In 2016, Iowa State Representative Rob Taylor and his wife, Dr. Christi Taylor, purchased the old winery across from Lakeside Casino, just east of I-35 on Clay Street. A southern Iowa native, and no strangers to Osceola, the Taylors saw the potential of the site – not just as an event center to serve the local community, but as a national and even international attraction for fans and connoisseurs of fine distilled spirits. So, after over four years as Honey Hill Event Center, on January 23rd the Taylors officially suspended operations to begin remodeling the interior and continue the buildout for the official launch of Revelton Distilling Company.
“Revelton has always been the plan,” said Rob Taylor. “But we knew Osceola needed a solution for an event center that catered to groups of 200-or-less. The Honey Hill location was perfect.”
When their facility re-opens, Revelton will be a state-of-the-art distillery with event capacity to serve groups looking for a unique, personal space including new features like a tasting room, indoor and outdoor event areas, as well as tours of the operations. With the average distillery buildout taking from 18 to 36 months, using the facility as Honey Hill allowed the Taylors to prepare the plan they’d been developing for much of the last decade, find investors, and take the proper steps to assure the business model and the space was perfectly suited for a distillery and event attraction similar to those seen in Kentucky and across the south.
According to a 2018 Forbes.com article, there are an estimated 2,000 distilleries in the US and the numbers continue to grow. The spirits industry is seeing a surge across the country and with an annual travel and tourism take of over a billion dollars, Rob and Christi Taylor and their investors think Iowa and Osceola in particular are perfectly positioned for the business.
While attending Distillers School in Louisville, Kentucky, the Taylors learned that much of the seed corn that bigger distilleries like Four Roses and Wild Turkey use actually comes from Iowa. So, it only seemed natural to bring this opportunity home.
With their familiarity of southern Iowa, and specifically Osceola, they leaned on the old real estate adage claiming the only three things that count when investing in property are “location, location, and location.” The Taylors insist the Osceola location is perfectly suited for a fine spirits production and tourism destination. With Revelton within feet of I-35, carrying over 12,000 cars a day, close proximity to highways 34 and 69, and with Osceola being a main thoroughfare for rail traffic and local air travel, all the logistical pieces fell into place.
Once remodeling is done and the installation of the final tanks and stills – including a column still that towers 33’ into the air, a 250-gallon dedicated Gin still, as well as a 3500 gallon cooker and 4 fermenting tanks – is complete, Revelton will be distilling and selling a wide variety of fine spirits. Immediately, they’ll be offering a Revelton Vodka and a Honey Vodka with honey sourced from The Iowa Honey Company, another local favorite. Then, an “American Style” dry gin, a sweeter mulberry gin, and a barrel-aged gin will be added. They will also have a bourbon crème and an unaged, or “White Whiskey” called Revelton Shine. As an added bonus, those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages can partake of their Revelton Root Beer. Distillation of the Revelton bourbons and whiskeys will start immediately but will require the proper aging in barrels for 18 to 36 months before they can be made available to the public.
Bourbon and whiskey barrels will be aged and stored in warehouses on the property. With Warehouse #1 already completed and plans to add additional warehouses west of the main building, the Taylors look to increase production to 8 barrels distilled per day (one barrel per hour). Once at full capacity, Rob expects to quickly reach the license limits of 100,000 proof gallons annually.
“With production levels at that rate,” said Taylor, “We expect to have Revelton spirits distributed to 11 states and 4 countries within 6 years.”
Local, Osceola, and county leadership have been excited for the developments at Revelton. With potential travel and tourism dollars on the horizon as well as creating another, complimentary destination mark on I-35 for Osceola, ancillary business and community awareness is expected to benefit.
“We’re thrilled Rob and Christi chose to bring their vision back home to Osceola,” said Bill Trickey, Executive Director of the Clarke County Development Corporation. “We can see a lot of benefit to their facility and potential growth for the entire community.”
Once weather permits, the remaining equipment is to be shipped from Kentucky and installed at the Osceola site. The Taylors expect operations to kick off quickly thereafter with the event space and products for tasting and sales to start in early spring.