While visiting the great commonwealth of Virginia, I was lucky to stop by the Catoctin Creek Distilling Company in Purcellville on a whim with my husband and mother-in-law on a beautiful sunny spring afternoon. What a wonderful discovery! Not only does this company have the unique distinction of being the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition, but they also happen to be certified organic and kosher. Located in Northern Virginia wine country just outside of Washington, D.C., the newly-renovated distillery is located in downtown Purcellville in what was a former Buick dealership in days long gone by. It’s a gorgeous space – I would love to host an event or party there (and yes, they rent it out) – and it has been lovingly renovated and restored.
We started our visit with a tasting flight. They have several options, including a flight of their notable spirits – Mosby’s Spirit, Roundstone Rye and Watershed Gin – a brandy flight, and even a cocktail flight. As I’m not a fan of drinking my spirits neat, I chose the cocktail flight, which included my choice of three cocktails from a list of four Catoctin cocktails and three cocktails curated by guest mixologist Alexandra Bookless from The Passenger in Washington, D.C.
I was really impressed by their cocktail menu. In addition to including their organic spirits, they obviously paid attention to all of their cocktail ingredients – from a special tonic (“made by a friend”) to barrel-aged grade A maple syrup to cane sugar. The sunny day outside inspired me to try their spring-iest-sounding cocktails:
- Colonel Langdon, made with Mosby’s Spirit, fresh lemon juice, barrel-aged maple syrup and seltzer
- Front Porch Rocker, made with Mosby’s Spirit, lemongrass-coconut-lime syrup and fresh lemon juice
- Rickey is for Lovers, made with Watershed Gin, fresh lime juice, cardamom bitters, and seltzer
Scott, the owner, was our bartender and guide for the afternoon. We happened to be the only ones in there at the time (it was 3:30pm in the middle of a weekday after all), so we had a great opportunity to pick Scott’s brain about Catoctin Creek’s spirits and the history of the distillery. Scott was a fantastic host and an expert in his field of craft spirits. He mixed up my cocktails and poured the whisky, gin and brandy flights for Jeff & Wendy.
While I loved all three cocktails, the Colonel Langdon was by far my personal favorite. I loved the simple combination of ingredients – just fresh lemon juice and maple syrup with a top-off of seltzer. It’s a perfect drink to bring back to the Berkshires, especially during our current sugar boiling season. Wondering if he might divulge the secret recipe for the drink, Scott surprised me by handing over cards with the recipes on them to take back with us. I can’t wait to try out the recipe at home.
After our leisurely tasting, Scott took us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the distillery’s inner-workings. I had a general idea of how spirit-making worked, but was really impressed at the process Scott and his small team (just his wife and one other employee) went through to create their small-batch spirits, which are all single-grain (no blends here) and single barrel. Close attention is paid at all times, especially during the distillation process while the mash is being boiled, as tastings must take place every 5 minutes. It’s truly a craft and one in which Scott clearly takes great pride. You can see his passion in the fine spirits he creates, and I am thrilled to know that he is working on distributing them in my own commonwealth of Massachusetts. Catoctin Creek’s spirits are currently available in several U.S. states and they also ship nationwide.
Catoctin Creek Distilling Company has been growing quickly. Having launched in 2009, they moved to their new, larger space last August and produced 20,000 bottles of spirits last year alone. Their resourcefulness and community spirit were inspiring. They use the “heads” (a result of an early part of the distilling process) as a cleaning product in their building, and the (alcohol-free) grain leftover from the distilling process is donated to local farmers as a high-fiber cow feed.
We thoroughly enjoyed our tasting and tour and left with a bottle of Mosby’s (my choice), a bottle of Roundstone Rye (Jeff’s choice), as well as a bottle of the Strong Tonic. We’re looking forward to mixing our own Colonel Langdon at home, though we may have to rename it the Colonel Ioka, after the locally made maple syrup we use. If you’re looking for a community-conscious, craft, organic distiller, be sure to check out the spirits from this great Virginia company.