Roulaison is a very new distillery dialing back to a very old style of rum making.

Rolling for less than a year now, it is a tiny operation tucked away in a location that could not be more central in New Orleans but still feels practically hidden. The most direct path to its door is down an alley separating the adjacent storefronts.

Walk inside and the aroma of molasses cooking away is suffused through the spare industrial space. Here, co-founders Patrick Hernandez and Andrew Lohfeld turn out 90-gallon batches of rum at a time.

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Roulaison Distilling in New Orleans produces rum using pot stills, for a liquor inspired by older styles of island rum.

The spirit goes directly to the bottle, with no aging, but this rum has far more complexity and character than its crystal clear appearance might suggest. It’s a denser, funkier style more aligned with the roots of rum in the colonial age than the baseline flavor of the big modern brands.

“We’re going for a really full-flavored product,” said Hernandez. “It’s a white rum, not a light rum.”

The heart of the operation is a bank of five pot stills – the rustic great-granddaddy to more advanced modern stills. They run on electricity, not wood fires, but otherwise they rely on the same principles that gave rum its punch in the pre-industrial era.

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Roulaison Distilling in New Orleans produces rum using pot stills, for a liquor inspired by older styles of island rum.

It’s a less efficient tool but in their slower processes different flavors can develop, and this is what Roulaison’s makers are after. A sip starts with tropical flavors and a hint of spice, ending with an earthier finish.

Hernandez and Lohfeld saw a void in the market for this type of rum, and in New Orleans – with its proximity to Louisiana cane country – a natural home to develop its potential. 

Roulaison takes its name from the Creole French term for the sugar cane harvest.

“It’s more approachable here, you still have family-run (cane) mills,” said Lohfeld.

Roulaison rum is distributed to stores around the New Orleans area and available at the distillery’s tasting room.

Roulaison Distilling Co.

2727 S. Broad St., 504-517-4786

Wed.-Fri., 3-7 p.m., Sat. 1-7 p.m., free tours Sat. at 3 p.m.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.