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cowdery
05-10-2010, 12:50
In the late 1960s, some of the major producers appealed to the feds for a number of changes to the Standards of Identity. Most of the proposed changes were rejected and instead the "Light Whiskey" category was created. I stumbled across the attached document which details the ATF's reasons for the changes it did and did not accept. It's pretty interesting reading for the extremely geeky like me.

OscarV
05-10-2010, 13:41
C'mon Chuck it's 9 pages and no pictures.
Can you fill us in with cliffnotes.:cool:

cowdery
05-10-2010, 14:18
The first page summarizes the findings. It's the details that are interesting, although they are easily skimmed. Bottom line is that consumers expect bourbon, rye, et al to be aged in new, charred oak barrels.

OscarV
05-10-2010, 14:21
Ain't nothing wrong with that, in fact I have new respect for my fellow consumers after hearing that.

ErichPryde
05-10-2010, 15:44
The first page summarizes the findings. It's the details that are interesting, although they are easily skimmed. Bottom line is that consumers expect bourbon, rye, et al to be aged in new, charred oak barrels.

I found that a very interesting read. Thanks, Chuck! Especially the discussion of distillation proof and how important it was, and the discussion of what a light whiskey was.

cowdery
05-12-2010, 11:30
A few highlights:

"The removal of the present regulatory restrictions referred to would facilitate the
production of whiskies to be marketed as bourbon, rye, etc., or 'straight' whisky which generally lack the distinguishing characteristics of such whiskies, and this would not be in the interests of the consumer."

"Several studies proved conclusively that whiskies distilled at more than 160
proof mature satisfactorily in used cooperage. Canadian, Scotch, and Irish whiskies are composed primarily of whisky so matured."

"The higher distillation proof produces a distillate containing less pronounced natural flavoring components (both desirable and undesirable ones). Thus a smaller amount of wood extractives is needed to produce a balanced, palatable whisky. Whiskies distilled at such higher proofs are matured abroad in American used charred oak containers, 'small wood,' sherry casks, sherry butts, or other oak containers of varying capacities. Storing of such whisky in charred new oak containers would not produce a balanced whisky since it would be overburdened with wood extractives. Consistent with the higher distillation proof, such whiskies may be properly entered for storage at proofs higher than 125."

"The present regulations with respect to whisky distilled at not exceeding 160 proof are appropriate for the traditional American types but discriminate against the domestic production of whisky distilled at high distillation proof and stored in used cooperage. Although the latter type of whisky is properly matured in used containers, the regulations prohibit it from bearing the normal age statement and require the statement 'stored _____ years in reused cooperage.' This statement, although descriptive of the actual maturing process, adversely affects marketability. The appearance of a storage statement is likely to mislead the consumer into believing the product to be inferior because it was matured in used containers instead of new oak containers. In fact, the product properly matures in used containers although it is different in character than the traditional American types of whiskies."

"The names of states which are associated in the consumer's mind with the production of the American types of whiskies shall not be permitted to be featured on the labels and in the advertising of 'light whisky' or 'blended light whisky.'"

"The practice of adding powdered oak, or wood chips, whether large (slabs) or small in size, in order to make up for deficiencies in wood extractives resulting from excessive barrel size is limited by the regulatory requirement that where such materials are used the label state such fact."

"No need was established for a minimum age requirement for current domestic
types of whisky. There are no appreciable amounts of immature whiskies currently being sold. Although some whisky is being offered at less than two years of age, this is, in the main, corn whisky. In any event, the present regulations protect the consumer by requiring all whiskies less than four years old to bear a true age statement."

flsean
05-12-2010, 17:56
Thanks for putting this up. It has been an enjoyable read.

nblair
05-21-2010, 15:19
Wow, what an interesting read. Thanks, Chuck.

I did notice this statement in the document:

"In addition, the consumer is advised by an appropriate label statement of any attempt to short cut normal aging processes through the addition of wood or wood extractives."

Will Maker's Mark, by law, have to mention the wood staves on the MM46 label? I do not think the addition of wood in their case is a short cut, but it is still an addition of wood (other than the barrel) to the whiskey.

CorvallisCracker
05-21-2010, 15:43
Will Maker's Mark, by law, have to mention the wood staves on the MM46 label? I do not think the addition of wood in their case is a short cut, but it is still an addition of wood (other than the barrel) to the whiskey.

Printed on the bottle (there is no label) is:


Kentucky
Bourbon Whisky
Barrel-Finished
With Oak Staves

cowdery
05-21-2010, 19:04
Printed on the bottle (there is no label) is:


Kentucky
Bourbon Whisky
Barrel-Finished
With Oak Staves

Just to add to Scott's post, they are required to disclose it on the label and they do.

This is a finish, just like the Woodford chardonnay and seasoned oak, or Beam's Distiller's Masterpiece, or several of the BTECs and, for that mattter, Red Stag, or Jim Beam and Cola. It's bourbon and...

nblair
05-21-2010, 22:00
Gotcha. I guess I saw it on the label, but never really wondered if they were legally bound to do so. Thanks.

mark fleetwood
03-29-2011, 19:19
Chuck, thanks for posting this 1968 ATF document. I think it answers -- or at least starts to answer -- a question I've wondered about. We know what the regs are that define bourbon -- new charred barrels, 51% corn, etc -- but why 160 proof in the still and 125 proof in the barrel? What's magical about 160 and 125? Asked of tour leaders, none knew.
In the end, is it (simply... my folks always reminded me I was simple) that the 160 proof still level (and presumably 125 in the barrel) are the best -- or closest to -- the levels that help the distiller maintain optimum flavor characteristics of bourbon. Any higher proof and the alcohol content overwhelms the flavor ingredients? If true, then it's merely another example of a gov't regulation honestly meant to protect an industry's asset and provide consumers with a reliable, good product. Who'd a thunk?
Secondly, if there's another book in that quill pen of your's, was it an interesting story as to how the regs were proposed/discussed/argued among the distillers and the government? Did one distiller want x proof (or some other characteristic) but some other distiller wanted another? Which distillers "won", which lost? Backroom deals... pretty ladies entering legislators' offices late at night, etc etc etc.