Monday, March 31, 2014
New Volleys Fired in Tennessee Whiskey War
A few weeks ago I wrote about the battle between Brown Forman, owners of Jack Daniel's, and Diageo, owners of George Dickel, over the definition of Tennessee Whiskey taking place at the Tennessee legislature. Last week, the original bill was tabled, but the battle heated up again yesterday as both sides filed new bills aiming to amend the law defining Tennessee Whiskey.
First, Brown Forman brandished an amendment providing that, in addition to the requirements already present in the ten month old law, no whiskey could be labeled Tennessee Whiskey "unless it is released in a square sided bottle upon which is affixed a black label prominently displaying the phrase 'Old No. 7' thereon."
When asked why this bill was necessary, Brown Forman spokesman Jasper Newton responded, "Jack Daniel's is about upholding the integrity and tradition of Tennessee Whiskey. If people start drinking other whiskeys that use that term, and George Dickel in particular, they'll start to think that Tennessee Whiskey tastes good, and that goes against everything Jack Daniel's has stood for in its over 100 year history."
In response to the Brown Forman amendment, Diageo countered with an amendment further liberalizing the definition to include "any whiskey distilled and aged in Tennessee or Scotland and composed of at least 51% corn or a blend of Scotch whiskies." Diageo spokesman Frank Humor explained, "We are here to defend the small craft distillers like the Bulleit Distillery. Furthermore, we believe in embracing flexibility and are getting ready to release our new Jack Walker Tennessee Blended Scotch Whisky Orphan Barrels."
Things got ugly when the two lobbyists ran into each other after a press briefing. Brown Forman's spokesman fired first, "Come on, Diageo can't even spell the word whiskey right," to which Diageo's lobbyist responded, "Do you seriously think we should take direction from a whiskey brand whose founder was so dumb he died from kicking something too hard?"
Members of the Tennessee State Legislature were stymied as they tried to figure out which wealthy, out-of-state corporation to support.
We will keep you posted as this drama unfolds.