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Monday, July 27, 2015

Beth Donner: Dame of Distilling

How did Beth Donner get the idea to start a Louisiana distillery?

“It was just that. It was just an idea," she said.

Beth, her husband Tom, and their business partners Henry and Jennifer Peltier, started Donner-Peltier Distillery in 2011.

Co-founder, Co-Owner, and President of Donner-Peltier Distillery in Thibodaux, Louisiana Photo courtesy of the Donner-Peltier Distillery
Co-founder, Co-Owner, and President of Donner-Peltier Distillery in Thibodaux, Louisiana
Photo courtesy of the Donner-Peltier Distillery

After toying with the idea of opening a Louisiana rum distillery, they realized it had to be big. While there are only a handful of distilleries in the state, Louisiana residents aren’t new to libations, so they knew they needed to stand out.

The Donner-Peltier Distillery takes a unique approach to their product mix. Not only do they produce three different types of rum made from Louisiana sugarcane (and one with Louisiana pecans), they also churn out gin, vodka, and the first aged whiskey to be made in Louisiana since Prohibition using Louisiana rice.

Being “farm to bottle” is what differentiates Donner-Peltier from other spirits on the market.

It’s an interesting quadrangle of owners.

Jennifer Peltier is a nurse and works at the pediatric clinic with her husband, Henry, a pediatrician. Tom Donner is a practicing neurosurgeon, and Beth has her BA in International Trade and Finance from LSU, and an MBA from FSU (but we’ll forgive her for that).

Beth's background in business made made her the obvious choice to be President of Donner-Peltier Distillers.

As President, Beth handles a lot of the day-to-day duties of running a business, including accounting, financials, and managing staff; but marketing, creative collaborations, and branding falls on her shoulders as well.

“It’s the kind of job I’ve always wanted to do,” Beth explained, “but it’s been hard.”

Beth said there have been a number of times when felt she had to take a backseat when meeting with bars and distributors.

“It’s a male dominant industry, you know?" she said. "It is what it is."

For Beth, it's less about bar accounts knowing she's the boss and more about them pouring Donner-Peltier products.

Like a true woman in charge, she said her focus is on the company, getting their signature brand, LA1 Whiskey, established, and enjoying her favorite Oryza Vodka martini after a long day’s work.

Although her husband is a brain surgeon, Beth acts as the brains of the operation at the Donner-Peltier Distillery where she’s happy to be bringing the sweet nectar of south Louisiana to glasses all over the state in a way that supports and sustains the local economy.

This post is part of a monthly series spotlighting Louisiana women in the business of booze. Previous features include: