Williamson has whiskey on its mind.

Officials are hoping to capitalize on the county's tourism boom, which has grown over $100 million in the past five years, by putting the spotlight on the county's two new whiskey distilleries.

Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau officials gathered Wednesday to celebrate the future of tourism in the area as well as announce the opening of the county's newest distillery, Leiper's Fork Distillery, which will open July 16.

Lee Kennedy's 5,000-square-foot distillery, as well as a 2,500-square-foot log cabin, rests on 30 acres in Leiper's Fork. The log cabin, built in 1825, will hold tours, tastings, live music, retail and office space.

Leiper's Fork Distillery will offer a bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and a Tennessee rye whiskey.

"It's a great asset to the county," said Ellie Westman Chin, president and CEO of WCCVB. "We want to tie the two distilleries together as a draw along with Arrington Vineyards."

 

Legal whiskey manufacturing had been dried up since 1909 when Senate bill No. 11 banned the manufacturing of any alcoholic beverages within the state.

But in 2009, the statute limiting the manufacturing of spirits was amended by the Tennessee General Assembly, making distillation eligible in Williamson County.

Last year, Heath Clark of H. Clark Distillery in Thompson's Station was one of the key players in ushering legal whiskey into the county. Clark spent three years renovating and restoring a 100-year-old, 1,200-square-foot granary building in Thompson's Station, which became H. Clark Distillery.

Leiper's Fork Distillery will be about 20 minutes northwest of Clark's distillery.

Last year, tourism had a $407 million economic impact on the county. New attractions such as SOAR Adventure Tower, Tractor Supply Arena, Ravenwood Mansion in Brentwood and the Pilgrimage Music Festival helped draw visitors as well as jobs.

According to the WCCVB, tourism now accounts for 2,990 local jobs, a number that the county expects to continue to grow.

Hotels also felt the impact of tourism. Area hotels saw an occupancy rate of 74 percent last year, which is 10 percent higher than the national average.

Eight more hotels have announced plans to open in the county over the next two years, adding 752 more rooms.

Leiper's Fork Distillery is housed in a beautiful building behind the log cabin. Inside, a 550-gallon, Scottish-style copper still is the centerpiece of the distillery.

Once the distillery opens, Kennedy said guests can take tours and learn the science behind the distillation process.

"It's really a thriving industry that we are happy to be a part of," said April Cantrell, Leiper's Fork Distillery marketing director.

Westman Chin said the county is looking forward to having new attractions and continuing its growth into the future.

"It's just another reason for people to come experience what Williamson County has to offer," she said.

For more information visit leipersforkdistillery.com, hclarkdistillery.com and visitfranklin.com.

 

 Collin Czarnecki, cczarnecki@tennessean.com4:36 p.m. CDT May 5, 2016

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