Monday, July 13, 2015

Is Jack Daniel's Bourbon? Who Cares!


It happens almost like clockwork.  Every month or two, on some whiskey forum or Facebook group, someone asks if Jack Daniel's is bourbon or asserts that it is or isn't, and a massive flame war breaks out.  I saw one of these on Facebook last week and there must have been 50 comments, all vigorously defending their position and demeaning the idiots who disagreed.  Chuck Cowdery, who must be getting tired of constantly explaining the issue, even responded to it with a post on his blog, yet again laying out the issues very clearly, but I'm sure next month the same argument will happen again.

One strange thing about these debates is that there don't really seem to be any factual disputes. At this point, everyone on whiskey forums seems to understand that bourbon doesn't have to be made in Kentucky, and they mostly seem to understand the Lincoln County Process of sugar maple charcoal filtering that Tennessee Whiskeys go through. The only argument is whether those facts make Jack Daniel's a bourbon. And so people go back and forth about the TTB regulations, the statements in foreign treaties, the Tennessee state law and the various labels that have been approved.  All of this, for some reason, while getting angrier and angrier.

But why? Given that there is no disagreement about how Jack Daniel's and bourbon are made, who cares?  Why is this important at all?  I mean sure, as a lawyer, I can see it as a slightly interesting, very technical legal question but not something to discuss every month and certainly not something to get riled up about. (Although I guess there are a bunch of people out there who get mad when you call Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year old "Pappy" too, so you never can tell).

If you are someone who thinks that whether Jack Daniel's is bourbon or not is important enough to merit this kind of passionate debate (or if you have a theory about why other folks do), please, tell me why.


23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Again, and if it matters, filtration before or after maturation can affect a commodity to a degree that changes its class. JD may very well Not Be bourbon, because their process of maple filtration may very well remove in excess of 15% of its flavor. The only people who know that are the people working at JD, because the TTb does not require pre filtration (pre or post barrel maturation ) samples. As such, this entire blog string is pure speculation. this especially so considering that there is no defined quantifiable sensory test.

two-bit cowboy said...

If Jack Daniel Distillery called its whiskey bourbon so would I.

Jeff Mitchell said...

It's Bourbon that doesn't want to be called Bourbon. No matter what you call it, it's not very good.

Lew Bryson said...

I would definitely say don't argue about it. Arguing with a bartender about it led to the only time I've ever been thrown out of a bar.
Well...there was that time at the strip club in Virginia Beach, but that wasn't me, that was the sailor I was with, and they just threw us all out. Doesn't count.

Anonymous said...

All TN whiskey doesn't have to use the LCP. They all have to filter through maple charcoal but the LCP is specifically the several feet/drip method that JD uses.

And as far as it being bourbon goes? I'm a pedant, so I'll argue it every time. If it's not bourbon they're breaking NAFTA regulations by calling it TN whiskey.

Allbof these definitions are simply legal ones. Otherwise whiskey/bourbon/ehatever would just be ethereal concepts and labels would mean nothing.

Anonymous said...

"Tennessee Whiskey" designates a Tn product.
"Bourbon" always is associated with Kentucky.

JD doesn't want to use the "Bourbon" designation because that would associate it with Kentucky, for some folks at least.

This is about a bit of friendly state rivalry fueled by state pride, is all.

It's kind of fun in a teapot tempest kind of way.

-Dan

Mark said...

@Anon (Dan in the post) -

You do realize that, despite most peoples' association (which is perhaps what you're alluding to), Bourbon does not have to be made in Kentucky?

Curt said...

I think the title of your post cuts to the chase. "Who cares?" Most married and or professional folk have enough to argue about or defend, without quibbling over whether Jack Daniels is a bonafide Bourbon.

Anonymous said...

"...or if you have a theory about why other folks do..."

1. Wife hid their 20 sided Die

2. Tough joust loss at Renaissance Festival

3. Recently expulsion from Star Trek club

4. OD on Little Caesars soft pretzel crust pepperoni

5. Lonesome solo Transatlantic schooner crossing

Anonymous said...

Mark,

Yes, I am aware that bourbon doesn't have to be made in Kentucky.

But, since Bourbon is named after Bourbon County, Kentucky, and the vast majority of the bourbon whiskey on this planet is made in KY, (other than Jack Daniels of course) therefore the association, fair or not, is made.
8^>

Regards,
Dan

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

...Allbof these definitions are simply legal ones. Otherwise whiskey/bourbon/ehatever would just be ethereal concepts and labels would mean nothing.

Ah yes, the sanctity of the label. One of the most hilarious arguments. I can't imagine what an incredible buzzkill it must be grocery shopping with one of these label obsessed dweebs, debating the merits of natural vs. organic peanut butter, etc.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows that organic peanut butter is better.

sku said...

Anon @ 7:07. Excellent and thanks for taking a stab at answering the question.

Anons, at 7:25 and 8:14. Peanut butter...or cottage cheese.

Anonymous said...

Of course it's Bourbon. Meets the legal definition. They just filter out the flavor before they sell it. :)

Sam Komlenic said...

I think it's pretty simple. If the label says bourbon, it is. If it doesn't, it isn't.

I was with Lew when he (we!) got thrown out of that bar, and it was because the bartender offered JD when I asked for bourbon, and I (we!) proceeded to ask him where it said 'bourbon" on the label. Friction ensued. It doesn't take much in some places.

Anonymous said...

"... (or if you have a theory about why other folks do), please, tell me why."

1) Lost (yet another) argument with wife. Must win a meaningless internet argument with a total stranger to compensate.

2) Was pushed around all day at work by numerous incompetent mid-management boobs. Must win a meaningless internet argument with a total stranger to compensate.

3) Has OCD regarding the factuality of labels and legislation concerning said labels. Must win a meaningless internet argument with a total stranger to display superior knowledge of subject (and to compensate).

4) Is psychologically unable to just sit back, relax and enjoy life. Must win a meaningless internet argument with a total stranger to prevent others from doing so, as well.

5) This could go on and on...

Anonymous said...

What would Sinatra say?

sku said...

"What would Sinatra say?"

It's just one of those things.

Anonymous said...

Also, should Pluto remain a planet?

I'm getting emotional. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic: "The Romanesque church design was based on the Roman basilica." Discuss...

Anonymous said...

"[S]hould Pluto remain a planet?"

Pluto got kicked out of the club. Past tense. No going back.

two-bit cowboy said...

"What would Sinatra say?"

I'll do it my way.

Baldo Oakstave said...

"What would Sinatra say?"

That's life.

Anonymous said...

"What would Sinatra say?"

"...and one more [Jack] for the road."