The long game
"We were adamant about making our own whiskey, putting it in full-size barrels, and aging it ourselves," says John Uselton, co-owner of New Columbia Distillers, who notes that making a DC whiskey was part of the plan from day one. “But we knew that there was no way we could have whiskey available within five years." Since opening the first craft distillery in DC in 2011, Uselton and his partner Michael Lowe have been making a name for themselves through their wildly successful Green Hat gin, but they’ve also been working quietly in the background, laying down barrel after barrel of whiskey.
"Right now, we’ve got about 25 barrels," explains Uselton. "Most are rye whiskey." Of those 25 barrels, the oldest whiskey in the New Columbia facility is about three years old. "Our idea, when the barrels are properly matured, is to release a barrel, hold a barrel, release a barrel, hold a barrel." Following this staggered release schedule would allow New Columbia to let select barrels continue aging. "Say the first barrel released is five years old, then the next year we can release some six year old... and just keep going down the line."