Water, Whiskey and Legends
Launched in 2016, the TN Whiskey Trail has brought together the heritage of whiskey making and the “love/hate” struggle to produce and sell distilled beverages in Tennessee. Early settlers brought their native techniques for whiskey making as they migrated into the mountains of East Tennessee. Because of readily available corn, mash became a preferred drink of choice for both health and medicinal purposes in the new frontier. But attitudes were being shaped by political and economic forces that resulted in Tennessee being the first state to pass a “prohibition” law on January 26, 1838, a full 79 years in advance of the 18th Amendment.
Planning the TN Whiskey Trail brought together Tennessee distillers who formed a guild to honor their craft. The heritage of legal whiskey making was “lost” to the many years of prohibition and temperance. In Cocke County, the legacy and national attention has been one of hidden stills due to the notoriety of bootlegger Popcorn Sutton and illegal moonshine busts. But moonshine production is now legal and is proving to be a tourism draw. In the tiny whitewater outpost of Hartford, TN, the class rated rapids of the Pigeon River draw thousands of paddlers to the thrill and beauty of the river.
Also tucked away in Hartford is Bootleggers Distillery, where the craft of making fine whiskey is a family tradition handed down generation to generation and made in small batches. Founder, Darrell Miller traces the family lore back to the Mayflower through his maternal roots. His mother was raised in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains not far from the distillery and “shining” was in her blood. Today Darrell’s daughters are carrying on the family tradition and invite you to stop by for a visit and a “taste.”