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Summoning the spirits of success: Couple to open whiskey distillery in Dahlonega
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Stillhouse Creek Craft Distillery owner Diane Kelly and Whiskey Alchemist and Head of Technical Operations and husband Jeff Odem make small batch whisky at their Dahlonega distillery.

Stillhouse Creek Craft Distillery

Address: 2148 Town Creek Church Road in Dahlonega

Phone number: 706-348-2019

Website: stillhousecreekdistillery.com

There’s new gold in Dahlonega.

Stillhouse Creek Craft Distillery is opening soon and hopes to be offering its own golden treasure, in the form of whiskey.

It’s a boutique distillery that creates small-batch, hand-crafted, Appalachian-style spirits.

The distillery, located at 2148 Town Creek Church Road in Dahlonega, will focus on wheated bourbon products and also plans to offer a botanical gin with lavender.

The bourbon products, with names inspired by the Dahlonega Gold Rush, will come in a variety: unaged, somewhat aged (aged less than two years), and the 1829, a bourbon aged two years in oak.

The gin bottle features an old map of Dahlonega.

Owner Diane Kelly said she and her husband, Jeff Odem, weren’t getting to spend much time together and were trying to come up with and idea for something they could do together. Sometime around Thanksgiving four years ago the couple came up with the idea to start a distillery and by April a business plan was in place.

Kelly and Odem went to work making their dream a reality, deciding to locate the business — and ultimately their home also — in Dahlonega.

Eventually they got Dave Pickerell onboard as their master distiller.

“He is the master distiller, he will take us through every step, every nuance,” Kelly said, adding the knowledge Pickerell is sharing with them is priceless.

Pickerell was master distiller at Maker’s Mark Distillery for 14 years. He now works with budding craft distilleries — like Stillhouse Creek — as a consultant.

Odem, who is the distiller or “whiskey alchemist” turns water and corn into whiskey gold, Kelly said.

Odem used to work as a consultant for a financial software company but now finds his passion is in the distillery.

“It’s a lot of fun and there’s always something new to learn,” he said.

He likens using freshly ground grain, to Starbucks using fresh-ground coffee beans.

“The running of the business is what I do, the making of the whiskey is what they do,” Kelly said, who is one of — if not the only — female distillery owner in Georgia.

Kelly said she never would have imagined she’d be a distillery owner and she never saw herself as an entrepreneur or business owner.

The team at Stillhouse Creek Craft Distillery hopes they bring something special to a niche market.

“There truly is a whiskey shortage out there,” Kelly said.

She said the big brands such as Jack Daniels or Jim Beam are doing fine because they make whiskey every day, all day and have warehouses full of it.

“If you want to drink something different that’s harder to find,” Kelly said. “And that’s why the premium prices on it are $45, $55 or $155 for a bottle of craft-made bourbon.”

Kelly said the business has been going through the Trade and Tax Bureau for all of their licensing. She recently submitted their labels for approval, which she hopes to get within the next few months. Until then they can’t put any of their product in bottles or print any labels.

The distillery is holding a small grand opening event Friday with the Chamber of Commerce. Kelly says a larger event will be planned for next spring once product is available for tasting and tours.

Once all licenses are granted and the distillery is operating as Kelly intends, it will not be a bar.

Current law states prohibits the distillery from selling bottles of whiskey directly to people. Patrons may purchase a tour and receive a complimentary bottle with it.

For now, a T-shirt will be given for people who tour the distillery until all licenses are acquired.

The tour shows guests how gin and bourbon is manufactured. Stillhouse Creek grinds its own corn, wheat and barley to use in the recipes.

Once the spirits are available, T-shirt tours will be available for guests under 21 years of age.

“We’re not a bar, we’re a manufacturing facility,” Kelly said. “The most you can drink here is 1.5 ounces for your entire visit.”

The distillery is located among wineries along the wine highway in Dahlonega.

Kelly is still putting the finishing touches on the business as she waits for licensing to come through.

A small gift shop featuring Georgia-made art and jewelry as well as T-shirts is part of the tasting room. Outside is a pavilion Kelly hopes will one day be used for weddings.

She describes the decor of the tasting room as “industrial rustic” with light fixtures made out of old bait buckets and sinks made out of copper buckets.

“The future looks bright, we’re excited. It’s been a long road,” said Kelly. “It will be four years ago next month when we had that Thanksgiving conversation.”

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