“Mom, can I have some cherries?”
“We don’t have cherries, dear.”
“Yes we do. In this jar.”
“Oh, THOSE? Sorry, Dear. Those cherries aren’t for children.”
OK, so nobody said it’s easy to keep appetizing-looking 100 proof cherries away from underage appetites. But the overall concept is straight out of Appalachian bootlegging lore – packaging “pickled” maraschinos and similar tasty whiskey products in Mason jars. Then again, almost everything is authentic about Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine and the namesake’s legal Gatlinburg distillery that’s yours to tour on your next vacation to the Smokies.
About The Ole Smoky Distillery
Ole Smoky Distillery, the first legal distillery in East Tennessee, opened in 2010. The year before, a new state law widened the area where moonshine making can be licensed. The distillers wasted no time in converting a once-illicit activity into a tourist-friendly – and even a family-friendly – enterprise. The distillery is located downtown at 903 Parkway, within a larger merchandise and entertainment venue called Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler. The distillers encourage you to take free self-guided tours of their operation – and to taste free samples.
The tour is a compelling experience. Along the way, you’ll follow every step of the production process right through the canning and labeling. You’ll see stills in operation. You’ll smell the grain fermenting. And you’ll be able to interact with distillers who take time out to answer your questions.
And it’s worth mentioning again: Free tastings.
Ole Smoky produces and markets six major varieties of un-aged corn whiskeys plus a handful of seasonal flavors available exclusively at the distillery store, The Bottle Shop. You can sample the Original brand, plus White Lightnin’TM—an all-purpose gin, vodka and tequila substitute—and, of course, the submerged
Moonshine CherriesTM. Or you can try such flavors as blackberry, peach, even “apple pie,” not to mention seasonals such as blueberry and pink lemonade.
It’s an ambitious operation run by families who knew their way around stills generations before state government allowed those stills out of the shadows. Long before a governor’s signature allowed the distillery owners to openly market their wares in rustic complex that includes a stage for fiddlers and banjo pickers, their forefathers were scraping out livings peddling home-concocted hooches from recipes that remain guarded secrets.
In those days, attracting crowds was bad for business longevity. Any crowd risked drawing the attention of revenue-hungry government agents who infested the mountains trying to shut down the outlaw industry.
No more. Today, Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler is a perpetual party about to break out. Tourists come and go, some with young children in tow. Ole Smoky is all about selling corn whiskey, of course, but with the music, the color and the camaraderie among visitors who relish dwelling in once-forbidden territory, to a certain degree it’s also about fun.
So the next time you contemplate the simple joys of vacationing in the Tennessee mountains and spending time in friendly, folksy downtown Gatlinburg, think of Ole Smoky Moonshine. Less than 10 minutes from MountainLoft and less than 25 minutes from Laurel Crest, Ole Smoky is a reliable source of fun and—regardless of your definition—good spirits.
Make sure to switch your camera to video mode so you can record the nonstop bustle and fun. Then switch it back.
You’ll want to take some “still” photos.