Tennessee hills Distillery releases new gin, plans for expansion to Johnson City

Hannah Swayze • Feb 17, 2019 at 10:57 PM

Tennessee Hills Distillery has just released a local gin made right here in the Tri-Cities. 

Stephen Callahan, owner of the Jonesborough distillery, released the newest of the distillery’s craft spirit this past weekend: the Hellcat gin.

While the distillery produces its own rum, vodka, whiskey and other specialty liquors, this is the business’ first gin. 

Gin is, in simplest terms, a neutral spirit that has been flavored with juniper berries and other - usually botanical flavors like rose hips, chamomile or coriander. The only requirement for a gin to actually be a gin is the juniper berries. After that, the other flavors are up to the creator.

Most gins have a very distinct taste similar to what people describe as pinecones or evergreen trees. Popular gin drinks include a gin and tonic, a gin fizz and gin martinis.

So, since the distillery already had their own vodka, Callahan decided that the next step was to create and stock a gin. 

So to figure out what they wanted their gin to taste like, the Tennessee Hills Distillery team did some research.

“We went out, we bought all these popular gins and we had to decide what made those gins popular what did people like about them and then we tried to isolate that flavor or that aroma, “ said Callahan.

What Callahan ended up with is a gin with citrus notes and cucumber.

“A lot of people don’t like the pinecone taste, right?” said Callahan. “So what I did was I toned that down to about half and then we added a lot of citrus notes — orange peels, lemon peels, lime peels. And then to just kind of put our touch on it, we infused it with cucumber.”

Callahan said that he believes gin is an up-and-coming spirit and wanted to create something easy for people to drink and easy for bartenders to make a craft cocktail with. The aim was for something that would create a nice cocktail in warm weather. 

“We had to come up with a gin that kind of eased people into the idea of gin,” Callahan said. 

Hellcat will become one of the distillery’s regular offerings of over 13 craft spirits. 

All the Tennessee Hills Distillery products are made and distributed from the business’ historic location in downtown Jonesborough. An old salt house, the sturdy old building sits right next to the train tracks. According to Callahan, the building’s elevator is also the oldest working lift in Tennessee.

Callahan also said the distillery is in the process of opening a new location in Johnson City that will be open to the public closer to the fall. He has yet to reveal the actual location, but said it will be downtown. 

Customers can try Hellcat and other offerings in their tasting room in the Jonesborough location. Their hours are Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. 

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