(In which our narrator continues her tale of a visit to New York City.)
One of the more interesting places we visited in New York was the Breuckelen Distilling Company, located in and pronounced like the famous borough. In the midst of city-battered warehouses, under the roar of the expressway, you can catch the rustic smell of fermenting grain and yeast, which provides a little preliminary cognitive dissonance to prepare you for what you’ll find inside.
Breuckelen is staffed and operated by four intrepid souls who are, admittedly, learning the distilling business as they go. Despite their sleekly designed, club-ready product, the whole operation has the charming nonchalance you might feel if your homebrewer friend got laid off and turned his hobby into a profitable business – which is apropos, since that’s more or less how Breuckelen was started.
They produce a gin, a whiskey, a neutral grain spirit, and a barrel-aged gin. Let me repeat that last one: barrel-aged gin. It’s gin. From a barrel. It’s brown. And it’s gin.
And it’s really good.
The regular gin is a fine example of it’s breed: not too heavy on the juniper, a little rosemary and citrus thrown in for brightness. It’s lovely. The whiskey is also okay, but I’m partial to Bourbon. Left in the barrel for a time measured in months rather than years, Breuckelen’s whiskey was described by a fellow whiskey snob as being so young it was “like statutory rape”. Ahem.
Assuming you’re smart enough to know what to expect from a pure grain spirit (it tastes of naught but alcohol, and you’re meant to steep things in it to flavor it), let’s move on to their star, the aged gin. It’s at once simple and difficult to describe. Really, it does what it says on the tin. Gin. Aged. Full stop. But it’s a bit tricky to wrap your mind around those two descriptors unless you can taste it.
It is unquestionably gin, but with caramel and honey notes that play quite well with the various aromatics and the wheat. The flavor is well-balanced, which I’m guessing is due in part to a short aging period; it seems like much aging beyond what is done would overwhelm the delicate herbal notes of the gin itself.
After a tour of the distillery, you can head over to the tasting room for a quick sample. Their “tasting room” isn’t so much a “room” as a “counter”, but there are stools for sitting, too. In front of jars filled with the various ingredients used to flavor the gin, tastes are poured by one of the four employees, so if you have any question about anything regarding their process or product, it will be answered with confidence. There is a casual arrangement of bottles near a register, but thankfully no pressure to purchase. The feeling is similar to the merchandise table at your buddy’s band performance – staffed by friendly acquaintances you enjoy talking to, and they’d probably really appreciate it if you enjoyed the show enough to buy a t-shirt or CD.
No, Breuckelen isn’t the only distillery with a barrel-aged gin on the market, but it’s the first one I’ve had, and I was impressed. I imagine it would be stunning in an Aviation, one of my favorite cocktails of late.
Only one way to find out, I guess.