Panache liquor maker to open distillery in New Port Richey

James Dale is the CEO of Panache Beverages. The company has signed an asset purchase agreement to purchase the site of the former Empire Winery and Distillery in New Port Richey.
James Dale is the CEO of Panache Beverages. The company has signed an asset purchase agreement to purchase the site of the former Empire Winery and Distillery in New Port Richey.
Published June 21, 2013

NEW PORT RICHEY — A New York company that manages three brands of liquor is set to open a distillery here.

Panache Beverages will acquire the site of the former Empire Winery and Distillery on Little Road. The 30,000-square-foot distillery was purchased out of foreclosure for $4.4 million.

Records show that Panache's revenues almost doubled between 2011 and 2012 to nearly $3.3 million with losses of almost the same amount, which is not unusual for a company that is expanding. Panache is set to begin production of its own brands of alcohol in the facility by the end of the year. The acquisition will create up to 20 new jobs at the distillery.

We chatted with Panache CEO James Dale to learn about our soon-to-be new neighbors. Here's a shortened version of that exchange.

Can you tell us in layman's terms what Panache does? It sounds like you manage and own three brands of alcohol. What does that entail?

Panache develops spirits brands and then manages the sales and marketing of those brands across the United States and several international markets. Now, as a result of the distillery acquisition, we'll also begin manufacturing our own brands which previously was done by third parties.

How long has Panache been in business?

Panache has been around since 2003 when the company owned the rights to 42 Below in the United States. When that brand was sold to Bacardi in late 2006, we started coming up with ideas for new brands and decided we wanted to own them globally, not just own certain territories. (Records show that Bacardi purchased 42 Below for $91 million.)

How does the acquisition of the distillery impact your business?

Being in control of your own supply is very important in the spirits business . . . it ensures we'll have no issues supplying our customers while we're also controlling our margins. A few years ago Panache became a public company. The distillery provides us with a very strong asset and new revenue streams like bulk spirits and co-packing.

Where is the company based?

Panache is based in New York but has staff throughout the country. Florida has always been an important market for us and I was actually based down in Miami for a number of years.

What made you choose Empire?

We've been looking for a distillery for some time but weren't just going to take anything. Through a lot of networking and digging, we came across this opportunity. Empire was a great value and was purchased out of foreclosure, (but) that alone wouldn't have been enough. The facility is in great shape and (has) most of what we need to start making product there.

Alchemia, one of Panache's brands, is infused vodka. What are your most popular flavors?

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The Wild Cherry is the most popular infusion. It's almost like wine or port — it changes over time. It's my personal favorite among our brands.

Alibi is your whiskey. What makes it unique?

Alibi is simple, smooth whiskey that's easy to drink. We're not overly obsessed with the cocktail culture that's consuming the whiskey category. For us, we'd rather just see people have a shot and a beer.

Wodka is Panache's vodka. What makes it unique?

Panache was really the first to look at vodka differently. We believe vodka can be high quality and low-priced, so consumers shouldn't be fooled into paying more because of fancy marketing. The actual marketing for the brand is based on humor and fun rather than the typical vodka "cool" marketing.

Jacob Call was promoted to president of sales and operations for the distillery. Could you talk a little bit about his duties?

Jacob will be responsible for coordinating the operations of the distillery, along with our COO. Additionally, he'll be responsible for the sales and management of our ancillary businesses like bulk spirits and co-packing.

Is he a new hire or was he already working for Panache? If he's new, where did he work previously?

Jacob is a new hire. He was previously at Florida Distillers.

Are any of Empire's staff staying on?

Panache will bring in a new team of people to manage the distillery.

Are you changing anything about Empire's distillery before it becomes Panache?

For now we'll do minor modifications and then over the course of time will embark on a real industrial expansion.

What kind if impact, if any, will the distillery have on Pasco County and the city of New Port Richey?

The Panache distillery should have a very positive impact on the community. We're excited to be a part of the community and get to know local people and local government.

We'll be adding employment pretty much immediately and with our production, importing and exporting will be providing a strong economic impact to the local area.

Where are your products available for purchase?

You can find Panache products all over the United States and in five countries right now.

What is the price range for the products?

Our products are all affordable, quality products: $11.99 for Wodka Liter, $24.99 Alibi American Whiskey, $22.99 for Alchemia.

Times staff writer Jeff Harrington contributed to this report. Samantha Fuchs can be reached at (727) 869-6235 or