Of course there is a Whiskey Trail. Tennessee is a Founding Father when it comes to distilled grains, after all.
Now that Tony is 100% weight-bearing following his surgery he is anxious for outings wherein he does not have to walk too far in a single stretch. After navigating seven years of travels overseas (42 countries and close to as many languages needing deciphering); housing students from over 50 countries, each with their own special and endearing quirks (that could be its own blog); and now six months of the coronavirus and its myriad shutdowns as we endeavor to go out and about, this new variable throws not even an IKEA allen wrench into my weekend planning.
If there is something to see or to do, I will find it.
Tennessee’s distilling history is lengthy, the first registered distillery being Jack Daniels in 1866. Tennessee tourism promotes a Whiskey Trail that stretches the entire 400+ miles across the state. There are several distilleries in East Tennessee along the route, so I mapped a couple to investigate on a recent sunny Saturday and we arrived at the appropriate tasting time of 1100, in order that our palate be free of breakfast ideology and just beginning to think about the midday meal.
Our first of the two destinations was the Old Tennessee Distilling Company. Except it was founded in 2014.
You read that correctly. 140 Proof.
Two options for the Moonshine Minis, small jars of flavored hooch. Sweet. And Sweet.
The distillery tour is not operational right now, so while we waited for a space at the tasting bar to open I roamed about. Not a good idea.
This is Emma the ChiWeenie, a cross between a Chihuahua and a Dachshund (Wiener Dog). She and her owners were saddled up to the tasting bar alongside the two of us.
The scene was different from the wine tastings we have enjoyed. Plastic thimbles replaced wine stems; and there was little by way of commentary about the characteristics of the spirit. I asked the sommelier if the Blackberry Moonshine was sweet and she responded, “I think it tastes like Robitussin.”
Tony began at the top. 140 Proof Dumplin Creek Moonshine. Moonshine, if you did not know, is distilled corn mash.
The general idea is to taste the Moonshine first; proceed to the Whiskeys, Gin & Vodka and Rums; and finish up with the flavored spirits if one is so inclined.
A multiple award-winning Gin. Juniper on the palate and a bright citrus finish. This one was a keeper until we tasted the Tuckaleechee. Its ten blended botanicals pleased our palates.
I am not really a spirits gal; and Tony is not into Vodka so, while entirely quaffable, this one seemed a little too pedestrian to me. My “favorite” (for the once or twice a year I’m moody for Vodka) is, no surprise, Żubrówka, a Polish rye vodka infused with grass from the Białowieża Forest. I brought two precious bottles with me when we repatriated. Perhaps this was an unfair tasting.
Never been a Rum girl. Tony was meh on it, and I was not converted. It’s probably the sugar.
With one thimble remaining we said, “Why Not?” A seasonal flavor that was…quite subtle and also quite flavorful, but not something I would want hanging around our bar.
A little further down the road was the Tennessee Legend Distillery. “A little touristy” was our collective first thought, though the interior resembled a pharmacy for distilled products.
We were unceremoniously handed our plastic thimble stack and asked to place them on our selections. No commentary unless we asked.
100 Proof and with more flavor than the 140. So said my Moonshine Man.
Kingsnake. Straight Bourbon and an, “Oh, that’s good” from Tony. Single barrel, and named for the reptile the distillers found coiled around the barrel.
“Oh, that’s even better.”
The Tuckaleechee was “Damn Good.” This one was okay; though, we were expecting more of the pine notes to come through.
Excellent. If I were trying to virtually school our children right now, a nip of this would be in every morning cup of coffee.
A surprise delight. Like the shy American cousin of Lemoncello.
Time for lunch, but dining in Sevierville is rough. There are many, many, many, many lackluster offerings from amongst the many, many, many, many casual dining chain restaurants that line the 407. But there is one standout, Quaker Steak & Lube. Its signature dish is their chicken wings and the variety of spices and sauces one can choose for seasoning. Out of desperate hunger we pulled in a few months ago and ordered a portion to share. I asked for a dish of Ghost Pepper Dust, and there was no turning back. This was our third visit since repatriation. Perfectly crispy wings with a dust that never fails to live up to its 1+ million Scoville rating.
Did you correctly guess what spirits came home with us?