WV spirits tasting bill awaits governor's OK

CHARLESTON, WV -- Proponents of a bill that would allow consumers to sample liquors at distilled spirits outlets are waiting for the final action needed to implement it -- Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's signature.

The state legislature's action pn Saturday to pass the bill was hailed by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS).

"States across the country are updating their liquor laws to reflect modern convenience and demand," said DISCUS Vice President David Wojnar, noting that West Virginia joins neighboring states Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia in allowing tasting events at restaurants, bars and now liquor stores. "Spirits tastings are a responsible marketing tool that ultimately generates revenue for the state by boosting consumer interest in premium products."

House Bill 3174, sponsored by State Rep. Bonnie Brown, gives adult consumers the opportunity to sample up to one ounce of spirits during a scheduled tasting event. The bill passed the House on February 20 and the Senate on March 10. Once signed by the governor, it would take effect June 8.

Wojnar noted that five "control states" recently have changed their laws to allow spirits tastings at distilled spirits outlets. They are Washington (2011), Michigan (2010), Virginia (2010), Maine (2009) and Vermont (2009). West Virginia would become the ninth state since 2009 to allow spirits tastings at liquor stores for a total of 36 states, according to DISCUS. Seven other states considering spirits tasting legislation are Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin.

"Spirits consumers are fascinated by cocktail culture and curious about how to discern between the 5,000 spirits products on the market," Wojnar said. "In today’s economy customers want to know what a particular Single Malt Scotch or Bourbon tastes like before spending $40 to $50 on a bottle."

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