Here’s the video:


25 Top Craft Distillery Tours in the US

Craft and artisan distilling is booming; where to taste and experience the new wave of spirits…


Check us out at #16:



Rock Town was featured by Fred Minnick in his American Whiskey article in the June Tasting Panel Magazine.  We’re one of  ”Three non-Kentucky bourbons to keep an eye on.”  Quite an honor!

Here’s a link to the article: 


“Competitions held in London, Chicago and San Francisco”

 Little Rock, AR – (April 15, 2013) – Phil Brandon, founder of Rock Town Distillery, Arkansas’ first legal distillery since prohibition, is happy to announce his hand crafted spirits have won top honors in recent prestigious spirits competitions.

Early in March, Rock Town was awarded the rating of “Exceptional – Gold Medal” for both our Arkansas Young Bourbon and our Hickory Smoked Whiskey by the highly respected Beverage Tasting Institute in Chicago.  The Beverage Testing Institute’s International Review of Spirits Competition is one of America’s oldest and most influential spirits competitions operating since 1994.

“On March 21st we were stunned to learn our Bourbon was awarded Best Bourbon (no age statement) at the World Whiskies Awards in London, England” said Phil Brandon distillery founder.  The World Whiskies Awards had more than 300 whiskies battling it out during three intensive blind tasting rounds, for the coveted title of ‘2013 World’s Best Whiskies’. Judges for Whisky Magazine’s independent editorial panel were drawn from the best drinks journalists and retailers across the world, with industry representatives made up of master blenders, distillers and brand ambassadors in the final round.

On March 24th Rock Town received more great news from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition that our Bourbon won the top award of Double Gold Medal in the ‘Small Batch Bourbon up to 10yrs Old’ category.  The annual San Francisco World Spirits Competition commends the finest spirits from across the globe.  More than 1,400 spirits from 63 countries were judged this year as part of the largest competition in the event’s 13 year history.

“Receiving these accolades really is a testament to the hard work, dedication and craftsmanship we put into our whiskies” said Phil Brandon.  “We’re very proud of the fact that we use locally sourced Arkansas grains to make world class whiskies”.

For a complete listing of winners online:

World Whiskies Awards 2013 –

San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2013 –

International Review of Spirits 2013 –

Rock Town Distillery is also proud to announce it has also recently partnered with Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC) and is now available in Georgia and Florida through RNDC.  Soon RNDC will distribute Rock Town’s products in Texas and Louisiana as well.  Rock Town’s products are also distributed in Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Oregon, and Oklahoma.


Here’s the video from the Good Day Arkansas segments on Fox 16 in Little Rock.


Rock Town Distillery made the top 10!

Check our the article here.

From the artile:

“Located in Little Rock, Arkansas, Rock Town has the distinction of being the state’s first legal distillery since prohibition. Rock Town produces Arkansas Lighting, gin, bourbon and hickory smoked whiskey, but it is the bourbon thatFred Minnick, an expert on whiskey who writes about the spirit, thinks makes it one of the best in the country.”



Here’s a link to the feature:  Nine Southern Small-Batch Spirits

Arkansas Lightning Little Rock, Arkansas 

A traditional moonshine early bootleggers would appreciate, Arkansas Lightning is pot-distilled and made with Arkansas corn and wheat. Careful, this stuff’s bottled at 125 proof. 

Serving suggestion:

Lightning Tea
1 oz. Arkansas Lightning
7 oz. sweet tea

Mix in a tall glass with ice.


Here’s a link to the article:

Distillery tours show how spirits are made from grain to glass

There hadn’t been a legal distillery in central Arkansas in decades, probably since Prohibition, until Phil Brandon lost his job.

Once in telecommunications in Little Rock, Brandon was a casualty of today’s fluctuating job market. But rather than move out of state to keep his job, the sixth-generation Arkansas native decided to move on to a new endeavor and keep his roots intact.

With an appreciation for whiskey and an enterprising spirit, he founded Rock Town Distillery. “It was just something that I had a passion for,” he said. After doing a lot of research, experimenting with recipes, and remodeling a 1950s-era warehouse, he opened the distillery about two years ago, and already his products have won awards.

Visitors can tour the distillery to discover the process of making spirits from grain to glass. On tour, which Brandon describes as “Distilling 101,” guests learn how small batches of Arkansas-grown wheat and corn are ground, cooked, and fermented. Gin and vodka can be distilled relatively quickly, but Rock Town’s bourbon is aged six to eight months in oak barrels to produce its distinctive flavor and golden hue.

Tours are offered at 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and at 1:30 and 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are not required. Admission is $7 for adults and free for children, and tours conclude with a tasting of all the distillery’s products for those 21 and older.

Rock Town Distillery is located at 1216 E. Sixth St. in downtown Little Rock. The tasting room is open from 1–5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

For tour information, call (501) 907-5244, or visit


Reported by: Kelly Dudzik

Arkansas’ only distillery opened just a little more than a year ago, and the man behind the spirits launched his new business after becoming a casualty of Verizon’s takeover of Alltel.

Phil Brandon opened Arkansas’ only distillery in 2010. And he did it after facing a tough loss.

“When I went to Illinois to Chicago to the Benny’s Liquor store there and saw my stuff right next to the guys that I’ve admired and tried to study from afar, it’s like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I actually did that,” Brandon said.

“I was working at Alltel, enjoying life, working on a lot of projects. Alltel was doing great and then Verizon bought us and suddenly it because very apparent that a lot of jobs were going away. Mine was one of those.”

If Brandon wanted to stay in telecom, he’d have to move out of state. But he refused to leave his Arkansas roots.

“I kind of developed an appreciation for single malt scotch and whiskey in general and I discovered this new craft distilling movement that was going on throughout the country,” Brandon said.

“The more I thought about it, I was like, well, why not? I was like why aren’t there any distilleries in Arkansas?”

Brandon started researching. He wrote a business plan and financial model, then applied for and got a small business administration loan through the government’s stimulus package.

The Rock Town Distillery came to life. Brandon had a huge learning curve.

“It was a big, huge risk, you know, it was, you know, basically going to Vegas and sliding all of your chips into the middle of the table and saying I’m all in,” Brandon said.

But he had fun with it.

“I bought a lot of liquor. I tried a lot of different things, you know, started working on developing my palette,” Brandon said.

Using his background in engineering to do a lot of the contract work himself, Brandon kept costs down and opened up shop.

This is where it all begins. In a warehouse with wheat and corn from a farmer in Stuttgart.”

Brandon grinds the grains and takes them to the cooker, then the Fermenter.

He started out producing gin and vodka which do not need to be aged, then expanded to bourbon.

“When the whiskey goes in the barrel, it’s clear and at the end of six months or so, it’s a nice golden brown,” Brandon said.

And he isn’t stopping there.

“We’re making wheat whiskey now, and we’re hoping that this will be ready after the first of the year. So this is 91% wheat and 9% malted barley and it’s aged in our ex-bourbon casks.”

He bottles everything by hand, and even pours the spirits in his tasting room for guests.

“Still making it happen one day at a time,” Brandon said. “But when you decide to pursue something you want to be passionate about, working 12 hours a day isn’t so bad because it’s what you want to do.”

Especially when you can say you have launched a new career after getting laid off.

Rock Town Distillery is on East Sixth Street in Little Rock, and Brandon does tours Saturday afternoons.

Right now, you can find his spirits in six states — and they’re about to hit store shelves in three more.

“A lot of what I’ve done in my adult life has really prepared me to do this at this point,” Brandon said.

“If I hadn’t spent the last four or five years working at Alltel, I wouldn’t have had a certain set of skills that really enabled me to do a lot of the things I had to do to be able to start this.”


This story can also be found here:

At Friday’s Tales of the Cocktail panel on the proliferation of America’s craft distillers, moderator Matt Rowley told the crowd that there are now distilleries in every state but Oklahoma and Alabama.

ark.distiller.jpgPhil Brandon, first legal distiller in Arkansas since Prohibition

A guy wearing an Arkansas T-shirt was sitting across the aisle from me. I started to wonder.

Yes, he’s a distiller. Phil Brandon is the only craft distiller in the state of Arkansas; his Rock Town Distillery is based in Little Rock. It’s been open one year and this is his first trip to Tales of the Cocktail.

So how did he get into this business?

“I got laid off from my job in telecommunications, and I wanted to do something I was passionate about,” Brandon told me. He, his wife, and the guy who helped him put together the distillery are the employees.

“We do all the bottling, distilling, the whole thing,” Brandon said. A sixth-generation Arkansas native, they give tours of the distillery on weekends.

And, like most of the craft distillers mentioned at the panel, he buys local whenever he can.

“We use Arkansas corn and soft red winter wheat from Stuttgart,” he said.

At the panel we learned that most of the craft distilleries are small. The Little Rock one has bottling parties, where groups can book a time to come in and help bottle the products and sign them.


The San Francisco World Spirits Competition held its prestigious judging on March 18th, 19th, and 20th at the Hotel Nikko in downtown San Francisco. In this, the 11th year, 1,106 premium spirits were submitted from 61 countries, making it a record-breaking year, up 8% from last year. The San Francisco competition is the oldest, largest, and most recognized spirits competition in the United States. 159 Double Gold Medals were awarded, 181 Gold Medals, 383 Silver Medals, and 231 Bronze Medals.

Out of 58 Gins entered from all over the world, Brandon’s Gin received a Double Gold Medal! Only six double gold medals were awarded.

You can read the results here



We’ve worked really hard to make the best vodka we could and it looks like the experts agree.

Here’s a link to the review.

Finalist – 93 – Brandon’s Vodka United States, 40%, $29.99
Excellent, Highly Recommended
USC Judging Chairman Paul Pacult’s tasting notes: A rich and multilayered aroma of oils and spice; taste profile features long, near-viscous textures and flavors of light spice and clean, smooth neutral spirit.

The purpose of Ultimate Spirits Challenge is to identify, recognize and reward those products which stand out in their respective categories, showing superior quality. Multiple panels of the highest-qualified experts blind-tasted each entry by classification in appropriately grouped flights within each major spirits category, scoring each on the 100-point scale. Products that scored 90 points or higher were then evaluated blind once again, in newly-created groupings by a different panel of judges. Top scoring products were then reviewed again to determine a select group of finalists with the category’s highest-scorer being awarded a Chairman’s Trophy accolade.


Yep, that’s right folks. Our Arkansas Lightning wins a gold medal rating of 91 in the 2011 International Review of Spirits by the Beverage Tasting Institute!

Here’s the review

Bold aromas of wet grain sack, crushed whole nut, and crusty artisanal raisin bread with a vibrant, silky dry-yet-fruity medium-full body and a hot and spicy dusty gravel road finish. Opens up to some attractive macadamia nut brittle and spice cake notes with a touch of water. Very interesting and distinctive; will be great in cocktails.

International Review of Spirits Award: Gold Medal

RATING: 91 points (Exceptional)
CATEGORY: Unaged Whiskey, Whisky
TASTING LOCATION: In Our Chicago Tasting Room
TASTING DATE: Feb-24-2011


Nice story on Rock Town and Arkansas Lightning by First Arkansas News:

Rock Town and Arkansas Lightning
By: Ethan C. Nobles 26 January 2011 No Comment

The scrappy crew at Little Rock’s own Rock Town Distillery have a new product — Arkansas Lightning — and you’re invited to the release party on Saturday (Jan. 29).

What is Rock Town Distillery? We posted an article about the company here at First Arkansas News back in June, but here’s a brief recap — Phil Brandon, a former Alltel executive, started the brewery last year. He said it was the first Arkansas distillery to be built since prohibition and hopes Natural State citizens embrace a local business that makes quality stuff.

Brandon’s seen some success for sure. The company started shipping gin and vodka in August and the company’s products can be found in 109 liquor stores in Arkansas and 49 bars and restaurants (click here for a list of where Rock Town is sold). Brandon emphasizes using Arkansas products whenever possible and there’s not a thing wrong with that.

In addition to gin and vodka, the company is also aging bourbon. While gin and vodka can be stilled relatively quickly, Brandon said bourbon takes time and the company’s first batch of that liquor won’t be available until spring. That’s where Arkansas Lightning comes into play (remember — that’s Arkansas Lightning, not white lightning).

Brandon said he’s gotten a lot of requests for bourbon over the months, but the company has been unable to sell any because it’s not through the aging process. Rock Town, then, has decided to do the next best thing — release the liquor that is eventually distilled into bourbon before it enters the aging process. Arkansas Lightening is made from corn and wheat grown here in the Natural State (of course) and is 125-proof.

Want to see a “spec sheet” for Arkansas Lightning? Click here and you’ve got it. By the way, White Lightning goes on sale Feb. 7 and will cost $14.99 per bottle.

Intrigued? Interested in supporting and Arkansas business? Want to head to the Arkansas Lightning release party? It will be held at 9 p.m. on Jan. 29 at Rock Town’s facility at 1216 E. 6th St. in downtown Little Rock. It costs $10 to get in at the door or $5 for people who have the foresight to email an RSVP to

Want more information? Click here for the Facebook page for the event, here for the Rock Town site and here for the company’s blog.


Check out Vertical Magazine’s latest on the Innovators at


Wow – check this out…  many thanks to the folks at Today’s Man!  You can read the article here.


Had a great conversation with Richard Davis with the Fayetteville Free Weekly.   We discussed starting a distillery and tasted some gin.

See the story here.


Nice article by Christopher Spencer for Ozarks Unbound… Thanks Chris!

You can find the article here.


Check out the article here.


Here’s a list of some of the press coverage we’ve received so far:

Arkansas Business

Arkansas Times

Talk Business

In Arkansas


ABC News