‘Goofing off’ turns into distillery business

SAN LEON — Any successful business started off as just a good idea. For Kelly Railean, business success was born because of a bad drink.

"We were goofing off at the Buccaneer Bar in San Leon and having drinks when I had some rum and said I could make better rum than that," Railean said.

She did just that, opening Railean Distillery in San Leon in 2007. Railean didn't come about to making rum as a total novice; she spent a decade as a sales representative in the wine industry.

It was after taking up sailing and traveling to distilleries throughout the Caribbean that Railean "caught the rum bug."

Now, she's the maker of the only certified American-made rum in the country.

Really, the rum making started out just for fun. Her husband is a chemical engineer, so he designed the distillery and she handled the blending and tasting.

They actually started out in 2005, but state alcohol regulations delayed things for two years.

What started as a local favorite has grown.

"You can find us in most of the major (liquor) chains in Texas," Railean said. "We're in Spec's and a lot of independent liquor stores — bars and restaurants, too."

The products are sold in Texas, California and Arkansas, Railean said.

The bars and restaurants have taken hold of the Texas-made rum, as well as the other spirits made by Railean, "because they want to have Texas wines and beers and now Texas-spirits," she said.

The secret to the rum is that it's made with Grade A molasses and stores in new American oak barrels. The Reserve XO rum is aged in double-charred oak barrels.

It earned its Made in America certified status because most of the ingredients come from the U.S. and it meets specific quality controls in place.

In the five years since opening the distillery at Eagle Point in San Leon, Railean expended the business to make a blue agave spirit called El Perico — Spanish for parakeet.

San Leon is famous for its population of wild parakeets.

"We can't call it tequila because it has to come from a specific region of Mexico to be called that," Railean said.

It's the rum Railean is known for. The distillery makes a couple thousand cases of the rum annually, she said. Already, she's looking at expanding her building to make more spirits.

"We have the capacity to make 10,000 cases per year, but we're hoping to double that capacity in a few years," she said.

The company's distillery has also become a tourist attraction.

The owner herself gives the private tours, which are available by appointment only. Railean also hosts team-building meetings on site as well.

"I'm the taster, blender, bottler and tour guide, bottle washer and janitor all in one," she said.

While state laws forbid the sale of the rums or blue agave spirits to be served on site, Railean said there's a liquor store down the street that sells the brand.

Galveston Daily News.

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