Whiskey business: Raleigh’s Lonerider Brewing is expanding into bourbon production

Lonerider Brewing Co. is launching Lonerider Spirits, its sister brand of craft liquors.
Lonerider Brewing Co. is launching Lonerider Spirits, its sister brand of craft liquors.

In the early 20th century, the American Wild West began to settle down, domesticate and become more refined.

Similarly, in Lonerider Brewing Co.’s 10th year of existence, one of the established breweries in Raleigh’s craft brewing scene is evolving with the launch of Lonerider Spirits, its sister brand of craft liquors.

“We tried to reimagine what the ‘new west’ would look like,” said Sumit Vohra, CEO of Lonerider Brewing and the chairman of the new distillery.

Lonerider Spirits will release its first offering this September, a 2-year-old sherry cask-finished bourbon, aged and finished in Durham.

Chris Mielke, president of Lonerider Spirits, said the time in the sherry cask rounds out the flavor profile, diminishing the alcoholic burn you get from whiskey. The nose has notes of cinnamon, cloves, candied fruit and toffee. On the tongue it’s sweet, featuring flavors of custard, waffle cone, a deep, rich chocolate, and a peppery, toasted oak finish, he said.

Lonerider Spirits has a been a passion project for for Mielke and Vohra. The two met, appropriately, in a bar, over flights of whiskey.

“I had been trying to figure out how to open a distillery in the Raleigh area,” said Mielke. The two kept in touch, and three years later, their first product is finished.

Lonerider Brewing, which launched in Raleigh in 2009, produces more than 20,000 barrels of beer, including popular Sweet Josie Brown and Shotgun Betty, according to a company news release.

Craft distillation is a relatively young field in the Triangle. While a wider variety of rums, gins and white whiskeys, or moonshines, are produced in the area, only one company is currently (legally) offering a locally fermented and distilled bourbon: Barrister & Brewer produces the farm-to-table Mystic Bourbon Liqueur and the Heart of Mystic bourbon in Durham.

Oaklee Distilling Co., in Wendell, is currently aging a bourbon that they expect to release in the fall of 2019.

Lonerider is hoping to crowdfund some of the expenses through a Kickstarter campaign. If the campaign is successful, donors will receive a variety of Lonerider Spirits swag, depending on their level of contribution. The Kickstarter launched July 16, and is about a third of the way to the $20,000 goal with 18 days remaining.

Mielke and Vohra are also planning a second spirit to hit the market in 2019, but they won’t reveal too much about it yet. For now, they’re focusing on learning from the feedback they get about the bourbon.

“Drink it and tell us what you think about it when it comes out,” Vohra said.

For more on the Kickstarter, go to

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