It’s hardly an obscure corner of the whiskey world, but here’s to the home of Jack Daniel’s. At Wine Enthusiast, Kara Newman gives us the lowdown on Tennessee whiskey, plus a handful of ryes and bourbons from there, Kentucky and elsewhere.
As she points out, Tennessee is often overshadowed by neighboring Kentucky because it has relatively few distilleries. Also, there’s disagreement about what qualifies as Tennessee whiskey, which is meant to be bourbon—more than 51% corn spirit aged in new charred oak—made in the Volunteer State and filtered through sugar-maple charcoal. For example, rye doesn’t get to join the club.
Newman’s favorite of the four Tennessee whiskies she selects is George Dickel Bottled in Bond ($36*), which earns 95 points and a best-buy rating. “Burnt caramel and toffee telescope into espresso, black pepper, clove, unsweetened chocolate and a hint of black licorice,” she says. “Overall, the effect is earthy, woodsy and complex.”
Among the three ryes, Bare Knuckle American Rye Whiskey from Virginia-based KO Distilling ($66) gets 92 points. “While this overproof spirit is predictably fiery”—clocking in at a mere 62.4% ABV—“adding water lets bold mocha, burnt hazelnut and espresso bound forward, drying to clove and black pepper sizzle on the finish.”
Given our pick of Newman’s three bourbons, we’d take Four Roses 130th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch ($140). “The aromas are warm and delicious, suggesting vanilla, oak and allspice,” she writes of the Kentucky distillery’s offering, which tops her list with 97 points.
“The palate reflects some of the older, spicier whiskeys in the blend, singing with gingersnap and cinnamon fireworks up front, but underpinned with some of the lushness promised by the aroma: vanilla, cocoa, hazelnut,” Newman adds. “There’s a brisk lemony snap to the spicy finish that leads off into a long vanilla fade.” Over and out. 🥃
*All dollar figures in USD