Posts Tagged ‘policy’
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?
Most people call them COLAs or FLAs (federal label approvals) or “label approvals.” But those terms leave out the not so minor B — as it appears in the word “bottle,” highlighted above. TTB’s pre-market approval system extends to bottles, and it is starting to seem like many people forgot about this or never knew.
TTB’s bottle review probably does not cover run of the mill bottles. It is meant to cover “distinctive bottles.” The COLA form mentions that you must complete item 18.c. “if you intend to bottle distilled spirits in a distinctive container.” It’s not so easy to know what is and isn’t distinctive. The regulations use the term “distinctive” many times, and even explain the requirements for distinctive bottles, but they don’t explain when bottles are and aren’t.
It is good to know that Jim Beam Brands, at least, still knows how to do this right, and can serve as a good reminder to others. The above Stillhouse Decanter certainly appears to be — on the distinctive side — for a bottle. And alas, the corresponding approval is here; item 18.c. seems to be duly completed to verify that the bottle is both distinctive and approved.
Beam’s press release puts things in perspective and explains that even Jim Beam does not use distinctive containers especially often anymore:
Mirroring the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in design, the new figural bottle revives a storied piece of Beam history, while offering whiskey enthusiasts and collectors the opportunity to add to their collection for the first time in more than a decade. … “Since the early 1950s, hundreds of Beam decanters have celebrated politics, sports, history and more.” … “Beam decanters have come in all shapes and sizes,” said Fredrick “Fred” Booker Noe III, seventh generation Jim Beam master distiller.
Individually hand-crafted by Louisville Stoneware, the Jim Beam American Stillhouse decanter joins hundreds of artfully designed, limited-edition decanters on display in the new Jim Beam American Stillhouse production tour. … Only 1,000 of the limited-edition Stillhouse decanters are available for sale (SRP: $199.99) … .
Originally created to help drive sales and offer bourbon fans more eye-catching packaging suitable for gifting, the specialty bottles and decanters were designed by the Regal China Company and introduced by Jim Beam to the public in 1955. For more than 40 years, the Regal China bottles celebrated many subject areas and reflected the rich traditions of Jim Beam Bourbon. Custom bottles were produced for the Jim Beam collectors’ club chapters, which were formed in 1966 and are collectively known around the globe today as the International Association of Jim Beam Bottle and Specialty Club. Bottle production ceased in the early 1990s only to be brought back by Jim Beam in 2012.
The COLA Registry search does not make it easy to find distinctive container approvals, so here is one more example of such a decanter (from a shelf at TTB). And here are some other examples from this blog.
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
Moonshine. A word that typically conjures up thoughts of illicit high-octane liquor, clandestine stills, mason jars, potential blindness and bearded mountain men with colorful nicknames. Producing moonshine without a license is still illegal in the United States, but a large and growing number of licensed distilleries are now producing their own interpretations of moonshine. And despite moonshine’s negative associations from the past, TTB seems to have no issue allowing the word to appear on distilled spirits labels, as evidenced by the scores of moonshine labels approved so far. There is also an upsurge in approvals for moonshine’s cousins, such as white dog, white whiskey and white lightning.
As far as we know, there are no specific TTB requirements to label a product “moonshine.” Apparently, moonshine can be a whiskey, a specialty product with flavors of apple or blackberry (for example), a high poof neutral spirit distilled from apples, peach brandy and even tequila. Although it appears that you can call just about any distilled spirits product “moonshine,” we think it is unlikely that TTB would allow the word on beer or wine labels anytime soon.
This Bourbon label caught our eye because it makes several big claims. It says:
- FINISHED WITH AN OXYGEN ENRICHED, ACCELERATED AGING PROCESS
- Patent Pending
- “we use rapid pressure changes and oxygen infusion to control the aging process”
- “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.