At the base of English Mountain, about 45 minutes east of Knoxville, Tennessee, a bountiful natural spring bubbles up over 2.5 million gallons of crystal clear water every day. For many generations, Native Americans had this place marked as a source of good water. Over the last century, a 145-acre property encompassing the spring has enjoyed a rich history as a public swimming hole, summertime entertainment venue, working farm and former haven for productive moonshiners.
Since 1996, John Burleson has made it home to the English Mountain Spring Water Company and soon, this picturesque acreage will add a sister company as John opens Coal’d Water Distillery.
The pristine spring water begins 2500 feet below the earth’s surface and has won international awards as one of the best tasting in the world.
The idea to use this prized water in the distilling process came from Mark and Digger of the Moonshiners TV show. Friends of John’s, they shot an episode at his bottling plant and distilled a batch of bourbon using English Mountain Spring Water.
The resulting “shine” was touted as the smoothest, most satisfying they’d ever tasted.
Just days after the episode aired, John was contacted by three men who were getting into the Bourbon business. These men just happened to be John’s childhood heroes and key members of the 1978 Kentucky Wildcats championship team. John himself played college ball and was thrilled at the prospect of a partnership with these stars – Jack “Goose” Givens, Rick Robey and Kyle Macy. The plan was to make top quality Bourbon as well as other spirits to capitalize on the popularity of (RTD) canned cocktails.
With the team assembled and ready to go, John researched the best equipment to tackle the various jobs, the most important of which was a still that could satisfy every need. He called Specific Mechanical and was instantly impressed with the people, designs, engineering and support he received.
After consultation with the Specific sales and engineering team, John decided upon a 2000L Pot still with a spirit head and a 19″ 5-tray column to give greater distilling efficiency and flexibility.
With the still ordered and under construction, the only thing left was a name for the distillery. Being born and raised in East Tennessee, John’s father worked in the coal mines all his life. One day, as John was trying to come up with a name, he happened to look at a sign that said, “Cold Water”. He thought about adding the letter “a” to give Coal’d Water as a tribute to his dad. He ran it by the former Ballers and it was unanimously accepted.
The still is now complete and this week will be heading to Las Vegas to be put on display for the American Distilling Institute trade show. After which, it’s straight on to English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee. With Mother Nature supplying a key ingredient from 2500 feet below, Coal’d Water Distillery is poised to produce some of the best Bourbon the world has ever tasted!