Legislative fight rages over new definition of Tennessee whiskey
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — To many, Tennessee means whiskey. But inside the state, the question is: What does Tennessee whiskey mean?
A battle between two worldwide liquor companies — owners of rival brands Jack Daniel’s and smaller rival George Dickel — is being waged over who has the right to label their drink as following authentic Tennessee style. It’s among the epicurean battles being waged around the world over what food and drink should carry special status as local and unique.
London-based liquor conglomerate Diageo PLC opened a heated legislative fight earlier this year seeking to overturn the state’s newly established legal definition for Tennessee whiskey that has been championed by Jack Daniel’s, which is owned by Louisville, Ky.-based Brown-Forman Corp. Among the new rules are requirements that whiskey must be aged in new, charred oak barrels in Tennessee and filtered through maple charcoal prior to aging.
Dickel’s owners say they conform with the traditional methods laid out in the state law, but they have cited several reasons for challenging the statute. They include that a potential shortage of new American oak barrels could threaten production and that future products made by Dickel and the growing number of craft distillers in the state shouldn’t be bound by law to follow the old ways.