The Fort Hamilton Distillery is in Brooklyn, New York. Matt and I reviewed their Rye Whiskey several months ago after they sent me a bottle. I recently visited there and enjoyed the visit. It is a small distillery making Gin right now, but with plans to expand to make their own whiskey. At this time they are contract distilling with the Taconic Distillery in Stanfordville, New York. I sat down with Amy Grindeland and Alex Clark, the owners of the distillery, and discussed their operations and plans for the future.
The distillery is in an old industrial complex in Brooklyn. It is on the second floor of the building and consists of a small gin distillery. They have a tasting room and event space next to the distillery and a bottling line. That is about all there is to see at this time, but Alex, the distiller, has plans to expand. Alex came to New York as a financial trader, but soon became bored with the business. He found a job working at the Widow Jane Distillery in Brooklyn when it opened. He left there when Widow Jane was sold and worked as a bartender for a while before starting the Fort Hamilton Distillery.
In 2016, Alex and his wife Amy started having rye whiskey made for them at the Black Dirt Distillery in New York. They started by contract distilling a rye whiskey made with 90% rye and 10% malted barley – no corn in the mash bill. They put it into 30 gallon barrels at 120 proof. After Black Dirt Distillery was sold, they moved their contract distilling operations to the Taconic Distillery and are having their rye made using 53 gallon and 30 gallon barrels and a 115 barrel entry proof. They release a Bourbon, but it is a blend of sourced barrels and their contract distilled Bourbon. They are also making a Gin in Brooklyn. The Gin has a strong cucumber and watermelon essence with just a touch of juniper. As Alex said, he wanted a Gin that was different from the typical London Dry Gin and I will say that he succeeded. It is a very refreshing Gin.
I sat in the tasting room talking with Alex and Amy for about an hour and a half. We discussed several subjects dealing with the distillery. Alex wants to create an old fashioned New York style Rye whiskey. He decided that it would be made with local grain when possible. Malt is often the problem when getting local grains as malt houses are not common outside of Wisconsin and other beer producing areas. He chose to make a 90% rye without any corn because he believes that this is what would have been done in the early days of distilling in New York. He chose 10% malted barley because he did not want to use enzymes in producing the whiskey and malt adds flavor to the whiskey that is slightly nutty and sweet. He chose the 30-gallon barrels because the barrels used in the 19th century were smaller than the 53 gallon barrels used today. He also chose a 120 barrel entry proof because he did not believe that they would have put it in the barrel at 125 proof as they do today. I agreed with him on the barrel proof, but explained to him that it would have been even lower – somewhere between 90 and 105 proof in the 19th century. This excited him and I hope he starts experimenting with lower barrel entry proofs. However, he does have investors and I suspect he will have to justify the extra cost of the lower barrel entry proof.
It was a very good visit and I enjoyed the conversation with Alex and Amy. They are making a very good Rye whiskey. I look forward to visiting there again in the future and seeing the expanded distillery and sticking my finger into the mash tub to taste the distillers beer.
Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach
February 20, 2023 at 2:46 pm
Great article on barrel proof and its history from Maker’s perspective