By JULIA MILLER
Since Cathead Distillery opened in 2010, it’s mission has been simple — produce a top-notch product all while supporting Mississippi music.
Despite being the state’s first legal distillery since prohibition ended in 1966, Cathead co-founder Richard Patrick said the first eight years of production have been grassroots driven with strong organic growth.
“The state has been great to work with,” he said. “They have been very receptive to our efforts and needs for growth.”
And grow they have. After just five years, Cathead made a headquarters move from Madison to downtown Jackson.
“It’s hard to see our business anywhere but Jackson,” he said. “We love restoration projects, and there are so many great properties in Jackson waiting for someone with some creative ambition. It would be very difficult to build what we have from scratch, this property has so much character.”
That growth hasn’t just included their product. From 2016 to 2017, the number of visitors increased by 50 percent. Cathead is open for tours Thursday and Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. at the top of every hour. The facility also offers private tours and is available as a venue for special events.
“It’s been great, and Jackson has been an excellent community partner,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of support from the community, and we’ve continued to reinvest in the overall community experience at our events.”
The new location also has given enough space for Cathead’s newest product whiskey. The distillery has been creating whiskey since 2011, but the endeavor requires a lot of space and time. At this time, a release date has not been set, but Patrick said it is coming.
“That’s the area I’m most excited about,” he said. “We haven’t put out a new product in since 2013.”
Like the rest of their brand, Cathead wants to make sure their product meets all quality standards.
“It’s a large investment of resources and time,” he said. “We have a very strict checks and balances. We do not rush new products to market. We are students, and we are always looking for areas to improve and innovate.”
Currently, their line up includes the original Cathead Vodka, Cathead Honeysuckle, Cathead Pecan, Bristow Gin, Bristow Reserve and Hoodoo Chicory Liqueur, a unique product to the distillery.
“Hoodoo Chicory Liqueur is certainly a gem within our portfolio and usually a nice discovery product for people while touring the distillery,” Patrick said. “The idea came from Phillip Ladner, our distiller. Phillip kind of surprised us with this one when he’d been tinkering with [research and development] for a couple of years.”
According to the Cathead website, the name Hoodoo pays homage the black magic and mysticism brought to the Southern United States by immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean. Elements of the Hoodoo tradition are deeply embedded in Southern culture, especially blues music.
For Patrick and co-founder Austin Evans, their passion for music almost rivals their energy for fine spirits. They give back in every opportunity they can, whether with foundation support or sponsorship.
“It’s a big part of our identity,” Patrick said.
They frequently partner with Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Southern Foodways Alliance, Music Makers Relief Foundation, North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic, Magic City Blues Society and the New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation. Recent sponsorships have included the soon-to-open Brandon Amphitheater and the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale in April. In June, the third annual Cathead Jam will be welcoming festival-goers to the state.
“The Cathead Jam is coming into its third year in collaboration with Ardenland,” Patrick said. “Arden has been great to work with and mutually puts a lot of value in wanting to scale the Jam. Thankfully, we’ve had the support throughout the community to give us the confidence to keep pushing this event larger and larger.”
Tickets are now available for the event at ardenland.net.
For more information about the distillery, visit its website, catheaddistillery.com.
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