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A quick stop in at Vitae Spirits was a great end to a day of intellectual pursuit at UVa. Vitae is a new distillery, but their outstanding product belies their young age.

Tasting three products: two rums and a gin

Hard to describe how good the rum is (with no aging at all), especially the oustanding Golden Rum product. Proprietor and founder Ian Glomski is a microbiologist by training and his scientific background really shines through. (Kind of reminds me of Becky Harris from Catoctin Creek since she was a chemist before turning to distilling.)

The remarkable Golden Rum is distilled with grilled sugar cane and molasses. Charcoaled american oak chips give it some interesting characteristics (and its color). Post production sugaring with molassas (fairly standard with many rums) happens when the spirit is brought down to 80 proof from its run up over 150.

The Platinum Rum is also very very good. Some readers may recall from WAY back that the first spirit NPS had under its belt was rum. This one stands up to the range.

The Modern Gin? We’ll just skip talking about that.

The Vitae still is also very interesting—a hybrid pot still/column still attached in-line.

The hybrid still

Though we have never seen a still quite like this before, NPS is told that many craft distillers use hybrids like this.

Pot

Column

The whole shebang

Of course yeast and mash make all the difference in the world. Here is where the microbes do their thing to make beer for the still. The beer only comes in around 4% when it is run. That is low by rum standards, but whatever Ian is doing is really working well.

We also tried some experimental Anisette which is still in experimentation stage. This product is very interesting. Ian is working out a post production infusion plan now (testing regular lemon versus meyers lemon). Thanks for the palate clearing yogurt from your personal stash Ian!

Strong design

The best way to finish a distillery visit is to run out and try the product in the wild. Toward that end, we made a quick visit to the Alley Light where we sampled a drink called Castro’s Ashes
1.5 oz Vitea Golden Rum
.75 oz Cynar
.75 oz sassafras vermouth (maybe ransom?)
4 drops BBQ bitters
stir down. Serve up in a coupe. Flame orange peel and balance on the edge.

Castro’s Ashes from Alley Light

NPS is bullish on Vitae Spirits. Check them out before they get big!

The River Antoine rum distillery in Grenada is well worth a visit. Driving up from St George’s takes about 90 minutes, but the drive is a great way to see more of the island. As in all travel Grenada, get a driver!

Rivers farms about 400 acres of sugar cane which provides 85% of the mash they need. The rest comes from elsewhere in the Carribean.

Cane

The cane is mashed with a water wheel operational since the 1800s.

Gears for the cane conveyor also use water power.

Cane detritus

The mash evaporates from a 4% concentration of sugar in several stages into a 15% concentration. It is then put into a vat to ferment into beer (with natural yeast fron the air). The beer comes in around 15% before heading into the pot stills.

Beer vat

Pot still one

Fired by wood.

The still runs off a proof of about 150 (75% alcohol). The coil is water cooled from the river.

Loading the still cooker

Storage of unmixed product in 500 gallon tanks below.

This used to be a bonded tank measured with a stick.

The computer (batch notes)

By all means visit the distillery when you are on Grenada.

For more about Grenada, see this entry on Laluna.

Less than two handfulls of miles from the apothecary shed itself is a home grown distillery called Catoctin Creek. Since 2009, Catoctin Creek has been distilling Rye into various award-winning products. We’re partial to the Watershed Gin ourselves.

Catoctin Creek in the old Case building

Catoctin Creek in the old Case building

Baker Bob set up a long talked about distillery tour on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The tour was fantastic, carried out by Scott Harris himself. Excellent.

In between leading questions, Scott taught us some things.

In between leading questions, Scott taught us some things.

Scott talked us through the process to make Rye, Gin (in run 2), and Brandy.

Step one: Cook the Rye (soon to be more local)

Step one: Cook the Rye (soon to be more local)

Step two is brewing a rye beer to about 10%.

Step three: transfer beer to still and a 6 hour run.

Step three: transfer beer to still and a 6 hour run.

Gin takes a second distillation plus an infusion.

Gin takes a second distillation plus an infusion.

The bottling machine which caused a pizza party insurrection.

The bottling machine which caused a pizza party insurrection.

Shipment for Australia

Shipment for Australia

Yeah

Yeah

Catoctin Creek Tasting Room

Catoctin Creek Tasting Room

Pouring flights

Pouring flights

Custom flight: Gin and Two Ryes

Custom flight: Gin and Two Ryes

The Catoctin product set is certainly made with love. I remain a big fan of the Watershed Gin. The Roundstone Rye is rough and thin at 80 proof. The 92 proof has more body (and less water) and is a better product. I guess around here we’re used to a sweeter mash bill with some corn and wheat and a higher proof. The Catoctin Creek mash is 100% rye.

What does Sammy think of the Brandy?

What does Sammy think of the Brandy?

Aftermath

Aftermath

All told, the afternoon was very well spent with a gracious and committed host doing excellent work. Keep it up Catoctin Creek. We’re damn proud to have you here just over the river.

The fellers say, "Thanks Scott and Becky!"

The fellers say, “Thanks Scott and Becky!”

Back home again with some new stuff to add to the bar.

Watershed Gin always in stock here

Watershed Gin always in stock here

Leopold Bros Distillery

November 12, 2015

Those of you who read NPS regularly know that in our studied opinion, Leopold Bros makes the best gin in the world (the small batch gin). We always have some on hand at the home bar. Part of the secret behind the gin is separate distillation of the aromatics which are then combined with the base alcohol. It’s magical stuff which has come to be known as the Leopold process.

So we already loved Leopold’s by default, but then we visited. Now we can’t say enough good things about the distillery, its products, and most importantly its people. Wow, what an operation!

Leopold Bros Distillery

Leopold Bros Distillery

We were given a tour by Alec Ropes, one of the seven Leopold Brothers employees. Yes, they work hard and they work passionately at Leopold’s! Alec was just great, spending three hours with us in intense conversation. We were geeking out on alcohol production, and boy was it fun.

The genius behind Leopold Bros distilling-wise is Todd Leopold, one of the two brothers. Todd is a practicing intellectual with a master craftsman sensibility backed by many years of experience and vast quantities of absorbed knowledge. We were incredibly pleased to get to spend a few minutes chatting with Todd even while a vodka run was heading into the tails.

Todd Leopold and his new old still

Todd Leopold and his new old still

Todd and his brother Scott have built a distilling factory that is not only ultra-modern, it’s also environmentally sustainable. For example, a closed loop water system keeps water lossage (a huge deal for most alcohol production) way down. Natural light suffuses the floor, and a ceiling fan keeps the yeast aromas circulating with fresh air from the garden outside.

There are three types of still on line at Leopolds now.

German stills

German stills

Alembic stills

Alembic stills

The new three layer still

The new three layer still

Todd explained the new still’s operation to us. The four chambers all have different jobs to do during a twenty minute run, and the mash moves its way down the column between runs. The resulting process suffuces the water with as much flavor as the alcohol. (Looks like the new still goes along with the malting floor, the malt kiln, and the sherry barrels in the rickhouse. Hmm, what could they be up to?)

Tower still for vodka production

Tower still for vodka production

Special steam punk magic thingy

Special steam punk magic thingy

We paused for some pictures with Todd. What a great guy! Knowledgeable, funny, smart as a whip, and kind. Todd had some hilarious stories about the Denver health department people, physical phase transitions, and alcohol as a decontamination solution.

Antti flew in from Helsinki

Antti flew in from Helsinki

Of course all distilling starts with beer (which is how Leopolds got its start in Ann Arbor years ago). Several different mashes are in use now at the distillery. I was surprised how viscous the rye mash is. Slippery goopy.

Open mash tanks made of cypress and pine

Open mash tanks made of cypress and pine

Eventually, alcohol is blended (Leopold Bros makes 22 products currently with some awesome new ones coming on line any month now) and put into barrels. There is lots of “three char” white American oak in the house.

Floor rick

Floor rick

Rickhouse with 2 or 3 barrel ricks

Rickhouse with 2 or 3 barrel ricks

Alec with the product line

Alec with the product line

Of course we had to do some sampling. I already own 7 Leopold Bros products in my supply and was happy to add two more: Cherry Liqueur (to sub in for Heering) and a Digestif called something crazy due to American labeling laws. The Digestif is in the Benedictine/Chartruese range.

A mysterious new building at Leopold Bros

A mysterious new building at Leopold Bros

Anyway, thanks to Todd and Alec taking time out of their busy jobs to show around a couple of newby geeks. We loved it!

By the time we took off for dinner, the sun had set

By the time we took off for dinner, the sun had set

When we arrived at the fantastic Colt and Grey for dinner, the first thing we did was call for some Leopold Bros cocktails.

Here’s to passion, science, craftsmanship, and kindness. Leopold Bros you have my loyalty all sown up for this lifetime!

Make yourself a cocktail with Leopold’s Gin today:
Blue Moon
Corpse Reviver #2

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Cardinal Spirits is so new that their grass has not come in yet. We were honored to get an evening tour led by a mysterious partner.

The grass is still straw at Cardinal Spirits

The grass is still straw at Cardinal Spirits

Cardinal is using both wine and barley beer as mash for vodka and gin distillery. Currently, the vodka is available and the gin is almost ready for release (still in the titration stage with aromatics). There is some brandy and some whiskey recently barreled as well.

Where the mash is born.

Where the mash is born.

Cardinal Spirits still is about 6 stories in 4 connected sections

Cardinal Spirits still is about 6 stories in 4 connected sections

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Distillers notes

Distillers notes

Aromatics added here for the gin process

Aromatics added here for the gin process

The mysterious partner gave a great tour

The mysterious partner gave a great tour

How new is the brandy and whiskey?

One rick

One rick

This new!

This new!

New indeed. Born last week.

New indeed. Born last week.

You are in Indiana!

You are in Indiana!

The experiment is still underway when it comes to gin.

Gin testing bench

Gin testing bench

Bottler

Bottler

Needless to say, the tour was fantastic. So much fun to see Cardinal Spirits booting up!

Now it’s time to taste the gin.

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