Billy Kaufman: King of the Mountain


Short Mountain Distillery is owned and operated by the Kaufman brothers. In 1910 their great grandfather, Jesse Shwayder, founded the iconic American brand Samsonite. Shwayder never missed an opportunity to attribute his company’s success to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He believed in this deep value so much that he started a tradition of handing out marbles engraved with the Golden Rule. The Kaufman brothers carry on this tradition to honor their great grandfather with a collectable coin inscribed with this philosophy on every bottle.

Billy Kaufman is a rural Cannon County farmer who lives and works in Short Mountain, TN. Kaufman came to Cannon County in 2001 and runs the first farm in Cannon County to attempt organic certification. Working with the USDA, Kaufman installed erosion protections, water conservation systems and fencing. The stringent requirements protect streams, wildlife and drinking water for generations to come while providing healthier food for the community.

Short Mountain Farm is nestled in 300 acres of land that Kaufman wants to protect and make a viable part of our community. His work as a farmer providing food to locals and various markets got him thinking about ways that can better sustain local farmers.

Billy proposed an idea to his brothers (David, Ben, and Darian) to start a distillery called Short Mountain Distillery. It would create jobs, help keep local farmers in business and bring another unique Tennessee brand to America and the world. Most important to the Kaufman brothers, Short Mountain Distillery would be a locally owned and family funded business that’s a productive part of the community generating needed revenue that will stay in the county.

In the summer of 2010, Kaufman began seeking approval from his friends and neighbors by collecting signatures for a referendum. A law passed in 2009 by the state legislature cleared the way for distilleries to operate in Tennessee. On November 2, 2010 voters granted Kaufman permission to build a distillery in Cannon County through a general election referendum.

Since then, Short Mountain Distillery worked to receive both state and federal permits becoming Tennessee’s sixth distillery making a 105 proof authentic Tennessee Moonshine from corn grown and stone-milled on Kaufman’s 300 acre farm. Short Mountain Distillery has become an internationally recognized moonshine with thousands of loyal followers.

Tell me what visitors will experience when they visit Short Mountain Distillery:

At Short Mountain Distillery, we pride ourselves on giving visitors an authentic, original, informative and entertaining tour experience. You will learn about our history and techniques that cannot be seen anywhere else and it’s part of our mission to share that knowledge. You won’t find any novelty products on Short Mountain.  If you want to learn about the history of spirits in Tennessee, see how real moonshine is made and experience it all in its traditional rural setting then we are the place to go.

What are your best selling products?

Short Mountain Shine, Apple Pie and Prohibition Tea. They are all very different spirits. Apple Pie is sweet and appeals to pallets that like the smoothness of a lower 40 proof. Our Prohibition Tea is made from real black tea with a hint of Peach and appeals to tea lovers that like a flavor less sweat than Apple Pie, but still is great on the rocks or with lemonade. Our Shine is 105 proof clear moonshine and appeals to lovers of fine sipping spirits as well as folks that like to mix their own cocktails. Moonshine is the all American clear spirit. It’s a great way to add a southern twist to any classic cocktail by just using moonshine in the place of vodka or tequila.

Tell me about your new organic moonshine:

I moved to Tennessee to practice sustainable farming and have always been a supporter of producing organic. We have finally completed our organic certification as a business and we are able to make “certified” organic products. Our organic moonshine is a charcoal filtered pure organic corn shine. I like to think of it as another angle on being a responsible drinker.

What makes Short Mountain unique?

We are a small craft distillery in the heart of a working farm. We make all of our products from pure spring water that flows from a cave spring right behind the distillery. Our business model is based on The Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.). We basically don’t cut any corners and only make the finest spirits that we would want to drink ourselves.

Tell me about your cocktail classes? 

Our cocktail classes show visitors how to mix our spirits into classic cocktails. It’s fun and hopefully educational. At the very least you’ll be able to try some delicious drinks. Our class is $50.  It includes a tour, a class and cocktail tasting. Be sure to join our moonshiner’s club to receive invites to special events, new spirit releases and lots of discounts at the distillery.

Why should LGBT couples book their wedding at Short Mountain?

The distillery is on one of the most beautiful farms in Middle Tennessee. The remodeled farm house is the perfect place for a wedding reception and the grounds offer all sorts of options if you want an outdoor wedding. Our location allows creativity, freedom and privacy that’s hard to obtain at other venues.

What LGBT causes have you supported?

I’ve have been involved in so many LGBT events it’s hard to remember them all. This past year we’re proud to help with events for Nashville Cares, The Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce as well as supporting The Music City Sisters fundraising efforts.

Visit www.shortmountaindistillery.com for more information.

Photo by Nathan Carroll.