Tuesday, June 11, 2013

13 pennies and 101 days

By Bill de Turk
Published in the Louisiana Restaurant Association's A La Carte magazine, Spring 2013 edition

There are far fewer distilleries here in Louisiana than a rum fan might hope for in a state that produces about 20% of America’s sugar harvest.  However, that situation is changing on an almost monthly basis these days.  Our rum Grandaddy, Celebration Distillation, has been producing Old New Orleans Rum since 1996.  And, in the last year or so, Atelier Vie and d-p distillers introduced their first spirits.  The opening of other distilleries is brewing on the horizon.

As the long, warm Louisiana weather season was just getting its start this year, and a not quite so young man’s heart started thinking about fresh, local cocktails.  So it was that I had the opportunity to chat with the lovely Beth Dantin Donner, one of the principles of d-p distillers.

The Baton Rouge native and MBA graduate had been exercising her skills in the often under-appreciated role of being a mom and running the house when, during a vacation a few years back with friends Henry and Jennifer Peltier, her husband Tom brought up the idea of running a distillery.  After brief consideration, Beth said, “We all love our spirits and we are great friends.”  After some research and considering that they all lived in Thibodaux, in the middle of vast sugar cane fields, they decided to make rum.

While not well versed in the spirit world at the time, the couples invested a great deal of time and energy to learn about the art of distillation.  As both Tom and Henry are in the medical profession, neither are strangers to detailed research.

Tom is a neurosurgeon and realizes the importance of keeping his head in the game; d-p distillers does as well, with great plenteousness in the process.  Initially getting started producing rums, of which they concoct an over-proof white as well as an aged variety, they also produce a vodka from Louisiana oryza rice which is distilled 17 times(!) and several other spirits.  The rums bear the Rougaroux name – as in the tales of the French Louisiana werewolf (also loup garou or rougarou).  Coming a few years down the line will be a reserve rum.  It needs some age on it after all. 

By the time you read this, their praline rum, 13 Pennies, should be available.  The story of lupine lunacy continues with this product’s name because the rougaroux cannot count past 12, so placing 13 objects in front of him can prevent his coming to eat you.  Also, coming soon is a gin using Louisiana satsuma peels as a unique botanical, an absinthe, and a LA 1 whiskey that is currently being aged.  The grain bill of the whiskey consists of corn, rye, rice and other ingredients to make a product unlike anything else on the market.

The over-proof Rougaroux Sunshine rum is 101 proof to match the tale that the werewolf’s curse lasts 101 days.  The Full Moon Dark is aged and bottled at the traditional 80 proof.  I think we all know about the full moon thing.

Beth stressed the importance of keeping the products as high quality and Louisiana-centric as possible, “We have such a unique culture here, it just makes sense to use the rice from Louisiana, to use the sugar cane from all around us, to use the local cane syrup that we get from right down the street.”

While chatting with Beth, I learned about her triathlon training and athletic side and inquired if that is why she was a straight vodka dinking girl.  While acknowledging that was a plus, she confirmed, “That’s one of the reasons… and because it tastes really good.”

Beth sums up the d-p distilling philosophy nicely, “We are proud to make it and we are proud it is from Louisiana.”  So check out the health benefits and good taste, of d-p distillers’ expanding line of made-in-Louisiana spirits; but, beware of the Rougaroux!

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