Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What We've Learned Making Whiskey as Washington Did

Becky Harris, distiller at Catoctin Creek Distillery, with Chuck Cowdery at George Washington's Distillery, October 24, 2017.
The rebuilt George Washington Distillery opened to the public in 2007, after a decade of study, excavation, and reconstruction. Making whiskey there, as Mount Vernon does for eight weeks each year, is a great show for visitors but it also helps historians better understand Washington, his business enterprises, and the technology of distilled spirits production in the late 18th century.

What has been learned in a decade of operation? We asked Steve Bashore, Mount Vernon's Director of Historic Trades. You will find his answer in the new issue of The Bourbon Country Reader.

Early distillers faced many challenges. On the American frontier, one of the greatest was transportation, the need to get their whiskey to distant markets. Waterways came first, followed by the railroads. Most of Kentucky's historic distilleries that are still in operation today are located where they are because of where the railroads ran in the mid-to-late 19th century. That's the other tale in the new Reader.

Current Reader subscribers should receive their copies in the next few days. New subscribers can get on the bandwagon by clicking here.

Founded in 1994, The Bourbon Country Reader is the oldest publication devoted entirely to American whiskey. It is a charming mix of news, history, analysis, and product reviews. Do you worry that advertising spending influences coverage in other publications? No chance of that here since The Bourbon Country Reader is 100 percent reader-supported. It accepts no advertising.

To experience The Bourbon Country Reader for yourself, you need to subscribe. Honoring history, The Bourbon Country Reader still comes to you exclusively on paper, in an envelope, via the USPS.

A subscription to The Bourbon Country Reader is still just $20 per year for addresses in the USA, $25 for everyone else. The Bourbon Country Reader is published six times a year, more-or-less, but your subscription always includes six issues no matter how long it takes.

Click here to subscribe with PayPal or any major credit card, or for more information. Click here for a free sample issue (in PDF format). Click here to open or download the free PDF document, "The Bourbon Country Reader Issue Contents in Chronological Order." (It's like an index.)

If you want to catch up on what you've missed, bound back issue volumes are available for $20 each, or three for $50. That's here too.

If you prefer to pay by check, make it payable to Made and Bottled in Kentucky, and mail it to Made and Bottled in Kentucky, 3712 N. Broadway, PMB 298, Chicago, IL 60613-4198. Checks drawn on U.S. banks only, please.

Go ahead and subscribe. It's historic!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Buyer Beware

There is, on the internet, a very active secondary market in rare bourbons and other alcoholic beverages. People offer bottles for sale or indicate bottles they would like to buy. Transactions are arranged by email or other private messaging. This happens on Facebook and Craigslist, and probably many other places. I’m not going to point you to any of them. They aren’t hard to find.

Unfortunately, in the United States the secondary market in alcoholic beverages is illegal.

I’ve written about this before, as recently as October.

It is illegal to sell alcohol if you don’t have a license to sell alcohol. It is against Federal law and it is against state law in every state.

There has been some question, at least in my mind, as to whether, in a given transaction, both buyer and seller are in legal jeopardy. Clearly the seller is in violation, but is the buyer? I couldn’t point to a law that said the buyer was in trouble too.

Now I can.

At the Federal level, laws regulating alcoholic beverages can be found in Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations. I’ve spent a lot of time in the early parts of Title 27, Chapter I, Subchapter A, especially Part 5, which gets into the labeling and advertising of distilled spirits, but I never made it down to Part 31, which regulates alcohol beverage dealers. There we find a section (27 CFR 31.141) titled “Unlawful purchases of distilled spirits.” It says that it is “unlawful for any dealer to purchase distilled spirits for resale from any person other than” a licensed dealer.

You may be thinking, “what does that have to do with me? I’m not a dealer.” Well, the statute defines a ‘dealer’ as “any person who sells, or offers for sale, any distilled spirits, wines, or beer.” For virtually all secondary market participants, both parties to a transaction are 'dealers' under the law.

The maximum penalty for violations is a $1,000 fine and one year in prison.

It should be noted that shipping alcohol is also and separately illegal if you are unlicensed.

If you are a typical online player, you probably don’t think of yourself as a ‘dealer,’ but you are. I suppose that if you only buy to consume and never trade or resell, you could argue you’re not a dealer. There are lots of ways to parse these things. No doubt the comments section will shortly be filled with all kinds of pushback. The mental gymnastics secondary market participants use to rationalize their illegal behavior can be stunning. The only sound argument is that prosecutions are rare, so you probably won't get caught. But don’t kid yourself. You are breaking the law and the risk of life-changing consequences will always be there.