Sure, a song pops in our heads when we hear the words, Tennessee whiskey—but this age-old spirit needs no song or introduction to make it recognizable. Tennessee whiskey is as American as apple pie. Born and bred in the state of Tennessee, a state known for its ability to distill spirits before it was cool, it’s no wonder they do whiskey so well. Before you run out and buy a bottle, let’s go over everything you need to know about Tennessee whiskey.
What Is Tennessee Whiskey?
Isn’t whiskey just whiskey? Tell that to an Irishman and a lifelong Tennessean, and you’ll get an answer quickly. No, whiskey isn’t just whiskey. There are several differences between them all. Here’s how Tennessee whiskey came to us and continues to take its place in liquor collections.
A Little History
Tennessee has been a leader in creating spirits since before the Civil War. Thanks to the environment of the state, namely their water and climate, it’s as if it was created for the production of whiskey.
Eventually, prohibition came along, and there may have still been a bit of whiskey production (just maybe) here and there; but it was after prohibition was lifted that the infamous Jack Daniel’s reopened, along with George Dickel 10 years later, both now legally producing Tennessee’s proud whiskey.
How It’s Made
This is a big deal. There are actual laws in place constituting what can legally be called Tennessee whiskey. Here’s what needs to happen before a bottle gains the proud Tennessee label:
- Made in Tennessee
- Derived from at least 51% corn
- Aged in new charred oak barrels
- Follows the Lincoln county process, which requires filtering through sugar maple charcoal chips
Some newer distilleries argue the laws, but the classics like Jack Daniel’s wholeheartedly support it, knowing it’s the laws that allow such deep-seeded tradition to continue.
Tennessee Whiskey Distilleries
There are quite a few Tennessee whiskeys on the market today, but we will cover the two household names when it comes to Tennessee whiskey — Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel.
Jack has been around and held popularity for so long that it almost takes away from this exceptional whiskey. Don’t let the fact that it’s a household name lead you to believe it’s simply common. There’s a reason it’s so popular. After all, can you say Tennessee whiskey without seeing a bottle of Jack in your mind?
Mr. Jack Daniel registered Jack Daniel’s as the first American distillery back in 1866, and after over 150 years, it’s still going strong as a world-renowned whiskey from little ol’ Lynchburg, Tennessee. Made from 80% corn, 12% barley malt, and 8% rye, the distilling process of Jack Daniel’s uses a little miracle from the hills of Tennessee—iron-free, limestone spring water from Cave Spring, which, oh by the way, is the perfect temperature for the distilling process at 56 degrees Fahrenheit.
Old No. 7 is what Jack is most known for, with its sexy yet nostalgic black label—but please don’t stop there as a collector or taster. Jack Daniel’s has produced several whiskeys, including Gentleman Jack and the single barrel collection.
An immigrant from Germany, George Dickel began his American dream in the shoe business until he realized he had a knack for making whiskey and opened a distillery around 1870. He believed whiskey tastes better when distilled in the colder months, giving it a mellow and smooth taste unlike any other whiskey. He also believed in carrying on the tradition of the Scottish spelling of whiskey—whisky, which you’ll still see on George Dickel bottles today.
Distilled in Tullahoma, TN, George Dickel uses a mash of 84% corn, 8% malted barley, and 8% rye. The distillery today carries on the belief of George Dickel that whiskey is best distilled in cooler temperatures by cooling it before going through the Lincoln county process—and they also stand by the creek water used for all of these years.
How To Drink Tennessee Whiskey
Whether spelling it with an “e” or no “e”, we can’t discuss everything you need to know about Tennessee whiskey without divulging the secrets of how to drink it. We recommend three options—straight, with a splash of water, or on the rocks. And please, always store whiskey at room temperature without chilling it, unless you want your whiskey-drinking friends to harass you for a very long time.
Pour about 2 ounces in a lowball cocktail glass and enjoy.
A Splash of Water
Adding a couple of drops of water is just enough to open up the whiskey, releasing notes you may not have otherwise noticed. The reason water works is that it dilutes the alcohol just enough to take away the burn without taking away flavor. The lessened burn gives the senses more opportunity to taste and smell.
On the Rocks
An ice ball or a couple of ice cubes have the same effect as the drops of water—only as the ice melts, the extra dilution brings about even more notes.
We recommend tasting Tennessee whiskey in each way so you may discover all of the differences.
Choosing the Right Tennessee Whiskey
As we mentioned, there are many Tennessee whiskeys, and we covered two well-known varieties. If you are a collector, we suggest you keep the favorites like Jack Daniel’s No. 7 and George Dickel whisky on hand. A few others to try are:
- Uncle Nearest 1884
- Heaven’s Door
- Dickel Tennessee Sour Mash
- Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select
And that’s just to name a few. There’s no right or wrong with Tennessee whiskey—only sadness when never tasted. Attend tastings or have a tasting of your own with friends and discover the world-renowned, Tennessee bred, and loved by all, Tennessee whiskey.
VS Liquor is a proud carrier of the finest Tennessee whiskeys and your trusted source to buy rare whiskey online, along with many other rare and hard-to-find liquors. Contact us, and let’s talk whiskey and help you find the next bottle for your collection.