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Ask Arok: Why do some small distillers not use "Straight" to describe their bourbon?

Posted on by Eric Burke

Last week, I shared an article on Twitter by Blake at Bourbonr.com where he reviewed Wyoming Whiskey. Having just visited the distillery and reviewed the product myself I joined in a discussion on Twitter that the article had spurred. 

During that discussion, the question was raised as to why Wyoming Whiskey didn't include the "Straight" designation on their label. The recent revelation that non-straight (non-bourbon*) whiskey can contain additives and flavorings has made folks, including myself, a bit gun-shy when they see a label that doesn't include it.

I guess, there is at least one thing we can thank Templeton for, they may be flavoring their whiskey, but they did end up bringing the law to our attention.

In any case, as I didn't know the answer, I reached out to the source to find out. The following is the kind response I received via email Sam Mead, Distiller at Wyoming.

Hey Eric, 
I'm going to ask around to check, but I think during the label design we just felt that "small batch" was more important that adding the straight designation, although our bourbon meets all the requirements of the straight bourbon designation (aged 2+ years, no added coloring or flavoring, and we had an age statement until we hit 4 years, then went NAS). We didn't put Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey on the label because we felt at some point we were squeezing too much information into a descriptor. 
That's my guess, I wasn't heavily involved in the label design so I'll get a better answer for you today if I'm incorrect. 
-Sam

He later confirmed that he was correct in his assumptions.

This is a minor trend I've started noticing on whiskey being put out by the "non-majors." And I'm not exactly sure why it is happening. I, and every bourbon geek I know, advise everyone who will listen to look for "Straight" on the label. I know that to the general public, it isn't as sexy as the meaningless term "small batch" but as consumers become more wise in the ways of bourbon, they will also start to look for it because unlike "Small Batch," it actually does mean something when comparing one whiskey to another. That said, maybe the average buyer of bourbon never becomes more wise and it is just us geeks who end up caring about such things.

I want to thank Sam for getting back to me so quickly and for allowing me to reprint his email. Even if I don't necessarily understand the reasoning the company used, I respect that they were willing to share it with readers.

*Bourbon can't contain any additives or flavoring even if it isn't labeled straight.


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