About Tennessee Whiskey

About Tennessee Whiskey
Tennessee Whisky must contain a minimum of 51% corn, be produced in Tennessee, be distilled at less than 80% ABV (160 proof), filtered through a bed of sugar maple charcoal, and be aged for a minimum of two years in new charred barrels.

The Taste: The taste descriptors for Tennessee whisky tend to parallel those of its Kentucky cousin. The distinction and the difference comes on the finish which is long, clean, and very, very smooth—a result of the final sugar maple charcoal filtration. Legally, Tennessee whiskeys could be sold as Bourbon; but the two Volunteer State distillers are proud enough of their “sipping whisky” to insist that the difference be known to all.

Tennessee whiskey is a first cousin of Bourbon, with virtually an identical history. The same sort of people used the same sort of grains and the same sort of production techniques to produce a style of whiskey that, remarkably, is noticeably different. The early whiskey distillers in Tennessee, for reasons that are lost in the mists of history, added a final step to their production process when they began filtering their whiskey through thick beds of sugar maple charcoal. This filtration removes some of the congeners (flavor elements) in the spirit and creates a smooth, mellow palate. The two remaining distillers in the state continue this tradition, which a distiller at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery once described as being "same church, different pew."

Top Picks for Tennessee Whiskey

Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Tennessee Whiskey
96 points
Copper color. Aromas of creme brulee, bananas foster, candied walnut, ripe apple, star anise, and luxury tobacco with a round, crisp, dryish medium-full body and a smooth, involved, very long almond-studded milk chocolate, spanish peanut, and honey-drizzled pastries finish. A coating, complex, endless ride of a Tennessee whiskey that’s worth a try for any North American Whiskey connoisseur.
96 points $59.95
Davidson Reserve Tennessee Straight Sour Mash Whiskey
94 points
Dark amber color. Aromas of toasted banana bread, warm butterscotch, chocolate chips, and brown butter with a velvety, crisp, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a warming, distinctive, very long leather, cured meats, fruit cake, cola, dried cherry, and marcona almond finish. This will have you rethinking North American whiskey; rancio-like flavors and an incredible, developing finish give this a Cognac-like sophistication; a must-try.
94 points $39.99
Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Tennessee Whiskey
93 points
Golden amber color. Aromas and flavors of frosted spice cake, buttered popcorn, banana muffin, sultanas, and roasted walnuts with a slightly chewy, crisp, dryish medium body and a warming, delightful, medium-long finish revealing accents of coconut, dried orange peel, and white pepper finish. A smooth and mild Tennessee whiskey with cohesive flavors and fine balance; an excellent example of the Tennessee Whiskey category.
93 points $49.99
Flynt Family Single Cask Series Cask Strength Straight Tennessee Whiskey
93 points
Bright gold color. Aromas of cinnamon caramel, honey and cherry syrup, roasted pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, and cracklin’ oat bran cereal with a round, full body and a peppery, layered, long honeydew melon, kiwi, ginger toffee, cinnamon, clove, coconut, and rose jam on biscuit finish. An endlessly complex and unique Tennessee Whiskey worth volunteering for.
King’s Creek 9 Year Old Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey
91 points
Golden amber color. Artificial aromas of silky whipped cream, roasted peach, snickerdoodle cookies, pie crust, caramel, and sweet tea with lemon with a silky, crisp, fruity light-to-medium body and an even, complex, long dried mint, caramelized nuts, chocolate covered salted toffee, toasted coffee cake, cigar ash, and candied cherry finish. A super-solid, smooth and mild Tennessee whiskey.
91 points $39.99
James Younger Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey
88 points
Best Buy
Amber color. Aromas of toasted cornbread, dried cranberry and plum, buttery pastry, and banana with a round, crisp, dry medium body and a polished, charming, medium-length cherry preserves, caramel, and gingersnap cookie finish. A smooth and easy-drinking Tennessee whiskey with lots of appeal.
88 points $13.99 Best Buy
Trader Joe’s Tennessee Whiskey
84 points
Dark amber color. Aromas of butterscotch, green apple, margarine, and darkly caramelized pineapple with a round, crisp, dry full body and a peppery, short-to-medium black pepper and dried cherries finish. A dense and spicy Tennessee whiskey for cocktails.
84 points $13.99
Jesse James Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey
84 points
Golden amber color. Grainy aromas of wet grain, dough, cinnamon, orange peel, and carob with a satiny, crisp, dry light body and an effortless, quick peppercorns, herb muffin, and butter finish. A mild, grain-centric Tennessee Whiskey that will be a nice introduction to the category.
84 points $39.49
Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whisky
82 points
Golden amber hue. Sweet, buttery, caramel corn nose. A smooth entry leads to a sweetish, light-to medium-bodied palate with sweet caramel corn and brown spice notes. Finishes cleanly with a touch of sweet fruit and spice. OK but confected.
Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Whiskey
81 points
Golden amber color. Muted, faintly fruity, burnt caramel nose reveals heat. A brisk entry leads to a light-bodied palate with sharp, charred oak, and toffee notes. Finishes with a wave of blistering heat and ashy flavors. Heat is prominent and out-of-balance.