American Single Malt Whiskey - The TTB Proposes a Standard of Identity

The American Single Malt Whiskey Commission (ASMWC) was established in 2016. The group consists of nearly 100 distillery members across the United States. The goal of the group is to get the Treasury Department’s Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the agency that sets the rules for distilled spirits, to codify a Standard of Identity for American Single Malt Whiskey. Establishing and recognizing the rules would help to protect, educate, promote, and ultimately grow this as a category of spirits both domestically and internationally.

American Single Malt Whiskey Commission - Establish, Promote and Protect, Est. 2016
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The commission was hoping to get the definition written into law as a part of Notice No. 176: “Modernization of the Labeling and Advertising Regulations for Wine, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages” from November 2018. During that Notice of Proposed Rulemaking the TTB received many requests but ultimately decided not to tackle American Single Malt Whiskey at that time. Since then, the Commission has continued to work with multiple distilled spirits associations like the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS)) in trying to get the TTB to recognize the category.

In April of this year ASMWC and DISCUS sent a letter to the TTB asking to move forward with its proposed rulemaking to establish a standard of identity for American Single Malt Whiskey.

“This new standard will establish trust in the category, clarify label declarations, and equip consumers with the necessary information to make informed purchasing decisions,” the coalition said. “The formal establishment of this category would also signal to the world that not only do we believe in and support our own distilleries, but we also recognize that American Single Malt Whiskey is as unique as other American staples, such as Bourbon, and deserves to be similarly defined and protected.”

The coalition pointed out that regulations protecting the standard of identity for Scotch Whisky have been in place for generations and that similar regulations are necessary to protect the developing American Single Malt Whiskey category in the United States.

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TTB Publishes ‘Proposed Rulemaking for American Single Malt Whiskey’

After years and years of hard work from the Commission the time has finally arrived. The TTB published the “Proposed Addition of American Single Malt Whiskey to the Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits” on Friday, July 29, 2022. You can view the complete document below for reference. You’ll need to go to the TTB website to read or post comments.

The American Single Malt Whiskey Commission proposal and the TTB Rulemaking Proposal are very similar, but the TTB did introduce a few new things. The key difference is the addition of “coloring, flavoring, and blending of materials”. That seems to be a rather big difference that I’m sure will get lots of responses once the comment period opens. Take a look below and you can draw your own conclusions.

ASMWC Proposal for
“American Single Malt Whisky”
TTB Proposal for
“American Single Malt Whisky”
Made from 100% malted barleyFermented mash of 100% malted barley
Distilled entirely at one distilleryMust be distilled entirely at one U.S. distillery
Mashed, distilled, and matured in the U.S.It must be mashed, distilled, and aged in the U.S.
Matured in Oak Casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litersStorage: Oak barrels not exceeding 700 liters
Distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% ABV)Distillation Proof: 160 proof or less
Bottled at 80 proof or more (40% ABV)
Neutral Spirits Permitted? No
Allowable coloring, flavoring, blending materials permitted? Yes.

Here is how the TTB summarized the proposed addition of American Single Malt Whisky to the Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits.

“Under our proposal, to be labeled American single malt whisky, the product must be distilled entirely at one U.S. distillery, and must be mashed, distilled, aged in the United States. The product also must be sourced from a fermented mash of 100% malted barley, at a distillation proof of 160° or less, and stored in oak barrels not exceeding 700 liters. In addition, allowable coloring, flavoring, and blending materials would be permitted.”
TTB Notice No. 213

The comment period will remain open for 60 days through September 27, 2022. After that the TTB will collect the comments and render a decision.

According to American Single Malt Whisky Commission President Steve Hawley a final decision could come out within 30 days of the cut-off date but alas, it could also take longer.

DISCUS President Chris Swonger commented, “This is great news for U.S. distillers and consumers. We want to thank TTB for listening to the industry’s requests and we look forward to working with the Bureau to develop an official new category for American Single Malt Whisky.

“The formal establishment of standards of identity for American Single Malt Whisky is a clear recognition that this rapidly growing category is unique and deserves to be defined and protected as a distinctive product of the United States.

“Consumer fascination with American Single Malt Whisky is at an all‐time high and establishing a clear definition will drive innovation and help maintain the integrity of this category as more products enter the market.”

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