Here in Louisiana we toast our harvests with festivals and the rice festival in Crowley is one of the oldest. Acadia Parish company has figured how to bring the two together. J.T. Meleck Rice Vodka is approaching its first anniversary in the business.
News 15’s Megan Woods pours a shot of history on this uniquely Louisiana product.
“You can’t get more Louisiana than rice vodka.”
Rice and gravy, red beans and rice, rice in gumbo. Then one day Fruge Farms asked why not rice vodka.
President and founder of J.T. Meleck Distillers, Michael Fruge says his family has grown rice on their farm for decades. “The price of rice had gone down and we were like what are we going to do with this stuff and just brainstorming standing around and someone said ‘I wonder if we can make vodka out of it.'”
Like all good things, a great rice vodka takes time, two years from a grain of rice to a bottle.
Social Southern Table and Bar in Lafayette prides itself as one of the few who got a taste in the beginning stages.
Brian Thom, beverage and wine director of Social says, “They poured it out of mason jars just labeled with masking tape. We tried it, gave them our feedback and they came back and did it again and we tried it again and gave them some more feedback.”
Rice vodka is a conversation starter. Many in the industry and drinkers had their doubts.
Fruge says, “A lot of questions, a lot of hesitancy. Like, ‘Really? Are you sure? I didn’t know you could do that sort of thing.’ especially people in the industry.”
The taste of the vodka keeps the conversation going.
Thom describes it, “Super super smooth, it doesn’t require some of the over distilling that happens with other mass marketed vodka just because rice lends it to be a very smooth product.”
Richard Hotard, sales manager for J.T. Meleck says, “What we hear is that it pairs well with virtually everything. From the hardcore martini lovers, they love it on the rocks to the folks that love it in a great Bloody Mary, it’s a very versatile.”
Social created the Rosemary, Baby drink just for J.T. Meleck Vodka. One of the many local bars and stores that have welcomed the vodka with open arms.
The company hopes a year from now we’ll be saying the same about bars and stores across the state and eventually the country.
Hotard says, “We think we’re just scratching the surface we think the rest of Louisiana is going to find out about how great J.T. Meleck Rice Vodka really is.”