Granite Mountain Distillery opens in Stone Mountain next monthGranite Mountain Craft Distillery founder and owner Robert Witherspoon. Photo by Dean Hesse.
By Jaedon Mason, contributor
Stone Mountain, GA — On April 20, a 23-year resident of Stone Mountain, Robert Witherspoon will open Granite Mountain Distillery on Main Street, a passion project 40 years in the making.
His interest started when he began experimenting with informal fermentation while serving in the military, starting with accidentally fermenting apple juice on hot days. After Witherspoon left the military, he began distilling small batches of different spirits, mainly amaretto, for personal use, and over time began to formalize his passion.
“I started taking classes at the University of Louisville…and the things I was learning in these classes were the things I was already doing, so I was like, OK, so I am on the right track,” Witherspoon said.
While following his curiosity to continue learning about distilling, Witherspoon began to share his home products with friends and neighbors over dinner. They were a hit, and as his 5 boys had by now all graduated high school, Witherspoon began opening up a distillery.
Along the way, he learned ways to innovate while keeping the essential traditions the same. His process involves stainless steel stills used in combined with traditional white oak and copper to maximize efficiency while maintaining flavor.
“ A lot of people still use copper out of respect for tradition,” Witherspoon said. “One of the big reasons people originally used copper in stills was to filter the bad stuff out of the distillate, but if you use a high quality distillate, there isn’t much to filter out….and end you don’t end up having to constantly patch the copper as it corrodes.”
Witherspoon said the process of opening a distillery has been a “fun challenge.” The process included picking out a location not too close to churches and schools, getting city council approval and talking with a few community members in opposition.
But despite it all, even when presented with other opportunities, Witherspoon insisted on opening his first location in Stone Mountain.
The Carillon gin, yellow daisy vodka grow and grist mill bourbon reflect how the culture of Stone Mountain is interwoven into Witherspoon’s vision for his distillery.
“I’ve coached football and baseball at Wade Walker for 23 years,” Witherspoon said. “I’ve been in the community. I want to be in Stone Mountain because…I feel I can make a difference with a product everyone uses.”
The distillery will also be an event space hosting a variety of spirit education events, paint and sips, tastings and more.
Witherspoon wants to go even further to bring the classic Southern hospitality to Granite Mountain. The distillery will have a try before you buy policy, “Giving you a free taste like you’re coming through my back porch.”
At the opening event on April 20, there will also be a limited edition of Witherspoon’s eponymous “Old Geezer” whiskey. The name comes from a joke with his son about Witherspoon’s classic, friendly shirt and bow-tie look and persona. This special edition has been aged 6-years in rum barrels from Richland Rum and will only be available for a limited time. This story will be updated with additional details about the grand opening when they are available.
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