It makes perfect sense that a Northeast Tennessee distillery named in the spirit of rugged frontier independence would take a pioneering approach toward making and bottling their craft blends of whiskey, gin, rum and other piquant spirits.
Lost State Distilling in Bristol mixes intriguing history and idealistic mystique with the business and pleasure of artisan booze-making at the company’s bottling warehouse just a few feet from the Tennessee-Virginia state line.
“Though the State of Franklin was short-lived, their ideals live on,” Lost State Distilling declared when it opened in Summer 2019. “We chose the Lost State name to carry the heritage of our region into every spirit we craft. Not satisfied with the current state of industrialized spirits we are aiming to break away and join the craft spirit revolution to bring our unique small batch spirits to an eager market in need of change.”
The story of the rise and fall of the Lost State of Franklin is an exciting tale that “really highlights what makes a people of a particular region special, and how people identify with that special quality of being different,” says Michael Toomey, a history professor at Lincoln Memorial University in Knoxville.
In 1784, eight counties in what is now east Tennessee declared their independence from the state of North Carolina.
Although Franklin only existed as an independent state for about four years before rejoining North Carolina, the movement irrevocably fortified the reputation of the region's inhabitants as a unique and indomitable people. It set the stage for Tennessee becoming an independent state in 1796.
Lost State Distilling’s products are made “with uniqueness in mind” and "represent the heritage of Appalachia."
The spirit-making processes use only Tennessee-sourced ingredients whenever possible, said head distiller Nick Bianchi, who co-owns Lost State with his father, Joe.
With names like Franklin Four Whiskeys, Nolichucky Jack Silver Rum and Secession Tennessee Gin, the products are marketed to pay homage to the region's pioneer culture.
Lost State Distilling is located in a 43,000-square-foot warehouse built more than 100 years ago. Over time it has been home to a wheat-grinding facility and a restaurant supply store. It's located just a couple blocks from downtown, across the railroad tracks and State Street from the historic Bristol Train Station.
The interior of the distillery is designed to entice imbibers to lounge a while. In addition to the fascinating processes involving tubes, tubs, mash and mulch, Lost State offers a convivial tasting room and event space where patrons can relax and sample the skill-and patience-crafted flavors that infuse the distillery's liquors. The distillery also hosts special culinary activities where local chefs stop in to plate up delectable meals that complement delightfully with heady libations.