Big Machine Distillery Tour

Big Machine Distillery (formerly Tenn South Distillery) has seen significant transformations, including a rebranding and a change in leadership. The distillery offers a distinctive experience with its innovative hybrid still for making whiskey and moonshine, and a state-of-the-art vodka still, complete with a proprietary platinum filtration system. The personal touch provided by the passionate staff ensures a memorable visit. Learn all about Big Machine Distillery in our review!
Big Machine Distillery
(Formerly Tenn South Distillery)
1800 Abernathy Rd.
Lynnville, TN 38472
(931) 527-0027
https://www.bigmachinevodka.com/
Tour / Review

Please enjoy our Big Machine Distillery Tour Review!

We First Visited In 2019

Our first visit to Big Machine Distillery (formerly known as Tenn South Distillery) was back in 2019. After a four year absence, it was definitely time for a return visit and a fresh look at the now, Big Machine Distillery.

Distillery from main road - Big Machine Distillery Tour Review
Quite A Bit Has Changed

From the outside, the distillery appears very much the same as it did during our visit in 2019. It turns out, though, that looks can be deceiving. Quite a bit has changed at this little Lynnville distillery. First, there has been a change in branding, and the distillery now goes by the name Big Machine Distillery. While the name Tenn South is not fully retired, the change reflects the distillery’s current owner, Scott Borchetta, Founder, President and CEO of the Big Machine Label Group. The second notable change is that founding owner and original Chief Distiller Clayton Cutler has since retired.

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Tenn South Was Started By Two Brothers-In-Law

The Tenn South Distillery was originally started by two brothers-in-law, one a radiologist and one an engineer. They parted ways shortly after the distillery got underway. Co-founder, Clayton Cutler, remained in charge, and handled the duties of Chief Distiller. In 2015, Scott Borchetta of the Big Machine Label Group acquired the distillery, although Clay stayed on maintaining his same distilling duties.

Frootbat - Making hard to find liquor easy to buy

Women Run Big Machine Distillery

One of the very interesting things about the distillery, both when we first visited, and continuing to this day, is that virtually all of the employees are women. In a traditionally male dominated industry, it was surprising, yet refreshing, to see the pendulum swing the other direction. In fact, Clay’s daughter, Margeaux, once held the title of head distiller at Tenn South. Today, Devin Walden fills the shoes as Master Distiller at Big Machine Distillery.

Frootbat - Making hard to find liquor easy to buy

A Walk Through With Rudy

Our host for our walk through was Rudy. She filled us in on all the happenings at Big Machine Distillery these days.

Two Distilleries In One

The distillery’s layout is essentially two distilleries in one. When entering, we first see the hybrid still used for making the Clayton James Tennessee Whiskey and moonshine. In the next room is the column still used for making the Big Machine Vodka. We’ll get to the vodka in a bit, but we’ll start with the whiskey and moonshine area.

Hybrid Still

Big Machine Distillery has the same interesting hybrid still as when we first visited. The still has the “pot” portion with a short column on top, and next to it is a second short column. The vapor comes out of the first column and then heads into the second. The net effect is the same as if a taller column was placed on top of the pot. Why did they do it this way? They were constrained by the height of the ceiling. If they wanted to have the entire column on top of the pot, they would have had to break through the ceiling. On our initial visit, I had not seen that set up before and thought it was quite ingenious. I have since seen it elsewhere, but I still think it is very cool.

Cooker & Fermenters

Before entering the still, the grain must be “cooked” or mashed to get those enzymatic reactions going. The “cooker” sits just to the left of the still. Behind the cooker and still are the fermenters; 2 large closed fermenters and 2 smaller rectangular fermenters. Once fermentation is complete, the grain will go to the stills.

Big Machine Platinum Filtered Premium Vodka

In addition to producing Tennessee Whiskey and moonshine, Tenn South also produces Big Machine Vodka and Big Machine Vodka Spiked Coolers. That “Big Machine”, as I alluded to above, is Big Machine Records. The company is an independent record label specializing in country and pop artists. Big Machine Records’ founder, Scott Borchetta, was interested in making a premium vodka, and thus Big Machine Platinum Filtered Premium Vodka was born. This vodka, as its name implies, is filtered though a proprietary Platinum Filtration system after distillation. Not being a huge vodka fan, I hadn’t heard of this,  but apparently platinum, and some other metals, are thought to improve the mouthfeel, texture and “smoothness” of  vodka, and are used by some distilleries.* Big Machine uses the slogan “The smoothest tasting vodka, period!”, and, I have to say that after tasting it on both visits now, I must agree!

Big Machine Distillery’s Vodka Still Is A Work Of Art

Although I am far from being a vodka expert, I found the vodka still very unique; actually, a work of art, if you will. The Big Machine Vodka still is a large column still, clearly built with aesthetics, as well as function, in mind. It looks like it could have come from the future, with its sparkling stainless steel wrapped in rings of copper.

Adjacent and connected to it, is the Platinum Filtration system, which consists of a glass cylinder with 3 horizontal plates, each holding a neat pile of platinum pellets, with the upper and middle plates also holding shungite stones and gravel, respectively. The Russian Shungite stones are a new addition to the filtration process since our last visit.  The distilled spirit enters from the top, and flows downward through the layers of platinum pellets & shungite, and exits the bottom of the cylinder as Big Machine Platinum (& Shungite) Filtered Premium Vodka.

Barreling and Aging

While the vodka and moonshine can be bottled after distillation, the whiskey must age. It is barreled, and the barrels are then stored and aged off-site.

Barrels
The Lincoln County Process

Since Big Machine Distillery is in Tennessee, the primary whiskey that they make is, appropriately, Tennessee Whiskey. Tennessee Whiskey must undergo the Lincoln County Process, unless it is made by Prichard’s Distillery (a story for another day) Essentially, the Lincoln County Process (aka LCP) is a method where the new make, fresh off the still, is slowly passed through a significant depth of sugar maple charcoal. The idea is that the whiskey’s flavor will be further “mellowed”. Since we last visited, Big Machine has put their Lincoln County Process front and center, and visitors can watch the new make trickle into the charcoal right before their eyes!

Lincoln County Process for Tennessee Whiskey - Big Machine Distillery Tour Review
Lincoln County Process for Tennessee Whiskey – Big Machine Distillery Tour Review
Bottle Your Own Whiskey and/or Vodka

Another nice addition to the Big Machine Distillery visitor experience are the “Bottle Your Own” stations. These are available for both the vodka and barrel strength versions of the Clayton James Tennessee Whiskey. They may be a bit gimmicky, but I love the experience, and will do it whenever I can. So, needless to say, I did it this time as well. The 142.2 proof Clayton James Tennessee Whiskey that I put in my bottle is just fantastic!

Upgraded Gift Shop

The Big Machine Distillery Gift Shop also received an upgrade. Guests are able to sample all of the distillery’s spirits, and cocktails are also served. In addition to the Bottle Your Own spirits, all of Big Machine’s spirits are available for purchase, as well as a full line of logo merchandise.

Big Machine Distillery Now Has Three Locations

Big Machine Distillery now has two other locations:

  • The Nashville location, The Tasting Room, at 122 3rd Avenue South offers tastings, tours, cocktails, live music and a bottle your own experience.
  • The Berry Hill location, the Big Machine Tavern, also in Nashville, is at 2824 Bransford Ave. It is a tavern offering dining, drinks and acoustic music.
Big Machine Distillery Side View
Conclusion – Big Machine Distillery Tour Review

When we visited the Lynnville location the first time, Chief Distiller Clayton was very welcoming and spent time with us. During this visit, current Master Distiller Devin, and our host Rudy, did the same. It is this kind of personal touch and passion for what they do that makes distilleries like Tenn South, and now Big Machine Distillery, so special. They are definitely worth a visit if you are anywhere in the area.


We hope you have enjoyed our Big Machine Distillery Tour Review! Would you like to read about some whiskeys from other Tennessee Distilleries? Then check out our Nelson Brothers Bourbon Review, our Chattanooga Whiskey Founder’s 11th Anniversary Blend Review, and our Company Distilling Bourbon Review!

* A Gentler Form of Vodka. Esquire. October 4, 2012. https://www.esquire.com/food-drink/drinks/a16108/filtered-vodka-1012/  (accessed July 9, 2019)

Date of original visit: Revisit and update: July 2023

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