- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah liquor bosses granted special permission Tuesday for a distillery to offer a broad selection of whiskey samples, opening the door for more distillers and breweries to seek similar exemptions under the state’s knotty alcohol laws.

The permit granted by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission allows Park City-based High West Distillery and Saloon to offer five or 10 different kinds of whiskey to those touring their new facility in the town of Wanship.

Without the exemption, the distillery is barred under Utah law from offering more than two samples.

Brewers, wine makers and distillers around the country often serve “flights” of liquor to allow customers to compare samples of products, but Utah law only expressly allows wineries to offer such samples.

The law does allow the state liquor bosses to grant broad permits for educational purposes, but they’ve generally been issued to culinary schools and restaurants offering classes about alcohol.

High West was the first of Utah’s eight distilling companies to apply for such a permit and spent a year convincing liquor officials that tastings would be educational and outside the view of children.

While kids would be allowed to tour the facility with their parents and see how whiskey is made, tastings would be adults-only and occur in five separate rooms outside the view of children.

“It’s the presence of minors in those particular incidents that is problematic and I think High West has done everything they can to avoid that,” said commission chairman John T. Nielsen, who said he was impressed with the facility after touring it.

James Dumas, director of food and beverage operations at High West, said offering multiple samples of whiskey allows customers to compare flavor notes and go back and forth between the products rather than being limited to a shot or two, Dumas said.

“For us and for our business and how we want to share it, it’s key,” he said. “We want to be able to slow down and really connect with the guest.”

Dumas and liquor commissioners expect other distilleries and brewers to apply for the educational permits as well, but some liquor makers say the process isn’t worth it.

Jay Yahne, owner of The Hive Winery in Layton, wants to offer samples of brandy made at his facility but he doesn’t have the time or space to pair it with a tour and make it an educational experience, as required by liquor bosses.

He instead wants to sell mini-bottles of his liquor, something only allowed in Utah under case-by-case exceptions from the alcohol control commission.

Yahne said he plans to push the mini-bottle issue with the alcohol commission at their next meeting in August.

State Sen. Jerry Stevenson, a Layton Republican who attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, said he’s working on legislation to address the patchwork alcohol-sampling laws, but he said it’s still too early to say what the proposal would do and when it would be ready.

Stevenson said Utah law is still trying to catch up with the burgeoning craft liquor industry. Lawmakers and commissioners are trying to balance that growing business with safety concerns and Utah laws explicitly barring the liquor-control state from promoting the sale or consumption of alcohol.

That tension has caused flashpoints around many liquor laws in the state. The majority of Utah residents and lawmakers belong to the Salt Lake City-based Mormon church, which teaches members to avoid drinking alcohol.

___

Follow Michelle L. Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide