Cooper River Distillers is the first legal distillery in Camden, NJ ever! We began producing Petty’s Island Rum in April of 2014, and added Driftwood Dream Spiced Rum, Rye Oak Reserve Aged Rum, and Silver Fox Rye to the lineup in early 2015.
In 2016 we added Single Run Series Whiskey, Copper & Vine Garden State Brandy, and Cooper River Rye Whiskey to our lineup, and in February 2017 we debuted Cooper River Bourbon Whiskey – a delicious, old school, pot-still bourbon distilled from New Jersey-grown corn & rye. All of our spirits are real treats if you can find them!
All of our spirits are hand-made from scratch in downtown Camden, New Jersey and distributed to bars, restaurants, and liquor stores in South Jersey. Check back here often or sign up for our newsletter to stay on top of what’s new with South Jersey’s finest craft spirits!
Our Philosophy – Simple. Honest. Quality.
At Cooper River Distillers we try to adhere to three simple principles in everything we do: Simplicity, Honesty, and Quality.
Simplicity is important to us because distilling fine spirits isn’t rocket science and shouldn’t pretend to be. Distilling is about making spirits that are delicious, unique, and fun. We want to make the best spirits we possibly can, but we don’t have time for gimmicks or extras that don’t add to the flavor or fun of our end products.
Honesty may seem like a strange principle for a craft distillery to hold dear, but being honest about our products is at the heart of everything we do. It only makes sense that if you’re drinking something you should have as much information as you want about exactly what it is. Many distillers allow marketing strategies to determine the information that they share with consumers. We don’t. We put as much honest, detailed information as we can right on our bottles, and we’re always happy to answer any additional questions you might have about how our spirits are made.
Quality is simply the idea that we won’t sell spirits that don’t meet the basic standard of being something that we would really enjoy ourselves. There are plenty of mediocre, uninteresting spirits on the shelves and we don’t want to add to that clutter. If you see a bottle with our name on it you can be sure that what’s inside was made by hand with the greatest care and is simply an honest, high-quality spirit like none other you have had.
Who is Cooper River Distillers?
James Yoakum – I am the founder and chief distiller of Cooper River Distillers. I grew up in the town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which despite being in the Bourbon State was really a tobacco town through-and-through. I moved to Philadelphia for college in 2003 and have lived in the City of Brotherly Love ever since. Living in Philly exposed me to the world of craft beer and I also developed a keen interest in bourbon as a way to connect with my Kentucky roots from far away. While working in the real estate industry post-college I began home-brewing beer and cider and I soon became interested in taking the next step to distilling.
In 2010 I began to seriously think about opening a craft distillery and kicked around numerous ideas for exactly what that would look like. Visiting MB Roland Distillery near my home town showed me what a small, simple distillery could be and I was convinced that I should give it a shot. After a few long years of learning, planning, and slow progress I can finally call myself a real distiller and I couldn’t be happier to be a small part of the local food & beverage scene here in Camden and the greater Philadelphia region.
Aside from distilling I do find time to enjoy a few other things. Perhaps predictably, I really enjoy travelling near and far to explore new food & drink trends – usually accompanied by my wonderful wife Katelyn. I also enjoy being outdoors for hiking, fishing, camping, and biking, and indoors or out I’m a big fan of playing and listening to all sorts of music from country to rap to folk. I’ve also been known to slow down on occasion and enjoy a good book with my buddy Jose the cat snuggled up next to me on the couch.
If you have questions for James reach him at James@CooperRiverDistillers.com
Ben Donia – I am the Assistant Distiller at Cooper River Distillers which means I do everything from cleaning buckets to mashing whiskey to building barrel racks to mixing up a mean Old Fashioned – sometimes all in one day. I grew up in Mount Ephraim, NJ just 5 miles away from the Distillery, and I started distilling at Cooper River during my senior year at Rowan University where I majored in Political Science.
What started out as a cool internship for a 21 year old student has turned into a job that I really enjoy and I’m proud to be a part of the Cooper River Distillers family.
If you have questions for Ben reach him at Donia@CooperRiverDistillers.com
Why We’re in Camden
Almost everyone wants to know why I chose to open a craft distillery in Camden, New Jersey! It really was a carefully considered decision that plays a major part in every aspect of Cooper River Distillers’ business, so I feel that our customers deserve to know why we’re here instead of somewhere else.
Starting any new business is challenging, but in some ways opening a business in Camden is more challenging that it would be in other places – there are up-hill battles to be fought here. However, much of Camden’s ‘bad reputation’ is undeserved or at least over-played. In fact, the negative perception that many people have of Camden is itself often the biggest challenge to overcome. Overall though I felt the benefits of being in Camden outweigh the headaches and make it worth the effort. A few of those benefits are that:
Camden has Character! You can’t deny that compared to some small cities that feel like cookie-cutter recreations of each other, Camden has a unique feel and character all its own. It’s not just a smaller version of its big neighbor Philadelphia, and it’s not quite like other New Jersey cities like Newark or Trenton either. This character makes Camden a more interesting place to do business and lends a sense of authenticity and personality to every business that chooses to operate here. If you don’t have a feel for Camden’s unique character I recommend having a cheesesteak at Donkeys or taking a stroll across the Ben Franklin Bridge on a sunny day – you might just start to get a feel for what makes Camden special.
Camden is Connected! Being in Camden allows for easy access to the entire Delaware Valley region. From the distillery I can take PATCO into Center City Philly to check out the newest hip cocktail bar, or I can drive just a few miles down the turnpike to reach the farm-land of South Jersey where we will be sourcing many of our raw ingredients. It’s the perfect central location not only for making craft spirits but for easily getting them out to the entire region!
Camden has History! Although I haven’t found any record of distilleries operating in Camden, it has been home to big breweries over the years as well as a number of other interesting businesses. The history continues today – Campbell’s Soup is still based in Camden, and other companies in town are involved in pickles, licorice, bananas, and more. Camden’s history of being an industrial city where things are made gives it the look and feel of a manufacturing center, and its reputation for exporting quality products to the broader world is something that Cooper River Distillers intends to add to well into the future.
Camden is a Small Town! I also chose to locate Cooper River Distillers in Camden because at the end of the day it is a small town and I’m a small-town guy operating a small distillery. Being able to access a variety of services within a few blocks of our distillery makes the drudgery of going to the bank or meeting someone for a business lunch just a little more fun. The small town vibe carries through to the people too – Camden residents and business-people are almost always excited to help local businesses in any way they can.