There is more than ultra-filtered premium alcohol that goes into each bottle of Redmont Distilling Company’s vodka – there is a passion for giving back.
Founded in 2015 as a fun project by Jake Hendon, Jonathan Guidry and Mike Hames, Redmont Distilling Company’s life really began in earnest in 2019 when Mountain Brook residents Eleanor and Claude Estes took the helm of the company with an enhanced vision for what was possible with this brand. As the first distillery to be founded in Alabama since Prohibition, Redmont was poised to be unique in a number of ways. Bringing on NBA great and Leeds, Alabama native, Charles Barkley, as majority shareholder was just the cherry on top.
Eleanor and Claude are both Mountain Brook natives and have raised their family here, knowing that this particular corner of Birmingham is truly special. Both are shrewd business people in other arenas—Eleanor is the CEO of Tech Providers Inc. and of Redmont while Claude is a CPA with a thriving business—but it is in their work with Redmont Distilling Company that they have found a way to dig deeper and give more back to the city and to the region they call home.
Redmont Distilling Company practices the one-to-one philosophy: for each bottle of vodka sold, there will be a specific philanthropic action taken to support our community. The beneficiaries of these sales will be rotated out quarterly (or possibly monthly), depending upon needs. “All of us are coming at this from the perspective that we want to make an impact,” Eleanor notes. “We are all in this reflective stage of life. We all want to make a difference. We are going to use Redmont as the vehicle to do that.”
One of the brand’s most impactful endeavors took place in the heat of the COVID-19 outbreak when so many businesses were hit hard. Some would argue that the hospitality industry was one of the first to feel the pain of self-quarantine and social-distancing practices. In an effort to support the men and women in the restaurant and bar business, the company held an online fundraising effort on Instagram. Charles Barkley and JOX radio host Lance Taylor hosted an hour-long conversation about all things sports, vodka and Alabama-related. And true to form, people show up when Sir Charles is involved. In fact, it is one of the reasons Claude says they were keen to have him be a part of the company in the first place.
“When George Clooney (and Randy Gerber) sold their Casamigos tequila brand for a jillion dollars, we knew that having a celebrity on board would raise our profile significantly,” Claude says. He had a client who was interested in partnering with the emerging alcohol brand who eventually introduced them to the NBA superstar. Barkley had long wanted to own something significant and meaningful in Alabama and, like vodka and soda itself, the pairing was perfect.
“Charles is one of the most genuine and giving people I have ever met,” Claude says. “He truly truly wants to make a difference.” And as most know, when Barkley puts his mind to something, it happens. Redmont Vodka held a tasting this spring at the Hoover ABC store and Charles was there to sign every bottle sold. He is as affable in person as he is on television, commentating on playoff games. Claude knew he had star power but everyone was blown away by the quantity sold that day—over 120 cases of Redmont Vodka went out the door. That is more than 700 bottles in just three hours.
But the Alabama ties go deeper than having the Leeds native on board. The Redmont Distillery, located in the Continental Gin complex in Avondale adjacent to Cahaba Brewery, is the first of its kind since prohibition. That alone is noteworthy. The facility is being built out to have a tasting room and will soon be able to host private events as well as serve as a point-of-purchase for the brand’s namesake.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking to yourselves, “That’s great and all but, how does it taste?”
The answer is clean. If Tito’s has been your go-to vodka to date, you owe it to yourself to try Redmont. Tito’s is distilled six times through a carbon-filtration system whereas Redmont is distilled twice again, which is significant. Do a side-by-side taste test for yourself and you will be able to tell the difference.
“The goal of great vodka is no taste and no smell,” Eleanor remarks. “Interestingly, once you start sipping vodka, you begin to notice nuances between brands. There could be a spicy or an alcohol-like taste. Some burn going down. Ours is different in that we distill the corn-based liquid eight times. And it is non-GMO. This is a very clean spirit.” Whether you choose to sip yours on the rocks or blended with your favorite mixers, you will definitely be able to taste the difference.
You can currently find Redmont Vodka in all Alabama ABC stores where their footprint and shelf space are expanding. Claude and Eleanor have been diligent and methodical about entering the market place in a very intentional way. “Liquor is obviously a very regulated industry,” Eleanor says. “So your distributor is really key, and it is different in every single state. A distributor here could be totally different than in another state. You don’t want to necessarily sign on with just one. We decided that the best course of action would be to start here in Alabama, grow it and own Alabama and then branch out to Georgia and Mississippi.”
Claude adds, “A distributor who is great in Georgia might not be the best in Las Vegas. And once you name your distributor, they are yours for life. You cannot get out of it.” Their aim is to have a significant foothold in these three Southern states by the end of the year and then continue their expansion. Within five years, they plan to have an international presence.
So, how much were Charles and Lance able to raise in that one Instagram live spot? At press time, the figure was north of $30,000 and still growing, with Barkley matching the donations dollar for dollar. Claude and Eleanor get really excited talking about all the opportunities for change that can take place in our community at large, one deliciously clean sip at a time.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR REDMONT
The company has been developing a gin of equal quality to the signature vodka being sold in Alabama. Named after the Roman god of the forge himself, Vulcan Gin can soon be found in liquor stores across the state and in your favorite watering hole in town. Eleanor is also talking about doing some pairing classes or offering mixology get-togethers in the tasting room once the build out is complete. In the meantime, you can find a wide-range of cocktail ideas on redmontdistilling.com or @RedmontDistilling on Instagram.
Help Your Bartender
In the wake of COVID-19, bar, restaurant and hospitality workers who live just paycheck to paycheck or shift to shift became in need of access to financial assistance. In response, the Redmont Distilling team created the Alabama Hospitality Workers Relief Fund through the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association. Since then, the Redmont team has been selling T-shirts designed by local artist Rob Zilla to benefit the fund (order one at theredmonttee.com) and vetting the applications to ensure Alabama’s hospitality workers receive much-needed aid. Learn more at arhaonline.com/al-hospitality-workers-relief-fund.html.
CHARLES’ FAVORITE REDMONT AND CRANBERRY
- 2 ounces Redmont Vodka
- Club soda
- Splash cranberry juice
- Lime wedge
Fill a glass with ice cubes. Add vodka, club soda and cranberry juice. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Makes one pitcher.
- 1 cup sugar
- 8 1/3 cups water
- 16 ounces Redmont Vodka
- 4 lemons, juices
- Juniper berries and flamed rosemary sprig, for garnish
In a saucepan, combine sugar and 1/3 cup water and place over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then cook the sugar until dissolved. Do not cook the sugar until it starts to turn color. Remove from heat and cool. In a pitcher, combine the syrup, 8 cups water, lemon juice, vodka and ice and stir to combine. Garnish with juniper berries and a flamed rosemary sprig.
- 2 ounces Redmont Vodka
- ½ ounce fresh lime juice
- 6 ounces ginger beer
- 1 sprig fresh mint
- 1 lime slice
Fill an ice cold copper mug with ice. Add vodka and lime juice, followed by the ginger beer. Stir. Garish with mint sprig and lime slice.
CLASSIC REDMONT AND SODA
- 2 ounces Redmont Vodka
- Club soda
- 1 squeeze lemon
- Lemon wedge
In a glass, add the vodka and then ice, and top with club soda and then a squeeze of lemon. Garnish with lemon wedge.