Over the course of the last several years, our members have enjoyed exploring several distilleries in Tennessee from small craft to the largest of large. Our May fun run found our group meeting early Saturday morning in north Alabama for a drive up to Leiper’s Fork, TN, just southwest of Nashville to tour a craft whiskey distillery. After driving through the beautiful landscape of southern Tennessee, we arrived at family owned Leiper’s Fork Distillery. Leiper’s Fork produces premium small batch whiskey and soon, their first bottles of bourbon.
Our tour began in the still house after passing through their 200-year-old log cabin, housing the retail store and tasting room. Entering the still house, you notice the ambiance harkens back to the pre-industrial revolution era, with a focus on old techniques to create their whiskey. Stepping in, one’s attention is immediately drawn to the 500-gallon Vendome Copper and Brass Works swan neck still. Our guide, John, began to explain the process walking us over the cypress fermentation tanks next. “Stick your finger in the tank and give it a taste,” he said. John said it tasted like a sweet cereal, but most of us agreed it didn’t taste like what was normally in our breakfast bowls.
Moving towards the bottling process, John paused to tell us that for a spirit to be called a Tennessee Whiskey, it must follow the Lincoln County Process. Whiskey connoisseurs may recognize Lincoln County as the location of Jack Daniel’s Distillery. Fundamentally, process means that the whiskey is filtered through, or steeped in, charcoal before going into their barrels for aging. Four times per year, Leiper’s Fork makes their own charcoal out of sugar maple wood. The whiskey is filtered through the charcoal, slowly dripping into a tank on the way to their French oak barrels. John re-iterated they are a small batch producer, making 25,000 bottles in a year. By contrast, Jack Daniel’s makes 125,000 bottles per day! Wrapping up the tour, we found a seat in the tasing room to sample their spirits. In front of each of us were glasses of Leiper’s Fork Tennessee Whiskey, Bourbon Whiskey and their Old Natchez Trace White Whiskey – all neat and each having a different flavor profile.
After our tasting, we took a short drive into downtown Leiper’s Fork for lunch. We were not the old ones with this idea! Street parking only and a full house at our lunch spot – Puckett’s Grocery. For 60 years, Puckett’s has been a staple in the Leiper’s Fork community serving up good southern meals from burgers to the classic “meat and three.” We enjoyed lunch the live band to wrap our day as many of us were anxious to return home to crack open our Leiper’s Fork Whiskey bottles.