Three years after Andrew Lohfeld and Patrick Hernandez had realized that New Orleans would be the perfect place to start a rum distillery, they are now finally making their dream come true. Roulaison Distilling Co, located in Broadmoore, will open with a tasting room in early February 2017 and an official opening event shortly after Mardi Gras.
A rum distillery that embodies the rich history of New Orleans
The name “Roulaison” has deep roots in the 1890’s, coming from an old French-creole word for the sugarcane harvest. Andrew and Patrick pride themselves in creating rum that embodies the rich history of New Orleans and its local rum culture. Unlike other rum distilleries, Roulaison Distilling Co only uses alembic pot stills and 100 percent Louisiana molasses. With its full flavor, and a note of fruit and spice, it makes a difference in any cocktail and even stands out on its own.
A journey from being college buddies to becoming business partners
Andrew and Patrick first met as freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania, but lost touch in the years after graduation. They reconnected when a mutual friends was getting married. “One day, Andrew mentioned the plan he was developing to open his own rum distillery, with New Orleans being one of the potential locations. As a Louisiana native, I was very intrigued and after some consideration I approached him about being business partners,” said Patrick. Before joining the team, Patrick had spent his career in finance.
What started as home brewing is now a new business
Andrew started home brewing throughout college and found a job at Kings County Distillery, a Bourbon distillery in New York. While working there, he contemplated about starting his own distillery. “There are not a lot of craft distilleries out there that produce rum without replicating the more commercial brands,” said Andrew.
As a two-man band, Andrew and Patrick are wearing many hats. As of now, they split up responsibilities depending on the demands of the business and each other’s schedules. Though, Andrew’s official role is CEO, and Patrick’s is CFO, given their respective backgrounds. “Eventually, these roles will be more defined with Andrew leading the distilling operations and me leading financial and administrative functions,” explained Patrick.
New Orleans – A lucrative place for the service industry
The city’s southern hospitality and openness to newcomers is without a doubt a key motivator to start a business in New Orleans. It has also proven to be a lucrative place for the service industry as new bars and restaurants open every day. “There is a lot of excitement out there in general,” said Andrew.
Although other rum distilleries could be considered competition, Andrew believes that competition won’t be problem. “Although it is rum, we’re doing a completely different style. We’re all friendly people. It’s more like a community,” said Andrew.
Roulaison’s white, unaged and heavy pot-distilled rum stands out with it’s flavorful note. Most other rums are made in the spanish style, but Roulaison’s rum is on the other end of the spectrum, grouped with the more flavorful whiskeys. The craft cocktail community, foodies, cocktail lovers, and whoever is interested in trying something different, will love this rum.
Roulaison’s biggest success: Overcoming regulatory hurdles
Given the many regulatory hurdles and general unforeseen circumstances, every step of the way feels like a success for Andrew and Patrick. “Our greatest milestone has been opening our doors. The first time we bottled a product to sell felt like a huge deal, but at the same time it felt like it’s just the beginning,” said Patrick.
Their advice to entrepreneurs: Plan for the unexpected and study up!
Despite the difficult licensing process in New Orleans, Andrew and Patrick are finally opening the doors of their business after three years of planning and licensing. “We were expecting a six month process to get all of our licenses, but it ended up taking 14 months,” said Andrew.
Andrew and Patrick have two pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs: One, plan for the unexpected. Two, study up, especially if you come from a different field and want to start a business. It’s essential to gain experience by interning or taking courses. “The more knowledge you bring into it, the easier it is to cope with what is thrown at you that you weren’t expecting,” explained Andrew.
Roulaison’s vision: Introducing a special product to the New Orleans community
According to Patrick, the business was started with the vision to grow, but it will have to be calculated growth. “Part of what makes our product unique is that we are not mass producing and we can let our creativity show. We are using a method of production that is not the most efficient in existence, but at the same time it creates an additional level of complexity,” said Patrick.
For that reason, they will focus on reaching the New Orleans community before anywhere else. After that, Andrew and Patrick will be more open to expanding into other parts of Louisiana and additional states.
Their favorite things to do in New Orleans
Andrew and Patrick have fallen in love with the culinary side of New Orleans. Eating and drinking has become one of their favorite things to do in the city. Andrew also has a second favorite thing to do. “Being a Philadelphia native, I like riding my bike in February because I can actually do that,” said Andrew.