“Distilling the American Spirit” is the slogan for Williamsburg newest thirst-quenching destination, Williamsburg Distillery. Now open, but three years in the making, Dr. Bill and Yvonne Dodson own and operate the colonial themed micro-craft distillery using ingredients from the 17th and 18th century to produce Rum, Dutch style Genever Gin, and the colonial whiskey we now call Bourbon. Embracing the traditions of America’s European forefathers, the rum is made from organic molasses, while the Gin and Bourbon are made from Virginia grains such as wheat, barley, and Indian corn grown on what was originally Algonquin Indian tribal grounds.
What’s the significance of this? Well, Virginia is actually the birthplace of American-style distilled spirits. On distillery tours, or out on public lecture, Dr. Dodson is quick to launch into fascinating stories of the origins of American spirits. One of his favorites is the origins of Bourbon. Though Kentucky is currently famous for Bourbon, it’s roots start in Virginia, first with the first documented use of maize in a mash by Reverend George Thorpe at Berkeley Plantation in Charles City Virginia. At that time Virginia was divided into 8 distinct shires, it’s first Royal decreed Government. The maize recipes quickly migrated west. When the first use of the word Bourbon to call this ‘whiskey from maize’ occurred, Bourbon County was still part of Virginia.
A visit to the distillery rewards guests with a free sample of their 8 Shires Rum and Genever Gin. Their Bourbon is resting in casks for another two to three years. Colonial cocktails from historic recipes are available in flights for $12. Non-alcoholic drinks are available for kids. To emphasize their commitment to the colonial theme, the ‘8 Shires Tavern’ features colonial activities throughout the year like period dance classes and colonial game tournaments.
Dr. Dodson uses open top style wood fermenting tanks and is currently having a period style still custom built to complete the period theme. Classes are available to the public to mash and distill your own batch of spirits, even barreling your own Bourbon for a ‘special release’ or college reunion with your own label.
The Rum and Gin are available in most Virginia ABC stores and at Williamsburg restaurants including, but not limited to:
The Whaling Company
Second Street American Bistro
Hair of the Dog
Blue Talon Bistro
Products Currently Available from Williamsburg Distillery:
8 Shires Rum (Yorktown Rum) Inspired by William Rogers (known as ‘the poor potter’, is made only from organic, non-GMO center cut molasses and yeast, hand crafted as it would have been between the year 1720! There is no bitter after taste like that with Rum from Sugar.
Bronze: American Distilling Institute, San Francisco California
Silver: Denver International Spirits Competition
Gold: Los Angeles International Spirits Competition
8 Shires Gin (Jamestown Gin) is not your mother’s Gin. This is Gin from whiskey distilled at no higher than 160 proof! Modern London Dry Gin is made by flavoring Vodka with Juniper. Originally crafted in Holland by a Doctor for medicinal purposes, the Dutch quickly enhanced the Juniper taste with traditional spices like Orris root. It’s gin like you’ve never tasted before!
Triple Gold: Los Angeles International Spirits Competition
8 Shires Bourbon (Williamsburg Bourbon) possibly the only Bourbon with Indian Maise, is currently aging in oak barrels. Follow them on Facebook to hear when it’s ready! Reverend George Thorpe would be proud!
Photo credit: Williamsburg Distillery