Jack Daniel’s Marketing Slave Origins to Attract Millennials

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You Don’t Know Jack

July 8, 2016 – The storied American distillery behind the top selling Jack Daniel’s brand celebrated its 150th year with a revelation that might surprise fans of the whiskey. The company’s widely touted origins relate the founder learning his distilling secrets from a wily preacher named Dan Call. Now it seems the unique distilling process may have been taught to Daniel by a man named Nearis Green whom Call had enslaved.

A New York Times report revealed this little known history with a recent item in their Food section. Long crediting Irish and Scottish immigrants for the origins of the drink, the now $2.9B industry has an equally long history of enslaved labor contributing to the growth and popularity of the drink in general and the Jack Daniel’s brand in particular.  The report noted:
Some of the earliest prominent Kentucky distillers, like Elijah Craig, Henry McKenna and Jacob Spears, relied on slaves to run their operations.”
Even earlier, American presidents George Washington and Andrew Jackson owned successful distilleries that were run by men who were enslaved.
Jack Daniel's Marketing Slave Origins to Attract Millennials
Claude Eady, a retired distillery employee who is a descendant of Nearis Green, with Nelson Eddy, Jack Daniel’s in-house historian, at the distillery in Lynchburg CREDIT: NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX/EYEVINE
Despite the initial reluctance to advertise the involvement of black workers before and after slavery, Jack Daniel’s now sees embracing that history as a way to appeal to a new generation of whiskey drinkers. Global Brand director for Jack Daniel’s Phil Epps, when asked about Green’s role in the company’s beginnings said, “As we dug into it we realized it was something that we could be proud of.” Peter Krass, who wrote the Jack Daniel biography Blood and Whiskey, said that its move to include Green is part of a trend toward making its history “glossier” throughout the years:

“In the 1980s, they aimed at yuppies. I could see them taking it to the next level, to millennials, who dig social justice issues.”

While the company insists there was no concerted effort to conceal the truth behind their product’s creation, they have at least backed away from fully attributing Call with the beverage’s invention.

Is marketing the slave origins of Jack Daniel’s to millennials because they “dig social justice” Funny or Offensive? Vote and Comment below…

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