Saturday, June 28, 2014
The Tennessee Whiskey Trail Puts Everything in One Place
As Kentucky has the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Tennessee has one now too. It's unofficial and self-funded, says Joe Barnes, one of the principals. That's unlike Kentucky's, which is owned by the Kentucky Distillers' Association (KDA).
Also unlike the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which only promotes dues-paying members of the KDA, the Tennessee Whiskey Trail promotes everybody. This is both good and bad, because they clearly care little about quality control.
The Tennessee Whiskey Trail is basically a web site and a map. They make money selling T-shirts and advertising, but not much. Barnes calls it "a labor of love." The site describes it as "your source for location, information, vacation, distillation, gyration, and visitation to each of Tennessee’s distilleries. This site hopes to encourage locals and foreigners (I’m looking at you Kentucky) to take time to visit and enjoy this quintessentially Tennessean sipping beverage."
Unfortunately, only a few of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail distilleries make whiskey of any kind and even fewer make actual Tennessee whiskey according to Tennessee law. Most sell a 'legal moonshine' product that in many cases is just industrial vodka in a mason jar with a clever name and label. Some of them aren't even distilleries. But, all in all, it's a nice snapshot of where Tennessee is right now, especially with microdistilleries.
There are some real micros in Tennessee doing interesting things, like Prichard's, Corsair, Nelson's Greenbrier, and Collier & McKeel. Jack Daniel's and George Dickel aren't too shabby either. Then there are the tourist traps like Ole Smokey, Gatlinburg Barrel House, Popcorn Sutton's, and Full Throttle. Depending on what you're into, any of the above might be entertaining to visit.
It's unclear whether or not their one banner ad, for a Nashville company that sells Tennessee Whiskey Trail Tours, is just them or a separate entity. They appear to be one and the same. The tour company's tours only cover Jack Daniel's, George Dickel, and Prichard's. If you want to see any of the other places you're on your own, but the Trail's website provides an interactive Google Maps tool that allows you to put together an itinerary pretty easily. They also tell you which distilleries offer tours, and provide links to the distillery web sites.
If you're interested in visiting some distilleries in Tennessee, this is the place you need to go, just be aware that many of the listed 'distilleries' are a lot less than they seem. Many of them are just tourist attractions with a little bit of attraction and a lot of stuff to sell.