INTERVIEW: Colin and David of Kings County Distillery

D Callahan October 5, 2012 0
INTERVIEW: Colin and David of Kings County Distillery

Founded by David Haskell and Colin Spoelman in 2009, Kings County Distillery is the first of its kind in New York City since prohibition. From day one, David and Colin had a clear goal. Make good, simple whiskey for a more cosmopolitan audience.

D. Callahan recently caught up with the co-founders while moving into their new (built in 1899) building in Brooklyn’s historic Navy Yard.

 

Question

How’s the move going? Would you say you’re settled in completely?

Answer

DAVID:  There’s still stuff to come, like a lot of equipment, but it feels like, just in the last couple weeks, like we’re here. We’re grounded, and we’re using the space. 

 

Question

Outside of reading the recipe, tell me what makes a good whiskey.

Answer

COLIN:  David thinks it’s more important to have organic grain than I do. I was like, whatever tastes best, and it turns out that organic grain does tastes best.

 

Colin Spoelman Kings County Distillery

 

Question

Why do humans laugh when tickled?

Answer

DAVID:  I think a combination of terror, ecstasy, and embarrassment over the ecstasy.

 

Question

Talk a little bit about the first time you tasted moonshine.

Answer

COLIN:  I don’t really remember the first time I tasted moonshine. It was probably when I was 16, and I was so excited to be drinking alcohol at all, so the type of alcohol wasn’t particularly memorable. 

 

Question

Where’s the safest place to stand in a thunderstorm?

Answer

COLIN:  On a bus?

DAVID:  In the road… assuming you can’t be inside.

 

Question

We didn’t say you couldn’t be inside.

Answer

DAVID:  Oh. Well… inside.

 

David Haskell Kings County Distillery

 

Question

Currently, what’s the biggest problem with running a business that happens to be a distillery?

Answer

COLIN:  I don’t know if there is any single problem. Everything breaks, and it costs money to replace.

DAVID:  Money. You hope money’s coming in, but it’s always going out. So you have to just be smart about your original projections, and steadfast in your course of action.

 

Question

Stones or Zeppelin?

Answer

COLIN:  Zeppelin. Stones were like Aerosmith, but 20 years earlier, where Zeppelin’s richly textured, orchestral music.

DAVID:  Stones by default. I kind of hate Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin gets at the heart of everything that was awkward about my childhood.

 

Question

Anything you might do differently if you started this today?

Answer

BOTH:  No.

 

Question

Does the size of one’s head effect his I.Q.?

Answer

COLIN:  We had a friend named Jittles who had a big head, and a really high IQ. Or at least he knew the answer to every trivia question. So I can say, based purely on empirical research, that the answer is yes.

 

Colin Working at Kings County Distillery

 

Question

Bourbon drinkers have a strangely unique loyalty to their brands. Any insite of comment on this?

Answer

COLIN:  I think it’s because people are deeply antagonized by the process of picking a drink. There’s enormous amount of anxiety over what is essentially something people know very little about. I think it’s that anxiety, along with 70 years of American marketing that have permeated drinking culture without much opportunity for change. There’ve been no indie spirits until, what, 8 years ago? 5 years ago? So it’s like how, in the 80s, when there wasn’t a lot of indie music, everybody liked pop. Michael Jackson was the guy. So I think now, as we move into the grunge era of spirits, there’s sort of a counter-revolution brewing.

DAVID:  My take on that is similar. A lot of it has to do with social anxiety, and just brand identification as a kind of marketing yourself. But then some people get excited about the story behind how a company is made, and  believe in a company based on their brand identification, and I think when you start seeing people with a particular allegiance to a small distillery, it often comes out of the fact that they’ve visited it, and seen how it’s made, and met the people there, and kind of buy in to what they’re doing. So it becomes more of a relationship with the brand.

 

Question

Is that what makes you want to bring more people here to see the process, and create the boozium?

Answer

DAVID:  Yeah, totally. And what made us want to start a distillery for our friends first. Like, the whole thing has grown from a particular geographic place. And out of the idea of New Yorkers drink so much, wouldn’t they want to drink what other New Yorkers are making. And then, hopefully, we’ll start serving further and further away from here. But we want to feel grounded in a place.

 

Question

Describe the perfect meal to go with bourbon on the rocks.

Answer

COLIN:  I refuse to answer that question. You should drink whatever you like!

 

Question

Will my eyes pop out of my skull if I don’t close them when I sneeze?

Answer

DAVID:  Try it.

 

Question

Follow up question: what if I’ve just taken a shot of your moonshine?

Answer

DAVID:  Whatever happens, you’ll enjoy it.

Kings County Distillery, Navy Shipyard