Old Nick Williams Farm & Distillery: Celebrating the 2nd Anniversary of a 250 year old family business
By Ray Morgan
If you’re local to the Triad, you already know we have a number of ‘hidden gems’ throughout the region. One of our treasures, Old Nick Williams Co. Farm & Distillery, is about to get a national spotlight!
Moonshine legend, Tim Smith, is partnering with The Discovery Channel to create a new series “Moonshiners: Whiskey Business” to air Wednesdays at 10 pm ET/PT starting March 13th. He’s “using a lifetime of liquor-making expertise and a team of whiskey experts with their own home grown know-how to pull struggling distilleries back from the brink and preserve the American tradition of handmade liquor,” according to Chelsea Dutchik, publicist for The Discovery Channel. One of their first distilleries is our very own, O.N.W.!
I recently met with Zeb Williams, co-owner of the family business, to discuss his experience with the Discovery Channel, his family history and plans for future growth.
You feel like you’ve driven out to the sticks when you arrive at the 600-acre Williams farm but the truth is you’re only minutes from the thriving centers of Lewisville, Clemmons and Winston-Salem. The farm has been in the family since 1765 and once encompassed more than 8,000 acres. The Williams tribe still lives on the working farm, each with their own homestead and pastoral views. Zeb’s great, great, great, great grandfather started the distillery in 1768 and was once known as one of the most revered brands of whiskey distillers in the US.
Many people do not know that Prohibition in North Carolina began in 1909. NC was the first state to enact Prohibition and the last to repeal it. The family had to stop their local sales and could only distribute outside the state and internationally. Zeb’s great grandfather passed away in 1913 and national Prohibition began in 1920. This combination is what shut down the operation.
Zeb can show you where the revenuers came and busted up over 22,000 gallons of whiskey which were aging on the property. The old glass bottle fragments and the metal hoops from the oak barrels are still there. He and his cousin used to play near there, always on the lookout for the possibility of a bottle which may have survived the destruction.
Hearing the family stories from his grandfather and great uncle as well as living in the shadow of a once nationally and internationally known business fueled Zeb’s young imagination. He’s been dreaming of reviving the family heritage his whole life. During a renovation of the old homeplace, they found an old safe hidden under the stairs, loaded with documentation of the day-to-day operation of the distillery, including sales receipts from all over the world and thank you letters from key persons in Washington, D.C. In 2015, Zeb and the family fired up the distillery once more! After finally receiving federal and state permits in 2017, they started production back on the farm once more. So we have a 250 year old business celebrating its 2nd anniversary!
Word has gotten out about how good their bourbon is! They recently won a Double Gold Award at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2018 for their Carolina Bourbon Whiskey. If 40 judges all give you gold, you then get Double Gold in this, one of the world’s most important spirit competitions.
Last year was a banner year for the company. The Discovery Channel contacted them about participating in the new series and in very short time, everyone was on board. I asked Zeb about his experience working with Tim Smith and he had nothing but praise. “He was awesome! I can’t say one bad thing about him,” said Zeb. “He was always funny, always eager to share information, talk with you and say what would help. An absolute pleasure!”
Tim Smith helped them address branding, image and customer experience issues. Their tasting room has been doubled in size with all the wood coming from and milled on the property. Fred Minnick, a Wall Street Journal best-selling American author and bourbon authority, came and reviewed the family’s historical documents. He helped them understand the history behind the paperwork that has survived to today. Tim Jones, marketing guru who has worked with Buffalo Trace Distillery, helped with branding and created a fascinating timeline in the newly renovated tasting room featuring these historical papers and artifacts.
Zeb is excited to see what this exposure to a national audience will do for Old Nick Williams. He knows the input from The Discovery Channel experience has already improved their operations. When asked what’s on the horizon, Zeb says they’ll have a new “Jamerican” rum, an American interpretation of a Jamaican rum, out within the next 2-3 months. Zeb is excited about what possibilities this opens for them to expand their product line.
Go visit the family at 2675 Williams Road, Lewisville and see America’s most famous forgotten distillery! You can find them online at www.OldNickWhiskey.com. Be sure to tune into the Discovery Channel on March 13th at 10 pm and support our local gem!
Be sure to stop by
Tuesday – Thursday: 11am-5pm
Friday – Saturday: 11am-6pm
2675 Williams Road
Lewisville, NC 27023