By SILAS SLOAN, Knoxville News Sentinel
TOWNSEND, Tenn. (AP) — Whiskey fans should start planning a trip to Townsend.
After facing pandemic-related delays, Company Distilling’s new Townsend Tasting Room is set to open on July 8. Customers can look forward to tasting spirits, touring production facilities and listening to live music.
In April 2021, the company launched publicly and announced it was investing $20 million in an Alcoa headquarters and tasting room in Townsend.
Company Distilling was founded by a team of whiskey experts, including former Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett. The brand distributes its first product, a Tennessee bourbon, throughout the state.
“What’s unique about us is the ability, as a new company, to bring together so much experience in one team with such a complementary skill set,” Arnett said. “I feel like we have the work force to do something really special for the company, and not all brands start out with all of these benefits.”
The approximately 3,700 square foot Townsend facility is located off Highway 321 along the Little River and will serve as a production center as well as a tasting room.
As well as offering sips of whiskeys and spirits, the distillery will brew a few lighter beers to accompany.
Inside the tasting room, guests can sit at the bar or in comfortable chairs while peering out the building’s glass front for views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Guests call peers behind the bar to get a glimpse of the distillation room where the company will produce all of its whisky.
“It’s a small footprint, but I think we can do some wonderful things here,” said Kevin Smith, director of distilling and brewing. “Hopefully with this system we can lay down a few barrels a week, which would be quite a phenomenal effort for a facility of this size.”
Weather permitting, guests will have access to a 2,500 square foot outdoor space with a patio.
Maryville’s Amici Italian Restaurant will open an indoor restaurant called Amico, which means “a friend” in Italian.
“Food has always helped create impactful friendships and impressions for our customers,” said Amici chef and owner Chris Thompson. “Clearly Company Distilling has similar goals of creating lasting relationships by bringing people together to share something they can all enjoy.”
The menu will be announced later.
The company’s Alcoa plant will open in 2023 or 2024 and is expected to create at least 50 to 60 jobs, but chairman and co-founder Kris Tatum said there could be more.
The approximately 25,000 square foot building will be used to store 10,000 to 15,000 barrels, according to Arnett. The facility will also include a tasting room, restaurant, retail space and outdoor entertainment.
Little work has been done on the Alcoa brick factory building, which was built in 1919. Arnett said the structure of the building is solid and it “just needed a little love” . Design plans are not finalized.
The 31-acre lot across from Alcoa High School was chosen in part because of its proximity to traffic on Highway 35.
“We liked that this property was largely untouched,” Arnett said. “When you look at this building, obviously you have to have a lot of vision.”
Arnett and Tatum said they want the Alcoa facility to not only be a place where tourists come to try Tennessee whiskey, but also a gathering place for community members.
“With Alcoa coming in line for us, we think we can basically build a hub to build a national brand,” Arnett said. “At the end of the day, our aspirations don’t stop at being a small regional brand.”
Right now, Arnett, Tatum and Smith are focused on “getting their feet wet” at the Townsend facility, but then everyone is on deck getting Alcoa ready and renovating what was once H. Clark Distilling. at Thompson’s Station.
The company acquired H. Clark earlier this year for an undisclosed amount, and the acquisition will allow the company to add gin to its portfolio and increase production. The acquisition of H. Clark was a critical step in the company’s statewide expansion.
The company’s first 90-degree straight bourbon whiskey, finished with maple wood, is now on the shelves. Arnett said it was accessible to new whiskey drinkers, while being potent enough for more experienced drinkers.
“Part of the philosophy of the brand is that we want to be able to take the mature drinker and the new drinker and have this one bottle that the two can enjoy together,” Arnett said.
The company announced on social media that it will launch Ghost Rail gin, which will be distilled and bottled at Thompson’s Station.
Other products will be launched before the grand opening.
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