Most people are under the impression that Tennessee whiskey and American bourbon are the same. Our team of seasoned whiskey drinkers has taken the time to taste-test what’s out there in the Tennessee whiskey world.
We’ve compiled a list of the 20 best Tennessee whiskeys based on taste, profile, and texture. Ready? Let’s begin!
Top 19 Must-Try Tennessee Whiskeys
1. Bib & Tucker Small Batch Bourbon
A bottle of Bib & Tucker looks like it could be something out of a medieval tale, with the embossed glass, parchment label, and cork stopper.
The vibe was still pretty similar as soon as we poured ourselves a glass — it made us want to split the bottle with knights and noblemen of days past. It has strong aromas of citrus, caramel, and vanilla, laced with grass and sawdust. The smooth and fine spirit bursts with flavors of Christmas cake and walnuts, with smoky oak more pronounced in older bottles.
2. Cascade Moon Edition 2
Cascade Moon Edition 2 is aged at least 17 years, using barrels from when the distillery reopened in 2003. The company takes special care to ensure that all the barrels mature at the same level.
As a result, the spirit is satisfyingly dry and wondrously elegant, with orange candy, baking spices, and caramel flavor notes. Its superb quality is perfect for sipping and more than enough to make up for its premium price point (over $200).
3. Chattanooga Whiskey 111
Chattanooga Whiskey 111 gets its name from the bottle’s alcohol proof — a whopping 111. This craft whiskey is bottled at cask-strength and unfiltered, so you can enjoy a fuller flavor despite an aging process of only two years (you’d never guess, though!).
Chattanooga Whiskey is brimming with notes of butterscotch, toffee, and caramel, balanced out with nuttiness, so it doesn’t come across as overly sweet. The creaminess from the high corn content is further cut by warming spices and pepper.
4. Clayton James Tennessee Whiskey
Clayton James has a different interpretation of the Lincoln County Process. Instead of filtering the spirit, they hold it in sugar maple charcoal under pressure for a week.
This process lends a fruity flavor profile to the Tennessee whiskey, potent with apple, pears, apricots, and agave notes. Alongside the fruits are rich flavors of maple syrup, spice, and vanilla.
5. Corsair Triple Smoke
Corsair Triple Smoke takes its name from the three smoked malts that make up the Tennessee whiskey: smoked peat, smoked cherry, and smoked beechwood.
As a result, this local whiskey has a wonderful plethora of flavors: smoke, char, mild peat, cherry, malt, and butterscotch fudge. You’d probably get a different interpretation of the blend the more you drink it.
6. Davidson Reserve Tennessee Small Batch Whiskey
Davidson Reserve uses high rye (no less than 25 percent). As the name suggests, it is a small-batch Tennessee whiskey aged in American oak barrels for at least four years.
Much like the other labels on this list, Davidson Reserve is fruity and sweet, with notes of red berries, maple syrup, and caramel taking center stage on the tongue. The finish is mildly long, with more sweet fruit, vanilla, and mint layers.
7. Fugitives Grandgousier
Probably one of the youngest on this list is Fugitives Grandgousier, only having been established in 2016. Still, it doesn’t disappoint — the craft whiskey’s high-quality Hickory Cane combined with Irish malt contributes to the subtle yet distinctive flavors.
Notes of apples, malt, and vanilla are present, paired with a honey-fueled lengthy finish.
8. George Dickel Barrel Select
George Dickel uses a lot of corn in its mash bill and only 8 percent rye and malted barley. It uses a chilled process for the sugar maple charcoal mellowing, making the spirit uniquely light.
George Dickel Barrel Select is hand-selected by Master Distiller John Lunn and aged nine long years, allowing its flavors to marry fully. It has potent notes of vanilla and caramel, with undertones of fruity elements like banana and applesauce. Charred wood and oak are potent in the finish.
As the label suggests, each bottle comes from a single barrel. It is said that only ten barrels are selected (amongst many) and transformed into this small-batch whiskey.
9. Heaven’s Door 10 Year Limited Edition
Aside from being known as the whiskey brand of Bob Dylan, it’s also imperative that you know how good this Tennessee whiskey stacks up against others.
Although there are plenty of Heaven’s Door variants out in the market, the 10-Year-Old Limited Edition is where it’s at. This label is aged for ten years, allowing strong flavors of creamy butter and baked bread to emerge. Charred fruits, sweet maple, and spicy tobacco round up the spirit.
10. Heaven’s Door Double Barrel Whiskey
Speaking of Heaven’s Door, we have to give a shout-out to Double Barrel, too!
This Tennessee whiskey uses a special blend of straight rye and Tennessee whiskey and ages them independently for six years. Afterward, they are blended and matured further for at least a year before it goes through sugar maple charcoal filtration.
The final spirit is robust, with full flavors of dried fruit, butterscotch, and cinnamon yet remains incredibly sweet and mellow.
11. Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Whiskey
When people think of American whiskey, Jack Daniel’s is probably the first to come to mind. And it’s no surprise that Jack Daniel’s No. 7 is among the top-selling bottles in the whiskey industry.
Jack Daniel’s signature mash goes through ten feet of sugar maple charcoal and matures in their own handcrafted barrels to create a final spirit that’s robust and sweet.
Strangely, this does not follow a whiskey production calendar but rather goes through a round of taste-testing, wherein certified tasters deem it ready or not for bottling.
12. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s is famous for its corn-heavy mash bill, but takes a step in the opposite direction with its straight rye whiskey line.
This mash bill uses a whopping 70 percent rye, giving the Tennessee whiskey a brisk and spicy profile. Serving it on the rocks or adding a bit of water will significantly cut back the rye spice and make room for the vanilla, lemon peel, and allspice to blossom. This rye whiskey also works extremely well in cocktails.
13. Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select
Jack Daniel’s makes a third entry on our list with their Single Barrel Select line. Unlike the No. 7 that you’ll find almost everywhere, the company releases limited bottles of the Single Barrel Select line — it is said that only one in 100 barrels passes quality standards for bottling.
This Tennessee whiskey is bottled uncut and unfiltered. All bottles share a sweet vanilla and toasted oak flavor profile, balanced with warm winter spices.
We’ve also got to mention how this label stays affordable despite being an exclusive single-barrel whiskey (seriously, how do they do it?). Here’s a list of the most expensive Jack Daniel’s.
14. Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey
Nelson’s Green Brier may be young (just under four years!), but it’s one of the best Tennessee whiskeys.
An in-house mash bill made from corn, malted barley, and wheat makes up this Tennessee spirit, which gives it a cinnamon toast flavor laced with spicy warm apples. It is topped off with notes of syrupy cherries, dark chocolate, and brown sugar.
15. Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey
Prichard’s is the only Tennessee whiskey to take a left turn from the standard production method — they don’t make use of the Lincoln County Process. They also don’t use traditional yellow corn.
Instead, they use white corn, which gives the spirit unparalleled sweetness and creaminess. After the white corn is distilled in small pot stills and matured for ten years, the aged spirit is bottled unfiltered. 
This “Tennessee” whiskey is potent with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla aromas, laced with dark cherries, chocolate, and sweet coffee flavors. Its finish is unexpectedly long.
16. Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey
Roaming Man is one of the higher-proof whiskeys out on the market — it is bottled at a cask strength of 119.6. Many people would find that its nose is quite hot with rye spice, but don’t let that discourage you — it’s more complex than you think!
This Tennessee whiskey is 51 percent rye, 45 percent corn, and 8 percent malted barley. It is heavy with notes of warm cinnamon, chocolate fudge, cherry, and orange, rounded out with lemon citrus at its finish.
17. Rollins Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey
Rollins is one of the few Tennessee whiskey distilleries that make just this bottle and nothing else.
The distillery sources local quality ingredients for the corn and grain sour mash whiskey and filters it using charcoal chips. The Rollins Tennessee Whiskey is finally aged in white oak barrels.
Personally, this is what we believe Tennessee whiskey should taste like — a liquor that’s smooth and sweet, with vanilla and caramel notes, a touch of sweet maltiness, balanced out with clove and cinnamon.
18. Sweetens Cove Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey
Sweetens Cove is a limited-release premium bottle that comes at cask-strength 101.4 proof.
It’s not a hit-you-in-your-face kind of spirit. Instead, this Tennessee whiskey tickles your nose with a wonderful concoction of fragrances, including green apple, butterscotch, brown sugar, cream soda, and caramel.
The best way to drink Sweetens is in small sips. The soft trend follows on the palate, and you’ll get to encounter notes of leather, cedar, chocolate cake, and vanilla, balanced out with pecan and oak.
And oh, did we mention that this bottle is crafted by Master Distiller Marianne Eaves herself? No wonder it’s this good!
Read: Top Whiskeys Under $30
19. Uncle Nearest 1820 Single Barrel
Uncle Nearest is bottled straight from the barrel after an aging period of 11 years.
You may have heard of the more popular counterpart, the Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey. But we’re going to talk about 1820 here.
This delicious craft whiskey is rich and indulgent, with leather, stone fruit, brown sugar, oak, and dark chocolate flavor notes. Its finish is moderately long, with smoky oak and buttered popcorn. We especially liked this one on the rocks.
This distillery is also behind the Belle Meade bourbon lineup, a series of whiskeys finished in various cask types. Uncle Nearest is named after Nathan “Nearest” Green, who taught Jack Daniel himself how to distill whiskey.
What makes Tennessee whiskey special?
Tennessee whiskey is special in its use of the Lincoln County Process, which means letting the spirit go through a round of charcoal mellowing. As a result, the whiskey is smoothened and mellowed out.
Are bourbon and Tennessee whiskey the same?
Technically, yes, you could say that. According to regulations, both whiskeys must be made from a mash bill of at least 51 percent corn and matured in charred oak barrels. Also, much like how Kentucky bourbon is made in Kentucky, Tennessee whiskey is made in Tennessee.
However, that’s not all. The Lincoln County Process mandates that Tennessee whiskey take an extra step by going through one round of filtration with charcoal chips before the whiskey is aged. A charcoal-mellowed spirit has a smooth, mellow, and mature profile.
Tennessee whiskey qualifies as bourbon, but not all bourbon qualifies as Tennessee whiskey.
Is Tennessee whiskey smoother than bourbon?
Yes. Tennessee whiskey takes its production a step further by requiring it to go through one round of charcoal mellowing, as per the Lincoln County Process. As a result, most Tennessee whiskeys are smoother than traditional bourbon whiskey.
And there you go — 20 of the best Tennessee whiskeys out in the whiskey market today.
These labels vary greatly in taste and texture, but one thing’s for sure: these are all smooth and mellow thanks to the Lincoln County Process, and each makes for an excellent sipper. Most of these whiskey bottles are rounded out in flavor instead of traditional American bourbon — and true whiskey lovers can attest to it!
Pour yourself a glass from any one of these labels, and let us know what you think is the best Tennessee whiskey!
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds!