Bourbon flowing in Arkansas, the first legal distillery since prohibition

The first “legal” distillery in Arkansas since the repeal of prohibition in 1933 has released their first bourbon. It’s called “Arkansas Young Bourbon Whiskey.” They’re in Little Rock, Ark. And, not too surprisingly it’s called Rock Town Distillery.

They’re a small operation started by Phil Brandon in 2009.

Jay Gibbs, Bill Owens and Phil Brandon with a small barrel Gibbs company produces. Owens has written about craft distilling. (Source: Rock Town Web site)

Maybe you are already getting the connection to the name of the bourbon. The company started in 2009, and now we’re a little over half way through 2011. That’s not much time for aging, you say. Well that would be correct. The bourbon is aged about three to six months.

Say what?

As Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said recently at the announcement of Michter’s opening a distillery on Main Steet in Louisville, there’s a “bourbon revolution” going on.


The craft distillery segment seems to be booming – there are operations in Texas, New York, Washington and now in Arkansas.

Arkansas Young Bourbon Whiskey: Aged 3-6 months.

But it’s not easy this bourbon making business. The traditional bourbon process involves aging the product at least two years, and often seven or more. That’s a long time to wait. And that’s a lot of money tied up in product, warehousing and taxes.

As is often the case, start-up distilleries bottle clear spirits – white dog, and vodka – so they can get a product on the market to begin generating a little cash flow. These products don’t need aging.

But if your goal is getting a bourbon on the market, you still have to wait.

The craft distilleries are trying to get around that by using smaller charred, white oak barrels to accelerate the aging. Generally the barrels you think of at Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam and all the other big-name Kentucky bourbons are 50 gallons.

The bourbon they’re producing at Rock Town is aged in much smaller barrels of five or 10 gallons.

Arkansas Young Bourbon Whiskey is bottled at 92 proof, with a suggested retail of $24.99/375ml. That would then be about $50 for the standard 750ml. They’re using native grains to Arkansas. It is made from corn and wheat. There’s no rye in Arkansas, according to the company’s blog.

For that price, it better be pretty darn good. That is premium pricing.

The product is being distributed in Arkansas, Illinois and Tennessee. If it is good, it may not be around very long because they produced about 114 cases.

Look for more of these micro-batch bourbons to be sprouting up more and more.


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About Kim Kolarik

Exploring bourbon one sip at a time and sharing the experience.© Contact me at I've followed the original bourbon trail from my native Pennsylvania, where the whiskey rebellion erupted to Louisville, Kentucky, my current home. Bourbon is now in a revolution of expansion. I'll be bringing you news, information and tasting notes of bourbon from Kentucky and the emerging craft distillers from around the United States. I am photographer, designer and editor. --Kim D. Kolarik
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One Response to Bourbon flowing in Arkansas, the first legal distillery since prohibition

  1. Pingback: Kentucky Bourbon under attack | Barefoot and Progressive

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