With such close proximity to great BBQ, Dolly Parton’s childhood home, and the magnificent Great Smoky Mountains, it’s easy to understand why any traveler would take a pit stop in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the self-proclaimed gateway to the Smoky Mountains along Tennessee and North Carolina.
But much like the Chris Stapleton song, there’s nothing like Tennessee whiskey and spirits, so it’s no surprise that this white lightning is one of the Volunteer State’s top exports (Any guesses as to the others?).
The Gatlinburg area’s history with spirits and distilleries is long and storied, dating back centuries and complete with secretive family recipes and illicit wild nights. As Scottish and Irish immigrants made their way into the Smoky Mountains and Appalachia, they adapted their whiskey using corn, a more locally prosperous ingredient – and a star was born.
Speaking of stars, if you get the opportunity to visit Dolly’s nearby childhood home, you’re going to need a solid sipping list to get you started.
We’re here to help you sample all the best spirits the area has to offer by looking at the best distilleries near Gatlinburg, provide some background, and make sure you squeeze the most out of this potent firewater.
The Top Distilleries Near Gatlinburg
- Ole Smoky Moonshine: The Holler
- Sugarlands Distilling Company
- Tennessee Shine Company
- King’s Family Distillery
- Adventure Distilling Company
- Tennessee Legend Distillery
- Shine Girl
- Old Forge Distillery
- Bootleggers Distillery
- Company Distilling
1. Ole Smoky Moonshine: The Holler
As Tennessee’s first legal moonshine operation, Ole Smoky has been proudly making moonshine – in their words – ever since their great, great mawmaws and pawpaws moved into the Smoky Mountain area in the 1700s, that relocation we alluded to earlier.
Being America’s most visited distillery, this Gatlinburg native offers tours of the facility for friends and family, as well as the delightful opportunity to throw back a cold one with your dog while listening to the frenetic, lively sounds of bluegrass.
See, Ole Smoky has a few locations, but The Holler in Gatlinburg is home base. Samples and $5 tastings are currently available at this spot on a daily basis, and – lucky you! – stumble on in, because reservations aren’t required.
But if you’re looking for something a little more extensive, we love the guided tours that also offer a 13+ sample tasting of some of their best moonshine and whiskey. (Reservations are required here, and you’ve got to be 13+ to join, 21+ to consume.)
Also check out their sister Gatlinburg location, the Barrelhouse, a fun house in its own right. And yes, some of our favorite spirits come out of Ole Smoky, including their Mango Habanero Whiskey, Peach Whiskey, and – the star of the lineup – Apple Pie Moonshine. (Doesn’t get more American than that! Can we get a Hallelujah?!)
2. Sugarlands Distilling Company
Another Gatlinburg native, the Sugarlands Distilling Company offers incredible moonshine, whiskey, rum, and sipping cream out of the little barn that could, and they’re definitely another Smoky Mountain staple.
Open 364 days a year, the folks at Sugarlands provide $12 private stillhouse tours so you can see for yourself how their drink is lovingly made – and it doesn’t hurt that they add in a couple of handcrafted cocktails!
And don’t sleep on their seasonally updated samplings with a TasteMaker expert, which is the best bang for your buck with vouchers for future purchases.
One of their best and most award-winning spirits is Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey, but we’ve got a thing for their 40-proof Pumpkin Spice Latte Sippin’ Cream and Sour Mash Moonshine (Yes, it’s exactly as good as it sounds.) See you in line!
3. Tennessee Shine Company
Operating since 2015, the Tennessee Shine Company has a great little branch in Gatlinburg that pays direct homage to moonshine’s rebellious history in Appalachia. Using small-batch distilling techniques and family recipes, they go out of their way to respect their roots, even with newer, splashier flavors like salted caramel and Jalapeno Cornbread Moonshine (We highly recommend trying that one!).
And speaking of trying them out, this company promises a good time with their moonshine tours in their Sevierville, just 25 minutes up the road from the great Gatlinburg area. With great tidbits about innovation and resistance during Prohibition, these tours end with free whiskey, moonshine, and wine tastings. That’s what you came here for, right?
4. King’s Family Distillery
Two words: Apple Whiskey. Okay, and Blackberry Whiskey – and Peach Whiskey. Alright, alright, alright – these smooth whiskey blends are exactly what we love about King’s Family Distillery.
Sure, they’ve got the basics absolutely down – King’s Tennessee Bourbon with notes of tobacco, caramel, walnut, and cinnamon – but it’s the innovation mixed with tradition that keeps us coming back for more.
Starting in 2018, this provocateur’s owners clearly have a decades-long passion for sharing spirits with a story. And the best part? They serve free samples every day of the week: Sunday through Thursday from 10 am to 8 pm, and just a bit longer from 10 am to 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Don’t be surprised if you start to see King’s products everywhere – this smaller company’s got the goods to make it last for generations. You heard it here first!
5. Adventure Distilling Company
Moonshine has finally been brought out of the woods and onto the streets of America, and the Adventure Distilling Company knows a thing or two about creating a great Appalachian experience.
Why do we love this cozy spot? It’s a bit more personalized than some of the other places we’ve mentioned, and they’ve got great drinks (Cherry Bounce!) and live music to kick it up into the next gear.
On land that came back into their family after 70 years, the owners don’t take these beautiful surroundings for granted any day of the week.
About 25 minutes northeast of Gatlinburg, Adventure Distilling Company provides awesome adventure tours through the nearby Cherokee National Forest – and what’s more fun than a few drinks and some live music after an adrenaline-fueled ATV ride?
Honoring their heritage, you never know what kind of stories you’re going to get from local legends walking into this spot…
6. Tennessee Legend Distillery
You don’t have to wander into the woods to discover Tennessee Legend Distilery’s drinks – not anymore! This Sevierville location has fantastic whiskey, moonshine, spirits, and cream liqueurs for you to sip on in the summer heat or while taking in the cool autumn breeze around a fire.
This distillery’s furtive heritage runs deep in the Smoky Mountains, with a bold, mountainous flavor and smooth mouth feel – especially their award-winning 100 proof White-Lightning Moonshine.
And just a small plug from our own hearts: their Blackberry Moonshine is absolutely amazing with a bit of lemonade and mint, but they’ve got all kinds of spirits and fun to kick your drinks up a notch.
While they don’t offer larger tasting tours at the moment, you’re always welcome to stop at one of their four locations for a few free sips and some good Appalachia stories.
7. Shine Girl
We absolutely love the drive and spunk behind Shine Girl, brazenly innovated by Danielle Parton – yes, from that Parton lineage! Turns out the Parton family has been making their own moonshine for a few generations, and lucky for you, this is your best opportunity to try it out.
Eluding the prohibitive laws of the time, this band of characters made moonshine, as well as sold honey and molasses to keep their large bootleggin’ family afloat. In fact, some of them can still be found selling honey on their family land.
So what makes Danielle’s concoctions so innovative? She spices up her creations using honey instead of or in addition to grains and sugars, giving Shine Girl its own legs and unique personality.
This family affair still has a cast of eccentrics at the helm, similar to Danielle’s Aunt Dolly. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to try Danielle’s twist on a vibrant history – especially their Lavender Moonshine! Yum!
8. Old Forge Distillery
Head fifteen minutes up the road to Pigeon Forge and you’ll get to one of our long-standing favorites, Old Forge Distillery. A proud member of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, this location hand forges its own small-batch spirits using grains from one of the oldest operating grist mills in America.
We’re huge connoisseurs of their fantastic Rock & Rye line that can be enjoyed alone or with some soda water. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but try the Ginger Lemongrass, Peach Habanero, and Orange Rosemary liqueurs, or dive headfirst into their famous 1830 Original Moonshine.
You also can’t go wrong with one of their flavored moonshines, like Oatmeal Cookie or Bananas Foster, but don’t forget about their moonshine-infused chocolate and cherries, either – a perfect souvenir for a budding bartender. (Can you tell we’re big fans?)
If you visit the distillery, be sure to try some samples or get an artisan cocktail from one of their talented bartenders. They don’t offer official tours on location, per se, but why have a private tour when you can view the distillery operations from the main distillery area?
If you have any real-time questions for the expert distillers, bartenders, and team members, just ask! A real Appalachia treat!
9. Bootleggers Distillery
Is this family-owned distillery a former secret society or a raucous gathering spot? We’ll let you decide.
Bootleggers throughout history have certainly had to band together to protect their precious liquid white lightning, but we think Bootleggers Distillery is really kind to let us in on some of their generational secrets.
Another proud member of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, Bootleggers has 16 generations worth of oral histories, practices, and family gatherings to speak for its concoctions. And we love that two of the nation’s youngest distillers work here, making their families proud by sharing a wealth of information on the distilling process – hey, we’re proud, too!
This family’s distillery is open 7 days a week for tastings and tours – don’t forget to try their Original Moonshine and Hot Apple Pie Moonshine!
10. Company Distilling
Heading west out of Gatlinburg? Check out Townsend’s Company Distilling, one of whose founders worked tirelessly to ensure the Volunteer State could brew easily and innovatively via state legislation.
The impacts of his hard work have proven fruitful, with maple wood flavored bourbon whiskey, carefully selected punchy botanicals for effervescent gins, and delicious flavored spirits like Coconut, Coffee, and Apple Pie. (This is the South – we love Apple Pie!)
But the days of a makeshift sill are long gone, and the Gatlinburg area now has plentiful options to choose from, whether you’re more interested in the big names or supporting even more local spirits.