Americans have traditionally loved their whiskeys and bourbons and they’ve shared that love with the rest of the world. And no one loves them more than the members of our military. It is rare to travel anywhere around the globe and not be able to find that most iconic of American whiskey, Jack Daniels. But the makers of “Old No. 7” are worried about the consequences of a trade war.
In response to the Trump Administrations tariffs on steel and aluminum, many of the US’ biggest trading partners are threatening to do the same with bourbon and Tennessee whiskey and that leaves many CEOs worried about a potential trade war including the owners of Jack Daniels.
Brown-Forman the owners of Jack Daniels are worried since Mexico levied a 25 percent tariff of whiskey and bourbon and Canada and the E.U. are threatening to do the same. 52 percent of Jack Daniels sales come from outside the United States to 165 countries. With the UK, France, Germany, and Poland accounting for 18 percent of overseas sales and Mexico 5 percent by itself, there is cause for concern.
However, help is always there in the personage of the United States military. Nobody loves their Jack Daniels more than Uncle Sam’s troops. It is almost ingrained in our troops from the time they enter basic training until retirement that a large part of their culture will be developing a taste for the amber fire water from Tennessee.
The military is the single biggest customer for the Jack Daniels premium 94-proof Single Barrel Whiskey. The price for a single barrel of the premium hovers between $9,000 and $12,000 dollars depending on the volume and alcohol evaporation. On average, a 53-gallon, 560-pound barrel holds about 250 bottles of Single Barrel Whiskey.
Jack Daniels gets its color and most of its flavor from the handmade, charred oak barrels. Once in the barrels, the Single Barrel select goes to the highest level of the barrelhouses where the temps reach 120 degrees F. The higher the temperature, the darker the whiskey and the more robust the flavor.
It is rumored that after SEAL Team 6 dispatched Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the SEALs bought an entire barrel of the Premium Single Barrel for their celebration. The distillery would only say that SEAL Teams in the past HAD bought entire barrels but they wouldn’t confirm DEVGRU.
If a military unit wants to buy an entire barrel of the premium, they can take a tour of the distillery with a Jack Daniels Master Taster. They’ll sample three different barrels together and once the buyer makes his choice, the buyer will receive an empty barrel and 250 bottles of whiskey.
The bottles are individually numbered and personalized with a custom metal hang tag. The top of the barrel is also engraved before it is shipped to the final destination.
A military function isn’t right without some Jack Daniels on hand and there were many a bottle carefully wrapped in 100-mile-an-hour tape that was taken into the woods or on deployments…strictly for medicinal purposes of course.
Friday morning runs were usually our long ones. If any of the NCOs were legitimately sick, they’d have to be cleared by the Sergeant Major to miss the run. He brought his Thermos of “coffee” with him on Fridays into the office with strong black Colombian coffee and just a medicinal amount of Old No. 7.
A guy would come in looking like death warmed over, with the flu and the SGM would say, have a cup of coffee. After one…or two, he’d ask, “Feel better? Now go outside and run.” Of course, before long, all the NCOs would line up on Friday morning cups in hand, and the Thermos was replaced with a big urn and somehow an empty bottle of Jack ended up in the trash can.
Unfortunately, that practice was halted one Friday morning when the commander, running on the side of the formation, said, “You guys must have all been partying last night, it smells like a whiskey distillery out here this morning” Oops.
After the military service was done and working as a security professional for the film industry, night shoots were the hardest. Because by the time you got back to the hotel, the sun was up and your body clock was telling you it was time to get up.
On one shoot in Morocco, the hotel bar wouldn’t open at 6:30 a.m. so the security guys, grips, armorers and special effects guys would unwind every morning with a few beers and some locally procured Jack Daniels in the bar, although the bar itself was closed.
The locals, getting an early start on the day were horrified to see a bunch of Brits and a handful of Americans sitting in the bar so early/late and then join them in the restaurant for the breakfast buffet before heading off to bed.
They finally gave up the ghost since we were taking up a large portion of the hotel and they saw how much money they were losing out and would open the bar “as a courtesy” from 6 – 7a.m. during night shoots and after much cajoling got a supply of Jack Daniels to include “Single Barrel” for us as well. Everyone was much happier.
Of course, having a member of the King of Morocco’s entourage working with us, certainly didn’t hurt matters. For this and a host of other issues that pop up with about a 300-350-man cast and crew shooting a major film.
Our friends at the Embassy also kept us with a nice supply of “Single Barrel” which was a nice way to “kick back the dust” on those …ahem, dusty days on the set.
Hopefully, this Trade War scenario will be fixed by the powers that be and no one in the U.S. or abroad has to worry about losing their jobs. And our friends overseas can still enjoy the taste of the pride of Lynchburg, TN. But if it takes a while, something tells me that the members of the U.S. military will take up the slack.
The last thing we want to hear is that the good people in Lynchburg will be cutting back on the workforce or (heavens forbid) on production.
So, President Trump, end the Trade War….for the whiskey’s sake.
Photos: Jack Daniels