American Rum Report #6 — May 7, 2019

We've got a serious Tuesday on our hands today, folks, so let's get to it!

The stated purpose of this newsletter is to bring you all the American rum stories that matter. Usually that means an assortment of interesting links and some commentary on their significance.

However, every now and then a story comes along that is so significant it deserves the entire focus of the newsletter.

Today, I bring you one of those stories.

(Like I said, we've got a serious Tuesday on our hands.)

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (AKA the TTB) published a 132-page proposal back in November titled, "Modernization of the Labeling and Advertising Regulations for Wine, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages."

In other words, the entity that regulates how rum (and all other distilled spirits) can be labeled in the U.S. is proposing updates to its regulations.

Why is that a big deal?

Because for years leaders in the global rum community have lamented the lack of standards and subcategories the TTB has established within the rum category.

While whiskey has 50+ different types codified in U.S. regulations, all of which are designed to protect geographical identities (like Scotch whiskey) and indicate certain standards of quality to consumers (like straight whiskey), the rum category only has two—rum and cachaca. 

Basically, there are no classifications designed to educate consumers on rum's wonderful diversity, and few standards in place to give consumers confidence in what's in their bottle. Many people believe this contributes to rum's continuous struggle to get the kind of respect afforded to "prestige" spirits like bourbon, cognac, and Scotch.

So...I had hoped this proposal from the TTB would offer at least some progress toward the types of rum standards many have long wished for. Like, even just a teensy bit. I even promised to go through the 132-page proposal in its entirety and bring you a full breakdown on the impact it could have on rum! 

Unfortunately, the proposal is almost completely devoid of anything that would positively impact the rum category, thus eliminating the necessity of said breakdown.

Which is exactly why I'm writing to you today.

Because until June 25th, the TTB is accepting public comments on the proposed changes, giving all of us the opportunity to advocate for the level of attention rum truly deserves.

And as of this past Saturday, one American rum distiller has provided an excellent template for us to follow.

Andrew Lohfeld, co-founder and head distiller at Roulaison Distilling Company in Louisiana, submitted the kind of comment I'd been waiting for—it's succinct, thoughtful, and it fights for the types of changes many have long been waiting for.

It's also the only comment out of the 135 that have been submitted so far that mentions rum in a meaningful way.

I just published an article that offers a more in-depth look at the TTB's proposal, a link to view Andrew's comment on the proposal, and all the links you need in order to access the proposal and submit your own comments on it.

My hope is that you'll read it, look over Andrew's comments on the proposal, and—whether you agree with his proposed changes or not—consider joining me in submitting your own comment to the TTB to advocate on rum's behalf.

You can go here to read it now.

As I state in the article, I have no idea whether submitting comments to the TTB will actually make a difference or not. But I do know saying nothing will guarantee that nothing will change.

And even though we might not all agree on which changes would elevate the rum category, we can at least agree that moving the conversation forward would be a good thing.

I'm planning to submit my comment before the deadline. Will you join me and make your voice heard?

Will Hoekenga