Blog: Andy MortonA Kentucky whiskey that's not a Bourbon? Only in America...

Andy Morton | 20 March 2014

Diageo and Brown-Forman have been at loggerheads the past week over what is best for the Tennessee whiskey category. (For a full run down of the unseemly, yet wholly enjoyable, affair, read just-drinks' managing editor's take here).

What spiked my interest, though, was Brown-Forman revealing how it handles its Early Times whiskey brand across its markets. 

Now this is complicated, so please bear with me.

Diageo had claimed to be “defending the honour” of the rival Early Times because it is aged in used casks, something which Brown-Forman had previously said was a mark of inferior quality in the Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey categories.

But, in an interview with just-drinks, a Brown-Forman spokesperson said Early Times, despite being made in Kentucky, is not actually a Bourbon. Well, not in the US at least. The version of Early Times that is produced for its domestic market is aged in used casks and, hence, is known as an American whiskey. However, for its other major market, Japan, it is aged in new casks, and IS a Bourbon. 

Still with me?

Any suggestion that Early Times is a Bourbon is, as the spokesperson made clear, erroneous. Unless you are in Japan: Then it's most definitely a Bourbon. 

Talk about joined-up marketing.

Sectors: Legislation, Spirits

Companies: Brown-Forman, Diageo

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