About 20 Slow Food DC members and friends took advantage of a warm spring evening on April 29 to visit Snail of Approval winner Catoctin Creek for an exclusive, hands-on cocktail making class and distillery tour. The first distillery to operate in Loudoun County since Prohibition, Catoctin is making a big name for itself with its award winning craft spirits and community-driven approach. Located in a former car dealership in the heart of Purvellville, VA, our group was warmly welcomed with a cocktail made from Mosby’s Spirit, Catoctin’s version of white whisky.
This refresher prepared us for the distillery tour portion of the evening, during which our kilt-wearing guide Jonathan introduced us to the two stills responsible for producing all of the company’s spirits: Barney and Ron Swanson. Barney apparently gained his purple hue fromdistilling pear brandy and Ron, well, he’s just a whisky-loving type of guy. Committed to producing spirits from locally sourced and organic ingredients, all of Catoctin’s whisky – as well as their gin – is produced using 100% organic rye.
If you’re wondering how gin snuck into a rye whisky producer’s rotation, know that it’s all part of Catoctin’s plan to be a zero waste facility. By redistilling the byproduct of the whisky making process (the “tails,” for you hard-core distillers) with traditional gin botanicals, such as juniper, citrus, and coriander, Catoctin produces a smooth and lovely gin that started from rye mash.
After distillation, Catoctin’s Roundstone whisky is aged for just under two years in new white new oak barrels from Minnesota, lending the spirit a dark caramel color and deep flavor and aroma. Whisky that is not barrel-aged is bottled as Mosby’s Spirit. Sustainability is in practice at this stage as well. Each run through the still produces enough spirit to exactly fill one barrel. Catoctin also readily supplies spent whisky mash to local farms, and sells used whisky barrels to beer distillers.
After the tour, our group sidled up to the horseshoe-shaped bar where our bartender Chad gave a brief and illuminating history of how rye became the grain of choice in early American cocktails. Although early settlers to the area attempted to grow crops they were familiar with at home, rye was one of the few that flourished in the warm, muggy region of Virginia.
Armed with jiggers and cocktail shakers, Chad then guided us through the process of recreating a few of these early American, rye-based cocktails with Catoctin’s signature Roundstone Rye and Watershed Gin. Despite some shaky pouring skills, Catoctin’s expertly crafted spirits helpful guides ensured we couldn’t fail to make some superb cocktails.
The next time you’re in Loudoun County, stop by Catoctin’s welcoming facility for a visit or even better, sign up for one of the distillery’s many events. We’re already looking forward to our next visit!