Old 4th Plans First ATL Distillery Since Prohibition

By Christopher Hassiotis  |  December 12, 2013

Like the rest of the country, Atlanta's microbrew scene has blown up over the past decades. These days even the most modest of restaurants carries a solid selection of handcrafted local beers. But what's the case for breweries isn't the case for liquor distilleries - at least not yet.

Old 4th Distillery, which plans to open next year, aims to be Atlanta's first functioning distillery since Prohibition. Five Georgia natives - brothers Craig and Jeff Moore, Gabe Pilato, Justin Gray and Andy DuVall - are behind the endeavor.

"We've been working at this for about two years now, there are five of us and four of us have been friends since childhood," says Craig Moore. "We've known each other and worked together for years. We've always wanted to make something and build a brand and build something that will last, and this really presented itself as a great opportunity."

The idea grew out of Jeff Moore's semi-underground East Atlanta event space The East Pole. As 2011 was rolling into 2012, the East Pole was throwing a private New Year's Eve party and several local breweries approached Jeff about developing special beers for the event. "We also thought it would be cool to have our own spirit," says Craig, "and started to look into it. We started looking at the laws and realized it was possible - not for that party, obviously, but for the future. So we looked at each other and realized it was a tremendous opportunity. There are small distilleries everywhere, in tiny mountain towns in Colorado. But none in Atlanta, so we basically embarked on that journey."

The team, pictured above, has found a space in the historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, and Moore emphasizes the location as being emblematic of the approach he wants to take with the distillery - keeping things local and harnessing the rapid redevelopment taking place in intown Atlanta. Moore says he's already met with a number of local restaurants and bars with plans to partner on cocktails once the brand launches next year. And though the Old 4th Distillery team has secured outside funding and invested their own money, they're also using crowd-funding to bring in the community. The Old 4th Distillery Kickstarter campaign, which closes its funding campaign this Saturday, has so far raised more than 80 percent of its $40,000 goal.

Old 4th Distillery's plan is to introduce a classic, non-flavored vodka in 2014, and move on from there. "We're pragmatic about the fact that vodka comprises a large percentage of the spirits market in the States," says Moore. "My brother has a passion for gin, but the logistics of rolling out two spirits is complicated. So vodka first, then gin in late 2014 or early 2015, and then start barreling a whiskey for a 2020 launch hopefully."

While real estate and equipment are coming together, Old 4th is still at work on the precise recipe for its launch vodka. They've brought in consultants from national organizations and relied on other microdistilleries for advice and support. Moore says the entire project has been a huge challenge, and the details - from something large like the differences between fractional distilling and pot-and-column distilling, to the small, like how much research goes into developing a bottle's enclosure cap - have been surprising yet rewarding.

With plans for a tasting room and distillery tours, Moore and the team have their eyes set on the horizon - on several, really - but their closest milestone is the Kickstarter campaign. For more information about the distillery, visit its the Old 4th Distillery website or its Facebook page.