The Best Distilleries in Nashville: On the Tennessee Whiskey Trail

The Urban Distillery Takeover of Tennessee

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”20872686″]

When we started the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, I knew it was going to be fun, but I had no idea it would double as a history lesson. Nor did I have an inkling of an idea of how diverse 26 distilleries truly could be. How many times would we be able to learn about how to turn a fermented grain into a highly refined spirit? Plenty, it turns out.

And then we started tackling it, slowly—slower than most, as we’re doing it deliberately, taking the time to meet the distiller and the brains behind the operation, to interview the staff, to get a (literal and figurative) taste for the product—and it was immediately apparent that no two distilleries tackle production the same way, nor do any two whiskeys taste the same.

There are just too many variables to corner any whiskey into a box: mash bills, production volume, equipment, philosophy, and simple things like how to keep a business in operation that spans a minimum of five years before a viable product will hit the shelves are all things that impact the decision-making and end product that we’ll all enjoy poured over a pile of ice in a rocks glass.

Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis, Tennessee

Our experience highlights a truism that is inherent in any long-term business, particularly distilled spirits in one of the strictest regulatory environments in the country: build it and they will might come. Each and every one of these scrappy distilleries must find a way to build a client base, produce a marketable product in the short-term while keeping an eye on a long-term plan for legacy status.

Old Glory Distillery in Clarksville, Tennessee

The Tennessee Whiskey Trail is designed so that you can tackle it in any way and in any order you please. We’ve analyzed the geography of our sprawling state with a tourist in mind to create easily digestible segments of each part of the trail in the hopes that if you’re only here for a short period that you’ll be able to at least eke out a significant bit of sight-seeing and tourism in the state proper but that you’ll also be able to experience some of the liquid magic being produced in our pretty backroads by passionate advocates of distilled spirits.

The Best Distilleries in Nashville

Only have three days and spending that whole time in Nashville? Cool. You can easily tick off a solid eight stops—maybe even more. Flying into Knoxville for a business engagement and wanting to get a stamp on your passport between meetings? Perfect. You can get two.

We, however, wanted to attack the trail in geographic order, from west to east, which took us to the far western corner of Tennessee to kick off our project for the Tennessee Distillers Guild.

MEMPHIS

You can’t even mention Tennessee to an outsider without them thinking of music and the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. While country music and Middle Tennessee’s Nashville tend to dominate the current musical zeitgeist, countless stars originated in western Tennessee, and Graceland, the former home of Elvis, is a pilgrimage to many. Lucky for you, there’s just one distillery in Memphis, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore the Bluff City’s other cultural offerings.

What to Do in Memphis, Tennessee

Old Dominick Distillery

Old Dominick Distillery is a high-end, multi-million dollar property right smack on the river in downtown Memphis. While it may seem more like a venue that makes booze than vice versa, don’t let that fool you: The building is a gorgeous, airy, metal, glass and wood affair situated in a prime location in a once decrepit neighborhood on the banks of the Mississippi River. An expansive greenway extends along the waterfront just steps from the distillery while some of the most pivotal moments in American history are contained just down the street, as well as Beale Street—with its rocking honky-tonks, kitschy storefronts and historical theaters—the biggest tourist draw.

Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis, Tennessee

Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis, Tennessee
Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis, Tennessee

Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis, Tennessee

Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis, Tennessee
Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis, Tennessee

Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis, Tennessee

Where to Stay in Memphis

The Peabody Memphis is always my go-to when in Memphis. It’s chock full of history, with the original location built nearly 150 years ago, plus it has its own whiskey tie-in: It has a single barrel of Jack Daniel’s on site in the Corner Bar, plus some of its duck residents have gone to live out their days in retirement at the Lynchburg distillery. If you’re passing through Memphis, even if just for a day, a viewing of the daily Peabody Duck March is a must; at 11am each morning, they’re paraded down from their penthouse loft to the lobby, where they swim in the fountain during daylight hours, and at 5pm each night, they’re shepherded back to their roost for the evening.

Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee

Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee
Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee

I got a major surprise on my most recent visit and was asked to come up as the HDM—that’s Honorary Duck Master, for those not in-the-know—and got to accompany (Actual) Duck Master Anthony Petrina on his daily march. It was 100 times more fun than I ever thought it might be. (Watch the video below for a look at that special occasion!)

Don’t Miss These Memphis Attractions

What to Do in Memphis, Tennessee

What to Do in Memphis, Tennessee
What to Do in Memphis, Tennessee
What to Do in Memphis, Tennessee

NASHVILLE

Ahhh, Nashville. The city I claim as my home, as I grew up just an hour down the road. You need a good weekend to even scratch the surface, though a week is more ideal. Of course, if you’re wanting to hit all four distilleries (five, if you include Corsair’s two locations), then I recommend staying as long as your time allows you. You won’t get bored, that’s for sure!

The Best Distilleries in Nashville

Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery

Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery is one of our favorites in not just the South, but the country, with legit real people running the show, an awesome tasting room, large event space and barrel houses that are in the midst of an expansion into adjoining spaces in the industrial-cool Marathon Village. Nearly a decade ago, Andy and Charlie Nelson unearthed a whiskey heritage while on a day trip to Greenbrier with their dad, then committed to reviving the brand their great-great-great-great-grandfather launched that later died off just before Prohibition; they opened their doors to the public three years ago next month. They continue to make their signature Belle Meade Bourbon, but have ventured into new products like a handful of cask finishes (madeira, cognac, sherry) and have a gorgeous brick-and-mortar to boot.

Nelson's Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee

Nelsons Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee
Nelsons Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee
Nelsons Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee
Nelsons Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee
Nelsons Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee

Pennington Distilling Co.

Pennington Distilling Co. has a number of brands that are housed beneath the SPEAKeasy Spirits corporate name, including their debut Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream and various flavors of Picker’s Vodka, but we’re most excited about their newest product, the Davidson Reserve Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey, which sends SVV into a tizzy of delight. Their location, in the booming Nations neighborhood, is undergoing a complete revamp with the addition of more than 28 large shipping containers fashioned into tasting rooms, event spaces and a rooftop bar overlooking downtown Nashville. Owners Jeff and Jenny Pennington, who both formerly worked for competing distributors, are hyper-focused on efficiencies in the process and use fascinating methods of recycling waste heat that could shake up the industry. And let me just reiterate: Their brand new rye, OMG, you need it in your life.

Pennington Distilling Co. in Nashville

Pennington Distilling Co. in Nashville
Pennington Distilling Co. in Nashville
Pennington Distilling Co. in Nashville

Pennington Distilling Co. in Nashville

Nashville Craft Distillery

Nashville Craft occupies an excellent location, a gorgeous mid-century-inspired building with high ceilings and plans to build an outdoor space to capitalize on the recent liquor-by-the-drink legislation, which allows all distilleries to serve up cocktails on-site with their own product. Bruce Boeko uses scientific techniques learned from years of running a DNA laboratory but brings a bit of artistic flair to create his booze and is just now releasing an aged whiskey to the general public. His sorghum spirit, Naked Biscuit, or the Crane City gin are popular examples of his clear liquors that reflect his scientific attention to detail. Bruce is on speed dial for many, many distillers in Tennessee because of his expertise and willingness to share secrets. We personally think he’s the bee’s knees (and we’re not just saying that because he’s about to release a new honey product either!).

Nashville Craft Distillery

Nashville Craft Distillery
Nashville Craft Distillery
Nashville Craft Distillery

Nashville Craft Distillery

Corsair Distillery

Corsair Distillery has long been a favorite of SVV after he received a bottle of their Artisan Gin for our housewarming party years ago. Highly experimental as a base corporate philosophy, Corsair makes incredibly interesting booze by integrating flavors from various grains like quinoa, buckwheat, oats, spelt, barley and triticale (I had to look that one up, too). The hardest part about visiting either of their two Nashville locations is choosing which samples you want to try from their exhaustive inventory. They also do craft cocktails made from their product so even if you’re not interested in the tour, you can pop in for a drink.

Corsair Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee
Corsair Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee
Corsair Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee
Corsair Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee
Corsair Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee

Where to Stay in Nashville

Nashville hotels are expensive, man, which is why I always tell friends to book an Airbnb. My favorite locations to stay in are Music Row, Germantown or 12South. Coming to Nashville and looking for a listing? Message me and I’ll send you my playlist of favorites! 

Don’t Miss These Nashville Attractions

CLARKSVILLE

Clarksville is an hour north of Nashville and an easy enough drive to make it there and back in an afternoon. It’s also home to Austin Peay State University, but the big draw is its impressively massive distillery that just turned one year old.

Old Glory Distillery in Clarksville, Tennessee

Old Glory Distilling Co.

Old Glory Distilling Co. was built from the ground up by the Cunningham family and features an elegant event space with indoor seating for up to 375 people adjoining a working distillery. Like many of Tennessee’s smaller cities and towns, Clarksville has a booming revitalization effort going on downtown and is worth the trip up I-24. Old Glory is one of the few operations in the state that has the ability to produce high-proof liquor for vodka, which they do with a Tennessee twist by filtering the final product through sugar maple charcoal. Their first whiskey is due out in December 2017, and we can’t wait to taste their two-year-old product. They also make an excellent rum and a wheat-based moonshine, both of which you can sample in the tasting room along with a couple of cocktails on the menu.

Old Glory Distillery in Clarksville, Tennessee

Old Glory Distillery in Clarksville, Tennessee
Old Glory Distillery in Clarksville, Tennessee
Old Glory Distillery in Clarksville, Tennessee

Old Glory Distillery in Clarksville, Tennessee

Don’t Miss These Clarksville Spots

**********

Thirsty now? Fellow lover of Tennessee whiskey? Then meet us in the Smokies on Nov. 4 for the annual Grains & Grits whiskey fest!

This post is part of an ongoing collaboration with the Tennessee Whiskey Trail.

 

PIN IT HERE

Best Distilleries in Nashville and Memphis: On the Tennessee Whiskey Trail
Best Distilleries in Nashville and Memphis: On the Tennessee Whiskey Trail
Best Distilleries in Nashville and Memphis: On the Tennessee Whiskey Trail
COMMENTS
  • October 26, 2017

    What a beautiful cat! I’m in love with those blue eyes 🙂

    • October 31, 2017

      We have seen SO many distillery cats while traveling the trail! Who knew that was a thing?

  • October 26, 2017

    Looks like I need to spend a month in Tennessee. One day per distillery!

    • October 31, 2017

      And I know JUST the person to accompany you! *raises hand eagerly*

  • October 30, 2017

    Wow you had such a positive way of looking at it. I think you looked NICE with glasses!!

  • October 30, 2017

    Soooo excited to find this in the Ultimate Pinterest link up!! I definitely would be down to do this! I wrote a similar post on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, if you’re interested! https://www.caliglobetrotter.com/a-complete-guide-to-the-kentucky-bourbon-trail/

    • October 31, 2017

      I loooooved the Bourbon Trail! Such a fun experience. And the Tennessee trail is even bigger, longer (and dare I say?) better, too!

  • November 2, 2017

    So many delicious things I want to put right in my face. I didn’t know a lot about bourbon before I went to Kentucky and it totally changed the way I drink and opened my eyes to a whole new delightful world of booze. Sounds like Tennessee would do the same!

    Also that cat. I’m partial to any place that has a critter.

    • November 11, 2017

      I didn’t know a lot about it before I did the Bourbon Trail either! And the Whiskey Trail was pretty much the master’s course as we got quite the front-row seat to how they do things down here. Like a history class!

  • November 6, 2017

    Wow such an amazing distilleries you have visited! So jealous right now and I wish one day that my husband would love take me there. Safe travel always! 🙂

    • November 11, 2017

      Thanks, Kathleen! I think you need to tell your husband to plan that trip sooner rather than later 😉

  • November 10, 2017

    Hey must be nice to check out the distillery in Tennessee . Thats where the best whiskey comes from. Jack Daniel s!

Leave a Comment

GET MY POSTS DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX
+ Sign up and receive your free copy of my eBook