Tarnished Truth Distillery at the Cavalier Hotel

Earlier today, I went to the Tarnished Truth distillery at the Cavalier Hotel, a part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection.

The Cavalier opened its doors in 1927 and since, 10 U.S. president’s have visited the hotel and dozens of celebrities – including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.

In the early 2000s I believe, the Cavalier closed its doors and it was anticipated that the hotel would be demolished. However, the Cavalier Associates ultimately won the bid in 2012 and in 2014, the Cavalier earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Also in 2014, renovation began.

The Cavalier reopened in 2018 and it is beautiful. I am so glad we got to go today! This hotel is the only one in the U.S. to have a distillery on-site – the Tarnished Truth Distillery. The name comes from the countless stories from the history of the hotel. One story is The Great Gatsby was inspired by a party F. Scott Fitzgerald attended at the Cavalier. Although this can’t be true since the book came out in 1925 and the Cavalier did not open until 1927.

They distill moonshine, gin, vodka, and bourbon. The distillery is underneath the lobby and shares a floor with the spa and a once-speak-easy-now-tavern, The Hunt Room. The Hunt Room is closed on Sundays so obviously, I will be going back on a day when it is open.


It turns out, distilling bourbon is quite a process! By law, bourbon must be at least 51% corn. The other two ingredients are typically rye and barley. Those three are mixed together and water is added. Tarnished Truth uses their own water, instead of city water as that is treated with chlorine and fluoride. These are all heated and cooked together. There’s a lot going on during this period on a molecular level in respect to the heat/boiling of the water, sugars, starches, and more. Honestly, chemistry has never been something I excel at so we are going to fast-forward now.

All of the liquid aspects of this mix evaporate and separate and the mash that is left (think oatmeal) can be fed to farm animals.

What is almost bourbon must go through the process of aging in barrels. The barrels used must be white oak. We learned that since these are wooden barrels, some of the bourbon is absorbed into the barrels but some distillers (like Jim Beam) will press the wood to retrieve the bourbon. This is called “Devil’s Cut.” Meanwhile, “Angel’s Cut” is the portion of bourbon that ultimately evaporates.

So as it turns out, moonshine is un-aged bourbon. At the end of the tour, we got to taste moonshine, 3-year bourbon whiskey, and 9-year bourbon whiskey. My personal favorite was the 3-year bourbon. They had a merchandise shop and my dad bought a small bottle for me. Each tour guest was also given a (clean) free taster glass with the Tarnished Truth logo etched in the glass.

After the tour and tasting, we explored the rest of the first floor of the Cavalier.

I had such a great time visiting the Cavalier and will definitely be visiting again soon to dine at one of the restaurants! Possibly even treat myself to a stay-cation sometime!

Have you visited the Cavalier yet? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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