Aa revealed earlier via The Moodie Report Twitter feed, saying that Tennessee Whiskey is “under attack,” the Jack Daniel Distillery today (14 March) forcefully denounced legislation pending in the Tennessee General Assembly allowing for the reuse of barrels that its Master Distiller says will dramatically diminish the quality and integrity of the whiskey.
Current law passed by the General Assembly last year, and signed by the Governor, created a designation of “Tennessee Whiskey” as being made from fermented mash of at least 51% corn, aged in new oak barrels, charcoal mellowed and stored in the state. The effort was a natural progression to help grow the Tennessee Whiskey designation and similar to what the bourbon industry did in the past to codify the definition of “bourbon.”
“When consumers around the world see “˜Tennessee Whiskey,’ they expect it is a premium product representing a world-class standard and utmost quality,” said Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett.” What we have here is nothing more than an effort to allow manufacturers to deviate from that standard, produce a product that’s inferior to bourbon and label it “˜Tennessee Whiskey’ while undermining the process we’ve worked for nearly 150 years to protect.”
Arnett continue: “This is not about the interests of micro distillers in our state. We support micro distillers. This is about Diageo, a large foreign company with more interest in scotch and bourbon, trying to weaken what Tennessee Whiskey is and we simply shouldn’t allow it.”
Arnett said that Jack Daniel’s – and the bourbon industry – have always used new toasted and charred barrels only once for the colour, flavour and character they impart upon the whiskey. Reusing a barrel would likely require the use of artificial colourings and flavourings which in the end would produce a product inferior to bourbon, he noted.
“Using quality grains, quality water, quality barrels and other natural ingredients has been the backbone of Tennessee Whiskey and, frankly, the bourbon industry for decades. Why in the world would we want to change that now by inserting artificial ingredients into our processes? And why in Tennessee would we willingly give the bourbon industry the upper hand in quality by cheapening the process we use to make our whiske?” Arnett said.
Arnett noted that exports of Tennessee Whiskey and bourbon eclipsed US$1 billion for the first time in 2013 and Tennessee Whiskey, led by Jack Daniel’s, is one of the top ten exports for the state.
“We have only scratched the surface of what Tennessee Whiskey can be in the future, but to do that we need to ensure it remains a quality designation,” Arnett concluded. “No one is saying that companies can’t make the product however they want – whether that’s not charcoal mellowing it or even using old barrels. They just shouldn’t be able to label it “˜Tennessee Whiskey.’ It’s a real head scratcher why anyone would support legislation classifying our product as inferior to bourbon.”
HB2330 and SB2441 are currently being considered before the Tennessee House.