"An east Tennessee family brings its generations-old moonshine-making tradition down from the mountains to Gatlinburg’s main strip.
Johnny Baker’s hillbilly accent is as authentic as the moonshine his family has been making for generations, and he uses it to marked effect as he entertains tourists at their Gatlinburg distillery. “We are making coooorn liquor—moonshine,” Baker says, stretching out the vowel to emphasize the appeal of a distillate with a shady, complicated past.
Baker says families who settled the region, including his own, practiced “the art of making true corn liquor” out of economic necessity. “My mother was the baby of nine kids,” he says. “So my grandfather had a choice to make—whether he sold a bushel of corn for fifty or seventy-five cents or turned it into liquid corn and made twenty dollars.”
When Tennessee changed its laws in 2009 to expand liquor production from three to forty-one counties, the Baker family—led by Johnny’s attorney nephew, Joe Baker—saw the potential for selling shine and never looked back. “We present an authentic product in a fun setting that embraces the history and the culture of the area,” Joe says. “I think people really bought into that.” "