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Update on Liquor Lawsuits – Winners and Losers

July 31, 2015 – You may recall that Maker’s Mark was sued in California for using the term “handmade” on its label. We reported on it last January. The class action suit was dismissed by Federal Court Judge John Houston. He said that no reasonable consumer could have been misled by the claim and that the term “handmade” does not preclude machines from being used in the brand’s production. A similar suit was tossed out in Florida recently.

Templeton Rye didn’t fare quite so well. The company positioned itself as a craft whiskey made in the tiny town of Templeton, Iowa. It was positioned to appeal to whiskey devotees looking for ”the good stuff”. Then it was revealed in an article in The Daily Beast that the rye was not made in Iowa as stated on the label but purchased from a very large spirits distiller in Indiana. Also, it was not made from a Prohibition-era recipe. The company’s marketing materials claimed the recipe was handed down through the family on a scrap of paper from Alphonse Kerkhoff and that it was supposedly loved and bootlegged by gangster Al Capone. The founder of Templeton Rye is Keith Kerkhoff.

As a result of three class action lawsuits, consumers will be able to claim damages of $3 per bottle of Templeton Rye Whiskey without a receipt for up to six bottles purchased since 2006. Those who have receipts can claim $6 a bottle up to six bottles of the whiskey purchased. Details have yet to be finalized.

In addition to monetary compensation, the company has agreed to change various marketing claims by removing “Small Batch” and “Prohibition Era Recipe” from the front label and the back label will now say “Distilled in Indiana”.

titos-handmade-vodka1-290x290Sales of Tito’s Handmade Vodka have not been affected by the lawsuit filed against the company last October. It has been stalled on a technicality with the judge rejecting the majority of the arguments against the company. It isn’t over yet but in the meantime, the brand is going gangbusters. As we said in our article last October, Tito’s fans are devoted and loyal and couldn’t care less that it is no longer literally handmade. Looks like the brand is expanding its fan base. By the end of 2014, Tito’s had sold just shy of two million cases and it hasn’t slowed down any in 2015.