Last night the Noblers took a trip down to the Navy Yard for a tour and tasting with the Kings Co. folks and ended up coming away with a hell of a lot more. Colin Spoelman, one of the Kings Co. founders met us at the foot of their relatively new space, an epic 19th century brick warehouse that used to exist as the Navy Yard’s bank. While it’s easy to imagine the floor plan being filled with folks coming to collect their pay after a hard day of grueling work, it seems just as perfectly designed for a modern-day distillery.
But while Colin and his team may be producing in the modern distillation boom, his knowledge and commitment to the historical relevance of alcohol in this country, in our city, and in his own life set the Kings Co. experience apart. Our tour started in their corn field, which exists seemingly more as an experiment, or as a way to stay connected to their source, rather than a true attempt at ingredient production. (They are already producing moonshine and bourbon at a clip which requires a high yield crop of over 250x the size of their own.) But at they very least, as a backdrop to their production story, it’s refreshing that even in an industrial setting, these guys stay connected to their product.
I was equally amazed as we made our way through the facility and through Colin’s descriptions by just how much liquor production has shaped American history. Of course, the Nobler Experiment on its own is rooted in my passion for this history, but for me, I hadn’t ever ventured back much past the late 1800s. As we listened to Colin describe the clashes, the taxes, the mass consumption, and more that ultimately led to Prohibition and the enormous fees restricting distilleries like themselves entering the industry, you couldn’t help but feel what these guys are doing is truly significant. As one of the first to take advantage of the relaxation in fees and regulations by the state of NY, Kings Co. manages to blur the lines between the past and the present.
But all that means nothing if their product is shit, and luckily for us, and for all of you, these guys know what they are doing. I was personally surprised the most by their un-aged corn whiskey, or moonshine. I’ve talked some smack about moonshine on the blog before but I’ve got to say, Kings Co. has got me converted. Their moonshine is not the slightest harsh, but rather sweet, floral and actually refreshing. Their bourbon, which I had a few times before is equally delicious. Aging for one year in smaller 5 gallon barrels produces the expected comforting notes in a bourbon but manages to maintain those original flavor components from the moonshine making for a far more interesting overall profile. Lastly, we tasted their chocolate flavored bourbon which blew us all away. You might immediate assume a bunch of grown men drinking chocolate whiskey isn’t exactly Nobler Experiment worthy, but that’s just because you haven’t tried this stuff. The aroma this whiskey gives off is undeniably chocolate. But as you take a sip, and the sweetness you expect simply does not show up, the marriage between chocolate and bourbon makes total sense. Colin mentioned this will only be a special release from time to time, so if you see it out there, you better snag a bottle or two!
Maybe the most significant component of our visit, however, was the sense that there is something happening at Kings Co. that you can’t help but root for; and it seems to all start with Colin. As he described the “bootlegging” ways of some folks in his dry Kentucky hometown, it wasn’t hard to see where his passion comes from.
From 300 square feet to their new Navy Yard home, Kings Co. has managed to make a name for themselves in this new world of distillation. I just love that they refuse to forget about the old world practices that got them here.