From brewing beer to distilling spirits
On the heels of his successful local brewery, NOLA Brewing founder Kirk Coco decided to branch out into spirits. “It’s a no-brainer with the cocktail culture here,” he said. NOLA Distilling is in the former neighborhood bar Marlene’s on Tchoupitoulas St, mere blocks away from the brewery, also on Tchoup.
NOLA Distilling uses Louisiana sweet potatoes as the base ingredient for the spirits, and the team has been busy producing NOLA vodka and running test batches of whiskey. Future releases include gin, a pepper vodka, and a coffee liqueur made in collaboration with New Orleans coffee roasters French Truck.
The tasting room is still under construction and not open to the public, although private tours and tastings can be arranged. Andy Kucher, who runs the daily operations at NOLA Distilling, said that they anticipate the tasting room opening in the first half of 2017.
Similarly, Roulaison Distilling’s Andrew Lohfeld is a former homebrewer who fell into craft distilling. He worked at Kings County Distillery in New York before deciding to work with former University of Pennsylvania classmate and Morgan City, LA native Patrick Hernández to open a distillery in New Orleans.
"Roulaison" is the French-Creole word for the sugar cane harvest, and Roulaison plans on focusing on small batch and experimental rums. Lohfeld noted that there’s a lot of room in the New Orleans market for creative freedom in distilling rum.
“I want to make a rum that doesn’t taste like any other rum,” Lohfeld said, noting that the funky characteristics of Brettanomyces and the ester-heavy yeasts from Belgian styles are flavor aspects he’s looking to cultivate. He also plans to experiment with aging rum in different types of barrels, from whiskey to sherry.
Lohfeld and Hernandez begin the process of rum distilling with molasses from Lafourche Sugar in Thibodaux -- the best in the country, according to Lohfeld. “You can’t get it anywhere else outside of Louisiana.” He then experiments with different yeast types in fermentation including Belgian beer yeasts, wine yeasts, and wild yeasts like Bretts.
The pair are still dialing in the flavor profiles, but are legally clear to release their product once it’s ready, a white rum to start. Further experimentation will occur in the tasting room, which they anticipate will be open in February.