Tara Cook of Tall Pines Distillery near Pineville hopes to see her new business grow in 2021 after a difficult 2020.
The distillery opened Jan. 24, 2020, and was only open eight weekends when the covid-19 pandemic hit, Cook said. It was difficult to make tours and tastings work when only 10 people were allowed in the building at the same time. Then the business got the opportunity to make sanitizer.
"We were thankful we had equipment that could make alcohol because we would have been shut down," she said.
All McDonald County cities got sanitizer, as well as Freeman and Mercy and some nursing homes.
During the summer, the distillery had some social distancing events with outdoor music and food trucks behind the facility around the patio.
Cook shared how the business got started.
Her father is from Salisbury, Penn. She and her husband, Joe, who owns the distillery along with her, visited a distillery in Salisbury that opened in 2014. They got to know the owners and loved their products, and they decided they should create something like it. They called the owners and asked them if they could have the rights to their recipes, and they agreed. The name of the distillery in Salisbury is Tall Pines. Originally, the Cooks had considered naming their distillery Tall Oaks to distinguish it from the one in Salisbury, however, since it is located right outside of Pineville, the name was too perfect. So the one in Salisbury is Tall Pines LLC, and the one in Pineville is Tall Pines MO. They built the building on farmland that had been in the family for 47 years.
She explained their plan also includes creating some whiskeys and bourbons that will be their own exclusive products, and those will be under a brand called Lone Pine.
She said everything is "grain to glass," which means it is all made from scratch on-site. They have brandies, corn liquors and some bourbon-style liquors. They have 14 different flavors, some of which are seasonal.
"It takes seven to 10 days to ferment, and then we hand strain all the grains from our mash, and then we put it in the stills," she said. From that time it takes 10 to 12 hours, and they only bottle the hearts, which is the purest part of the distillation process, she said.
"That means we get less alcohol to finish, but it has better quality and flavor," she said.
They add all-natural ingredients. They hand-bottle, hand-cork and seal and label and write the batch number and date on each bottle. At this point, they only sell their products out of the building and do not distribute them.
This year Cook plans to launch some whiskeys. She also plans to invest in some bourbon at some point.
"Bourbon has to go in a brand new American oak barrel for a minimum of two years, so that's a huge investment because you can't do one and wait two years and do another one," she said.
Whiskeys do not require that long aging time, so they should be available later in 2021.
Cook said she purchases local products as often as she can. For peach brandy, she purchased 500 pounds of peaches from Vanzant Fruit Farm in Arkansas. She noted she considers local to be anything within 100 miles. She gets all her sugar from Missouri Sugars in Neosho. She purchases glass bottles from Piramal Glass in Missouri. Her apparel and signage come from Fourstate Printing in Anderson. Shirley "Sam" Alps of Pineville made bows for her gift bags for the holidays.
"If local businesses help local, then the community thrives," Cook said.
She noted, "Our goal is to, hopefully, in five years, Joe and I can only do this and not have outside jobs as well. It's a legacy for our kids. Hopefully, some of them will have an interest in it and keep it going."
She works for Valvoline, and Joe has a trenching business. The distillery's normal business hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday.
"We have awesome customers," she said, adding they have a couple of weddings scheduled for this year. The establishment has an event center as well as its patio. They have also had birthday parties, showers and corporate parties, she said.
"I think it's going to grow," Cook concluded. "This year (2020) has just been tough."
Tall Pines Distillery is located on Goodin Hollow Road half a mile from H Highway near Pineville.