Distillery to open in Taos

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Adding to the list of homegrown products popping up in the town of Taos, Rolling Still Bros. distillery will soon be delivering the kick in local cocktails.

The town of Taos council voted to approve the craft distiller liquor license for the business following a public hearing at Tuesday's (March 27) regular meeting, allowing Rolling Still to start its production of distilling spirits at its new Reed Street location.

Quick to draw the line between its business and a bar, Rolling Still spirits will not be available for more than a taste once the location is opened, which the staff said could be some time yet. "This is just one of several steps to get the alcohol gaming license," said event coordinator Dan Irion. "Today was really just about getting part of the process to get that New Mexico Alcohol Gaming License."

Rolling Still meets the required zoning laws for its area of town and has been cleared by the planning and zoning department for its operations. According to the staff, the distillery will not be a place for the public to enter and have a few cocktails, but will allow for small guided tours and samples of the product. The majority of the business space will be dedicated to the distilling operations with only a small section left for the public to see.

Owners said they plan to start with vodka and move into other spirits but are not looking to saturate the local market with "cheap alcohol" and instead are seeking to create craft spirits for distribution.

"Our main plan is to sell locally here in Taos," said Nicole Barady, administrative director of Rolling Still.

Despite the approval of the license, the group was met with some opposition during the meeting by the public and council, who were concerned with adding another place to get alcohol in Taos. Currently nine establishments within the town sell package liquor, and community members said the saturation for Taos' population is too high already.

"I really appreciate the fact that you're talking about a local homegrown business," Council member George 'Fritz' Hahn said during the meeting. "I have a lot of angst over another package liquor store being available in town."

Rolling Still replied that the business plan is not set up to be another distributor of liquor in town, but to be a place where craft spirits can be made for local restaurants and retailers.

Members of Rolling Still's staff furthered their defense by saying they were not going to be contributing to the litter that occurs with a package liquor establishment. Irion presented the council with a trash bag full of empty mini alcohol bottles they had picked up off the streets, reiterating they would be creating craft spirits, not contributing to the trash that is littering the town.

In addition to starting a local manufacturing company, Rolling Still also said they would be helping the local economy by providing a small number of jobs for locals.

"We feel good, we feel relieved and ready to get started," said Liza Barrett, operations and social media coordinator of Rolling Still.

Several steps still remain, including an occupancy and fire code inspection from the town before the distilling can begin. Rolling Still has not yet set an opening date.

Irion said that Rolling Still has no connection with Taos Mesa Brewing, which Irion helped to found nearly a decade ago.

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John Lapin

Having operated a still off and on over the years, I wonder if Reed Street or any other location with similar population density is appropriate for this kind of 'industrial" use. There are reasons licensed commercial distillers are usually located away from populated areas. There can be emissions which neighbors might find obnoxious. Fire hazard is real as high proof alcohol can be dangerous. There is a lot of storage space required for raw materials and finished products. I have to wonder how a distilling operation in one of those small buildings on Reed Street could possibly achieve the economy of scale needed to be successful in a market which is rapidly becoming flooded with "craft distillers". Please keep in mind that some of these so-called "craft" labels are nothing more than bottling plants for spirits produced in Indiana at the huge Midwest Grain Products plant. If Rolling Still is to produce enough product to succeed they will need a lot of space, more than what Reed Street has to offer. What about barrel aging of spirits such as whiskey and brandy in the future?

It is great to see local entrepreneurship unfolding but I should think a location outside the Town would be more appropriate and less impactful for the neighbors.

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