Fight Over Tennessee Whiskey Standards Heats Up

Jack Daniels whiskey

Things are starting to get heated in a fight over Tennessee state laws that dictate which spirits can call themselves “Tennessee Whiskey,” says The Courier Journal. The laws, enacted in 2013 at the request of Jack Daniels, require all spirits labeled “Tennessee Whiskey” to be filtered through charcoal and aged in unused barrels. The proprietors of the Full Throttle distillery, who oppose the laws, say they are hurting their chances to revive a small town’s economy, and are encouraging House and Senate committees to repeal them.

Michael Ballard, who runs what some call the world’s busiest bar in Sturgis, South Dakota, and his business partner, Jesse James Dupree, singer for the rock band Jackyl, want to produce what they would call “Tennessee Whiskey” but under different conditions. The two say that the law is preventing them from moving forward on plans to build a second distillery in Trimble, Tennessee, a town in need of jobs and the money that could come from distillery tourism.

This isn’t the first time the two-year-old law has been challenged; last year, Diageo, owners of Tennessee-based George Dickel, urged local lawmakers to soften the restrictions on the Tennessee name. That challenge failed, and a number of local distilleries are supportive of the legislation as it stands, though some have alleged that support was bought by Jack Daniels in the form of procuring new barrels for them, a costly and time-consuming aspect of the whiskey business.

Jeff Arnett, who serves as the master distiller at Jack Daniels, is urging lawmakers to not back down on the laws, which he says are key to maintaining minimum quality standards. He countered that Ballard and Dupree can make whiskey in whatever way they want, just as long as they don’t call it “Tennessee Whiskey.” He explained: “They don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do… That’s their choice.” [The Courier Journal][Photo: Flickr/Jim Sher]