WESTON, Mo. — For now, tourists can try out the mash, but sampling the reinvented Holladay brand Missouri bourbon will have to wait.
McCormick Distilling Company recently started bourbon production after a 25-year hiatus, and tours of the historic facilities just resumed after a break of 20 years. Tickets can be purchased for $10 apiece with a tour lasting about an hour.
Visitors will learn about founder Benjamin Holladay, the natural springs on site and the distillation process of true Missouri bourbon.
“We haven’t changed any names,” tour guide Jim Stevens said during a recent tour. “It’s the Holladay Distillery, home of McCormick Distilling. … We are going to show you the real process of making real Missouri bourbon on the tour.”
Tours started in early April but were officially launched to the public in early May.
Visitors arrive at the newly opened gift shop and welcome center — the renovated historic Hull home. Samples of other McCormick products are available, although the bourbon cannot be tried just yet (more on that in a bit).
The Holladay Distillery logo and the year 1856 can be seen everywhere, a nod to the founding of the distillery more than 160 years ago. The signage can be found along the tour on the brand new mini-buses used to transport guests onto the site, to the large well that holds the water needed for production to a fancy golf cart used to move those with disabilities as needed.
The tour includes a brief introduction on the history of the distillation site.
Visitors then receive a look at the production process, starting with the cooking of corn, rye and barley. Guests can even sample the mash produced out of a large vat if desired. After distillation, the alcohol is placed in fire-charred 55-gallon barrels produced in Lebanon, Mo. to begin the aging process. This takes at least three years, and with the first barrels produced in March, the wait continues to try the product made from the original award-winning recipe.
The seven-story warehouse, capable of holding 20,000 barrels, can be viewed on the tour.
The current ownership, which has been in place since 1993, recently made the decision to open the facility back up to the public. Previously, tours were stopped due to the dangers associated with high traffic. The grounds have been spruced up with new walkways and landscaping, creating a welcoming environment for visitors.
Those interested in reserving tours are encouraged to purchase tickets online at holladaydistillery.com, although walk-ups can be accommodated if spots are available. Groups of 12 or more should call ahead to make arrangements.
Tours leave every half hour Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 3:30 p.m.
“People have sort of lost the understanding and connection with the distillery, but we want to embrace the community,” Ken Burnette, vice president of sales for McCormick, previously told The Citizen in a previous interview. “We want people to be able to come out and see who we are.”
The current distillation site originally served as a meat packing plant, but since the switch, McCormick has continually operated on the same site for more than 160 years. It’s purported to be the longest continually operational distillery on the same site in the United States.
Currently, McCormick Distilling employs about 160 people.