Taster

James Aaron Phillips, left, is remembered for his storytelling. The Junction 35 employee died Jan. 3, and the distillery is holding a fundraiser for his family.

PIGEON FORGE — James Aaron Phillips made a living telling stories, and Monday his friends and family will get together to tell stories about him.

Phillips died Jan. 3 after a brief illness.

The 31-year-old had developed a following around Sevier County as a taster at multiple distilleries. He’d been in that role at Junction 35 Spirits from the day it opened to when he got sick.

Beginning 5 p.m. Monday, the distillery will host an event to honor and remember Phillips.

Manager Nichole Nicely organized the event. They’ll have an auction and gathering at the distillery, and they also have a gofundme site setup. All proceeds will go to Phillips’ mom.

Phillips was preceded in death by his brother, John Nathan Rasnick. His mother, Judy Phillips, moved to Sevierville with him.

“We all know James loved his momma and always made sure she was taken care of,” Nicely said. “As friends of James, I believe it is up to us to help her maintain through this difficult time.”

Since Phillips got sick, they’ve been hearing from friends and customers, some of whom had just met him when they visited the distillery.

That’s not surprising, given his personality, Nicely said.

“He had this huge, boisterous personality that people loved,” she said. “He gave these big bear hugs that made you feel like everything was all right again.”

His role at the distilleries played into that, as he described how they made their spirits and what made them unique.

“It’s a storytelling of how we got to where we are,” Nicely said. “They’re going to tell you a story about their spirits.”

Phillips was a boisterous, enthusiastic person and they plan to celebrate that Monday.

“James was such a happy person we didn’t want to do it with a funeral,” Nicely said.

Contact Jeff at jfarrell@themountainpress.com or Twitter at @jeffmtnpress

Contact Jeff at jfarrell@themountainpress.com or Twitter at @jeffmtnpress