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Whiskey Prison: Finding the taste of freedom behind bars

Every two months, RackHouse Whiskey Club features a craft distillery. We tell that distillery’s story with you and ship out two of their finest bottles.

This time, we’ve taken the shackles off. We went to Whiskey Prison in North Carolina and it’s our next featured box that will ship in April.

Behind Cell Block East and West at Southern Grace Distilleries at Mount Pleasant Prison we found barrels of bourbon being aged. And it’s entirely legal.

The prison you’d want to break into

Home to Southern Grace Distilleries, Mount Pleasant Prison opened in 1929 during the height of Prohibition. As many as 140 prisoners at a time, some of whom were bootleggers, called Cabarrus Correctional Center home until it closed in 2011.

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Whiskey Prison

In 2016, a new operation moved in and now the secure facility is home to more than 14,000 gallons of aging whiskey. Conviction Small Batch Bourbon is the first bourbon ever to be legally aged behind bars.

“It is quite common to have former prisoners come and visit us,” distillery CEO and Co-Founder Leanne Powell, a former Chief of Staff to a North Carolina congressman, told us. “The prisoners seem to love the whiskey and love the irony just as much as the whiskey.”

The former prisoners are more than happy to return to the prison now that it is used for holding spirits instead of inmates.

“Some of them have good memories, it’s almost like a homecoming to them,” Head Distiller Sebastian Correa shared with us. “Some of them are just glad to be out. I think all of them are just intrigued and excited at what we’ve done to the place and how we’re using it now.”

Getting locked up

Along with my colleagues Dannie and Alex, we stepped through the barbed wire lined gates under the watchtower and were quickly locked in. Southern Grace Distilleries is a one-of-a-kind site that seamlessly connects North Carolina’s bootlegger history with the justice system they strove to avoid.

Stepping through those gates was like taking a step back in time. Southern Grace hasn’t made many updates to the structure of the prison. The flickering of lights in the background, the feint sound of water dripping in the distance, a gush of steam and the clanging of a wrought iron door. Our senses were ready to try out what’s being distilled inside.

Whiskey Prison does not just boast an impressive story; we found an equally intriguing array of whiskey. Their double gold medal award winning Conviction Small Batch Bourbon is smooth enough to soothe even the roughest of convicts. Southern Grace also boasts a strong hard lemonade game. Their Sun Dog Pink Lemonade was named 2017 USA Spirited Lemonade of the Year. It’s a 45 proof corn whiskey mixed with pink lemonade and is a customer favorite.

Two years is a long time to wait in prison. But for the chance to try some Conviction Bourbon, it’s worth it. Freedom has never tasted so good.

What’s in the box:

  • 750ml bottles of Conviction Small Batch Bourbon
  • 750 ml bottles of Sun Dog Pink Lemonade
  • Whiskey accessories curated by the head distiller
  • Tasting notes
  • Distillery cocktail recipes
  • Much more!

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