Tuesday, July 27, 2010

U.S. Law Magically Changes Vodka Into Whiskey.

In the United States a blended whiskey can be as much as 80 percent grain neutral spirit (GNS) -- i.e., vodka.

Only in America is a product that is 4/5 vodka considered whiskey. It's not quite water into wine, yet it is magical. (Before anyone blames Obama, the rules have been this way for 101 years.)

To make matters worse, the official type "blended whiskey" applies to mixtures of whiskeys of different types too. So all-whiskey blends and whiskey-spirit blends are both considered blended whiskey under the Treasury Department's rules.

In some cases the rules allow a product to use the class designation -- "whiskey" in this case -- without a type designation. Right now that's not permitted for any blended whiskey. We believe it should be for all blends that contain only whiskey. If everything in the blend is whiskey, no GNS, it could just be labeled "whiskey" and wouldn't have to be labeled "blended whiskey."

The full, modest proposal is in the current issue of The Bourbon Country Reader, Volume 13, Number 1.

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Max Watman said...

What's the percentage in blended Scotch, Irish, and Canadian? (I am not defending the tradition, to the contrary.)

And how do they get away with that "base whiskey" idea in Canada. That stuff is 90% when it comes off the still.

Chuck Cowdery said...

There is no GNS in blended scotch or blended Canadian. There is base whiskey/grain whiskey, which is nearly neutral in distillation proof, but proof isn't the point. Aging is. Everywhere but the USA, blending spirit spends a minimum of three years in wood and often a lot more.

Chuck Cowdery said...

How much of the blend is base whiskey? It ranges from a little to a lot and can be even more than the 80 percent maximum for U.S. blends.

Max Watman said...

This is exactly why I asked. So the base whiskey elsewhere starts out as high proof, but is put in barrels. I still think it's icky to use 90% spirit and call things whiskey, but at least they aren't simply dumping vodka into the finished product.

There are many things that most consumers do not know. It's sad.

Anonymous said...

So when I buy a bottle of blended Scotch, ALL of the booze has been aged in wood for at least 3 years? There is no "green" GNS in the blend?

Chuck Cowdery said...

In Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Japan -- really everywhere but here -- no GNS is permitted. In Europe, the liquid has to be at least 3-years-old to be called 'whiskey.' In Canada, it's 2-years. So if a bottle of blended scotch has an age statement, the youngest liquid in the bottle is at least that old. If it doesn't have an age statement, then the youngest liquid in the bottle is at least 3-years-old.