There’s a new spirit in the Richmond area — a spirit of the rum variety.
In the back of their pasta café and shop at 1606 W. Main St., husband-and-wife business partners John and Lolita Kreckman have converted a former office space into a small distillery.
In the 500-square-foot room, John Kreckman installed a column still for making rum. He also acquired bourbon barrels from Virginia whiskey makers for aging the rum.
“I like rum, a lot,” said Kreckman, standing in the room among stacks of sugar bags and barrels. “I like the flavor of rum over some other spirits.”
The operation is now producing about 10 gallons a day of rum, and sometimes gin or grappa, a grape-based brandy.
The rum will soon be available at some Richmond-area ABC stores, Kreckman said. After consulting with some friends, he chose the brand name Trial & Error.
“We do stuff, and if it doesn’t work, we try something else,” he said of the inspiration for the name.
The Kreckmans opened their café and store, Bombolini Pasta, 10 years ago. They make their own pasta and sell wine, craft beer and other specialty products. The new rum-making venture is mostly John’s project.
“That’s his world,” said Lolita, pointing to the distillery area at the back of the store. Pointing to the retail area and the restaurant, she added: “This is my world.”
John Kreckman said he started thinking about making craft beverages about five years ago. At first, he considered beer.
“But I thought the craft beer market was getting oversaturated,” he said. “I was wrong about that. It just keeps growing.”
He settled on making rum because the Richmond area’s burgeoning spirits industry seemed short of that particular spirit.
“If we can make something that is different, everybody can prosper,” he said. “No reason to have eight bourbon producers in town.”
Bombolini has a tasting area and sells bottles of its rum as a licensed distillery store.
It joins other local spirits makers that have opened within the past seven years, such as potato-based vodka maker Cirrus Vodka, premium moonshine maker Belle Isle Moonshine, gin and vodka maker James River Distillery and whiskey maker Reservoir Distillery.
Another local rum maker, Virago Spirits, opened its tasting room at 1727 Rhoadmiller St. in Richmond on Nov. 7.
Founded by brothers Brad, Barton and Barry Haneberg, Virago sells its Four-Port Rum at its own tasting room and by special order through ABC stores around Virginia. It also recently debuted its second product, Ruby Port Cask Finished Rum, which is rum aged for six months in freshly emptied casks of ruby port from Portugal’s Douro Valley. The distillery also is working on gin, sherry and brandy.
“We have been picked up in a lot of bars around town, so we are very happy about that,” said Barry Haneberg.
Statewide, sales at distillery stores during the fiscal year that ended June 30 were $5.8 million, up from $3.8 million in the previous fiscal year. The numbers do not include sales at ABC stores or out-of-state sales.
Virginia now has 61 active, licensed distilleries with 11 licensees pending, according to the Virginia Distillers Association.
“That means we will likely be north of 70 distilleries in the commonwealth at some point in 2019,” said Amy Ciarametaro, executive director of the association.
“Within the spirits sector, what is driving growth is craft and premium spirits,” she said.
In Powhatan County, another husband-and-wife business team, John and Michelle Davenport, opened Three Crosses Distilling Co. in August. The distillery, located in a former farm supply store on Old Buckingham Road, makes bourbon mash whiskey, spiced rum, vodka and moonshine.
“So far so good. We have been really busy,” said Michelle Davenport. “Powhatan has been great to us.”
“We picked Powhatan because its history is steeped in moonshining,” said Davenport, who is originally from Chesterfield County. Her husband is originally from South Carolina.
Three Crosses currently sells its spirits at the distillery and is working on getting them into ABC stores.
“We get our corn from a farmer in Hanover [County] who has land in Powhatan County,” Davenport said. “We use as many local products as we can. The only thing we can’t source locally is our sugar and molasses. It comes from a seventh-generation sugar family in Louisiana.”
Kreckman said he learned to distill mostly by reading and experimenting.
“Basically, while bourbon is made with corn, rum is made with sugar cane or molasses or some sort of sugar product,” he said.
“It is not a complicated process, but it is a patient man’s game,” he said.
It takes a few weeks to distill the rum, then about a year to age it. Aging the rum in bourbon barrels gives the finished product a rich, caramel color and “a strong, more robust flavor,” Kreckman said.