Meet the Distiller Bringing Kentucky Bourbon to Camden, NJ

| © Cooper River Distillers
Kate Morgan

When James Yoakum first had his big idea, more than a handful of people thought he was crazy. Downtown Camden, after all, seemed an unlikely place to build a whiskey distillery. But Yoakum knew the city was ready for a new idea, and his risk paid off. Yoakum started Cooper River Distillers, the first legal distillery in Camden (and the second in the state) since Prohibition.

Yoakum, a Kentucky native, didn’t know much about bourbon, ironically, until after he moved to Philadelphia. “Everyone assumed I knew all about bourbon,” he says. “So at some part I started trying to learn about [it], started really enjoying the drink and its history. Then I started getting more interested in spirits in general—the history, the people, the laws—and I realized I wanted a job where I made something with my hands. It all came together from there.”

Yoakum looked for a location in Camden for two main reasons. First, NJ’s laws are friendlier to distillers than the laws in Pennsylvania, where he was living at the time. Second, he knew that everyone in South Jersey has ties to Camden. “Most other towns are cookie-cutter suburbs,” he says. “Camden is not. ‘Made in Camden’ carries some weight because everyone in the area has some kind of Camden connection.”

Cooper River Distillers does things the old-fashioned way, with a copper alembic pot still made in Spain, direct flame heat, and locally sourced molasses, corn, rye, and barley. They started with rum—one of the quickest spirits to make from still to bottle—and named it “Petty’s Island Rum,” after an island in the Delaware with a reputation as a one-time layover location for passing pirates.
“As we ‘grew up’ and more of our aged products [such as aged rum and bourbon] matured and came out in bottles, the community of local drinkers and bars and liquor stores have embraced the idea of local spirits,” Yoakum says. “We’ve made it easy by making really delicious products.”
The most popular of those products, when it’s available, is the bourbon. Yoakum’s favorite is the Rye Oak Reserve Rum, aged in rye whiskey barrels.

“It’s totally different from anything else out there,” Yoakum says. “Good and unique are hard to get right together, but it’s always what we’re shooting for.”

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.