Taste Test: This New Tennessee Craft Whiskey Is Good Enough to Convert Jack Daniel’s Diehards

For most people, there’s one name that is synonymous with Tennessee whiskey: Jack Daniel’s (okay, maybe two names if you’re a George Dickel fan). But a small but growing number of craft distilleries have been opening across the state over the past decade, making whiskey that may or may not adhere to the Lincoln County Process that defines Tennessee whiskey (filtration through charcoal before barreling). One of the best of the bunch is Chattanooga Whiskey, and the latest release from the distillery is worth diving into.

Founder’s 12th Anniversary Blend is, as you can guess from the name, a whiskey released to commemorate Chattanooga Whiskey’s 12th year of making booze. The booze in question is excellent, anchored by a range of unconventional bourbons that are produced from a recipe consisting of a very high percentage of specially roasted malted barley. The core bourbon is called Tennessee High Malt for that reason, and is made from a mashbill of yellow corn, malted rye, caramel malted barley, and honey malted barley (those descriptors refer to the way the grain is roasted, not actual flavoring). After aging for two years, that whiskey is finished in a 4,000-gallon solera barrel where it mingles with much older liquid that is always present in this cask. Chattanooga doesn’t use the Lincoln County Process for its whiskey, choosing to focus on experimenting with malted barley for flavor instead.

More from Robb Report

The solera is a key part of the production process of the new Founder’s Blend as well, a whiskey that was blended from the three barrels that are in the distillery’s Solera Room. This is the third version of Founder’s Blend, and each release is different from the previous one. The makeup of the 12th Anniversary Blend is kind of a liquid snapshot of the journey that Chattanooga Whiskey has taken since its founding. The past is represented by whiskey that came from the 1816 solera barrel (12 percent of the total), a four to six-year-old high-rye (21 percent) bourbon distilled at MGP in Indiana that was the distillery’s original recipe. The present is represented by whiskey pulled from Barrel 91 (60 percent), the high-malt whiskey described earlier. And the future is represented by whiskey from the Infinity Barrel (28 percent), a blend of malt and rye whiskeys between three and seven years old that include things like cherrywood smoked “Danko” rye malt.

That’s a lot of information to digest, but the real question is, as always, how does this whiskey taste? I’m not going to try to convince you that this is an everyday sipper, but it’s really unique (as is the case with all of Chattanooga Whiskey’s releases) and is certainly worth trying. The color is a dark reddish-orange, and there are notes of malted chocolate, raspberry, and honey on the nose. That chocolate continues onto the palate, but evolves into more intense dark cocoa along with notes of caramel cake, blackberry, molasses, candied orange, with some black pepper spice, cinnamon Red Hots, and a touch of menthol on the finish. It’s bottled at 100 proof, so there’s a bit of heat but also a nice body to the whiskey.

Founder’s 12th Anniversary Blend sounds and tastes like an experiment—a successful one, to be clear—and that’s pretty much what it is. This is a one-off whiskey, not meant to be replicated—which would be an impossible task anyway. If you’re a fan of Chattanooga Whiskey’s off-kilter but tasty bourbon, or its weird and wonderful expressions like Bourbon Barreled Limoncello and Triple Peat, give this a try. This is a whiskey that is probably best tasted in the context of everything else the distillery is doing for comparison, but go ahead and sample it even if it’s completely new to you.

Score: 86

  • 100 Worth trading your first born for

  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet

  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram

  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market

  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable

  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

Best of Robb Report

Sign up for Robb Report's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.