Camden’s First Legal Distillery Cooper River Distillers is the first legal distillery in Camden, NJ. The distillery began producing Petty’s Island Rum in April of 2014, and added Driftwood Dream Spiced Rum, Rye Oak Reserve Aged Rum, and Silver Fox Rye to the lineup in early 2015. In 2016 they added Single Run Series Whiskey, Copper & Vine Garden State Brandy, and Cooper River Rye Whiskey to their lineup, and in February 2017 debuted Cooper River Bourbon Whiskey – a delicious, old school, pot-still bourbon distilled from New Jersey-grown corn & rye. James Yoakum is the founder and chief distiller of Cooper River Distillers. James grew up in the town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which despite being in the Bourbon State was really a tobacco town through-and-through. Yoakum moved to Philadelphia for college in 2003 and has lived in the City of Brotherly Love ever since. “Living in Philly exposed me to the world of craft beer and I also developed a keen interest in bourbon as a way to connect with my Kentucky roots from far away. While working in the real estate industry post-college I began home-brewing beer and cider and I soon became interested in taking the next step to distilling” Said Yoakum. In 2010, Yoakum began to seriously think about opening a craft distillery and kicked around numerous ideas for exactly what that would look like. Visiting MB Roland Distillery near his home town showed him what a small, simple distillery could be and he was convinced that he should give it a shot. After a few long years of learning, planning, and slow progress Yoakum says that he can finally call himself a real distiller and that he couldn’t be happier to be a small part of the local food & beverage scene in Camden and the greater Philadelphia region. When asked why Yoakum chose Camden he shared some great insight into why they decided to make Camden the home of Cooper River Distiller in his own words. “Almost everyone wants to know why I chose to open a craft distillery in Camden, New Jersey! It really was a carefully considered decision that plays a major part in every aspect of Cooper River Distillers’ business, so I feel that our customers deserve to know why we’re here instead of somewhere else. Starting any new business is challenging, but in some ways opening a business in Camden is more challenging that it would be in other places – there are up-hill battles to be fought here. However, much of Camden’s ‘bad reputation’ is undeserved or at least overplayed. In fact, the negative perception that many people have of Camden is itself often the biggest challenge to overcome. Overall though I felt the benefits of being in Camden outweigh the headaches and make it worth the effort. A few of those benefits are that: You can’t deny that compared to some small cities that feel like cookie-cutter recreations of each other, Camden has a unique feel and character all its own. It’s not just a smaller version of its big neighbor Philadelphia, and it’s not quite like other New Jersey cities like Newark or Trenton either. This character makes Camden a more interesting place to do business and lends a sense of authenticity and personality to every business that chooses to operate here. If you don’t have a feel for Camden’s unique character I recommend having a cheesesteak at Donkeys or taking a stroll across the Ben Franklin Bridge on a sunny day – you might just start to get a feel for what makes Camden special. Being in Camden allows for easy access to the entire Delaware Valley region. From the distillery I can take PATCO into Center City Philly to check out the newest hip cocktail bar, or I can drive just a few miles down the turnpike to reach the farm-land of South Jersey where we will be sourcing many of our raw ingredients. It’s the perfect central location not only for making craft spirits but for easily getting them out to the entire region! Although I haven’t found any record of distilleries operating in Camden, it has been home to big breweries over the years as well as a number of other interesting businesses. The history continues today – Campbell’s Soup is still based in Camden, and other companies in town are involved in pickles, licorice, bananas, and more. Camden’s history of being an industrial city where things are made gives it the look and feel of a manufacturing center, and its reputation for exporting quality products to the broader world is something that Cooper River Distillers intends to add to well into the future. I also chose to locate Cooper River Distillers in Camden because at the end of the day it is a small town and I’m a small-town guy operating a small distillery. Being able to access a variety of services within a few blocks of our distillery makes the drudgery of going to the bank or meeting someone for a business lunch just a little more fun. The small town vibe carries through to the people too – Camden residents and business-people are almost always excited to help local businesses in any way they can.” Visit www.cooperriverdistillers.com to learn more.
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