From IP to Distillery
Zachary Hiller’s new hobby is years in the making
Published in 2023 Texas Rising Stars magazine
By Alison Macor on March 17, 2023
It’s not a stretch to say that when you take a sip of a William Price spirit, you’re also savoring a bit of history.
The 2-year-old Houston-based distillery is named for William Price Clary, co-owner Bryan Clary’s great-great-great-great-grandfather and, says partner Zachary Hiller, the first of the pair’s ancestors to move to Texas. The distillery’s namesake operated a grocery and liquor store in Illinois in the 1800s, and would later serve under Abraham Lincoln during the Black Hawk War of 1832.
Now, William Price Distilling is open for business in the Garden Oaks neighborhood, serving up tours and tastings of spirits, some of which are redistilled on-site. Hiller’s dream spirit—a 100-proof, 4-year-old Texas bourbon—is what he calls “a tomorrow adventure,” an endeavor that will require another round of investment to fund production in the distillery’s still, custom-made by Forsyths of Scotland, and four years of barrel aging.
A Houston native and intellectual property attorney, Hiller always wanted to open a distillery. His first client as a solo attorney was 8th Wonder Brewery, whose founders are Hiller’s childhood friends. “I traded work as a ‘baby lawyer’ for equity in the company,” says the 39-year-old. “It worked out great for both of us.”
Hiller had a tough time finding a partner to open his own distillery until Clary, his former roommate at Washington University in St. Louis, decided to leave the oil and gas business for an MBA. Hiller suggested Clary use the distillery idea if he ever needed to draw up a business plan for a course project.
At that time, Hiller was deep into the competitive barbecue scene, but it was a costly hobby. “Imagine buying two briskets, a couple of chickens, a couple of racks of ribs every couple of weekends, and not actually eating everything,” says Hiller, “because you have to put it in Styrofoam containers for the judges to eat.”
Though Hiller decided it was more fun to make brisket for friends than judges, it was over a barbecue pit in 2017 that Clary mentioned he had taken Hiller’s suggestion and come up with a proposal for a distillery. They decided to make the proposal a reality. “It took us a little bit to raise money, but we signed a lease in November 2019 and took over the lease in February 2020. COVID hit a month later,” he says.
A planned three- to four-month construction project, beset by supply chain issues, ended up taking 18 months. And when Hiller and Clary finally opened the distillery’s doors in June 2021, the city began a capital improvement project that tore up the street in front of their business. This latest challenge hasn’t stopped customers from stopping by for World Cup watch parties or holiday-themed tours and tastings, or from picking up curated boxes of spirits to mix at home.
While Hiller’s involvement in the distillery won’t replace his law practice, it does provide an interesting side hustle. “I’ve taken a hobby and put it on steroids,” he says. “Part of the good news of being a solo practitioner is I get to decide what my workload looks like.”
For the time being, you can often find Hiller and Clary at the distillery, planning for a future where they can produce all their own spirits from scratch, on-site. Hiller, who majored in mechanical engineering as an undergraduate, remains endlessly fascinated by the multi-step process of making spirits. “I love the science of it,” he says. “I can’t wait for the day that I’m making everything, grain to glass.”
The Spirits That Move Hiller
Coffee Liqueur: “We partner with Cactus Coffee to make it, so it’s all locally roasted cold brew. And it’s great in a White Russian.”
Bourbon Finish Rye and Honey Barrel Straight Rye: “These are part of our experimental finishing series. We put rye whiskey into a bourbon barrel that used to have our single malt in it. The other is empty rye whiskey barrels given to a local beekeeper to store honey, which he bottles, and [then] we get them back to fill with whiskey again.”
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