At last month’s Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, Tenn., I visited many companies featuring their brewing and filling equipment, packaging solutions, and beer ingredients. During an extended stay in “Music City,” my husband and I toured the Pennington Distilling Co. (PDC), which prides itself on authenticity and creating hand-crafted spirits that embody the same characteristics as the city where it all began.
Founded in 2011 by husband-and-wife Jeff and Jenny Pennington, PDC, formerly known as SPEAKeasy Spirits Distillery, sources most of its grains from Huntington, Tenn.-based Renfroe Farms. Barley grains, including white corn, red winter wheat and rye, are milled on-site and discarded mash is picked up by local farms to feed livestock, explains tour guide Bonita Kolb.
PDC’s diverse portfolio features Pickers Vodka, Davidson Reserve Fine Tennessee Whiskey, Pennington’s Rye, Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream, Crafted Cordials, Walton’s Vodka and the distillery’s newest product: Pickers Vodka ready-to-drink crafted cocktails. At 6 percent alcohol by volume, the sparkling cocktails debuted in June in 12-ounce slim cans in four flavors: Music City Mule, Honky Tonk Hurricane, Porch Picker, and Lemon & Blues. Each varietal is made using a different flavor of Pickers Vodka, real fruit and natural flavors, the company says.
The facility features 600-gallon copper kettles, where the starches are converted into soluble sugars to make alcohol, and a separate kettle, where vapors rise through a funnel-like top to the still. Because PDC products are double-distilled, the fermentation process is repeated, creating higher product alcohol content of at least 60 proof, Kolb says.
“Depending on the type of product, our spirits are aged in new 53-gallon American white oak barrels for a minimum of two years for rye, three years for bourbon, and at least four years is required to create our authentic, American-made Tennessee whiskey,” Kolb says.