McCormick planning to distill again on-site, restarting tours of facility

JEANETTE BROWNING FAUBION/Citizen photo McCormick Distilling Company in Weston, Mo. plans to start distilling bourbon and other spirits on site at its historic facility. That also means that tours will restart after last being offered in 1995. Tours were stopped due to liability concerns, and currently, McCormick only bottles items distilled elsewhere at the facility. WESTON, Mo. — One of the areas most beloved tourist attractions will be making a comeback next spring with the return of tours at the McCormick Distillery.

The tours will start April 1, 2016 — more than 20 years after the last one concluded in 1995 due to liability concerns. Costing about $10 per person, the tours will be part of a whole new immersive experience featuring the production of local bourbon under the Holladay Distillery brand at the historic facility.

Holladay is a name well known in the area.

In 1856 the Holladay brothers founded their distillery — in the stone building that still stands where McCormick still currently bottles alcohols distilled offsite — due to its limestone spring access, discovered by Lewis and Clark a half-century earlier. Founder and “Stagecoach King” Benjamin Holladay was born in Kentucky and went into the family business of hostling (leading wagon trains across the old West).

During his time in Weston, Holladay founded the distillery and put his brother, David, in charge. The Holladay family and its descendents ran the distillery into the 20th century. Over the years, it has since been operated by several owners, but today the McCormick Distillery owns the title of the oldest continually-operated distillery west of the Mississippi River.

“Bourbon is very hot right now,” said McCormick president Mick Harris. “With the heritage of this facility, we’re sitting on a site with as much history as any.”

Not only is bourbon hot right now, but so are locally-sourced and produced goods.

Harris said under the Holladay Distillery brand, bourbon whiskey will be made on-site, using locally produced grains and Weston spring water from the original recipe. It has been 30 years since such spirits were made on-site, he said.

“Our product will be 100 percent Missouri and 100 percent Weston,” Harris said.

Although tours will begin in 2016, production of that local bourbon will take a little longer. Once distilling begins — with the still itself set to arrive in October for installation in the original Holladay building — oak barrel aging of the Holladay whiskey will take three years. Some corn whiskey and moonshine under the Holladay brand will be available to the public more quickly, Harris said.

The tours will start in the historic Hull home near the distillery entrance on Highway JJ. The home is undergoing renovation into a visitor’s center with parking lot and shop, featuring merchandise different from the Weston Main Street store, which will also remain in operation. From the Hull home, tour groups will depart in trams and head down the hill to the stone 1856 Holladay building.

From there, visitors will see the distilling process from the beginning to the final product.

“They’ll get the entire treatment,” Harris said. “They can stick their fingers in the mash tub and roll and fill barrels.”

Limited tastings will be available at the distillery, but the full line of McCormick products will be on hand in the downtown store.

Harris said the company will urge visitors to continue into downtown Weston and sees only good things ahead for the Weston community — of which McCormick’s may soon be a part. Discussions on the voluntary annexation of the McCormick property into incorporated Weston have been ongoing this year.

“We would like to be a part of the city,” Harris said of the annexation process. “They have things to offer to us, and we can offer them benefits as well.”

Currently, McCormick Distilling employs about 150 people locally, and that number will increase as the distilling operation ramps up and tours get under way. No estimate on the number of new jobs is available yet.

“We think it will be a positive thing for the area,” Harris said.

In Kentucky and Tennessee, distillery tours are large draws, boosting the local economy and bringing thousands of visitors per year.