‘Contraband’ on the Bayou
Lily Lirette began making moonshine along the bank of Bayou Terrebonne to support her family during Prohibition. Legend has it that local revenuers looked the other way because her moonshine was so good.
Now almost 100 years later, her great grandchildren, Noah Lirette, Nick Hebert and Rodney Lirette, are continuing her legacy through Bayou Terrebonne Distillers.
“Our purpose is to preserve a family tradition along with the culture and beauty of the bayou and our community,” Noah said.
The cousins have been putting in a significant amount of time and effort in this passion project since they bought the building, located at 8043 Main St., Houma, in 2017. Built in 1921, the facility needed a lot of fixing up.
“When you look at this building, the entire building has been renovated from top to bottom,” Nick said. “So, all the mechanical, electrical and all the plumbing had to be completely upgraded to support a manufacturing operation.”
The family had to work closely with the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government (TPCG) because it is the first distillery in the parish. There was a lot of red tape they had to go through before they could make their dream a reality. Regardless of the lengthy legal process, the family agreed that all entities involved were supportive.
“The Parish has been great,” Noah said. “Everyone that’s been involved in what we had to do to get the permitting has been extremely helpful.”
The group noted the efforts of Director of Terrebonne Parish Planning and Zoning Department Christopher Pulaski, Main Street Manager Anne Picou, South Central Planning and Development Commission and Houma Travel, among others.
Even though the building has been renovated and the permits are acquired, the trio still has a lot to do daily.
Starting at 5 a.m., they begin the mashing process, which takes 10 to 12 hours. After that process, they strip down the 70 gallons of corn mash into low wines, which is another all-day affair. The low wines are then put into their locally handcrafted finishing still, creating another daylong process to produce the finishing product.
“One reason why our quality of our product is better is because it’s an extremely small batch,” Noah said. “And two, all our whiskeys are made with Louisiana corn.”
“We know what we’re doing; it’s in our blood,” he added. “It’s an authentic product with local ingredients and a lot of labor.”
Currently, they are producing their brands “Contraband,” an unaged white whiskey, and “Good Earth,” a bourbon whiskey aged in barrels. Contraband is named in honor of Lily Lirette, who was making contraband as a moonshiner, and Good Earth is the translation of “Terrebonne” in English.
“We’re trying to live up to the legacy. Family is important; community is important;” Noah said. “So, we feel that we’re doing something good for our family and good for the community.”
By this year’s Mardi Gras, they are planning to open the doors of Bayou Terrebonne Distillers to the public, hosting private and public tours, which will give guests a behind-the-scenes look at the distilling process, educate them on the history of the family and the historic building (formerly a shrimp manufacturing business), let them try samples and teach them how to make different cocktails.
A barrel reservation program is also on the horizon for the business during which; customers will have the opportunity buy their own personalized cask of whiskey.
The family aims to also help with the revitalization of Downtown Houma by bringing in tourists when they open.
“Our entire family is from Terrebonne Parish,” Nick said. “We’re trying to give back to the community that’s given to us.”•