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White Whiskey

ww3

A few weeks ago we wrote about moonshine and now we have occasion to write about its close relative, White Whiskey.

Products like the above have become quite popular within the past few years, for reasons well explained by Slate:

The term white whiskey is basically a marketing name for what distillers call white dog, referring to grain-based spirits that haven’t been aged in wood to improve their flavor. [Sometimes] it’s just called moonshine, but legal sales of white dog in recent years have helped upstart microdistilleries earn immediate revenue while their whiskies age. That’s because white dog can be bottled and sold immediately after being distilled without accruing any additional storage and aging expenses. The moonshine connection has been a useful marketing gimmick for hip urban bars, but there’s one considerable downside to white dog: It tastes horrible.

At first, TTB was skeptical and pushed back a bit (saying, for example, there is no such category in the regulations). But as the trickle became a deluge, TTB began to allow white whiskey products more freely. In the light of a large number of recent approvals, it becomes clearer that TTB chiefly wants WHISKEY and WHITE on two different lines — more like Beam and less like Death’s Door (as above). Less clear is whether such products need a formula approval (adding the formula step can add 4-5 weeks to what is already a 4-5 week project). Most of the recent label approvals do not refer to any formula approval, as in the following examples.

Formula mentioned

  1. Beam
  2. Catskill

Formula not mentioned

  1. Death’s Door
  2. Popcorn Sutton
  3. Slow Hand
  4. Smooth Ambler
  5. Long Shot
  6. Woodinville
  7. McMenamins

Chuck Cowdery has lots of discussion about closely-related topics, such as the unaged Jack Daniel’s product, here.

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Oxygen Enriched Bourbon

oxygen

This Bourbon label caught our eye because it makes several big claims. It says:

  1. FINISHED WITH AN OXYGEN ENRICHED, ACCELERATED AGING PROCESS
  2. Patent Pending
  3. Pressure-Aged
  4. “we use rapid pressure changes and oxygen infusion to control the aging process”
  5. “age is no longer relevant and taste is all that matters.”

That’s a lot of envelope-pushing and innovation for one label. We happen to know a person who is both an experienced patent lawyer and an experienced whiskey distiller. So, in a future post, we hope to have him review the patent claims and assess whether this is closer to an innovation or a gimmick. The Bourbon is produced and bottled by Cleveland Whiskey, LLC of Cleveland, Ohio. The approval is here. Terressentia’s closely-related patent, also for aging spirits quickly, is described here.

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The Brown Family Constitution

The Brown Family printed their Constitution on this Bourbon label, and the government ratified it late this summer.

The main point of the document seems to be keeping the publicly traded company under family control. Barron’s has estimated that “The Brown family owns about 70% of Brown-Forman’s Class A voting shares (BFA).” Six months ago The Wall Street Journal reported:

In an effort to ensure that it remains independent and under family control, liquor maker Brown-Forman Corp. is pushing to get family shareholders more involved in the company. … The effort is among the strongest in a growing number of family-controlled companies trying to better educate and unify family shareholders. … Today, there are 117 living descendants of the founder and 38 widows or spouses, the company says. … Potential suitors could include spirits giants Diageo PLC, Pernod Ricard SA or Bacardi Ltd.

The Sunday Paper explains that Old Forester Bourbon became America’s first bottled bourbon in 1870. George Garvin Brown handwrote a guarantee and his signature on every bottle. Old Forester is named after Dr. William Forrester, a leading doctor in Louisville. It is:

the only bourbon legally produced and sold before, during and after Prohibition. From 1920 to 1933, its distillers held one of only 10 government permits that allowed production of bourbon for medicinal purposes. … When Prohibition was enforced, there were more than 200 distilling operations in Kentucky alone—all put out of business in one fell swoop. … The Old Forester strain of yeast is the oldest strain of yeast in the industry.

The Barron’s article, from a few years ago, says “Brown-Forman’s fortunes hinge on Jack Daniel’s, which accounts for some two-thirds of profits. … Brown-Forman might not exist today, save for its purchase of Jack Daniel’s for $18 million in 1956.”

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64 Proof Beer (More or Less)

Time Magazine calls the above beer one of the world’s strongest. It looks to be considerably stronger than any beer that the US rules can tolerate. In other countries, Tactical Nuclear Penguin is sold as a beer, at 32% alc./vol.

But this approval shows that, under US rules, this “Super-High-Alcohol-Beer” is actually a distilled spirit (Spirits Distilled from Grain). The Time article explains how BrewDog uses low temperatures to get the alcohol content so high:

the brewery was able to attain the high alcohol content by freezing the beer at a local ice cream factory, at temperatures as low as -6°C (21°F), for 21 days. Alcohol freezes at lower temperatures than water, and removing water from the solution increased the alcohol concentration.

Under US law, such manipulation of the alcohol may be treated as distillation. The Time article points to two even stronger products that at least start as normal beers (before becoming tactical or nuclear):

The drinking games continued in February when a German brewer, Schorschbrau, released a 40% ABV beer called Schorschbock. The BrewDog boys fired back a few weeks later with high-octane concoction Sink the Bismarck!, which checks in at 41%, enough to reclaim the “world’s strongest beer” mantle. …

There is no sign that these other two have been approved for US sale at all yet, let alone as beer.

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Alcohol from Brad Paisley

paisley

What do these three things have in common? All three are featured in Brad Paisley’s song, “Alcohol.” Of all the songs about alcohol beverages, this one is worth covering, because it mentions specific brands and deals directly with the interplay of alcohol and society. It also has witty lyrics. It would be even better for this blog if it dealt specifically with a legal topic, but perhaps that’s asking too much of Mr. Paisley.

Here are the most pertinent lyrics:

Well I’ve been know to cause a few breakups
And I’ve been known to cause a few births
I can make you new friends
Or get you fired from work

And since the day I left Milwaukee
Lynchburg, Bordeaux France
Been making the bars
Lots of big money
And helping white people dance …
Alcohol. Alcohol

I got blamed at your wedding reception
For your best man’s embarrassing speech
And also for those naked pictures of you at the beach
I’ve influenced kings and world leaders

I am medicine and I am poison
I can help you up or make you fall

The song does a good job of putting the good and bad in perspective.

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alcohol beverages generally, malt beverage, whisky


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