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At Friday’s Tales of the Cocktail panel on the proliferation of America’s craft distillers, moderator Matt Rowley told the crowd that there are now distilleries in every state but Oklahoma and Alabama.
A guy wearing an Arkansas T-shirt was sitting across the aisle from me. I started to wonder.
Yes, he’s a distiller. Phil Brandon is the only craft distiller in the state of Arkansas; his Rock Town Distillery is based in Little Rock. It’s been open one year and this is his first trip to Tales of the Cocktail.
So how did he get into this business?
“I got laid off from my job in telecommunications, and I wanted to do something I was passionate about,” Brandon told me. He, his wife, and the guy who helped him put together the distillery are the employees.
“We do all the bottling, distilling, the whole thing,” Brandon said. A sixth-generation Arkansas native, they give tours of the distillery on weekends.
And, like most of the craft distillers mentioned at the panel, he buys local whenever he can.
“We use Arkansas corn and soft red winter wheat from Stuttgart,” he said.
At the panel we learned that most of the craft distilleries are small. The Little Rock one has bottling parties, where groups can book a time to come in and help bottle the products and sign them.