Label Regulations for a Tequila Brand and What They Can Tell You
When you look at tequila labels on bottles you’ve purchased, it’s probably to admire its design and artistic style. But there’s so much more information to be had, if you know what you’re looking for. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), a division of the US Department of Treasury, has requirements for labeling that all producers of spirits must follow. The Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT in spanish) also follows these guidelines, so any tequila label should have the same information. So while these guidelines can be seen as a bureaucratic labeling regulations, deciphering label codes can be a fun way to find out more about the origin of your tequila.
For anyone wanting to learn how to start a tequila brand, label codes can be essential knowledge. So whether you are learning because you’re designing your label, or to add to your skillset, let’s take a look at the different components of information that make up a tequila label.
Tequila Label Requirements
These are the elements that should appear on any and all tequila bottle labels:
1. The type (tipo). Identifies the category of tequila, such as Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, Extra Añejo, etc.
2. The purity. Only 100% blue agave tequilana weber can be labelled as such. If the label doesn’t say it’s 100% agave, then the contents are actually a mixto. Following an agave shortage in 1999-2000, many tequila producers changed their 100% agave products into mixto, in an effort to keep prices low. This briefly led to labels featuring terms like “100% Mexican” or “100% natural.” These terms are now prohibited, so that consumers are not misled into believing a mixto is a 100% agave product.
3. The NOM. It is the distiller registration number. Here is where a NOM list can be helpful, or online tools like tequilamatchmaker.com which can help you properly identify the distiller. As there more than 700 brands produced by around 100 distillers, brand name alone is not a good indication of who actually made the tequila. Doing some research here can help to tell the difference between a craft tequila, or a lesser product that has a fancy label on it.
4. The distiller’s name and address. Regulations are fairly loose here, and the name and address are not always shown in full on the front, and sometimes they only indicate a town and state. The address may also not be the location where the product was distilled, but rather the parent company’s office, or an administration office for the brand in question. Still, this part of the label gives strong evidence of who the actual distiller is.
5. CRT. This is indication that the CRT has certified the product. It’s not necessarily a guarantee of quality, however. It simply verified that the CRT has approved the process at the company’s site, and that the product meets the legal requirements to be called tequila.
6. Hecho en Mexico (Made in Mexico). By law, all 100% agave tequilas can only be made and bottled in certain regions of Mexico. Variations on this phrase include “Producto de Mexico” (Product of Mexico) or “Elaborado en Mexico” (another way of saying Made in Mexico, or “Fabricated in Mexico”).
7. DOT. This is the denomination of origin number, which indicates compliance with Mexican regulations regarding where the product was made. This is not on all labels.
8. Brand name. This is the most commonly recognized part of most labels, and is usually accompanied by a graphic or a logo, and a trademark identifier such as ™ or ®. Remember that this doesn’t indicate who actually made the product; see the NOM for more information.
9. The alcohol content. Tequilas made in Mexico are typically 38-40% alcohol by volume. Legally, has to be between 35 – 50% ABV.
10. Additives. If any additives–like flavor or aroma–are used, they must be listed on the label.
11. Volume. This is the volume of the contents in milliliters–i.e. 200, 375, 500 or 750 ml–or liters.
12. Lot or batch. Each bottle must be engraved or stamped with the coded certification of the lot or batch to which it belongs.
13. Warning statements. If health legislation or other legal provisions require health warning statements for alcoholic products, they must also be printed on the label.
14. Tequila. As one would expect, all tequilas must identify themselves as such on the label. But remember that any “tequila” without 100% agave means it is an actually a mixto.
15. Batch size and number. Some bottles may have a number to indicate the batch size and/or the bottle’s number within the batch. This is not a requirement, but when it is included, it is helpful information that can help identify the size of any particular production run.
In addition, the TTB and CRT require some of these items to be on the label’s main panel. They are the type, the alcohol content, additives (if applicable), the volume, and the tequila identification.
Bottles that are made for consumption mostly in Mexico are likely to have labels in Spanish only, but those made for export will either have both, or may be entirely in English. Familiarity with the Spanish and English translations of the terms are helpful to know when reading tequila labels.
Labels can also feature information that is not required, but is included anyway for the benefit of the consumer. For example, some labels will have the “Envasado de Origen” seal, which means it was bottled at the origin. Some producers lease space in distilleries to make the product, and then move it elsewhere for bottling. Other phrases like “natural” can also appear, but they are not required and can be seen as being placed on the label for marketing purposes.
This may seem like a lot of information to take in, but for the tequila connoisseur, the more information the better.
In Aceves Spirits, we help you with all the legal process and of course the labeling regulations that might be slightly different for each country they’re aiming to distribute.