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Former Franklin High classmates distill, launch Whisper Creek liqueur

Former Franklin High School classmates have created a new genre of liqueur – Tennessee Sipping Whiskey.

Jeff and Jenny Pennington, who graduated in 1998 from Franklin and Centennial high schools respectively, recently launched Whisper Creek, the first product from their just-opened Nashville distillery. A change in the laws four years ago opened the door for distilleries other than Jack Daniel's, George Dickel, and Prichard's Distillery, to operate in Tennessee.

“We started this project over three years ago,” said Jenny Pennington, who transferred to Centennial High School from Franklin High her junior year. “We always wanted to do our own brand. And when the laws changed, we acquired our own distillery permit.”

With the creation of Whisper Creek, the Penningtons created a new genre of liqueurs they have branded – and trademark protected – as Tennessee Sipping Cream. Jenny told the Williamson Herald that Whisper Creek is distinct from other products in three ways.

“We use aged premium Tennessee whiskey as the base spirit,” said Pennington, whose maiden name is DeBolt. “And it is 40 proof, which makes us the strongest on the market. We did this because wanted people to actually be able to taste our whiskey. And the higher proof gives it a lighter feel in your mouth, so it can be enjoyed on the rocks instead of having to mix it.”

But No. 3 might be what sets it apart from other dessert-styled libations.

“Others really go for a strong chocolate flavor,” Pennington said. “But we have more than 30 all-natural ingredients, and we added whispers of great Southern flavors, such as fig, pecan, and red apple.”

To pull off what by all counts is a complex-but-delicate flavor profile, the Penningtons enlisted the help of, Deb Paquette, one of the region's most notable chefs. Paquette was the culinary force behind such notable Nashville restaurants as The Bound'ry, Cakewalk Cafe, and Zola, and the recently opened Etch, near the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

“We worked with Deb to create the taste profile,” Pennington said. “Then we worked with a consultant who was a chemist to take the flavor Deb created to turn it into a shelf-stable product. What we wound up with is an American take on Irish cream, Tennessee style.”

In the nine short weeks since bottling its first product, sales have been good … surprisingly good, according to Pennington. Whisper Creek is available “in about 250 restaurants,” she said, including Saffire and Red Pony in Franklin, and virtually any liquor store in the Nashville area.

“It's available in all kinds of places, from the Red Door Saloon to the Oak Bar at the Hermitage Hotel,” Pennington said. “We're pretty much available in every liquor store in Franklin – it's really nice to be able to say those words.”

Perhaps the wide availability this early on can be credited to Jenny and Jeff knowing the spirits business inside out. Prior to becoming distillers, they worked for different liquor distributors. In fact, they were salesmen competing with one another when their longstanding friendship turned romantic.

“I hadn't seen him for a long while when we reconnected when I was calling upon a honky tonk on Lower Broadway,” she said. “Jeff was walking down the street, and I thought, 'He's kind'a cute.' ”

Jeff is the son of prominent restaurateur Jay Pennington, known for several Nashville mainstays including South Street in midtown and Urban Grub in the trendy 12 South district.

 

Posted on: 12/7/2012

 
 

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