Yesterday, we reported on the Tito’s Handmade Vodka lawsuit over the liquor’s “handmade” label. That news came on the heels of the lawsuit filed against Maker’s Mark in California challenging the validity of the claims that the Kentucky bourbon is itself handmade. With so much fuss about handmade liquor, we here at Abnormal Use thought it worthwhile to add an additional day of commentary.
As you may recall, the Tito’s lawsuit was filed by two New Jersey men on behalf of themselves and vodka drinkers everywhere who claim the Texas company’s “handmade” moniker is a sham. In addition to featuring the word “handmade” right in its brand name, Tito’s website states:
[Tito’s vodka] is microdistilled in an old-fashioned pot still, just like fine single malt scotches and high-end French cognacs. This time-honored method of distillation requires more skill and effort than modern column stills, but it’s well worth it.
According to the latest lawsuit, however, this “time-honored method” actually involves a large manufacturing plant in Texas. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege:
This entire manufacturing process of the defendants is devoid of the caring touch of human hands. This is a material factor in many individuals’ purchasing decisions, as they believe they are purchasing a product that is made in small amounts that is of inherently superior quality.
As such, the vodka is allegedly “not worth the purchase price paid.”
Even assuming the allegations are true, how have these plaintiffs really been damaged? As was the case with Maker’s Mark, we here at Abnormal Use don’t pretend to know the difference between “handmade” and machine-made liquor. We do, however, recognize that there is a certain premium associated with any handmade product. For many, handmade products are perceived to be better made and, thus, come with a higher price tag. On the other hand, we do not know whether handmade vodka is really better than that “devoid of the caring touch of human hands.” Our guess is that blind testing would reveal a certain placebo effect associated with knowledge that the vodka is homemade. After all, “top shelf” just means where the bottle is stored, right?
Obviously, if Tito’s represents one thing to consumers while doing another, it may pose a problem. But the real question is whether the vodka-Red Bull of a regular Tito’s drinker now tastes a little less fulfilling after learning of this lawsuit. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.