Tennessee Whiskey: The Lincoln County Process
You might be wondering what makes Tennessee Whiskey different from other whiskeys, bourbons, and brown liquors. Well, it all comes down to one thing: Lincoln County. Yes, Lincoln County, Tennessee, population 33,000 and some change.
Before we get too deep into the weeds here with a history/science lesson, a few basics about how most whiskeys are made (hold on tight, we’re going to move quickly): you mill some grains (corn, wheat, etc.) to the consistency of cornmeal. You then cook the cornmeal mash in order to ferment it. Once the fermentation sets in, you’ll begin to get alcohol. That alcohol has to then be distilled. Distillation takes place in that big copper thing you see in all distilleries. Once it’s distilled, you get what we call “white whiskey,” also known as moonshine. Careful, that un-aged white whiskey’ll strip the paint off the walls when it comes straight out of the still.
Once whiskey is distilled, it’s time to officially make it Tennessee Whiskey. In order for it to be called TN Whiskey rather than just any old whiskey, it must go through what is called the Lincoln County Process. It’s a simple, yet effective, technique that gives Tennessee Whiskey its characteristic smoothness and clean mouthfeel.
Charcoal is the key ingredient in the Lincoln County Process. The raw white whiskey is simply filtered through sugar maple charcoal as a way to take some of the edge off. The porous charcoal absorbs some of the harshness of the fresh distillate while giving it a nice mellow flavor.
Charles Nelson once said, “the charcoal mellowing process removes some of the heating elements that cause an unpleasant farewell. However, all Whiskey can cause an unpleasant farewell when consumed in too large of quantities...”
Tennessee Whiskey is built to be a serious whiskey with plenty of nuance and character, and we’re really proud of ours. In fact, it’s the same recipe our founder Charles Nelson used when he made his first batch more than 100 years ago. If you’re interested in learning more, come and see our distillery where we can walk you through the process more thoroughly. Even though we’re located in Davidson County, Tennessee, we’d be happy to give you a little taste of the Lincoln County Process.