Little less Jack in the Black

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – If you’ve noticed that your Jack Daniel’s is carrying a little less kick these days, you’re probably right.

The famed whiskey, which advertises a recipe traced back to the nation’s first registered distillery, has lowered the alcohol content of its flagship brand, Old No.7 Black Label.

The whiskey is now 80 proof instead of 86 (40 percent alcohol vs. 43 percent), and some drinkers feel betrayed.

“You can’t screw with a legend like that and get away with it,” said Frank Kelly Rich, editor of Modern Drunkard magazine, which he calls “the voice of the recreational drinker.”

The company says the switch was made because most customers prefer the less potent mix, which was test marketed in a few states and some other countries. The transition was completed earlier this year.

Those who want a stiffer drink can buy specialty versions such as Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel at 94 proof, the company said.

“We were just doing what we think most of our friends and customers wanted,” said Roger Brashears, who has worked at Jack Daniel’s in Lynchburg, Tenn., since the 1960s. “Our quality control is very scientific. It comes down to how it tastes.”

The company touts Old No. 7 as “a simple reminder that some things just never change. And shouldn’t. This is the old-time whiskey made as our fathers made it.”

The uproar was started by a few drinkers who think Jack Daniels should stick to that promise. An online petition asking the company to switch back has gathered about 700 signatures so far.

“If that’s what the people wanted, they would have announced it in an ad – ‘Look we lowered the proof for you,’” Rich said.

He said the company pushed the change through without any fanfare, and whiskey drinkers are just now picking up on it, saying the whiskey tastes sweeter and doesn’t pack the same punch.

Jack Daniel’s reduces the whiskey to 80 proof by adding a little more water to the raw whiskey, which comes out of barrels after four years at roughly 125 proof, Brashears said.

“I can’t tell the difference,” he said. “We haven’t done anything to affect the quality that has made us so many friends over the years.”

It is not the first time drinkers have felt burned by Jack Daniels. Seventeen years ago, the company lowered the proof of its famed whiskey from 90 to 86.

Enough is enough, Rich said.

“I’ve switched to Maker’s Mark since then,” he said. “I used to drink a bottle a week. Some of our board members drink three bottles a week. Once this gets out, it will be like the New Coke thing – they’ll have to bring it back.”

Rich claimed the company was trying to save money by adding more water, but Jack Daniel’s said any savings were canceled by the expense of having to change its labels.

Associated Press

Modern Drunkard magazine editor Frank Kelly Rich objects to lower-alcohol Jack Daniel’s.

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