Moscato Liqueur

Moscato is so very popular it can no longer stay contained within the wine context. Here it is — in a liqueur. The product is Courvoisier Gold – Cognac & Moscato. It is classified as a liqueur, made in France, and imported by Jim Beam.

This seems like an important approval because it was not so very long ago that TTB/ATF frowned upon varietal terms — when used on spirits labels — and even when the spirit was made almost entirely from the named grape. For example, it was very common in the 1990s for ATF to say that varietal terms should not be shown, or should not be prominent, on grappa labels, because varietal characteristics are subtle and are not likely to survive past distillation.

It looks like it took Beam many months to get this approval. The application went in on March 5, 2012 and did not get approved until more than three months later. It must be a pretty special grape if it’s the subject of not only a bunch of rap songs, but also a few memes:  problem, freshman, classy, cat.

Pumpkin Face

Here is Pumpkin Face Dominican Rum. Does it remind me that summer is ending and Halloween is around the corner? No. It reminds me of many other things.

It reminds me that Dan Matauch at Flowdesign has a lot of skill. I especially like the main font.

It reminds me that Mark Itskovitz was serious when he said he was thinking about getting into the spirits business.

It reminds me of the new distiller and former bartender, I met at the ADI conference — at the bar — who said bartenders hate shapes like this because they take a lot of space. But they never go in the trash can.

It reminds me of the Apple-Samsung litigation. If Apple designed this, one might expect Apple to claim a patent on certain orb-shaped decanters.

Finally, it reminds me to thank Ann and Gerard for stopping by yesterday and saying nice things about this blog. Gerard is one of the most famous chefs in the U.S., and Ann makes a pretty good veal dish herself.

Distilled Beer

Q: What do you call spirits distilled from beer?
A: Not “Spirits Distilled from Beer.”

Every now and then we see a “Bierschnapps” or a “spirit distilled from beer.” But even though beer is the main ingredient, most of the U.S. approvals seem to avoid any reference to “beer” or “bier.” It seems that TTB is not in favor of spirits labels that refer to beer.

In the above example, Woodstone Microspirit seems to be, pretty much, just spirits distilled from beer. Even though the producer probably wanted to describe it as “bierschnapps” on the label, the main description is “Spirits Distilled from Grain and Hops.” The producer, back in 2008, set forth his frustrations here:

Beer Schnapps as a label has not been approved by the TTB for 4 months 3 tries and counting, the formula from the local microbrewery was accepted on the 2nd time through.  Its been over 2 years so far and it is fighting me every step of the way. … We are now re-submitting the product with a fanciful name and not calling the product beer schnapps at all.

TTB seems to have allowed a reference to ale but not beer.

Classick is another example of a bierschnapps. I have not been able to find the label approval, but the San Francisco Chronicle discussed the product in 2002:

Bierschnaps, the liquor in question, is relatively unknown outside of its place of origin, Bavaria, Germany. It is made from beer that has been distilled into a clear, 80 proof spirit similar to premium vodka. … Even the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms hadn’t heard of the spirit, so the government officials insisted that Classick and Mirenda provide samples of German bierschnaps to prove its legitimacy. … Four hundred regulations later, in November 1999, Essential Spirits sent to the shelves its first bottle of Classick Original American Bierschnaps, which is distilled from the company’s own micro-brewed California pale ale. In April 2000 came a partnership with a major craft brewer, introducing Sierra Nevada Pale Ale bierschnaps.

TTB has liberalized in many areas and yet various and sundry pockets of great strictness remain.


Your New Friend, ARTAL

In early July TTB announced a massive and important change to the COLA system. TTB greatly expanded the “Allowable Revisions to Approved Labels” (hereinafter “ARTAL,” as on page 3 of the new 4-page COLA form).

TTB began laying the groundwork for big “streamlining” changes in early 2012, as summarized here. Although some of the ideas seemed very modest as of then, the streamlining train clearly picked up momentum in the next few months. It seems entirely possible that some of the new changes could or should cut a very large percentage of the more than 10,000 labels submitted to TTB every month. Compared to a few years ago, it is quite amazing that the lighthouse label on the left (above) could change to something as different-looking as the striped label on the right — without any need for a new COLA.

The TTB ID number on this label, for example, shows that TTB received at least 671 label applications on just one day in April 2012 — to say nothing about the labels submitted via paper. That should not happen anymore. Instead, applicants should get familiar with ARTAL. It can eliminate lots of waiting, expense, frustration, inconsistent determinations, TTB work and applicant work.

In my view, the biggest changes to ARTAL are these. Now, it’s ok to:

  1. move things, as at 2.
  2. change typesizes and fonts, as at 3.
  3. change colors and spelling, as at 3.
  4. shift amongst paper v. painted v. etched, as at 3.
  5. make one COLA cover all sizes, as at 10. (Previously, the table said “separate applications must be submitted for containers of 237 ml or less, containers over 237 ml to 3 liters, and containers over 3 liters.”)
  6. add/delete/change awards and medals, as at 27.

ARTAL is much more powerful now. Like other powerful things, such as a chainsaw, it can do great things when used carefully — and make big problems when used improperly.

Buttered Popcorn

Buttered Popcorn. Flavored Vodka. In the same bottle. Speechless.

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