Tuesday, September 2, 2014

After Templeton, Who's Next? How About Tin Cup?

The prospective wrath of the United States Government, however toothless it may be in any given instance, still has the power to rattle cages. For almost ten years, Templeton Rye President Scott Bush has mocked critics of his not-made-in-Iowa rye whiskey, but when the biggest newspaper in Iowa got involved, asking questions about violations of federal labeling requirements, the company's owner stepped into the light and promised to sin no more.

So, who's next? How about Tin Cup? Here's their web site. The first thing you see splashed across your screen is "American Whiskey. Tin Cup. Colorado." Go ahead, soak up their story first, then come back here for the rest.

Behind all the breathtaking Colorado imagery is a whiskey distilled and aged at MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, the source of so many non-distiller producer (NDP) whiskeys. Although Tin Cup owner Proximo Spirits has a bottling plant just down the street from the Indiana distillery where Tin Cup is made, the product is bottled at the Stranahan Distillery, in Denver, which is also owned by Proximo. That's so they can use Colorado water (i.e., Denver tap water) to dilute it from barrel proof (about 65% ABV) to bottling proof (42% ABV), and thereby say it was 'made' in Colorado.

The truth about Tin Cup has been a poorly kept secret from the beginning. Ben Landreth broke the news on Denver Westword in February. The blog RW&B (Red, White, and Bourbon) was suspicious in December of 2013. The true source of Tin Cup's whiskey has been mentioned on many other blogs and throughout social media.

So why bring it up here? Because the words "distilled in Indiana" do not appear on the label, as required by TTB rule 5.36(d). It wouldn't be credible to suppose that a big outfit like Proximo or an industry veteran like Jess Graber is unaware of the 5.36(d) requirement. It's obvious they want desperately to say "Colorado Whiskey" but can't, so they say "Colorado" and "Whiskey" a lot separately and hope you, the consumer, will put them together. No doubt many consumers have.

The words "Distilled in Indiana," even in mouse type, would rather spoil that illusion. Tin Cup is not 'made' in Colorado in any meaningful sense. It is 'made' in Indiana, and merely diluted and bottled in Colorado.

And Breckenridge Distillery, 'makers' of Breckenridge Bourbon, this message is for you too. It is, for that matter, also directed at the dozens of other NDPs whose labels are in violation of 5.36(d).

The rule could not be more simple. You're required to have an address (city and state) on your label. Everybody adheres to that one because it's pretty easy to use any address you want to use, since it only has to be a 'place of business.' But if your place-of-business address is not in Indiana, and your distillery is, then you must put 'distilled in Indiana' on your label. That's the law.

Compliance with TTB Rule 5.36(d) is not optional. You're not off the hook because TTB approved your label without that information. In fact, there are severe penalties for filing an application that omits crucial information that you know or should know (as a responsible industry member) is required.

Follow Templeton's example, Tin Cup, Breckenridge, and all the rest of you. Get ahead of the story now and demonstrate some respect for your customers.


Anonymous said...

Holy Mackerel. My head is gonna explode. The American whisky business has always been full of smoke and mirrors, and only getting worse. Stretching, bending, even breaking the law, or spirit of the law, is business as usual, and without penalty. Proximo's name (and their ilk) should appear somewhere on every bottle label under their umbrella in the spirit of transparency, IF, you know, they have any spirit. Chicken *****.

Colin said...

I nominate Widow Jane.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Already working on it.

Anonymous said...

I nominate Michter's.
Crown Pt. Marc

Chuck Cowdery said...

I have written extensively about Michter's and still object to the way they represent 'their' history, but in terms of TTB Rule 5.36(d), they are 100 percent legal.

Craig Hochscheid said...

I worked in the beer industry for many years before moving over to wine and spirits, and I witnessed first hand the last collapse of the craft beer industry. That collapse was preceded by a great deal of press coverage of the deception being practiced by "craft brewers" who were no more than marketing companies that purchased beer from larger brewers (e.g. Pennsylvania's Lion Brewery who was sort of the MGP of the craft beer world). I see the very same storm clouds forming in the craft whiskey industry and it has me deeply worried for the future of the burgeoning industry.