Summer 2016 Pa Distillery Tour #13- Disobedient Spirits, Homer City, Pa

Summer 2016 Pa Distillery Tour #13- Disobedient Spirits, Homer City, Pa

 “Disobey Responsibly.” Driving through western Pennsylvania gives you a feel for why distilleries still have an emotional connection to the Whiskey Rebellion. It’s rural. It can feel bit isolated from the big cities and the towns have a strong loyalty to their local businesses. Disobedient Spirits is located in the small town of Homer City, Pennsylvania. Driving into the town, you can’t help but notice its national pride in the local military because every telephone pole boasts a different image of an American veteran soldier from the area. The downtown of Homer City is quiet, but the distillery is not. Immediately on entering the distillery through the vestibule, the large tasting room opens up to your right. There are large plate glass windows that face the...

Summer 2016 Pa Distillery Tour #12- McLaughlin Distillery, Sewickley, Pa

Summer 2016 Pa Distillery Tour #12- McLaughlin Distillery, Sewickley, Pa

Everyone has a flavor experience that they will never forget. I have tasted many whiskeys, and have had many memorable tasting experiences. But I can assure you , that none of those experiences was quite like the one I had at McLaughlin Distillery in Sewickley, Pa. McLaughlin Distillery is tucked into the woods just outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. It is far enough off the beaten path that there is a sign at the base of the driveway that reads, “Welcome. Yes, This is it!” The distillery is up a gravel driveway away from the road and looks more like a cozy home than an industrially zoned facility. As it turns out, the entire building was gutted, stripped clean and rebuilt by hand. The man responsible for everything from the reconstruction of the building itself to the...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #11- Ridge Runner Distillery, Chalk Hill, Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #11- Ridge Runner Distillery, Chalk Hill, Pa

About an hour and a half southeast of Pittsburgh is the small town of Chalkhill, Pa, home to Ridge Runner Distillery. The Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania was the seat of the Whiskey Rebellion. Ridge Runner Distillery not only shares property with Christian W. Clay Winery, they share family ties. Christian Klay, distiller at Ridge Runner, was raised working the winery. His mother, Sharon, is a proud and energetic woman that built up her farm (Fayette Springs Farm) and vineyard around her passion for the property and the land that she fell in love with. She boasts 14,000 vines and when she does source grapes, they are only from within the state. Even after going away to college to study political science and computer science, it seems that Christian’s...

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...

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #5- Mountain View Distillery in Stroudsburg,Pa

Summer 2016 PA Distillery Tour #5- Mountain View Distillery in Stroudsburg,Pa

Just south of route 80 in central eastern Pennsylvania is the small town of Stroudsburg.  This beautiful village, nestled between the Delaware Water Gap and the Pocono Mountains, is the perfect place for a vineyard and a cozy place for a distillery. Mountain View Distillery is a perfect tourist destination for a summer afternoon and I enjoyed every minute of my visit. Mountain View Distillery is owned by Linda and Randy Rice. The both left their jobs back at the beginning of the new millennium to follow their dream of starting a vineyard. (Linda is an ex-pharmaceutical sales rep and Randy was a teacher.) They moved onto their property in Stroudsburg in early 2002, began planting in 2003, and finally opened to the public in 2009. Since then, their ambitions have...