Just like the burning sugar maple charcoal used to make Tennessee whiskey, the Tennessee distilled spirits market is heating up. About three years ago, George Dickel Distillery Master Distiller John Lunn left the Diageo owned distillery to go over to craft spirits maker Popcorn Sutton Distilling. About a year after that, Dickel’s Master Blender Allisa Henley, also jumped ship to go to Popcorn Sutton. It seemed like an unusual move at the time but it wasn’t too long after the duo moved that Sazerac, parent company of Buffalo Trace Distillery purchased the Popcorn Sutton Distillery. Technically, they didn’t purchase the brand but they acquired the equipment, the property and the talent. The dots to those moves are starting to be connected as Sazerac just announced that they have purchased 55 acres of land to build their as yet unnamed Tennessee Whiskey distillery in Murfreesboro, TN.
A Quick Tennessee Distillery Geography Lesson
The Popcorn Sutton Distillery is in Newport, about 4.5 hours east of Nashville. The new Murfreesboro location is a short 40 minute drive from downtown Nashville. And, the shortest driving route from Nashville to Lynchburg, TN, home to Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel Distillery takes you straight through Murfreesboro. Dot, dot, dot. But wait, there’s one more dot. The man who taught Jack Daniel how to distill was Nearest Green. The new Nearest Green Distillery is being built in Shelbyville, TN. A roadtrip from Nashville to Lynchburg takes you through Murfreesboro then Shelbyville until you finally get to the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg. Another dot connected on the growing Tennessee Whiskey Trail map.
Sazerac Pays $2.3 Million for Property to Build $86 Million Distillery
Sazerac says the Murfreesboro location will include a new distillery, including bottling, barrel warehouses and a visitor center on the recently purchased 55 acres. The initial plan is to build two barrel warehouses, each of which will hold approximately 20,000 barrels. A visitor center which overlooks the property’s iconic five acre lake is also planned, all to be operational in 2020. You can see the new Sazerac distillery buildings and pond in the rendering below.
A rendering of Sazerac’s Tennessee whiskey distillery, barrel warehouses and visitor center. The property is 55 acres in Murfreesboro, TN.
Nashville, TN – The 7th Fastest-Growing City in America
According to Forbes 2018 annual list of America’s Fastest-Growing Cities the Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin-TN Metropolitan Statistical Area is the seventh fastest growing city in America. The Forbes report provides a holistic picture of places on the upswing. They look at growth of population, employment, wages and economic output.
“Murfreesboro is one of the fastest growing cities in the country,” said Mayor Shane McFarland. “We are excited about Sazerac’s investment in our community and look forward to celebrating a brand new Tennessee Whiskey from our hometown.”
Distilling Continues at Newport Distillery Location
John and Allisa are continuing to distill Tennessee whiskey on their three pot stills at the Newport, TN location. After the new distillery in Murfreesboro is built, all stills and barrels will be moved. With the oldest whiskey being only a year old, the barrels still have many years to rest before being bottled and sold, giving John and Allisa plenty of time to determine brand name for the Tennessee whiskey, the age of the whiskey and even a name for the new distillery.
The two just burned their second batch of sugar maple in John’s backyard to make the charcoal they use for the Lincoln County process, essential for making Tennessee whiskey. To be classified a Tennessee whiskey the whiskey must be filtered through maple charcoal, which distinguishes it from bourbon whiskey.
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“We’re looking forward to having a new home for our distillery in Murfreesboro and we’re excited about being so close to Middle Tennessee State University and partnering with their students in the fermentation program,” said Master Distiller John Lunn.
Although the main focus for John and Allisa will be Tennessee whiskey, they note they enjoy having the freedom to conduct a few experiments if they like. “Sazerac is known for experimentation, and we look forward to continuing that tradition with experimental spirits in Tennessee,” stated Distiller Allisa Henley.
Projecting 50,000 Distillery Visitors Per Year
Once operational, Sazerac’s new Tennessee distillery will employee 20-25 full time workers. The new site will give complimentary tours and tastings when the visitor center is open. Tourism projections for visitors within five to ten years of opening is 50,000 per year.
Sazerac is one of America’s oldest family owned, privately held distillers with operations in Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Maryland, California, and global operations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, India, Australia and Canada.
Aerial View of this Beautiful Property
Click any image below to enlarge.
George Dickel Distiller Jumps Ship to Expand Popcorn Sutton Distilling
Watch Out Jack, Sazerac Just Bought a Craft Distillery in Tennessee
Sazerac’s Unnamed Tennessee Distillery is Fired Up About the Lincoln County Process
A Day on the Trail: The Story of Nearest Green, America’s 1st African-American Master Distiller [Video]
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City of Murfreesboro Awarded $5.58 Million TDOT Funding for Sazerac Distillery
“We are pleased to receive this significant State Industrial Access Road funding from TDOT for the Sazerac Distillery development,” said City Transportation Director Jim Kerr. “The committed funding will allow us to move forward with plans for roadway improvements in support of this rapidly growing industry in Tennessee and soon to include Murfreesboro.”
In an approval letter to the City Mayor Shane McFarland, TDOT Commissioner John Schroer stated: “It is my understanding that it will be the Department’s responsibility to provide project oversight and review plans. The City will be responsible for acquiring right-of-way, coordinating utility relocations, obtaining permits, engineering, obtaining the environmental document, and construction.”
The City of Murfreesboro Transportation Department applied for the funding assistance following Council approval in April of the annexation and zoning of property along Asbury Road for the Sazerac Distillery on 55 acres east of I-24. Sazerac anticipates opening the distillery by early 2020 and has agreed to pay up to $1.25 million in road funding for the project. Three additional private partners are participating in a Road Development Agreement and will provide right-of-way and partial funding for the road segments affecting their properties.
SEC of Murfreesboro has been selected as the design firm and Griggs and Maloney of Murfreesboro is providing environmental services for the project.