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Issue 75 - Jack and George

Whisky Magazine Issue 75
October 2008


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Jack and George

In the latest in our series we look at the letters T,U,V,and consider Tennessee whiskey

It is one of the whisky world's biggest ironies that what is considered to be the world's biggest bourbon isn't actually a bourbon at all.

Although it might stick in the craw of the whiskey makers of Kentucky, Jack Daniel's is about as far as many people's American whiskey knowledge stretches. Jack Daniel's, though, isn't a bourbon at all. It's a Tennessee whiskey.

You don't have to be in Kentucky to make bourbon.You can make bourbon anywhere in the United States as long as you stay to a rigid set of rules.And that's Jack's problem: it doesn't stick rigidly to the rules.

Not that Jack, or the State of Tennessee's other distillery,George A Dickel, see it as a problem.

Indeed they see their ‘rule breaking' as an essential addition to the nature of the spirit of Tennessee whiskey.

Tennessee whiskey resembles bourbon in most ways. It is made from a combination of corn, barley and rye and is distilled in continuous stills.Sour mash is added in just the same way as it is with bourbon.The big difference comes after the distillation is completed.Under what is known as the Lincoln Country Process, piles of maple wood charcoal are burned and then doused by water.

Smoke is deliberately retained in the charcoal wall, and the new make Tennessee spirit is slowly dripped though the wood.This removes some oils and heavier and unwanted flavour compounds,making for a smoother whisky.But the process also imparts flavour from the sweet wood smoke, and this is contrary to bourbon rules th...

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