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Whisky Advocate: Tennessee Whiskey Steps Into The Limelight

July 26, 2022

Less than a decade ago, a tour of Tennessee’s whiskey distilleries would have taken you to Jack Daniel, George Dickel (now Cascade Hollow), and family-owned Prichard’s, and that would have been it. Tennessee distilling remained within this small circle of three until the mid-2000s—despite the state being home to the world’s biggest-selling American whiskey, Jack Daniel’s, and laying claim to distilling roots dating back to 1771.

After Prohibition, distilling was allowed in just three Tennessee counties: Moore, Coffee, and Lincoln. It wasn’t until 2009 that the state legislature expanded legal distilling to 41 additional counties, touching off today’s Tennessee whiskey renaissance.

Tennessee’s star player, Jack Daniel Distillery, is known for its flagship Old No. 7, of which some 12.3 million cases are made each year. But master distiller Chris Fletcher has also been busy lately with a host of new creations. Last year saw the introduction of Jack Daniel’s 10-year-old, the distillery’s first age-stated bottling in more than a century, and Fletcher hints at more to come. “I’m not making any promises, but I do think it’s going to be incredibly interesting to continue pushing the limit on what we think we can do with aging our whiskey here,” he says.

Diageo’s Cascade Hollow Distilling Co., home of the George Dickel brand, is located just 18 miles from Jack Daniel Distillery in Tullahoma. The Dickel name has shot to center stage during general manager and distiller Nicole Austin’s tenure, with the distillery producing hotly anticipated new releases each year, and clinching the top spot on Whisky Advocate’s 2019 Top 20 list with its 13-year-old bottled in bond Tennessee whiskey. New expressions have included a collaboration with Leopold Bros. of Denver—a marriage of Leopold Bros. Three Chamber rye and the never-before-released Dickel traditional column still rye.

Among the state’s newer players is Uncle Nearest whiskey, located in Shelbyville at the former Sand Creek Farms, of Tennessee Walking Horse fame. The 323-acre property is in the midst of a four-phase, $50 million build-out. For now, Uncle Nearest sources its whiskey—mainly from Tennessee Distilling Group in Columbia, though it does have a single still in Shelbyville for small batch production, and last year the Nearest Green Still House opened its doors, meaning production will ramp up in meaningful way.

Another of Tennessee’s new whiskey stars is Sweetens Cove, which debuted in 2020 and is owned by retired NFL star Peyton Manning and tennis legend Andy Roddick, among other partners. It’s named for a picturesque local golf course along the Tennessee River about 30 miles west of Chattanooga. While Sweetens Cove’s Bourbon is currently sourced and confined to small batch and limited editions, its master blender Marianne Eaves sees some leeway. “Bourbon is the strongest initial play out of the gate for Tennessee, because people are desiring unique Bourbons, but there’s so much growth in rye, and I see major opportunity there,” she says. Whisky Advocate has the full story.—Julia Higgins

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