published Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Effort to rewrite TN whiskey law fails for year

  • photo
    Jeff Arnett, the master distiller at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn., drills a hole in a barrel of whiskey in one of the aging houses at the distillery.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State lawmakers today decided not to rewrite the legal definition of Tennessee whiskey this session, meaning the rules supported by Jack Daniel's will govern other distillers in the state for at least another year.

House and Senate committees voted today to consider efforts to rewrite or repeal the law in summer study panels after the legislative session ends.

Jack Daniel's master distiller Jeff Arnett, who has heavily lobbied lawmakers to uphold the current law, welcomed the decision to put off suggested changes like removing a requirement to age whiskey in unused oak barrels.

"We stand behind last year's law, we truly believe it's best for Tennessee whiskey all over the world," Arnett said. "And for the players who've located in the state of Tennessee, we need to uphold these quality standards."

The debate has pitched two global liquor giants against each other. Jack Daniel's which is owned by Louisville, Ky.-based Brown-Forman Corp., first proposed the establishment of a Tennessee whiskey law last year. George Dickel is owned British conglomerate Diageo PLC, which led this year's attempts to dismantle that law.

Diageo vice president Guy L. Smith IV said he hopes the study committee gives serious consideration to changing the law.

"Rather than having one company dictate for everyone, we can do this the right way and come together in an open forum to discuss how to create the best standards for Tennessee whiskey," Smith said in a release.

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