5 Best Tennessee Whiskeys: Outsider-Approved Whiskey Brands That Are 100% Made in Tennessee

by Jim Casey

With iconic brands like Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel calling Tennessee home, the whiskey game has been strong (and smooth) in the Volunteer State for more than 100 years. And in 2009, when Tennessee legislators enacted laws to allow more than three dozen counties (instead of just three) to begin producing whiskey and other spirits, the distillery game began to boom. Now, Tennessee boasts dozens of distilleries, including many that specialize in “Tennessee Whiskey.”

To be classified as “Tennessee Whiskey,” the spirit must be made from fermented mash of at least 51 percent corn, aged in new oak barrels, charcoal mellowed (Lincoln County Process), and produced in Tennessee. Our neighbor to the north, Kentucky, may be the bourbon epicenter of the free-drinking world, but Tennessee knows whiskey.

On that note, Outsider highlighted the 5 Best Tennessee Whiskeys currently being produced in our fine state (of course, we spread the love by selecting only one whiskey from each of Tennessee’s spirited competitors).

1. George Dickel Barrel Select

  • Age: 9+ Years
  • Proof: 86
  • Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Baking Spice, Toasted Oak, Toffee
  • Price: $40-$45
  • Also Try: Single Barrel 15, Bottled in Bond 13, Single Barrel 9

George Dickel continually produces a bevy of the best Tennessee Whiskeys at unbelievably affordable price points, including a Single Barrel 15 Year, Bottled in Bond 13 Year, and Single Barrel 9 Year, not too mention its classic No. 8 and No. 12 recipes. Among Dickel’s best offerings is its Barrel Select. With more than 20 bottles sampled, I’ve never had a disappointing pour. Barrel Select is an omnipresent fixture on my bar—and my go-to Tennessee Whiskey because of its mellowly delightful warmth and medium-sweet finish . . . that lingers ever-so perfectly until my next neat sip.

2. Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof

  • Age: Not Stated (guess: 4-7 years)
  • Proof: 125-140
  • Tasting Notes: Caramel, Black Pepper, Vanilla, Banana
  • Price: $60-70
  • Also Try: Single Barrel Select, Coy Hill High Proof

If you’ve outgrown Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 and Gentleman Jack still doesn’t have the depth, Jack’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof may be exactly what you’re thirsting for. Bottled straight from the barrel at its full proof by Jack’s master distiller Chris Fletcher, SBBP delivers the firepower, while remaining remarkably sippable. It’s the best thing to come out of Lynchburg since Jack’s Sinatra Select, but unlike Sinatra ($200 a bottle), SBBP won’t break your bank at $60.

3. Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey

  • Age: 10 Years
  • Proof: 80
  • Tasting Notes: Dried Fruit, Oak, Cocoa, Citrus
  • Price: $49-$55
  • Also Try: Prichard’s Fine Aged Rum, Sweet Lucy

Prichard’s Distillery in Kelso, TN, actually opened in 1997, before the mass distillery boom of the last decade. While Prichard’s makes a damn fine line of rums, its Tennessee Whiskey is a one-of-kind expression. Made with white corn (instead of the traditional yellow corn), it’s the only Tennessee Whiskey exempt from the required charcoal filtering process (grandfathered in). The result is a distinct-tasting Tennessee Whiskey perfect for that pre-dinner libation—especially when you’re in the mood to try something outside the traditional-tasting box from Jack and George.

4. Leiper’s Fork Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey

  • Age: 4 Years
  • Proof: 100
  • Tasting Notes: Dark Fruit, Oak, Spice, Honey
  • Price: $75-85
  • Also Try: Leiper’s Bottled in Bond Bourbon

Leiper’s Fork Distillery in Franklin (20 miles south of Nashville) may be young (2016), but it’s a player. And Leiper’s Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey is a fine four-year-old sipper. I got my first bottle as a gift and promptly purchased Leiper’s Bottled in Bond Bourbon, which is a fitting evening capper if you’re interested in something slightly sweeter with a chocolate finish. But to get the night started, pour a few fingers of Leiper’s Tennessee Whiskey and unleash its dark fruit notes with a couple drops of water.

5. Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey

  • Age: Not Stated (but at least 2+ years)
  • Proof: 91
  • Tasting Notes: Cinnamon, Apple, Leather, Corn
  • Price: $30
  • Also Try: Nelson Brothers Classic Bourbon

Charles Nelson produced a popular pre-Prohibition whiskey from 1870 to 1909. The brand, Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, was relaunched by his great-great-great grandsons—brothers Charlie and Andy Nelson—in 2014. That’s a great story. But that’s all it would be—a story—if the whiskey didn’t display the potential of its namesake. If you regularly dig Jack No. 7 or George No. 8, take a slight detour thru Nelson’s Green Brief Tennessee Whiskey. Not only is the price point agreeable, but so is the medium-sweet finish. Nelson’s future is bright future, but its present is enjoyable.

Tennessee Distilleries

  1. Old Dominick Distiller – Memphis, TN
  2. Big Machine Distillery – Nashville & Lynnville, TN
  3. Company Distilling – Thompson Station, TN
  4. Corsair Distillery – Nashville, TN
  5. Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. – Tullahoma, TN
  6. Jack Daniel’s Distillery – Lynchburg, TN
  7. Leiper’s Fork Distillery – Franklin, TN
  8. Nashville Barrel Co. – Nashville, TN
  9. Nashville Craft Distillery – Nashville, TN
  10. Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery – Nashville, TN
  11. Old Glory Distilling Co. – Clarksville, TN
  12. Pennington Distillery – Nashville, TN
  13. Prichard’s Distillery – Kelso, TN
  14. Short Mountain Distillery – Woodbury, TN
  15. Nearest Green Distillery – Shelbyville, TN
  16. Bootleggers Distillery – Hartford, TN
  17. Brushy Mountain Distillery – Petros, TN
  18. Chattanooga Whiskey Distillery – Chattanooga, TN
  19. Company Distilling – Townsend, TN
  20. Gate 11 Distillery – Chattanooga, TN
  21. Junction 35 Spirits – Pigeon Forge, TN
  22. Knox Whiskey Works – Knoxville, TN
  23. Lost State Distillery – Bristol, TN
  24. Old Forge Distillery – Pigeon Forge, TN
  25. Old Tennessee Distilling Co. – Kodak, TN
  26. Old Smoky Distillery – Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge & Nashville, TN
  27. Post Modern Spirits – Knoxville, TN
  28. Sugarlands Distilling Co. – Gatlinburg, TN
  29. Tennessee Legend Distillery – Sevierville, Nashville & Cookeville, TN