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  1. #1

    Is sour mash a bourbon?

    Many years ago I worked at a liquor store in Portland, OR. The owner told me that Tennessee sour mash whiskeys are not bourbons, but a category all unto themselves. Is that true?

  2. #2
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    Sour mash is a method not a whiskey.
    Distilleries use about a third of the previous mash and add it to the new mash for a consistant flavor.
    Tennessee whiskey is not bourbon.
    Jack Daniels and George Dickel do eveything the way boubon producers do except one additional step they do is drip the white dog thru maple charcoal before aging in the barrel.

    George and Jack even burn their maple wood differently to produce the charcoal.
    Jack burns it under a hood, George burns it open air, they say the open air method releases impurities.
    ovh

  3. #3

    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    To answer your post title question in transposition, though: yes, all bourbon IS sour mash whiskey.

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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    But what about Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Sweet Mash?

    Sorry, I couldn't resist.

    But yeah, I roll my eyes everytime someone asks a question like that, or worse yet, makes an ignorant statement like the Portland, OR. Liquor store owner.

  5. #5

    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    Maybe I quoted him wrong...been a long time...25 years or more. Maybe he said a Tennessee whiskey is not a bourbon. I just remember him saying that Jack Daniels is not a bourbon.

    Is the charcoal filtering the only difference between bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey?

    Is Dickel and Jack Daniels outside the scope of this forum?

  6. #6
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    Yep, charcoal filtering is the only difference between TN whiskey and bourbon.
    The makers of TN whiskey say that the maple charcoal gives it flavor, but how can it "give" it anything when it is a "filter"?
    It then goes in the barrel where it gets it's flavor.

    No we talk all whiskey here on SB.com, so this not out of scope.
    ovh

  7. #7
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    Quote Originally Posted by OscarV View Post
    Yep, charcoal filtering is the only difference between TN whiskey and bourbon.
    The makers of TN whiskey say that the maple charcoal gives it flavor, but how can it "give" it anything when it is a "filter"?
    It then goes in the barrel where it gets it's flavor.

    No we talk all whiskey here on SB.com, so this not out of scope.
    You've drank it, it taste like charcoal at least to me it does.
    Normal is an illusion. What is normal to the spider, is chaos for the fly.

  8. #8
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    I think besides "mellowing" the dog, the charcoal filtering in TN whiskey is a way to provide a "jump start" to the aging process.
    JOE

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    "Every bottle is its own learning experience." -- Sensei Ox-sama

  9. #9
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    As Gallagher notes (late 1800's), charcoal traps the heavy fusel oils (in the porous structure of the mineral). He cautions that taking out too much of them from the spirit tends to take the life out of it, i.e., the spirit becomes bland and tasteless - which is what GNS is. At the same time, there is a danger he says of too much fusel oil entering the spirit if the charcoal is not changed often enough. He says the lighter oils have a greater affinity for the charcoal and expel as it were the heavier ones into the spirit. Some bourbon is subjected to a light activated charcoal treatment before bottling or dumping but the Tennessee method is to leach the spirit for a week or so through a high stack of maple charcoal before barreling (before aging starts). The charcoal does a jump-start as Joe said. This process seems sufficiently unique so that, say, Jack Daniels consider the product not to be a bourbon, but it seems more a practice, acquiesced in by the regulators, than anything clearly defined in the law. In other words if Jack wanted to call itself bourbon, I don't think it is clear at this time that it could not do so. But it chooses not to, so the issue remains undefined formally - at least that is how I understand it from the many earlier discussions on this board.

    Gary

  10. #10
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    I heard a rumor that in TN, they put bananas in their whiskey.

 

 

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