American Single Malt Whiskey Nearing Legit Status

The developing American single malt whiskey category is one of the most exciting areas of craft spirits right now. It’s gotten a lot of attention lately, but it was pioneered in the ’90s by Clear Creek Distillery and shortly thereafter by the likes of St. George Distillery and Stranahan’s. Today there are about 100 distilleries making American single malt whiskey in the US.

The category has thus far operated on an honor system, but as it gains momentum a group of American single malt whiskey distillers have banned together to form the American Single Malt Commission to try to get a definition formally recognized.

According to their definition, an American Single Malt Whiskey is: (1) from a single distillery; (2) distilled of 100% malted barley; (3) matured in oak casks not exceeding 700 liters; (4) bottled at more than 80 proof; and (5) distilled to no more than 160 proof.

“One of the things that we are very, very careful about with all of this is making sure that we don’t inhibit innovation. [We] tried to come up with a definition that ensures people who buy single malt, get what they’re paying for… but leave the rest open enough so that people can still innovate,” said Westland Distillery’s distiller Matt Hoffman during a session at Tales of the Cocktail last month.

As many as 60 American single malt whiskey makers have agreed to the above definition, including the likes of Alltech Brewing & Distilling, Balcones Distilling and Few Spirits. Furthermore the TTB is on board with the idea, proposing to open up the label requirements code of regulation to allow people to pose new rules for labels, said Matt.

But they are stuck in a holding pattern because technically the Treasury Department is in charge of creating new label regulations, but its priorities have gotten a bit shuffled with the change in leadership, he explained.

“But we’re continuing to push it forward,” he said.

Similar to the Scotch category, there are already American single malt regions and subcategories emerging, like Pacific Northwest single malt and Rocky Mountain single malt.

“We’re very early in the discussion, that’s the exciting thing about it. Clearly you’re going to see some regional definitions, but I think it’s going to be consumers who tell us what the categories are,” said Christian Krogstad, founder of House Spirits. “We’re going to try to direct it to a certain extent, but we’re going to learn from what consumers find interesting… and that’s going to determine the subcategories of American Single Malt.”

MISSOURI INTERSTATE SHIPPING SUIT DISMISSED

Florida retailer Magnum Wine and Tasting has dropped its interstate shipping lawsuit in Missouri after the state legislature repealed the statute preventing it from shipping wine directly to consumers. However, it is unclear how the repeal will affect retailers.

BACKGROUND. In Missouri, a wine retailer can obtain an alcoholic beverage license from the state, which allows it to sell, ship and deliver wine directly to Missouri consumers. For out-of-state retailers to be able to do the same they have to be in a state with “reciprocal shipping privileges.” In its suit filed last year, Magnum Wine argued that it could not sell directly to consumers in Missouri because it doesn’t live in a state with reciprocal shipping privileges, which it believed was in violation of the Commerce Clause.

We reached out to the bill’s sponsor to clarify what the repeal means for retailers going forward, but didn’t hear back by press time. When we know more, you’ll know more.

THE BIGGER PICTURE. You’ll recall, Missouri is not the only state looking at its interstate retailer shipping laws this year. Indiana-based Lebamoff Enterprises, the owner of the Cap n’ Cork chain stores, for instance, is a plaintiff in two separate but similar DTC shipping lawsuits – one in Illinois and one in Michigan. Moreover, Lebamoff’s lawyer, Robert D. Epstein, is representing Lebamoff in both of those cases, as well as the one in Missouri. And here’s the kicker: Robert is the same lawyer that originally litigated Granholm v. Heald in 2005.

Meanwhile, New York retailer Empire Wine is still embroiled in its lawsuit against the New York State Liquor Authority, which arguably kickstarted the larger national conversation of the issue [see WSD 04-13-2017].

WSD BRIEFS:

HOUSE SPIRITS TO RELEASE WESTWARD AMERICAN SINGLE MALT. The Westward American Single Malt whiskey is made from a handful of single barrels, aged in new charred American oak barrels and bottled at 90 proof. It will be available nationwide for about $80 a 750 ml.

DISARONNO USA CREATES CORVO WINES DIVISION, effective August 1. The division will include Corvo and Duca di Salaparuta, integrating the brands into the Disaronno USA portfolio. The brands were previously handled by a separate company owned by Disaronno’s parent company Illva s.P.a. The brands are currently available in 29 states and the goal is to open new markets “rapidly,” per a release.

E&J GALLO TO IMPORT NEW ZEALAND’S SAINT CLAIR FAMILY ESTATE. E&J Gallo now has the exclusive distribution rights for New Zealand’s Saint Clair Family Estate wines in the US, effective immediately. Saint Clair owns 15 vineyards and is known for its sauvignon blanc. The Saint Clair Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc (srp $28) is already available in some states and Gallo will take it nationwide in the first quarter of 2018.

MEZCALES DE LEYENDA LAUNCHES FOUR LIMITED EXPRESSIONS. The new expressions are: Grandes Leyendas: Don Anastacio ($250), Mezcales Unicos ($500), Reservas de la Biosfera Tehuacan-Cuicatlan ($320) and Cementerio Mezcalero ($280) Each release benefits a specific social or environmental cause including the conservation and cultivation of certain agave species.

DEUTSCH FAMILY WINE & SPIRITS TO IMPORT CLOS DE LOS SIETE WINE. Deutsch has partnered with winemaker Michel Rolland to import his Clos de los Siete wine. The company will become the exclusive US sales and marketing agent for the Argentine red blend, effective September 1. The Clos de los Siete 2014 vintage is comprised of 54% malbec, 18% merlot, 13% cabernet sauvignon, 8% syrah, 4% cabernet franc and 3% petit verdot. The wine retails at about $20 a 750 ml.

SGWS PARTNERS WITH CORAVIN INC. FOR ON-TRADE SALES. Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits has partnered with Coravin Inc. to represent and sell its systems, capsules and accessories. Coravin uses proprietary technology to access and pour wine from a bottle without pulling the cork, making it easier for retailers to expand their by-the-glass offerings. SGWS will sell Coravin in 18 states.

Until tomorrow,
Your Editors

Emily Pennington – emily@winespiritsdaily.com
Sarah Barrett – sarah@winespiritsdaily.com

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