Several DC distilleries currently sell bourbon, but none of that brown liquor is 100-percent local. Instead, distillers bring in booze from elsewhere, blend it or “finish” it by barrel-aging in their facilities, and slap their own labels on it. (Yes, even the $1,000 bottles.) Unlike gin or vodka, whiskey takes time to age, and DC’s nascent distilling scene just hasn’t had much time to produce the stuff.
But now, a bourbon that’s completely distilled, aged, and bottled in the District is finally here. One Eight Distilling will release its Rock Creek Bourbon on September 16. It’s the first (legally produced) DC bourbon since pre-Prohibition. The Ivy City distillery also released the first completely made-in-DC rye whiskey, aged 18 to 20 months, last October.
Granted, this bourbon hasn’t aged for long either: just two years. “People often target that age as a minimum age,” co-founder Sandy Wood says. He adds a lot craft distillers are releasing younger bourbons: “It’s tough because sitting on that spirit as it ages is expensive.”
Still, Wood and co-founder Alex Laufer say they wouldn’t sell the bourbon if they weren’t happy with it. “We’re releasing it now because we like where it is now,” Laufer says. The distillery is holding on to some of its barrels to continue aging.
Rock Creek Bourbon is made exclusively with Mid-Atlantic grains: heirloom white-kernel corn and wheat from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, rye from Virginia, and malted rye and malted barley from North Carolina. Because bourbon is corn-heavy (it must be at least 51-percent), it tends to be a little sweet, but the higher proportion of rye makes One Eight’s version slightly spicier and drier, the distillers say.
Tasting notes include banana bread and marzipan on the nose, followed by hints of cinnamon and toasted oak. On the palate, there’s warming spices, cloves, and “a touch” of ancho chili, finishing with creme brûlée and fig.
The first chance to try Rock Creek Bourbon will be at a release party at the Ivy City distillery on Saturday, September 16 from 1 to 5 PM. In addition to tours and tastings, expect live music, a vintage glassware pop-up shop, and corn-themed treats (because, you know, bourbon is mostly corn). The festivities are free, and no tickets are required. Bottles will be available for $50, and an engraver will be on-site.
One Eight Distilling. 1135 Okie St., NE; 202-636-6638.