Magnolia Vodka, a local vodka company, has recently come to fruition. The company, started by University alumnus Joel Brannan, is the south’s first ultra-premium vodka.

The interdisciplinary studies alumnus said he knew he would start his own vodka company someday.

He wanted to work in the liquor industry and began his venture in college. During his years at the University, Brannan bartended in Tigerland to put himself through school.

After graduating, Brannan worked as a petroleum landman for four years to save money, planning ahead for his dream of starting a vodka company. It took him about two years to get the business up and running. He formed his LLC in 2015, and the product hit shelves in March 2016.

Brannan said he started the company because “[with] Louisiana’s warm climate, vodka pairs best with the heat.”

Brannan plans to expand the brand throughout the South. He plans on building a new distillery location in Tensas Parish, located along the Mississippi River and one mile north of Lake Bruin.

He said that while he wants to keep the brand solely in the South, he hopes to offer Magnolia from the Gulf Coast up to Tennessee and over to South Carolina.

“Craft spirits are rapidly growing, and people are very supportive of local products,” Brannan said. “Magnolia is a very elegant, southern name and goes well with who we are and our target audience.”

The company regularly organizes blind taste tests with Tito’s, Ketel One, Grey Goose, Absolut and Magnolia. Brannan said Magnolia wins “every time for the smoothest vodka to hit their palates.”

In addition to being the first ultra-premium vodka in the southern region, Magnolia is also gluten-free and utilizes Mississippi River Delta corn.

“All my college buddies consumed truckloads of vodka, and I knew if I could get on the shelves wherever they were, I would have a start,” Brannan said.

Magnolia Vodka is on the shelves and bars of over 200 locations and continues to grow in numbers monthly. The product can be found in Baton Rouge at Trader Joe’s, Bogie’s, Reggie’s, JL’s, the Manship Theatre and Juban’s Restaurant.

“To be able to do something I love every day isn’t working at all,” Brannan said. “Truly blessed on the opportunity God has placed [in my life].”

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