Inspectors said they would confiscate the bottles

Inspectors said they would confiscate the bottles

Brown-Forman is trying to open talks with a regional Russian authority that reportedly confiscated some Jack Daniel's products over health fears, its CEO has said.

The US firm, which has fallen foul of officials in Sverdlovsk over alleged “chemical substances” in Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, is “working to communicate and cooperate”, Paul Varga said on an analysts' call today after the release of the company's Q1 results . However, Varga said the issue appeared to only affect three stores in the region and that it was too early to draw any wider conclusions for the Russian market.

“It's premature to do any significant risk assessment,” he said. “We want more information.”

This month, the Moscow Times, citing Russian news agency ITAR-Tass, reported that Sverdlovsk authorities were planning to confiscate Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey because of the alleged imperfections. 

Bottles of Jack Daniel's whisky were also being investigated because packaging lacked information required under Russian laws, the report said.

Other US-made products have come under scrutiny from Russian officials in the past month, including the Coca-Cola Co's namesake soft drink. Communist officials in the national parliament proposed a soft drinks tax, in part to punish Coca-Cola's alleged “unfriendly stance” towards Russia after the company withdrew four television commercials from Russian TV. 

The moves all follow trade sanctions against Russia by a number of Western countries in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Earlier in the call, Varga admitted that Russia “is a bit more of a risk today than when we did our full-year plan”. But he added: “We take comfort from the fact our emerging market is quite well diversified.” Brown-Forman's emerging markets saw combined underlying sales increase by 15%, Varga said.

Meanwhile, the CEO said Jack Daniel's extension Tennessee Fire will enter five more US states in October, bringing its total footprint to eight. Varga said the cinnamon-flavoured whiskey has found “strong acceptance”, and that he is encouraged by early high demand. Tennessee Fire was released in April.