TazaRay Sunflower Spirits Makes Big Strides in 2017
Saturday, January 6, 2018
filed under: Utilization/Trade
Business is blooming since the early 2017 rollout of TazaRay, the world’s first gluten-free sunflower whiskey from Dalton Distillery. Since The Sunflower spoke with Dalton Distillery founder Chuck Butler and partner and CFO Vann Brown for our March/April 2017 issue, many new developments have sprung forth at the company's home base in the northwest Georgia foothills of the Appalachian Mountains near Dalton, Ga.
TazaRay Sunflower Spirits has blossomed from a wish to carry on the Butler family tradition of using sunflower seed in its proprietary moonshine recipe, and a desire to provide a product for those who are gluten-intolerant, Vann’s own son included.
What's the next development for this budding company? Jody Kerzman talked with Chuck about the sunflower spirit craze.
What’s been the biggest change since we spoke last spring?
Demand! Our demand has increased significantly, and we credit that partly to the great article in The Sunflower. From that article, we were contacted by several other publications who did follow-up stories on our product. We were featured on ABC ‘The Chew’, numerous local TV shows, named top 5 stocking stuffers for the state of Georgia (the only alcohol), and named top 7 most distinct spirits in the world by Paste magazine. The good press we have received has been unbelievable.
Getting our name in the public eye also has helped to increase our distribution. We are now distributing in Georgia and Tennessee through Empire Distributors.
Will your sunflower spirits be available in other states soon?
We are working with people in several other states to do just that. We are committed to finding the right distributor for our products, ones who understand small craft distribution and are committed to helping us build our brand.
The main limiting factor right now is production. TazaRay is barrel aged just like your finest whiskies and bourbons. We have been scaling up production ever since your first article and are adding states as inventory becomes available.
Colorado is our most likely next state. Our current distributor, Empire Distributors, is affiliated with a distribution company in Colorado, so we know we will have the right partner for that state. Empire is a large, professional company which shares our passion for TazaRay Sunflower Spirits and has been an invaluable partner in our launch.
After Colorado, we are focusing on distribution in North and South Dakota, Kansas and Minnesota, as most of the sunflower grown in the United States comes from those states. We are in the process of negotiating with online distributors and hope to launch online sales soon. Ultimately, our goal is to make TazaRay Sunflower Spirits a national brand.
You told us before you’re a small company, with only five employees. Has that changed since we last spoke?
Our products are still handcrafted, and Dalton Distillery remains a very small operation. Our production has grown by 50% since last spring. We have added additional barrel storage and are in the process of installing a much larger still.
We are growing in production capacity; but for now, it’s just us doing the work. The only addition has been Vann’s oldest son, who is gluten intolerant, becoming our brand ambassador and helping with sales.
My dad continues as the master distiller. He was born in 1942, and our family has made moonshine for over 100 years. We have always added malted sunflower seeds to our moonshine, since it helped to add a distinctive taste during the competitive ’shine market in the ’40s and ’50s. When we started Dalton Distillery, we decided to stick with that distinctive taste.
Why do you think TazaRay Sunflower Spirits have been such a big hit?
TazaRay is the only commercially distilled product made from sunflower seeds. It’s a naturally gluten-free, non-GMO, barrel-aged, locally sourced product.
That’s a big deal these days. It appears that the market had a pent-up demand for a new tasting experience for people that are gluten intolerant that previously were limited to just vodka.
In addition, mixologists were looking for a unique taste to add an additional level of complexity to their creations. To say the least, they have come up with some unique cocktails using our products and also have added new twists to traditional cocktails. We have created several drink videos to share the recipes online. The unique nuttiness of TazaRay, coupled with being a gluten-free product offers an important option in today's market.
Can you describe the taste of TazaRay Sunflower?
TazaRay (original) is finished in recycled bourbon barrels and offers a unique buttery flavor profile with notes of honeyed vanilla, sunflower nuttiness and a hint of smoke. TazaRay RED is finished in recycled red wine barrels and offers a rich flavor profile with pronounced sunflower nuttiness blended with hints of blackberry, honeysuckle and licorice. Both are enjoyable as a sipping whiskey. Our customers claim it is “The best damn whiskey that can’t be called whiskey.” TazaRay cannot be called whiskey due it being produced from a seed instead of a grain.
TazaRay makes a delicious Bloody Mary, Margarita or Moscow Mule. The most popular drink has been our version of the Moscow Mule. It’s made with four ounces of ginger beer, two ounces of sunflower spirits and a half ounce of lime juice. TazaRay RED is great in a Manhattan, Old Fashion or Whiskey Sour.
TazaRay also is a great choice for cooking. We have several local restaurants cooking with it. Chefs are marinating chicken, pheasant, grouse and even steaks with our sunflower spirits. They are also curing salmon, making sauces and baking with TazaRay.
We are very thankful for all the local support we have received and now have some celebrity chef’s working with TazaRay. We would welcome the opportunity to work with national franchise to bring the unique attributes of TazaRay to their menus.
Where can people learn more about your TazaRay products?
Dalton Distillery, located in the foothills of the northwestern Georgia mountains, has quickly established a universal reputation for its hand-crafted spirits. The company is working with select distributors nationwide in debuting its new product.
For more information on TazaRay, look for it on Facebook (facebook.com/tazaray90), Twitter (@TazaRaySpirits) and tazaray.com.
About That Name
The Roots of ‘TazaRay’
“Using malted sunflower seeds as the primary grain and malted corn as the accompanying grain, Master Distiller Raymond Butler has achieved a gluten-free spirit featuring a unique, clean flavor profile and a hint of nuttiness at the finish.
“The Butler family has a long history of making distilled spirits, using the original corn whiskey recipe that goes back five generations to produce its hand-crafted quality products. Our name is a nod both to our Native American roots [Taza: warrior and chief] and to the spirit of the sun.”