Oak House is Athens’ first legal distillery since the 1860s

Credit: Jerry Slater for the AJC

Credit: Jerry Slater for the AJC

Slated to open in April with custom-designed stills, a barrel house

While Athens is known for college football and indie music, one couple wants it also to be known for world-class spirits. Rob Woods and Supakana “Air” Nagachinta are opening the first legal distillery in Athens since the 1860s. And, their state-of-the-art distilling equipment is located on a site dating to that same era.

Slated to open in April, Oak House Distillery is on a parcel of land that has been occupied since 1864. While a new structure includes the two custom-designed stills and a barrel house, the tasting room and cocktail lounge are in the landmark Henry Bishop House. Built on a small hill, it was the house of the supervisor of the paper mill just down the road, on Barber Creek.

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Oak House Distillery is named for the ancient oak trees on the property, but there also is a large dogwood to one side of the house, and an expansive patio on the other side, where parties, no doubt, are expected.

The distilling will take place behind the old house, in a matching, but modern, structure. Woods, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Georgia, designed the stills. One has a massive “basket” to infuse botanicals for the planned gins. The other is a modified pot still, for producing rum — and possibly whiskey in the future.

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Credit: Jerry Slater for the AJC

Credit: Jerry Slater for the AJC

Nagachinta, who holds a Ph.D. in food science from UGA, took inspiration from the botanicals of her native Thailand in developing Oak House’s first spirit: Robert’s No. 1 American dry gin. It’s a floral-style gin, with lemon grass, kaffir lime and cardamom.

Two other gins are in the works: Robert’s Hibiscus and Honey, a citrusy, red-hued spirit, and Robert’s Old Tom, which will be aged in bourbon barrels. In addition, they plan to have an organic vodka in the Oak House portfolio.

Woods seems equally excited about the rum the distillery will make. The partners want to produce a Jamaican-style rum, using S. pombe yeast, native to Jamaica. It will have the funky, high-ester flavors of the rums there. Oak House will produce a white rum, suitable for mojitos and the like. The distillery also will age rum in used bourbon barrels. That will produce a golden-style rum, for the sipping connoisseur.

Oak House is located just off Macon Highway, so, in addition to Georgia Bulldogs games and great concerts, future trips to the Classic City can include a distillery tour. With its historic location and beautiful grounds, you’ll want to stay for a cocktail.

Oak House Distillery. 1015 Macon Highway, Athens. Instagram: @oakhousedistillery

The Slaters are beverage industry veterans and the proprietors of the Expat, Slater’s Steakhouse and the Lark Winespace in Athens.

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