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View Full Version : Templeton Labeling, or Another TTB failure



Brisko
10-30-2012, 13:29
Now that Templeton is ubiquitous in the Twin Cities market, I actually had the chance to look at the label.

As I suspected, it read, "Produced and Bottled By: Templeton Rye Spirits, LLC, Templeton, Iowa." A cursory COLA search confirms that they've always labeled it this way*.

However, according to the federal regs (http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=0b1336cf26cbf0cd359ebd43d02b8706&rgn=div5&view=text&node=27:1.0.1.1.3&idno=27#27:1.0.1.1.3.5.25.8), Title 27, section 5.36(d):


State of distillation. Except in the case of “light whisky”, “blended light whisky”, “blended whisky”, “a blend of straight whiskies”, or “spirit whisky”, the State of distillation shall be shown on the label of any whisky produced in the United States if the whisky is not distilled in the State given in the address on the brand label. The appropriate TTB officer may, however, require the State of distillation to be shown on the label or he may permit such other labeling as may be necessary to negate any misleading or deceptive impression which might be created as to the actual State of distillation. In the case of “light whisky”, as defined in § 5.22(b)(3), the State of distillation shall not appear in any manner on any label, when the appropriate TTB officer finds such State is associated by consumers with an American type whisky, except as a part of a name and address as set forth in paragraph (a) of this section (emphasis mine)

It's my understanding that their rye is from the old Seagrams plant so it seems really clear to me that their labeling is deceptive and in conflict with the federal regulations. If the TTB isn't going to enforce their own regs, who is?



*At the risk of threadjacking my own thread, it's quite interesting to look at Templeton's COLA history. Their first was for a "Single Barrel Blended Rye (https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonline/publicViewImage.do?id=06272000000086)," a real head scratcher in it's own right, but the really interesting ones are the "Kerkhoff" recipe (https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonline/publicViewImage.do?id=06279000000037) and the Quasquicentennial (https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonline/publicViewImage.do?id=07102000000041). The Kerkhoff was "spirits distilled from cane (90%) and rye (10%)," and the tonguetwister was similar except that it was 75% cane, 20% grain, and 5% rye. Now, who knows if these ever got made-- gotta wonder, if they were sold, who actually made it?

wadewood
10-30-2012, 14:53
If the TTB isn't going to enforce their own regs, who is?

Unfortunately the answer is nobody. You can try to get the TTB to do their job by filing a complaint. I have filed a complaint using this exact 5.36(d) code requirement and their standard reply is "We will look into the situation and appropriate action will be taken, if necessary".

cowdery
10-30-2012, 15:41
Unfortunately the answer is nobody. You can try to get the TTB to do their job by filing a complaint. I have filed a complaint using this exact 5.36(d) code requirement and their standard reply is "We will look into the situation and appropriate action will be taken, if necessary".

Their policy is they don't talk about the specifics of label issues except with the label holder. You can, however, ask them to clarify the meaning of a rule, in the context of a specific, and while they won't reply with reference to the specific, they in some cases will reply in a general way that allows you to read between the lines. Thomas Hogue is their public affairs liason.

It helps to be nice.

cowdery
10-30-2012, 15:53
Brisko, right section (5.36), wrong part. You're in 5.36(d), which is "state of distillation," and not implicated here. You want 5.36(a)(4) and 5.36(a)(6).

The gist of it is, the rules treat "produced by" and "bottled by" as synonyms, so aside from being redundant, "produced and bottled by" is acceptable when the only production being referred to is mere bottling. You may think 'produced' should mean 'distilled,' but TTB doesn't see it that way.

Brisko
10-30-2012, 20:31
Brisko, right section (5.36), wrong part. You're in 5.36(d), which is "state of distillation," and not implicated here. You want 5.36(a)(4) and 5.36(a)(6).

The gist of it is, the rules treat "produced by" and "bottled by" as synonyms, so aside from being redundant, "produced and bottled by" is acceptable when the only production being referred to is mere bottling. You may think 'produced' should mean 'distilled,' but TTB doesn't see it that way.
Are you sure? If you read the part I bolded it sounds like they are saying the state of distillation is required to be listed if it is different from the main brand label address. Maybe I am reading it wrong.

I understand that "produced" may be accuratee, especially since they (supposedly) age it in IA.

For the sake of comparison, the various young Willett ryes state "Distilled in Indiana bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky." I assue that KBD is following the rule (by my reading) while Templeton is not.

BFerguson
10-31-2012, 03:52
While its nice to have the rules, when they get to be used in what appears to be a too flexible way, their use is greatly diminished. Hell, besides most of the folks here, who out in the rest of the world knows such things exist?

Besides, I have my own rule, I just don't buy Templeton. Its a simple rule. Pretty easy to follow.

It's a decent product, but it is not worth the money that they are asking for it.

B

T Comp
10-31-2012, 06:42
While its nice to have the rules, when they get to be used in what appears to be a too flexible way, their use is greatly diminished. Hell, besides most of the folks here, who out in the rest of the world knows such things exist?

Besides, I have my own rule, I just don't buy Templeton. Its a simple rule. Pretty easy to follow.

It's a decent product, but it is not worth the money that they are asking for it.

B

It has been said before; we are the .001%. :grin:

And your rule is also my rule.

IowaJeff
10-31-2012, 08:54
subsection (d) does appear to require the accurate state of distillation, but I'm not too versed on these regs or how they are interpreted and applied.

I know that Templeton was initially a single barrel and switched to 'small batch.' I don't what the heck a single barrel blended whiskey is though.

I too have stopped buying it (I think I've only had two bottles, so not sure I even started). It's a perfectly good product, but now that rye has become so popular there are plenty of cheaper options of an equal or higher quality, even in Iowa. I have started seeing it around more. For a long time everyone in Iowa was crazy for it and it was never on the shelves. That's surely part increased production, or sourcing, but may also be that some of those TR crazy people picked up a bottle of Bulleit or some other rye and found it a cheaper substitute.

Gillman
10-31-2012, 11:14
On the concept of a single barrel blended rye, I don't know (of course) what will actually be in the bottle if this is ever released. However, I don't think the term is a contradiction in terms. Blended rye whiskey is a mixture of straight rye and GNS or any whiskey where the straight rye is at least 51% of the mix on a proof gallon basis (see section 5.22(a)(4), SOI). Say you barelled 2 year old straight rye with a 1 year old rye whiskey where the straight was 51% of the mix on a proof gallon basis. And then you aged it 2 years. If you filled bottles from that one barrel, that would seem to me a single barrel blended rye.

Gary

sku
10-31-2012, 11:46
There is indeed a state of distillation requirement and it is not being enforced. I wrote about the issue a few months back, linked below. I had thought Templeton used to say "produced in Indiana" on the label, but I could be wrong.

http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2012/09/why-isnt-ttb-enforcing-state-of.html

Brisko
10-31-2012, 11:51
There is indeed a state of distillation requirement and it is not being enforced. I wrote about the issue a few months back, linked below. I had thought Templeton used to say "produced in Indiana" on the label, but I could be wrong.

http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2012/09/why-isnt-ttb-enforcing-state-of.html

I missed that post, thanks for the link. As to whether TR ever listed Indiana on the label, it doesn't appear so from the COLAs that are available. I've only just recently seen a bottle in the wild, as I said.

MrAtomic
10-31-2012, 13:50
A question for the legally-trained among us: do any of you know the potential penalties imposed upon a company for violation of the TTB rules? I'm curious if there's any meaningful disincentive against rule-breaking, or if there's no punishment beyond having to modify an offending label. From reading Brisko's thread, and Chuck and Sku's interesting posts about the TTB, I get the feeling that companies aren't terribly concerned about repercussions.

cowdery
10-31-2012, 15:18
Mostly they would just be required to change the offending item. If they refused or were flagrantly flouting the rules, the TTB could force them to be pulled from the market.

I don't want to get into a lot of legalese here, but accurate rule-reading does take some legal training. It should be plain English but it's often not and there are terms-of-art involved. TTB is stretched pretty thin right now and for the most part relies on voluntary compliance. The major producers watch each other like hawks and are quick to complain if they see something wrong. The micro-producer world is still very collegial and nobody wants to be a rat. That will change.

It appears that state of distillation is required if different from the state shown for the producer on the label. TTB, however, wouldn't investigate this. They would expect the label holder to know the rules and comply. If you want to rat Templeton out to the TTB, by all means be my guest. Just be sure to give them the TTB ID number of the approved COLA you think is wrong. If you have some documentation from Templeton stating that the whiskey is distilled in Indiana, include that too.

Leopold
10-31-2012, 17:08
The micro-producer world is still very collegial and nobody wants to be a rat. That will change.


Astute comment yet again, Mr. Cowdery.

MrAtomic
10-31-2012, 17:36
Mostly they would just be required to change the offending item. If they refused or were flagrantly flouting the rules, the TTB could force them to be pulled from the market.

If you want to rat Templeton out to the TTB, by all means be my guest. Just be sure to give them the TTB ID number of the approved COLA you think is wrong. If you have some documentation from Templeton stating that the whiskey is distilled in Indiana, include that too.

Chuck,

Thanks for explaining the potential penalties. However, I'm not personally interested in finking on Templeton (I spend too much time dealing with bureaucracies already). It's also interesting to learn that the major producers essentially keep each other in line and ensure that everyone adheres to the TTB rules. And no doubt you're right that a similar situation will emerge among the micros.

sku
10-31-2012, 17:42
I would love to see them start enforcing the rule more aggressively. (They could at least ask on the forms what the state of distillation is and make the companies make a definitive statement.) It's one of the few tools we have as consumers to figure out where the whiskey was distilled.

Paul, even if you were to report someone, I'd be surprised if you got a response unless you had personal knowledge of some sort. Chuck get's responses from the TTB, but he's Chuck and the rest of us aren't.

Brisko
10-31-2012, 19:16
Is it possible that Templeton is unaware of the regulation? They have at least one youtube video that is quite open about their "partnership" with then-LDI. I can't link it easily from my tablet but it's the one with "Lifecycle Project" in the title. It's not so much that I want to rat on them as I want to know that I can trust that labels, not just theirs, are accurate.

I get that the TTB doesn't have the resources to actively police these things, and I can grasp how easily the industry could self-regulate prior to the craft movement.

Here's a question, totally unrelated to TR: what if a producer welched on an age statement? How would it be caught? I'm not thinking so much of 6 year old juice in an 8 year old label (though that's one scenario) but rather maybe 3 year old stock in an NAS? Do the produces have to maintain records to prove such things?

wadewood
10-31-2012, 19:55
OK Cowdery, I took your advice and wrote Thomas Hogue a very polite email asking about the distilled in state requirement.

sku
10-31-2012, 21:02
Here's a question, totally unrelated to TR: what if a producer welched on an age statement? How would it be caught? I'm not thinking so much of 6 year old juice in an 8 year old label (though that's one scenario) but rather maybe 3 year old stock in an NAS? Do the produces have to maintain records to prove such things?

That seems to be happening too. There are a number of craft whiskeys with no age statement that I'm betting aren't four years old. It's the same answer. It doesn't get caught.

Leopold
10-31-2012, 21:19
Age statement is only required for Straight Whiskey.

sku
11-01-2012, 06:09
Age statement is only required for Straight Whiskey.

Leopold, is that what you've heard from the TTB? It's certainly not what the regs say:

27 CFR 5.40(a):

(a) Statements of age and percentage for whisky. In the case of straight whisky bottled in conformity with the bottled in bond labeling requirements and of domestic or foreign whisky, whether or not mixed or blended, all of which is 4 years old or more, statements of age and percentage are optional. As to all other whiskies there shall be stated the following:

(1) In the case of whisky, whether or not mixed or blended but containing no neutral spirits, the age of the youngest whisky. The age statement shall read substantially as follows: “___ years old.”

Brisko
11-01-2012, 06:52
Age statement is only required for Straight Whiskey.

Wow, thanks for making my point.

Leopold
11-01-2012, 07:34
Respectfully, I'm very aware of the in's and outs of the CFR's. They are poorly written and often contradictory.

The section that SKU cites refers to HOW the age statement should read if you use it. Not that you MUST use age statements.

If the phrase As to all other whiskies there shall be stated the following means that you MUST put an age statement on a whiskey label, explain why you've never seen an age statement on a corn whiskey label or a flavored whiskey label. Both are whiskies according to the CFR's. In point of fact, you can't put an age statement on a flavored whiskey label. The section

To answer your question directly SKU, i received my information from the TTB in person many years ago at their Cincinnati office. In addition, I have COLA's tied to formula approvals which state quite clearly what the age of the whiskies are... that they are under 2 years old and are therefore not straight whiskies. The TTB knows exactly how old our NAS whiskies are. We don't screw around with the TTB.

Brisko
11-01-2012, 08:41
The federal regs are a little confusing, but the Beverage Alcohol Manual (http://ttb.gov/spirits/bam.shtml), which is intended to clarify the regs, is less so. There is a handy chart beginning on chapter 8, page 5, that lists the requirements by class and type. According to that, virtually all whiskies, straight or not, including corn, require age statements if under 4 years old. Flavored whiskey, as you've noted, is exceptional: it may not bear an age statement.

So, I can't dispute what you've been told in person by the TTB, and I have no reason to doubt your account, but it conflicts with the TTB's own published guidelines.

EDIT:

To get to the original question, BAM pp. 1-15 and 1-16 clarifies the state of distillation issue as it relates to whiskeys.

"The State of distillation must be specifically identified on the label IF:The whisky was not distilled in the State identified in the required name and
address statement (see Item 4, “NAME AND ADDRESS” of this chapter)"

Leopold
11-01-2012, 09:35
The federal regs are a little confusing, but the Beverage Alcohol Manual (http://ttb.gov/spirits/bam.shtml), which is intended to clarify the regs, is less so.

The BAM is a pamphlet, and nothing more. The CFR's are the controlling regs. Confused me, too, but the TTB set me straight in Cincinnati... focus on the CFR's.

You won't find an age statement on corn whiskey labels, as an example.

The other issue is that the TTB's institutional knowledge changes over time. As an example, they told me that the reg that vodka should be "without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color" was relative. As in, it's without the character and aroma of other spirits... gin, whiskey, etc....

They told another distiller, years later, that it's an absolute situation. In other words, vodka should have no taste or aroma. This is logically absurd, obviously, since that's describing distilled water. Vodka has a VERY distinctive aroma... the aroma of ethanol that even an inexperienced drinker can identify with ease.

It's a complicated business, that's for certain. The TTB does the best that they can with what little resources they receive.

sku
11-01-2012, 09:43
Thanks for your feedback Leopold. It's certainly not how I read the regs, but the TTB has a lot of latitude in their interpretations and it's always interesting to hear what they are saying to those in the industry who have to deal with them.

I don't think the state of distillation rule affects you since I don't think you market any sourced whiskeys but it would be interested in hearing what they are saying to those who do about what has to appear on the label.

IowaJeff
11-01-2012, 10:01
The regulator's interpretation of a regulation is of utmost importance and is often not clear from the text of the regulation itself. In my non-TTB regulatory realm anyway. It can be a maddening, Kafka-esque world.

Leopold
11-01-2012, 10:03
Well, for my part I would have no problem putting an age statement on the whiskey if that's what they asked us to do.

The State of distillation does not affect us, you are correct. In this case, I do believe that you and Brisko are correct that the bottlers are ignoring the rule. The TTB has to take them at their word.... unless they submit a formula, which is not required for whiskey COLA's. So the TTB isn't telling them anything, since the bottlers aren't telling them that they aren't making the whiskey. They aren't telling them anything about where the whiskey is distilled.... so there's nothing to rule on.

Brisko
11-01-2012, 10:33
The BAM is a pamphlet, and nothing more. The CFR's are the controlling regs. Confused me, too, but the TTB set me straight in Cincinnati... focus on the CFR's.

You won't find an age statement on corn whiskey labels, as an example.

The other issue is that the TTB's institutional knowledge changes over time. As an example, they told me that the reg that vodka should be "without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color" was relative. As in, it's without the character and aroma of other spirits... gin, whiskey, etc....

They told another distiller, years later, that it's an absolute situation. In other words, vodka should have no taste or aroma. This is logically absurd, obviously, since that's describing distilled water. Vodka has a VERY distinctive aroma... the aroma of ethanol that even an inexperienced drinker can identify with ease.

It's a complicated business, that's for certain. The TTB does the best that they can with what little resources they receive.

Well, I won't dispute that the TTB can and does interpret the rules however they want. And I'm willing to admit that I could be misreading the CFRs, too.

With regard to corn whiskey, I know that Platte Valley has a 3 year old age statement. It is a straight corn whiskey though so maybe that makes a difference (although I can't find any exceptions for corn whiskey in the CFR other than not having to state "used cooperage.") The flavored whiskey exception is in there.

I'm looking at the CFR, section 5.40 and it's very clear that all whisky (their spelling) under 4 years old must bear an age statement. Is there another section that makes other distinctions?

DaveOfAtl
11-01-2012, 10:38
No reason to doubt what the TTB told you, but what they told you orally carries even less weight than the BAM, which is more of an official interpretation of the relevant regs. Perhaps the TTB has failed to (or chosen not to) enforce the regs cited by Sku, but the plain language pretty clearly commands that an age statement be used. The government is never precluded from enforcing the regs as written, and there is no "everybody is doing it" defense.

Perhaps some of the confusion can be traced to a 1987 Treasury (52 Fed. Reg. 41419-02) decision in which the Department of the Treasury changed the regulations to permit mixtures of straight whiskies to be labeled "straight" as long as they were at least two years old. (There was previously a disparity that although "straight whiskey" needed only be two years old, mixtures of straight whiskey had to be at least four years old to be labeled as such.)


Three industry members were strongly opposed to the proposal in Notice No. 523 to allow mixtures of straight whiskies, which are to be designated as “straight,” to be made up of straight whiskies all of which are at least two years old. This proposal was a relaxation of the current requirement that all whiskies in such mixtures be at least four years old or more. Since the definition of “straight whisky” states that it must have been stored in the prescribed type of oak containers for a period of two years or more, ATF feels that there is insufficient justification to require that mixtures of such whiskies be made of whiskies all of which are at least four years old if the mixtures are to be designated as “straight.” ATF feels that a minimum two year age requirement for all whiskies in the mixture is sufficient to designate the mixture as straight.” ATF feels that the labeling requirement in CFR 5.40 which requires the age of the youngest spirits be shown on the label if any of the spirits are less than four years old is sufficient protection for the consumer and will alert such consumer to the fact that the “straight whisky” in the bottle is less than four years old. It will then be up to the consumer to decide whether such “straight whisky,” which is less than four years old, is good enough to compete successfully with other “straight whiskies.” (Emphasis added)

Although this decision was in the context to the definiton of straight whiskey, I don't think the ATF was saying that the Section 5.40 applies only to straight whiskey. I think they were saying that there is little danger in deceiving the customer regarding the age of the whiskey because all whiskey less than four years old must have an age statement anyway.

cowdery
11-01-2012, 10:50
Is it possible that Templeton is unaware of the regulation? They have at least one youtube video that is quite open about their "partnership" with then-LDI. I can't link it easily from my tablet but it's the one with "Lifecycle Project" in the title. It's not so much that I want to rat on them as I want to know that I can trust that labels, not just theirs, are accurate.

Very unlikely that Templeton doesn't know the rules.


I get that the TTB doesn't have the resources to actively police these things, and I can grasp how easily the industry could self-regulate prior to the craft movement.

Here's a question, totally unrelated to TR: what if a producer welched on an age statement? How would it be caught? I'm not thinking so much of 6 year old juice in an 8 year old label (though that's one scenario) but rather maybe 3 year old stock in an NAS? Do the produces have to maintain records to prove such things?

I don't know the full extent of the distillery data available to TTB but I know that they keep track of taxes paid, using computer data of barrels filled, barrels dumped, etc. But, yes, the distillery's records would show this and the TTB probably has access to that data. They pretty much have to be able to account for every barrel for tax purposes.

As for trying to beat the reg, what many people don't appreciate is that the ability to keep secrets declines in direct proportion to the number of people who know the secret. It would be hard to put significant quantities of an underage whiskey into a product without a lot of people knowing about it. It would be a hard secret to keep.

From my experience, the majors tend to be very scrupulous about abiding by the rules because the consequences of not are so potentially grave. Some micro-producers, on the other hand, have an 'outlaw' mentality that hates authority and tries to see how much they can get away with. I imagine at some point there will be something serious that will result in a temporary or even permanent loss of license and that will get people's attention. I know the Templeton folks took pleasure in jerking me around about the source of their whiskey in the early days, so I wouldn't put anything past them.

Leopold
11-01-2012, 11:08
No reason to doubt what the TTB told you, but what they told you orally carries even less weight than the BAM, which is more of an official interpretation of the relevant regs.

I agree completely. Which is why I sent in formulations for our whiskies which are tied to our label approval. I told them, in writing, that our whiskies would not exceed 2 years of age (for the bottlings in question). They approved the formula as well as the NAS COLA. I was merely sharing the story of how I confirmed that the age statement requirement only applies to straight whiskey.

The word straight means 2 years or older. If you don't see the word straight on a NAS label, you know it's less than two years old. So in other words: NAS Straight Whiskey is 4 years or older. NAS Whisky is less than two years old. That is how it was explained to me. Just trying to share the info.

Edited for clarity.

cowdery
11-01-2012, 21:50
This has always puzzled me and that's the best explanation I've heard.

IowaJeff
11-02-2012, 07:40
Thanks for the explanation Leopold. That makes a lot of sense. You should write regulations in your spare time.

Leopold
11-02-2012, 08:39
Spare time? What the hell is that? : )

I have handled all the COLA's for our wine, beer, and spirits for years... so it's second nature now. What I've learned is that the regulations don't saw what you think it does, so you have to read them very carefully... and try and avoid the contradictions in the way they are laid out and the way they read.

The TTB views (or at least, they did a decade ago) Straight Whiskey as hallowed ground. You don't get the honor of putting an age statement on that bottle if it isn't straight.... which makes sense in a way, and explains why you can't put age statements on flavored whiskey (something we make). Flavored Whiskey is a lower class, with straight whiskey being the gold standard for the TTB. I sort of like their way of thinking on the matter.... although the only problem is that few consumers know what the heck straight whiskey is anymore.

Brisko
11-05-2012, 12:27
Thanks for the clarification on age statements. To the original question: Templeton makes no secret (nowadays) of the source of their whiskey. They write on their website that "this distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana continues to be their trusted distillation partner today."

Now, off the top of my head I know that KBD labels the state of distillation rule on the Willett Ryes, and I know that McCormick does too with their Platte Valley corn whiskey and their straight bourbon. There may be others. The rectifier out in Park City uses a slightly different tack: they use what the BAM refers to as a "dispelling statement" that lets the customer know that, no, Rocky Mountain Rye (for example) wasn't distilled in the Rocky Mountains. Not sure why Templeton can't do the same.

wadewood
11-08-2012, 13:22
OK Cowdery, I took your advice and wrote Thomas Hogue a very polite email asking about the distilled in state requirement.

It's been a week and no response, I guess an ordinary consumer does not deserve an answer?

thomas.hogue@ttb.gov

Thomas,

I was hoping you could provide some clarification on 27 CFR 5.36 (d), which includes this:


"State of distillation shall be shown on the label of any whisky produced in the United States if the whisky is not distilled in the State given in the address on the brand label."


As a consumer, i find it very confusing that whiskeys are being sold with information on the labels that contradict information that I know to be correct about where this product was distilled.


As noted, I'm a consumer, not a lawyer, and perhaps there is more to it than the statement above.


Thank you,

Wade Woodard

cowdery
11-08-2012, 14:06
Oh well. Government agencies can be inscrutable. Even if you don't get a reply, I think it's great when consumers query the TTB about these things. In addition to being a government agency, their mission is consumer protection, so it would seem like they should be responsive to consumer concerns. We should all keep beating the drums.