For some, there's nothing more American than Tennessee whiskey. Yet there are so many varieties, keeping that brown liquor goodness straight is confusing. In the broadest terms, American law says whiskey is distilled from fermented grains and stored in oak. However, Tennessee whiskey gets even more specific than that. Discover what makes Tennessee whiskey unique and what you need to know when you're ready to enjoy some.
What Is Tennessee Whiskey?
First and foremost, to earn the title of Tennessee whiskey, it must be produced in the state of Tennessee. Additionally, the mash must contain at least 51 percent corn, not have any additives, be distilled at 160 proof or less and be put into the barrel at 125 proof or less.
Finally, the whiskey must age in new charred American white oak barrels, and sometime after distillation it must filter through sugar maple charcoal. This filtering process is called the Lincoln County Process. Although the law doesn't specify exactly when the filtering must take place, most producers do it directly after distillation. After filtering, the whiskey goes into the barrels to age.
However, even the two biggest producers of Tennessee whiskey, Jack Daniel's and George Dickel, have different methods of filtering. At Jack Daniel's, the company sets sugar maple wood on fire and reduces it to charcoal. After that, it's broken into small pellets before the whiskey gets filtered through. At George Dickel, the whiskey gets poured into large vats containing charcoal, and they soak together at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Does It Differ From Other Whiskies?
Scotch, rye, bourbon and Tennessee whiskey - they're all just the same drinks with a different name, right? Actually, no. The different manufacturing processes between Tennessee whiskey and these other drinks give each a different flavor. For Tennessee whiskey, the aging and filtering process give it a sweet and slightly smoky flavor.
Best Ways to Drink Tennessee Whiskey:
Now that you understand the difference between Tennessee whiskey and other drinks, you're probably ready to try some out. So what's the best way to drink Tennessee whiskey? If possible, always try to drink it from a glass, since other containers can taint the flavor. After that, you can drink it straight, add a little tap water to bring out the flavor, serve it over ice or even mix in some soda. Of course, we're partial to Master Distiller Fred Noe's advice: "Drink it any damn way you please."