2 more states ease alcohol restrictions

LIFE magazine archives
Consumers will be getting more choices under new pieces of legislation in two states.

• Georgia communities now have the option of voting to approve Sunday alcohol sales under a bill signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal that repeals the state ban on such sales.

• In the state of Washington, consumers will be able to sample distilled spirits at state liquor stores under a bill signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire.

The Georgia action takes effect July, and will allow for special alcohol sales voting as early as November. Georgia is the 37th state to allow Sunday sales in some form. Connecticut and Indiana are the only states that still ban Sunday sales of liquor, wine and beer at off-premise establishments such as package stores, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.

The Washington action designates 30 state liquor stores to undertake a year-long pilot project beginning September 1. Samples are limited to one-quarter ounce, with more more than one ounce of samples served to any person in a single day.

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New law aiding Tennessee distillers

Andrew Webber, Corsair distiller
From The Tennessean

For the first time since before Prohibition, whiskey is legally being made again in Nashville. But you can’t tour the micro-distillery where the artisan spirits are brewed or have a sip in its tasting room just yet.

Corsair Artisan Distillery, Nashville’s first small-batch craft distillery, is waiting on a last piece of local and state permitting so that it can hold tours and tastings and sell bottles of its locally made potions on site.

Nearly two years after a state law overturned Prohibition-era restrictions on the manufacture of distilled spirits and eased the way for liquor manufacturing, Corsair is one of only two distilleries to set up shop in the state. The other is moonshine-making Ole Smoky Distillery in Gatlinburg.

But local distillers say this small start is the beginning of a growing movement for Tennessee to reclaim its whiskey-making heritage as the artisan distillery industry is flourishing in far-flung places such as San Francisco, Denver, Oregon, Michigan and New York.

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Connecticut may hike alcohol tax 20%

HARTFORD, CT -- In a move that is becoming distressingly common for the liquor and hospitality industries, another state is trying to slap a huge tax increase on alcohol.

The Connecticut General Assembly's Democratic-controlled tax committee has passed a tax package that would hike rates by 20%. However, Patricia Widlitz, House chairman of the panel, cautions that it is not a done deal and the numbers could change this week.

The proposed increase would generate $9.8 million in the first year of the two-year state budget and $9.3 million in the second year.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) says that if the proposal becomes law, it would cut retail sales by $38 million and cost 485 jobs in the hospitality industry.

Back in March, to the dismay of many dealers and consumers, a bill that would have allowed Sunday alcohol sales died in committee without being voted on. Had it gone through the steps to become law, it could have generated significant revenue for the state.

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Japan-aid whisky an advance hit

From BBC News/Scotland

A unique whisky made by seven independent Scottish distilleries to raise money for the disaster relief effort in Japan has almost sold out -- before it has even been bottled.

The distilleries each donated a cask of single malt to create a limited edition whisky called Spirit of Unity. Most of the 2,000 bottles expected to be produced have been pre-sold ahead of its planned bottling by mid-May.

It is hoped up to £80,000 (US$131,975) will be raised from their sale.

Those behind the collaboration, between distillers Arran, BenRiach, Bladnoch, GlenDronach, Mitchell's Glengyle, Kilchoman and Springbank, said the firms had never collaborated in this way before and were never likely to again.

The combined casks will produce about 2,000 bottles with 1,200 available in the UK at a cost of £59 ($US97) each. The remainder will be shipped to Japan, with some being donated for sale in New Zealand to assist with relief in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.

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Forget gas, fuel up with bourbon

The bourbon-powered homemade vehicle.
From The Daily Load

LOUISVILLE, KY -- 62-year-old Mickey Nilsson of Bardstown, Kentucky, finally found a way to make his tinkering hobby pay off. Inspired by the film "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," Nilsson transformed a collection of "junk" into a motor vehicle that does not rely on foreign oil as it’s fuel source. His car is entirely powered by Kentucky bourbon whiskey.

"I was always a fan of Caractacus Potts (the Dick Van Dyke character) from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'," said Nilsson. "He was pretty good at re-purposing junk. Always admired that."

Nilsson had his fair share of junk, too. Most of it was just rusting when last October he had a knock at his door.

"Them two knuckleheads from that TV show 'American Pickers' (Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz) stopped by here trying to steal from me. Offering me $200 for my old still. Said I had no use for it since making moonshine was illegal. After that smart-mouthed remark, I shot at em,” declared Nilsson. "Although I did sell the chubby one with the beard an old oil can for $40 before they ticked me off."

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PA adding liquor to kiosk vending

As one who lived in Pennsylvania for varying periods several times, I must confess to my amazement at the Keystone State's recent liberalization in its attitude toward adult beverages.

The generic "state store," the wine and liquor shop that was the only place consumers were allowed to make such purchases, was seen as an implacable, iron-fisted control by the state that resulted in little variety or convenience for most consumers.

However, the increase in the number of commercial wineries and changing attitudes in other states that could be cited as reasons to re-visit sales points have made quite a difference.

First it was the trials with wine-dispensing kiosks in various grocery stores around the state. Now, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board plans to begin a pilot program that would permit sales of hard liquor at those same vending kiosks.

PLCB spokesperson Stacey Witalec says the initial rollout probably will involve fewer than a dozen of the current locations, and there is no word yet on precisely what products will be sold.

The devices dispense products to consumers only after they swipe their ID cards and breathe into a sensor to prove their age and sobriety.


PA wine vending machine plan on hold
PA starts wine kiosk trial program
PA wine vending kiosks malfunction 
WalMarts to get PA wine kiosk approval

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Guest comment: Lower the drinking ages

• The writer is director of the Insurance Studies project at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The issues she manages include property insurance, adult beverages, gambling industry regulation, and adult entertainment regulation. This commentary first appeared in National Review Online.

By Michelle Minton
Alaska state Representative Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage) is asking the long overdue question: Why do we consider 18-year-olds old enough to join the military, to fight and die for our country, but not to have a drink with their friends before they ship out or while they’re home on leave? Lynn has introduced a bill that would allow anyone 18 years and older with a military ID to drink alcohol in Alaska.

The bill already is facing strong opposition from self-styled public health advocates. However, the data indicate that the 21-minimum drinking age has not only done zero good, it actually may have done harm. In addition, an individual legally enjoys nearly all other rights of adulthood upon turning 18 -- including the rights to vote, get married, and sign contracts. It is time to reduce the drinking age for all Americans.

In the early 1970s, with the passage of the 26th Amendment (which lowered the voting age to 18), 29 states lowered their minimum legal drinking age to 18, 19, or 20 years old. Other states -- such as New York -- already allowed those as young as 18 to buy alcohol. 

However, after some reports showed an increase in teenage traffic fatalities, some advocacy groups pushed for a higher drinking age. They eventually gained passage of the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which lets Congress withhold 10% of a state’s federal highway funds if it sets its minimum legal drinking age below 21. (Alaska reportedly would lose up to $50 million a year if Lynn’s bill passes.)

By 1988, all states had raised their drinking age to 21. In the years since, the idea of lowering the drinking age has periodically returned to the public debate, but groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have been able to fight back attempts to change the law. (Louisiana briefly lowered its age limit to 18 in 1996, after the state Supreme Court ruled that the 21 limit was a form of age discrimination, but the court reversed that decision a few months later.)

It’s true that America has a problem with drinking: The rates of alcoholism and teenage problem drinking are far greater here than in Europe. Yet in most European countries, the drinking age is far lower than 21. Some, such as Italy, have no drinking age at all. The likely reason for the disparity is the way in which American teens are introduced to alcohol versus their European counterparts. While French or Italian children learn to think of alcohol as part of a meal, American teens learn to drink in the unmonitored environment of a basement or the backwoods with their friends. A 2009 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Health, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded that 72% of graduating high school seniors already had consumed alcohol.

The problem is even worse on college campuses, where there is an unspoken understanding between students, administrators, local law enforcement and parents that renders drinking-age restrictions effectively moot as students drink alcohol at frat or house parties and in their dorm rooms. The result is dangerous, secret binge drinking. This unspoken agreement and the problems it creates led a group of college chancellors and presidents from around the nation to form the Amethyst Initiative, which proposes a reconsideration of the current drinking age.

Middlebury College President Emeritus John M. McCardell, who also is a charter member of Presidents Against Drunk Driving, came out in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18 years old in a 2004 New York Times opinion article. “Our latter-day prohibitionists have driven drinking behind closed doors and underground," he wrote. “Colleges should be given the chance to educate students, who in all other respects are adults, in the appropriate use of alcohol, within campus boundaries and out in the open."

The most powerful argument, at least emotionally, for leaving the drinking age at 21 is that the higher age limit has prevented alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Such fatalities indeed decreased about 33% from 1988 to 1998 -- but the trend is not restricted to the United States. In Germany, for example, where the drinking age is 16, alcohol-related fatalities decreased by 57% between 1975 and 1990. The most likely cause for the decrease in traffic fatalities is a combination of law enforcement, education, and advances in automobile-safety technologies such as airbags and roll cages.

In addition, statistics indicate that these fatalities may not even have been prevented but rather displaced by three years, and that fatalities might even have increased over the long run because of the reduced drinking age. In an award-winning study in 2010, University of Notre Dame undergraduate Dan Dirscherl found that banning the purchase of alcohol between the ages of 18 and 21 actually increased traffic fatalities of those between the ages of 18 and 24 by 3%.

Dirscherl’s findings lend credence to the "experienced drinker" hypothesis, which holds that when people begin driving at 16 and gain confidence for five years before they are legally able to drink, they are more likely to overestimate their driving ability and have less understanding of how alcohol consumption affects their ability to drive.

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Iowa distiller to debut its first gin

LeCLAIRE, IA -- The Mississippi River Distilling Company is about to introduce its second product, which like its first relies on Midwestern grain.

The distiller will unveil River Rose Gin next Friday, April 15. It joins the original product, the grain-based River Baron Vodka, which in mid-2010 was the distiller's first product.

The gin is a proprietary blend of botanicals from a recipe dating to the late 1800s. It has a lighter touch of juniper than the average gin, with notes of orange, grapefruit, lemon, rose petals, lavender and locally grown cucumbers.

Each bottle of spirits from the distiller is numbered to show the batch and bottle number.

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New cocktails in a re-saleable pouch

Good Time Beverages will introduce a new line of pre-made "Cocktails To Go" in re-sealable pouches next week.

The venue will be the 68th annual Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) Convention & Exposition in Orlando, FL.

The first two products are called "Bob & Stacy's Premium Margarita" and "Big Barrel Brandy XO." The first is made with tequila, and is 15% alcohol by volume (30 proof). The other with uses an XO level brandy, as opposed to a VS or VSOP level, and is 40% abv (80 proof).

Good Time Beverages uses "flex" pouches which are constructed of foil that is mostly post-consumer recycled aluminum alloy, covered with a thin internal layer. The pouches need less space than cans or bottles, and each pouch has a free-flow, tamper-resistant cap that can be resealed for storage.

New packaging incorporates a high-oxygen barrier film that preserves flavor for one year, and up to three months after initial opening (when resealed with original cap). The drinks can be poured into other beverage receptacles or enjoyed straight from the pouch.

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Is das Scotch? Yah

Sloupisti from Spreewald
 From DailyRecord.co.uk

German booze firms are gearing up for a showdown with Scottish whisky makers as they bid to become the world's No. 1 producers of Scotch.

Whisky lovers have praised German attempts to recreate single malt whisky, but it is set to create a major row with Scottish producers.

Master distiller Cornelia Bohn makes her malt, called Prussian whisky, in Schonermark, Brandenburg.

She told German news magazine Der Spiegel: "My whisky will reflect the open spaces and rolling hills of my countryside. It will be a polarizing whisky and it won't be everyone's darling."

Bohn belongs to a group of around 40 malt-whisky makers in Germany -- the most prominent of which are the Slyrs distillery in Bavaria and the Spreewald Brewery in Brandenburg.

The Sloupisti single malt from the Spreewald Brewery was awarded top marks by UK whisky critic Jim Murray. He included it in the "superstar whiskies that give us all a reason to live" section of the 2010 edition of his "Whisky Bible."

The Germans hope to beat Japan into second place in whisky making within a decade, then move on to toppling Scotland.

Just 100,000 bottles of malt were produced in Germany in 2010 -- nothing compared with the output in Scotland. But it is just the beginning, say the German distillers.

In Austria, distillers are also attempting to steal Scotland's whisky crown.

The Waldviertler Roggenhof distillery and Whisky Experience World in Austria last year attracted 75,000 visitors -- more than the Glenfiddich Distillery.

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Poll: 30% drink weekly, and beer is preferred

Thirty percent of Americans 21 and older say they drink alcohol at least once a week, with 5% drinking daily and 10% drinking several times a week.

Those are among the findings of the just-released Harris Poll of 2,379 adults surveyed online between March 7 and 14 by Harris Interactive. Among other results:

• 22% of Americans say they never drink alcohol.
• Men are more frequent drinkers than women, with 38% of men saying say they drink at least once a week compared to 21% of women.

• Among those who drink at least several times a year, beer is the top choice: 63% say they drink beer and 54% drink domestic wine; 41% drink vodka; 34% drink rum; 28% drink tequila; 28% drink foreign wine; 20% drink various types of whiskies such as Irish or Canadian.

• Further down the list of preferred alcoholic beverages are champagne (17%), cordials and liqueurs (17%), bourbon (15%), gin (14%), scotch (11%), cognac (8%) and brandy/Armagnac (7%).

The survey was accompanied by variety of tables showing both general and specific categories of drinking. Double-click on them to access a large-type version.

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