Author Archives: William T. Cheek III
2013 Tennessee law defined Tennessee Whiskey as hooch that is charcoal maple filtered and aged, like Jack Daniels.
Modern moonshine is not made like Jack Daniels. Moonshine does not meet the new definition of Tennessee Whiskey. Moonshiners worried about labeling their spirits as Tennessee White Whiskey and other variations.
We previously blogged about the pitfalls of the new Tennessee Whiskey law.
Under new Tennessee liquor laws, legal moonshine distilleries are popping up all across the Volunteer State. Many want to label their hooch as Tennessee Unaged Whiskey, Tennessee White Whiskey or some other variation of the Tennessee whiskey name.
The new moonshiners are following time-honored methods of generations of illegal Tennessee distillers. The lore of illegal moonshining in Tennessee has become a marketing tool.
Dolly Parton’s tune “Daddy’s Moonshine Still” reminds us that moonshining was not always a star-studded career:Folks say my daddy wasn’t much of a man For disobeying the laws of the land Folks say that my daddy wasn’t fit to kill Oh and I know it was true what the people said Cause we’d all’ve been better of dead Than to live a life of shame and strife Cause of daddy’s moonshine still
ABC Director Keith Bell has informally advised that the descriptive terms “Tennessee White Whiskey,” “Tennessee Corn Whiskey” and “Tennessee Unaged Whiskey” are not prohibited by the new Tennessee Whiskey law.
Ole Smoky Distillery has been a big boost for tourism in Gatlinburg. The distillery proudly boasts: “Ole Smoky is the first federally licensed distillery in the history of East Tennessee.” Ole Smoky founders have picked up on the popular cultural fascination with moonshiners and have apparently struck gold.
Nearby neighbor Pigeon Forge has been a reluctant supporter of alcohol. Pigeon Forge residents voted against liquor-by-the-drink in restaurants two times in recent memory. According to local media, Pigeon Forge “voters on Thursday (March 14, 2013) approved the sale of liquor 952 to 798. This is the 4th time in four years that they have voted on the issue.” The third vote went closely for liquor, but led to a lawsuit alleging that folks not residing in Pigeon Forge cast votes for the law.
We think that locating a successful distillery in Pigeon Forge could be a cash cow. Local newspaper The Mountain Press has a story about a potential distiller here.
The new distillery law has an opt out provision that allows cities like Pigeon Forge to prevent distilleries from opening in the city. Pigeon Forge could stick to its family values and opt out of the new state law.
With a huge tourism base, we are carefully following this issue. Stay tuned for more.
David Bowie embraced change in his 1971 underground hit “Changes”Turn and face the strange Ch-ch-changes
The Tennessee ABC seems to have “Changes” on heavy rotation in the office jukebox. There have been lots of changes.
Recently, we learned of new rules for filing retail off-premises, wholesale and distillery applications. We see the adoption of basic rules for these applications as a positive development, bring predictability to what many saw as a cryptic process.
Here are the basic new rules for filing a liquor store, wholesaler or distillery application:• Get your application mostly assembled (does not need to be totally complete, but you need basic documents and all financial documents) • Call local ABC office and speak with Rosemary/Virginia/Kathy/Jackie, whoever would work the file • Local employee will contact agent and the agent will call to set up time to meet with agent, ABC employee and applicant • “File” application at meeting, where agent will review financials and ask questions • Try to call about 4-5 weeks before ABC meeting date • Agent and ABC employee will work the file
The ABC is working out kinks with the process and we advise folks to contact the ABC more than 5 weeks out. We appreciate the adoption of formal rules for the application process and look forward to successful implementation of the new rules.
Many major retail stores in Memphis have failed the complicated distance requirement and cannot sell beer. We learned that Memphis recently adopted an ordinance that allows most major retailers to obtain beer permits, even if they are too close to a house or church.
The key is that alcohol sales must be less than 10% of gross sales. This should be easy for drug, grocery and big box retailers. We encourage folks that have locations disqualified for distance to take a new look and determine if the store now can be licensed to sell beer.
Like most alcohol aficianados, the recent tainted booze bust in New Jersey reinforced a suspected but previously unproven belief: unscrupulous bar owners pour cheap hooch into good booze bottles. Short of catching someone in the act of pouring, we knew of no way to confirm our suspicion.
New Jersey officials refer to a “True Spirit Authenticator” as being key to their tests. Is the True Spirit Authenticator some old geezer with exceptional taste buds?
We Googled for about half an hour and found next to nothing about this new magic technology. Although the domain TRUESPIRITAUTHENTICATOR.COM was registered in 2011 by a British resident, the website www.truespiritauthenticator.com is a redirect, which makes us think it is occupied by a cyber squatter.
We found a brief mention to the bewitching technology on page 6 of the August 2012 edition of Beverage Media. According to the blurb:
Truespirit Authenticator Instrument is a portable ultravioletspectro photo meter that can be used on-site. It works with clear, golden and brown spirits, detecting if the liquid is adulterated or counterfeit; and it can do so in 30 seconds.
Unfortunately, the referenced website www.photonics-analytics.com is under construction.
We do know that there is technology to test liquid samples. Once again, our friends at Google let us down. Our search “Can a UV/Vis spectrophotometer with a double monochromator tell what brand of alcohol is tested?” lead to much information about spectrophotometry and UV/VIS double beam spectrophotometers. But no information about a portable device and very little reference to testing alcoholic beverages.
We e-mailed www.photonics-analytics.com for more information and will update this post if we receive a reply.
It became official at the May 21, 2013 meeting of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. ABC Interim Director Keith Bell was appointed Director. The ABC Director is a statutory position for the chief staff member at the ABC: the head honcho, the man, the big cheese.
Director Bell has goals for the ABC. In the works is a web-based permitting system for new and renewing server permits. We concur that the server permit process is a mess and welcome changes for the better.
According to Director Bell, “server permitting is just the first stage of our three stage goal to better utilize today’s technology for the benefit of the agency and those who do business with us.”
Director Bell has previously indicated that he intends to clean up the ABC by enforcing the liquor laws as written, and if the laws are unfair, encouraging the laws to be changed.
We caught up with Director Bell via e-mail to share a little about what he does outside the office.
What do you do for fun? “Play as much golf as my wife will allow and spoil our great-nieces and nephews.”
What kind of music do you enjoy? “60′s and 70′s Rock, Southern Rock, Motown and Soul, the music I grew up on, and of course a lot of today’s country. ”
What is your favorite beverage? “Canada Dry, sparkling lime water and good coffee.”
TTB state liason Frosty Chapman is famous for his two word dichotomous greetings to regulators and industry members in the weekly TTB e-newsletter.
You are probably wondering: what is a two word dichotomous greeting? In this week’s TTB newsletter, Frosty says: “Greetings! We hope you are having a peaceful and productive week!” We recently linked to a TTB post where Frosty said: “Greetings! We hope you have a brilliant and thankworthy week!”
The TTB has a great story at this link.
We will miss Frosty’s weekly TTB updates. More importantly, we will miss Frosty’s invaluable help navigating federal alcohol laws. Best wishes Frosty.
This is an update. The ABC Director has confirmed that the ABC will not issue any citations for restaurants infusing while the issue is discussed between the ABC and attorneys for the industry.
We recommend that restaurants continue infusing until the issue is finally resolved with the ABC, but be working on plans to phase out infusion if the ABC ultimately prohibits infusing for restaurants.
Here is our original post on the issue.
We first discovered infused spirits in the early 1990′s at the then trendsetting China Grill in Miami Beach. We were inspired by the tasty concoction of Saki steeped with fruit, and attempted to replicate the cocktail at home, with limited success. Our version never matched the superb infusion at China Grill.
Word about infused vodkas, rums and other spirits spread over the ensuing decade. Many restaurants began offering their own infused cocktails, including well-known national chains.
Earlier this month, the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission began informing restaurants that spirit infusion requires a manufacturer’s license. Restaurants were instructed by ABC agents to immediately cease making and serving infused spirits. A copy of a memo being distributed by ABC agents is below.
The Tennessean gave great coverage to the local booze movement; the corollary to the local food movement. Although the story is an AP article about a New York distillery, it is still a good read. Ironic that The Tennessean trumpets local booze, but does not cover any of the local distilleries or breweries that are living the dream of making local hooch from local grains, hops and other Tennessee-grown crops.
Cheers to the many Tennessee distillers and brewers that are making the Tennessee beer and spirits movement a reality.
Tennessee is not known for progressive liquor laws. But this legislative session was unusually beer friendly and produced some important new laws for beer nerds.
Founding father Ben Franklin understood our love for beer:
Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
Beer nerds are rejoicing over a new Tennessee law that lowers the tax on better beer. Currently, Tennessee taxes beer based on price, meaning that more expensive beer has a higher tax. Under the new tax regime, beer is taxed by volume, meaning that beer is taxed at the same rate, regardless of price.
The new law gained considerable attention because Tennessee beer taxes are generally ranked as highest in the nation. The old tax scheme was particularly offensive to beer connoisseurs, since PBR was taxed at a much lower rate than Magic Hat.
Over time, the change in taxation will lower the cost of better beer for Tennessee beer fans.
Another new law fixed a brewpub problem. Most brewpubs recently had to stop selling growlers because the ABC started enforcing a law that prohibits LBD licensees from selling beer to go. The new law fixes this problem.
Last but not least, a new distillery law may pave the way for breweries to offer high alc beer in taprooms and sell high alc beer to go in bottles, cans and kegs. Tennessee’s peculiar liquor laws classify stronger beer as alcoholic beverages, subject to completely different laws than regular beer. The distinction between high alc and regular beer in Tennessee is relatively unique and presents an array of impediments to beer nerds.
It’s time for a toast:
To the holidays—all 365 of them.