It’s been almost ten years since we opened River Bend Winery and a little over two since we opened River Bend Distilling. I don’t think I remember exactly what it was like in the early days of the winery, but I do know the learning curve in the distillery has been steep. Distilling is completely different than wine-making, so we invested in new equipment and learned how to use it. We jumped through the hoops of new federal and state permits. We found new suppliers and designed new packaging. We opened a cocktail bar where we mix signature cocktails that change with the seasons. And now that we are standing on somewhat solid ground, we are taking our spirits “on the road”. By late October, our Bourbon, Gin, and Vodka will be sold in stores…hopefully stores near you!
The biggest challenge we have as a craft distiller is volume. Because we have a grain-to-glass business model and feel strongly about the “craft” aspect of distilling, we are extremely hands on in every facet of the process. For example, the corn for our Bourbon comes from a farmer we know personally in Sarona, Wisconsin which is an hour north of our distillery. We own a small hammer mill, and Al mills the grain each Monday for the batch of Bourbon he will start on Tuesday. We use 15-gallon oak barrels that are coopered in Avon, Minnesota specifically for the type of product we make. We filter and bottle in small batches which allows meticulous attention to the product and the process. Each step is time-consuming, and the yield is small. It has taken two years to produce and age enough product to put our spirits in stores. We are finally there, and it feels pretty good!
To begin with, our spirits will be available in retail stores that are geographically close to our distillery. Our local population has embraced our products from the beginning, and it just makes sense to put new products into a marketplace where we are recognized. But over time, just like our wine, our spirits will spread out across Wisconsin into stores that recognize and support local producers. And those stores will want to hear from you. If you have a favorite retail store where you buy wine and spirits, and you would like them to carry River Bend, just ask them. If a store knows there is real interest in a product, they feel less risk getting behind it. What separates the national brands and the national chains from the boutique brands and the mom-and-pop’s is you…your interest in supporting local producers. And for that support, we thank you!
Until next time...Cheers!