We always enjoy checking out newly discovered breweries/distilleries Recently, we were told about a successful family distillery that offers free tours and tastings close by. When we found out that their original location was located in a former school-house at base of the Cumberland Mountain Range, we knew we had to go. Recently,our hometown decided to turn a former school campus into a beer campus called Campus No. 805, which left more than a few people curious as how that was going to work out. So, we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to actually see how this successful Prichard’s Distillery used their space.
Where is Prichard’s Distillery located?
Prichard’s Distillery has two locations: the original distillery is located in Kelso, TN and the newest one near Nashville, TN. The location near Nashville, TN (Barbara Mandrell’s former estate) is a bigger facility that includes both a restaurant and Inn. Ideally, one could make a weekend trip out of visiting both locations. Since we were interested to see the distillery in the old school-house and had limited time, we decided to tour the distillery in Kelso, TN that operates out of a red brick school that was built in 1939 and closed in 1979.
What makes the Prichard’s Distillery in Kelso, TN unique?
Even though the building has been re-purposed as a distillery, it still feels very much like a school. Former classrooms now serve as welcoming, bottling, and tasting areas. A former office serves as the purchasing/check out room. Basketball hoops still hang in the former gym that now serve as the shipping and receiving area. In this decidedly non-corporate place, it manages quite well to come together to be the quaint small batch craft distillery it is.
What happens when you arrive?
When you first walk into the entryway, it feels like arriving at someone’s home. This is refreshing because it has a such an un-corporate feel to it and you feel like special guests. We just walked in and found our way to the office to inquire what the process was to take a tour. We were told the next tour would start within the next 20 minutes and to make ourselves comfortable in the welcome area. This gave us a few minutes to walk around, take some pictures and look at the products on display. Our favorite part of this room was how their entire alcohol product line was proudly displayed, on a former teacher’s desk in the front and center of the room. After a few minutes other people started to arrive followed by our guide. Our guide introduced himself and then put on a video for us to watch that described the history of the distillery. After the video was over, the tour started.
What do I see on the tour?
The tour lasted about 30 minutes, which was perfect for this size of a distillery. Our guide was very knowledgeable and was able to answer any question anyone threw at him. The tour was a basic overview of the business that covered every step in the process-from making the batches of product, storage and shipping. We started with the shipping and receiving center in the old gymnasium. Everyone was fascinated by the basketball hoops that are still hanging. Next, we followed our guide outside to view the holding barrels then to the old maintenance building to see where the bronze stills are located that do the heart of the distilling work. We were then led back inside to the bottling room and finished in the tasting room, which were both old classrooms. We learned the key factor that distinguishes Prichard’s rum from Caribbean rum, Prichard’s uses table quality molasses to make rum instead of the black strap molasses that is often used for Caribbean rum. Our guide also explained how being a small batch craft distillery lends well to experimentation and allows them to keep experimenting with flavors.
The opportunity to check out the building and the free tour and tastings made it a great day trip. One cool thing we learned during the tasting is that their most popular product, the Sweet Lucy liqueur (70 proof), is so popular a portion of every sale is donated to the non-profit A Soldier’s Child. We were told by an acquaintance to make the trip just to try and buy their key lime rum, but at the end of the tasting, we left with a mix of several different kinds of rum, whiskey and liqueurs. This distillery is about 15 miles from Jack Daniels Distillery, so make this stop a priority on your next trip to Lynchburg, TN.