After three years in the making, Boston Harbor Distillery has opened its doors. Located in a 19th century building on the water in Dorchester, the operation will serve as both a production facility for their line of spirits, as well as a mercantile shop, tasting room, and public gathering space for events.
Founded by Rhonda Kallman, a co-founder of the Boston Beer Company, and Corey Bunnewith, a mainstay of the Boston craft cocktail movement in recent years, and helmed by veteran distiller John Couchot, they’ve currently got four spirits bottled, with an eye toward rolling out a handful more over the next few months. The flagship spirit is Putnam New England Whiskey, Bunnewith explains, a combination of malted barley and chocolate roasted malt aged in new American oak barrels. Available both at 86 proof and in a barrel cask strength, it finishes with light notes of milk chocolate.
“I think the integration of the chocolate malt is what really set it apart,” he says. “We use the phrase ‘refined grittiness’ a lot. It’s robust, not necessarily nuanced with time, but it lets you know when you're drinking it, and there’s a beautiful dryness from the chocolate malt… I’d almost compare it more to a Highland or Speyside single malt. There’s no smoke, but it definitely has the char and the spice of the barrel.”
The rye was exceptionally drinkable, with little of the typical bracing heat, even at 120 proof (although it will come down). Other forthcoming experiments will be limited edition whiskeys distilled using Sam Adams beers.
Probably the most locally-focused of their line come in the form of the Lawley’s New England Spirit, in both an aged and unaged style. It’s distilled from molasses, which means it sips like a rum, but since maple syrup is also involved, it can’t legally be called that. “We wanted to use local terroir with the maple syrup and molasses,” Bunnewith says. “It’s something we thought was unique and distinctive to New England.” The maple shows up in the white spirit, alongside vanilla bean, but in the aged version it’s a lot more prevalent, albeit with the oak rounding off the edges. “But at 90 proof, there’s still a lot of shoulder to it,” he says.
Bunnewith recommends trying the unaged Lawley’s in a New England Daquiri, using 1 ounces of the “rum” 1/4 ounce of maple syrup, a dash of sea salt, and 1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice.
A fourth option is a whiskey-based spirit that incorporated the maple again, but with locally roasted coffee.
Over the next couple of months as they secure their pouring permit and victualers licenses, they’ll look to host more events and parties in the space.
“That’s the last step for us, having people be able to sit down and enjoy it.”
In the meantime groups can sign up for tours and tastings at the facility, or find the spirits being served around Boston in bars like Five Horses Tavern, Viale, and Fairstead Kitchen.
It’s been a lot of work, but it’s finally starting to pay off, Bunnewith said.
“I thought opening restaurant was difficult and time consuming,” mentioning all of the various local, state, and federal regulations that go into opening a distillery. “Every day is a new day, and if there’s an hour you're awake and you're moving it’s an hour that this requires your time.”
“It keeps you on your feet but it’s the coolest thing I can think of.”
If you go
Boston Harbor Distillery
12R Ericsson St., Boston