By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jack Daniel’s has turned back the latest challenge to a state law that determines which spirits can be marketed as “Tennessee Whiskey,” but upstart distillers hoping their brands make the cut vow the fight isn’t over for good.
Opponents of the law enacted at the behest of Jack Daniel’s in 2013 said they withdrew their repeal measure Tuesday to try to generate more support before next year’s legislative session. But Jack Daniel’s master distiller Jeff Arnett declared the proposal dead.
“What it shows is that that dog won’t hunt — and it never will,” Arnett said. “We’ve put a stake in in this, and consider it to be over.”
The subsidiary of Louisville, Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp. is by far the dominant player in the Tennessee whiskey field, producing 11.5 million cases in 2014. The next largest producer, George Dickel, makes about 130,000 cases per year, while most of the state’s other 32 licensed distilleries have yet to bring a Tennessee whiskey to market.
Jack Daniel’s says the law ensures minimum quality standards, but some smaller distillers chafed at its requirement to filter spirits through charcoal and store them in unused oak barrels in order to label them Tennessee whiskey.
Michael Ballard, owner of the Full Throttle distillery in the northwest Tennessee town of Trimble, said Arnett and Jack Daniel’s has been acting like a “bully” by demanding every new producer follow the technique known as the “Lincoln County Process.”