Ashley Barnes of Four Roses Distillery discusses her winding path to blending some of the most highly sought after Kentucky bourbons
Allisa Henley, Distiller at Sazerac of Tennessee, returns to the Nashville Whiskey Festival’s Women In Whiskey this year on October 4th at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. This all-women, all-producer event will include a tasting of the panel members’ whiskeys and a discussion moderated by Straight Up 615’s Cary Ann Fuller. VIP ticket holders will have the opportunity to pick a barrel with the women of the panel.
Henley is a born and raised Tennessean with a passion for all things whiskey. She is especially passionate about Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon and joined Sazerac of Tennessee in July of 2016. She plays an integral role in the development of Sazerac’s new Tennessee Whiskey, along with other fine Tennessee spirits. Henley also was the public face behind the push to move Tennessee operations to Murfreesboro from Newport, in part to be a more accessible stop on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail.
She has worked in the spirits industry for more than 14 years, spending the first part of her career at Diageo. During this time, she wore many hats, including brand marketing, ambassador, educator, and distillery and warehouse operations. She was the first Diageo operations person recognized as a Master of Whiskey. Through her hard work and dedication, she became the Distiller of George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey.
Allisa travels the country sharing her industry experience and knowledge. She can uniquely discuss the business from the distillery and maturing operations side as well as from the marketing and customer perspective. She continues to share her experiences in tastings, seminars, representing women in whiskey, and by hands on education in a distillery setting.
Allisa has a B.A in Business Administration from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and M.B.A. from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN.
Need a reason to get up early over the weekend? Jump on a luxury tour bus and head out on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail with Mint Julep Experiences. A staple on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Mint Julep crossed the southern border and is here to help you get your passport stamped at a variety of Tennessee distilleries. Offering tours five days a week, Mint Julep is your ticket for a day trip out of Nashville.
The thirty or so distilleries making up the Tennessee Whiskey Trail are spread all across the state, from Memphis to the Tri Cities. Mint Julep is currently concentrating their efforts to explore the Trail in Middle Tennessee, maximizing your day by hitting the road first thing in the morning. The “Legends” tour hits Tennessee whiskey giants Jack Daniels and George Dickel while the “Rising Stars” tour focuses on Tennessee’s craft distilleries. Both tours are about 8 hours and include VIP treatment at the host distilleries as well as lunch and an expert guide to provide a backdrop to the history and color of the Tennessee whiskey landscape.
I was recently treated to a trip out on the new bus, and we hit the Trail for a taste of the “Rising Star” experience. The first stop was at Corsair Distillery where we were treated to a tour and a smorgosboard of cocktail offerings. This is a great way to jump start your day; pack a cooler or a flask to keep the party going on your trip down to H Clark and Leiper’s Fork distilleries. Further tours and lots more tastings await.
Whether you’re visiting for the first time and want to visit the grandfathers of Tennessee whiskey or you’re looking to expand your horizons into the craft scene, there’s no bad day on the Trail. Contact the Nashville team at Mint Julep to book your tour, or create your own personalized itinerary! These guys have a decade of experience in Kentucky and are now ready roll through Tennessee.
Davidson Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey from Pennington Distilling Co. Hits Shelves This Week
On the third anniversary of its first barreling of Tennessee Whiskey, Pennington Distilling Co. celebrated with a re-branding, a huge party, an expansion announcement, and the launch of their first aged spirit, Davidson Reserve Rye.
Nashville’s Corsair Artisan Distillery may not have invented coloring outside the lines, but they’ve perfected the idea in the craft whiskey world. The distillery’s motto, “Booze for Badasses,” only scratches the surface of their creative rebellion. Not afraid to experiment, the team at Corsair is shaking up some of the traditional whiskey categories with their unique recipes, alternative grain choices, and house-smoked malts. I recently visited the Corsair Malt House with Tyler Crowell, Chief Operating Officer, and Matt Webber, Lead Maltster.
The Malt House is located on the 300 acre family property of distillery owner Darek Bell, about ten miles north of Nashville in an area known as Bells Bend. This working farm not only houses the malting facility, but also provides the land for other Corsair projects. They’re growing an assortment of wine grape varietals for brandy, having recently purchased an Alembic still from California’s Remy. Bell also secured one of the first licenses in Tennessee to grow hemp.
The waft of hickory smoke greeted us upon arrival and we jumped into conversation over the smokers, although this is the last step of the process. Matt starts explaining the contraption excitedly, “This is a cold smoke. It won’t break 80 degrees. We’re not imparting any heat to the grain; we’re not toasting or roasting it here.” A couple of 50-gallon stainless steel drums contain the burning hickory just outside a converted shipping container. The smoke is pushed inside the container with vacuum pressure where about a ton of malted barley will absorb it for 24 hours.
Next, we peek inside an adjacent shipping container used to season the various types of wood that will be used for smoking. On this day, Tyler points out the hickory, persimmon, black walnut, cherry, sugar maple, and pecan woods inside. Many of these woods are still in the experimental phase. “The only product we’ve put out of here has been the Wildfire [Whiskey] which is 100% hickory smoked, but we’ve been doing a bunch of pecan…we’ve done at least a barrel of anything in here.”
We go inside a large metal building where Matt explains the malting process from beginning to end. First, the barley in steeped in one of two tanks where it will increase its moisture level from about ten percent to between forty and forty-five percent over two and a half days. It is then dumped out and spread on the floor at about eight inches deep. “The labor intensive side of the malt process comes in here, as the germination is going,” Matt says with a slight grimace.
He explains how a little bit of mold or dead moss can negatively affect 2,000 pounds of grain very quickly. The germinating grain is physically turned with a rake and shovel every four to eight hours, depending on temperature, for four days. Moisture levels and temperature are monitored closely to make sure the acrospires (rootlets) don’t grow too large or too quickly. Too much growth, and all this work is ruined; the grains would use all of their enzymes and residual proteins, losing their convertible sugars. “It gets to be a fun battle in the summer.”
Step three is the kiln. Here, the grain is taken back down to a four percent moisture level, losing about 1,000 pounds of water in an airtight, controlled environment over 30 hours or so. This step of the process is the most technologically advanced. Matt can monitor temperatures and airflow from his smartphone. When approximately 70% of the water is removed, the “breakthrough” point, the program kicks over, giving the grain a specified flavor, aroma, and color.
After this week-long process, the barley is officially malted and ready for use in a brew. Some of it is sent to the shipping container for imparting smoke. I ask why they go to all this trouble when malted barley is readily available for purchase and the answer is badass: “Because we can.”