Oaklee Distilling Helps Wendell Revitalization Efforts One Boots Vodka Bottle at a Time

Wendell, North Carolina, historically a small tobacco-farming town, is located 20 miles outside of downtown Raleigh. Like most small southern towns, it has a little main street and beautiful homes with southern porches that once belonged to the town's elite. There is not much hustle and bustle in Wendell any more. Things move at a slower pace here. At 10 a.m, most things were closed except for a local grill and a cute little coffee shop.

Main Street of Wendell, NC

Wendell has a bank or two, a wine shop, a general store and hip and cool distillery, called Oaklee Distilling Co.

Lee Browne, a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate carefully restored the town's old movie theatre and turned it into Oaklee Distilling Co. He said he got the craft spirits idea while in college.

Oaklee Distilling Co.

Oaklee's first production on the market is called Boots Vodka and is made from local sweet potatoes and corn. Browne will soon follow with gin and bourbon production at the distillery.

Boots is Lee's old childhood nickname, and is now the name behind it signature vodka. It's marketed as  "Vodka with Traction" because it is higher than 90 proof, slightly higher than the usual vodka product of 80 proof.

Everything from bottling to sealing to sending the vodka bottles to the distributor is done in Wendell. When the distillery is in production, there are some long days in this sleepy little bedroom town.

Boots Vodka is 90 proof, higher than the usual vodka product

Browne says that most everyone who lives in the town has come through so now he only offers group tours by appointment.

He started the distillery process in 2014, and at the same time, a huge new neighborhood a few miles from main street called Wendell Falls went under construction. Each year, new sections of the neighborhood develop and now commercial retail is in the works. This one neighborhood development will bring over 5,000 homes to the Eastern side of Wake County when it is completed. And there is plenty more room from growth in this area. The Wendell Falls development has a resort pool, a farmers market and place for concerts. It also has homes a lot cheaper than in downtown Raleigh.

Now that people are moving to Wendell, North Carolina again, all Browne needs now is more restaurants in Wendell that will serve craft spirits using his liquor. I don't think he will have to wait long.

Oaklee Distilling Co. is located in Wendell, N.C.

Boots Vodka from Oaklee Distilling Co can be purchased in local ABC stores in North Carolina and Virginia.

North Carolina has a new distillery in Wendell, NC. Oaklee Distilling Co. produces Boots Vodka, Vodka with Traction made with NC sweet potatoes and corn. It's 90 proof which is slightly higher than usual vodka products. It's available in ABC stores in N.C and Virginia.


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