Ole Smoky Moonshine Opens Tasting Room in Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains
Once two strangers climbed ‘ol Rocky Top,
Lookin’ for a moonshine still.
Strangers ain’t come down from Rocky Top,
Reckon they never will.
That lyric from the unofficial theme song of East Tennessee and the University of Tennessee is meant to imply that a couple of unwelcome intruders stumbled upon a private treasure in the Appalachians and paid a price for their actions.
But current-day strangers have no such worries if they are looking for a moonshine still on Rocky Top. As long as they visit the Ole Smokey Tennessee Moonshine distillery, anyway.
It actually exists, in Gatlinburg, the somewhat tacky but also somewhat charming tourist town in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee.
And it’s not illegal to have some, either! In fact, you can even try it and buy it.
Moonshine – or hootch, white lightening or even good ‘ol Mountain Dew to locals – is the home-made liquor born in the Appalachian hills that kept revenuers on their toes running down the crazy run-from-the-law moonshiners that eventually spawned NASCAR. But it’s taxed at Ole Smoky so you won’t be witness to any wild car chases down the 441 Highway, and the closest racin’ you’ll get is a couple hours up the road at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Ole Smoky uses corn from Tennessee farms and you can watch it being turned into alcohol by taking a tour of the distillery. Then taste the hootch. Ole Smoky produces four types of moonshine, which is sells in its gift shop (except on Sundays) in 750-ml Mason jars:
• Original Moonshine TM (for sippin’)
• White Lightnin’ TM (for mixin’)
• Moonshine Cherries TM (an Appalachian party tradition)
• Apple Pie Moonshine TM (Americana in a jar)
You can also buy it from distributors in several states and get products such as moonshine salsa by ordering it from its website, www.olesmokymoonshine.com/
Now, contrary to what some people believe about the local inhabitants, not all Tennesseans pick a banjo and get their corn from a jar. I know this because while I’m firmly entrenched in Southern California, I’m a native of nearby Knoxville. In fact, I’ve never even had hootch.
Still, there’s a bit of it in the blood, I suppose. Because like everyone who’s from these parts, no matter where I go, I continue to like places where there ain’t no telephone bills and the girls are as sweet as soda pop. Rocky Top will always be home, sweet home to me.
The Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine Distillery is located a 903 Parkway, #8 traffic light, in Gatlinburg. It is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Phone: (858) 436-6995.