We love Whisky. We also love Whiskey. And Bourbon. Just call us diplomatic. Over the last couple of years Liely and I have developed a real appreciation for the good juice coming out of America. We've all done the rounds with Jim Beam and Jack Daniels but we thought we'd thought we'd dig a little deeper and deeper we dug.
We agreed to meet up in music capital of the USA, Nashville, to hatch a dramtastic plan. I landed in Nashville to be greeted with a wry smile through the side window of our rental car for the trip - Liely is cocooned in a milky grey Dodge Challenger. American muscle never looked so good or rather made riff raff like me look so good. I should have guessed as our last trip to the United States, Liely turned up in an arctic white Mustang. Drool. It's no secret we love cars but let's not forget it was the mere chariot to a journey of boozy discovery.
The aim of this trip was to learn about the process, culture and stories behind American whiskey. The route was from Nashville north to Bardstown, further north to Louisville, south to Chattanooga and back to Nashville. There were a number of distilleries on the list so in this installment we'll cover Green Brier and Four Roses.
Nelson's Green Brier is a distillery cloaked in happenstance. Get this, the brothers Andy and Charlie Nelson with their father Bill drove over to the little town of Greenbrier to pick up their quarter of a cow from the full cow Bill had purchased from a great butcher there. On the way up they recalled tales of the family distillery in this wee town and decided to ask the butcher if he knew anything about it. Chuck the butcher told the boys to look over the road at the old rick house there. "Your granddaddy built that warehouse". With further research the boys found their Grand Dad Chas had the largest distillery in Tennessee and one of the largest in the country. Andy tell us "this is what we had to do". After bunch of work, Nelson's Green Brier Distillery was born.
Sitting in an industrial estate just outside the centre of Nashville, the distillery looks and feels new but with soul. Hard to explain. Timber and historical pictures help along with a giant vintage flag bought from American Pickers for song (ask Andy if you're keen on this story) hang in the distillery room next to the distillery equipment including a beautiful Vendome column still. Andy takes us through the Tennessee whiskey process showing us the key step of maple charcoal filtration of the spirit then onto the barrel aging area dominated by another giant flag representing Nashville. Patriotism ain't in short supply here and I love it. Next up a tasting.
We run through part of the range in the distillery bar. Stand out for both of us is to be the Sherry Cask 9 year old with a great raisin, stewed fruit nose and sweet rounded out bourbon finish. Double gold at the San Francisco Spirits Awards too. Andy takes us out the back to chat further and have a look at the future of the business. We can't really say much here but there's certainly more exciting stuff to come from these guys beyond Belle Meade. Hint hint nudge nudge.
Next cab off the rank is Four Roses. I'm somewhat biased here. This is one of my favorite whiskies especially the single barrel selections. Upon driving into the distillery it certainly didn't disappoint. Rolling green hills giving way to the heritage listed Spanish architecture of the distillery and surrounding buildings. Our host Elijah took us through the process and rules of bourbon production. Standard measure at all the bourbon distilleries but the main cherry was the explanation of the four letter codes on the side of their single barrel selections. OBSK, OESQ - the only two letters that change are the second letter representing the two different mash bills and the last letter representing the 5 yeast strains altogether providing 10 options. We then had a restricted walk around the grounds or rather construction zone as they build their way to doubling the capacity of production! Next was a drive to the bottling and ageing location where we caught up with head distiller Brent Elliott. Great bloke where we talked about all things whisky. Pretty much what it's like for me to meet a TV celebrity with the backdrop of Four Roses signature single story rick houses. Mellow magic.
Stay tuned for more from our road trip into American whiskey heaven!