Here in Texas we are a proud folk and like to buy things made in Texas. It seems some clever (dishonest?) folks like to claim their Vodka, Bourbon, whiskey, etc is made here without it being so. They take advantage of the lax TTB enforcement and make all kind of claims. I ranted, preached and even filed complaints with the TTB myself. Dan does a good job in pointing some of this out in his latest newsletter. I know for most on this site, we understand whiskey class and types, but the generally public does not. You can read full story at above link; here is the part I like:
Enough with the Brown Vodka
If you’ve been to our distillery in Hye, you’re probably aware that we refer to “blended whiskies,” “spirit whiskies” and bulk-bottled-bourbon as brown vodka. (Admittedly, I stole the term from Chuck Cowdery … because it’s such a good one.)
The reason for our disdain is that the government’s standards of identity state that “spirit whiskey” can be a combination of as little as 5% actual whiskey. The other 95% of the liquid is grain neutral spirit, also known as vodka. “Blended whiskies” only have to contain 20% straight whiskey. The remainder? You guessed it.
Worse still, if a bottler is not happy with the resulting color or taste of their artificial spirit, they can add wood chips, red dye #7, caramel coloring, or vanilla flavoring and still call it whiskey! When you put this all in a bottle and shake it up, what you have is brown vodka. (It’s perfectly legal by the way: Many of the “Texas whiskies on store shelves today were cooked, fermented, distilled and barreled in Canada, Indiana or Kentucky. The faux craft distillers just add water to it and bottle it.)
But some people like brown vodka. And more power to them. In fact, since we started our little operation in 2005, today there are now dozens of “craft whiskies” on the shelves at Texas liquor stores that claim to be made all over America. Some of these fine products are actually made (cooked, mashed, distilled, barreled and bottled) in Texas. Others are simply bottled here.
I think some of the finest craft distilled spirits in the world are being made right here in Texas. But it’s very difficult for the small quality-focused distillers like Railean Distillery and Ranger Creek Distillery and Brewery to compete with the mass producers who buy spirits in bulk and just slap a “Made in Texas” label on it.
It’s not becoming of me to criticize other brands by name and I’m not going to do it here. But I do want to offer some advice to those who actually give a shit about what goes into their body. There are ways to tell the difference between brown vodka and real bourbon.
--Study the producer’s statement. By law, all bottles must feature what’s called a “producer’s statement” somewhere on the bottle. The language of these statements normally reads “Distilled and bottled by Rocky Spring Distillery in Rocky Spring, Tennessee” or “Produced and bottled by Old Goat Distillery in Goat, Kentucky.”Does the producer’s statement say “made in Texas” or “Texas made?” Does it say “distilled in Texas” or does it say “produced” or “bottled” in Texas. These words should provide a clue. If they are making their own juice from scratch, you can bet your ass they’ll want to tell you so.
--Hold a bottle of that whiskey up to the light, preferably next to a bottle of Garrison Brothers Straight Bourbon. Is it yellow? Is it pale? Does one bottle look like it might be brown vodka? If it does, it probably is.
--Visit the distillery that makes the spirit and watch them make it. If they let you in, ask questions. If all they show you is a bottling line, then they may have already answered your question. Just maybe, that’s all they really do.