Bourbon Resolution

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Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Jul 08, 2009 6:34 pm

Recently I spent some time in the archive at Stitzel-Weller. One of the things I copied was the file on the Congressional Resolution making Bourbon a product of the United States. There is a lot of things attributed to this resolution so I thought I would type in the resolution here so people can read extactly what it does (or does not say) about Bourbon Whiskey.

88th Congress, 1st Session
S. CON RES. 19

In The Senate Of The United States
February 18, 1963
Mr. Morton submitted the following resolution: which was referred to the Committee on Fianance.

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
Whereas it has been the commercial policy of the United States to recognize marks of origin applicable to alcoholic beverages imported into the United States; and

Whereas such commercial policy has been implemented by the promulgation of appropriate regulations which, among other things, establish standards of identity for such imported alcoholic beverages; and

Whereas among the standards of identity which have been established are those for "Scotch Whisky" as a distinctive product of Scotland, manufactured in Scotland in compliance with the laws of Great Britain regulating the manufacture of Scotch whisky for consumption in Great Britain and for "Canadian whisky" as a distinctive product of Canada in compliance with the laws of the Dominion of Canada regulating the manufacture of whisky for consumption in Canada and for "cognac" as grape brandy distilled in the Cognac region of France, which is entitled to be so designated by the laws and regulations of the French Government; and

Whereas "bourbon whiskey" is a distinctive product of the United States and is unlike other types of alcoholic beverages, whether imported or domestic; and

Whereas to be entitled to the designation "bourbon whiskey" the product must conform to the highest standards and must be manufactured in accordance with the laws and regulations of the United States which prescribe a standard of identity for "bourbon whiskey"; and

Whereas bourbon whiskey has achieved recognition and acceptance throughout the world as a distinctive product of the United States: Now, therefore be it
Resolved by the Senate (The House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that the recognition of bourbon whiskey as a distinctive product of the United States be brought to the attention of the appropriate agencies of the United States Government toward the end that such agencies will take appropriate action to prohibit the importation into the United States of whisky designated as "bourbon whiskey", unless it is clearly labeled to show the country of origin as an integral part of the name.
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Jul 08, 2009 6:42 pm

I find this interesting in that all this does say is that bourbon is a product of the United States. This does not change any of the standards of identity of what is "bourbon". Those were set with the Taft Decision and the modernization of the regulations after prohibition. The definition has been changed with the increase of maximum barrel proof from 110 to 125, but this resolution does not have any bearing on that change. It simply makes bourbon a product of the United States.

The file Schenley put together on this admendment is interesting. It has some of the debates from the Congressional Record about the resolution. It also has some newspaper articles that are also relevent to the resolution. My favorite is about the two sweet old ladies in New York who own the distillery in Mexico that have held up the passage of the resolution (Mary Dowling owned the Waterfield and Frazier Distillery in Mexico and made bourbon). There is also some debate in the Senate that the word "Bourbon" should always be capitalized when used to describe the whiskey.
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby cowdery » Wed Jul 08, 2009 7:53 pm

Thanks, Mike. I was looking for this a couple of months ago and could only find an excerpted version in the Regans' book. I was writing about how Beam keeps stating--falsely--that this resolution declared bourbon whiskey "America's Native Spirit."

That post is here.

Senator Thurston Morton introduced the resolution in the Senate and Representative John C. Watts introduced the same resolution in the House of Representatives. Both men represented Kentucky.

Apparently, it took almost a year to get the thing passed.

One has to wonder, why then? From what you discovered, it appears that Mary Dowling may have been trying to export Mexican-made bourbon into the United States.
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Jul 09, 2009 9:15 am

The Dowlings, I believe the other "elderly lady" was her sister, were exporting Waterfield and Frazier "bourbon" into the United States, and had to be convinced to stop calling it bourbon.

Beam is simply putting a different spin on the resolution - sort of like Motlow spinning a letter saying you can not call your product bourbon into saying the government recognizes that Tennessee whiskey is a different type of whiskey.
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby cowdery » Fri Jul 10, 2009 6:20 pm

Would you really interpret the treasury letter as saying, "you can not call your product bourbon"? That 1941 letter, which is the only legally relevant decision that has been made on the subject, is not absolutely dispositive of the central question. It was sought by Motlow so he could say that the federal government acknowledged Tennessee Whiskey as a distinctive style. It does not say that a request to call Jack Daniel's "bourbon" would be denied, but that is how people try to spin it.

The resolution does not contain the word's "America's Native Spirit," so at the very least Beam's use of quotation marks when it makes the claim is misleading. My other objection is that declaring bourbon whiskey to be a distinctive product of the United States is much more significant than declaring it "America's Native Spirit."
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby EllenJ » Thu Aug 20, 2009 9:34 pm

Actually, the Motlow letter is very clear about calling Jack Daniel's "bourbon"....

Stewart Berkshire, Deputy Commissioner, Internal Revenue, Treasury Department (Mar 28, 1941) wrote:...The Bureau Laboratory has analyzed the samples submitted and has given careful consideration to the description of your manufacturing process. In view of the nature of this process and of the results of the analyses, it has been concluded that the whiskey in question has neither the characteristics of bourbon or rye whiskey but rather is a distinctive product which may be labeled whiskey...


Also, doesn't anyone find it interesting that the great federal resolution recognizing Bourbon actually makes no suggestion that foreign distillers should be prohibited from calling their product "bourbon", and even provides for importing foreign-made "bourbon" into the United States provided only that the country of origin be clearly stated on the label.

That's sure a lot less of a boldly proprietary statement than I was led to believe. More like "Appellation Suggestée" :lol:
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby cowdery » Fri Aug 21, 2009 1:45 am

It took a Joint Resolution of Congress in 1964 to proclaim bourbon whiskey to be a distinctive product of the United States, thereby prohibiting the importation of foreign-made bourbon. Today, in trade agreements, that same recognition is explicitly given to Tennessee Whiskey.

I have always contended that Reagor Motlow requested this letter because he was afraid some future commissioner would require Jack Daniel's to label its product as bourbon whiskey, which he did not want to do. He wanted Tennessee Whiskey to be recognized as a "type" in the regulations, but this was all he got. It has done the trick.
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Aug 21, 2009 2:40 pm

I consider Reagor Motlow to have been one of American whiskey's most under-rated heros and one of the greatest marketing geniuses of all time. He appears to have come by that talent honestly, by way of his father. The original Jasper Daniel may have been quite a colorful character, but the success of his whiskey can mostly be attributed to his nephew Lem Motlow. Motlow's sons inherited the brand and, unlike so often is the case, they continued on to build the business even higher. Jack Daniel himself didn't apparently have any particular agenda for promoting his whiskey's "Tennessee-ness"; the word doesn't appear on any of the pre-Motlow labels I've seen. It was Lem who emphasized the state name (even over the word 'Whiskey'), thereby drawing a distinction between it and "common" bourbon. The intention was probably to upscale the product in its intended marketing region, and it was almost certainly successful. When Reagor and his brothers re-opened after Repeal, they maintained both the label and the image.

I'm not certain, but I believe Reagor's target was the genteel east-coast consumer, rather than the down-home country-boy image we're mostly familiar with. Although the association with such tuxedoed celebrities as Frank Sinatra probably occurred after his time, I think that kind of marketing was part of Reagor's genius. If nothing else, it certainly captured the attention of Brown-Forman. Existing Kentucky distilleries weren't exactly snapping up Tennessee brands like sharks in a feeding frenzy in the fifties, and Jack Daniel's wasn't the worldwide monster it has now become. But Reagor Motlow et fils must have made it very clear what kind of potential his little Lynchburg place had. And part of that was, as Chuck points out, his determination to keep his product from being tossed into the same box as all the bourbon whiskeys (including Old Forester and Early Times).

Now, being the taste-oriented person I am, I go even a bit further in that speculation. I have never had the pleasure of tasting pre-BrownForman Jack Daniel's. I would love to; especially examples from the late '30s / early '40s. I have a strong hunch that the resemblance to bourbon whiskey would be much, much less than it is today. Specifically, I believe I'd find today's slightly smokey, slightly maple-y flavor is but a distant remnant of what was extracted from those huge charcoal mellowing stacks then. I do know of a few modern attempts to reproduce what allegedly was once a common American whiskey style, which was whiskey with a distinct maple flavor. Examples are Chatham-Michter's U.S. 1 American Whiskey and Clyde May's Conecuh Ridge Alabama Whiskey (which BourbonV calls 'Mrs. Butterworth's' with a kick). The style these whiskeys emulate is probably only one of several that disappeared during the Pure Food & Drug purge and never really came back before Prohibition wiped everything out. But I do wonder if the Jack Daniel's that Reagor Motlow sold tasted more along those lines than the product that Brown-Forman replaced it with. That would certainly justify Deputy Berkshire's conclusions about its characteristics vis-a-vis bourbon or rye whiskey more than a side-by-side comparison might do today.
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Aug 21, 2009 3:40 pm

John, I think you are right and Lem was one of the first to trade on nostalgia, he created perhaps the folksy image which Jack Daniels whiskey has been famous for ever since. Certainly the State/county pride element seems from him. Early Maker's Mark whiskey ads (those discursive print ads) used a similar approach: down home but appealing to the urban sophisticates with a yen for things country and of the people. In a sense most bourbon distilleries today adopt that stance, at least those with a public persona.

When you say "huge stacks", it is known whether the maple charcoal vats were bigger pre- B-F than now?

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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:59 pm

John (you really want me to disagree with you, don't you),
You had better go back and look at some 19th century advertisements for Tennessee Whiskeys. Maybe take Gary with you. Old No. 7, Cascade and Greenbrier all used the term "Tennessee Whisk(e)y" (Cascade did not use the "e"). And if you think Lem Motlow was the first to use nostalgia, look at Early Times Advertisements. Motlow was good, but it was Brown-Forman that made Jack Daniels Old No. 7 what it is today.

I have seen studies of how Tennessee whisky was made at Cascade, and I don't think it was radically different from the other Tennessee whiskeys made prior to prohibition. I don't think there was maore maple flavor, at least not from the leeching vats, because the one thing they were sure to do was to make sure it was all char and no "raw" wood that could have bacteria and other things growing on it. The distillate was through with the cooking process and if some bacteria were growing in the wood, living off of wood sap or sugars, it could ruin the whole batch. Yes, I know alcohol tends to kill such germs, but you must remember that the distillation proof was lower back then and even if it did kill it, the dead bacteria could give the whiskey an undisirable taste. That is why the char is thumb sized, to make sure it is all charred wood.

Now I have tasted Cascade made before prohibition. It was made in Louisville at the Stitzel Distillery, but it was made using the Lincoln County Process and I have seen Sanborn Insurance Maps showing the charcoal vats at the Stitzel Distillery in 1912. There was not a great difference in flavors of what is made today, other than the usual difference that I attribute to lower distillation and barrel proofs. I doubt Brown-Forman made to many chages to Old No. 7 either. The older bottles of Jack would taste different, but those differences probably have more to do with lower distillation and barrel proofs. Maybe some yeast mutation over the years as well.

Gary,
There has always been a bit of Nostalgia associated with the sale of whiskey - not just bourbon, but Irish, Scotch, Canadian and any other aged whiskey. Jack Beam names the whiskey he is making in 1860 "Early Times" because he wanted people to know he made his whiskey the same as they did in the "good old days". Look at Cabin Still or any other version of the term "Cabin" that was used in a brand name to evoke a feeling of nostalgia. The word "Old" in the brand name not only indicates age, but once again evokes a since of nostalgia because it is made like in the good old days. My favorite is "Old Grand Dad" - who does not get a little nostalgic when they think of their Grand Dad? We often discuss the fact that the distillers liked to use "heritage" to make their brand seem like it has been around for ever and thus a legit brand, but they also use it to evoke that since of nostalgia.
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Aug 21, 2009 6:18 pm

Mike, thanks, but you are reading too fast. I said that Lem was "one of the first", not "the first".

Also, I was referring to what I perceive was an attempt specifically to court the established or monied crowd of the northeast, not nostalgia to promote sales in general. Nostalgia there has always been in commercial advertising, from the folksy ads for Scotch adorned with tartan you see from the late 1800's to the ads and imagery you referred to appealing to old whiskey or old ways.

Lem Motlow and his distillery were the subject of a famous business magazine profile - I think it was Fortune's, or Wall Street Journal, in about 1951 - before Brown-Forman bought the distillery. (If I am wrong, I am happy to be corrected). That did a lot to establish the reputation of the distillery at a different level than, I think, Early Times had, or say I.W. Harper. To my mind those products were high end certainly in the 1950's (the latter more than the former as exhibited in commercial ads I've seen) but I would consider these whiskeys more of a regional attraction than anything like the image Jack Daniels developed from the same period. (Ditto Old-Gran-dad, Old Taylor). Also, Lem Motlow associated himself with the product, the smiling, benign Southern grandee thing. Did another whiskey do that at the time?

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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Aug 21, 2009 6:30 pm

Gary,
I stand corrected, you are right I did read too fast on that one. Sorry about that.

You are right in that there was an article in "Fortune" magazine in 1951 about Jack Daniels. That certainly helped the case when the distillery went on the market later in the decade, but sales were not that great and that is one reason the distillery was for sale. It really was Brown-Forman that created the image of Jack as we know it today.
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby cowdery » Fri Aug 21, 2009 10:32 pm

I know from my own experience of working with Brown-Forman that even as recently as the 1980s, Jack Daniel's was a very separate operation. It was only connected to the rest of the company at the "C" level. The offices were in Nashville. They had their own sales force. In addition to Daniel's, that group had responsibility for Korbel Champagne and Bols Liqueurs.

In about 1985, for the first time, Brown-Forman put one of their own people in charge, someone who had not come up entirely within the Daniel's organization. He was a Brown-Forman guy who had worked on Early Times but had never worked on Daniel's until he was put in charge of it.

He may have spent some time down there, as B-F people did from time to time, but he was definitely a product of the B-F culture, not the Daniel's culture, which at the time were two completely different things.

I knew the guy pretty well and he was nervous about how he'd be received, since it was a big deal that he was not "a Daniel's person."

That was when things began to change corporately, but by then the current Jack Daniel's product and image were already well established.

Eventually the Nashville office was closed and today everything that isn't in Lynchburg is in Louisville. I think they have a PR operation in Nashville, but that's it. They're completely integrated with the parent company.

My point is that up until 1985, Brown-Forman had been very arms-length in its management of Daniel's. I don't know why 1985 seemed like a good time to grasp Daniel's a bit closer to the corporate bosom. They probably hoped some of it would rub off, as Daniel's and Beam were the only big brands that didn't lose volume and share during the collapse.

I'm not saying the product didn't change over time, presumably because of the same forces that made all distillers change, but I can say pretty categorically those decisions were not made in Louisville. They were made by members of the Motlow family and other long-time Daniel's people in their own very separate operation.

Brown-Forman's genius with Daniel's was in simply giving them the financial wherewithal to do what they wanted to do and otherwise staying out of their way. Today it can fairly be said that the tail wags the dog, since Daniel's is the lion's share of BF's sales and profits.
Last edited by cowdery on Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby cowdery » Fri Aug 21, 2009 10:55 pm

Mike,

I was just looking back at the beginning of the thread. Did the document you saw really say 1963? If so, did you happen to record its complete provenance? The resolution passed on that date in 1964.
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Re: Bourbon Resolution

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Aug 22, 2009 7:59 am

Certainly Mike I accept that the big push occurred under aegis of Brown-Forman. Chuck's point can be fully taken and yet this still accepted since the owner is still an owner and he is watching. (The Who have a great line in a song in 1974's Quadrophenia: "There's a millionaire above you and you're under his suspicion"). The Pride of Lynchburg and all that seem to have been created or taken great impetus post-purchase. I think B-F took what it saw and let it run for a long time and then built on it: a perception which the vendors didn't share or maybe they had other reasons to sell. So often is it an outsider can see something that a person in the middle of it cannot.

Mike, as I mentioned for John and this goes for Chuck too of course, I will have some time in Louisville the weekend of KBF. My plans are still being worked out, but I likely won't arrive in Louisville until later on the Friday. What I might suggest (but we can finalize everything by PM) is that you meet me if free later that evening, maybe at the Brown Hotel bar, where I haven't been as yet. I think Chuck will likely be in Bardstown that night but if not, it would be great to see Chuck there too. I may be able to stay in Cincinnati the night before and if so will try to see John and Linda then. Anyway, I will be in touch.

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