Lawmaker Argues Jack Daniels Has Monopoly On Tennessee Whiskey Title

Tara Dodrill

Jack Daniel's and some lawmaker are embroiled in heated debate over the official definition of Tennessee whiskey. Only whiskey fermented in the state from mash comprised from at least 50 percent corn, aged in new charred barrels, filtered through maple charcoal, and bottled at least a minimum of 80 proof can boast the coveted designation, according to a Tennessee law passed last year.

Whiskey competitors and some lawmakers in the state are now pushing for a repeal of the Tennessee whiskey law, claiming it "almost to the letter" describes the Jack Daniels distilling process. Those who oppose the law claim that the guidelines are too stringent and need to be scaled back to allow for craft distilleries and others to market their products with the phrase Tennessee whisky on the bottle. Such a phrase allegedly provides and edge in the booze business.

Jack Daniel's feels that not craft distilleries but the actions of a big competitor, Diageo PLC, are behind the movement to change the Tennessee whiskey law. Diageo PLC owns George Dickel, a distillery located just a few miles up the road from the Jack Daniel's operation.

Master Distiller at the Lynchburg, Tennessee Jack Daniels Jeff Arnett had this to say about the Tennessee whisky title battle:

"It's really more to weaken a title on a label that we've worked very hard for. As a state, I don't think Tennessee should be bashful about being protective of Tennessee whisky over say bourbon or scotch or any of the other products that we compete with."

The Republican state representative noted that he did introduce the whiskey law change at the behest of Diageo's George Dickel group, but also believes it will aid micro distilleries opening in the state. "This isn't about Diageo, as all of our whiskey is made with new oak. This is about Brown-Forman trying to stifle competition and the entrepreneurial spirit of micro distillers," company vice president Guy L. Smith IV said.

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