Brooklyn is still hopping. It was an unseasonably warm Sunday morning in February. We made our way under the East River for brunch and spirit making. There were lines at the restaurants as the weather made it too easy for people to eat. But that didn’t deter us from getting to visit a distillery that was high on our list of NY state distilleries. New York Distilling Company is located near McCarren Park in North Williamsburg. It is an early adopter to the distillery scene in New York state along with Tuthilltown Spirits and a couple of others. At just over 4 years old, it is the third oldest distillery in New York City.
You enter through their bar, the Shanty, a well-decorated spot with a large window overlooking the operations of the distillery. Here we were welcomed by Selma, a whiskey connoisseur, who provided us a sample of their Ragtime Rye which had recently sold out. There was time to wait due to a private tour being led by Allen Katz, co-owner of the distillery with his partner Tom Potter. A sample of rye and a nice cold beer put us in a good frame of mind for our tour which was led by Max, the new bar manager of the Shanty.
The tour started with an overview of the distillery and its products, gin and rye. They only do gin and rye since these are true to New York history, with the creation of the cocktail in New York City. Here are some of the notes from the tour as well as information that was collected through an e-mail exchange with Allen Katz:
- Mash bill of rye – 72% rye, 16% corn & 12% malted barley
- Ingredients sourced from the Pederson Farms near the Finger Lakes area of NY state
- Whiskey production is seasonal – rye harvest is in June and July, and depending on the weather, corn harvest is usually in September
- Rye is distilled in Brooklyn and at their second distillery in Upstate NY which is a facility that is co-owned with Black Dirt Distillery
- Mash tank is heated using a steam jacket and is 3,000 liters
- Two fermentation tanks also 3,000 liters each, fermentation takes between 3-5 days
- The kettle still is 1,000 liters and comes from Germany, manufactured by Christian Carl
- Average still run time: heads – minutes; hearts – depends on what they are distilling and can be several hours (gin can be 6-7 hours); tails – whatever is discarded at the end of the hearts run
- Their goal is to fill 1,000 barrels of rye this year
- Most of the barrels come from an independent stave company in Missouri and they also source some barrels from the Kelvin Cooperage in Kentucky
- Barrels are stored both on site and at a second facility in Upstate NY – this gives them capacity to grow
Max’s expertise, being the bar manager, was describing each product we tasted at the end of the tour. Here is what we tasted:
- Dorothy Parker American Gin – notes of hibiscus and elderberry
- Perry’s Tot Gin – 57% ABV, the historical proof at which gunpowder could still be fired if soaked in spirit, ‘tot’ refers to the British measurement of alcohol
- Chief Gowanus – New Netherland Gin – an old recipe from 1809 of American genievre, unaged rye whiskey distilled with juniper and hops, and then run though a third distillation, 3-6 months aged in an oak barrels
- Rock & Rye – a marriage of young rye whiskey and rock sugar candy, aged 6 months to a year
What makes NY Distilling Company different as well is that it is situated right next door to Engine 229, Tower Ladder 146. So throughout the tour it felt like we were part of the fire station as fire trucks were continually called out for service. Not to mention the large flag hanging above the rafters, it was unmistakably New York City… Overall, it was a great tour and experience. Max and Selma made it for a great afternoon. And, thanks to Selma for letting us sip some of the Ragtime Rye and the secret still of spirit located behind the bar.
Charles’ Notes: I was very much looking forward to getting to Brooklyn. Coming down from Upstate NY and staying in Manhattan is always a tidal wave of energy that hits you when exiting Penn Station. So it was nice to get over to Brooklyn and have a great brunch at the Brazilian restaurant down the street from the distillery, Beco. I highly recommend this little spot. Brought me right back to Brazil. At the distillery, the Shanty was great and the tour was open and informative. It was also nice to be able to communicate with Allen via e-mail afterwards to ask some questions. I look forward to watching their growth and tasting more of their spirits in the future.