The Romans had a saying: In vino veritas: In wine truth. It’s due for an update. Vodka is much more transparent. The art of distilling vodka is the pursuit of purity. There’s nothing to hide behind.

It makes a pretty good vehicle for a story to tell. And telling a good story is important if you want to get a leg up in the beverage industry. Of 220 million cases of alcohol sold each year in the U.S., 34% is vodka —the most among hard liquors.

So how do you tell a good story? You start with a grain of truth. In JT Meleck’s case: that’s rice. A distillery born on a rice farm in Branch, Louisiana, JT Meleck’s vodka is a genuine Louisiana product, and in that respect it’s one of a kind in a distilling sector dominated by potatoes and rye.

Mike Fruge - what do you with leftover rice? Make vodka

Mike Fruge – what do you with leftover rice? Make vodka

Mike Fruge started JT Meleck to add a new dimension to his family rice and crawfish farm. It’s no gimmick, either. JT Meleck is a premium spirit that doesn’t hide where it comes from. It’s named for Mike’s great great uncle who migrated to Louisiana to start the farm. The distillery is a new part of the business, and Mike still helms crawfish and rice farming operations, too. The label is also working on a rice-distilled whiskey.

When you’ve got a story like Mike’s, you might not need a great storyteller to sell it. But some companies don’t have such a strong sense of who they are and why they are. That’s where Jan Risher comes in.

True story - it's Jan Risher

True story – it’s Jan Risher

Jan Risher is CEO of ShiftKey PR and a columnist for The Advocate. She did her time as a journalist, too, and now teaches a course in memoir writing online. With ShiftKey, Jan puts her nose for a good story to work for her clients, digging into the details to find the kernel of truth that will resonate with consumers.

We’re bombarded with storytelling and spin. Jan’s concept is pretty simple: how do you set your brand apart? Tell the truth.

So there’s your Roman history update: In Vodka and PR Veritas.

Christiaan Mader, Jan Risher, Mike Fruge

Christiaan Mader, Jan Risher, Mike Fruge

Photos by Jill Lafleur. And check out Mike Fruge’s previous appearance on Out to Lunch Acadiana where he talks about crawfish with sugarcane farmer Eddie Lewis.