By BROOKE WANSER
Whiskey enthusiasts in Franklin gathered in the grassy gardens behind Carnton Plantation on Saturday evening as they enjoyed food, live music, dancing and a taste of the history of bootlegging in Williamson County from several local distilleries.
The Battle of Franklin Trust hosted the Bootlegger’s Bash for the seventh year on Saturday, Aug.26.
“This was whiskey country, so when Prohibition came along, you weren’t going to get people to stop drinking,” Eric Jacobson, the chief executive officer of the Battle of Franklin Trust, said. “When the Williamson County sheriff used to run for office, it was a job that paid like $5,000 a year, but people would put $100,000 running the campaign just to get the job. Because what you got was bootlegger payoffs,” Jacobson said. “The sheriff would get payoffs from the bootleggers to turn a blind eye while they ran the whiskey.”
Representatives of local distilleries like H Clark Distillery, Tenn South Distillery, Prichard’s Distillery, Corsair Artisans and Leipers Fork Distillery were on hand to offer guests sample libations.
Kim Peterson, a tour manager at H Clark Distillery in Thompson’s Station, talked about the pivotal role founder Heath Clark played in changing Tennessee distilling laws in 2009.
“In Tennessee, the law was, you needed a referendum to sell it by the shot, you needed a referendum to sell it by the bottle, and you needed a referendum to make spirits,” she said.
Peterson said the only three counties to have the referendum to make spirits are Moore County, Coffee County and Lincoln County. Clark, a lawyer, knew he didn’t want to go that far to open his distilling business, so he took a shortcut and drafted his own legislation which would allow for distilling in Williamson County.
“His dentist is also the dentist of Senator Ketron, and he got the bill in front of him,” Peterson said. “As soon as he [Ketron] was willing to sponsor it, it moved very quickly.”
In 2009, the old prohibition against creating spirits was lifted. Five years later,
H Clark Distillery became the first legal distillery in Williamson County in over 100 years.
Though it was all about the whiskey, there was no discrimination for non-whiskey drinkers. Distilleries also sampled rum, vodka, and mixed cocktails. Wine and beer were available at the bar.
Guests dined on pork loin, mac and cheese, Nashville hot chicken, with Tennessee bourbon moon pie bread pudding for dessert. After, the crowd turned a grassy field behind Carnton into a makeshift dance floor. They danced as Chad Street and his band belted out hits from Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
All proceeds from the event will benefit the preservation of Carter House and Carnton Plantation.