Legislature To Reconsider Definition Of 'Tennessee Whiskey'

Legislature To Reconsider Definition Of 'Tennessee Whiskey'

CREATED Mar 17, 2014

by Jason Lamb

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The popularity of Tennessee Whiskey is soaring, but just what exactly is it?

That's the question facing lawmakers this week as they debate a bill to loosen the definition of what can be called "Tennessee Whiskey."

Current law, passed last year by the legislature, says to be called Tennessee Whiskey, it must be stored in new white oak barrels – they cannot be reused.

Jack Daniel's Distillery said the current law defining Tennessee Whiskey helps keep standards up, just like Kentucky Bourbon, or true French Champagne.

Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) said the requirement that the barrels have to be new hurts smaller distilleries in his district that want to re-use them to save money.

He said there are other differences and ingredients in Tennessee Whiskey-making that can affect quality just as much as the barrel, and that the current law unfairly benefits Jack Daniel's distillery, which makes its own barrels.

Jack Daniel's said used barrels can make a big difference in the quality of the whiskey.  The distillery said even though it makes their own barrels, it doesn't save them any money.

"It's not a cost measure for us, but we feel passionately that when something is all of your color and half of your flavor, that's worth investing in," said Jeff Arnett, Master Distiller for Jack Daniel's.

Sanderson said he's just trying to level the playing field for all distilleries.

"It's good for business because it's good for the little guy, the small distilleries popping up all over the state," Sanderson said.

Committees in both the state house and senate will debate the bill on Tuesday.

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