Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine brews success in Gatlinburg

Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine brews success in Gatlinburg

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People 21 and over can stop by for free samples of moonshine and moonshine food products such as pickles, beans and barbeque sauces. People 21 and over can stop by for free samples of moonshine and moonshine food products such as pickles, beans and barbeque sauces.
"The most common I'd say would be, is this real moonshine? I don't know how to make it any other way," said Eric Vance. "The most common I'd say would be, is this real moonshine? I don't know how to make it any other way," said Eric Vance.
"I thought it would be popular," Joe Baker said. "I just did not realize how quickly it would spread across the country." "I thought it would be popular," Joe Baker said. "I just did not realize how quickly it would spread across the country."

By KRISTIN FARLEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - Until a few years ago, making and selling moonshine was illegal in Tennessee. Now it's the center of a booming business in Gatlinburg.

Although moonshine has flowed out of Appalachia stills for decades, it's now being done legally and for all to see at Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine and Distillery, 903 Parkway.

Distiller Eric Vance showed us how he and others make corn whiskey, white lightning and several flavored shines as well.

Vance says another part of his job is answering questions from tourists.

"The most common I'd say would be, is this real moonshine? I don't know how to make it any other way," he said with a laugh.

Standing in front of several large vats, Vance showed us the mash cooker where the corn is boiled before yeast is added and the fermenting process begins. The mixture will ferment for up to four days.

You can see rising bubbles when you look at the vats and smell a strong odor.

"It's actually the yeast starting to eat the sugar and turn it into alcohol, and it gives off a gas right here," Vance explained. "That is where you get your bubbles from."

While Vance and the other distillers are often the face of the business for tourists, local attorney Joe Baker is one of the three men who helped create what's billed as the first legal moonshine business in Tennessee.

"The idea is just something that has been brewing in our family for just such a long time, for as long as a 100-150 years," Baker said.

The Tennessee native says his family has roots going back more than 200 years around the Smokies. 

He also says he's well aware of the stereotype surrounding moonshine, but after a booming first year in business he hopes some people are changing their minds.

"I am kind of proud of it. It's fun to be able to do this and show in a positive light what people have been doing here in the mountains for a long time," Baker said.

People 21 and over can stop by for free samples of moonshine and moonshine food products such as pickles, beans and barbeque sauces.

"If you can put moonshine in it, we do!" Baker said.

All the items are sold in mason jars and can be purchased at Ole Smoky. 

The distillery is also shipping items to nearly 20 states and as far away as California.

"I thought it would be popular," Baker said with a smile, "I just did not realize how quickly it would spread across the country."

For the full experience, you should come to the Gatlinburg shop where there's often live local music in Moonshine Holler, rocking chairs to relax in and the owners' mountain heritage is even evident in the construction.

"When we built this, we wanted everything to be authentic," Baker said. "Every piece of wood is from a barn or from cabin, a structure from East Tennessee or even Eastern Kentucky."

Baker says he and his two partners have had a big year. Ole Smoky has been featured on CNN, some network morning shows and was even invited to the big Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado.

If you haven't been to Gatlinburg in a while, you might be surprised. Ole Smoky has more than doubled in size since it opened last July.

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