When temperatures drop and winter weather sweeps through the Smokies, it’s time to warm up from the inside out. The Smoky Mountains have long been known as a moonshiner’s paradise, and that history runs deep. Remote caves and hard to reach spots high up in the mountains are littered with abandoned remnants of stills from a century ago.
When laws changed and moonshine was brought out into the daylight, legal distilleries popped up all throughout the mountains. Now you get to taste some of the area’s best moonshine and whiskey when you visit. So, when snowflakes swirl across the peaks and your breath hangs in the air, get into the winter spirit with a winter spirit. Check out these top spots to find a hot toddy in the Smoky Mountains and get ready to heat up what’s in your cup.
With a nod to Haywood County’s median elevation of 3,600 feet (the highest of any county in the eastern US), Elevated is run by third generation whiskey makers, Dave and Sue Angel. For decades, moonshiners have taken advantage of the high-altitude pristine mountain springs to produce some of the purest moonshine in the Smoky Mountains. And now you can tour the corn-to-whiskeya process at Elevated to learn how it’s made. Their custom pot and towering 23-foot column still take the process to the next level. In addition to tours and tastings of whiskey and moonshine, take the stage for karaoke on Thursday evenings or enjoy live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
3732 Soco Rd, Maggie Valley, NC 28751 | 828-944-0766
Belly up to the bar at this award-winning distillery in Gatlinburg, TN. Sugarlands is keeping Tennessee’s moonshine history alive with a modern twist. They stay true to their roots by following traditional heritage recipes dating back to the Smoky Mountains’ classic moonshine days, while adding in fresh flavors for the more contemporary palates. Take a still house tour to go behind the scenes for a first-hand look at the art and science of distilling, then finish off with a tasting. Warm up with their time-tested classics, or try original flavors like Blueberry Muffin, Maple Bacon, or Apple Pie. Afterwards, hang around on the back patio for some free live music from talented local bands and touring acts.
805 Parkway Gatlinburg, TN 37738 | 865-325-1355
Inspired by Pigeon Forge’s historic past – and the iron forge from which the city gets its name – Old Forge Distillery produces moonshine made from the area’s pure mountain spring water and freshly ground grains. Their signature drink, 1830 Original Unaged Corn Moonshine, pays homage to the year that the area’s historic grist mill was built. Their copper column stills make innovative small batch spirits, extracting the grain’s natural flavors that result in award-winning moonshine. Try the Oatmeal Cookie, Vanilla Bean, or French Toast. You can also sip bourbon, rum, vodka, and cream liqueur at their tasting bar. Be sure to stop by the gift store before you leave to pick up a handcrafted moonshine jug or hand forged knife made by the resident blacksmith.
170 Old Mill Avenue, Pigeon Forge, TN 37868 | 865-774-4126
Tennessee’s first legal (and largest) moonshine distillery is Ole Smoky. With two locations in Gatlinburg and one in Pigeon Forge, they have made a lasting mark as a leader in moonshine and whiskey production. Featuring over 20 different types of moonshine, there’s something for everyone at Ole Smoky. Sample flavors like Apple Pie, Sweet Tea, Cinnamon, and Eggnog. Or try their 16 whiskey varieties from 35 to 100 proof that will keep you warm during the cold winter months. Go with a classic straight bourbon whiskey or have some fun with a mango habanero or peanut butter whiskies. Take a behind-the-scenes tour to see how the moonshine’s made, and stick around for free concerts, where you just might hear big-name acts like Easton Corbin or the Soggy Bottom Boys.
Ole Smoky Barn | 131 The Island Drive Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler | 903 Parkway, Unit 128 Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Ole Smoky Barrelhouse 650 Parkway Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Named after local legendary bootlegger, William “Doc” Collier, this unassuming distillery in Gatlinburg is part distillery, part tasting room, and all delicious spirit. Doc, born in 1878 on English Mountain, got his nickname from selling his moonshine for medicinal purposes. His “mountain dew” was known as the best in the area due to his use of English Mountain’s fresh spring water. In fact, all of the moonshine at Doc Collier’s Distillery starts from that very same water source, which his family still owns the rights to today. Warm up inside this old country store atmosphere with unaged corn whiskey flavors like Greenbrier Apple, Blackberry, and Firecracker.
519 Parkway Gatlinburg, TN 37738 | 865-325-1468