Georgia Distillery to open in Haddock

A distillery announced plans Thursday to begin operations in Haddock in early spring, bringing what owners believe will bring a “uniqueness” to the area.

Initially, the distillery promoted plans to set up shop in Jackson, but the building they were going to lease was unavailable at the time they intended to occupy, said Shawn Hall, co-owner of Georgia Distilling Co. While searching for a new site, Hall and fellow co-owner Bill Mauldin stumbled upon the former Cherokee Products plant, which closed 15 years ago and has been vacant since.

“It’s a dream come true,” Hall said. “It’s an old cannery that has a lot of history in itself and a lot more room than we needed.”

The 70-acre site has a number of buildings on it totaling 158,000 square feet. The proposed building in Jackson was 10,000 square feet.

The company plans to use about a third of the building space with initial operations. With plenty of room for future expansion and hires, “it will allow for something that a distillery of our size would never dream of doing,” Hall said.

Although distilleries don’t typically employ a lot of people, Georgia Distilling plans to fill about eight to 10 jobs in the first year with an opportunity for 25 to 30 within the next two years, Hall said.

The company plans to produce moonshine, vodka and gin immediately, with plans to expand into other product lines in the future.

State law prohibits distilleries from selling alcohol on site, so while there are plans for a gift shop at the Haddock location, only trinkets will be for sale and the alcohol will be sent directly to distributors. However, Hall said they plan to lobby for on-site tasting sessions.

They also plan to offer tours of the facility to the public, which will allow opportunity for people and tourism dollars to come into the area, said Jones County Development Authority Executive Director Doug Redmond.

“Haddock has been in a economic decline since the plant closed there 15 years ago,” he said. “The revitalization committee there has really been working to clean the area up, so it’s a great fit for us. ... It’ll certainly be good for the restaurants there and other retail stores there.”

Along with jobs and tourism dollars, the distillery will bring a local excise tax from alcohol sales to the area, worth about 80 cents per proof gallon, Hall said.

Georgia Distilling is also offering private stock. When news of the company opening in Jackson was reported, Hall said a number of Middle Georgia residents bought stakes in the company. Despite the change in location, that stock is still valid, he said.

With a letter of intent signed with Jones County in hand, the company plans to apply for federal and state permits within the next week, Hall said.

Meanwhile, Redmond said, the development authority is working to secure the property, which is currently tied up in bankruptcy court.

The distillery is the second firm in as many months to announce a move to Jones County. In December, NFI Installation Inc. was the first company to purchase property in Griswold Park, a Jones County industrial park.

To contact writer Caryn Grant, call 744-4347.