The 20 Best Tennessee Whiskeys You Must Try Right Now
We previously did an article on bourbon, which is a type of American Whiskey. We went into some details about what bourbon is, so we will not repeat that information here. Some whiskey / bourbon drinkers wonder if Tennessee whiskey qualifies as bourbon. It is a good question, and we will try to clarify that for you.
If you want to get technical, yes, it does qualify as bourbon, because it is made from a mashed bill of at least 51% corn and it is matured in charred oak barrels. Bourbon though has to be aged in unused charred oak barrels, but for the Tennessee whiskey it is not specified.
The state of Tennessee passed a House Bill in 2013, which stipulates that Tennessee whiskey has to be manufactured in the Volunteer State, but it leaves the door open to where it needs to be distilled. Which can get pretty confusing.
On top of that, it has to go through the ‘Lincoln County Process’, which implies that the filtering has to be done through sugar maple charcoal before being barreled. This process is believed to remove any impurities and make the flavor mellower.
According to Jack Daniel’s master distiller Chris Fletcher, “All Tennessee whiskey is bourbon, but not all bourbon is Tennessee whiskey’.
So there you have it, we hope that simplified things a bit for you.
There are over 30 distilleries as of now operating in Tennessee, and their flavors and characters are different from one another. We picked the 20 best and most popular Tennessee whiskeys for you, and we tried to include some of the more renowned distilleries out there.
- 20. B R. Distilling Blue Note Small Batch/ Riverset Rye
- 19. Cascade Moon Whisky Edition No. 2
- 18. Chattanooga Whiskey 111
- 17. Corsair Triple Smoke
- 16. Sweetens Cove Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey
- 15. Nelson’s GreenBrier Tennessee Whiskey
- 14. Collier and McKeel Tennessee Whiskey
- 13. Corsair Ryemageddon Whiskey
- 12. Heaven’s Door Straight Bourbon
- 11. George Dickel Rye Whisky
- 10. Clayton James Tennessee Whisky
- 9. George Dickel Classic No. 8 Whisky
- 8. Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey
- 7. Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey
- 6. Rollins Tennessee Whiskey
- 5. Nelson’s First 108 Tennessee Whiskey
- 4. Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey
- 3. Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack
- 2. George Dickel Barrel Select
- 1. Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Whiskey
20. B R. Distilling Blue Note Small Batch/ Riverset Rye
This bourbon is produced in Memphis and it is considered a straight Bourbon because it does not undergo the Lincoln County Process. This 9 year old straight bourbon is a blend of two mash bills. The first one, Small Batch consists of 84% corn, 8% rye, 8% malted barley, and the second is 70% corn, 22%rye, 8% melted barley.
Riverset rye’s formula is similar to MGP, or 95% rye whiskey, but it is manufactured in Tennessee. It is bottled at 93% proof after being aged for a minimum of four years.
19. Cascade Moon Whisky Edition No. 2
Cascade Moon’s newest profile, Edition no.2 is one of their most popular spirits, and with good reason. The 17 year old whiskey has prominent notes of vanilla, caramel and stone fruit flowers, all presented in an attractive ceramic bottle.
The company underwent a shutdown in 2003, and the liquid that remained in the barrels since then are used in this unique offering. The spicy oak notes fall nicely on the palate, and the rich taste is not overpowered by the aged oakiness. A nicely blended option.
18. Chattanooga Whiskey 111
Founded in 2011, Chattanooga Whiskey makes some of the best craft whiskey in the region. The two-year old spirit is a high malt that works well on its own, or mixed in a Manhattan. This unfiltered version that omits the traditional filtration process was able to retain all the flavor and complexity that come from its rich ingredients.
The long maturation process is another reason for the smooth, complex flavors this spirit has to offer. Try it and you’ll get a great bang for your buck.
17. Corsair Triple Smoke
This single malt from Corsair is not your usual style of whiskey you get from Tennessee. The blend of three different smoked malts (beechwood, cherry, and peat) is infused with a unique mix of smokey notes. The chocolate and coffee flavors are lovely on the palate, and the tasting notes of honey and oak are bold yet balanced at the same time.
The sweetness of the barrel notes are broadened by the single malt’s rich smoke, and this interesting spirit can be enjoyed neat or mixed in a cocktail.
16. Sweetens Cove Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey
Popular sports personalities Peyton Manning and Andrew Roddick are behind this brand. Sourced for 13 years and bottled at 101.4 proof cask strength, this is one of the pricier options, and not only because of its celebrities’ names.
Since it has released only 100 barrels you might not get your hands on a bottle, but if you do, you’ll surely enjoy its deep, rich taste. With notes of oak, pepper and vanilla, the caramel and fruity aromas balance out perfectly for a smooth taste.
15. Nelson’s GreenBrier Tennessee Whiskey
The recipe used to make this blend of contract column still and in-house pot still whiskey uses wheat, which is not regularly seen from Tennessee whiskey. This bright and vibrant offering, although relatively young, has been ages at least four years before reaching the bottle.
It tastes really good neat, but can be used in several cocktails as well. The aromas of apple, cinnamon and caramel warm your palate, and it finishes with flavors of brown sugar and black cherry.
14. Collier and McKeel Tennessee Whiskey
Collier and McKeel are distillers that follow the Lincoln Process to a tee. This technique that uses charcoal chips for the filtering system gives them their unique flavor. This handmade spirit is made from a mash bill of corn, malted barley and rye.
Although it doesn’t come with an age statement, the hints of sweetness, along with the smoky and rich flavor, rounded with just the right amount of earthiness make this spirit a must try.
13. Corsair Ryemageddon Whiskey
Even the seasoned whiskey drinkers are surprised by the unique flavors of this aged spirit. Made from a mash of 80% malted rye and 20% chocolate rye, this unexpected blend brings an uncommonly lovely whiskey.
With aromas of chocolate milk and peanuts, the dried fruitiness and the caramel notes are rounded up with a hint of spices on the palate. Nice finish of butter, fruit and vanilla make this artisanal whiskey something to consider.
12. Heaven’s Door Straight Bourbon
Another brand that associates itself with a celebrity, Heaven’s Door is considered to be Bob Dylan’s side project. On the more affordable side, this spirit is aged for a minimum of six years and offers you a smooth taste.
Baking spices and vanilla are the lasting notes of this Nashville distillery whiskey, and the toasted oaky flavor are nicely layered. It offers a lovely finish with hints of caramel, cinnamon and nutmeg.
11. George Dickel Rye Whisky
Second largest whiskey producer from the state of Tennessee, George Dickel offers you a wide array of impressive spirits. This particular one, the Rye Whiskey is made from a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley. Since it is fermented with a proprietary strain of yeast, it is quite a bargain for the price they offer it at.
But no one’s complaining about that, and this spicy rye and oaky flavored spirit is many people’s favorite. With a gentle yet complex finish, you can taste the undertones of ginger and spicy dough.
10. Clayton James Tennessee Whisky
Every distillery has their own twist, and Clayton James’ one is the way they distill the mash. First they ferment the white corn and the grains in copper pots, then they cut the heads and the tails so they only use the hearts for the aging process.
Although this way only small batches are yielded at a time, the sweet and smoky appeal to the end product makes it worth it. They hold the new liquid in the maple sugar charcoal under pressure for roughly a week, which gives it a different take on the taste.
9. George Dickel Classic No. 8 Whisky
This is one of their more accessible introductions to the brand if you do not want to jump in to their most popular offering we will show you shortly. You can expect a smooth and balanced flavor, but a little on the bolder side.
If you enjoy the sharp flavors of caramel and wood, as well as sweet notes of buttered corn and maple which are paired with a smoky finish, you must try this product. For the traditional whiskey lovers.
8. Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey
We don’t need to introduce this brand to you if you’re reading this article. Even if you’re not a whisky aficionado, you have surely heard of Jack Daniels, the world’s largest whiskey producer. Their single barrel collection comes in a rich mahogany hue that is due to the complexity of the spirit and its aging process.
Hints of caramel, spice and sweet fruit, along with vanilla and oak undertones bring you these exhilarating flavors that are well paired for a unique character.
7. Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey
Just like Clayton James, Prichard uses white corn instead of yellow, and small pot stills for their spirits. The sweetness that the white corn gives, and the fact that they are exempted from the charcoal mellowing gives it a unique twist.
After distillation, their whiskey is aged for ten years, which makes the bold flavors of ginger, caramel, dried fruits and oak stand out. Different from the traditional Tennessee whiskies, this offering is nice to enjoy on its own or in a Manhattan.
6. Rollins Tennessee Whiskey
Compared to old timers like Jack Daniels, Rollins is a fairly new Tennessee distillery. They rely on the real Lincoln Process of manufacturing their spirits, and along their locally grown ingredients, it simply works for them.
The result is a golden colored corn and grain sour mash whiskey that delivers a punch. With strong aromas of caramel and vanilla that are rounded by a malty flavor, the profile is spicy from the notes of cinnamon and clove that tickle your palate.
5. Nelson’s First 108 Tennessee Whiskey
Nelson Green Brier returned to the whiskey market 108 years after the statewide adoption of the prohibition, and to celebrate that historical moment they decided to come up with their 108 whiskey offering. Using their original recipe and adding the sugar maple charcoal mellowing process, they filled 108 30-gallon barrels with the liquor, which they aged for two years.
After those two years, they moved the liquid to regular sized barrels to complete the aging process, and the result gives a brown sugar, butterscotch and toffee flavored spirit.
4. Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey
This double distilled premium aged Tennessee whiskey is one of the best there is. With tasting notes of both dried and stone fruit as well as vanilla, this smooth flavored spirit is simply delicious.
The mash bill is made of 90% corn and rye and 10% malted corn, along with the maple charcoal filtration process and the new American Oak barrels that are used for aging give this spirit its outstanding taste. A rich and smooth character is what you will get from this offering.
3. Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack
This liquor is so rich and smooth, you don’t need to add anything to enjoy it, not even ice. The true whiskey lovers would not appreciate seeing anyone drinking it any different way, and once you taste it you’ll understand.
The gorgeous coppery color comes from the double charcoal mellowing process, and the caramel, peach and vanilla aromas that are prominent will ornate your palate with their rich flavors. Enjoy this woody refined liquor while sipping it slowly.
2. George Dickel Barrel Select
Now, this is the cream of the crop when it comes to George Dickel’s repertoire. It is one of the smoothest, finest tasting whiskies out. Handcrafted and aged for ten to twelve years, this small batch whiskey only comes in ten barrels the master distiller personally selects.
The velvety feel on your palate must come from the charcoal mellowing, along their unique aging process. Honey and vanilla notes give it its sweetness, and the delicate woodsiness is kicked off with a moderate spicy kick for a sublime finish.
1. Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Whiskey
This iconic sour mash whiskey has been charcoal mellowed and filtered through ten feet of maple sugar, which gives it its uniqueness. Matured in Jack Daniel’s own handcrafted barrels, and the master distillers’ random bottling timetable add to their character.
They only judge it ready for consumption when their nose finds the perfect balance between the oaky and sweet flavors that characterizes this particular spirit. As close to perfection as it gets.
We hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of the best Tennessee whiskeys we found for you, so feel free to taste and enjoy them, but in moderation is always best.