The details are murky, but family lore has it that New England Distillery founder/ distiller Ned Wight's great-great-great-grandfather, John Jacob Wight, took over a failing whiskey distillery in the Hunt Valley, north of Baltimore, Maryland, sometime during the 1850’s and began producing Sherwood Rye Whiskey. He built the distillery up and in 1868 sold a controlling interest to Edward Hyatt. Around that same time, the families merged, and the distillery continued to grow to the point that in the late 1870’s the US Army was stockpiling Sherwood Rye Whiskey for medicinal purposes.
In 1894 Edward Hyatt passed away and left Ned's great-great grandfather John Hyatt Wight at the helm to usher the distillery into the 20th century. John H. Wight and his son Frank L. ran the distillery until it was shut down at the start of Prohibition in 1920. When National Prohibition ended, Frank L. Wight founded the Frank L. Wight Distilling Company in Loreley, Maryland which he and my grandfather, John Hyatt Wight II, ran until they sold the distillery in 1943. Tastes were changing and Maryland rye whiskey was on the wrong side of the palate at the time, so while Ned's great-grandfather tried to get another couple of distilleries going, they never really held on. When he died in 1958 the last Wight family distillery, the Cockeysville Distilling Company, shut its doors. Until now.
The crew at New England Distilling feels very strongly that technology has its place and so too does history. Distilling is one of those crafts that offers a unique meeting ground between history and technology, art and science. There is no doubt that amazing spirits have been produced on the simplest of pot stills as well as the most high tech column still. When they're creating something, they want to get close to it, get thier hands on it and get involved; they'd rather turn a valve than press a button. They believe that every valve turn, every flame adjustment, and every hand turned mash adds to the final product like a brush stroke. At New England Distilling they blend history and technology, with a little more history maybe. You see it in thier art work, in thier distillery and experience it in thier products.
New England Distilling's whiskeys, rum, and gin are distilled from grain grown in New England and the Midwest, thier rum from Caribbean molasses, and they ferment thier wash with yeast harvested from Maine Beer Company.
At the heart of New England Distilling is a pair of custom designed, hand-made copper pot-stills. The design of the stills allows the distillery to produce robust whiskeys and rums alongside clean, crisp gin. The stills are heated with direct fire which creates more caramelization and Maillard reactions in the pot leading to a more complex, robust spirit. The spirit leaves the pots and passes through a pair of thumpers, driving the proof up and picking up flavor compounds on its way to the worm where it is cooled and condensed back into a liquid. The spirit is collected as it leaves the worm, and matured in oak barrels or, as with thier Ingenium Gin, allowed to rest a while and get its wits about it before bottling.
I Aprilof 2021 the crew traveled to Maryland to rescue several racks from the last standing rick house of the Sherwood Distillery and put them back to work. Now, the distillery's barrels rest on the same racks as those my great grandfather laid down.
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