Inside Republic Restoratives, D.C.’s first women-run distillery

Pia Caursone, left, opened a bourbon distillery with her best friend Rachel Gardner, right, in May.  Carusone decided to pursue her dream of owning a distillery after the 2011 shooting of her boss, Gabby Giffords. (WTOP File Photo/Rachel Nania)
It’s been a year since Pia Carusone and Rachel Gardner announced their plans to open a women-run distillery in D.C.’s Ivy City neighborhood. After a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign, months of construction and a lesson or two in forklift driving, the wait is over: Republic Restoratives is open for business. Here’s a peek inside the District distillery that has everyone buzzing. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) Read more: D.C. sees more women running restaurants, breweries, distilleries (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Republic Restoratives is the latest operation to join a handful of other spirits producers in Ivy City. The Northeast neighborhood is also home to New Columbia Distillers, One Eight Distilling and Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Atlas Brew Works is around the corner. Carusone credits the District’s relaxed regulatory laws for the growth of the distilling community. “D.C. has been really welcoming to this industry and that’s why you’re seeing a lot of folks open up here,” she said. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)  (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
And the area’s availability of warehouse space makes Ivy City an ideal destination for brewing and distilling startups. “D.C.’s just changing a lot, and neighborhoods like this — I mean, Ivy City. You never, a couple of years ago, would think that you’d see so much activity here. I mean, a women-owned distillery across the street from a Nike store. The change is so so rapid,” Carusone said. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Republic Restoratives has big plans for whiskey, but right now, the only product available is vodka. After all, it takes time for whiskey to age. “When folks come in for a tour, they might see a lot of activity around the whiskey distilling happening. We don’t have any for sale or taste just yet, but there’s a lot of that happening,” Carusone said.  For the past few years, Carusone and Gardner have been working closely under master distiller Rusty Figgins. The stills in the backroom of the 7,000 square-foot space are his custom design. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)  (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
The distillery’s Civic Vodka is a 100-percent corn-based vodka that Carusone describes as smooth, crisp and clean, with a mildly sweet finish. “That’s the kind of vodka we like to drink and what we are trying to make here,” she said. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)  (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
In the tasting room, visitors can sample the distillery’s vodka in a number of different forms. Bartender David Strauss developed the cocktail program, which includes everything from Bloody Mary’s to classic martinis, Moscow mules and a “Civic Screw” (a take on a screwdriver with fresh-squeezed juice and a Champagne topper). Expect to see whiskey cocktails added to the list once the first run is complete. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)  (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Barrels take over the second floor of Republic Restorative’s distillery. Yes, the upstairs will be home to lots and lots of whiskey, but Carusone says it will also be used as an event space in the future. Union Kitchen is directly across the hall from the distillery, which opens up the possibility for potential collaborations with chefs and other food producers. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Republic Restoratives is located on the corner of New York Avenue and Fenwick Street, directly across from the Hecht Warehouse and around the corner from Ivy City Smokehouse. A large glass-and-steel-framed garage door connects the tasting room, which is filled with vintage pieces and plants, to the outdoors. “We did everything we could to kind of celebrate the nature of the building and not change too much,” Carusone said about the distillery’s design. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Carusone and Gardner initially announced their plans for Republic Restoratives with an Indiegogo campaign. The duo surpassed their goal of $75,000 and raised a total of $119,643. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
The cocktail bar at Republic Restoratives is open Thursday through Sunday from 5 p.m. until midnight. Distillery tours take place on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 11 a.m. Visitors can sign up for weekend tours and private tastings on the distillery’s website. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
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Pia Caursone, left, opened a bourbon distillery with her best friend Rachel Gardner, right, in May.  Carusone decided to pursue her dream of owning a distillery after the 2011 shooting of her boss, Gabby Giffords. (WTOP File Photo/Rachel Nania)

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