Once a small enterprise helmed by a few scrappy individuals, the whiskey industry has grown into a truly international affair — with excellent spirits hailing from every corner of the globe. In spite of the spirits’ far-reaching impact, there are still some regions of the world with concentrated pockets of distilleries crafting their own regional take on the inebriant.
In this case, we want to focus on one such pocket here in the United States. While their Kentuckian neighbors to the north often get more recognition, there are plenty of exceedingly impactful and talented distillers who call Nashville and the surrounding lands their home. We’re here to highlight some of their best works in the following collection of eight superb spirits that hail from The Volunteer State. These are the best whiskeys from Tennessee.
George Dickel Rye Whisky
George Dickel is the second-largest whiskey producer in the state of Tennessee, falling short of their chief rival, Jack Daniel’s. And while they get second-billing in regards to production and sales numbers, we’d be remiss in our duties if we didn’t tell you that, despite their seemingly low-tier reputation, Dickel actually offers a number of extremely impressive spirits. Their Rye is one such offering, having scored an impressive 94 points from Wine Enthusiast magazine. Made from a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley and fermented with a proprietary strain of yeast, we’re of the opinion that this smooth 90 proof whiskey has no business being as inexpensive as it is. But don’t tell George Dickel that, as we’re quite contented with the low price of this top-tier budget spirit.
Age: 5 Years (Minimum)
George Dickel Barrel Select Tennessee Whisky
The second of two George Dickel offerings on our list, the Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey is sure to cull favor with even the most stringent of skeptics. Aged from 10-12 years and crafted from ten different barrels, all hand-selected by Master Distiller John Lunn, this lightly-smoky, spicy, and sweet Tennessee spirit is as enjoyable over ice as it is neat. At the 2013 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, this whiskey garnered a score of 93 points, making it the 2nd best Tennessee whiskey in the competition. And it has also won multiple gold medals from the Beverage Testing Institute. Of course, if all those accolades aren’t enough to convince you of its quality, you’ll just have to try it for yourself.
Age: 10-12 Years
Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey
As even the most casual of drinkers should know, whiskey has a long and storied history — much of which is tied to the colonization and establishment of the United States. Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey harkens back to that history, made using Civil War-era techniques — including the use of white corn and small pot stills. Following its distillation, this spirit is barrel-aged for 10 years, resulting in bold flavors and aromas of oak, caramel, ginger, and dried fruit. It might not have the pedigree of a big, household name, but this liquor is no less a tremendously enjoyable drink, especially if you make a Manhattan cocktail with it.
Age: 10 Years
Heaven’s Door Straight Tennessee Bourbon
In case you’re not already aware, Heaven’s Door — a distillery headquartered out of a 160-year-old church in Nashville — is a venture started by none other than legendary musician Bob Dylan. And while that’s an interesting tidbit of information, it doesn’t have much value outside of being a marketing gimmick to serious whiskey drinkers. Luckily, the Tennessee-based brand holds its mettle when it comes to a solid collection of spirits. The best of the bunch, however, has to be the Straight Tennessee Bourbon you see here. Scoring a wealth of accolades — including a Gold Medal at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 96 Points at the 2018 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, and Double Gold at the 2018 New York World Wine & Spirits Competition — this liquor is proof that Heaven’s Door is far more than just an aging rock star’s side project.
Age: 8 Years (Minimum)
Corsair Ryemageddon Whiskey
If we had to pick one gripe we’ve got with Corsair’s Ryemageddon Whiskey, it’s that this “aged spirit” doesn’t actually come with an age statement — leading us to believe it’s rather young. That being said, we’re not actually sure the age matters all that much because the flavors speak for themselves. After all, we’re talking about the same folks that were voted the 2013 Craft Distillery of the Year from Whisky Magazine — including Darek Bell, the master distiller who learned his craft at the Bruichladdich Distilling Academy in Islay, Scotland. Made from a mash of 80% malted rye and 20% chocolate rye, Rymaggedon is a unique spin on a familiar inebriant that should surprise even the most experienced of drinkers. If there’s anything Corsair has taught us about their work, it’s to expect the unexpected and anticipate uncommon exceptionality.
Collier and McKeel Tennessee Whiskey
Named for Lincoln County, Tennessee — the place where Jack Daniel’s was first established — The Lincoln Process is a unique technique used in the creation of whiskey that hinges on filtering the spirit through charcoal chips prior to cask aging. It’s this process that gives Tennessee whiskey its unique flavor profiles — and it’s a process followed strictly by the folks at Collier and McKeel. This handmade inebriant hails from Nashville proper and is made from a singular mash bill of corn, rye, and malted barley. The result is a spirit that’s smokey and rich, with hints of sweetness and just the right amount of earthiness to round out the profile. And while it doesn’t come with an age statement, it’s delicious enough that we don’t mind one bit.
Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey
Whiskey distillers often have a reputation for being dogmatic in their adherence to traditions. In the case of this Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey, it’s that pig-headedness that makes this spirit such a stand-out in any lineup. You see, every batch of this whiskey is made with locally-sourced ingredients from the great state of Tennessee, completely handcrafted from start to finish, barreled near 110 proof, and bottled at the exact right moment for the ideal flavor and color — just as it has been done since the brand’s namesake was making it. Smooth, interesting, and cheaper than it rightfully should be, this is a spectacular Tennessee Whiskey if there ever was one.
Jack Daniel’s 150th Anniversary Tennessee Whiskey
Whether you like them or not, there’s no denying the impact that Jack Daniel’s has had on whiskey from Tennessee and the liquor industry at-large. As such, this list simply wouldn’t be complete without at least one of the brand’s Lynchburg-crafted offerings. This one, a specially-made variety designed to celebrate a century-and-a-half of success in business, might just be Jack Daniel’s magnum opus. You see, this one features the exact same mash bill as the spirit that made the brand famous — Old No. 7 — except it was released at a far higher proof of 100 (as opposed to the standard 80), which lends it a bit more intensity both its flavors and in the kick it delivers. Jack Daniel’s is, admittedly, not for everyone, but this upscale take is certainly worth more than a second glance.
What's The Difference: Bourbon vs. Whiskey
The world of spirits is one of subtlety and sometimes-confusing terminology. If you want to know what it is people mean when they say, “all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon,” you’ll find your answer on our bourbon vs. whiskey guide.