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Tennessee Hollerin' Whiskey Barbecue Sauce

"Corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top, Dirt's too rocky by far. That's why all the folks on Rocky Top, get their corn from a jar." Rocky Top, Tennessee State Song, by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant

The best aged Kentucky Bourbons and Tennessee Whiskeys are the Cognacs of the country.

Bourbon is named for Bourbon County, Kentucky, and, although law requires Bourbon to be 51% corn, the best are 75% or more corn, with the balance wheat, rye, or barley. Although they are not called Bourbon, Tennessee whiskeys such as Jack Daniel's are made pretty much the same way as Bourbon and are comparable in taste.

The fermentation is induced by the introduction of "sour mash", some of the fermenting mash from previous batches, a process similar to the way sourdough bread is made. The mash ferments and is distilled to 80% alcohol (160 proof), which is aged in oak barrels for two years or more. Most are aged four years, and the best are aged eight years or more. They are blended with water and bottled from 80 to 90 proof.

In recent years Bourbon has grown in popularity, in part because some producers have begun bottling single barrels, aging for longer periods, and using fancy bottles.

The Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue is considered by many to be the most prestigious competition in the world. It is held in the holler just behind the distillery's home, Lynchburg, Tennessee. A few years back they added a sauce competition, but all sauces had to have Jack Daniel's in them. Inventive chefs cooked up some mighty nice sauces, and many of them have found their way into bottles.

Aged corn whiskeys have a wonderful sweet vanilla flavor that is great in barbecue sauces, but it is easily lost among the bold flavors of the alcohol and the other ingredients of a barbecue sauce. To showcase the whiskey flavors, my sauce does not have many ingredients, but it still is very complex. The secret is that we begin by gathering the essence of Bourbon by reducing a cup to a few tablespoons of magical elixir, and in the process, ridding it of the overbearing alcohol.

I named my sauce after the holler in which I got the inspiration, right next to the Jack Daniels distillery.

Makes. About 2 cups of sauce. Click here to calculate how much you need and for tips on saucing strategies.

Takes. 45 minutes.

Keeps. Because it has a high acid and sugar content, it can keep for months in the refrigerator.


2 cups Jack Daniel's Black Label or Bourbon

1 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons malt vinegar

4 tablespoons dark or blackstrap molasses

1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)


1) Taste the whiskey to make sure it is up to your standards. Pour 1 cup of whiskey into a saucepan and set aside the remaining whiskey. Bring the saucepan to a boil and reduce the liquid to about 2 tablespoons. Don't let the alcohol flame. Taste the unused whiskey to make sure it hasn't gone bad.

2) Add 1/2 cup of the whiskey and the other ingredients. Simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes and reduce it by about 1/3. Use it immediately or bottle it and keep it in the refrigerator for a month or more. Drink the remaining whiskey.

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