Tennessee whiskey is straight whiskey produced in Tennessee. Although it has been legally defined as a bourbon whiskey in some international trade agreements, most current producers of Tennessee whiskey disclaim references to their products as “bourbon” and do not label them as such on any of their bottles or advertising materials. All current producers are required by Tennessee law to produce their whiskey in Tennessee and, with one exception, to also use a filtering step known as the Lincoln County Process prior to aging the whiskey; that aside, “Tennessee whiskey and bourbon have almost identical requirements [and] most Tennessee whiskeys meet the criteria for bourbon.”
Tennessee whiskey is one of the top ten exports of Tennessee. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, as of 2013, the U.S. market for bourbon and Tennessee whiskey reached $2.4 billion, and exports of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey grew to exceed $1 billion. There are currently two major producers of Tennessee whiskey – Jack Daniel’s (owned by Brown-Forman) and George Dickel (owned by Diageo) – and at least two smaller producers (Benjamin Prichard’s and Collier & McKeel).
All Tennessee Whiskey is from Tennessee, but not all whiskey from Tennessee qualifies as Tennessee Whiskey.
Although the Ole Smoky Distillery (which began operation in 2010) is located in Tennessee and it produces a product that is a whiskey, the product cannot be sold as “Tennessee whiskey”, because it is not aged. (It is legally classified as a corn whiskey rather than carrying the “Tennessee whiskey” label.) Their product is instead marketed as “Tennessee moonshine”.
George Dickel began production of a rye whiskey in 2012, which also cannot be labelled as Tennessee whiskey, because it is produced from a rye-based mash and it is also not distilled in Tennessee. Most of the stages of its production are conducted under contract in Indiana, and the whiskey is then trucked to the Diageo bottling plant in Plainfield, Illinois for filtering with charcoal made at the Dickel distillery and bottling. In early 2014 they introduced a white corn whiskey using an unaged version of their standard mashbill; the Dickel mashbill is over 80% corn, allowing for its sale as “corn whiskey”, but the bottle makes no reference to Tennessee whiskey.
Jack Daniel’s began production in 2012 of what they dubbed a Tennessee Rye. As it is 70% rye it is not labeled as a “Tennessee whiskey”. A limited initial release, not aged in wood, bore the label “Spirits Distilled from Grain”. A second limited release, called “Rested Rye”, was released after two years of aging, and was labeled as a straight rye whiskey. Jack Daniel’s has said that a fully aged version will be released in the future.
Benjamin Prichard’s produces other whiskeys, a Tennessee Rye Whiskey and an unaged corn whiskey called Lincoln County Lightning. Like their Tennessee whiskey, they are not charcoal filtered prior to aging.
Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey is an unaged corn whiskey.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Tennessee whiskey, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.