A Whitesburg distillery is a go again after the city council voted 4-3 Tuesday evening to lease a historical building on Main Street to a would-be moonshine maker.
In September, the council rejected Letcher County businessman Colin Fultz's plans to use a former car dealership garage for a distillery. The building is near Whitesburg First Baptist Church, which opposed the plan.
Fultz said Wednesday that support from the community persuaded the city council to revisit the issue, with the understanding "it wasn't going to be a bar. It's a distillery."
According to the Mountain Eagle, Whitesburg Mayor James Wiley Craft cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the distillery, even though Craft is a member of the Baptist church.
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"I didn't hesitate," Craft said Wednesday. "I've always been on board with it. I think it's a great thing for a little town. It's a win-win — we get a historic building rehabilitated and we get whatever tourists that kind of thing will bring in to the town. It's a good thing."
Fultz plans to make vodkalike moonshine, or unaged spirit, flavor it naturally with local berries and fruit, and call it Kentucky Mist Moonshine.
He will begin renovating the former garage next week, and he can file applications for federal and state distilling permits now that he has an address, 128 East Main Street.
He plans to have a tasting room and a souvenir shop, and he plans to work with local tourism officials.
"What we're going to try to do is a Kentucky theme," Fultz said. "We're getting a still made in Paducah and using all local products, local water, and real berries. ... We want to use local fruit, to flavor like it was years ago."
Altogether, he estimated that it would take close to $500,000 to get the distillery up and running. He hopes to be operational in six months.
Fultz said he considered himself a fourth-generation distiller.
"My grandfather served 16 years in prison for moonshining, so it's kind of a family heritage thing," Fultz said.
His grandfather Henry Holbrook was in prison with Al Capone, Fultz said. His great-grandfather Big John Holbrook also was a moonshiner, he said.
"That's what got me interested," Fultz said. "I will have to say, yes, I do have experience. ... I had to do a little research."