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US: Diageo hits back at Brown-Forman in Tennessee whiskey row

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Diageo has branded Jack Daniel's owner Brown-Forman “anti-competitive” as a war of words over the production of Tennessee whiskey heats up.

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Diageo and some smaller distillers are backing moves to change legislation set last year that requires product that is designated as “Tennessee whiskey” to be aged only in new oak barrels. They claim Brown-Forman helped push through the laws, which closely mirror the Jack Daniel's production process, and want legislators to allow reused barrels.

Brown-Forman maintains that any further change would diminish quality and last week claimed the integrity of the category was “under attack”.

However, late yesterday (17 March) Diageo, which owns the George Dickel Tennessee whiskey brand, hit back, branding Brown-Forman's accusations “false”. 

And, in a curious twist, the UK-based firm claimed to “defend the honour” of Brown-Forman's Early Times whiskey brand, a Kentucky Bourbon that is aged in reused barrels. “By their logic, Brown-Forman has deemed its own product inferior,” Diageo said.

The company added: “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.”

North American whiskies are finding increased global demand. In Brown-Forman's first-half results, released in December, Jack Daniel's grew underlying net sales by 10%.


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