James River Distillery Wave

Dwight Chew

Head Distiller

Dwight Chew was born, raised, and got his bachelors degree in Maryland. After some time away he landed back on the east coast and soon wound up in Richmond, VA running the James River Distillery.

Dwight's infatuation with putting microbes to work began when he was running an organic farm, where putting beneficial microbes to work in soil and compost tea eventually led to a fascination with fermentation. His work with sauerkraut and yogurt was quickly followed by homebrewed beer and wine, and his passion earned Dwight a production job at the Flying Dog Brewery.

As Head Distiller at James River Distillery, Dwight is excited to build out the distillery itself and looks forward to introducing unique spirits that use non-traditional components and locally grown, organic ingredients.

Matt Brophy

Managing Partner

Matt Brophy fell in love with all things fermented in high school when he brewed his first batch of beer. Realizing his love for the craft Matt pursued his passion for brewing professionally and began his career as an apprentice brewer in New Jersey. He then attended the Siebel Institute learning the scientific nuts and bolts behind the brewing process.

Matt's career continued in Colorado becoming Head Brewer at Great Divide Brewing Co. and in 2003 joining Flying Dog Brewery where he continues to work as Chief Operating Officer and Brewmaster leading his team in the creation of innovative and award winning world class beers. "Brewing and fermentation are an integral part in crafting a quality distilled spirit" Brophy says. "Our Commonwealth Gin combines local agricultural products with elements borrowed from the brewing world to create a distinctive and complex gin."

Kristi Croxton


Kristi was born and raised in Rochester, NY. She came to Richmond in 1995 to attend the University of Richmond. She had no intention in staying in Virginia but quickly fell in love with the charms of the city and has yet to leave. Upon graduation Kristi worked at Genworth and later Empire General in management positions. In 2003 Kristi married Travis Croxton and they had 3 wild and crazy boys together. Kristi stayed at home raising the three boys while Travis went gallivanting across the country peddling his Rappahannock River Oysters.

Kristi has always had a love of good food and good drink and Travis' natural progression from oyster farmer to oyster farmer and restaurateur has only strengthened that love. Kristi's favorite "job" has been to be a sounding board for newly created craft cocktails. She has seen first hand the difference it makes when people truly have a love and passion for what they do. Kristi brings that same passion to the distillery and is excited to work with local farmers and bartenders alike to bring amazing products to the shelves.

Richmond is currently booming in the restaurant and brewery scene and Kristi is very excited to be working with an amazing team of Matt, Dwight and Jonathan to bring a craft distillery to the table...She's also excited for her turn to do the gallivanting.

Jonathan Staples


Jonathan was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. He moved to Washington DC region to work on his first love - politics shortly after college. After spending 12 years in the District, he moved to Frederick, Maryland. He got married in 2000, and continued working on fundraising for charities on a national level.

In 2008, Jonathan became involved in the food and hospitality industry after helping open the nationally acclaimed VOLT in Frederick Maryland. Through that opening, he became acquainted with the Metropolitan region's hospitality industry. He fell in love not only with the chefs, bartenders and purveyors but also with the thought of distilling a local spirit.

After noticing the relationship chefs foster with local farmers to ensure a quality source for the ingredients on their menus, Jonathan decided the same relationship should exist between a distiller and bartenders. And while there is a wide variety of great local beers, Jonathan did not find the same to be true for liquors, so he set out to create a local product that bartenders would be able to feature on their top shelf.

Jonathan purchased a shuttered distillery at an auction in the summer of 2013. Rather than breaking down the parts to reassemble closer to home in Frederick, he realized that his true love was always Richmond and kept the distillery intact on site. James River Distillers, named after Richmond's iconic waterway became federally licensed in 2014. As a part of their mission to use local and organic Virginia agricultural products, Jonathan's farm is currently being developed to supply the ingredients for the distilling process.

Jonathan lives in Frederick, Maryland with his wife Hilda and their 7 children and operates Black Hops Farm in Lucketts, Virginia.

Mike Van Hall


Because our look needed to be as bold and unique as our spirits, we asked artist Mike Van Hall, known for his work in the food and beverage world, to help us formulate a visual language that would capture attention without being trendy or expected. Through assertive use of simple forms and striking colors, the label for our Commonwealth Gin does exactly that while also expressing the feel of our home in Richmond, Virginia.

As we release new products, we will continue to have Mike use our labels as a medium to present unconventional design that matches our uncommon spirits. Check out more of Mike's work here.