Will alcohol distilleries help tourism, commerce?

Johnson City Press • Feb 17, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Officials in Unicoi and Jonesborough could soon welcome moonshiners to their towns. Unlike the previous generations of whiskey distillers, who saw their clandestine stills smashed by the law, these moonshiners will make their corn liquor with the blessings of the establishment.As Press staff writer Tony Casey reported last week, Unicoi’s Planning Commission is considering a request to establish a whiskey distillery in town. “We really like Unicoi,” said Jerry Prosser, who is one of two North Carolina businessmen looking to place a legal still in Unicoi. Posser told Unicoi officials the distillery would generate profit for his company and additional tourism dollars for Unicoi.“We’re certainly interested in promoting tourism,” said Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch, who noted that he and his colleagues needed additional information before making a decision on the request.The distillery would consist of a 20-by-40-foot building, made of logs or something to resemble a classic still, and be located somewhere in the town where fresh water is available. At top capacity, operators hope to produce 250 gallons of taxed corn whiskey a week. “I’d say we have illegal stills around here working at that capacity,” Lynch said.Also last week, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a special zoning overlay to allow a distillery to operate in the historic Salt House on Foxx Street. Stephen Callahan, a 26-year-old Jonesborough native and Eastman Chemical Co. researcher, first approached town officials late last year with his plans to establish a craft distillery specializing in traditional Appalachian corn mash moonshine.He plans to put his still behind glass so tourists will be able to observe the process and sample and purchase the finished product for off-site consumption.We want to hear from you. Do you think legal moonshining in Jonesborough and Unicoi is a good thing? Will local distilleries help with tourism and commerce? Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com.Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification purposes. We will print responses on the Opinion pages soon.

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