By: Phyllis Rush, Mint Julep Experiences customer
First of all, let’s get this straight: I LOVE whiskey. Always have since college, when I strapped it to myself in inconspicuous places to sneak it into my college football stadium (Auburn University that is – WAR EAGLE!!)
My favorite way to drink it is with ginger ale and a twist of lime. But I also like it mixed with Coca-Cola. Never been much of a straight-up or on-the-rocks sipper though. Or so I thought.
Anyway, so it happens that I was in Nashville last week on business, and I happened to have Friday free. I searched around and decided to sign up for the Tennessee Whiskey Adventure from Mint Julep Experiences that takes you to both Jack Daniels and George Dickel. I figured I’d see the sites of this lovely part of Tennessee, imbibe some tasty whiskeys, and maybe make some friends along the way.
We started off by meeting at the Omni Hotel in downtown Nashville, which is a treat in and of itself. If you haven’t ever visited the Omni – you gotta make your way down there. I got there early enough to enjoy a lovely breakfast of Eggs Benedict and some of the best coffee I’ve ever had.
The Whiskey Tour Begins
After breakfast, I went out front and wondered how I was going to find where the tour began. Well, soon it became apparent that you can’t miss the black and green Mint Julep Experience buses – they’re very clearly decorated, and I walked over to join my group for the day.
First, I met Dan the driver. What a cool cat he was! But the real star of the show turned out to be Jordan, our tour guide. After taking roll count, he invited us onto the bus. I don’t know what I was expecting in terms of bus rides, but wow, was it plush. Beautiful leather seats. Plenty of leg room. Really wide windows so that there wasn’t really a bad seat in the house, if you know what I mean.
My tour mates were from all over the country – Sacramento, Minneapolis, Birmingham, San Diego for example. We even had four old class buddies from Toronto, and this was their first time in Nashville. Justin quickly got us all acquainted, and away we went for our drive out to Lynchburg Tennessee.
Along the way, Jordan was an extremely attentive tour guide, starting off by beginning our education about Tennessee whiskey. For example, did you know that, in order to be TRUE Tennessee whiskey, it must contain 51% corn in its mix? We heard lots of stories about how the abundance of limestone in Tennessee created just the right kind of natural spring water for distilleries. I especially enjoyed hearing about the old-time whiskey makers, with their stills on the shores of creeks, and the on-again, off-again production of whiskey during the time of Prohibition (apparently, the state of Tennessee imposed their OWN Prohibition 10 years before the United States did).
FIRST DISTILLERY STOP: GEORGE DICKEL
After no time at all, we arrived at our first stop – Cascade Hollow Distillery, the home of George Dickel. With its red, white, and blue Americana logo and charming small original buildings, the Canadians on our trip went wild taking pictures!
Deanna was our tour guide, and believe me, this woman knew more about making whiskey than anyone I’ve ever met! We learned about how they hand-made their own charcoal, how they created their mash and mixed it with yeast and kept it at JUST the right temperature. According to Deanna, Dickel still does things in small batches, just the way George Dickel did back when he started the business.
After wandering all around the distillery seeing all the sites, we then settled down for the tastings. It was THEN that I came to realize that, with the RIGHT whiskey, I AM a sipper!
I fell totally in love with George Dickel Barrel Select and promptly bought a bottle the second we finished our tastings.
After leaving the George Dickel distillery we were all starving, so we were taken to a small town nearby for some true, good ‘ole Southern cooking which we all agreed was a highlight of the trip! Then, it was on our way about 15 minutes away to the granddaddy of whiskeys: Jack Daniel’s.
SECOND DISTILLERY: JACK DANIEL’S
Understandably, the Jack Daniel’s facility was MUCH bigger than George Dickel. These guys produce a TON OF WHISKEY every day – the numbers they were quoting were staggering. The tour of the Jack Daniel’s distillery was slightly different, because the operation was so much bigger and more spread out. You definitely want to pack comfortable walking shoes for this tour!
We went into several older buildings that were original to the property. We saw where three generations of family members had their offices, which was an old building built right outside the underground cave spring water that they used for their whiskey. We learned a ton of history about the area, about the beginnings of Tennessee whiskey, and many legends about these famous whiskey makers throughout the years.
Then we settled down for our Jack Daniel’s tastings. And sure enough, I definitely tasted that distinct Jack Daniel’s taste that was so familiar and comforting from my college days. I experienced what they call the “Angel’s Share” tasting where we got to taste limited release and single barrel tastings – yum!
After the tour was complete, we walked a short distance into the charming downtown area of Lynchburg, where there was no shortage of Jack Daniels paraphernalia, fudge and ice cream shops, and even a Moon Pie store! It was quaint, charming, and an awful lot of fun to wander around.
The trip back into Nashville was spent drinking ice-cold bottled water and eating snacks the great folks with Mint Julep Experiences had prepared for us, knowing we’d be in need of a pick-me-up about that time. We compared whiskey tasting preferences, learned more facts about the area we were driving through, and really just enjoyed the scenery of lush farmland and beautiful rolling hills.
All in all, it was the best thing I’ve done for myself in a really long time. The tour just really lets you get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, be pampered just a little bit, and really learn some history and whiskey-making processes that make Tennessee whiskey unique. It was a wonderful way to cap off a busy work week.
Mint Julep Experiences also offers another tour to other smaller Nashville craft distilleries, so that tour will be next on my list. However next time, I want to go back with a group of friends and see if I can turn them into straight-up whiskey sippers like I’ve become!
Mint Julep Experiences’ Whiskey Tours in Nashville is an upscale tour experience where you get to experience the culture and craftsmanship of Tennessee. Find the best Tennessee whiskey on your adventure from Nashville to Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg or other popular Tennessee Whiskey Trail tour destinations. We also specialize in putting together exclusive custom tours for groups. Click here to book your tour now, or call us at 615-436-0187 to put together a specialized tour for your group.