A little East County distillery company is making big waves on the international vodka scene, and the secret is Brentwood corn.
Bay Area Distilling Company, owned by longtime Brentwood residents Donnie LaFlamme and Ryan Richardson, was recently honored in the platinum category for its Golden State Vodka at the international SIP Awards, outshining such legendary labels as Absolut, Elyx and Smirnoff.
“It is challenging to get into the industry as many large brands already take up the market,” said Richardson. “It’s a matter of understanding that the market is very saturated by products that aren’t even from America.”
For the boutique business owners who spent countless hours honing their recipe and process in their lab, seeing Bay Area Distilling Company ranked so high on the awards list was a dream come true.
“I called Ryan when the results came in, and we just thought, ‘Wow, we did something really neat here,’” said LaFlamme. “This contest is judged by real consumers – a real showcase of the modern-day palate.”
The business got its start in a garage and was formed by the two Liberty High School graduates who saw great potential in one of Brentwood’s most well-known crops – sweet corn.
“We were inspired by local agriculture, and we wanted to do our part in creating that sustainability on the local level,” said LaFlamme.
And at the local level, the two were helped along by other longtime community members, the Nunn family, which has been farming in Brentwood since 1880. The Nunns gave them their first batch of corn to work with.
“When we started out, our goal was to take the best corn on the planet and make an amazing product,” said LaFlamme. “The Nunns helped give us our start. It really means a lot to us.”
In 2014, after jumping through series of licensing hoops, LaFlamme and Richardson launched Bay Area Distilling Company and later launched their first whiskey product in December 2015.
“No one had used Brentwood sweet corn (for whiskey or vodka),” said Richardson. “Fortunately, the farmers live here in town, and we reached out to them.”
Dwelley Farms and G&S Farms are now the local sweet corn source for the distilling company whose products are available at local Safeway stores.
“We batched 1,500 bottles of Golden State Vodka and began selling at Safeway, because we noted the company strongly supports locally sourced products,” LaFlamme said. “And since we make our vodka with corn from local farmers, they’re onboard with putting it in their stores.”
Supporting local farmers in the process of making high-quality whiskey and vodka is what the business partners believe is the recipe for success – a recipe that also includes supporting local groups and community organizations such as the Patriots Jet Team Foundation, Liberty Union High School District and Impact Soccer League.
“We want to see people supporting local businesses – ours and others,” LaFlamme said. “That’s how you create the sustainability within the community.”
Bay Area Distilling Company is located at 2160 Elkins Way, Suite A. For more information, visit www.bayareadistilling.com.