TIME Whiskey Wars

Liquor Giant Sues Tennessee Over Whiskey Storage Law

George Dickel Whisky on display at the George Dickel Experience during Meatopia, Nov. 3, 2013, in San Antonio.
George Dickel Whisky on display at the George Dickel Experience during Meatopia, Nov. 3, 2013, in San Antonio. Darren Abate—AP Images for George Dickel

The UK-based liquor giant is suing the state over a 1937 statute, which requires a distillery to store spirits in the county or adjoining county where they were produced, and which the firm says is unconstitutional

UK-based liquor giant Diageo has sued the state of Tennessee over a nearly 80 year-old-law whiskey storage law the firm says is unconstitutional. The suit represents another volley in the so-called “Whiskey Wars” between booze makers tussling over the definition of Tennessee whiskey.

Diageo, which owns the Tennessee-based George Dickel whiskey brand, seeks to overturn a 1937 statute that requires a distillery to store spirits in the county in which they were produced or in an adjoining county, per an amendment passed last year. Diageo contends the law violates the commerce clause and 14th amendment to the U.S. constitution.

The suit is, in effect, a proxy battle in an ongoing fight between the two top whiskey producers in Tennessee, Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel, over what liquor is allowed to carry the label “Tennessee Whiskey.” Last year, Tennessee passed a law at the behest of Jack Daniel’s requiring all whiskey carrying the label to made mostly from corn, charcoal filtered and aged in unused oak barrels—which happens to be the recipe for Jack Daniel’s whiskey, by far the biggest whiskey producer in the state. Diageo-owned George Dickel spearheaded an as-yet unsuccessful campaign to repeal the law.

Though the lawsuit marks an escalation there may be hope for an out of court settlement. In a statement to TIME, a Diageo U.S. spokesperson said, “Based on discussions between both parties late Friday we are hopeful that we can come to a mutually agreeable solution on this matter in short order.”

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