Inaugural whiskey celebration will include national
brands, craft distilleries, local breweries and restaurants
"TOWNSEND, Tenn. – Whiskey lovers from East Tennessee and beyond are invited to attend an unprecedented event in Blount County on the first Saturday in November. Grains and Grits, a celebration of Southern spirits and gourmet grub, will bring more than two dozen Tennessee distilleries to the Townsend Visitors’ Center for its inaugural event on Saturday, November 5.
The festival showcases a who’s-who of Tennessee whiskey legends, including Jack Daniels Master Distiller Jeff Arnett, who will be participating in his first-ever East Tennessee tasting, and other national whiskey names such as George Dickel. A bevy of craft distillers from throughout the state will also sample their spirits to attendees, including Old Forge, Popcorn Sutton, Thunder Road and Chattanooga Whiskey.
“Grains and Grits is a chance for whiskey enthusiasts to enjoy the widest variety of Tennessee distilleries to ever gather in one location,” said Tennessee Distillers Guild President Kris Tatum, who is also general manager of Old Forge Distillery in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. “It’s an invaluable experience for anyone who appreciates this treasured Tennessee export.”
Grains and Grits is being arranged and hosted by the Tennessee Distillers Guild and the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority (SMTDA).
“Blount County is eager to welcome distilleries and whiskey enthusiasts to Townsend for this event,” said SMTDA Director of Tourism Kim Mitchell. “This will be a one-of-a-kind experience for whiskey makers and tasters alike.”
While Tennessee whiskey serves as the event’s focus, there will be plenty of offerings for non-whiskey-drinkers. Several area restaurants will serve food, and many area breweries and wineries will be in attendance. World-renowned resort Blackberry Farm will serve both food and beer. Live music will provide a backdrop for the celebration.
Grains and Grits is an opportunity for distillers to connect with customers face to face, and nearly two dozen of them have signed up to offer samples at the event.
“To be able to talk to people one-on-one is one of the favorite things about my job,” said Popcorn Sutton Distilling’s Master Blender, Allisa Henley. “You get instantaneous feedback, and people associate the product with you personally, which is rewarding.”
What do guests stand to gain from the experience?
“The opportunity to try new things and meet the people behind the distilleries and get that one-on-one contact,” Henley said. “I think Grains and Grits is an education of what Tennessee distilleries have to offer. We have distilleries that make Tennessee whiskey, moonshine, gins and vodkas, and I don’t think a lot of people realize how many distilleries our state has.”
Just over 10 years ago, brothers Charlie and Andy Nelson would have been more likely to attend this event as tasters rather than representing a distillery. But when they discovered two preserved bottles of their triple-great-grandfather’s whiskey during a routine trip to Greenbrier, Tennessee, they realized their calling – to extend his legacy into the 21st centuryby resurrecting Nelson's Green Brier Distillery, dormant since prohibition. They will represent the embodiment of that dream and their acclaimed spirits at Grains and Grits.
“Face-to-face interaction with the consumer is the most energizing and exciting experience for us, and it gives us the chance to tell our story and let the customer ask direct questions,” said Andy Nelson. “This event specifically is in a beautiful area, and I'm very excited to visit Townsend again.”
Grains and Grits represents more than a chance for whiskey lovers to experience the finest spirits in Tennessee; it’s also a meeting of the minds for distillers, who enjoy unique competitive camaraderie.
“The industry is very large, but it has a very small feel to it,” said Henley. “It has a family feel where everyone looks out for each other. I really enjoy that.”
“The distillers and makers have a sort of internal understanding of the day-to-day struggles and experiences that come with running a distillery and it fosters a special bond,” said Nelson. “Of course, sitting around drinking whiskey with familiar friends doesn't hurt!”
Tickets for Grains and Grits are $60 online and $70 the day of the event, and VIP parking is $10. They can be purchased at GrainsAndGritsFest.com. The website also includes more information about the event."
- Press Release