Greeted by The Black Keys playing on the radio and an enthusiastic, brief lesson on the basics of the distilling process, the folks at Baton Rouge Distilling begin to test their latest batch of brandy — brandy that was made with strawberry wine from a local winery.
Ricci Hull and his wife Natacha Krzesaj began the process of opening Baton Rouge Distilling in July 2014. After trekking through the long process of legalities and permits, the couple finally got the last permit in December, and they began work early this year. Baton Rouge Distilling is the first fully licensed distillery in Baton Rouge, and the company is steadily making progress toward getting its products on the shelves.
Distilling started out as a passion project of Krzesaj and Hull’s. By day, Krzesaj has a master’s degree and works in marketing, and Hull is an electrical engineer. They run the distillery on the weekends out of their location on Industriplex Boulevard. The couple decided they wanted to give distilling a try themselves after doing some travelling.
“It’s just something we decided to do,” Hull said. “We traveled around, and I met a lot of master distillers on our travels. We started getting curious about how it all worked. I started thinking ‘I can do this. I can build all this and operate it. ‘ And that’s how we started.”
Baton Rouge Distilling has started out by making fruit brandies. The distillery plans to be able to move into different types of spirits in the very near future.
“Our portfolio is going to be fruit brandies, whiskey and bourbon, and un-aged bourbon as moonshine,” said Hull. “We started with the brandies, and hope to have some whiskey in about a year.”
Hull said that the distillery will soon have just over 30 cases of brandy ready to go, and they are aiming to be on shelves in a few short weeks. The couple has found a distributer in Southern Eagle, and is planning to have its products in various specialty stores. The two also hope to be able get their products in to different local bars.
As with any small business, Baton Rouge Distilling plans to grow, but the couple wants to be smart about it. Hull and Krzesaj plan to take small steps to getting more equipment and, eventually, their own more permanent location to get more of their products out to the people of Baton Rouge.
For more information and updates on this growing local distillery, visit www.batonrougebourbon.com. The company also has a Facebook page at Baton Rouge Burbon, and a twitter @BTRbourbon.