Archive for the ‘whiskey’ Category

Short Mountain Distillery: celebrating a year of success

March 23rd, 2013 2 comments

single bottle barrels

Today marks the one year anniversary of Short Mountain Distillery opening its doors to the public and three years since the hard work began to make this day possible.

It was an exciting three years serving an extraordinary team as Chief Operating Officer during this time. I could not have written the business plan or built a distillery around making moonshine without the help of Cannon County voters in 2010. Building a heritage brand image around local moonshine culture would have never been a reality beyond the law change without the commitment and support of Billy Kaufman and his brothers Ben and David.

I recently left the distillery in February to pursue a project I hope helps save the planet, but I thought it was important to take this opportunity to highlight some of the first year successes we achieved as a team. The captioned slideshow below really helps tell this story using hundreds of photos I took. Here’s to many more years of making our whiskey heritage shine to the world from Woodbury, Tennessee!

Short Mountain Distillery’s first year by the numbers:

  • we created several local jobs and saw over 15,000 visitors at the distillery in Cannon County
  • we launched two products: Short Mountain Shine and Short Mountain Apple Pie
  • we sold over 2,500 cases of moonshine now available in stores across the state of Tennessee
  • Short Mountain Shine (105 proof authentic Tennessee Moonshine) won the Gold Medal in the International Review of Spirits Award from the Beverage Testing Institute
  • we appeared in over 100 media pieces, including a three-part Discovery Channel mini-series How Booze Built America
  • we surpassed every industry consultant’s benchmark for success and helped ignite an American moonshine revival

Discovery Channel: How Booze Built America

September 8th, 2012 No comments

A three part mini series called How Booze Built America will air in a couple weeks on the Discovery Channel and features several folks and locations from the Middle Tennessee area. It’s hosted by Mike Rowe of the popular show Dirty Jobs.

Short Mountain Distillery was the site of a full day of filming back in June. Our upcoming release of Short Mountain Apple Pie Moonshine may or may not make an appearance, but I’m sure the effects will. Mike sat with our three living legends of moonshine at the end of a long day of filming and made sure close to a gallon of it got gone.

Several local Civil War reenactors from the Armies of Tennessee and Dr. Kristofer Ray of APSU will also help add some historic context to the story.

filming mashThe role booze had in building our country is as evident in today’s recovery from the worst economic recession in American history as it was in our rebellious beginning. As I write some big checks to the federal government on the production and sale of our moonshine, I’m reminded of the role the Whiskey Tax played in paying for America’s Revolutionary War. I’m also reminded how down right pleasant the IRS is these days compared to our founding father George Washington who sent soldiers to make sure the taxes were paid… and how that very decision by our government helped create the illicit heritage of backwoods moonshine production we are only now beginning to revive.

In a couple of weeks, this is the story America will learn again thanks to the awesomeness that is Mike Rowe. Once the promos are posted, I’ll share them here. Several TV guide listings across the country have the first episode appearing at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, but local media reports Sept. 18. There is no information on the Discovery Channel website yet. I’ll post correct times once they are available.

UPDATE 9-12-11: A few more details appear in a newly posted “exclusive” from TV Guide. Discovery’s new three-part series How Booze Built America premiers on Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 10/9c.

Discovery Channel issued the following release later this afternoon: Mike Rowe Puts On His Thinking Cap (and Drinking Shoes) in Discovery’s New Three Part Series HOW BOOZE BUILT AMERICA

In HOW BOOZE BUILT AMERICA, Mike Rowe will crisscross the country, stiff drink in hand and beer goggles firmly strapped on, to take an in depth and slightly unusual look at the story of our nation.  Between reenactments of actual historical events, and current day interviews with historians and experts, Rowe will make the case that alcohol is clearly one of the key ingredients that formed our culture and our country.

UPDATE 9-13-12: We posted the promo (above)

Inside the Tennessee Squire Room at Jack Daniel’s

Tennessee Squire Room
A slightly blurry photo of the Tennessee Squire Room at Jack Daniel’s Distillery

You may not have realized it before, but there’s a secret room at Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN that not even the tour guides are allowed to talk about. It’s called the Tennessee Squire Room.

It was built 12 years ago as a 25 x 14 room trimmed and floored in pine and densely packed with pieces of history shared by other Tennessee Squires. The website for Tennessee Squires is password protected, and if you weren’t aware the Tennessee Squire Room even existed upon your visit you won’t find the distillery staff willing to help you discover it. It’s that kind of secret.

On my first visit to the Tennessee Squire Room, I was asked to sit at the back of the main lobby. Moments later, a woman appeared and asked if I had a tour. When I told her I had, she smiled patiently and said nothing like it was my turn to guide the conversation. I took the hint and told her I was a Tennessee Squire. “Right this way,” she said, briefly mentioning she would have waited all day for me to say so.

To become a Tennessee Squire, you gotta love Jack, and you have to be nominated by a current Squire who can only nominate one person in their entire lifetime. I have Bartt Baird, a former co-worker at WKRN-TV, to thank for my nomination.

As a Tennessee Squire, you get a very nice gold-embossed deed to a small plot of land and a certificate making you an honorary citizen of Moore County. You’ll occasionally receive letters from locals asking permission to let their cows graze your land or problems with skunks or possums. You also get to hang out in the Tennessee Squire Room and share the Jack Daniel’s experience through the many items left by other Squires. You’ll find one I left among the challenge coins, and I’ve probably already told you too much.

The spirit run

spirit run

This is the good stuff. It takes days to get here, and the final hours can drag on for nearly half a day as the spirit slowly trickles from the still.

The spirit run takes time, and it takes patience. It takes a little choreography and then it takes waiting for time to do its thing. You don’t always know what you’re going to get, but you can have an idea from the taste of the beer before it’s reborn in the heat of a separate stripping run.

It’s an amazing ancient craft full of deep archetypal processes for those mesmerized by the alchemy of it all. Like most ancient crafts that capture the imaginations of the passionate, there are some basic steps decorated with secrets, some shared in fellowship and some unlocked and seared into memory through necessary failure. Every drop is a chapter. Every bottle is a story.

A fortunate problem

Moonshine rations

That’s probably the best way to look at it, and it’s certainly how our customers thankfully view it. The idea of selling out of Moonshine two or three times a week is still an unsettling feeling. Last week, we had to implement Moonshine rations (one bottle per customer) at the Stillhouse Store until we make a bigger release into stores. Our first shipment sold out so fast our distributor decided to wait until we’ve filled a massive order before another shipment.

Most of the thousands of visitors we’ve had since opening in April have a strong connection to Moonshine. We’ve got a great team making a great product and a wonderful brand that tells a story that belongs to many families in Tennessee.

Nothing beats seeing hard work so appreciated in so many different ways. Lately, it’s seeing how other people use our product, from co-branded cookies and cake to candies. Our Moonshine is showing up on menus. We even saw our product recently used in a funeral of a very dear friend and huge fan of our authentic Tennessee Moonshine. It’s been nothing short of amazing to feel such a deep and powerful connection with customers.

I haven’t submitted our product to contests yet, but I’m so proud to see it next to the hard work of other new Tennessee brands now emerging that share our state’s rich whiskey making heritage with the world. There are big things on the horizon for whiskey lovers in Tennessee thanks to the energy and vision of some truly remarkable people who I look forward to working with more and more.

Bacon infused Moonshine and Bourbon

February 4th, 2012 1 comment


I’m certainly not the first person to infuse bacon into alcoholic beverages. A quick search led me to a number of very informative posts by fellow bacon lovers who all seem to use roughly the same process called “fat washing.” Here’s how Southern California mixologist Don Lee describes it.

The fat is actually what makes this infusion possible. Fat is non-polar, while drinking alcohol (40% abv) is mostly water and thus polar. This prevents the fat from being dissolved into the alcohol. The alcohol itself (ethanol), however is both polar and nonpolar, allowing water to be dissolved into itself as well fat soluble compounds. What this means is that flavorful compounds from the fat will transfer into the alcohol while keeping the fat itself separate. This, combined with the higher freezing point of fat v. low freezing point of alcohol makes it possible to solidify the fat in a standard freezer and easy to remove.

Lee uses 1 oz. of rendered bacon fat in a 750ml bottle of bourbon. It’s the same recipe Jacob Grier says PDT uses in New York. You may be confident that you won’t screw up a whole 750ml bottle of bourbon or moonshine. I’m not. So, here’s my recipe that should make at least six cocktails.

bacongreasex600 baconbourbonx600

Bacon infused Moonshine and Bourbon:

  • 4-6 strips of thick hickory smoked bacon
  • 6 ounces of bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon) or moonshine or both

Cook the bacon and collect a tablespoon of rendered bacon fat. Pour it into 6 ounces of bourbon or moonshine and let sit for two hours. This is probably a larger ratio of bacon to bourbon or moonshine than other recipes, but I love bacon. You can shove the bacon in your moonshine or your mouth or both. I did both.

After the bacon flavor has been taken by the spirit, pour into a plastic cup and place into the freezer until all the fat solidifies. This may take a few hours. Remove the fat, filter and serve neat or in cocktails that are complimented by a smokey (smokey maple bourbon) flavor.

Spreading the Gospel of the Shine

February 2nd, 2012 No comments

shine020112 shiner020112 shinier020112

They’re pink, blue and white and represent a good year’s worth of ignoring television and Twitter.

This isn’t all of the permits required before we can legally sell our authentic Tennessee Moonshine, but combined with the others they ought to get us from Memphis to Bristol without too much worry about going to prison. Now if we can keep the ’51 Chevy pickup under 70MPH as we travel the state, we should be fine.

God Bless America, and God Bless the Shine.

Demand for Tennessee moonshine on the rise

January 18th, 2012 No comments

Homemade moonshine is often proofed by “checking the bead,” shaking it to see the size and duration of bubbles.

Most people around the world know Tennessee for two things: country music and whiskey. They kinda go together if you think about it. Since a change in state law allowed more distilleries, whiskey’s spirited cousin promises to put Tennessee moonshine on the global map.

Ole Smoky plans to open second distillery
Ole Smoky Distillery, a Tennessee-based moonshine distillery, plans to expand operations and open its second distillery in the Smoky Mountain town to meet the demand for its products. Ole Smoky co-owner Joe Baker said he and Chuck Edwards have purchased Legends Restaurant on the downtown Parkway and will make different spirits at that site.

More moonshine distilleries in the planning stages:

‘Full Throttle Saloon’ TV star plans to open distillery in Trimble
Ballard, the star of the wildly popular reality series “Full Throttle Saloon” on the truTV network and successful business owner, received permission from the Trimble Board of Mayor and Aldermen to open a 9,000-square-foot moonshine distillery at the eastern end of South Main Street, where a cotton gin once stood.

Tennessee has a few moonshines on the market in addition to Ole Smoky. Collier and McKeel’s White Dog is a traditional sour mash recipe of corn, rye and malted barley used to make their aged Tennessee Whiskey. Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey uses a recipe of a third generation Moonshiner that lived and distilled his moonshine whiskey in Cocke County. Corsair offers Wry Moon Unaged Kentucky Whiskey and Pumpkin Spice Moonshine and Prichard’s Distillery produces Lincoln County Lightning Whiskey.

At Short Mountain Distillery, we just received federal label approval for our first moonshine: Short Mountain Shine, a 105 proof authentic Tennessee moonshine. It’s made using a family recipe handed down for generations made with organic corn and spring water from our farm.

Bourbon glazed cupcakes

January 14th, 2012 No comments

whiskey cake

These really wanted to be donuts. I found this recipe for Bourbon glazed donuts that pretty much read my mind, except the part where I don’t have a donut pan and the thought that this recipe is a little light on the bourbon.

Here’s my slightly modified version turning them into stunted cupcakes. It makes 12 donuts if you do it right. I used a cupcake thing and came out with about 15 adolescent cupcakes.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Buffalo Trace Bourbon
1 Tbsp. melted butter

Pre-heat the oven to 325 F. Mix all the dry ingredients. Mix the milk, eggs, melted butter and 1/4 tsp. of bourbon. Mix the wet and dry ingredients. Pour a pitiful half an inch or so into each cupcake thing.

Cook the donut cupcakes for 8 minutes, then check and realize you probably need about 4 more minutes. I did. I could tell because when I lightly pressed the tops I saw batter.

While this is cooking, make the Bourbon glaze by mixing 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup real maple syrup and 1/4 cup heavy cream, about 1/4 cup of bourbon. It makes way too much, but you can taste it a lot and probably save it.

When the donut cupcakes are done, get a glass with a few pieces of ice and pour the remaining bourbon in the glass. Let the cupcakes cool and then drizzle that bourbon glaze over them and eat a few with the rest of your bourbon.

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Building the Tennessee Whiskey Trail

January 14th, 2012 1 comment


A release published Thursday from the Kentucky Distillers’ Association highlights a challenge and an opportunity for the growing number of distilleries in the state of Tennessee.

A record 11,757 people visited all six distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour in 2011, far surpassing the previous mark of 9,402 set in 2010, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced today. Visitors came from all 50 states and 16 countries, the KDA reported.

What’s immediately obvious is that the report isn’t from the state of Kentucky or its tourism board. It’s from an association with much more interest in the success of its members and their place in the community and its history. Up until a recent change in state law, Tennessee only had three distilleries: Jack Daniel’s (Lynchburg), George Dickel (Normandy) and Prichard’s (Kelso – the only Tennessee owned distillery).

Today we have six permitted distilleries in the state of Tennessee with the additions of Tennessee-owned Ole Smoky (Gatlinburg), Short Mountain Distillery (Woodbury), and Kentucky-owned Corsair (Nashville). That brings the total to three Tennessee-owned distilleries. and more are on the way.

A quick look at the state of Tennessee’s effort to promote tourism illustrates another opportunity for distilleries to organize under a Tennessee Distillers’ Association. The closest effort to promote our industry and state heritage is something called the “White Lightning Trail.” Curiously absent from the listed points of interest is any one of the state’s distilleries, but it does include the Pizza Palace, Buttermilk Donut Shoppe, and the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum.

The next closest effort by the state of Tennessee to promote distilleries is literally named after Kentucky-owned Jack Daniel’s: “The Jack Trail.” Ironically, it’s the one trail Tennessee has corporately branded. Among the more than 326 listed attractions that would take you weeks to visit are: Nissan, JG’s Pizza &  Steakhouse, the Nashville Zoo and countless churches, government buildings and entire cities. The trail does include Jack Daniel’s, George Dickell and Prichard’s, but it’s so unfocused you’d never find them listed.

What the state needs is The Tennessee Whiskey Trail that takes visitors on a focused journey through our state’s deep history and heritage of whiskey making. As a couple of things here illustrate, this might be better handled by Tennessee’s distillers themselves.