If all goes has planned, Charles D. Bradley Jr. will be selling moonshine legally in Hot Springs by March 1.
That’s when Bradley, who goes by “Danny,” and his wife, Mary, hope to have Crystal Ridge Distillery up and running at 455 Broadway, just off West Grand Avenue close to its intersection with Central.
Crystal Ridge will focus on making and selling moonshine — grain alcohol — as well as other spirits like vodka in an educational and family-friendly environment. In addition to the production area and a retail space, the 15,000-SF facility will have a bar and restaurant and a private party space that can accommodate 220-500.
Bradley drew comparisons with Sugarlands Distilling Co. and Ole Smoky Distillery, both popular tourist destinations in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Bradley, a former teacher and coach with a doctorate in animal nutrition from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, says he and his wife are investing $2 million in the project.
Bradley says Arkansas is lagging behind the rest of the country in the number of craft distilleries and the state — and Hot Springs — is ripe for a project of this kind.
The couple, who live in Royal (Garland County), will seek to provide a family-centric experience, one that relates the history of alcohol production in the United States, says Bradley, who allows that he’s not much of a drinker himself.
“I want it to be very family-friendly, very family-focused and put an emphasis on educational tours,” he says. “And talk about how alcohol production began, how did it get to the United States, who brought it here; then how did it get from the East Coast, where most of those people landed with that knowledge, down our riverways to Hot Springs.”
Bradley also plans to educate visitors about Garland County’s history of alcohol production during Prohibition.
“And then the actual production of alcohol is all science,” he says. “It’s chemistry and it’s science and it’s reactions and it’s enzymes,” so he plans to explain the production of his product.
This “moonshine,” of course, is legal and heavily regulated by the government and its main ingredient will be grain and sugar, Bradley says. White River Distillery in Gassville sells moonshine, and Rock Town Distillery in Little Rock sells moonshine it calls Arkansas Lightning.
Bradley thinks his Crystal Ridge Distillery will be a good fit with Hot Springs, which has seen a boom in craft breweries over the last few years, and he’s feeling confident it will be open by March 1, before the spring break tourist crush. “So far we’re right on schedule.”