March 14, 2013

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Joe Ledbetter doesn’t always drink whiskey. Wait. Yes, he does. He drinks Chattanooga Whiskey, which makes sense since he is co-owner of the brand. It makes even more sense since his company is on the verge of opening the first distillery in Chattanooga since Prohibition.

After a bill allowing the distillery to operate in Hamilton County was delayed in the legislature, it now appears passage is all but certain—and Ledbetter and his partner, Tim Piersant, are punch-drunk with victory.

The company and brand launched a year ago to good reviews and sales. The only element missing was the ability to claim Chattanooga Whiskey was distilled in Chattanoooga. Which it is not, because the county opted out of a 2009 law that allowed counties to determine their own laws allowing the establishment of such businesses. At the time, there were none.

But with a majority of County Commissioners signing off on a new initiative spearheaded by Chattanooga Whiskey Co., the bill went to the State Legislature and passage now seems assured.

Given that, Ledbetter  announced plans for the proposed Chattanooga Whiskey Distillery and entered into a tentative agreement with Chestnut Street Properties, pending passage of the bill approving the distillery.  Chattanooga Whiskey also partnered with Artech Design Group for the build-out of its new distillery in the historic former Turnbull Cone Machine Co. on the Southside at  Fort and 14th Streets. The building, which is listed on National Register of Historic Places, contains 30,000 square feet, allowing for two rooftop patios to be used in conjunction with the distillery’s planned 5,000-square-foot, top-floor event space.

The first floor will include the tour entrance, local historical artifacts, whiskey glasses and documents from Chattanooga’s pre-Prohibition distilling history, as well as a gift shop for tourists to purchase commemorative bottles, memorabilia and apparel. From the first floor, visitors can view the 2,000-gallon Vendome copper still the company affectionately refers to as Big Bertha. The still will rise 16 feet from the underground production area through the tourist viewing area on the first floor. The underground production area will include distilling, barrel-filling, proofing, a bottling line and packaging for Chattanooga Whiskey.  

The second and third floors of the building will store and age approximately 1,000 53-gallon barrels of whiskey. Plans also include the fourth floor to be the last stop on a tour where visitors will be able to sample a selection of whiskeys made at the distillery. The fourth-floor space offers a panoramic view of Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain, which will be used as an event space for corporate gatherings, private events, receptions and the occasional Chattanooga Whiskey Presents Music Series, all according to Ledbetter.

Because the distillery is strategically located in downtown Chattanooga within a couple blocks of Interstate 24  and State Highway 27, as well as being within walking distance of other Chattanooga attractions such as the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Finley Stadium, Main Terrain Park, The Chattanoogan Hotel and the Convention Center, the new business can’t help but boost visitors to the Southside.

Cheers, Chattanooga Whiskey—we toast you and call your initiative (and booze) a powerful shot of good business and good news.


March 14, 2013

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