Considering that the town of Belmont just passed out its first retail alcohol license a few years ago, you might join some of its residents in surprise at the recent opening of Damnation Alley Distillery. This never would have happened had Mitt Romney had won the election! People regularly pass by the distillery — which also serves as a retail location for their products — and marvel that it even exists.
“I think with Bully Boy and Grand Ten, and just the culture in Massachusetts with distilleries," Alison DeWolfe, one of five owners says, “People are getting the idea that this is good for the community, it's starting to raise awareness about local businesses and supporting local farms. I think that's the key.”
Damnation's vodkas and whiskeys are all made from ingredients sourced from local farms like Mainstone, Four Star and Valley Malt.
For the owners, who also include Emma Thurston and Jessica Gotsch (who DeWolfe has worked with at Newbury Comics for 15 years) and their husbands Jeremy and Alex, the process began about five years ago when Alex, a homebrewer, took a course in distilling at the University of Michigan. At first their plan was to secure investors, but the more they looked into it, the more they realized they might be better off on their own. “We thought we could do it on a smaller basis, and just keep it just the five of us. We all have that DIY mentality,” DeWolfe says.
For now, that means operating at a relatively small level, running three 26 gallon stills and producing about 12 cases a week, which they rotate every other week between vodka and whiskey. For the time being, they're only selling the spirits out of the on-premise storefront, but plan to expand into bars in the coming year.
The products include three vodkas, one of which I’ve tasted, and quite liked. This, their Nick the Sipper (named for a Nick Cave song), is a relatively mellow, sippable vodka. Their Remixer vodka is better suited for mixing cocktails, while the One Night In Bangkok is flavored with Thai sweet chilis grown in Belmont.
The four whiskeys (of which three are un-aged) include a barley whiskey with sweeter cereal tones; a wheat that is somewhat akin to an Irish whiskey; their house, un-aged whiskey (with grain, barley, corn and wheat); and a six-months-aged barley whiskey.
The aged whiskey has started to spark a lot of interest, DeWolfe says. “I think it's brought in a different type of customer as well, a lot more people are coming in for that.”
Of course they are — and there goes the neighborhood.