Sunday, November 9, 2014

ACSA to Tito: "Code of Ethics Demands Honesty and Transparency from all ACSA Members"

On October 27, Wine & Spirits Daily (WSD) exclusively published a letter from Tito Beveridge, founder of Tito's Handmade Vodka, who is being sued for deceptive marketing. In the letter, Tito defended his company's use of the term "craft,"  claiming that pot still distillation is "the cornerstone of craft spirits."

In response to Tito's letter, the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) sent its own letter to WSD from president Tom Mooney. ACSA represents more than 200 members in 36 states.

I have questioned in the past if any of these organizations has the guts to challenge the questionable practices of their most prosperous members. Through this letter, the ACSA has shown that it does. Good for them.

The issue is not 'what is craft?' It is 'what is truth?'

As the nation's leading association of craft spirits producers, we are keenly interested in the way that consumers, the media, and our industry peers view our trade. The latest chapter in this ongoing conversation is an op-ed by our friend and fellow ACSA founding member Tito Beveridge, offering a simple answer to one of the most elusive questions in our industry - what is 'craft'?

ACSA has, from the start, adopted and then actively promoted an inclusive answer to this question. We believe that craft - like beauty - is in the eye of the beholder. Acting on this belief, we have taken action in two important areas:

We broadened our membership eligibility criteria to include independent spirits producers who craft high quality products through methods other than distillation. We believe that inclusion will lead to more innovation, while formulaic definitions (e.g., pot stills equal craft) will stifle it.

More importantly, we adopted a code of ethics that demands honesty and transparency from all ACSA members. As we see it, if a producer is forthcoming about the way that a product is made, consumers can judge for themselves whether it rises to the level of a 'craft' spirit.

We support Tito's call for greater inclusion, but we disagree that any single definition of the term "craft" will bring it about. Instead, we challenge all spirits producers (large and small) to unleash their creativity, to be forthcoming about the way their products are made, and to be honest when they promote them. The public is intelligent, and they will embrace authenticity regardless of the size, home country, or methods of a producer.


Sam Komlenic said...

Nothing more need be said by the ACSA. A commendable position that will hopefully be hewn to by its membership.

Anonymous said...

ACSA and Tito are nothing but opposite sides of the same coin. In fact I would imagine ACSA actually drafted their letter along side Titos's.

100,000 proof gallon per year is not craft. Nor is somebody who contracts to buy whiskey by the truckload and mixes it with whipped cream.

ACSA seems to be confusing distillers, with bartenders and shysters.

Unknown said...

Anonymous, you should look up the ethics committee for ACSA. This is a group that thinks the consumer has a right to honesty in what is printed on a bottle and what is conveyed in all forms of media about what is actually in the bottle they are paying a premium for. If you do a little research you'll find this is a very honest and sharing group.

Excellent work everybody. The consumers will appreciate this greatly.

Anonymous said...

I am a member of ACSA, and I stand by my earlier statement..

Chuck Cowdery said...

You can't really stand by something anonymously.

Watain said...

The handmade font on Tito's misleading label is way to BIG. A smaller font and on back of the label may have gone unnoticed. Liars.

Anonymous said...

Chuck, the "robot" moderation is too much. I can't read anything.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Thanks for saying something. I turned it off. I review every comment before it goes up anyway so the word verification step is unnecessary.

tmckenzie said...

Why cant 100,000 proof gallons a year be craft?

Anonymous said...

Because the retail value of that amount of bourbon, is about $25,000,000-.

Crafty marketing maybe, but hardly craft.

Harry said...

Now, I'm confused. 100,000 proof gallons has a retail value of $25,000,000? That's $250 per proof gallon. The TTB (see for more info if you don't know what the TTB is) defines a proof gallon as one gallon of spirit that is 50% alcohol (that is, 100 proof). So, one proof gallon is about five 750ml bottles @ 100 proof which is "retail" $50 per bottle. That's a lot to pay for "craft". The ones I like (Hi, Tom; Hi, John) are around $40. So, figure gross revenue of $20,000,000 which includes all the tax and retail markup. How much per bottle goes to the distiller/producer? Making me ask, just what is the dollar cutoff for "craft"? I thought it was more about attention to detail? hmpf.

Andy said...

Where in this statement did the ACSA actually challenge anything that Tito's or anyone else is doing? To me they said "hey, craft is whatever we say it is, as long as you pay your membership dues" . the end line that the public will embrace "authenticity" "regardless of... the methods of the producer" is exactly the problem.