Last Call

New Tennessee Law Narrowly Defines Whiskey and May Exclude Moonshine Distilleries

By - April 22, 2013 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

The moral of this story is, don’t mess with Jack. Daniels that is.

Late in the Legislative session, an amendment to a bill about storing booze was quietly introduced. The amendment sought to define “Tennessee Whiskey” in a way that would exclude Pritchard’s Distillery from calling its whiskey “Tennessee Whiskey.” Pritchard’s whiskey is not charcoal filtered through maple wood, which was a requirement under the proposed definition of “Tennessee Whiskey.”

Phil Pritchard had to come to Nashville to defend his livelihood. His local legislator’s support was key, and his whiskey was exempted from the new definition.

The official summary of the new law is here.

Problem is, under the new law, most newly-approved purveyors of moonshine cannot use “Tennessee Whiskey” to describe their product. Moonshine is often described as “Tennessee White Whiskey.” The new law does not specifically reference “Tennessee White Whiskey,” but distilleries are understandably concerned. The penalty for unauthorized labeling of “Tennessee Whiskey” is a one year suspension of the distillery license.

We think the new law favors a local giant at the expense of Tennessee entrepreneurs. Distilleries are proliferating under recently-adopted liquor laws that allow distilling in scores of towns and counties where whiskey making had been outlawed since prohibition.

Tennessee moonshine is an industry trendsetter, with chic citified canteens featuring moonshine cocktails. Even Jack has joined the moonshine craze, with its Unaged Tennessee Rye.

George Jones may know Tennessee Whiskey better than anyone:

Honey, You’re as smooth as Tennessee Whiskey
You’re as sweet as strawberry wine
You’re as warm as a glass of brandy
And I stay stoned on your love all the timeĀ 

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