Rowhouse Spirits in Philadelphia, PA

Tucked away in a corner of East Kensington in Philadelphia is Rowhouse Spirits.  The small brick building that houses the distillery is located right in front of Philadelphia Brewing Company.  You can’t miss it because of the beautiful barrel and distillery mural created by the Mural Arts Society of Philadelphia that wraps around the whole freestanding structure.  The owner, Dean Browne, is one of the friendliest and good natured guys you’ll share a drink with in the city!  The tasting room is small but cozy and he’ll walk you through the space and gladly show off his entire set up if you’re interested in learning more.

Rowhouse Spirits became a Philadelphia distillery in 2014, but was dreamed up by Dean Browne long before that.  A combination of things- Dean leaving the software industry because of layoffs, the laws changing to be more supportive of distilleries in Pennsylvania, experiences in traveling abroad, the cocktail revolution in the U.S., friends at Phila. Brewing acquiring the building that Rowhouse now resides in (to name a few)- led to Dean and his wife, Traci’s, life changing decision to open a distillery.  I can appreciate Dean’s love for the cultural and historic connection that spirits have to our country and his ancestors.  The Celtic label design is a testament to that.  His decision to release a Poitin is another.  Poitin (pronounced put-cheen) is a traditional white whiskey from Ireland that is usually associated with illegal production-much like moonshine here in the America.  Like moonshine, it may have been illegal, but it also has the connection to family and home-made spirits that remove any negative stereotype that may have been placed on it.  Rowhouse’s Poitin won Best Unaged Grain Spirit at the American Whiskey Convention.  It is made from 100% malted barley.

Rowhouse Spirits was founded with the plan to create whiskey.  That whiskey is sitting in barrels waiting to reach its potential.  Like many new distilleries, they make white spirits as well, but have a few infused spirits that add some interest to the line-up while the whiskey ages.  The Bear Trap (besides being a loving shout out to Philadelphia’s gay community) is infused with 19 different herbs and has an anise forward flavor that really makes a nice digestivo (after dinner liqueur).  Many of Dean’s spirits seem to have a connection to his world travels and influences that came from those cultural interactions.  The very small batches that they produce make it feel more personal and connected to the character of the distillery and to Dean, himself.  Making the trip out to Kensington to visit Rowhouse Spirits is well worth the trip, if only to have a drink with the bearded distiller himself.  2440 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, PA, 19125.  267-825-7332.