Top News

This local distillery has just gained international recognition for their bourbon

After four years in business, a local distillery gains international recognition for its bourbons.

Laissez Versez won two medals at the TAG Global Spirits Awards in Las Vegas. The Baton Rouge-based company was awarded a double gold medal in the American Straight Bourbon category for its Louisiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey and a gold medal in the American Blended Straight Bourbon category for its Small Batch Reserve.

John Hampton, who founded the distillery in 2019, and Justin Peck, co-owner of the company, said the award shows Laissez Versez makes spirits that are comparable to household brands like Wild Turkey, Jack Daniel’s and Elijah Craig, and won double gold awards for theirs Bourbons and their whiskey.

“This is an acknowledgment from people who consider you just a hobby to someone who can actually make bourbon,” said Hampton, standing in the distilling area of ​​Laissez Versez’s headquarters at Barringer Foreman Technology Park.

Laissez Versez customers suggested that Hampton and Peck participate in the Global Spirits Awards. The two men said they had not considered entering the competition.

The hope is that the recognition will persuade drinkers to try the local spirits rather than stick with national brands like Four Roses or Blanton’s.

“As far as we’re concerned with local distilleries, I’d rather have a customer come in and pick a local product than Crown Royal,” Peck said.

Laissez Versez, French for “let it pour,” began around 2016 when Hampton was discussing microbrewing with friends and decided that distilling in small batches could be the next big thing.

“People were looking for change and didn’t want the same thing every time they had a beer,” he said. “We just thought that would carry over to spirits.”

At the time it was a leap of faith. Hampton wrote sureties for contractors; His only experience in the liquor business was as a bartender in college. Peck worked for a telecommunications company; His experience in the liquor store was solely as a customer.

Both men still work at their day jobs; Laissez Versez is a part-time business with about five employees.

And although Hampton was a whiskey drinker, Peck’s tastes leaned more towards beer.

But the distillery took shape thanks to friends who worked in chemical plants and helped develop the still and the processes around it.

Even with help, the learning curve to get started making whiskey and bourbon was steep.

“It’s something you can’t really rush,” Peck said. “It takes time to make a new product.”

And after Laissez Versez was open for about a year, the pandemic struck, closing the distillery’s tasting room.

“In all my business classes, no one said anything about opening a business in the middle of a pandemic,” Hampton said.

The companies transitioned to manufacturing hand sanitizer and were recognized as a top manufacturer by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. But mostly during the pandemic, Hampton and Peck worked to make better bourbon.

“We expected a slower start,” Hampton said. “We just took the opportunity to really increase the volume that we have here and get better and better.”

Although some bourbons can be aged in casks for a few months, the spirits must be aged for at least two years to be classified as pure bourbon whiskey.

Because of this lag time, Laissez Versez has launched liqueurs that take less time to mature, such as Flamingeaux fruit punch and C’est Bon coffee chocolate liqueur, made with Cold Brew Java by Cafeciteaux Coffee Roasters, another Barringer tenant Foreman. This fits with the company’s philosophy of doing business with other local companies.

But the biggest seller for Laissez Versez is the company’s bourbon, which outperforms the other spirits by three to four times. The company now produces three 53-gallon kegs of spirits monthly and has nearly doubled its revenue annually.

Through a distribution agreement with Fleur de LA Imports, Laissez Versez spirits are available at approximately 30 locations from Lafayette to the North Shore, including Total Wine & More, Rouses Markets, Martin Wine & Spirits, Hokus Pokus Liquor in Prairieville, and Acquistapace’s in Covington and Mandeville. The distillery also sells spirits from their office.

Laissez Versez sells about 13 types of spirits. The company plans to add a triple-sec liqueur soon and is working on a vodka and a gin.

“But first and foremost we’re a bourbon distillery, and we want to stay that way,” Hampton said.