published Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Tennessee Whiskey Festival celebrates state's distillers — Sept. 21

IF YOU GO

• What: Tennessee Whiskey Festival

• When: 6-11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21

• Where: First Tennessee Pavilion, 1829 Reggie White Blvd.

• Admission: $45 general, $100 VIP. Tickets include a commemorative glass, whiskey tastings, complimentary food samples and Tennessee whiskey passport to track tastings. VIP tickets add parking, private bar and private viewing area at stage

• Website: www.tnwhiskeyfestival.com

TENNESSEE DISTILLERS

• Chattanooga Whiskey Co.

• Corsair Artisan (Nashville)

• Gatlinburg Barrelhouse

• George Dickel (Tullahoma)

• Jack Daniel Distillery (Lynchburg)

• Nelson's GreenBrier Distillery (Greenbrier)

• Ole Smoky Distillery (Gatlinburg)

• Prichard's Distillery (Kelso)

• Short Mountain Distillery (Woodbury)

• Speakeasy Spirits (Nashville)

• Sugarlands Distilling Co. (Gatlinburg)

Schedule

• 5:30 p.m. Doors open

• 6 p.m. Whiskey tasting begins

• 7 p.m. Ten Bartram

• 9 p.m. Robinella

THE BENEFICIARY

The Hart Gallery is a nonprofit organization that supplies art materials and volunteers to offer art classes and art therapy to other nonprofits. Promising artists are sponsored and their work sold in the gallery, with 60 percent of proceeds going to the artist, 10 percent to the charity of the artist's choosing and 30 percent to cover gallery materials and upkeep. More info is available at www.hartgallerytn.com.

If there are two things that Joe Ledbetter likes, it's whiskey and Chattanooga, ideally whiskey made here.

About a year ago, the co-founder of Chattanooga Whiskey Co. did a bit of Internet sleuthing and uncovered a surprising tidbit. Jack Daniel, long the Volunteer State's preeminent whiskey distiller, hadn't trademarked rights to the name Tennessee Whiskey Festival.

Even though he'll happily sip a finger or two of Old No. 7, Ledbetter says there was no way he was going to stand by and wait for the Lynchburg-based distiller to swoop in and claim what he saw as a golden opportunity.

"Being the nerd that I am, I grabbed it up," he says. "If I own it, it's going to be in Chattanooga. I don't want to have it in Lynchburg."

Saturday, Sept. 21, he will get his wish when the inaugural Tennessee Whiskey Festival opens its doors to an anticipated crowd of about 3,000.

If that attendance seems like an ambitious estimate for a first-year event, Ledbetter says he's based it on the turnout for similar events, such as the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, Ky., and the local Southern Brewers Festival, each of which attracts more than 10,000 guests annually.

Attending whiskey enthusiasts will be given a special commemorative tasting glass bearing the festival logo and samples of foods from local restaurants. Admission also includes a "passport" to track their progress through the free samples.

Ledbetter says the 11 attending companies represent almost every craft distiller in the state, from giants such as Jack Daniel and George Dickel to small-barrel outfits such as Gatlinburg Barrelhouse and Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, which will sample white lightning blends such as blackberry, lemon drop and apple pie.

Music will be provided by Knoxville-based artists Robinella and Ten Bartram.

All proceeds from the event will benefit Southside charitable arts organization the Hart Gallery. Donating funds to a worthy group and giving back to the community that helped Chattanooga Whiskey Co. win its lengthy legal battle to bring distilling back to the area should make the event even more meaningful, Ledbetter says.

"It's another thing to bring to our city," he says. "If we can do something cool and have a good night and listen to some great music and drink some great whiskey and then give $100,000 to the Hart Gallery, I think that's a good day."

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

  • photo
    Company owners Tim Piersant, left, and Joe Ledbetter are moving forward with plans to distill Chattanooga Whiskey in Hamilton County, now that Tennessee lawmakers have passed a law allowing it.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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