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Tennessee Whiskey Law Staying Same for Now; Lawmakers Put Off Decision

By Jonna Lorenz   |   Tuesday, 25 Mar 2014 05:49 PM

Attempts to rewrite a law defining Tennessee whiskey failed to pass this legislative session, with lawmakers voting to put off a decision to rewrite or repeal the law until after study panels consider the issue in the summer.

The decision is welcomed by Jack Daniel’s, owned by Louisville, Ky.-based Brown-Forman Corp., which first proposed the establishment of a Tennessee whiskey law last year.

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"We stand behind last year's law, we truly believe it's best for Tennessee whiskey all over the world," Jack Daniel's master distiller Jeff Arnett told The Associated Press. "And for the players who've located in the state of Tennessee, we need to uphold these quality standards."

The law requires that whiskey be charcoal filtered and stored in unused oak barrels in order to be labeled as "Tennessee whiskey."

Distillers, including George Dickel, owned by Diageo PLC, have said the law is too restrictive and unfairly benefits Jack Daniel's.

"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," Diageo vice president Guy L. Smith IV said in a release.

Jack Daniel’s has said the law is not unprecedented, pointing to restrictions on the use of names for Scotch whisky makers in Scotland, Champagne producers in France, and legislation defining Kentucky bourbon.

An issue for smaller distillers is the requirement of unused oak barrels, which can cost as much as $600, according to The Washington Post. Some distillers fear a shortage of new barrels.

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