Wine and Spirits

I like to tell people that switching to a lower carb diet has forced me to wine and hard liquor.  I do miss beer....real beer, and drink it rarely.  Over all it could be worse.

Traveling through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri has provided ample opportunity to explore the varieties of whiskey and wine crafted here.  We found that while there are similarities, there are also  many differences.  And there in lies the pleasure.

For instance.  In Tennessee you quickly learn the difference between Bourbon, and  Tennessee Sipping Whiskey.  Little did I know.  Never tempted with a "Coke and Jack", preferring the pleasures of Single Malt, or a good blended Scotch Whisky.

Our first introduction was in Eastern Tennessee, at the Tennessee Hills Distillery, covered in a previous post.  Here they craft Corn Liquor or Moonshine.  It has much going for it.  For a distiller, there are advantages, most notably a quick trip to the market.  No, I don't mean the car chases through the hills and valley of Tennessee, where the producers are trying to out run the "revenuers".  Liquor such as Corn, Gin, Vodka, Rum and others are raw or un aged and can get to the consumer quicker.  New Distilleries will often market these, while their longer investment in whiskies that require longer times to age or mellow.  Not that there is any thing wrong with these.  We have had some very fine Gin from the Oakanagan Sprits Craft Distillery in Vernon British Columbia.  They sell that and others, while their Laird of Fintry Single Malt quietly ages to perfection.

We had a wonderful Espresso infused Rum from Tennessee Hills, thanks to some very good friends. Mixed with Bourbon Cream from the Buffalo Trace Distillery and it becomes a drink for the gods.

Lynchburg, Tennessee

A day trip took us to this all known small "company" town and the Jack Daniels Distillery that made it famous.  We took the "Angels Share" tour which focused on single barrel and specialty products.  Despite being a "dry" town, the tour does offer a tasting opportunity once you have seen the grounds and the process.

Here you quickly learn that Tennessee Whiskey is not Bourbon.  It differs in that it is mellowed by filtering through charcoal making it a smoother drinking whisky.  The people at Jack Daniels will tell you that it is the perfect combination of their Limestone Water, crafting the filtering charcoal, their mash recipes, the "Lincoln County" charcoal filtering process, and their maturation that make their fine whiskey.

The charcoal comes from burning sugar maple "ricks" into charcoal.  They soak these ricks with raw whiskey to get them burning.  This larger charcoal is then ground into smaller pieces. This filtering charcoal is then put into 14 foot tall vats through which the raw distilled whiskey is filtered.  The whiskey is filtered at a gallon an hour.  It takes a drop of whiskey over a week to filter through this vat.

Limestone Spring

The filtered whiskey is then placed into new oak barrels and moved to the barrel house for aging.  It ages differently depending upon where it is placed in one of the many, multi-storied barrel houses.  Up to a third of the whiskey can evaporate from a barrel during the process.  This evaporated whiskey is called the "Angels Share".  At Jack Daniels they determine when a whiskey is ready by it's taste.  Each barrel is sampled to determine whether it is ready to be bottled.

I have never seen myself as a Jack Daniels fan until touring the distillery, and learning the history of the place and the process.  Particularly after the post tour tasting.  I can recommend any of the Single Barrel Select products.  My Bride was particularly fond of the Sinatra Select.  At $150 a bottle who wouldn't be!

Corporate Office 

Mr. Daniels

Frankfort, Kentucky

Kentucky Horse Country

While visiting family in Louisville, Kentucky we took the time to tour the Buffalo Trace Distillery in the Capitol city.  They distill Bourbon here!

The distillery sits on the shores of the Kentucky River where in the 1800's, the buffalo would cross, or "trace".  Hence the company's namesake.

The distillery is home to several well known brands of Bourbon.  If you are so inclined, and have the resources, you could pick up a bottle of 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle for around $3,500.  We settled for the Blanton's Single Barrel for substantially less and were not disappointed.

The distillery tour tracks their process.  Differing mostly from the filtering process for Tennessee Whiskey.  I found it interesting that, in the day, it was easier and less expensive to transport whiskey, than it was grain.  Initially, whiskey was sold and consumed right from the still.  It was called White Dog, and was raw with a hint of sweet corn.  You can sample and buy it today.  We sampled some, and it is raw!  There was a reason you saw cowboy's slamming down shots of whiskey.

Whiskey was placed in oak barrels for shipment and placed on barges to be floated down the river to
various ports.  Some of these barrels took longer to reach their destination than and others, and soon distillers were being asked to ship more of the amber or colored whiskey.  Thus began the barrel aging process.

While we loved hearing the history of each distillery, the process is much the same for each.  The real difference is in sampling the end product.  We were happy because we could get another bottle of Bourbon Cream!

A bonus to this tour was a casual mention by our tour guide.  There was guy in Frankfort who was putting used Bourbon barrels to use by producing barrel aged coffee.  He also makes wonderful craft from reclaimed barrels, but it was the coffee that took us into Kentucky Knows, his small shop in downtown Frankfort.  Tony had just opened, after finishing his day job.  We spent an hour chatting about his process and his art.  Our favorite coffees are the Kentucky Bourbon, the Caramelled Barrel Aged, and the Cowboy.  We like them enough to order them on the road!


Hermann, Missouri

Hermann River Memorial

Missouri wine country was not something that we expected to hear.  We have been to the Chianti region in Northern Italy.  Visited both Sonoma and Napa.  Even enjoyed some very fine Colorado Wines from the Grand Valley near Palisade.  But Missouri?  But, while exploring the Katy Trail we found ourselves in the middle of Missouri wine country and would recommend it to anyone.

The first we sampled in Missouri were at Little Hills in St. Charles.  We quickly focused on the Norton for red, and the Chardonel for white.  A theme that carried us through the other wineries and vinyards.

Our next stop was in Hermann, Missouri a small town set up along the Missouri River.  The town was established in the mid 1800's by a German Settlement Society.  They chose the area for it's agriculture and access to the river.  It reminded the settlers of their homeland along the Rhine River, hence the nickname of Little Rhineland.

Stone Hill Winery

While in town, we visited the Stone Hill Winery which is the largest producer in the State of Missouri.  A tasting and tour reveals a lot about the history of the area.

A friend, and former long time Missouri resident suggested we visit the Adam Puchta Winery.  Established in 1855 it is the oldest contisly operated family-owned winery in the nation.

We sampled wine from all of these, and wished for more!

Before leaving the area, we also followed up on another recommendation from Paul.  A short trip up the road brought us to the small town of Swiss and the Swiss Meat & Sausage Company.  It was another can't miss recommendation, though one shouldn't go here AFTER a wine tasting!  We left with a good supply of Bratwurst, Chicken, and Bacon that fortunately fit in AIROSMITH's refrigerator.  The hands down winner though were the BBQ Pork Burgers.  We ordered several dozen of those shipped to Boulder in anticipation of our time there.


  1. Really enjoy your blogs. Thanks for sharing your adventures on the road. You should petition CBS Sunday Morning to do a show for them.


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