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Benjamin Prichard's Tennessee Whiskey

Benjamin Prichard's
Tennessee Whiskey


By Robert Plotkin

The Prichard Distillery is located in Kelso, Tennessee 30 miles west of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg. The red brick facility is the brainchild of Phil Prichard, an industrious entrepreneur impassioned to continue a family legacy cut-short by Prohibition. Prichard comes from a line of distillers dating back to his great grandfather, and after years of experimenting in his kitchen and barn, he opened his distillery in 1997. Now the 3rd largest "legal" distillery in the state, its all-world range of artisanal spirits includes Benjamin Prichard's Tennessee Whiskey.

The craft distillery is ideally situated within easy access to select grain, Tennessee oak barrels and the pristine, limestone-filtered waters of the Teal Hollow Springs. Prichard equipped his distillery with 2 handcrafted copper pot stills and a bank of stainless steel fermentation tanks. Of particular interest are the scores of racks with oak barrels of aging whiskey and rich alembic rums.

The Prichard Distillery enjoys a greatness that goes well beyond brick and mortar. Extensive research into family documents allowed Prichard to uncover two significant insights into how his great grandfather Benjamin made whiskey. The first led Prichard to use a smaller, more select portion of each distillation run, which allows him to bottle his whiskeys with less added water. Although a cost-intensive practice—one deemed too expensive and wasteful by most other whiskey makers—less dilution results in a more flavorful whiskey.

The second family secret involves mellowing the whiskey while it's still in the barrels. Most distillers rely on charcoal filtering to soften and mellow their whiskeys. Again following the example set by his great grandfather, Prichard accomplishes this crucial step by maturing his whiskeys in new oak casks with deep, 3-millimeter "alligator" char. He then closely monitors their development and un-barrels the whiskey only when it's good and ready.

Introduced in 2010, Benjamin Prichard's Tennessee Whiskey is a classically structured, small batch whiskey that closely approximates what Benjamin himself was bottling in the early 1800s. The whiskey is distilled primarily from sweet white corn with lesser amounts of rye and malted barley. It's aged for 10 years in both new charred oak barrels and 15-gallon rum casks and then reduced to 80 proof with limestone-filtered spring water.

The Tennessee whiskey is bottled intact and unfiltered. The visible result is a faint haze, a look that bespeaks to its authenticity and pedigree. The deep amber colored whiskey has a generous nose layered with vanilla, tobacco and baking spices before gradually developing the additional scent of a freshly cut lawn. The aromatics are genuinely enticing and effectively set up what is to follow. On the palate, the satiny textured whiskey warms the mouth with the long lasting flavors of cinnamon, dark chocolate, toffee and freshly shucked sweet corn. We should all be so fortunate to have someone like Benjamin Prichard in the family.

The distillery's first whiskey—Benjamin Prichard's Double Barreled Bourbon—debuted during the fall of 2005. The handmade pot-distilled whiskey is made in limited production from a mash bill of white corn and rye. After distillation, it is matured in small, new charred oak barrels for upwards of 9 years, after which it's reduced to 90-proof with spring water and put back into a different new charred barrel for an additional 3 to 5 years. It's an expensive process exclusive to Prichard's. The altogether exquisite bourbon is highly aromatic, fabulously flavorful and best illustrates why American whiskeys are in such high demand.

Benjamin Prichard's Single Malt is a limited release Tennessee whiskey similar in character to a fine Irish single malt. It is distilled from malted barley with a small percentage of rye, matured for 3 years in 15-gallon barrels and bottled at 80 proof. The deep amber malt has a lavish fruit, leather and caramel bouquet and a broad palate of malted barley and toasted oak with a hint of fruit and smoke. Thankfully the finish is long and flavorful.

Aging whiskey in oak has a profound affect on the finished product. That said, there's something to be said for whiskey so skillfully crafted that its a bona fide pleasure to drink without it first having to be locked away in barrels. Such is the case with Prichard's Lincoln Country Lightning. The crystal clear corn whiskey is drawn directly from the pot still and bottled at 90 proof. It has a lively palate imbued with the flavor of fresh corn on the cob.

The artisanal queen of the portfolio is Prichard's Sweet Lucy Bourbon Liqueur. The exuberant and delicious 70-proof liqueur is made by infusing the Double Barreled Bourbon with apricots and oranges. Equally engaging is Prichard's Sweet Georgia Belle, which is a sweetened infusion of the distillery's exceptional pot-distilled rum, peaches and mangos.

Phil Prichard's father believed if you make something you're proud of, you should put your name on it. In this instance, the advice is certainly fitting and well applied. Somewhere great granddaddy Benjamin Prichard must be smiling.