Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey are closely tied one another as the historical embodiment of the American Spirit. They share many similarities: made from corn, aged in barrels, and same distillation requirements. They can even look and taste alike! What's the difference? Let's break down the requirements below for an answer…
A. Made in the U.S.: Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey *made in TN only
B. Distilled at <= 160 proof: Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey
C. Placed in a barrel at <= 125 proof: Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey
D. Aged in a new, charred oak container: Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey
E. Bottled as 80 proof or greater: Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey
F. Filtered through maple charcoal before barreling: Tennessee Whiskey
The difference between to the two spirits is Tennessee whiskey is filtered through maple charcoal before placed into a barrel. This is known as the Lincoln County Process and was passed into law in 2013 as an official requirement for Tennessee Whiskey.
The practice began in the 1800’s by some of the state’s distillers. Notably, Jack Daniels, who learned the practice from Nearest Green (who owned Uncle Nearest Tennessee Whiskey).
The folks in Tennessee will tell you it gives the Spirit a more sweet, mellow character than bourbon. As charcoal is known to strip heavy flavors this is possible. However, there is no set amount of time the spirit spends in the charcoal. How much mellowing is possible in a few seconds? You decide!
Why was the Lincoln County Process added as an official requirement for the state’s whiskey? Well, because Tennessee wanted to be different! Bourbon is well known for its roots in Kentucky. However, the best-selling American whiskey is from Tennessee. Given the proximity to one another, suppose it was only right that politicians felt the need to add some requirements.
Boom! Another Shot of knowledge!