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.