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The Official Spirit

How quickly times and lines continue to change and move. Just two years ago, these various military-themed labels were considered by many to be tacky. In the absence of much uproar, and with plenty of military activities since then, the march of military-themed alcohol beverages continues apace.

Heroes brand vodka claims to be Veteran Owned, all American, four times distilled — and most startling — “Official Spirit of a Grateful Nation.” The brand is owned by Travis McVey, a U.S. Marine from 1989-1992. During the past few years, McVey teamed up with Lipman Brothers and Buffalo Trace (bottler):

In 2009, Heroes LLC came to fruition when Travis contacted Robert S. Lipman – a beverage alcohol industry veteran – with a business plan for introducing a hand-crafted vodka to all of the active duty military and Veterans as well as civilians throughout the United States. He anticipated the vodka being made in America with distribution to over 6,000 military bases, 6,000 VFW posts, and 12,000 American Legions posts.

When Travis presented his Heroes Vodka proposal … Lipman was intrigued. The successful entrepreneur,whose family established Lipman Brothers in 1939, has been sitting at the helm of the oldest distributor of wine and spirits in Tennessee for nearly 25 years. Hundreds of pitches pass across his desk annually, but something about this one resonated on a different level.

In a further sign of the times, it took more than nine weeks to get the label approved. In these other instances and different times, it took far less time to get other official-looking spirits labels approved:  2007 (Valor Vodka, two weeks), 2008 (44th Inauguration vodka, two weeks), 2009 (Operation Homefront Bourbon, a few days).

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Charity Labels

Here are a few charity-themed alcohol beverage labels. They are becoming more common, to the point where TTB does have a specific policy. In general, of course the charity language has to be truthful and non-misleading — but also, it needs to have a bit of specific information (such as the name of the charity).

Vets Vodka is bottled by Terressentia of North Charleston, South Carolina and benefits the National League of Families (POW-MIAs).

Hope Wine is bottled by Sonoma Wine Company of Graton, California and benefits “our troops.”

Third, Charity Case wine is made by One True Vine, LLC of St. Helena, California and benefits “charities serving children and families in and around Napa County.”

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Military and Other Slang

We find no FUBAR approvals to date, but here we have WTF ale from Lagunitas, and SNAFU wine from Cartlidge & Browne.

Both make liberal use of military slang. Lagunitas does so to express their dismay and confusion about the current state of world affairs. Tango and Foxtrot are well established as the military alphabet codes for T and F. Wilco famously used these codes on a 2002 album, but Whiskey, rather than Wilco, is the correct code for W. Perhaps the Petaluma, California brewer believed TTB would not allow the term “whiskey” on a malt beverage label. Or perhaps they are big Wilco fans. Or perhaps they are just very confused, further to the freewheeling text on the label (tieing in Bush v. Gore, adult videos, and imbibilisciousness).

SNAFU, apart from the acronym, is California red wine bottled by Cartlidge & Browne in American Canyon, California. It claims to be the first wine to provide tasting notes via text message.

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Military Spirits

Click for COLA

More than six years in, many labels reflect the US at war. Above is Jim Beam “Operation Homefront” Bourbon. The idea is to “provid[e] physical and emotional support for military families in your community.” The label doesn’t really say how, but the website does.

Brave Spirits was early to link spirits with supporting the military. TTB approved their Valor Vodka back in 2007. Brave donates $2 per bottle toward the military. Valenzano Sangria is the only one that outright shows the American flag; TTB does not usually allow it, but this one is restricted for sale in New Jersey only. Valenzano donates $1 per bottle to “Operation Troop Aid.”

The Intoxicologist recently said this form of marketing is tacky. What do you think?

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