Monday, September 15, 2014
Deep In the Heart of ... Not Texas
This should be easy, right? It says 'Texas Made' on the front label. And 'Texas' is part of the name, isn't it? Plus, who would be crazy enough to claim something is made in Texas when it's not? Texas pride doesn't take that sort of thing lightly. I mean, 1835 is the year Texas began its struggle for independence from Mexico. What kind of person would debase that hallowed year by using it to sell Potemkin whiskey? In Texas? What sort of low-down varmint would do such a thing?
And yet, read what Lauren Drewes Daniels wrote in the Dallas Observer last November.
"Take the whiskey called 1835, which is bottled by North Texas Distillers in Lewisville. The name is a salute to the year settlers in Gonzales stood their ground against Mexican troops in what is historically considered the start of the Texas Revolution. The label also reads, 'Come and take it,' on both the back and front, along with a picture of the iconic cannon that was the seed of the conflict. The words "Texas Made" are printed front and center on the label.
"It's unlikely that a single speck of Texas, much less the battle of 1835, is actually in any of those bottles. Stretching the term 'Made in Texas,' the drink is a blend of whiskeys, most or all of them likely from Kentucky, and is only bottled in Texas. The highly astute label reader or whiskey aficionado would be able to discern this, but the average consumer might not. Despite all the Texas banter, the label lacks one key word that is all-telling: 'distilled.'"
In this case, the telltale word 'distilled' tells its tale by its absence. Instead, the label says "Bottled by 1835 in Lewisville, Texas." That's a dead giveaway.
As the TTB uses 'made,' you 'made' something even if you just bottled it, so nothing on the label is illegal except its lack of a 5.36(d) disclosure. But that's not how Bunny and Hoss use the word 'made' out at their ranch. You 'make' something when you actually make it. You don't make whiskey by putting whiskey somebody else made into a bottle.
At least they don't claim they're cutting it with Trinity River water.
Do all those proud Texans who have purchased this bourbon at Specs for about $27 a 750 ml bottle know that it was not distilled in Texas? Probably not. Would they care? What do you think?
A lot is missing from the label, like a company name. There is no company called '1835.' And where is the website URL? Who doesn't have a web site? Even North Texas Distillers only has a placeholder site, with no content. Yet even that tells you a little something. Under the name it says, "A Texas Bottling and Spirits Company."
"But wait," say you. "'Distillers' is part of the name."
Yes it is, Grasshopper. Shall we go through the list of all the other Potemkins that have 'distiller' or 'distillery' in their name?
Texas 1835 Bourbon Whiskey has been on the market for about two years and appears to be successful. They are moving a lot of it. Yet as one observer noted, "They aren't pumping all that volume out of some little pot still in Lewisville and charging $27 a bottle for it." The micro-distillery whiskeys actually made in Texas are in the $50 to $80 range, so that price point is another dead giveaway. This is sourced whiskey, sourced from Kentucky, Tennessee, or Indiana more likely than not.
There might be another rule violation, as you see no age statement on the label. That is supposed to mean four-years-old minimum, yet the product is just 'bourbon whiskey,' not 'straight.' Why not? 'Straight,' if a product qualifies for it, is an optional word, but most producers like to use it if they can. If they can't it is usually because either it's not two-years-old or not all from the same state.
Or they just neglected to put an age statement on a label that needed one.
But that's not what Texans care about, I reckon. They don't much care what some government regulators in Washington think either. They care about Texas grains, Texas yeast, and Texas water. They care about Texas-distilled whiskey maturing in the Texas heat. They care about Texas jobs. And they don't buy whiskey that says "Made in Texas' when it's not.
Just like they don't buy salsa made in New York City.