THOMPSON STATION, Tenn. (WTVF) — Company Distilling expanded to Thompson Station in Williamson County, Tennessee, in August 2022, adding another stop to the Tennessee Whiskey Trail.
The distillery is set to host its opening weekend from Thursday, August 25 through Saturday, August 27 complete with live music.
Company Distilling was formed during the pandemic by three players in the Tennessee spirits scene. Notably, Jeff Arnett left Jack Daniels as its master distiller to join the collaboration.
“I wanted this last chapter in my life to be about being the best and pursuing what I believe are the best spirits. Regardless of what that took, and it didn’t have to be you know, a large corporate discussion of what we did, but we could basically pull in a small group of people, each of us recognizing our individual expertises but you know, make up models, discuss them and make decisions together and just go forward,” explained Arnett.
He said he and the other founders came up with the name Company Distilling to get back to spirits’ roots.
“People think of ‘companies’ being a business entity. It really is more of the people that you gather with the original definition of company was those you break bread with, and we’ve kind of largely lost that over the last decades. You know, I think it was a much more common phrase when I was young than it is now. But we want to bring it back to that,” explained Arnett.
He also said the company’s vision is a bit of a return to his childhood.
“From the time that I was a kid, I can remember my mom telling me that I needed to take a shower, clean up my room, because we had company coming over,” recounted Arnett. “And these were people that weren’t necessarily family members, but they were people who were important enough to us that we wanted to give them our best. And we felt like that was an appropriate name for us.”
Before Company Distilling could turn into a dream, the founders helped clear the path for micro-distillers across the state.
“Tennessee had sort of the dubious distinction of going into prohibition 10 years before everybody else. So we went dry in 1910. Prohibition federally was put in place in 1920. And we were dry until 1940, early 1938. So where federal prohibition was a 13-year failed experiment, you know, Tennessee held on and let it fail for nearly 30 years,” explained Company Distilling founder Heath Clark.
Many of the restrictive rules remained until 2009, while the brewery and winery scene progressed.
“[According to the law,] if I wanted to start a distillery, folks had to vote on it. And you know, to me, that was just crazy. Like, we didn’t vote on the Titans coming into town or Nissan or anybody else starting a business, you know, so why would we limit entrepreneurship and free market in the way we were doing? So the change was pretty simple,” stated Clark. “If you allow liquor by the drink and you know, wine or whiskey in restaurants and if you have package stores that sell wine or whiskey. Why not make it? If you’re OK with drinking whiskey, might as well make it. And so that was the simple solution that we brought to the legislature.”
“In the entire state in 2009, we had three distilleries, Jack Daniels, George Dickel, and our friend Phil Prichard down in Lincoln County also. Today, there’s over 40 distilleries from Memphis to Bristol and everywhere in between,” said Clark.
That change in the spirits landscape came after lobbying for a whiskey trail.
“We’ve [now] got six plus million people visit the trail,” stated Company Distilling founder Chris Tatum. “I think the largest visitation for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is little over 1.3 or 1.4 million so, you know, you’re talking three or four multiplier on you know on the trail, that’s only been around since ‘17.”
Clark explained with excitement, “we’re in a really cool time in Tennessee because a lot of these folks got open, you know, 5,6,7,8 years ago, and all their whiskey that they lay down early starting to become mature.”
Company Distilling is just one of those places where the bourbon whiskey is ready for tasting. But at this distillery which opened its first location in Townsend, Tennessee, in the summer of 2022, its gin quickly became a crowd pleaser.
“This is a whiskey state, a whiskey town, and our best selling product…was our dry gin,” explained Clark. “And so really what we want to bring to the table is that thing we did best and became best known for and so we’ve repackaged our gin and we’re making as much Ghost Rail Dry Gin as we possibly can right now. And that’s going to be our area of expertise here [in Williamson County]… Part of the overall vision with this company is to have locations with areas of expertise so that when you come to Thompson Station, you’re going to have a little different experience than you would in Townsend you know our focus is going to be different here than it is there.”
The weekend of events in Thompson Station is what the team called “the end of the beginning.”
“We’ve worked on this idea for two years, putting pieces in place, you know, finding you know, whiskey profile, getting it blended, getting a bottle and getting our gin repackaged during the pandemic. And supply chain, crisis, debacle, whatever you want to call it. Things that used to be easy became really, really hard,” explained Clark. “We finally have our portfolio of spirits that we wanted to start with nine or 10 months ago. So we have it now. And we’re able to share it with everybody that comes.”