State Rep. Chris May Files Legislation to Establish Market for Indiana Rye Whiskey

(STATEHOUSE) – Tennessee is known for its whiskey and Kentucky for its bourbon. State Rep. Chris May (R-Bedford) wants to help Indiana create a similar reputation for its rye whiskey.

To help Indiana grow in this booming market, May said it’s important for Hoosier distillers to have to meet a higher standard to call their spirit Indiana rye whiskey. The Bedford lawmaker introduced legislation to set those standards with help from Jeff McCabe, one of the owners of Hard Truth Distilling Co. in Nashville, Ind.

State Rep. Chris May (R-Bedford) (left) tours Hard Truth Distilling Co. in Nashville with Jeff McCabe (right), one of the owners, on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. May is working with McCabe on legislation to bring greater awareness to Indiana rye whiskey, one of the spirits distilled at Hard Truth, and help establish a market in the state similar to what Kentucky has with its bourbon.

“We want Indiana to be as popular for its rye whiskey as it is for basketball and racing,” May said. “Establishing that market, both in sales and tourism, might one day put the success of our state’s distilleries on par with that of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.”

Specifically, the bill would regulate the advertising, labeling and selling of Indiana rye whiskey. According to May, the purpose is to align the state’s rye whiskey with federal standards in hopes of establishing a market in the state similar to what Kentucky has with its bourbon. According to a 2019 study by the Kentucky Distillers Association, the Bluegrass state’s bourbon industry contributes $8.6 billion annually to its economy and generates more than 20,000 jobs.

Some of the standards set in May’s legislation for labeling, marketing and selling Indiana rye whiskey include:

  • Must be manufactured in Indiana;
  • Made with a mash bill that is at least 51% rye;
  • Fermented with sour mash or from sweet mash;
  • Distilled to no more than 80% alcohol by volume;
  • Aged in barrels for at least two years; and
  • Bottled at no less than 40% alcohol by volume.

“Indiana is home to more than 30 distilleries now, with some producing exceptional rye whiskey that has earned national acclaim,” May said. “Establishing our own brand is an opportunity for the Hoosier state to stake its claim in a fast-growing market.”

House Bill 1409 has been assigned to the House Committee on Public Policy for consideration. Watch session and committees live, and view legislation at iga.in.gov.

State Rep. Chris May (R-Bedford) represents House District 65, which includes all of Brown County, most of Lawrence County, and parts of Monroe, Jackson, and Johnson counties.

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