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Appalachia’s infamous bootleggers and moonshine makers provided much fodder for country music artists, including Sevierville, Tennessee’s hometown star Dolly Parton.
In “Daddy’s Moonshine Still” Parton tells a tragic tale of shame and strife based on the region’s favorite distilled spirit. But these days, well past prohibition and backyard distilling, several moonshine makers find inspiration in handed-down family recipes to create artisan moonshine and other spirits in Sevierville. These local producers offer a taste of local beverages in a safe—and legal—manner, minus the sad songs:
Sevier Distilling Company’s “Real Deal Shine” blends tradition and pride in the distillery’s family roots—some dating back to the first European settlers to the area—with modern tastes. The unaged corn whiskey is crispy and smooth, made for drinking on the rocks or in a cocktail. The distillery also crafts a tequila-inspired spirit, vodka, and is best known for its unique “Yenoh,” the world’s first honey liquor that’s distilled from 100-percent honey. The distillery regularly hosts tastings and tours, where you can watch the entire creation process from fermentation to sealing the bottles. For an even more in-depth experience, book a VIP Mixology Tour, which includes a recipe book plus the chance to mix up your own cocktails on site with expert guidance.
Tennessee Legend Distillery brings flavor into its distilled spirits with a creative array of flavors and styles. Whiskey flavors range from blackberry to peanut butter cup to fan-favorite salted caramel. It also makes five varieties of cream liquor, from a spin on a classic Irish cream to the more unexpected bananas foster. While it does offer straight moonshine, it’s also crafting up interesting flavor combos, including a lemonade moonshine and fiery mango margarita moonshine. Two of the distillery’s four retail locations are located in Sevierville, where you can stop in to sample the products at the tasting bar while hearing tips and insights from a knowledgeable staff member.
Smith Creek Moonshine at Tanger Outlets Sevierville boasts a moonshine bar that pours samples of distilled spirits, including 12 different versions of moonshine. The classic straight moonshine is a bold popular favorite, but among the 11 flavors ranging from chocolate silk to butter cake you might prefer a different sip. For a refreshing treat, mix one part Smith Creek’s sweet tea moonshine with two parts lemonade, a dash of sweet tea, and a lemon slice for a spirited take on the classic Arnold Palmer. Once you’ve sampled and decided on favorites, stock up on moonshine in the store that also carries local goodies including jams, sauces, and barbeque rubs.
Prior to prohibition, fermented ciders were a favorite drink of early settlers and pioneers. In recent years, farmers and craft producers throughout the country have replanted heirloom apple varieties and are again creating distinct, regional hard ciders. There are now about a dozen cideries in Tennessee, and their popularity is growing. These Sevierville producers produce lip-licking good hard cider:
Wyile Cider Company—which is located at Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park, where you can zip-line a canyon or hike across a 335-foot swing bridge—crafts cider using all-natural ingredients including apples that are strictly sourced within Appalachia. Classic dry and sweet hard ciders hearken back to historic American ciders, while a variety of flavors like cran-apple, strawberry, and black currant show off the makers’ creativity. A fan favorite, “Spice of Life” cider, offers notes of cinnamon and clove.
Photo Credit: Wyile Cider Foxfire Mountain
Apple Barn Cider House, located at The Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store, crafts hard ciders using a sterile filtration method that helps ensure crisp, fresh apple notes carry through to the finished beverages. Tastings are available on site. Don’t miss creative blends like “Berry Patch” (loganberries and apples) and “C’N Red” (red muscadine grapes and apples). Chosen some favorites? Buy filled-to-order growlers to take home from the tasting room.
Photo Credit: Apple Barn Cider House
During Covid-19, many distilleries across the USA—including Sevier Distilling Co. and Tennessee Legend Distillery—transitioned operations to produce hand sanitizer to meet critical supply needs.
However you define fun, it’s waiting for you in Sevierville, Tennessee. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is nearby, where you can enjoy a scenic drive or hike to waterfalls and majestic mountain scenery. In the city, fill up on cuisine from Southern favorites to ethnic favorites including Mexican and Chinese. Find everything on your shopping list at the wide range of stores that range from well-known brand names to local boutiques and antiques. You’ll also find outdoor adventures from ATV riding to zip-lining to horseback riding to whitewater rafting, as well as luxury spas, seasonal festivals, historic sites, the Tennessee Museum of Aviation, Smoky Mountain Knife Works (the world’s largest knife store and showplace), world-class golf, waterparks, a breathtaking array of rental cabins with spectacular views, and so much more. Don’t miss your chance to snap a selfie next to the Dolly Parton statue on the Sevierville Courthouse lawn.
Katie DeTar is the host and producer of “Fringe Benefits,” a Public Television travel series that highlights destinations in and around featured American cities. The show also delves into nearby and lesser-known villages, scenic highlights, unique shopping, local flavor, and relaxing getaways found just on the fringe of the featured city. Learn more about Katie and “Fringe Benefits” on her website, katiedetar.com, and also in this interview.