he reality of a commercial distillery launching in Chattanooga—something that has not existed in almost 100 years—took a leap forward recently when a majority of Hamilton County Commissioners signed off on a letter seeking approval from the state legislature to allow the county to legalize operations as part of a 2009 law that allowed individual counties to opt in to legalized liquor-making.
The effort was spearheaded by Chattanooga Whiskey Company’s Joe Ledbetter and Tim Piersant, who launched the city’s first namesake liquor brand in a century earlier this year. But because Hamilton County opted out of the 2009 measure, the new Chattanooga Whiskey has been distilled in a facility in Lawrenceburg, Ind.
Ledbetter and Piersant launched a social media campaign urging friends and whiskey fans to join them as they appeared in front of the commission on Nov. 15 and dozens showed up sporting “Vote Whiskey” pins in support of the effort.
Seven of nine county commissioners signed a letter supporting the initiative, citing the positive economic impact the distillery would bring to the area. Ledbetter said Chattanooga Whiskey has its eye on a renovated Southside building where it would headquarter its operations, and would initially hire 10 employees who would earn $35,000 per year. Piersant told the Times Free Press that the county would initially net $78,000 in property and sales taxes from the operation.
After the commission signed the letter, Ledbetter told Nooga.com that he is excited about the step forward, and he thinks he and his team have overcome their biggest hurdle in the way of local liquor production.
“Our understanding is that the folks statewide are saying, ‘If the local delegation wants it, then so do we,’” he said in the Nooga.com report. “We’re not done. [But] we think this is a huge win.”
Since launching the brand earlier this year, Chattanooga Whiskey has sold more then 3,000 cases locally and around the state.