Restaurant scene: Chattanooga’s Gate 11 Distillery unveils Thomas Young dark rye whiskey

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Bill Lee of Gate 11 Distillery holds the new Thomas Young dark rye whiskey on Thursday.

Feeling tropical? Gate 11 distills a white rum that's bold and perfect for a mai tai.

Feeling like The Dude from "The Big Lebowski"? Gate 11 also distills a "well-balanced" and smooth vodka for your White Russian.

The small batch distillery inside the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo train terminal also distills an absinthe blanche (of Vincent Van Gogh infamy), an agave spirit (the domestic cousin of Mexico's tequila) and a gin that owner Bill Lee brags is one of the "very best gins in the world." He followed up his claims by showing me a pair of gold medals from 2021 and 2022 that the dry gin garnered at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the Olympics of booze. However, Lee, a native of Pikeville, understands no matter how many awards his gin wins, this is Tennessee and people want the whiskey Chris Stapleton croons about.

On Friday, Lee will unveil a whiskey that's been aging in his boxcar barrelhouse — a refurbished boxcar donated to the distillery by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. He had the help of about two dozen whiskey buffs, aficionados and snobs who had the arduous task of mashing, fermenting, distilling and barreling this whiskey. It will be named in homage to his cousin, Thomas Young Swafford, a notorious sheriff credited with quelling the rampant lawlessness of Bledsoe County during the 1930s.

The whiskey, whose mash bill is 28% corn, will also include 11% roasted ruby rye, the reason for its deep red hue and toasty notes — just think of it as the whiskey version of the best cup of dark roast coffee you've ever sipped. The 375 milliliter bottles will be available exclusively at Gate 11 Distillery.

If you go

What: Thomas Young Dark Rye Whiskey launch.

Where: Gate 11 Distillery, 1400 Market St., Suite 108 (inside the Chattanooga Choo Choo terminal).

Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.


  photo  Andre James / Staff photo