The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2016

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Page 59 of 126

july 2016  /  the tasting panel  /  57 hances are that if you are from Eastern Tennessee," begins Justin King, Master Distiller at Ole Smoky Distillery, "you have a history of moonshine in your family some- where." As he describes it, the making of this unaged whiskey has always been a family affair, and now that Tennessee has legalized its production, it continues as such, with many of King's family and friends working at Ole Smoky distilleries in the area. While this 100-year-old recipe has been the heartbeat of the area for generations, for your average U.S. consumer, the moonshine category is oftentimes still shrouded in foggy mystery, much like the Smoky Mountains that sur- round the Ole Smoky Moonshine facility, which opened in May 2010 to a line of curious customers stretching down the road. Because Gatlinburg sits at the entrance of the country's most visited National Park, their distillery, dubbed "The Holler," enjoys plenty of foot traffic; in fact, it owns the title of America's most visited distillery, with three-and-a-half million visitors annually. The brand has also expanded with a second moonshine distillery and tasting room in nearby Pigeon Forge. And in January of 2016 Ole Smoky's whiskey distillery, The Barrelhouse, opened. To educate this curious public, Ole Smoky opened its doors for guests to sneak a peek at the stills and taste a free sample of its numerous expressions. "For us, it's incredibly important to have people come through and taste," explains Cory Cottongim, a Gatlinburg native, Ole Smoky Moonshine's President of Retail & Operations and one of its three co-founders. "If they do sample it, they will want to bring it home. Once they taste it and realize how shockingly good the liquid inside the Mason jars is, their perception of moonshine will change. And since we live within a day's drive of half the U.S. population, we have the ability to reach a lot of customers." On any given day, these patrons can test out a handful of the offerings or take them home; the list to choose from is extensive. They might pick the Original, Moonshine Cherries, White Lightnin', Harley Davidson Road House Customs, Blue Flame (128 proof), Lemon Drop, Strawberry, Hunch Punch, Orange, Apple Pie, Blackberry or Peach. Then there are the limited-edition choices of Moonshine Peaches, Pineapple, Sweet Tea, Shine Nog, Chocolate Cherries, Cinnamon, Maple, Pumpkin Pie, Butterscotch, Piña Colada, Margarita and Mountain Java. A guest might also sip on an option from the new line of whiskey, which is only available in Tennessee and features flavors like Salty Caramel, Mango Habanero and Root Beer—and if you prefer it straight, you can try that on for size, too. "I am most oud of our ple Pie offering. Most every moonshine maker has an apple pie; it's the true test of the distiller." —Ole Smoky's Master Distiller Justin King

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