Celebration Distillation: A Must Visit in NOLAFebruary 5, 2013
After another weekend in New Orleans (this one for the Super Bowl thanks to my amazing brother Steve) I’m once again convinced that this town is a figment of my imagination built my magic elves that analyze my hopes and dreams and make them a reality all just for me!
Well okay, that probably went a bit far, because if that was the case, those elves would have had the Eagles in the Super Bowl and I’d have one more brother and his name would be Lebron James. But even still, I never manage to run out of things to do in the Big Easy and this trip was no exception. A major highlight for me, despite the obvious, was my solo Nobler Gathering at Celebration Distillation down on Frenchmen St just about a ten minute cab ride from the French Quarter.
I had read about the tour/tasting online but didn’t know exactly what to expect. After a number of NYC distillery tours with the Noblers, I’ve grown to appreciate the nuances in these small-scale distilleries and let me tell you, if you are looking for nuance, Celebration is the place to be. Founded by James Michalopoulos, a celebrated local artist, in 1995 in an abandoned cotton warehouse, this distillery is packed with history in its near two decades of existence. Considered the longest continuously running rum distiller in the U.S., Celebration uses a local resource in sugar cane to produce a series of amazing rums. My favorite by far was the cajun spiced, which utilizes a few traditional ingredients like ginger and cloves along with some real local favorites like chicory. The folks down there didn’t think you could buy the stuff in NY but this linked popped up when I tried it from home. Looks promising! And this is definitely the spiced rum you want on your bar.
As for the rest of the tour, with a cocktail in hand, we got to see the production scheme start to finish. One of the most interesting and compelling components to the Celebration story is their experience through Katrina. Like so many establishments in New Orleans, the devastation was immense. A piece of tape remains signifying the 8 ft water mark inside the distillery but it was the strength of the community, like so many other stories you’ve heard, mixed with James’ artistic soul that got them back up and running as quickly as they did. With the help of the employees and locals alike in clearing out the mess, James and team focused on re-building and repairing their one of a kind, self-produced stills. By learning the methodology and becoming focused on the process in advance of it’s founding, Celebration bypassed the purchase of an expensive still set up and is creating wonderful rum packed with a sense of true passion and creativity.
If you are heading to New Orleans for any reason, these guys have to be on your list of to-dos. Thanks again to the whole team for a wonderful experience!