Steve Carter grew up calling his grandfather Bert. It wasn’t until his grandfather retired and moved to Florida years later that Carter realized that wasn’t his grandfather’s actual name.
“People kept calling him Sammy,” said Carter, noting his grandfather was named Samuel Berton. When Carter pursued opening his own distillery, he named it after him.
The Samuel Berton Distillery, located at 108 Front St. in Labadie, has been around for about a year now.
“It was a good first year,” said Carter. “It keeps getting better.”
Carter partners with Point Labaddie, a microbrewery, to cook the mash. After four days of fermenting, the alcohol goes through a daylong distilling process, which is done in-house in a 150-gallon copper still.
Then, some of the alcohol Carter produces spends the next four years in a barrel.
Carter uses white oak barrels from Cuba, Mo. He puts the alcohol through a single-barrel process, which he said keeps things interesting.
“It’s a different experience every time you hit a new barrel,” he said.
The alcohol is bottled in-house into bottles that are produced in Park Hill.
“We try to keep everything local,” Carter said.
The distillery produces a 10x vodka, bacon vodka, gin, barrel-aged gin, bourbon, rye whiskey, rose hip liqueur, honey liqueur and coffee liqueur.
Carter’s products are featured in about 60 bars and restaurants, and more than 20 liquor stores in Kansas City, Columbia, Springfield, Joplin and St. Louis.
The price for the products range from $24 to $36, and are available in 375- and 750-milliliter bottles.
Carter hosts tastings, bottle sales and tours at the distillery. He also hosts private events, but does not sell drinks. The $5 tastings include a shot glass and a tasting of all nine products.
With the holidays right around the corner, gift boxes are available at the distillery. The boxes are customizable, but there are some pre-made boxes as well.
The gift boxes range from $50 to $75 and can be picked up in the store. Carter said they’ve sold quite a few already.
He has seven part-time employees who help with sales and events. His right-hand worker is Christina Svetz, who is in charge of sales and managing events.
Carter said he’s hoping to add his first full-time employee soon.
The tasting room is open Fridays from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Saturdays, 1:30 to 8 p.m., and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m., but sometimes Carter will open it midday during the week if he is there.
Carter’s goal with the distillery is to maintain a sense of community.
“If we aren’t having fun or enjoying ourselves, we’ve missed the mark,” he said.
Carter grew up on a farm in Illinois. He attended Southern Illinois University where he received his mechanical and electrical engineering degree.
He then spent 13 years building food plants, 15 years in chemical engineering and five years in pharma engineering.
Making alcohol was a hobby for a long time, he said. It was one of four things he thought would be fun to do after retiring.
“I wanted to do something interesting,” he said. “This is what retirement ought to look like.”
When he found the spot in Labadie, everything seemed to line up perfectly. The building was even already zoned for a distillery.
“The stars aligned,” he said.
With his background in engineering, making spirits was a “no-brainer.” It’s the marketing side that he relies heavily on Svetz.
“The events are key to making the business unique,” he said. “We try to present ourselves as best as we can.”
The distillery has been featured at farmers’ markets and local festivals.
Carter and his team use the Samuel Berton Distilling Facebook page to post about upcoming events. The distillery also is on Instagram.
For more information, visit the website at sbdistilling.net.