Distillery ready to open in new year
Published in Herald & Tribune Dec. 24, 2014 issue
As of last week, Tennessee Hills Distillery can officially manufacture and distribute alcohol in the state of Tennessee, bringing the Jonesborough business one step closer to opening the doors early next year.
“I can’t believe it still,” Stephen Callahan, owner of Tennessee Hills Distillery, said of making progress in following his dreams and his moonshine roots. “Now we have to get our labels approved and wait on our first shipment of bottles and get our souvenir line in order.”
He hopes to open the doors if not by the middle of January, definitely by Feb. 1.
“I want to get the doors open, but want to make sure we can operate in a safe and efficient manner,” Callahan said.
The process of opening the distillery, which began in early 2014, has been steadily moving along. Callahan and his brother, David, have been working side-by-side turning the Salt House into the new home for the Tennessee Hills Distillery applying the business’ motto “embracing heritage” every step of the way.
“We built the stills in house, did renovations in the building specific to our needs. My brother and I did the iron gates, the tasting bar, the glass walls,” Callahan said. “Every piece of equipment, my brother and I fabricated in there.”
All the equipment needed to operate the business is now in the building.
The 300-gallon and 150-gallon copper stills were designed by Callahan.
“We built those in the Salt House pretty much right where they are sitting. I think that speaks a lot for our craftsmanship. We want equipment that is a work of art rather than just serving its purpose to make liquor,” he said. “We are really passionate about what we do. We want to get people a product made with passion and very high quality too.”
The still gives Callahan a wide range in terms of the product that can be made at the Salt House. He said he can make corn liquor that has a lot of flavor to vodka that has no flavor.
“We have a lot of versatility in the Salt House as far as the product,” he said, adding that everything will be made in small batches and hand-bottled.
The tasting bar was pieced together with chestnut that came from an old family barn that was more than a 150 years old.
“It was in really good condition in the barn,” he said. “I figured it would be a perfect place to put it on display.”
Callahan said the distillery is going to be a nice place to stop in, take a tour, have some tastings and hopefully buy a bottle of whiskey.
The outside of the building has also been enhanced with shrubs and a crosswalk. The loading dock, weather permitting, should be installed early next week.
“Jonesborough has been behind us 100 percent from the time I came to town and pitched my idea,” he said. “They helped us put in the crosswalks and have a nice venue.”
In addition to getting the Salt House ready for business, Callahan said they have already harvested crops for the operation. Eighty-eight acres or about 10,000 bushels of corn, were harvested from Callahan’s family farm in November and stored in a silo at Shell Mill in Jonesborough.
“That should last us hopefully for three quarters of the year, maybe the first full year,” he said.
Callahan said everything they are doing will be ground in an antique 1940s model stone mill because it adds to their businesses story.
“That’s pretty special,” he said. “We gave him (Mark Shell) a whole new business aspect. We are going to be using a lot of corn.”
Callahan said when crops are stone ground, they tend to keep a lot of their flavor profile.
The grains that are leftover, will feed the livestock on Callahan’s 100-acre family farm. He said they are getting ready to buy some more cattle to consume the access grain.
“It’s all going to be pretty personal and full circle,” he said of the process. “Everything is pretty much in Jonesborough and that’s how I like to keep it.”
He said they are waiting on barley to be delivered, which should arrive at any time.
The business will have a quick turnaround for their product due to grains being delivered to the Salt House every seven to 10 days.
Callahan said hopefully by March or April, they will have all of the flavors produced that are going to be released and available at the Salt House.
Callahan said he believes his business will be very well received once the doors are open.
“Our story, being from the oldest town, and being in a 174 year old building, and kind of preserving a historical site, and making it a functional historical building, is special to me,” he said. “That is being a part of history.”
Other articles about the distillery I’ve written: