July 2019 Magazine

Arkansas Businesses Celebrating Anniversaries: Rock Town Distillery – 9 Years

rock town

by Tristan Bennett

Rock Town Distillery – 9 Years

This year many Arkansas businesses are celebrating big anniversaries alongside our state’s celebration of its territory bicentennial. Anniversaries are always an accomplishment, whether it’s one year, a centennial or more. 

Bought as part of the Louisiana Purchase, the land that became Arkansas was established as a territory on March 2, 1819, according to the “Encyclopedia of Arkansas.” To celebrate the bicentennial, Arkansans gathered at the State Capitol in March for a party complete with a birthday cake, historical displays and a speech from Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Several of the state’s businesses are holding their own anniversary celebrations this year. It’s a milestone many do not get to enjoy. Twenty percent of businesses never see their first anniversary, and only about half will make it to their fifth year, according to the Small Business Administration. Arkansas is lucky to have such a diverse economy made up of local, homegrown businesses that Arkansans have continued to support for many years. 

Rock Town Distillery has been producing artisan spirits for nine years as Arkansas’ first legal distillery since Prohibition. A true grain-to-glass distillery, Rock Town uses grains grown within 125 miles of the distillery to ensure the quality of every bottle made.

The process of becoming a legal distillery is not an easy one. Owners have to do everything involved with starting any other business as well as go through lengthy permit processes at the state and federal level. 

“The federal permit process is very involved and complicated,” says Phil Brandon, Rock Town’s owner. 

There are several steps to the procedure, including describing operations and submitting a floor plan that is in compliance with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Even after obtaining the proper permits, a distillery owner has many day-to-day struggles to overcome, “Too many to name,” as Brandon says. However, Rock Town has risen to become one of the top 10 best Southern distillery tours, according to USA Today. The distillery team works hard to provide the community a place to gather. Rock Town has also played a major part in the revitalization of the SoMa area of downtown Little Rock, according to Brandon.

The distillery produces vodka, bourbon, several different whiskeys, gin, rum and its Arkansas Lightning Moonshine. Each spirit is made with corn, wheat and rye grains that are grown by Arkansas farmers. Distillery tours offer more about the grain-to-glass process and allow a taste of a few of Rock Town’s award-winning spirits.

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