Activated Carbon/Charcoal is What Separates Tennessee Whiskey From Bourbon.
The Lincoln County Process is the process by which Tennessee Whiskey manufacturer Jack Daniels and George Dickell make their famous whiskey’s. This process is what distinguishes Tennessee Whiskey’s from Bourbon Whiskey’s and key difference in their creation is the use of charcoal, or activated carbon in the Lincoln County Process. The use of charcoal is an added step not included in manufacturing bourbon, which otherwise would be exactly the same.
The charcoal used by Jack Daniels is made on site from sugar maple trees. These trees are cut down and burned, but their temperature is controlled so that the don’t burn to ash but rather turn into charcoal. The newly created charcoal is placed in a vat along with unaged whiskey for ten days before it is stored in a barrel to age further.
The taste of Tennessee whiskey has a smoother and smokier taste to it, where as bourbon is known for having a harsher and stronger taste. This extra step was added to improve the very harsh taste of whiskey’s in the 19th century. The difference in taste is due to the added step of using charcoal in the Lincoln County Process, the only added step not found in making bourbon.
Charcoal has long been known for its filtration and purifying properties. Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician and father of western medicine wrote about using charcoal in his practice to adsorb unpleasant odors. In modern times it plays an important role in the distillation of liquids. When distilling whiskey congeners are creating, they are responsible for giving whiskey its harsh taste, however this harshness was reduced when most of the congeners in aged whiskey were adsorbed by the activated carbon found in charcoal.