Tuesday, March 14, 2017

'Kentucky bourbon' label about to get another requirement

• By law, it's Scotch whisky only if it's distilled from domestic barley in Scotland.

• By law, it's Champagne only if it's fermented from local grapes in France's Champagne region.

• By law, it's tequila only if it's distilled from Mexican -grown agave plants in the State of Jalisco and a few small neighboring areas.

• By law, it's bourbon only if it's distilled in the U.S. from a grain mash of at least 51% corn, aged in new, charred American white oak barrels, and a few other niceties.

• By law, it's Kentucky bourbon if ... Well, that's a matter that is about to be getting more sharply defined.

We're anticipating Governor Matt Bevin will sign into law Kentucky House Bill 100 that currently sits on his desk. Then, there will be some new alcoholic beverage regulations in the Bluegrass State. Among them is a sharpening of what it will take to call a spirit "Kentucky bourbon."

For many years, manufacturers have been allowed to do so as long as at least one year of the whiskey's aging process takes place in the state. HB100 would add to that the requirement that the whiskey also must be made “from grains which are cooked, fermented, and distilled” in Kentucky.

Has anyone been doing that elsewhere then shipping the whiskey for a 12-month residence in Kentucky just so it can be called "Kentucky bourbon?" Who knows? But, the industry isn't without its intrigues.

Beverage writer Charles Cowdery explains in The Whiskey Wash:

"There was ... some concern that one major distiller might do it. That company was Diageo, which operates the George Dickel Distillery in Tennessee. Three years ago, Diageo was dinged by the Tennessee ABC for removing 16,000 barrels of Dickel-made whiskey from the state over a five-year period, in violation of a Tennessee law that says whiskey distilled in Tennessee must be aged in Tennessee, in the same county where it was made, or a county adjacent to that county.

"But, Dickel’s warehouses were full, so excess production was sent to Diageo’s Stitzel-Weller facility in Kentucky for aging while new warehouses were built in Tullahoma. The whiskey was bourbon, not Tennessee whiskey: i.e., it had not been charcoal filtered [a reqeuisite to get the Tennessee label] before barreling. By the time Tennessee’s ABC got around to citing Diageo for the violation, Dickel’s new warehouses were completed and the shipments ended.

"Diageo got off with a slap on the wrist, but it raised the possibility that some or all of that Tennessee-made bourbon would claim Kentucky origin, which the law seemed to allow. It didn’t, but this alerted Kentucky distillers to the possibility."
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