Posts Tagged ‘formulas’
TTB put out Ruling 2016-3 at the end of September. It relates to spirits formula approvals, and is intended to cut some of the burdens for spirits companies and for TTB. It’s also sort of long. Word says it is 3,573 (carefully chosen) words. My mission is to break it down to 15% or less.
The gist is, TTB will help you avoid formula approval for many products in these big categories: vodka, rum, whisky, brandy. Some details, on each category, are below. If you want the whole story, you can go to the Ruling, and the elaborations at Industry Circular 2016-1 (for imports) and Guidance 2016-3. Rather than knocking out the formula approval requirements in the spirits regulations, TTB explains: “TTB will not accept for review new formulas submitted for products approved under this ruling. This ruling serves as the approval that is required by §§ 5.26, 5.27, and 19.348.”
- Vodka. The Ruling takes advantage of the fact that vodka already has a narrow standard of identity and explains that if you are clearly within it, the Ruling should be used instead of submitting a formula. Only a bit of sugar and citric acid allowed.
- Rum. The standard is not quite so narrow, as compared to vodka, but it’s apparently narrow enough. If you only add a bit of sugar, molasses, caramel, the Ruling should be used instead of submitting a formula.
- Whisky. The rule is similar, as to whiskey — except for the reminder that neither straight whisky, nor bourbon whiskey, can have any additives (with or without a formula). The former because that’s a big part of what straight means. The latter because the Bureau decided it is not (and should not be) customary to put additives in bourbon.
- Brandy. If you only add a bit of sugar, caramel, fruit juice, wine, the Ruling should be used instead of submitting a formula.
TTB does reserve the right to look into this further, as needed, on a case-by-case basis. The Ruling “provides immediate relief from the formula submission requirements for these specific products.”
TTB took a similar action with respect to malt beverage formulas about two years ago. This must have helped, because TTB later expanded this to other malt beverage products. TTB has also, at the end of September, expanded this approach, to wine. We have covered the beer issues in the past, we are covering spirits here, and may cover the wine issues in the future. I am guessing Ruling 2016-3 cuts several hundred formulas per year. LabelVision says TTB approved 748 vodkas in the most recent year (this is a count of label approvals, for unique brand names, on products coded as vodka, since most formula data is not public). A svelte 446 words.
Latrobe did a “brilliant” job here, picking up on a lot of important trends.
Let’s see how many instructive legal issues this one label raises. Extra points for anyone who can raise additional issues. No more ALS challenges, please.
- It is beer but it more or less screams spirits.
- In a variety of ways. (For example, the brand name refers to moonshine paraphernalia, as Tickle’s sidekick helpfully explains.*)
- Within the rules, probably.
- Even though spirits terms are not allowed on beer labels.
- Even though this product contains and purports to contain absolutely no whiskey of any sort.
- It mentions George Dickel at least three times.
- It mentions Rye but not Rye Whiskey. This is very smart in that, though they mean about the same thing to most people, rye is just a grain, and it’s not necessarily whiskey without the second word attached. Like Bourbon is not sufficient on even a Bourbon Whiskey label, without the second word.
- Latrobe used a formula, notwithstanding that TTB has eased way up on formula requirements.
- The label raises a lot of good trademark issues, tied up with Latrobe’s use of another company’s highly protected brand name.
- TTB seems to be allowing the term “refreshing” these days, on a pretty liberal basis, even though this policy has wavered a bit over the years.
This Tequila-themed beer shows that the above Whiskey-themed beer label is not just a fluke.
What did we miss?
* John’s parents will be proud that we have done some work for Tim Smith, Junior Johnson, The Hatfields & McCoys, Jesse Jane, Popcorn Sutton, Jesse James and other rapscallions. And this guy just looks guilty — I am not sure of what — but moonshining at least.
There is some big news from TTB, via dcbrewlaw. TTB has recently decided to ease up on the formula requirements for malt beverages made with common ingredients and processes such as some barrel aging, as well as various fruits and spices. This should help considerably with TTB’s overwhelming workload, and the related delays.
At dcbrewlaw, Dan reports:
There is good news for brewers who are tired of waiting for formula approvals from TTB (currently 74 days): you may not need it. On June 5, 2014, TTB issued a fairly significant ruling, Ingredients and Processes Used in the Production of Beer Not Subject to Formula Requirements. The ruling clearly spells out which Exempt Ingredients and Processes are now deemed “traditional” and, therefore, do not require a TTB formula approval.
The new ruling expands upon the rules as of 2013. Here are two good examples of products that needed formula approval under the old rules, before this week, and will continue to need a formula approval prior to label approval: Bud Light Lime; Joose. By contrast, here are two products that would no longer need formula approval: Bourbon County, Harlem. On each, the formula is highlighted in yellow. Read more about TTB Ruling 2014-4 at dcbrewlaw and TTB’s site.
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 not mentioned
Be careful about the five year rule as above and here. The rule says TTB formulas expire five years after approval. Not all formulas. Just the ones for imported products such as vodka, sake, and liqueur for example. This is in substantial contrast with TTB label approvals, permits, and domestic formulas. Generally speaking, they don’t expire unless the applicant changes something.
In our experience, TTB tends to explain the expiration date on the relevant formula approvals, but not in the regulations or widely elsewhere. An example is here. It can come as an unpleasant surprise, if you are seeking a new label approval more than five years after issuance of the formula approval, as in the case above. In the time period about 5-8 years ago, TTB would frequently allow a use-up in some cases where the formulas was expired. But, as suggested above, use-ups are much harder to get, in more recent years.