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Issue 130 - In Bourbon We Do Not Trust

Whisky Magazine Issue 130
September 2015


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In Bourbon We Do Not Trust

It's all about the label

When the class-action lawsuits first hit whiskey brands, I remember thinking that if American whiskey can endure these, the category can survive just about anything.

The lawsuits suggested that some whiskey brands were misleading consumers with labeling, ranging from not disclosing the state of distillation to the use of fanciful terminology such as small batch and handcrafted.

One by one, the lawsuits have been dismissed. When dismissing the Maker's Mark handcrafted lawsuit, the judge made the comparison to the Keebler elves, saying that nobody really believes elves made his cookies. The plaintiffs in the Templeton case settled for what amounted to $3 to $6 refund per bottle of Templeton. Now I'm not a big city lawyer, but that didn't seem like much of a win.

There are still a few suits pending as of press time.

Meanwhile, brands that have labels in question are changing them to be in federal compliance and lowering their liability threshold. One alcohol attorney told craft distillers that the more non-regulated words they put on the bottle, the bigger target they become for lawyers.

Nonetheless, companies are finding new ways to inject marketing on labels that could be misconstrued as trying to deceive consumers. After a rollicking good time at Tales of the Cocktail, I found myself in the Atlanta airport duty free shop checking out the whiskey selection and came across a peculiar looking bottle. It was called ‘American Spirit Whiskey' and claimed to be ‘ultra filte...

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