For local distillery owner Ricci Hull, providing quality spirits for Baton Rouge and beyond is a labor of love. “It has been a huge challenge for sure,” says Hull. “We are enjoying the process of creating something new and introducing it to people in the area.”
Hull, who owns and operates Baton Rouge Distilling with his wife Natacha, has a lot on his plate. Along with keeping their business running smoothly, he serves as Secretary and Treasurer for the Louisiana Distillers Guild.
Earlier this month, Hull and his associates from the guild met with Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser to discuss the impact of the expanding Louisiana spirits industry on the state economy.
While somewhat new, distilling is a rapidly growing industry in Louisiana. There are currently 29 distilleries operating in the state (up from just one in 2010) with plans for several more in the works. The potential for tourism that these businesses provide was a key area of discussion between the distillers guild and the Lt. Governor.
“The public reaction has been surprisingly good,” Hull said of his business, which opened in 2014. “We offer periodic tours and the majority of the people seem genuinely interested in the process and my story as to how I got here today.”
In addition to tourism dollars, many local distilleries boost the state economy (and local farmers) by using Louisiana-grown ingredients. A prime example of this locally-minded approach is Baton Rouge Distilling’s flagship offering – a brandy made with strawberry wine from Louisiana’s own Amato’s Winery.
“Henry [Amato] produces strawberry wine, and I immediately thought that would be an interesting fit, to make brandy from the local strawberries,” Hull explains of this peculiar spirit. “Fruit brandy is very common in Europe but fairly unknown here.”
With the economic implications for the state established, The Distillers Guild focused their meeting with the Lt. Governor on the potential for bringing an official distillery trail to Louisiana.
“We are hoping to model it after the Kentucky Bourbon trail,” said Hull. “The current working idea is for the Louisiana Department of Tourism to supply a brochure that is a map – or passport, in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail model – of guild member distilleries that can be distributed in tourist offices and featured on the state office of tourism website.”
While discussions between the Distillers Guild and the Governor’s office on the trail are ongoing, Hull hopes the concept could bring some much needed attention to this bourgeoning local industry.
“Even though I have been here a few years, I am fairly unknown in Baton Rouge,” said Hull. “If we promote awareness and tourism of our distilleries, it will help the entire industry here, from my nano-size distillery that we run part-time, to the large beautiful distilleries that have been built recently.”
While details of the trail are being hammered out, stop by Baton Rouge Distilling for a tour. While you’re there, try some of their unique concoctions for yourself in their tasting room. Further updates regarding progress on the Louisiana Distillery Trail should be posted to the LA Distillers Guild website as they become available.