Squeezing in just under the wire, the January 2009 issue of The Bourbon Country Reader is out. Now in its unlikely 16th year of publication (the fact that we're still in Volume 11 shows there have been some years when publication was erratic), the Bourbon Country Reader is still the only periodical devoted entirely to American whiskey.
We are always independent and idiosyncratic. We have no distillery affiliation and accept no advertising.
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The main story in this issue will be of interest to anyone who has a spirits collection, especially if you live in Tennessee. The case of the million-dollar Jack Daniel's collection has been settled but its meaning to collectors is unclear.
Or is it?
In an effort to clarify the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission's thinking in reaching this settlement, I wrote to TABC Executive Director Shari Danielle Elks. My letter to her is here.
The gist of my inquiry, sent shortly after the settlement was announced, was to ask how Tennessee citizens should behave in light of this agreement. "Are you, for example, saying that although the law remains in effect that it is illegal to sell alcohol without a license, the ABC will not treat the sale of collectible bottles whose contents are considered 'incidental' as the illegal sale of alcohol?"
I report in the story that I am still awaiting the Director's response. Naturally, it arrived as I was picking up the new Readers at the printer. It doesn't change anything, but her letter is here.
One fact of the case not reported in the Tennessee media is that because Mr. Piper had no prior record, he was eligible for pre-trial diversion. Pre-trial diversion is an alternative to prosecution that diverts certain offenders from traditional criminal justice processing into a program of supervision. Mr. Piper pleaded guilty to one of the criminal charges against him, of selling alcohol without a license.
The Director did not rise to my bait about enforcement policy but did point out that the purpose of her agency is to enforce the laws of the state. "Until such laws are changed by the General Assembly, a license is required to sell alcoholic beverages."
So that is the bottom line. You cannot sell alcohol without a license. There is no collectibles exception and there is no incidental contents exception. If the TABC catches you selling something with alcohol in it and you don't have the necessary license, they may prosecute you. There is only one way to mitigate that risk. Don't do it.
If you subscribe to The Bourbon Country Reader before our next issue is published (scheduled for March), your first issue will be Volume 11 Number 5, which contains the full Jack Daniel's story. If you subscribe thereafter, you can always request that your subscription begin with that issue. (We're very agreeable here at Reader Tower.)