"I decided, as a hobby, 'Hey, I'm going to build a small still and start distilling at home for fun,'" he says. "That's been seven years ago that I first started doing that. Now, that's not necessarily legal. I wasn't selling anything to anybody, though, but just like how home-brewer guys make beer at home or somebody can be a winemaker at home, I started making distilled spirits in my home, in my kitchen and my laundry room."
As Rich continued reading up on distilling methods and applying his engineering knowledge to perfecting his still, his interest grew, and about two years ago, he moved back to Mississippi to launch his own distillery. It took a year and nine months for him to purchase property in the Historic Canton Square District, submit renovation plans and then see them through, but in March 2016, Rich Grain Distilling Co. (339 W. Peace St., Canton, 601.750.8221) opened for business.
Many liquor stores in the Jackson metro, including Kats Wine & Spirits, Briarwood Wine and Spirits, and McDade's Wine & Spirits, already carry Rich's first product, an unaged corn whiskey. He'll soon be launching a line of white rum, and later this year, customers will also be able to purchase his spiced rum, which he makes by soaking a cotton pouch filled with natural ingredients such as vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks and orange peel, in a barrel of white rum for a few weeks. Rich says he'll also make off-the-wall beverages to taste exclusively on tours, which take place Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and cost $7 per person or $10 with a Rich Grain shot glass. Large groups can also schedule times for a weekday tour.
While Rich says bourbon will eventually become the flagship beverage of Rich Grain and make up the bulk of production, consumers won't get their hands on a bottle until late 2017. For many industry newcomers, he says, the common practice for getting bourbon out quickly is to buy it from another company and just place it in the new distillery's bottle.
"I could do that, and a lot of consumers would never know," Rich says. "I could start releasing bourbon next week if I was interested in doing that. But I'm not selling anything that I didn't personally make, starting from raw grain, mashed, fermented, distilled, barreled and bottled here."
If a local liquor store or bar doesn't carry Rich Grain products, ask for them to place a special order from Mississippi Alcohol and Beverage Control. For more information, find Rich Grain Distilling Co. on Facebook.