Friday, September 11, 2015

Green Brier Distillery Tour

Before I get started, I would like to note that Belle Meade is a bourbon, there is a common misconception that bourbon has to be made in Kentucky. This is not true, bourbon has to be made in the United States. While Kentucky is responsible for almost all bourbon, it is not required to be made there.

Original Green Brier Bottle
Over the holiday weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Green Brier distillery in Nashville, TN. I had a great tour of their beautiful distillery and a tasting for $10, which is what most other distilleries charge. The tour started off with history of the distillery and its founder, Charles Nelson who was born in 1835 in Germany. Charles was the son of a soap and candle factory owner and the oldest of six children. In 1850, Charles' father decided to sell his candle shop and move the family to the United States. He converted the family fortune into gold and had a special suit made so he could carry it all at once. Unfortunately for the family, the ship they were sailing on hit a severe storm which ended in Charles' father being thrown from the boat and sinking to the bottom of the sea along with all of the families gold. Charles, at the age 15, was now the head of the family. Upon arrival in New York, he takes a job at Hayes and Schultz Firm as a soap and candle factory worker but after two years moves to Cincinnati to become a butcher. He would use the leftover fat from the livestock he butchered to make soap and candles. By the start of the Civil War, Charles had moved to Nashville, TN and opened a grocery store. At this store he sold coffee, meats and whiskey which was one of the first to sell by the bottle rather than the jug. In 1870, Charles buys the distillery that had been producing his whiskey and expands its production. He names his new distillery Old No. 5, which produces the original Tennessee whiskey and it grew into one of the largest distilleries at the time. By 1885, he was selling 380,000 gallons a year, six years later he dies and leaves his distillery to his wife Louisa. Prohibition would start nine years later in Tennessee and the distillery was shut down. Louisa was able to sell her stock of whiskey in Kentucky before Prohibition started in Kentucky and the distillery was sold to a tobacco farmer. The Nelson family was no longer in the whiskey. This continued until 2006, when brothers, Charlie and Andy Nelson go to visit a butcher in Green Brier, who happened to live across the street from the old distillery. After discovering their families whiskey history and tasting the water from the well on the property, they decided to recreate their families' whiskey.

The next part of the tour took place in the actual distillery. The pictures are located below with descriptions.
Overall, this was a great tour. The guide had very detailed information on the history, the process and was able to answer any questions we had. They gave generous pours and the drinks were delicious. My favorite was the Sherry finished bourbon, it was similar to the smoothness of Angle's Envy but had more of a cherry flavor. The single barrel was harsh and definitely benefited from a few drops of water but that is expected with a higher proof bourbon. The regular Belle Meade was also good and fits its price of $40, I ended up getting a bottle from them. They also have a white whiskey which was on par for white whiskey but was not as sweet as others, it probably uses less corn. I would recommend checking out the distillery as well as any of their bourbons. They are currently working of a Tennessee Whiskey, made in a similar style to Jack Daniels, that I will be sure to pick up as soon as it comes out.
(Left to Right) White Whiskey, Belle Meade, Sherry Bourbon, Single Barrel