Kings County Distillery – Bringing back NYC’s whiskey tradition

The history of alcohol distillation in New York City has a very long and complicated history, dating back as far as the first Dutch settlers that founded the land which we now call Manhattan.  Before Prohibition, New York City had a vibrant and unique distillery culture but over the past 100 years this has been virtually nonexistent except for the rare individual who set up their own illegal operation.  The old laws of the past have started to loosen up to the point that alcohol distilleries were allowed to open up shop within the confines of New York City.  While technically the oldest running distillery in New York City (having legally been allowed to distill since 2010 it is only about 4 years old), Kings County Distillery has been redefining the lost art of making a fine alcohol and is doing its part to bring New York City back as a hub for amazing liquor.

The reason to visit Kings County is the whiskey tour which is made even more exciting given the historic location that the distillery now resides.  Kings County can be found in the old naval yards in Brooklyn just north of the Manhattan bridge.  The distillery is located in an old naval paymasters building which is around 100 years old and gives Kings County and extra bit of mystique.  The tour includes a brief history of distillation in the New York City area then melds into the history of Kings County and how it got started.  You then move on to a very large room that contains the equipment where the distillation actually takes place.  Then you visit the barrel room where the bourbon and experimental whiskies are aged.. which is a really amazingly large room filled wall to wall with barrels of fine alcohol.  The last piece of the tour is the tasting.  All included it’s a wonderful experience made all the better knowing the end includes a little bit of hooch.

The great thing about going on a tour of a distillery is not only the history and information that you get to digest but the alcohol that you get to consume.  The tour ends with a sampling of the Kings County Distillery’s three main alcohol offerings… a moonshine, chocolate whiskey, and an aged bourbon.  Having never experienced a moonshine before, the strong flavor was surprising but not as bad as one would imagine moonshine to be (which is essentially un-aged straight alcohol).  The bourbon on the other hand was a 2 year old aged in small barrels and was really well balanced and flavorful.  Having only just gotten into whiskey/bourbon, Kings County’s version did not disappoint.  Finally was the chocolate whiskey which was something unlike I have ever had before, tasting a lot like Cafe Patron and less like whiskey, it had a really smooth and sweet finish. The tour in its entirety only costs $8, which for a 45 minute history lesson told by a very articulate and knowledgeable tour guide and a alcohol tasting at the end made it definitely worth the price of admission.

The tours are only on Saturday’s after 2:30PM and therefore slightly limied but you will find the tours are normally small between 5-20 people.  It is a trip I would highly recommend taking for anyone interested in whiskey, the history of whiskey, or just those looking for something new to do on a Saturday afternoon.  

New Yorker Tip: The distillery is easily accessible by either the 2/3 or F trains right over the Brooklyn Bridge.  If you have some extra time walk along the water between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge for some amazing views of the city.