It's not every day that we commit high crimes and felonies. But on April 28th, we did just that, to one of the most influential whiskey personalities in the industry today. Probably not good policy, but in practice, I think it worked out pretty well this time, all things considered. Here's our interview with Fred Minnick, with the members of GWAR, reviewing Ragnarök Rye:
Catoctin Creek's flagship line of rye whisky - Roundstone Rye - has received numerous medals at the London-based The Drinks Business & The Spirits Business Spring 2021 Blind Tasting.
"Roundstone Rye Distiller’s Edition 92 Proof received a Gold in this flight, enjoyed for its “luxurious texture” and “slight resinous quality on the palate”. Roundstone Rye Cask Proof also secured a Gold medal with its “great balance”. Roundstone Rye 80 Proof was awarded a Silver medal.
“You can see why it’s such a popular category at the moment,” said Dixon. “It offers something unique. There’s lots of buzz around rye, and lots of producers are experimenting with it.”
You can read the full article, here.
"Women are taking the stage of spirits by storm, and Rebecca Harris of Catoctin Creek Distilling is one of many bold women leading the way." So says, the folks at Chilled.
Is there any one person or event that you feel made an impact in your path to becoming a master distiller?
I would say that the people in the distilling industry have been incredibly welcoming. Early in our distilling business I met Dave Pickerell at Mount Vernon, and he had a lovely way of sharing knowledge in a collegial fashion. Although we never consulted with him, I was incredibly influenced by his joy in what he did, as well as his passion for talking about the craft of distilling and engaging everyone in that creation process.
You can read the full interview, here.
Bevvy reviewed our Maple Cask Finished Rye. I think they liked it! Eric Twardzik writes:
Catoctin Creek Maple Cask Finished Rye is an extraordinary whiskey. Maple can sometimes feel like a gimmick in the whiskey world, but that is not the case here. The sweet, round flavors of maple syrup seem to twist around every inch of this woody, spicy, and delightfully aggressive whiskey, resulting in a dram that’s at once incredibly dry and oaky yet round and sweet.
You can read the full review, including tasting notes, here.
We were elated to see the Washington Post write a story on our Art of the Cocktail classes! More than just being an instructional drink-making class, Scott's purpose is more to build a sense of community and social gathering. Fritz Hahn writes:
The collegial spirit is key: While Harris goes over the ins-and-outs of four cocktails each week, the classes, which include a lot of couples, have taken on a higher purpose. “I’ve been getting a lot of feedback like, ‘It’s so nice to have some little thing we can do on Friday night. It’s become like a date night for us,’” Harris says. “That was my hope. It’s almost like the classes are just sort of a framework for what ultimately turns into just drinking together and having a little bit of a social hour.”
Photo credit: Emma Evans for the Washington Post, and used with permission.
GET IN ON THE FUN!
Julia Moskin does a pretty darn comprehensive review on the state of applejack (aka apple brandy) in the New York Times. Check it out:
As most small-scale applejack makers do, Catoctin Creek starts the process not with fresh apples but with hard cider, which it procures from Blue Bee Cider company, in Richmond, Va., in the kind of collaboration often found among craft producers. The Harrises send some of the finished brandy back to Blue Bee, where it is mixed with the cidery’s own fortified apple wine and ginger eau de vie into a spicy dessert cider called Firecracker.
This year’s batch is made from Winesap, Pippin, Arkansas Black and other heritage apple breeds that are good for brandy, she said, because they have almost no sweetness, but share a strong, concentrated apple taste that carries all the way through distillation. The kind of big, sweet apples that have been bred for eating, like Red and Golden Delicious, are far too sugary and watery. “You want a lot of flavor for the flesh that’s there,” she said.
You can read the full story, here.
2020 was a difficult year; nobody will argue that point. For us at Catoctin Creek, we had several restaurants return their barrel select rye whisky because they didn't know if they would be able to continue business in the face of the pandemic. We turned this situation around and released our #InThisTogether rye whisky, the proceeds of which were given to local restaurant charities. As a result, Imbibe magazine named our founders, Becky and Scott Harris, to their Imbibe 75 list for the year. We're very grateful for this honor.
Wayne Curtis writes:
The Harrises opted to give back to the hospitality industry. They sold the new blend through their website and at the distillery. They had 100 cases and sold out in two hours. After recouping their expenses, Catoctin Creek paid out $12,000 to four groups supporting the hospitality industry, including the Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation and the USBG's Bartender Emergency Assistance Program.
Read the entire article here.
Early in 2020, when the country was beset by the COVID-19 pandemic, craft distilleries all across the nation stepped up to fill the void in hand sanitizer, pivoting their businesses to produce WHO-formula sanitizer that was FDA approved. The ACSA worked closely with the FDA to ensure that all of these craft distillers could be quickly added as "drug producers" (their definition of someone making sanitizer), so that the public would be assured that the products being put out in this emergency period were safe and regulated.
Fast forward to just before New Year's Eve 2020, when these same craft distillers begin receiving emails from the FDA stating that they owe the FDA $14,060 due February 11th, 2021, for the privilege of working with the FDA last year. What's more, these fees never existed when the distilleries registered with the FDA. They were applied retroactively. Many of these distilleries donated or sold their sanitizer at cost, and a surprise $14,000 bill would put many of them out of business. Worse still, the fees doubled if the distilleries let their registration continue to January 1, 2021.
Truly, no good deed goes unpunished.
Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek's chief distiller and current president of the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA), along with Margie Lehrman, CEO of the association, got on the phone with congress and officials at the Department of Health and Human Services. All day, during New Year's Eve, Becky and the organization are frantically speaking with HHS, explaining the unfairness of this surprise, retroactive fee.
In a story that doesn't often happen, the HHS agreed, and ordered the FDA to rescind the fees, bringing every craft distiller across the nation a very happy new year.
Drew Wilder reports from NBC 4 Washington:
Wine Enthusiast has culled their list of the Top 100 spirits of 2020 to produce their 30 Best Whiskeys of 2020 list. Boy, oh boy! It's great to be included on that list:
Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Whiskey Distillers Edition; $51, 94 points. This single-barrel rye is suitable for sipping or a dessert pairing. Look for bold sugar-cookie aromas and confectionary richness on the palate: vanilla, cocoa, hazelnut, maple sugar and mocha. The moderately long finish is marked by lemon peel and nutmeg. —K.N.
Read the full story, here.
American Whiskey magazine covered our press release announcing our partnership with GWAR, the intergalactic metal band based in Richmond.
As the story goes, members of the intergalactic shock rock band known as GWAR descended on this world as passengers on a flaming comet that would bring about the destruction of most life on Earth. The asteroid ploughed into the continent of Antarctica with devastating force, melting the ice, setting much of the world ablaze, and leaving a massive crater filled with the purest Antarctic water and a strangely intoxicating ichor that flowed from the veins of the immortal GWAR. Legend recorded these events as the tale of Ragnarök, the end of days. But like all endings, it was also a beginning. Now, this blood of the gods, harvested from the great caldera, has been distilled and bottled by Catoctin Creek as Ragnarök Rye.
Read the full story, here.
We are delighted that Roundstone Rye 92 Proof "Distiller's Edition," which rated 94 points in January of this year, was selected for Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 of 2020! In fact, we were the third highest rated rye whisky in the category! Kara Newman writes:
This single-barrel rye is suit-able for sipping or a dessert pairing. Look for bold sugar-cookie aromas and confectionary richness on the palate: vanilla, cocoa, hazelnut, maple sugar and mocha. The moderately long finish is marked by lemon peel and nutmeg.
Read the full list of winners, here.
Barron's did a 20 minute Q&A with Becky Harris, our chief distiller and president, but also the president of the American Craft Spirits Association. Jake Emen interviewed Becky for this piece:
When you started the distillery, did you get a lot of surprised reactions from people thinking Scott was the distiller and you were, oh, I don’t know, marketing or front of the house?
(Laughs.) Yes, all the time. It was one of things where you always have to prove yourself. I think there’s maybe a bit less of that now. And I have to say that people like Maggie [Campbell of Privateer Rum] and Nicole Austin [of Cascade Hollow Distilling, producers of George Dickel Tennessee Whisky] and Mel Heim out of Portland, all of those people that started way back and I remember reading about them and thinking, wow, I would love to meet them at some point! And it took a long time to get there but I think that’s the whole point. That makes people want to try it. Because they see that there are people like themselves already doing it.
You can read the full interview, here.