Drinkhacker Reads – 03.17.2014 – Diageo Vs. Brown-Forman Square Off Over Barrels

2014 is certainly shaping up to be the year of drinking drama.

So there’s this thing that’s been happening over the past few days over in Tennessee. Brown-Forman, owner of Jack Daniel’s, is accusing fellow spirits giant Diageo of putting Tennessee whiskey “under attack.” This is in regards to legislation currently under consideration in the Tennessee State Assembly as to whether or not to allow the reuse of barrels when making Tennessee whiskey, an idea which would be verboten (and illegal) in Kentucky. Brown-Forman alleges Diageo is attempting to diminish the quality that’s synonymous with Tennessee, and hurt the reputation of distilleries statewide. The booze bloggerati is weighing with different theories. Chuck Cowdery is calling this a move out of fear, as Jack Daniel’s is about to surpass Diageo’s franchise player, Johnnie Walker, in sales. Fred Minnick takes the more pragmatic, economic route , claiming this to be a product of a barrel shortage and weak state laws.

Diageo for its part, is making no bones about lobbying for this legislation:

(Republican state Rep. Bill) Sanderson acknowledged that he introduced the measure at Diageo’s urging, but said it would also help micro distilleries opening across the state. Diageo picked up on the same theme.

“This isn’t about Diageo, as all of our Tennessee whiskey is made with new oak,” said Diageo executive vice president Guy L. Smith IV. “This is about Brown-Forman trying to stifle competition and the entrepreneurial spirit of micro distillers.

“We are not sure what they are afraid of, as we feel new innovative products from a new breed of distillers is healthy for the entire industry,” he said.

So in essence we have two liquor giants framing themselves to be on the side of the little guy, who will — if both parties are correct — suffer one way or the other. This is starting to sound more and more like the rhetoric from some poorly managed political campaigns. WhiskyCast has been on the job and has provided the text of the amendment to the bill in question, and is waiting to hear back for a potential interview.

This won’t be over any time soon. A cursory glance of the Senate and House calendars show that it’s not scheduled to be brought to the Senate floor for debate today, and if we’re understanding this committee meeting video correctly, won’t be brought up until next week. We also found a video on the matter of the House State Government Subcommittee from last week.

Also: Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Just a kind reminder to avoid the green beer.

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