“Tennessee Whiskey Trail is not affiliated with any distillery, tourism service, or other enterprise. We are whiskey enthusiasts and Tennessee natives who are trying our best to capture the changing landscape of the spirits industry in the state.” — Joe Barnes, the co-founder of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, in 2013 for my USA Today story.

That was then. This is now: the Tennessee Distillers Guild owns the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, which enjoys the support of 25 distilleries, including juggernauts George Dickel and Jack Daniel, and emerges as a formidable competitor to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Today, Tennessee Distillers Guild announced the formal Tennessee Whiskey Trail, spanning the state from East to West. The Guild’s annual Grains and Grits Festival in Townsend Nov. 3-4 will showcase the trail, while Nashville and Memphis events are also in the works.

Tired of playing second fiddle to Kentucky (one distiller’s words to me), Tennessee distillers are hungry to win over whiskey tourists, talk Tennessee history, show Southern hospitality and let you taste their whiskey.

“This Trail puts an international spotlight on Tennessee and its whiskey culture,” Kris Tatum, president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild, in a press release.  “We hope to see people come from all over the world to just to get a taste of this once-in-a-lifetime Tennessee whiskey experience.”

Much like the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, the Tennessee Whiskey Trail includes a free passport booklet available at tnwhiskeytrail.com or at select distillery locations. Visitors collect stamps at each distillery with a gift coming your way after 25 stamps.

Tennessee Whiskey Trail

East

1. Bootleggers Distillery
2. Chattanooga Whiskey Co.
3. Cocke County Moonshine Distillery
4. Doc Collier Moonshine Distillery
5. Knox Whiskey Works
6. Old Forge Distillery
7. Ole Smoky Distillery
8. Post Modern Spirits Distilling
9. Sugarlands Distilling Co.
10. Tennessee Legend Distillery
11. Thunder Road Distillery
Middle
12. Corsair Distillery
13. George Dickel Distillery
14. Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
15. H Clark Distillery
16. Jack Daniel Distillery
17. Jug Creek Distillery
18. Leiper’s Fork Distillery
19. Nashville Craft Distillery
20. Old Glory Distilling Co.
21. Short Mountain Distillery
22. Southern Pride Distillery
23. Speakeasy Spirits Distillery
24. TennSouth Distillery
West
25. Old Dominick Distillery

 

Interestingly, while Kentucky has often promoted itself as a weekend getaway or an add-on vacation, Tennessee is going all-in on its vacation potential, suggesting a 10-day itinerary that starts in Nashville, where headliners Corsair and Nelson’s Green Brier help you kick back with country music; and ends in barbecue- and guitar-laden Memphis, where Old Dominick Distillery aims to serve.

With its barbecue, music and Civil War history draws, this ambitious 10-day trip just might work for the trail. But the core draw will always be the Jack Daniel Distillery, which drew 275,000 visitors in 2015. Sources tell me that bitter rivals Jack Daniel and George Dickel representatives are working together, too, to make this trail a success, while Sazerac–who typically doesn’t participate in industry organizations–is a Tennessee Guild member. If these three continue to support the trail, great things are surely ahead.

So, you could say the Tennessee Whiskey Trail is off to a pretty good start.

Is Jack Daniel bourbon? Read about it in Bourbon Curious