American Roots: NYC whiskey distillery takes spirit straight from farm to table

Americans across the country pride themselves of making a living with their very own hands, and Fox's "American Roots" focuses on hardworking citizens who do just that.

In the New York Distilling Company (NYDC), a Brooklyn-based craft distillery, men and women preserve a long-standing tradition that takes rye whiskey from the farm straight to your cocktail glass.

NYDC was built with American industry and New York’s rich cocktail history in mind. In fact, NYDC even opened its distillery’s doors on a significant date in libation history: Dec. 5, 2011, the anniversary of Prohibition’s repeal.

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Allen Katz, the co-founder of NYDC, told Fox News that his appreciation for tradition sets his company apart. “Our name is the New York Distilling Company, meaning that … what’s inside the bottle would be the whiskey we made, the whiskey we had complete control over — from the start to its earliest days as a distillate and a new make, to the barrels we put it in, to where we age it, to how long we age it, and how we blend it,” Katz explained. “We are in control of every part of that process.”

“There’s still a great story to be told about rye whiskey as not only a resolute American spirit, but also a really interesting agricultural and cocktail context for New York,” says Allen Katz, the co-founder of New York Distilling Company.

“There’s still a great story to be told about rye whiskey as not only a resolute American spirit, but also a really interesting agricultural and cocktail context for New York,” says Allen Katz, the co-founder of New York Distilling Company.

The rye for NYDC comes from Rick Pederson’s farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Katz said.

“We started small with Rick and he created a hybrid that was a hardy grain and had a nice sugar content so that when it was harvested we could ultimately distill it and derive a lot of flavor and volume from it,” explains Katz.

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The volume of the rye is ultimately where the economics of whiskey come into play — but just how much alcohol can you make from it?

The first harvest with Pederson, according to Katz, yielded 30,000 pounds of rye, which filled 26 barrels of what would eventually become rye whiskey.

“We’ve grown over the last several years to our largest output, which was between 900 to 1,000 barrels of rye in one year,” said Katz.

At the moment, New York Distilling Company produces around a thousand barrels of rye per year.

At the moment, New York Distilling Company produces around a thousand barrels of rye per year.

Katz noted that, while the rye is harvested in July, it is not distilled until mid-to-late October. That is because, once it is harvested, the rye's grains need to be cleaned, dried and milled. It’s a long process, according to Katz, which is why many brands take a shortcut and purchase already-made whiskey. That means large distilleries produce whiskey for a multitude of brands who simply put their name on the bottle to avoid the challenge of harvesting too much or too little product.

“You’re putting dollars into barrels,” explained Katz of his preferred process. “That liquid is dollars that you will not see for several years.”

After the rye is milled, the grains are cooked through a process called ‘mashing’ to expose the sugars of the grains. The sugars then interact with yeast. The process of fermentation occurs when the yeast converts the sugars into alcohol.

Katz explained that the fermented mash is then distilled in two runs: The first run strips the alcohol out of the fermented mash, and the second, or "finishing run," is the fine-tuning of the material that ultimately goes into the barrel to age for at least two years.

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NYDC is also one of the few distilleries in the country to also house a saloon, called The Shanty.

“We’re trying to take advantage of as many local opportunities as possible,” Katz said, adding that, starting at the Pederson farm and ending at The Shanty, he wants NYDC to be a part of American rye whiskey narrative.

“There’s still a great story to be told about rye whiskey as not only a resolute American spirit, but also a really interesting agricultural and cocktail context for New York,” he said.

“You’re putting dollars into barrels,” Katz says of the care, ingredients and processes that go into producing each bottle. “That liquid is dollars that you will not see for several years.”

“You’re putting dollars into barrels,” Katz says of the care, ingredients and processes that go into producing each bottle. “That liquid is dollars that you will not see for several years.”

To learn more about how Allen Katz and the New York Distilling Company are tapping into the American spirit, watch the full video above.

Emily DeCiccio is a video producer and reporter for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio.