Ep. 65 - Whiskey's History at Tennessee and the World's #1 Most Visited Distillery

OLE SMOKY WHISKEY // Talking Moonshine, Tourism, and Whiskey with co-founder Joe Baker

Listen to the Episode

Show Notes

It's hard to believe that in just 12 years, Ole Smoky has grown to become the most visited distillery in the world, seeing more than double the visitors in a year than all of Scotland's distilleries combined!

Ole Smoky has long had ambitions to get into the whiskey market, but for the longest time blends and flavored whiskey's or charred moonshine were all you could find.

But that all changed last year when they introduced James Ownby Reserve Tennessee Bourbon - a whiskey named after one of the Overmountain Men who helped turn the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Join me as I chat about this and the origins of Ole Smoky with its co-Founder Joe Baker.

  • How Joe got involved in making moonshine
  • Tennessee and agriculture
  • Was it tourism or moonshine that brought you in
  • Ole Smoky compared to illegal moonshine
  • Getting enough Mason Jars
  • The first stills and getting started
  • The whiskey lover's opinion of moonshine
  • Flavored moonshine in a blend
  • It really tastes like a blueberry pancake
  • The moonshiner's tall tales
  • Popcorn's last batch
  • The Baker and Ownby family tree
  • Davy Crockett Tennessee Whiskey and Charred Moonshine
  • Moonshiners and entertainment
  • Growing so fast
  • 153 Proof 10th Anniversary Moonshine
  • Old Smoky's history with whiskey
  • James Ownby Reserve vs the old Ole Smoky blended bourbon
  • Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey
  • Why so long for whiskey products?
  • A view of Ole Smoky's legacy as well as Tennessee spirits

Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript is available on the tab above.

For more information:


welcome to whiskey lore the interviews i'm your host Drew Hannush the amazon bestselling author of whiskey lore's travel guide to experience in kentucky bourbon and today i've got the honor of welcoming in joe baker of old smokey a man whose choice of occupation in 2009 probably caught some people off guard going from criminal attorney to moonshiner um i've talked to a lot of people on the forefront of the tennessee whiskey boom and what's interesting is that old smokey was really right there at the very beginning and one of the ones that made the most impactful of splashes uh with this new tennessee distilling movement and when you set up near america's most visited national park you're going to have a good chance at success so we're going to talk a lot about the rise of old smokey and also dive into a whiskey that they just released last year it is called james omb reserve tennessee straight bourbon whiskey and it not only has some family ties in that name but there's also some historical ties as well so we will jump into that as well so uh welcome to the show joe glad to have you here thank you so much i'm a big fan and and glad to finally be able to be a part of it so thank you yeah well this the thing about me doing research and trying to learn more about the beginnings of tennessee's distilling movement of course we had jack and george and then phil prichard came in and so for a while it was just three distilleries in the state and then all of a sudden laws changed in 2009 and boom we have you know 40 plus distilleries in in tennessee now and so you were actually right there at the beginning of this what what kind of drew you in to this idea of opening a distillery yeah you know it's it's funny i i was uh i've had some good fortune in my life and and uh probably uh one of one of the the biggest pieces of good fortune was was being raised in sevier county tennessee as you said the severe county is right there at the at the national park entrance and and we are the beneficiaries of of a lot of traffic and and tourism as a result i i grew up um as a as a child in east tennessee that that was you know i guess part of a a long history of families that had settled in the area my my first ancestors were were in the area in the late 1700s and uh so i think i was born into um you know that mountain heritage in a in a real lucky way and although i picked up pieces of um of that uh distilling heritage throughout my life i never i never expected to to get into the business it was it was not something that as a as a kid or through college and and even my early professional life while i was practicing law i never i never imagined that that this would be my my uh my livelihood and lo and behold things started to change in in 2009 that uh that that led us down this path so um you know it was kind of born into it so when when people ask me how did you get into it i think that my dad when i was young would uh would take me with him to uh to cook mash and and i never ran a still it was never my my my expertise was uh holding a big hose a fire hose and recirculating mash in a in a a large a large pot and uh and quite frankly i i uh i believe that uh whatever they were making was was being sold to uh cosmetic companies or or food companies in an ad as an additive or an ingredient i think that uh i remember being told that uh i think it was vanilla extract that that was needed there was alcohol and and vanilla extract and we were made we were making it and selling it for that purpose

you uh you never know you know and and you always believe your your parents but uh i'm not sure my dad was leading me uh exactly but that was my that was my i guess my my entry into uh distilling and so as a as an attorney in in 2009 i i was i enjoy being a lawyer i i still uh really look forward to to uh working with individuals and and and fighting for individual freedoms as an attorney but my um my heart was was looking for a change i wanted to do something different i think tourism was was in my blood just because we you grow up around it as i said in pigeon forge in gatlinburg and and so um there was a uh a bill that was kind of creeping through the state legislature and i was really just watching it from afar i had no involvement in it at the time it was just a casual observer and as i as i saw this i i thought well you know it sure would be a a heck of a souvenir to be able to to sell in the mountains when people come to visit east tennessee to be able to to put moonshine in a jar and and give them you know a genuine an authentic piece of of our mountain heritage as a souvenir and so that that's really where that's where things started for me was just seeing the opportunity uh percolate as as our legislature was was considering the the change in the law yeah and it's interesting when i talked to your uncle uh johnny baker uh he took me on a tour through the nashville facility and we were chatting about things and i feel like i'm just talking to you know somebody that i grew up around because i grew up in asheville north carolina on the other side of the smoky mountains and so it was a tourist area and so you were used to having an influx of people in the area but then you are also kind of used to that mountain culture all around you as well and i'm sure you know you with a family involved in it i'm from michigan originally but we moved down here when i was really young and so i would hear the stories about the moonshiners up in the hills and i mean there are plenty of tall tales out there i'm sure you got plenty of those tall tales maybe even through your own family tree without a doubt without a doubt yeah so i've been told that uh anytime there's moonshine around tall tales are also part of it so i think that uh without a doubt you've got you've got plenty yeah so uh so we'll get to dive a little bit more into that too but we're talking about you know they moved from three counties to 41 counties uh opening this up and so why do you feel that the state of tennessee was was ready to open it up like that because it did it seems like they did that and maybe there were distillers who were interested in getting into it but it sounds like everything kind of passed by the time you said okay let's jump in yeah i i was watching it i remember a lot of the debate and and and i think the the impetus for the for the bill that uh that finally worked its way through the legislature and became law was the financial situation i think across the country in uh 0.809 there was there was certainly some some negative pressure across the country uh we had dealt with the housing crisis and and it was it was it was a difficult time for for a lot of families and uh the state of tennessee was looking for um different means of revenue and this was an opportunity to create industry that that had a long and storied history in in tennessee and to do it in a way that that could create jobs to create tax revenue and create opportunity for a lot of people and and we were we were certainly beneficiaries of that i i applaud our uh our house and senate and in the governor's office at the time for for making it happen because now as you say there's uh there's um quite a few distilleries that that have that have popped up around the state the number of jobs that are created you know just in our our business we i think we we're we're employing close to a thousand people so you can you can see the the impact of of that legislation is um is significant and there are a lot of families that that have been positively impacted by it well i think the other thing too is that tennessee is such an agricultural state so it just makes sense to me that that would be a direction use for your own corn yeah really well for sure it's it's you know i think that certainly supporting the uh um the agricultural community the farmers the the the people who are really working the land i mean it it makes a lot of sense doesn't it i think the uh the reality is we are um the state of tennessee exports uh a lot of great products uh none of which are are any more significant than music and and whiskey i think that uh we've um yeah we we're we're um really blessed to to have both of those industries and and our uh legislature and the governor at the times they were quite wise i think to to really uh open up opportunities for us to to explore and to celebrate that history of whiskey making spirits making in in the state of tennessee yeah so it seems that if you're gonna start a business like this you probably have an idea that you're either wanting it to be a tourist destination thing or you want it to be the moonshine what was the original kind of idea was it more the tourist side of things you know i think that i was uh my wife and i we were both attorneys and we had at the in 2009 we have we just had our third child and we were at a point where we were certainly fortunate and blessed and in our lives and and doing just fine working as lawyers but um we were i was working really hard i was working a lot of hours and and i i wanted to do something different so i think that the uh the push to to uh to work for a better financial future for my family was was certainly the the uh i think what was what was prompting me to to do this so i think first first and foremost i just wanted to open a business that didn't lose money right so that that was uh that was a starting point and i i think equally not losing money trying to trying to actually create a business that that led to value but also uh equally for me i think creating a product that was authentic something that was genuine that my friends and family at home wouldn't look at me and and laugh because it was uh it wasn't real i think that that so you know there's so so many times especially early on i i would hear well that's that's not real moonshine and i think that yeah there's there is fair criticism that uh that it is different because we pay taxes on it but but right but it's not fair it's not fair to criticize it and say it's not real because it doesn't taste the same or that it it's you know it is in any way different as a product because it's the same it you know it it what we make is exactly the same it may be a little a little more refined and and more consistent of a product and and safer but uh the reality is what we make is is is the it's it is it tastes like and is moonshine and it's what what's been made in the hills of east tennessee for a long time so i think creating a product that was authentic was was high on my list and and you know at that time i was new to the industry i had no legitimate industry experience and and beverage and and so there were conversations uh at home about uh the product and and what it was gonna look like and yeah i had no idea what label regulations uh existed i i thought let's just put it in a jar and and whatever the the very minimum label is let's let's do that so i think that a lot of times it's fun to to be complimented on the the package design and the label design that we uh that we we finally came up with but the reality was um you know it was it was not there wasn't a lot of choice to it it was it was obvious let's just use the jar and and put as little on the on the product as possible but i think that simplicity and the the authenticity that came with it really served us well yeah i heard you uh had a little issue with the mason jars at first that they were not quite in a large enough supply for what you needed yeah we had uh to to say that we had issues with the jar is an understatement i think that uh i don't know that that um you know i've gone through a lot of tough things in in life you know there's challenges every day we're facing a lot of challenges and this business uh has grown uh so significantly and and we've we're so incredibly fortunate to to to have been a part of it but the reality is it was hard and in those early days um you know we we did we it was like we were scratching and clawing everywhere we could to to get jars that would fit and and again out of out of ignorance you know i i just early very early i didn't understand why we couldn't just go to walmart and pick up some more ball jars and and uh you know jar and and it was the certainly you know the as as we grew even as an attorney you know i think growing to understand um the regulations and and just you know how uh heavily regulated and specific the industry is it's uh and for good reason um you know we we learned a lot but but yeah the the uh getting glass in those early days we we were we were unsophisticated to say the least yeah so give us a picture of how the distilling started what i mean did you hire in a distiller to come in and uh you know kind of help choose what kind of equipment you needed and what or or did you have family members that were like yes we've you know been doing this you know illegally for so we we can kind of tell you from our history what you can do it was it was a combination of both uh we we had uh family that uh and friends that uh that uh made stills uh that uh that made plenty of liquor and and uh had had perspective to offer i have uh i still have the the conference table in my uh in my law office in in sevierville we we uh i remember uncle johnny who you mentioned earlier and and uh my partners and and a couple other family members sitting around this conference table in sevierville we had i think we had probably 12 to maybe 12 to 15 different moonshines that that we were we were sampling and just talking about you know trying to to compare and contrast the recipes and and all the different nuances of each one my uh by the time we left that night the the varnish was was worn off the the conference table yeah in a lot of places and and so uh now i i look at that table and i'm i'm fond of the memory but it was uh i was i was uh i was a little upset by it that night but the the um the evolution you asked about the distilling it came from initially that you know we we started talking just uh locally amongst uh friends and family and trying to figure out what we wanted to be but ultimately because this was a um you know again it was a new thing we were getting the first license in the state of tennessee uh under this new law we were working with abc not only were we dealing with um city a city that had never licensed a distillery location in a state that was was working under a new law but you know we then also had to to uh to comply with all the the federal licensing requirements so in order to do that we um we ended up hiring uh dave pickerel who a lot of people in the industry are familiar with he he helped a lot of people get uh get to start i i think he um he was instrumental without a doubt and and giving us good direction and and then rob sherman at uh vendome copper uh was was also somebody who who was really a uh a friend early on and and so we um you know we we set up a small still and uh you know i i don't know how much you you want to get into it but my uh the the reality there during that time was that we we were underfunded we didn't have a lot of money to to start a distillery and the the law required that we secure the property and we secure all this equipment and we go through the investment stages all before we could even apply for the license and it was uh it was stressful to say the least there were difficulties in in getting financing i ended up uh using my my law office building i was able to to secure a a pretty modest loan uh as a uh a means by which we were able to fund this but it was uh it was difficult and and the stress levels were high and so uh uh dave pickerel helped with the with the initial uh phases of of the distilling and setting up the equipment we got that set up and we applied for our licenses and you know the this all happened in a matter of maybe eight months so we were we were quick you know as soon as as soon as the law uh came into effect we were we were working on this and and uh we got licensed in uh i think it was may was either may or june of of 2010 and um it was uh it was an adventure for sure but that's that's kind of how the early the earliest days involved it's it's such an interesting industry because you have to first get set up if you're a distiller you have to first know how to distill before you can go get your license so it's kind of like you there's a risk to that i guess what happens if you don't end up getting the the license but uh you you're hopefully feeling self-assured that you can get through all of that red tape that that that is just being created at that very moment so yeah no for sure and i i think that you know there are now looking back i think there are there are probably opportunities to uh to get a license without uh without distilling the the products and and creating a brand without distilling products but it was um for us we had we had two uh two fermenters and a uh a nice little pot still to start and and we you know that's that is exactly that's how we did it and and it was uh it was fun because it was in a uh it was in a building we we were in a building we started in a building about two thousand square feet maybe twenty twenty five hundred square feet that was um off the parkway in gatlinburg and it was it was in i believe it was in foreclosure and otherwise we we couldn't have afforded the rent so we we got a we got a really good deal on on the space because it was a distressed property and we we made the best of it and and it's funny now that that space of course has grown and uh it's it is the most visited distillery in the world so it's it's it's crazy how how that all came about but yeah we're we're certainly we love we love our our visitors so when you did get started on this and you got dave pickerel there and uh you're kind of figuring out from the recipes that that you've got your hands on did were you aware of anybody else outside the state of tennessee that was selling legal moonshine you know i i there were i definitely remember the brand georgia moon and and then also midnight moon and midnight moon was um it was a brand that i i really i was always a nascar fan growing up so junior johnson in his history was was was something that that i was i was very aware of and i didn't understand i think at that time they were selling their products in a bottle they weren't they weren't selling in a jar and and so i i think that uh they were certainly celebrating the moonshine history and heritage but but i think they were they were uh also you know bringing a product to market that was maybe a a little bit more mainstream because it was in a bottle and the georgia moon i believe was in a jar um so yeah there were i was i was aware of those and and there may have been others but that those were two that i i remember they were making products i don't remember um yeah the flavors were something that that were i think innovative that we brought to the market that were important uh we were we were you know to start we just did the the clear uh products but uh but quickly we we rolled out apple pie and blackberry and and now we've got so many flavors that it's uh but those um yeah that that was apple pie was was what i was uh most familiar with as a as a fan of moonshine outside of before old smokey it was the apple pie has always been a fan favorite you know we we were especially birthdays and christmas parties that kind of stuff it was i was always excited to to uh to have have apple pie around yeah when i first started talking to johnny baker i i said you know um i do a whiskey podcast and whiskey people you know are i i don't want to say they're got their noses in the air or anything but there is kind of this feeling like when you see a lot of product that is is flavored that maybe the spirit behind it isn't uh isn't the highest of quality and you'll hear that on and off but then you start mentioning you know dave pickerel is is in here uh you know helping you get this all set which i mean i can't tell you how many distilleries i've been to that he's had an influence on that are making amazing spirits and the fun part was that when i was in nashville you know johnny let me taste this experimental whiskey i guess it was the first batch of something that uh that you guys were distilling there that was a it had no corn in it it was a red wheat and rye whiskey that was in a 15 gallon barrel that had aged for seven months and that was amazing yeah uh i was like why isn't somebody making something like this no that's that is i know what you're talking it had to have some corn in it but but i think that that uh it was um we're we're doing some fun things with whiskey and i'm i am over the moon excited about you know what uh what we're doing there but but i i get your point i think that it is it's it's easy for um for people to to be real selective let's say and what they drink and and how they approach that i think that i um you know i i'm a i'm a wine drinker i like big cabs and and you know i have this you you develop sort of a profile and a a preference for for things and so i i think that you know i'm not a big uh i'm not a big drinker of flavored things that's not my you know it's that's even even our products i i am i'm i am a fan of the apple pie it's but the the uh i do drink if i'm if i'm drinking spirits i'm drinking a an unflavored product i mean that's you so i i get it uh it doesn't mean it's it's right or wrong right right right that's the reality is there are a lot of people that are enjoying flavored products and and uh you know i i'm my uh my preferences are no better than than his or her so i i get it i think it is it's interesting i think for a brand you know this this level of seriousness are you serious you know is it a serious whiskey um if if it's flavored you know to me i think it's you're you're opening up opportunities for people to to explore and and uh be introduced to to different types of spirits so i think there's a lot of room for the flavors but uh but you know for us it is important that that our base be uh very

very high quality and and you know whether you're talking about a neutral spirit that we distill and and we add to a flavor or a a corn based product that that's you know a corn whiskey or specifically if you look at our our blue flame or or the the 153 there are a lot of products that that we put out there that we take a whole lot of pride in the you know the the the whiskey the the spirit that we're making and and uh it's uh to each his or her own but we we love all people and and excited to serve you know serve them all yeah well we live in a an age where people are now starting to move from just drinking whiskey meat to appreciating cocktails again and so we're gonna if we're adding in the ingredients into a cocktail it only makes sense that if you're adding in flavor into it's just an easy easy cocktail for you you don't have to go through all the trouble of uh sourcing things well i i think it is and you know it's it's a it's fun you know i think tasting different things that's that's just that's that's part of uh i think part of part of the fun of spirits and and uh although i don't drink a lot of uh flavored uh flavored spirits we uh we made the salty caramel that we that we sell that was that was made first in my my mother-in-law's kitchen and we were just messing around with with uh with ingredients in the kitchen one night and i my uh my brother-in-law and i were we're making caramel and we would mix in some bourbon and just taste it and and so it's and it's terrific you know it's a great it's a great product it's not a uh it's not something that that i necessarily drink a lot of but i i enjoy i really enjoy the flavor and it's uh it's it's fun i was uh i think i was inspired by an ice cream i tasted salty caramel ice cream at some point that's what got me thinking about it but but you know there's there's a lot of room for cocktails and and flavored products and yeah i think you're right you're just we're making it easy for the consumer if you're if you're if you're working on that and exploring flavors and and there's a lot of good ideas that are coming out of that innovation well and that's one of the things that i'm starting to get into at home is actually blending different whiskeys together and experimenting it would be very interesting to experiment with a flavored moonshine and see you know how you could you're basically mixing a cocktail but you're doing it with uh with with two um spirits rather than you know two heavier spirits rather than doing it with um and i it wasn't long ago actually as soon as i saw salty caramel i i went hmm i cuz i just had a scotch that is a it has a salted caramel kind of a flavor to it and i'm like wow that's really good in a spirit and it's not something that i normally would put together especially in a scotch because we don't think of you know caramel notes in in scotch as much as we do in bourbons but um yeah seems like there could be some uh some compliments there and in trying to blend those together yeah no for sure it's you know i i think that uh when when we were on um you know outdoor trips guys trips that we've done skiing or whatever it it's it's funny how much i enjoy the flavors of chocolate chip cookies and a bourbon neat you know and so it's i i think the the complimentary uh um the compliment complementary uh notes of of the cookie and the and the bourbon are to me are are interesting and i think there's there are ways to do that in in products too it's you know it's and it's not going to be necessarily the most sophisticated spirit that you've ever come across and and you know it's not going to you're not going to write about it for for days on on blogs about uh about bourbon but it's it's these these things they they're important and and i think that it's it's a um it's a fun part of the the industry that uh that we sure enjoy celebrating yeah so the one that i had i was at the uh at the barn not too long ago uh that was the only location of yours i hadn't been to and so uh in pigeon forge and i went in and i said okay i'll do a tasting and uh they gave me some blueberry pancake

i have to tell you that when i tasted that blueberry pancake i went this is amazing because i if you if you'd taken the blueberry pancake with maple syrup on it and stuck it in your mouth and then stuck that in your mouth you know it it was almost identical to me it was amazing how close you you got that flavor is there is there like this uh this challenge that you guys have in trying to really nail those flavors down to an exact science yeah we do have uh we've got a good team and and the process is uh it's it is really you know i'm uh i'm blown away by the flavors that are created out of there and and i have uh this is one that the the cream is it's a it was a cream product right the blueberry pancake that you're talking about yeah yeah so the uh um there's a guy that uh named matt lane that i played football with in high school in in gatlinburg and he's he is he's in charge of uh of that innovation on the on the flavor side and and so we um we're fortunate to have him leading the charge there and but but the process is funny when we first started with flavors you know our process was a little less sophisticated we'd start in the kitchen just mixing up some you know app different apple pie recipes and and and then you would taste it around share it around with friends and family and see what everybody thought now we we do have a you know a very formal tasting process where the team's coming in a large team's coming in and doing tasting and blind tasting and and just over and over again we're really we get to uh we get through several rounds of tasting before we we actually put a product out for trial and so yeah it's there's a lot of thought that goes into it i'm i'm yeah i gotta i gotta tell you i have before this i've never heard of blueberry pancake moonshine but i i'm and i'm i'm not there there's some of these products that uh that make me uh they make me question you know it is uh as as much as i really do um care about the authenticity of the brand it's uh there are there are places like this where fun overrules and and so they're they're making some fun products that uh that i i think uh some some some of the old heads from from my hometown might be rolling over in their graves these guys are really screwing this up but it is fun they're having a good time with it yeah sorry oh go ahead i was just going to say the creams you know i i am uh my when we talk about the spirits industry before i before i ever thought about old smoking i did have a uh an incredible and do have an incredible eggnog recipe that i would share around the courthouse uh before christmas and so that recipe evolved into our shine knog which was one of the first creams that we we put out and so uh i i think that uh there's so the creams have a little bit of a story you know as it goes back to that uh that time around christmas and eggnog but these uh these new flavors they're they're popular the butter pecan i think the butter pecan is uh is right now one of the best sellers we have so it's it's always fun to see what's next very nice so one of your neighbors uh daryl miller over at uh bootleggers uh he was telling me some moonshiner stories he said i get moonshiners that come out of the hills and they want me to test their uh their moonshine and he said one guy came in and he said i have some 220 proof moonshine wow and he's going okay that that's like somebody giving you 110 i don't know if that's exactly quite feasible um have you did you have a lot of that when you guys first started out that moonshines are coming in going hey you know uh my stuff's a lot stouter than yours and test this out we hear that you know it's it's we we actually i remember i remember one story and i'm i'm not going to get this exactly right but there was somebody that had uh brought in some apple pie moonshine and and they were um they were challenges challenging us a little bit on on apple pie and and they thought that apple pie needed to be it was their apple pie was i can't remember what they said 120 proof or some you know it was a really high proof product in their mind and we we proofed it just to to see you know where it was and and it was it was maybe maybe in the 30s i mean it was really good yeah but i i think that it's you know people are there there are a lot of stories out there and the reality is and and and was then that uh when when there was a lot of uh moonshine that was that was pushing through the system illegally it was uh it made sense to cut it as much as you could because the you know the alcohol was was that that's what was most expensive to make and so if you could mix uh some other flavors or even if it was just watered down if it was a water you know if it's just a clear product it wasn't there was not a uh i don't think there was any incentive to make it as high proof as you could i think that the ins the incentive was probably to to try to proof it down more but it's fun i i love those stories and and you know i grew up around them and and now to be able to uh to share them in a way that people finally you know in our uh where we make most of our product in sevier county and in [ __ ] county uh i think there's a real uh respect that that has evolved over the last 12 years because we do we have so many team members that are that are from the area and and that are uh you know legacy of the they're they're serving the legacy of of their uncles and granddads and we you know i think that so so i think we uh we we finally because we do uh distill all of our spirits i think that people have recognized that we're we're doing it the right way we're honoring a rich tradition in history and and so it's it's a uh it's fun to it's fun to hear those stories though and to be challenged every now and then i have i have uh i guess more than anything else i've probably heard oh i don't know a thousand times that uh you know somebody will come up to me and say oh i've i've got uh i've got a jar of of popcorn's last batch and and uh if if uh if it's true popcorn's last batch was so big that yeah brown foreman and everybody else would be challenged on volume but it is fun to hear um it's fun to hear about you know people's their uh experience with moonshine and and uh popcorn sutton is certainly a rich and real uh genuine uh piece of of our our our local history and and somebody who has been celebrated but but it's a story like that that i i just i get a kick out of that you mentioned western north carolina he spent a lot of time over there and i'm sure that oh i heard about him a lot when i was there i seem to i seem to know a lot of people who knew him and i'm like for a guy who's like hiding out in the woods he's got a lot of people that know him he i think he enjoyed visiting and he was not shy to talk so i think he it those those are probably real you know i think a lot of people did did get to spend some time around him yeah there's a whole other culture too that i really didn't hear much about but i've started to hear more about i live in greenville south carolina so we're we're down in what was called the dark corner uh you know yeah moonshine mafia i'm you know all of these kind of things that are a whole part of history that you know is is i don't know if it's hidden i just haven't quite dug into it yet yeah yeah it's i'm familiar with with that i've heard of uh dark corner and and there was uh i know a distillery uh opened under that name in greenville yeah it's uh but you know that's i think that's the other part of moonshine that i find uh so interesting is that no matter where you go in the country or in either even other parts of the world there are these these uh let's call them indigenous spirits that that are made yeah they develop in in these towns or or in these communities you know all over the world that they have stories and and it is at its core i think that you know no matter what they call it it is it's similar to you know moonshine for us and and while moonshine may be in gatlinburg and and you may have this dark corner of of the upstate of south carolina or or over in maggie valley you know there all these places all over the country have these stories so it's it's fun to be it's fun to be a part of that yeah so in doing my research on tennessee whiskey history a lot of the distillers that were the first distillers in tennessee didn't really come out of the scots irish um background which was a surprise to me when we started talking about like evan shelby and jack daniel and and you know some of those those names but in the mountains you know it it was a different culture and it was the the families coming down uh from the ones that were leaving the ulster area of scotland of ireland and and coming over this way and they kind of just made their way down through the mountains so with your own family how far back do you know about your family and what did you said 1700s when they came through here uh how far can you kind of trace them back a little bit farther back i i know that uh my um i guess it's my my fifth great grandfather and and i i think i've got this right uh that the uh the product that james wenby is is named after i think he's buried at batcave actually over in in western north carolina but the uh um the the family we we are i think they trickled in through virginia north carolina and and settled in in tennessee but um i've i have uh my mom is is the youngest of 15 kids and uh i've got a an aunt and uncle on that side that that have traced things back to england ireland and scotland and and you know are very um they they can point to a a really clear line and it's it's fun to see that i i don't know the answer to it right off the top of my head but but i i know that uh those are our folks and and it's uh you know it's it's i i'm excited someday to be able to physically to go there and and and trace that and kind of kind of see you know where where we came from but uh you know it's it's one of the greatest parts of our our country is that we've we've got so many people from so many different parts of the world that come here and and you know it makes us interesting you know that we've got all these we don't we've got this diverse history and and past and and so our ours is is sort of uh specific to to that area of the world but it's it's uh i certainly that's that's that's where we came from yeah so we in doing my research what i didn't realize about the mountains of tennessee was that that was actually set aside by the british government before it became the united states it was set aside as land for the natives so it had you know the cherokee basically owned all of the appalachian mountains in what was then north carolina uh over and so it was unsettled it was not allowed to be settled until around the 17 i think it was 1770 when it finally opened up and there was a treaty and they were able to come into the area and it wasn't long after that that the over mountain men which was the name for the uh settlers that had uh been the scots irish and the and the english and the rest who had settled in your area of east tennessee went down and took part in the battle at king's mountain and a lot of the other skirmishes that were going on in battles during the revolutionary war so if james owenby is in your is your great five times uh grandfather he would have had to have been one of the first settlers in that area uh somewhat of a european uh culture yeah no it's it's and and i i think that uh you know to be able to look at that and honor that in in our uh the bourbon that we put out you know i i have my my mom uh her maiden name was omb and and uh it's uh it's fun to be able to to to look back reflect and and honor honor somebody that yeah i think that uh he was i'm sure just a small part of that effort but you know just to be a part of that effort is i think a uh uh you know really is a significant thing i i was fortunate to to serve um our our country in the in the uh in the military and and so it's a for me it's you know to be able to honor that in some way um i'm really proud to to have done that and and i i have not been to the to to the site where he's buried in bat cave uh but but excited to make that trip i've seen a lot of photographs and and uh it's a uh you know it's it's it's neat i think there's a real western north carolina and east tennessee and and certainly the smoky mountain area i think no matter which side of the mountain you're you're on um you're if you're from one side or the other you've probably got family on one side because the people kind of move back and forth and there are a lot of ombs over in in western north carolina that um i are our distant cousins for for for our family that uh um yeah this this is it's it's a fun it really is a good thing to be able to celebrate as a a history of someone uh that we have roots to that uh that that served and was was part of of uh you know creating uh what we we now know as a as a free country yeah well in in doing the research on the on the over mountain men of course we hear about it i don't live that far from kings mountain so we get a lot of more information about it here but um the over mountain man i mean the whole thing was that uh patrick ferguson was uh a scotsman who was uh a expert rifleman in fact the story goes that at brandywine he had his rifle uh set to shoot at george washington on his horse and he was an expert marksman so he wouldn't have missed but it was a gentlemanly gentlemanly thing not to shoot the leader of the other uh force and so the war may have ended at that point but then the the turning point was that basically nathan nathaniel greene was down in south carolina fighting these battles and the over mountain men came down and were taking part in some of those battles and there was a point where basically he sent back a prisoner of of war back to north carolina or to uh that area and warned them that if the overmountain man came back down he would annihilate them and that was enough to anger the uh the men uh you know uh john severe and uh uh you know the shelbys and the carters and all of them and they just said okay you know what we're coming down and we're gonna take care of this and it was their victory at uh the battle of kings mountain which turned the war and forced the british to back up and go to yorktown where where it really did come to a conclusion so it's it's hard to underestimate the um impact that those settlers of east tennessee had on the future of the united states right no it is and i think that that tough-mindedness you know this this fierce um independent spirit that uh that that you find throughout the mountains we we're uh i i i love to i love to uh i claim the the moniker the the name hillbilly i claim that proudly i i think that we are uh we we come from tough stock and and and people who have survived off the land and and and certainly uh i i wouldn't uh i would never want to be put up against folks that uh that have had uh tough tough life in the in the uh you know in those pioneering days and in the the wilderness of of those of those mountains and and those wouldn't be the first people i would challenge to a fight

i think um you know it it's uh it's we we're we're proud we're really proud of that heritage yeah one of the locations that i remember and i think you guys were a part of was the davy crockett tennessee whiskey yes yeah that was my my wife was uh that was i think i'm not i'm not certain about this but i think that she is she was the the first uh that would have been the first distillery owned by a woman in uh in tennessee and and she was uh she was really she was proud of that uh we were in and she'd been very involved in in the business i'm uh i was fortunate to marry a lady much smarter than me and she's she's kept us going so yeah but that is that that was that was her her um her brand uh which i think that was started in maybe 20 2011 2012 and ultimately has uh has become part of the old smokey business was that kind of the first attempt at whiskey or were you doing whiskey before then um we we were not selling anything aged before then i i don't believe we started with a charred moonshine is is something that that was was a favorite of mine and it was uh that was probably our that was our first foray into anything that was aged albeit uh pretty pretty young stuff um but the the davy crockett lines that that was uh that was the first effort within our family as as far as a a product that was was offered for sale yeah did you were you a fan of the moonshiner show you know i gotta admit i just i i've never watched a full episode of it i've never seen it and uh and we i i will i will say this i was a fan of the first year the first year or two maybe we we did we did advertise on the show and and uh um it was something that i i think it i think it helped us uh that that those advertisements so the discovery channel you know the ads we we paid for i think somehow they they probably benefited us along the way and i'm a fan i i'm a fan of um anything that that uh that that celebrates the the culture and the you know the i guess the mystique around moonshine i'm not sure that it it's uh i'm i'm not sure it's the the exact representation that i would want to see but yeah yeah for for the the folks in my in my hometown and in the in in that part of the country but it's there's a place for it and i i'm i'm i'm a fan it's just not uh you know it's uh it is it is entertainment for sure i have to say that as somebody who has been an attorney and is in the moonshine business and watching a show like that i mean my dad used to he was a policeman and he used to watch all the cops series and and he would just sit there going they could they couldn't do that they they couldn't do that and then you have these cameramen following these moonshiners around and they're supposed to be you know hiding out and you're thinking wait a second i'm sure there's a cameraman with a cell phone in his pocket that probably has a gps on it i'm sure i you know it's it's entertainment i have met a lot of the people that they're involved they're uh there are some some some great personalities that uh that are involved in that and there are some people in there that i i know have have been um uh involved in in making spirits and and so i i'm uh i'm glad they've done as well with it as as they have yeah well it and it brings the name moonshine out so that when somebody's coming to the mountains it's on their mind so it couldn't have hurt sales at all yeah it's like like i say it's entertainment i think it's been a uh it's a good uh it's a it's it's good entertainment i i i i have um i was a i was a jag officer in in the air force and i served in the in the air national guard in tennessee and and uh there was a show called jag that that was i think it was maybe in the late 80s early 90s and and uh you know for a while every time that somebody asked me what uh what what what do you do in the in the air force and i would i would tell them you know in their mind it was the television show

was very different you know yeah the riding wheels and power of attorneys it was pretty boring i guess in some ways what i did but i think the uh the show sensationalized it just a little bit and and this is yeah i think it's similar it's tv right entertainment although i will say that uh growing up my first job was in radio and wkrp in cincinnati was not very far off from the way it actually is in radio yeah i can see that i'm sure it's i can see it yeah we're not talking big corporate radio we're talking those little hometown stations that are uh you know living off a shoestring budget and and just trying to make it and the djs come in when they want to come in and right pick their own music out and do all that sort of stuff so uh i i haven't seen that i haven't even thought about that showing you and i have to show that i love i love going back and and pulling out old shows and showing my kids you know what i used to watch this you know it just you know it's it's fun to get their perspective on on things like that yeah how big is old smokey now you have four locations and so how how many tourists are you you seeing per year at these four locations i think that we um i don't have an exact number i know it was over 5 million last year and it's a it's a it's a mind-boggling number it's uh it's big and it's uh you know it it really is a um just a great honor to to be able to greet that many people and and to introduce some i i think you've you've been to our locations and in a it's definitely a fun homespun sort of sort of experience but it's it's genuine you know i think that our our effort was uh was from the from the beginning was even though we are a distillery and we're making moonshine and whiskey i i wanted uh when i opened old smokey in 2010 i had three young children i had a a six a four and a two year old and and i wanted them to be close by and and so we from day one it was always let's find a way to to do this as family friendly as we can you know what and and it's a it's a tough thing to balance in the in the the spirits industry but um to we we do we we do our team does an incredible job of of welcoming people and and offering an experience that uh it's fun and and uh people keep coming back so it's it's a uh like i said it's a big honor for us to be able to to see all those new new friends and faces and have the the repeats coming back it's a we we don't take that lightly we we really work hard to to uh to bring to bring people in the in the mix and and love having them as part of the old smokey family it's got to be a bit of a shock if you put 2009 and the great recession and what you were going through then versus now with the amount of people you employ and just the the success of the the brand overall yeah no it is i i think that over the last 12 years we have had we've had peaks and valleys and and financially it's it's been you know i i uh i remember the that very first summer i i was i remember in early july of 2010 i was i i had i had maxed out my my credit card for our opening week and and i i mean we i was all in and and and and to say that uh i was stressed out and worried and you know we we had a handful of employees at that point and and obligations left and right financially for for property and equipment and loans and and it was it was tough and uh but when we opened things things went well from from day one you know we we uh we we were we were really fortunate to see a lot of visitors from day one and and then yeah fast forward maybe uh a few months later two months later you know we were already running out of stuff and and then our next problem uh we we started uh getting calls from distributors that wanted to to have the product in florida or south carolina or georgia and and uh so we started that and again we just we didn't know we we knew zero about the industry and and so everything we we did we were learning and and doing it on the fly and and you know we're making making mistakes left and right but but trying to to learn from them and and really uh get better and and so you fast forward to to i remember the the the next part where the next part of the story where i really lost sleep we had walmart was gonna was gonna take our products into uh i think stores in maybe 20 states it was a it was a big number and we hired people left and right and we were just trying to assemble a team and there was no fancy equipment that that put these jars of moonshine together it was all this you know it was it was it was a very laborious uh process and so we um we really um we just we we worked hard we got there and and we finally we had all these people 30 or 40 people that were coming in and making these products and and then we realized we couldn't keep up with the orders and you know big box stores are are notorious for for losing patients and and uh cutting out products when you can't keep up and and we were i mean i think we were at best you know five or six weeks behind and it was really really it was looking bad and i'm sitting there just praying that we can somehow do better because we're we're i was afraid at that point that we were going to lose the the the orders and then we had 30 or 40 employees that we would have to let go and and these were people these weren't strangers to me these were people that you know they were they're probably related in some way i probably went to high school with them or or their their family these are friends these are neighbors and uh and so um thank god walmart was patient with us and we worked through that and and then we you know we just we we had growing pains left and right from 2010 to 2014 and and then in 2014 we had uh there was a little bit you know there were there was this rush there were a lot of different moonshine brands that were coming into the market and we we saw some contraction we we were really you know again as the business grows gross grows grows and then all of a sudden you start seeing some some dip in sales it was uh it was we we had some uh you know i don't want to call them dark days but they were they were they were definitely some tough we had some tough times and had to make some some difficult decisions along the way but the the uh over the last five years um our team and the leadership that that's in place has just i mean played their tails off and and really through innovation and through the the expansion into the new markets and new stores and and the growth of the sales team and and really just being being a a smart a well-run business you know we have been able to take a product that was great and now really turn it into a business that's great and and uh credit certainly goes uh to our team that that uh that's working hard every day to do that but but yeah it's we to say that we're we're in a much different place than 2010 is is an understatement i think that while everything our distilling our retail business our office our everything everything was in 2500 square feet now we uh we occupy hundreds of thousands of square feet of warehouses and production buildings and we have uh a lot of employees that that are uh that are that are working in the business and families that are that are living out of the business it's it's a uh you know it other than other than my my my wife and my children it it's uh it's hard to be any prouder of of uh of old smokey i i'm uh i'm i'm really i'm glad to see what an impact it's it's been uh in our community and and our state and and you know you talked about the legislative changes early in in 2009 i think that we we um i'm not one to to toot my own horn but but i will say that that our success and what what you see is all smoky is is certainly a uh a testament to the work that they did to to create the new laws that that opened up the the industry in the state of tennessee yeah you're probably very um much encouraging people right now who are going through supply-side issues that it's like you can't overcome this you just have to uh to wait because of course we're having issues with that all over the country right now so has that harmed you at all or is that uh we we have seen we've seen some difficulties here and there but but uh i i think more in uh pricing you know we we've seen some pricing pressures it seems like everybody is is trying to take a little bit of price and and uh that's yeah it's it's a challenge we're facing right now as as a country on the hills of of coming through the pandemic and and uh the the big influx of of cash that that was put into the um to the economy over the last couple of years uh it's yeah we've got challenges we face i think from a business perspective um we we do see supply side issues you know whether it's the shipping and it but i think the reality is you know if you're in business you better have thick skin you know you talk about those pioneers those pioneers that came over in the in the 1700s into tennessee i think that are it's just the same you better have thick skin if you're going to get in business it's hard i have i have a running uh idea or joke you know that i'm my phone when it rings i know at least seems like once a day i'm going to get something that somebody might think of as really really that's really awful but it's you know in the reality of things it's like well that's as bad as it gets today yeah i think you're right we you know i think you're right if uh if if there's anybody out there that's facing those similar challenges i mean we're all in the same boat and you know we'll we'll figure it out so let's talk a little bit about whiskey and kind of your history with whiskey and also we were you guys twice tried to get some uh samples here for me which i greatly appreciate unfortunately supply side and unfortunately shipping services sometimes aren't 100 reliable but i will do a tasting on those on youtube uh once they come in i'm in i'm in greenville pretty up i'm in greenville every now and then so i will make a point of of uh bringing you something all right i'll hold you guys um one of the things that i do have here though was a bottle that i got while i was in nashville for your 10th anniversary when you did the um 153 proof and i know i'm saying 153 proof moonshine and and there are people going how do you even taste that i mean is it it's it's got to be like lighter fluid that it's uh so so powerful uh to to drink but i laugh because both you and and johnny both said very drinkable that that 153 proof this is very drinkable so i'm going to demonstrate that's good so talk a little bit about uh about your mash bills and do you um are you making corn moonshine or are you making moonshine that's a blend of different grains we both we so we we have we have products that are are all corn and then we we've done some some sugar wash some some uh mash bills that include sugar and corn and uh as as we've explored that we we've got the corn whiskey um the the 153 that you're trying there the blue flame and uh and then we've we've got uh a a few um a few formulas that we're working on um i'll be excited to tell you about uh uh soon that uh that we're we're we're hoping to push out and these are there's there's i think the history of moonshine has has been such that um you know in the early part of like let's say the late 1800s in in the smoky mountains there was access to corn because corn was being grown in the mountains but sugar was you know that that was not a commodity that was easily accessible and and so as as ingredients or the availability of ingredients changed and opened up you saw a move towards uh products that that were sugar based and and so our uh our products honor a lot of those those different uh pieces that were were developed along the way and and uh i am i'm partial to the corn whiskey it i just i think that it's uh and maybe it's it's uh maybe it's part of the the you know that uh what what i consider to be the the best representation of of who we are as a people and and and what uh what our whiskey heritage really you know where that really came from in the mountains but uh there's a place for all of it and and i think that the uh when we were celebrating the the the ten-year anniversary i i think to put that uh that product on the shelf at 153 proof it was a uh it was an effort to to show that you could put something out there that uh while it it certainly is um it's it is a very high proof product it's you know i think drinkable it sounds like a pretty generic and and vanilla term in some ways but but when you try it it's not what you would expect i think that sometimes when when people when when they when they think about drinking 153 proof anything it's it's you're right you think it's going to set your hair on you well and and and you're not thinking that there's going to be a lot of flavor there it's more about getting the bang out of the alcohol but the thing that i notice in in drinking it that it has a very strong corn note on the nose but once you go in and you put it on the pallet on the nose also don't take a big waft of it because it will burn your nose hairs but um when you put it on your palate the only thing that really tells me this is high proof is that there is kind of like a uh it's almost like it evaporates towards the end when it's uh when it's on your palate but on the front end uh you're you're getting like i get the the core note yes i get some of the herbal rye in there but i also get like a lemon uh citrus kind of a flavor out of it it's like the their flavor's there um and no i wasn't screaming when i first put it on my tongue but i also didn't take a mouthful of it uh yeah i got just enough of it to uh you know to be able to taste it and get an idea of of what it's like and so and and what i love about it is actually on the finish it's very very clean i mean it's you would think something like that is going to leave a very heavy note of something negative on your on your tongue but it doesn't it's just very clean yeah it's it's fun to uh to be able to to explore products like that that may be a uh a challenge just just on on on the face but uh but you're right it's it's a uh it's a product that it surprises you yeah in in the the way you process the the the liquid and and really you know how how it leaves you it's it's not a um it's not it's not what you think it would be yeah and i think a lot i think a lot of times these uh moonshiners think that they're making high-proof stuff because it has a really heavy alcohol taste to it and so they just assume that because it has a heavy alcohol flavor to it that it's got to be high proof and and couldn't be whereas this doesn't have an alcohol flavor to it really at all and yet it's 153 proof yeah i think a lot of it's got to do with just you know how how uh a lot of the distillers uh were were managing their their uh heads and tails and and what uh what was you know what was coming off that still was uh was uh you know not always managed well and and i think that that's that's one of the pieces of of where we are with with our products now is is with uh a little bit more sophistication in the process of how we make our our our whiskey it's you know we when we talk about moonshine and and whether it's yeah the the same as what uh you know maybe my my great great granddad might have made in in in the mountains versus what we do today i think that the reality is it is very much the same it's just process consistency and and being able to to manage your product in a way that you know what what the consumer is getting at the end of the day so it's um that that 153 i don't know if you had the blue flame while you were in town like the blue flame little little cup of it yeah that uh that was a my dad would uh i i remember uh as a kid he would always uh he would always be pouring a little into a spoon and burning whatever whatever he wanted he wanted to know if that the flame was burning blue and and you know he was certainly not uh he was not a trained chemist so i'm not sure that it meant anything scientific in his mind it was a uh it was a good test as to to you know what what the flavor and quality of that that product was and and so to honor that we we rolled out the the blue flame moonshine which is it's in a it's in a glass jar and the the glass is blue the liquid is clear okay and and it's a uh it's a product that uh it's sold it's sold at 128 and and it's it's a sugar and corn uh mash that uh it really it's again it's you know if you think the one the the product that you just tried is is approachable and drinkable that one you know you knock it down uh 20 20 points or so it's it really it's it's my favorite of our of our uh clear products and uh it's uh it's one that that i'm personally most proud of and a lot of it i think is probably just my association with my dad and the story there but but it's it's a uh it's a pretty good lineup of of clear spirits for sure yeah when you go into any of the old smokies it's almost a little bit of entertainment along with your pouring of your samples when you go in and um we when i was doing the tasting though i wanted to taste your blended whiskey because you do have a you do have a blended whiskey but is that something that you basically just kind of held to add flavors to and and you offer it but it's not really something that you focus on too much yeah you know our our whiskey offering has evolved over the years and and that was that was something that uh like you said we we with our flavored whiskies it was an important part of that that process and uh we're um it's not a focus the blended whiskey and and so i i think that it's probably i'm not even um i i should know this i don't even know if it's on the shelves right now but it's i haven't seen it so yeah yeah i could maybe i could maybe uh wrangle up a bottle but i think that it's uh that was you know as we have as we've grown up and evolved i think our our product lineup certainly has changed and in the blended whiskey uh as an offering by itself um that that uh that's one of those things that i think we've we've also kind of we've we've grown past um it's there's a place for it and and uh you you might still see it but it's uh we we really now are are becoming much more focused on um our uh our efforts behind the the james 1b the the bourbon and and then also the we we do make a and sell a tennessee whiskey that uh that sold as an old smoky tennessee whiskey and and you know the different different varieties that you'll see there but it's uh we we've uh yeah we started with just clear corn whiskey and and then the all the flavors evolved and then the whiskies the flavored whiskeys and and and now you know this is something i am a um i'm i'm one like i said i i'm not a a flavored flavor kind of guy i like the i like i like uh my bourbon neat i'm not a cocktail drinker and and so uh now as as we've been able to you know it's it's a tough business to jump in if you think you want to you want to get into the the bourbon business yeah if you're going to do it and lay down product and and you you're going to wait four years at least it's you know it's it's just i i think the the the investment that's required is uh is so significant that it's tough you know it's it's tough for any craft whiskey to exist or or to to be rolled out without without that whiskey being sourced at some point and i think that you know the the as our business has evolved we've been able to lay down whiskey and and create our own program but but it's a uh it's a challenge and and so um it just just like the the going from the blended whiskey to now having the the uh the james 1b or even the i think the the the bourbon that uh that you described i'd call it a baby bourbon maybe that that was just one of those small barrels that we were experimenting with those are those are all you know parts of that evolution and and uh um yeah it's again you get back to you know what what people want you you know i'm a i'm a label reader i like to know where where things came from and i like to to see you know where who was making it was it was its worst was it uh was this blended and yeah there are reasons behind all of that and there are some incredible um there are some incredible products out there that that are that are fully sourced and blended and and so we're you know we've been part of that process and and uh proud to to be able to to put out our own stuff though now um but the blended whiskey it had its place yes it's kind of it's it's shelf spaces is uh is given

so the uh let's talk about the james omb because as i was reading it uh on the label it says tennessee bourbon whiskey and whenever i see the name tennessee the first thing that's gonna pop into my mind is the lincoln county process and it's interesting to note that george dickel recently came out with a bourbon that is that does go through the lincoln county process kind of their way of saying hey look you know you it is bourbon and we're just putting it through that extra um that extra step is the james owen b a bourbon or is it a tennessee whiskey or or i should say is it a uh bourbon that goes through the lincoln county process it has yeah okay and i think that uh you know it's it's funny my my preference uh i

have there are there are uh critics of the lincoln county process and and uh and then there are those that celebrate it and and so i am uh um i'm of of the mind that there's there's space for for for both of those uh we we uh we actually we do both i think that the in some of the blending that uh that we do um you'll you'll see that that there are products that uh that have been um through the the lincoln county process and some that haven't but that that product has uh the product that you you talked about uh again in in nashville that uh uncle johnny let you try that that was that was not uh charcoal filtered and so uh um it is ours is that one the james one b it's everything that we've used is at least four years old uh most of it's uh over five years old and and uh you know it is a uh a heavy corn product with with uh the ryan barley but it is uh it is uh i i i would say uh 100 uh at least to date it has been charcoal filtered okay and it's and it's partially uh your spirit and some source spirit yeah we have we have sourced uh sourced whiskey that uh that that has been part of that uh that development and uh and as i said earlier we've laid down whiskey for a while so it's it's a uh you know it in and i think that uh there was time where where it was kind of an ugly uh ugly term to say that something was sourced but the reality is if if you're gonna if you're gonna make a product and and uh if you're gonna make it well and and consistent and be able to offer it to the market it's gonna happen i mean there's not a i i can't uh um you might be able to tell me some but i i can't tell you any any new bourbon brands that uh that have been created uh over the last 10 years or so that have just you know popped up with just started without yeah i mean a lot of them there are some uh you know some of the smaller operations that have held out but you're right there's an expense to sitting there for four years waiting for your spirits and and so a lot of them will either start out with vodka and gin and they can sell the vodka and gin they might make a moonshine and uh and that was something when i was talking to johnny you know it's really interesting that uh i said why didn't you guys do more whiskey and and he said well you know we make the moonshine we sell the moonshine we don't have to store the moonshine we don't have to go through all these extra processes and if you're selling enough moonshine then you know it's not a compelling reason to jump straight in and go through that extra process of having warehouses and you know dealing with the taxes and all the other stuff that you have to deal with i would have loved would have loved to started with a whiskey product as a as a fan but but the reality was i would have gone broke and i couldn't afford to i mean i just we didn't have the luxury and and uh i i couldn't i mean i i couldn't have i couldn't have afforded to to source one barrel of of of aged whiskey yeah in 20 so for us it was it was not a uh it wasn't even on our radar to be honest with you i think that we we we uh we made products that uh that that were um consistent with with uh our heritage in the mountains and and that was fortunately it was unaged product that was that was it and that's where we started and and i think since then you know we've been able to celebrate the other part of tennessee's history and in spirits with it with the aged uh the age stuff but it's it is it's tough and and uh my hat's off to everybody out in the the industry that's that's doing it you know and trying to to uh to to grow brands that uh that require aged product because it is it is a uh it's a it's a tough hill to climb absolutely so what would you say the availability is on the james omb product is it uh going to be everywhere old smokey is that or is it kind of more uh regional or it's it's at this point it's it's more regional we we're um we're tr we're trying to to just keep up it it's uh it has sold really well and and uh i i think that uh um you know it's again another challenge of of an aged product is you can't just you can't just keep ramping it up you know it's not it's not so i think that uh we're facing some some uh challenges there but uh at least in the near term it's it's certainly going to be more regional or local in in its availability yeah when you think about now the legacy that you're you've developed and it it seems like when we talk about legacy we're talking about 100 year legacy or what but i mean really the tennessee distilling era of uh of growth here in the last you know 12 to 14 years uh it's amazing to see all that has gone on and then if you go to gatlinburg now you see a lot of places that are doing moonshine uh i went into king's distillery and uh you know justin king was there at old smokey at uh at one point so i mean how does it feel for you now seeing where the industry is and uh and the growth at this point overall even beyond old smokey yeah i'm super proud of it you know i i think that uh the the market is uh is such that uh i i feel like you know it's easy to be to be uh protective and and feel like you know the competition is gonna be a real real negative for us and and i think but the reality is and and what i've seen and i think this is just maybe uh me evolving and maturing as as a as a person as a business owner but uh to see the industry thrive to see more jobs created to see more people uh be able to to build businesses that feed their families it's and to celebrate a a part of the culture here in the state i'm not sure that uh uh there there can be much better than than create creating opportunity and and uh and success for not not only for businesses but you know that leads to revenue and jobs so it's i think the impact has has been terrific and i i i'm excited to see other distilleries do well with with their products and and you know whether that's in in gatlinburg or sevier county where where we're from or or you know many many other places across the state there's some terrific things that are happening in the spirits industry in the state of tennessee and and uh i'm proud that we're we're part of that and certainly that we were we were kind of first to the game under this uh under the new laws that that opened that up 12 years ago and and what a what a what a great thing for for the state of tennessee to see to see the evolution and and the growth in in an industry that that really like you say it was limited to to three distilleries prior to 2010 and and now we're you know we're we're one of many so it's it's great to see it you know in in the story just even with justin justin uh was was one of our our first uh team members at old smokey and uh before that he was he was a good family friend and is and and uh uh a a cousin i i joke it's it's you know we if you're if you're from one of you know the let's call it the the the five or ten families that were in sevier county in in the the early late 1800s early 1900s you're you're related

my kids get a kick out of uh how many cousins i have and so and how many cousins they have now to so it's it's uh but i love that i love that justin's done well and and uh he's really making a good impact in the in the in the industry and we're seeing that you know we've got people that have worked at old smokey that that are are now employed in a lot of places across the state and uh doing well within within the industry yeah well joe i really appreciate you taking the time i've been uh ever since i talked to johnny i've been like i would love to get joe on the show to kind of give us those early days and and because we now think of old smokey we see it on the shelves everywhere and you just uh kind of take for granted that it's there and you don't really think about all the struggles that it took to to get through that and that really even though it seems like it's been there for a long time it these this is still a very young industry in tennessee so uh it's it's fun to hear the stories and i i really appreciate you sharing them no it's it's my great pleasure and and uh proud that uh that our brand now is is a part of part of this great podcast so thank you oh thank you

Listen To More Interviews