It's hard to be a journalist these days. I'm not talking about myself. Without getting into what I do, my thing is pretty well set. I'm also old and will die soon (but not soon enough for some people).
No, I'm talking about young people trying to get established, find a voice, and make a living. That last one is especially hard. There are no more journalists, no writers or reporters, just content producers and content providers. The modern media devours content at an alarming rate and, consequently, values any one bit of it very little. You have to crank out an immense number of words, albeit in tiny packages, to have any hope of feeding your family, and the people you are selling them to could care less about quality or accuracy.
You probably even signed a contract making that your problem, you know, if they're ever sued.
In 1997, Puff Daddy told us it was all about the Benjamins. Today, it's all about the clicks. At that, lists excel. Lists have been popular since the Big Man dropped the first ten on Moses, but never more than today.
It's the list's premise that draws the clicks, so what's actually in the list doesn't matter much. You can't unclick that which has been clicked.
It is in that context that Jason Diamond for Men's Journal devoted 15 minutes of his day to crafting "5 American Distilleries Making Whiskey You Can Trust." In the wake of Eric Felten's Daily Beast piece, Diamond created an 'answer' list. Although he doesn't mention Felten's article, he does link to SKUs "Complete List of American Whiskey Distilleries & Brands."
Then he drops, as his number two selection, Widow Jane Bourbon. I watched the article being edited live, so who knows what it says now. The fact is, Widow Jane Bourbon was distilled and aged by one of the usual suspects in Kentucky or Indiana (SKU says Indiana) from a standard recipe. Cacao Prieto bought the mature whiskey in bulk, took it to New York, and diluted it from barrel proof (about 65% ABV) to bottling proof (45.5% ABV) with water from the Widow Jane Mine.
Diamond's other four recommendations, by the way, are excellent. Eighty percent is passing in most schools, so Diamond didn't do a terrible job, he just wiffed on Widow Jane. Adding water to whiskey is not a craft. Adding water to whiskey is something millions of misguided souls do every day. There is nothing artisan about it.
Cacao Prieto does have a distillery and on the product list on their web site, the products they actually distill are conveniently labeled "Distilled in Red Hook, Brooklyn." Widow Jane Bourbon is not one of them. Instead its label says, "Pure Limestone Mineral Water from the Widow Jane Mine, Rosendale, NY."
The detective work here is pretty simple. Cacao Prieto started in 2012 and started to sell this 7-year-old bourbon that same year, so they could not have made it themselves. Since it's pretty obvious this 7-year-old bourbon was not distilled in New York State, and the true state of distillation is not shown on the label, Widow Jane Bourbon is breaking TTB Rule 5.36(d).
In fairness to Cacao Prieto, they didn't ask Diamond to put this product on his ostensibly trustworthy list, but he did, and their labeling violates Federal law. Widow Jane Bourbon may be a very fine whiskey but "artisanally crafted in Brooklyn" it is not.
If only TTB Rule 5.36(d) had been followed, Jason Diamond might have been spared this small embarrassment.