Looking for a Tennessee distillery tour that isn’t touristy? You need to visit Sevier Distilling Co.!
Tennessee Distillery Tour
For a family that tries to avoid any place that screams “TOURISTY,” visiting Great Smoky National Park can be a challenge. Because although the mountains themselves offer visitors the peace and quiet afforded by nature, anyone wanting to visit the Smokies has to go through the triumvirate of cities just outside of the park – Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg.
In these towns you have Dolly’s Stampede, Titantic dinner theaters, and Paula Dean’s Lumberjack show (yes, that’s an actual thing). Those, along with more putt-putt courses than anyone can do in their lifetime and a myriad of other tacky attractions, made finding a non-touristy activity challenging for my family. So much so that I reached out to the Sevierville tourism office for any recommendations that I couldn’t find through my own research. Without them, I may not have found out about the hidden gem that is Sevier Distilling Co.
One does not visit Tennesse without going on a Tennessee distillery tour. That’s like visiting Scotland and not touching scotch, Portugal with no port, or Italy without going to a winery. It just isn’t done. Whether or not you croon “Tennessee Whiskey” while sipping your dram of amber liquor is up to you, but the distillery visit is a must-do.
If you’re visiting the Smoky Mountains, you have no shortage of options of distilleries to check out in any of the nearby towns. Moonshine tastings are conducted in practically every store in downtown Gatlinburg. Pigeon Forge has multiple entire shopping centers dedicated to whiskey distilling. But if you want to avoid the large crowds and commercialized tasting rooms and have a more intimate tour experience, ignore all of those. Instead, you should turn off the main road and visit Sevier Distilling Co.
About Sevier Distillery Company
Sevier Distilling Company opened just three years ago and is already coming toe-to-toe with some of its biggest rivals in terms of whisky quality – their unique Yehnoh (more on that later) recently took first place at the New York International Spirits Competition. They were also named the Tennessee distillery of the year for 2020 by TripAdvisor.
The team at Sevier Distilling Co. prides itself on using the same distilling techniques and recipes employed by the original Sevier family in the 1750s. All of their crafting is done onsite, and all of their ingredients come from the surrounding Appalachian region. It’s truly a locally owned and operated grass-to-grain-to-bottle operation. And by making only small batches of each other products, they can ensure each bottle is of the highest quality.
The distillery offers daily free tastings and tours, but my family opted for their more exclusive VIP Mixology tour. Because when faced with spending a Friday evening at Dolly’s Stampede or mixing cocktails, one sounded a heck of a lot more appealing than the other (no offense to Dolly, of course).
VIP Mixology Tour
Offered on Friday and Saturday evenings after the distillery has closed to the public, the mixology tour is designed for small groups, parties, special celebrations, or for people who just prefer feeling like VIPs (*raises hand*). When we arrived, each guest had their own special place set with a mixer, multiple cups, and a recipe book.
Our bubbly host, Haley, explained how things were going to work – make cocktails, go on a tour, make more cocktails. Yes, this was definitely the right way to spend our Friday night. Honestly, what more could we have wanted?
True to her word, as soon as everyone had arrived and was seated, we started off the evening by making a cocktail with Sevier Distilling’s first-in-the-world “Yenoh” – a liquor made from honey (“yenoh” = honey spelled backward). Armed with our own individual shakers, Katelyn walked us through the recipe in our handy-dandy cocktail book for “Southern Bees Knees,” a drink made with Yenoh, honey simple syrup, lime juice, and soda water.
With our first beverage in tow, Haley took us to the production area of the distillery for our tour. Sevier Distilling Co. makes small batches of the Yenoh, their own versions of rum, vodka, tequila, and, because it’s an unofficial requirement of being a Tennessee distillery, moonshine. And unlike every other distillery in the area, they make every drop of their products right on site.
After the tour, it was back to cocktail mixing, this time using Sevier Distilling Co.’s Tennekeela and Tennodka, their own riffs of tequila and vodka. While we were all busy measuring ingredients and mixing up our drinks, Katelyn filled us in on some insider facts. Like the fact that the owners live in a house just behind the distillery. That “Tennekeela” got it’s name because the original Tequila company trademarked the name and will sue anyone who uses a “q” in their own version of the alcohol. And the fact that hostess extraordinaire, Haley, is actually a graphic designer and created the labels for the Tennekeela and Tennodka.
Near the end of the evening, Haley gave everyone the opportunity to bottle their own bottle of Tennekeela, a chance you wouldn’t get by visiting a larger producer. That’s because each of Sevier Distilling Co.’s bottles are filled, wax-sealed, and stamped by hand – no two bottles are exactly alike. Usually, in addition to leading these tours and the myriad of other roles she fills, that task falls primarily to Katelyn. But in addition to giving mixology guests an extra personal experience, that’s a dozen bottles she doesn’t have to fill. A win-win for everyone!
Technically, the class ended after the mixing and touring and bottling. But the lovely people at Sevier Distilling Co. wanted to ensure that we either A) left in a good mood, B) could not walk out of there in a straight line, C) bought lots of alcohol or D) all of the above. Probably D, because that’s what happened. Because we then got to experience what a typical tasting at the distillery is like – a shot of each liquor (5 shots), along with a shot of each of their favorite cocktails (5 more shots), and a glass of our cocktail of choice. What started out as a class certainly ended as a party!
At this point, I should mention that there are charter buses that will drive you to and from the VIP Mixology class. Just in case you, like me, after that much Tennodka and Yenoh, couldn’t care less about the upcoming election, Coronavirus, or asteroids heading towards earth, much less how to operate a 4-wheel vehicle. It’s the perfect activity for 2020!
Before we all finally walked out the door for the night, each guest received a goody bag with the cocktail recipe book, a stainless steel shaker, 2 rocks glasses, and 2 shot glasses. We left feeling like true VIPs.
Sevier Distilling Co. is the real-deal: they’re producers of small-batch, high-quality products, the staff truly cares that every guest has a great time, and the site is modern and immaculate. The VIP Mixology class itself was an absolute blast! While I have no doubt their free daily tour is worth doing, the mixology class was the perfect way to get a more intimate look inside the distillery, get to know the staff, and spend a Friday evening out on the town with some actual education thrown in. So if you’re looking for a Tennessee distillery tour to check out next time you’re in the Smokies, Sevier Distilling Co. is a place you shouldn’t miss!
To make reservations for the VIP Mixology class, go here.
*While Sevier Distilling Co. offered the VIP Mixology experience to me for free, all opinions are my own.