Special Report: Local distillery on front lines of a new movement

By: Matt Lally

Richland, GA- A growing movement across the country is taking hold right here in our area and its called micro distilling. And the Richland Distilling Company is right at the center of it in Richland, Georgia.

The day begins early around 6:00 AM in this small distillery located in the sleepy downtown area of Richland. But master distiller Jay McCain says the early effort is worth it.

“It's a long day but like you said its a labor of love, so the day usually goes by really quick.”

But to get to this day the process was not really quick. Richland Rum owner Erik Vonk and distiller Jay McCain have been working on their dream of owning a distillery for more than a decade.

And to get there they had to go through three years of hurdles and hoops to get permission and permits from all levels of government.

“The whole legal system is so archaic that it takes forever to get through.” Vonk said of the experience.

But now their dream has become a reality.

“Words can't start to describe how gratifying it has been to see everything come together,” Vonk added,  “But most importantly we see that we are making a very good product.”

You may remember we first told you about Richland Rum a year ago during their grand opening celebration. But in that time they haven't sold a single barrel of their pure sugar cane created rum.

But don't worry that's by design.

McCain says, The rum has been aging for a year inside oak barrels which helps smooth out the alcohol.

  “Plus it gives it a flavor contrast from the burnt barrel cause the barrels are charred on the inside and that gives it a little oaky taste to it, a little burnt oaky taste, which is really nice in the spirit. But it also smoothes it because the longer its in there the less of that hard alcohol bite that you have.”

Richland Rum is also on the front lines of a growing movement called micro-distilling.  They are one of only 320 small distilleries in the country and one of only three in Georgia.

Vonk says its similar to the booming micro brewery movement being seen across the country.

“The micro distilling movement seems to be following in the wake or tail of the micro brewing movement and there are close to 18,000 micro breweries across the country,” Vonk adds, “So we're hoping the micro distilling can follow that lead.”

The micro distilling movement is also receiving international attention.

Earlier this month a Belgian distributor tried to buy Richland Rum's entire inventory to sell overseas.

Vonk says the offer was tempting but ultimately,”We said no, we don't want to do that. A) We don't want to sell our whole inventory and B) we are starting locally. This is a Georgia company and we are very interested in establishing the brand in Georgia first.”

And the community of Richland has really rallied around the newest small business in the community . We'll have part two of our special report of the Richland Rum Distillery on Georgia First News Thursday, November 8th

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