By Gary Jacques
Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery, located at 2675 Williams Road in Lewisville, provides a rich family tradition focusing on craft bourbon and whiskey. The Williams family has kept the legacy alive for generations. Today, fourth and fifth great grandsons of the founder, Col. Joseph Williams ensure that quality and craftsmanship are maintained.
Established in 1768, the Old Nick Williams Company was one of the most revered brands of whiskey in the United States. By the late 1800’s their fame was worldwide.
Zeb Williams’ fifth great grandfather Joseph built his first still in 1768, primarily for medicinal and family use. Zeb enthuses, “Word spread, quality improved, and the next thing you know, it was an operating distillery.”
The distillery operated in the Williams family until Prohibition. Zeb mentions, “It was passed down father to son, until my great grandfather Nicholas Glen inherited the distillery.”
Once Nicholas Glen Williams took over the business, he dealt with the North Carolina state liquor laws and Prohibition. North Carolina started going through their Prohibition way before the federal government. It started in the early 1900’s.
You had to be an incorporated town to make liquor. Zeb’s great grandfather incorporated the town of Williams. In 1905, the size of Williams grew. In 1909, North Carolina enacted Prohibition and they were forced to stop production on the farm, a property with over 800 acres. They could only sell outside the state lines and internationally.
Zeb indicates the challenge: “That put a damper on things. We had over 22,000 gallons of liquor on the farm.”
Zeb’s great grandfather Glen died in 1913 and none of the children were old enough to take over the distillery. Liquor sat on the farm until 1920. When federal Prohibition was enacted, revenuers came in and disposed of all the alcohol left on the property. Business died at the location for about 100 years.
In 2014, two brothrs, Van and John Williams, and their sons Zeb and Matt Williams, decided to move forward with their dreams. It is important that the facts of their family history are correctly presented to the public. The common goal is to provide the best possible product, just as their ancestors did many years ago.
Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery first produced liquor at Foothills Distillery, Conover, North Carolina, in 2015.
In May 2017, the distillery received permits to allow Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery to make the first drop of liquor since 1909.
Zeb Williams cites a craft boom: “People socialize now and like to know where their products are made. We’re a craft distillery. We still do it like my great grandfather did it 125 to 150 years ago, plus a few bells and whistles.”
Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery uses all North Carolina local grains, which they feel makes a big difference. They use a specific heirloom variety, non-GMO corn, which is very similar to what Zeb’s great grandfather used years ago.
Zeb emphasizes their uniqueness: “We are a true craft. We use the same recipes as 200 years ago, just like the family did, with the same hands on approach. We are trying to use the same level of quality. ”
He indicates that the Williams family tradition separates them from other distilleries: “We are building the same great product as our great grandfather did.”
Zeb mentions that North Carolina is a great state for bourbon. The state has a great grain belt. Fluctuation of temperature during the different seasons creates great opportunities for perfect aging and maturing conditions.
The distillery focuses on two products currently; unaged white whiskey and bourbon, with a line of rums coming soon. All grain is used in our whiskey, no added sugar. That makes a big taste difference. Zeb states, “Our white whiskey
is a stellar product. “
Zeb is proud of Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery’s success, earning a double gold medal in the 2018 San Francisco World Spirit competition for their bourbon. This is one of the largest spirit competitions in the world. Old Nick’s also was close to Best of Show, alongside big bourbon distilleries.
Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery produces approximately 4 barrels containing a total of 1200 bottles monthly. Customers can purchase a maximum of 5 bottles per year from Old Nick Williams Distillery due to North Carolina liquor laws.
Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery just hired their first employee, who is a graduate of the Appalachian State Fermentation program. Fermentation is a very important part of the process in producing quality craft liquor.
On August 4, the Petty Museum is hosting a ticketed fundraising event on the farm. A tour of Petty Museum, Richard Childress Racing Museum, and the distillery, poker run/ride, dinner, live music, and silent auction will be part of the event. Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery will have a strong presence at the event, which raises money for Petty’s charity.
Ricky Proehl’s Power of Play Foundation and Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery will team up to help raise funds. Power of Play teaches the core values of Play, Opportunity, Work, Excellence, and Respect.
Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery products are in ABC Stores, bars, and restaurants in about 80% of North Carolina. All major cities are prime markets. Charlotte, Raleigh and Wilmington are strong selling areas due to tourism and year-round business.
Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery hours are: Tuesday – Thursday – 11 am – 5 pm; Friday – Saturday – 11 am – 6 pm
Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery is closed on Sundays due to North Carolina State ABC laws.
Address: Old Nick Williams Company
2675 Williams Rd., Lewisville, NC 27023
Phone: (336) 946-1012 or
Old Nick Williams Farm and Distillery
By Gary Jacques