Since I reproduced Brown-Forman's press release last Friday, verbatim and without (much) comment, I'll give Diageo the same courtesy and refrain from commenting until a later date.
Claiming the integrity of Tennessee whiskey is “under attack” Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel's asserts the only way for Tennessee whiskey to be a “premium product representing a world-class standard and utmost quality” is for it to be aged in new oak barrels. Interestingly, according to the website of Brown-Forman owned Early Times whiskey, the brand is aged and barreled in “used oak barrels”. Therefore, by their logic, Brown-Forman has deemed its own product inferior.
Despite being a competitor to Early Times, Diageo has rushed to Early Times’ defense. George Dickel Master Distiller John Lunn provided perspective on the issue. “At George Dickel we use new oak barrels, but that is because we choose to make whiskey that way. We don’t think there should be a law that says this is how we, or anyone else, have to make whiskey,” explained Lunn.
Diageo firmly believes a single company should not be able to unilaterally determine the definition of an entire category. At its base, it is anti-competitive and protectionist. Diageo supports a return to the flexibility that Tennessee whiskey distillers have had for the past 125 years, up until last year when Brown-Forman convinced the Tennessee legislature to define Tennessee whiskey as the Jack Daniel’s recipe.
Guy L. Smith, IV, Executive Vice President, Diageo North America, and a former resident of Tennessee said, “Brown-Forman’s sleight of hand legislation they managed to get passed last year, which many refer to as simply ‘The Jack Daniel's recipe law,’ creates an anti-competitive situation that will stifle innovation from skilled Tennessean distillers, both large and small.”
Brown-Forman’s assertion that rejuvenated barrels produce a lower quality product is false and the billions of dollars that consumers spend across the world on scotch and other whiskeys that are commonly aged in rejuvenated barrels is a testament to that. The process of rejuvenating barrels is a technical and sophisticated practice and years of wood industry science have shown the maturation of whiskey in rejuvenated barrels produces the highest quality liquid.
Continued Smith, “We feel that allowing distillers flexibility within a general set of guidelines helps create a thriving and competitive Tennessee whiskey industry. And that is in the best interest of all distillers, large and small, as well as the state of Tennessee.”