I’ve said it before, I sometimes feel like I write about some distant future that never seems to arrive. The first time I sat down with Stanton Webster to talk about the crazy idea of bringing a distillery to downtown Knoxville was over a year ago. The hope then was to open in the spring. In August Ryan Catlett was named Head Distiller. It is with great pleasure that I’m able to report that Knox Whiskey Works, downtown Knoxville’s first distillery is open for business and will host their grand opening this Friday.
The building and the business have come a long way in the year since Stanton first gave me the details. In addition to constructing a complex distilling operation and hiring a head distiller, they’ve lined up some excellent partners. Riverplains Farms will provide heirloom corn and Valentine Mill will prepare it for use at the distillery.
The tasting room officially opens this week and inside you’ll find “four locally produced spirits: Old City Heirloom Corn Whiskey, Jackson Avenue Gin, Tennessee Valley Vodka and Cold City Old Brew Coffee Liqueur.” You can buy it by the bottle to take home, or they’ll mix you up a nice little cocktail. I can personally vouch for the vodka drink they cook up. You’ll also find t-shirts, hats, coasters and key chains to stuff the stockings of the whiskey lover in your life. Items are also available online.
The tasting room and bar are beautiful, as you can see in the photographs, but I found the production side to be even more interesting. It’s not simple making whiskey. Stanton had quite a ream of paper with scribbles all over it, funny looking testing devices, a computer spouting steam and a calendar overhead to make sure he does certain tasks on the appropriate day. That’s not to mention the huge tanks filling the room. It looked a whole lot like chemistry to me – and that’s a subject I successfully avoided through multiple degrees. I’ll leave the chemistry to the professionals.
The tasting room will open at noon on Friday for tastings and retail sales. Guided tours will begin at 5PM, with additional tours on the hour. Walk-ins are welcome for the tours – if there is space – and there probably won’t be on Friday, so you, my fine readers, have a first shot. You’ll be able to book your tour here. If you don’t make it onto a tour on Friday, don’t worry, they will be offered Thursdays through Saturdays going forward. The tours last about 45 minutes, is limited to ten people and costs $10. This includes all the details you’ve ever wanted about making whiskey and a tasting flight of their spirits.
I hope to see you there, though I’m likely to be running between several things on First Friday and I’ll have a six-year-old in tow for the Christmas parade. Drop by if you can. I think you’ll like what you see and what you taste and I know you’ll enjoy getting to know the team at Knox Whiskey Works.