What started with a first date at the zoo has turned into an 18 year marriage, a 14 year love affair with rum and the launching of a craft spirits distillery. Kevin and Erin Wright are celebrating the grand opening of their new Striped Lion Distilling in Woodbury, New Jersey on December 12, 2020. The distillery name pays homage back to their first date and their mutual love of large cats at the zoo. “Striped” is for the big tigers and “Lion” for the other big cats they saw on that life changing day.
What Started You on Your Rum Journey?
Everyone has a story about when they fell in love with a certain spirit. For some it was a slow warm up, for others there was a specific moment in time where the light bulb went off. In the case of Kevin and Erin their light bulb moment happened while visiting in Bermuda.
“We were in Bermuda for a friend’s wedding in 2006. We were doing the Dark ‘n Stormy Trail. You go and buy a Dark ‘n Stormy at so many restaurants and you get a stamp for everyone you visit. If you get five stamps you get a hat. If you get 10 stamps you get polo shirt. We were in a restaurant drinking Dark ‘n Stormy’s at the bar and saw this Bordeaux bottle on the back bar with Gosling’s, the rum of Bermuda, it was Gosling’s Old Rum. It’s very different looking than any other bottles. We asked if you make a Dark ‘n Stormy out of that and he said ‘No’. You drink that more like a bourbon, it’s a sipping rum. He asked if we wanted to taste some and of course we said, ‘Yes’. We tasted it and that I think was the moment for us where we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so good.’ It was at that moment that our minds were blown…That started our rum journey.”
When the couple started to get serious about opening a distillery in the Garden State they were disappointed to learn that the only license that was available was a Plenary Distillers license that was designed for large volume producers with a license fee of $12,500. Production under that license is unlimited. In 2013, the state passed a law creating a craft distillery license that would allow production of up to 20,000 gallons or about 640 barrels per year for a license fee of $938. The law permits distilleries to have tours and offer samples and sales, but does not allow them to sell food or operate a restaurant on the premises. A consumer who has toured the distillery can buy up to five liters to drink off the premises. And more recently with the pandemic New Jersey distilleries are allowed to offer cocktails to go for pick up at the distillery and delivery.
Striped Lion Distilling Idea Turns Into a Startup Business
The Wright’s got their distillery started in 2017 with the renting of a building and purchasing of a still from Affordable Distilling Equipment. Like many small towns there were many challenges in educating local leaders, lenders and licensees about the approval process for starting a craft spirits distillery. Through challenging times the two continue to work their full time jobs. Kevin is an IT professional and Erin is a pediatrician.
After many years of dreaming, planning, attending industry events, talking to other distillers and a week for Kevin at Moonshine University’s Rum School the Wright’s dream is ready to open the doors to the public.
Striped Lion Distilling is a Craft Spirit Rum Distillery
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Striped Lion Distilling will be focusing all their efforts on rum. They looked at a lot of spirits but decided there are plenty of ways to distill and offer rum spirits. They use an all organic black strap molasses as the basis for all their products. They will start out with four initial rums with two more soon to follow and others added later. The first runs will include a pot distilled un-aged rum, a citrus rum vapor distilled through citrus peels, a cocoa rum vapor distilled through organic cocoa nibs and a sourced aged rum that is a blend of four and 10 year old pot and column distilled rums from Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Panama, and the United States. The aged rum is barrel finished for an additional month at the distillery in used cognac barrels.
On the cocoa front Erin said, “The cocoa rum is flippin’ delicious. The cocoa rum is made with organic cocoa nuts from the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It takes a lot for us to make it because it’s a small batch. If it wasn’t a small batch and if it were possible I would bathe in it. It’s just that good.”
The two additional rums will include a 120 over-proofed rum and a naturally flavored cinnamon rum.
Striped Lion Distilling is majority woman-owned and 100% black owned distillery in Woodbury, New Jersey. The distillery is now open at 740 N Broad St, Woodbury, New Jersey.
Cheers to Kevin and Erin!