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TOPO Distillery sells first bottle of liquor outside of ABC system in 106 years

TOPO Distillery owner Scott Maitland (left) sells liquor to state Sen. Rick Gunn.

TOPO Distillery owner Scott Maitland (left) sells liquor to state Sen. Rick Gunn.

Scott Maitland, owner of TOPO Distillery, sold the first bottle of liquor outside of the ABC Commission system in North Carolina since 1909 on Thursday.

“This is kind of a minor miracle,” Maitland joked at the event hosted at TOPO Distillery to celebrate the significant moment in North Carolina history.

Dozens attended the occasion that was open to the public, including North Carolina Sen. Rick Gunn, who purchased the first bottle. Breakfast and tours of the facility were offered to guests, who also had the opportunity to purchase TOPO Distillery spirits for the first time, thanks to the passing of House Bill 912.

Signed Wednesday, House Bill 912 allows distilleries to sell their own bottled products on site. Maitland said he appreciates the magnitude of the bill and the time and effort expended to achieve its legitimization. He even brought his children, including his newborn baby, to witness the historical transaction.

“This law is the thing that’s going to supercharge the growth of our industry and really have a big impact,” Maitland said.

Gunn, a crucial player in the authorization of the bill, was excited to be a part of its first application.

“The state wants to promote entrepreneurship,” Gunn said.

Keith Crissman, an assistant distiller at TOPO Distillery, spoke to the bill’s advantages.

“It’s allowing people choice,” Crissman said.

Consumers now have the ability to purchase spirits from ABC stores or directly from the distillery, a condition that was previously illegal for 106 years.

Maitland explained further the benefits of the bill as a marketing device for local distilleries that will eventually lead to increased sales at ABC stores.

“It’s not about this becoming a liquor store. It’s about this becoming a tourist destination,” Maitland said.

His theory seemed to prove true as guests shared their experiences. Durham resident Olivia Gray said the bill has made her more aware of North Carolina’s growing distilling industry.

“I’m glad that they’re changing the law,” Gray said.

The bill does come with restrictions. North Carolina is still one of 17 control states and the fifteenth to pass this type of legislation. This means the ABC Commission, an organization under the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, manages the production and sales of liquor.

House Bill 912 only permits consumers to purchase one bottle per distillery per year outside of the ABC system.

“It’s still pretty complicated,” Maitland said.

But Maitland is positive that the bill is ushering in a new era of the distilling industry.

Attendee Doug Dixon of Siler City said he had never heard of TOPO Distillery until the bill was passed, but he is now interested in the operation.

“I’m going to make sure I take a bottle home,” Dixon said.

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