Out of Kentucky and on to my old stomping ground of Tennessee. Here, I'll figure out what constitutes a Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey and find out the difference between that and bourbon, both in flavor and in production techniques.
My Wrap Up of Kentucky and My Evening at Talbot Tavern
Time To Reflect on Kentucky and Bourbon
While I cruised down to the cradle of Tennessee whiskey, I decided to take a step back and reflect on my Kentucky experience.
When I came to Kentucky, I admit I was still pretty much a bourbon newbie. I had dabbled in the spirit, but I really had no point of reference when judging a bourbon. If tasting 86 different bourbons in a week did anything for me, it helped me develop a much more trained palate. For the first time, not only can I say that I like something, but maybe even give some firm reasons why. I'm still not competing with some of those amazing YouTubers that can name a hint of hibiscus and a nose of elderberry, but that is fine with me. A trained nose and palate do take time and I'll enjoy the practice over the long haul. The training wheels are off!
I also learned some of the art of drinking a bourbon. There are whisky's I tried that, even though the flavor may not have come bursting through, the pleasure came from substantial mouth feel or that warm Kentucky hug on the finish. There were whisky's that, if I let them set for a while, they got better. Or maybe I added a little water and they opened up like a rose in springtime. I also had some that I quickly discovered didn't go well with what I was eating and others that matched up nicely. All of these discoveries will help me decide which bourbon or whisky fits the situation.
It's all a fun education. And while it seemed overwhelming at first, it didn't take long to get in the groove. So go find your "go to" bourbon. Just a point of reference...a baseline. It doesn't have to be good to anyone else, just you. Then sit with it, examine it. Figure out what you like about it. Then when you taste your next spirit, think, how does this differ from the one I chose as my baseline? Soon you'll have a much more solid foundation for making a good purchasing decision. And no longer will have to love Pappy Van Winkle to be a real bourbon drinker. In fact, you might find that isn't even your style.
Okay, back to the tour...
George Dickel Distillery
Out In The Country and Not Well Marked. Make Sure Your GPS Is Working!
- Location: Tullahoma, TN
- Website: Tour Information
- Cost: I paid $10 for the tour.
- Samples: 4 Selections including White Dog, George Dickel Tennessee Sour Mash Whisky #8, #12 and Barrel Select.
- Perks: Because our tasting was delayed, we got an extra taste. It was the George Dickel Tabasco whiskey. You can also send a postcard for free from the "post office" within the Visitor's Center.
- My Instagram Photos (Coming Soon)
- That's actually the 1908 Detroit Tigers hat (for shame!), it was a Ty Cobb era hat. In fact, they went to the series that year...and lost.
- The drive in from I-24 to Tullahoma is gorgeous. I stopped to take a picture and a helpful local thought I had broken down and offered to help.
- While we're talking about messing up historical facts, this was one of the most confusing tours in terms of understanding the history of the company and it's namesake. After looking it up, it still settles very little. George was a distributor in Nashville, not a distiller. His company invested in a distillery in Cascade Hollow and became the sole distributor. I heard something about this being Dickel's recipe but since he just sold Cascade Hollow's whiskey and he wasn't a distiller, it sounds a bit like a tall tale. Maybe he was just a mixer of liquor, but I don't know how you recreate that "recipe."
- Also, I think all of those bourbon distilleries being so close together keeps the guides on their toes. I was surprised at how sometimes questions that I'd heard answers to over and over in Kentucky, were not known here.
- It was also mentioned that they do cold-filtering here because they found out through experimentation that it makes the whiskey better. Jack Daniel's does not cold-filter while running through charcoal according to that guide. Does that mean Dickel is better? I'll leave the tasting and judgment up to you. I couldn't pick it out. Jack Daniel's also uses sugar maple for the charcoal.
- Interesting that they said during the tour that a lot of years on a Sour Mash Whiskey isn't really necessary. But then they promoted their "lost" 17 year bottles. As I said, kind of a confusing tour at times.
- The first sign I saw for the distillery was on my way out. It's not very well marked. Make sure it's Cascade Hollow Distillery (the official name of the distillery where George Dickel is made) that you're going to.
Jack Daniel's Distillery
Going Top Flight at the Historic Distillery
- Location: Lynchburg, TN
- Website: Tour Information (Requires Age Verification)
- Cost: I paid $25 for this premium tour.
- Samples: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Jack Daniel’s Barrel Proof, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye & Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select and Gold 27
- Perks: I recieved a very nice, substantial Jack Daniel's whisky glass.
- My Instagram Photos (Coming Soon)
- I would probably suggest buying your Jack Daniel's elsewhere (except the Old 27 which is only available here). The prices were about 10% higher than I've seen elsewhere.
- They talk about how the trees and everything are covered with this black soot called baudoinia compniacensis and that the feds used to look for this on trees because they knew a distillery is near by. It is a biproduct of the angel's share. Angel's share is the vapor that escapes from the barrel as it ages. Buffalo Trace actually said there is a belief that the warehouse will be protected by the angels because they are getting a share of the whiskey. You'll experience the angel's share as soon as you walk into any whiskey warehouse.
- I'd love to hear from you. Let me know if this information has been helpful and if you have suggestions of how I can improve my vlogs in the future, just let me know.
- Have a great time, get out there, and be safe! Cheers! - Drew
Do It Yourself
Each day, I will provide a map showing my drive and will give you an idea of the mileage.
Note: I left Bardstown and made one stop off to check on some bourbon prices, then headed to Nashville and stretched my legs at Centennial Park and Music Row. Finally, I ended up at George Dickel and Jack Daniels. Times are approximate.
- Bardstown, KY to George Dickel Distillery (Tullahoma, TN) - 221 miles/3 1/2 hours (and a 1 hour time change between Eastern and Central time)
- George Dickel Distillery to Jack Daniel's Distillery (Lynchburg, TN) - 18 miles/27 minutes