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Flavored Vodka


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Submitted a formula for a flavored vodka and now think I want to sweeten it slightly. Can I do this without a formula modification and is there a limit to the amount of sugar that can be added?

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I am a total noob but I had read this from the atf site. Get ready:

In 1956, Revenue Ruling 56-98, 1956-1 C.B. 811, concluded that citric acid and sugar were not considered to be flavoring ingredients which would materially affect the taste of vodka or change its basic character so long as the sugar did not exceed two-tenths of 1 percent and citric acid was only added in a "trace amount." The ruling did not quantify "trace amount." Nevertheless, it is clear that citric acid usage was intended as a smoothing agent to correct objectionable tastes which might result from such things as the water used in reducing the proof, the charcoal used in distillation, or the glass in which packaged. Available information indicates that the use of citric acid from this time until the 1980's was in the range of approximately 49 to 150 parts per million (ppm). However, starting in the 1980's, the quantity of citric acid added to vodka increased significantly.

In response to the increased usage of citric acid in vodka, ATF initiated rulemaking to determine whether or not a specific limitation should be established in order to preserve the standard of identify for vodka. The extensive rulemaking history of the citric acid issue is set forth in detail in T.D. ATF-360, 59 FR 67216, (December 29, 1994). In that Treasury decision, ATF determined that a maximum level of citric acid addition of 300 ppm (300 milligrams per liter) was proper before the product became a flavored vodka.

Subsequently, Public Law 104-52, 109 Stat. 468 (November 19, 1995) was enacted. Section 528 of Public Law 104-52 states that, "(n)o part of any appropriation made available in this Act shall be used to implement Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Ruling T.D. ATF-360; Re: Notice Nos. 782, 780, 91F009P." This language also appears in ATF's current appropriation, which is set forth in Public Law 104-208 (110 Stat. 3009, September 30, 1996).

The Conference Report accompanying Public Law 104-52, H.R. Rep. 104-291, Oct. 20, 1995, provides as follows: "Although conferees agree with the Senate proposal that no part of any appropriation made available in this Act shall be used to implement the ATF and Treasury decision ATF-360 [59 FR 67216, 12/29/94], which limited the amount of citric acid that could be added to vodka to 300 parts per million (PPM), the conferees recognize the complex nature of the various issues surrounding any standard of identity determination with respect to the labeling of vodka. Therefore, the ATF is directed to conduct a study, in consultation with industry members, to determine whether a more reasonable industry standard can be established that better balances the interests of the consumer, the industry, and the Government."

As a result of Public Law 104-52, ATF amended 27 CFR 5.23(a) (3) to remove the 300 ppm citric acid limitation requirement set by T.D. ATF-360, pending further study. During the pendency of such study, ATF continued to allow the use of up to 1,000 ppm of citric acid in vodka without changing its designation as "vodka," subject to the applicable formula requirements.


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You can ignore the citric acid - sugar rulings. They relate to whether there is a change of class and type as a result of the additions of those items. You are talking about flavored vodka, which is not vodka. It is its own class and type.

Class 9; flavored brandy, flavored gin, flavored rum, flavored vodka, and flavored whisky. “Flavored vodka,” is ...vodka ... to which has been added natural flavoring materials, with or without the addition of sugar, and bottled at not less than 60° proof. The name of the predominant flavor shall appear as a part of the designation. If the finished product contains more than 21/2percent by volume of wine, the kinds and precentages by volume of wine must be stated as a part of the designation, except that a flavored brandy may contain an additional 121/2percent by volume of wine, without label disclosure, if the additional wine is derived from the particular fruit corresponding to the labeled flavor of the product.

You were correct in obtaining a formula, because they are required for all flavored distilled spirits products. Here is the basic reqwuirement:

§5.26 Formula requirements.

(a) General. An approved formula is required to blend, mix, purify, refine, compound, or treat spirits in a manner which results in a change of character, composition, class or type of the spirits. Form 5110.38 (27-B Supplemental) shall be filed in accordance with the instructions on the form and shall designate all ingredients and, if required, the process used. Any approved formula on Form 27-B Supplemental or Form 5110.38 shall remain in effect until revoked, superseded, or voluntarily surrendered. Any existing qualifying statements as to the rate of tax or the limited use of drawback flavors appearing on a Form 27-B Supplemental are obsolete.

(B)Change in formula. Any change in an approved formula shall require the filing of a new Form 5110.38. After a change in a formula is approved, the original formula shall be surrendered to the appropriate TTB officer.

If you did not include sugar in the original formula, it would appear that you would need to file a new formula to use sugar. If your exisitng formula includes sugar, then you would need to file a new formula if the quantity you now want to use falls outside of the range that you may have shown on the approved formula.

I recommend that you call TTB's formulation division and aks them. You can reach them at 202-453-2250 (tol free 866-927-2533 or by e-mail at alfd@ttb.gov. They are the authoritative source. I am not.

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dhdunbar has good advice there (as always!). I would add that using the website to submit formulas is pretty much the ONLY way to get it done these days...and there are instructions for submitting formula amendments (essentially using a sequential numbering system) and that they clearly state that they if you make amendments to the formula before they do the initial review, then they will only consider the latest formula.

I know navigating the website is tedious and narcoleptic, but almost everything you need to know is stated somewhere, albeit often in a ridiculous place.

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