Last time, in Part 9 of our series on the TTB’s “Notice No. 176” – the “Modernization of the Labeling and Advertising Regulations for Wine, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages” we covered proposed changes to some distilled spirits labeling and advertising regulations.

In Part 10 we review the changes to the standards of identity for distilled spirits specific regulatory changes to issues like the acceptable spelling of whisky and whether it should be called “orange flavored Tequila” or “Tequila with orange flavor” (hint, the new rules finally allow the former.

The proposed updated regulations will change distilled spirits labeling practices for standards of identity in the following ways:

  • The notion of an intermediate product will be scrapped and from now on blending components such as distilled spirits & wines together first (as an intermediate product) will be considered the same thing as adding ingredients separately for the purpose of determining the standards of identity of the finished product. So the new rule will require disclosure of the elements of the intermediate products as part of the statement of composition.
  • A new section 5.141(b)(3) will clarify that such finished products maybe designated with any class designation to which the product conforms. So vodka with a natural orange flavor and sugar bottled at 45% alcohol by volume will meet the standard of identity for a flavored spirit or for a liqueur. Accordingly such a product could be called “orange flavored vodka”, or “orange liqueur” at the option of the bottler or importer; but not both.
  • A proposed rule 5.1 f42 will clarify issues regarding neutral spirits.  First the source material of the product would have to be designated, such as “apple neutral spirits” or “Grape Vodka.” Second neutral spirits other than grain spirits store in wood barrels become specialty products and must be labeled in accordance with the appropriate rules for such products because storage in wood barrels renders the spirits not neutral.
  • A proposed rule 5.143 will set forth the standards for whiskys which will clarify that the word whiskey maybe spelled whisky or whiskey.The rule will also clarify that where a whisky meets the standard for one of the types of whiskeys it must be designated with the type name except that Tennessee Whiskey may be labeled as Tennessee Whiskey even if it meets the standards for one of the type designations. (The Jack Daniels rule.)
  • The new standards for whiskey will have a chart in the regulations that sets forth the types of whiskey that are not distinctive products of other countries, the source material from which the whiskey may be produced, whether storage is required, the proof of which the whiskey may be stored, and whether neutral spirits and harmless coloring, flavoring, or blending materials may be used. There will also clarify that coloring flavoring or blending materials may not be added to products designated as Bourbon Whiskey.
  • The new rules will create a type designation called White Whiskey for unaged or slightly aged whiskey.
  • The standards for gin will finally be changed so that the use of other aromatics will be optional – so the requirement that gin be made with juniper berries and other aromatics will be done away with.
  • Slivovitz and Kirschwasser will be allowed is optional designations for plum brandy and cherry brandy, respectively.
  • The designations of Tequila and  Mezcal will find protection under the new regulations as “agave spirits” which will be created as a category – so Tequila and Mezcal can be protected under new international treaties which make those designations particular to imported products from Mexico.
  • A new section 5.149 will set forth a new standard for Absinthe noting that such products have been allowed in U.S. markets for over ten years now, but the word Absinthe alone has not been allowed to be used on the bottle. This will change under the new regulations allowing it to stand alone, but the new standard will still remind drinkers that the products must be thujone free under FDA regulations. For products to be thujone free the must contain less than 10 parts per million of thujone.
  • A section 5.151 would establish flavored spirits as a revised and expanded class of distilled spirits consisting of spirits conforming to one of the standards of identity to which have been added non beverage flavors like wine or alcoholic natural flavoring. Accordingly any type of base spirit can be flavored instead of just brandy, gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey as permitted by current regulations.
  • Certain geographic designations that are not generic may be used on products made outside of the place indicated by the name if the TTB determines the name represents the type of distilled spirit and ia designation including aqualifier such as type or style. For example Ojen is a town in Spain and “Aguardiente de Ojen” is a distilled spirits product associated with Spain. Thus, the current and proposed regulations provide that Ojen an example of a distinctive type of distilled spirit with a geographical name that has not become generic. If Ojen were made in the United States, it would be designated as a genotype or American Ojen with another similar phrase.