Independent Distilling Company, which distilled the first batch of bourbon within the perimeter since Prohibition in 2014, is about to open its tasting room. Founders Tommy Williams and Michael Anderson received their permits in January 2014 and were selling their Hellbender Corn Whiskey by the year’s end. But they’ve yet to open their doors to the public. They say that Georgia’s outdated alcohol laws, which ban on-site sales, have made it difficult for them to interact with the community. “Now we can officially, legally open our doors,” Williams says. The grand opening for the tasting room is February 20, from 1 to 6 p.m. Afterwards, they will host tours and tastings from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Williams hopes that the community “will get a chance to hear, see, feel and taste the passion we have for this business.”
When Williams and Anderson first began planning the distillery and filing for paperwork, they didn’t exactly have a model to follow. “I was the first guy to show up at the police station and ask for a permit for distilled spirits in probably 100 years,” Anderson says. They received their permits in January 2014, becoming the first legal distillery inside the perimeter since prohibition.
When they decided to open a tasting room, the complicated process started all over again. With no other distilleries in Decatur, the city worked with Williams and Anderson to write safety regulations, building code, and permits. Anderson says he now knows almost as much about code as he does whiskey. “There’s obscure language in the fire code that allows for the storage of 120 gallons of spirits in barrels, but at some point in time somebody got language in that said any spirit stored in oak containers didn’t count against the limit,” he says.
Next up: Anderson wants to experiment with new spirits. In addition to making a gin, he wants to begin distilling beer from local breweries and playing with new ingredients. He’s even hoping to do a malt whiskey, which he describes as a Southern take on Scottish whiskey. “Why should the Northwest dominate the craft industry, both brewing and distilling?” Williams says. “The next great thing is hiding in Georgia somewhere, in one of these little distilleries.”