Baton Rouge liquor fans, the wait is over: Baton Rouge Distilling’s strawberry brandy is now on shelves across the Capitol City and the state.
University graduates Ricci Hull and Natacha Krzesaj, the husband and wife duo behind the distillery, said being the first operating distillery in Baton Rouge since prohibition has been a rewarding experience.
“It’s something we created that we’re proud of that we can share with people here in Louisiana,” Hull said. “This is something born and bred in Baton Rouge.”
Despite the excitement, getting their strawberry brandy on shelves was not without its challenges, Hull said.
After opening the distillery in June 2014, it took a year and a half to get the necessary licenses to begin production, Krzesaj said. Their first batch of strawberry brandy was completed in April and yielded 30 cases, but the distributor dropped the distillery’s line just before its scheduled delivery.
The company decided the distillery’s output was too small to carry, Hull said. Fortunately, another company was willing to take a chance on the fledgling distillery, and the strawberry brandy was on shelves by mid-June.
Reception so far has been positive, Krzesaj said. Meeting followers of the distillery in person at tastings and having the opportunity to discuss the product has been exciting, she said.
For many people, understanding what a strawberry brandy is has been a struggle. Fruit brandies are less popular in the United States than in Europe, and Baton Rouge Distilling is the only distillery producing the spirit in Louisiana, and one of only two known to Hull in the country, he said.
“Not all fruit brandies are aged, and it’s not a vodka, it’s not a flavored spirit, it’s natural flavors,” Krzesaj said. “It’s the true fruit fermented and what you’re tasting is the fruit through the alcohol.”
Hull and Krzesaj are working to correct the confusion by partnering with suppliers to host tastings for the fruit brandy. Krzesaj is also reaching out through the distillery’s social media accounts to raise awareness for the brand and offer recipes and information.
Now that their first spirit is on the market, Hull and Krzesaj are planning to shift their focus to developing a whisky and bourbon, which will be the distillery’s flagship product, Hull said. Like with the strawberry brandy, whisky and bourbon production in the state is limited, if not non-existent, he said.
While the couple is looking ahead to the future, Hull said they plan to take things slow and allow the business to grow organically.
“Right now we’re more concerned about getting out products that we’re proud of, that we like the quality and that the people that follow us and our friends like too,” Krzesaj said.