Jason Cantrell has been a Taste Maker at Sugarlands Distilling Company for more than a year. We sat down to talk with him about what he does, why he likes it, and what makes Sugarlands Distilling Co. such a good place to work.
Q: So you have been here for over a year, how has your job changed from when you started to now?
A: The company has grown exponentially. We have added new flavors, we are starting to see repeat customers—I am seeing the same people at the same time of year as I did last year—they want more and more of what we got! It’s pretty cool how our key, staple flavors keep drawing people back in and they trust that our next new flavor is going to be great.
Q: What’s your favorite part of the job?
A: I really like being in front of people, I like spreading the good news. When I first went to college, my initial idea of what I wanted to do was electronic media. I wanted to dig in and share good news with people, and this really gives me that chance. I get to entertain people, share something new with them, and I get to experience something with them as well.
Q: Have you ever done anything like this before? Performance arts, theater, or anything where you perform in front of people?
A: I don’t really know if there is anything else like this out there. This is theater in a sense. I was in theater when I was in high school and that is about as far as it went. This job is similar to improv. Someone is going to shoot you an off the wall question, someone is going to ask you something you never even thought of and you have to be quick!
Q: That’s a nice segue. Let me ask you, what is the most unique part of your job?
A: Man, it’s always the customers. Great people come to Gatlinburg from all over the world. Just this past weekend I had a group of people come in from Columbia, and they did not know much English, but we had a great time. We couldn’t share a lot of words but we shared a lot of hugs and pictures. They enjoyed their time and they got to laugh.
Q: How often do you have customers experiencing moonshine for the first time?
A: I ask on every round of tastings I do and I would say it’s about 75 percent of them are tasting it for the first time.
Q: What would you say are the flavors people tend to enjoy most here?
A: Apple pie: all day. Number two is our peach. Right now I am personally really enjoying our peanut butter and jelly and butterscotch—that’s my mom’s favorite.
Q: What makes working for Sugarlands Distilling Company unlike other jobs you have had?
A: I love the family environment. Everybody supports everybody, we have a great time together, we get business done and every day we sell more and more moonshine.
I don’t think this job is imaginable to most people. This is something that we have developed together. I’ve never seen this done anywhere else. There are pros and cons and it seems to be all on the positive side to me and I hope it goes on forever and ever.
Q: Besides visiting Sugarlands Distilling Company, what would you tell people to do when they visit Gatlinburg?
A: Please visit the mountains— check it out. It’s beautiful, I am looking over there right now. That’s the view from the window of my house and that is why I chose where I live. Come down, explore nature, unwind a little bit. But stop in and say hi.