First Tennessee Whiskey from Nashville’s Pennington Distilling Co.

Davidson Reserve Adds Third Aged Product to Their Craft Whiskey Line

Courtesy Pennington Distilling Co.

Davidson Reserve Tennessee Whiskey, a straight, four-year-old, sour mash whiskey from Pennington Distilling Co. in Nashville, will hit the market later this month. Pennington Distilling Co. joins a very small group of brands that both distill and age their own version of the iconic spirit. The Tennessee whiskey category is steeped in controversy and has long been dominated by just two brands, Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel.

Tennessee whiskey was defined by the state in 2013. Much debate took place in the legislature in the years following, but the definition is now widely accepted. Those distillers labeling their whiskey with “Tennessee Whiskey” proudly meet the legal standards, including the use of the Lincoln County Process. Pennington Distilling Co. distills their Tennessee whiskey twice and then mellows it by passing it through maple charcoal.

The Davidson Reserve line from Pennington Distilling Co.

As with the other members of the Davidson Reserve line including a rye and four grain bourbon, local ingredients serve as the Tennessee whiskey’s backbone. Corn and rye sourced from Renfroe Farms in nearby Huntingdon, TN make up 70% and 25% of the mash bill, respectively. Malted barley rounds out the recipe.

Pennington Distilling Co. was able to resist many of the temptations of typical young distilleries. They use only full sized, 53 gallon barrels to age their whiskies and they have not released an immature product. Distillery founder, president, and namesake Jeff Pennington positioned himself for this exact task very early on. “It’s really difficult to write a check and leave it on the shelf for four years,” Pennington told me on my first visit several years ago. Contract distilling and bottling, a line of vodka, flavored ryes, their Tennessee sipping cream, and a partnership with Tommy Bernard kept the stills running and the bills paid while they patiently waited for right time to bottle their various whiskies.

The right time for their Tennessee whiskey is now, at just over four years old. Pennington employed the services of Ashley Barnes and The Spirits Group to assist in the final blending of the first batch of Davidson Reserve Tennessee Whiskey. Barnes first visited the distillery in January to begin the process. Eleven barrels of four year old whiskey were chosen, samples pulled, and tasting began.

Barnes worked closely with both Pennington and Carter Collins, Master Distiller, to meet the goals of the distillery. “They want [the Tennessee whiskey] to be an every day drinker, a year-round sipper,” Barnes explained. Finding the perfect balance of flavors and aromas in the samples was made easier by the quality of the whiskey the distillery has been putting away. Barnes says, “the quality of the liquid that Pennington is producing is exciting. The barrels have depth, complexity, and variance.”

Barrel Sampling

Barnes identified two distinct flavor profiles from the barrel samples and blended several variations. She tweaked the blend with Pennington and Collins before landing on the formula that will be repeated in all future bottles of the Tennessee whiskey. She describes the final product as having a citrusy, fruity nose with morning glory and peaches. The palate shows maple syrup, rich cobbler, oak, and vanilla. “It takes me home to the farm with Momma cooking a peach cobbler,” she added.

The first release of Davidson Reserve Tennessee Straight Sour Mash Whiskey will be available in Middle Tennessee retail stores this month. It is bottled at 100 Proof. Suggested retail price is $39.99. The next barrel dump is scheduled for April 15, so don’t worry if you don’t get your hands on one of these bottles; there will be more coming soon. Additionally, Barnes identified a “honey barrel” for a single barrel edition of the Tennessee whiskey, expected to be for sale at the distillery around April 1st.

Jeff Pennington, Founder & President

Pennington does little to hide his enthusiasm about the release. “We certainly love all our whiskey, but it’s hard not to view our Tennessee whiskey as something just a little extra special. While bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, Tennessee Whiskey is limited to just our state. This is something particularly unique, and there are just a few current producers who make Tennessee whiskey. I’m so excited for people to try it!”