Redmont Distilling Co., Birmingham
The Makers: Jonathan Guidry, Jake Hendon and Stephen Watts
Making hooch in the ‘Ham?
It might have sounded like an impossible idea a decade ago. But the rebirth of the Magic City, one could argue, has been partially fueled by beer. Craft breweries such as Good People Brewing Co., Avondale Brewing Co. and Cahaba Brewing Co. are part of a youthful, fresh vibe that is sparking everything from food to entrepreneurship.
So if you can make beer in Birmingham, why not booze?
That was what Stephen Watts, Jake Hendon and Jonathan Guidry asked when the three college friends started exploring an idea of brewing beer themselves.
“We started with brewing beer … about four or five years ago. We enjoyed drinking the beer … but at the end of the day we enjoyed a good cocktail,” Guidry said. “So we were like, ‘Well, you know, there are breweries coming up in Birmingham. Why don’t we try to do something a little bit different?’”
Doing so meant the trio had to learn about distilling alcohol, which they did by visiting distilleries, reading books and becoming students of spirits.
“There is so much to learn,” Watts said. “There is not an easy guide to learning how to become a distiller.”
Hendon said the education including learning how to operate a still and then shifted to what mix of grains to use in the mash to produce the alcohol.
Redmont Distilling ended up settling on 100 percent corn and decided to produce vodka and gin as its first products.
Hendon said going with clear spirits is a logical first step for a new distillery because they don’t require any special aging or processing. Vodka, he said, is the easiest to make and Redmont Vodka was the first product. Gin, which is made from vodka with the addition of botanicals in an additional distilling process, was the logical second choice.
The Alabama Cotton Gin is not just a cute name: cotton is one of the botanicals used in the distilling of gin.
Redmont does plan to add other liquors in the future. Hendon said they are exploring flavored vodkas, rum and whiskey.
For now, Watts said the growth plan calls for a tasting room and opening the distillery for tours.
Like the craft beer industry, the small-but-growing community of distillers in Alabama is supportive of each other and eager to help one another grow and avoid duplicating mistakes, Watts said.
Watts said they are even looking at forming an Alabama distillers’ guild to formalize the cooperation and approach to shared issues they face.
The Product: Redmont Vodka and Alabama Cotton Gin
Take home: A bottle (750 milliliters) of Redmont Vodka ($27.99) and of Alabama Cotton Gin ($32.99) can be found in ABC Stores and retailers throughout the state.
Redmont Distilling Co., www.redmontdistilling.com