New Law Allows Artisan Distillers to Charge for Tastings

Small distilleries of artisan spirits such as bourbon, whiskey and fruit-based liqueurs like limoncello can offer up to six paid tastings under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry brown September 26.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner

Nancy Skinner

Effective January 1, 2014, the bill — AB 933 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat – lifts a current ban on distilleries charging for tastings as wineries and breweries do.  

“Now at least these small businesses can let more people know about their product in a way they can afford,” Skinner told California’s Capitol.

The “Taste California Act” limits tasting size to one-quarter ounce.

Some 32 distilleries in the state, including Alameda-based St. George Spirits, benefit from the change in state law.  

“Thirty years ago, California became the birthplace of the artisan distillation movement,” said Lance Winters, vice president of the California Artisanal Distillers Guild and Master Distiller at St. George Spirits in a statement.

“Since then, California has lagged behind while other states have adopted policies to foster the growth of these quality, locavore-focused distillers.” Unknown-3

Distillers in 28 other states including New York, Oregon and Washington can operate tasting rooms that sell their specialty gin, vodka, rum and bourbon directly to consumers.

That puts California distillers at a competitive disadvantage, the guild says. Currently, 28 other states allow both tasting rooms and products to be sold on site including New York, Washington, Oregon and Colorado. 

California was one of four states including Nevada, Alaska and Mississippi that didn’t allow craft distillers to operate tasting rooms. 

Said Skinner in a statement:

“This long-overdue change will allow distillers to market and promote their unique products to the public. I’ll drink to that.”    


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