On the iconic Canal Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, an historic building sat vacant for decades. The street car passed dozens of times a day and life went on as usual right outside until family-owned Sazerac purchased the building with plans to turn it into an urban distillery and visitor experience. On October 2, 2019 guests will finally be welcomed into this iconic building, where you can see the streetcar go by behind the glistening column still inside.
“Lack of space is a large challenge we have to overcome daily,” says Sazerac House distillery supervisor, David Bock. “When you visit us take a look behind the cookers. We had to bring in some very thin pipe fitters to run all those lines. Even though we are limited in space you can’t beat the view. Seeing the streetcar pass behind the copper still is pretty amazing.”
Like many of the urban distilleries in Louisville, Kentucky, the Sazerac House had to work with the space it had. Sazerac was able to combine two existing buildings, so it’s a bit wider than the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience for example, but the additional challenge is that mothership Buffalo Trace is some 750 miles away. Still, Sazerac is based in New Orleans, and this is more of an expansion of an existing footprint rather than a homecoming.
“I don’t see us as bringing Sazerac back to New Orleans considering we’ve been here in some form since the 1850s,” says Bock. “We are just now going to be more visible being at Canal and Magazine. When you walk through the exhibits you will see that we have many strong ties to New Orleans.”
The Sazerac House will be open to the public for free self-guided tours, and additional paid private events can be scheduled for the speakeasy bar or the upstairs event space. So if you’re planning a bachelor or bachelorette party in New Orleans after October 2019, call ahead to ask about a private cocktail class or tasting.
Sazerac as a brand started in New Orleans in 1869 when Thomas Handy purchased the Sazerac Coffee House. The coffee house was named for the Sazerac cocktail created by Antoine Amédée Peychaud, the inventor of Peychaud’s Bitters. Both Sazerac Rye and Peychaud’s Bitters will be made at the Sazerac House once it is completely operational.
Plans also include cocktail bars throughout the space where visiting mixologists will prepare special cocktails for guests, as well as a glass wall library of Sazerac spirits.
“What I really want to share with everyone that comes into the distillery is my enthusiasm for distillation,” says Bock. “I really enjoy showing people the process of how to make Sazerac Rye Whiskey. I love the smell of the fermentations when you come in in the morning, the sight of the reflux bubbling away in the column, and the taste of the white dog is pretty good too.”
As this is a free tour located in the famous and busy French Quarter of New Orleans, it is highly recommended that guests call ahead to reserve tour space.
Cover image courtesy of Maggie Kimberl