James Michalopoulos is one of New Orleans’ best-known artist ambassadors. The painter began his career depicting the city’s unique sites decades ago, and has since earned international acclaim for his work. Yet in the mid-1990s, Michalopoulos sought success in a totally different realm: Rum making.
Thus Celebration Distillation was born. As the producer of Old New Orleans rum, Michalopoulos’ company emphasizes its ties to Louisiana culture.
The company starts with the Louisiana sugar cane that forms the base of all three Old New Orleans varieties—the Crystal white rum, the Amber dark rum (aged for up to three years in charred whiskey barrels) and the impossible-to-imitate Cajun Spice rum, which contains flavors of cinnamon, cayenne and ginger.
You can try or buy all three of these varieties with a tour of Celebration Distillation’s headquarters, located in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. Drive or take a cab to the distillery, or better yet, catch a ride in the French Quarter using Celebration Distillation’s free shuttle service.
The distillery itself is remarkable, being housed within a 150-year-old cotton warehouse. Unlike other distillery tours that make visitors wait for a tasting, Celebration Distillation starts with one. After having a sip, tour the rum-making facility’s operation. Expert tour guides will take you through the entire process, from making the wash to blending and bottling.
When the tour is finished, be sure to purchase a bottle of Crystal, Amber or Cajun Spice rum. Any of these make a great souvenir from your New Orleans travels.