Leopold Bros. reveals plans for expansion, a tasting room and a new spirit
Early last week, when I met with Todd Leopold at Steuben's, he was wearing oatmeal-colored overalls that sniffed of absinthe, which may or may not have been the reason why customers coming in and out of Steuben's stopped to introduce themselves and shake his hand. But Todd, who, in 1999, along with his brother Scott and brother-in-law Jeremy, founded Leopold Bros., one of the world's top craft distilleries, is the kind of guy who shies away from the limelight. "I'm not comfortable with the attention," he admits, as two people in the parking lot recognize him and heap praise on his products.
But he's about to become even more recognizable -- or, at least, his highly sought-after spirits are.
After six years of distilling spirits out of an 8,000-square-foot space located in an office park at 4950 Nome Street, near Northfield at Stapleton, Todd and his world-renowned cohorts are expanding -- big time.
By the spring or summer of next year, they'll have completely moved their operation to a 30,000-square-foot plant on Joliet Street, just four blocks west of their current location. "We're just running out of room," explains Todd, adding that last year, Leopold Bros. distributed more than 20,000 cases of rum, whiskey, vodka, absinthe and liqueurs locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. "We simply can't keep up with the demand, which means we've been really lucky," he adds, noting, too, that "We like that people are recognizing what we're doing and that they're buying our spirits, because, frankly, they're good.
The new plant, which will include seven stills, five more than what he has now, fifteen open fermenters and four times the capacity, sits on four-and-a-half acres of undeveloped land. "There's nothing there but four-and-a-half acres to build on," says Todd, revealing that he'll have a separate rick house for barrel storage, along with some serious landscaping, which is an imperative component, he says, for whiskey fermentation.
"We'll plant columbines, roses, lavender and honeysuckle, which are important to the grounds, because they add flavor notes and complexity to the whiskey over time," he says. The flowers -- mostly food plants -- he continues, will be "right next to the air intake, with the notion that the microscopic amounts of pollen, wild yeast or plant material will fall into the wooden fermenters, and over time, give it character -- give it terroir."