rock town distillery
march 4, 2013
1216 e. 6th street
little rock, arkansas
little rock, arkansas
phil brandon knows moonshine. not because he always did, but because he made it a point to know moonshine.
he tells the story of 2009 when his job was on the line and the line broke. shuffling through one idea, then another, of what to do with his life and how to provide for his family was his priority.
jobs were going away, he remembered. he searched and searched, did a little research. moonshine - whiskey - and all their kin - caught his attention. "i had been drinkin' a fair amount of whiskey," he laughs. so he did his homework, talked with the pros, went through the legal channels and in 2009, rock town distillery became the first legal distillery in the state since prohibition.
today, his wife, diana, and his distiller, andy lewis, run, at the most, a seven-person team brewing and distilling vodka, moonshine, bourbon and rye whiskey, gin and rum. marketed under the name "brandon's" originally, it is now distributed under the rock town distillery label.
during a tasting tour, small samples of their entire line are poured into tiny plastic cups, but don't be fooled. at 125 proof (375 ml bottles only), a taste of the arkansas lightning (aka corn whiskey) is all you need. this double distilled lightning is made from local corn and wheat and 'cooked' in a solid copper pot still. "it's just good ol' fashioned corn whiskey," says brandon. if you like a little 'sweet' with the lightning, try the apple pie arkansas lightning. only 40 proof, it satisfies the need for dessert and drink. launched in september 2012, it is already their biggest seller.
next in the flavored category is the hot cinnamon lightning hitting the stores this year.
the tour will take you through the distillery with brandon's description of the process of using local corn, wheat and barley. into the still house, he proudly shows his custom-made 250-gallon copper pot still and explains the process, the mash and number of times each product must be distilled. an education in the making of these spirits.
what sets this craft distiller apart from most of its counterparts is the hands-on experience for the customers. with only six-or seven employees, some being part time, rock town - every week or so, depending on orders - sends out a call for help. to all customers on their email list, an invitation to the bottling party. the first ten that respond bottle the ready-batch. after about four hours, pizza and possibly a taste-test of their own, a new shipment is ready to send to suppliers.
during our visit, we got to be part of the 'party', bottling our own lightning to take back to georgia. it's not part of the routine tour, but if i were you and lived near little rock, i'd make sure my name was on the list!
currently available in 11 states, rock town is expanding. they are launching into the georgia market this march.
located conveniently downtown, the tasting room is open wednesday through sunday, 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.
tour times: wednesday - friday at 4 p.m.
saturday, at 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
sunday, at 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
no need for reservations. all you need is $7 for the entry (kids free), age confirmation of 21 (for tasting), and a need for fun!