Everybody likes a good pub crawl every now and again, but sometimes you might want something a bit more “Spirited.” For years, Tennessee’s distillery industry was dominated by big guys named Jack (Daniel) and George (Dickel), but the past decade has seen the rise of all sorts of fun smaller craft distilleries, and they’re making some fantastic spirits. All of them offer tours so you can discover how they create these special products.
Here’s a guide to some of the best behind-the-scenes distillery tours in Music City:
Corsair Artisan Distillery is the granddaddy of Nashville distilleries with two different locations where you can tour their production facilities and taste their wide range of artisan products. Their headquarters building is in the hot Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood, and this facility is where they produce and age their brown spirits like exotic malted whiskeys and rye and where they bottle all their products including spiced rum, vanilla bean vodka and barrel-aged gin. A full bar creates cocktails featuring their spirits which you can enjoy in the bar or on the expansive outdoor deck. A special master distiller tour is offered on the first Friday of each month for no more than six people so you can learn directly from the distiller who comes up with the wild new products that Corsair is known for. Corsair’s original Nashville production facility is still in operation in Marathon Village, and they also offer slightly more limited tours and tasting opportunities throughout the week.
Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery is located just a couple blocks from Corsair and actually has a longer heritage than their neighbors. Once one of the largest whiskey producers in the country, Nelson’s Green Brier shut down during Prohibition for decades until it was revived by two entrepreneurial descendants of the original distiller, Charles Nelson. The daily tours at the new facility share stories of the history and rebirth of the Green Brier brand and include the opportunity to sample some of their award-winning whiskeys like some excellent examples of bourbon finished in cognac, sherry and madeira casks. Nelson’s Green Brier plans to release their first Tennessee whiskey from their family’s recipe in over a century later this summer, but don’t wait to go find out what they’ve been up to.
Nashville Craft Distillery is also in Wedgewood-Houston in a small but modern facility where they offer tours led by the distillers every day except Monday. The intimate tours conclude with samples of three of Nashville Craft’s products straight up or as part of cocktails. The distillery’s spirits include a honey-spiced liqueur, a sorghum spirit and a delightful gin.
Pennington Distilling Co. started out offering distilling, marketing and packaging service to other distilleries, but quickly added new equipment to produce their own products including the incredibly popular Pickers Vodka line, a delicious sipping liqueur named Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream and their own aged rye and Tennessee whiskeys. The facility is open for tours on Thursday through Saturday where you can walk through every step of the production and aging process followed by tastings and the opportunity to purchase some of their products in PDC’s bottle shop.
If you’d prefer to leave the driving to someone else, (always a wise idea on a tasting tour,) check out Mint Julep Experiences, the Kentucky-based spirits tour company that has expanded operations to Nashville. They offer the choice of several different itineraries that include trained drivers to transport you from place to place, a professional tour guide and comfortable vehicles that range from luxury vans to buses where you can catch a little shut-eye between stops. You can even bring a cooler on the bus with you.