Tennessee WhiskeyAmerican Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s is a slice of American folklore, combining a down-home image with the glamour and glitz of its many celebrity devotees. It’s not the only Tennessee whiskey, but its smooth character – the result of the ‘Lincoln County Process’ of charcoal filtration – has come to define the category.
When in Tennessee…
What’s the difference between bourbon and Tennessee whiskey? Both are made using at least 51% corn, but the latter must also be filtered through maple charcoal before being put in charred oak casks for maturation. For this reason, Jack Daniel’s is not and cannot be called bourbon.
Bending the rules?
That much is straightforward. But in early 2014, a row erupted about a new law giving more detail on how Tennessee whiskey should be made. The owner of George Dickel distillery, Diageo, is contesting the idea that it must be aged in new oak barrels, arguing that this places undue financial pressure on the state’s growing number of craft distillers.
Cue a round of corporate mud-slinging between Diageo and Brown-Forman, owner of Jack Daniel’s – and suspicions from cynics that the proposed change might have more to do with the escalating cost of new barrels. Tennessee’s state legislature will decide what to do later in 2014.
Let’s get back to the whiskey
Stylistically, several factors mark out Tennessee whiskey as distinct from bourbon – for instance, there’s typically less rye in the mash bill (the ‘recipe’ of grains used to make it).
But the most obvious difference is that charcoal ‘mellowing’, known as the Lincoln County Process: before being filled into barrel, the new spirit passes through about 10 feet of active sugar-maple charcoal, removing impurities and giving it a smoother, subtly different character to that of bourbon.
Did you know?
- The small town of Lynchburg is world-famous as the home of Jack Daniel’s, but don’t expect to be able to taste it there, even when you visit the distillery – Lynchburg is dry
- Both Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel make their whiskey employing what is known as the Lincoln County Process, but neither distillery is located in Lincoln County (the boundaries have changed)
Typical Character and Style of Tennessee Whiskey
- Fruit Cake