Dalton Distillery - TazaRay Sunflower Spirits

The distillery may not be solar powered but their small batch craft spirits sure are powered by the sun as in Sunflower. The Dalton Distillery in Dalton, Georgia has launched what they say (and the TTB agrees) is the world’s first sunflower powered craft spirit. It does have some corn in it but the majority of the spirit is sunflower with a mashbill of roughly 35% corn and 65% sunflower. Founder Chuck Butler said the TTB does not consider sunflower a grain so they required them to label their new product sunflower spirits instead of whiskey. In todays competitive craft spirits market that not so gentle push from the TTB could just prove to be a competitive advantage.

Chuck says that his Master Distiller, Raymond Butler who also happens to be his Dad has been using an old family moonshine recipe with small amounts of sunflower seeds for more than 100 years. He says his Dad’s family, “always added malted sunflower seeds to their moonshine. The whiskey market in the ’40s and ’50s was highly competitive, so they added sunflower seeds to give their ‘shine a distinctive taste.”

TazaRay & TazaRay Red Sunflower Spirits

Dalton Distillery - TazaRay Sunflower Spirits and TazaRay Red
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Warrior and Chief + Ray of Sunshine = TazaRay

The name of their new release is TazaRay Sunflower. The spirits name is a combination of the family’s Native American roots using the word Taza which translates into “warrior and chief” plus Ray for his Dad, Raymond. And of course Ray for a Ray of Sunshine.

No Yeast Added During Distillation

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TazaRay Sunflower uses no yeast during the distillation process. Instead, they use malted corn and sunflower seeds to start the fermentation process. Marketing Director and Partner Vann Brown says, “We use the oilseeds. The process involves naturally malting the seeds, sprouting them, and then drying them. After the seeds are dried down, we grind them and mix with unmalted seeds. This blending of the grains produces a clean, complex taste. Since there is no yeast in our products, they do not have that burn that is associated with traditional alcohol.” This also makes the product gluten-free, another point of differentiation from many craft spirits on the market today.

Aged in Used Bourbon Barrels and Red Wine Barrels

Dalton Distillery is offering two versions of TazaRay. The standard offering of TazaRay is aged to taste for six to eleven months in used 53 gallon bourbon barrels and bottled at 90 proof. The other version is TazaRay Red which is also aged in a similar fashion but in 60 gallon red wine barrels and bottled at 90 proof.

How to Make a Redneck Italian

Vann tells the story of how they created the Redneck Italian cocktail. “Through our attendance at various tasting festivals, we found that many people who normally won’t drink corn whiskey love sunflower spirits. At one festival, we created a special drink called the Redneck Italian — a shot of our sunflower spirits, followed by a shot of raspberry balsamic vinegar. People lined up for it — it was phenomenal!”


Empire Distributors, Inc. and Dalton Distillery have announced an agreement to distribute Dalton Distillery’s TazaRay Sunflower Spirits. Based in Atlanta, Empire operates locations in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Colorado. The initial launch of TazaRay will begin in Georgia.

“This gluten-free sunflower distilled spirit made from Georgia-grown sunflowers is both beautiful and delicious,” says Jerry Russo, Empire Distributors On-Premise Sales Manager. “We know this unique brand will make a strong impact in the market and is a wonderful addition to our portfolio.”

The company is working with distributors nationwide in debuting its new product.

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Resource: Sunflower Growers Association

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