The Marriage of Moonshine and Music



National Moonshine Day is observed annually on the first Thursday in June. Yes, we are posting this in October, and we don’t expect you to remember this date eight months from now. Truth is, you can turn just about any day into a celebration partaking in some good ole mountain white lightning. But where can you get your hands on it? Stay with us for the answer to that question.

Prohibition

For years, visitors to our area would ask their waitresses at diners, gas station attendants, and the guy who gave them the key to their room at the local travel lodge (in a quiet whisper) where they might get their hands on some of the illegal potables these hills were noted to produce. In the ’50s and ’60s, if one of those tourists was lucky enough to land him a ball jar bottle of the mountain hooch, there’s a great possibility it came from the still of American Appalachian moonshiner  Jack “Mimm” McClure.

Everyone knew of Jack in these parts. He was easy to spot when he came to town. With his big 250 lb frame and always in a Stetson hat, he opened doors for the ladies, spoke kindly to children and was noted for his philanthropic generosity of spirit. Still, he made his fortune selling illegal spirits. He had a reputation for influencing the election of many politicians in the local and state seats. He also had his own ideas when justice should be served. The late Georgia Governor and McClure’s fellow Towns County native Zell Miller wrote of Jack, “He was loved, hated, respected, and feared, depending upon the experience one had had with him.”

The Music

McClure was dubbed “Grandaddy Mimm” by his grandchildren and that became his moniker amongst the folks in the mountains. He succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1969. With his passing, so did an era of illegal bootlegging. But this is just where our story gets more interesting.

One of Jack’s grandkids, Tommy Townsend was a “gitar” player who as a youngin’ fell in love with the music of Waylon Jennings. Now Jennings could easily be to country music what Tommy’s Grandaddy Mimm was to moonshine. They were both outlaws with class, who had a presence that no one could quite forget. Townsend’s parents got him behind stage to meet Jennings many years ago. Waylon took a liking to the boy and brought him into the Jennings family fold.  Waylon was Tommy’s mentor but it was Waylon’s son Shooter Jennings who became Tommy’s friend. Since 2008 Townsend and 4 other former members of the Jennings band have been entertaining fans as the Waymore’s Outlaws. In 2014 they began opening for Shooter Jennings and then backing him as his set in concerts all over the country. This year Tommy released his solo debut album “Turn Back the Clock”. Shooter Jennings produced the project. 

Who’s Your Grandaddy?

Tommy never forgot his North Georgia roots nor his Grandaddy Mimm. He also held the family secret recipe to Grandaddy’s famous moonshine as well as the schematics to the still his Grandaddy designed many years before. In 2012, Townsend announced his plans to recreate his Grandaddy’s legacy, only this time, it would be within the law.

Today, you can tour the Grandaddy Mimm’s Corn Whiskey Distillery located in Blairsville GA, just a thirty-minute drive from Blue Ridge. Tours are given daily, but on Saturday’s you get to meet and chat with the head distiller and get to see the whole “still” in action. Your imagination of the outlaw days of moonshine starts to unfurl as soon as you drive up to the building that houses the museum and distillery. Inside you’ll find so many eclectic relics from those days as well as an enormous, interesting array of music memorabilia and instruments collected by Townsend over the years.

The Shine

Taste tasting this hooch is also encouraged. The choices are tough to make. Just four ingredients, corn, sugar, yeast, and water produce all of the moonshines, including the Mule Kickin 140 proof. The 96 proof  Peach is their biggest seller. It’s hard to find a naturally flavored high octane whiskey, and it makes for some very interesting mixed drink recipes. There are also Apple, Cherry and Blueberry options, all using natural extracts. Plan on taking a jar or three home for great souvenir memories. The gift shop also has an abundant selection of shirts, hats and other mementos to bring back home.

When you mosey up to the bar, take note of its fine detail and its rich wood design. If you are a cult fan of the movie  “Coyote Ugly”, this is the very bar that LeeAnn Rhimes ascends to join leading ladies Piper Perabo, Maria Bello, and Bridget Moynahan to dance while she sings “Can’t Fight the Moonlight”. 

Plan Your Trip

The Distillery is located on your way to many of this region’s most visited autumn viewing spots and waterfalls, including Brasstown Bald, Vogel State Park, Richard Russell National Scenic Byway, and the Byron Herbert Reece Farm and Heritage Center.  The distillery is open  Monday through Saturday from 11am to 6pm.

Grandaddy Mimm’s legacy lives on through the distillery and his grandson’s music. When you view Townsend’s recently released music video for his song “Drinkin”, look closely at the ball jars on the bar. You might just recognize some of that high octane corn “licker” that made Jack McClure a North Georgia legend. 

The Tastes of Europe In Blue Ridge



For Americans visiting Europe, an integral part of the adventure is partaking of the local cuisine and libations. When Europeans immigrate to our country they too enjoy our regional cuisine, at least for a little while. Eventually, they begin to miss a fine Irish whiskey or a delicately seasoned Polish sausage. Fortunately for Blue Ridge, some of these traditional European fares have established themselves here in the mountains. On your next stay with us, consider visiting one of these fine establishments.

The Black Bear Bier Garten

📷 @ancole78

Over 4,500 miles separate the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Bavarian Alps, but only a few miles come between our cabins and the genuine vibes of a German beer garden. If you are looking to have a non-American food experience, then try a sampling of sausages with choices that include Boar, Venison, Buffalo, Pheasant, and Elk. If you want to experience something on draft besides Miller Lite, then cozy up to the bar and start asking about their outstanding hops selections. And if you don’t want to take your husband shopping with you, the sign on the door at the Black Bear acknowledges that they have free husband daycare! Meet him later for a brew and a large German soft pretzel. You won’t be disappointed.

The Boro Inn Irish Pub

📷 The Boro Inn Irish Pub

The curb impression is very deceiving as you drive up to the Boro Inn. From the outside, there is nothing authentic about it. As you open the door, you enter a pub in the County Wexford, with Father Brendan Doyle (retired) officiating behind the bar. With 177 different handcrafted libations including whiskeys and brews whose recipes span 1,300 years, there is nothing that isn’t authentic at the Boro. Part pub, part museum, you will be as captivated by historical artifacts as you will be by the bartender’s brogue. The music, the stories, the potations and the grub will land you smack in the middle of The Emerald Isle while you vacation in the North Georgia Mountains.

Cucina Rustica

📷 Cucina Rustica

Chef Danny Mellman takes Italian fare to a new level at this fine-dining ristorante located in Morganton, GA, just a few miles east of Blue Ridge. This is the perfect place to spend an evening with friends. Start out with a plate of Frito Misto- flash fried calamari and fish with artichokes and lemon and charred tomato-lemon aioli. The salads are shareable in size. The Treviso is a patron favorite – with bacon, balsamic, fresh pear, walnuts, and Gorgonzola. A myriad of pasta, risottos, and polentas, with fresh roasted vegetables, compliment delectable fresh sauces, meat entrees, and the finest of seafood. This is Old World Italian cuisine served mountainside. Reservations are recommended.

Margo’s Gourmet Polish Kitchen

📷 Margo’s Gourmet Polish Kitchen

Do you often crave your Babciu’s pierogi? Maybe you always preferred her meat pies even though everyone else fought over the potato and cheese filled pockets. Has it been years since you dove into a dish of your grandmother’s cabbage rolls? Margo wants to satisfy those memories. She is in her kitchen preparing all of her menu by hand daily to assure the best quality taste. When the weather cooperates, you can enjoy amazing Polish sausages, krauts, goulash, soups, and baked goods served on the kawiarnia na dworze (outdoor patio). Whether seated indoors or out, having a chair in Margo’s kitchen means a visit from Margo, too. You will love the food, the experience, and the chef.