Being a lover of the booze, I thought it would be fun to go out and explore some of the distilleries that are based in New York City. In a day and age where real estate in New York—and Brooklyn especially—has climbed ridiculously, the face of craftsmanship and industry has changed so much, and it's really remarkable that folks are still producing just about anything here. So it was such a treat for our first field trip to be to the folks at Van Brunt Stillhouse who are actually distilling and aging all of their products in Red Hook, Brooklyn only 3 subway stops from where I live. The waterfront neighborhood housed many distilleries back in the 1800's when it was a maritime hub. Now it's home to artist lofts, housing projects, and light industry.
The distillery, named for one of Red Hook's founding fathers, Cornelius Van Brunt, is probably best known for their line of whiskeys — of which I am a big fan — a malt whiskey, an American whiskey, a bourbon, and the most ridiculously delicious, smooth, and nuanced rye (I'm obsessed). In addition to those, they produce a moonshine, Due North rum, a newly issued grappa on which they collaborated with Brooklyn Winery and Red Hook Winery, and they are just now introducing the first U.S. distilled brand of soju, Tokki Soju.
The four year old company not only produces exclusively in their Brooklyn space, they have a Farm Distillery License which means that they use at minimum 70% New York farmed grain in their whiskies.
We were lucky enough to be shown around on a blustery, snowy morning by Paty Boccato who was generous enough to let us poke around in every corner and take lots of photos. Here's the copper brandy still that they use to distill their spirits. Carl is the name of the Stuttgart, Germany-based manufacturer — they make lots of custom equipment for artisan distillers around the world.
Their whiskies are aged in these 10 gallon barrels, rows and rows of which fill much of their space. Since they are a newer company, the smaller barrels are helpful, because the spirits have more contact with the charrel oak barrels than they would in a typical 55 gallon barrel and so they take on the flavor up to three times as quickly.
Each batch is tasted against the many samples from previous batches, but no batch is purported to be entirely alike, and each of the small batches is labeled with its batch number.
Once ready, the spirits are bottled, 4 bottles at a time with this machine and are hand labeled before being distributed to stores mostly in New York state.
They also have nice little tasting room on-site where you can tour the facility and taste some of the offerings, including some experimental batches they produce. I picked up a nice Smoked Single Malt for my Scotch-loving husband, Willy.
The tasting room offers a nice cocktail menu including cocktails made with the staff's extensive collection of infusions and bitters they're constantly experimenting with. The menu is pretty straightforward; the whiskies themselves are pretty complex, so they like to highlight rather than mask them.
You can pay them a visit as well. Visit the tasting room or schedule a tour. And try the rye, please. But, leave some for me. They won't be bottling another batch 'til next year.
VAN BRUNT STILLHOUSE
6 Bay Street, 1st floor, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Tasting Room is open Thursday & Friday from 4-9pm, Saturday 2-9pm, and Sunday 2-6pm.