The other shoe has finally dropped on the saga of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Rye, as the product is now appearing in stores. A quick recap follows, but if you want to read everything go here, then here, and most of all here. If you want to get into the 'white whiskey' question a bit more generally, go here.
The gist of the story is this. Back in October, Jack Daniel's announced that it was launching an unaged rye, a straight-from-the-still preview of what, in the fullness of time, will become a properly aged Jack Daniel's Straight Rye Whiskey. They said it came off the still at 140° proof (70% ABV), yet the label on the prototype bottle classified it as 'neutral spirit.'
That made no sense, since 'neutral spirit' is vodka and the sample they sent me definitely was not vodka. So I inquired. In response, spokesfolk for Daniel's stated that, "By this ruling, it is assumed that the TTB considers all whiskies (except corn whisky) to be neutral spirits until they enter the barrel for maturation. Jack Daniel’s packaging and legal departments argued that the Tennessee Unaged Rye should be labeled as an 'unaged whiskey' which we felt more accurately described the nature of the product to the consumer, but the TTB ruled against this proposal and would only approve the label under the category 'neutral spirit.'"
The TTB, however, took a different position in correspondence with me. Thomas K. Hogue, Director of Congressional and Public Affairs, wrote that, "The regulations are pretty straight forward. Whisky is defined ... as an alcoholic distillate from fermented mash of grain produced at less than 190° proof that must be stored in oak containers. Neutral spirits must be distilled at 190° or higher. A product that is made from fermented mash of grain and produced at less than 190° of proof but not stored in oak containers would be a distilled spirits specialty product, as it would not meet any of the standards of identity."
It could, according to Hogue, be labeled as 'spirits distilled from grain.'
The product has finally been released and here is the actual label.
So, does this mean The Chuck Cowdery Blog forced mighty, mighty Jack Daniel's to change a label? You can decide that for yourselves. The evidence is before you.
By the way, when this all began to unravel I asked the Jack Daniel's spokesfolk to comment, but they haven't. They let their new label do the talking for them.