When making whiskey-based cocktails, it’s best to leave the whiskey buying to a person with at least a little whiskey knowledge. I offered to show a friend of mine how to make old fashioneds one Friday night and she offered to buy the bourbon, except that she came back with a bottle of JD.
Not knowing there was a difference, she had asked the clerk at the liquor store to point her towards to bourbon and the Tennessee whiskey happened to be sitting right next to it.
The difference between most whiskeys becomes obvious when you taste them side by side. If you delve a bit deeper into how each are made, it can help further clarify what it is you’re tasting with each kind. However, when it comes to a bourbon vs a Tennessee whiskey, the process is virtually identical – except for one step.
Right before the whiskey is put into casks to be aged, it’s first filtered through maple chips. This filtering (or mellowing as some distillers refer to it) is called the Lincoln County Process. It does not add any flavour to the whiskey, but helps to smooth it out. The State of Tennessee requires that distillers use the Lincoln County Process before a spirit can be called a Tennessee whiskey.
Two of the most common brands of Tennessee whiskey include Jack Daniels, as mentioned above, and George Dickels.
Now, you’ll know the difference the next time you find yourself staring at a bourbon and Tennessee whiskey on the shelf!