How Ghost Coast Distillery co-founder Chris Sywassink followed his dream to work with friends and create something unique.
“A whole lot of love.”
According to co-founder and general manager Chris Sywassink, that’s what makes Ghost Coast Distillery’s process unique. And Chris has a whole lot of love to give.
He describes himself as a full-time dad with two kids, two dogs, and one beautiful wife. He loves to fish, hunt, boat, play golf and travel.
Travelling and experiencing new things excite Chris. Especially where good food and drink are involved. “I have never met a cocktail I didn’t like,” Chris says.
Though he’s quick to add, “But I do like some better than others.”
Chris considers himself a “serial entrepreneur,” diving into businesses that he’s passionate about. He’s owned his own fly fishing lodge, and even farmed gourmet mushrooms professionally. The serial-entrepreneur-shoe certainly fits.
But with Ghost Coast Distillery, Chris seems to have found his calling, working with friends to create something exceptional at their independent distillery.
Savannah Georgia, a city famous for spirits
But the spirits that Savannah is famous for aren’t necessarily the kind that come in a bottle.
Lauded for its manicured parks, horse-drawn carriage rides, and antebellum architecture, Savannah also ranks as one of America’s most haunted cities.
Over the years, Savannah has experienced more than its fair share of ghost sightings. What it hadn’t seen since the days before Prohibition, was a distillery.
The Talmadge Bridge in Savannah overlooks the Savannah River and Ghost Coast Distillery.
Fully embracing the city’s haunted reputation, and given its location along the Savannah River, the distillery’s name came together quite easily for Chris and fellow Ghost Coast founder Rob Ingersoll.
“When you have a city that enjoys its drink, and is the most haunted, it’s hard not to be influenced by it.”
Chris and Rob met while both were students at Appalachian State.
During their days as college classmates, the two were plotting how to create something unique and American-made that they could share with the world.
The world of craft spirits had always appealed to Chris.
He liked the idea of, “The fun of the industry. As well as the science of distilling alcohol. Along with owning my own business. And giving opportunities to like-minded people.”
The first outline for their business model was sketched on the back of a napkin.
Today, that sketch has turned into a thriving business that produces award-winning craft spirits. An independent distillery that was uplifted by a community.
Then returned the favor.
The perfect community for Ghost Coast Distillery
Ghost Coast Distillery didn’t decide to set up shop in Savannah on a lark.
Chris makes it clear, “The people of Savannah love to help their own.”
He cites Savannah’s weather, climate, access to large bodies of water and interesting community dynamic as a few of the reasons why it’s an ideal location for the kind of independent distillery he and Rob envisioned.
“The community helped in several ways,” explains Chris.
“Either through tax assistance, economic development or opportunity zone classification.”
Locals have also shown their support for Ghost Coast by showing up in droves for different distillery-sponsored charity events, release parties and music festivals.
In return, Ghost Coast Distillery has been able to give plenty back to the city.
For starters, Ghost Coast offers free behind-the-scenes distillery tours.
These tours offer a peek behind the curtain at Ghost Coast, and a closer look at how their craft spirits come together.
Ghost Coast Distillery has become a favorite destination for local residents and visitors to the area.
Their Cocktail Room has become a popular destination for thirsty locals and curious tourists too, offering an impressive selection of handmade cocktails from the mind of master mixologist Sidney Lance.
The best part is, each one is made exclusively with Ghost Coast products.
Because it’s all about the spirits, after all.
Ghost Coast Bourbon, Burl Gin, and more unique craft creations
When it comes to whiskey, Ghost Coast Distillery gives you two extraordinary options.
Their Third Release Straight Bourbon Whiskey is aged for two years. Which gives it a bold, rye spice at the front that’s backed by delicious notes of vanilla, walnut and almond.
There’s another Ghost Coast bourbon for you, too. Designed with cozy winters in mine, try the warm flavors of their Fourth Release Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
If you’re in the mood for something slightly sweeter, Ghost Coast’s Honey Whiskey mixes in all-natural, local honey from The Savannah Bee Company to balance effortlessly with their delicious, rye-forward bourbon whiskey.
Speaking of sweet, Ghost Coast Peach Liqueur adds the perfect bit of peach flavor to your favorite cocktails.
It’s made with 100% real Georgia peaches. And works just as nicely when it’s poured over ice and enjoyed on the rocks.
There’s also the Chalmers Cherry Almond Liqueur, made from Montmorency cherries, almonds and a housemade peach noyaux, which is the French word for the kernels found inside stone fruits like the peach.
Burl Gin, Tiki Spiced Rum and Ghost Coast Distillery’s range of award-winning craft spirits.
Ghost Coast Vodka won a gold medal in its very first competition. Super clean. Perfectly filtered. Super smooth. And full bodied.
Or maybe try it with a lively orange twist.
Orange Vodka from Ghost Coast features the complex flavors and natural citrus aromas of the Seville Orange.
The distillery’s Burl Gin combines citrus and lavender to deliver bold flavors that are at once floral and refreshing.
The Tiki Spiced Rum is distilled from molasses sourced less than ten miles up-river from Ghost Coast Distillery. It’s then aged in used bourbon casks. Nine colorful spices from all over the world are added; a nod to the port city of Savannah’s rich maritime history.
Over a dozen different ingredients add to the assertive flavor of Ghost Coast’s barrel-aged Fernet.
Exotic myrrh, the lingering cool of peppermint and the pleasant bitterness of brewer’s hops all contribute to the symphony that is this craft spirit.
It’s a modern take on a very old, very traditional herbal liqueur. Carthusian Bitters from Ghost Coast blends European herbs and cane sugar to build balanced layers of bitter, sugar, mint, lemon and thyme.
At Ghost Coast Distillery everything is made by hand.
The rewarding life of an independent distiller
Chris will tell you, few things are as satisfying as running your own independent distillery.
“The importance of independent distilleries is their ability to drive creativity. And their flexibility to try new things.”
But like any entrepreneurial endeavor, there are plenty of challenges to overcome.
“Getting the word out about our products. And how great they taste,” are matters that face the crew at Ghost Coast every day.
It’s worth the struggle.
Because for Chris Sywassink, it’s all about, “Building a safe and rewarding experience for our guests. And offering a safe and rewarding organization for our staff and their families to feel that they have a future.”
For as much as he loves his craft spirits, Chris cares about people more. And he’s as proud of his team as he is the exceptional craft spirits they produce.
“They always have fun at what they are doing. And do it with the highest level of integrity.”