James Michalopoulos, a celebrated New Orleans-based artist, is the founder of Celebration Distillation. Inspired by a Swiss friend who entertained guests with spirits she made with fruit picked from her garden, he decided to use the obvious regional crop to create his own spirits in Louisiana — sugar cane. Flush from a successful European painting tour, he invested in a rum fabrication experiment, and with several musician friends he cobbled together a still in a 9th Ward kitchen.
After two years of distillation and engineering studies and plenty of trial and error, it was time to scale up. They constructed their own unique combination pot and column still, which enabled the crew to create robust flavor and also achieve purity and control over the process. (To this day, the distillers continue to work with this temperamental instrument because of the unique results it produces).
The year 1995 was a banner year for Celebration Distillation and Old New Orleans Rum. An ancient cotton warehouse on Frenchmen Street was purchased and refitted as their new home. Designing and building the equipment as they went, the experiments continued. After what seemed like 1,000 false starts, a fermentation process was found that produced the savor they craved. In 1999, the first white rum was put on the market, and over time it became known as Old New Orleans Crystal. This outstanding Crystal Rum begat Old New Orleans Amber Rum, and from this aged Amber rum came Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum. By the millennium, this band of brigands had become one of the world’s best rum makers, with gold medals to prove it.
The crew at Celebration Distillation has always been composed of artists and musicians, with an engineer or two thrown in for balance. They continue to search for excellence with the eyes of an artist, always committed to a creative process and great quality. Honing their technique and craft with never-ending experimentation, the entire range of Old New Orleans Rums are ever more subtle and sophisticated and witness to the virtuosity of the distillers.