Monday, September 15, 2014

Deep In the Heart of ... Not Texas



This should be easy, right? It says 'Texas Made' on the front label. And 'Texas' is part of the name, isn't it? Plus, who would be crazy enough to claim something is made in Texas when it's not? Texas pride doesn't take that sort of thing lightly. I mean, 1835 is the year Texas began its struggle for independence from Mexico. What kind of person would debase that hallowed year by using it to sell Potemkin whiskey? In Texas? What sort of low-down varmint would do such a thing?

And yet, read what Lauren Drewes Daniels wrote in the Dallas Observer last November.

"Take the whiskey called 1835, which is bottled by North Texas Distillers in Lewisville. The name is a salute to the year settlers in Gonzales stood their ground against Mexican troops in what is historically considered the start of the Texas Revolution. The label also reads, 'Come and take it,' on both the back and front, along with a picture of the iconic cannon that was the seed of the conflict. The words "Texas Made" are printed front and center on the label.

"It's unlikely that a single speck of Texas, much less the battle of 1835, is actually in any of those bottles. Stretching the term 'Made in Texas,' the drink is a blend of whiskeys, most or all of them likely from Kentucky, and is only bottled in Texas. The highly astute label reader or whiskey aficionado would be able to discern this, but the average consumer might not. Despite all the Texas banter, the label lacks one key word that is all-telling: 'distilled.'"


In this case, the telltale word 'distilled' tells its tale by its absence. Instead, the label says "Bottled by 1835 in Lewisville, Texas." That's a dead giveaway.

As the TTB uses 'made,' you 'made' something even if you just bottled it, so nothing on the label is illegal except its lack of a 5.36(d) disclosure. But that's not how Bunny and Hoss use the word 'made' out at their ranch. You 'make' something when you actually make it. You don't make whiskey by putting whiskey somebody else made into a bottle.

At least they don't claim they're cutting it with Trinity River water.

Do all those proud Texans who have purchased this bourbon at Specs for about $27 a 750 ml bottle know that it was not distilled in Texas? Probably not. Would they care? What do you think?

A lot is missing from the label, like a company name. There is no company called '1835.' And where is the website URL? Who doesn't have a web site? Even North Texas Distillers only has a placeholder site, with no content. Yet even that tells you a little something. Under the name it says, "A Texas Bottling and Spirits Company."

Not "Distillery."

"But wait," say you. "'Distillers' is part of the name."

Yes it is, Grasshopper. Shall we go through the list of all the other Potemkins that have 'distiller' or 'distillery' in their name?

Texas 1835 Bourbon Whiskey has been on the market for about two years and appears to be successful. They are moving a lot of it. Yet as one observer noted, "They aren't pumping all that volume out of some little pot still in Lewisville and charging $27 a bottle for it." The micro-distillery whiskeys actually made in Texas are in the $50 to $80 range, so that price point is another dead giveaway. This is sourced whiskey, sourced from Kentucky, Tennessee, or Indiana more likely than not.

There might be another rule violation, as you see no age statement on the label. That is supposed to mean four-years-old minimum, yet the product is just 'bourbon whiskey,' not 'straight.' Why not? 'Straight,' if a product qualifies for it, is an optional word, but most producers like to use it if they can. If they can't it is usually because either it's not two-years-old or not all from the same state.

Or they just neglected to put an age statement on a label that needed one.

But that's not what Texans care about, I reckon. They don't much care what some government regulators in Washington think either. They care about Texas grains, Texas yeast, and Texas water. They care about Texas-distilled whiskey maturing in the Texas heat. They care about Texas jobs. And they don't buy whiskey that says "Made in Texas' when it's not.

Just like they don't buy salsa made in New York City.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Get a rope"!
Crown Pt. Marc

Funky Tape said...

But it has bright aromas and rich flavors! Not many Texan's can resist those.

decatursoap said...

Jeez, I'm sticking with Four Roses, or my remaining stash of AA 10 YR, or Elijah Caig, or Dickel (even if owned by Diageo), or VOB Bottled in Bond, or Rare Breed, or Rittenhouse Rye, or even Knob Creek in an airport bar. I'm all for trying something new but it would help to know SOMETHING about what I'm risking my dollars for.

Anonymous said...

Which is worse... Stock recipe or flavored stock recipe? Having trouble getting the stories straight. You'll have a blast with this. Starts about 18:30 in...

http://whiskycast.com/episode-496-september-12-2014/

Mitchell G said...

Incredibly curious about Herman Marshall ("from" Texas as well). Any updates on whether they're sourcing or actually producing?

Chuck Cowdery said...

I don't know. Maybe someone who does will check in.

Anonymous said...

Herman Marshall aka Dallas Distilleries does distill in Texas. The caution here, though, is they claim to have 10 years aging but their DSP is not nearly that old...

Anonymous said...

He and raj bhakta must've got drunk and shared ideas one night.

This is really another difficult case of free-market versus consumer-protection under American law. The fact that it's taking so long for something to be done really shows the fact.

Corey said...

Specs, by far the largest liquor store chain in the Houston area has been trying to shove that down my throat for years. Literally every time I go in there they recommend it. At one point they told my father they couldn't keep it on the shelves, yet they seemed to always have a giant display with more bottles than they had Beam or Jack in the store. No way a micro distillery that young could have that much product at such a low price point, unless they were bankrolled by some mysterious billionaire not interested in short term profits.

Mitchell G said...

Herman Marshall, DSP-TX-20006, received their license in the summer of 2012. Unless admitting to illegal pre-license distilling, they are in fact lying directly to everyone who asks them where their 10 year bourbon came from. They have sworn to me personally that they do everything from scratch. Seems unlikely.....

Doak said...

Let's be clear. 1835 is the year we became independent from Mexico. The "struggle" was just convincing Santa Anna that it happened.

On topic, these guys have no integrity and should be treated accordingly.

Andy Creel said...

I can confirm that Herman Marshall makes every drop of their whiskey themselves. I have visited the distillery twice and they're doing everything right. I asked them about the "10 year whiskey" thing, and they said that they have been making whiskey for 10 years; experimenting with recipes before deciding to start a distillery. These guys are very open and honest about their operation if asked. I don't know where all the hate and rumors are coming from.

Chuck Cowdery said...

If they admit they were making whiskey illegally for ten years before they got a license, that doesn't exactly say 'trust me.'

Anonymous said...

You really think that most distillers aren't distilling before they get a license? Come on now...

Chuck Cowdery said...

Possibly, but few would be stupid enough to sell, through their DSP, something they made illegally.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen a picture of Herman Marshall's barrel aging buildings?

Chuck Cowdery said...

I'm not sure why there is suddenly so much interest in these guys, but here is the problem. They got their Federal permit in 2013. They got their state permit on August 26, 2014. They got their first COLA in 2013.

They claim they made their first batches in 2003. And they claim they have more than 120,000 bottles of 4 to 6 year old bourbon available for sale now.

In other words, they didn't make it themselves. They bought it from somebody and not somebody in Texas. Their 'explanations' don't pass the smell test.

Nick M. said...

The 1835 Lone Star Vodka sold at Specs and made by "North Texas Distillers" has no contact info or website listed on the bottle I had to search for it online to find out who they were, but instead of an actual website, all they have is a landing page with a contact email address. I sent a message but nobody replied. So I had to try and look up their contact information through third party websites and yellowpages.com. When I finally found some phone numbers, most of them just rang endlessly or had a fax machine. Finally someone picked up when I waited with the phone ringing for over a minute or two.

Point is, they have a paper collar on the neck of the bottle that says this is made with Texas wheat. I wanted to find out however if it was made with any corn. I don't want to support products that use genetically modified corn. However I come to find out when I finally spoke with someone with their company that this vodka is indeed brewed with corn, and in fact that the ratio is MORE THAN 50% CORN! Yes it does apparently contain Texas wheat but it is not even primarily made with wheat. Nowhere on the bottle does it say that its made with corn. I bought this on the assumption that it was made primarily with wheat because thats what it says on the label. This company "North Texas Distillers" are a bunch of liars who are false marketing in order to bring in a higher profit that what their products are worth. I will never buy their vodka again. And I'm not surprised by the whiskey.

I think just the fact that their website is just a landing page and that they make themselves notoriously difficult to contact is a DEAD GIVEAWAY that these folks are running a shady operation over there. I plan to write an email to Specs complaining about this company. But you know, somehow I doubt Specs will droip them while they are running such a high profit margin on these products.

Chuck Cowdery said...

I believe North Texas Distillers is owned by Specs in one form or another, because I believe their products are exclusively sold at Specs.

Mitchell G said...

They aren't owned by Specs, but that doesn't mean the unethical business practices aren't abound. United distribution, a very questionable family relationship that connects a distributor to a retailer, sells many of their products to Specs at a discounted rate. The racket here is that United will sell to Specs at the lowest price possible, but if another retailer wants to carry that brand, they must pay a higher cost. Specs get preferential treatment, which is as bad a vertically integrated mob ring. They can ultimately decide what the brand tastes like, price will be, and moq. It's about the same thing as ownership.

Ethan Wingate said...

I can't believe I was talked into buying this whiskey, the specs guy said, "we can't keep it on the shelves". I wanted texas whiskey! Not just bottled in texas, how dare them to make money off just the label! They got me this time, but never again!!

Ethan Wingate said...

Really sucks imposter whiskey with a texas label!

Anonymous said...

I was also put off by the fact that 1835 does not appear to actually be distilled in Texas despite all their marketing hype. But dammit, I can't deny that this stuff is great tasting quality whiskey, especially for the price! And trust me, I've tried a lot of whiskeys. I would love to know where it is actually distilled!

Chuck Cowdery said...

It is very likely from MGP of Indiana, in Lawrenceburg.