Chris Allwood says he has a passion for fine whisky. Allwood is turning his love for the liquor into a business opportunity. Along with his business partners, he'll soon be brewing single-malt whisky in Nelson County that rivals Scottish varieties.
"They're probably not the sort of product that you drink everyday, but certainly once a week. You should be on prescription once a week," says Allwood.
Richmond lawmakers gave the okay for Allwood and company to sell whisky made in their Lovingston location called Eades Distillery. They've been selling products imported from Scotland for the past few months, but now, he says, it's time to focus on the home-grown product. And the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with its history of whisky-making and its agreeable weather, is the perfect place to set up shop.
"The weather patterns here mature whiskey much more quickly than Scotland. It gets hotter and colder quicker and more frequently and it's more aggressive weather patterns," says Allwood.
The plan is to turn a 20-acre stretch of land into a distillery for people to visit, learn about and enjoy whisky, much like they do at Central Virginia's wineries and breweries.
Allwood says the distillery will produce an estimated 27,500 cases of liquor in the first year alone. Now that lawmakers have given their approval, Eades Distillery will be able to sell its high-end whisky at $70 a bottle in ABC stores and restaurants throughout the Commonwealth.
Allwood says Eades will also be selling product right at the distillery for people who visit, and that's the most effective way to spread the brand.
"Coming into the distillery and talking to every single person about who we are and what we do and what the product is more important to us than having a big advertising budge," shared Allwood.
Allwood says some of the barley for the whisky will be grown right at the distillery, but some will come from local farmers as well, helping to stimulate the local economy. He estimates the distillery will generate about 50 jobs through a combination of distillery employees, suppliers, and people working to maintain the operation.
"You can see how all of a sudden the local economy and farming community will benefit immensely," says Allwood.
Eades Distillery is scheduled to be up and running by the summer. It will include not just the distillery itself but a visitors center, education program, special events venue, and eventually, even a spa. They also plan to host traditionally Scottish highland games and music festivals to draw visitors to the location.