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Is Jack Daniel’s Whiskey or Bourbon? (2024 Updated)

Is Jack Daniel’s Whiskey or Bourbon

Last Updated on March 13, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Jack Daniel’s popularity skyrocketed when Frank Sinatra, a musical legend, called it “the nectar of gods” in 1955 during one of his stints. Since then, this American whiskey has become a staple in most bars. 

However, one particular question stood out – is Jack Daniels whiskey or bourbon? Keep reading to know the truth.

Jack Daniel’s – Bourbon or Whiskey? 

is jack daniels whiskey or bourbon

Jack Daniel’s is a Tennesse whiskey created by Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel in 1864. Jack Daniel’s Distillery produces its products in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Tennessee whiskey and bourbon are both subsets of whiskey, but they have distinct characteristics set by rules and standards on how they should be made. 

Jack Daniel’s whiskey brand is a whiskey mainly because it is produced in the State of Tennessee, one of the requirements of strict laws of the Federal government about labeling products as Tennessee whiskey. Almost identical to bourbon, it uses a special charcoal filtering that bourbons don’t have. 

Read: Who Taught Jack Daniel To Make Whiskeys?

What Makes It NOT A Bourbon 

Claims that state Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey could be labeled as bourbon needs further discussion and scrutinization. Our team decided to lay out the rules for each type to determine whether Jack Daniel’s could really pass as a bourbon to set the record straight. 

Rules To Become A BourbonRules To Become Tennessee Whiskey
Can be made in the USA and its territories (not only Kentucky)Exclusive to Tennessee State only
Should use a grain mixture that is at least 51% cornShould use a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
Aged in new charred oak barrelsAged in new charred oak barrels
Must be distilled to no more than 160 (US) proof or 80% alcohol by volume (ABV)Must be distilled to no more than 160 (US) proof or 80% alcohol by volume (ABV)
N/ALincoln County Process
Must be aged at no more than 125 proof or 62.5% alcohol by volumeMust be matured at no more than 125 proof or 62.5% alcohol by volume
Each bottle must be 40% ABV or moreEach bottle must be 40% ABV or more

Jack Daniel’s Is A Tennessee Whiskey 

Jack Daniel’s Old No 7

Brown Forman Jack Daniel’s is labeled a Tennessee whiskey because the distillery wants to honor charcoal mellowing, a traditional method used for Tennessee whiskey only.

Technically speaking, this drink could completely qualify as bourbon whiskey, as claimed by Chris Fletcher, Jack Daniel’s master distiller [1].  

The North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 includes provisions under which Canada and Mexico agreed to recognize Tennessee whiskey as “a Straight Bourbon Whiskey authorized to be produced only in the State of Tennessee [2].”

However, the makers believe that charcoal mellowing deserves its own designation, following what the Tennessee Whiskey Law states since its passing in 2013.

Fletcher claimed that the extra step didn’t prevent them from labeling their product as bourbon whiskey. It allowed them to label Jack Daniel’s brand as a Tennessee whiskey, like George Dickel. 

Read: Bourbon vs Whiskey

Bourbon vs Tennesse Whiskey 

Tennessee and bourbon whiskey are almost identical. Both are considered American whiskey.

They distillate to not more than 80% ABV, have their own rules and regulations regarding their production, and are made in the same process. 

They also use almost the same mash bill with 51% corn (at least), rye, and barley and go through a charred new oak barrel to mature, but their concentrations must not exceed 62.5% ABV. Both spirits are also bottled at 40% ABV or more.

Bourbons can be made anywhere in the United States of America, which still qualifies Jack Daniel’s as a bourbon whiskey.

However, Tennessee whiskeys can only be made in the State of Tennessee, which sets it apart from bourbon. 

Another thing that sets it apart from the bourbon is its additional production process of charcoal mellowing.

Its charcoal-filtered concentration gives a more robust and bolder flavor. Jack Daniel’s products are slowly filtered through sugar maple charcoal.

How Whiskey Becomes Bourbon

Jack Daniel’s with cocktail mixers

Whiskeys only become bourbons if they follow the rules set by the US regulations for labeling and advertising. As per requirement, bourbon must have a grain mixture with a minimum of 51% corn, wheat, and rye.

It should also be made in the United States and Territories, like the District of Columbia and (Puerto Rico) only, and must be matured in a new charred oak barrel. 

Bourbon also follows standard alcohol by volume of 80% ABV upon its distillation process, matured at no more than 62.5%, and must be bottled at 40% ABV or more.

Read: Can You Substitute Whiskey For Bourbon?

What Is The Lincoln County Process? 

The Lincoln County Process, also known as the charcoal mellowing process, filters the mash bill through sugar maple wood charcoal chips. This extra process adds sweetness before putting the charcoal-filtered mixture into barrels for aging. 

Jack Daniel’s Distillery also uses another process aside from the Lincoln County Process.

The distillery claims it to be an old-time process that Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel himself insisted on.

Since then, this extra process has always been used by the Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

Find out which whiskey brands are similar to Jack Daniel’s here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Where is Jack Daniel’s made?

Jack Daniel’s is produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee, the site of a limestone iron-free spring, which Daniel purchased for just around $2,148. It’s Tennessee’s tiny rural town with fewer than 6,000 residents. 

Can Jack Daniel’s become bourbon?

Jack Daniel’s meets all the bourbon requirements, but it chose not to be called bourbon. In fact, all Tennessee whiskeys can be labeled as bourbon. However, not all bourbons can be labeled Tennessee whiskeys.

Is Jack Daniel’s whisky or bourbon?

Jack Daniel’s is technically a Tennessee whiskey, not a bourbon. While both are types of whiskey, Tennessee whiskey undergoes an additional charcoal filtering process known as the Lincoln County Process, where the whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal before aging, giving it distinct characteristics that set it apart from bourbon.

Why is Jack Daniels not called bourbon?

Jack Daniel’s is not called bourbon due to the specific production process it undergoes. The Lincoln County Process, involving charcoal filtering before aging, is a defining characteristic of Tennessee whiskey.

Bourbon, on the other hand, has its own set of regulations, including being aged in new charred oak barrels, but it doesn’t typically go through the charcoal filtering step that sets Tennessee whiskey apart.

What is the difference between bourbon and whiskey?

The primary difference between bourbon and whiskey lies in their production processes and geographical designations. All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.

Bourbon is a type of whiskey that meets specific criteria, including being made in the United States, containing at least 51% corn in the mash bill, and being aged in new charred oak barrels.

Whiskey, in a broader sense, encompasses various styles made worldwide and may not adhere to the specific regulations that define bourbon.

Is Jim Beam a bourbon or whiskey?

Jim Beam is a bourbon. Specifically, it is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon, produced in Kentucky, USA, and adhering to the regulations that govern bourbon production.

This includes a mash bill containing at least 51% corn, aging the spirit in new charred oak barrels, and meeting other criteria set forth by the U.S. Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits that define bourbon.

Is Jack Daniel’s actually whiskey?

Yes, Jack Daniel’s is a type of whiskey known as Tennessee whiskey. It undergoes a distinctive production process, including charcoal filtering before aging, known as the Lincoln County Process, which sets it apart from other types of whiskey, including bourbon.

Are all bourbons whiskey?

Yes, all bourbons are a type of whiskey. Bourbon is a specific category of whiskey with defined regulations, including being produced in the United States, having a mash bill containing at least 51% corn, and being aged in new charred oak barrels.

Therefore, while all bourbons are whiskey, not all whiskeys are bourbon, as there are various types and styles of whiskey worldwide.

Is Hennessy a bourbon?

No, Hennessy is not a bourbon. Hennessy is a brand of Cognac, which is a type of brandy produced in the Cognac region of France. Brandy is a distilled wine or fermented fruit juice, and Cognac, in particular, is known for its specific production methods and aging process.

What type of liquor is Jack Daniels?

Jack Daniel’s is a type of whiskey, specifically categorized as Tennessee whiskey. It is distilled from a mash bill containing corn, rye, and malted barley and then undergoes the unique Lincoln County Process, which involves charcoal mellowing before aging.

This process contributes to the distinct flavor profile of Jack Daniel’s, making it a well-known and widely consumed whiskey worldwide.

Is Jim Beam or Jack Daniel’s better?

The preference between Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s is subjective and depends on individual taste preferences; Jim Beam is a bourbon with a robust flavor profile, while Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey known for its smoothness due to the unique charcoal mellowing process, so the choice often comes down to personal flavor preferences.

Is Johnny Walker a bourbon?

No, Johnny Walker is not a bourbon; it is a brand of Scotch whisky.

Scotch whisky is produced in Scotland and follows specific regulations, including aging in oak barrels for at least three years and containing malted barley as the primary grain, distinguishing it from bourbon, which has its own set of production criteria and is primarily produced in the United States.

Which is smoother, whiskey or bourbon?

The smoothness of a spirit depends on various factors, including the specific brand, aging process, and individual taste preferences.

Generally, some bourbons are known for their smoothness, with rich, sweet flavors, while certain whiskies, especially those that have undergone additional processes like blending or have been aged for longer periods, may also exhibit smooth characteristics.

Ultimately, the perception of smoothness is subjective and varies among individuals.

Which is better to drink, bourbon or whiskey?

Choosing between bourbon and whiskey comes down to personal preference, as both are diverse categories with a wide range of flavors and styles.

Bourbon tends to have a sweeter and fuller-bodied profile due to its specific production requirements, while whiskey, as a broader category, encompasses various styles, each with its own unique characteristics.

It’s advisable to explore different brands and types within each category to find what suits your individual taste preferences, as both bourbon and whiskey offer a vast and enjoyable array of options for enthusiasts.

So, Is Jack Daniels Whiskey or Bourbon? 

Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey, like George Dickel, because it has charcoal-filtered concentration before aging. This spirit has an added filtration process when producing its whiskey products. However, Jack Daniel’s could also be technically called bourbon because it also follows all the requirements for bourbon labeling. 

Jack Daniel’s makers prefer using the Tennessee whiskey label to honor their whiskey’s added filtration process. This filtration process makes Jack Daniel’s a certified Tennessee whiskey. 


  1. Jack Daniel’s New Master Distiller Chris Fletcher Talks Whiskey Upbringing, Future Of The Iconic Brand
  2. Jack Daniels, George Dickel rage over Tennessee whiskey definition
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