The Spirit of Art: Distillery of Modern Art offers aficionados of fine liquors and visual arts a taste of both
Chamblee-based distillery, bar and art gallery allows founder Seth Watson and his team to combine twin passions for hand-crafted spirits and modern art
For people who appreciate fine wine, beer or spirits, there’s an understanding that the creation of such libations is as much akin to artistry as the work of accomplished painters, sculptors or playwrights.
Tucked away in a quiet Chamblee neighborhood, behind a sleek facade punctuated by a large picture window displaying wooden barrels, the Distillery of Modern Art offers an opportunity to observe and sample the process of creating fine, craft spirits surrounded by a rotating collection of original artworks from the hands of local artists.
Deemed a “total sensory experience” by founder and CEO Seth Watson, DOMA’s sprawling distillery includes a bar and tasting room, expansive event space, gleaming arrays of copper boilers and piping and – of course – art. Lots of art.
“I have a passion for spirits and fine whiskey,” said Watson. “I also have a passion for modern art.”
Savoring the Art of the Cocktail
Combining those two not-so-dissimilar avocations has been both a labor of love and an intensive learning experience for Watson, who spent 20 years designing and producing events before deciding to plunge headlong into producing fine spirits and liqueurs in the distillery, which opened two years ago.
“We deliberately chose this area of DeKalb County because it’s an up-and-coming area,” said Watson, who relocated to Georgia in 2001. “There’s a real potential for growth in Chamblee.”
Seated in the gallery’s bar area before a glass wall glowing with hundreds of square bottles of rainbow-hued liquids, Watson nods across to the room where a series of large windows offer a view of several staff members busily tending to a production line of bottles being filled, capped and labeled.
“We are, first and foremost, producers of fine craft spirits,” he said. DOMA’s wares include two varieties of vodka, American and Peach; Nouveau Gin; a very smooth Corn Whiskey and a fruity Peach Amero, DOMA’s own version of the orange-and-herb based liqueur popular in Italy, where restaurants and bars offer the tangy concoction by itself or in spritzers.
The DOMA catalog also includes rye and bourbon – Watson’s favorite libation – but because of the requisite aging time needed for those spirits, none has been bottled yet, save a small supply served at the bar that was produced when Watson was still honing his technique.
“Those original bourbons and ryes are the ones behind the bar, but it takes two to four years to age them right,” he said. “If it’s not right, we’re not going to sell it.”
DOMA relies on regionally sourced grains and grows its own herbal ingredients.
“By law, we’re only allowed to sell what we make – no beer, no wine – and we have to make any mixers if they have alcohol. We wanted to make a Cosmopolitan, so we made our own orange liqueur.” he said. “We grow all our own garnish and create all our own tinctures; that gives us complete creative control.”
Watson said his distillery produced about 15,000 gallons of proofed spirits in 2023, and expects to triple that amount in 2024. It distributes its wares throughout Georgia and has recently expanded into Florida and Texas, he said.
The distillery also offers bottling services to smaller distillers and whisky merchants throughout the state, Watson said.
Infusions of Art
Each bottle of DOMA spirits features a canvas label sporting a reproduction of a specially commissioned artwork, the originals of which line an exhibit hall in the distillery. Local artists also are invited to display and sell their works in DOMA’s gallery.
“We usually have two different artists showing for two months at a time,” Watson said. “We don’t take any commission or fee. The gallery gives us the opportunity to help emerging artists show their works and give back to the community.”
In addition to the ongoing art displays and event space, DOMA regularly hosts live local musicians, monthly stand-up comedy acts, book readings, yoga classes and even burlesque shows. It also hosts popup restaurant services for local chefs and eateries. The bar offers a cheese and charcuterie selection in addition to the frequent pop-ups.
“We’re pretty busy on weekends, and we usually do two to four events each week,” said Watson. “It’s a great place for a get-together; we have live music, but it’s really meant to be background entertainment, not a ‘get up and party’ place. The idea is to enjoy an upscale experience, sit back and relax.”
The bar is open Thursday through Saturday from 5-10:30 p.m., Sunday from 1-6 p.m., and 45-minute tours are available Friday through Sunday.
The Distillery of Modern Art is located at 2197 Irvindale Dr., Chamblee, GA 30341 (404) 482-2663. For more information and find out about upcoming events, visit Distillery of Modern Art.
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