Booze Review

An After Hours Visit to Philadelphia’s New Liberty Distillery


Limpd: So, we finally got through the work/kids distraction and had a chance to visit the New Liberty Distillery. It seems like we haven’t had a chance to visit anyone the past couple years, so I really look forward to these excursions! I know they make a whiskey run under the name Kinsey (Rye, Bourbon, American). If memory serves, I recall sampling some of the whiskies at the American Whiskey Convention (AWC). Some tasty stuff!

G-LO: Yes yes! We get to go out and have some semi-wholesome adult fun! And it’s all thanks to our dear friend Kylie from Punch Media. It’s good to know people!

Re: New Liberty, you are correct. We’ve definitely tried a spirit or two of theirs at the AWC. The Kinseys for sure, and I know I tried the Dutch Malt Whiskey too. We also reviewed their line of canned cocktails under the American Liquor Company (ALCO) label. All delicious stuff as I recall. And now we get to see where the magic happens!

Jacob Looney, Director of Visitor Experience

LimpD: Oh yes, the canned cocktails. I forgot that they had the ALCO label as well.

After a relatively short drive (thanks for driving!) and a slightly longer time looking for parking (who builds housing with no parking?!?), we made our way up the steps to meet with Jacob Looney, the Director of Visitor Experience, one of the many hats he wears. Any first impressions? I was surprised that the door opens right into the barrel room. If you didn’t know what they made, it was abundantly clear upon entry. And, oh how many barrels there are!

G-LO: ALCO, not to be confused with ALCOA. Though the ALCO line does come in aluminum cans, so maybe there’s a connection there?

No worries on the driving! I figure my Clown Car (your words, not mine) is easier to park and navigate in Philly than your lovely and very capable of comfortably carrying four adults German sedan. And re: the parking situation, our beloved Philly needs to do a better job with urban planning. Guess they can start by actually planning!

Anyway…

I always like to see older buildings being repurposed instead of being torn down and replaced by some sort of disposable structure. If Apple Maps didn’t tell me that New Liberty was where it was, I would have driven right past it. It looks and feels like it’s always been there. I also like that speakeasy vibe when you get to the entrance as there’s no conspicuous signage. It’s like we’re in on some sort of secret!

That second floor certainly packs a lot in to a not so huge space. Barrels. Bottles. More barrels. And even more bottles! And let’s not forget the former stables where Jacob said they used to keep the horses when the building was used as a carriage house. Isn’t it funny how they used to build buildings for carriages AND horses, and now we just build buildings for people with no place to put our horseless carriages. Weird! I’ve digressed AGAIN!

Let’s get back on track…

Based upon the various markings on the barrel heads, it sure looks like New Liberty does a fair amount of barrel experimentations. And it was pretty neat to see the name of one of our local liquor stores (Benash in Cherry Hill, NJ) on a couple of the barrels. We’ll have to keep an eye out for those special releases.

Phase two of our tour took us to the distillery floor. Any initial thoughts?

LimpD: I couldn’t get over how little space there was downstairs and how well New Liberty maximized that space. They have all the fermenters, a mash tun and a still with interchangeable parts in one long run. In one room, they have all the malt and the mill complete with a pneumatic system to deliver the flour to the mash tun. In a 3rd room, they have the bottling line. It feels a little cramped but it is certainly efficient. What say you?

G-LO: Agreed. It’s tight quarters, but they’ve definitely maximized the space! In my head I’m imagining some sort of ballet as they navigate their distilling process and all that equipment. I’m also imagining myself stumbling and bumbling through the space during a production run. You know, banging my head on various pieces of equipment, tripping over hoses, putting my nose where it doesn’t belong at the wrong time and smelling something that isn’t quite ready to smell (i.e. a head or a tail as it comes off the still), passing out on the floor, getting carried out by the EMTs, etc.. Given that vision, I think I’ll leave all of this distilling business to the professionals.

I’ve been watching quite a bit of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul these days, and several of their exquisite montages are running through my head! They need to mount a couple of time lapse cameras on the distilling and bottling floor to capture all of the activity on a typical production day. I think it would be spectacular! Jacob mentioned that they have a contract with a company to do ready-to-drink cocktail canning on-site. Can you imagine a time-lapse of the canning process from start to finish? I’m thinking a How It’s Made marathon is in my near future!

Let’s move on to the part of the tour that was more in line with our skill set. The third floor bar, tasting room, and lounge. Take it away, Maestro!

LimpD: Maestro? I don’t think that word means what you think it means…

Before we rush ahead, what about the drinks on the tour? Their Kinsey Rye, a throwback to when Pennsylvania was the leader of rye whiskey was nice. Just the right amount of sharpness for me without being too on edge.

And then there’s the Bloody Butcher Bourbon…

Use an Ancient grain? Check.
Make a unique tasting Bourbon? Check.
Put it into a pretty, shiny package? Check!

The tasting room/bar/lounge was fantastic. I was blown away by the quality that went into the speakeasy look/feel. And the products. One after the other, we were treated to an array that was well-crafted, flavorful and quite simply delicious! Their Agave was something that I fear will lead me down yet another spirits path. Their Scotch (actual real Scotch from Scotland) was kind of unique. And the liqueurs were very good (well, maybe not the Picon which is not pecan flavored in the least). What did you think?

G-LO: I know what maestro means, and you are most definitely THAT. Deal with it.

First tastes of that Kinsey Rye and Bloody Butcher were quite nice! Would definitely enjoy an opportunity to give them a second and more intensive taste. Nudge nudge, wink wink!

Speaking of second tastes and more intensive research…

First impressions of the third and most magical floor at New Liberty were definitely positive! Really like the look and feel of the space and how it’s laid out. Cozy couches. Some retail space. And did I mention the lighting? Made for some pretty photos if I do say so myself.

As far as the drinks, that Agave stuff was quite tasty, as were the other elixirs that Jacob offered us. This was my first time trying Crème de Violet on its own. While it’s not something I’d drink straight, it was definitely intriguing and I’d love to see what they do with it in cocktails. Same with Picon which was most definitely NOT pecan flavored.

Everything that Jacob poured was great fun, but what really got my taste buds going was that sesame infused Scotch. I stand by my initial comments and would love to try it again alongside some sort of Japanese noodle dish, or at the very least, in one of Jacob’s yummy sounding cocktails.

All in all, twas a great visit and it was super nice of them to accommodate us after normal business hours.

So the question is…

When do we go back for a proper cocktail tasting session?!?

Limpd: How about now?!? To the BoozeMobile!

______________________________________________________________________

Many thanks to Kylie Flett of Punch Media PR for arranging this visit!

1 reply »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.