Nashville Whiskey Festival pays homage to Tennessee’s favorite spirit
On Sept. 22, Nashville held its first festival dedicated entirely to Tennessee’s favorite spirit– whiskey.
Since the Volunteer State is the home to whiskey greats like Jack Daniel’s (No. 1 selling whiskey worldwide) and George Dickel, the Nashville Whiskey Festival only seemed appropriate. It was a five-hour indoor/outdoor event held at the War Memorial Auditorium.
Guests first received an informational booklet and a souvenir tasting glass. Outside, two canopy tents were set up—one was designated for seminars and the other for shaded beer brewers and catered food where bourbon-glazed grilled chicken was served.
Microbreweries like Jackalope from Nashville and Lagunitas from California presented their versions of a whiskey-aged beer. Jackalope’s Rye Aged Rompo—a brew aged in a rye whiskey barrel—looked like cloudy, liquid caramel and tasted like rye whiskey with fruity notes.
Inside the auditorium, a band played bluegrass on a stage lit red and blue. Tables lined the perimeter of the large room where each set up distillery displays with products to sample. There were 39 whiskey distilleries present, each with representatives and volunteers generously pouring samples of their whiskeys, liqueurs, scotches, moonshines, sour mashes and bourbons to festival-goers.
Amidst the taste-testing and savoring, the Nashville Whiskey Festival held three informational seminars:
Opening a Distillery
Phil Prichard, master distiller for Prichard’s Distillery in Alexandria, Tenn., said that starting a distillery requires patience, half a million dollars, ownership of equipment and permanently leased land for the location. Put simply, a grandfather starts the distillery, a father starts the business and the son reaps the profit.
According to Andrew Webber of Corsair, a Nashville/Bowling Green-based micro-distillery, it’s difficult for a small distillery to compete with the big guys, because the big names in whiskey have an equally delicious product and a reputation that has yet to be matched.
An effective way for a new distillery to wedge into the market is to dream up a new product, such as Prichard’s delicious Double Chocolate Bourbon. With a fresh, innovative product, consumers are more likely to invest in a $50 bottle of whiskey if it is unlike anything else on the shelf.
“We’re beginning to expand the definition of what whiskey can be,” Webber said.
Secondly, America’s Chief Entertaining Officer, Tim Laird, presented a tasteful way to mix cocktails using whiskey and bourbon.
Here’s his delicious way to mix a fruity, beach cocktail with bourbon:
- ¾ part bourbon
- ¼ part melon liqueur
- 1 part pineapple juice
*Shake with ice, strain and serve straight up in a martini glass.
Laird’s ingredients for a tasty autumn punch:
- Apple cider
- Cranberry juice
- Squeeze of fresh lemon
*Mix in a large bowl, serve over ice.
Like bourbon balls? Laird created a cocktail to mimic it:
- 2 parts bourbon
- ¾ part dark crème de cacao
- ½ part hazelnut liqueur
*Layer in a shot glass. Dilute with water to taste.
Another idea he shared was making infused bourbon simply by soaking dried apples, cinnamon or cooked bacon in bourbon.
Conversation with Wild Turkey & Jim Beam
Lastly, Master Distillers and longtime friends Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey and Fred Booker Noe of Jim Beam had a casual, yet informational conversation for their seminar. They spoke of their lives growing up around whiskey and keeping it in their family. Their teasing to-and-fro banter was entertaining to say the least.
Noe talked about how social media has changed the face of Jim Beam. After Jim Beam’s Facebook page got a million “likes,” Noe agreed to do something outrageous for his company—he chose to get a Jim Beam tattoo on his left arm.
Noe also said that in 15 days, Jim Beam pays about $1.5 million in taxes to the United States. Sixty percent of the sales price is taxes.
Then, Russell joked about the originators of whiskey.
“Southern Baptists invented bourbon for medicinal purposes,” he coughed, then said, “and they keep a cough.”
Admission to the Nashville Whiskey Festival was $75, but according to attendee Jessica Stewart, it was well worth it.
“It was great,” Stewart said. “I got to try a lot of different bourbons that I normally probably wouldn’t have got to try.”
The Nashville Whiskey Festival allowed visitors to experiment with different whiskeys and develop a taste all their own, while learning about the brewing process, mixing cocktails and appreciating the underlying principle of whiskey: enjoyment.