I see and do some pretty cool stuff with some pretty cool people. Friends believe me to “drink whiskey for a living,” according to a recent comment on Facebook. The truth is that I’m not yet making a living by my brown water habit but weeks like this past one sure do lead me to believe that I’m heading in the right direction. Spending time and sharing a sip with some of Tennessee & Kentucky’s finest whiskey minds is an honor I don’t take for granted.
It all started so innocently… Sunday night I had dinner plans with a new favorite friend who happens to be a Pit Master. Billy is a long time connoisseur of pork and tequila. He’s sticking a toe (or two) into the brown water pond and I’m happy to be his tour guide of sorts. We both were anxious to check out Germantown’s newest addition, Butchertown Hall, so that was the sum total of our agenda for the evening. Until she calls. Says she’s in town a few days early; says she wants to come hang out. Any friend of Billy’s is a friend of mine, so I agree to the party crasher and cross my fingers for someone who doesn’t get on my nerves too badly. Turns out, my soul sister has been living in Canada all of our lives!
Danielle, better known as Diva Q, fit me like the glove I didn’t know I was missing. This innocent Sunday night ended up at Santa’s Pub with the addition of Peg Leg Porker and his wife… who were both banned from the karaoke before last call. In the mean time, I’ve convinced Danielle that there’s more to whiskey than the Canadian swill she’s accustomed to.
Meetings. More meetings. Why was I out until closing on a Sunday night? Luckily, my meetings mainly consist of talking about whiskey. At bars. At one of these meetings I discover that a normally closed-on-Monday establishment is opening its doors that evening. And it just so happens to have one of the best whiskey lists in town. So a plan is quickly formulated to return with Billy & Danielle to explore. We rally, find a table at Silo and settle in. Danielle and I make a deal- she’s in charge of food, I’ll control the whiskey. With half a dozen(ish) small plates on order, we begin our tasting. Sunday night, she conveyed that she simply doesn’t like some brands, so of course I order those and we taste blindly. She freely admits her defeat/epiphany and we move on to other cultural activities such as Whiskey Jam, the honky tonks and, finally, the Hermitage Cafe. It’s 3am. Again.
It’s the third of the month, or, as we call it in Nashville, the 3st of the Month. This month’s 3st is of special interest. It’s being held at Speakeasy Spirits Distillery to benefit the Tennessee Distillers Guild and the theme is Drink Local. Many members of the Guild were present to sample to the sold out crowd. Speakeasy unveiled some new products, including 3 flavors of vodka and some unaged whiskey. Local favorites Corsair and Nelson’s Green Brier were on hand as well as smaller outfits Beechtree Distillery and Peg Leg Porker… where we ended up for a little after party. Little because I made it home before single digit hours.
On the road again at a decent hour for a (whiskey) meeting in Knoxville. I talk whiskey and event planning with the Tennessee Smokies baseball outfit for a couple of hours and then head to grab a whiskey (or 2) at Stock and Barrel. It is here that my previously very separate worlds collide. Associates from both Tennessee and Kentucky join me there for a burger and I have the pleasure of introducing one of Kentucky’s most recognizable brands to a up and coming Tennessee brand. Making these connections is where I find pure joy. Burgers, bourbons and an early night for all.
Best Snow Day ever. My plan for the day included visiting a couple of distilleries and heading back. I am hardly awake before I realize my phone is blowing up. Nashville has experienced yet another ice/snow storm and I am receiving warnings from friends and family that it is unlikely I will be able to return home as planned. It’s drizzling in Sevierville where I’ve spent the night in a little mountain cabin, but no ice, no snow. What to do…
I discover that my good friend Dan from Four Roses is a fellow stranded traveler in Knoxville and invite him to join me on my tours in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. We visit/tour/taste with Old Forge Distillery, Smoky Mountain Brewery and Sugarlands Distillery. Everyone is thrilled to welcome Dan and I am in my element introducing the new kids on the block to someone with such a wealth of knowledge. We quickly hatch a plan for a little cabin party featuring some trunk bourbon. Members of 3 East Tennessee distilleries gather at the cabin for a Four Roses recipe tasting. No idea what time that ended, only that it ended in a hot tub party.
Plans change. A lot. After an extra night in the mountains, I was in a bit of a rush to get back home. But I’m all the way over here, so I should make the best of it, right? I decide to visit one more distillery before hitting the road. Thunder Road Distillery is slated to open across from Smokies Park, just off Exit 407, in the next few weeks and I couldn’t resist a sneak peek. Sneak peeks lead to tasting and now it’s rush hour in Knoxville and my productivity for the week certainly can’t be measured by any normal means. No big deal… it’s not like I have to cook for 300 people in the next 2 days, is it? The snow didn’t cancel those events, and I get back to Nashville just in time to do some heavy duty grocery shopping before the stores close.
Cooking for 300 people is no easy feat when you’re on top of your game. Needless to say, I am not on top of my game! I pull off the first event just in time. In time to go visit my friends over at Nelson’s Green Brier and Corsair distilleries in Marathon Village with Dan. Because a day without a distillery is just a day. We wrap it up with a phenomenal meal at the 404 Kitchen, home of another fantastic whiskey list and deep conversation, including dark confessions…