We’re pleased to present a guest blog by one of our new writers, Matt B., who lives in Georgia.
The city of Savannah, Georgia’s love affair with alcohol can be seen everywhere: The people strolling the cobblestone streets of the historic district with a beer or mixed drink in hand; the four wonderful breweries found in the town; and last but not least, the first distillery in Savannah since Prohibition, Ghost Coast Distillery. At the west edge of the historic district off Indian Street, you can find Ghost Coast Distillery, where they offer tours of their facilities, tastings of their expertly-crafted spirits, and merchandise (including bottles of vodka) to take home.
When I heard this liquor oasis had opened in February of this year, I knew I had to give this place a visit with my cocktail-loving friend. We arrived at the distillery and decided to start with the tour to get to know the place. The tour begins with a 360-degree multimedia experience that details the roughly 300-year, love-hate relationship Savannah has with the devil’s nectar. This experience puts the distillery in context of the history of Savannah and allows tourgoers to better understand the importance of it being the first distillery in Savannah since Prohibition. Our excellent tour guide, John, took us into the barrel room, which is stocked with over 100 barrels of whiskey ageing patiently in white oak barrels. We learned about the differences between whiskey and bourbon, the importance of time in the process of distilling spirits, and why Ghost Coast Distillery started producing vodka at the beginning of their endeavor.
After the barrel room comes the distilling factory, where we were met with beautiful, open fermentation vessels filled with distiller’s beer (fermented grain that is distilled into spirits) and the delicious smell of fermentation. With the gleaming copper still (which is used for extracting the alcohol from the fermented grain mixture) towering over the tour group, we learned the ingredients and the labor that go into crafting the perfect spirit. While my friend and I were standing below the still, serendipity struck and allowed the distiller, Ken, to answer a few questions and discuss the art behind separating heads, hearts, and tails, and the process of blending the perfect whiskey. After the educational experience in the distilling factory, we ended up in the tasting room. If you couldn’t help yourself and started in the tasting room first, don’t worry. Guests are welcome to take the tour with a cocktail in hand!
The tasting room is hands down the best part of the experience and a reason to visit Ghost Coast on its own. It’s a beautiful room that made me feel I was at a classic speakeasy. This was intensified knowing they distilled all the alcohol mixers on premises.
Now, I feel I must let you all in on a little secret – I am not a cocktail drinker at all. I am a craft beer drinker, so I was out of my element here. Once this was explained to Sidney, our bartender, he asked if I just wanted him to take care of me. After saying, “Hell yeah!” and, deciding I wanted whiskey in the drink, he went to work with the fresh herbs and fruit peels decorating the bar top. I must say, he did not disappoint with this first drink.
It was not on the menu, but I was told it was a “Tomochichi.” While the soothing effects of this drink have sadly caused me to forget its ingredients, what I can tell you about this drink is that it was a sweet, tart, fruity experience perfect on a 90 degree September day in Georgia.
The second drink, I made sure to order off the menu. It was aptly named “Smokey Mirrors.” This was truly handcrafted with care, from the whiskey and Angostura bitters down to the barrel-smoked maple syrup used in the drink. The only way I can describe this drink is a fruity, slightly bitter cascade delight, cascading down your tongue, leaving you happy and wanting more. The Smokey Mirrors may have been the best way to end a distillery experience.
As you exit, do not forget to check out their awesome merchandise and take a bit of the distillery with you. They sell their Vodka 261 (after the 261-year absence of a distillery in Savannah) and Vodka 261 Orange, which has hints of orange blossoms, as well as shirts, hats, shot glasses, and almost every liquor accoutrement you could need. Ghost Coast Distillery is not just a destination to visit – it is an experience. With its location within walking distance to Service Brewing Company, there is plenty of fun to be had on Indian Street in Savannah.
Ghost Coast Distillery is located at 641 Indian Street Savannah, GA 31401, open Tuesday through Saturday 11am until 9pm. More information about the distillery can be found at www.GhostCoastDistillery.com.