I have decided to visit the Kings County Distillery located in Brooklyn Navy Yards (299 Sands Street). Kings County Distillery is New York City’s oldest operating whiskey distillery which was founded in 2010. They have been making handmade moonshine, bourbon, and other whiskeys since after prohibition (http://kingscountydistillery.com).
They offer tours and tastings Tuesday through Sunday afternoons from 3pm – 5pm that can last 45 minutes through an hour. However, their tasting room is open every day which offers all the whiskey and moonshine they make and a few bar snacks. The tours costs $15 and you can conveniently book them online, the tour already gives you admission to their “Boozeum” which is a small mini museum they put in a room that gives information about whiskey prohibition, its’s history and culture. I was lucky enough to meet Colin Spoelman, one of the co-founders of Kings County distillery which started the business in his home as a hobby being a micro distiller. He walked me into a guide with a tour group and it was a pretty amazing experience. I can see the passion this person puts into his craft.
The main distillery floor is where all the whiskey is made. The main ingredient would be a grain and their main product is bourbon. To be called bourbon, it has to be 51% by law and Kings County’s bourbon is made from 70% corn. They get their organic corn from a farm in upstate New York. Their corn is milled with a roller mill instead of the traditional hammer mill which would mean that they have to cook their corn a little longer but imparts better flavor. They also use malted barley, which their recipe calls for a high malt percentage and they only use corn and malted barley. They have made a rye whiskey in the past and also single malt.
The whiskey making process starts with the cooker which holds 250 gallons of water, 300 pounds of corn and 55 pounds of malt. The water and corn mixture is brought to a boil, steeped for an hour, brought down to a lower temperature and then added with the malt. It is pumped through a separator which separates the liquid and the spent grain. The liquid gets pumped into a fermenter which will then get sprinkled with yeast. They are using open fermenters so that they can do large volumes without cooling it down and exposes the fermentation into wild yeast which can help expedite fermentation.
The process then proceeds to the distillation process where two copper stills do double distillation which imparts a rich textural flavor. One still cooks the fermented liquid, turns it to steam then travel into a condenser and then comes out whiskey. It is then filled into a barrel which could be a charred new oak barrel if they are making bourbon (written in the law). However, varying sizes of barrel can mean how long they can age the whiskey which means the larger the barrel, the longer they can age the whiskey. It takes years for whiskey to age so they are trying to fill a lot of barrels to be put into inventory for the future
The tour ended with some tasting of the whiskeys they carry. This also gave us a bit of a background how the pricing for the product is made and some pairing recommendations. I was able to try this chocolate whisky which was also suggested to be used in baking purposes. Overall, I have enjoyed my visit and even purchased a bottled moonshine for $20 as a souvenir.
Ocejo, R. E. (2017). Masters of craft: old jobs in the new urban economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
The Whiskey Guy. Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn. Youtube. retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6g8WWdqF9M
Kings County Distillery. Products. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2017, from http://kingscountydistillery.com/products/