Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #10- Maggie’s Farm Rum Distillery, Pittsburgh, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #10- Maggie’s Farm Rum Distillery, Pittsburgh, Pa

Her Jamaican rum And when she did come, I asked her for some.            -Bob Dylan, lyrics from 4th Time Around Usually, my interest lies in American whiskey. But before there was whiskey in America, there was rum. The American Revolution’s roots are drenched in it. Rum was the drink of colonial America. It was considered a necessity by early colonists, so when the British heavily taxed molasses (the Molasses Act of 1733) and sugar cane (the Sugar Act of 1764), the colonists were furious. Rum was used as currency in trades with the Native Americans and was used as exchange in the triangle trade/slave trade (rum exchanged for slaves in Africa, slaves exchanged for labor in the Caribbean for use in sugar cane production, sugar cane shipped to be made into rum, and...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #9- Wigle Whiskey in Pittsburgh, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #9- Wigle Whiskey in Pittsburgh, Pa

No trip to Pittsburgh would be complete without a visit to Wigle Distillery in the strip district. It is pronounced “Wiggle”, by the way, based on the way that descendants of the Wigle family say it. Though the man after which the brand is named probably would’ve introduced himself as Philip “Vigle” (with a “V” and a hard “I”) with his German accent. Philip Wigle was one of ten men (of the 24 indicted) that were brought up on federal charges of treason after the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was brought to an end. He and one other (John Mitchell) were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. George Washington pardoned them in the end, but his name will be remembered now on labels of whiskey over two centuries later. (Wigle Whiskey’s labels show the “g” in Wigle...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #8- DR Distillery in Slippery Rock, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #8- DR Distillery in Slippery Rock, Pa

Next stop across the state is DR Distillery in Slippery Rock, Pa. This was a bit off the beaten path and took me out into the countryside. I didn’t get in until a bit later in the evening, but, thankfully, the owner, Dawn Carson, keeps evening hours and had the bar open for drinks and the distillery open for tours! When I pulled into the driveway, I saw Dawn sitting out on the country porch of the distillery with a close family friend that rode in his Harley Davidson for a visit. They greeted me with smiles, and Dawn gave me a little background on her farm and distillery. She informed me that her cows and bulls roam freely on the property and don’t stray far. After glancing around fruitlessly waiting for one to appear from behind the distillery and snapping some...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #7- Blackbird Distillery, Brookville, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #7- Blackbird Distillery, Brookville, Pa

  Moonshine, anyone?  Out in Brookville, Pennsylvania, just off of the route 80 and about 2/3 of the way across the state toward Ohio, is Blackbird Distillery.  The name Blackbird comes from the nickname given to David Black, the owner and distiller, by family and friends.  David owns the distillery with his wife, Jennifer.  They wanted to replace David’s income from welding with something a bit closer to his heart- making shine, “the primitive way,” without machinery. David hand grinds local corn before loading it into his mashtun.  Jennifer explained that he actually stands above the mash-tank on a plank, stirring it himself with a paddle.  He then buckets the cooked mash into fermentation tanks.  After fermentation is complete, a lever releases the liquid...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #6- Big Spring Spirits in Bellefonte, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #6- Big Spring Spirits in Bellefonte, Pa

I was not prepared for my visit to Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. No one told me how beautiful it would be! I was struck by, and found myself in in awe of, this little piece of Belgium in the middle of the state! Only 12 miles north of State College, the town has grown around its belle fonte- its beautiful spring.  What is necessary when making good whiskey if not good water? There are just the right levels of minerals in this iron-free water to make any whiskey maker in Kentucky jealous. Many Pennsylvanians don’t realize that their state possesses some of the highest quality water in the United States that can be perfect for productive fermentation. Anyone who’s driven down a highway through Pennsylvania has seen the many limestone cliffs. The quantity of dissolved...