Did you know that there is a legal distillery making craft spirits right outside of Atlanta in Kennesaw? Yeah, I didn’t either. It seems like every other day new distilleries are popping up and keeping track of them is a giant undertaking. That said this one is about 15 minutes from my house so I really should’ve been a little more on top of it. Luckily for me, I have friends that are just as obsessed with all things whiskey as I am. A fellow Georgia Bourbon Society member put the word out on the Lazy Guy Distillery a couple of months ago and another member was industrious enough to organize a little tour for us.
It’s best to plan in advance if you want to visit Lazy Guy. It’s damn near a one man operation and that one man, Mark Allen can’t be making spirit if he’s got people randomly knocking on the front door. Also, he has a day job in consulting too. He will schedule tours for small groups and periodically he has open house events. We at met the distillery before the August Georgia Bourbon Society meeting in a torrential downpour. This is an extremely small operation and I drove past it twice before getting to the right place.
The distillery is two buildings near historic downtown Kennesaw dating back to the 1800’s. The front is an old house that serves as the office, tasting bar, and gift shop. Out back is an old barn right above the railroad tracks that serves as the distillery and aging warehouse. The tour comprises a walk out back for a very detailed walkthrough of the operations and a tasting of the four products Mark is bottling right now. You go into the barn and front and center you see the still, column, condenser and mash tun.
When I say small, this is small. However, right now it is a one man operation. Mark is quick to tell you about his efficiency yields and how all of this is set up to allow him to produce spirit by himself. Right now his only help in product production are volunteers helping with the bottling.
Mark is a very enthusiast and knowledgeable distiller and he is more than happy to keep the tour at the newbie level or dive into all the geek detail you could want. He is a very technical and practical distiller. He’s more the mad chemist out back in the shed than the romantic idea of distillers that some hold on to. Mark’s background is information technology and consulting. Distilling is new to him and he is self taught through voracious reading, visits to other distilleries, and good old trial and error. He’s very forthcoming with how he does what he does and why he’s made the decisions he made that led up to now. As examples of this he uses enzyme, not malted barley to kick start fermentation and how his “fermenting tubs” are giant plastic container that allow him to (relatively) easily monitor and adjust temperature and maintain sanitation.
It may not be as romantic of a notion as those 50 year old wooden fermentation tubs and germinated malted barley for fermentation but it gets the job done in a way he likes and can manage. I have to respect that.
Currently, Lazy Guy has four products on the market that you would probably call white whiskey or white dog with plans for a straight bourbon (aged 2 years) in 2015. Here’s a rundown of each one:
The mashbill is 60% corn, 30% wheat, and 20% unmalted barley and it is bottled at 40% ABV. The distillate for this product is essentially bourbon distillate. It’s aged very briefly in used barrels. Lazy Guy uses used barrels for everything except the new bourbon they plan for next year. The reason is that Mark can’t get anymore barrels. You’ve heard of the dreaded bourbon shortage, which doesn’t actually exist to the extent you may think? Well the real concern is a true barrel shortage. There just isn’t enough production to keep up with demand so small guys like Mark can’t even get on the list. The barrels he does use were toasted rather than charred. Mark’s reasoning is that it gives more of a smoky and floral note rather than the typical coconut and vanilla. It was nice for a white whiskey. Better than most for sure.
Cold Heart Whiskey
This is essentially a high proof version of the Threesome coming in at 60% ABV with the same distillate but it spends a little less time in the wood. It’s a similar profile to Threesome but it drinks surprisingly well at the higher proof.
This is Lazy Guy’s corn whiskey. The mash is 80% corn and 20% barley and clocks in at 50% ABV. It is a solid vodka replacement for sure. Maybe in a bloody mary?
Don’t let this one confuse you with the recent Compass Box release. The two could not be farther apart. This is also a corn whiskey, although a four grain corn whiskey. The mash is 80% corn, 6% rye, 7% wheat, and 7% barley. It clocks in at an impressive 75.5% ABV. This was something Mark was playing around with when a distributor stopped by and had a taste from the still. It went over so well it became a new product, although reduced to 75.5% from the 90% it was tasted at. It also drinks surprisingly well at high proof.
I’ve got to say that I was impressed with what Mark Allen is doing over at Lazy Guy Distillery. He has a passion for it but he’s not deluded by his passion. He realizes that the whiskey geek isn’t his target market. He has a great business head on his shoulders. He knows his product, market, and distribution and works smartly within those bounds. I’m not rushing out to buy a bottle because it’s not my type of thing but I respect what he’s doing and wish him the best.
You can visit the distillery at 2950 Moon Station Road, Kennesaw, Georgia. Make sure to call (770) 485-0081 or email firstname.lastname@example.org first.