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US distiller calls IWA claim ‘ridiculous’

New York City-based Kings County Distillery has hit back at the Irish Whiskey Association’s (IWA) claim that it was misleading consumers with its Irish Style American Whiskey.

Kings County Distillery
Kings County Distillery’s ‘Irish Style American Whiskey’

The Brooklyn-based distillery tweeted last week (14 June) that it had received a cease-and-desist letter from the IWA on 1 June.

The letter was issued over the labelling and description of the distiller’s ‘Irish Style American Whiskey’, which was created to mark St Patrick’s Day on 17 March.

According to the Kings County website, the expression is produced in an ‘Irish style’, and is triple distilled and aged in ex-Bourbon barrels. The one-year-old spirit is made with New York barley and bottled at 45% ABV. The product is now sold out on the company’s website.

Kings County Distillery took to Twitter to refute the IWA’s claim: “Dear @IrishWhiskeyAsc, we’ll answer for a lot, but accusing us of misleading consumers is fighting words around here. You want to pick a fight, we return the effort.”

The distillery shared a letter on Twitter it had sent to the IWA in response to the cease-and-desist order.

“We will not promise to cease or desist selling this product in the future as we must respectfully disagree that this product creates confusion or attempts to mislead consumers,” the letter said.

Kings County said it had communicated clearly to consumers that its whiskeys are mashed, distilled and bottled in Brooklyn.

The letter said: “How is ‘distilled in Brooklyn’ or ‘wholly produced in New York from local ingredients’ misleading? How could any consumer read the statement on the bottle or our website and reasonably be confused?

“We love Irish whiskey, and we love truth in labelling even more. We both want the same things. But there is Irish whiskey, which belongs to you, and there is the tradition of Irish distilling which belongs to the world.”

‘Spurious and patently ridiculous claim’

Furthermore, the distiller noted that the label had been approved twice by the US government’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

The letter said: “If for some reason TTB issues guidance to distillers that ‘Irish style’ is officially misleading in their judgment alone, we will remove the phrase. We answer to our government, not to any trade organisation.”

The letter, signed by co-founder and president Colin Spoelman, concluded: “Coming after a small producer with a spurious and patently ridiculous claim of misleading consumers is not the way to protect Irish whiskey.”

When asked for a statement, the IWA said it doesn’t comment on individual cases.

Last month, the IWA published its Irish Whiskey Sustainable Together roadmap.

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