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Tennessee Whiskey or Not Tennessee Whiskey? Why You Care

Julia Bainbridge

Tennessee Whiskey or Not Tennessee Whiskey? Why You Care

Jack Daniel’s bottling plant. Photo credit: WILL & DENI MCINTYRE / Getty Images

There’s a whiskey brawl going on! Not the typical post-drink brawl, but a brouhaha that was born before the whiskey even made it to the people. Let us elucidate the details.

Jack Daniel’s Whiskey: Whiskey made (1) in Tennessee (2) from at least 51% corn, (3) filtered through maple charcoal and (4) aged in new, charred oak barrels.

Tennessee Whiskey: Whiskey made (1) in Tennessee (2) from at least 51% corn, (3) filtered through maple charcoal and (4) aged in new, charred oak barrels.

See the similarity there? That’s because Jack Daniel’s—or rather, Brown-Forman Corp., the company that owns Jack Daniel’s—urged Tennessee lawmakers to require anything labeled “Tennessee Whiskey” to fit that bill. (The bill that Jack Daniel’s fits.) This is important because that “Tennessee Whiskey” label sells bottles—it’s part of why the American liquor business is booming—and without, it, the Other Guys have less of a chance in the marketplace. 

Tennessee Whiskey, According to the Other Guys: Whiskey made (1) in Tennessee (2) from at least 51% corn, (3) filtered through something (maybe?) and (4) aged in some kind of barrel. This is what both small Tennessee distilleries and Diageo, the company that owns top-selling George Dickel “Tennessee whiskey,” want—looser terms—so that they can experiment with grains and woods and use family recipes, if they have them.

"If you don’t want to use new barrels or charcoal filtering, you can’t call it ‘Tennessee Whiskey.’ You can call it ‘whiskey from Tennessee’ or ‘whiskey made in Tennessee’ or any other combination,” Phil Lynch, a Brown-Forman spokesman, told Yahoo Finance.

Alright, alright, let’s not get our handlebar mustaches in a twist. We get that it’s important, because the “Tennessee Whiskey” label helps these brands, including the little guys, sell their goods. But let’s wait to see what Nashville legislators, who are debating relaxing these rules RIGHT NOW, decide.

Phew! Now that you’re clear on that, go drink some whiskey. DON’T get into a brawl.

[via Yahoo Finance]

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