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New craft distillery law allows made-in-Jersey booze

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: New Jersey craft distilleries are officially legal, now that regulations written after the U.S. repealed Prohibition have been eased.

Gov. Christie signed the measure into law, created a craft distillery license similar to those owned by craft beer and wine makers.

Supporters say this will help spur economic growth, increase tax revenue, and help New Jersey’s “agri-tourism” industry.

“Creating craft distilleries will have positive economic implications for the state,” said Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic).  “Much like our wineries and breweries, New Jersey craft distilleries will help carve out another niche in the regional tourism market; aid local farmers looking to sell off excess grains and fruits; and help keep us competitive with neighboring states that allow craft distilling.”

Under the new law, licensees can make up to 20,000 gallons a year – roughly 640 barrels – of whiskey, vodka, gin and other spirits. Although it may seem like a lot, the national average is 100,000 gallons per year (the same amount that large commercial distilleries produce in a day).

The new licenses can sell their hooch to touring groups for drinking on their grounds or to carry out (up to five liters). There’s a three-sample-per-day limit, though, and they can’t sell food or operate a restaurant on the same premises — the same as for craft breweries.

It’s no small change in New Jersey’s culture: The American Distilling Institute estimates that the average craft distiller generates $30,000 per year in gift shop sales.

Distillers can also sell their booze to licensed wholesalers and retailers in New Jersey and other states — although they can’t ship spirits in or out of state.

Under the law, licensees who certify that at least 51 percent of the raw materials used in the production of the distilled spirits are grown or purchased from providers in New Jersey would be permitted to label their product as “New Jersey Distilled.”

The license fee: $938.

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