Chris Stapleton sang about it for a reason. Tennessee whiskey is some of the smoothest and richest on the market, and on top of incredible barbeque and some of the greatest musical artists the United States has ever known – like Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin – it’s one of the state’s many pride and joys.
There are a million and one reasons to visit the great Volunteer State, but whatever your occasion is, you can’t go wrong with adding a stop or two along Tennessee’s phenomenal whiskey trail to your trip. On top of famous whiskey labels like Jack Daniel’s that have won the world over, there are dozens of distilleries in the state with their own stories just waiting to be uncovered. If you’re looking at adding a little local culture to your trip, then keep reading for our list of the six best whiskey distilleries in Tennessee.
Jack Daniel Distillery: The Oldest Whiskey Distillery in Tennessee
Let’s begin our journey with the obvious: if you’re adding a distillery visit and whiskey tasting to your trip to the Volunteer State, then it ought to include Jack Daniel’s. Established in historic Lynchburg way back in 1866, this iconic stop on the whiskey trail is the oldest registered distillery in the country.
Luckily for you fellow whiskey lovers out there, Jack Daniel Distillery offers tours seven days a week, and being equal parts history and whiskey, taking the drive down to Lynchburg will give you one of the best distillery tours in the state. If you’d prefer to avoid driving and would like a private, guided experience in a comfortable vehicle, arrange a tour direct to the distillery from Nashville.
Who would have thought the country’s most popular whiskey and its world-famous black and white label would have grown to fame and fortune in one of Tennessee’s last dry counties?
Nashville Barrell Co.
There is a ton of fun to be had in Nashville, and yes, as wild as the honky tonks are, much of the fun can be found off Broadway and away from downtown’s neon lights. If you’re taking a trip to Music City and are looking for something to wash down that hot chicken, then this is the stop for you.
Even though this Nashville spot is quite young – only opening its doors in 2018 – cofounders James Davenport and Mike Hinds lead their operation with their unique cocktail of ingenuity, experience, and vision. Curious to taste some of their award-winning spirits? Nashville Barrel Co. offers flights, premium tastings, and more. If you’re looking for a more intimate tasting experience at one of the best distilleries in Tennessee, you can schedule a private tour at their Nashville location as well.
Recommended: Consider taking our recommended guided craft distillery tour along the Tennessee whiskey trail and leave the driving to someone else. You’ll meet at a central location in downtown Nashville, and all distillery entrance fees are included.
Ole Smoky Distillery
Every time we get an itch to head back down to Music City, we always head to the Ole Smoky location on 6th and Peabody right after dropping off our bags. Not only do they make some of the best moonshine in Tennessee, but their Nashville location hosts a fun bar serving all the live country music and hot chicken that you would expect. From what we’ve heard, the Ole Smoky Pigeon Forge distillery is a pretty great time too.
Make no mistake though. Just because Ole Smoky specializes in flavored moonshine doesn’t mean they don’t distill some amazing whiskey as well. Their barrelhouse distillery in Gatlinburg makes some of the best whiskey and moonshine in Tennessee, complete with group tastings.
Old Forge Distillery
We mentioned Pigeon Forge in the last section, and even though that town is mostly for tourists, they do have some great whiskey, including the Old Forge Distillery. Located in Old Mill Square, this Pigeon Forge distillery is a historic icon and has one of the oldest continually operated gristmills in the country.
Like Ole Smokey, the folks at Old Forge produce and serve a wide variety of different spirits. Bourbon is what made them famous, but if that’s not what you’re in the mood for, they offer several other award-winning drinks, such as vodka, cream liqueurs, their famous 1830 moonshine, and more.
Cascade Hollow Distilling Co.
Cascade Hollow might not sound too familiar, but if you’re a bourbon lover like most of us are at Winetraveler, then their signature product, George Dickel, certainly ought to. When it comes to whiskey distilleries in Tennessee, Cascade Hollow is one of the most famous out there, so making a trip out to their Tullahoma location is absolutely worth your while.
George Dickel’s successors still make their bourbon in honor of their founder’s vision, and your guide can fill you in on all the steps they go through to make their Tennessee whiskey “mellow as moonlight.” Add some ice, pour some bitters, drink it neat, whatever you want; but George Dickel deserves to be enjoyed during your trip down the Whiskey Trail.
Leiper’s Fork Distillery
Among all of the whiskey distilleries in Tennessee, this gem in Franklin is one of our personal favorites. Maybe it’s because we’re history lovers, but there is something so inspiring about their dedication to the age-old distilling methods that Tennessee’s original Irish and Scottish settlers used. A trip to Franklin itself is worth it, but once you’re there, stop by the distillery for a glass or tasting to see what makes Leiper’s Fork so authentic and beautiful.
They also host monthly live music events called still house sessions. If you haven’t gotten enough whiskey or live music during your trip to Tennessee, then there aren’t many better ways to experience both at the same time.
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