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Our 5 favorite Tennessee whiskey brands, ranked

the best Tennessee whiskey brands, ranked

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When you think about Tennessee whiskey, there’s a good chance your first thought is Jack Daniel’s. Nobody will fault you for that. Not only is Jack Daniel’s the most well-known Tennessee whiskey by far, but it’s also arguably the most popular whiskey in the world. But if you limit yourself simply to expressions from this brand (specifically Old No. 7), you’re missing out on some outstanding whiskeys from the Volunteer State.

Those new to this whiskey style might wonder why it isn’t simply referred to as bourbon, as it fits most of the criteria. Since 2013, like bourbon, rules state that it must be made with a mash bill of at least 51% corn (the rest can be rye, barley, wheat, or other grains). On top of that, it must be matured in new, charred American oak barrels. That sounds a lot like bourbon to us. The main difference lies in how the whiskey is filtered.

Jack Daniel's
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Why isn’t it just called bourbon?

The name is more than just a geographic designation. Sure, you can’t make Tennessee whiskey in any other state as that wouldn’t make any sense, but the reason Tennessee whiskey has its own designation and isn’t just referred to as bourbon is the filtration process.

Referred to as the Lincoln County Process, it’s a process where the un-aged whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal. Also known as charcoal mellowing, this process is designed to remove some of the impurities while softening and smoothing out the whiskey. This is done right after distillation and before the whiskey heads to the barrel for maturation.

Every distillery making whiskey in the state uses the process except for Benjamin Pritchard’s, which was allowed to still call its whiskey Tennessee whiskey because of being grandfathered in before the 2013 regulations.

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Our 5 favorite Tennessee whiskeys

If you didn’t know it already, Tennessee is home to more than forty distilleries. The Tennessee Whiskey Trail alone lists 26 different distilleries, including the aforementioned Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg. But, while we love Jack Daniel’s, we also love some of the other offerings from the southern state. Keep scrolling to see five of our favorite bottles of Tennessee whiskey.

Company Distilling Straight Tennessee Whiskey
Company Distilling

5.) Company Distilling Straight Tennessee Whiskey Finished with Apple Wood

Company Distilling’s master distiller and founder, Jeff Arnett, formerly held the same position at Jack Daniel’s. It should come as no surprise that Company Distilling’s Tennessee Whiskey Finished with Apple Wood is an outstanding product. This charcoal-mellowed and white oak barrel matured whiskey gets added flavor from being finished with toasted apple wood. The result is a complex, sippable whiskey with notes of cinnamon, raisins, oaky wood, vanilla, and toffee.

Uncle Nearest 1856
Uncle Nearest

4.) Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey

The first whiskey released by Uncle Nearest, this award-winning, 100-proof expression is made with a mash bill of corn and rye and filtered using the Lincoln County Process. It’s aged in new, charred American oak barrels for between 8 and fourteen years. The result is a rich, complex whiskey with notes of candied pecans, brown sugar, sweet corn, peppery rye, chocolate, wintry spicy, and charred oaky wood.

Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey
Nelson’s Green Brier

3.) Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey

Made using a family recipe unearthed from 1909, Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey is made from a high wheat mash bill and filtered through maple charcoal before being matured in new, charred oak barrels. This award-winning throwback whiskey is known for its flavor profile, featuring notes of caramel apples, brown sugar, cinnamon candy, toasted vanilla beans, and oak. It’s soft, sweet, and very easy to drink.

Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey

2.) Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey

As we mentioned previously, Prichard’s is the only distillery making “Tennessee whiskey” that is allowed to operate without using the Lincoln County Process. Its classic Tennessee whiskey is made with a mash bill of white corn instead of yellow corn. Supposedly, this adds extra sweetness to the whiskey. This award-winning whiskey is matured for at least ten years in new, charred oak barrels. The result is a memorable sipping whiskey with notes of dried cherries, vanilla, toffee, cinnamon, peppery rye, and oaky wood.

George Dickel Bottled-In-Bond
George Dickel

1.) George Dickel Bottled-In-Bond Tennessee Whisky

This award-winning, 100-proof, bottled-in-bond Tennessee whiskey was made with a mash bill of 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley. It’s matured for a minimum of four years in charred oak in Federally bonded warehouses. This results in a bold, sweet whiskey with notes of maple candy, pecans, caramel apples, sweet corn, vanilla, and charred oak. Sip it neat with a few drops of water to open it up.

Jack Daniel's
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Tennessee whiskey and bourbon

Not all the whiskey made in Tennessee is a “Tennessee whiskey.” The distilleries in the state make other whiskeys, including bourbon, rye, single malt whiskey, and blended whiskey. These are all whiskeys made in Tennessee, but according to the new state rules from 2013, they aren’t technically “Tennessee whiskeys.” That’s why you’ll see phrases like “straight Tennessee bourbon” or “Tennessee rye whiskey” on labels.

Editors' Recommendations

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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