Tennessee Whiskey vs Bourbon – Difference and Comparison

Abbey Miller
Last Updated on
by Abbey Miller

Tennessee whiskey and bourbon are two different spirits often mistaken for one another. Many people argue there’s no difference between the two.

While we agree that both liquors are nearly identical, it’s essential to let you know that Tennessee whiskey and bourbon have some features that set them apart.

Tennessee Whiskey vs. Bourbon: What Are the Differences?

Difference Between Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon

The main difference between Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon is that Tennessee whiskey undergoes a charcoal filtering process called the Lincoln County Process, while Bourbon goes through a filtration process called chill filtration.

The lincon county process was developed in the late 1800s, and it involves filtering whiskey using sugar maple charcoal.

Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey

In Chill filtration, which is a form of carbon filtration, oil and other unwanted compounds are removed from whiskey using activated charcoal. The charcoal is then removed from the whiskey through a paper filter. As a result of the process that these spirits undergo, Tennessee whiskey has a mellow taste, unlike bourbon, which has a more robust, bolder flavor.

Bulleit Bourbon

Similar comparison: Canadian whiskey vs bourbon

Comparison Chart

To put things in perspective, here’s a simple outline of the differences between Tennessee whiskey and bourbon.

Tennessee WhiskeyBourbon
FiltrationMade with a charcoal filtering process, also called Lincoln County ProcessProcessed with chill filtration
OriginOnly produced in TennesseeCan be made anywhere in the United States, especially in Kentucky
InventorNathan Nearest GreenElijah Craig
TasteSmooth and mellow flavorBold and robust flavor
Top ProducersFamous producers include George Dickel, Jack Daniel’s, Prichard’s, and Nearest GreenFamous producers include Four Roses, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, and Evan Williams
UseUsually drunk as liquor, seldom used for cooking purposesDrunk as liquor, but also more widely used for confectionaries, cooking, and traditional medicinal purposes


Besides their few differences, Tennessee whiskey and bourbon are nearly identical. Here are some similarities between both spirits.

Corn as a Primary Ingredient

Tennessee whiskey and bourbon are produced with a mash bill of about 51% corn. The mash bill can be as high as 70% or more, based on the intended proportions of the producer. The bottom line is that both spirits are corn heavy.

Other ingredients like wheat, barley, and rye make up the remaining ingredients found in each spirit.

Similar Distillation Requirements

Tennessee whiskey and bourbon must be barrelled at 125 proof (62.5% ABV) and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof (40% ABV). In addition, both spirits need to be distilled at a max of 160 proof (80% ABV).

Requires New Charred Oak Barrels for Aging

These drinks are usually kept in new charred oak barrels to facilitate aging. The oak has compounds like tannins, lactones, and vanillins, all of which work together to give both spirits their classic caramelized flavor and color profile. This improved flavor and color make these spirits sweeter than other whiskeys.

There’s no age requirement for the aging process, but bourbon needs to be in the oak barrel for at least two years to be called “straight bourbon.”

Common Cocktails With Tennessee Whiskey

If you’re thinking of making cocktails with Tennessee whiskey, here are some popular options and their recipes.

Jack and Coke

Jack and Coke

This is the most popular cocktail you can make with Tennessee whiskey, and it’s a simple combination of Jack Daniel’s whiskey and Coca-Cola.

While it was once called Jack and Coke, it was officially renamed The Lemmy in honor of the late Lemmy Kilmister, Motörhead’s former lead singer, who loved this blend.

It’s typically served with a lemon wheel garnish in an old-fashioned or Collins glass, slightly stirred on the rocks.

Lynchburg Lemonade

Lynchburg Lemonade

This famous cocktail blends Jack Daniel’s whiskey, lemon juice, lemon-lime soda, and triple sec.

First, pour whiskey, lemon juice, and triple sec into a Collins glass and add ice. Top off the combo with soda and stir gently. You can garnish the drink with maraschino cherries or lemon wedges.

Three Wise Men

Three Wise Men

This is one of the most straightforward cocktail recipes, and you only need three kinds of whiskey—Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, and Johnnie Walker. All you have to do is mix these drinks in a glass and serve neat or on the rocks.

The Three Wise Men is usually prepared in a shot glass.

Common Cocktails With Bourbon

Here are some cocktail options you can get with a bourbon.



This exciting cocktail combines an overproof bourbon with grenadine, simple syrup, lemon juice, and absinthe bitters.

Ginger Rabbit

Ginger Rabbit

To make Ginger Rabbit, you only need to add fresh ginger, black tea-infused simple syrup, and star anise to a glass of bourbon. These three ingredients give the drink a spice flavor. Then, you top it off with a splash of Creme Yvette for a bit of berry and violet notes.

Bourbon Lift

Bourbon Lift

This cocktail needs a lot of shaking, but the result is rewarding. The ingredients include bourbon, heavy cream, orgeat, and coffee liqueur; you have to put them all into a shaker for a dry shake. Afterward, you shake with ice.

Fill a Collins glass with the frothy mixture, and top it with club soda till the thick foam rises above the glass’ mouth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Tennessee Whiskey Also Be Called Bourbon?

Technically, Tennessee whiskey is also bourbon, as the former meets all the requirements for bourbon production. Therefore, you can call all Tennessee whiskey bourbon, but you can’t call all bourbon Tennessee whiskey.
Still, Kentuckians and Tennesseans insist that Tennessee whiskey shouldn’t be called bourbon.

How Can You Drink These Spirits?

Both spirits can be taken the same way—straight, in a cocktail, mixed with soda, or on the rocks. However, most people prefer to take Tennessee whiskey with cola because the whiskey’s mellow flavor blends well with cola, unlike bourbon.
Because Jack Daniel’s is the most popular Tennessee whiskey, many customers request “Jack and Coke” in pubs and clubs.

Conclusion: Which one is Better?

Since Tennessee whiskey and bourbon share several similarities, the better choice boils down to your personal preference.

For instance, if you prefer a subtle flavor, Tennessee whiskey is your best bet. Plus, you can take it solo or mix it with soda for an improved taste. On the other hand, if you want something more potent and bolder, you should go for bourbon.

Sign Up For Free 2024 Drink Celebration Guide!

Join our 1 Million+ strong water defense community and get updated on the latest product news & gear reviews. Plus, get a FREE 21-page "2024 Drink Celebration Guide" with exclusive content NOT on this site!

We HATE spam. Your e-mail will never sold or shared!

Abbey Miller
Abbey Miller
Abbey grew up in a family with an appreciation for great beers, fine wines, and nuanced Scotch whiskeys. It's no surprise that she studied Hospitality Management and is now a professional working on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip.
Leave a Reply