Whiskey is to Tennessee as bourbon is to Kentucky. Therefore, finding a whiskey trail in Tennessee isn’t too much of a surprise. Well, what about a spirits trail in Tennessee that features not only the state’s signature beverage but also wine and beer? Such a concept exists in Williamson County, Tennessee and it’s called the Masters & Makers Trail.
Williamson County is a scenic area south of Nashville, home to historic and quaint hamlets like Franklin and Leiper’s Fork which are becoming increasingly popular as vacation destinations. The much smaller towns boast an impressive number of music venues, excellent dining options, and boutique accommodations. But unlike Nashville, there is not much glitz in Franklin and Leiper’s Fork. No rowdy honky tonks and bright lights. Instead, a down-home Americana feel and a genuine back-porch vibe is abundant.
That vibe is what brought numbers of new residents to Williamson County. I learned stories of families that visited the region on vacation and decided to move there permanently including head brewers, master distillers, and vintners. The Masters & Makers Trail became a reality as a way for visitors to see more of Williamson County and sample the region’s craft spirits. And a brilliant reality it is. The Trail allows visitors to become immersed in the local flavors while showing off the picturesque landscape of Williamson County.
There are five stops on the Masters & Makers Trail: one winery; two distilleries; and two breweries, covering more than 70 miles.
Arrington Vineyards has become “Nashville’s wine country” and is a destination all on its own. Visitors flock to Arrington Vineyards to enjoy the scenery and have a picnic in the grass (tables are also available). Being so close to Nashville, it should come as no surprise that country music star Kix Brooks is part owner of the vineyard. And the music influence doesn’t stop there. On weekends from April through November, Arrington Vineyards hosts “Music In The Vines,” a free live music experience showcasing local artists. As for the wine, Arrington offers 18 award-winning reds, whites, and dessert wines. Tours and tastings are offered every day on a walk-in basis Monday through Thursday, and by reservation for the Premiere Experience on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, which includes a tour and food and wine tastings for $50 per person.
H Clark Distillery
“We trust in tradition” is the motto of the H Clark Distillery. Their commitment to this statement starts with the building which they occupy. The old town granary of Thompson’s Creek houses the production facility and the tasting room. Founder Heath Clark thought it fitting that they operate in the same building which stored grains generations ago. Today, H Clark Distillery uses grains from local farmers to hand craft small batches of Tennessee bourbon, gin, new whiskey, and Black & Tan whiskey. Most noteworthy is that when H Clark Distillery opened in 2014, it became the first legal distillery in Williamson County in more than 100 years. H Clark Distillery offers tours Monday-Friday 11-4; Saturday 12-4; Sunday 12-4.
Leiper’s Fork Distillery
Situated on 27 scenic acres in Williamson County, Leiper’s Fork Distillery is as visually appealing as its spirits are pleasing to the palate. For owner Lee Kennedy, opening his distillery in 2016 was the culmination of a life-long dream and also a tribute to the time-honored traditions of Tennessee whiskey. For example, a 200-year-old cabin, built by one of the area’s earliest settlers and moved to its current location, is the focal point of the distillery. The cabin was restored and is now home to the distillery’s retail shop, tasting room, and business offices. The newly built 5,000-square-foot timber frame stillhouse sits behind the cabin. In that stillhouse resides Ginger, the 500-gallon swan-neck still imported from Scotland. Coming out of that stillhouse are premium whiskeys made with local grains and pure limestone-filtered water. Tours are conducted every day of the week and can be booked via the distillery’s website.
Mill Creek Brewing Co.
The story of Mill Creek Brewing Co. starts with homebrewer Chris Going on a mission to create beers that his family and friends would not just drink, but would enjoy. It’s safe to say Going was successful, as Mill Creek Brewing Co. was born shortly thereafter. Going and his team, including female brewmaster Becky Hammond, operate by the motto of “Less fuss. More beer.” Mill Creek Brewing Co. proudly asserts that their beers are “never overwhelming” and are perfect for any occasion, from a night out with friends to a dinner party with your boss. Tours of Mill Creek Brewing Co. are available on Saturdays, 12-5. The taproom is located in Mill Creek’s 27,500-square foot brewing facility and is open Thursday and Friday, 4-9 and Saturday, 12-9; and is family- and pet-friendly.
Mantra Artisan Ales
Located just a few minutes from downtown Franklin, Mantra Artisan Ales fully embraces brewing as a mixture of art and science. The results are creative, world-inspired beers, conceived and produced by a team consisting of a brewmaster nicknamed “mad scientist” and a restaurant chef. Mantra Artisan Ales are produced seasonally and are more focused on intention and inspiration than style. A couple of the unique Mantra Artisan Ales are Tijuana Come Over (breakfast stout with cinnamon, chili, vanilla, and coconut) and Biere de Bain (lemon lavender sour). Tours are available every Saturday on the hour, 3-6. Taproom hours are Monday-Thursday, 3-9; Friday, 3-10; Saturday, 12-10; Sunday, 12-6.
- Since the Masters & Makers Trail covers more than 70 miles of Williamson County, transportation is necessary. If driving on your own, PLEASE do not drink and drive.
- Masters & Makers Trolley Tours by Hello Trolley, based in Franklin, are available for groups.
- Make your home base one of the adorable Pot N’ Kettle Cottages in Leiper’s Fork.