TTB Survey Finds 31% of Products Not in Compliance


January 27, 2015

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.