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B-F, Diageo Continue Battle Over Tennessee Whiskey Definition

October 31, 2014

Diageo and Brown-Forman continue to be at odds over a 2013 Tennessee state law regulating the designation “Tennessee whiskey.” According to the Associated Press, Jack Daniel’s master distiller Jeff Arnett yesterday asked state legislators to uphold their current stance on the subject—which says that Tennessee whiskey must be fermented in Tennessee from mash of at least 51% corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, filtered through maple charcoal and be at least 80 proof, in line with Jack Daniel’s specifications. Arnett argued that such “rules for the playground” must be enforced to ensure quality as an influx of new distillers begin operating within the category.

However, the AP reports that Diageo lobbyist Barry Becton countered that the current law could stifle innovation in the Tennessee whiskey segment by allowing only one expression of the spirit to be produced. Becton suggested that Diageo could live with stricter production rules for subcategories like “Tennessee straight whiskey” or “Tennessee sour mash whiskey” if greater leeway is granted within the broader “Tennessee whiskey” designation. Diageo produces the George Dickel Tennessee whiskey brand. The Tennessee legislature is expected to begin looking at the matter afresh in January.

 

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