Scott Blackwell has home-brewed beer for years. Now the longtime bakery chef and his wife, Ann Marshall, will try their hands at making distilled spirits for the public.
High Wire Distilling doesn’t have a website yet. Email info@highwire distilling.com for more information.
The Upstate couple moved to Charleston recently and plan to open High Wire Distilling in a barrel-roofed former car dealership and later joggling board warehouse on upper King Street.
They sold their business, Immaculate Baking Co. to General Mills in December, entertained the idea of opening a regional craft beer business but decided the less-crowded market involved making liquor.
Already smitten by Charleston, the two South Carolina natives decided to lease the 8,000-square-foot building in front of Butcher & Bee restaurant near the Crosstown.
It’s already being retrofitted in an investment between $700,000 and $1 million and should be ready for the first batch by mid-summer, Blackwell said.
The couple’s German-made copper still will soon be installed to produce gins, rums, whiskeys and vodkas.
High Wire, a name chosen because it offers a fun feel with a touch of danger, will offer afternoon tours and tastings for a nominal fee. The couple have hired David Pickerell, former master distiller at Maker’s Mark, the famous Kentucky bourbon known for its distinctive red-wax-sealed bottles, as a consultant.
Blackwell, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, and Marshall, a Duke University graduate, plan to use local ingredients whenever possible and offer a chef station or apothecary area where visitors can see and smell different ingredients such as juniper, lemon grass or lavender to get a sense of what makes a liquor taste a certain way. Blackwell laughingly calls it his “Willy Wonka” area, a reference to a movie he loves about the tinkerings of a chocolate maker.
“It will be a fun business,” he said.
Marshall believes their new venture will attract the same demographic of customers who frequented their previous enterprise.
“They are adventurous and looking for something new,” she said. “The missing element downtown is a craft distillery.”
The shop will include a separate retail area for novelty items, a tasting bar for about 25 people at a time and the ability to offer private events for larger crowds. Parking is allotted on the side and behind the building and under the overpasses along King Street.
They will start with three full-time workers, including themselves, and four to six part-time employees. More workers could follow once the business settles in.
About 1,500 square feet facing King Street will be subleased since they don’t need all 8,000 square feet to make liquors, Blackwell said.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.