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Katie Couric Wooed by Angel’s Envy

In covering the bourbon business, I’ve learned the characters are some of the best bullshitters. Very few could out bullshit Wes Henderson, who’s the son of the great Lincoln Henderson and co-founder of Angel’s Envy.

His storytelling ways stem from the fact he’s a firefighter and father of six boys. But Henderson also once crashed a small airplane and walked away completely unharmed. How’s that for a story?

Henderson can now add winning over the famous TV personality Katie Couric to his list of unique accomplishments. They sat next to each on a recent flight to San Francisco. And whatever Henderson said or slipped into her drink, led to Couric taking a picture of Henderson and Tweeting:

 

Katie Couric tweets a photo of Wes Henderson, co-founder of Angel's Envy.

Katie Couric tweets a photo of Wes Henderson, co-founder of Angel’s Envy.

What did Wes say to get her to Tweet this? Or was it something he poured? However this happened, Henderson is already adding it to his rotation of stories.

TTB Survey Finds 31% of Products Not in Compliance

The U.S. Government is stepping up its alcohol oversight. As frequently reported by Chuck Cowdery, the TTB is increasing its effort and according to the below release,  the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau  found 139 of 450 surveyed products to not be in government compliance.

We selected 190 distilled spirits, 155 malt beverages, and 105 wines for the 2014 ABSP, with 450 total products included in the survey. After analyzing these products, we found 139 products that were non-compliant. By commodity, we found that 73 distilled spirits products, 46 malt beverage products, and 20 wine products were non-compliant. The most common compliance issues we identified involved alcohol content that did not match the label and was outside regulatory tolerances, or that placed the product in a different tax class than indicated by the label. On average, for distilled spirits, underproof products were 0.72% alcohol by volume below what was shown on the label, and over proof products were 0.34% alcohol by volume above what was shown on the label. These differences can lead to additional tax liability for the industry member. Another common compliance issue we identified involved labels that did not match their approved Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) due to changes that were not allowable revisions. Approximately 25% of the non-compliant labels contained changes in information, either mandatory or non-mandatory, which differed from the COLA.

 

In this era of the Internet and social media, many whiskey enthusiasts have become couch TTB lawyers, always guessing how and why bourbons get labeled as they do. Some have even reported distilleries to the federal government.

How could it be called bourbon if its finished in a used port barrel? In the COLA, the brand had a “formula” approval, so that must mean flavor’s added, right? As you will read in an upcoming Whisky Advocate story of mine, the TTB is about collecting taxes. But it looks like the TTB is taking a lot of the guessing game out the hows and whys. Expect to see more of these types of releases. And, if they find a bourbon brand to be using second-use barrels or something crazy, I’m thinking bourbon will get its own “Deflate Gate” scandal.

Bourbon Shortage: Four Roses Ends Limited Edition Single Barrel

If you’ve followed the bourbon shortage the past couple years, what you’re about to read might send you straight to the liquor store to clean out your favorite brand.

Four Roses will not be releasing its annual Limited Edition Single Barrel, the company told me, citing the great bourbon shortage. In a company statement, Four Roses officials said: “Due to inventory concerns over aged stock, and to continue to provide the highest quality products, beginning in 2015, Four Roses Distillery will be selecting and bottling their Limited Edition Single Barrel product for special commemorative bottling occasions only. We will, however, continue to produce and bottle our Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon each year in the fall.” Last year’s Four Roses Limited Single Barrel Release was only 5,000 bottles.

This also marks the latest brand to significantly alter the course of its products. Jim Beam cut the 8-year-old age statement of its Jim Beam Black Product. By dropping the age statement, Jim Beam Black is not beholden to a minimum age of 8-year-old bourbon. Other brands have dropped age statements, such as Very Old Barton, and lowered proofs (read about the Maker’s Mark proof debacle) to stretch product, while once everyday bourbons have become extremely scarce and Limited Editions commanded long lines on freezing cold days. And of course, there’s Pappy Van Winkle, which requires a pint of blood and a Congressional letter to get these days.

Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel is the latest victim to bourbon’s popularity. This non release also confirms to many naysayers that the bourbon shortage is very real.

One thing is for sure: I’ll be cherishing my Four Roses Single Barrel Limited Edition 2014 just a little bit more now. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

 

Fred Minnick is the author of Bourbon Curious.

2014: The Year of the Whiskey Consumer and Fake Whiskey

In American whiskey, 2014 will go down in history as the year consumers dictated to spirit companies. Whether consumers filed federal complaints, class-action lawsuits against brands, or created online crowd-sourcing support for a brand founder, U.S. consumers flexed their muscle and made their voices heard. Social media allowed a once silent minority to become a feared audience that often treats whiskey companies more like a never-to-be-trusted enemy than a booze manufacturer.

The bourbon shortage, flavored whiskey and Pappy Van Winkle likely fueled this angst. But nothing, and I mean nothing, gets their whiskey-soaked tempers flaring quite like a fake backstory. So, in the spirit of the consumer power, I gave my Twitter followers this task: “You’ve been given 500 barrels of bourbon to create your own brand. Create a fake bourbon name and back story. Go…”

While these answers are fiction, I can see these stories actually being slapped on a label. Here are a few of my favorites. You can see them all by clicking on the Twitter link.

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Here’s to a great 2015. May your whiskey glass be filled with sweet russet nectar and your whiskey distrust softened with a believable story. Cheers!

 

Fred Minnick is the author of Whiskey Women.

TTB Approves ‘Pink Panty Dropper Watermelon Moonshine’

The U.S. Tax and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved the label “Pink Panty Dropper Watermelon Moonshine.”

You can see the government signature approving this product here and here.

Is this sexist?

 

Pink Panty Dropper is the latest flavored product to showcase a half-naked woman.

Pink Panty Dropper is the latest flavored product to showcase a half-naked woman.

Pink Panty Dropper Bk

According to the Copperhead Mountain Distillery founder John Connelly, Pink Panty Dropper is not intended to be sexist. “My wife came up with that {name}. It’s a little risqué. The label is more cute than sexist. The young lady’s buttocks is not exposed. She’s still got her drawers on,” Connelly told me.

For the record, the Pink Panty Dropper is a punch recipe that college kids like. The South Carolina-based Copperhead Mountain Distillery founder said they chose the Pink Panty Dropper name because watermelon is pink and he’d heard the name before. Connelly encouraged me to not shoot Pink Panty Dropper down, because “It’s real watermelon moonshine. We’re a mom-and-pop distillery. Our purpose is not to just make a top-shelf spirit, but to preserve our moonshine history. We use original old recipes; we are the real deal.”

The spirits industry generally polices itself in promotional matters like this, such as last year’s Dewar’s ads that were deemed sexist. When I referenced the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States’ Code of Responsible Practices, he mentioned he never heard of it.

While the Connellys sound like great people, and I’m all for new mom-and-pop distilleries, you have to know that a half-naked cartoon woman will offend women and men who don’t believe in objectifying women. But I’m willing to give this distillery a pass. For argument’s sake, let’s say they’re naive and really and genuinely think the label is “cute.” They’re only selling the product in the distillery and they’re new.

But why is the TTB allowing this stuff? This now marks the second flavored product we’ve seen with women barely clothed. Today, it’s Pink Panty Dropper and Piehole flavored whiskey. The TTB might as well approve the flavored whiskey: “Who Gives a Shit About Women?”

I understand this government agency is heavily underfunded. But there is no excuse for the TTB, the government’s label authority, to continually approve labels and names that cross the line. Women deserve better.

Fred Minnick is the author of Whiskey Women.