Wednesday afternoon, April 21, 2015, Rep. Curry Todd filed an amendment that lit up phone lines and filled in-boxes last night. Rep. Todd’s amendment requires that all moonshine marketed or sold as “Tennessee Moonshine” be distilled in the Volunteer State.
A copy of the amendment is here. The amendment was later revised to make the law effective on July 1, 2016.
The amended bill was approved by the House and awaits Senate approval. We expect the bill to become law.
Unbeknownst to most folks outside the industry, many distilleries cut corners and purchase neutral grain spirits from large factories. Cost is the major reason.
Some manufacturers completely eliminate corners and contract with a distiller to make their spirits, often delivering the product bottled and in cases.
Contract manufacturing is not necessarily a bad thing, unless your product misleads consumers.
For example, if we pay a distillery in Indiana to make our moonshine and then import the shine in bulk to bottle in Tennessee, can we truthfully call it Tennessee Moonshine? It is really made in Indiana, although bottling is technically part of the manufacturing process.
If the new Tennessee Moonshine law passes, shine will have to be distilled in Tennessee. We can still purchase neutral grain spirits from large factories, but we will have to run it through a still in Tennessee at least once.
We find ourselves humming the University of Tennessee’s fight song, Rocky Top:
Once two strangers climbed ol’ Rocky Top
Lookin’ for a moonshine still
Strangers ain’t come down from Rocky Top
Reckon they never will
Not that UT students ever drink…
Perhaps the biggest impact of the Tennessee Moonshine law will be a renewed push to require that Tennessee Whiskey be distilled in Tennessee. With much hullabaloo, Jack Daniels orchestrated a controversial state law that requires that all whiskey labelled “Tennessee Whiskey” must be made using the Lincoln County method, which is not coincidentally the method employed by Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel down in Lynchburg.
Strangely, Jack did not require that Tennessee Whiskey be distilled in Tennessee. We could contract with a distiller in Indiana to make our whiskey, age it in barrels for several years and then ship it to our plant in Tennessee, where we can legally bottle and sell it as Tennessee Whiskey.
We have always thought that if there is going to be a law about how to make Tennessee Whiskey, it should require that the hooch be made here in Tennessee.