On a recent family vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains, I decided to try some of the local flavor. Dukes have been known to haul these flavors around. Some people call it Mountain Dew, others hooch. But most people just know it as plain ol’ Shine. I took a trip to one of the newest tourist attractions in Gatlinburg, Tennessee: the state’s first legal moonshine distillery, The Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler and Distillery.
Gatlinburg is nestled inside the bosom of the Smoky Mountains, and is famous for its little country shops, candy stores, and pancake restaurant after pancake restaurant. Drive anywhere in Gatlinburg and you will most likely see a Pancake House, Pancake Pantry, Flapjacks, Pancake Room, Log Cabin Pancakes, among others. I think there is even a Pancake Closet.
Ole Smoky is located on the Parkway, and if you can find a spot, you can park for free behind it on River Road. If not, it’s just $5 for all day. Word to the wise, if you park off of the Parkway, the fees are going to be around $8 or $10 for the day. And they don’t accept pancakes for payment. And don’t ask, because they don’t think it’s funny. I learned the hard way.
So since my wife and I are trying to secure our nominations for “Parents of the Year,” we swung by Ole Smoky with our three year old and eight month old daughters. Sandwiched between the Mellow Mushroom (Psychedelic Pizza Parlor) and Dick’s Last Resort (Bar and Grill that prides itself on service with “sarcasm”), you can smell the booze as you walk into the Moonshine Holler, where there is a stage set up for musical acts, and I’m assuming poetry reading. Ok, maybe not poetry reading.
As you enter, to the right there is a free self-guided tour of the distillery and fermentation process of the moonshine. If you go, take the time to educate yourself on how they make the shine. In just a few minutes, you are taken through the entire process. The distillers are on hand to answer any questions that you may have. And let’s say that you have questions, but you also have a three year old that needs to go to the potty. You have to make a call there. Weigh your options. And then ask your wife to take the three year old to the potty.
My first question, “So what makes this legal moonshine?” The answer, “Because we pay our taxes.” Maybe I should have been the one that took the kid to the potty. Even the infant rolled her eyes.
Now comes the coolest part of the visit to the Ole Smoky, and I’m not just talking about the distillery. I’m talking about the entire trip. Ole Smoky Moonshine provides tasting of all seven of its moonshines flavors for……free. I know I cried a little too. Here are some of the choices:
Original Unaged Corn Whiskey: This 100 proof whiskey is made from 80% Tennessee corn. The corn is grown to hate former University of Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin. This does not affect the taste, but goes down smooth with the corn taste very prevalent. This is the shine made for sippin’.
White Lightnin’: It has the taste of what you expect moonshine to taste like. It’s clear like water and is only 100 proof. I say “only” because historically the illegal moonshine typically was around 160 to 180 proof. The lower alcohol level allows you to enjoy the flavor and not so much the burn. Also allows for a more pleasant morning after, enabling you to eat more pancakes.
Moonshine Cherries: This is a jar of White Lightnin’ filled with maraschino cherries. Each cherry maintains the flavor and texture of a cherry on top of your favorite sundae, with the addition of a little kick. Good times.
Apple Pie Moonshine: Unlike the cherries, no fruit to eat here. They mix moonshine with apple juice, cinnamon and other flavors. It makes for a very drinkable beverage. And at only 40 proof, it gives you that moonshine taste without the strength of the others.
There are also the seasonal flavors of Grape, Peach, Pineapple and Hunch Punch. All are 40 proof. Each is bottled in a mason jar, giving it an authentic look that is just too cool. The kids were getting kind of squirmy, as they tend to do. So we didn’t get to try all the Shine, but we did go ahead and purchase a jar of Grape and one of the Moonshine Cherries.
I had to inquire on the popularity of the free samples. And low and behold, Ole Smoky apparently has its fair share of local regulars. They come in after work, do their sampling, and see y’all tomorrow…kind of like Ole Smoky’s own version of Norm, except without the peanuts, bar stools, and Ted Danson.
At the Moonshine Holler, you can buy any of the flavors, and you can most likely find a coupon for a discount at wherever you are staying. Not planning a trip to the Smokies any time soon? You can still go online and buy the White Lightin’, Moonshine Cherries, and Apple Pie Moonshine flavors. As they say at Ole Smoky, Shine responsibly!
Plus check out Zane’s visit to Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine Holler this fall during Drinking Made Easy: Season 2!