Rank Wildcat Spirits
Lafayette-based Rank Wildcat is a distillery with a funny name and some serious spirits. It was co-founded in 2012 by company president and distiller David Meaux, a former landman in the oil and gas industry who named his business for an arcane term referring to wells that aren’t sure bets for producing oil. According to Rank Wildcat’s website, “a Lafayette landman attempting to open a rum distillery is about as 'rank wildcat' as it gets!”
But Meaux’s distillery may not be as much of a longshot for success as it seemed back in 2012. With the growth of Louisiana’s beer, wine and liquor industries over the past few years, he was at the virtual forefront of a movement.
Rank Wildcat produces top quality rum made with raw Louisiana sugar that Meaux collects himself. “I go to the mill with barrels and shovels and get it by hand,” he says. His approach sets Rank Wildcat apart from its competitors, who often use blackstrap molasses as a basis for rum. The result of Meaux’s efforts is a French-Caribbean style of white rum called Sweet Crude, which is unlike most others you’ll find on the shelf. “That’s a point of pride,” he says, adding that Rank Wildcat’s mission is to distill rum that tastes as much like the Acadiana sugar from which it’s made.
Sweet Crude’s sister is Black Gold Single Harvest Blend rum, colored and flavored by hand-charred oak staves from whiskey barrels. The process involves pouring rum over the wooden staves, then maturing it for months. The result is a blend that contains vanilla and tobacco flavors, along with the natural smoothness of the raw sugar cane rum.
You can find Rank Wildcat rums at stores, bars and restaurants across the state, as well as at the distillery itself. Meaux invites visitors to get in touch with him directly to set up a tour and see the process from start to finish, and to try complimentary samples of Sweet Crude and Black Gold. Tours are by appointment only and can be arranged through Rank Wildcat’s website.