Belle Isle crafting plans for future growth

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Behind the distillery's production process.

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Virginia Business Video Virginia Business Video
Behind the distillery's production process.

Watch the video

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Vince Riggi and Brian Marks plan to ramp up production of their
premium moonshine. Photos courtesy Belle Isle Craft Spirits

A Richmond-based distillery is ready to bring moonshine to the masses.

Belle Isle Craft Spirits, the maker of Belle Isle Premium Moonshine, plans to increase production capacity this year from 130,000 to 500,000 bottles. It also expects to expand distribution to all 50 states in the next couple of years.

Belle Isle’s moonshine currently is sold in seven states (including Virginia) and the District of Columbia. The product also is available in China.

 “Moonshine is America’s original clear spirit,” says Vince Riggi, the CEO of Belle Isle who co-founded the company in 2013 with Brian Marks and Alex Wotring. 

Riggi says the three men were attracted to moonshine as an opportunity to “not only provide another tool for the bartender, but also to re-educate people on a spirit that has long been forgotten and kind of relegated as a novelty.”

He says Belle Isle is creating a new category, premium moonshine, positioned between whiskey and vodka. In addition to plain moonshine, Belle Isle offers flavors like “cold brew coffee” and “honey habanero.” A 750-milliliter bottle sells for $25 to $27, depending on the type of moonshine and store location. The company’s target demographic is the vodka drinker more than the whiskey connoisseur.

“A whiskey drinker wants something aged … 5 to 10 years in a barrel … most of the time [a product] with a higher price point,” Riggi says.  “We really pride ourselves in the versatility of the spirit, and that resonates more with the vodka drinker.”

Belle Isle was one of 42 licensed distilleries operating in Virginia as of October, says Amy Ciarametaro, executive director of the Virginia Distillers Association. More than half of those distilleries produced moonshine or white whiskey.

The company plans to continue growth with an injection of new capital. It is currently undergoing a “series B” round of funding, hoping to raise more than $2 million. The company expects to close on that series of funding by February.

That capital would allow Belle Isle to hire more employees and continue to increase production, inventory and marketing.

Marketing is highly important when you’re competing with major brands like Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s, Riggi says.

“We’re trying to take the same real estate, so it’s expensive to get in front of people’s eyeballs,” he says.

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