Two plaintiffs from New Jersey are on a mission to exact justice on behalf of those who they believe were duped in to buying mass produced vodka. Gasp! The alleged evildoer? The maker of Tito’s Handmade Vodka. The plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit alleging that Tito’s production process is “the complete opposite of the product being handmade.” This comes on the heels of a similar suit on which we reported against the distiller of Maker’s Mark Bourbon.
Plaintiffs Marc McBrearty and Paul Cantilina say Tito’s had a legitimate claim to the “handmade” label when the vodka was made in a 16-gallon pot still. However, the plaintiff’s claim that “it is now manufactured by machines in a highly mechanized process on a 26 acre operation that produced approximately 850,000 cases in 2012.” They allege that by using this process and not dropping the “handmade” moniker, Tito’s is intentionally misrepresenting its product in violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Protection Act.
According to a 2013 Forbes article, Tito’s did nearly $85 million in sales in 2012 at around 12 million bottles. In spite of this huge number, Tito’s founder, Bert “Bertito” Beveridge, certainly isn’t conceding that his product fails to live up to its name. He told Forbes, “If someone tells me my brand isn’t a craft-distilled spirit because it’s too big, I just say, ‘I make it the same way I’ve always made it. I just have a lot more stills.”
On the one hand, the lawsuit seems very silly, considering that all decent vodka tastes exactly the same. However, given that fact, little schticks like being “handmade” are what sets the brands apart. We’ll be watching this lawsuit and the others like.