Kings County Distillery: Moonshine in Brooklyn

You know, I never much fancied myself a bourbon gal.  I’ve always considered myself more a connoisseur of the Sloe Gin Fizz, Tom Collins variety.

I know.  Hey, cut me some slack, I started in the 80s.

Since then, I’ve come to appreciate the Maker’s Marks and the Jim Beam’s of the world.  And I’m not at all high brow about it.  I can sidle up to a shot of Wild Turkey or Rebel Yell with the best of ’em.

So when friends visiting New York City from over the pond suggested a field trip to Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, I was all for it.  In previous years, we’d toured the Brooklyn Brewery, and wine tasted at a local winery, so although I knew that the borough was teaming with fermented delights, I had no idea that there was a whiskey distillery there too.  Moonshine in Brooklyn.  Sounds like a film Woody Allen needs to get to work on this instant.  I can hear the soundtrack already.

Picture this, if you will; on the grounds of the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard, in the old brick Paymaster Building, stand huge copper stills, shiny stainless steel stills fitted with hoses and, in another room, countless aromatic oak barrels filled with aging whiskey.  A walk around back is a thrill to the nasal passages as the sweet smell of the fermenting stuff fills the air, only to grow exponentially as you walk up the stairs and into that cavernous barrel filled expanse.  It’s as pleasing to the eye as it is to the nose, and you are instantly drawn back in time to an age before prohibition.

This, however, is not your Grandpa’s distillery.  Though it is the oldest whiskey distillery in New York, that, of course, is since prohibition, and this business was started up in 2010 in a small 324 square foot space in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn by it’s owners Colin Spoelman and David Haskell.  At the time, it was the smallest whiskey distillery in the country.  As word traveled and business began to thrive, they moved the operation to its current location at the Navy Yard.

What began as a hobby and a passion born out of a New York apartment, turned into an award winning distillery that offers weekly tours of the bourbon inner sanctum hosted by its owners, complete with a tasting at the end.  They’ve even published a book for the urban moonshine enthusiast, whether the goal is to make it, drink it, or both.

Of additional interest, the distillery also grows its own corn and barley on site for use in the distilling process, recycling spent grain as compost and pig feed.  A very green way of addressing a practice that isn’t green at all, but rather, as old as the ages.

Kings County makes its bourbon from organic corn grown in New York State and malted barley from the UK.

It has a very strong sweet base with flavors of vanilla and caramel, a deep molasses taste to the middle notes, and l

eaves a smooth finish with hints of cinnamon and autumn spices. – Kings County Distillery

My personal favorite is the chocolate whiskey.  Chocolate whiskey?  Definitely a surprise.  This made the adult Wonka-esque “factory” tour all the more merry.

Kings County’s Chocolate Whiskey infuses our Moonshine with ground cacao been husks from Mast Brothers Chocolate, whose factory is nearby.  Bitter and surprising, this rich whiskey tastes like dark chocolate and works great in cocktails or on its own as an after-dinner drink.

And it’s true.  Just smelling it is a joy, but when you taste it, the flavor is of the best dark chocolate with an wonderful lingering aftertaste.  It’s wonderful with orange bitters and a slice of orange.

For more information on Kings County Distillery and it’s tours & events, visit their website.

Visit Colin Spoelman and David Haskell’s Distillery website here.


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