Distillery guide: Get in the fall spirit with local spirits

'Farm-to-table' impacts the local spirits industry (WTOP's Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON — On a typical Saturday, Scott Harris sees about 200 people come through the doors of his Loudoun County distillery. While there, visitors tour Harris’ whiskey production facility, then belly up to the tasting room bar for a flight of his signature spirits.

When Harris and his wife, Becky, opened Catoctin Creek Distillery in 2009 — after careers in engineering and government contract work — there were just a few other distilleries operating in Virginia.

“And now I think there are over 50, so it’s really, really taking off lately,” Harris said.

“We’ve seen, in the past decade or so, a real boom in craft beer, and in the local region, craft wine, and now finally distilling is also seeing that boom.”

Scott Harris and his wife, Becky, opened Catoctin Creek Distillery in 2009 in Purcellville, Virginia. Since then, a number of other distilleries have opened in the D.C. area. Catoctin Creek makes rye, whiskey, gin and brandy. (DJ Glisson II, Courtesy Catoctin Creek) (DJ Glisson II, Courtesy Catoctin Creek)
District Distilling Co., located on U Street in Northwest D.C., is 8,000 square feet. The business includes a cocktail bar and a restaurant. “Wineries in other parts of the country have always prided themselves on the fact that they serve excellent wine, but also have excellent food … but we didn’t see that in the spirits world, at least here in the District,” Chae Yi, District Distilling’s president and CEO said in a previous interview with WTOP. On the menu is whiskey, gin, vodka and rum, along with seared scallops, steak frites and cheese and charcuterie. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
One Eight Distilling opens to the public on Saturday, Jan. 10 in Northeast. The distillery is D.C.'s second. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
One Eight Distilling is located in D.C’s Ivy City neighborhood. The distillery — D.C.’s second — makes and sells vodka, gin and whiskey. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Republic Restoratives, also in Ivy City, is run by Pia Carusone and Rachel Gardner. The two opened D.C.’s first female-run distillery in 2016 after a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Out at George Washington’s Gristmill, distillers are making whiskey the same way America’s first president did 200 years ago. Bottles are available for purchase at Mount Vernon. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
In 2016, friends Reed Walker and Jordan Cotton opened their rum distillery, Cotton & Reed, in D.C.’s Union Market district. “Rum is underrepresented right now in the U.S.; it used to be the biggest spirit back in colonial days,” Cotton said in a previous interview with WTOP. “Even leading up to Prohibition, there were dozens and dozens and dozens of rum distilleries all over the Northeast. That all kind of died out and never came back.” (Courtesy Cotton & Reed) (Courtesy Cotton & Reed)
When Jos. A. Magnus & Co. opened its doors in the Northeast D.C. neighborhood of Ivy City on Sept. 12, the distillery revived a century-old spirit. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Jos. A. Magnus & Co. is another D.C. distillery in the Ivy City neighborhood. The business makes bourbon, gin and vodka. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Bloomery Plantation Distillery in Charles Town, West Virginia, makes natural fruit cordials and a lovely limoncello. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Like wineries and breweries in the D.C. area, many distilleries offer tours, tastings and weekend events (think live music and food). Pictured: The tasting room at Catoctin Creek Distillery. (Rick Martin/Courtesy Catoctin Creek Distillery)  (RICK MARTIN)
Scott and Becky Harris opened Catoctin Creek Distillery in 2009.  “You get a real regional terroir, if you will, from the local product. So when you drink a Virginia rye whiskey like ours, it tastes different from a Kentucky rye whiskey, and that’s something special,” Scott Harris said. (Courtesy Catoctin Creek)    (Courtesy Catoctin Creek)
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One Eight Distilling opens to the public on Saturday, Jan. 10 in Northeast. The distillery is D.C.'s second. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
When Jos. A. Magnus & Co. opened its doors in the Northeast D.C. neighborhood of Ivy City on Sept. 12, the distillery revived a century-old spirit. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

Harris said just as consumers are more concerned with how their vegetables are grown or where their meat comes from, they’re also paying attention to what’s in their glass.

“I think people really want that connection to their food, and in beverages, I think it’s very similar,” he added.

Like wineries and breweries in the D.C. area, many distilleries offer tours, tastings and weekend events (think live music and food). Best of all, Harris says the spirits they’re pouring are pretty great.

“You’re getting a very high-quality spirit from these local providers because we focus on local production and artisan production,” Harris said about the area’s distillers.

“You get a real regional terroir, if you will, from the local product. So when you drink a Virginia rye whiskey like ours, it tastes different from a Kentucky rye whiskey, and that’s something special.”

With so many options to explore, Harris shared some of his favorite distilleries to visit in the D.C. area:

In Virginia, Harris recommends Copper Fox Distillery and KO Distilling. (And of course, he said don’t forget to stop in at Catoctin Creek, located in the heart of Purcellville.)

Virginia Distillery Co., near Charlottesville, is also worth the drive.

“It’s kind of like a Scottish distillery planted in the rolling hills of Virginia, which is kind of neat,” Harris said.

In Maryland, Harris suggests Lyon Distilling Co. and Tobacco Barn Distillery. And in D.C., he says a trip to the District’s Ivy City neighborhood is a must. There, visitors will find One Eight Distilling, Republic Restoratives, Jos. A. Magnus & Co. and New Columbia Distillers.

“Ivy City is kind of the mecca point in D.C. for [distilleries],” Harris said. “A simple Uber or Lyft over to Ivy City, you can hit them all and then get a ride back home.”

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