State’s first distillery prepares to open

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Published: May 17,2010

Tags: alcohol, distillery, spirits

GLUCKSTADT — The roughly 4,000-square-foot warehouse is largely empty now, with a few boxes of T-shirts and memorabilia sitting on the floor.

Within weeks the building will be transformed with the hum of mixers and the clanking of vodka bottles being put into cases into Mississippi’s first distilled spirits production facility.

Bottletree Bottling Co. soon will produce an initial run of 2,500 cases of Cathead Vodka at the unassuming warehouse off I- 55.

The spirit could be on liquor store, restaurant and bar shelves by the end of the month.

The equipment needed to distill and mix the vodka hasn’t been installed, but Cathead has started marketing the brand, including using Twitter and creating a Facebook page.

Sample bottles of the 80-proof vodka sit in the office of business partners Austin Evans and Richard Patrick.

“It’s a project that’s been close to our hearts,” Evans says.

He and Patrick have been involved in the spirits industry for years, working for restaurants, bars and beverage importers before launching their own brand.

They wouldn’t say how much money they’ve put up to start the business but did say they have the financial support of a number of “silent partners.”

The two say they started the business to provide a locally made product that Mississippians will enjoy.

They’re entering an $18.7-billion industry which, even in a down economy, saw sales grow slightly last year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade organization based in Washington, D.C.

Mississippi is home to Kiln’s Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co., which makes homegrown beer, and Natchez’s Old South Winery, which produces wine from muscadine grapes.

But apart, no doubt, from illegal moonshining, the idea for a distilled-spirits facility seems to have gone unaddressed until Evans and Patrick settled on their venture.

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