This past weekend I was invited to spend some time at a local whiskey distillery in Virginia. Less than an hour drive from DC, the Catcoctin Creek distillery is the first in VA since Prohibition out of which Scott and Becky Harris have been churning out small batch, organic gin, whisky, and brandy since 2009. A small group of DC food writers and I were treated to a four-course "still to table" dinner in Catoctin's tasting room. Converted from an old car dealership, the bar-cum-tasting room is gorgeous-all vaulted ceilings, huge windows, and exposed brick.
Dinner was courtesy of the local Bluewater Kitchen. Themed as a "Shenandoah Showcase," the meal was sourced almost entirely locally. A fall vegetable salad, hen of the woods and blue oyster mushroom soup, and a braised flat iron steak from the nearby Oakland Green Farm. Not only does Oakland Green supply beef to Bluewater and other local restaurants, Catoctin provides the spent barley used in the distilling process as cattle feed. It's a symbiotic relationship. Cocktail pairings included a superb Sazerac, of which I had two. Or three. Maybe more...
I've been to press dinners before and have received my share of parting favors, but one of the ones Scott snuck into the gift bags may have been my favorite to date. A flask of Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye. All dinners should end with complimentary flasks.
The next morning Scott gave us a tour of the distillery and a basic tutorial of how his spirits are distilled from the kettles to the fermenters to bottling. All while wearing an authentic Scottish kilt. The trip ended with a short drive through thick fog and a light drizzle to Oakland Green Farm to see where the beef from dinner the previous night came from and where Scott's mash goes.
It was a tasty and informative weekend. It's common knowledge that VA has an abundance of wineries. Next time I consider a drinking road trip (driving and drinking, mutually exclusive of course), I'll have to include distilleries as destinations.