Brooklyn Distilled

D Callahan October 5, 2012 1
Brooklyn Distilled

Brooklyn is no stranger to the food and beverage scene. From the old school classics like Peter Luger’s Steak House, Junior’s, and Nathan’s hot dogs, to the new brewer boom with the likes of Brooklyn Brewery, Sixpoint, and Kelso, there are clearly some commendable consumables to be enjoyed in the city’s most populous borough.

It’s in the vein of these local micro-brews that’s seen a whole new crop of small businesses that focus on the craft more than the marketing. But there’s one problem with that. If nobody knows about the product, how will they be able to experience how great it is? The answer: design.  Great design has launched more than a few Brooklyn food and beverage companies into the spotlight. Between Mast Brothers Chocolates, McClure’s pickles, and Morse Kitchen, there’s one thing in common. Great, simple design.

Kings County Distillery

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Enter Kings County Distillery. Founded by David Haskell and Colin Spoelman in 2009, Kings County is the first distillery in New York City since prohibition. From day one, David and Colin had a clear goal to make good, simple whiskey for a more cosmopolitan audience. The thing is that simple is not always as easy as it sounds. Colin and David went through dozens of rounds of tests while blending different ingredients in different proportions in different materials. In fact, three years later, they still don’t have all the materials ready. They received their five long awaited wooden fermentation tanks from a company that makes most of the water towers we see dotting the rooftops of Brooklyn buildings. There are also giant copper stills from Scotland on the way. No big deal.

But while it took more than a little effort to get that pure, clean taste, the straight-forwardness of the packaging seemed to come naturally. Yes, they thought about hiring a graphic designer, but they kept coming back to the basics with typewritten text on plain paper bands. And with this uncomplicated idea, they’ve come out with one of the most intriguingly sexy packages to grace a bottle of booze since the bottling of booze began. There’s very little on the band that’s not required by law, including just the name of the distillery, alcohol percentage, and ingredients.

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 that the type of alcohol wasn’t particularly memorable.” – Colin Spoelman, co-founder Kings County Distillery

It’s this simplicity that has seen Kings County Distillery take off like crazy. They’ve gone viral on blogs, Tumblr, Instagram, and other social media. People want this stuff before they’ve even tried it, before they’ve even heard of it. Who needs marketing when you’ve got an unbuyable cool factor?

Almost by accident, Colin and David tapped into an esthetic that has regained popularity without ever really ever going away, that of the rough, handmade creativity of old-school America. It is an idea that calls back to the pioneers of the Wild West and fits in so well with their new (built in 1899) building in Brooklyn’s historic Navy Yard. It was a time when whiskey was just that – whiskey. There were no politics involved. No marketing. No brands, just whiskey. And that’s what Kings County Distillery wants to be.

Simple. Delicious. Whiskey.

Subscribe Now (it’s free!) to receive our special Brooklyn Series E-Edition at the end of the week.


  • Emily Kodama

    Well-written and nails the reason for the success of so many mom-and-pop small businesses in Brooklyn: people want to support independent businesses but have extra incentive to do so if the product feels cool. I want some moonshine.