A year-long fight among state legislators over the definition of true Tennessee whiskey is spilling over to the international distilled spirits business, dividing both Tennessee’s powerful whiskey interests and multinational corporations battling for billions of dollars in global market share, the Washington Post reports.
For more than a century, distillers around Tennessee have produced whiskey — some legal, some illegal — using a variety of base products like corn, barley or rye, and a number of different techniques. But under a new law passed by the legislature last year, only one process would lead to genuine Tennessee whiskey: a drink made of fermented mash comprised of at least 51 percent corn, aged in new barrels of charred oak, filtered through charcoal and bottled at 40 percent alcohol, or higher, by volume.
On Tuesday, two Tennessee legislative committees voted to delay consideration of a new proposal that would roll back some of those requirements. The disagreement centers on the process by which Tennessee whiskey is distilled, and whether a producer has to use pricey new oak barrels every year.
Current law requires those new barrels be used. The bill up for debate, proposed by state Rep. Bill Sanderson (R), would allow whiskey makers to age their products in reused barrels, a process far less expensive than one that requires buying new barrels of expensive American oak year after year.