After almost two years of renovations to their building, Stephen and Jessica Callahan opened Tennessee Hills Distillery in May of 2016. Stephen grew up in the alcohol business and was fortunate to find his passion early in life. He was only 26 years old when he opened the distillery. Prior to opening the Distillery Stephen and Jessica worked in research and development at Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, while having degrees in science the art of making spirits came natural to Stephen. In 2014, while eating at a country restaurant, Stephen and Jessica overheard that the “Salt House” was going to be available. The next day Stephen called the mayor, Kelly Wolfe, and pitched his idea for a new business in Jonesborough. Fortunately, the idea was well received and after al- most a year of red tape they were able to start producing right in the middle of downtown Jonesborough.
Tennessee Hills Distillery is not your average distillery; they re- ally pride themselves on steering away from the “moonshine gimmick” because they want to demonstrate the art and craftsmanship that goes into making quality spirits. They don’t feel the need to wear straw hats and overalls to sell their products; therefore, they like to think “the proof is in the pudding”. Their theory is that if they produce a good spirit, people will drink it, and so far, they’ve been right. They started production in 2016 with an emphasis on rum. Rum is simple to make and flavored rums could successfully compete with moon- shine companies; and the thing that they can do that moonshine companies can’t is age their rum to create a more elegant, unique, and authentic product. They’ve done an outstanding job converting whiskey drinks to rum drinkers. Unlike most businesses that start out by releasing a 4-8-year-old bourbon, Tennessee Hills Distillery started producing an un-aged corn whiskey that is produced using local corn, barley, and rye.
Opening a Distillery in the oldest town in Tennessee was not an easy task, Stephen recalls churches calling his parents and telling them that he was “bringing the devil to town.” They also had to go through 4 months of rezoning meetings for alcohol production and had to wait another 9 months for the federal government to issue a permit to start producing. Their entire life saving was depleted before even producing a drop of alcohol. Tennessee Hills Distillery is now well into their second year of operation and are very humbled by the sup- port they have received by their local community. They believe that the people of Jonesborough, Washington County and surrounding East Tennessee that supported them are just as much a part of their business as they are.
Within just one year of being in business they ranked number one on Trip Advisor, above the Inter- national Storytelling Center. Their business has become the biggest attraction and tourist destination in the Tri-Cities. They were also voted Reader’s Choice in the Johnson City Press for the best distillery in East Tennessee. Not only that, but they tied with Ole Smoky in a poll taken by Blue Ridge Magazine in their best of the mountains edition, as well as, winning 3rd place in a nation-wide spirit competition called the “Washington Cup.” They have consistently had 5-star rating across the board because they strive for excellent customer ser- vice with their belief being above average=excellence. Another core belief of theirs is that “Rising Tides Floats All Ships!”
At Tennessee Hills Distillery they embrace their heritage by incorporating age-old recipes and the finest locally grown ingredients to ensure premium quality. They have a passion for distilling products that are unique and authentic to the Tennessee Hills and they invite you to try a sip of their time-honored spirits today at 127 Fox St, Jonesborough, TN 37659.
By Katlin Buchanan