- Jack Daniel's is fighting efforts to repeal a one-year old legal definition of Tennessee whiskey, in which the process required resembles their own process to make the alcoholic drink.
- According to the law, only whiskey fermented in Tennessee from mash of at least 51% corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, filtered through maple charcoal, and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof, can bear the label "Tennessee whiskey."
- The primary change to the law allows for Tennessee whiskey makers to reuse barrels, which represents a significant savings to distillers as new barrels go for $600 a piece.
As we saw here, Jack Daniel's has been enjoying huge growth and expansion, riding on the rising demand for its whiskey for the past several years. Last year it sold 11.5 million cases of Black Label, putting it far ahead of the second-largest Tennessee whiskey producer Dickel, which only sold 130,000 cases in 2013. David McMahan, a lobbyist representing Dickel and Popcorn Sutton Distilling, argues that the the way the law stands, all Tennessee whiskies would taste exactly like Jack Daniel's, which does not contribute to real consumer choice.
Jack Daniel's claims that easing up the law would "weaken a title on a label that we've worked very hard for." Surprisingly enough, it does have some craft distillers on its side. Charles Nelson, the CEO of Nelson's Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, believes that without a standard more products and producers can claim to be producing Tennessee whiskey, which will fall short of the quality people currently associate with that label. He says, "Holding ourselves to a higher standard will ultimately be better for all the people in the category."
This contention over whiskey designations is parallel to Europe's struggle with certain foods being associated with particular locations, as we saw in Say 'cheese' but not 'feta.' Maybe other states will get into the act and we can have a law offering a strict definition for "New York bagels."