Since Prohibition, U.S. Consumers have long gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to getting many of the great spirits made in other countries.
One reason: The antiquated legal restrictions on the allowed size of distilled spirits bottlings. Legally, only the following bottle sizes can be sold in the US:
- 50 ml
- 100 ml
- 200 ml
- 375 ml
- 750 ml
- 1000 ml (1 liter)
- 1750 ml (1.75 liters)
Want to sell a 250 ml bottle of amazing rum? Too bad. US regulations won’t let you.
The other part of the issue is that the European Union (EU) has its own allowed bottle sizes, and in many cases, they don’t match the US sizes. For example, the EU allows 350 ml bottles, while the US has 375 ml.
Of course, the most common bottles size for distilled spirits is 750 ml in the US, whereas the closest EU allowed size is 700 ml. This scant 50 ml difference is at the core of the issue.
Why does this matter? For many brands with small production runs, e.g. a 1000 bottled limited edition cognac, the overhead of separate labels and bottling procedures to make both 700 ml and 750 ml bottlings are cost prohibitive. As such, these brands make just a 700 ml bottling and sell it within the EU and other locales where 700 ml bottles can be legally sold.
For US consumers of limited edition independent bottler expressions, it’s incredibly frustrating to see their European friends enjoying a bounty of high end spirits.
However, there may finally be reason for US consumers to have hope.
A few days ago, the TTB announced they were taking public comment on revising the regulations regarding allowed “fill levels,” i.e. bottle sizes. The full proposal, entitled Elimination of Certain Standards of Fill for Distilled Spirits; Amendment of Malt Beverage Net Contents Labeling Regulation reads in part:
TTB is proposing to eliminate all but minimum and maximum standards of fill for distilled spirits containers and thus eliminate unnecessary regulatory requirements and provide consumers broader purchasing options.
Furthermore, it adds:
TTB is proposing to eliminate the existing standards of fill for distilled spirits, except that the regulations would maintain a minimum standard of 50 milliliters and a maximum standard of 3.785 liters.
In short, distilled spirits could be sold in any quantity between 50 ml and one US gallon. This small change would allow many more bottles to be legally imported into the US, thus allowing smaller brands to sell into the US without a prohibitive cost to make two slightly different bottlings.
By all accounts this seems to be a huge step forward for consumer choice. However, it’s not a done deal. The TTB has not made this official. They’re collecting public commentary on the issue between now and August 30, 2019.
Your call to action: Don’t just hope that this change comes to pass. Get out there and tell the TTB that you’re in favor of this, and why! Go to this link and tell them why it’s a good idea!