Phil Brandon hit a fork in the road in 2010. The wake of the Great Recession was in full force and he had just been made redundant. He did something that very few people would do. He decided to cash out his retirement savings and invest it to build a distillery. He took his engineering degree and applied it to his passion for whiskey.
Thus, Rock Town Distillery was born — Arkansas’ first legal distillery to open since Prohibition.
“I put all my chips in the middle of the table and rolled the dice,” Phil told us.
Born and raised in Little Rock, Phil is a fifth generation Arkansan. He wanted his distillery to reflect its sense of place, much in the way distillery names in Scotland often reflect their surroundings — glen meaning hill for example — so landed on Rock Town named after its locale, Little Rock.
“When I started out I was looking around and there were really no distilleries in Arkansas, which didn’t make sense to me,” said Phil Brandon, Founder and Head Distiller of Rock Town Distillery. “We have great water, great local grains — we grow corn and wheat in Arkansas, we have a great climate and we’re virtually horizontal to Jack Daniels and just a little bit south of Kentucky, so why not Arkansas? It turned out I could be the first.”
As a true grain-to-glass distillery, they not only use local grain, but also mill it onsite themselves.
“We’re makers, not fakers,” Phil told us.
In 2017, Phil spearheaded a new state law which meant they could sell cocktails at their distillery. Their space on the edge of downtown Little Rock has become a busy spot that attracts locals and visitors alike. Adorning the walls are images of celebrities to have stopped by including the Clintons. The main draw? Award winning whiskey!
Among their double golds, and 96 and 95 ratings, the most significant accomplishment was being named the US Micro Whiskey of the year by the revered Jim Murray Whiskey Bible.
“We’ve been lucky to win major significant awards for our whiskey,” Phil told us. “It’s been a passion and it shows.”
What’s in the box
What does 9% difference in a mash bill really do? The two bourbons being featured in our August box, as part of Rock Town Distillery’s flavor grain series, really illustrates it.
“Where does the flavor of whiskey come from? Is it in the grain, or is it in the barrel or is it the water, or what is it?” Phil asked us. “Our Chocolate Malt Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Golden Promise Straight Bourbon Whiskey is an example showing you that just 9% of the mash bill can take two whiskeys in completely different directions.”
Rock Town Chocolate Malt Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Mash bill: 82% Corn, 9% Chocolate Malt, 9% Malted Barley.
Rock Town Chocolate Malt Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a premium small batch bourbon whiskey distilled, aged and bottled at their distillery in Little Rock, Arkansas. Distilled from a mash of Arkansas grown corn, Chocolate Malt and malted barley.
The Chocolate Malt is a dark brewers malt that is used to malt stouts and porters. It adds distinct roasted coffee notes along with bittersweet dark chocolate undertones.
Rock Town Golden Promise Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Mash bill: 82% Corn, 9% Golden Promise Malt, 9% Malted Barley.
Rock Town Golden Promise Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a premium small batch bourbon whiskey distilled, aged and bottled at their distillery in Little Rock, Arkansas. Distilled from a mash of Arkansas grown corn, Golden Promise Malt and malted barley.
Golden Promise Malt is a heritage malt from the UK that is used in many famous Scotch whiskies. It adds a honeyed sweetness to the whiskey along with an oily creaminess.
Sign up to RackHouse Whiskey Club by August 10, 2021 to get this box.