The University of Kentucky vs. University of Tennessee sports rivalry dates back to 1893 when the winner of the game would be awarded a painted wooden barrel in a game simply known as the “Battle for the Barrel.” Fast forward a century and a quarter later and the battle for the barrel has been renewed only this time that barrel is filled with whiskey as the Tennessee Distillers Guild has announced the launch of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, a trail for the most part modeled after the Kentucky Distillers’ Associations Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
25 Stops on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail
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The Tennessee Distillers Guild officially opened the Tennessee Whiskey Trail this week with a celebration that included Guild members, state legislators, and media at The Factory in Franklin, TN. The Whiskey Trail is divided into three sections including the East region around the Great Smokey Mountains, the Middle Region wrapped in and around Music City and the Western region where you can also tour Elvis’s Graceland home when you’re in the neighborhood. A complete list of all three regions and all the stops on the trail is included below.
The Tennessee Whiskey Trail Ain’t Just Whiskey
Despite its name, the trail will be serving up more than whiskey. The state is best known for Jack Daniel’s Whiskey but distillers throughout the state are distilling a variety of whiskey, bourbon (remember, all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon), gin, vodka, rum, moonshine and of course, Tennessee Whiskey.
“The Tennessee Whiskey Trail is a joint effort by all of our Guild members to feature Tennessee whiskey and moonshine, as well as the craftsmen and women that make them,” said Kris Tatum, President of the Tennessee Distillers Guild and General Manager of Old Forge Distillery. “On the Trail, visitors can learn about the art of distilling and about the history and the culture of whiskey-making that is legendary in our state.”
I asked Kris if they considered other names for the trail considering they will be offering a lot more than just whiskey. Kris said, “We did a ton of research before coming up with the name Tennessee Whiskey Trail. The bottom line is Tennessee whiskey is the No. 1 selling whiskey in the world, people know the name.”
The Tennessee Whiskey Trail consists of 25 distilleries ranging from boutique-sized distilleries to large internationally-recognized operations that span from East to West Tennessee. Along the Trail, visitors can get a taste of the history, tradition, and novelty of Tennessee whiskey, as well as experience the rich landscapes, must-see landmarks, and genuine Southern hospitality that embody the great state of Tennessee.
“This Trail puts an international spotlight on Tennessee and its whiskey culture,” said Tatum. “We hope to see people come from all over the world to just to get a taste of this once-in-a-lifetime Tennessee whiskey experience.”
What Can Visitors Expect When They Visit a Tennessee Distillery?
The laws that govern what a distillery can and cannot do vary widely by state. Here are a few highlights of what TN distillers can do for visitors.
Q: Can TN distilleries serve samples and if so, what size?
A: TN distilleries can serve up to 1/2 ounce samples per product offering. Some distilleries produce dozens or more products but they limit the total number of samples from 8 to 10.
Q: Do TN distilleries charge for samples?
A: It’s up to the distillery. Some may charge while others will give samples away for free or for free while on a distillery tour.
Q: Can TN distilleries service mixed drinks?
A: Yes, mixed drinks can be served as long as the spirit is made at the distillery.
Q: Can TN distilleries sell bottles at the distillery?
A: Yes, they can sell up to 25 bottles per visitor per day. Technically, it’s 5 gallons per day which is the equivalent of 25 750ml bottles. They can visit as often as they like and there is no requirement to take a tour in order to purchase spirits.
Q: Do TN distilleries charge for distillery tours?
A: It’s up to the individual distillery.
The next celebration of the new trail will coincide with the Tennessee Distillers Guild’s annual Grains and Grits Festival in Townsend, TN on Nov. 3-4, 2017 followed by another celebration taking place in Memphis in May 2018.
“The idea of a trail really helps draw all these distilleries together. This is a very congenial industry. Nobody’s out to take anyone else’s lunch money. Everyone’s goal is to really help people find the thing like to drink and understand why they like it.”
~ Brian Downing, George Dickel Distillery Brand Ambassador
Visitors Get Their Passport Stamped
Visitors on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail can pick up a free passport booklet from the trails website or pick them up at select distillery locations and collect stamps at each distillery en route. There is also a premium hard cover version available with a hard cover as well as an app for iOS and Android. Fans who collect all 25 stamps will receive a commemorative gift to mark their achievement.
Talking Smack – Is the Kentucky vs. Tennessee Rivalry Back?
Is there room for talking smack? Come on, we are talking about selling whiskey here right? Is there room for talking smack? You betcha. Should they keep up the smack talk? You betcha. Will the smack talk help to lift all boats? You betcha!
During the opening day celebration State Senator Bill Ketron shared his thoughts on the state’s new whiskey trail. The Senator opened his remarks saying, “This is an exciting day, I couldn’t sleep last night just thinking about this because of the journey it’s taken to get here.” When he got around to talking about big a deal this was for tourism he mentioned he did some research comparing Tennessee’s history to Kentucky’s. He said, “Because we knew just like the Bourbon Trail that started in Kentucky in 1999. People started that Bourbon Trail and started traveling around so we thought this is huge. Because, if you go online and look at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, their history sucks. It really does…Our history is going to make us famous and put them to shame, I promise you that.”
At the end of the presentations the moderator asked if there were any questions from the audience. Fred Minnick raised his hand and asked, “Senator, I tweeted your comments that Kentucky’s history sucks. And since I did that I had texts from Kentucky whiskey distillers and people tweeting at me. I was wondering if you could elaborate on that as to why Kentucky whiskey history sucks?”
Senator Ketron’s response, “It just came out!”
It looks like the “Battle for the Barrel” is back on!
The Complete List of Tennessee Whiskey Trail Distilleries
Middle Members (Nashville Area)
George Dickel Distillery
Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
H Clark Distillery
Jack Daniel’s Distillery
Jug Creek Distillery
Leiper’s Fork Distillery
Nashville Craft Distillery
Old Glory Distilling
Short Mountain Distillery
Southern Pride Distillery
SPEAKeasy Spirits Distillery
Tenn South Distillery
East Region Members (Chattanooga, Knoxville, Gatlinburg Area)
Cocke Mountain Moonshine Distillery
Doc Collier Moonshine Distillery
Knox Whiskey Works
Old Forge Distillery
Ole Smoky Distillery
Post Modern Spirits Distilling
Sugarlands Distilling Company
Tennessee Legend Distillery
Thunder Road Distillery
Western Region Distilleries (Memphis Area)