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

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 1856 Premium Tennessee Whiskey
93 points
Amber color. Aromas of dried cherry, juicy orange, fresh waffles, toasted pecans, leather, and sweet caramel with a slightly chewy, vibrant, dryish medium-to-full body and a peppery, complex, very long ripe cherries in brandy, toffee, chocolate-covered caramels, white pepper, licorice, and buttered sweet corn finish. A rich, impeccably balanced Tennessee Whiskey with bountiful offerings of flavor.
Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Tennesee Whiskey
92 points
Brilliant golden amber color. Aromas and flavors of peach pie, buttered corn, lingonberry jam, caramel, tangerine zest, and chamomile with a satiny, vibrant, dryish light-to-medium body and a silky, refreshing, medium-long finish that shows notes of apple pie, baking spices, and hint of peppermint. A wonderfully balanced Tennessee Whiskey that offers elegant aromas and great length.
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