The Makers of Green Hat Gin Are Releasing a Real DC Whiskey

New Columbia Distillers didn't take any shortcuts on its three-year-old straight rye whiskey

John Uselton and Michael Lowe, founders of New Columbia Distillers (now Green Hat). Photograph by Jeff Elkins

New Columbia Distillers was DC’s first (legal) booze producer since Prohibition when it debuted Green Hat Gin six years ago. Now, the Ivy City distillery is finally ready to release its first brown spirit: a three-year-old straight rye whiskey made entirely in DC.

While there are already a number of whiskeys branded as “made in DC,” many of them take shortcuts. Often, new distillers buy barrels someone else produced and then finish or blend them on-site. Other times, they use small barrels that speed up the aging process but don’t deliver the same flavor that comes from the spirit sitting on wood for years.

New Columbia Distillers, though, isn’t taking the easy route. Co-founder John Uselton says the team spent two years just experimenting with different recipes before starting to produce what they have now. Their Green Hat Straight Rye Whiskey consists of roughly 70-percent rye and 30-percent malted barley aged in new American white oak barrels.

“We didn’t want to release a young whiskey. We didn’t want to age in small barrels. We’re pretty particular about doing it the more traditional way, and we think it makes for a better product in the end,” says Uselton.

He says the end result is a “really nice spicy quality” from the Virginia-grown rye, plus some malty character from two types of malted barley.

Only about 500 bottles will be available. You can find them for $69.99 at the distillery (only) beginning at noon on December 1. Uselton expects the entire inventory to sell out in a week, and there are no current plans for a second release.

“When it’s gone, it’s gone,” he says.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.