Brewing up big plans in Lacassine

By By Doris Maricle / American Press

LACASSINE — 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.