Local distillers cheer customer-friendly legislation

MADISON, WI – Wisconsinites could soon have an opportunity to sample distilled spirits at liquor stores under new legislation heard today in the Assembly Homeland Security and State Affairs Committee, according to the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), a national trade association representing thousands of liquor brands sold in Wisconsin.

Assembly Bill 480, sponsored by Assemblymen Joel Kleefisch, would give adult consumers the opportunity to sample up to three separate one-half ounce samples of spirits in any one calendar day at a pre-planned tasting event.

Guy Rehorst, Founder of Great Lakes Distillery in Milwaukee and a craft distiller member of the Distilled Spirits Council, testified before the Assembly Homeland Security and State Affairs Committee in support of spirits tastings.

“Tasting events help me get my product in front of customers who may otherwise never have a chance to try it,” Rehorst said. “Like wine and beer tastings, spirits tastings are a long-standing and responsible means by which customers can make better informed buying decisions.  Tools like tasting events allow small producers and retailers to better serve their customers – and that’s good for Wisconsin.”

Rehorst also pointed out that Wisconsin’s growing craft distilling industry now includes seven distilleries statewide. Spirits tastings events will help position Wisconsin’s craft distilling industry for continued growth, which in turn will help increase revenue for the state, he said.

“States across the country are updating their liquor laws to reflect modern convenience and demand,” said DISCUS Vice President Dale Szyndrowski, noting that spirits tastings ultimately generate revenue for the state by boosting consumer interest in premium products.

Since 2009, eight governors have signed spirits tasting legislation for a total of 35 states that allow tasting events at liquor stores, according to DISCUS.  Already in 2012, Wisconsin is one of seven states considering legislation to allow distilled spirits tastings at liquor stores.  The other six include: Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and West Virginia.