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 for—bourbon 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.
This is perhaps the best example of how good Tennessee whiskey can be. A staple among drinkers of Tennessee whiskey, it is distilled by George Dickel & Co. which was established in 1870. The company is one of the top 2 distillers in the world; the other is its fierce rival, Jack Daniels.
George Dickel Barrel Select is crafted from a mash of corn (84%), malted barley, and rye. It comes in a rectangular bottle topped by a wood and cork stopper. Its contents bottled at 86 proof, the whiskey is aged from 10 to 12 years. It is presented nicely with an amber coloring in a glass but has a dark bronze coloring while in the bottle. Speaking of the bottle, it has a fold-style script up front with a simple playout giving it an antique feel. The only real issue you’d have with the bottle is the neck wrap that is quite hard to remove.
Crafted from 10 various barrels, this whiskey has a light smoky and sweet taste. There are hints of corn, vanilla, and oak grain and subtle traces of mint and allspice. It glides down the throat smoothly. You’ll also notice the moderately spicy kick towards the end.
Here’s another George Dickel offering which surprisingly has a relatively affordable price despite being considered a top-tiered spirit. Made from a mash of rye (95%) and malted barley (5%), 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. You’ll 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.
This Tennessee whiskey was released by Prichard’s Distillery to commemorate its over 10 years of operation. Prichard Distillery is based in Kelso, Tennessee and takes pride for being the only producer that labels their product as Tennessee whiskey even if they are not using the Lincoln County Process. This is due to a special exemption under a Tennessee legislation enacted in 2013.
It is made of white corn with minimal amounts of malted barley and rye. Distilled according to Irish tradition, it is an easy drinking beverage that is aged to 10 years in barrel and bottled at 80 proof. Once tasted, you’ll notice hints of bold flavors and aromas of dried fruit, ginger, caramel, and oak.
Heaven’s Door distillery is based in Nashville, Tennessee. It is a venture started by musician Bob Dylan. Aside from that interesting bit of trivia, this distillery can hold its own as far as having a good collection of spirits is concerned. And this Tennessee whiskey is the perfect example.
The whiskey comes in a bottle that shows peculiar iron gates created by the legendary musician in his Black Buffalo Ironworks studio. When poured in a glass, it takes on a pale amber color.
This rich and full-bodied whiskey has a low rye content. Aged in barrel for 10 years, it has hints of maple and oak. Charcoal columns made of sugar maple trees were used in mellowing it, true to the Lincoln County Process tradition.
The nose delivers an aroma of nougat and freshly baked bread. Upon tasting, the subtle sweetness of candied walnuts and grilled pineapple is quite noticeable. And notes of steeped tobacco and cooked peaches bring forth a kick that makes for an enjoyable whiskey experience.
This whiskey has received recognition including a Gold Medal during the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and Double Gold during the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition both held in 2018.
Corsair is a distiller that is relatively new, having been founded in 2008. Founded by friends Andrew Webber and Darek Bell, it initially started operations in the state of Kentucky. It was only in 2010 when the firm opened its distillery in Nashville after Bell and Webber lobbied to change Tennessee laws forbidding commercial distilling.
This all rye whiskey is made from malted rye (80%) and chocolate rye (20%). It is 92 proof, but there is no age statement. The whiskey takes on an amber color with a faint red tint when it is poured in a glass.
It has an inviting nose with traces of rye, spice, citrus candy, sugar, and cocoa powder. Then there are subtle notes of wood and caramel taffy, giving it a very pleasant aroma.
You might be overwhelmed by the aroma to the point that the flavor can be vague or confusing. There are traces of rye spice and cinnamon with light notes of wood and chocolate. Then there is a medium fade of rye spice and cocoa giving it a nice finish.
There’s no denying that this is a rye whiskey. Nice and tasty, it is something you would want for sipping or even mixing up cocktails.
The distillery of Collier and McKeel is located in Nashville, and in the same structure as the distillery of Corsair. Collier and McKeel strictly follow the Lincoln County Process. It thus labels this product as ‘the true Tennessee whiskey.’
This whiskey is made from a mash of corn (70%), barley (15%), and rye (15%). This 84 proof whiskey has no age statement, however.
People don’t buy whiskey for the packaging, but it is worth noting that this Tennessee whiskey’s black background gives it a standout look. There is a brief description of the history of the distillery and the Lincoln County Process. The proprietor, Mike Williams, even puts his thumbprint on the bottles.
The whiskey takes the typical caramel to mahogany color when in the bottle. When poured in the glass, it takes on a light mahogany color. You’ll then smell a sweet, bourbon-like aroma. There are also traces of a woody scent.
Taste is the strongest point for this Tennessee whiskey. It is a bit spicy with a noticeable trace of sour mash. You will also love its smooth and sweet finish that is reminiscent of honey. And there is a faint metallic kick at the end.
Nathan “Nearest” Green is said to be a slave who taught Jack Daniel himself how to distill whiskey. Legend has it that he was an African-American who came from Maryland to Tennessee and helped perfect the Lincoln County Process. He was believed to be the first master distiller at Jack Daniel’s distillery.
There is no age statement on this liquor, although it is believed that the whiskey is aged in barrel for seven years. This 100 proof Tennessee whiskey has a rusty copper appearance when poured in a glass.
It delivers a nose that is typical of Tennessee whiskey. There is a scent of toasted grain and vanilla bean with notes of maple syrup and wood ash. You may also notice toasted pecan note getting stronger. When you taste it, you’ll likely enjoy the generous and peppery heat. The finish has a lingering sweet and wood taste.
Overall, this is a whiskey that many drinkers would surely appreciate. It is well-polished with minimal harsh flavors. There is also a great balance between spice, caramel, and charred oak. It has a bold, flavorful edge that makes it very enjoyable to drink.
Simply put it, a list of the best whiskeys from Tennessee would not be complete without mentioning Jack Daniel’s. The impact of the brand on the liquor industry is undeniable, particularly in making Tennessee whiskey popular around the world. This specially-made Tennessee whiskey was issued to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the brand, so you can consider it a premium offering.
This whiskey is made with a high corn mash bill (80%) with barley (12%) and rye (8%). It is filtered through sugar maple charcoal and then entered to slow-roasted oak barrels. This 100 proof whiskey has no age statement.
The whiskey has a light copper color when poured in a glass. It has a fragrant nose that is full of vanilla and maple. There are traces of spiced and dried citrus and toasty barrel char. The whiskey is light on the tongue and has a sweet vanilla flavor with a tart and cherry note.
But make no mistake about it—this Jack Daniel’s offering is really a premium Tennessee whiskey that commands a hefty price. If you are a real whiskey enthusiast, then this is something that you should have in your cabinet.
This Tennessee whiskey has no age statement, but it is believed to be aged for 4-7 years in new charred oak barrels.
The nose offers a nice mix of bananas and maple sugar candy with a smoky scent. Yes, the aroma of alcohol is noticeable, but it is not overpowering. Rich and inviting, it is something that is quite different from American whiskey.
As for the palate, you’ll notice notes of sweet caramel, burnt wood, pipe tobacco, and bananas. There is also a bit of spice and nuttiness mixing well with maple sugar candy. It’s hard to pinpoint specific flavors, but you will realize that the overall mix is odd and enjoyable. The whiskey coats the mouth well with a medium weight feel.
The heat kicks in towards the finish with a spicy burn that vouches for the high proof of the whiskey. Some drinkers may find it overly hot. But if you are the type of drinker who likes a bold and spicy finish, you will love it. The heat also dissipates very quickly and leaves notes of maple sugar candy and burnt wood lingering for quite some time.
Last but not least is this whiskey that is bottled at 94 proof. It was first introduced in the late 90s and has since then become one of the top products of the distiller. As the name suggests, this is tapped from a single barrel, meaning that bottles drawn from one barrel will have a slightly different taste from bottles drawn from another barrel.
This whiskey is made from corn, rye, and malted barley. This Tennessee whiskey has subtle notes of spice and caramel with sweet aromatics, lending a one-of-a-kind flavor in the process. The liquor takes on a toffee color when poured in a glass.
On the nose, it offers a sweet cinnamon flavor with traces of honey, black tea, and butter. You may notice a slightly nutty aroma with creamy toffee. In the mouth, it doesn’t feel rough, unlike some bourbons.
How to Shop for Whiskey
In shopping for the best whiskeys from Tennessee, keep in mind that price reflects quality most of the time. Affordable whiskeys are good enough for everyday drinking. You’d be wise enough to use them for whiskey cocktails. But the high-end ones are commonly reserved for your special guests. But speaking of cost, you should be aware that prices of whiskey may change over time. A limited edition bottling may become more expensive as its supply diminishes.
You should also decide on how you plan to use whiskey for. Would you be drinking it neat? Or do you plan to pour it in a glass full of ice? Would you be using it in a cocktail? Or perhaps use it for cooking? If you’re not a big fan of this spirit, then you can go ahead and buy a single bottle for all purposes.
But if you enjoy different flavor profiles, then you should consider investing in a few different bottles. So, if you are using it for cooking, then perhaps buying a bargain bottle should be enough. Mid-range bottles are recommended for cocktails. And obviously, you should be ready to pay more if you want a more elegant drink.