Back in the day Pickens County had no shortage of moonshine coming from our creeks and hollows, all very hush, hush – at least officially. But the times have changed and with it attitudes towards distilled spirits.
Jasper is now on the verge of having these spirits being produced right on Main Street and it will be completely legal. In addition to moonshines that capture the local heritage, the operators of Sharptop Distilling Company will offer bourbon, brandy, gin and other spirits from a modern handcrafted copper still.
The new Sharptop Distilling Company is in the final phases of completing their production facility in the Edge Building on Main Street and is already selling bourbon and a special rum at private tastings and during special openings for downtown events.
Husband and wife owners Jason Hutson and Jackie Ivey have done 99 percent of the renovation work transforming the former production area/print warehouse of the Pickens Progress at 104 N. Main Street into a modern distillery and are now set to fire up the still (electrical powered) giving the same attention to detail to their range of liquid products.
[The Progress will continue to use its regular front office/entrance.]
On their website, the Sharptop owners describe their goal – “Creating north Georgia spirits, once a source of independence & rebellion, can now be done with honor. Whereas the crafters of the cash crop once flaunted the rules of the Union, the modern day moonshiner pays the government’s share of taxes, knowing those funds will funnel back into the schools and roads, so necessary for commerce and education.”
Ivey is a native of Pickens County and while Hutson is originally from Alabama, he has set his roots right here in Jasper.
The distillery, like most everything now, has been beset by a supply chain issue hampering them from reaching full operation. Sharptop Distilling Company uses a traditional copper pot still design, handmade in Dahlonega and a work of art in itself. However, this still comes with a full array of electric gauges and controls.
The latest estimate is they can unravel the supply chain issue for the final electrical components and will be on track to have the mash started by late October.
To officially be called bourbon, liquor must be aged two years in oak barrels, so like all distilleries, the Sharptop owners partnered with an existing Kentucky operation to buy bourbon they felt would have a similar flavor profile to what they will produce.
From Wilderness Trail distillery they obtained four 53-gallon barrels of bourbon at cask strength (116 proof). Following taste testing, which included one night with whiskey drinkers from the community, they determined that a 100-proof version of that bourbon got the highest marks.
They are now selling bottles of that under their own label, as well as a Night Ride Rum, so named for the annual JeepFest Night Ride.
Hutson made it clear that their goal is to distill spirits, educate through tours and tastings; not to operate a bar, though they may eventually partner with area bartenders to have special drinks available seasonly.
“There are enough great bars around already. We aren’t looking to take away from other places,” Hutson said. “We want to add something new.”
The owners do a thorough job incorporating local history of the town into their marketing and expect to draw a fair number of tourists to complement the growing downtown scene in Jasper.
They also went all out to make the space they now lease modern but with plenty of heritage on display. Their space includes a replica still on loan from the Pickens Historical Society in addition to the modern one they will use. Ivey, who works at Polycor Georgia Marble, was able to see that the bar in the distillery comes from Pearl Grey marble quarried just down the road a bit, in Tate.
The tasting room has also incorporated old wood removed during renovation that’s put back into the features. They also made use of the old pipes of the boiler heater system for handrails and other areas. Coming from Jackie’s family, they also used freshly cut cedar posts and old tin from family property in the walls and décor.
The space, like the operation itself, is a great mixture of the moonshine heritage updated to a modern craft-cocktail world. Find out more and look for their openings at sharptopdistilling.com.