The Old Forge Distillery opened its doors to the public Wednesday. Located next door to the Old Mill Restaurant, it is the first of two distilleries set to open this year in Pigeon Forge.
A tour of the Old Forge Distillery is part history lesson and part science.
The distillery’s name is inspired by history according to Old Mill Historian Jimmy Edge, named after the iron forge that once stood where the Old Mill’s general store is now and operated from 1817 until the 1880’s. The 100-year old building where the distillery lives has at times served the community as a feed store and barn.
While it is the first commercial distillery to open in Pigeon Forge, it will be carrying on a tradition brought to this area by Scotch-Irish immigrants in the 1700’s, using copper column stills to turn fresh ground grains into spirits.
The water-powered gristmill of the Old Mill supplies the distillery with fresh ground corn, which is locally sourced and non-GMO.
1830 Original is first line of sprits produced by Old Forge Distillery, named in honor of the year William Love built the Old Mill. The line will feature three distinct moonshine recipes. All are unaged, making the journey from stone ground grains and mountain spring water to mason jars of 100 proof spirits for sale on retail shop shelves in just six days.
The distilling process may be quick, but it is complex and highly regulated by the state. People imagining moonshine distilled in a rustic barn or mountain holler would be surprised to find the distilling room looks more like a laboratory. It has the capacity to bottle about 400 jars a day.
“While we’re excited to honor our heritage with our first moonshine release, our long-term plan is to craft a wide variety of artisan small–batch spirits,” said Keener Shanton, head distiller at the Old Forge Distillery. “We have many innovative products in the works like beer-washed whiskey and our Tennessee Roots line – cocktail culture spirits using locally foraged mountain plants like sassafras and ginger root.”
People can stop in the Old Forge Distillery at 170 Old Mill Ave., Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. In addition to sales of its spirits, the distiller has a sampling bar and gift shop with branded retail merchandise. For those intrigued by the distilling process, the Old Forge Distillery plans to offer guided tours focused on distilling history and techniques.
Craft distilling of other spirits such as bourbon and gin has steadily grown in recent years, but the exploding moonshine trend has been fueled by the popularity of flavored vodka and television shows such as “Moonshiners”.
“We are not just a moonshine distillery,” said Laurie Faulkner, marketing director for the Old Mill. “We are a mountain craft distillery producing small-batch spirits.”
With three distilleries already open in Gatlinburg, local governments are preparing for a potential distillery boom here in Sevier County. The Pigeon Forge Planning Commission recently voted to prohibit distilleries in areas zoned C-2 tourism commercial districts, effectively barring them from the Parkway, and the Sevier County Commission voted to keep distilleries out of unincorporated areas.
If you go to the Patriot Festival, be sure to stop by the Old Forge Distillery and sample the 1830 Original.