Craft distillery sets up shop in Little Rock
Jun. 25, 2010
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A small-batch distillery opened its doors Friday to mark the arrival of its custom-made equipment, but it will still be a couple of months before the Little Rock business puts a cork in its first bottle.
Brandon's Rock Town Distillery will produce bourbon, gin and vodka in a warehouse just east of downtown and about a block south of Heifer International.
Owner Phil Brandon said he could find no record of Little Rock ever having a legal distillery but stopped short of declaring himself the first. Brandon left his job at Little Rock-based Alltel Corp. after it was acquired last year by Verizon Wireless, saying he wanted to do something "creative and fun and unique."
Brandon said he will use only Arkansas-grown grains in his liquor, which will age in charred oak barrels produced by a 100-year-old cooperage in Hot Springs.
"We need our own native Arkansas spirits," Brandon said.
The liquor will be priced in line with other craft liquors. Brandon didn't disclose a suggested price, nor did he discuss how much he invested to start the business.
Vodka and gin will be the first products to go into bottles, Brandon said. He hopes to have the product reach Arkansas liquor stores in August. Brandon has a federal license, so he can sell outside the state. But he plans to distribute only in the state to start.
Brandon's Rock Town Distillery won't be the only liquor producer in the state. A Hiram Walker plant in Fort Smith produces Kahlua, along with other liqueurs and Pernod Ricard brands. And a Batesville man, Ed Ward, has a state license for moonshine production at a site in Newport.
On Friday, Brandon stood beside the copper kettle and explained that he will use open fermentation tanks. Brandon said he's not sure what the production capacity of his equipment will be.
"We have to get it all connected and see what it's going to take," said Brandon, who will run the business with his wife and two employees.
Aging his liquor in the five-gallon charred barrels to the right taste will take a lot less time than at distilleries that make much larger batches.
Brandon said he will decide by taste when a mix is ready for the bottle.
"This is real, handmade spirits," he said.