- Lesli Peterson for The AJC
A group of five guys -- childhood friends and business partners (two of whom are brothers) -- stepped out of their comfortable jobs in technology and real estate to open Atlanta's first distillery since the early 1900s. Haven't been to Old Fourth Distillery yet? Here are four reasons to grab your friends, your spouse -- whomever will join you -- and take a tour and open a bottle.
About 80 years ago, "drinks before dinner" was not an option. Imagine Thanksgiving dinner with Uncle Bob but no gin and tonic to ease the conversation. Prohibition assaulted America from 1919 to 1933, but Georgia suffered long before that due to the organized temperance movement that began in the state in the late 1820s. In 1885 a statute granted voters the right to impose prohibition in their county, and by 1907 most counties had voted themselves dry. RM Rose was one of the last Atlanta distilleries to close their doors, and no one has dared try the process again ... until now.
Rather than working through corn or potatoes to achieve the sugars required for fermentation, Old Fourth Distillery gets right to the source using pure cane sugar. This process saves space and time, but also leaves no waste product. Forget the big-name sugar mills, though; O4D prefers to source their product from a small Louisiana farm that offers organic, non-GMO sugar that is processed in a sustainable manner, leaving the micronutrients in the finished product. The juniper berries and other botanicals used to produce gin are also organic.
The owner's hand-on passionate approach and organic, sustainable ingredients usually equal soaring prices, but that isn't the case with Old Fourth Distillery. You'll find their vodka and gin in about 250 bars and restaurants around the city and about 100 package stores. While retail prices vary, you'll usually find it at an approachable $25 per bottle.
Old Fourth Distillery's vodka and gin can stand on their own. The spirits are smooth and unique, emboldened with flavor. They don't need fancy bottles or a quaint tasting room to be successful. However, for these creators, a tasteful yet unpretentious experience is about more than what's in the bottle. In fact, it embodies the bottle. Beautiful blue or green glass holds the spirits. The vodka bottle showcases Cotton Mills Lofts; the gin bottle highlighting the old Sears & Roebuck building which is now Ponce City Market.
At the tasting room on Edgewood, you'll find marble countertops repurposed from an old East Atlanta Village school. Beadboard, old doors, church pews and more were sourced from over 20 different places around Atlanta to create an intimate space that is new, but still feels like it has been part of the neighborhood since the temperance movement. On the shelves you'll find a rich collection of distilling memorabilia from Atlanta, including old containers from RM Rose with 1906 engraved on the front -- a reminder of how things have changed.
Old Fourth Distillery gin is a beautiful bouquet of eight different botanicals including pink peppercorn, vapor infused into a smooth heavenly drink that doesn't require a tonic mix to soothe you. Get excited about the 45 barrels of bourbon aging currently. It will be at least another three years before they are available to the public, but it will be worth the wait.
Co-owner Craig Moore encourages you to "come meet the guys who had the guts to do it." The building and design are impressive, the spirits are impeccable and the talent and passion is refreshing. If you can't make a tour then ask for Old Fourth Distillery Vodka at your favorite restaurant to package store.