It was less than a year ago that D.C.’s first (legal) distillery in more than a century, New Columbia Distillers, first began selling its Green Hat Gin. Now, a second D.C.-based spirits producer is on its way: One Eight Distilling.
The new Ivy City distillery at 1135 Okie St. NE will produce vodka, gin, and unaged whiskey, plus bourbon and rye whiskey down the line. Behind the venture are immigration attorney Alexander “Sandy” Wood and Alex Laufer, who previously worked in the biotechnology and neuroscience fields. The friends from Vassar College, who now live in D.C., have left their careers to focus on distilling full time. The duo apprenticed at Smooth Amber Spirits in West Virginia earlier this year, and Wood also attended a seminar at a distillery in Chicago. “We’re learning as we go,” Wood says.
One Eight Distilling gets its name from Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which (among other things) established the District of Columbia as the U.S. capital. Wood and Laufer are trying to keep the business as local as possible and have begun talking to farms in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia about sourcing grain. “We can’t have D.C. grain, but we can try to stay as close as possible,” Laufer says.
Although they can’t finalize exact recipes until they have their equipment and licenses in place, Wood and Laufer say they hope to create a smooth, slightly spicy vodka made with rye as well as several infused vodkas. They will also barrel bourbon, rye whiskey, and other specialty whiskeys, which will age in new American oak for a minimum of two years. “We’re interested in doing different barrel finishes…that’s something that not a lot of people have have been doing with bourbon in particular,” Wood says. “The goal is really to create a wide variety of different flavor profiles.”
Renovations on the distillery’s warehouse are set to begin next month, and Wood and Laufer hope to open for business by April or May of next year. The nearly 8,000 square-foot facility will eventually have a tasting room, where Wood and Laufer also hope to host events.