Friday, 28 January 2011

Catoctin Creek Distillery

a couple of weeks ago, i went with a group of friends to the

"organic spirits from loudoun county, va"
so, now you can get drunk but drink local and organic!

we went because these two decided to get married
lilypea and lil'p want to have fun at their wedding
and they want to be easy on the environment
so they decided to get everything locally
including booze, cigars, a pig for roasting, and all the fixins
(perfect public health wedding feast right?)

they asked a group of their friends if we'd like to check the place out and grab lunch
i now know way more than i should about how to make wiskey

catoctin creek was placed on the map this year by winning a silver medal

it is amazing because they won during their first year of business.
scott and becky decided they were going to chase their dream.
becky is a chemical engineer
scott is a software guy (defense & other gov't contracts)
they both wanted something new
so they invested in some spendy german distilling stuff and started making booze

there is scott teaching us about how whiskey is made
turns out you start by making beer
that thing holds 400 gallons
they make a 400 gallon batch of beer of beer
(he jokes to his brewer friends that they are only doing a 1/3 of the work)
and then at night they add 40 lbs of rye
and then all the yeast and live cultures eat on it
it becomes glue-like and then turns into a porridge
(that apparently doesn't taste very good, but is full of fiber . . . if you need that)
then they put it in these big bins and let the yeast work its magic,
but they get rid of the porridge stuff
(they feed that to their neighbor's cows)

this (the thing i'm looking in) is the distiller
apparently as the stuff heats up 3 different substances separate out
the head (bad and lethal), heart (what ends up being bottled and drunk), and foot (also bad)

he explained that they decided to go with organic because you could smell and taste the pesticides in the head and foot so powerfully it made you want to gag
he said the head smelled like perto-chemicals
and the foot smelled like rotten fish

now the head is this high octane substance that is 90 proof alcohol
they take it and use it to clean all of their stuff
this is part of what makes their distillery organic
they make their own organic cleanser.

and because the foot is so much cleaner now, they use it in compost.

interesting fun fact
catoctin creek is the first distillery in loudoun county since prohibition

this is becky
she is the real "chef" of the distillery
she comes up with the recipes etc
she is the one who quit her job to do this full time
scott still has his day job

because they are a small distillery they control everything by smell and taste
the big distilleries will include more head and foot in the stuff they bottle
but becky and scott decided early on that the most important thing would be quality
so they err on including too much heart in the head and foot
rather than including the bad stuff in the bottles.

in scotland, the distillers aren't allowed to taste or smell the stuff as it is distilling.
some government agent has the key that unlocks the part of the distiller that controls the process
they have to make all of their decisions based on temperature
becky thinks this really limits their ability to make good tasting stuff.

that 400 gallons ends up being 40 gallons.
so the level of concentration of the bad stuff is quite high
if you leave it in, that is

this is how/where the stuff gets put in bottles
they will pay you with pizza and experience if you spend a saturday bottling with them
and they let you sign the bottle

this is whiskey made exactly the same way,
but before they were certified organic,
so they can't sell it as organic

apparently the inspectors who check on their organicness give them a heads up
but the rabbis determine if the drink is kosher will stop by any time

an interesting fact about whiskey v. scotch etc
after prohibition the lumber lobby convinced congress to make a law that
american whiskey could only be made in brand new oak barrels
this meant that distillers had to make lots of barrels
and also created an interesting market of oak barrels from the US to scotland

scotch ages so much longer because it takes at least twice as long to get the oak out.
the whiskey catoctin won for is a "mosby" which means it hasn't been sitting in oak
the only difference between the mosby and the regular is the oak barrel.
the brown of whiskey comes from oak.

catoctin's whiskey only sits for about 45 days.
that is enough to change the color and give it the carmel (oak) taste
apparently about 10 gallons (or was it pounds) of whiskey is absorbed into the wood
this made lil' p think that beer should be made in those barrels . . .

after learning about how whiskey was made
we went to lunch at magnolias at the mill
and the space was really cool!!
if you are in purceville you definitely get a snack here

it was super fun and educational
if you are a whiskey drinker, check this stuff out.
if you can't get it in your area you can order online at schneiders of capitol hill
they can ship it to you.

i have to hand it to scott and becky,
they took some serious risks
(like spending their entire retirement on the distillery)
and they are starting a cool movement of organic spirits and small distilleries

apparently the big distilleries have had quite a hold on the laws of making
spirits since prohibition.
in fact, becky and scott couldn't even experiment before they made their first legal batch
no matter the amount, making a distilled spirit for your own (or anyone else's) consumption
is a federal crime

can you say

seriously, it is crazy how the big companies in america control so much.


lilypea22 said...

What a write-up! Man, this is fascinating and delicious. Can we use some of the photos on our wedding website?

teabelly said...

of course. let me know which ones you want... i have the bigger files on my computer. these are WAY small . ..

Scott said...

Love it! Thanks for visiting, you guys!

Josh said...

what a cool place! one more reason to move to D.C. hope they sell in Georgia.