Drink Local: One Eight Distilling Opens Saturday

Not-your-average vodka, whiskey, and more to come from DC's second modern distillery.
Drink Local: One Eight Distilling Opens Saturday
One Eight Distilling, the District's second modern production distillery, opens Saturday. Photograph courtesy of One Eight.

The newest member of the District’s growing local drinking scene makes its debut on Saturday. One Eight Distiling, DC’s second production distillery since Prohibition, opens its doors in Ivy City just off New York Avenue, Northeast. Founders Sandy Wood, Alex Laufer, and Jared Earley invite spirits fans in for free tours of the 7,500-square-foot production space and samples of the first two products: District Made Vodka and Rock Creek Whiskey. Here’s what to know before you go.

The vodka isn’t tasteless.

Bar buffs are known to turn up their noses at vodka, the supposedly characterless, flavorless drink. The One Eight team hopes to change that perception with their version.

There’s a notion that vodka should have no flavor and that it’s easy to make,” says Wood, who worked at distilleries in the US and Scotland before opening in DC. “Neither are true unless you’re an industrial producer.”

The team uses a rye base—instead of more common potato or wheat—to lend a depth of flavor to the spirit, which also imparts a touch of sweetness. In addition to mixing cocktails like a Moscow mule, Wood says it’s tasty sipped neat.

Local means more than just a District address.

Another reason for picking rye as the mash base for both the vodka and whiskey is that it’s a local crop with a history in the mid-Atlantic. The grain was the top choice for pre-Prohibition distilleries, and is partially sourced for One Eight from Maryland’s Eastern Shore; more comes from North Carolina. The name also nods to DC. Among other things Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution called for the establishment of a district as the nation’s capital.

You can try One Eight’s brown liquor in two-plus years.

Currently the distillery bottles its unaged, “white” whiskey, which is less sweet than a corn-based version, with touches of spice. More whiskey is aging in new, charred American oak barrels (a legal requirement for producing American bourbon). Smaller 25-gallon barrels may be released as soon as a year and a half from now, but larger 52-gallon versions won’t be ready for at least two, with plans to hold some barrels eight years and beyond.

Gin is on the way.

Green Hat won’t be the only District gin producer in the neighborhood in a few weeks once One Eight’s Ivy City Gin is released. The team is still toying with the formula, but plans for a less herbaceous, drier type of gin. Variations for the future could include a Genever-style (more juniper-flavored), and a barrel-aged line.

Tours are free, and food truck eats are available.

The distillery will be open for free tours and tastings (21+ only) on Saturday from 1 to 4, starting this week. Admission is first come, first served, and groups will be kept fairly small to allow for questions. Once production is up and running, the team plans to collaborate with local restaurants, bars, and liquor stores—but for now you can buy bottles of the vodka ($36) and white whiskey ($34) on premises. A lineup of food trucks has been scheduled to provide food, starting with Red Hook Lobster Pound this Saturday. Still, don’t plan to booze up on location; District law limits to three spirit samples per person, per day.

One Eight Distilling. 1135 Okie St., NE; 202-636-6638. Open to the public Saturdays from 1 to 4; large groups of 30 or more by appointment.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.