When people think about Tennessee whiskey they tend to think about Jack Daniels and George Dickel and rightfully so. Both distilleries have been a huge part of the history of Tennessee for over 150 years and are a staple source of income and tradition in their communities. As someone who is a fan of both brands, I’m here to tell you…. There is so much more to Tennessee whiskey than just Jack and George. So, sit back, relax, grab a cigar and your favorite pour and join me on a journey as we travel across the great state of Tennessee and discover three distilleries that may have you singing “You’re as smoooooooth, as Tennessee Whiskey”!
Let’s start out west, west Tennessee that is. Blue Note Bourbon is owned and operated by Big River Distilling Company, the oldest legal distillery in Memphis Tennessee. Opening its doors in 2013, B.R. Distilling Company changed hands in 2017 and began to rebrand its whiskey to embody the feel of Memphis and its history of music. They like to say, “Blue Note is named after world famous Memphis Blues music. Like the Blues, Blue note is bold yet smooth. It embodies Southern culture and Delta flavor” Sourcing is whiskey from Tennessee and Kentucky, Blue Note Bourbon offers six expressions in their line up with two of them being released nationally, Blue Note Juke Joint and Blue Note Crossroads.
Blue Note Juke Joint: Aged for a minimum of three years and coming in a 93 proof, its a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. With notes of rich vanilla, cinnamon, light oak and maple, with a short to medium finish. This $29.99 bottle of goodness hits a lot of the notes that I look for in an easy sipping whiskey
Blue Note Crossroads: Finished in toasted French oak barrels and sitting at a slightly higher proof point. This 100 proof, 4 year old, MGP sourced whiskey offers you notes of buttery vanilla sweetness, toffee, oak, and tobacco with a wonderful oily mouthfeel. The finish isn’t that long but long enough to have you coming back for more. At a price point of only $40, this is diffidently a bottle to add to your whiskey collection.
Cigar Pairing Recommendation: Black Bird Cigar Company – Crow
The chocolate, nutty, and pepper notes that the Crow brings to you pair fantastically with the oak and vanilla from the Blue Note. Neither fight with each other for attention but tend to compliment each other well.
Nearest Green Distillery
Traveling across the state to middle Tennessee we arrive in Shelbyville to find a 323 acre horse farm and distillery known as the Nearest Green Distillery. Named in honor of Americas first known African American Master Distiller, Nathan Green was a former slave who would eventually meet, mentor, and teach a young orphan boy by the name of Jack Daniel how to make whiskey and together they would change the Tennessee Whiskey world forever.
Owned and operated by Fawn Weaver, she is the first female and the first person of color to run a major whiskey brand. By her side is Victoria Eady Butler, the Master Blender, and the great great grand daughter of Nearest Green. Together their goal was not only to create an amazing whiskey, but to share and honor the legacy of the Godfather of whiskey, Nathan “Nearest” Green to the world.
Uncle Nearest is offered in two expressions. The 1856 Premium Whiskey and the 1884 Small Batch Whiskey.
Uncle Nearest 1856: Coming in at 100 proof, 1856 is a non-age started whiskey (Aged for a minimum of 7 years according to their website) that gives you notes of vanilla, cherry, and charred oak. It finishes with slight brown sugar and spice that tingles in the back of the throat. Kind of like a Four Roses single barrel spice. To me it tends to drink a little hotter than that proof normally would. It’s a good whiskey if you like a little spice in your life but at price point of $48.99 I would diffidently try and find this at a bar to see if this is a bottle for you…. It was for me!
Uncle Nearest 1884: Dropping down a few proof points to 93 proof and a few dollars less at $39.99, 1884 is again a non age stated whiskey but according to their website it’s age is anywhere from four to five year old. On the palate you get simple and subtle notes of light brown sugar, oak, and a slight spice. It finishes with a sweet note that changes to a light cinnamon burn on the back of the tongue but not the same proof burn as the 1856. If I was looking for a bottle to buy it would be the 1856. At just a few dollars more it gives you more complexity, and deeper notes for your buck.
Cigar Pairing Recommendation: ATL Cigars – Magic
Spicy hot chocolate, baking spices, and black pepper from the Magic goes amazingly well with cherry, oak, and spice notes from the Uncle Nearest lines. I like to call this my flavor bomb mix. There are so many flavor notes from the cigar and the whiskey and the spices that meld together leave your tongue slapping the roof of your mouth wanting more.
As we continue to make our way east to our final destination, we enter into the foothills of the Smokey Mountains to the small town of Townsend. Here you find the newest distillery on our list, Company Distilling. Located on a 13-acre property along the Little River, Company Distilling has built their newest facility, a 4000 square foot tasting room and restaurant with their headquarter and main distillery soon to open in Alcoa Tennessee. This is the second location for Company, the first being in Thompson Station, outside Nashville.
In a state made famous by whiskey producers such as Jack Daniels and George Dickel, in 2009 Tennessee was the home to only three distilleries allowed to legally distill whiskey. Interested in changing the laws in Tennessee, lawyer Heath Clark started working on a bill to allow distilling to open state wide. In February of 2009 the bill passed and H. Clark Distillery was born. Fast forward to 2020, Jeff Arnett, the Master Distiller for Jack Daniels announces that he will be stepping down from the worlds top selling whiskey brand and leaves the whiskey world wondering why. It wasn’t long before everyone found out why. In 2021 he announces that he will be starting a brand-new distillery, Company Distilling. In 2022 Company Distilling purchase H. Clark Distilling and adds Clark as well as part owner of Old Forge Distillery, Kris Tatum to the list of owners and laid out the plans on how to be Tennessee’s next best whiskey.
Company: Sourced whiskey from three different states (until their main distillery is up and running), Company is a 3 year age stated, 90 proof, wheated whiskey, finished in maple barrels. Sipping this whiskey you get rich notes of caramel, apple, and brown sugar. The finish long, sweet, and smooth with a note of vanilla and touch of maple. The first time I had this, the complexity and finish of a 90 proof whiskey had me saying “I need more”. It’s easy sipping, no burn, smooth on the palate, with a great finish, and a wonderful experience, what more could you ask for? A better price point! At $59.00 for a 90 proof whiskey ($69 at most places around here), it’s a little high. To me this is one I will always keep on my bar but for most people I would try it before you buy it. If you think like me and are willing to take a risk of something that could be pure deliciousness, pull that trigger and sit back and enjoy.
Cigar Pairing Recommendation: Rojas Street Taco Barbacoa
Texas mesquite wood, pepper, and a meaty note mixed with a sweet vanilla, apple and maple….. come on, are you not drooling yet? All the subtle sweet notes from the whiskey help proof down all of the spice of the cigar and the flavor mash up is amazing!!!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! I would love to hear what other Tennessee gems you’ve found. Until next time, if you’re going to enjoy a little smoke & oak just remember, “Life’s too short, enjoy the good stuff”…. and do it responsibly!