Well, the laws and traditions covering Tennessee Whiskey and Kentucky Bourbon are often misunderstood. In fact, they aren’t even really laws, but more like trade customs. So it is in fact legal to make bourbon in New York, as long as the spirit is at least 51% corn-based, goes into new charred oak barrels at no more than 125 proof and is bottled at no less than 80 proof. It can spend a week in oak, be distilled in Indiana, blended in Kentucky, aged in Ohio and bottled in Virginia and still be bourbon. Tennessee whiskeys do have to go through the additional step of charcoal filtration to fall under what is called the “”Lincoln County Method.”
So when somebody tells you that you’re buying or drinking a Tennessee product, take it with a grain of salt. (And a splash of branch water.) That brings us to that word “rectifier.” Basically a rectifier is someone who blends spirits into a final product. It could be various ages of whiskey from the same distillery, scotches from different suppliers in Scotland or bulk spirits from a huge distilling facility that also makes ethanol for fuel.
To quote Seinfeld, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Some people, myself included, think that the skill of blending different spirits to create the best possible product is just as important as the initial distilling process. If you don’t blend your whiskeys, as in the case of single barrel products, you’re pretty much stuck with whatever comes out of the barrel. It could be great, but then again it could taste like a dead fish on a flat rock.
Rectifiers have the talent to taste and select products while they’re still young and mix them to create new and better whiskeys. But don’t let them fool you into thinking that that whiskey is local. If you are truly looking to shop local for holiday gifts or for your own preference toward locabebism, here’s a partial list of some spirits products that actually are distilled, blended, aged and bottled in the great state of Tennessee:
George Dickel (not their new rye, it’s from Indiana)
Print this list out, fold it up in your wallet and feel free to consult it next time you’re out shopping.