Nashville Craft Distillery
Nashville’s newest distillery opens up a world of new options for both drinker and distiller.
Written By: Chris Chamberlain
Photographers: Christen Clemins
Bruce Boeko spent more than a decade as a forensic scientist in Nashville, including a dozen years running a DNA lab, until his parent company asked him to transfer to Dallas in 2010. Rather than leave, he decided to switch careers. He enrolled in Tennessee Tech to study for his MBA and made the leap to start a new career at the age of 42.
With 25 years of experience brewing beer and making his own wine at home, combined with a disciplined scientific work ethic, he decided that his future might just be in distillation. He studied the business and manufacturing aspects of the industry in two professional programs at Moonshine University in Louisville and the Kothe Distilling Workshops in Chicago. All the while, he was putting plans in place to open the city’s newest distillery, Nashville Craft.
Located in a sleek, modern building in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood, Nashville Craft exhibits Boeko’s preference for an uncluttered work environment. “I’m a big fan of clean, industrial, Scandinavian design, so I worked with [architect] Manuel Zeitlin to come up with this space,” he says. The result is a metal and glass structure with an attractive tasting room that offers a view of the entire distilling process.
None of this means that Boeko is too uptight about his business, though.
In fact, he intentionally avoided the word “artisan” when naming his distillery. “I think ‘craft’ is less fussy. I love to drink traditional exotic Belgian beers, but I also enjoy a light pilsner every now and then. You can’t be too precious about your stuff,” he says.
His “stuff” is currently a line of two interesting sippers: Naked Biscuit Sorghum Spirit and Crane City Gin. He developed his processes and products with resources gleaned from many meetings with consultants and with the advice from other members of the Tennessee Distillers’ Guild.
“The Guild has been especially helpful,” Boeko notes. “It’s a mutually supportive group that recognizes that we are competing with the massive distilleries and not necessarily with each other.”
>>> Local Distilleries Guide
Rather than simply adding flavors to a grain-neutral spirit or purchasing whiskey from another distillery to private label, Boeko is committed to creating his own spirits from local ingredients whenever possible, even if that means he won’t have any aged products to sell for years.
“It’s not dogma, but it is my organizing philosophy to support local agriculture whenever possible,” explains Boeko. “I believe that, if every distillery did this, we’d get regional diversity in products around the country.”
To create Naked Biscuit, Boeko purchases 100-percent pure sorghum syrup from Muddy Pond Sorghum Mill located midway between Nashville and Knoxville, which he then distills. Neither a whiskey nor a rum, Naked Biscuit lives somewhere between the two, with a slightly herbaceous and vegetal flavor that reminds you that sorghum is a grass, not a grain.
Boeko asserts, “It’s sort of an oddball spirit, but I wanted to make sure the essence of the sorghum was still there in the final product.” Excellent as a base to cocktails that traditionally would use rum or cachaça, Naked Biscuit Sorghum Spirit is a novel addition to any home bar.
When it comes to gin, the rules are a little more strict. According to the U.S. government, all gins must be flavored with juniper berries as the primary component. To make Crane City Gin, Boeko distills a mash of wheat and malted barley multiple times in his 250-gallon still to create a clear, high-proof base spirit before running it through another time to add botanicals to the final product. His recipe is simpler than most gins, with only seven botanicals that include coriander, cardamom, and fennel. It makes for a gin that is lovely in cocktails and also quite appropriate to drink by itself over ice.
Only in operation for half a year, Nashville Craft is still expanding distribution. Either liquor can be purchased from the tasting room at the distillery, where tours are also available on a walk-up basis or with advance reservations. Fans can also find Crane City and Naked Biscuit in select liquor stores and bars around town.
514 Hagan St, 615-457-3036; nashvillecraft.com
Two Nashville Craft cocktail recipes in the November issue
of Nashville Lifestyles Magazine!