- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2014

Jack Daniel’s says lawmakers are crossing a red line with a proposal to scale back state rules that dictate what constitutes Tennessee whiskey and what doesn’t.

Company executives said lawmakers are only mulling the change at the request of a British company, Diageo PLC, to open the doors for the business to expand its George Dickel brand in the state and to embrace more competition, The Associated Press reported.

Current law that went into effect a year ago is that makers of whiskey cannot be given the Tennessee whiskey stamp of approval without abiding certain strict requirements: The mash has to be fermented in the state from at least 51 percent corn. It has to be aged in new charred oak barrels. It has to be filtered through maple charcoal. It has to be at least 80 proof.

Now lawmakers want to dial down on some of those regulations — a move that Jack Daniel’s say would hurt its label, and ultimately, weaken the Tennessee whiskey brand.

“It’s really more to weaken a title on a label that we’ve worked very hard for,” said Jeff Arnett, the master distiller at the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Texas, in the AP report. “As a state, I don’t think Tennessee should be bashful about being protective of Tennessee whiskey over, say, bourbon or scotch or any of the other products we compete with.”

One lawmaker who’s pushing for the new rule, Rep. Bill Sanderson, said the intent wasn’t to soften the whiskey standards. Rather, it’s aimed at allowing distillers to reuse barrels — and in so doing, save about $600 per barrel, he said, AP reported.

“There are a lot of ways to make high-quality whiskey, even if it’s not necessarily the way Jack Daniel’s does it,” Mr. Sanderson said, in the AP report. “What gives them the right to call their Tennessee whiskey and not others?”

He also admitted that he did introduce the new bill at the urging of the Diageo company, AP reported.

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