"Microdistilleries look like the beginning stages of the microbrewery thing about 20 years ago," Strong says. "And I thought it would be cool to be in on something like this."
Strong's interest in concocting his own spirits began with a former bandmate, who was making moonshine in his garage. But unlike bands, garage operations are never for the public. So Strong attended a conference of the American Distilling Institute, began researching the licensing process and scouted for potential sites in his hometown. The restrictive fire codes for a potential distillery site led him to speak with the city's fire marshal, who recommended the caves because of the intensive sprinkler system.
"That kind of coverage meant that I could have a lot more stuff in progress," Strong says. "And the caves are so bootlegger. I knew our vibe was going to be vintage, and this fit right in."
He ordered a still and mash tun from an artisan still maker in Maine and received his final distilling license in August 2012. S.D. Strong Distilling became the fourth microdistillery in the entire state of Missouri, joining Copper Run in Walnut Shade, Pinckney Bend Distillery in New Haven, and Square One Brewery & Distillery in St. Louis. Strong is just the latest player in a mini regional boom that has seen Dark Horse Distillery, Good Spirits Distilling (the makers of Clear 10 vodka) and Sharkbite Cocktails all launch on the Kansas side in the past five years.
"It's a really clean, really smooth vodka," Strong says. "It's great for sipping, but if you like a vodka and soda, that's fine, too."
The microdistillery doesn't yet offer tours, but Strong may consider it in the future. For now, he's focused on barrel-aging his whiskey, made with rye and malted barley. The whiskey will be aged in 15-gallon barrels, small batches that will be numbered based on the barrel. Strong is also working on perfecting his gin recipe.
"I hope people are excited about what we're doing," Strong says. "We don't only want Parkville to embrace us, we want Kansas City to embrace us."
Strong and his vodka will be at Gomer's Midtown (3838 Broadway) Friday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. for a Meet the Distiller Event.