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our consumers and our distribution channels. My background is in consulting engineering: Responsibility to customers and the public had been my guideposts for too many years. Both the TTB and the WSLCB will protect the public from bad liquor, but their primary responsibility is always to protect the tax revenue. Since there was no perceived health threat, we were limited on how we could compensate the public for any claims. We sidestepped all complications by offering compensatory pricing to the public. Our recall offered bottles of our premium vodka at onequarter of the normal purchase price. If any consumer had poured a foul bottle out, this offer would not provide full compensation, but it was what we could readily offer given the regulatory limitations. We followed up the public announcements with notices on our website and advertising dedicated to addressing the recall.

SURVEYING THE AFTERMATH What was our problem? We have not yet found a lab to run tests to confirm, but here is our best guess. We did not know, but new glass can have a potential issue. Soda ash is a possible byproduct from the glass kiln, and apparently a thin film can settle upon the surface of a bottle during production. As I understand it, it is akin to burnt baking soda. Some bottles may have little or no film on their interior surface and some have more. Our understanding is that domestic bottles may be cleaner than some imports, which is why our problem Artisan_7.5� x 4.687.pdf 1 02/02/17 19:53 showed up so sporadically, as our bottles come from the U.S. When

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distilleries blow out or wash their bottles they need to assure the process is sufficiently robust to eliminate this film. We now flush our bottles twice as long as what seems to be necessary. Here is a side issue. You must place serial numbers on every case you bottle and remove from bond. Track where every case goes. In the event you open a case and present bottles to various vendors, keep track of where each bottle ends up. Though the FDA and the TTB share responsibility for food safety, making this issue a bit murky for distillers, in the age of terrorist threats, the ability to track every ingredient through your production process, into your bottles and to the purchaser is important. You should be able to identify every potential contaminated bottle within 24 hours. My tracking system is now more robust. Did we take the correct course? Only time will tell. I do feel proud of how we responded. We protected the public from any potential threat, and did the best to protect our reputation. If you ever face the same issue, some things are certain. It will be terrifying. You will make decisions on the fly with inadequate knowledge. The actions you take could significantly impact the health of your customers and the success of your business. Good luck.

John Koehler was a consulting engineer and designed custom automated machinery for most major manufacturing fields. He received a MS in Engineering Management in 1997. He has spent the last 27 years developing a new business model for entrepreneurship. His proof of concept is Eagle Cliffs Distillery in Longview, WA. The company website is www.ExaltLiquor.com

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Profile for Artisan Spirit Magazine

Artisan Spirit: Spring 2017  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.

Artisan Spirit: Spring 2017  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.