All Of The TTB’s New Rule Proposals Summarized… And, A Chance To Weigh In

By Whiskey Systems Staff |

How can you legally spell whisk(e)y on a bottle? What exactly is an “aged” spirit? For that matter, what exactly is a spirit? The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is trying to answer these questions and many, many others with a new set of rules governing the labeling and marketing of alcoholic products.

The TTB’s proposed changes are a beast of a document clocking in at nearly 100 pages. Fortunately, our friends at Whiskey Systems (WS) are in the business of providing distilleries with systems specifically designed to assist with TTB regulations. So, they compiled a much-easier-to-read summary explaining all of the TTB’s proposed changes.

The TTB’s proposal is exactly that, a proposal. So, the industry is invited to weigh in with their opinions until March 26, 2019. To ease this process, WS also set up a digital survey and invited readers to register their opinions until December 31. You can fill that out here; it takes about four minutes.

Here is WS’ great, consolidated list of all the proposed changes:

  • TTB proposes to require mandatory information on closed containers.
  • TTB proposes Exports in bond are not subject to COLA, but must be exported directly from the original bonded premise.
  • TTB proposes that any COLAs for personalized labels be submitted with a template and note what will change.
  • TTB proposes that DSPs may relabel their product with approved COLAs without obtaining permission for the activity this can take place before or after removal from bond.
  • TTB proposes to remove the regulation that bans use of the American flag or armed forces or symbols associated with the prior. Reiterating the prohibition of these symbols where they create the impression that there is some sort of endorsement or affiliation with the government.
  • TTB proposes that bottlers or importers must provide upon request approved labels to the TTB officer. Copies of COLAs must be kept for 5 years, need not be paper.
  • TTB proposes that all claims on labels must have a reasonable basis in fact and that if it does not have a reasonable basis in fact and cannot be substantiated will be considered misleading.
  • TTB proposes to modify the definition of age – spirits are only aged when stored in or with oak.
    • Spirits stored in barrels lined with paraffin are not aged.
  • TTB proposes to add a definition of “American proof” – proof listed should be measured using US standards, not another country’s standards.
  • TTB proposes to codify the position that spirits containing less that .5 percent ABV are not regulated as spirits.
  • TTB proposes to add a definition for grain that will include cereal grains as well as pseudocereal grains: amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa.
  • TTB proposes to define the term oak barrel as a “cylindrical drum of approximately 50 gallons used to age bulk spirits”.
  • TTB proposes to allow mandatory information to appear anywhere on the label so long as it is in the same field of vision, i.e., same side on the container where all pieces can be viewed without turning the container.
    • Also eliminates the requirement that mandatory information appear parallel to the base of the container.
  • TTB proposes that the statement of proof must appear immediately adjacent to the mandatory alcohol statement.
  • TTB proposes to expand tolerance for labeling alcohol content to 0.3 percent ABV above and below the labeled alcohol content.
  • “We note that while taxes on distilled spirits are generally determined on the basis on the labeled alcohol content of the product, we believe that the proposal does not present a risk to the revenue because there likely will be both overproof and underproof bottles and there is no economic incentive for intentionally overproofing bottles.”
  • TTB proposes to clarify the terms used in bottled by statements:
    • Produced by, blended by, made by, prepared by, manufactured by
    • TTB proposes that the state or original distillation for certain whiskey products must be shown on the labels in one of the following ways:
      • By including a distilled by (or distilled and bottled by) as a single location.
      • By including the name of the state immediately adjacent to the class and type, such as “Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey”.
      • By including a separate statement, “Distilled in…”
  • TTB proposes to allow age statements on all distilled spirits, except for neutral spirits (other than grain spirits, which may contain an age statement).
  • TTB proposes rules for the use of “barrel proof,” cask strength,” “original proof,” “original barrel proof,” “original cask strength,” and “entry proof” on distilled spirits.
    • Barrel proof – bottling proof is not less than 2 degrees lower than the proof at barrel dumping – tax determination.
    • Original proof, original barrel proof, entry proof – proof of original barrel and bottled product is the same proof.
  • TTB proposes to eliminate the rule that bond gin or vodka be stores in paraffin coated oak containers.
  • TTB proposes new rules for multiple distillation claims. Currently allowed if they are truthful statements. Proposes defining a distillation as a single run through a pot still or one run through a single distillation column of a column still.
  • TTB proposes that the use of Scotch whiskey be used on labels of specialty products where the specialty product uses Scotch Whiskey i.e., flavored scotch Whiskey (Scotch whiskey must continue to be made in Scotland under the UK rules).
  • TTB proposes rules for the use of “pure.” Term pure may not be used unless truthful of a particular ingredient, part of the name of the permittee.
  • TTB proposes to clarify the standards of identity to a finished product without regard to whether an intermediate product is used in the manufacturing process. Clarify that blending ingredients together like spirits and wines fist in a “intermediate product’ is the same as adding ingredients separately for purposes of determining the standards of identity. TTB requires the disclosure of the intermediate product as part of the statement of composition.
  • TTB proposes to clarify that some distilled spirits products conform to more than one class, and those products may be designated with any class which the product conforms, i.e., orange flavored Vodka or Orange Liqueur.
  • TTB proposes standards for neutral spirits clarify that neutral spirits products. Source materials may be included in the designation of the label, i.e. Apple Neutral spirits.
  • TTB proposes to that neutral spirits other than grain spirits that are stored in barrel are specialty products as they are no longer neutral due to the wood.
  • TTB proposing to amend standards of identity of vodka.
  • The TTB is seeking comments on whether the requirement for vodka to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, and color should be retained. If no longer appropriate, what should be the appropriate standard would be for distinguishing from neutral spirits.
  • TTB proposed that whiskey can be spelled “Whiskey” or “Whisky.”
  • TTB proposes to require that where a whiskey meets the standard for one of the types of whiskies it must be designated with that type name, instead of the general “whiskey.” TTB believes that consumers expect that the type designation will appear on the container when it applies.
  • TTB proposed to insert a chart for whiskey regulations.
  • TTB proposes a new whiskey type “white whiskey or Unaged Whiskey.” Under current regulations unaged product would not be eligible for the whiskey designation, other than corn whiskey.
  • TTB proposes to remove Genever Gin from the list of distilled gin.
  • TTB proposes to allow the use of the terms Slivovitz and Kirshwasser as optional designations for Brandy.
  • TTB proposes to add Armagnac, Brandy de Jerez and Calvados to the regulations for Brandy.
  • TTB proposes a new section called “agave spirits”, currently a DSS. Proposes that the mash be made from at least 51 percent agave and may contain up to 49 percent sugar.
  • TTB proposes a new identity for Absinthe and will remove the requirement for analysis by TTB laboratory before approval.
  • TTB proposes standards for cordials and liqueurs. Certain cordials and liqueurs may be designated with a name known to consumers: Kummel, Ouzo, Anise, Anisette, Sambuca, Peppermint Schnapps, Triple sec, Curacao, Goldwasser, and crème de (predominant flavor).
  • TTB proposed “flavored spirits” as a revised and expanded class. Allow any type of base spirit to be flavored in accordance with the standards of identity. Maintains a minimum alcohol content of 30 percent, may contain wine. Wine content over 2 ½ percent (brandy 12 ½ percent) must be disclosed on label.
  • TTB proposes to establish a class as “diluted spirits” spirits that are bottled under the specified alcohol content. Required that the word diluted appear in a readily legible type size at least half size of the type and class.
  • TTB proposes to provide that geographical names that are not generic may be used on products made outside the place indicated by the name:
    • Aquavit, Zubrovka, Arrack, Kummel, Amaretto and Ouzo
  • TTB proposes that these have NOT become generic:
    • Andong Soju
    • Habanero
    • Sambucao
  • TTB proposes a new class of spirits called “distilled spirits specialty products.” Products are not required to be named with this class, must have the distinctive or fanciful name together with the statement of composition on the label.
  • TTB proposes to add the requirement for whiskey stored in two different types of barrels, i.e. whiskey stored in oak and then put into a maple barrel. This spirit becomes a distilled spirit specialty and must be labeled with a statement of composition.
  • TTB believe there may be formula requirements that no longer serve a labeling purpose. Seeking comment on whether certain formula requirements should be eliminated and the rationale for such a change.
  • TTB proposes to eliminate the maximum headspace requirement and certain design requirements Eliminating the application requirements for distinctive liquor bottles.

Whiskey Systems Online is a complete distillery management software system that keeps distilleries in full compliance with the ever-changing TTB regulations, monthly reporting requirements, and federal excise tax return audits. Whether making or sourcing vodka, gin, rum, brandy, liqueurs or any other distilled spirit, Whiskey Systems makes distiller’s lives easier. From raw material procurement to distillation efficiency dashboards to tracking the cost of goods of cases shipped out the door, Whiskey Systems provides turn-key management tools to distilleries of all size and budgets.

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