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US distilled spirits contain more alcohol than appears on labels

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  1. I had a problem with too high a proof going into the bottle. One product I oversaw/made, at a contracting distillery, was severely over the proper proof. The distillery owners son was told to bring to correct proof and bottle. When I tasted a batch a few weeks later during a tasting, I noticed that flavor was more pronounced than it should be. (I had tasted the small amount prior to bottling that was full strength, and that I had then brought to proper proof myself, for quality control. So I knew what it should have tasted like.) The proof in bottle was 97+, instead of 80. I assume the kid hadn't done the dilution calculations correctly. I wanted to pull all bottles and reproof. Well that didn't happen. No one else noticed because the product was so well distilled, so smooth, that no one besides a top spirits expert, or distiller would notice. Except that they got more drunk than usual.

    3 Replies
    1. re: JMF

      What is the tolerance for labeling spirits?

      I know with wine, it's +/-1.5 percent IF the abv is <14.0%. If 14.01% or greater, it's +/- 1.0 percent.

      1. re: zin1953

        From the TTB BAM (http://www.ttb.gov/spirits/bam.shtml) > Mandatory Label Information > Alcohol Content > Tolerances
        * 0.25% alcohol by volume for spirits containing solids in excess of 600 mg per 100 ml
        * 0.25% alcohol by volume for spirits bottled in 50 ml and 100 ml containers
        * 0.15% alcohol by volume for all other spirits

        For our cocktail bitters, we get allowable tolerances back from TTB of +/- 2.5 - 3% on a nominally 40% abv product.

        1. re: BillB656

          If 27CFR, Part 5, Sub D, §5.367, ¶(2)(b)(3) -- "Not to exceed 0.15 percent alcohol by volume for all other spirits." -- is THAT tight, I'm surprised the error rate wasn't higher than 30 percent!