Exclusive Interview with Mr. Jeremy Craig, Co-Founder and Head Distiller, of Copper Bottom Craft Distillery located in Holly Hill, Florida
Jeremy Craig Co-Founder and Head Distiller
Q: What is your full name, title, company name and company location?
Jeremy Craig, Co-founder and Head Distiller at Copper Bottom Craft Distillery located in Holly Hill, FL.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Copper Bottom and what inspired you to start your own distillery?
My dad and both of my grandfathers worked in breweries, so I guess you could say alcohol is in my blood! We often toured craft breweries on family vacations. A few years ago we stumbled upon a craft distillery for the first time, and just like that, we were hooked! My father worked to set up breweries around the country, my mother is a bookkeeper and day trader, and my wife has worked in marketing for 10 years. Since I have a background in science and chemistry, we decided that the four of us make a great team for launching a craft distillery!
Q: What has been your greatest challenge since you decided you wanted to have your own distillery?
The greatest challenge so far has been… so many, I don’t even know where to start. Working within state, federal and local government regulations has been challenging since most of the laws in this area date back to the prohibition era. Another challenge has been finding enough time to get everything done. Between paperwork, sales calls, tasting events and tours, I’ve discovered that distilling is actually a very small part of operating a distillery. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the time to distill!
Copper Bottom Craft Distillery company Logo
Q: We first met you at last year’s April 2016 Rum University’s 5 -Day Rum Course in Louisville, Kentucky. At that time you were working on final permit paperwork and construction. What has happened since then?
We opened in October…just in time for Hurricane Matthew! Luckily, we didn’t sustain any major damage and we were able to reopen soon after. For the first three months, we focused on building up inventory and tasting room sales while we met with distributors and local retailers.
We secured our distributor in December and within three months we were in local restaurants, bars and liquor stores. Today, we have vodka and silver rum on the shelves, and we are currently barrel aging rum and refining recipes for spiced rum.
Q: Can you tell a little bit of what a typical day is like at the distillery?
No two days are the same, which makes every day exciting! Some days I could be mashing, distilling, and bottling, and then turn around to give tours and tastings to guests that evening. I also do ride-alongs with our distributor, speaking engagements at local events, and host private events in our tasting room. My favorite days are spent bottling and packaging. Although it’s incredibly time consuming and labor intensive, it’s a gratifying experience.
Q: Now that you have had the experience from filing for your distillery permit , construction and production, do you have any advice for someone who is considering opening up their own distillery?
I would say the most important thing is to have patience. Every single detail takes so much longer than we anticipated.
For example, our federal license took 10 months and the state license took an additional four months… after it got lost in the mail! There were so many times that we could have thrown our hands in the air and given up. Fortunately, we stayed on track and saw it through to opening day!
The second thing I would suggest is to budget much, much more than you anticipate. We had an extensive business and financial plan with a ton of research to back it up, but this process was significantly more costly than we planned. Finally, share your plan. Our local newspaper covered our story long before the still arrived and that rallied support from the community. We had folks stopping by nearly every day to check out the progress. By the time opening day arrived, we had a line of people ready to buy their first bottle!
Copper Bottom Craft Distillery Inside
Q: You are currently making your own rum. Can you tell us about your product? What was the inspiration behind the name “Copper Bottom"? Where is it currently available for purchase?
The inspiration behind the name “Copper Bottom” comes from an 18th century seafaring term that started when the British Royal Navy began cladding the bottom of their ships with copper. This helped to prevent barnacles and increase speed and also assisted with bulletproofing. Over time, “copper bottom” became a term of endearment used to describe someone who is “reliable, trustworthy and certain not to fail.”
We appreciate the meaning behind the “Copper Bottom” name and the fact that it’s a nautical term, since we’re on the east coast of Florida. Currently, our spirits are for sale in about 35 local restaurants and liquor stores, as well as Total Wine.
Q: Any plans on producing other rums in the near future? Other spirits?
We are currently barrel-aging rum and working on a recipe for spiced rum. We also have plans for a Solera rum in the near future.
Q: Is there something unique or different that you are doing with your rum that sets them apart from brands already out on the market?
We use evaporated sugar cane, which gives our products a unique flavor profile.
Our rum is distilled in small batches, roughly 35 cases at a time. This distilling process lends itself to slight variations from batch to batch and that’s the beauty of a craft distillery.
All of these elements combined are what sets us apart from other brands.
Q: Do you currently offer any tours of your distillery? Do you also have a visitor’s center?
We offer tours Wednesday through Friday evenings and all day Saturday. Guests have the option to secure a reservation through our website, and we also encourage drop-ins.
Our tasting room is just outside the distillery and doubles as an event space. (Side note: hosting events at the distillery has been a great - and unexpected - source of revenue for us. People are constantly looking for unique places to host board meetings, birthday parties and networking socials. Hosting events brings more guests through the door, so it’s been great!)
Q: If people want to contact you, how may they reach you?
Facebook and Instagram have been instrumental for sharing our story and building contacts. Start there, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and you can also call us at (386) 267-5104. Our distributor is S.R. Perrott out of Ormond Beach, FL.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Come see us! Daytona Beach is a great city for race fans, bikers, snowbirds and tourists, and we’ve built our distillery to serve as a tourist destination. Tours and tastings are complimentary and we’d love to have you!