The Unendorsement: Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine
When we end up in a hotel, if I can wrestle Lisa away from Say Yes to the Dress, I like to watch Moonshiners. I get a kick out of Tim and Tickle and Popcorn and the gang of moonshiners. Love it. Tickle’s my favorite (yes, that’s his name) because of his glazed-over look and booze-filled antics. The last episode I saw, sorry, seen, Tickle rode in the back of a pickup truck holding onto their new condenser with his hand. Of course it slid out. When Tim asked him why they didn’t strap it down, he explained simply: “We din have no straps. But I was holdin’ onto hit with my hand. Darn near pulled me off the truck!” Or something like that. Basically, he did everything he could, and it still almost killed him. Damn, Tickle.
Anyway, it’s with that background love that I made Lisa beeline to Gatlinburg after Knoxville. Gatlinburg, TN is one of the worst cities in the world. Picture all the worst parts of Las Vegas, the Wisconsin Dells, suburban strip malls, and state fairs all jammed into a little mountain valley just down the road from Dollywood. Then ratchet your expectations down a bit. That’s Gatlinburg. Total shit.
But there’s a distillery in Gatlinburg — Tennessee’s first legal moonshiner is there, Ole Smoky Distillery. So we had to go. We had to check it out. And when we arrived for our free sample after paying $8 to park, none other than the twin of Tickle was pouring the samples. It was like he walked straight out of the TV, sobered up, and went legit.
Before we sidled up for a taste, though, we strolled through the room, checked out the flavors, perused the merchandise. No prices on anything, oddly. Time for a sample.
I went straight in — give me the real deal, corn whiskey moonshine, sir! Lisa had some berry-infused abomination instead. The moonshine was good — supposedly it comes off the still 180 proof but they water it down to 100 for tax purposes. Fine. Strong enough for me. We sampled the White Lightening, a version distilled six times instead of the moonshine’s two. We sampled the boozy cherries and the cherry booze and the apple-infused booze. The apple was the best of the infusions. We didn’t taste them all. Some did, then stumbled out.
Then it was time to buy. The White Lightening, Tickle’s twin told us, was $30, the infusions were $25, and the twice-distilled moonshine … $35. $35!?!? I coughed up a little shine. No shit?
Moonshine is supposed to be cheap. It’s un-aged, just distilled, cheap-ass, sold in Mason jars booze. It’s the ultimate poor-man’s drink. It doesn’t spend any time sitting in a cellar in an expensive oak barrel. This stuff wasn’t even made in the woods, carried out on donkey trains in the dead of night. $35??? Insanity. Somebody’s drunk, I say.
Like me, evidently. I bought a jar of the stuff. So with parking, I’m out over $40. Goddamn.
So the one reason to go to Gatlinburg, the Ole Smoky Distillery, is actually crap. It’s a rip-off. The town is absolutely revolting and without a single redeemable quality. If the whiskey doesn’t make you want to vomit, the town will. So skip it. Don’t go here. Get a bottle of Mello Corn for $11. Or get a half bottle of Glen Thunder for $12 (a half bottle is all you really need of this stuff, but you can buy a full bottle on Amazon). Pour either in a Mason jar if you’d like. If you’re going to the Great Smoky Mountains, take the Gatlinburg Parkway Bypass. Don’t set foot in the town. Your presence there just encourages them.