Nestled along the banks of Escambia Creek in Atmore, Alabama stand two non-descript buildings. No signage provides any clue as to what may churn inside, but knock on the door and you’ll enter the world of the new age of distilling in Alabama. The facility has been custom designed for production and aging of distilled spirits and for no other purpose. No tasting rooms, no store, just efficient production and storage of spirits. This is where Seth Dettling, CEO and Head Distiller of Big Escambia Spirits, practices his craft and we caught up with him to learn more.
How did you get started?
On June 6, 2014 Big Escambia Spirits, LLC was awarded the fourth Distilled Spirits Plant permit issued within the State of Alabama in over 100 years. I designed the facility based on extensive examination of other small scale plants across the U.S. On June 6, 2015 Big Escambia Spirits placed the first ever barrel of bourbon in the State of Alabama into cooperage. We have six full time employees and we’ll need more soon as we expand our production capacity. Big Escambia Spirits currently has over 14,000 proof gallons of spirits in our aging inventory making it Alabama’s largest distilled spirits plant.
What are the distillery specs?
We currently have a 250-gallon hybrid pot still and a brand new 12” continuous column still with hybrid thumper. We have 2,500 gallons of fermentation capacity as cypress tanks.
How do you fit in with your local culture?
Southern Alabama is by its nature rural and dominated by timber production and agriculture. We are a true field to barrel operation, having decided from the beginning to grow our own special corn. That corn has formed the basis for our made from scratch DETTLING BOURBON and DETTLING WHISKEY. BSG has been a great partner for the flavor grains, which is available in incredible diversity and abundance.
What is your business philosophy?
“Make it happening.” I say it all the time and we have it on our production calendar. It means get going so fast it’s already present tense! We are all doers.
What types of spirits do you produce?
We make bourbon, whiskey and rum. We have intentionally avoided unaged spirits or the easy categories. I wanted to do the hard stuff first and get a good supply put down. I know it takes time, so might as well make it happening!
So there’s a funny story involving BSG?
When I ran into the BSG crowd at the Nashville ACSA meeting last month I was quick to say to Andrew Causey, “Hey man where’s my hoodie?” He had promised me a hoodie last year at the Chicago ACSA meeting. He forgot and we got a good laugh out of it. I got a very nice box here the other day with my BSG branded hoodie! It’s great! Thanks Andrew!
What’s coming up?
Lots! We have a new 2.2 million BTU boiler that was just delivered and a new 12” continuous column still. We are going to have to totally shut down to make the change over and it is going to be a huge job. That new setup should max us out at 100+ barrels a month. Right now we’re lucky to get 10 barrels put up a month.
Dettling Bourbon is being released later this year on the 150th anniversary of the Dettling brand. We just received licensing to use the old family liquor brand for our bourbon. The flavor grains are all from BSG and include oat, flaked rye, chocolate rye, and some special malt too. In fact, BSG is one of the few companies that I have been happy with from the start. This is our third year and we order weekly.