View Full Version : Jack Daniel's Controversy

11-20-2004, 22:31
I'm sorry if this is old news, but there is a fairly good sized article on p. 1 of the business section of today's Sacramento Bee on a controversy between author Peter Krass and Brown Forrman. It's an AP article. I've been unable to find an online version to post here.

Krass has written a biography about Jack Daniel. He claims that Brown Forman markets JD by way of some historical myths. He has contacted BF, but BF has not changed the information passed out in their tours. BF counters that since some of the historical details are vague, some of Krass's claims can't be known to be true.

The disputes cover these issues: (1) whether JD is the first registered distillery in the country; (2) the date in which the distillery went into business; (3) whether JD won a medal for being the world's best whiskey at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis; and (4) whether the origins of the Old No. 7 label are a mystery. For example Krass says that the 1904 award was for the best Tennessee Whiskey, and that seven others won "world's best" American whiskey. (Whatever that means.) Krass says that No. 7 was the number that government regulators used to identify the whiskey.

Krass claims that the JD myths have grown since BF has taken over the company, and he claims that BF uses these myths to market JD to the detriment of the competition. What I find especially surprising in all this is the report that JD is closing in on Johnny Walker as the world's best selling whiskey.

My own experience has been that I've liked JD less since I've been drinking Scotch and bourbon.

11-21-2004, 09:46
Here's a link to what I think was the original Associated Press story about the book/controversy, in this case published Nov. 13 in the Louisville Courier-Leader:


Many of these legends have been discussed in other whiskey books, though not is such focused detail.

11-21-2004, 13:44
The crux of JD's success is its marketing. 90% marketing 10% product.

11-21-2004, 17:14
The Courier article is the same as the Bee article. The Courier had a better picture, however. I've never seen a green label Jack Daniels bottle before.

11-21-2004, 17:35
The green label JD is whiskey that didn't match the taste profile for black label, according to JD reps. It's probably younger, and it's only marketed in perhaps a half-dozen states.
A lot of old-timers buy it, for whatever reason.

11-21-2004, 22:28
My local retailer told me the other day that he has seen a marked decline in the sales of JD Black in the past couple of months and an increase in sales of the Green. He even steers customers towards the green as a way to save a few bucks and still get the 80 proof JD product. I think he even said that he makes the same profit on either bottle so he comes out ahead by not having to tie up as much money in stocking so much of the more expensive Black.

11-22-2004, 04:47
Oddly enough, the green label is available in my control state, which has a quite limited selection.

I used to drink JD quite a bit, but that was before I discovered real bourbon. I now keep a bottle of JD Black and Gentleman Jack on hand for guests, but don't drink it myself. And if I do have a guest who asks for it, I try to steer them towards trying a bourbon instead (EWSB 94 or Eagle Rare Single Barrel have had the most success).

Ken Weber
11-22-2004, 11:07
Quick FYI. Green label Jack used to outsell black label by a wide margin.

11-23-2004, 17:51
I checked on the price while at our local store and the Green was about $1.25 less than the Black. Both were overpriced for 80 proof goods.


12-21-2004, 16:35
The bigger controversy to some is why JD black label quietly dropped from 86 proof to 80 proof (43 to 40% ABV) recently. I thought that was the main difference between black label & green label. Personally, I would steer any JD drinkers to the other Tenessee whiskey: George Dickel - it costs much less & tastes much better.


12-21-2004, 16:47

You wrote:

The bigger controversy to some is why JD black label quietly dropped from 86 proof to 80 proof (43 to 40% ABV) recently.

Indeed. See this recent thread (http://www.straightbourbon.comhttp://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthreaded.php?Cat=0&Number=34934&an=0&page=0#34 934).

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

12-22-2004, 16:13
You know...I enjoy George Dickel...but I have to say there is something about the Jack Daniels flavor that I enjoy more.

01-12-2005, 12:51
For those nostalgic about former Jack Daniel Black Label proofs, I note that Sherry Lehmann in New York is offering (according to its website) Jack Daniel in 80, 86 and even 90 proof. The 86 is sold in litres and fifths, the 90 only in 375 ml. format.

The higher proof items must represent older stock. See www.sherry-lehmann.com (http://www.sherrylehmann.com)


01-13-2005, 12:15
What I don't get about the JD decision to reduce the proof of the product is this: If you had the premier product in its catagory and had a great advertising program ,and sales were going well ,and you were making money by the truck load,why would you change it to sqeeze out a litle more profit, and take he chance of tarnishing your fanchise for the product. If anyone knows the story of Schlitz beer, at one time the largest selling beer in america,they might understand why I think the folks at Brown Foreman are lunkheads

01-13-2005, 13:38
> why would you change it to sqeeze out a litle more profit, and take he
> chance of tarnishing your fanchise for the product?

1) Taste tests tell you that people actually prefer a lower proof. So the
product testing people are telling you to lower the proof.

2) It's not just a little more profit... it's a LOT of money, mostly
saved in taxes. So the accounting people are telling you to lower the

3) The brand is pretty much bulletproof at this point, and everyone knows it.
So the marketing people are giving you the green light to lower the proof.

And there you are, some corporate shmuck in a suit who's never been to
Lynchburg... you've got to worry about "Korbel California Champagne"
and some crazy creme liqueur from God-only-knows-where, and your bosses
are telling you how much money the luggage division and the pewter division
are saving the company, and so is there really any decision at all? It's a
no brainer!

Tim Dellinger

01-13-2005, 14:41
Jimmy Bedford, JD master distiller, addresses this issue in the new Malt Advocate and makes some interesting points. Almost half of JD's sales are outside the U.S., where the proof generally is 80. He also pointed out that it has been 80 in Oregon, Wisconsin and New Hampshire since 1987. He basically says, this is what our consumers want.

The national rollout began about 18 months ago and the blowback seems to be limited to a little internet chatter. It hasn't touched sales.

Whatever we may feel personally about the proof change or Jack Daniel's in general, the best evidence says that this isn't a Schlitz or "New Coke" debacle and the people at Brown-Forman are not lunkheads. The Jack Daniel's juggernaught continues unslowed.

02-23-2005, 04:22
The story in Japan.Yes the product is sold in 80 proof,maybe thats okay.
But the bottle size even changed to 700ml,it was 750ml before and was a
little expensive for that size and year.And the price rized a little!!
How can you buy a product when it is smaller and has more water then before! Well maybe some people can.


02-23-2005, 06:24
I've been taking sort of an informal survey of our many JD customers in the store about any differences they find in the product since the proof reduction. The most common response: "I didn't know they did that." Then, they say they've noticed no difference.
Of course, most JD drinkers mix it with something, typically Coke. So, you might just say that Brown-Forman, by adding some water to the bottle, just did a little pre-mixing for them. At common dilutions, it's probably not much more than the difference of an ice cube or two.