Judge rejects claim that bourbon was falsely advertised

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Chalk up another round for Maker's Mark distillery in fending off claims of misleading marketing for promoting its Kentucky bourbon as handmade.

A federal judge in California this week dismissed a lawsuit filed by two consumers who claimed they were misled by the bourbon maker's handmade claims on its bottles, known for their red-wax seal.

They said the claim enticed them to purchase Maker's Mark instead of a less expensive whiskey.

The plaintiffs, Safora Nowrouzi and Travis Williams, accused Maker's Mark of false advertising, unfair competition and negligent and intentional misrepresentation. The suit claimed the process to produce the bourbon features "little to no human supervision, assistance or involvement."

The judge, however, accepted the bourbon producer's request to dismiss the suit.

"This court finds that 'handmade' cannot reasonably be interpreted as meaning literally by hand nor that a reasonable consumer would understand the term to mean no equipment or automated process was used to manufacture the whisky," Houston wrote.

The judge added that the plaintiffs "cannot plausibly contend defendant intends to deceive consumers about the nature of its processes when its label clearly describes the process and points consumers to its website."

Mona Amini, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, said Wednesday they were still reviewing the ruling and declined further comment.

Beam Suntory Inc., the parent of Maker's, had maintained the suit was meritless.

"We were confident we would prevail, and we are pleased that the California court terminated this matter at an early stage," said company spokesman Clarkson Hine.

It was the brand's latest legal victory in fending off claims that it falsely promotes its bourbon.

Earlier this year, a federal judge in Florida dismissed a lawsuit by two consumers who accused Maker's Mark of misleading marketing by labeling its bourbon as handmade.

Maker's Mark bourbon is produced at a distillery outside Loretto, Kentucky.

Maker's has developed a passionate following among bourbon drinkers. The brand created a backlash in 2013 by saying it was cutting the amount of alcohol in each bottle to stretch its whiskey supplies. Producers quickly scrapped the idea.