Kelso distiller might bottle here

Friday, April 2, 2010
Phil Prichard, proprietor of Prichard's Distillery in Lincoln County foresees business picking up; so much that he may use a business in Lewisburg to bottle his bourbon.

KELSO - This unincorporated community several miles east of Fayetteville is building on its reputation as having a distillery that produces rum, and as sales grow there's a distinct possibility that the business will need to automate its bottling process.

A Lewisburg business may be able to help.

Phil Prichard, proprietor of the only distillery in Lincoln County and one of only three distilleries in Tennessee, took off for California last month to partake in some tasting events and visit with customers - some of whom have indicated an interest in buying large quantities of his alcoholic beverage.

Prichard's Distillery has been producing rum for years. Last year, bourbon and a bourbon liqueur were added to the list of products that's grown to eight brand names of spirited beverages suitable for sipping straight, cocktails, aperitifs and a dessert drink.

It's fair to say that Prichard's liquors are hand made, right down to his practice of signing the bottle for customers who buy a certain number of bottles. Prichard uses a pen with gold ink to sign the glass side of his bottles. While he's not indicated that might change, it's clear that if his production grows as much as he hopes, then he'll have to abandon his claim to a hand-bottled beverage - at least for much of the production.

In the midst of Prichard's growing popularity, he's been approached by economic developers in Winchester where Franklin County Mayor Richard Stewart has been included in the effort. "They showed me everything... largely downtown on the square" in Winchester. "If the object is to draw tourists, that's a good place."

Of course, Lewisburg has a public square, too, and Prichard was contacted.

Until he was approached, Prichard said, "It hadn't crossed my mind to" move the distillery somewhere else.

"But," he continued, "never say never and there are a lot of ways that it could be accomplished."

One would be for investors to buy the remaining stock left in his private issue, but that might take $1.5 million and a patient investor because the spirit must age before it's determined matured into the tasty drink that's desired. Smaller barrels may produce an early batch, but the final result might not be exactly the same.

While money can solve a lot of problems, Prichard has looked at the prospect of expanding one other way.

That one "is with a natural division of our company," he said. "We have been known as a producer of rum. The reason we did that 10 years ago was because that was the movement of tastes...

"Now, the move is to the taste of whiskey," Prichard explained over dinner at The Restaurant on Highway 64 in Kelso.

His distillery is in the old community schoolhouse. The storage area for barrels is in the old gymnasium. Offices, a visitor's room and other functions of the distillery are in what were classrooms. The stills are in rooms with concrete floors. One of the storage structures for his finished product is surrounded by a tall chain-link fence, protected by locks and other devices.

He's producing Tennessee Rum & Spirits that are labeled as Prichard's Fine Rum, Crystal Rum, Cranberry Rum, Key Lime Rum, Sweet Georgia Belle Peach Mango Rum, Private Stock Rum, Sweet Lucy Bourbon Liqueur and Benjamin Prichard's Double Barreled Bourbon.

The bourbons are coming out this season.

So now, he's probably out of the country. He's been bottling with bottles made in China. That supplier and/or business associates became interested in Prichard's end product, so he is pursuing what appears to be a business opportunity.

Some time before he left, he visited Lewisburg.

Lewisburg Industrial Development Director Terry Wallace and others met with Prichard.

"Prichard was trying to sell some stock in his company and we got to talking and we tried to talk him into coming here," Wallace said Wednesday night, confirming how the discussion wandered into the area of bottling.

"This is premature as far as the bottling aspect," Wallace cautioned. "There are certain licenses to be obtained."

However, Prichard met and spoke with one of the owners of a business that includes a bottling operation, Wallace said.

"They bottle a little bit of everything," the industrial developer said.

Prichard also got the 50-cent tour of the Lewisburg Business Park on Mooresville Highway.

"I was really impressed with how close the business park is to Interstate 65," Prichard said.

"It would make a really nice place for a distillery," he concluded, "but we have to find the $1.5 million."