Ole Smoky Distillery
The spirit of Tennessee
Ole Smoky Distillery is one of America’s leading producers of authentic moonshine and whiskey products
While the company itself was founded only ten short years ago, Ole Smoky Distillery can trace its roots back to the earliest settlers in East Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains. Basing its success on the long history of moonshine production in the area, and a 100-year-old family recipe, the company was the first federally licensed distillery in the history of East Tennessee. Today it stands as the leading distiller of premium moonshine in the world, with its moonshine and whiskey products now available in 49 US States, as well as internationally.
The rise to success of Ole Smoky Distillery in the decade since it was established has been nothing short of meteoric – its four famed Tennessee distilleries are now the most visited in the world. In 2019 alone, more than 4.5 million people visited Ole Smoky’s locations at The Holler and The Barrelhouse in Gatlinburg, The Barn in Pigeon Forge, and 6th & Peabody in Nashville.
The Holler is the original distillery and the business HQ, and it produces all of the company’s signature flavors from locally sourced ingredients. Visitors to The Holler can experience live music, authentic-working moonshine stills and learn the history and lore of moonshining in East Tennessee. After taking in the entire process from beginning to end, they get to sample the home-grown shine and purchase their favorite flavors.
The second distillery in the Ole Smoky family was opened in 2014, when it launched The Barn at the Island in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Featuring the same elements (distillery, tasting bar, retail store) as The Holler, this location has approximately 6000 square feet of public space, with an adjacent onsite still and tasting area that creates a more intimate experience. Built on an open corner with abundant glass frontage, the Barn benefits from 180 degrees of natural light and a slightly contemporary feel, while echoing the design of the original Holler through the use of reclaimed local barnwood and similar finishes, fixtures, artwork and other elements. Moonshine made at the Barn is sold onsite.
In the lead up to the opening of the Barn in Pigeon Forge, Joe Baker, co-founder of Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, explained that it was designed to help the company better serve the many visitors to its hometown. “We’re excited to be a part of The Island. It’s a great destination that offers a memorable experience for families visiting the area. We’re confident that this location will become a must-see for folks traveling to East Tennessee,” he said.
Ole Smoky’s Whiskey line was introduced in 2017 and now includes more than 17 popular varieties. Consumers can sample a constantly rotating assortment of flavors at the company’s Barrelhouse Distillery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Visitors to the Barrelhouse can witness the distilling process, taste the innovative variety of whiskey flavors and enjoy some retail therapy.
Clearly no strangers to researching and finding new and exciting locations from which to attract a new host of moonshine converts, Ole Smoky continued its expansion plans with 6th & Peabody, where it joined forces with Yee Haw Brewing Company, one of Tennessee’s top craft breweries, to collectively open a complex in Nashville’s burgeoning area of SoBro. The venue features a distillery, brewery, bars, tasting areas, beer & bottle shops, merchandise, big screen TVs and live entertainment. Visitors can enjoy moonshine and whiskey cocktails, beer by the glass, and food including White Duck Taco and Nashville’s own Prince’s Hot Chicken, as well as purchase jars of moonshine, whiskey and bottled beer for enjoyment at home.
Looking at the fantastic growth that Ole Smoky has achieved so far, it is not surprising to learn that in August 2020 it was included on the notable Inc. 5000 list. Robert Hall, CEO of Ole Smoky Distillery acknowledged the significance of joining a list of such esteemed US businesses. “We are honored to be ranked amongst some of the world’s most successful and fast-growing companies,” he said. “This is the first time Ole Smoky Distillery has been recognized on the Inc. 5000 list, and it’s fitting as we celebrate our tenth anniversary this year. Our team has worked very hard to achieve success over the last decade. We’re proud to have introduced our uniquely American moonshine and whiskey products to an entirely new group of consumers who enjoy them across the country and around the world.”
The tenth anniversary that Robert referred to was celebrated by Ole Smoky with the release of a special commemorative moonshine that pays homage to the drink’s rich history. Created with a mash bill of corn, rye, and barley, and handcrafted in a pot still, Ole Smoky 153 celebrates the taste of the past and the brand’s anniversary. Joe Baker echoed Robert’s pride in the company’s achievements in its first decade, and described Ole Smoky 153 as ‘a new recipe that honors our ten years of legal distilling and the history of moonshine.’
Having referred to the moonshines and whiskeys that Ole Smoky’s team of master distillers have created, it is worth exploring the range in more detail, as the flavors and variety of options are both traditional and contemporary. Bottled in iconic Mason jars as an important part of their heritage, the Moonshine range includes options extending from the Original Moonshine recipe, to White Lightnin’, Moonshine Cherries, Blue Flame and the aforementioned Ole Smoky 153.
Other flavors include Apple Pie and Moonshine Peaches, Blackberry, Moonshine Pickles and Cucumber Mojito. There are also some cream options – including Butter Pecan and White Chocolate Strawberry.
The whiskey range is equally extensive, with various options including Salty Watermelon and Peanut Butter. It also features some cream liqueurs including Tennessee Mud and Mint Choc Chip.
Recognizing the popularity of the moonshines in mixed drinks in its Nashville distillery, 6th & Peabody, and in bars and restaurants where Ole Smoky is served, the product development team saw an opportunity for expansion. In July 2020, the company introduced its newest line of products – refreshing, delicious and convenient canned cocktails that can be enjoyed whenever the mood takes you. Packaged in a ready-to-drink format, and using its authentic Tennessee moonshine, the cocktails are available in Apple Pie Ginger, Blackberry Lemonade, Mountain ‘Rita, and Mountain Mule flavors, and contain nine per cent alcohol by volume. “We are thrilled to release these new moonshine canned cocktails in Tennessee,” commented Robert. “They allow our customers to indulge in high quality cocktail experiences while enjoying the convenience of a can.”
The past decade has been a whirlwind of development, growth and success for Ole Smoky Distillery – even faced by the challenges of Covid-19 the company proved its pedigree. Having had to close its distilleries, it instead redirected part of its capacity to produce its own range of hand sanitizer, which was distributed initially to local law enforcement agencies and first responders, before its own staff and families and finally customers ordering directly from the distilleries. The team orientated culture at Ole Smoky enabled the company to keep an optimistic outlook, and maintain a focus on supporting the community that surrounds its Tennessee locations.
Since 2010, many thousands of consumers have tried and fallen in love with Ole Smoky products and demand continues to rise. In March 2020, the company was once again named a 2019 Impact Hot Brand by M. Shanken Communications, having grown over 15 per cent each year from 2017-2019 – this was the third consecutive year it was recognized in this way. “We’re proud to be a recipient once again of a Hot Brand award,” Robert confirmed. “It’s an honor to receive recognition from such a prominent industry group for the tremendous growth Ole Smoky has achieved in the last three years.”
More recently, M. Shanken Communications’ named the Ole Smoky Whiskey line, including its more than 17 inventive varieties, an Impact Hot Prospect Brand in its Impact Newsletter for the 2019 calendar year. This is the first time Ole Smoky Distillery has been named to this particular prestigious list of emerging stars of the industry.
“We are honored that our Ole Smoky Whiskey product line has been named a Hot Prospect Brand by M. Shanken Communications,” said Robert. “Ole Smoky’s family of flavored whiskeys stand out amongst the rest because of their creativity, quality and range of delicious flavors. I am proud of our team’s performance, getting these great tasting products to market and significantly growing their sales over time. I look forward to expanding our distribution and consumer following for many years to come.”