As seen in The Island Packet on January 11, 2020.
Less than a mile from the heart of Old Town Bluffton, along Bluffton Road, a new distillery that highlights the history and culture of the Lowcountry could be open for business by the end of the year.
Construction started this week on the planned 20,000-square-foot Burnt Church Distillery at 120 Bluffton Road, co-founded and self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur Billy Watterson said Thursday.
“It’s going to seem slow, but it takes time to do it right,” he said.
The facility will include 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 rooms will serve craft whiskey made on-site, along with other spirits, including gin, vodka, and moonshine, Watterson said.
Watterson said he’s seen a lot of people plan their vacations visiting distilleries and hopes his distillery adds to the area’s growing tourism industry and will attract visitors from Savannah and Hilton Head Island.
“It’s going to be an incredible place for the community to connect and rally around the history of the area,” he said. “It’s a great representation of Bluffton, the Lowcountry, and South Carolina.”
He expects the distillery to bring about 27 jobs to the area during its first year and said he plans to start hiring about two months before construction is completed.
Watterson and his brother and co-founder, Sean Watterson, hired a historian to tie in the history of Burnt Church Road and Bluffton which will be showcased in the distillery’s museum.
The whole facility is “entrenched in historical components,” Billy Watterson said.
The brothers have created eight brands of liquor so far that were “born out of characters and stories” based on the Lowcountry, and they plan to sell the products across the nation.
“We’re so excited to share stories about Bluffton that nobody really knows about,” Billy Watterson said.
In May, the Town of Bluffton agreed to annex the distillery’s 2.84 acres in unincorporated Beaufort County in 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 assesment 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.”
“It will bring in about 27 jobs – that’s great,” Council member Chris Hervochon said. “It’s kind of an advertising opportunity for the area. It gets the name of Bluffton out there, and it’s one more attraction that we hve locally to bring tourism here.”