Microdistillery toasting passage of state law

Tentative Gulch lease in hand, distillers look to bring much of their business home

If you want a strong drink, it looks like you will be able to get one soon that was distilled right here in Davidson County.

In the waning hours of the Tennessee General Assembly, lawmakers approved a bill that allows for the "manufacturing of intoxicating liquors" in counties that have approved retail package sales and liquor-by-the-drink sales.The bill is now awaiting the signature of Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Nashville natives Darek Bell and Andrew Webber couldn’t be in better spirits about the development. They are now planning on bringing their start-up distillery home to Nashville.

When Bell, the son of roadbuilder Ray Bell, and Webber began planning their recently launched microdistillery, Corsair Artisan, they discovered that distilling was not permitted in Davidson County nor in most of Tennessee. So the duo opened Corsair’s distillery in Bowling Green, Ky.

The bill's passage means that they can now look to Nashville. They have signed a tentative lease for space in the Gulch and are awaiting the governor's signature. Should that occur as expected, they will keep their Kentucky space for bourbon production and make gin, vodka, absinthe, rum and whiskey in Nashville.

Bell and Webber are not the only ones with microdistllery plans: Former State Rep. Mike Williams is looking at starting one up in the Humphreys/Perry County area. He tells NashvillePost.com that he plans on working with Corsair until he can get the federal licenses to go into business for himself.

Bell says it will take about two months to move their Corsair's license and become fully operational in Nashville and that they are sending a letter of intent to Mayor Karl Dean's office regarding the opening of a new facility per the language of the legislation.