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🥃 Tour the Only Whiskey Prison in the U.S.

Contributor: Jamie Richardson


Southern Grace Distilleries is America’s only distillery that’s housed in a former prison. The compound originally opened in 1929 as Mount Pleasant Prison, where it remained in operation until it was shut down in 2011.

  • In 2014, North Carolina natives Leanne Powell and Thomas Thacker moved into the facility and founded Southern Grace Distilleries. In 2019, Leanne passed away, but the small staff that runs this company works hard every day to keep Leanne’s vision alive.

Sebastian is from Winston-Salem and is a graduate of Appalachian State University where he earned a BS in Fermentation Science. He loves the science of making good liquor and his favorite drink is a well-made Old Fashioned.

  • He said he loves working at Southern Grace because “it’s pretty odd to work in a former prison and it never gets old!”

When you walk around the distillery’s production facility, you’ll see that everything has been left pretty much the way it was found. The property is still surrounded by barbed wire fencing, and a guards’ watchtower overlooks the property.

🎸 The moment you walk through the entrance you’ll hear (and feel) the bass of loud rock music pumping through the air. The music is coming from inside a barrel-filled cell block, utilizing a technique called “sonic aging.”

  • Sonic aging is the process of pulsing sound waves through the booze as it’s sitting in the barrel, agitating it, and increasing the frequency of contact between the bourbon and the barrel.

On the prison tour, you will be able to go inside old cell blocks that hold the small but mighty stills that make all of Southern Grace’s delicious products, including two favorites; the small-batch straight bourbon known as Conviction and Sun Dog 130. Sun Dog is a corn whiskey that harkens back to the days of runners, moonshine’s rebellion against Prohibition, and the forerunners of NASCAR.

  • You can find Southern Grace’s products in ABC Stores throughout much of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Eastern Tennessee, or you can visit their mess hall-turned-gift shop for a cocktail or to snag a bottle or two to take home.

So, Come learn about the history of the 1929 prison campus or discover how they create their award-winning Conviction Bourbon. You can enjoy a cocktail in the gift shop, or pick up a gift made by local artisans. Book your tour of Whiskey Prison today!

Southern Grace Distilleries offers two tours. Be sure to visit their website for details and to make reservations:

Behind Bars Tours – Take a behind-the-scenes look at the whiskey-making process including fermentation and distillation. Learn about the history of the prison. Tours last approximately 45 minutes and begin in the gift shop and conclude with a tasting of Southern Grace products.

Convicted Spirits Tours (Their most requested tour!) – Same as distilled spirits, dealing with supernatural spirits can require expert assistance. Southern Grace has brought in experienced paranormal investigators as nighttime guides to explore the grounds of their 90-year-old prison. Guests are welcome to bring their own ghost-hunting equipment or just come to watch the professionals.

Fun facts:

  • Southern Grace uses locally sourced ingredients. The used bourbon barrels are often given to local breweries like Cabarrus Brewing to create unique flavors.
  • All Southern Grace spirits are handmade in small batches in the Mount Pleasant distillery, including gold-medal-winning Conviction Bourbon.
  • Conviction Bourbon has won a variety of accolades, including “Best Bourbon Under Four Years” at the New Orleans Bourbon Festival.

Not interested in Whiskey? What about Paranormal Activities?

A lot of paranormal sightings have been reported at Southern Grace. In fact, they rent out Whiskey Prison for Private Paranormal Investigations. Southern Grace was even featured recently on Ghost Hunters!

Location & Hours
Southern Grace Distilleries, Inc.
130 Dutch Road
Mount Pleasant, North Carolina 28124
(704) 622-6413

Monday & Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday & Thursday: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Friday & Saturday: 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm


Planning to visit? Tell ’em Cabarrus Weekly sent ya!