Drink for a Good Cause: Longleaf Distillery's Commitment to Environmental Conservation


The owners of Longleaf Distillery are on a mission to educate patrons about the importance of conservancy (Photographer Nate Weeks)

Nestled in the heart of Macon, the newly opened Longleaf Distillery is much more than just a place to sample and purchase quality spirits. Business partners Will Robinson and David Thompson opened the distillery with a mission that goes beyond just creating delicious liquors - they also want to educate people about the environment and the importance of conservation.

While the distillery will be focused on manufacturing spirits, it will also have a showroom that will serve snacks as well as specialty cocktails like the cafe romano, fountain of youth, john daily, and midnight dew, mocktails (non-alcoholic cocktails), as well as more traditional cocktails.

Will Robinson took a break from making sure everything was in order right a few days before the opening of Longleaf Distillery to speak with me about a wide range of topics related to the business as well as his and Thompson's passion for conservancy.

"The big thing that we are doing here is we're educating people, not only about our spirits, but about the history of spirits and [the effect that has had on] human history [and] the story of the longleaf pine, a tree that played a significant role in the history of the South." Robinson said.

The interior of Longleaf Distillery has an elegant and upscale design elements (Photographer Nate Weeks)

"Essentially for every bottle you buy, regardless of what it is, we'll plant a tree and a longleaf pine at that," said Robinson. 

Longleaf Distillery is working with the Longleaf Alliance and the Georgia Forestry Commission to make it happen. "It means jobs for farmers [and] making better use of our land. We're recreating one of the largest [original] ecosystems of the southeast that's pretty much gone now," Robinson added.

Longleaf Distillery has both indoor and outdoor seating where patrons can relax while trying samples of liquors produced at the distillery (Photographer Nate Weeks)

The longleaf pine was once a dominant species in the Southeast, stretching from Virginia to Texas. It was the second largest ecosystem in North America, but now only about 3% of it remains. "You can really tell the history of the South with the story of the longleaf pine," Robinson explained.

Robinson and Thompson also hope to bring people closer to the longleaf pine and its ecosystem. "I want to have field days, I want to go out to Hitchiti and walk people through an actual longleaf pine forest so they can see how beautiful it is," said Robinson. 

Longleaf Distillery's handmade Hoga Copper Pot Still was imported from Portugal and looks like a fantastical piece of art (Photographer Nate Weeks)

The distillery is also trying to dispel misconceptions about the longleaf pine. "There's a lot of misconceptions out there. And that's part of what the Longleaf Alliance is really trying to do - educate farmers as to where you plant these trees and what you do with them," said Robinson.

Robinson and Thompson are also passionate about revitalizing downtown Macon and bringing dollars back into the community. "This is just our way of giving something and trying to bring some ecological good at the same time," said Robinson.

Signs on the wall at Longleaf Distillery advertise what types of liquor is available from purchase (Photographer Nate Weeks)

Opening the distillery took much longer than anticipated with the pandemic and business model changes. Robinson and Thomspon initially considered manufacturing whiskey but ultimately decided against it due to logistical issues and based on advice from others with experience in the industry.

Robinson doesn't downplay how difficult opening the distillery has been or how complicated the laws and rules in Georgia for distilleries are (such as the law that says distilleries can only serve the liquor that they produce onsite). 

Framed art on the walls reflect Longleaf Distillery's commitment to nature conservancy (Photographer Nate Weeks)

Thankfully, it isn't all hard work though: as Robinson said during our interview, "It's also a really fun business to be in."

Longleaf Distillery may be the first craft micro-distillery in Macon, but it's clear that they plan on making an impact beyond just crafting spirits. By planting a longleaf pine for every bottle sold, they are helping to rebuild an important ecosystem while educating people about history and conservation. 

Longleaf Distillery is located at 664 2nd Street in Macon and is open from noon until 6 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and from noon until 10 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays. 

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Longleaf Distillery's Will Robinson took time out of his busy schedule to speak with me a few days before the distillery was opened in mid-April of this year (Photographer Nate Weeks)
A complicated looking device on the bar at Longleaf Distillery that looks like it should be in a science lab infuses vodka with tea (Photographer Nate Weeks)
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