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Distiller's Journal

July 26, 2015

Where the Booze Comes From: A Guide to Philly’s New Distilling Boom

It’s boom time for distilling in Pennsylvania (and New Jersey), and here are nine from the area, and one from Pittsburgh for good measure.


Philadelphia has history in spades, it’s true. And while these streets may be haunted by the ghosts of years past, the present is full of a different kind of spirit.

Craft distilling has come home to Pennsylvania, pre-Prohibition seat to scads of small scale booze producers, and though the temperance movement put a damper on things for a good while, Repeal Day—and new legislation passed in 2011—has finally opened up regulations to get the stills firing afresh. Below you’ll find our favorite distillery pioneers in the Philadelphia area.

Philadelphia Distilling – As with many a fun evening, it was gin that started it all. Specifically Bluecoat Gin, from local distillery pioneer Philadelphia Distilling. That grassy gin, heavy on the botanicals, paved the way for more spirits to follow and now the company line-up includes Vieux Carré absinthe and Penn 1681, a rye vodka. Their latest addition is called The Bay; it’s also vodka, but this one is flavored with black pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, and celery seed. Yep. Just like what you’ll find on your crab fries at that place in South Philly. Bloody Marys, waiting to happen. 12285 McNulty Road, Northeast Philly, 215-671-0346 •

La Colombe - Life is nothing but a series of ups and downs, so it makes sense that coffee maverick La Colombe, long supplying us with the caffeine highs, is now also slowing us down with booze. Try their Different Drum Pennsylvania Rum, distilled from sugar cane and flavored with coffee in their Fishtown factory. 1335 Frankford Avenue, Fishtown, 267-479-1600 •

Naoj & Mot - When we talk craft spirits we almost always mean one of the big three: vodka, gin, or whiskey. But truthfully, each of these results from a relatively similar distilling process, and their flavor differences in the finished product depend heavily on what you do or add to your base spirit after distilling is done. In the case of Joan Verrati, she adds fruit, water, sugar, and sometimes chocolate to make Pollyodd, her line of Italian liqueurs—limoncello, chocolatecello, bananacello, etc.—that she retails from a colorful storefront on East Passyunk Avenue. 1908 East Passyunk Avenue, East Passyunk 19148 • 215-271-1161 •

Rowhouse Spirits - Dean Browne, a longtime brewer at Philadelphia Brewing Company, is carving out a little space for himself on the brewery site and making very small batch spirits under the label Rowhouse. So far, he’s got a gin, a white (unaged) whiskey, and Bear Trap, an herbal liqueur that could upend your after dinner Fernet habit. 2440 Frankford Avenue, Kensington • 267-825-7332 •

New Liberty Distillery- A newcomer on the scene, New Liberty was founded in 2014, releasing a line of blended whiskies under the label “Kinsey,” named for a historic distillery that operated in Philadelphia prior to Prohibition. Though just getting started, the folks at New Liberty, part of the Millstone Spirits group, have big plans for a tasting room and distilling school in their Kensington space at the Crane Arts building. 1431 N. Cadwallader Street, Kensington 19122 • 800-996-0595 •

Dad’s Hat Rye - Spicy and distinctive, like your dad’s aftershave, Dad’s Hat is a straight rye whiskey from Bucks County. Mix up a Manhattan with their standard bearer, or add another complex flavor note by choosing their Double Finish Rye, aged in sweet vermouth barrels from Quady Winery. 924 Canal Street, Bristol, PA 19007 • 215-781-8300 •

Hewn Spirits - Locally-grown grains, ground on a 19th-century grist mill and distilled in a copper pot still? You can’t get much more hand-crafted than New Moon Moonshine, Red Barn Rye, and golden Shipmate Rum, all offerings of the Pipersville, Pennsylvania-based Hewn Spirits. Hewn is the project of Sean Tracy, who restored barns for 25 years and is now experimenting with aging spirits in woods other than the standard American oak. Appletree Lane., Pipersville, PA 18947 • 215-766-7711 •

Subarashii Kudamono - Primarily growers of the most gorgeous Asian pears you’ll see anywhere, this Lehigh Valley fruit producer took home the award for Brandy of the Year at the 2015 Berlin International Spirits Competition for their Asian pear eau de vie, a clear brandy with the intense aroma of their wonderful fruit. They’re set to debut Subarashii Vodka, a 100-proof pear vodka later this year. Subarashii Kudamono • 7200 Suter Road Coopersburg, PA 18036 • 610-282-7588 •

Manatawny Still Works - Started by a group of friends in Pottstown, Manatawny distills J. Potts Whiskey, T. Rutter Rum and Three Bitches Wheat Vodka from the spent barley grains of Sly Fox brewery. Still relative newcomers to the distillery scene, having only begun production in 2014, they’re slowly adding more aged spirits to their line-up. 320 Circle of Progress Drive Suite 104 Pottstown, PA 19464 • 484-624-8271 •

Cooper River Distillers - Camden’s first distillery! Owner James Yoakum got his start as a home brewer, and now makes tall bottles of Petty’s Island Rum, named for the 300-acre island that sits in the Delaware river, smack in between Philadelphia and Camden. Some of it he leaves unadulterated, some he ages to a golden hue in rye whiskey barrels, and some he spices with cinnamon, vanilla, clove, and ginger, before sweetening it slightly with molasses. Also available from the brewery direct are Silver Fox Rye and super small batches of Single Run Whiskeys, which started out as brews by Saint Benjamin Brewing. 34 N. 4th St. Camden, NJ 08102 • 856-295-1273 •

Wigle Whiskey - I see you Pittsburgh. I see you and your first place winning organic rye whiskey. Wigle Whiskey is named for Philip Wigle, a fellow who tussled with a tax collector and inadvertently kicked-off the Whiskey Rebellion. The first distillery in the city of Pittsburgh since prohibition, Wigle is getting a lot of attention these days. Though the family who started Wigle bears no relation to their whiskey-loving pioneer namesake, they raise a glass to his name with every award they take home. Familiarize yourselves, Philadelphia, with these products, for the time for battle may again be nigh. 2401 Smallman St. Pittsburgh, PA 15222 • 412-224-2827 •

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Manatawny Still Works, Pottstown, Pennsylvania

1603 E Passyunk Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19148
p: 267-519-2917

Passyunk Avenue Tasting Room and Craft Spirits Shop
Monday - Thursday (5pm - 11pm)
Friday & Saturday (Noon - 11pm)
Sunday (Noon - 8pm)

Find Us

320 Circle of Progress Drive
Suite 104
Pottstown, PA 19464
p: 484.624.8271

Tasting Room HoursMon - Wed (Walk-in sales only)
Thursday (5 - 9pm)
Friday (3 - 11pm)
Saturday (Noon - 11pm)
Sunday (Noon - 5pm)

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