9 Must-See Distilleries in Southern Middle Tennessee
Updated: Aug 6, 2022
The South Central Tennessee Region is home to the best Tennessee Whiskey has to offer. From the world-renowned brands to the southern craft whiskeys, this area is nothing short of amazing quality spirits.
Jack Daniel's Distillery
Jack Daniel's Distillery - Lynchburg, Tennessee
Jack Daniel's is a brand of Tennessee whiskey and the top-selling American whiskey in the world. It is produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee, by the Jack Daniel Distillery, which has been owned by the Brown–Forman Corporation since 1956. Jack Daniel's home county of Moore is a dry county, so the product is not available for purchase at stores or restaurants within the county. The product meets the regulatory criteria for classification as a straight bourbon, though the company disavows this classification. It markets the liquor simply as Tennessee whiskey rather than as Tennessee bourbon. As defined in the North American Free Trade Agreement, Tennessee whiskey is classified as a straight bourbon authorized to be produced in the state of Tennessee. Tennessee law (57-2-106) further requires most producers of Tennessee whiskey to filter the spirit through charcoal made from maple prior to aging, in addition to meeting the above requirements (the "Lincoln County Process"). The Jack Daniel's brand's official website suggests that its founder, Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel, was born in 1850 (and his tombstone bears that date), but says his exact birth date is unknown. The company website says it is customary to celebrate his birthday in September. The Tennessee state library website said in 2013 that records list his birth date as September 5, 1846, and that the 1850 birth date seems impossible since his mother died in 1847. In the 2004 biography Blood & Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel, author Peter Krass said his investigation showed that Daniel was born in January 1849 (based on Jack's sister's diary, census records, and the date of death of Jack's mother). Jack was the youngest of 10 children born to his mother, Lucinda (Cook) Daniel, and father Calaway Daniel. After Lucinda's death, his father remarried and had three more children. Calaway Daniel's father, Joseph "Job" Daniel, had emigrated from Wales to the United States with his Scottish wife, the former Elizabeth Calaway. Jack Daniels' ancestry included English, and Scots-Irish as well. Jack did not get along with his stepmother. After Daniel's father died in the Civil War, the boy ran away from home and was essentially orphaned at a young age. As a teenager, Daniel was taken in by Dan Call, a local lay preacher and moonshine distiller. He began learning the distilling trade from Call and his Master Distiller, Nathan "Nearest" Green, an enslaved African-American man. Green continued to work with Call after emancipation. In 1875, on receiving an inheritance from his father's estate (following a long dispute with his siblings), Daniel founded a legally registered distilling business with Call. He took over the distillery shortly afterward when Call quit for religious reasons. The brand label on the product says "Est. & Reg. in 1866", but his biographer has cited official registration documents in asserting that the business was not established until 1875. After taking over the distillery in 1884, Daniel purchased the hollow and land where the distillery is now located. By the 1880s, Jack Daniel's was one of 15 distilleries operating in Moore County, and the second-most productive behind Tom Eaton's Distillery. He began using square-shaped bottles, intended to convey a sense of fairness and integrity, in 1897.
According to Daniel's biographer, the origin of the "Old No. 7" brand name was the number assigned to Daniel's distillery for government registration. He was forced to change the registration number when the federal government redrew the district, and he became Number 16 in district 5 instead of No. 7 in district 4. However, he continued to use his original number as a brand name, since his brand reputation already had been established. An entirely different explanation is given in the 1967 book 'Jack Daniel's Legacy' which states that the name was chosen in 1887 after a visit to a merchant friend in Tullahoma, who had built a chain of seven stores. Jack Daniel's had a surge in popularity after the whiskey received the gold medal for the finest whiskey at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. However, its local reputation began to suffer as the temperance movement began gaining strength in Tennessee. Jack Daniel never married and did not have any known children. He took his nephews under his wing – one of whom was Lemuel "Lem" Motlow (1869–1947). Lem, a son of Daniel's sister, Finetta, was skilled with numbers. He soon was responsible for all of the distillery's bookkeeping. In failing health, Jack Daniel gave the distillery to Lem Motlow and another nephew in 1907. Motlow soon bought out his partner, and went on to operate the distillery for about 40 years.
Tennessee passed a statewide prohibition law in 1910, effectively barring the legal distillation of Jack Daniel's within the state. Motlow challenged the law in a test case that eventually worked its way to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The court upheld the law as constitutional.
Daniel died in 1911 from blood poisoning. An oft-told tale is that the infection began in one of his toes, which Daniel injured one early morning at work by kicking his safe in anger when he could not get it open (he was said to always have had trouble remembering the combination). But Daniel's modern biographer has asserted that this account is not true. Because of prohibition in Tennessee, the company shifted its distilling operations to St Louis, Missouri, and Birmingham, Alabama. None of the production from these locations was ever sold due to quality problems. The Alabama operation was halted following a similar statewide prohibition law in that state, and the St. Louis operation fell to the onset of nationwide prohibition following passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1920. While the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933 repealed prohibition at the federal level, state prohibition laws (including Tennessee's) remained in effect, thus preventing the Lynchburg distillery from reopening. Motlow, who had become a Tennessee state senator, led efforts to repeal these laws, which allowed production to restart in 1938. The five-year gap between national repeal and Tennessee repeal was commemorated in 2008 with a gift pack of two bottles, one for the 75th anniversary of the end of prohibition and a second commemorating the 70th anniversary of the reopening of the distillery. The Jack Daniel's distillery ceased operations from 1942 to 1946 when the U.S. government banned the manufacture of whiskey due to World War II. Motlow resumed production of Jack Daniel's in 1947 after good-quality corn was again available. Motlow died the same year, bequeathing the distillery to his children, Robert, Reagor, Dan, Conner, and Mary, upon his death. The company was later incorporated as "Jack Daniel Distillery, Lem Motlow, Prop., Inc.", allowing the company to continue to include Motlow in its tradition-oriented marketing. Likewise, company advertisements continue to use Lynchburg's 1960s-era population figure of 361, though the city has since formed a consolidated city-county government with Moore County. Its official population is more than 6,000, according to the 2010 census.
The company was sold to the Brown–Forman Corporation in 1956. The Jack Daniel's Distillery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. In 2012, a Welshman, Mark Evans, claimed to have discovered the original recipe for Daniel's whiskey, in a book written in 1853 by his great-great-grandmother. Her brother-in-law had emigrated to Tennessee. Moore County, where the Jack Daniel's distillery is located, is one of the state's many dry counties. While it is legal to distill the product within the county, it is illegal to purchase it there. However, a state law has provided one exception: a distillery may sell one commemorative product, regardless of county statutes. Jack Daniel's now sells Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, the original No. 7 blend (in a commemorative bottle), and a seasonal blend (on rotation) at the distillery's White Rabbit Bottle Shop.
George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey at the Cascade Hollow Distilling Company
Cascade Hollow Distillery - George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey - Tullahoma, Tennessee Born 40 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, George A. Dickel was an established Nashville merchant when he entered the whisky business. Dickel grew his reputation for selling the smoothest, most mellow spirits in the region.
Thus, Geo. A. Dickel & Co. was born and when the Cascade Hollow Distillery opened in 1878 in neighboring Coffee County, George Dickel bought a large share. George Dickel followed in the Scottish tradition of spelling whisky without an “e.”
George Dickel preferred whisky made in the winter months more than summer months because he felt it made the whisky taste smoother, so the company began advertising their Geo. A. Dickel’s Cascade Tennessee Whisky as “Mellow as Moonlight.” This is why our whisky is chilled before undergoing the charcoal-mellow filtration known as the Lincoln County Process. This extra step smooths out the flavor and we’re still the only Tennessee distillery to do it.
Uncle Nearest Distillery
Uncle Nearest Distillery - Shelbyville, Tennessee
The hills and hollows above Lynchburg, Tennessee don't easily give up their secrets. The whispers have always been here, lingering in the shadows, undiminished by the passage of time and the buss of the larks and mockingbirds. Here, where Tennessee whiskey was born, the story quietly endured for nearly two centuries kept alive through the recollections of kinfolks and neighbors and faded ink on brittle, yellowed pages. Was it possible the godfather of Tennessee whiskey was a man the world never knew? Was it true that a former slave became Tennessee's premier master distiller, helped perfect the process still followed today, and taught his craft to others who would find worldwide fame and become whiskey legends in their own right? Let us tell you the story of the man they called Uncle Nearest.
American Craft Distillers of Lynchburg
American Craft Distillers of Lynchburg - Lynchburg, Tennessee
From the hollows and hills of Lynchburg emerges the stories of those families that made distilled spirits both before, during, and after prohibition. Did you know that in 1876 there were 15 Legal distilleries in the Lynchburg area alone? We are bringing back those “Good Old Days” with products that are a part of our American culture. In the early 20th century, moonshine became a key source of income for many Appalachian residents like Scots-Irish Charles Kirkpatrick, one of our owner/distiller's great grandfathers. “Grandad” and his brother Joe were “corn farmers” known for knowing exactly where to cook their “product” in the hills of east Tennessee in Hawkins county. They sold their Whisky Moonshine from the 1920s to the 1930s. Another owner/distiller’s family was raised here in the heart of Tennessee and had a history of distilling spirits of all kinds. Grain, Corn, or even fruits to make ‘shine, brandy, and whiskey.
Big Machine Distillery
Big Machine Distillery - Lynnville, Tennessee
The backbone of distillation for Big Machine Distillery is located in the romantically-preserved town of Lynnville, TN. One hour south of Nashville on the whiskey trail, Big Machine Distillery (formerly Tenn South Distillery) features a picturesque 28 acres of rural farmland in the Tennessee countryside. Here is where our 20,000 square-foot distilleries and tasting room preserve the romantic origins of our hand-made craft spirits. This is also the source of our high-quality artesian water which comes from our wells located on the property.
Branchwater Distillery - Winchester, Tennessee
Our story begins in a time where moonshiners and bootleggers weren't just misfits and outlaws. They were independent, determined, hard-working folks; living in a time where jobs were scarce, and putting food on the table was often accompanied by the ever-present risk of a run in with the law. Enter the life of a moonshiner. To be a successful moonshiner, you needed 3 things: ingenuity, patience, and little bit of luck. It just so happened that Bud Kelley’s great grandfather, Dave Johnson, had a little patience, a little luck, and a great deal of ingenuity; all cultivated by years of producing some of West Tennessee’s finest white liquor. While Dave’s product was great in its own right, it was his ingenuity that inspired the name of our distillery – Branchwater. Depending on the day that you ask Bud Kelley, you might get a different answer for the reason behind the name. But more times than not, you’ll hear the age old story of how Bud’s great grandfather left many revenuers scratching their heads, by using a strong branch and pulley system to keep his equipment suspended high above the law, as they searched frantically among the woods below for his famed copper still. At Branchwater, we aim to keep this rich tradition alive and cooking inside our old fashioned copper still, appropriately named - Dave. It’s our mission to recreate these memories and legends with each sip of our carefully crafted shine. So please pull up a rocking chair, fold down a tailgate, or put that old recliner to work as you enjoy the taste of our tradition.
Gobbler Springs Distillery
Gobbler Springs Distillery - Summertown, Tennessee Gobbler Springs Distillery operates the first legal still in Lawrence County, Tennessee since 1821, when David Crockett’s distillery was swept away in a flood. Our Sweet Mash spirits are crafted in small batches using our proprietary Lawrence County Process with locally sourced grains, charred white oak, and pure water drawn from the Gobbler Springs property. We’re confident you will agree that our hand-crafted artisan spirits coax the best from grain to bottle, and from bottle to glass. Cheers!
Prichard's Distillery - Kelso, Tennessee
Five generations ago, when Granddaddy Benjamin Prichard of Davidson County, Tennessee passed his “still, tubs and utensils thereto” to his son Enoch, his will of 1822 provided documentation of the last known “legal” distiller in the Prichard Family. Ben made his whiskey with a high sugar content white corn, pure Tennessee spring water and it was distilled using an ancient pot still techniques. Through the years we have had many different styles of bottles. Keeping with the “handcrafted” feel and setting our spirits to be unique among a myriad of look-alike bottles on retail shelves and behind bars. Prichard’s Distillery's newest bottle is a reasonable recreation of a hand-blown early American bottle. Made from amber glass to help protect our spirits from deterioration by light.
Southern Pride Distillery
Southern Pride Distillery - Fayetteville, Tennessee We are proud to be a modern part of an Old-World industry that has stood the test of time. With having 20 years of experience in the distilled spirits industry, it was only a natural progression for us to apply both our experience and passion to create premium distilled spirits…..and so Southern Pride Distillery was started. A dream made real in March of 2012, Southern Pride Distillery became a small batch artisan distillery committed to producing some of the finest distilled spirits on the market today. To say that our ancestors held their families and whiskey recipes close to their hearts is an understatement. Our story starts with a great-grandmother and her Bible with the family recipe tucked safely inside the cover. Preserved by family members as all family secrets are. Distilled in a copper pot still, our products are created much like those of our ancestors. We use locally grown corn milled at the distillery and our water comes from a natural spring that is on the property. The products we offer are of the highest quality to keep the family proud! Our skilled craftsmen take both pride in their work and the end results, true to the family. This gives you the best of both worlds --- time-proven recipe and modern upgrades to accommodate our many valued customers.
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