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The rising success of a Kentucky whiskey man in Brooklyn

Colin Spoelman is having trouble finding enough barrels for his whiskey. 

So many people are drinking whiskey these days, and so many people are distilling it, he says there’s a shortage across the country.

“Now that a lot of new distilleries have popped up in the last three, four years,” Spoelman says. “The demand for whiskey barrels has outstripped supply.”

And he’s partly to blame. Spoelman, who grew up in Appalachian Kentucky, founded Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, New York with his old Yale roommate in 2010. At the time it was the borough’s only whiskey distillery – the first since prohibition. Today, says it’s the oldest of more than a dozen.

Following the success of the recent craft beer boom, hundreds of micro distilleries in the U.S. have begun challenging the whiskey establishment as increasing demand has drained supplies for high-end spirits and barrels. It’s a trend that Spoelman says shows no signs of slowing down.

“The fun of being a craft distiller is that you get to really experiment with the process,” he says. “Whereas when you’re a big distillery like Jim Beam you kind of have your stills and you have your recipe, your family recipe that’s been around forever. And you’re kind of in the business of making that product.”

Spoelman says he makes about 25 gallons of his product a day, or about 600 flask-sized bottles after aging. Enough to distribute to more than a hundred liquor stores and bars as far west as California. Spoelman says the expanded reach has helped the company become one of the leading micro distilleries in the country, if not by size at least by reputation.

While Kings County Distillery has found success, he says running the business in New York City remains a challenge. Especially when much of it’s manufacturing has moved elsewhere.

“But there’s also a little bit of pride in that,” Spoelman says. “I think people appreciate that and are willing to front the extra few bucks that it’s going to take to have something that they can go walk across the street and talk to the guy who makes it.”

 

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