Chattanooga Whiskey Company owners have unveiled a proposal for their new distillery and have entered into a tentative agreement for the new space on the Southside, pending the approval of a bill that is currently moving through the Tennessee Legislature.
"We've never been the type of company to hold back," Chattanooga Whiskey co-founder Joe Ledbetter said Friday. "We've got a lot of people locally, regionally and even nationally that are really emotionally invested in what we are doing. That means a lot to us, and we don't want to wait to the last minute to release these kinds of plans."
Ledbetter likened the team's excitement and desire to share information, plans and photos of the business to being a proud parent, which he happens to be.
He loves to show off pictures and talk about his infant daughter, and Chattanooga Whiskey is his other "baby," so he wants to share that with area residents, he said.
If the bill makes it through the entire legislative process to become law, the manufacture of liquor, such as Chattanooga Whiskey, would be allowed in parts of Hamilton County that already allow operating liquor stores and liquor-by-the-drink sales.
The Southside space
Ledbetter and Piersant have a tentative agreement with Chestnut Street Properties LLC for a building on Fort and 14th streets that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The lease agreement is based on the condition that the bill passes.
It was the original site of the Turnbull Cone Machine Company in 1910.
The 30,000-square-foot building will allow for two rooftop patios to be used in conjunction with the distillery's 5,000-square-foot top-floor event space.
The $2 million build-out will include work on four floors of the building.
The first-floor plans include a tour entrance, where visitors can view local historical artifacts, whiskey glasses and interesting documents from Chattanooga’s pre-Prohibition distilling days.
There will also be a gift shop for tourists to purchase commemorative Chattanooga Whiskey bottles, apparel and memorabilia.
From the first floor, visitors will be able to view Big Bertha—the 2,000-gallon copper still, which will rise 16 feet from the underground production area through the viewing area on the first floor.
The underground production area is where crews will distill, fill barrels and package.
The second and third floors are where about 1,000 standard, vintage-style, 53-gallon barrels will be stored and aged, and the fourth floor will be the last stop on the tour, where visitors can sample whiskeys made at the distillery.
Ledbetter said that the word about the product is spreading.
Sales have been strong, and he thinks it is because people understand the story and brand.
And the positive attention that Chattanooga has been getting doesn't hurt, he said.
"The reason sales are great is that people are actually connecting with this story of pre-Prohibition," he said. "Distilleries were lost in a city that had them, and we're [trying to bring] them back."
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