Legal definition would ‘not benefit’ craft spirits

16th July, 2014 by Amy Hopkins

Despite controversy surrounding big spirits brands marketing their products as “craft”, the sector should not be bound by a legal definition, according to a leading US master distiller.


Lance Winters, master distiller of St George Spirits, believes the craft spirits sector would not benefit from an official definition

Speaking to The Spirits Business, Lance Winters, master distiller at California-based craft distillery St George Spirits said that despite the thought that larger companies are “masquerading as craft”, an official definition which could ban such companies from marketing themselves in this way, would not be beneficial to the sector.

“It doesn’t take long to look across the market and spot products masquerading as craft, but really the term is simply being used as a puppet by big organisations. This happens all too often – these products have craft packaging but they are not truly craft.

“However, though I think consumers should be armed with skepticism, I think putting an official legal definition on what crafts spirits would be too limiting for the industry.

“Putting a binding definition on what craft is, would be like putting a binding legal definition on what art is.”

Winters added that he instead believes that there should be an enforced “legal transparency” in spirits labelling, as companies “should not be able to get away with lies”.

Similarly, Chip Tate, head distiller at famed Bourbon craft distillery Balcones, said that although large companies “certainly appropriate the craft term”, a legal definition should not be implemented because “politicians are not necessarily tuned into what craft really is”.

“But we still need to have high level conversations about craft spirits,” he said. “We have to ask big companies what they mean when they say they are producing craft spirits. We have to hold them to account.”

Tate added that a legal definition of craft spirits that incorporates a size cap could also be problematic because this could deter companies from growth.

Currently, there is no government-enforced definition for craft spirits, yet the the American Distilling Institute (ADI) stipulates its own industry definition.

According to this definition, craft spirits are the products of an independently-owned distillery with maximum annual sales of 52,000 cases, where the product is physically distilled and bottled on site.

Executives at the ADI are currently applying to the US Patent and Trademark Office to have its definition of craft spirits officially recognised.

5 Responses to “Legal definition would ‘not benefit’ craft spirits”

  1. aphoticV says:

    I agree with them. It won’t really benefit small producers. I also don’t believe the big companies will want to talk about transparency – not in their interest.
    On the other hand, more and more people are associating the word “craft” with size. When it should be more about quality. Why not use “micro” instead, if trying to define by size.

  2. Chuck W says:

    Craft guys are the guys taking locally grown stuff and making spirits. Distilling, mashing , fermenting. Real craft guys have a local balance with their community. No shortcuts The liquor industry as a whole is loaded with so much smoke and mirrors its tough for the consumer to know where their drink really comes from. Craft makers ( true craft makers ) have nothing to hide.

  3. M says:

    With all due respect, the majority of people don’t care about whether something is craft and would rather buy their regular old Bailey’s or Beam. Craft distilleries should do themselves the favor of making obscure, unique or novel products that big guys can’t compete with, because they’re way too big to.

  4. N says:

    Important point of correction: The American Distilling Institute (ADI) is not a trade organization. It is a privately owned, for-profit business. There are two trade organizations representing distilleries in the United States: The Distilled Spirits Council and the American Craft Spirits Association. The American Craft Spirits Association is a registered non-profit trade organization run by a board of directors that was elected by member distilleries. It is not pursuing a legal definition of craft at this time, and will do so only if the membership indicates that it desires a legal definition. So far, they have not.

  5. Mike says:

    If the government decides to step in, or is invited to step in, the result will be bad for everyone from the distillers to the consumers.

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