Dr. Joe Elkins

Type of Resources


Date Created



Abstract Kentucky and Tennessee has been the primary region in which whiskey has been produced in the United States for the last 200+ years. The locations of Kentucky and Tennessee whiskey distilleries in the pre-industrial era appear to be constrained by the geochemistry of natural waters, stratigraphy, geomorphology, and the average ambient temperatures of fermentation. Distilleries are located near first-order streams where the groundwater surfaces, indicating there was little to no manipulation of these local water sources used in the distilling process during pre-industrial America. These groundwater sources flow through heavily dominated limestone and/or Mg-rich limestone (dolostone), adjusting the geochemistry of the first-order streams creating an optimal Ca-Mg-Fe concentration ratio to create high quality ‘tasting’ whiskey. Collection of water samples in these areas suggest that Kentucky and Tennessee both hold ideal physiographic and hydrologic terrains, as well as the naturally occurring ideal Ca-Mg-Fe concentration ratios in the waters to create high quality ‘tasting’ whiskey. The question of why most American whiskey distilleries has endured prior to the industrial revolution are confined to a small region of Kentucky and Tennessee. No further areas of the southern U.S. with suitable climates or geochemistry for whiskey feedstock productions will be discussed.

Degree Name