The Law On How To Make Tennessee Whiskey Might Get Changed

By Mack Rawden 2014-03-17 07:26:54
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In any regulated field, it’s important to have standards. It’s important to let the general public know if something is labeled a certain way, it has achieved the minimum requirements. That’s why being a doctor or being a lawyer means something, and that’s why alcohols labeled “Tennessee Whiskey” all are made from a mash of at least 51% corn, filtered through maple charcoal, aged in new oak barrels and sold containing at least 80 proof. Moving forward, however, those standards might be about to change, though whether or not that’s a good thing depends on who you talk to.

According to The Washington Post, a new bill has been introduced into the Tennessee legislature that would reduce some of the standards needed to be labeled “Tennessee Whiskey”. More specifically, it would get rid of the requirement that all products must be aged in new barrels. Why? Well, some feel the laws surrounding what can use the title are simply how-to-guides for making Jack Daniel’s.

The biggest issue in play here is whether or not Tennessee Whiskeys should be allowed to re-use barrels. Jack Daniel’s firmly says no, reportedly believing it helps the product get an oak flavor. Opponents, including Diageo PLC which owns George Dickel, believe the barrel really doesn’t matter and at $600 or so for each one, it presents a barrier to entry for all smaller distilleries.

With a hell of a lot of money in play and very aggressive opinions on both sides of the coin, we should be in for a hell of a fight moving forward. Unfortunately, as Tennessee Whiskey fans, it’s a little unclear who we should be rooting for. Yes, more competition is better. It would be awesome to get some great micro-distilleries going to serve a niche market, but on the other hand, it’s fair to worry a bit that this barrel thing will only be the start of a process that slowly waters down Tennessee Whiskey until the label really doesn’t mean anything at all.

We should know what the legislature decides sooner rather than later. Until then, pull out your favorite Tennessee Whiskey and throw one back in honor of someone special.
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