Beware Smelling the Hot Mash on the Jack Daniels Tour in Lynchburg, TN

The drive from Atlanta to Nashville is a leisurely, straight-forward three hour, 45 minute to four hour journey. Leave after breakfast and you get can be honky tonking by lunch.

Thus, a side journey to the world famous Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee can be easily pulled-off with a little planning.

Here’s the first piece of advice, the first parking lot you see — that’s not the one to use, it’s the larger one on the opposite side on the street just a bit further down. You’ll know what I mean when you get there.

While getting a tour reservation in advance is the best route, depending on the day, you can stroll up and hop on one right there. As for what tour to get, I went with the mid-level baller tour or The Angel’s Share, it’s where you get five tasting flight of the rare, single barrel whiskys. At $22, it not that much more than the low baller The Flight of Jack Daniels tour where you get a flight of their flagship whiskys that you an get anywhere. The low budget, no drinking Dry tour is for idiots who bring their kids on a whisky tour.

As they will say repeatedly on the tour and on the grounds, Lynchburg is the only place where they make Jack Daniels. So the Jack Daniels they drink in Japan is the same one you drink at the Appleby’s in the Orlando Airport.

As far as tours goes, it’s good that it keeps moving, so you’re not standing around listening to a tour guide going through their talk. The highlight of the tour before you start drinking, as people will tell you, is smelling the mash.

What does is smelling like? It’s not so much a smell but the sensation of putting lava hot bullets in your nostrils for half a second. You’ll loose consciousness for a brief second. Sounds fun, right?

Along with the temporary brain damage, you’ll learn some fun trivia about Mr. Daniels, like he died from kicking a safe when he forgot the combo. He broke his toe, then lost his leg and then seven years later, his life. It wasn’t a romantic death like drinking to death on his own product.

Like with any distillery, winery or brewery tour, you have to wait until the end to start drinking. They giving you notes on how to properly taste whisky, what to look for and the barrel process. For this single barrel tour, you taste the No. 27 Gold, Sinatra Select (their priciest), Single Barrel Select, Single Barrel Proof (their highest alcohol content) and Single Barrel Rye. Since I am a man of high taste, the $100 a bottle of the Sinatra was my favorite.

Now, I still don’t understand how Lynchburg is a dry town, but you can buy Jack Daniels in the gift shop in the main hall. It’s something like they sell you the bottle, and they but in the whisky for free. Whatever, just change the damn laws. Get with the 21st Century. In any event, there’ no exclusive whisky you can’t get anywhere else, but they have limited edition gift boxes and glass bottles that you can etch with your name. Not my thing.

Plan about 2-2.5 hours for this side trip. You can skip the trip into the block of the town of Lynchburg where the gift shop is if you’re short on time, Everything they sell you can get online, but I picked up whisky scented candles and a coaster made from barrel wood.

Nashville is the Dive Bar Capital of America Thanks to Dino’s and Mickey’s

There are two types of dive bars in modern America. The first are the O.G. dive bars — the ones that have been around for a few decades, have colorful regulars, has a reputation for surliness, serve cheap beer, a real jukebox (not some digital thing), funny stickers, a lot of kitsch and has interiors that has a little bit of grit.

The other kinds are the ones that are made to look like all of the above. Add in the terms “craft cocktails” and “local, substainable menu” are you catch my drift.

Nashville has no shortage of dive bars. Luckily, most of them are of the down and dirty type. They are populated by old timers who complain about how Nashville is changing and wear jeans that haven’t been washed since Reagan was president. They have names like Fran’s, Betty’s, Bobby’s and Santa’s.

Obviously, there is a lot of ground to cover and you can spend a whole weekend going to a dozen of them. I went to two of them — one that everybody knows and another that locals love.

Dino’s is the one everyone knows. It’s like the Katz Deli of dive bars — the gold standard. Like Katz’s in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the neighborhood around Dino’s East Nashville location has changed. As in previous posts, the street has trendy business populated by skinny jeans and $70 ironic t-shirt wearing millennial musicians waiting on their next gig check.

The thing with Dino’s is that it changed ownership in 2016 and a popular restaurateur was brought in to revamp the menu. That means brunch. The good news was that the new owners didn’t change much, including not putting in air conditioning and writing the special of paper plates. More good news it now boasts the best late-night eats and hamburger in town.

You’ll notice that instantly when you walk on a hot summer night and the open kitchen is blazing with cheeseburgers and sorts of fried goodness. While there’s still cheap PBR, you’ll find a decent selection of craft beers. The burger was no nonsense and was easily housed in four bites.

It definitely a cool place and there’s a reason why the new owners tried to maintain it’s classic style. If anything, they saved it.

For my other dive bar, I asked the dudes over at Bearded Iris for their recommendation. They didn’t hesitate to point me towards Mickey’s, also in East Nashville and not far from Dino’s on Gallatin.

Their motto is “No DJ’s. No bands. No karaoke. No trivia nights.” Fine by me, just wanted to sit and soak in the surroundings.

Like Dino’s, Mickey’s has changed hands and names over the years. Previous incarnations included Maw & Paw’s and Smitty’s. The new owners in 2014 wanted to make it as no nonsense as possible and make it for locals. Added bonus — a backyard area.

This was much better place than Dino’s, just for the fact that a local couple chatted me up and bought me a beer. There’s the cheap ironic beer with a few local craft selections. In anything, it’s a decent local hangout that doesn’t feel like its catering to anybody.



Two Breweries to Visit in Nashville, Bearded Iris and Smith & Lentz

As somebody who will always search for a city’s best coffee, hamburger, donut, pizza, record store and breweries, it’s no surprise that Nashville hits all these notes. In the end, the city has so much more to offer a traveler.

Being that my time there was a Sunday through Wednesday, many of the breweries were not open on Monday through Wednesday. So on Sunday, when I arrived late in the afternoon, I had to make a quick stop-in to these two places before they closed early. Dammit, open longer on Sunday, peops!

As I pointed out with super cool coffee place Barista Parlor, Main Street into Gallatin in East Nashville is a hub of trendy shops and old school places. Two blocks away from Bolton’s Hot Chicken is Smith & Lentz Brewery. Opened in 2015 by two guys names … ummm … Smith and Lentz, it’s open seven days a week. It’s neighborhood joint popular with young families and beer idiots like me.

Super friendly people working there who pointed me over to the next brewery in this post and to confirm the best beer bars and bottle shops I was going to visit.

Here’s what I had:

  • Coffee Stout
  • Away In Bruges Belgian Pale Ale
  • German Cologne Kölsch
  • German Pils

A Lyft took me to my next destination, Bearded Iris. While we driving there we passed construction upon construction along the Cumberland River. It’s all going to be upscale mixed use commercial and residential mid-rise buildings.

I hope Bearded Iris owns their building because when they get big, they can sell it for triple the money. Cha-ching. In any event, it’s a bit out of the way in a warehouse area, but the space is amazing as you can see in the photos.

The first thing you’ll notice is the bar and back bar. Sure it looks like they moved a vintage church inside, but in fact, everything was built new and aged. The only aspect they re-used were the columns. Everything else was made by skilled artisans.

Even the floor which looks like marbled tile. It’s not, it’s painted linoleum. Along the walls, you can admire the local art work.

In the huge space, you’re likely to talk to a musician who will drop the name of the band or bands they’ve played with and opened for. I have feeling that happens a lot in Nashville.

As for the beer, it was the best I had in Nashville. It’s all simple IPAs and pale ales. No flights, but you can get half pours. It’s great cold beer to down on a warm day.

Here’s what I had:

  • Pipsqueak Session IPA (Enigma, Simcoe and Palisade)
  • Scatterbrain New England IPA (Simcoe)
  • Homestyle New England IPA (Mosaic)
  • Noisemaker Pale Ale (Citra)

Nashville’s Barista Parlor Could Be the Coolest Coffee Shop in America

Coffee joints could be the best places to go local in a city. Tourists either go to Starbucks or to their hotel’s continental breakfast. Survey says …. LAME.

No matter where I wake up in my travels, I have to visit, what I call, the “pretentious hipster coffee” places. The PHCs use terms like single origin, fair trade and sustainable practices. The location should be in a gentrified area or be a previous, unrelated business. More importantly, their coffee menu should be simple and a flat white/cappuccino should be one size and pastries  should be Instragrammable.

Barista Parlor in Nashville fits everything. Even when you throw out my criteria, the coffee was amazing. Coffee snobs can do the cupping thing and people who just want a damn cup of coffee will be satisfied.

The original location in East Nashville is housed in a former autoshop just like imogene + willie (must be a thing). It’s on the same street (Main into Gallatin) as other similar trendy businesses and old school dive bars and diners.

The spacious area is designed for those who want to have impromptu business meetings with long tables or like me, just want to interact with nobody and settle in at a long wood bar made with re-purposed wood. When you put in your order, you get a long stand with some fun picture number on it to take to your table, so they can bring your order out to you.

As you can see, the space is super fun, with art work, free to play vinyl, your odd knick-knack and brickabrak, and best of all, beans to take home. The box is in the shape of a motor oil can. As a warning, they do sell-out of their specialty beans, so take what you can get.

I loved the place so much I went back again before I drove out of town. I just loved the retro-designs, the variety of coffee and gangster donut selection. I think it’s a must-visit even if you’re not a coffee junkie and just want to see a funky space. When I go back to Nashville, I’ll make a b-line there.

Nashville’s imogene + willie Make the Best Jeans in America

I had a list of things and activities I wanted to do in Nashville. In the past couple of years, the city has become a year-long party and culture town — for good and bad. Never the less, I had other ideas then to get sloshed or go honkey-tonkin’.

Buy jeans? Yeah. We’re not talking Levi’s, Wrangler’s or Lee’s — the brands you might expect that they wear in the one of the most laid back cities in America. I wanted jeans that were designed and made in America. I didn’t care about the cost, the jeans I were going to buy would be well-made, last a lifetime and never go out of style.

There’s a store in Nashville that is a must for seekers of style. imogene + willie is housed in a former gas station in the Melrose section south of downtown. They are known worldwide for their jeans, t-shirts and Nashville cool.  J.Crew and Anthropologie sold their stuff at one time. Although, in 2016, they moved their HQ to Los Angeles quietly, which upset locals and their investors.

Even though you can buy them online, if I’m going to spend $250 for jeans, I want to see them in person and see them on my person (I did the same thing in Tokyo). I walked in 15 minutes before closing and told the young lady salesperson wearing a floppy hat the size of car tire, “I’m walking out of here with a pair of jeans.” She lined up their entire selection in different sizes and I tried them all on until I found the perfect pair — the Charlie Wauseon.

As an added bonus for buying them in person, they’ll alter the length so you can have the right cuff so it breaks at your shoe. For an insider tip, have it sent to your home address and you won’t pay sales tax. Granted, you won’t be able to wear them right out of the store, but the tailoring and saving $30 is worth it.

The jeans are amazing. They were waiting for me when I got home, and wore them pretty much every day for the whole summer. The jeans have their cross emblem, no garish designs, gold brass rivets and have a lived-in wash. It feels like a one-of-a-kind, custom-made jean.

Yes,  they are amazingly expensive compared to your run-of-the-mill $60 Levi’s made in some Asian  country. If you are buying imogene + willie, you are making a “Made in U.S.A” statement, but also buying something that will last ad won’t look like dad jeans. Their other clothing items I’d skip like the $80 white t-shirt and such.



Two Craft Beer Places in Atlanta to Visit That Are Within Walking Distance

While Atlanta is not a craft beer destination like Portland, Seattle or Denver, you’ll only need a handful of great beer bars to discover locally brewed beers. Krug Street Market has bottle shop and bar Hop City, which has plenty of local goodness, there’s two places you can tell your Lyft or Uber driver to head to for something after hours.

The Porter Beer Bar is in the funky Little Five Points area, which historically has been its “artsy” area (code for upscale hipsters that wishes it was like Williamsburg and West Village NYC). Surrounded by tattoo parlors, cafes and other trendy bars, PBB has an extensive draft and bottle and has that Belgium beer bar decor. With a high turnover of taps, it always seems that I pick the drafts that juuuuust kick … or they are too lazy to reprint the beer menu that morning or install a chalk board.

In any event, they have a excellent selection of local, regional, Canadian and Belgium beers. It’s not a question of what to have, it’s what NOT to have (stuff you can get anyway).

Here’s what I had while admiring the vintage luggage:

  • Jekyll Brewing — Southern Juice IPA
  • The Southern Brewing Company — Wild Wanderings
  • Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! — Équinoxe du Printemps

No need to taxi over, just a five minute walk down the street is one of the few brewpubs in the city, Wrecking Bar Brewpub. Even better, it’s housed in an old mansion that dates back to 1900. On the downside, it was featured in Guy Fieri’s abomination of a travel shows, Diners, Dives and Douchebags or something along those lines.

Grab a bar stool or, like I did, grab a couch and a pint and drink your way through their beer line-up.

  • Just the Tip of the Cap English Mild
  • Sow Your Wild Oatmeal Porter
  •  Breaking Bob Kölsch