Business leaders and lawmakers from the local through the federal levels were on hand Monday to help Catoctin Creek Distilling founders Scott and Becky Harris celebrate a $1 million expansion that tripled the distillery’s capacity to turn out Virginia’s favorite spirits.
Their Roundstone Rye is Virginia’s most-awarded whisky, and their brandy, gin and whisky have won fans and awards here and around the world. And in a few years, after the next batches are done aging, there will be plenty more of those drinks to go around.
The Harrises were both engineers before deciding to follow their dream to open a distillery, the first in Loudoun since Prohibition—legally, at least—and one of only a handful in the state at the time in 2009. That journey took them from working with the county to start a business to today selling in 40 states, Mexico, Canada, Singapore and six European countries.
“In order to keep providing whisky to all these places, we have to be sort of fortune tellers.” Scott Harris said. With the years it takes for a whiskey to be ready to sell, distillers like Catoctin Creek have to anticipate where the market will be four or five years in advance. “So, it’s a little bit of skin, it’s a lot of bit of a scary thing, to basically build something for a market that’s not actually there yet.”
The distillery also uses all American or even local products as much as possible—from the grain, to the white oak barrels, even down to the glass bottles. Getting the bottles from Pennsylvania, while pricey to set up, turned out in their favor when the COVID-19 pandemic began and shipping lanes from China and Mexico, where many other glass bottles come from, shut down.
“The prosperity of any society or community is measured by how long it takes one dollar to circulate and leave that community,” said Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser. “You make it difficult for a dollar to leave the Town of Purcellville, and we thank you for that.”
The Harrises were advocates for making permanent a previously temporary reduction in federal excise taxes on alcohol, which became reality in 2021. And Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), with whom the Harris worked for overseas sales, pointed out they accomplished their growth amid not only a pandemic and economic slump, but a trade war sparked by the previous presidential administration’s tariffs against Europe sparked retaliatory tariffs on American goods—including on whiskey.
“You guys are not only selling great whiskey everywhere, you're helping local farmers stay in business, and what a great thing, because we know of the development and other pressures that can take small family farms and make them not economically viable,” Kaine said. “So something like you're doing is keeping an industry alive, and a way of life alive, that we would miss very terrible if it were to go away.”
State Sen. John J. Bell (D-13) thanked Catoctin Creek for leading during the pandemic—which ranged from pivoting to making hand sanitizer for healthcare workers and first responders in the early days of the pandemic, to today when all of their staff are vaccinated against COVID-19.
“This is the way forward, so thank you for leading on that and allowing your business to prosper,” Bell said. “Thank you for being just a great example.”
“It you think about entrepreneurs and their success, there's no such thing as to overnight success. Instead, there's a lot of hard work, there's a lot of vision, there’s a lot of about lot of sleepless nights, and a lot that goes into this success,” said Loudoun Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Howard. “So here today, celebrating today's expansion, we're really celebrating the last 12 or 13 years of the guts and the vision, the hard work, and everything that you have poured into this great, now Loudoun County institution.”
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) congratulated the Harrises on making their dream a reality—and on teaching the world to pronounce “Catoctin.”
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