When Kings County Distillery produced its first batch of whiskey in 2009, even the "craft" distilling label would have been a stretch. Cofounder Colin Spoelman got his start in the booze business with a small hobbyist still in his apartment. When it came time to secure a legitimate production facility, the company decided to build on the DIY ethic and capitalize on Brooklyn’s appreciation for homespun businesses.
The gamble worked. Kings County is now the most recognizable name on a rapidly growing list of urban distilleries nested in New York City’s most populous borough. The rush to corner the locavore liquor market started to gain a head of steam after state authorities loosened regulations on "microdistillery" practices over the past decade. The movement gained official sanctioning last October when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Farm Distillery Bill into law. Today, early adopters like Kings County Distillery are reaping the rewards of their pioneer spirit.
Spoelman attributes his company’s success to an initial enthusiasm for his product from open-minded consumers. They were willing to disregard the admittedly unconventional manufacturing approach that Kings County took in its early days because they recognized Spoelman’s passion for the product.
"People rather than thinking the worst, they thought the best," says Spoelman, "And that I think was a testament mostly to the people who buy products and appreciate when a lot of labor goes into something."
Kings County Distillery has graduated from its early 330-square-foot facility into a two-story 7,250-square-foot space (still with craft-sized stills) in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, increasing production by a factor of 10 to keep up with explosive demand. This labor of love with humble beginnings now holds the distinction of being the first and the largest distillery in Brooklyn since Prohibition.
Bottom Line: Customers appreciate a labor of love, even—or especially—if it disrupts the norm.
[Video Produced By: Shalini Sharma // Camera & Edit By: Tony Ditata]