In the Spirit

In the Spirit: Cathead Distillery

By: Amber Chase

Cathead Distillery has always been about pushing boundaries and staying true to their vision. As the first legal distillery in the state of Mississippi, the hurdles they faced sowed undeniable grit and determination that would carry them through over ten years of distilling in Jackson, Mississippi. 

TLP sat down with cofounder Richard Patrick to discuss the evolution of their brand, his personal journey into distilling, and how he hopes to propel Cathead’s vision for decades to come.

Richard Patrick right Austin Evans left Credit Andrew Welch
Richard Patrick right Austin Evans left Image courtesy of Andrew Welch

Get to know Cathead Distillery with Cofounder, Richard Patrick

Old Soul Bourbon by Cathead Distillerypoured neat in a glass
Image courtest of Jackie Stofsick

TLP: What sparked your interest in distilling?

Richard Patrick: For me, it all started in my college years with a trip down the winding roads of Highway 1 stopping off at numerous wineries. I became completely obsessed with the innate romance of wine, craft beer, and spirits. 

From there, I began my foray into viticulture, spending some years working with family-owned labels and around three years learning the ropes of importing and manufacturing. 

There was a distinct moment: I was grabbing a coffee with fellow distributors and they asked, “So, what’s next for you?” At that moment, I realized I had been longing to return to something homegrown. 

At a Mississippi blues festival, I met up with Austin Evans, a friend from business school. We’d always felt destined to start a project together, and one late evening, we decided to launch the first legal distillery in the state of Mississippi.

TLP: Setting up the first legal distillery must have come with its share of obstacles. How did you navigate those?

Richard Patrick: You know, Prohibition was repealed in each state a little differently, with the national repeal happening on December 5, 1933 (meaning, this year marks the 90th anniversary). Mississippi was the last state to repeal, and they were focused on consumption, not manufacturing. Agrotourism for a distillery wasn’t a concept that existed in Mississippi at the time, so we had to work with the state quite a bit to get off the ground. 

Rather than taking the route of “act now, ask forgiveness later” we wanted to build and maintain a trust with the state and garner a good reputation. All in all, we’ve had about five state laws adjusted on our behalf, allowing us to advertise, sell retail, host tastings, and shake cocktails on-site. It’s not been an easy feat, but it’s been well worth every effort.

Bristow gin bottles by Cathead Distillery against a floral tree
Image courtesy of Andrew Welch

TLP: Community seems to be a pillar of your business—can you tell us more about the philanthropic side of Cathead Distillery?

Richard Patrick: Cathead Distillery is constantly partnering with events, foundations, and fundraisers to provide products and promote the flourishing of our community. 

During the pandemic, we went from a 20-person staff to more than 100 employees nearly overnight to staff our hand sanitizer production. Many of those staff members were furloughed employees from the restaurant and hospitality industry. Though it was a hard time, it’s one of the times I remember Cathead really pulling together for community goodwill. 

Our biggest philanthropic effort is our foundation, Dreamnote, dedicated to providing music education opportunities across underserved communities in Mississippi. Cathead is directly linked to the foundation by hosting the annual music festival, Cathead Jam, that acts as a primary fundraiser. This year’s lineup included favorites like The Flaming Lips and Shakey Graves

For us, music is in the same vein as food and drink, promoting community to whoever touches it.

TLP: With more than 10 years in business, how have you remained true to your vision? How has it adapted?

Richard Patrick: Starting a business in the 2010 economy meant taking a bet on ourselves. We’ve innovated through the years for sure, but haven’t changed course for trends or growing market demands.

In late 2024, we’re hoping to reopen our community tasting experience and begin having people in our distillery again. We’re also continually seeking out partnerships that align with our values to continue growing Cathead’s vision. This November, we’ll be launching our next Old Soul Bourbon Tintype, which is a collaboration with the Music Maker Foundation and tintype photographer Tim Duffey. Staying true to our vision and partnering with those who share it is our biggest beacon for crafting our future.

Warehouse of Cathead Distillery

TLP: What’s your favorite way to enjoy Cathead spirits?

Richard Patrick: One of my favorite ways to enjoy our spirits is bringing a little Italy into my American cocktail. Our Barrel-Aged Bristow Gin acts as a conduit between a negroni and boulevardier, providing the herbal components of the gin but still inviting that bourbon-like smokiness.

Get the Recipe: Bristow Negroni

Bristow gin and negroni
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