Louisiana Spirits head distiller Jey Murphy and company president Trey Litel stand in front of the molasses and fermentation tanks in the production area of the $5 million Louisiana Spirits rum distillery under construction in Lacassine. (Doris Maricle / American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, July 05, 2012 2:05 PMLACASSINE — Construction of a $5 million rum distillery in Jefferson Davis Parish is moving forward, with the first spirits expected to be in production by this fall.
Trey Litel, president of Louisiana Spirits, said some of his company’s offerings are expected to be available by the end of the year.
“By the end of the year we’d like to be able to do a soft opening,” Litel said. “Ideally we’d like to have some product ready by the Mardi Gras season.”
Litel, a graduate of Barbe High School and Louisiana State University, brings 25 years of sales and marketing expertise, including over 10 years in the distilled spirits and beverages industries with Bacardi USA, to the job at Louisiana Spirits.
Louisiana Spirits will have full control of the entire year-around production, from distilling to aging to bottling, at its nearly 23-acre site along the South Frontage Road off Interstate 10 in Lacassine.
“This is a new venture and a new product. It will take time to build up the demand, but we know Louisiana can produce a homegrown, world-class rum and we can do that, and we need to be ready to do that,” Litel said.
The facility plans to produce 200 gallons of rum a day using local ingredients that include raw Louisiana sugar and molasses, according to head distiller Jeff Murphy.
Louisiana Spirits also plans to work with an area farmer to grow about five acres of sugar cane on the east side of the property.
“There are a lot of vodkas, tequilas and whiskey, but there is only a handful of rum,” he said. “Louisiana produces more sugar cane than anyone, yet Puerto Rico produces the most rum. We want to change that.”
Louisianans consume more than 300,000 cases of rum per year, according to the Beverage Information Group.
Construction on the facility began with dirt work in November.
Crews are working to complete the 12,000-square-foot-warehouse and 6,000-square-foot visitors center which will include a viewing room, tasting bar and retail shop. A large picture window will give visitors a view of the large copper stills, fermentation and molasses tanks and bottling line.
Guided tours of the facility will be available.
“The visitors center will be very impressive when you walk in,” Litel said. “We are going to have very high ceilings and exposed beams from reclaimed wood taken out of a warehouse in Kansas.”
A special exhibit spotlighting the history of the Louisiana sugar industry and rum production will also be housed in the visitors center.
Plans for the facility include a large parking area, outdoor courtyard with stage for special events and two ponds. The ponds will be planted with Cypress trees and populated with natural native grasses to give it a “Louisiana scene,” Litel said.
A historic 1903 farmhouse from Iowa will be moved to the site in the future.
“Some 44,000 vehicles a day pass on I-10, and we feel like we can draw on that based on our location,” Litel said. “We want families and children to come in and take a tour of the facility.”
An adults-only tasting bar will offer samples of the product.
Louisiana Spirits will initially offer a variety of light and spiced rums, but hopes to expand its product to other varieties, Litel said.
The company is not ready to release the names of its distributor or product names or unveil its design labels, he said.
Litel sees a real future for the locally produced rum and in the people of Southwest Louisiana.
“Louisiana has some spirited people,” he said. “We are second-to-none in the world in culture and cuisine. We want to celebrate them both with our distillery.”
The plant will initially employee 12 to 17 people in produce, sales, marketing and retail.
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Posted By: Andrea L. West, JD, LLM On: 11/5/2012
I am so thrilled. I only wish we would have thought of this in St. Landry Parish first. But we are with you and plan to visit as soon as you are open.