Brooklyn is perhaps one of the trendiest places in the world, with people flocking there to soak up culture and history.
A big part of that history that was largely lost for many decades is the art of distilling. Now, many new distilleries are popping up all over Brooklyn in an effort to recapture that history and make some great whiskey.
Brooklyn, an area in New York that was originally founded by the Dutch and called Breukelen, was one of the first places in America to have a working distillery.
Back then, in the mid 1600s, the Dutch settlers who had moved there started to distil a type of Gin called Genever. This was a common drink back in the Netherlands, and is where we get Gin from today.
New York during this time was actually called New Amsterdam but things soon changed when the British took over.
And with the Brits came imports such as Rum and Whiskey. Whiskey was taken on in a big way in the new British colonies, and eventually the Americans who were there already, staged a rebellion, no known as the Whiskey Rebellion.
This was in protest of the high taxes that were being imposed and the rebellion eventually led to the taxes being repelled in 1802.
This is when Whiskey distilleries really began to flourish in Brooklyn.
Small Scale Production
In the early days of distilling in Brooklyn, it was mostly made up of farm distilleries. These small holdings where the 1800s equivalent of craft distilleries today.
They were particularly prevalent in Brooklyn, which, counter to the Brooklyn we know today, was mostly farmland.
Due to their small scale production, when the Whiskey tax was re-introduced in the mid 1800s, as a symptom of the costs of the Civil War, the majority of these distilleries ground to a halt. Coupled with Prohibition being introduced a few decades later, and there were no distilleries left in Brooklyn, or New York.
Reviving the tradition
In true New York spirit, the distilling scene in Brooklyn was not gone for too long. With the creation of Kings County Distillery in 2010, Whiskey making was brought back to Brooklyn.
Since then, many have followed suit and new craft and small scale Whiskey produces have popped up all over Brooklyn. Today there are around 7, where 10 years ago, there were none. This is a really interesting trend, and many of the producers, such as Van Brunt Stillhouse and Kings County Distillery, there is a very specific desire to see Whiskey once again being made in Brooklyn.
Van Brunt Stillhouse is actually named for Cornelius Van Brunt, one of the early Dutch founders of Breukelen, and they are on a mission to “reclaim” the area for distilleries.
There has been a massive increase in interest and consumption of Whiskey all over the world, and especially with craft distilleries. The craft movement has seen a huge uptake in popularity. People these days want to invest in something with a bit of character and a story behind it.
As such, many distilleries, especially in Brooklyn where many have appeared, are now talking to the consumers on a more personal level. Widow Jane, another Brooklyn based distillery, is very specific about where they source their ingredients, and very proud to be able to share this with their consumers.
They are able to connect with audiences in a more personalised way, by inviting consumers to get to know them and to feel like they understand a part of their journey. There is also a passion for great Whiskey at the heart of their story, which connects with customers looking for something a bit different.
The NYC Effect
New York in itself has long been held as a bastion of culture and emerging trends. It is no wonder that the rising popularity of craft Whiskey can be found at the heart of the City that Never Sleeps. With Whiskey itself becoming cooler and more interesting, it is really no wonder that a place like Brooklyn would become the epicentre of the movement.
Kings County, Van Brunt and Widow Jane are all within a few miles of each other, yet each os doing something different.
Van Brunt are reviving traditions that are long gone by creating a Whiskey that is more like the farmhouse style of the early 1800s.
Kings County brought distilling back to New York after a nearly 100 year absence, and Widow Jane know the providence of every ingredient and focus on how that makes them different, even creating their own strain of yeast that will be used for future distillations.
The draw of craft distillers is still rising, and with producers like this at the forefront of the movement, it will be exciting to see what else comes out of Brooklyn.