Tennessee Whiskey Distilleries You Must Visit on Your Trip to Nashville

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We bet you’ve heard of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. But, did you know Tennessee is renowned for its brand of whiskey? Tennessee’s northern neighbor has dominated a lot of the tasting trails in the south, but Tennessee Whiskey is a hot contender. Whiskey is a type of spirit that must have a 40% ABV and is made from mashed grains. Usually, it’s corn, rye or malt barley. While bourbon falls under the whiskey umbrella, it’s not the same thing as Tennessee Whiskey. We’re taking a look at what that means and the best distilleries to visit.

What is Tennessee Whiskey?

Before we list off the best distilleries in Tennessee, let’s talk about what Tennessee Whiskey is. All whiskeys must be produced with a mash that is at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels. The differences start when the liquid enters the barrels. Known as the Lincoln County Process, Tennessee Whiskey must be steeped or filtered through charcoal chips. We wouldn’t blame you for thinking that each blend of Tennessee Whiskey would taste the same. Well, there are variations you can take such as how long it’s aged how much the liquid is in contact with the charcoal, or what the other 49% of the mash includes. Other options are available too. You’ll learn a bit more about them as you visit the distilleries. Besides adhering to the mash percentage, the barrel requirement, and charcoal, the alcohol has to be distilled in Tennessee to get the coveted “Tennessee Whiskey” title.

Best Tennessee Whiskey Distilleries to Visit

Jack Daniel’s

We should probably start with one of the most famous distilleries in Tennessee — Jack Daniel’s. His real name was Jasper, but people called him Jack. He first learned how to distill whiskey from a local reverend in 1864. Two years later he opens  The Jack Daniel Distillery and becomes the first registered distillery in the U.S. Jack attributes the success of his whiskey to the Cave Spring Hollow rich in minerals. In 1904, Old No. 7 takes a gold medal at a fair in St. Louis. The distillery continued to flourish and managed to survive Prohibition. Today, guests can come in and tour the distillery and stay for a tasting after. You won’t want to miss this kind of tour. The folks over in Lynchburg are exceptional storytellers. You’ll get a guided tour plus a sip of the famous beverage as long as you’re of age. You can learn more about their tour options by clicking here.

Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery

A distillery that rivals Jack Daniel’s in culture and history is Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. Nelson and his family were from Germany and came to America in 1850 as many others did to find better employment. His father passed away on the journey over leaving Nelson in charge of supporting the family. He first made soap and candles then started work as a grocer. He became a very successful grocer and noticed the whiskey he sold was a popular item. It interested him enough to dabble in distilling. The interest lead him to a career in whiskey and he sold off his grocery store to pursue it full-time. Nelson bought a distillery in Greenbrier, Tennessee and holds the 5th licenses ever in the state. A year after he opened he sold 380,000 gallons of whiskey with his competitors topping around 23,000. Some argue his success was due to the use of whiskey bottles, but you can be the judge after you hear more about his story while visiting. Click here for information.

George Dickel

Much like Nelson, George Dickel was a merchant before he entered into whiskey. However, George got there first. A full seven years in 1878. Geroge Dickel opened Geo. A. Dickel & Co in Coffee County, Tennessee. He quickly developed a reputation for producing smooth, mellow whiskey in the region. Maybe one of the reasons it got this reputation was his preference for aging it in the winter rather than summer. The distillery’s first Tennessee Whiskey was advertised as ” Mellow as Moonlight.” The company continues with the time-honored tradition of chilling the liquid before the charcoal filtration. It’s an extra step that differentiates the whiskey from others on the list. And, it’s an excellent example of how distillers can find variety within the recipe requirements. You can come and tour the distillery to learn more about its history. It’s suggested original bottles of his Tennessee Whiskey can pull a pretty penny.

Terms You Need to Know for a Whiskey Tasting

You’ll hear a few of these terms floating around as you visit the distilleries. Here’s what they mean:

  • Angel’s Share – the amount of liquid lost in the barrel while aging
  • Barrel Proof – the proof whiskey is aged before being bottled
  • Dram – a shot of whiskey you shouldn’t shoot
  • Ethanol – the beverage alcohol
  • Extraction – when the liquid pulls in other flavors such as the charcoal or oak from the barrel
  • Malt – a grain that makes a sweet whiskey.
  • Mash bill – the grains and their ratios used to make whiskey
  • Proof – Measurement of beverage alcohol on a scale, in America, of 200. A 100° proof spirit contains 50 percent alcohol.

After your tour of the distilleries, don’t forget to swing through Nashville and visit Tommy’s Tours!

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