Besides Jack Daniel’s, Tennessee whiskey is almost criminally overlooked. It’s a shame, too, because the state is rich with mellow, often-sweet, slow sipping whiskeys, perfect for cocktails or over ice. Much of the credit for the refined, smooth nature of these expressions is due to the Lincoln County Process’s famed charcoal filtering — plus a mash bill that commonly resembles bourbon.
Most Tennesee distilleries choose not to highlight any bourbon commonalities, but the connection is obvious. Still, this is no copycat spirit. As our own Zach Johnston says:
The Lincoln County Process is a step between distillation and aging wherein the white dog (raw, unaged whiskey) passes through charcoal made specifically from sugar maple wood. This adds a layer of refinement to the proto-whiskey that sets it apart and elevates it. Think of it this way, great gins and vodkas live or die by their filtration before they go in the bottle. So why then wouldn’t the same be true of of a corn-based distillate?
Hear that? “Sets it apart” and “elevates it” — makes you curious, right?
So what are the best Tennessee whiskeys to try this month? To help you find some new faves, we asked some of our most beloved bartenders to point us to their picks for late Spring/ early Summer 2020.
George Dickel Barrel Select
Danielle Becker, bartender at the Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colorado
George Dickel Barrel Select is a can’t miss Tennessee whiskey. It’s perfect. It’s a prime example of good southern whiskey: perfect caramel, perfect heat, perfect spice. I love this whiskey.
Benjamin Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey
Jason Strich, bar director at Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos, California
Benjamin Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey, it has always been a bottle of well-made whiskey. It’s aged in heavily charred barrels, resulting in a complex whiskey with a great mix of spice and sweetness.
George Dickel No. 12
Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
For a straight sour mash, I can never argue with a pour of the George Dickel No. 12. The flavor is palatable on its own but can still come through if you prefer a highball. Not that Dickel is an entirely new name for Tennessee whiskey, but my immediate thought is to also recommend their rye which packs a nice punch of flavor.
Belle Meade Bourbon
Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at The Dorsey in The Venetian in Las Vegas
Belle Meade, they make bourbon in Tennessee, but they have not made Tennessee style whiskey until now. They make good whiskey so I’m sure they did their state proud to finally produce a Tennessee style whiskey. Plus, they’re aging their bourbon in sherry butts, which is pretty awesome.
Fugitives Tennessee Whiskey
Ellen Talbot, lead bartender at Fable Lounge in Nashville
Fugitives Tennessee Whiskey is made with local, Tennessee-grown corn and provides a velvety mouthfeel with notes of cinnamon and honey. It’s local and perfect for slow sipping or mixed into your cocktail of choice.
George Dickel Bottle In Bond
Matt Shields, bartender at The Bay Restaurant in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
George Dickel Bottled In Bonds is a solid Tennessee Whiskey. I’d say one of the best on the market, though my taste buds normally lean in the bourbon category. Bottled in Bond has the heat to counteract the sweet that comes with the Tennessee whiskey flavor.
Jack Daniel’s Barrel Select
Wesley MacDonald, owner of Caña Bar and Kitchen in Curaçao
Besides George Dickel and Jack Daniels, I am not familiar with any Tennessee whiskeys. If I would go look for some, I would research the mash bill and look for my desired flavor profile. A bit higher proof never harms either. As of now, if I was going to pick one, it would be Jack Daniel’s Barrel Select. Full of oak sweetness, vanilla, and Christmas spices, you’ll want to spend a long time sipping this offering.
Uncle Nearest 1884
Melissa Carroll, bartender at Fisk and Co in Chicago
Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch is a fantastic way to celebrate history and good whiskey. A bottle that not only represents the best of Tennessee whiskey, with a clear flavor of its own sugar maple filtration process, it is also something that many people don’t know about yet. Why not respect the legacy of Nearest Green, the first African American distiller on record in the United States.
George Dickel Classic No. 8
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Tonight’s pour, George Dickel No. 8. One of my favorite Tennessee Whiskey’s, which is nice because it isn’t expensive and I go through a lot of it. . . . . . #whisky #whiskey #drink #drinks #instawhisky #alcohol #spirits #bottle #drinkwhisky #neat #flightclubict #cheers #booze #whiskygram #tennessee #tennesseewhiskey #dickel #georgedickel #georgedickelwhiskey #georgedickel8 #georgedickelno8
Blake Jones, bartender and director of beverage at The Kennedy in Pensacola, Florida
They’re all pretty well known at this point, but George Dickel Classic No. 8 is pretty great. It’s the most famous offering from the distillery for a reason. It’s one of those classic sipping whiskeys you expect from Tennessee.
Writer’s Pick: Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey
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Congrats to @ngbdistillery for resurrecting the family brand, @nelsonsgreenbrier whiskey. It’s definitely one of the coolest looking labels on my bar. Looking forward to reviewing the juice inside for @drinkhacker soon! What’s everyone else sipping on this weekend? . . . . #newwhiskey #vintagelook #oldwhiskey #nelsonsgreenbrierdistillery #nelsonsgreenbrierwhiskey #tennesseewhiskey #tnwhiskey #sourmash #whiskeyreview #drinkhacker #fryeday #ryeday #newbourbon #bourbonfound #craftwhiskey #cheers🥃
For years, the only Tennessee whiskey names most of us knew were George and Jack. A few years ago, the Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery was reopened 100 years after it closed in 1909. Since then, brothers Charlie and Andy Nelson have been cranking out amazing, high-quality whiskeys. This includes their flagship Tennessee Whiskey. It’s sugar maple charcoal filtered and aged in new charred American oak casks. The result is an ultra-smooth whiskey with hints of caramel, vanilla, brown sugar, with a subtle hint of Christmas spices.