Unlocking the Liquor Bottle Label Language | Part One of Four

What is the definition of hand-crafted? That is a big, and much discussed, question lately! At Murray’s Fools Distilling Co. we are on the side of the fence that believes it is up to the consumer to decide what they consider to be ‘hand-crafted’.

We also believe that an informed CONSUMER will make an informed decision. I put together my own interpretation of some basic criteria that may help you, the consumer, determine your own judgment and make an educated bottle selection that matches your palate and perception of ‘hand-crafted’.

In this four-part blog series, I will discuss the basics of the Who, What, Where and When of a spirit bottle label.

PART ONE: The Who and Where

Where is your bottle of spirits actually from?

This can be a complicated and interesting question. According to the Department of the Treasury Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) a DOMESTIC distilled spirit IS REQUIRED to have the name (s) and address (es) of who put the alcohol in the bottle AND/OR who made the alcohol. This can create many different label options DEPENDING on several variables. For example for contract bottling there are five different ways to define the ‘where’ on the label!

Because things get really involved especially when it comes to spirits like whiskey, I will cover just the general label requirements in this article.

So what does the TTB statement above actually mean?

  1. It means that a product could be distilled at the ABC Co., in Indiana for example, and then shipped to and bottled at XYZ Co. in Maine for instance.

Which could read something like this on the label:

“BOTTLED BY XYZ CO., HOMETOWN, MAINE, USA”

OR

“DISTILLED BY ABC CO., BIGTOWN, INDIANA, USA”

Or display both distiller and bottler on the label:

This is an AND/OR requirement. So for example, if the label says where it’s bottled it is not required to say where it was distilled, which means if it doesn’t say, the spirit may not have been produced by the same company that bottled it, likewise if it only says where it was distilled it may have been transported and bottled somewhere else.

  1. If a product was distilled and bottled by the same company, like we do at Murray’s Fools Distilling Co., then the label could read like this:

“DISTILLED AND BOTTLED AT XYZ DISTILLERY, ALTONA, NEW YORK, USA”

This means all the work is performed and completed at the same location displayed on the bottle. If it is an aged spirit then it is also usually aged at the same place too.

  1. A spirit could also be imported.

Imported distilled spirits can be bottled, packed or filled prior to or after importation.

If imported after bottling, the name and address of the importer must appear on the label along with an explanatory phrase, such as “IMPORTED BY”. In this case a label may look something like this:

“IMPORTED BY ABC IMPORTS”

If imported prior to bottling, and the spirits are bottled in the U.S., the company name would appear with an explanatory phrase, such as ‘IMPORTED BY’ and would look something like this:

“IMPORTED BY ABC IMPORTS AND BOTTLED BY XYZ SPIRITS CO.”

Regardless of indicating bottler or distiller the label must display the name and the address (city and state) of where the company displayed is located, including country if imported.

All of these items are required regardless of size of distillery or production. I’ve mentioned these examples only to show that this is not a key element in determining your ‘hand-crafted’ or ‘not-handcrafted’ conclusion.

Sarah Callan Beach

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