Saturday, April 9, 2011

What's In A Name: White Whiskey, Part II.

My post yesterday was about the challenge of producing 'white whiskey' products that appeal to consumers, and in particular of naming and marketing them in ways that will connect with consumers and comply with the law.

There is an interesting conversation about this topic going on at ADI Forums here. ADI is the American Distilling Institute, the trade association for micro-distilleries.

As I posted over there, what seems to be happening with label approvals is that TTB is allowing producers to use grain names prominently on their labels as long as they are not used right before the word 'whiskey' in the name. In other words, a product called 'Chuck's Finest Whiskey; Radical Rye' or 'Rye Riot Whiskey' would be acceptable even if distilled above 160 proof and aged very briefly in used barrels. It is classified on the COLA as just 'whiskey' or 'other whiskey,' but not as 'rye whiskey,' and so would not trigger the <160 proof and new charred barrel requirement. Everybody wins.

I doubt TTB would regard the word 'bourbon' so generously but they're being sensible in terms of letting people prominently feature their source grain or grains. The difference is probably negligible to the consumer. If the words 'rye' and 'whiskey' are both in the name, regardless of the order, the consumer will get 'rye whiskey' from that, not as the TTB understands that term, but as the consumer understands it, so, again, everybody wins.

There seems to be no getting around the touch-and-go aging requirement but resting your still output overnight in used barrels hardly seems prohibitive. Use an old barrel instead of a tank to feed your bottling line and the word 'whiskey' is yours.

In the USA anyway.

The message to consumers, then, is that all whiskeys are aged in wood but not all of them pick up color from the wood, typically because they are aged very briefly. Most consumers will be satisfied with that explanation. I don't think micro-distillers do themselves any favor by portraying touch-and-go aging as a trick on the government. Just call it a very light aging that doesn't impart any color.

'Touch-and-go aging' is my term for aging a spirit very briefly in used cooperage primarily to satisfy the law's requirement of 'storage in oak containers,' since the law is silent about duration. This is a common and accepted practice, I'm just naming it.

No comments: