Oliver Mulligan is gearing up to open one of South End’s first whiskey distilleries in coming months. He’s already begun distilling spirits and plans to start tours within days, too.
Mulligan, a native of Ireland who moved to Charlotte in 1994, says Great Wagon Road Distilling Co. will open an approximately 8,800-square-foot distillery and 5,000-square-foot bar at 227 Southside Dr. sometime in the fourth quarter.
The new facility dwarfs his previous 1,700-square-foot space in Pineville, from which he’s operated since 2013.
Mulligan, an engineer, went out to Seattle to train with a master distiller several years ago to master the whiskey-making craft, something he’s long wanted to do.
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“I think it’s in every Irish person’s blood really,” said the Kildare native, whose grandfather was once arrested for making whiskey illegally. “Whiskey is something that is very close to my heart, so it was sort of a no-brainer.”
Great Wagon is just steps away from Old Mecklenburg Brewery and Sugar Creek Brewing Company, and down the street from countless others in South End.
You’d be hard-pressed, Mulligan said, to find spirits from Charlotte in any bars around Charlotte.
“There are a lot of breweries popping up here in North Carolina. I thought it would be cool if we had a distillery,” he added.
Others apparently thought so, too. Another whiskey distillery, family-run Doc Porter’s, is slated to open this summer just around the corner.
Mulligan said his bar will be a “cozy place” with a comfortable, relaxed feel. He’s also involving his wife, an interior decorator and designer, on the project. In addition to his spirits, he plans to serve a selection of local beers at the bar.
For now, Mulligan has begun the process of distilling vodka and whiskey at the new location. He says Charlotte’s current weather is ideal for whiskey to mature.
“Warmer weather accelerates the aging process, so the hotter and more humid the better,” he said.
Mulligan just recently also obtained his grandfather’s recipe for poitín, or Irish moonshine, and he’ll begin producing that next week as well.
The recipe, Mulligan said, came from a fellow distiller with whom his grandfather had shared a condenser — a copper tubing instrument used in distilling. It was expensive, Mulligan said, so neighbors used to share it. In order to transport the condenser, his grandfather would step up to the instrument, pull it up and put on his overcoat to conceal it.
Mulligan says he’d eventually like to get his products into ABC stores — something for which he’s already filed the paperwork. He is, however, allowed to give away samples during tours.
Until then, he’ll be sprucing up the distillery to make it “tour-worthy.” Updates about Great Wagon’s tours and distillery can be found on its Facebook page.