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How Do Tennessee's Startup Distilleries Make Money While They Wait For Whiskey To Age?

How Do Tennessee s Startup Distilleries Make Money While They Wait For Whiskey To Age Nashville Public Radio


SPEAKeasy is among an influx of new distilleries in Tennessee, many of which want to make the state’s signature liquor — whiskey. But there’s a problem: They can’t just open up shop and start selling it. They have to let it sit in a barrel and age. 

And this process is a huge investment. To start making whiskey, they have to buy the equipment, the barrels, the space to keep the barrels — for something that can't go on the market for another several years.

“Every time you lay down a barrel of whiskey, you’re pretty much writing a check and just putting it on the shelf for four to six years, however long you’re going to age it,” Pennington says.

So as a faster form of payment, some companies are turning to other liquor while they're waiting on whiskey. SPEAKeasy, for example, recently bought a state-of-the-art vodka still and started selling the liquor in April, under the brand name Pickers Vodka.

“It’s wonderful because you can make vodka today, and it’s ready for the market tomorrow," Pennington says. "We're certainly handcrafting it and buying the finest corn, but it is probably more lucrative because you're not having to wait. You're getting your return on your investment a lot faster."

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They turn to Vodka! Brilliant!

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