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View Full Version : EU Regs on Bourbon and Ralfy's Western Gold "Straight" Bourbon



sku
10-26-2010, 15:34
I was watching Ralfy's series on Bourbon, which as others have said, is great, and noticed that I'd never heard of one of his Bourbon's: Western Gold (see link below). I asked him about it and he sent me a bottle shot.

It turns out that it is a brand made for LIDL supermarket chain by a German Bottler known as Pabst & Richarz Vertriebs GmbH. Ralfy sent me a bottle shot and I noticed that the label said it was "straight" bourbon, but that the back label included the notation "with colouring."

Now, under US law, straight bourbon cannot include coloring, so I thought this was odd. Doing a little bit of amateur research on our trade agreements with the EU, from what I can gather, Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey are protected terms that must be made by the US definition (which is a bit strange given that there is no US definition of "Tennessee Whiskey"), but the term "straight" is not specifically subject to this protection.

This seems to mean that a Straight Bourbon bottled in the EU would have to meet the US definition of Bourbon (made in the USA, 51% corn, aged in new charred oak, etc.), but not the US definition of Straight, which means that it would not have to be two years old, could include coloring, etc.

Anyone with more knowledge know if this is correct or have anymore info?

And too our European friends, a big caveat emptor on straight Bourbons not bottled in the US.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0TFfKG5UIc&feature=sub

cowdery
10-26-2010, 19:57
Your analysis is essentially correct, except the agreements (treaties) between the U.S. and E.U. just protect the raw names "bourbon" and "Tennessee whiskey" as distinctive products of the United States. They say nothing about them being "made by the US definition." Where did you get that?

Perhaps a U.S.-bottled bourbon is more likely to be made according to U.S. rules but not necessarily. It's very common, for example, for American whiskey to be sold in Europe at less than 80 proof, which would require labeling as "diluted" if sold in the U.S.A.

sku
10-26-2010, 20:07
Your analysis is essentially correct, except the agreements (treaties) between the U.S. and E.U. just protect the raw names "bourbon" and "Tennessee whiskey" as distinctive products of the United States. They say nothing about them being "made by the US definition." Where did you get that?

Thanks for your response Chuck. I figured you'd know. I got it from the source listed below, which states:

The product descriptions given in the list in the Annex hereto, originating in the third countries referred to therein, may only be used for products produced in accordance with the laws and regulations of the third countries concerned.

Though it looks like that may no longer be in force.


http://eur-lex.europa.eu/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexplus!prod!DocNumber&lg=en&type_doc=Regulation&an_doc=1994&nu_doc=1267

nor02lei
10-27-2010, 06:06
Your analysis is essentially correct, except the agreements (treaties) between the U.S. and E.U. just protect the raw names "bourbon" and "Tennessee whiskey" as distinctive products of the United States. They say nothing about them being "made by the US definition." Where did you get that?

Perhaps a U.S.-bottled bourbon is more likely to be made according to U.S. rules but not necessarily. It's very common, for example, for American whiskey to be sold in Europe at less than 80 proof, which would require labeling as "diluted" if sold in the U.S.A.

I have never seen any bourbon under 80 proof here Chuck, beside Australian bottles on auctions, but I have seen BIBs without DSP and fewer than 100 proof.

Leif

Rutter
10-27-2010, 07:53
The question is should I rush down to LIDL and pick up a bottle of colouring?

Gillman
10-27-2010, 10:14
I didn't do a comprehensive search or analysis, but found this in searching some terms and concepts on the web:

http://www.ttb.gov/rulings/94-5.htm

The above is from ATF Ruling 94-5, which refers to some kind of agreement between the U.S. and EU.

Article 1 of this EU law:

http://www.fsai.ie/uploadedFiles/Legislation/FSAI_-_Legislation/2009/10_October09/Reg936_2009.pdf

states (as I read it) that if "bourbon" is sold in the EU, it must be produced "in accordance with the laws and regulations of the third countries..." [ie., U.S. in this instance].

I checked the 2008 regulation referred to, but couldn't find anything specifically on point there, except that generally in the EU "plain caramel" can be added to whisky to "adapt colour". It does seem clear that all whiskey including bourbon must comply with European labelling laws, and I've heard German law requires mention if caramel was added. But the first two references mentioned above would seem to preclude addition of caramel if such is not allowed in the U.S.

Is it possible U.S. law allows exported bourbon to contain added colour? If so, I think that is the answer.

If not, maybe there is more to the legal position than appears from the above, there may be further EU laws and/or EU-U.S. agreements, which permit colour to be added to bourbon sold in the E.U.

Gary

cowdery
10-27-2010, 10:36
I thought I recalled something about Jack Daniel's being sold at 35% ABV in England, but just now looking I can't find any evidence of that.

I do, however, recall that once before someone found a bottle of Bulleit which indicated on the label that coloring was added.

The U.S. has a similar caveat with regard to imports, e.g., "Scotch whisky'' is whisky which is a distinctive product of Scotland, manufactured in Scotland in compliance with the laws of the United Kingdom regulating the manufacture of Scotch whisky for consumption in the United Kingdom.

But I suspect that's not rigidly enforced, as the gist of the rule is "bourbon has to be made in the United States and be considered bourbon in the United States." Since EU rules allow the addition of spirit caramel for coloring to whisky generally, I'm not surprised no one has challenged this. I can see how it would cause consumer confusion, though, since we frequently write that bourbon can't be colored.

I was a little surprised Ralfy went with something like this for only his second bourbon review but Ralfy is nothing if not idiosyncratic and his point was that this is bourbon, it's pretty good, and it's cheap.

Gillman
10-27-2010, 13:04
Article 1 of the first Regulation I mentioned does not state that production must be in accordance with the laws of the third country pertaining to domestic consumption, but just the laws regarding the production of bourbon. It is a bit self-referential (I know), but if U.S. law would allow bourbon to be coloured (sorry, colored) for export, that may well be the answer. Otherwise there probably is something else that covers it not yet reviewed. It could be a matter of a small point not being noticed by anyone, but I would think probably there is a legal basis for the practice.

That 35% ABV thing for Jack was actually 70 Sykes proof, or 80% ABV (an old label) - Jack was never under that in the EU as far as I know.

Gary

Rutter
10-27-2010, 13:04
I'll take a look when I get paid and see how it is!

Gillman
10-28-2010, 12:17
Section 5.1 of subpart A of the SOI states that such part, "does not apply to distilled spirits for export". In subpart A, subsection 5.23 (a)(1) provides the rule that prevents addition of harmless color to bourbon without re-designation.

http://www.straightbourbon.com/27cfr5.pdf

That's your answer (IMO).

Gary

cowdery
10-28-2010, 16:50
Makes sense.

(fill, fill, fill, fill)

squire
12-17-2010, 20:58
Gary I've been curious about the 70 proof on overseas labels. Does that Sykes scale apply only in Great Britain?

dbk
12-19-2010, 11:17
Gary's answer makes sense to me, but could it also be that coloring is allowed in straight bourbon, even in domestic markets, so long as the label says "with coloring", as it does in the case of Western Gold? This would make sense if, as Chuck said in another thread, "Once it's bourbon, or straight bourbon, that's what it is and you can't un-bourbon it any more than you can un-ring a bell":

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14835&page=3

I don't know the regs like you all do, so I'll defer to your judgment. Cheers!

Danny

Rutter
12-20-2010, 03:00
Gary I've been curious about the 70 proof on overseas labels. Does that Sykes scale apply only in Great Britain?

We don't use proof as a scale over here all our drinks are labeled as %abv, before I got into bourbon I had never heard of proof.

squire
12-20-2010, 09:28
Mark I understand the abv system in your country went into effect about 1980 or so but do not know whether the Sikes system was still used within the industry.

All of the Scottish whiskys I have purchased in my country since the late 1960s have been labeled with their proof strength but I'm sure that is comply with our labeling laws. Proof or percent doesn't matter to me as they convey the same information.