Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Most Micro-Distillery Whiskeys Are Illegal In California.

This is fascinating! Apparently, nearly all micro-distillery whiskeys are illegal in California. The law there says that a distilled spirit labeled as 'whiskey' has to be at least three years old. (That's the rule in Europe too, by the way, which has been giving mirco-distillers fits.) That's the rule in California but no one, including California's alcohol regulators, seems to know about it, because many <3-year-old whiskeys are sold there.

California also appears to require charred barrels.

The pertinent section also uses the term 'straight whiskey' without defining it, which seems like an indirect acknowledgement of the federal Standards of Identity, where it is defined. The term 'straight whiskey' is used nowhere else in the 376-page law.

Presumably, if this rule were to be enforced it could be challenged on the grounds that the federal rules control, and the federal rules have no such requirement.

Here is the relevant section.

25175. Age of whiskey. Any person who sells at retail any potable spirituous liquor product labeled as whiskey, including blended whiskey and blends of straight whiskeys, except products containing 20 or more percent of straight whiskey or whiskeys which have been aged in charred oak containers for three or more years after distillation and before bottling is guilty of a misdemeanor, except that this section does not prohibit the sale at retail of unaged corn whiskey, when so labeled, or the sale at retail of gins, brandies, rums, cordials, liqueurs, bitters, or other distilled liquor products or products compounded of distilled spirits and other materials, when in no wise labeled as whiskey or blended whiskey or blends of straight whiskeys, or the sale at retail of Scotch whiskeys, or spirit whiskeys containing not less than 5 percent straight whiskey, three years old or older.


camper said...

Anchor ran into this problem when they released Old Potrero whiskey- see this bottle for the California market:

It's not labelled as whiskey at all in California!

Michael Lazar said...

I see plenty of 2 year old product for sale here in CA labeled as whiskey. Redemption, for example.