My Amazing Bourbon Trail Road Trip – Part 3

In Part 3 of My Amazing Bourbon Trail Road Trip we head to Nashville, TN and also spend a day in Lynchburg at the Jack Daniel's Distillery.

In this third part of My Amazing Bourbon Trail Road Trip, we head from Memphis, TN to Nashville, TN where we encounter our first big time distillery. In case you missed them, check out the previous posts here:

My Amazing Bourbon Trail Road Trip – Part 1

My Amazing Bourbon Trail Road Trip – Part 2

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The drive from Memphis to Nashville is a pretty drive, spanning about 220 miles and approximately a 4-hour drive time. You are essentially driving from far west Tennessee to the middle of the state.

We noticed that Tennessee had some beautiful rest areas (as did Kentucky, but we’ll talk about that when we get there) that were wooded, private, and in some cases secluded from the highway. They were all well maintained and clean.

Along the drive, we noticed the license plates in Tennessee which touts it as “The Volunteer State”. We love the tag line but wasn’t sure where it came from. According to Wikipedia:

Tennessee reportedly earned the nickname “The Volunteer State” during the War of 1812, when 3,500 Tennesseans answered a recruitment call by the General Assembly for the war effort. These soldiers, under Andrew Jackson‘s command, played a major role in the American victory at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, the last major battle of the war. Several Tennesseans took part in the Texas Revolution of 1835–36, including Governor Sam Houston and Congressman and frontiersman Davy Crockett, who was killed at the Battle of the Alamo.[81] The state’s nickname was solidified during the Mexican–American War when President James K. Polk of Tennessee issued a call for 2,800 soldiers from the state, and more than 30,000 volunteered.

So, my fellow Texans, if you travel to Tennessee, treat the state and its citizens with the utmost respect as they sacrificed their lives to help us defeat Santa Anna at the Alamo. We didn’t win that battle, but it was the effort and support that counts.

We rolled into Tennessee around lunch time and checked into our hotel in downtown. We got situated in our room, and then walked about a block away to a fantastic restaurant called “The Diner“.

If you check it out on TripAdvisor it gets a 3-1/2 rating, but our experience was much better than that. We ate on the 4th floor, next to a window overlooking downtown. the food was fabulous, and I had my first “Nashville Hot Chicken” served to me with a waffle (I love chicken and waffles) and my wife had an amazing shrimp dish. I accompanied my hot chicken with a local beer “Hippies and Cowboys IPA”.

After a great lunch, we headed a few blocks to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Of course, you can’t go to Nashville and not visit this iconic venue. You could spend hours and hours in this place, but since we had limited time, we focused on the areas and artists we were most familiar with and enjoyed listening to. There are multiple tour options inside, but we chose the basic self-guided tour.

There are too many exciting exhibits to list them all here, but I can say that my wife headed straight for the Taylor Swift Education Center which is near the entrance. I perused the areas with “the oldies” such as Roy Acuff and Chet Atkins, and of course we were both mesmerized by Webb Pierce’s sweet ride. Hopefully you pick up on the relationship there! I think you could drive this one around Texas without issue, but I don’t think you’d be popular in California!

There is so much in the museum, you just have to go there and see it yourself. I was surprised to see the Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit (I want one!) and of course so, so many guitars throughout.

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I also helped out some fans who were looking at an outfit and guitar owned by Michael Nesmith, and I had to explain to them who he was. I was unaware of his country roots prior to becoming one of the Monkees (there, I gave it away!).

I’ll stop here and just say “Go to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum” yourself! You won’t be disappointed!

Next on the agenda was another short (but tiring) walk to the Johnny Cash Museum. To get there from the Hall of Fame, we just “walked the line“. Being an avid Johnny Cash fan, this was also quite a treat. So much history in country music from just this one man. This one has many hands on (and headphones on) displays and experiences, and you could also spend an entire day in here if you wanted to.

Interesting to note that it is about the same price for entry as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum“.

Ok, enough on the music. Let’s talk alcohol. After leaving the Johnny Cash Museum, we took a much longer walk to Ole Smoky Moonshine at 6th and Peabody, which is one of many Ole Smoky distilleries. I am sure most of you reading this have seen the Ole Smoky mason jars in the liquor stores.

They produce a myriad of flavors of moonshine, from the basic White Lightnin’ or Apple Pie to Chocolate or Butter Pecan. The also produced a Basic blended whiskey or you could opt for an outrageous flavor such as Peanut Butter Whiskey. All in all, they offer nearly 60 different product options.

The distillery itself is a large, lively place with lots of seating and the biggest “big screen” I think I have ever seen outside of a football stadium (the picture doesn’t do it justice). The decorations are fun and interesting, and when you throw in the music it could bring anyone out of a sad mood. If the ambiance couldn’t do it, the alcohol certainly could! We enjoyed some beers and cocktails while we did a lot of people watching and just enjoying the level of energy in the place.

For our second day in Nashville, changed things up a bit and gave each other a break from the other. My wife opted for a hop on hop off tour of Nashville which she loved. According to her, we are coming back, and we are going to spend more time there exploring the city as there is a lot we didn’t do this time around.

I on the other hand, had booked an all-day tour to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN. It is about an hour and a half away from Nashville and the tour included round trip bus rides to Lynchburg, and entry / tour of the distillery, including tastings at the end.

The distillery is just outside the small town of Lynchburg, which is probably 1/2 mile away. I bit more than you would want to walk, so there are free shuttles between the distillery and the town square. The entrance is beautiful and inviting and built around tour buses dropping off loads of tourists. However, it was all professionally managed, and I had no issues.

Before you go on the tour, you can browse the main tour building and see all the interesting artifacts, as well as buy tickets for the tours if you don’t have one and buy $10 lemonade or Jack and Coke slushies to have while you are on the tour.

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I would say it was nice to have as it was hot during the tour, and you are outside walking quite a bit. I chose the Lynchburg Lemonade as I am not a Jack and Coke fan.

The tour is over 90 minutes and starts with getting bused up to the highest point where you can see everything. Then you begin the walk down, hitting a number of important spots either as part of the whiskey making process or just important to the history of the distillery.

One of the fist stops was to pick up our drinks (if purchased) then we were off to the area where charcoal is made. Something I learned was that for a product to be called “Tennessee Whiskey” it must be filtered through charcoal made from wood (maple tree, I believe). They first burn wood to make it nearly an ash, and then use the charcoal to filter the distillate. We got to see this in action during the tour.

We were then off to the cave and spring water supply for the distillery that started everything for Jack Daniels, and then into an old building that was the original office, which contains “the death safe” that supposedly killed Jack. After learning that story, I don’t kick shit anymore!

After the office, we were off to the grain mill, the brew house, filtering, and bottling for the special production runs only. The larger bottling operation is elsewhere. We finished the tour at one of the smaller (but the original) barrel house.

We finished the tour in the super nice tasting room within the barrel house where we tasted five different Jack Daniel’s whiskeys. The tour finished as most do with you being escorted to the “gift shop”. However, in this case, the gift shop is more of a Jack Daniel’s whiskey store, as the official JD gift shop is in the square in Lynchburg.

As part of my excitement at being at Jack Daniel’s Distillery, I bought a nice bottle of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select that was personalized for me with an engraving.

While I waited for my engraving to happen, I took the free shuttle into Lynchburg and toured the official Jack Daniel’s gift shop among many other shops before heading back and getting the bus back to Nashville.

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All I can say about the Jack Daniel’s tour is “wow”. When we think about our Texas distilling industry in Texas, we think “boutique” more than anything. But at a place like Jack Daniel’s, they have rick houses storing 100,000 to 200,000 barrels of whiskey, and they have dozens of them. This scale is almost unimaginable. The deep and long history of whiskey / bourbon making gives Kentucky and Tennessee such a huge advantage and their skillsets are obviously impeccable when it comes to distilling whiskey. For us in Texas, the largest distillery in Texas and the largest Bourbon producer west of the Mississippi is Giant Texas Distillers in Houston, Texas. They produce over 100,000 barrels of bourbon annually, while Jack Daniel’s produces 2.5 million barrels – not even close in comparison.

I am not sure if Texas will ever have a Jack Daniel’s equivalent, but we are producing some high-quality whiskey’s along with many other states. I believe we will be sticking to the boutique style of whiskey making, and it would be great if we could eventually have a whiskey on the national stage that does what Tito’s has done on the vodka stage.

So, that about sums up our Nashville trip. Next, we’ll finally be getting to the Bourbon Trail as we make our way from Nashville, TN to Louisville, KY. See you there!

About the Author

A native of Texas, Ken “Texan” Pierce is a renowned alcohol aficionado with decades of experience in the Texas wine, whiskey, and beer industry. With a vast number of alcohol production resources right in his back yard in the Texas Hill Country, Ken has made it his mission to promote and advance the Texas winemaking, distilling, and brewing industry across the country.  Ken holds certifications from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) for wine and is a Certified Texas Wine Ambassador. His ability to identify tasting notes and pairings makes him a respected authority within alcohol enthusiast circles. When he’s not reviewing the latest craft spirits, you can find Ken playing his guitar, trying to sing, and sipping on a Texas libation.

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