Mike Parker

Kentucky Vs. Tennessee, And We Aint Talkin Football

Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 8:38 AM
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When it comes to whisky (or whiskey, depending on your etymological preference), interstate rivalries don’t get much fiercer than the one between Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee sipping whisky. Bourbon is a distinctly American spirit, and while no law says bourbon has to be made in Kentucky, approximate 95 percent of the nation’s bourbon is produced in that state. And while Tennessee sipping whisky technically and legally meets the definition for classification as a bourbon whisky, not Tennessee distillers bristle at the notion, and don’t label their products as such, preferring the Tennessee whisky distinction.

But just what is that distinction?

Bourbon whisky, according to U.S. Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, must be produced in the United States, from a grain mixture that contains at least 51 percent corn, aged in new, charred oak barrels, and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof.

To qualify as a Tennessee whisky, the spirit must be a straight bourbon whisky (that is bourbon whisky that is aged for at least two-years), produced in the state of Tennessee, and undergo a charcoal filtering stage known as the Lincoln County Process, which involves filtering the whisky through a thick layer of sugar maple charcoal prior to barreling for aging. Advocates of the Lincoln County Process believe this added step of charcoal filtering (a step the folks at Jack Daniels call “The Extra Blessing”) results in a smoother, mellower flavor making Tennessee Whisky just right for ‘sipping.’