Howdy y’all! In this edition of #WhiskeyWednesdays, we’re going full-on ‘Murica in exploring arguably the two most popular forms of whiskies hailing from the land of the free and the home of the brave – Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey.
This mini crash course should give you a better understanding of both Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey types, especially with their similarities and differences.
What is Bourbon?
The ‘Bourbon’ name can trace it roots back to the 1820s where it was likely inspired by the French Bourbon dynasty. Many have argued about its place of birth between Bourbon County in Kentucky state and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. What is undeniable here though is Bourbon’s strong links with America’s Southern States.
Legally, this is the US Government’s definition of Bourbon in general:
How many types of Bourbon are there?
Bourbon comes in two additional labelling forms, namely Straight Bourbon and Blended.
Straight Bourbon is defined as Bourbon that’s been aged for a minimum of two years, and does not have added colouring, flavouring, or other spirits. Examples include Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky (pictured above), Jim Beam (white label) and Wild Turkey 101.
Bourbon that’s labeled as Blended (or as a blend), on the other hand, is defined as any Bourbon that may contain added colouring, flavouring, and other spirits (such as un-aged neutral grain spirits); but at least 51% of the product must be Straight bourbon. A prime example of this is the Wild Turkey American Honey (pictured above).
What is Tennessee Whiskey?
Tennessee Whiskey, on the other hand, is legally defined as Straight Whiskey produced in the state of Tennessee that has undergone the ‘Lincoln County Process’ filtering step using sugar maple charcoal chips before it is aged. Theoretically, this step, which is also known as ‘Charcoal Mellowing’, promises a smoother product as a result.
Both Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey have almost identical legal requirements and most Tennessee Whiskies meet the criteria for Bourbon. However, the makers of Tennessee whiskey disclaim references to their products as “Bourbon” and don’t label them as such on any of their bottles or advertising materials.
The video below will show you how leading brand Jack Daniel’s makes its renowned Tennessee Whiskey.
Are there any other differences between Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey?
The most obvious difference between the two lies in the Lincoln County Process that’s required for Tennessee Whiskey. There’s also the slight difference in the spirits’ colour whereby Bourbon is light to rich amber whilst Tennessee Whiskey is slightly darker as it ranges from light brown to rich amber.
Then there’s also the difference in taste. It is a common consensus amongst American whiskey fans that the spirits from Tennessee that has undergone the Lincoln County Process is noticeable richer in taste with a smoother action compared to regular Bourbon.
How do you drink it?
Just like our exploration of Scotch whisky prior, there really is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to drink Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. Surely though, if you want to earn some macho manliness points and grow some chest hairs, you’d best take either in neat shots.
It’s safe to say that with either Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey, you could pretty much drink in any damn way you please. Neat, on rocks, with a little bit water, club soda or ginger ale, or even as a cocktail, there really is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way.
About Editor 2.0
An avid boozer and word-stringer who's paid to drink and write for the revamped Boozeat Blog 2.0
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