Contributing writer for Louisiana Restaurant Association's A La Carte magazine
Our story begins back in 1996, when what is now America’s oldest premium rum distillery, Celebration Distillation in New Orleans, opened its sweet smelling doors. It seemed a perfect fit, rum is made from a distillate of sugarcane, sugarcane syrup, sugarcane molasses, or other sugarcane byproducts; Louisiana is the oldest sugar growing region in the U. S., producing about 400,000 acres or 20% of the country’s supply. So, sugar equals rum, there should be lots of it coming from here.
Curiously, the “rum”blings (sorry…) of more Louisiana distilleries never quite corporealized. However, that has all changed within the last couple years with the opening of at least four new distilleries, three specializing in rum. The city of Lacassine represents the entry from Southwest LA and is home to Louisiana Spirits, makers of Bayou Rum.
The founders are brothers Trey and Tim Litel along with Skip Cortese. The idea for the business was born out of a conversion in a duck blind several years ago. Not surprisingly, they were right next to some cane fields at the time. I caught up with Skip recently in New Orleans and he shared that their inspiration was fairly obvious, “We feel that Louisiana is such a great producer of sugarcane, the opportunity is there to produce more rum.”
He continued, comparing the recent wave of distillery openings to what the brewing industry experienced twenty years ago, “It took off, … (that’s) what’s going on right now, the craft distilling industry has exploded nationwide.” While recognizing the widespread success of craft distillers, he is counting on the fierce home-state pride of Louisianans, “I think it’s driven from a local basis. The public wants to see local products. It’s proven that they support local products.”
One thing these enterprising rummies want to concentrate on, in addition to creating a first class spirit, is celebrating Louisiana’s culture. Their new facility boasts not only a state-of-the-art distillery, bottling line and a barrel storage area, but also offices, a gift shop, and a gallery exploring our state’s historic role as a sugar cane producer and rum distiller.
In fact, the entire Louisiana Spirits 22-plus acre site will include ponds, cypress trees and a sugar cane field. Trey Litel wants residents and tourists to know that there will be more going on than just selling rum, “"People can come by to visit. You can take a tour. You can watch the production happening. You can learn about the history of sugar and the history of rum making in Louisiana.”
Head Distiller Jeff Murphy shared his thoughts on the importance of quality ingredients – their base is raw, unrefined Louisiana sugar – and the distinctive nature of Bayou Silver Rum, “We pull more flavors into it. We are not going for overall neutrality, we are going for unique flavors that we get out of our raw materials.” He emphasized not only is it the initial ingredients but also the proprietary yeast blend and their special process that make the Louisiana Spirits line unique.
Murphy, along with Master Blender Reiniel Vicente, has produced what Skip calls a “world-class rum that Louisianans can be proud of.” Taste Bayou Rum Silver and Bayou Rum Spiced at the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO, August 5 from 12:45-1:30 p.m. in the Idea Zone.
For more information about Louisiana’s own Bayou Rum, visit BayouRum.com.