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While I’m not a big drinker, I’ll admit I sway toward the rum bottle long before vodka. However, a Durham-made vodka recently added to the shelves of a few ABC stores in Wilson may have me singing a different tune.
Bedlam Vodka is made with long-grain white rice, which alleviates the stereotypical burn of other popular vodkas.
“Where most vodkas from wheat and rye, corn and potatoes have an astringent, medicinal burn, our vodka is unique,” said Brandon Evans, the CEO of Graybeard Distillery that makes the Bedlam Vodka. “When you smell it, it is almost sweet. It is the same when you taste it, so it has no burn and a lot of people drink it on the rocks because the grain itself produces such a smooth liquor.”
Prior to incorporating Graybeard more than a year ago, Evans and his business partners owned a legal consulting business specializing in the pharmaceutical industry. All that changed when Scott Russ, a friend from law school, shared his family’s recipe for vodka.
“His family in the late 1840s was making home liquor in Ireland out of potatoes, then the potato famine happened and his family looked for an alternate source to make their liquor,” Evans said. “Rice was being imported from France and Spain, but it was not being milled. The aristocracy was taxing all milled goods coming into Ireland, so they chose to make their home liquor out of long grain white rice and this is the recipe they developed.”
Rather than being in the pudding, the proof was more literal. At 40 percent alcohol by volume, Bedlam Vodka was born. Of course the entrepreneurs had to enlist the help of a chemist to scale the operation from the five-gallon bucket recipe to 1,400 gallon stills, but the product was a hit. It won multiple awards in April before hitting shelves in Durham and Wake counties in May.
“We started with four stores in Durham and two in Wake, but within four hours, each store was sold out,” Evans said. “We started adding stores from there with Durham immediately adding it to all their stores and we’ve been exploding outward from there.”
Three ABC stores in Wilson — 2612 Forest Hills Road, 3713 Peppermill Drive N. and 4912 Raleigh Road Parkway W. — recently added Bedlam to their inventory and Evans said sales crews are headed to Wilson in the coming weeks to get it added to menus at bars and restaurants. Also, stores in South Carolina and Georgia will start carrying Bedlam Vodka next week.
“Bedlam Vodka is very different from any other national brand out there starting with the grain because there is no other spirit that makes vodka from long-grain white rice,” he said. “What we learned coming out of the competitions was that the vodka market was ready for something new and ready for change. That is evident from the recognition we’ve been getting and the visceral reaction from vodka drinkers.”
And the difference doesn’t stop with the taste. Evans said while other brands package the vodka in clear or frosted bottles, Bedlam echoed the Irish heritage with a dark-tinted bottle tagged with the logo of a double-headed raven — the sign used to mark contraband in Ireland.
And Bedlam Vodka is catching on.
“Everything else I’ve done in my life is in the service industry, but to have a product people can consume is pretty satisfying,” he said. “We have T-shirts and hats and to see people walking down the street in those is pretty amazing.”
For more information, visit bedlamvodka.com/.
OK, I know my opinion is an unpopular one in this state, but I am a steadfast Coke fan and will choose it over Pepsi any day. With that said, a former Coca-Cola Bottling Co. building to the east in Greenville is getting new life as the home to a craft beer operation.
Pitt Street Brewing Co. recently renovated the building at 630 S. Pitt St. for a 7,500-square-foot production facility and taproom. With an annual yield of 4,000 barrels of beer in nearly a dozen varieties, the company is ready to share the brews not only inside, but in a covered beer garden in front and a pet-friendly outdoor space in back.
For more information and hours, visit www.facebook.com/PittStreetBrewing/.
Got an idea for news to include in next week’s Main Street Minute? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at 252-265-7821 or firstname.lastname@example.org.