Cane Land Distilling Company finally moving forward with construction of rum distillery

    Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Walter Tharp’s name and to fix a direct quote from Tharp.

    The city-parish approved the construction permits for the long-awaited Cane Land Distilling Company on St. Philip Street last week, paving the way for the local distillery to produce molasses-based and fresh pressed cane juice rum in the Capital City.

    Originally announced in mid-2013, work on 9,700-square-foot warehouse at 760 St. Philip St., near the 13th Gate and behind the Belle of Baton Rouge, is expected to cost about $250,000 and include installation of all the moving parts needed to create “cane to glass” rum.

    “As you can imagine, it’s quite a bit of engineering. It’s quite complex,” says Walter Tharp, who co-owns Cane Land with Jim Massey.

    Tharp says he hopes to have the distillery in operation by the time sugar cane grinding season starts in late September or early October. That would allow the rum to age for a few months and be ready to be sold around the start of next year.

    “Everything is in hyper speed right now,” Tharp says. “It’s a race to get in production and distilling spirits.”

    Once they begin distilling the spirits, Tharp says he wants to release three rums and a whiskey for the initial launch.

    Two of the rums will be sold under the PARADE label—one being a botanical spiced rum and the other being an argenté, which is French for silver. Both rums will be molasses-based spirits.

    The third will be a rhum agricole, which is French for cane juice rum and made using fresh pressed cane juice.

    The three rum spirits will be aged in 6,000-gallon vats from the Rémy Martin cognac distillery in France that Tharp acquired.

    The whiskey will be the product of collaboration between Cane Land and a Tennessee whiskey distillery Tharp declines to name. The bourbon-mash whiskey will be aged for several years in Tennessee before being transported to Louisiana to finish aging in cognac barrels from France.

    “It should make an extremely unique spirit,” Tharp says.

    The company is excited to finally begin construction after years of delays and switching locations, Tharp says.

    Cane Land Distilling announced its plans in mid-2013 to begin distilling rum and purchased a 1-acre property on the corner of Oklahoma Street and River Road for the distillery. But delays—partly involving the challenges of building along the river—and the introduction of the Water Campus skewed their plans at that location.

    They sold the Oklahoma Street property to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation in October for $375,000 and began leasing the St. Philip Street location.

    “We think our location now is better than what we had before,” Tharp says.

    —Ryan Broussard

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