A Quick Chat with Helen Hollyman

Here is a quick chat with Helen on her radio show, U Look Hungry.  For whatever reason I can chat up a bar all night long but aim a microphone or camera at me and like kryptonite, frozen.  Luckily Helen is a wonderful host and kept me from tripping up too much, also the bourbon helped.


Moonshine and Mousse

It is hard to remind yourself that sometimes when there is nothing particularly spectacular going on it doesn’t mean that you are being stagnant.  After a whirlwind year of constant adventure the slower times can seem a little unproductive and often leave me very restless at the end of a day focusing on what I am not doing rather than what I am headed towards.  Luckily both Shannon and I have the luxury of working  in the industry we want to end up in allowing us to gain experience while working on other projects on the side.  Every now and then it is nice to get little reminders that things are moving forward.  Last night my sister and I headed down to SoHo for a dessert sitting at the French Culinary Institute featuring our very own Chef Shannon Tebay and her pastry class peers!  Over the past few months it has become all too obvious that Shannon has a knack for pastry.  She has translated a talent for art, a precise hand, and seemingly limitless creativity into edible delights which constantly fill our fridge.  Night after night I get to indulge in tarts, trifles, and truffles and I have yet to stop being impressed, but to go and see Shannon in her element at the helm of a professional kitchen serving fine dining quality plates is another level of awe all together.  Shannon’s Creme Yvette Mousse dessert was supremely decadent, and an awesome reminder of what she has accomplished in such a short time.

Producing something physical, whether it is a beautiful dessert or a barrel of bourbon, is a nice way to remember that you are actually working towards a goal.  When I am not sure what it is I am actually doing in New York I find that wandering through the room where our bourbon barrels are stacked at the distillery reminds me of results that you can’t actually see come to fruition.  The reason I originally sought out work in a distillery was an infatuation with the lore and legend of every single bottle of single malt I have ever tasted, seen, or know of.  Every single bottle of spirit was tended to with great care by some one for years just so that I could enjoy it for a moment.  4… 10… 12… 21 YEARS of work went into a small bottle of alcohol.  You can’t help but admit that the knowledge of someone watching over that very drop of liquid in your glass somewhere across the planet over a decade ago doesn’t make it infinitely more precious.  It’s the thought that someone might scrutinize or romanticize an unknown random bottle of the bourbon that I make at the distillery that makes me care about every single step of everyday of work.  Hopefully I can imbue as much history and care into my bottles I as get from the spirit I myself enjoy.

Lately we have been getting quite a lot of attention from local, national, and international media.  It is flattering to find our bottle popping up in places I would have never thought to find them, thank you J. Crew.  Most recently we had a TV crew from Tokyo do a story about us for the local news:  I thought you might enjoy the clip, so here is our distillery from a different sounding point of view:  Click Here To Watch!

For everyone back home here is a real look into the distillery and our products, just click each link to take a look:

Video Tour!

Cool Pictures


Here are some pics from the new (yet to be named) place, unfortunately I was unable to hold the camera still… not sure what was going on there.  Hopefully I will be able to dig up some good pictures of Shannon’s supreme dessert work in the next couple of days!

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Cask Strength Era

Our lives in Manhattan are beginning to saturate as our existence slowly becomes exclusively alcohol oriented.  I hope that doesn’t scare any of the readers of this blog as I know there are some parents and other onlookers who may be concerned with the state of our kidneys and soundness of our could be intoxicated decisions, but fear not responsible readers!  Shannon and I have actually found that while working within the ethanol industry and being as busy as we are we seem to drink more frequently, but substantially less.  Being exhausted by constant work, school, adventure… etc, we seem to find ourselves indulging in a single beer or two a night, or simply a glass of wine or two… occasionally 8.  Amazingly the imbibing that we take part in is more than likely either education or extremely limited.  With my job at the distillery and Shannon’s job at Death & Co, not too mention my dad’s home brewery, Dan’s wine lust, and much much more, I have decided to declare this era of the blog The wandering Willey: Cask Strength Edition.

Cask strength (also known as barrel proof) is a term used in whisky-making to describe the strength of whisky in the cask during maturation. This strong whisky is not the whisky that is usually bottled, as at cask strength the whisky isn’t as drinkable. Most bottled whisky is normally diluted with spring water to bring its strength (ABV) down to a level that makes it more palatable, usually about 40% ABV. This dilution is said to bring out the various flavours of the whisky; this is why distillers may dilute different whiskies to different concentrations.  – Wikipedia

While that is not far from the truth, it is a little skewed, because cask strength whiskey is very much drinkable, and in most cases quite enjoyable.  Like a cask strength whiskey this blog will be the undiluted straight from the barrel account of our (Shan and I) journey through this very cult-ish, history soaked, and mostly inebriated industry.  Ultimately I would love to look back on this from the vantage point of  the deck at my brewery/distillery sipping on a great beer with friends and reminiscing about where it all began.  Until than feel free to laugh, maybe cry a little, at the foibles and follies we will encounter and hopefully overcome.

This week coming up marks a big step for me in creating a liquor for retail.  After ordering in some peated malted barley from the UK alongside a 50 lb bag of rye, I am going to sit down with Colin at the distillery and craft up a recipe for either a single malt or attempt to create a rye/malt blend.  I have visions of creating a spicy rye whiskey that carried a little heat to it, but would be rounded and balanced by cutting in a small percentage of smoky and peaty barley.  Now since I have put the cart before the horse let me say that I have no idea how to accomplish this as of yet.  I simply have the grains.  So this will be the first test of if I can translate what I want to happen into reality.  Worst/best part: waiting 8-9 months to find out the results.

Cheers, readers as we kick off a new era for us here in New York.