News

NY Times: America’s First Moonshine, Applejack, Returns in Sleeker Style

Apple Brandy from Catoctin CreekJulia 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.

Becky & Scott Harris named to Imbibe 75

Imbibe 752020 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.

FDA rescinds fees charged to distilleries making hand sanitizer - NBC 4

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:

The 30 Best Whiskeys of 2020: Wine Enthusiast

Roundstone Rye 92 Proof "Distiller's Edition"

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: Catoctin Creek partners with GWAR to release Ragnarök Rye

Becky and Scott Harris with GWAR's Berserker Blothar

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.

WUSA9: What one distillery is doing to benefit their local community

WUSA9's Kristen Berset from Great Day Washington interviews Scott Harris to find out about how the COVID pandemic has been affecting business, plus coverage of some of our recent awards, and a warm apply toddy cocktail to share for the holidays.

Click the video above to view.

 

Wine Enthusiast Top 100 of 2020: Roundstone Rye 92 Proof "Distiller's Edition"

Roundstone Rye 92 Proof "Distiller's Edition"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: 20 Minutes with Becky Harris

Becky & Scott

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.

Wine & Country: Five Charming Places to Visit in Loudoun

Becky HarrisWine and Country recently did a story on five charming places to visit in Loudoun, and Purcellville featured on the list.  Douglas Rogers writes:

If you prefer something stronger than tea, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, the first Loudoun distillery since Prohibition, is in a brick warehouse nearby. Here, Becky Harris, arguably the greatest female whiskey maker in America, crafts award-winning rye, brandy and gin, all of which you can sample around the horseshoe-shaped bar tasting room out front.

We have to agree about the Becky Harris bit, but we may be biased.

You can read the full story, here.

Esquire - The 10 Best Rye Whiskey Brands

Roundstone RyeWhat a lovely thing to be included in Esquire's "10 Best Rye Whiskey Brands" article:

Another craft distillery with a strong focus on rye is Virginia’s Catoctin Creek; it even trademarked the term "the Virginia Rye Whiskey." Founders Scott and Becky Harris (she’s also the chief distiller) are committed to making high quality, small batch rye whiskey that doesn’t lack for flavor or complexity. Some of these are young and relatively low ABV, like the 80-proof flagship Roundstone Rye, a nice sipping whiskey or Manhattan building block. All are made from a 100 percent rye mash bill, like the bottled-in-bond Rabble Rouser Rye, a 100-proof, four-year-old whiskey that explodes with spice and fruit. Go ahead and explore the limited releases from the distillery as well, like the Braddock Oak Single Barrel and Red Wine Finished Rye, or the biannual cask strength version of Roundstone Rye, which is finished in a maple syrup barrel.

You can read the full article, here.

20 Best Rye Whiskey Brands 2020 - Vinepair

Roundstone Rye Cask ProofVery nice to be included with some heavyweight brands in Vinepair's 20 Best Rye Whiskey Brands 2020 roundup.  Of the Roundstone Rye Cask Proof, they write:

The 116 proof indicated on this bottle’s label prompts a double-take when sipping the whiskey. The alcohol burn is barely noticeable but the high ABV content does intensify the rye-forward profile and provides a never-ending finish. Subtle oak influence complements dried fruit and toffee notes.

You can read the roundup, here, and the review of the Cask Proof by itself, here.

The History of Catoctin Creek - Mash and Grain

Mash and Grain did a really lovely, comprehensive history of Catoctin Creek, dating back to before the distillery when Becky and Scott first met.  It covers the seeds of entrepreneurship that led to its ultimate establishment.  This is the most in-depth article written to date on our story, and contains intimate details on our thinking before the venture even formed:

Scott and Becky, circa 1991Distilleries require an incredible amount of upfront investment, so the loan certainly helped, but Scott and Becky were also pouring their entire life savings into this venture. In order to be licensed in Virginia, a distillery needed to have already purchased all of their equipment, set it up, and tested it to make sure it functioned properly. That meant securing a commercial location, signing a lease, thousands upon thousands of dollars in equipment, all before they could legally make a single drop. ... With all this money invested up front, they had sacrificed so much with no guarantee that the two of them had what it would take to make it work. ... [For] Scott it was more about faith. Faith in themselves.

He recounts a story from just after they were approved for their loan. Scott used a new social media platform, Twitter, to announce they had the financing to start their distillery. Shortly after, he received a call from Emily Maltby, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal who was doing a story on SBA loans, and wanted to feature them to lend a human element to the piece.

We got into the Wall Street Journal. We hadn’t even made anything. We felt like we were ordained by God to do this. We could do no wrong. Of course it will be good if we make it, because it has to be. Why would we do all this trouble otherwise? That’s kind of the complex you have when you’re an entrepreneur. You’re just gonna go full steam ahead, because of course it will be good.” - Scott Harris

Divine intervention or not, their strict process backgrounds proved to be a big asset.

Becky inspecting the Virginia rye grainAfter a few years have passed, fast forwarding to present time, they write a little about how we do grain selection to create a mash bill of 100% rye:

Scott and Becky are proud to say that their rye grain comes from local Virginia farms, but when they were first starting out it was very difficult to find farmers who would grow grain for them. For the first 6 or 7 years, they had to rely on commercial mills where they had no control over the varietals they would receive. Now they do have a handful of local farms they work with. Their mash bill is 100% rye, but not all one varietal. Their farmers need to find varietals that work well for their land and climates, so the combination has changed from time to time. Whenever a farmer brings a new varietal to Becky, she distills one batch with 100% of that specific grain so she can evaluate it’s profile from a sensory standpoint to get an idea of how it may fit into their products. Once she has a sense of it’s character she will slowly start to incorporate it into the mashbill in small quantities to maintain a consistent flavor profile. For a company that mostly deals in single barrel releases, they are basically doing the blending at the front end of production, with each varietal lending complexity and diversity of flavor from the very beginning.

It is a wonderful long-form biography.  I hope you'll enjoy it. 

You can read the full article, here.

Stepping up to a legacy - American Whiskey magazine

Becky Harris of Catoctin Creek

Maggie Kimberl at American Whiskey recently wrote a fantastic story on the brief and recent history of the hand sanitizer chaos that emerged during the COVID-19 crisis.  Many, many distilleries across the country, both big and small, immediately stepped up and provided much needed sanitizing alcohol to their communities, most pivoting in a manner of days and weeks.  Becky Harris found herself suddenly in a leadership role in ACSA to help navigate this confusing time, and stepped up to help people save lives--literally save lives.  We are so proud of her.  Maggie writes:

“Both individually and within my distillery we were suddenly being approached by people asking if we had alcohol,” Harris recalls. “Bleach was gone, Purell was off the shelves, and we had a ton of people asking if we had any they could get hold of. It was obvious that people were really desperate. We were getting tons of calls.” Harris reports the industry went from ‘can this be done?’, to doing it in a matter of days. She was asked by the executive committee at the ACSA if she could take the lead on the matter and she did.

You can read the entire story, here.

Latest News

Daily Beast: Yes, Heavy-Metal Band GWAR Has a Rye Whiskey and It’s Good

The Daily Beast has the round-up on the history of our collaboration with the heavy metal band, GWAR.  Max Watman, who has been writing about craft spirits for well nigh twenty years now, has the whole backstory on the band...

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American Whiskey: Castaway with Scott Harris

American Whiskey magazine featured our founder and general manager, Scott Harris, in their recurring "Castaway" article, where they ask industry people what five whiskeys and one luxury item would they take if they were stranded on a desert island.  Scott's...

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Fred Minnick: 5 Best Bourbons for a Zombie Apocalypse

A fun show from Fred Minnick.  Check us out coming in at #2 around the 2:55 mark. {youtube}MDK5vfqWyAA{/youtube}

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Contact Us

Catoctin Creek Distillery

Catoctin Creek Distillery
120 W Main St
Purcellville, VA 20132

Tel (540) 751-8404

buyvirginiarye.com


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Latest Events

Distillery Takeover at Goosecup

  AUG 4-5   Distillery Takeover at Goosecup 6:00pm Two nights only - August 4th and 5th!  Join us as we takeover the bar at Goosecup in Leesburg.  Enjoy up to five cocktails showcasing spirits from...

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Catoctin Creek Bottling Workshop

  AUG 14   Bottling Workshop 10:00am—12:00pm WORKSHOPS ARE BACK!  Catoctin Creek Distilling Company will conduct one of our famous Bottling Workshops!  Here's your chance to volunteer and learn how to bottle, cap, seal, and label...

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Catoctin Creek Bottling Workshop

  SEP 4   Bottling Workshop 10:00am—12:00pm Catoctin Creek Distilling Company will conduct one of our famous Bottling Workshops!  Here's your chance to volunteer and learn how to bottle, cap, seal, and label Roundstone Rye. Get...

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