a forum so if you would like to direct email me with your thoughts or experiences that would help me out a ton. Thanks 


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The TTB requires COLA approval for interstate (state-to-state) commerce. Intrastate (sales not crossing a state line) has a lower requirement - but it still has to have FOLA approval and a COLA waiver signed. The difficulty is your state. In PA we are required to have COLA approval regardless of inter/intrastate commerce*. You will need to contact a your state control board or local attorney to figure out if you are required to by your state or not.


*There is massive loophole for this in PA. You can sell anything in any size as a Cocktail To Go as long as you meet those requirements.

Edited by Foreshot
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COLA doesn't verify what's in the bottle matches the label, only that the label meets the requirements for the Class/Type, etc etc.

Good example of this is age statements on straight whiskey.  I know of plenty of labels that erroneously omit the age statement, because the product is actually under 4 years.  However, from the TTB perspective, they'll assume because there is no age statement, that it's over 4 years.  This doesn't fall into a "gray area", because the TTB isn't approving the product, only the label.  Producer is misrepresenting the product.

Also keep in mind this new trend of stickering over the label on distributor/retailer barrel picks.  These are non-approved "labels" that are usually applied by the retailer to even more differentiate their "pick".  Very few of these even come close to being "approvable" labels.  Hearing that some of the big distilleries are pushing back on stickering, because they are entering into a very gray regulatory area, misrepresenting brand, etc.

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