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Flash flame engulfs Moore distillery

A geyser of alcohol began spewing from a makeshift still Friday at Twister Distillery in Moore before the room erupted in a flash of orange flame, burning distiller Jeff Thurmon.
by Brianna Bailey Modified: June 13, 2014 at 11:25 pm •  Published: June 13, 2014

Twister Distiller recently had invested in a new 9-foot-tall, custom-made copper-lined still that the company had shipped from Texas on a flat-bed truck. The new still was not up and running Friday and the vodka makers were distilling their product with an assemblage of metal pots and tubing, including a re-purposed beer keg. Parts of the still were wrapped in tin foil. The vodka-making setup was hooked to a tank of propane on top of a wooden pallet elevated on the tines of a forklift.

The distiller shipped its first cases of Success Vodka to local liquor stores this week. The company said in interviews before the blast that they had entered the product in national test-tasting competitions and they hoped to eventually have the vodka on store shelves across the country.

Twister and another local distiller, Scissortail Distillery, are both in an industrial park in the 2300 block of N Moore Avenue.

Scissortail Distillery owner Garrett Janko, who operates just a few doors down from Twister, was once a co-owner of Twister Distillery, but sold his stake in the business to Philipose last year and no longer has any involvement with the company.

“That was my distillery — I took care of it since its inception and it’s very painful for me to see someone hurt themselves there,” Janko said.

The city of Moore ordered Janko not to reopen Scissortail until Monday, when inspectors could look through the building, Janko said.

“There’s just some smoke damage and everything smells like burned furniture,” he said.

Twister Distillery has also been ordered not to reopen until further city inspections, Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird said.

Both Twister and Scissortail were operating in Moore legally and had been previously been inspected by city officials, the Moore Fire Department said.

The distilleries are both licensed by the Oklahoma ABLE Commission, which requires the distillers to ensure they meet all local safety and fire codes, ABLE Commission staff said.

Thurmon had recently moved to Oklahoma from the New Orleans area to help Philipose build the Success Vodka brand. He previously worked for the Austin vodka maker Tito’s Handmade Vodka and felt he could make a better product using imported wheat from Italy.