Friday, July 5, 2019

You Cannot Age Gin (Wink Wink)

Gin, the original flavored vodka, is having a moment. Gin, especially craft gin, has captured its own artisanal cachet. Except for juniper berries, which are what makes gin gin, the sky is the limit in terms of flavorings.

An important sub-category these days is aged gin, although when the subject comes up you're liable to hear someone mention that aged gin is not allowed under Federal government rules. They may even cite Section 5.40 (d), which says, "Age, maturity, or similar statements or representations as to...gin...are misleading and are prohibited from being stated on any label."

In practice, that is less restrictive than it sounds. It works like this. You can age gin. You just can't SAY you age gin, as in you can't call it 'aged gin,' and you can't say how long it wasn't aged. (How does Corsair get away with its label? You'll have to ask them.)

You can even describe your 'barrel mellowing process' in the "general inconspicuous" label copy. And, of course, your product can exhibit the obvious tawny color extracted from wood.

For the most part, TTB rules don't tell producers what they can and cannot make, they just regulate what they can say about it.


Wood’s Distillery said...

Years ago when we launched our “barrel rested” gin we had to round and round with the TTB to come up with the right word for aged without calling it aged. This has sort of worked but really creates more confusion on the part of the consumer than is necessary. Brown gin is weird enough without the ability to clearly state on the label what it is. Unfortunately, this isn’t anywhere on the radar of the current review of rules. Too bad since barrel-aging gin gives it a wonderful complexity and flavor profile that should be embraced by more consumers.

Adam Bowers said...

Any ideas on why the TTB doesn't allow age statements on Gin?

Anonymous said...

The original aged gin might well have been Seagram's Gin which was introduced by Joseph E, Seagram & Sons Inc. in 1939. It had a yellow tinge from its time resting in wood, supposedly 90 days. Like just about all gins of its time it was then 90 proof. Long ago,like most other gins,it was redunced to 80 proof and its aging in wood has been dropped as a selling point.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes labels slip by the TTB and they approve something even if it's supposedly not allowed. Here is the link to the approved COLA for Corsair's barrel-aged gin:

(Click on the "printable version" link to see the labels.)

They used "barrel aged" as a fanciful name. This label was approved in 2009, so they were way ahead of the curve and TTB probably wasn't up to speed and let it slip through.

If you have a label that TTB approves, but later on they tell you it's no longer approved, you're generally allowed to use up label stock. So either TTB hasn't caught on, or Corsair printed a whole lot of labels and is using them up.

Further, I recall seeing something in the 132 pages of proposed new rules proposing that age statements be allowed for gin. Of course that process is still going on.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't barrel aged gin just be Juniper flavored whiskey?

Anonymous said...

Gin is juniper-flavored vodka, not whiskey. Vodka being diluted neutral grain spirit. It's called "neutral" because it is distilled at higher temps to above 95% abv. This process doesn't leave many flavors/aromas behind. Whiskey, especially the better quality stuff like bourbon, rye, malt, wheat, corn are distilled to below 80% so as to still contain flavors/aromas of the raw materials. You can't age vodka and you can't age gin. And I don't mean the legal terms, I mean results :)

ilikegin said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...
Wouldn't barrel aged gin just be Juniper flavored whiskey?"

Definitely not a gin drinker.