Mississippi appears to be in the midst of somewhat of a renaissance – a distillery renaissance if you will.
I Was recently in Jackson fulfilling my duties as president of the Mississippi Press Association, which is in the midst of its 150th anniversary. MPA is the sixth oldest press association in the nation and the third oldest association of any kind in Mississippi.
It was a rewarding week in that we raised over $40,000 for journalism scholarships thanks in large part to U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper’s willingness to be roasted. I should say Cong. Harper held his own, in fact stole the show in most eyes, with his very witty counters to all that was tossed at him.
We also celebrated the best of newspaper advertising in the state, outlined strategy to continue our role to hold our elected officials accountable to the people they serve, and worked in a few good times for ourselves.
Among those good times was a Friday night reception that included a number of visitors offering Mississippi made products. One of those was Douglas Charbonneau, owner of Mississippi’s newest distillery – Charbonneau Distillery in downtown Natchez.
During our visit, he explained that he and his son Jean-Luc, are producing Mississippi’s first official rum.
Charboneau White Rum was released in 2014 and is made using raw sugar and molasses gathered from a nearby mill across the river in Louisiana.
Douglas explained they ferment their rum in small batches and distill it in a 150 gallon copper pot. He noted it is proofed with “filtered Natchez city water,” which was voted the best municipal water in the state in 2014. I searched to see where Bruce, Calhoun City and Vardaman ranked in that voting, but couldn’t find that list.
Charboneau’s white rum has already received numerous accolades in tasting competitions and its bottle is a collector’s item in itself with a map of the meandering Mississippi River leading to Natchez imprinted.
Douglas’ distillery is the newest in the state, but not for long. Rich Grain Distilling Co. is scheduled to open this month in Canton with bourbon as its specialty, but will also produce rum initially. Crittenden’s Distillery, which will also focus on bourbon, is also scheduled to open soon in Kiln in Southwest Mississippi.
Cathead Distillery, Mississippi’s oldest distillery that originated in Gluckstadt and produces vodka, recently moved to South Farish Street in Downtown Jackson after five and half years of business due to the need for additional space.
More liquor distilleries are reportedly in the works for various locations all around Mississippi during 2016. The state already has eight different craft beer distilleries located in Ocean Springs, Jackson, Kiln, Gulfport, Oxford, Hattiesburg and Water Valley.
State law didn’t allow for Douglas to sell his rum to my fellow journalists at our event at the Hilton Jackson, but he did invite me to come take a tour of his Natchez facility, which I plan to do as soon as I can make the trip.