Zeb Williams’s family story is made for a novel. “My family has been in distilling since 1768. My fourth great grandfather, Joseph Williams, was a colonel in the Revolutionary War and he started the business here on the property in 1768. He received the original 8000-acre land grant and built his first still here at the age of 18.” By the early 1800’s, the distillery, then known as the Joseph Williams Distillery, was becoming well known and was run by Nicholas Lanier Williams and his son, yet another Joseph Williams. It was this Joseph who introduced a new brand of whiskey, called “Old Nick,” in honor of his father. In 1893, Joseph’s son, Glen Williams rebranded the distillery as “Old Nick Williams Distillery.” He set up and advertised at the World’s Fair in Chicago and, seven years later, was invited to set up at the Paris Exposition. This set the stage for world-wide distribution. “We had a huge fol- lowing in those days. We provided Presidents, Senators and Congressmen with our spirits and we have the historical documentation to back that up in our museum.” “Essentially, the distillery here was built and passed along father to son until my great-grand- father inherited it. He’s the man that actually dealt with trials and tribulations of prohibition in North Carolina. A lot of people don’t know that North Carolina was the very first state in the U.S to enact prohibition in 1909.
AMERICA’S MOST FAMOUS FORGOTTEN DISTILLERY by Anita Flowers OLD NICK WILLIAMS COMPANY H andcrafted spirits made in small batches and seven generations of distillers make the Old Nick Williams Company or ONW
as it is now today, a unique brand and a destina- tion with a rich history. From a Revolutionary War Colonel to revenuers in the 1920’s, this family story has it all. Spotlight on Business has the opportunity in Sep- tember to talk with Zeb Williams, president and co-owner of Old Nick Williams Company, and a 7th generation distiller, about his family history, along with the challenges of rebuilding a distill- ery and his plans for the future for ONW.
“My family has been in distilling since 1768.”
“We provided Presi- dents, Senators and Congressmen with our spirits and we have the historical documentation to back that up in our museum.”
DECEMBER 2020 • SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE
SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020
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