Tennessee Whiskey

Tennessee is a state located in the center of the American south, between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian mountain chain. The state has a fairly long viticultural history, beginning with European settlers in the 1800s and peaking at the turn of the century, but its wine industry is dwarfed by its whiskey production.

The state is the home of Tennessee whiskey, a regional style of Bourbon that requires filtering through charcoal, a common practice that is not mandated in other American whiskeys. It was the abundance of oak trees for barrels that initiated the thriving whiskey industry in the state. This combined with the ideal geography that provided access to waterways for distillation and historical distribution methods.

Vineyards nestled in the foothills of Chattanooga Valley, in the southeast of Tennessee
? Georgia Farm Winery

The exact definition of Tennessee Whiskey has been the source of some confusion and disagreement. Unfortunately, the era of Prohibition in the 1920s led to distilleries being closed, and vineyards ripped out in favor of tobacco crops, a situation Tennessee didn't reccover from as quickly as its neighbor, Kentucky.

Whiskey production was introduced to Tennessee in the 18th Century by Scotch-Irish immigrants moving south from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Production skyrocketed, and by 1820 Tennessee had one of the four largest spirits industries in the United States. However, the temperance movement began to gain momentum in the 19th Century, and in 1910 Tennessee enacted a state-wide prohibition. Many distilleries moved to neighboring states, including two of Tennessee's most prominent distilleries, Jack Daniel's and George Dickel, although both later relocated back to the state. National Prohibition followed in 1920, and Tennessee continued the practice to varying degrees for decades after the 21st Amendment was passed in 1933. 

There are several conflicting definitions of Tennessee whiskey set out by various trade agreements. State legislation created its own definition in 2013 by requiring anything labeled Tennessee Whiskey to meet all the quality requirements for Bourbon, as well as being filtered through charcoal before cask aging, a method known as the Lincoln County Process. 

A number of distilleries also produce Whiskey outside of the Tennessee or Bourbon definitions, often in a Corn Liquor style that doesn't involve oak aging or the use of charred barrels. These spirits are sometimes labeled as Corn Liquor or more broadly as Moonshine.

Tennessee's wine production is mainly concentrated in the center of the state around the city of Nashville, where the rich soils of the Highland Rim provide a suitable environment for wine grapes. There are also a few wineries scattered at higher altitudes along the western slopes of the Appalachians. The state's only sub-AVA is the Mississippi Delta, which it shares with Mississippi and Louisiana.

The state's humid, subtropical climate makes winegrowing a particular challenge, but staunch vignerons persist with hybrid grape varieties and other kinds of fruit. Year round persistant rainfall provides the adequate precepitation for viticulture, but also ideal conditions for mildew diseases.

Temperatures drop as low as 27°F (-2.7°C) here, requiring a careful selection of hardy, cold-tolerant grape varieties to be planted. Vineyards are found on exposed elevations creating a microclimate with good airflow to ease the pressure of frosts as well as mildew diseases. 

Most Tennessee wines are made from Franco-American hybrid varieties such as Vidal and Chambourcin that are more resistant to the mildew diseases that are prevalent in more-humid climates. There are also plantings of Muscadine and Norton, native to this part of the country.

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Most Popular Tennessee Whiskey

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Grape
Popularity
Score
Avg Price
Jack Daniel's Black Label Old No.7 Brand Sour Mash Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 606th 84 $26
Jack Daniel's Gold Medal Series Tennessee Whiskey Vintage, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 630th $650
Jack Daniel's 'Eric Church' Single Barrel Select Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 1,357th $338
Jack Daniel's Sinatra Century Limited Edition Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 1,396th 91 $2,113
Jack Daniel's 'Single Barrel' Special Release Barrel Proof Rye Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Rye 1,939th $345
Jack Daniel's Holiday Select Vintage Limited Edition Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 2,102nd $402
Uncle Nearest 1820 Premium Single Barrel 11 Year Old Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 2,234th 93 $42
Blue Note 17 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 2,241st $455
George Dickel Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whisky, Tennessee, USA Whisky - Whiskey Blended 2,524th 95 $49
Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 3,622nd 88 $129
Jack Daniel's 'Single Barrel' Barrel Strength - Barrel Proof Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 3,725th 89 $70
Jack Daniel's 'Single Barrel' Select Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 4,357th 93 $52
Jack Daniel's 'Single Barrel' Heritage Barrel Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 4,391st 93 $510
Jack Daniel's No. 27 Gold Double Barreled Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 4,734th 87 $100
George Dickel 15 Years Single Barrel Tennessee Whisky, Tennessee, USA Whisky - Whiskey Blended 4,749th 95 $62
Heaven's Door 'The Bootleg Series' Mizunara Oak Finish 26 Year Old Rye Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Rye 5,065th 89 $636
Jack Daniel's 150th Anniversary Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 5,124th 92 $153
Jack Daniel's Silver Select Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 5,184th $153
Heaven's Door Redbreast Master Blender Edition 10 Years Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 6,083rd $123
Jack Daniel's 125th Anniversary Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 6,790th $558
Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whisky - Whiskey Blended 7,898th 90 $56
Jack Daniel's Unaged Rye Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Rye 8,001st 82 $118
Jack Daniel's Bicentennial Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 8,059th $602
Jack Daniel's Monogram Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 8,660th $894
Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve Bourbon Whiskey, Tennessee, USA Whiskey - Bourbon 8,837th 92 $66
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To see how Wine-Searcher uses average pricing and professional wine critic scores on this page, please see Average Wine Prices and Wine Scores. To find out about popularity, please see Wine Ranks.
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