Gentry and Rebecca Lassiter founded their rum-making business in 2015 and opened Lassiter Distilling Co. on First Avenue in downtown Knightdale last fall.
Just months later, their maiden product was recognized in a competition that featured craft spirits from around the world.
Lassiter’s N. Carolina Rum was one of three unaged rums to earn a silver medal during the American Distilling Institute’s annual judging of craft spirits. The honor was announced during the institute’s April 3-6 conference in Baltimore.
“There are a lot of different rum competitions, but I will say this is not a small award,” Gentry Lassiter said. “I think what it shows is our ability to produce a quality spirit, and it shows that we didn’t cut any corners when we made it.”
The silver designation meant the local rum scored between 80 and 89 on a 100-point scale in a blind tasting that considered nose, palate, balance and finish.
Lassiter’s N. Carolina Rum is a white rum made from blackstrap molasses and cane sugar. It is currently the distillery’s only product, though others are on the way.
The product is the result of a lot of research, said Lassiter, whose background is in communications and pharmaceuticals. He said a distillery was a good idea that didn’t require a credential in engineering.
Making the product visible, however, has proved harder than making it taste good.
By North Carolina law, Lassiter can only sell one bottle per customer per year out of the distillery. Also, he is allowed to offer no more than a quarter-ounce sample to customers at the downtown site.
“Beyond that, our ability to market our product and introduce it to folks is very limited,” he said.
Though Lassiter’s N. Carolina Rum can be found in liquor stores across the state, customers won’t see it in the primary rum section. It is instead displayed separately with other products made in North Carolina.
Lassiter supports pending legislation that would loosen some rules for distilleries. Those are Senate Bill 155 and a companion bill in the House. The Senate bill would allow five bottle sales per customer per year and permit consumer tastings.
“That would really help us get in front of more customers and expose them to the product and show them that North Carolina is producing some really nice spirits right now,” Lassiter said. “Spirit production has been a part of North Carolina history for a long time, a part of our heritage, and I think it’s something that North Carolina needs to support and embrace.”