As seen in The Island Packet on June 2, 2020.
The owner of the future Burnt Church Distillery along Bluffton Road says he’s solved one of Bluffton’s historical mysteries: How did Burnt Church Road get its name? But, he’s not spilling until the planned 20,000-square-foot distillery officially opens. As construction crews continue building the exterior walls of the liquor manufacturer, co-owner Billy Watterson said he’s hopeful it will be open in December.
“We’re about 40% complete,” he said. “It looks like things are still on schedule. Everything is coming together quite well. It’ll look very complete on the outside by August.”
The facility at 120 Bluffton Road will have four buildings: a 7,000-square-foot tasting room, a fast-casual Pizza Co. restaurant, a manufacturing building and a rick house where whiskey barrels are stored.
The tasting room will serve craft whiskey made on site, along with other spirits, including gin, vodka and moonshine, Watterson said.
Watterson and his brother and co-founder, Sean Watterson, have been active on social media, unveiling new drinks and sharing historic photos of Bluffton on the company’s Instagram and Facebook pages. In July, the brothers plan to launch a non-alcoholic spirit called Amethyst that will be sold nationwide, starting in New York City, Billy Watterson said.
“We learned that about 20% of people that visit a distillery won’t try alcohol,” he said. “We decided we were going to do something about that, so we played around with some waters and got busy with the brand and created something quite sexy and attractive.”
One of the most important parts of the distillery: It will be “entrenched in historical components,” he said.
The two brothers hired historian Melanie Marks to tie in the history of Burnt Church Road and Bluffton, to be showcased in the distillery’s museum.
The brothers also helped pay for a book, planned to be sold at the distillery, that will tell the history of Burnt Church Road and will be similar to Jeff Fulgham’s 2018 book, The Bluffton Expedition: The Burning of Bluffton, South Carolina, During the Civil War, Billy Watterson said.
“The good news is we solved the Burnt Church Road Mystery,” he said, “and it’s like nothing anyone’s heard before.”
A year ago, the Town of Bluffton agreed to annex the distillery’s 2.84 acres in unincorporated Beaufort County into Bluffton town limits. The distillery had petitioned the town in October 2018.
Four months later, in September, Beaufort County agreed to lower the distillery’s tax assessment ratio from 10.5% to 6% to “promote industry, develop trade, and utilize and employ the manpower, products, and natural resources of the State of South Carolina.”
Watterson said there will be a special VIP event before the official opening of the distillery.
“The grand opening is going to be out of hand,” he said. “There will also be a soft opening for all the people that were part of this project and special guests that represent other brands. This is going to be a big fat deal, invitation only.”
Written by Kacen Bayless.