Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pair Producing Rum with Some Local Flavor

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pair Producing Rum with Some Local Flavor

Article excerpt

A plane-flying electrical engineer and a Morris County lawyer with a passion for roller derby get together, searching for a new career direction.

Their conclusion: Let's make rum.

If that sounds like something cooked up over a few too many drinks, the outcome is as real as a bottle of Bacardi: New Jersey's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control has granted its first distilling license since the agency was created in 1934, in the wake of Prohibition.

The recipient, Fairfield-based Jersey Artisan Distilling, began making its first batch of rum Thursday, having received a federal distillery license on Jan. 14 and the state's license 10 days later.

"It's actually a huge deal," said Krista Haley, 35, a Morris Plains attorney, who helped start the company with owner Brant Braue, 40, a North Caldwell electrical engineer, who likes flying airplanes and racing trucks.

They met in a Fairfield microbrewery a few years ago and developed a friendship as they mulled Braue's idea to start a distillery.

Easier than expected

At first, it seemed like a pipe dream, said Haley, an avid roller- derby skater until she broke her ankle and switched to refereeing. But the more they looked into it, the more feasible it appeared. And in December 2011, Braue took a weeklong course in Las Vegas on distilling.

The company, which has launched the business in a 6,000-square- foot warehouse, is owned by Braue and his father and financed with about $200,000 from the Braue family, Haley said. They are talking to banks and New Jersey's Economic Development Authority about further financing, she added.

Haley and Braue are the only employees, although they expect to have five workers within a year, Haley said. The company's competitive edge will be in making rum that is "going to taste better than everything that is out there," in part by using locally grown fruits, such as strawberries, cranberries, and cherries. …

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