Tennessee Whiskey 201 - and Why It Is Not Bourbon

Statue of Jack Daniel, fondly known as “Jack on rocks.”

Jack Daniel and George Dickel are examples of Tennessee whiskey. They are not bourbons; I will explain why.

The ingredients for both Tennessee whiskey and bourbon are similar - corn, rye and malted barley. Many bourbons also contain wheat. While the ingrediants are the same, Tennessee whiskey tends to use more corn (80 percent for Jack, 88 percent for George) than is found in bourbon.

The fermentation and distillation process are the same - in other words, the white dog coming from distillation is the same. After distillation, Tennessee whiskey undergoes a step that bourbon does not a step, called mellowing. The white dog is dripped through a bed of sugar maple charcoal - 10 feet of it for Jack and 13 feet for George. After mellowing, the product is placed in barrels, the same type as used for making bourbon. The aging process is the same.

The result? To my taste, the Tennessee whiskey is smoother with less (if any) ”hug” or “burn.”

Unfortunately, I bought bourbon at each of the five distilleries I went to in Kentucky. Anybody want a shot?? 🤪

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