LAFAYETTE, La. — In just a couple of years a Lafayette distillery has started to make a name for itself in the world of spirits.
Wildcat Brothers Distillers is run by Tait Martin and David Meaux. Fraternity brothers who, as life would have it, had gone their separate ways.
"I saw he was going to be a lawyer," says Martin. "And I was going off to grad school."
Tait became a marketing guru in Florida while David practiced law in Acadiana.
But about a decade ago, Meaux got bored. On weekends, he began distilling rum in his garage.
"I've got certain skill sets," says Meaux. "And whenever I discovered that making rum was one of them, I decided that this is it. This is something that does have legs on it."
Meaux became a licensed distiller, found a larger space, and eventually got the company to where it was producing about 1,000 bottles a year for 50 stores or so in Louisiana. But it was make-or-break time, and he knew if the company was really going to make it, he needed some help.
"I came over with David, bought half the distillery and then told my wife, which was the wrong way to do it," laughs Martin. "Unlike Tait, I talked to my wife first, before I quit my day job."
The reunited friends have made it work.
Wildcat Brothers, named for both their willingness to experiment a bit and their fraternity affiliation, has increased its production to almost 20,000 bottles a year and can now be found in 30 states.
"We hand-bottle each bottle, so every time you get a bottle of sweet crude, I put my hands on it," says Wildcats' Andy Montesano. "So, all of our rum is definitely hand-crafted, and it's made with premier ingredients and it's a premier rum."
With sales on the rise and a desire to do more, they've outgrown their industrial garage and needed a new space. And they decided to go 'iconic'.
"We went to the factory one day, we passed Gator Cove, and saw the for sale sign," says Martin. "And it was one of those things where we went, 'Wow, we could really create a place that talks about our rums and really incorporates the good things of Acadiana'."
Tastings, music and events will soon take over Gator Cove, as the Wildcatters embrace their keywords, their buzzwords.
"Conservation, innovation, celebration, moderation," says Meaux. "Those are kind of the four buzzwords that go into the wildcat way. That's the culture and the lifestyle that we're trying to build."
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