Lonerider Launches Spirits

There’s a new “sheriff” in town, and bourbon is its debut badge.

Story and Photography By Darin Meyer

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Fans of all things local and bourbon (and delicious) should take note. Standout Raleigh brewer, Lonerider Brewing Company, is launching a sister craft distillery named Lonerider Spirits with the debut offering of a rye bourbon whiskey finished in sherry casks. Sounds like the Lonerider outlaw story just got a new chapter.  

There’s something special about talking beer and booze at 10am on a regular weekday. Even more so when it’s with Sumit Vohra, CEO and Chief Drinking Officer of Lonerider Brewing Company and chairman of Lonerider Spirits, and Chris Mielke, president of Lonerider Spirits and vice president of business development at Lonerider Brewing.   Already a fan of their brews, it was a no-brainer
to sit down and get the details about their first bourbon whiskey. 

After meeting two years ago through a mutual friend and discussing how to open a distillery while enjoying a glass (or three) of whiskey, Vohra and Mielke realized this could work. Really work. Leaning on Mielke’s background in distilled spirits production and Vohra’s knowledge of the Lonerider brand and presence, Lonerider Spirits was born and raised. “The first bourbon whiskey made and sold in Wake County,” says Vohra, “and it will be the only bourbon on the menu at our new Wake Forest location when it opens in October.”  

The result of this venture is a high rye bourbon whiskey finished in sherry casks. Mielke says, “The tannins in the sherry add a smooth finish to the spice and bold flavor of the rye.” Much time and effort went into that flavor profile. Mielke visited more than 50 distilleries across the country to learn about the process of making bourbon, a journey he summarizes by saying, “if you think it’s an easy project to put stuff in a bottle, it’s just not.” Even an unexpected “act of God” can play a role, such as the wildfires in Southern California affecting the supply chain of ingredients for the inaugural bourbon release.  

“90 proof stands up better in cocktails, so you don’t get a washed out flavor..”

Much like the attention to detail at the brewing company, the efforts focused on the Lonerider Spirits product show that quality is paramount, Vohra says. “The product comes first, nothing else.  Unless it’s good in the bottle, it doesn’t matter what’s on the label or who’s selling it.”  Vohra continues describing the philosophy behind the flavor, adding that “this is a whiskey we want you to have on hand at all times, and we want to price it that way. We want it to be good and the price is right.” I’m sure plenty of Lonerider Brewing fans will be ready to try it, as well as the bourbon whiskey drinkers looking for something new or different.      

So what’s different about it besides the rye and sherry profile? How about 90 proof (45 percent alcohol) versus the more popular 80 proof (40 percent alcohol), for starters. Mielke says that after consulting with bartenders and spirits makers, “90 proof stands up better in cocktails, so you don’t get a washed-out flavor when you add ice or mix it.” Vohra adds, “Bourbon is meant to stand alone, and you want [the flavor] to shine through even when mixed.”

Never short on adventures for their Outlaws (fans), Lonerider Spirits’ next offerings will be more bourbons and pre-mixed bourbon cocktails in cans.
In 2019, Vohra says to look for “cool mash-ups of Lonerider Spirits bourbon made with our higher-proof Lonerider Brewing Company beers.”

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