Legal definition would ‘not benefit’ craft spirits16th 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.
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.