RackHouse Whiskey Club took a trip out to North Carolina to check out the distillery we will feature in our February box - Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery. It dates back more than 250 years and is probably the most famous distillery you've never heard of.
The story begins in 1768 and over generations and subsequent years, Old Nick established itself as one of the most revered whiskey distillers in the U.S. supplying presidents (they have the letters to prove it) and featuring at world fairs. The Eighteenth Amendment and subsequent prohibition forced the distillery to temporarily close.
The distillery has a long history with tackling state and federal laws. One case fought by co-owner Zeb Williams' great grandfather went all the way to the Supreme Court over a battle on taxation.
"It's a dirty trade I guess you would say. And it's not cleaned up much, maybe a little," Zeb told us. "The family has been battling the state and federal government for hundreds of years, we don't see a reason to stop now. It's in our blood to be honest with you just like making whiskey."
Revenuers destroyed over 22,000 gallons of liquor at the beginning of prohibition with an estimated value of $500,000. The broken bottles are still littered across the property.
Zeb's great grandfather died in 1913 shortly after prohibition in North Carolina was enacted in 1909. Of the dozen or so kids, none were older enough to resurrect the distillery once federal prohibition was repealed. After the Great Depression, Zeb's grandfather tried to form the business again.
"The problem is North Carolina was still under prohibition law so he tried do it in Virginia but the bank wanted him to secure the financial notes with the farm and right after the Great Depression he was scared to do that so the business just died," Zeb said.
Zeb, who resurrected the brand in 2014, has brought back the legend of Old Nick and is dedicating himself to living up to the quality and craftsmanship that once made his family's whiskey famous around the world.
"It's very important for our brand and very important for our products moving forward to stay true to what our family did. When you come here to Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery, you're stepping back in time," Zeb said. "You have the opportunity to try products very similar to what our ancestors would have made on the farm a couple hundred years ago and truly get that pre-United States feel."As a child, he would go digging for bottles at the back of the family's property. On one memorable day he hit treasure and found an intact bottle. Years later, it was sent to be analyzed to help reverse engineer today's version.
Distilling since 1768, prohibition decimated Old Nick Williams. But now, they're back. Sign up to RackHouse Whiskey Club to try it for yourself in our February box.
What's in the box
Old Nick Williams Carolina Bourbon Whiskey - a Double Gold winner at the San Francisco Spirits Competition in 2018. It's a wheated bourbon using all North Carolina non-GMO corn. It's bottled at 92 proof.
Old Nick Williams Carolina Whiskey bottled at 92 proof.