Tennessee’s Whiskey Country

Whether it’s Opryland or Graceland, many come to Tennessee for its rich musical background.  There’s no shortage of music here in a variety to suit everyone, but when it comes to beverages, there’s only one that Tennessee owns – good ole American whiskey.

I don’t know that there’s any place more famous worldwide for whiskey than Jack Daniel's and they put on quite a show.   At times I felt like I was on a movie set instead of at a distillery and that may be why they get the crowds.  In the end what really matters is the product, and there’s plenty of quality product at Jack’s and no one goes there without wanting a taste.

We got started with a sample of the Single Barrel, the whiskey with the highest maturation and a 94 proof.  This is a beverage for the true whiskey fan, with its strong oak flavor.  Old No. 7, the one the bartender takes right out when you just say “Jack,” is more a well-rounded whiskey.  You will taste the caramel and vanilla and with much less wood.  I was surprised to learn, though, that it's not No. 7 which is the fastest growing worldwide.  Gentleman Jack owns that title. , It is also the only whiskey in the world that is charcoal-mellowed twice, giving it more spice and fruit, with even less oak taste than the other Jack Daniel’s offerings.

From the spectacular to the quaint is how I’d describe the difference between Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel Distillery, my other Tennessee whiskey stop.  At George Dickel, everything is done by a hands-on process -- there are no computers to be found at this distillery.  The visitors' center at George Dickel was built in 2003, complete with a picnic area. 

George Dickel offers a number of products.  The Barrel Select is aged 12 years and finished at 86 proof.  The Cascade Hollow is the newest blend, aged just over three years and No. 8 Black Label is aged a bit longer for 6-8 years.  My choice was the No. 12 White Label.  This whiskey is 90 proof, aged 8-10 years and a bit sweeter and smoother than the others. 

There are a number of factors involved in giving each whiskey distillery its own unique flavor. The blending combination of corn, malted barley and rye varies in each product.  There’s also usually a slight variation in process that can change the taste.  The wood used for the barrels, as well as the process used to toast it, can change the flavor of the whiskey inside it.  There’s also the water. Distilleries are often built in certain areas to specifically take advantage of the unique spring water, something of which Tennessee has an abundance of. There are so many factors that go in each whiskey it's no wonder there is such a variety.

The best way to taste the difference between whiskies is to visit as many distilleries as you can.  There isn’t a large choice of accommodations around those areas.  Lynchburg, Tennessee, does have a number of Bed & Breakfast establishments, including the Tolley House, the Mulberry House and Lynchburg Bed & Breakfast

I stayed in Nashville during this trip at the Hermitage. Since we were on a tight schedule I didn’t get to check out much of the hotel, but I hope to go back soon.  I did get to make a short trip to the Grand Ole Opry, which you can’t miss if you head to Nashville.  I also suggest checking out the official website of Tennessee tourism.  It’s easy to navigate and contains lots of information for your trip.

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