New Lee County distillery aims to be 100% locally sourced


LEE CO., Va. (WJHL) — A new business is coming to Lee County with a goal to keep it local.

Axe Handle Distilling hosted a meeting Monday with local farmers and agricultural experts to discuss grains needed for whiskey and other beverages.

The goal for Axe Handle Distilling and for local farmers is to have products produced, packaged and distributed all from Lee County.

“This area needs opportunity and we want to be a part of that opportunity,” said Director of Operations of Axe Handle Distilling Dwight Thomas.

While Lee County may be known for cattle, coal, and tobacco, farmers are looking at a new way to make an income.

“We’ve actually been working on a project to bring a grain terminal to Southwest Virginia and so those two projects are kind of meeting,” said Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Amy Fannon Byington.

Axe Handle Distilling hosted a meeting Monday to find out which grains can be grown and sourced locally with hopes to help local farmers along with growing their business.

“We’re going to be using a lot of grain with the production of whiskey and we’re an agricultural community so we would be remiss to not incorporate our local growers and local farmers,” said Thomas.

Barley, wheat, corn, and rye are all products that can have multiple uses, including for alcoholic beverages.

“Corn very easily we have been growing here. However this specific distillery specifically wants GMO-free corn and that’s not something that we’ve done as much in this area and that’s something we have to look at. We don’t really know the prices for that,” explained Byington, “We need to work on the rye. Normally around here we just use it for what’s called a cover crop for the soil. Sometimes we may bail it and use it for cattle feed but it’s not something we’ve done for grain quality.”

From farm to glass, the hope is to have Lee County on every label and for people to bring business to this primarily agricultural-based area.

“What we want is to be 100 percent Lee county. From the raw material to the finished product on the shelves,” said Thomas, “We know it’s going to bring people from outside our community. It’s going to be that revenue push that’s coming out of our store and hopefully a catalyst for additional businesses.”

Axe Handle Distilling is hoping to open its doors in late August to early September.

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