After visiting Brooklyn Brewery on my trip to New York, I couldn’t possibly leave the Big Apple without swinging by a distillery. There are a few in New York state but an increasing number are found within the boundaries of the city itself. The oldest of which is Kings County Distillery.
Now, the term “oldest” is slightly misleading, as Kings County has only been distilling since 2010! Yes, just seven short years ago. I think I’ve got shirts older than the distillery (although this more a reflection of my wardrobe than anything else!).
Kings County is located on the site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is easily accessible from Manhattan Island via the subway and a short walk. Or you can walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and reach the distillery in around 45 minutes.
Walking up to the gatehouse of the Navy Yard, it initially feels like you might be entering some sort of industrial facility. But just one step through the door and you’ll be transported back to a cocktail speakeasy, where you can sip on a drink of your choice whilst waiting for your tour to start.
The distillery is housed in the century-old Paymaster Building. Our small group started upstairs in the warehouse, where we were introduced Kings County and the history of distilling in New York. It’s easy to think that Scotland has a monopoly on distilling grains into alcoholic spirits, but New York has a rich – if fraught – association with liquor.
Downstairs is where the real magic happens. Kings County may be located on the other side of the Atlantic, but its heart is truly Scottish. The 80% corn which is used in each batch is American through-and-through, but the remaining 20% is malted barley from Scotland. It has also opted to use Scottish-produced pot stills and batch distilling techniques during the production process, unlike most American distilleries, which use continuous Coffey Stills.
Back in the warehouse, we were introduced to a whole range of casks and finishes, before sampling some of the distillery’s core range (more on this later in the week).
The tour was by no means perfect. I felt rushed round slightly with few opportunities for questions, even though the small size of our group (just five) should have provided plenty of opportunities for a whisky geek like me to really drill down into the detail.
However, it was fantastic to see how the guys at Kings County really are pushing the definition of whiskey to a whole new level – something our distillers in Scotland could learn a lot from.
You can find out more about Kings Country and how to visit over on its website.