The Tennessee Whiskey Trail, inaugurated in June 2017, links 30 distilleries located across the state. Today I am visiting three whiskey distilleries in middle Tennessee.

Jack Daniel’s Distillery – the granddaddy of Tennessee whiskey


“Jack on the Rocks” – a statue of Jack Daniel in front of the distillery’s cave spring water source
Photo: Julie Kalan

It is only 9:00am when we arrive at the large visitors’ center and you can already tell that it is going to be a hot day. At the entrance a sign lists several tours, with different options for tasting samples and time length. The Angel’s Share tour begins with a short bus ride up to the rickyard, where stacks of hard sugar maple wood are burned to make charcoal. This specially made charcoal is used in a mellowing process known as the Lincoln County process. It is this step, where the whiskey slowly seeps through vats of charcoal that differentiates Tennessee whiskey from bourbon.

Following the guide, the tour continues on foot down a gently sloping road to a cave spring. Approaching the cave brings a welcome chill from the consistent 56°F spring water. This iron-free, limestone filtered water is the reason Jack Daniel built his distillery here in 1866. On some rocks in front of the cave stands a well-dressed statue of Jack Daniel. While we take turns posing for photos with “Jack on the Rocks”, our guide explains that the man behind this world famous brand was only 5’2” tall with size 4 men’s shoes. A small white clapboard building, the oldest building in the hollow, houses Jack’s old office. Inside the sparse furnishings include the safe that Jack kicked in anger, eventually leading to his death from a gangrenous infection a few years later.


Sampling some of Jack Daniel’s
finest whisky on the Angel’s Share Tour
Photo: Julie Kalan

In the still house we learn about the production process: the corn, rye and barley ratios, the copper still, and the use of sour mash (adding a bit of already fermented mash into the water, grain and yeast mixture). Encircling a large charcoal vat, the tour group is treated to a warm, heady whiff of alcohol when our guide lifts the edge of the clear lid. The potent liquid dripping down into the vat will have to travel through 10 feet of charcoal before maturing in new toasted and charred 50 gallon, white oak barrels.

In the sampling room I take a seat behind a wooden tray adorned with 5 shot glasses. In varying golden and amber hues, the five samples included on the Angel’s Share tour are single barrel and limited editions:  an 80 proof No. 27 Gold, the Sinatra Select (named for Jack Daniel’s connoisseur Frank Sinatra), Single Barrel Select, Single Barrel Rye and a remarkably strong 128 proof Single Barrel – Barrel Proof.

A family-style lunch, with Grandmother included

Less than 5 minutes from the distillery, in the center of Lynchburg is Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House Restaurant. This is a truly unique restaurant, serving plentiful, tasty homemade comfort food from a center table lazy-Susan. Each small dining room holds only one table, where a grandmotherly hostess greets guests, recaps the history of the restaurant, and keeps the conversation going throughout the meal. Come hungry and enjoy seconds of southern fried chicken and some of the best meatloaf this side of anywhere. Reservations are required.

George Dickel Distillery – Cool without the “e”


George Dickel whisky aging in white oak barrels
Photo: Julie Kalan

After a half hour drive we arrive in Tullahoma, where the George Dickel Distillery is tucked into Cascade Hollow. This distillery proudly makes whisky without the “e”, because German-born George Dickel preferred the Scottish spelling and felt that his whisky could match any from Scotland. Making use of the Cascade Springs, the first distillery was built here in 1870.

The tour commences in front of the distillery’s great little shop, beside the bust of George Dickel himself. After some introductory information about George Dickel and distillery, we cross over the footbridge spanning a quaint babbling creek and walk over to the heart of the operation. Inside the facility we see the mash tub: 84% corn, 8% rye and 8% barley is the magic ratio. Here, too, they use the sour mash method to ensure consistency in the fermentation. The distillery places great emphasis on craftsmanship and proudly proclaims its status as the largest non-computerized distillery in the country.


Distillery tours begin alongside the bust of
George A. Dickel.
Photo: Julie Kalan

George Dickel preferred the smoother taste of whisky made in the winter months versus the summer months. So, to keep that “Mellow as Moonlight” smoothness all year round Dickel’s whisky is chilled to 40°F before undergoing the charcoal filtration process. They are the only distillery in Tennessee to add this extra step.

The tour culminates with the ever-popular tasting. We begin with the George Dickel No.1, an enjoyable clear un-aged 91 proof whisky. The Classic No. 8, golden coloured 80 proof, is their most famous whisky. The sampling continues with the Superior No. 12, and the well-aged (10-12 years) Barrel Select.

Short Mountain Distillery – Small batch moonshine


Billy Kaufman, co-owner of the
Short Mountain Distillery
Photo: Tennessee Department of Tourist Development

Located on a 420-acre farm, the Short Mountain Distillery is a much smaller operation than the previous distilleries. The tour begins with a relaxed gathering on the distillery’s covered front porch. Sitting on a rocking chair with the late afternoon sun on my feet, I listen to the tour guide relate the story of this small batch distillery. The area was always a fertile ground for moonshiners. When the state alcohol production laws loosened, Californian-born farm owner Billy Kaufman decided to open the Short Mountain Distillery with his brothers. Using the water from the Cooper Cave Spring and enlisting the skills of longtime local moonshiners Ricky Estes and Ronald Lawson, the distillery began producing legal moonshine. Short Mountain currently offers organic and flavoured moonshines. The flavours are added just a day or two before bottling.

After viewing the fermenting mash and copper still we went to the on-site restaurant, the Stillhouse Café, for our third tasting of the day. First up are the double distilled Short Mountain Shine and the Organic Shine an un-aged 100 proof moonshine, made of 100% organic corn. Next up are the flavoured Prohibition Tea and Apple Pie. This Short Mountain Apple Pie would be fabulous drizzled over a bowl of vanilla ice cream.


The charming 1892 restaurant in
Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee
Photo: Julie Kalan

Gourmet Dining in Small Town Tennessee

A few minutes from the historic town of Franklin is the tiny village of Leiper’s Fork. Home to an art gallery, a distillery, the Original Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant, a couple of darling antique shops, and the new restaurant 1892. Owned by Chef Dylan Morrison and his wife Jordan, the restaurant resides in a charming building dating back to 1892. The Morrison’s have cultivated a great relationship with the surrounding farms and the result is the incredible freshness of everything on the plate. Expect a top notch meal served with friendly southern hospitality.  The dining room is small so be sure to make a reservation.

Travel Planner

Pickup a Tennessee Whiskey Trail Passport at your first distillery stop and remember to get it stamped at every distillery you visit, or download the official Tennessee Whisky Trail App.

The Franklin Marriott Cool Springs was my home base for exploring the Whiskey Trail. Comfortable and convenient, the hotel offers an indoor pool, gym, and impressively large breakfast selection.

Jack Daniel Distillery –

Miss Mary Bobo’s –

George Dickel Distillery –

Short Mountain Distillery –

1892 –

* Drink responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.


The Post Office and Cascade General Store at the George Dickel Distillery
Photo: Julie Kalan