Monday, August 27, 2012
Spirits from Carrollton’s first distillery hit DFW shelves
"We’ve got a unique style of how we want to go to market, and we’re not trying to take over the world," said one partner. "We’re not WalMart."
CARROLLTON Last week, the only spirits-producing distillery in Carrollton saw its vodka and rum hit liquor store shelves.
The Dallas and Frisco residents behind JEM Beverage Co are liquor sales veterans who are “small batch” enthusiasts, which means they are making 200 gallons of alcohol with each run.
“We want to do what the big guys can’t do, and that’s be small,” said Evan Reed, a partner in JEM Beverage Co with Michael Pfeiffer and John Scott. “We can control our existence based on what we do in Texas, and that’s kind of our universe. Honestly, that’s enough for us. We want to control quality on small batches.”
Their two products, Western Son Texas Vodka and Stingray Spiced Rum, are for sale as of August 23 at Spec’s and a handful of local liquor stores. The vodka is distilled 10 times and is meant to be odorless, tasteless, and colorless.
When they decided to open their distillery in Carrollton, the partners needed approval from the fire department, which had never approved a distillery in Carrollton before. “We knocked on the fire department’s door and we said, ‘Hey, we’re going to open a distillery,’” Reed said. “They kind of looked at us like, ‘Well, OK.’ They had to figure out what that means. They didn’t have a tab in their files that said ‘distillery.’” There are now two distilleries in Carrollton, according to Carrollton Fire Marshal Mark Haseloff, but JEM Beverage Co is the only one producing small-quantity spirits.
Once approved by the city, the partners raised money and purchased equipment, but it was another seven months before their master distiller, Pfeiffer, was able to begin mixing. They thought it would take only 90 days to get federal approval. “We had to pay rent – [our] equipment brand new and shiny – and we couldn’t produce anything because we didn’t have federal permitting,” Reed said.
When approval finally came in January 2012, it was time to taste test. They first sampled it before it was blended, which meant tasting 190-proof alcohol.
“We learned very quickly we’ll need to cut it or else we wouldn’t have any nose hairs left,” Reed said. “I’ll never forget the moment because we realized we could do this. If we can make it, we damn well know we can sell it.”
JEM Beverage Co products are available at independent liquor stores in DFW and at Spec’s and are priced similarly to bigger-name rums and vodkas. They are not yet available in most chain liquor stores, but Reed says that’s “on the horizon.”
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