Saturday, June 25, 2016

Kentucky Mist Case Not Exactly What It Seems

There is something wrong with the way the Kentucky Mist v. University of Kentucky (UK) case is being reported and it is embodied in these two photographs from the Lexington Herald Leader (Kentucky's best news source, by the way). 

From most of the reports about this case it is easy to arrive at the following conclusions: (1) Kentucky Mist is a tiny, fledgling company being stomped on by a giant university. (2) UK wants to 'own' the word 'Kentucky' and prevent anyone else from using it. (3) The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky has sided with the big, bad university.

The proof that things are not exactly as they seem is in these pictures. The sign on the building says 'Kentucky Mist Moonshine.' The hats and other apparel they sell inside say 'Kentucky Mist Moonshine.' The name 'Kentucky Mist Moonshine' appears on all of the company's products.

Has UK made any effort to stop Kentucky Mist from using the name for any of those purposes? The evidence shows that it has not. UK merely objected to Kentucky Mist's effort to trademark its name for purposes such as use on apparel. The University of Kentucky already has a trademark for those purposes. UK is not objecting to Kentucky Mist trademarking its name for distilled spirits products and no one is objecting to Kentucky Mist actually using the name on apparel.

�The plaintiff here misstated UK�s intentions early on, attempting to create a controversy,� wrote Judge Danny Reeves in his decision. According to the New York Times, UK objected to Kentucky Mist's filing originally because they wanted to get an agreement from Kentucky Mist that it wouldn't use Royal Blue and White for its apparel, which are UK's colors. Instead of negotiating, Kentucky Mist filed suit. The result has been a lot of press coverage, millions of dollars worth of free publicity for Kentucky Mist.

So what about Kentucky Mist Moonshine itself? Well, 'moonshine,' first of all, is not a type of distilled spirit. It is any distilled spirit made illegally. So 'Legal Moonshine' is an oxymoron. Distillers and marketers use it to tap into the term's romantic outlaw connotations, especially in Kentucky's eastern mountain region where Kentucky Mist is located. Since moonshine isn't a type of distilled spirit, the product's actual type must be shown on the label. Kentucky Mist is 'spirits distilled from cane,' so sugar shine, a mash made from sugar (the same stuff you put in your coffee) that is fermented and distilled, at some alcohol concentration below neutrality (i.e., less than 95% ABV). 

That is pretty authentic. Table sugar is what most 'real' (i.e., illegal) moonshiners use because it is readily available, cheap, and easy to ferment. According to their web site, Kentucky Mist actually distills its product, unlike some well-known moonshine marketers who use commercially produced GNS. That's a good thing. Not so good is their attempt to link the founder's moonshining ancestor to Al Capone when both were in Atlanta Federal Prison. Capone was there only from 1932 until 1934 and already suffering from the syphilis that destroyed his mind. That the progenitor of Kentucky Mist "formed a good friendship" with Capone as claimed is highly unlikely.  

Legal alcohol producers should think twice before associating themselves with criminals and criminal activities.

The web site writer also doesn't understand the difference between a moonshiner (a maker of illegal spirits) and a bootlegger (a person who sells spirits illegally). 

Kentucky Mist seems to feel it has been done a great injustice but the facts say otherwise.

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