Exploring Tennessee Whiskey via Nashville
There’s a big debate in the American whiskey world regarding Tennessee Whiskey and if it is, in fact, bourbon. After a recent trip to Nashville to visit some thriving Tennessee Whiskey distilleries, I’ll have to side with Nashville Craft owner Bruce Boeko on this one and say that Tennessee Whiskey is a category of bourbon.
For a quick explanation, Tennessee Whiskey follows all the same rules as bourbon does, but it also adds one extra step, and that’s called the Lincoln County Process, or charcoal mellowing the distillate before it’s put into the barrel for aging. This helps remove impurities and makes for an overall smoother whiskey.
Since Tennessee Whiskey is skyrocketing in the spirits world at the moment, the CaskX team and I took a trip to Nashville to meet with some makers and potential investment clients. I won’t let the cat out of the bag quite yet on which distillery/distilleries we might be working with, but here is a look at our itinerary while in Nashville.
First Stop: Nashville Craft
There are a handful of whiskey distilleries in and around Nashville, so we set out to visit two of them since we were on a limited schedule. The first stop was Nashville Craft, a popular distillery located in a trendy part of the city that has been open since 2016. Owner Bruce Boeko, a former DNA laboratory director and self-proclaimed science guy, met us for a brief tour of the space.
Boeko says it’s all hands on deck at the craft distillery, and along with Master Distiller Rachael Sykes, his small crew pumps out whiskey, bourbon, gin and even a sorghum-based spirit every single day. Since Boeko is also a scientist, he hosts a hands-on distilling workshop each month and happily answers highly technical questions from visitors.
Boeko says he strives to use local and regional resources when making his whiskey, and he showed us his process from beginning to end. He also shared some samples of his spirits, and I was impressed by the quality of the whiskey at only 3-4 years old.
Second Stop: Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
Nelson’s Green Brier is a larger distillery in Nashville and has a reputable product already on store shelves: Belle Meade Bourbon. We did a 60-minute tasting experience here and found it to be a charming place with lots of history.
Turns out the Green Brier label is a throwback to a popular Tennessee Whiskey from the 1880s, which was started by Charles Nelson. Unfortunately, Prohibition ended the Green Brier run, but in 2009, Nelson’s great-great-great grandchildren, Charlie and Andy Nelson, decided to revive the whiskey, and here we are.
We sampled both Belle Meade and Green Brier whiskeys, and I was impressed with the tastiness and mellowness of the spirits. There’s a reason “smooth” is often associated with Tennessee Whiskey.
Third Stop: Broadway/Honky Tonk Row
Of course we couldn’t visit Nashville without seeing and hearing live music, so we headed to the Honky Tonk row of bars, restaurants and all sorts of things known as Broadway. As we hopped around, I couldn’t help but notice all the Southern hospitality at its finest, and there is quite a lot of talent in this city.
Nashville is a great place to visit, and if you’re a whiskey-lover, there’s even more reason now to stop in. Although I didn’t make it on this trip, I would like to eventually swing by Jack Daniel’s and a few other notable distilleries nearby. We’ll save that for next time.