Last year, former Jack Daniel’s master distiller Jeff Arnett became one of the founders of Company Distilling and joined a growing list of “retired” distillery captains who have used their decades of whiskey knowhow to start their own smaller distilleries. Clearly, the man was passionate about his trade. Answering to the C-suite at Brown-Forman and parading through an endless calendar of whiskey festivals, maybe not so much.
Company Distilling may sound a little, well, corporate, but the name is meant to embody collaboration among friends, which is essentially how the distillery came to be formed with Arnett, the former president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild, and several others. The group gained early production capacity with the acquisition of H. Clark Distillery outside of Nashville in 2020 and built a tasting room in Townsend, in the Great Smoky Mountains, but the plan is to soon have a larger, primary distillery nearby in Knoxville. Their current portfolio includes bourbon, rye, gin, and a long list of flavored spirits. We received samples of the bourbon and gin for review. Thoughts follow.
Company Distilling Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished with Maple Wood – The brand wouldn’t provide the source or the mashbill of this whiskey, only that everything in the bottle is at least 4 1/2 years old. As the name implies, it has been finished with maple wood, but exactly how and for how long is also unclear. It’s all a bit of a mystery and pretty far removed from the Jack Daniel’s style. The aroma showcases bright, fruity notes of green apple, ripe banana, char, and new wood. It’s sweet but also a bit waxy. The palate is approachable, gentle and oily with notes of cinnamon bread, cookie butter, and chewy caramel. A soft, warming spice carries evenly across the sip before fading on a generous, spiritous finish of stewed apples and maple syrup. Enjoyable but still just a bit youthful. 90 proof. B+ / $60
Ghost Rail Tennessee Dry Gin – Distilled on an open-fired alembic still using just six unspecified botanicals (at least one being juniper), this is a gin that prides itself on being uncomplicated. Indeed, this is about as straightforward a London, er, Tennessee, dry style as you’ll find. The aroma is rich and well-balanced with sweet juniper berry, candied citrus peel, and pine resin. On the palate, things begin on the sweeter side with cinnamon candies and red licorice before turning to drier notes of pine needles and whole spices. The finish lingers with a bit of citrus zest and fading juniper. Well-balanced and quite enjoyable. Who knew the Tennessee whiskey guy could also make a solid gin? 88 proof. A- / $40