Distilleries are interesting to us because we are spirit enthusiasts, and the production techniques involved in the distillation of spirits are numerous and fascinating.
But the question that I never would have thought to ask myself is this: how do you get a seven year old excited about making gin?
Allen Katz, one of the founders of the New York Distilling Company (NYDC) and head of product development, was visited by his nephews during the summer. They spent a day at the distillery and got to try their hands at various activities, getting the gin from still to case.
When asked to write a story about his favourite summer activity, Allen’s little nephew wrote a brief but incisive piece titled “My Uncle’s Bar”. One visit to this unique distillery and adjoining bar The Shanty, and you too may be inspired to write a similarly themed essay. I certainly was.
I tagged along with Jack Hubbard, spirit brand consultant and ardent gin enthusiast, on an informal tour of the distillery hosted by Allen Katz. Allen’s passion for his work and encyclopedic knowledge make him an excellent tour guide. A consummate storyteller with a quirky sense of humour – basically the ideal drinking companion – Allen took us through the history of the neighbourhood, the distillery, and distilling in the US. He also gave us sneak peek at his plans for the future. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say this. American Rye, made entirely from New York State grain.
Here are a few things you should know about The NYDC that make it unique in the growing crowd of craft distilleries in the US and globally.
Apart from the malting, the gin is produced start-to-finish in an enviable warehouse space in Brooklyn, next to a historic firehouse and with easy access to a main motorway.
Walking through the distillery feels a bit like time traveling. An enormous American flag hangs in the lofted mezannine area – a space seemingly designed for semi-legal rock’n’roll gigs. The copper pot stills are shiny and clean, in preparation for a new batch this week.
The Shanty, a delightful little bar that is open to the public daily and often features experimental one-off expressions concocted next door, takes full advantage of the building’s original industrial features and has a huge picture window facing into the distillery.
Alan and his partner, Tom Potter of Brooklyn Brewery, produce two kick-ass gins.
Perry’s Tot is classic Navy Strength, which apparently means that your gunpowder can still be used if someone accidentally spills his gin on it. The heat of the high alcohol content is tempered by wildflower honey and citrus notes, which give Perry’s Tot a distinctive flavour profile and a surprisingly soft mouthfeel for an overproof spirit.
They also produce an American gin called Dorothy Parker, after the famously keen and witty observer of New York City life in the early 20th century. Using both traditional and contemporary botanicals, the guys at NYDC have created a beautifully balanced gin that plays well in cocktails without losing its distinctive qualities.
The NYDC use sustainably produced ingredients and you can visit www.nydistilling.com to learn more about the botanicals, ABVs and other nerdy information.
Why should you find your way out to The New York Distilling Company? Because the gins are delicious. Because The Shanty is a beautiful bar with cocktails that will leave you momentary speechless in their unfussy, balanced perfection. Because, if you are very lucky, you might get to chat with Allen, for a minute or an hour, about gin or music or the Slow Food movement, and you’ll never get bored. Because, if you haven’t been to Williamsburg yet, this is a damn good reason to go.