Tennessee Whiskey And The Question Of Calling It A Bourbon
A few weeks back I posted a piece on a proposed rule change by the Tax and Trade Bureau on the term barrel with regards to spirits aging. In perusing these proposals, I stumbled across another little ditty dealing with Tennessee whiskey that I wanted to take a look at.
Tennessee whiskey is a style of whiskey that, like most whiskey styles in the U.S., has to follow some strict rules in order to use its moniker, though in this case they are only at the state level and not the federal. Below are the official rules outlined by the Tennessee government with a few additional comments by my buddy Rob Pinson, an alcohol attorney based in Nashville.
First, it has to be manufactured in Tennessee. Rob points out that no definition of manufacture is given, meaning no one understands if it has to be distilled in Tennessee or if it can simply be blended there.
Jack and George, the banner standards of Tennessee whiskey
Next, it has to be a mash of at least 51% corn and cant be distilled to more than 160 proof . Now where have I heard that before? Prior to aging it has to be filtered through maple charcoal , which is a very loose reference to the Lincoln County Process made famous by Jack Daniels and George Dickel distilleries. Nowhere in the law does it describe exactly how this has to be done.
George Dickel Rye Whisky
Heres another George Dickel offering which surprisingly has a relatively affordable price despite being considered a top-tiered spirit. Made from a mash of rye and malted barley , plus fermented with yeast. It should be noted that the rye is chilled and filtered through charcoal composed of sugar maple wood.
Distilled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, George Dickel Rye Whisky has a noticeable and approachable nose. When poured in a glass, it takes on a light gold color. Youll notice the sweetness of vanilla, marshmallow, fallen leaves, and lightly charred wood. There is also a subtle hint of grilled peaches. Thanks to the rye, it finishes with a fiery kick that contains little heat.
But perhaps the most glaring positive about this whiskey is its price. For less than $30, it is very affordable for its quality. Its high rye content is unique among its peer at a low price point. Delivering enjoyable sipping rye for such a low price, the George Dickel Rye Whisky is hard to beat.
Whiskey Made In Tennessee That Is Not Tennessee Whiskey
All Tennessee Whiskey is from Tennessee, but that does not mean all whiskey from Tennessee qualifies as “Tennessee Whiskey”. For example, the Ole Smoky Distillery is located in Tennessee and produces a whiskey product, but the product cannot be sold as Tennessee whiskey because it is not aged. Instead, it is legally classified as a corn whiskey rather than carrying the “Tennessee whiskey” label and is marketed as “Tennessee moonshine”.
George Dickel began production of a rye whiskey in 2012 that also cannot be labeled a Tennessee whiskey because it is produced from a rye-based mash and is not distilled in Tennessee. Most of the stages of its production are conducted under contract in Indiana, and the whiskey is then trucked to the Diageo bottling plant in Plainfield, Illinois, for filtering with charcoal made at the Dickel distillery and then bottling. In early 2014, the brand introduced a white corn whiskey using an unaged version of its standard mashbill, which consists of more than 80% corn, allowing for its sale as “corn whiskey”. The bottle makes no reference to Tennessee whiskey.
Production began in 2012 of a Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye. As it is 70% rye, it is not labeled as a Tennessee whiskey. A limited initial release that was not aged in wood was labeled “Spirits Distilled from Grain”. A second limited release, called “Rested Rye”, was released after two years of aging and labeled a straight rye whiskey. A fully aged version was released in 2017.
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Why Is It Sometimes Spelled Whiskey Vs Whisky
Both ways of spelling whiskey can be correct. As a general rule, whiskey is common in Ireland and in the United States. American distillers who use techniques more similar to Irish whiskey may use this spelling. Spelling whisky without the e is more common in Scotland, Japan, Canada and other parts of the world.
A clever trick to remember these two spellings is that the words Ireland and America include the letter e and so do their whiskeys . Words Scotland, Japan, and Canada do not have an e and often spell whisky without the e. Exceptions to the rule include George Dickel, Makers Mark and Old Forester which are classified as American whiskys as an homage to their Scottish heritage.
Sugarlands Distilling Co Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey
Sugarlands Distilling in Gatlinburg is known for making different flavored versions of unaged moonshine, often with a NASCAR theme, including cinnamon, apple pie, sweet tea and blackberry. If these are not your thing, the distillery also makes a really excellent young rye whiskey called Roaming Man. Its bottled at cask strength , aged between two and four years in large and small barrels with char levels three and four, and made from a mash bill of 51 percent rye, 45 percent corn and 4 percent malted barley. This puts it more into the Kentucky barely legal style of rye, meaning it contains just enough of the grain to be considered as such, with an ample amount of corn to round out the spice. Its an impressive rye whiskey, and each bottle contains all of these details on the label, a welcome level of transparency for those who are interested in such things. Even nerdier, you can type in your bottle number on the website and you will find a detailed gas chromatograph that analyzes the congeners before and after aging and breaks down the barrels used with info like angels share, cooperage and dump proof. According to a rep for the brand, the eleventh batch, due out this spring, will be a bottled-in-bond release, increasing the age to at least four years old.
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The 10 Best Tennessee Whiskey Brands To Try In 2021
Tennessee whiskey is a quality liquor style popular across the US now reaching a wider audience across the globe. The Volunteer State is rightfully proud of their local whiskey and its rich tradition, which includes the Tennessee Whiskey trail of 25 distilleries across Tennessee.
Theres a simple, yet important distinction between Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey which makes a huge impact on the taste and what goes on the label.
Creating Tennessee Whiskey like the famed Jack Daniels and bourbon whiskey from elsewhere has the same initial steps. Distilled from at least 51% corn, the spirits are aged in charred oak barrels to develop a rich, smooth flavor. The crucial difference is that Tennessee whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal as part of the Lincoln County Process, which distinguishes Tennessee Whiskey from your average bourbon.
Lincoln County Process is the charcoal filtration method in which fresh whiskey passes through charcoal chips and is then put in oak casks for maturation. For a whiskey to attain the Tennessee label, it must go through the charcoal mellowing stage, in the state of Tennessee.
Youll find, more often than not, that your Tennessee whiskey will be darker in color than most straight bourbon and offer a brown sugar sweetness from the sugar maple charcoal in filtration.
George Dickel Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey
When it comes to Tennessee-based whiskeys, George Dickel is the biggest name after Jack Daniels. Its a brand that makes some excellent, award-winning whiskeys. If youre looking for the brands best summer sipping option, try George Dickel Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey. Made with a mash bill of 84 percent corn, eight percent rye, and eight percent malted barley, its aged for a minimum of nine years resulting in a smooth, sippable whiskey loaded with vanilla and subtle spices.
The nose is filled with scents of vanilla, toffee, subtle chocolate, and a nice oak-charred background. Notable flavors of wood, dried cherries, vanilla beans, and just a hint of peppery rye are prevalent on the palate. The finish is dry, warming, and exceptionally sweet.
If you prefer your whiskey to be so filled with corn that it tastes almost like drinking caramel corn, this is the whiskey for you. But while this dram has a ton of corn flavor, its balanced with spices, fruit, and hints of cocoa.
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It’s Not Tennessee Whiskey If It’s Aged In Kentucky State Says
New regulations on what can be called “Tennessee whiskey” have sparked a fight between the makers of Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel, two best-selling brands.hide caption
New regulations on what can be called “Tennessee whiskey” have sparked a fight between the makers of Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel, two best-selling brands.
Tennessee whiskey comes from Tennessee, Scotch comes from Scotland, and tequila hails from Mexico.
Well, actually, no. The latest chapter in the Tennessee whiskey wars revolves around the finer points of making whiskey in the Volunteer State specifically, where you take the spirit to age.
The kerfuffle began in 2013, as NPR’s Scott Simon explained earlier this spring, when the state Legislature decided to specify what exactly qualifies as Tennessee whiskey.
The state’s new restrictions mostly echo the federal rules for bourbon, which has to be made from a mash that’s at least 51 percent corn and aged in new charred oak barrels. The biggest difference is that Tennessee whiskey must be filtered through charcoal.
Difference Between Tennessee Whiskey And Bourbon
Picking the right kind of whiskey is no mean feat. Whiskeys come in different variants depending on the regional differences that make each whiskey unique. It can be Canadian, Australian, Japanese, Ireland, American whiskey and so on that are unique to their regions and then there are variables within these to choose from. But what makes such similar-like products different? In this article, we look at American whiskeys. Tennessee whiskeys and bourbons are very similar yet very different though they hail from neighboring states in the same region.
So, what makes these two different? Lets find out.
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The 8 Best Whiskeys From Tennessee
Once a small enterprise helmed by a few scrappy individuals, the whiskey industry has grown into a truly international affair with excellent spirits hailing from every corner of the globe. In spite of the spirits far-reaching impact, there are still some regions of the world with concentrated pockets of distilleries crafting their own regional take on the inebriant.
In this case, we want to focus on one such pocket here in the United States. While their Kentuckian neighbors to the north often get more recognition, there are plenty of exceedingly impactful and talented distillers who call Nashville and the surrounding lands their home. Were here to highlight some of their best works in the following collection of eight superb spirits that hail from The Volunteer State. These are the best whiskeys from Tennessee.
Do You Know Who Owns Your Favorite Liquor
The new rules sparked a battle between two Tennessee whiskey titans: Brown-Forman Corp., the company behind Jack Daniel’s, and Diageo PLC, the conglomerate that owns George Dickel.
Jack Daniel’s people lobbied heavily for the law, which they say helps guard against knockoff, lower-quality alcohol. Diageo, meanwhile, argued that it would make whiskey-makers dependent on the supply of new barrels, The Associated Press reports, and would hurt craft distillers who want to test out new recipes for the spirit.
Diageo launched a legislative effort this spring attempting to overturn the rules. In March, some lawmakers proposed simply tweaking the law to allow the use of reused barrels. Both repeal and reform failed to pass.
Fast-forward to June, when the state and Diageo resolved a second squabble this time about where aging happens.
A 1937 law requires that all spirits made in Tennessee be aged in Tennessee, no more than a county away from the place they were manufactured.
State attorneys in Nashville complained that the George Dickel distillery had moved barrels of whiskey outside the state, into neighboring Kentucky, for aging which would violate the 1937 law. Diageo promptly sued the state, alleging that the law was unconstitutional. They also pointed out that this was the first time the state had actually enforced the law suspiciously soon after Dickel protested the state’s newer rules.
Joe Barnes, founder of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail
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Corsair Triple Smoke American Single Malt Whiskey
This pot-still distilled whiskey isnt a bourbon or a Tennessee whiskey, its an American single malt. This 100 percent barley-based whiskey gets its flavor because of three separately smoked malts. The barley is smoked with local cherrywood, beechwood, and peat imported from Scotland. The result is a smoky, flavorful whiskey that will make you rethink your idea of single malts.
When you nose this whiskey, you get a ton of smoke. The robust peat is countered by sweet cherries and slight vanilla. The flavor is on par with some of the best whiskies of Islay. Its filled with caramelized sugar, subtle cinnamon, sweet cherries, and a lot of smoke.
Sweet, smoky, and not to be missed.
Fans of smoky single malt Scotch whiskies should definitely check out this bold, rich, very unique expression. The mix of three different smoked malts gives this a nuanced, highly memorable flavor profile.
The 10 Best Whiskeys From Tennessee
For many people, whiskey and Tennessee will always be synonymous with each other. The distilled alcoholic beverage has been closely associated with the state ever since its first settlers moved into it.
There are two whiskeys that Tennessee is known forbourbon and Tennessee whiskey. Bourbon is whiskey that is made from 51 percent corn. This is the most popular style of whiskey in the entire United States. On the other hand, Tennessee whiskey is bourbon that undergoes the Lincoln County Process. This process has the drink going through charcoal filtering before it is aged in barrels. This gives the whiskey a unique smoothness that brands such as Jack Daniels are known for. Read on and find out more about the top 10 whiskeys from Tennessee.
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Jack Daniels Single Barrel Rye
Nobody will fault you if you purchase a bottle of classic Jack Daniels to sip this summer. But if you really want to up your whiskey game, grab a bottle of Jack Daniels Single Barrel Rye. Made with a mash bill of 70 percent rye, 18 percent corn, and 12 percent malted barley, this rich, robust whiskey is known for its combination of sweet mellowness and spicy heat.
On the nose, youll find scents of caramel corn, a gentle, nutty sweetness, and a slight, peppery backbone. The palate is swirling with more sweet corn notes as well as wood char, sweet toffee, orange peels, and more cracked black pepper. It all ends with a nice, warming, sweet, peppery finish.
If youre a bourbon or Tennessee whiskey fan and youd like to find a way to get into the world of rye whiskey, this is the bottle for you. The spicy rye warmth is tempered well by the sweet corn flavors.
What Is A Tennessee Whiskey
Let’s dig deeper into the matter. What is a Tennessee Whiskey? According to the common perception, Tennessee Whiskey is made like Bourbon in the first and last steps of the production. Rye, corn and grain are distilled and age in casks of new white oak. The difference between Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon is, that before the spirit is filled into casks, its filtered with maple charcoal, a process which is called charcoal mellowing. The charcoal extracts sharp substances from the liquid, which gives the Whiskey a smoother character. That’s how it has been marketed by the producers, especially Jack Daniel, for decades.
However, the rules and regulations of the 1964 Bourbon Act, which apply to all Bourbons in the USA, also applied to Tennessee Whiskey. There was no Tennessee Whiskey Act. If you keep to the rules of the Bourbon Act, you may call your product Bourbon. If you keep to slightly stricter rules, you may call it Straight Bourbon. If your distillery is in the state of Kentucky, you may call your WhiskeyKentucky Straight Bourbon.
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What Is Tennessee Whiskey Made From
Whiskey has been associated with Tennessee since some of the first settlers moved to the area that would become a state in 1796. It is known for producing a specific style of whiskey, though other types of whiskey and distilled spirits are produced in the state. There are a number of regulations distillers must follow in order for a bottle to bear the “Tennessee Whiskey” label.
By law, Tennessee whiskey must be produced in the state of Tennessee. It also must be made from a mashbill that is at least 51 percent corn. Other grains, including barley, rye, and wheat, can constitute the remainder. The whiskey is distilled no higher than 80 percent alcohol by volume and cannot be barreled over 125 proof. It needs to be bottled at a minimum of 80 proof, though some barrel strength whiskeys are bottled as high as 125 to 140 proof.
The Lincoln County Process must be done after distillation and prior to aging. Though other whiskeys may also use charcoal filtering, it’s typically after aging, so the timing is key in defining Tennessee whiskey. During this mellowing process, the “new make spirit” fresh off the still is slowly dripped through charcoal derived from sugar maple trees. This mellows out the distilled spirit, removing many of the congeners and lending a richness to the whiskey. The result is a whiskey that many people find to be lighter and smoother than many bourbons, though it is in no way lacking in flavor.