American Whiskey:
April 28, 2011 -- Tennessee Whiskey Country

Collier & McKeel
The Tennessee Distilling Company

Nashville, Tennessee

The odds are pretty good that you haven’t heard of this Tennessee whiskey... yet.
But you will.

We “discovered” this distillery completely by accident. We are visiting the Nashville portion of Corsair Artisan, a new (at least to us, in 2011) company that is making a successful start in the business of distilling and marketing American spirits. They have an unusual arrangement, whereby they ferment their mash and run the first distillation at their facility in Nashville, Tennessee, and then distill what will become straight whiskey again in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where they also barrel and age it.

While we are visiting  their Nashville location, we notice there is another still here, along with some other equipment, such as a neat wooden (oak?) fermenting tank. These belong to Collier & McKeel (actually the Tennessee Distilling Company), which shares the same room with Corsair. Other than their mutual location, and the general camaraderie of the people working here, the two companies are not related. They each have and use their own equipment, weaving their way in and out of each others' areas the same way family members would do at home. Where else but in the world of whiskeymaking does such a thing occur. Yes, that's why we love it.

The Tennessee Distilling Company makes their spirit differently from Corsair Artisan. Where the latter is focused on creating new and (hopefully) trendy spirits, Collier & McKeel is intended to appeal to those seeking old-line traditional values. Especially as those values concern Tennessee whiskey and the maple charcoal leeching process most people associate with it. Their still is a bit larger, and includes a column – several feet long – filled with maple charcoal, through which their distillate trickles before barreling or bottling (depending on which product is being made; they have both a unaged spirit and are aging barreled spirit now).

Collier & McKeel is new; really new. As of spring 2011, they have distribution only in some parts of Tennessee, so you haven’t heard about them. But you will. Our conversation with the their distiller, and the serious, thoughtful information on their web page convinces us that this will be a brand of importance in the near future. Unfortunately, we have tasted only the new-make being distilled today; they have no aged product available yet. But the new make is terrific.

Stay tuned…



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Story and original photography ©1998-99 by John F. Lipman. All rights reserved.