As the days continue to get warmer, a getaway in the mountains can be a nice break. One great place to go for the day is Short Mountain Distillery.
Not too long ago I took some friends who were visiting from Chicago. They had all been to Nashville more than once and had no desire to hit the regular tourist stops, but they wanted a taste of Tennessee. We all met up in Smyrna and headed off to Cannon County. The closer we got to Woodbury, the cooler it got. It was a sunny day with a pleasant breeze.
On the drive out to Short Mountain, all the weeks’ cares melted away. The countryside gave them a different view of the state than Nashville.
We had contacted the owner of Short Mountain Distillery, Billy Kaufman. He set us up with a tour, a mixology class, and then lunch topped off with a Moonshine Brownie.
What we learned is that fermentation is an art and a science. It is a combination of nature and nurture. Kaufman and his staff are always working towards that perfect blend, and once they find it, they thirst for the next one. Currently, at the distillery, he offers moonshine, Tennessee whiskey, and Rye.
Small batch distilling has been growing in interest with the explosion of the maker movement, but artisan whiskey making is just coming back after almost dying out during prohibition. It took a small group of enthusiasts to get old prohibition era laws changed to make the opening of small batch, like Short Mountain, distilleries possible.
“Prohibition almost destroyed some small farms in the area, as whiskey making supplemented their income,” said Kaufman.“When prohibition came, liquor making went underground.”
Kaufman, the owner of Short Mountain Distillery, had a hand getting laws changed in Cannon County so he could make moonshine legally, and he was one of the founders of the Tennessee Distillers Guild. But he came about making his moonshine and bourbon through a different route.
“Before I bought it, my farm had a long history of producing moonshine from the spring on the property,” said Kaufman. “Not too long after I moved here I was approached by some ‘shiners to start making the old recipe again. But I said that if I was going to make moonshine, I was going to make it legally.”
On the tour, our guide, Jeff, said that everyone thought it was going to be a big fight to get Cannon County to become a wet county after being dry for close to 100 years, but it was a landslide vote for the change. As soon as the law got changed, Kaufman started making ‘shine.”
Kaufman went looking for someone who knew the traditional moonshine and bourbon recipes from the mountain. These recipes had been handed down from generation to generation and are seen as some of the best. Al Capone even came to the mountain in the 1920s to buy from local bootleggers because it was so good.
“I wanted to make authentic shine and bourbon if I was going to make it,” said Kaufman. “So many of the moonshines out there are blends and made taking all kinds of shortcuts. Ours is made the old-fashioned way.”
Kaufman began with a high-quality shine made from organic corn grown on his farm, and water from the spring.
“Moonshine was meant to be blended with mixers,” said Kaufman. “And we offer a mixology class at the distillery to help customers learn how to drink moonshine the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Of course, we have a little fun with it, too!”
Once Kaufman got his basic ‘shine going, he added two flavors, Apple Pie and Prohibition Tea. Apple Pie is their top seller. It is great in an assortment of drinks, but it also adds quite a twist to a basic snickerdoodle cookie. He has since extended his offerings with a Bourbon and a Cherry Smoked Chocolate Rye.
After the mixology class, our group had lunch, most of whom had a burger made from cattle raised on the farm. It gave us time to soak in all we had learned.
“I’ve been to a lot of Distilleries,” said one of my Chicago visitors, “but this is by far the best.”
Short Mountain Distillery
8280 Short Mountain Rd , Woodbury Tn 37190
Distillery – Thurs 1pm-4pm, Fri – 11am-9pm, Sat – 11am-9pm and Sun 10am-3pm
Restaurant – Fri & Sat 11am-9pm and Sun 10am-3pm