Distiller: Proposed labeling changes could make bourbon, brandy better, define absinthe

U.S. Treasury plans to modernize liquor labels and descriptions

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The U.S. Treasury Department has published a plan to modernize how some liquors are labeled and described.

For local distillery Copper & Kings, which makes gin, brandy and even absinthe, that means their spirits may soon see new names and labels.

“We’re just here to make really good quality, traditional spirits,” Master Distiller Brandon O’Daniel said.

In part, it would define absinthe in detail and recognize more brandies by their nation of origin, something Copper & Kings is already doing with their American Brandy marketing.

"If we could get Calvados and Cognac and Armagnac to specifically come from a particular region, it'd be destined that I feel like American Brandy is next," O'Daniel said.

That’s something he believes could benefit all in the brandy business.

“We’ve been really trying to establish this American Brandy category for a while,” O’Daniel said. “When you really look at the nuances of brandy, the taste really depends upon where it is. So (we want) anything we can really have to separate ourselves and really separate others. So that the consumer really knows what they’re getting up front.”

The rule changes could also affect how bourbon is made and marketed.

Bourbon historian Michael Veach said the change makes some fixes that have been needed for a while, but it could impact some smaller distillers.

Veach said the creation of a white whiskey label will allow craft distiller startups to put out products earlier. He added that regulations requiring whiskey to be stored in standard 50 gallon barrels, instead of just containers, may hurt some of those artisan distilleries that use smaller barrels.

But overall, Veach said he thinks more standards will make products better, and those at Copper & Kings agree.

"Absinthe has kind of been the Wild West of spirits," O'Daniel said. "There's hardly any regulations on it whatsoever. Because of that, you're starting to see a lot of subpar absinthe on the market."

That’s one reason O’Daniel said new rules could make for a better drink.

The proposed changes are open for public comment through March 26, 2019. Read the proposal here and leave a comment here.

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