Equal parts speakeasy and distillery, Sweet Home Spirits in Leeds, Alabama, is on the rise as one of the state’s latest signature liquor producers. Situated in the heart of the city’s Historic and Entertainment District, the Sweet Home Spirits Tasting Room is introducing the brand’s whiskey, vodka, bourbon, and limoncello to a whole new generation of cocktail enthusiasts. Founders Austin Creel and Carl Baldone can’t wait to pour you a taste of Alabama.
Tell us a little about Sweet Home Spirits and how you got started.
Austin Creel: I was on a trip to Spain in 2017, and when people asked me where I was from, I decided not to say America but rather Alabama. The response I got was amazing. Their faces just lit up. Everyone knows the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Sweet Home Alabama” or has seen the movie Forrest Gump. Every bar I went to, they’d play the song. From there, I started to think about crafting an Alabama whiskey using Alabama ingredients.
What sets you apart?
Austin Creel: We are really grassroots-based and want to keep it that way. We use Alabama corn in our vodka. We use a honey in our moonshine that we source from just down the road.
What was your “aha” moment?
Austin Creel: We launched our House Divided Bourbon in 2021 on Veterans Day—and we immediately sold out. The ABC stores bought everything we had. It blew us away. From there, we knew we had to go all in.
Carl Baldone: A contact in the wine industry told us to customize, be unique, and set ourselves apart. For us, that means we will be doing something we call “Family Barrels.” Customers can custom-blend their own 15-gallon barrels to celebrate life events. For example, a groom and his groomsmen might come in to make a “Bachelor Barrel” that will get tapped at the wedding reception.
Austin Creel: In terms of advice, we actually experimented with Chat GPT and asked, “How does a small distillery compete with a larger brand with a bigger budget?” One of the responses was that you have to include special offerings and differentiate yourself with specialty products. It kind of underscored what we had planned to do with our limoncello and our Campfire Whiskey. We’re also developing new products like our brandies and moonshines, made with local strawberries and honey.
Recipe: Bama Belle
1.5 ounces Sweet Home vodka
0.75 ounces peach nectar
0.75 ounces pineapple juice
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until thoroughly blended. Strain and pour over a glass filled with crushed ice. Enjoy!