Van Brunt Stillhouse is a craft distillery based in Brooklyn — arguably the epicenter of microdistillery activity in America, if not the world. (The company is named after Cornelius Van Brunt, one of the founding fathers of Brooklyn.)
The distillery produces whiskey, rum, and — unusually — grappa. We tasted all three spirits. All are 80 proof. Thoughts follow.
Van Brunt Stillhouse American Whiskey – Made from New York grains, “made primarily from malted barley and wheat, with a little bit of corn and a touch of rye.” No age statement, but it spends just five months in American oak barrels. Incredibly young on the nose, it’s loaded with grain, funky and skunky. The palate doesn’t really alter course. Here the grain has a more malty character, but the finish is lengthy with grain husks, bean sprouts, and lumberyard remnants. Not my bag, though the mashbill sounds intriguing. C- / $36 (375ml) [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Van Brunt Stillhouse “Due North” Rum – Made from organic Himalayan sugar. Aged an indeterminate amount of time, but it’s hitting the spot reasonably well. It’s young, for sure, but the rum is full of brown sugar and molasses notes that hold down some of the more husky notes from distillation. Touches of apple, pumpkin pie spices, and a moderate finish. Lots going on here, and it’s coming together. A couple more years in barrel would probably seal the deal. B / $23 (375ml)
Van Brunt Stillhouse “Red Hook” Grappa – Made from grape skins used for the 2012 vintage of Leib Cellars Pinot Blanc, a Long Island wine. Per the company, “While not everyone likes Grappa, for those that do, Van Brunt Stillhouse’s Grappa is a delicacy.” Well, I like good grappa, and Van Brunt’s is mostly of the harmless variety. Big, hoary funk on the nose, more modest on the tongue. Interesting and surprising sweetness here, with vanilla and custard notes that counterbalance, to some degree, the fuel-powered aroma. Could stand some barrel aging to see what it might do with some mellowing. B- / $36 (375ml)