When distilleries say they try and capture the essence of a city, you’d expect them to attempt to recreate the personality of the city in the flavor and body of their liquor. But at Ghost Coast Distillery, North Carolina natives Chris Sywassink and Rob Ingersoll pull straight from Savannah’s atmospheric elements and create a barely-altered, authentic and representative of the city.
Hints of Savannah—anything from bits of pollen to the humidity of the air—are filtered straight into the mixture from the open ventilation system in their distillery, right into the bottle and straight to favorite local bars and restaurants throughout the city.
“We wanted what was naturally in the air to make it into our product,” co-founder Rob Ingersoll said. “We want the whole thing to embody Savannah.”
Right down the street from Service Brewing Company, Ghost Coast Distillery shows guests this unique process in action with tours of the facility. But before anyone gets carried away with the sights and sounds of liquor being made, or tastes the concoctions, they are led through a history lesson that ties together the history of alcohol and the history of Georgia’s First City.
There visitors will understand where the two crossed paths and learn more about how Ghost Coast Distillery was “born from revelry,” as their slogan prompts, before being ushered to the production area to see the science behind the spirits.
A Spirited Scene
Ingersoll and Sywassink toyed around with the idea of starting something together in Savannah for years. No matter what they were manufacturing they knew they wanted to make it together in Savannah.
“Savannah as a whole is a unique city and it does enjoy having a good time,” Sywassink said. “There seemed to be a void in Savannah for an idea like this and a facility like this.”
After a lot of reading up and researching on the manufacturing of spirits, Ingersoll took his knowledge of production and manufacturing experience, while Sywassink pulled from his administrative and financial background, and they both tapped into their love for spirits. Together, with the help of a diverse team, they created Ghost Coast, Savannah’s first distillery since the right before the prohibition era.
“We joke constantly that we haven’t met a spirit that we didn’t like,” Sywassink said.
Lovers of the city, they knew Savannah—where an eclectic edginess has been transpiring and a craft beer scene has been growing over the last decade—was the only place they wanted to do this.
“Savannah is not your typical city in the South, but it lures you in,” Sywassink said. “And once you get that bug you don’t want to lose it, and you want to do everything you can to enhance it…then you also want to show it off because it has this vibe and this feel.”
Once guests ruminate on the cooking and creating of this idiosyncratic liquor, they are sent over to the industrious yet upscale 5,000-square foot tasting room, which doubles as an event space for anything from a party or reception to a venue for a local band.
In 45 minutes, visitors see everything from the barrels of bourbon that are fermenting and the products pushing through the assembly line to the birth of the alcohol and the space’s reliance on the natural elements of the city that surrounds it. Guests will end with a long swig of the First City, a taste they can’t consume anywhere else.
Production at Ghost Coast Distillery began in 2016 and they opened for tours on February 14, 2017. They are located at 641 Indian St., open Tuesday-Wednesday from noon-6 p.m. and Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tours begin every hour, on the hour, and are $12.50 with a tasting or $32 with a souvenir bottle. For more information about Ghost Coast Distillery, call (912) 298-0071 or go to ghostcoastdistillery.com.