Maker's Mark Wins 'Handmade' Claim Lawsuit

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Maker's Mark employees hand dip bottles of the bourbon with their signature red wax on the bottling line at the Maker's Mark Distillery plant in Loretto, Kentucky. January 23, 2014. John Sommers II/Reuters

As anyone who's ventured to Whole Foods can attest, one often pays a premium for things that read "handmade" on the label. It's made with greater care and by human hands instead of factory machines! So of course it's worth the extra dollars, right?

Not for two disgruntled Californians, Travis Williams and Safora Nowrouzi. Last year, the pair sued Maker's Mark on the grounds that they'd overpaid for the sweet bourbon because of the supposedly "handmade" claim. The two also said they would either have paid less or not bought it at all if they had known it wasn't crafted with real human blood, sweat and tears, according to The Courier-Journal.

The pair argued in their 2014 suit that the "handmade" label on the Kentucky bourbon, which is owned by Beam Suntory, violated California's False Advertising and Unfair Competition Act. Why? According to them, the whisky was not authentically handmade, but instead "manufactured using mechanized and/or automated processes, which involves little to no human supervision, assistance or involvement."

Yet Monday's ruling found Judge John Houston dismissing the lawsuit, saying that the term "handmade" couldn't be interpreted "as meaning literally by hand nor that a reasonable consumer would understand the term to mean no equipment or automated process was used to manufacture the whisky."

Additionally, Houston wrote that the "plaintiffs cannot plausibly contend defendant intends to deceive consumers about the nature of its processes when its label clearly describes the process and points consumers to its website."

Earlier this year, Maker's Mark won a class action lawsuit filed in Florida, which had also challenged the "handmade" claim on the whisky bottles. As noted by The National Law Review, the court had stated that all bourbon, technically speaking, is handmade "because it is not a naturally-occurring product." Judge Robert Hinkle, of the Florida case, had ruled that "no reasonable person" could think that hundreds of thousands of bottles could be distilled and packaged by hand 'round the clock.