Interview with Thirteenth Colony

In advance of the Whiskies Of The World event in Atlanta, I was given the opportunity to interview James Johnson of Thirteenth Colony via email. Thirteenth Colony is located in Americus, Georgia and has been winning awards with their whiskey since 2013.

Tell our readers a little about who you are and about Thirteenth Colony:

Thirteenth Colony Distilleries began as a casual conversation among friends about making whiskey for friends, family & employees. That conversation eventually lead to Thirteenth Colony Distilleries becoming Georgia’s first craft distillery. With each product offering we are determined to maintain the Thirteenth Colony commitment to producing only the highest quality, handcrafted spirits. We are committed to offering spirits in the southern tradition of pride in our products, great quality in every bottle, use of local ingredients and a personal and friendly touch in all we do. We began our spirits journey with the intent of making unique distilled spirits as gifts to our friends, our employees and our families. The saying “made by friends for friends” is more than a saying; it is how our journey in distilled spirits began, it permeates all our business dealings, it guides our product development and tells the essential story of Thirteenth Colony.

I hope you don’t take offense, but with all small batch and craft distillers, I try to get the ugly question of MGP out of the way early. Do you make all the whiskey in your bottles or do you source from MGP or other distilleries?

We both produce and source. For instance, we were recently introduced to some unique whiskey from our friends out west and decided we had to have it. We’re in the development process to launch new sour mash whiskey early next year. It’s delicious, and unlike any other we could create in our climate in. Private purchases have non-disclosure agreements, but among others, we have a few rare barrels of bourbon purchased years ago, on a lark before the bourbon boom. As they near the 10 year mark, we look to launch limited one time release. We pride ourselves on unique products, processes, flavors, and aim to continue bringing new and innovative brands to the market. We continue to produce spirits and look at options to address inventory and sales growth. Our goal now and always, has been to create the best tasting spirits possible at an affordable price for our friends and family to enjoy.

Tell us a little bit about your award winning whiskies:

Southern Corn Whiskey was our first whiskey release, and we couldn’t be happier with all of the accolades it has received since. Derived from a mash of 99% Corn & 1% Barley, we age our Corn Whiskey in used bourbon barrels for 3 years & bottle it at 95proof.

  • Gold medal – 2011 World Spirits Competition
  • 91 Points from Wine Enthusiast 2015
  • Featured in PLAYBOY magazine 2015, which listed 13th Colony’s Southern Corn Whiskey as the best spirit produced in the state of Georgia.

Southern Rye Whiskey was our second release. Southern Rye Whiskey is an American classic with a distinctive spicy flavor and a slightly sweet finish. Southern Rye is derived from a mash of 96% rye grain and 4% barley grain and aged in new charred oak barrels. Our distinctively flavored Rye Whiskey is finished with French oak spirals and bottled at 95proof.

  • Gold medal – 2013’s Fifty Best Domestic Rye Whiskey

Southern Bourbon is our most recent whiskey released in December of 2013. This traditional Bourbon is produced from a mash bill of 70% corn, 25% Rye, and 5% Malted Barley; then meticulously aged for 4 years in custom charred American Oak Barrels for a smooth, rich, and slightly sweet finish.

  • 90 Points & Gold Medal – 2014 Beverage Tasting Institute

Do you use full sized barrels in your aging process?

Yes, we use full size 53 gallon barrels to age our whiskeys.

What sets Thirteenth Colony apart from other distillers (both the big guys and the little guys)?

Thirteenth Colony Distillery is a family run distillery that consists of just a handful of wonderful folks that make all of the magic happen. We pride ourselves in the quality of our small batch spirits, and pay extra close attention to all of the little details that set our whiskeys apart. We even bottle & label all of our spirits by hand. Our whiskeys are truly small batch, blending only a few barrels together to make each batch. We take the extra time to make sure every bottle that reaches the shelf is up to our meticulous standards. None of our spirits leave our distillery, unless we would be proud to pour them for our families & friends.

For our readers outside of Georgia, what is your distribution like?

You can find our spirits almost anywhere in Georgia, but we also have distribution in: Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont. If you are attending the Whiskies of the World event in Atlanta, GA on Friday, October 23, be sure to drop by Thirteenth Colony and have a dram.

For a full list of exhibitors and what they are pouring, follow this link.

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