Tennessee whiskey is poised to make a massive comeback on the whiskey market. The brown juice from the Volunteer State used to be the gold standard of American whiskeys. It was more refined than bourbon and has held a special place in the minds of everyone from artists to rock stars. Hell, it’s hard to imagine Frank Sinatra or Keith Richards or Lemmy without a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey in their hands when a mic or guitar wasn’t.
There was good reason Tennessee whiskey was so revered. The local elixir has similar requirements to Kentucky’s bourbon with one major difference. Like bourbon, it needs to have a 51 percent corn mash bill and must be aged in new charred American oak, but the brown stuff from Tennessee is also mandated to take an extra filtration step — called the Lincoln County Process.
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?
Obviously, bourbon is dominating the conversation in American whiskey right now. And that’s all fine and well. But as palates expand, Tennessee whiskey will be the first place adventurous drinkers go. So we’re calling out ten best Tennessee whiskeys worth tracking down right here and now, before the boom hits.