Whisky Advocate

Tuthilltown Spirits and William Grant form alliance

June 4th, 2010

I got this this morning. VERY interesting. Will we see more like this? 

PRESS RELEASE

 

TUTHILLTOWN SPIRITS ANNOUNCES NEW PARTNERSHIP 

June 2, 2010, 

Tuthilltown, Gardiner, NY 

TUTHILLTOWN SPIRITS ANNOUNCED TODAY the formation of a new partnership 

with 140 year old family owned W. GRANT & SONS of the U.K. for the production and 

worldwide distribution of TUTHILLTOWN’s HUDSON WHISKEY brand of handmade 

whiskeys. 

The acquisition also adds the first American whiskey to the William Grant & Sons 

portfolio, which already boasts category-leading brands such as the world’s most 

awarded single malt Scotch whisky Glenfiddich as well as The Balvenie Single Malt 

Scotch Whisky, Hendrick’s Gin, Milagro Tequila, Sailor Jerry Rum, Frangelico Hazelnut 

Liqueur, Stolichnaya vodka, and more. 

Since first being introduced in 2006, The Hudson Whiskey range has created a stir both 

within the industry and the bartending community, as well as among discerning 

consumers. In this short time, the micro distillery located in Gardiner, New York quickly 

earned international acclaim not only for the quality of its products and innovative 

packaging and marketing, but also for its pioneering spirit – it is the first whiskey 

distilled in New York since Prohibition, and is the first ever New York State-produced 

bourbon whiskey. 

“We are both excited and proud to have added the Hudson Whiskey range to our awardwinning 

portfolio.” said Simon Hunt, Managing Director – North America, William 

Grant & Sons. “When our founder William Grant first built his distillery by hand in 

1886, he had one dream: to create the best dram in the Valley. That dram became 

Glenfiddich and that valley was the Valley of the Deer in Speyside. More than a century 

later, history is repeating itself in Gardiner as the Hudson Whiskey range becomes a part 

of the William Grant & Sons family. This time, the dram is Hudson Whiskey and the 

valley is the Hudson valley. We are delighted to see that the spirit endures into the 21st 

century.” 

“All us at TUTHILLTOWN are extremely happy to be working with a family company 

that shares our philosophy.” said Ralph Erenzo, distiller and partner at Tuthilltown 

Spirits. “This new relationship will enable us to maintain the high quality of our products 

and allow us to continue to meet the increasing level of demand, without sacrificing any 

of the principles that make us what we are. We’re delighted to be taking place among 

such distinguished spirits as Hendrick’s Gin, The Balvenie and Glenfiddich.” 

Partners Brian Lee and Ralph Erenzo began work on the distillery which is located at the 

site of the TUTHILLTOWN GRISTMILL, a National Historic Site in 2003 and placed 

their first products on Hudson Valley bars and in retail outlets in Spring 2006. The 

distillery’s products are distributed currently in seventeen States, seven EU countries and 

Australia. TUTHILLTOWN SPIRITS DISTILLERY was named ARTISAN 

DISTILLERY OF THE YEAR 2010 by the American Distilling Institute at its annual 

conference in Kentucky in May; taking also Silver medals for its HUDSON 

MANHATTAN RYE and HUDSON FOUR GRAIN BOURBON, and Gold medal for 

the design of the MANHATTAN RYE package. The distillery makes use of locally 

grown grains and apples to produce whiskeys and vodka. 

TUTHILLTOWN was instrumental in the passage of the FARM DISTILLERY ACT by 

the NY Legislature, permitting farm based distilleries equal opportunity with wineries 

and breweries to allow tours, tastings and direct sale of products at the distillery, a first 

for NY State distillers. The distillery is open for tours on weekends. For more 

information visit 

www.tuthilltown.com

Contact:

 

Ralph Erenzo, Tuthilltown 

845.255.1527 

No Responses to “Tuthilltown Spirits and William Grant form alliance”

  1. Very interesting news indeed. But I am not quite sure how to interpret the wording. In my view an “Alliance with Grant” would be a different thing than an “Addition to the Grant portfolio”. Now is this a takeover, a minority holding or just a friendly get-together?

    Edit: Oops, I overlooked the word “acquisition”, so it really is a takeover. Sorry for the confusion…

  2. JC Skinner says:

    Hope this means we’ll see some Tuthilltown on the other side of the Atlantic at long last.

  3. Louis says:

    Given all of the fuss when Iain Henderson went to the St. Geoerge distillery in England, I wonder how the Scotts will feel about Grant’s getting involved with American whiskey.

    • Maybe there will be a little fuss, but it will soon be over. Laphroaig is owned by a bourbon maker, so why not the other way round? Bowmore is Japanese, Dalmore is Indian, so what?

  4. Sku says:

    I find this fascinating and potentially very important news. This is the first time that I’m aware that a major spirits company has purchased an American craft distillery. Never before has a microbrand had this kind of economic heft behind it. This raises many interesting questions.

    First, I wonder how Wm Grant sees this as part of its portfolio. Is this an “in” to the US market? Will they be greatly expanding shelf space or will they continue to treat Hudson as a niche or specialty item?

    Second, I wonder how this will affect the rest of the craft distilleries. On the one hand, I could see how corporate partnerships could give a craft distillery much needed finances to do what they want, such as release more aged whiskeys and lay off the corn liquor. On the other hand, some craft distillers may start changing their behavior in the hopes of attracting a buyout from a major player. This could mean that craft distilling starts looking more like a money-making opportunity and less like an art form, which could increase participation of speculative distillers who are really in it more to make a buck than to make great spirits.

    In any case, it’s a big development for this burgeoning industry.

    • Gable Erenzo says:

      Hey All,

      More info to be released today about our new partnership, for now I just want to clarify that Tuthilltown Distillery has not been acquired. The partnership is to meet increasing demand for the Hudson Whiskey line. Tuthilltown has been and will remain the independent sole-producer of Hudson Whiskey.

      We are very excited to be working with WGS and about the potential opportunities this new partnership will bring to Hudson and Tuthilltown .

      Thanks to all for your interest and support.

      -gable

  5. wow.

    Good for Tuthilltown.

  6. Peteys says:

    Did’nt they also just take over Tullamore DEW (the Irish brand)?
    Seems like a japanese is next…

    Peter

  7. woodisgood says:

    As long as the rye and Baby Bourbon continues to taste as delicious as always, good for Tuthilltown! They’re a great distiller and even if they’re a tad (just a tad!) overpriced, their whiskeys are consistently satisfying.

    • sam k says:

      I’m sure that the general public acceptance of that inflated price point is another primary factor in Grant & Sons decision to target this particular brand.

  8. Andy McKinney says:

    So a Scotch whiskey producer from the UK buys a NY distiller that flaunts the appellation laws of the US for the term Bourbon? The goods sold with the “Hudson Baby Bourbon” trademark registration (3411333) specifically use “Bourbon” and “New York” and I’m told that is a crime.

    Is this a plan to ruin or genericize the Bourbon appellation in international trade? I wonder what this UK company is planning, long term. If Kentuckians don’t protect the appellation “Bourbon”, then they lose big and so do all Americans.

    Under international law, in order for an appellation to become registered under the Lisbon Agreement, that appellation (of origin) must be protected within its country of origin. If the US and Kentucky don’t protect the appellation Bourbon, then the whole country loses and anybody who can grow, mash and distill cheaply can call their whiskey “Bourbon.”

    Does WM Grant also own facilities to make cheaper corn whiskey elsewhere? Will those facilites be bottling something called “Bourbon” offshore in the future? Just saying…

  9. Andy McKinney says:

    Oops, I see from the later clarifying remarks that WM Grant has “partnered” with Tuthilltown, rather than bought it.

    This does not change the point I’m making about protecting the appellation “Bourbon” and potential effects which may arise from failing to protect that appellation within the US and abroad.

    • MrTH says:

      I’m not sure what you’re objecting to. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the US.

    • sam k says:

      Andy, Mr TH is right. Bourbon is an American appellation, not restricted to Kentucky alone. Prior to the downsizing of the industry, bourbon was made in many other states…Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and more.

  10. Ralph Erenzo says:

    Andy, Sam and Mr. TH are correct. Please refer to the STANDARDS OF IDENTITY contained in the CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS. The appellation is National, not regional. And as Gable points out, we are still in independent privately held AMERICAN distillery. Our relationships have nothing to do with the provenance of the spirits. We’re looking forward to making our whiskeys more widely available as our relationship with the legendary W GRANT AND SONS matures.

    Frankly, I agree that the US must protect Bourbon and Rye and especially from suffering protectionist actions by the EU. The Fed and American distillers must take issue with the redefinition of American Bourbon and American Rye whiskeys (agreed by the US during the Bush administration) by the EU which effectively blocks all new US whiskey distillers from sending their American Bourbon and Rye Whiskeys to the EU for three years and selling them as “whiskey” or “whisky” in the EU, regardless that these goods meet the US standards and are called Bourbon or Rye whiskeys in the country of origin.

  11. JC Skinner says:

    Ralph, it doesn’t matter if Americans call it whiskey or not. If it doesn’t comply with EU definitions of what whiskey is, you ain’t calling it that here.
    It’s a fair playing field – same rules apply to all EU producers too, including the Scots and Irish.
    You want to sell white dog, call it such. Don’t pretend it’s whiskey yet.
    On the other hand, I support US efforts to protect Bourbon as an appellation. Excrescences claiming to be bourbon coming from some countries such as New Zealand are a clear assault on the integrity of the bourbon tradition.
    On the other hand, America has no copyright on making whiskey from rye, I’m afraid. I can see no argument supporting the exclusion of non-US distillers from making rye whiskey.

    • MrTH says:

      JC, I take your point–if you accept all local definitions of whisk(e)y, then you have to accept all those molasses-based Indian “whiskies”. If the Europeans want to exclude American whiskeys that are younger than three years old, that is their right, I guess. But it’s your loss.

  12. […] Tuthilltown Spirits and William Grant form alliance […]

  13. Ralph Erenzo says:

    JC’s point would be acceptable IF the EU respected the definitions of the country of origin in the same way as the US Standards of Identity respect the definitions of Scotch and Irish Whiskey. In US law both these are recognized as being Scottish and Irish products MADE UNDER THE LAWS OF THAT COUNTRY. I can understand and accept the right of the EU to protect the specific TYPE of indigenous spirits, that’s their right, as with Cognac and Grappa and Tequila in Mexico. But the EU law specifically states: “American Bourbon and Rye Whiskey” which puts it back into the realm of AMERICAN whiskey which is not the same as Scotch or Irish Whiskeys. And it is not “white dog” I am referring to by any means, just these two TYPES. With the logic you present if applied th same way in the US, neither Scotch or Irish whiskeys would be able to be sold as “whiskey” or “whisky” in the US because neither of them meet the criteria under US law for the designation “whiskey” or “whisky” in the US. Shall we offer quid pro quo and make all Scotch and Irish manufacturers take the word “whisky” off their labels if they want to sell in the US? That would be fair, I mean under the reasoning you suggest.

  14. Ralph, coming back to the “partnership” issue. Re-reading the press release, the word “acqusition” really indicates a takover, so you should not be surprised if there are misunderstandings.

  15. Ralph Erenzo says:

    Thanks Oliver. We’re not worried about the misunderstandings, confident the truth will out and no matter cause we’re just going about making whiskey and loving the work, all happily surprised at the reception to our products by consumers and the industry.

    The word “acquisition” is perhaps ambiguous, apologies for any confusion. As Gabe noted we continue to produce our HUDSON whiskeys at Tuthilltown and, with our friends at GRANT, broadening distribution and increasing our efficiency. TUTHILLTOWN SPIRITS remains an independent privately held American distillery as well as an enthusiastic partner with GRANT in the future of the HUDSON brand line. The relationship will not stifle our creative spirit (no pun intended), so watch for more new and interesting products and concepts in the future. Thank you all for the support.

  16. Ralph Erenzo says:

    Excuse me folks, I stand corrected in my paraphrasing of Gabe’s comment above: “we continue to produce our HUDSON whiskeys at Tuthilltown….”

    To be clear and give credit where credit is due, HUDSON WHISKEYS are made at Tuthilltown, the HUDSON WHISKEY brand line is owned by W L GRANT AND SONS, and all’s right with the world.

  17. JC Skinner says:

    Why should the EU recognise anyone else’s right to change the definitions of a product invented and with a history dating back more than one thousand years within Europe?
    What America calls whiskey in America is rightly the decision of Americans. Though one expects that they would respect European appellations such as Scotch, or Champagne or Rioja, just as we respect theirs. And they do.
    But just because America deems somethings to be whiskey in their domestic market is of no importance to Europe in deciding whether to permit the use of the term here. If you wish to call it whiskey in Europe, then it must be whiskey by European standards, and that goes for European producers too.
    Needless to say, the reverse argument presented by Ralph is a McGuffin, for a number of reasons. Firstly, European whiskey more than exceeds the standards required to utilise the term in America, secondly because European producers have the historic claim to the term, and finally because the global market has spoken in this regard and it deems Scotch to be the benchmark for whiskey in volume sales and market penetration.
    In a global legal tussle over the use of the word whiskey, America would be destined to lose.
    Thankfully, such a scenario is unlikely to occur.

  18. JC Skinner says:

    Mr TH, I don’t accept all local definitions of whiskey. I accept the European one.
    I don’t consider the molasses based spirits in India, or the spirits made in South-East Asia from rice to be whiskey, despite what local labels may proclaim.

  19. Ralph Erenzo says:

    On the EU/US whiskey definition matter, I guess we must just accept we disagree. On the matter of the EU regulation, it does not go back thousands of years, the EU codified three year in oak regulation is recent.

    My hypothetical about Scotch and Irish whiskys not meeting the US definition of “whiskey” is however based on quid pro quo, if the US took a similar stand as the EU, and thereby removed the exclusions for Scotch and Irish whiskys so that those products would have to meet the US definition of whiskey, they would not qualify as for instance “Single Malt Whisky” since under US law a specific “type” must be stored in NEW charred oak (no minimum time). So apples to apples, if we are going to by National definitions what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If whisky made in Scotland does not meet the American definition of whiskey, and it does not due to the practice of using formerly filled bourbon barrels for the most part, it would be required to be called “Whisky from a Mash of Malted Barley”. But the US gives distinction to Scotch and Irish Whisky as the products of those countries and in the whiskey/whisky Class, the particulars of their production left to the countries of origin. The Indian comparison is inappropriate since it is not a grain product, but molasses based.

    The real point though, is the fact that “whiskey” or “whisky” is a “Class” of spirits derived from grain, and in nearly all cases aged in oak. Beyond that the specifics of the oak and time in oak and the specific grains and requirements thereof are the details which separate Scotch Whisky from American Whiskey are what distinguishes whiskeys from different countries. They are in the same class, but they are different Types of aged grain spirit. Neither being any better or worse, just different. It’s that difference that makes them special.

  20. JC Skinner says:

    As I previously explained, a war over who owns the term whiskey is one America would be destined to lose.
    Furthermore, since Scottish and Irish whiskey not only predated but also inspired the US whiskey tradition, there is no moral or legal argument the US can present to seek to deny the term whiskey from whiskeys originating where the drink was invented.
    The EU legislation merely codified the tradition of whiskey-making in Europe to a minimum standard. If US drams don’t match the lowest common denominator (which also applies equally to European producers) then they don’t get to sell their white dog off as proper whiskey in Europe.
    That seems perfectly reasonable to me, both in terms of protecting the consumer from inferior product and in terms of protecting the indigenous whiskey industries in Scotland and Ireland, whose methodologies, though expensive and time-consuming, are the benchmark.
    And as I also already said, European whiskeys more than qualify as whiskey under US law. The standards of production and ageing are higher than applies in the US.

    TL;DR version: Ralph, you get a level playing field. You don’t get to sell off stuff in Europe as whiskey that Scots and Irish distillers wouldn’t be allowed call whiskey because it’s too young, just because you’re permitted to call it whiskey at home.

  21. JC Skinner says:

    On a separate point, where can we find Tuthillstown whiskey in Europe?
    The Irish Whiskey Society has a US whiskey tasting coming up, and I know they have found it difficult to find your whiskeys on this side of the pond?

  22. Ralph Erenzo says:

    At present HUDSON products are available through MAISON DU WHISKY, Paris and SMUGGLER IMPORTS, Lucerne. They will direct you to the nearest retail shop. Enjoy! Thanks.

  23. John Hansell says:

    I wonder who will be the next big whisky (or even whiskey) distiller to partner with one of the new, small craft distillers? Diageo still doesn’t own a bourbon distillery. Maybe them?

    • I would be (positively) surprised if Diageo took the crafty small-is-beautiful road. I would rather expect them to have their eyes on a well-established brand.

    • sam k says:

      I’d like to see one of our domestic distillers get into this concept and keep it “all in the family,” as it were.

  24. Ralph Erenzo says:

    Perhaps we should start a pool.

  25. Damn glad to see this. I live close to Tuthilltown (unfortunate for my bank account) and they do stellar work there. Glad to see that their products are getting the distribution they deserve. I do have to admit it’s pretty odd to see a large corporation to buddy up with a small microdistiller but I’m all for it happening regularly. Provided the quality doesn’t ebb, of course.

  26. Jonathan Forester says:

    John Hansell and any other historians and experts- Maybe you can help me out on this. When did Scotland and Ireland start aging whisky in barrels on purpose? Presently they age their products in used Bourbon barrels predominantly, and have for awhile. But isn’t barrel aging whisky/whiskey a relatively new thing starting in the 1830’s to 1850’s, and didn’t become a matter of course until the 1870’s?

    Did barrel aging whisky start in the UK or the US? Or was it a fortuitous accident that happened in Europe and America at around the same time? I was under the impression that US Bourbon started barrel aging as a new style, sort of by accident, and that it caught on in Europe afterwards.

    If so, then the US set the standards for whiskey.

    Also when did Scotland move to the use of malted barley as the main ingredient in whisky? Isn’t that relatively recent? Before that wasn’t corn/maize the main grain used for a few hundred years? In addition, what was the main grain/s used in Scotland prior to corn? What about Ireland? Wasn’t it rye and maybe winter wheat?

    (I can’t access my library since most of it is packed away from my last move, and I’m waiting for my new distillery to open to set it up again. So I don;’t have access to my information.)

  27. Jonathan Forester says:

    John Hansell, Chuck Cowdery, and any other historians and experts- Maybe you can help me out on this. When did Scotland and Ireland start aging whisky in barrels on purpose? Presently they age their products in used Bourbon barrels predominantly, and have for awhile. But isn’t barrel aging whisky/whiskey a relatively new thing starting in the 1830’s to 1850’s, and didn’t become a matter of course until the 1870’s?

    Did barrel aging whisky start in the UK or the US? Or was it a fortuitous accident that happened in Europe and America at around the same time? I was under the impression that US Bourbon started barrel aging as a new style, sort of by accident, and that it caught on in Europe afterwards.

    If so, then the US set the standards for whiskey.

    Also when did Scotland move to the use of malted barley as the main ingredient in whisky? Isn’t that relatively recent? Before that wasn’t corn/maize the main grain used for a few hundred years? In addition, what was the main grain/s used in Scotland prior to corn? What about Ireland? Wasn’t it rye and maybe winter wheat?

    (I can’t access my library since most of it is packed away from my last move, and I’m waiting for my new distillery to open to set it up again. So I don;’t have access to my information.)

  28. Andy says:

    Thanks Gentlemen, this has been educational, but what is required for spirits labeled “Bourbon” in the US?

    We don’t have to speculate about who owns “whiskey” or “whiskey” because no entity owns those terms. “Whiskey” and “whiskey” are both generic descriptive terms. We also don’t have to speculate on fairness of EU or US laws about which goods can be sold in each market. Because each jurisdiction or sovereign controls the definitions in their own market, but we have treaties. The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS”) provides minimum standards for the protection of names of particular “Indications”. TRIPS is said to provide strong protection for “geographic indications” for spirits because countries must provide a legal means to prohibit the inaccurate use of a geographic indication for spirits regardless of whether the use of the indication on a similar product would be misleading—even in the case where the geographic indication is “used in translation or accompanied by expressions such as ‘kind’, ‘type’, ‘style’ or ‘imitation’ or the like.” So “Scotch” is protected, but is “Bourbon” a geographic indication in this sense?

    If not, what protects the appellation “Bourbon”? Is “Bourbon-type Whiskey” prohibited for non-US spirits in the EU or in the US?

    I was mis-led about whether Bourbon had to come from Kentucky, and the advice to see the CFR standards of identity (27CFR5.22) was spot-on (thanks!) and includes the following:
    (1)(i) “Bourbon whisky”…is whisky produced …from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn…and stored at not more than 125 proof in charred new oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.
    …(iii) Whiskies conforming to the standards prescribed in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section, which have been stored in the type of oak containers prescribed, for a period of 2 years or more shall be further designated as “straight”; for example, “straight bourbon
    whisky”… “Straight whisky” includes mixtures of straight whiskies of the same type produced in the same State. (2) “Whisky distilled from bourbon (rye, wheat, malt, or rye malt) mash” is whisky produced in the United States at not exceeding 160 proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored in used oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.

    So are all Bourbons necessarily “distilled from bourbon” mash? Or is it possible, under this identity standard to make and legally sell a spirit as “Bourbon” when not from “bourbon mash” and not produced in the US?

    Legally, what is Bourbon if the label does not use the term “bourbon mash”?

  29. JC Skinner says:

    Oak barrel ageing of wine dates back to Roman times in Europe.
    The first evidence of spirit distillation in the written record is c. 13th or 14th centuries, in Germany and Ireland, the Irish distillation being uisce bheatha, or whiskey.
    While there’s no way of knowing for sure whether any whiskey at that time was oak-barrel aged (probably most was not), certainly it was a standard practice to barrel whiskey by the late Eighteenth century in Ireland, at least among the ‘parliamentary’ whiskey distillers.

  30. I have been asked to provide some historical context, but my attempts to post it keep failing, perhaps because it is too long. Here’s a shorter version. For more, click on my name to go to my blog.

    After the American Civil War, the growth of railroads and introduction of the column still transformed distilling from an extension of agriculture into a fully commercialized industry. Trains gave distillers a national market, which allowed them to grow big. At the same time, the new technology of the column still made it possible for the first time to produce a colorless, odorless, and tasteless distillate, which they called ‘grain alcohol,’ that was virtually pure ethanol.

    Terminology was pretty simple then. If it was made from grain it was whiskey. People who took the newly-available grain alcohol (what we call vodka) and flavored it with tea, prune juice, tobacco, and other ingredients to make it resemble aged whiskey felt entitled to call their product whiskey too, since it was made from grain.

    But the people who carefully crafted a rich, low-proof spirit and flavored it with nothing but oak felt they had the sole right to use the word.

    The battle between these two groups raged until 1909 and the Taft Decision. The Taft Decision codified the definitions of “whiskey,” “straight whiskey,” and “blended whiskey” as we know them today. Since then it has been the case that although “storage in oak containers” is required, no minimum aging duration has ever been specified.

    Therefore, on behalf of producers such as Tuthilltown, the American trade representative should argue that the United States is a major whiskey-producing nation, has been for hundreds of years, and has a whiskey-making heritage that developed independently of other whiskey-making traditions. Current American rules are consistent with that tradition.

    It is not in the spirit of fair trade to expect American producers to change their authentic and long-held practices in favor of European ones. Nor is it in the interest of European consumers, who want access to authentic American products, not proxies reformulated to pass muster with regulators in Brussels.

    It is absurd that while the EU recognizes “Bourbon Whiskey” as a distinctive product of the United States, it doesn’t accept the American definition of what Bourbon Whiskey is.

  31. JC Skinner says:

    I doubt you’d prefer the alternative, Chuck, which would be the EU refusing to regard any American whiskey as whiskey.
    The EU recognises the American whiskey tradition. What it doesn’t recognise is special pleading from foreign producers to access the market with products that don’t reach agreed European minimum standards of production.
    Scottish distilleries or Irish distilleries aren’t permitted to call their spirit whiskey if it’s too young. The exact same legislation applies to American distillers, no more and no less.

  32. Gable Erenzo says:

    I cant help myself.

    Just want to point out that Single Malt Whiskey made in America MUST be aged in new charred, white American oak barrels unless it states, “made from a malted barley mash”. Most, if not all Scottish Single Malts do NOT meet this criteria and are not required to add “made from a malted barley mash”….yet are still allowed to be called Single Malt Whisky when being sold in the USA. Seems only fair that American whiskey which meets American standards should be respected as such outside the US.

  33. JC Skinner says:

    Why does that seem fair?
    Surely what’s actually fair is that the EU holds foreign producers to the same standards as its own, who let’s face it, have been making whiskey somewhat longer.
    The EU could be decidedly protectionist if it so chose. It hasn’t done so. It could accept arguments that whiskey is itself an appellation worthy of protection, and prevent non-EU drams from sale. It hasn’t done so.
    It could demand higher or more stringent production methods than apply in Europe. It hasn’t done so.
    It has rather provided a level playing field for all producers globally.
    If you don’t make it from grain, the EU won’t let you sell it as whiskey here, because that’s not what Europeans expect from whiskey.
    Likewise, if you don’t age it long enough, the EU won’t let you sell it as whiskey either, and the exact same rules apply to Americans as Europeans.
    Effectively, you are pleading that American whiskey producers should be treated as a special case, immune from the standards set for all.
    From a European point of view, surely you can see how ridiculous an argument that is?

  34. Gable says:

    Surely your right, Shirley. Ill go back to what I know, making whiskey….not debating about it :-) Have a great day.

    • John Hansell says:

      Gable, not sure why you chose to call J.C. “Shirley”. I encourage respectful debate, but you crossed the line on this last comment. Let’s keep this on a professional level. No name calling, okay?

      • JC Skinner says:

        I took that it the light-hearted fashion it was meant, John.
        This is a fascinating discussion and I hope it doesn’t get derailed.

        • Gable Erenzo says:

          Thank you JC for getting the joke. Sorry to offend you John. Every time I hear the word “surely” I think of the 80s movie classic “Airplane” to which I was referencing. Certainly did not mean it in an aggressive or offensive manner and will try to be more careful in the future. This has been a fascinating thread and regardless of where we all stand, I do think each perspective has valid points. Cheers.

  35. Gable Erenzo says:

    Shall America force ALL Scottish Single Malt producers to reprint their labels to include “made from a mash of malted barley” in order to sell their product in the states? OR, better yet, take the word whisk(e)y off the label unless aged in new charred American oak barrels? Surely not….

    • Adrian says:

      I would love to know if any of these people discussing the legalities of the name have actually tried your fine product. Just keep up the good work up the road.

  36. JC Skinner says:

    America already implements some silly laws – the 750ml bottle requirement being only one of them.
    It’s within America’s remit to decide what it wants to do on its own land. Obviously, trade disputes have repurcussions, and as I explained earlier, I don’t think a fight over the word whisky is one America can win.
    Whisky originated in Ireland and was greatly developed in Scotland, all before there was an indigenous industry in the US, or indeed a US itself.
    Just because Thailand thinks rice spirit can be called whisky doesn’t mean that the people who invented the drink agree. And just because American distillers would like to pass off underaged spirit as whisky in Europe doesn’t mean that’s a definition acceptable either.
    American distillers get a wide remit in terms of mashbill and ageing to play with that to my mind in no way undermines or affects their ability to bring products to market in Europe.
    Any more than that – ie greater laxity than is permitted to even indigenous producers – is obviously ridiculous.
    Why would Europe seek to give foreign producers an advantage in the European market over European producers?
    America can seek to redefine whisky for its own purposes, just as Thailand can. But I predict no success in seeking to persuade the EU that American underaged spirit should be called whisky when 35 month old Kilchoman or Kilbeggan cannot be so termed.
    I’m still waiting for a coherent explanation as to why American producers should be granted such a market advantage that doesn’t extend to ‘We could redefine what we mean as whisky to exclude whisky from where it originates’, which is little more than a trade threat rather than an argument.

  37. JC Skinner is conspicuously ignoring the following paragraph from my post above: “It is not in the spirit of fair trade to expect American producers to change their authentic and long-held practices in favor of European ones. Nor is it in the interest of European consumers, who want access to authentic American products, not proxies reformulated to pass muster with regulators in Brussels.” The restrictions to which European and non-European producers are supposedly held equally are restrictions deliberately contrived to disadvantage producers in the American tradition.

  38. JC Skinner says:

    Chuck, that’s not the case.
    I’d be keen for you to provide some supporting evidence of your assertion that the EU guidelines were drawn up with the deliberate intention to ‘disadvantage’ American producers.
    There is no trade more fairer than a level playing field applying to all producers without protectionism, levies, or skewed standards.
    This is what applies in Europe. I’m still waiting for you to explain to me why you deserve special treatment that indigenous producers cannot expect.
    One comment I meant to pick you up on earlier, also: do you actually believe that the bar on selling underaged spirit as whiskey in Europe has led to American distillers making ‘proxy products’ as you put it? Have any distillers that you know ‘reformulated’ their products for Europe?
    Care to name and shame those distillers?
    It would seem to me that all that the EU legislation requires US distillers to do is age their whiskey for 3 years or else don’t call it such.
    Do you consider ageing for 3 years to be a ‘reformulation’ into a ‘proxy’ product?

  39. Consider that this all hangs to some extent on the fact that under SWA…I mean, EU rules…a grain spirit distilled at 189° proof and entered into an exhausted cask is, after three years, considered whiskey while a grain spirit distilled at 140° proof and aged in new oak for 35 months is not. That reflects a stylistic bias, not a level playing field.

    • JC Skinner says:

      Take your pick – is it EU regulations or SWA guidelines you object to? Because they’re not the same, and I suspect you know that.
      The SWA regulates for its members, which doesn’t even include all Scottish distillers. The EU regulates for the European market.
      I’d have thought that a thousands years of whiskey distillation permitted Europeans to decide what gets to be called whiskey in Europe.
      The fact that the same rules apply to all is the very definition of a level playing field. What you want is special treatment, and obviously that’s not going to happen.
      From an American distilling perspective, I’d be much more concerned about rogue third countries permitting allsorts to use the term bourbon than I would about trying to get the EU to treat American distillers better than they do their own.

  40. Andy says:

    Perhaps this is a legal area ripe for “harmonization” of disparate national laws into uniform laws.

    The harmonization process is underway in many other legal areas.

  41. sam k says:

    Been following this whole thing…leaning heavily toward Chuck’s camp right now after that last KO post. Thanks for your focus.

    Andy, I’ll stick with ours here in the U.S., thank you very much. Vive la difference!

  42. JC Skinner says:

    I’m all for la difference, and I’m all for artisan distillers too.
    I think the current US regulations suit the American market, and permit quality bourbon and other American whiskeys to retail in all important markets too, without degradation of quality or standards. Sure, they could tinker with them, but that’s up to US regulators, and it’s up to American distillers to tell them what regulation they think is valid.
    La meme chose for Europe too, needless to say.
    All round, more protection for indigenous spirit appellations is needed, I think. Bourbon needs international protection, and I would argue so does Irish potstill, pure potstill, or something of that nature.
    Rye is problematic because of the Canadian usage, but perhaps an accommodation could be found there too.
    Those seem much more important to me than wrangling over access to the term whiskey for underaged spirits.

  43. JC Skinner,

    The big picture and shared traits of both bourbon and European whisky rests only in the fact that they are both distilled and barrel aged. The rest is completely and utterly different. Two years of aging for a bourbon is significantly different than two years of aging for, say, an Islay scotch.

    At the crux of things, we start with the barrel. A brand new charred American white oak barrel is bursting with wood sugars and tannins. With the catalyst of a delightfully polar solvent to wash it all away, it readily leaves the barrel imparting extremely strong flavors right away. With a second (or maybe even third / fourth) fill sherry or bourbon barrel, the flavors that we want to be extracted into the whisky aren’t as readily available in the wood and, therefore, take a lot longer to draw out of the wood.

    We then have to look at the atmosphere as I’d definitely say that the Kentucky (where a large portion of bourbon is made and, therefore, will be used in example) atmosphere and the Islay atmosphere are completely different. With the higher than average temperatures of the South and the humidity, we see a quick adsorption of those wood sugars/tannins as the distillate is forced into the wood by the heat and the ethanol is kept in the barrel longer by the outer humidity. Also, sea level needs to be taken into effect as well. With a mean elevation of approximately 700 feet, this results in a decreased pressure gradient for the barrel, allowing the ethanol inside to penetrate the wood even easier and far deeper. With an Islay scotch (which are typically stored at or even below sea level) a larger pressure gradient serves to keep the distillate from entering the wood.

    To be honest, saying that American Bourbon should adhere to “quality” controls of the EU is like trying your damnedest to turn an apple into an orange. Both are fruits, both are sweet but everything else about them is completely incompatible.

  44. JC Skinner says:

    No one in Europe is trying to ‘change’ bourbon. Look to New Zealand if that’s your concern.
    I take your points, but underaged spirit is already legal for sale in Europe. You just can’t call it whisky, because in Europe we have a thousand year tradition of distilling and that had led to certain consumer expectations, one of which is age.
    As has already been explained, this issue has come up before, both in the US and in Britain, going back to the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries.
    The EU’s role here is to protect firstly consumers and secondly indigenous distillers and the indigenous distilling tradition.
    To achieve the former, the EU acknowledges that European consumers expect something called whiskey to be made from grain, distilled and cask aged for a minimum of three years.
    That places a production methodology on indigenous producers which also acts to protect the indigenous traditions here, but also lumps on added costs (storage, evaporation, etc.)
    It remains ridiculous to expect the EU to relax those standards for non-EU producers, and it’s never going to happen.
    European drinkers would not be happy to be served something called whiskey which by European standards is not old enough. And our indigenous industries would be undercut by cheap and cheerful American spirit claiming to be whisky.

  45. Gentlemen, there are forums and advocacy groups where each of us can address international trade issues.

    Here’s an example (from 1994, so I don’t know whether this remains relevant).

    http://tcc.export.gov/Trade_Agreements/All_Trade_Agreements/exp_002818.asp

    Interestingly, this US/EU agreement seems to address the exact issues now being discussed, and the communication between the parties seems very much like arms-length contract negotiation.

  46. Joe Accuracy says:

    Clearly a solution would be to drop “straight” Boubon and Rye whiskey Federal designation and adopt the “straight” standard as the definition for all Bourbons and Ryes (ie 2 yr aging minimum; anything less than 4 yr must have an age statement, etc). Not one in a thousand whiskey consumers could tell you what the difference is between a straight bourbon and a bourbon. The “straight” designation has become archaic; simply adopt the straight standard and drop the straight designation. Anything else is a blend or a “spirit” (ie Rye Spirit, Corn Spirit or blended whiskey)– Tuthilltown’s 3 month old stuff included.

  47. Ralph Erenzo says:

    JC continues to offer a contradictory argument. American Whiskey is “Whiskey”, period, full stop, end of argument. As Chuck says, it is absurd to recognize the factual differences between the various spirits and the histories of EU based and American WHISKEY production.

    It is incorrect to say that European drinkers expect that whisky is three years old or it isn’t whisky. EU consumers know nothing more than American consumers in the main, when it comes to the particulars of whiskey production, this argument is a red herring.

    Fundamentally, JC argues for the continued recognition of Scotch and Irish whiskys as distinct Types while insisting that American Whiskey is not a distinct Type. This is simply not true. And we all know there is a world of difference when offering new products to the marketplace between calling a product Bourbon Whiskey and calling it “aged grain spirits”.

    R

  48. JC Skinner says:

    Still pleading for special treatment, eh?
    Good luck with that.
    My advice would be to protect your tradition from countries actually threatening it, by bootlegging or worse, rather than wasting your time trying to convince the EU that non-indigenous producers should have a clear market advantage on the basis that they consider underaged spirit to be whiskey.

  49. […] Upstate New York, USA — 46%ABV — 375ml bottle – $40 (no non-USA distribution that I am currently aware of though the Tuthilltown Spirits group is now a proud member of the William Grant & Sons family) […]

  50. […] William Grant & Sons acquired the Hudson Whiskey brand, but not the distillery as explained on WDJK. Tuthilltown is New York’s first whiskey distillery since prohibition. In addition to whiskey […]

  51. […] This past year we saw the Anchor Distilling Co. sold to the Griffin Group. Then we also  saw Tuthilltown Spirits “Hudson Whiskey” brand sold to William Grant. […]

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