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Shortbarrel Bourbon Acquires Atlanta’s Old Fourth Distillery

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Atlanta-based Shortbarrel Thursday the acquisition of Old Fourth Distillery — the “oldest continuously operating distillery in Atlanta and a pioneer in Atlanta’s recent craft distilling movement.”

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With the closing of the deal, Shortbarrel has acquired the rights to the Old Fourth brand, existing product inventory and 1,000 barrels of fine aged whiskey. The value of the acquisition was not disclosed.

Shortbarrel was founded by friends and fellow whiskey lovers Adam Dorfman, Clinton Dugan, and Patrick Lemmond. While still working their other full-time jobs, the trio has built a lineup of whiskeys with a “defining calling card of flavor, viscosity and proof,” according to a press release. All of Shortbarrel’s bourbons and rye whiskies are non chill-filtered and most clock in at 94 proof or higher, meaning less water is added to the whiskey coming from the barrel, thus retaining more of that deep, rich flavor, with an incredibly long finish. The company currently has eight whiskey expressions in the marketplace.

When it opened in 2014 in the heart of the historic Old 4th Ward, Old Fourth Distillery was Atlanta’s first new legal distillery since 1906. Old Fourth’s current product lineup includes vodka; a Southern Dry gin; Lawn Dart, a unique ginger lemon liqueur; and a Bottled in Bond 100 Proof Bourbon with barrels sourced from MGP but aged and blended in Atlanta. All of those products will continue to be made by Shortbarrel under the Old Fourth Distillery brand name.

The original Old Fourth Distillery was shuttered by its previous owners in December of 2022 with the lease for the space not renewed. Operations will be relocated from the Old Fourth neighborhood to Norcross in April. The new facility — location not disclosed — will include distilling, aging, blending, single barrel selections, packaging and back-office operations, as well as a small tasting room for consumers that will open this summer for both Shortbarrel and Old Fourth.

“We were determined to keep the Old Fourth brand alive as an Atlanta original, so I am pleased we were able to quickly secure a new facility to serve as the flagship for both Shortbarrel and Old Fourth,” Dugan said. “Old Fourth, its products and the people involved are too important to the city and community not to continue the brand. Our goal is to honor what Old Fourth has built and work with the team to make the products even better and more widely available.”

Old Fourth averaged annual sales of nearly 4,000 9 liter cases per year in Georgia and online, with a 22% growth rate in 2022, much of that dominated by their bourbon product. Shortbarrel has retained Old Fourth Distillery employees Kim Bates and Amanda Willis, who will continue to lead sales for both brands for on- and off-premise locations.

“I am so excited to join the Shortbarrel team and keep the Old Fourth brand going here in Georgia and beyond,” Kim Bates of Old Fourth Distillery said. “Rest assured we will have a very steady supply of products available and are looking forward to new partnerships. I am thrilled I get to add my personal touch to all our products going forward.”

Shortbarrel currently sources whiskey barrels from distilleries outside of Georgia, such as Bardstown Bourbon Company and Green River Distilling. Shortbarrel will soon begin contract distilling bourbon and rye in Atlanta at the Distillery of Modern Art in Chamblee, making the Old Fourth branded whiskeys 100% Atlanta-crafted. The company has secured large distillery contracts outside of Atlanta for its namesake brand with contract distilling beginning this year in Garrard County, Kentucky.

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