NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s a familiar sound for millions of tourists across Tennessee.
At the Nashville Barrel Company, helped out by the ‘boss’ Stella (a 1-year-old Goldendoodle), they get visitors from all over the world.
“A couple days ago, there was a group from Canada,” Chief Bourbon Guy [sic] Mike Hinds said. “We had a lady from Europe in here. We’re seeing all walks of life walk through that door.”
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When you think about distilling, it’s been largely synonymous with Tennessee’s history thanks to names like Jack Daniels and Nearest Green.
“Before Prohibition, distilling was probably one of the largest industries that was happening here,” said Tennessee Whiskey Trail and Tennessee Distillers Guild Executive Director Charity Toombs.
But until 2009, it remained a relatively minor part of the economy. Before then, distilling was legal in just three Tennessee counties. But in ‘09, lawmakers expanded that by 41 counties, and the industry took off.
“Whiskey is a hot thing right now,” Hinds said. “Everyone wants to try whiskey.”
“Distilling sits right in between the two largest industries in our state, which are agriculture and tourism,” Toombs said.
A new study shows that last year, the industry generated nearly $3.5 billion for the economy, leading to over $440 million in tax revenue.
It’s estimated that supports nearly 30,000 jobs, both outside and inside the industry.
But what is it that makes distilleries so charming?
“They’re situated in urban markets that really play upon the interest in cities like Nashville and Gatlinburg,” Toombs said. “But then as well, they’re also situated in some of the more remote and scenic and picturesque parts you see in the rolling hills.”
Hinds pointed to the budding nature of the industry.
“People are coming new into bourbon and then they’re kind of realizing that [there’s a lot] beyond Jack Daniels for Tennessee whiskey, then you have Ole Smoky for moonshine,” he said. “There’s a lot of different options that you can kind of explore here.”