Phil Brandon wants Arkansans to reduce their dependence on foreign whiskey.

And by foreign, he means overseas as well as neighboring states like Kentucky and Tennessee.

Brandon, a former Alltel executive, is the owner and founder of Rock Town Distillery, a new craft distillery opening on the outskirts of Little Rock’s River Market.

"I hope this is something that the people of Arkansas will be proud to call their own," he tells Talk Business. "Tennessee is known for its whiskey and Kentucky is known for its bourbon. Arkansas is in the south, which is perfect for aging whiskey. We’ve got hot summers and cold winters. Why not do it here?"

Rock Town will produce three types of distilled spirits – Brandon’s Vodka, Brandon’s Gin and Brandon’s Bourbon.

The vodka and gin will be available by August because clear spirits need little aging.  The bourbon product will be 8 months in the making.  Glazers of Arkansas, a wholesale liquor distributor, has agreed to market the liquor through its network, Brandon said.

All of the ingredients and even the aging barrels and bottles will use Arkansas products.  Brandon says he’s cut deals to buy ingredients such as corn and wheat from Arkansas farmers.  The white oak whiskey barrels are made by Gibbs Bros. Cooperage Co., a cooper maker in Hot Springs, while Brandon says the bottles will be made in-house.

He also expects some seasonal products based on Arkansas crops, such as strawberry vodka and peach brandy.

Rock Town Distillery, which is installing its new copper still during the next few days, will eventually be open to the public. Brandon says he intends to offer warehouse and tasting tours as early as September 2010.

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