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A Legacy Betrayed

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 is a simple reminder that some things just never change. And shouldn’t. This is the old-time whiskey made as our fathers made it. Remaining true to Jack Daniel’s original recipe and charcoal-mellowed character means folks today enjoy the same sipping whiskey awarded seven international gold medals.

So says Jack's Daniel's web site. Rather inspiring, isn't it? Such noble sentiments should warm the cockles of the most cynical drunkard's heart.

Unfortunately, not a word of it is true. For the second time since the Brown-Forman Corporation acquired the distillery in 1956, they have lowered the proof of Jack Daniel's Black Label Tennessee Whiskey. Fifteen years ago they dropped its original 90 proof to 86, and very recently, and might I say with zero fanfare, they degraded it to 80 proof.

Alert drunkard Chris Sharp brought this unfathomable blasphemy to my attention and I feel it my sworn duty to bring it to yours.

"I was outraged," says Sharp, a once avid Jack drinker. "They continue to claim in their ads that they stick to tradition. Tradition, my ass. If they think that people will take this sitting down they are sadly mistaken."

You're probably wondering why they would do such a thing. Why would they tamper with the 138-year-old recipe their entire reputation is built upon? A formula as storied and mythic as the man who created it? The Brown-Forman Corporation wouldn't return my calls, but they did deign to respond to Mr. Sharp's seething emails.

The main reason we lowered the proof is because we’ve noticed in recent years folks tend to prefer lower-proof products, and this includes most of our friends who enjoy our Tennessee Whiskey. This has not hurt sales of Jack Daniel’s.

There you have it. You see, this historic liquor, this icon for drinkers the world over is now merely a "product" at the mercy of a cynical corporation's most recent marketing survey. It's akin to turning the Gettysburg Battlefield into an amusement park because, by Mammon, a survey says that's what some anonymous "folks" want. They crunched their numbers then promptly sold out the legacy Jack Daniel and his descendents spent their lifetimes building.

Well, I have a news flash for the smug whiz kids in the marketing department at the Brown-Forman Corporation. There are one helluva lot of people who prefer Mr. Daniel's original 90 proof recipe, the very recipe they lie about "remaining true" to. Furthermore, the reason their treason hasn't hurt their bottom line is because no one knew about it. If they truly believed it was what the "folks" wanted, why didn't they tell anyone? After a very thorough search, I turned up not a single mention of their decision in the media. Until now.

The gallant Mr. Sharp has started an online petition and boycott designed to right this grievous wrong. I urge you to visit

www.petitiononline.com/JD002/

and make your voice heard.

Brown-Forman is, of course, a private corporation and they can do whatever the hell they want with their "product." They can lower the proof to zero and call it lemonade if they like. But that doesn't mean we have to drink it.

Which is why the MDM staff has unanimously sworn off Jack until Brown-Forman honors the legacy of the man whose name is on the bottle. For the love of Jack, I hope you'll join us.

Update: The response has been tremendous. In a few short weeks the petition has gathered over 12,000 signatures, their treachery has been thoroughly exposed in the mainstream press, and Brown-Forman is strictly on the defensive.

However, because B-F is much more interested in profits then honoring a true American tradition, it's going to take a lot more heat to make them restore Jack's legacy.

With this in mind, please take a moment to email Phil Lynch (VP of Corporate Communications and Public Relations at Brown-Forman) and let him know how you feel.

phil_lynch@b-f.com

Frank Kelly Rich
Disclaimer
Views expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Modern Drunkard staff or publisher. In fact, I would like to take this opportunity to deny everything. Your Honor, I was never even near the place and, what's more, those are not my trousers and those are most assuredly not my friends. They are merely a drunken and surly gang of hitchhikers I made the terrible, terrible mistake of giving a lift. I promise to be good. Really. I swear.

Copyright 2004 Modern Drunkard Magazine
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