Knox Whisky Works, or, A Place Worth Visiting in Knoxville

Tennessee Valley Vodka
Tennessee Valley Vodka

The posts about our trip are coming soon, friends, I promise.  At the moment I have been inundated in all things day-job, as well as with the piles of laundry and cleaning that accompany every homecoming from a long trip.  However, I did get out last Friday night to a new place I thought might be worth a mention, in case anyone is ever traveling through Knoxville.  Last weekend was the grand opening of Knox Whisky Works, the new, and only, distillery in Knoxville.  While recent visits to Seattle and Nashville and other major metropolitan areas have involved my husband and I sampling the wares at a variety of micro-distilleries, Knoxville itself has had nothing to offer on that front. There are craft breweries here, but we’ll get to that in a future post.  I’m honestly much more of a wine and cocktail drinker than a beer drinker anyhow.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I find Knoxville frustrating on the food front.  After so long in New Orleans the endless strips of chain restaurants are, to me, sad.  There are a few notable exceptions to this, and I’ll post about those sometime soon.  But when I heard about the opening of the distillery, I told my husband that I didn’t care how poor we were post-Paris, we were going to support a local distillery.


So I made a reservation online for $10 per person for a tour plus tasting, and we invited a few friends to come along.  They are currently offering four spirits: a clear whisky, a vodka, a gin, and a coffee liqueur.  There are apparently twelve partners that came together to make this happen, and the guy who took us through the distillery part of the operation told us he was a nuclear physicist during the day, and a distiller on nights and weekends.  Chief distiller Stan Webster poured our tasting after the tour, and spoke with much enthusiasm about the spirits.  They focus on using only locally and sustainable sourced ingredients, even though that often is not the most cost effective means of production.  Their emphasis is on quality, though, and loyalty to the east Tennessee region.

The main still on the distillery tour.
The main still on the distillery tour.

The distillery is an interesting operation to see, especially if you haven’t ever seen one before.  They tell you about the different steps involved in making the spirits, and infusing them with flavor, like the gin and coffee liqueurs.  The gin has a variety of botanicals that give it a very smooth, easy drinking flavor with a hint of juniper but not so much you feel like you’re sucking Christmas Tree juice.  I’m a fan of gin, as you’ll probably be able to tell if you follow me on Instagram, and this one is pretty great even on its own.  They described it as “a gin that’s good even for people who don’t like gin.”  And I agree.

And the coffee liqueur was phenomenal.  It was rich and robustly caramelized, which they mentioned in the tour was a priority, and I could just about drink it on its own, but it had me contemplating variations of an affogato (replace the espresso powder with this liqueur I think?) and tiramisu I might make with it.  Honestly, if I could have afforded it that night, I would have walked away with a bottle of gin and the coffee liqueur both.  And at around $30 each, they are not unreasonably priced.  I’ll be back soon, for both, though, because I am still contemplating a tiramisu…. and Christmas without a gin martini? Psshhh.

The distillery has a lovely tasting room and bar, with a number of craft cocktails available.  You can take a tour plus tasting for $10, and do just the tasting for $5.  Or you can sample their wares in fine cocktails and skip the tour.  With hours ranging from 12-7 Monday to Wednesday, 12-10 on Thursday and Friday, 11-10 on Saturday, and 12-7 on Sunday they are pretty accessible.  They recommend booking in advance for a tour, especially on weekends, which you can do via their website, here.  While they don’t serve food at the moment, I hope that at least a few bar snacks will come soon, because this has the potential to be a pretty nice cocktail hour spot.  This has made my list of places-I-will-take-out-of-towners.  And it’s definitely a place I myself will return too.  If you go, let me know what you think!


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