Bickering Brothers in Pierre didn’t always have that name.
After spending plenty of time exploring Europe and attending school at The American University of Rome, Jamie Rounds became captivated by the idea of owning a micro distillery.
Jamie returned to South Dakota and convinced his brother to invest in the business with him and order a Levarian copper still. After Tom invested, he realized that his money was simply a down payment.
“They had to have it shipped over,” explained Dennis Rounds, another brother. “They are fairly complicated pieces of equipment, and the instructions were in German.
After setting up the still, the brothers decided to lobby for an artisan distillery program setup rather than a commercial distillery license because the fee would be smaller. During this time, Dennis says people began calling them the “booze brothers.”
Tom and Jamie continued to debate on business plans, arguing constantly. What type of storefront should they invest in? Should they buy or rent? New or used equipment? Dennis says the arguments never seemed to stop.
Regardless, in 2006 the distillery opened and began operations.
Sip Some Spirits
+ Blended Whiskey
+ Bickering Brothers Brandy
+ Coteau Des Praires Brandy
+ Ringneck Vodka
+ Coyote 100 Light Whiskey
“That first batch of neutral brandy came out wonderfully,” said Dennis. “It tasted like a mild, smooth whiskey, not so much a brandy. People would argue with us, saying,‘That’s not brandy, it’s whiskey.’”
Finally, years after the start up, Tom’s son A.J. interrupted a disagreement, “You guys bicker more than anyone I’ve ever known. You shouldn’t be called the Booze Brothers. You should be called the Bickering Brothers.”
“It just stuck,” said Dennis.
As the website states, they realized that “some things are worth fighting for.”
Bickering Brothers operates out of the first legal distillery in the state, the Rounds’ family-owned Dakota Spirits Distillery, located about a quarter of a mile from the airport in Pierre.
“We use 100% South Dakota wine when we distill it,” explained Dennis. “It’s kind of a surprise because you don’t know what it’s going to turn out like until after it’s aged. Even if you’re consistent with your process, there’s variation.”
Bickering Brothers offers various products including their Blended Whiskey, Bickering Brothers Brandy, and Ringneck Vodka.
During the American Distillery Institute’s 2020 Judging of Craft Spirits contest, Dakota Spirits Distillery won both the “Best of” Category and a gold medal in non-typical whiskey for the 1804 Oat Whiskey. For more information, visit distilling.com.
After the lead distiller makes the products, they’re aged in American Oak barrels for around five to six years, according to Dennis.
Most times, the distillery is run by one or two people. Sometimes the distiller has to call for backup. That’s where Dennis, an engineer by trade, comes in.
“A lot of times, it just takes more than just one person—even with this small distillery—to keep it rolling,” said Dennis.
He comes in to help the process and to help when they hire new employees. And just like when the two previous chief distillers needed a hand, Dennis dropped in when they welcomed the newest one following the COVID-19 shut down.
“[When COVID-19 hit] we pretty much shut down operations then. We shut the tasting room; we quit manufacturing until recently. We hired a new operator, soon-to-be chief distiller, Greg Campbell,” explained Dennis.
Now that they have opened back up, Dakota Spirits will be offering tastings and returning to their typical operations, creating and sharing their craft spirits with the world.