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Cocktail Caviar: Pearl Size Can Make All the Difference

cccav

Here is an innovative new spirits product called Cocktail Caviar. It is “burst-able pearls of naturally flavored spirits.” You can toss them in some wine, or freeze them and add them to other drinks. The product is so new that there is not much about this product on the web so far.

If I understand correctly, these chickpea sized “pearls” are a giantized version of the tiny booze droplets that make up Palcohol. Here, the alcohol is encapsulated in a layer of kelp and so it not quite a liquid and not quite a solid. Maybe there is shock fatigue after the Palcohol surprise, or the size of the pearls makes an enormous difference, or it’s the upscale marketing — but it does not seem like this product is bound to raise hackles the way the powderized product has. Steven Hollenkamp, the man behind this product, explained that part of the appeal of the brand name is that “caviar” is not at all likely to appeal to minors.

I happened to meet Steven this week and he explained:

We worked diligently with TTB getting Cocktail Caviar approved. This included 240 emails, dozens of phone calls and several in-person meetings with TTB administrators, one of which was a lengthy sit down meeting with several high-ups at TTB Headquarters in DC. They were on top of it and met me half way. As a novel product, we felt being an open-book in terms of information and documents, as well as with the long term Cocktail Caviar vision, was the best way to cultivate a healthy long term relationship with TTB. I mean that, and while that may seem like a simple idea, you’d be surprised how many brands use a more guarded approach, trying to snake through the rules in a way that can only irritate TTB formula and COLA specialists.

TTB approved seven flavors of this product last month, and one of the approvals is here.

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alcohol beverages generally, distilled spirits specialty


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Umami Spirits, with Mushrooms and Durt

durt

This one caught my eye as quite a bit unusual. It is spirits with added mushrooms, sea lettuce, parsnips and other root vegetables. It is Durt-brand spirits, produced by Melkon Khosrovian, and is not to be confused with Root-brand spirits. I don’t see much on the label or on the web to suggest what it tastes like, or how it is to be used, except where the label says “packed full of the umami flavor.” Wikipedia explains that umami is one of the five basic tastes along with salty, sweet, sour, and bitter, and “can be described as a pleasant ‘brothy’ or ‘meaty’ taste with a long lasting, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue.”

Not to be left out of the umami-fest, here is a beer with plenty of umami, and a wine/sake “bursting with umami goodness.”

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distilled spirits specialty


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Of DSS, SOC and LabelVision

jack

Well here I sit, writing on day 15 of the shutdown. All the government stuff I need (such as COLAs Online) is unavailable. Thank goodness that all the private stuff is available. It takes a lot of public and private resources to make this blog go. That is, on the private side, I need my web server, my ISP, my WordPress, Google, a bit of AC power, etc.

Increasingly, I also need my LabelVision. LabelVision is a tremendous resource, provided by the people at ShipCompliant. It provides various ways to scour TTB’s label database, even when TTB’s systems are down. LabelVision enabled me to quickly find the WinterJack COLA as above. To find this label, my other and much less appealing options would have been to wait until TTB re-opens someday, or jump in the car and drive around until I find this new product.

I had a sudden need to look at this Tennessee Cider label in order to explore what is new and current in distilled spirits specialty (“DSS”) labeling, and the statements of composition (“SOC”) that go along with this category of spirits. To recap, where you have a common type, set out in the regulations, it is sufficient to mention simply VODKA or RUM or TEQUILA or WHISKEY. But where you have something more like miscellany, it is necessary to provide, on the front label, a “statement of composition.” This needs to appear near the “fanciful name” (and “brand name”) — and needs to match the SOC as suggested on the approved formula (formula approval is required for all DSS products). Most suggested SOCs have the alcohol base, then flavors, then colors, with very little extraneous matter. And so, the “normalized” SOC, here, would be LIQUEUR, WHISKEY, CARAMEL COLOR. Not too enticing.

So, with plenty of marketing prowess, the mighty Jack Daniel Distillery has substantially rearranged the various terms. Even the smallest changes (such as changing WITH NATURAL FLAVOR to WITH NATURAL FLAVORS) can cause delays, needs correction notices and rejections. Here, it seems Brown-Forman changed what would have been the TTB-suggested SOC, to add a whole lot of puff. All these words got added to the SOC:  A, SEASONAL, BLEND, OF, APPLE, CIDER, JACK, DANIEL’S®, TENNESSEE. All these words got removed (from the SOC):  CARAMEL COLOR. That is, the most-probably-suggested-SOC and the approved-label’s-SOC do not have a whole lot in common. And yet the label got approved.

I am not trying to suggest that there is anything wrong with the label or the SOC at issue. Instead I am using this label as an example of how the seemingly simple requirement, to put an SOC on the front, can raise many legal issues. Should the caramel be shown in the same font and color as the remainder of the SOC? With the caramel moved a line below the SOC, would it be ok to move it a bit more, such as to the back label? At what point does the puff, in the SOC, go too far and crowd out and obscure the true SOC? Could Brown-Forman add the caramel to the whiskey component, rather than the end product, in order to de-emphasize or avoid label references to color? For every approval like this, with a “creative” SOC, how many times did TTB press for an SOC that much more closely matches what is suggested on the formula approval?

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distilled spirits specialty


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Cigarette Flavored Rum

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First we saw tobacco vodka. Then, a bit further down the same smoky trail, we saw this — cigarette flavored rum. I am still not sure whether it’s a dare or somebody actually wants to drink it. The cigarette flavored rum was actually approved a few weeks prior.

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distilled spirits specialty


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Tobacco Vodka

tobacco

Turning against the tide of a great many cake and candy flavored vodkas, this brand has cut in the direction of something rather surprising — tobacco flavored vodka. Credit to Robert Back of International Spirits (Jacksonville, Florida) for pulling this off. It probably was not easy, and it comes complete with a disclaimer that THIS PRODUCT DOES NOT CONTAIN ANY TOBACCO OR NICOTINE. The regular, flavored vodka version is here. The menthol version is here (distilled spirits specialty). The company explains:

“With over 45 million people in the United States identifying themselves as smokers, our new tobacco flavored vodkas will be sure to find a niche in the already crowded flavored vodka market,” said International Spirits’ CEO Tony Elward. “We’re also confident that non-smokers will enjoy the new tobacco flavor product as our customers are always looking for the next big thing.”

Ivanabitch Traditional Tobacco Vodka features a bold taste of smoky vanilla blended with sweet caramel. The Menthol Tobacco Vodka features the same taste as the Traditional Tobacco Vodka with a hint of mint.

A product of the Netherlands, all flavors of Ivanabitch are formulated using all-natural flavorings, are 70 proof and five times distilled and then filtered over active charcoal.

Although I don’t think anyone should hold their breath for a nicotine flavored or infused vodka, the next logical step might be something like this Perique Tobacco Liqueur (made with tobacco, unlike what is in the disclaimer above). So far, I don’t see any sign of TTB approval on Perique.

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distilled spirits specialty, flavored vodka


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