A Taste of Home at Prichard’s Distillery, Kelso, Tennessee

Continuing our tour of Tennessee whiskey

A visit to Prichard’s Distillery in little bitty Kelso, Tennessee, is like a visit to someone’s home. It’s a family affair. Phil Prichard, his wife Connie, his son, his friends, everyone seems to be pitching in. It’s decidedly un-corporate, and the fact that the distillery sits in the town’s old schoolhouse and community center just reinforces the feeling. The basketball goals are still up in the gym that now houses bottles and labels and empty boxes waiting to be filled with fine rum and whiskey. The disco ball still hovers in the air, calling to mind all the dances and good times that must have happened here in the heart of tiny Kelso. Prichard’s Distillery is certainly keeping the flame, as much a product of Kelso as all the kids who walked through the schoolhouse’s doors years ago.

Prichard’s has been turning out award winning rums for over ten years now, a bridge between the old stalwarts of Tennessee distilling and the new breed. While their image is not as edgy and progressive as Corsair Artisan up in Nashville, they are certainly not slackers when it comes to pushing the envelope and trying out new things. There’s a long line of rums (including a Key Lime version), an array of whiskeys (from a “single malt” to a “double barreled” to a “Lincoln County Lightning”), and experimental bottles of things like aquavit, cranberry liqueur, and chocolate-infused bourbon sit on the old school desks that sit in what is now Prichard’s office. There are even small custom barrels filled for progressive bars and liquor shops around the country (ever hear of The Violet Hour in Chicago? I happened to see a barrel with their name on it).  Prichard’s is a small batch craft distillery when it comes down to it, with two beautiful Vendome pot stills that do most of the heavy lifting, and that small batch mentality is a perfect precursor to trying new things.

While rum has been Prichard’s calling card for many years, the whiskey line-up is what seems to be gaining steam and is an increasing focus for the distillery. A new rye is on its way, and time in the barrel is the main thing that sits between some Prichard’s whiskey and a large number of thirsty fans. True to their roots, Prichard’s prefers to use a local white corn that has a particularly nice sugar content, ground at the historic Falls Mill down the road in Old Salem. That Lincoln County Lightning gets bottled fresh out of the still, and boasts a tremendous corn character that reflects the fine local ingredients. Phil Prichard is a storyteller at heart, and he shared a few cocktail names he has for his Lincoln County Lightning. A Bloody Mary becomes a Bloody Bubba, and his name for a white lightning-based spin on a Margarita is almost enough to make a bootlegger blush (I won’t share that one here, but would love to hear your guesses in the comment section below!).

Prichard’s is definitely worth the stop if you’re heading up to their much bigger neighbors up the road a bit. Jack Daniel’s is just a bucolic, fifteen mile jaunt, but Prichard’s is indeed a world away. Be sure to call ahead, though, if you’re interested in visiting. You wouldn’t want to make an unexpected house call, after all.

Prichard’s Distillery in images, continues below… 

And while you’re here, also check out all the stops on our Tennessee whiskey tour.

and out onto the roads of Lincoln County…

6 Replies to “A Taste of Home at Prichard’s Distillery, Kelso, Tennessee”

  1. These places that want you to call ahead for a tour, how much lead time should you give them? If we want to go on a Thursday, should we call on a Tuesday or Wednesday? We will be traveling through the area on a history/distillery/good eats (not in that order) so we are trying to keep ourselves flexible. Any suggestions?

    1. Al, it’s a good idea to call ahead a few days in advance and just confirm a window of time that might work. If you happen to call right before you get there and they’re available, I’m sure they will do their best to show you around, but you never know what duties may call at a specific time at a small distillery.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I live about an hour from Kelso. I’ve been to Prichard’s 3-4 times. I take out-of-town guests over there. It’s a good tour. Cool to see someone sticking to the methods that made rum such a part of the southern culture.

    Click on the history link. That’s Phil in the picture, the owner. If you go for a tour, try and arrange it when he is there.


  3. The other day, one of my boys brought me a bottle of the Single Malt. It was so good, I almost fainted. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but it has a very good taste,balancing smoothness and power. Oh – the boy who brought it lives in Murphreesboro; so the next time I drop in is the time I come by. Learning spending time with the family, and a bit of Whiskey? All I can say is 🙂

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