How to 'bourbon' your way through Franklin
Franklin gets a lot of credit for her many charms. Great shopping, eating, and, of course, music is plentiful here. However, for us whiskey buffs, one feature we don't feel is focused on enough is what a great whiskey town we are. Living in a great whiskey town gives me plenty of great content for my podcast, The PodCask: A Podcast About Whiskey. My co-host, the Greeze, and I are both long-time Franklin residents. In honor of “National Bourbon Day,” we put together a list of our top reasons why Franklin is a great whiskey town.
Downtown Franklin Whiskey Walk
We at the PodCask have a secret pub crawl which we have dubbed “The downtown Franklin Whiskey Walk.” Within just a few blocks on our beautiful historic Main Street, you have multiple hotspots for whiskey neat and in cocktails. The food at these places is also unbeatable, which you’ll need to go along with your Whiskey Walk. Also, it’s very easy to snag an Uber or Lyft in downtown Franklin, after this great walk.
Start off at 55 South for some raw oysters on the half-shell and check their chalkboard for your whiskey of choice. I also love the Lunch Break cocktail. It’s a twist on the old southern classic of Coca-cola with roasted salted peanuts, but this one is spiked with Jack Daniels.
Next head off to Gray’s on Main to have their award-winning Anthym Spirit cocktail, which was rated best whiskey cocktail of 2014 by Restaurant Hospitality magazine. It’s a delicious mix of Rye, Apricot Brandy, Cynar, Benedictine, House Chai Tea Bitters, and is a personal favorite of my co-host, the Greeze. There are several other fantastic whiskey-based cocktails on the menu, and while you're sitting at the bar, you can gaze out at the beautiful Main Street. Also, I highly recommend the Fried Pimento Cheeseballs with Moonshine Pepper Jelly for another snack.
Don't go far as next door, O' Be Joyful, is downtown Franklin's only exclusivly whiskey bar. Nestled in a historic Main Street building the upscale pub takes its name from the name given to the libations they had with them on the battlefields during the Civil War. With a whiskey list of over 150 that is frequently changing and adding special release and hard to find bottles, this is where you head to try a pour of that whiskey you've always wanted to try but couldn't find. Pair your favorite pour with the Pimento Burger that combines pimento cheese, pimento bacon jam, and sorghum slaw into one of the best burgers in Franklin.
Just down the block is Red Pony. Downstairs is a traditional bar and upstairs is a smaller bar with some couches to lounge on. To beat the Tennessee heat, try the refreshing Porch Swing cocktail. It has bourbon, Pimms, and peach brandy. If you're ready for some old whiskey, spring for the Rhetoric 22-year-old bourbon. Try the Snack Plate of house-cured meats, cheeses, and pickled vegetables, which pairs very well with whiskey.
Wind down the walk at Cork & Cow, back near where you started. While their cocktails are excellent, I have a hard time not geeking out about their extensive whiskey list. Three I recommend on this list are Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Hancock’s President’s Reserve Single Barrel, and Willett Family Estate Rye… however, you really can’t go wrong with anything on their list, and they are constantly getting new things, too.
Another key point to this list is you can have a fantastic meal along the way at any of these places. Make sure to take advantage of that.
Best Whiskey Shops
One of my favorite things in the world of bourbon is a quality single barrel pick. This is when a distillery offers the chance for a single barrel to be picked by a store. The store will taste barrels and pick its favorite; then the store will receive as many bottles as that barrel contained to sell out of their shop. It creates a very unique, one-of-a-kind offering of familiar brands like Four Roses, Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, Russel’s Reserve, Buffalo Trace, and Whistle Pig. This town is home to some of the best store picks I’ve come across.
My absolute favorite shop is Carothers Wine & Sprits. Justin, who runs the place, has one of the best whiskey palates out there, and every barrel he picks is special. He focuses on bringing in these unique expressions and is constantly getting new barrels in. Also, they always have a bottle of their store picks open for you to try. Red Dog, Bottle Shop at McEwan, Grapevine, and Elixir Sprits in Spring Hill also have great store picks coming through their shops constantly.
Williamson County is home to two distilleries. They offer not only a picturesque scene but also a fantastic whiskey. H Clark Distillery in Thompson’s Station is now offering a unique, four-grain bourbon distilled and aged right here in Williamson County. This means that the mash which they distill includes corn, rye, wheat, and barley. They offer tours Monday—Saturday of their distillery.
About 15 minutes away is the Leiper’s Fork Distillery. They offer tours Tuesday—Saturday at their beautiful facilities. They currently offer Old Natchez Trace White Whiskey distilled at the facility and a sourced bourbon called Hunter’s Select Tennessee Bourbon, as they wait for their bourbon and Tennessee whiskey to age five to seven years. The gift shop is housed in a cabin built in the 1820s, so you're walking through history as you enjoy your whiskey.
Even though the big boys may be in the state to the north of us, they don't hesitate to drive down south to meet us in our hometown. Franklin is home to two of the finest whiskey events in the country: Whiskey Warmer and Southern Whiskey Society.
Whiskey Warmer is held annually in the Westhaven neighborhood of Franklin. We had the privilege of podcasting live at the 2017 Whiskey Warmer. It was an unforgettable, snowy March night, where we talked with representatives of some of the most recognizable bourbon brands in the country. Oh yeah, and they brought whiskey… lots and lots of whiskey!
A relative newcomer to the whiskey event scene is Southern Whiskey Society, hosted by our good friend Chris Thomas of Made South. Chris has a passion for showcasing the South’s finest makers and artisans. Going along with that, he created an event for some of the greatest of Southern artisans: distillers. He brings in over 30 of the South’s finest distillers and 10 of the South’s finest chefs for an unforgettable day at the Factory at Franklin each year. Let's just say some of the pours here are truely once in a lifetime pours. We do live podcasts from the event and it has quickly become a must for any whiskey lover on the Franklin social calendar.
Hopefully, you take time out of this extremely important national holiday to enjoy some of Franklin’s great whiskey offerings. If you're not familiar with us, check us out at www.thepodcask.com, and we certainly hope to see you at some of these fine Franklin whiskey events. They certainly make us a great whiskey town.