Kings County Distillery

Joe & Jill Gallagher are a husband-and-wife team of writers, publishing professionals, and bourbon enthusiasts who live in Brooklyn, NY with their puggle, Chief.  Jill writes about books and fashion at her blog, Looks and Books.

The two-story brick building in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard that houses Kings County Distillery is still topped with a sign designating its original occupant, the base’s Paymaster.  The structure’s historic feel is fitting, as it now houses the oldest distillery in New York.  That claim is somewhat spurious, since prohibition-era laws preventing the establishment of distilleries in the city (and the various riots they used to incite) were only overturned in 2009.  But Colin Spoelman and David Haskell, the owners of Kings County, wasted no time in moving Spoelman’s moonshine operation from his apartment into more legal environs as soon as they had the chance, and, having been in continuous operation since 2010, the title of oldest operating distillery is now officially theirs.

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Our tour guide was Spoelman himself, and the tour began earlier than he intended, when he met us at the large locked gate that guards the government facility in which the distillery sits.  After explaining that the gate was locked because it was Sunday, and the distillery doesn’t normally offer tours on Sundays, he did some quick thinking and passed his own ID card through the fence so that each of us could swipe through the turnstile.  It all felt very clandestine and adventurous, like we were doing something illicit.

With blond disheveled curls, drowsy eyes, and a wrinkled, untucked shirt, Spoelman plays the part of Brooklyn-by-way-of-Kentucky whiskey distiller very well.  He is charming, with a wide smile and the tinge of a drawl.  He gave a brief history lesson on whiskey in New York (including the Moonshine Wars.  Look it up.  It’s fascinating.) before leading the group around the back of the distillery, to the room where the magic happens.

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The distillery is spare and rustic, just the kind of aesthetic one would imagine a Brooklyn whiskey distillery to have, with exposed brick and unfinished wood.  Inside, the smell is what you notice first—tangy and sour, it hits you at the back of your throat.  Spoelman pointed out the various stills and explained their functions as we sidestepped barrels full of steaming “mash.”  He went through each step of the process for us as we poked around.  A pair of workers sat at a table to the side, listening to the radio and putting labels on the bottles.

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Upstairs, the barrel room was flooded with sunlight from the tall windows.  Blown up photographs from Hurricane Sandy hung from the ceiling, floating over the rows of barrels.  A black and white cat sauntered up and down the rows, playing sentinel, as another of its feral kind darted out of the open door to the outdoor staircase.  Each barrel had a date, alcohol percentage, and number scrawled in black marker, along with the name of the person who was responsible for loading the barrel.  One barrel, dated 10.27.12, read “Don’t fear the hurricane!” Sandy hit two days later.

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The tour concluded, Spoelman led us to the “tasting room,” a small bar surrounded by simple wooden shelves full of the distinctive Kings County bottles.  Each bottle is small and clear, almost medicinal in appearance.  The space is spartan, clean, nothing ornamental beyond a few black and white vintage photographs.

The distillery makes three varieties of whiskey—moonshine, chocolate, and a traditional bourbon.  We got to try each one.  The moonshine, which Spoelman learned how to make growing up in Kentucky, is sharp, stinging, like the blade of a knife.  The more traditional variety is amber in color and straightforward in flavor—it’s uncomplicated, but solid.  The chocolate variety is a surprise.  Though it seems like a novelty item, cotton-candy flavored vodka this is not.  It’s made by infusing the moonshine with cacao husks from the nearby Mast Brothers Chocolate factory, resulting in a cocoa flavor that’s malty and rich, not sweet or syrupy.  We asked the woman behind the bar if she had any serving suggestions for the chocolate whiskey (we have a bottle at home that we’ve been a little stumped about), and she said her favorite way to drink it is in a milkshake—blended with almond milk and ice.  We’re also looking forward to trying it in our hot chocolate (or coffee?) throughout the winter.

December 9, 2013 | Comments | Permalink |

Tags: whiskey bourbon guest post kings county distillery tours 

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Here are some outtakes from our numerous blog photoshoots.

Happy weekending!

(Source: therewillbebourbon.net)

July 13, 2012 | Comments | Permalink |

Tags: weekending cocktail whiskey bourbon rye FEW Spirits Kings County Distillery Woodford Reserve Johnny Drum Sazerac old fashioned Montana 

17 notes

Kings County Distillery Bourbon

We recently got our hands on bourbon from Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, though it wasn’t easy. It seems that Kings County liquor is available primarily in New York. Lucky for us, we have some good friends who live in Brooklyn who were willing to deliver a bottle for us on their recent trip to our neck of New England. (Unlucky for us, New York has stolen a number of our good friends in recent years. At least we have the interwebs to keep us within sorta reach: read Andrew Ladd’s blog Plethoric Pundigrions because he’s a good wordsmither. We also got some help from Kim Liao, who is also good at writing words.) Anyhoo, ON TO THE BOURBON!

Like most other small distilleries, Kings County ages their bourbon for less than four years in smaller barrels to accelerate the aging process. Kings County’s has a light gold-honey color that suggests a mostly corn-based mash, with barley also in there. (For more specifics on how Kings County makes their bourbon, check out this behind-the-scenes tour by Serious Eats.) Its scent is very very sweet, probably more than its taste. Because of how it smelled, we expected this bourbon to hit us with sweetness when we drank it, but it’s actually a lot more subtle. We found Kings County bourbon to be very balanced, with no combating flavors. That can also be a fault, in that there’s no standout flavor. It does make for an easy to drink and enjoyable bourbon. The biggest drawback is the price; at $25 for a 200ml bottle, Kings County bourbon is fairly expensive for what is a decent bourbon. We understand that smaller distilleries have to charge a little more to survive, though. There’s also something nice about the 200ml bottle. We imagine it’s not uncommon for people to stop into a liquor store, buy a bottle, throw it in their coat pocket, and head out to get their party rock on.

This is Jack Meower (Andrew and his fiancée Mallory’s cat), protecting our Kings County bourbon.

March 6, 2012 | Comments | Permalink |

Tags: bourbon whiskey Kings County Distillery reviews 

8 notes

rozanes:

ReCraft Your Taste:
Kings County Distillery
It appears the days of Prohibition are making a comeback, not necessarily in the ban and outlawing of liquor rather, it seems the U.S. has become nostalgic of the drinks from the era.  as the only distillery in New York since the days of prohibition, Kings County Distillery is looking to revive the spirit of the Roaring Twenties by reintroducing the fuel that fed the fire.  unlike days from years passed, you can purchase the concoctions legally and above ground from select retailers in New York or online from Astor Wines & Spirits..

rozanes:

ReCraft Your Taste:

Kings County Distillery

It appears the days of Prohibition are making a comeback, not necessarily in the ban and outlawing of liquor rather, it seems the U.S. has become nostalgic of the drinks from the era.  as the only distillery in New York since the days of prohibition, Kings County Distillery is looking to revive the spirit of the Roaring Twenties by reintroducing the fuel that fed the fire.  unlike days from years passed, you can purchase the concoctions legally and above ground from select retailers in New York or online from Astor Wines & Spirits..

(Source: kingscountydistillery.com, via rozanes-deactivated20120207)

June 13, 2011 | Comments | Permalink |

Tags: whiskey bourbon Kings County Distillery 

7 notes