By Renss Greene
Virginia’s favorite distillery is tripling its production capacity in Purcellville, looking forward to a busy future.
Catoctin Creek Distilling isn’t just one of Loudoun’s favorite places for a drink—its Roundstone Rye is Virginia’s most-awarded whisky, and its brandy, gin and whisky has won fans and awards here and around the world. Some might even say they’ve gone interstellar—in 2020, the distillery announced Ragnarok Rye, in collaboration with Richmond heavy metal band and interplanetary barbarian conquerers GWAR.
And a few years from now, when the first batches are ready from the newly expanded distillery, there will be even more of Catoctin Creek’s good spirits to go around.
The distiller’s founders, Becky and Scott Harris, dove headfirst into the COVID-19 pandemic, making sanitizing alcohol available to healthcare workers and gearing up to produce hand sanitizer on their equipment, both of which they distributed for free to first responders. They have also been strong advocates not only for the alcohol law changes that Virginia saw during the pandemic, but around tariffs that hit their business as it expanded internationally. Now, with a fully vaccinated staff and events like “Dinner at the Distillery” that require proof of vaccination, the business is ready to put that pandemic behind.
“We believe that we’re going to have some boom times ahead,” said Scott Harris. “… Quite simply put, if we are bullish on it, we need to be prepared for it. All of our stuff has to get laid down multiple years before it’s available to be sold, so we’re really planning for the future.”
With the aging process that goes into Catoctin Creek’s spirits, the first batches from the new equipment—the “juice,” in industry lingo—will be available in three to five years.
The distillery and tasting room operate out of the historic Case Building on downtown Purcellville’s Main Street, originally built in 1921. The Harrises founded the distillery in 2009, and opened in the Case Building in 2013, the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since Prohibition. The million-dollar expansion includes a new, larger copper pot still, replacing their beloved 12-year-old still “Barney;” a closed-loop glycol cooling system; a new mash tank; six new fermenters; a new spent mash still; and new concrete floors to replace the 100-year-old floors in the distillery.
The installation work began in mid-July and is nearly complete—the distillers are just waiting on the new glycol cooler to come in, which will replace the tap water cooling system.
It continues the constant growth and renown of a company whose spirits can now be bought in 47 states and on three continents.
“I guess we’re just kind of never satisfied unless we’re keeping moving,” Harris said.
And working in a historic building meant expanding in the same relatively tight space, with relatively low ceilings. The company worked with a firm in Canada, Specific Mechanical Systems, that custom-designed the equipment to fit in the same footprint.
“I measured that space like 70 times and was still very nervous until it all got put in place, and of course it all fit like a glove,” Harris said. “It was really, really great to see it.”Learn more about Catoctin Creek Distilling Company at CatoctinCreekDistilling.com
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