Friday, August 4, 2023

Heaven Hill Brands and Log Still Distilling LLC Make Statement, Say Nothing


The water tower is a remnant of the distillery that must not be named.

Heaven Hill Brands and Log Still Distilling LLC put out a press release yesterday under the headline, “Heaven Hill Brands and Log Still Distilling LLC Settle Trademark Dispute Over Usage of ‘Dant’ in the Distilled Spirits Industry.” 

It goes on to say Heaven Hill and Log Still are both nice, friendly, family-owned companies in Nelson Country, Kentucky, who have “finalized a mutually agreeable resolution of their dispute regarding the usage of the ‘J.W. Dant’ trademark and its associated goodwill, which were purchased by Heaven Hill in 1993.” Then, after another paragraph about how nice they are and how much they both value intellectual property rights and “strong, independent brand identities within the spirits industry,” they throw in this: “Heaven Hill will continue to be the sole producer of J.W. Dant distilled spirits.”

That’s it. That’s the whole story, at least so far as yesterday's press release is concerned, although it goes on for another 250 words about what nice, friendly companies they both are, how they love their customers, yada yada yada, followed by another 200 words of boilerplate descriptions of the two companies.

So, Heaven Hill owns the J.W. Dant trademark and Log Still can’t use it, end of story. And that pretty much is all there is to it, but that really doesn’t tell you anything, does it?

So I will.

In 2020, Wally Dant, a descendant of J. W. Dant, revived the old distillery site at Gethsemane Station near New Haven as Log Still Distillery, a whiskey resort. The name refers to the legendary wooden still used by his ancestor and made famous via the marketing of J. W. Dant Bourbon over more than a century.

There were many distilleries on the site but the last one before this one was owned by Schenley and made J. W. Dant Bourbon.

When Wally took a Louisville Courier-Journal writer on a tour of Log Still just before it opened, he talked about how in 1836, at age 16, his great-great-great-grandfather fashioned a still from a hollowed-out poplar log. In the interview, he mentioned Cold Spring, the original name of the distillery at Gethsemane Station. He talked about replicating J. W. Dant’s original mash bill. The 1,400-word article mentioned J. W. Dant nine times. 

In 2021, Wally Dant lost a trademark fight with Heaven Hill that restricts his ability to tout Log Still’s connection to the J. W. Dant legacy, although the Log Still name itself survived. He may truthfully tell his family story and stories of the many different distilleries that formally occupied the site, but any use of ‘Dant’ in anything that smacks of branding will bring more trouble. He calls the site ‘Dant Crossing,’ but when he does the following disclaimer must appear: “Log Still Distillery neither owns nor has any affiliation with ‘J.W. Dant’ distilled spirits.” 

Why are they releasing a statement in the summer of 2023 about a dispute decided in 2021? Presumably, the court set some parameters and left the parties to work out the details, which they apparently finished doing earlier this week. The press release doesn't tell you that either, and it doesn't matter, because now we're all friends.

Log Still sells a bourbon called Monk’s Road. The monks at the nearby Abbey of Gethsemani have not objected, yet.


Sam Komlenic said...

Fascinating and confounding, both at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Sam I didn't know you used the interwebs. How's the flip phone. Hope to see you in Millheim sometime.