About Travel A Visit to Richland Distilling Company By Patrick Terrail

Who needs to go to Cuba or Puerto Rico to find authentic hand crafted from unrefined sugar cane, copper pot distilled rum when you can get it right here in Richland, Georgia. We discovered a Richland Distilling Company bottling Single Estate Old Georgia Rum, matured in virgin American white oak barrels.

Owner Erik Vonk arrived in the states in 1990 to found an Atlanta bureau for Randstad, the multinational Dutch staffing firm. Though he was able to retire within the decade, he didn’t go far. With his wife, Karin, he bought a large tract of rolling land outside of Richland. They named their farm Vennebroeck, Dutch for “ponds and brooks.” Beyond the spot’s natural beauty, Vonk was intrigued by the area’s history of sugarcane farming, which scratched an old itch. “I just sort of had this ‘aha’ moment,” he says. “I’ve had a strange fascination with rum for a very long time.”

He first made rum as a hobby then after jumping through a bunch of legal hoops he went commercial in 2007.

I had heard of this couple living the American Dream and finally decided to take the drive to Richland, which is just outside Albany about 70 minutes from Newnan.

We arrived under a grey sky about 5 p.m., worried that the distillery would be closed in this sleepy town. The distillery is hard to miss in its large renovated downtown warehouse. As I opened the door I was welcomed by a beautiful sight of barrels and bottles of rum and the lovely Karin Vonk who speaks with a slight Dutch accent.

She welcomed us like she was welcoming us into her home. While her husband was in the back office having a discussion with the wine maker from Chateau Elan, Simone Bergese, she showed us around and told us the story of the distillery.

The sugar cane are grown on the farm about 10 miles from the distillery and then processed to make this delicious nectar in copper pot distillery imported from Portugal, aged in oak barrels, and bottled on sight. As the juice is distilled and fermented it comes out white and gets its color while it ages in the oak barrels for 30 to 45 months. Bottles are marked by the barrel number.

Anyone can come tour the distillery, stop by the tasting room and visit the gift shop. Richland Rum is the winner of Flavor of Georgia Award 2014 – Adult Beverage Category, The Good Food Awards 2016 and has garnered many accolades including 94 of 100 points from Tasting Panel Magazine, as well as gold medals by numerous international tasting competitions.

Because they grow sugar cane they also make 100% sugar cane syrup. Great to use for cooking or as a sweetener.

Since they use the barrels only once, breweries will buy their barrels – particularly Terrapin who makes a Terrapin Ale call Richland reserve, aged in their barrels.