Faces of the 4th | Jeff & Craig Moore
Running a business is nothing new for Jeff Moore. He’s been working with his brother since grade school; mowing lawns after school, starting tech companies, and now, owning Atlanta’s first legal distillery in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.
The story begins on New Years Eve in 2011. Moore owned a garage space in East Atlanta Village nicknamed “The East Pole” where he held a few large parties throughout the year, collaborating with homebrewers to supply the events. With sparked interest in the technical side of manufacturing and the desire to do something different, Moore wondered how he could expand this hobby into something bigger, where it could be made possible to offer locally made liquor. He shares that no one was wanting to be “the guinea pigs of someone’s basement-made alcohol,” but Moore saw the saturation in the market of beer and continues to see that today.
The Old Fourth Ward distillery is based on authenticity. You can taste it in their ingredients, and hear it in the passion of Moore’s voice when he goes into the finest of details about his liquor, using words like “unrefined,” “molasses,” and other words that just sound like science to me, an outsider, as normal descriptions about liquor rate simply as “bearable” or “the juice of satan,” and no in between. Having taken classes at Cornell University for distilling, I learn from our chat that they work with local sugar cane farmers to bring “that neutrality that people have come to expect with the vodka,” and that they walk over to Oakland cemetery to pick juniper berries that are infused in their wheat-based gin. He continues to explain how pink peppercorn can be used to make bloody marys, and the list of experiments goes on.
“These days my favorite part is the research and development of potential new products. I’ve been really interested in pushing the boundaries of what spirits can be and who can create those. I’ve been working on an absinthe for about 4-5 years, I don’t feel like I’m there yet even now after all of this time and as many experimental batches I’ve made but that process for me, is the most satisfying. Trying to create something where there was nothing before. That trial and error process is really quite amazing for me. Even when it’s an error, you still really get a lot of information out of it.”
If there are errors, it doesn’t show. The distillery recently came home with a gold medal for their gin, and a double gold for their bourbon from the 2019 World Spirits Competition in San Francisco. It can be intimidating presenting one’s treasure to people who have been in this business and tasting liquor for years, but “when they show interest and start awarding us with these things it makes us very excited about it and let’s us know we’re on the right track.”
But this success doesn’t come singlehandedly. Jeff and his brother Craig both play crucial roles to keep the distillery on its feet. The two have been pretty embedded in the O4W neighborhood, locating their technology business right across from the distillery. Moore describes them both as “tech nerds” with engineering minds, having the best of both worlds with technology and liquor— the perfect mix, some might say. The brother partnership has been a natural progression, and it seems to work well for them. Craig manages the relationships and handles corporate governance, while Jeff juggles product development and marketing.
“Other partners with the distillery have come and gone and you know, one thing that’s never changed is Craig and I’s responsibility for the company and our desire to see this become as successful as we can possibly make it and that has been such a satisfying thing to have gone into business together, selling other people’s products to actually having something that we are responsible for creating and that history that we are able to accomplish.”
So you could say that Moore has a lot on his plate. But, as I’ve been asking everyone on this project what their favorite breakfast is, that plate is pretty simple: eggs scrambled with cheddar, side of sausage, pancakes, maple syrup, realbutter, and a glass of OJ (he also wishes to note that he enjoys the occasional quiche, poached egg, and crab cake). But perhaps the most prolific description for Moore, of course, is in liquid form. “I’m a pretty simple guy with basic requirements. My go to has always been a gin and tonic with two limes. That’s me in a nutshell.”