Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Spirits of the Smokies - Gatlinburg, Tennessee

We had planned a trip to the Tennessee side of the Smokey Mountains not realizing that one of the entrances, Gatlinburg, is the equivalent of a seaside boardwalk. The main street includes a rather intriguing aquarium, miniature golf,  sweet shops, stores, tourist traps and plenty of distilleries. Many times I heard the phrase "Disney for Adults". Unlike the Commonwealth there are no limits to shine tastings and each distillery provides a bit of entertainment - from the comical tasting staff to live music. These distilleries are all withing walking distance and more importantly distill their products on site; and in most you can see the shine or whiskey being distilled.

The Doc Collier Moonshine Distillery is based on the moonshine legend William "Doc" Collier's corn and sugar shine recipe. They claim to be the only Certified Craft Distillery in town and promote the pure English Mountain spring water. The spirits are only single distilled and the flavored shines utilize strictly juices and no artificial flavors and extracts. Thus, the straight shines were rather harsh - spicy with plenty of burn. Yet the flavored were quite good - even though I normally shy away from that style. The produce the always popular Apple Pie, Sweet Tea, Blackberry, Peach, Cherry, and Firecracker. The Peach and Blackberry were excellent with the former perhaps the best flavored shine I've tasted.

 I had the best experience at Sugarlands Distilling Company with James leading our group through a hilarious tasting. The distillery produces over a dozen mostly flavored shines many based off recipes from the Discovery Channel's Moonshiners series. For instance, there's Tickle’s Dynamite Cinnamon, Mark Rogers American Peach, Mark & Digger's Rye Apple, and Jim Tom Hedrick’s Unaged Rye. In addition, their Appalachian Apple Pie is probably the best offering. I went home with Jim Tom's shine - basically being a fan of the series.

Ole Smoky Moonshine operates two distilleries in Gatlinburg, "The Holler" and the Ole Smokey Barrelhouse - where the Ole Smoky Whiskey is made and laid to age. They claim that the Holler is America's most visited distillery and you've probably seen the distillery's television commercials. The staff was friendly and entertaining at both locations and at the Holler we listened to live music when tasting. Ole Smoky produces a plethora of flavored moonshine and whiskey - many that are only available at the distillery. I wasn't particularly a fan of most of these with the exception of the Mountain Java. For some reason that one spoke to me. I was also pleased with their straight shines, the Original (100 proof) and Blue Flame (128 proof), both clean and smooth at such high alcohol content.

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