G-LO: Yo, Limpd! It’s about time we made it up to Boardroom Spirits for a visit. I guess it takes a distillery and tasting room expansion celebration for us to make it out to Lansdale.
LimpD: That and for the stars to align so that we’re both free from our work and post-work responsibilities. Fortunately, my sports chauffeuring and your Way-Off-Broadway support duties took a back seat so that we could get into our Uber driver’s back seat and head to Lansdale.
G-LO: The stars most definitely aligned this time around. And speaking of Lansdale, it’s amazing how close it is (28 to 33 miles from Center City Philadelphia depending upon which route you take) and how much time it actually takes to get there from Center City (anywhere from 1 hour to 90 minutes, again, depending upon the route). Thanks to the Uber hook-up and not having to drive ourselves, it was a pretty easy trip to and fro. And definitely well worth the effort! They pulled together a very nice and low key event. where we could mix and mingle with the attendees while our bartenders took care of all the cocktail mixing. This was my kind of night.
LimpD: FYI, the train is only a few block away, so for our next trip out, I’d be interested in seeing if the train is quicker than dealing with the Schuylkill Expressway. But, yes, the Uber hook-up certainly came in handy. After our roundabout route through Northwest Philly and the tree-lined streets of the suburbs, I wasn’t expecting the exterior of the distillery to seem so industrial. At first, it seemed a bit like we were being driven to a secluded area for a Scorcese-esque ending. But, the expansion into the new bar area was really well-done, and I can’t wait for them to finish the patio and herb garden.
G-LO: Yeah, I was feeling a bit like Karen Hill in this scene from Goodfellas when we first pulled in to the parking lot…
I was quite relieved when we spotted the Food Shelter crew at the bar once we found the right door. Bars are most definitely my happy place. And bars with a big punch bowl filled with ready-made cocktails within arm’s reach make me even happier.
They really did a nice job of turning an industrial space into a warm and welcoming one. You wouldn’t think that drinking in a room with a polished concrete floor and a bottling line off in the distance would make for a cozy spot to have a few cocktails, but it really was. This is further proof that the craft distilling and craft beer movement is something that should be encouraged at every turn. The Boardroom Spirits tasting room is yet another fine example of urban renewal done right. As I’ve discovered during my brew and booze tours in Philly, Torrance, the Hudson Valley, Madison, and Maine, one person’s abandoned building / factory / warehouse / automotive garage / former metal foundry is another person’s future distillery and/or brewery. And another great thing about this type of urban renewal is that once the beverage makers start opening up, the restaurants and new residential living spaces are sure to follow, as evidenced by the new condos that were being built across the way from Boardroom Spirits.
Going back to the event, while the Cran You Feel the Beet Punch (made with their FRESH Cranberry Vodka, apple cider, and B Beet specialty spirit) that you chose as your first drink was a deliciously autumnal beverage, the Boardroom Old Fashioned (made with MGP sourced Northbound Rye, bourbon syrup, and aromatic bitters) was more my speed and a fine way to start off the festivities. Something about whiskey and bitters really gets my appetite going. Then again, what doesn’t get my appetite going? There’s a word for guys like me in Italian (and by Italian, I of course mean the butchered Italian-American version of Italian that was spoken in the old neighborhood before everyone moved to Washington Township): GAVONE!
LimpD: Love the idea of the punch of the day; every day a new punch made with Boardroom Spirits and locally sourced, and/or house made, ingredients. I think James Cleland, their tasting room manager, might be onto something! And, while the Cran You Feel the Beet was a pleasant Autumnal punch, the off-menu Executive Punch (spiced rum, red wine simple syrup, and aromatic bitters) was fantastic! I also tried the Made in the USA Mai Tai (Boardroom’s rum, spiced rum and triple sec with orgeat and lime) which was a really nice take on an island drink. Didn’t you order an off-menu drink as well?
G-LO: I did indeed! The Knee Buckler was its name. James said it was a mash-up of the classic Bee’s Knees cocktail (Northbound Rye, FRESH Ginger, lime and honey) and another cocktail whose name I can’t recall (they do say that alcohol consumption can have an effect on memory. I guess they’re right!). What I can recall is that it was quite deelish, especially that lightly spiced honey note that comes through in the finish. It was the kind of drink that keeps you going back for more.
James was good fun to talk to, and it was very nice of him to spend so much time with us. For a guy that looks so young (was he even 25?), he certainly had a wealth of booze and cocktail knowledge (he can talk the talk AND mix the drink!). Cocktail history and cocktail creation are obviously two of his favorite enthusiasms…
I’d say Boardroom picked the right guy to manage their tasting room operations thanks to his keep it fresh, keep it local, and most important of all, keep it fun philosophy.
Your other two drink selections were quite good. The Mai Tai was yummy, but like you said, the Executive Punch was fantastic! Maybe it’s the name? I certainly felt important while taking a sip. You know, like an Executive, as opposed to my usual G-LO Cocktail of feelings which consists of two parts regret, one part sarcasm, a splash of self-loathing, and garnished with a wedge of unripe persimmon.
With all this drinking going on, it’s a good thing they had some snacks on hand to soak up some of the alcohol. As is usually the case at events like these, all of my attention was focused on the drinks, so I can’t recall all of the details as to what we ate. There was something made with pulled pork, something else made with grilled grapes, cheesesteak eggrolls, mini crab cakes, a massive fruit and cheese station, and several other nibbles.
LimpD: I thought the G-LO Cocktail had much more than just a splash of self-loathing, and I can only imagine how bitter it will become as it ages!
As far as The Knee Buckler goes, it was a mixture of two old-timey cocktails; the aforementioned Bee’s Knees (gin, honey and lemon) and the Kentucky Buck (bourbon, ginger and strawberry/lemon juice). James really likes to take Pre-Prohibition cocktails and put the Boardroom spin on them.
The little bites were very pretty and very tasty. I especially liked that the pulled pork, grilled grape & brie and the bacon and apple bites (how did you forget the bacon!) were all on flat bread. This added a bit of texture and made them a little easier to pick up. Also, the macarons (especially the lemon and the pumpkin) from the Mixie Chics were fantastic! After a round or two of grub and a cocktail or three, I was ready for the tour. What did you think of the Hungarian backstory and the shiny new production facility?
G-LO: Bitter to the Nth degree is the only way to describe the G-LO Cocktail, i.e. highly unbalanced and you’ll lose your appetite for days. Maybe we can market it as some sort of extreme weight loss product? I know I can stand to drop a couple dozen pounds. Anyway…
I like the phrase “old-timey”. I expect my doctor to use those words during my next physical when he’s describing the state of my organ functions, as well as my aching joints and bones. Seriously though, that was a superb cocktail mash-up. When are we going back for another round of drinks? And how the hell did I forget the bacon??? Sucks getting old! And YES!; the macarons were delightful (the lemon and pumpkin were real standouts), as were the four women that made them. Love how the Mixie Chics back-story parallels the Booze Dancing back-story, i.e. next door neighbors who bake together decided to launch a dessert catering business, while next door neighbors who drink together decided to start a booze blog. The big difference is that they started something which will earn them some scratch, while we started something that will quicken our eventual demise and earn us no scratch. At least there’s no clean-up or Board of Health inspections involved with our little venture!
With regards to the tour, Marat Mamedov (one of the distillery owners) did a really nice job of explaining their distilling process and how the new equipment will allow them to increase output as well as expand their product range. The Hungarian bit of the story was pretty funny. Sounds a bit like the Wild West with regards to distilling in Hungary with anyone and everyone being allowed to own a still. Can you imagine how many micro-distilleries there would be in the US if you didn’t need a license and ATF clearance to own and operate a still? Then again, it’s probably better that is the way it is here. It’s bad enough that every loon with a couple hundred bucks can buy a firearm. Safety first, My Friend! Safety. FIRST.
While it was great to see the new stills and the barrel room, the really fun part was getting to try their soon to be released Single Malt Whisky. Since your memory seems to be working much better than mine these days, I’ll let you talk about the details.
LimpD: Would the G-LO Cocktail work like a cleanse? In this day and age it sounds totally marketable. And while we aren’t actually making a consumable product, are you sure the Board of Health (or some other county agency) shouldn’t be providing some sort of inspection for some of us?
While I was aware of some of the science surrounding the making of spirits, I didn’t realize that the legal restrictions are so different from state to state, i.e. a licensed distillery can produce 100,000 gallons of spirit in Pennsylvania vs. just 20,000 gallons in New Jersey. That’s a huge difference! I also wasn’t aware of the restrictions on alcohol R&D in the US. How does one get a business up and running without a sufficient amount of trial & error and experimentation? Good thing Marat’s wife is Hungarian, otherwise, Boardroom Spirits may have never gotten off the ground. I was intrigued by Marat’s description of the distillation process. The process is so clean and so refined that there is no need for additives (especially sugar).
I like how they started laying down barrels almost from day one. And, having us hang back in the barrel room for an exclusive tasting was a real treat. Over the years, we’ve had a chance to try some very young whiskies. I’ve found a number to be quite good, but I’m always left wondering what these young whiskies might become after spending more time in the barrel.
When offered the chance to try the Boardroom’s Single Malt at under 3 years, I expected to arrive at a similar conclusion. This whisky, at an ABV of 54.8% and aged initially in new white oak barrels and then finished for 7 or 8 months in limousine oak barrels, had quite a different taste. While there was a great deal of sweetness and spice upfront, and a nice smooth flavor on the backend, the limousine oak created a beautiful flavor mid-palate (so much vanilla!). I have to admit that I was blown away by how much depth of flavor there was in this whisky. It makes me wish we had been involved in the Kickstarter campaign as this whiskey will only be available to a select few as a thank you from Boardroom for their generous support. What did you think of the Single Malt?
G-LO: See? I knew you’d remember all those details. Bravo, Sir!
As far as the Boardroom Single Malt goes, I too was impressed with the complexity and deep flavors given its youth. Another thing that impressed me was how easy it was to drink without adding any water. I would never have guessed that this was a 54.8% ABV whisky. As I told Marat in the barrel room, it reminded me of a Glenmorangie 18 or Signet thanks to the sweetness and light spice that there was from start to finish. I had no problem going back for a second taste and would have welcomed a third taste too. All I can say is that if that’s what their first batch of whisky tastes like, I can’t wait to taste their future releases. We’ll definitely have to take advantage of Marat’s offer to have us come back for another tasting.
So to sum up, we sampled several delicious cocktails, ate a wide variety of savory snacks, scarfed down some yummy macarons whilst chatting with their makers, had a lengthy chat with the tasting room manager, and sampled a very exclusive Single Malt Whisky while getting schooled on the science and art of distilling by one of the owners. I’d say that this was a highly productive and delicious way to spend a Thursday night. Well worth the trip to Lansdale!
Any final thoughts to wrap up this post?
LimpD: Final thoughts? Well, I think we need to get out to Lansdale more often. And, now that Boardroom has partnered with the folks behind the Butcher and Barkeep to open their Northbound restaurant in Souderton, we might need to make a trip to Souderton as well.
G-LO: I like that you’re getting ambitious in your old age. All I can say to that is (in my best Dirty Harry voice), “Go ahead, twist my arm…”.