Staying close to home
We celebrated Mother’s Day a couple of Sundays ago, and my family treated me to something I hadn’t done before…we toured a whiskey distillery. Oh, I’d visited breweries and wineries, but I’d yet to see in person how whisky was made. And since my dream trip to Scotland and Ireland hasn’t yet fallen into place, I was pleased that my daughter arranged for us to visit to Bully Boy, a local Boston distillery. My whisky-geek’s heart went pitter-patter!
Massachusetts, like many other areas around the world, has a growing distilling industry. The region boasts many breweries and wineries, and distilling spirits is coming back. Why coming back? Well, for those that remember their US history, New England was one part in the (shameful) triangle trade of humans from Africa, molasses from the Caribbean, and rum from Boston. At its heyday in 1770, New England had almost 160 distilleries using millions of gallons of Caribbean molasses. Distilling rum declined steeply through the 19thcentury, and Prohibition pretty much ended it, though not completely (ok, enough with the depressing history lesson!). On a happier note then, with the resurgence of demand for rum, gin, vodka, and whiskey, we’re seeing many new distilleries open in New England in general, and Boston in particular.
Bully Boy is housed in a non-descript building in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood (the entire distilling production takes place in one large room, and the barrels are aged across the street). There is a charming tasting room separated from the production floor by a large glass window…you can sip some pretty interesting cocktails that feature Bully Boy’s line up of whiskey, rum, vodka, and gin while watching the going’s on at the still. Since we toured on a Sunday, their production line wasn’t running, but I could imagine what the smell would be like…a mixture of grain, alcohol, and label glue. And the noise from the bottling machine must be deafening! Anyway, our tour guide, Adrian (who doubles at the lead bartender), gave us a detailed look into the distilling process (and patiently answered all my questions!). His counterpart Riley tended bar, and she gave us great suggestions as to what to try off the menu. I had “The Dark Stuff” spirit flight, a nice line up of some of Bully Boy’s offerings. To read more of their interesting origin story, head to their website.
Bully Boy “The Dark Stuff” spirit flight
At the Bully Boy Tasting Room, May 13, 2018
American Straight Whiskey
- Nose: corn, caramel, vanilla fudge, caraway, soft baking spices
- Taste: cloves, nutmeg, white pepper, rye nuttiness
- Finish: fades to herbal notes from the rye, sweetness lingers
- Comments: an easy sip of whiskey, soft & approachable, no harshness, quite fine, my favorite of the lot
- Nose: herbal, deep molasses, licorice
- Taste: dark molasses, sweet gingerbread, caramel candy, slightly herbal, almost like a burnt coffee note
- Finish: fades to black licorice, dark & sweet
- Comments: much deeper flavor than most rums, distinctive, strong burnt sugar accents, like drinking a molasses cookie
Classic Old Fashioned
Made from whiskey, bitters, sugar, and is barrel aged, 37%ABV
- Nose: caramel toffee sugar, orange citrus, lightly pine
- Taste: brown sugar candy, vanilla fudge, med body, basil underneath
- Finish: the caramel sweetness lasts long, herbs at the tail end
- Comments: all sugar, all the time; great if you like whiskey balanced with sugar, the bitters give a slight medicinal quality that counteracts the sugar
Aside from being a whisky geek wanting to see the process up close, I really like the fact that I can support a local craft distillery. I’ve seen Bully Boy on retail shelves and cocktail menus, and I’m glad that they’re developing a following. I may not have made it to Scotland & Ireland yet, but it’s nice to know that there are Boston local distilleries that I can go, have a dram, and geek out!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!