Nashville

The Best Tennessee Distilleries You Can Drive to From Nashville

George Dickel Tennessee Whisky
George Dickel Tennessee Whisky
George Dickel Tennessee Whisky

The perfect summer day should always include sunshine, good music, and a tall cold drink, especially in Tennessee. In 2009, after decades of being outshined by the golden-brown bourbon of Kentucky, it became legal to distill spirits outside of Lincoln, Coffee, and Moore counties in Tennessee for the first time since the pre-Prohibition era. Now the state is a force to be reckoned with in the world of spirits, particularly when it comes to whiskey.

All Tennessee whiskey is defined as being processed in the state, made from 51% corn, and aged for at least two years. And for a perfect glass, there’s no need to venture far outside of Nashville, one of the fastest growing cities in America and a quickly developing whiskey destination. Here’s a definitive guide to brand-name, craft, and small-batch distilleries you can tour just a short drive from the Music City.

Corsair Artisan Distillery
Corsair Artisan Distillery
Corsair Artisan Distillery

Corsair Distillery

Wedgewood HoustonSouth of the city’s downtown, this trendy neighborhood houses a craft distillery started by two childhood friends who first started brewing beer and wine in their garage. The first Nashville craft distillery since Prohibition, Corsair is now making a name for itself winning over 800 medals in national and international spirit competitions offering everything from gin to quinoa whiskey and pumpkin spice moonshine. You can even learn how to whip up a cocktail of your own at one of the monthly cocktail creation sessions after partaking in one of the many afternoon distillery tours.

H Clark Distillery
H Clark Distillery
H Clark Distillery

H Clark Distillery

Thompson’s StationDistance from Nashville: 32 minutes
This craft distillery has an important footnote in the history of Tennessee whiskey. It’s owned and run by Heath Clark, an attorney who advocated for legislation allowing distilling in Williamson County, Tennessee, in 2009 for the first time since pre-Prohibition. Clark is passionate about bourbon, and on the company’s website he cites its elements “grain, water, wood, and fire” as the ingredients that made the American Dream possible. Now the craft distillery selects botanicals, grains, and malt to create hand-labeled batches of its Tennessee Dry Gin, New Whiskey, Black & Tan, and Tennessee Bourbon spirits. Tours are offered daily from 11am to 4pm.

Short Mountain Distillery

WoodburyDistance from Nashville: 1 hour 15 minutes
This small-batch distillery is known for their moonshine, a Tennessee must-have. The distillery employs local moonshine legends Ricky Estes and Ronald Lawson, who’ve been manufacturing it before it was even legal in Tennessee. Their moonshine includes batches flavored with peppermint, apple pie, and peaches. If you’re so inclined you can even take a mixology class on location to learn from the experts.

George Dickel Distillery
George Dickel Distillery
George Dickel Distillery

George Dickel Distillery

TullahomaDistance from Nashville: 1 hour 11 minutes
Nestled in the beautiful scenery of rural Tennessee, this 140-year-old distillery was established by Nashville merchant George Dickel back in 1878, and remains one of the oldest distilleries in Tennessee. Fun fact: The distillery operated secretly during Prohibition touting itself as a medicinal spirit factory outsourcing their manufacturing to Kentucky.  Now the brand offers a wide range of traditional hearty whiskys and new infusions including an aged 90 proof, a chill-filtered smooth rye, and Hot Dickel, a spicy Tabasco hot sauce-infused whisky. Feel free to stock up on funky souvenirs at the gift shop that mimics an old-school country general store, after enjoying the one hour tour offered daily. Whatever you do, just don’t argue that they should spell Dickel whisky with an “e” — despite producing American hooch, the company prefers the Scottish traditional spelling.

Leiper’s Fork Distillery

FranklinDistance from Nashville: 40 minutes
Leiper’s Fork whiskey is nod to the way frontier American settlers with limited access to barrels made whiskey. Leiper’s Old Natchez line is clear and untouched by oak barrels. It has a higher percentage of barley than most Tennessee whiskeys, mimicking whiskeys from Scotland and Ireland. Housed in a barn fashioned from a 200-year-old cabin, this distillery brings historical frontier tradition to this prominent Nashville suburb. You can take in the whole thing on a comprehensive tour for just $10.

Nashville Craft Distillery
Nashville Craft Distillery
Nashville Craft Distillery

Nashville Craft Distillery

Wedgewood HoustonStarted by forensic scientist Bruce Boeko, this distillery housed in a modern building in Nashville’s burgeoning hot spot is just two years old, but it’s already gaining notoriety for its sweet flavored spirits. Its best seller is its Naked Biscuit Sorghum, a clear spirit distilled from sweet sorghum sugar cane grown in Tennessee. It also features a fig and chocolate–flavored Tennessee Waltz Whiskey and a honey-spiced liqueur.

Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery

FANGFounded by German immigrant candle maker Charles Nelson and later taken over by his wife Louisa, Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery’s tradition is now carried on by his two great-great-great-grandsons (talk about a family business). The distillery now boasts whiskeys and bourbons inspired by the pre-Prohibition method made famous by their ancestors, and the pair even created Louisa’s — a coffee, caramel, and pecan liqueur inspired by their great-great-great-grandmother. Head down for their big Fourth of July bash that just so happens to also be the birthday of their great-great-great grandfather, celebrate a historic family legacy with all-day free tastings.

Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey

Jack Daniel’s Distillery

LynchburgDistance from Nashville: 1 hour 30 minutes
Probably one of the most recognizable brands of whiskey in the world, the famous brand is native to Lynchburg, Tennessee, and was founded in 1866 by businessman Jack Daniel, who apparently learned how to distill from a local preacher. The distillery offers several themed tours including a tasting tour, a motor tour and one accompanied by a traditional Southern meal. Its charcoal mellowed Old. No. 7 is a staple in most bars around the country, but the distillery is also known for Gentleman Jack, an incredibly smooth golden whiskey. The company even has its own specific brand of Tennessee flavor offering lesser-known products such as the hot cinnamon liqueur Tennessee Fire and its sweeter alternative the Tennessee Honey.

Pennington Distilling Co.

NationsLocated in the quickly developing Nations neighborhood of West Nashville, this distillery is known for creating the American version of Irish Cream. Their Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream is their best seller, made with 100% aged whiskey blended with 30 all-natural flavors and dairy cream. You can also partake in standard Tennessee whiskey fare and gluten-free vodkas on their tasting tours.

Tenn South Distillery
Tenn South Distillery
Tenn South Distillery

Tenn South Distillery

LynnvilleDistance from Nashville: 1 hour
Started by a radiologist and an engineer, these brother-in-laws wanted to infuse the tradition of Tennessee whiskey with a modern twist. The pair began arduous research on the best techniques and methods resulting in their Clayton James Whiskey featuring less impurities than your traditional whiskey and distilled in copper pots before it reaches the barrel. Sip a cocktail during their tasting tours available Monday through Saturday.Sign up here for our daily Nashville email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun the Music City has to offer.

Genelle Levy is a Thrillist contributor.

Nashville

How to Get into Nashville’s Best Speakeasies and Secret Bars

Nashville's speakeasies have impeccable cocktails and even better vibes.

One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club

It’s not like it’s difficult to find a spot for a proper cocktail in Nashville, except when it’s intentionally hard. Some of Nashville’s finest bars are a little more hidden away, to create a sense of exclusivity and limit crowds so that talented bartenders can offer the sort of individualized attention that their inventive drinks deserve. Besides, it’s nice to have a conversation at a bar where you don’t have to yell to be heard. Here are some of our favourite places to chill.

The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club

The Fox Bar and Cocktail Club

South InglewoodThe talented mixologists at The Fox are a big part of the attraction, and some of their novel takes on classic cocktails have actually won national awards in recipe contests. But even if all you want is a proper gin and tonic, you’ll be delighted by the cozy library vibe of the East Nashville emporium. The bar staff insists on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, so the drink menu changes frequently. Don’t worry if your favourite rolls off, because there’s sure to be something new to delight you.

Danielle B. Atkins
Danielle B. Atkins
Danielle B. Atkins

Attaboy

East NashvilleAn outpost of the James Beard Award-nominated NYC cocktail bar, Nashville’s version of Attaboy is no slouch either. Well, the building is kindy slouchy, a cinderblock edifice hidden away in an alley where guests are invited to “knock gently” to gain entry. If the bar is full, you’ll have to wait outside, but once you gain entrance, the fun really begins. Bartenders interview patrons about their drink preferences and then compose cocktails on the fly to fulfil their wildest dreams. Sit at the bar or settle into a blue velvet booth to enjoy a completely crafty cocktail or two.

Hidden Bar
Hidden Bar
Hidden Bar

Hidden Bar

DowntownThis subterranean lair in the Noelle hotel downtown is intentionally difficult to find. The entrance is through a door you’d probably never pass through unless you work for the hotel cleaning staff, but it’s a passage to something wonderful. Hidden Bar often stages thematic pop-ups that extend to both the riotous decor and the drink list, and large-format drinks are designed for sharing, so bring a few friends.

Skull's Rainbow Room
Skull’s Rainbow Room
Skull’s Rainbow Room

Skull’s Rainbow Room

Printer’s AlleySkull’s has been a Printers Alley institution since the middle of the last century, except for the few years it was closed when notorious club owner David “Skull” Schulman was murdered, reportedly by someone that knew he always kept the evening’s cash receipts in the top pocket of his trademark overalls. Since reopening, the showroom has revived the old-school vibe with nightly jazz and burlesque shows, classic cocktails served from an elaborate wooden bar and a restaurant that features an excellent chophouse menu. It’s easy to forget the time during an evening at Skulls. Heck, it’s easy to forget what decade it is.

Bar Sovereign
Bar Sovereign
Bar Sovereign

Bar Sovereign

SoBroTucked away in a nondescript strip mall among the towering hotel buildings of SoBro, Bar Sovereign’s entrance is marked only by a small golden plaque that is fortunately close to eye level. Inside is a wonderland of bold artwork covering the walls, a sculpture created from a disassembled piano behind the bar and a menu of interesting and affordable cocktails that is rare to find amongst the nearby tourist destinations. The atmosphere gets a little wilder late at night when DJs spin tunes for the party people and industry folks looking to blow off a little steam at the end of a shift.

Bay 6
Bay 6
Bay 6

Bay 6

East NashvilleThis microbar has a double punny name. First of all, it is, indeed, crammed into the sixth bay of what used to be a self-service car wash before the building was converted into an elevated food and drink court with international carryout restaurants occupying the other quintet of stalls. Secondly, the menu is intentionally basic, with simple, well-made cocktails designed to be served quickly so that guests can enjoy them in one of the very few seats in Bay 6 or carry them out to the lively outdoor patio where patrons enjoy their food from one of the options at The Wash.

Green Hour
Green Hour
Green Hour

Green Hour

GermantownBy day, Tempered Fine Chocolates occupies this space, but on Thursday through Saturday evenings, they unpack the bottles, build a bar and flick on the green light that lets tipplers know that Green Hour is now in session. Dedicated to the exotic “Green Fairy,” absinthe, the bar offers pours of more than a dozen versions of the anise-flavoured spirit. Enjoy a classic absinthe service with drops of water to open up the aromas and flavours or order a flight of three for comparison. The bartenders also employ absinthe in an array of exotic cocktails, but if you don’t like licorice, you might want to pass.

Never Never
Never Never
Never Never

Never Never

Wedgewood-HoustonIt’s not like they’re trying to hide Never Never. It’s just that the former welding shop is so non-descript and hidden away next to the railroad tracks, you might need someone to show you the way to the front door. It’s worth the hunt, though, because the cocktails are both clever and cheap. Enjoy small bites, beer, wine and cocktails at the amiable dimly-lit bar or discover the patio oasis out back that feels like being a guest at a friend’s house party.

Minerva Avenue
Minerva Avenue
Minerva Avenue

Minerva Ave

North NashvilleDress to impress at this Tennessee State University neighbourhood cocktail lounge. A tall fence surrounds the compound to provide privacy, but once you knock for admission, you’ll encounter an expansive outdoor deck with cabanas, fire pits and an outdoor bar. Inside, it’s a little more vibey with plush booths, dramatic lighting accents as well as nostalgic music and artwork. Smokers can enjoy hookah service and cigars, and bottle service is available for high rollers.

One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club

One More Cocktail Club

DowntownTucked away in the hallway outside of Level 3 South at the Assembly Food Hall, One More Cocktail Club feels like worlds away from the tourist throngs below. There’s only room for a couple of dozen guests in the chic lounge, so everyone is treated like a VIP. The menu is a mix of new craft cocktails and classics, with special attention paid to creating beautiful works of art including appropriate garnishes. A tight menu of red, white and bubbly wines is also available for those in the know.

Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas
Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas
Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas

Pushing Daisies

DowntownIf you park on the top deck of the garage below the Fifth + Broad retail/dining/entertainment complex across from the Bridgestone Arena, you’ll actually have to walk down to get to Pushing Daisies, home of “underground margaritas.” Named after the class of cocktails that feature citrus, sweet and sour, this hot new lounge concentrates on the tequila version of the whiskey sour or daiquiri. Margaritas are crafted using luxury ingredients and quaffed by a hip crowd of guests enjoying pumping music and dramatic lighting. It’s definitely a scene to be seen.

The Late Great
The Late Great
The Late Great

The Late Great

Demonbreun/Music RowFor the first year this cocktail lounge at the Virgin Nashville was open, it wasn’t really open. Instead, it was a private membership club with an entrance hidden away even from hotel guests. Now, we civilians can make reservations for a three-cocktail “experience” in this shrine to music and creativity, decorated like the writers’ lounge outside the legendary recording studios on nearby Music Row. Private memberships are still available if you’re so inclined and still flush with those songwriter royalty checks.

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Sarah Carter is a writer and country music lover living in Lebanon, Tennessee. Follow her (mostly southern) regional exploits and stories on Instagram.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of his hometown of Nashville. Find him on Twitter @CeeElCee.

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