Whether you add your favorite mixer, drink it neat, or on the rocks, everyone has a style, flavor, and blend of whiskey.
Most whiskeys are identified by their country, but this definition is not always accurate.
It will also depend on how it is produced. Before taking a closer looker at the history of Tennessee Whiskey, let’s look at 10 of the best labels on the market today.
Introduction to Tennessee Whiskey
Tennessee whiskey is a type of American whiskey produced in Tennessee. It is most commonly made from corn, rye, and barley. Tennessee whiskey must be aged in new charred oak barrels for at least two years.
Only four brands of Tennessee whiskey are currently being produced: Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel, Benjamin Prichard’s, and Collier & Mckeel. Each brand has its unique flavor profile, but all are smooth and complex with a distinctively spicy finish.
Tennessee whiskey is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks. It can also be used in cocktails, but be sure to use a high-quality brand like Jack Daniel’s or George Dickel for the best results.
What better way to start than with one of the all-time classic Tennessee Whiskeys famous worldwide?
Like many whiskeys, Jack Daniel’s has various whiskeys, most noticeably Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey at 50% ABV. It is a rich dark color, signifying its age and complexity. You will notice a sweet fruity flavor and hints of caramel and spice.
There is still the vanilla essence associated with Jack Daniel’s and the subtleness of the oak.
The bottle we are most used to seeing is Jack Daniel’s No.7. The classic production takes a sour mash of whiskey and charcoals it. It is then left to mellow before passing through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal as a filtering method. Finally, it is left in handcrafted barrels.
The length of time for aging will only depend on when experts decide that the aroma and flavor are perfect.
For the 150th anniversary, Jack Daniel’s has released a version of No.7 that is more intense and slightly stronger.
It is worth getting your hands on this one.
Read Next – Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Review
George Dickel Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey
This whiskey has been aged 10-12 years in selecting handcrafted barrels from Master Distiller John Lunn.
You can enjoy a touch of smokiness, sweetness, and spice, and it’s best to be served neat or over ice.
The George Dickel Barrel Select is an award-winning Tennessee whiskey, earning multiple gold medals from the Beverage Testing Institute and 93 points at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in 2013.
George Dickel also has a rye whiskey. It is a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley. The prominent flavor is vanilla with a touch of rye spice.
The taste is simple but delicious on the palate and incredibly easy to sip. It’s a good value whiskey that has also scored well in the Wine Enthusiast magazine.
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Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey
Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey has a great history that establishes the States.
It is made using techniques from the Civil War era that involve white corn and small pot stills.
It is then aged in charred American oak barrels for ten years. After aging, it is reduced to 80 proof with limestone-filtered spring water.
Most would say that this 40% ABV has a bold taste, a smell of oak and caramel, and a gentle kick of ginger.
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Heaven’s Door Straight Tennessee Bourbon
Plenty of Rock Stars have ventured into the whiskey industry, and with a name like Heaven’s Door, there is no surprise that Bob Dylan’s venture into the spirits started here. Dylan used the old church distillery to record four albums.
It was even Dylan who designed the artwork on the bottle. A musician’s influence wouldn’t sway any severe whiskey drinker.
Still, in this case, the Heaven’s Door distillery has done a fine job, winning a gold medal at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
This Tennessee whiskey has a pale amber color and a grain mash of 70% corn and 20% rye. With a higher rye content, you might notice a peppery taste. The warm, sweet spices aroma is met with cinnamon flavors with just enough cheer and honey.
Look out for Heaven’s Door Double Barrel Whiskey and Heaven’s Door Straight Rye Whiskey.
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Corsair Ryemageddon Whiskey
The design of the bottle, the hip name, and the fact that it only states “aged spirit” leads us to question how long it has been aged. However, it is still that taste that matters. We can’t argue with Darek Bell (a master distiller who studied at the Bruichladdich Distilling Academy in Scotland), who voted for the 2013 Craft Distillery.
The mash consists of 80% malted rye and 20% chocolate rye. The scent wasn’t one of our favorites, especially if you are not a licorice fan.
It was a little too sweet-smelling. The taste, on the other hand, is perfectly balanced. The chocolate is there but not overpowering.
There is also the right amount of cinnamon, pepper, and smokiness. There is a little heat, but it doesn’t last longer than it should.
Collier and McKeel Tennessee Whiskey
Collier and McKeel are not in the same league as Jack Daniel’s or Dickel in size, but the strict whiskey-making process has allowed them to produce a fine-tasting whiskey. Don’t be surprised if you detect different aromas and flavors in other cases, as Collier and McKeel are small-batch producers.
The brand has followed the Lincoln County Process to a T with limestone-filtered water locally sourced, as is the cut sugar maples.
The color is clear and rich, almost caramel-like. The first smell to reach your nose is sweetness, followed by a woody, caramel aroma.
The sour mash doesn’t overwhelm you, and there is just enough of a spicy taste to notice, but it doesn’t overpower the other flavors of honey and earthiness. It is impeccable and on the rocks, and the Collier and McKeel website has some good inspiration for mixology.
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Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey
Lynchburg and its nearby areas produce some of the finest whiskeys on this list, including Uncle Nearest 1856.
The year is relevant, with nearly two centuries of mastering distilling methods. Uncle Nearest may have played a role in the foundations of the Lincoln County Process.
The local ingredients, double distillation, and premium aging techniques (for 11 years) have led this whiskey to win world recognition.
At 57.55% ABV, the first thing you notice, along with the strength, is the spicy caramel flavor combined with a touch of maple and dried fruits, particularly raisins.
Nelson’s First 108 Tennessee Whiskey
We loved the story of the name. In 1909 Tennessee experienced a statewide prohibition, and Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey was, so to speak, retired. Precisely 108 years later, it was back with a few updates, the first being the name.
The 108 version involves a sugar maple charcoal mellowing.
What makes Nelson’s First 108 different is the aging process. It is aged in 30-gallon barrels compared to the usual 53 gallons.
This enables rapid processing of just two years. Then it is moved to full-sized barrels.
That said, this is not your average 2-year whiskey and is neither underdeveloped nor too oaky.
It is fresh and dry and has subtle flavors of chocolate and cinnamon. It is perfect for those who like the sweetness of toffee and butterscotch.
Rollins Tennessee Whiskey
The bottle’s design would lead you to believe that the Rollins Tennessee Whiskey is older than it is.
Despite being new to the whiskey playing field, Rollins Tennessee Whiskey follows the traditional Lincoln County Process and takes pride in using local products for the corn and grain mash. It’s a beautiful rich golden color and delivers an impressive pack.
At 40% ABV, a rich sweet maple charcoal taste and a tiny hint of baked apples with caramelized sugar and cinnamon.
It still has collected some awards for its youth, which deserve respect.
Clayton James Tennessee Whiskey
While taking the Lincoln County process and adding the unique Clayton James touch, this brand takes white corn and grain mash and ferments it in copper pots.
Once the heads and tails are cut, leaving the hearts are aged. Because of this, only small batches are produced, and it is not as easy to find as others.
The whiskey is filtered through maple charcoal, evident in the smoky and sweet flavor, along with vanilla, spice, and caramel. You may even spot floral flavors and rosewater.
On the nose, you will appreciate the fruitiness of apples and pears.
To be an authentic Tennessee whiskey, it must follow specific requirements, so it must be produced in Tennessee.
In most cases, it will use the Lincoln County Process, which involves passing through charcoal chips to filter it.
This gives Tennessee whiskey unique charcoal-mellowing characteristics. This filtering makes it stand out from bourbon, and bourbon whiskey can be produced anywhere in the U.S. Prichard’s is the only Tennessee whiskey exempt from this law.
There are four other requirements to be able to call a whiskey an authentic Tennessee whiskey:
- It cannot be distilled over 160 proof
- It cannot enter a barrel over 125 proof
- It must be bottled at 80 proof or higher
- The ABV must be between 40% – 70%
By the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the whiskey must age in new charred oak barrels. Tennessee whiskey must also be made of a grain mash containing at least 51% corn. For this reason, the George Dickel Rye Whisky can’t be legally classed as a Tennessee whiskey despite being produced in Tennessee.
Before the statewide prohibition in 1909, there were far more Tennessee whiskey distilleries, but many didn’t survive, so only a few of the original brands still stand today.
The History of Tennessee Whiskey
As the founders of America began to move west, they took their whiskey-making skills with them. Luckily, they were met with the perfect conditions for the perfect whiskey, the land, the water, and the suitable climate.
This whiskey has undoubtedly had its ups and downs. Tennessee made so much whiskey before the Civil War that the government banned whiskey production so that efforts could be turned toward the army.
This didn’t stop the distilleries from building businesses again after the war.
There were hundreds of distilleries, but the government again stepped in and introduced the second statewide prohibition.
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Some brave produce kept going, which helped keep the traditional techniques going and made way for moonshine.
It wasn’t until 1940 when Jack Daniels returned, and then George Dickel in the 1950s.
Not until 2009 did Tennessee start reforming the laws created during the prohibition, allowing the number of distilleries in Tennessee to grow from three to thirty today.
In 2017, the Tennessee Whiskey Trail was established. Visitors can tour 26 of the Tennessee distilleries, each taking between 30 minutes and a couple of hours, with the tour lasting around ten days.
How Is Tennessee Whiskey Made?
The mashed grain must consist of at least 51% corn. The remaining grain is usually varying percentages of rye and barley. Each distillery will have its trade secrets to produce the individual aromas and flavors.
The grains are ground into a paste-like consistency, and most commonly, limestone water is added before it is placed into oak barrels for the aging process, which will vary.
Jack Daniel uses sugar maple wood soaked on 140-proof Jack. It is then set on fire and burnt down to charcoal.
The charcoal is ground into small pellets. New whiskey is poured through the shots and put straight into oak barrels.
George Dickel pours whiskey into 13ft vats. The maple charcoal and whiskey are allowed to soak together at 40 degrees.
Whichever grain mash and process is used, there is no doubt that the Lincoln County Process does give Tennessee whiskey a flavor like no other.
The Different Types of Tennessee Whiskey
There are three types of Tennessee whiskey: straight, blended, and single barrel.
Straight Tennessee whiskey is made from a mash of at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years.
Blended Tennessee whiskey is made from a mash of both grains and distilled spirits, while single-barrel Tennessee whiskey is made from a mash of at least 51% corn and aged in used oak barrels for a minimum of four years.
Each type of Tennessee whiskey has its distinct flavor profile that can range from sweet and fruity to rich and smoky. The kind of whiskey you ultimately choose will depend on your personal preferences.
How to Taste Tennessee Whiskey
When it comes to tasting Tennessee whiskey, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, take a small sip and let it sit on your tongue before swallowing. This will help you get a feel for the whiskey’s flavor profile. Next, pay attention to the body and mouthfeel of the whiskey. Is it light or heavy?
Smooth or harsh? Finally, take note of the finish. How long does the flavor linger on your palate?
Now that you know what to look for let’s dive into some tips on tasting Tennessee whiskey like a pro. First, always start with clean glass. This will help ensure that you’re getting an accurate representation of the whiskey’s flavor. Next, pour yourself a small amount of whiskey – just enough to fill your glass halfway.
Swirl the whiskey around in your drink, and then sniff deeply. This will give you an idea of the aroma of the whiskey. Finally, take a small sip and roll it around your mouth before swallowing. Please pay attention to the flavors you notice and see how they change as you continue to taste the whiskey.
By following these tips, you’ll be well on becoming a Tennessee whiskey expert in no time!
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The History of Tennessee Whiskey
Tennessee whiskey is a type of American whiskey produced in Tennessee. Tennessee whiskey is made from a mash of at least 51% corn and is aged in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years. The most well-known brands of Tennessee whiskey include Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel, and Cumberland Gap.
Tennessee whiskey has a long and rich history dating back to the early 1800s. Early settlers in Tennessee began distilling corn into moonshine to use their surplus crop. One of these early settlers was Jack Daniel, who would go on to find the world-famous Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee.
Many Tennessee distilleries were forced to close during the Civil War due to the Union blockade.
However, some distillers continued to operate secretly, producing what was known as “blockade whiskey.” After the war ended, the state of Tennessee passed a law requiring all bourbon producers to be licensed, which helped to legitimize the industry and spur its growth.
Today, Tennessee whiskey is enjoyed by millions worldwide and is an essential part of American culture. Whether you prefer your whiskey neat or on the rocks, there’s no doubt that a glass of Tennessee whiskey is sure to give you a unique and memorable experience.
Top 10 Tennessee Whiskeys
- Jack Daniel’s
- George Dickel
- Collier & McKeel
- Doc Holiday
- Tenn South Distillery
- Prichard’s Distillery
- Ole Smoky Distillery
- Chattanooga Whiskey Co.
- Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
- Corsair Artisan Distillery
How to Make Your Own Tennessee Whiskey
To make your own Tennessee whiskey, you will need the following ingredients:
- 160 proof alcohol
- 5 gallons of spring water
- 1 pound of sugar
- One teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon of allspice
- Two cinnamon sticks
- Two vanilla beans
First, you will need to gather all of your ingredients. Next, mix the spring water, sugar, salt, baking soda, ground cloves, allspice, and cinnamon sticks in a large pot.
Once everything is mixed together, put the pot on the stove and bring it to a boil. After it has reached a spot, please turn off the heat and let it sit for 30 minutes.
Now, it’s time to add the alcohol. Pour in the 160-proof alcohol and stir gently. Then, add in the vanilla beans and stir gently again. You don’t want to create too much foam.
After everything is combined, you will need to find a place to store your new Tennessee whiskey while it ages. The aging process can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. The ideal storage temperature is between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ensure that your storage container is airtight so no oxygen can get in.
Once your Tennessee whiskey has aged sufficiently, it’s time to bottle it! Find some nice bottles with airtight seals and fill them up.
Be sure to label your bottles so you know how old they are.
Enjoy your very own Tennessee whiskey!
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