Beginning October 9, Black Draft Distillery in Martinsburg, West Virginia, is adding distillery tours and tastings to its business operations. Tour slots are limited, however, and reservations must be made though Black Draft’s webpage or by contacting the distillery directly.
The distillery owners say business has been so good that Black Draft will undergo a major expansion, including a new distillery building, additional distillation columns, tanks, barrel-aging facility, and an improved tasting room and store. The project, which will more than triple their production capacity, should get underway this month and be completed by spring 2016. Additional staffing is also expected.
These expansions are in part an outcome of the craft distillery law reform from the 2015 WV legislative session. That reform greatly reduced state fees on on-site liquor sales at distilleries, making possible the profitable operation of distillery tasting rooms and distillery stores.
Just two people making good whiskey
Right now, Black Draft Distillery is a two-person, family run operation. Glen Price is the distiller. Glen’s wife, Tara Price takes charge of sales and marketing. In reality, they both pitch in to do whatever work is at hand.
“We focus on handcrafted whiskeys using local grains, whether it’s rye, wheat or corn,” said Glen when describing the basis of their products and the company philosophy.
The Prices began with and currently sell only a single product, First Harvest Moonshine. It is technically a corn whiskey, meaning its grain content is more than 50 percent corn. Unlike some other moonshines on the market, their moonshine retains a nice level of corn flavor due to the distillation process they use.
Their Moonshine sales have exceeded expectations. With Tara out marketing to on-premise accounts and liquor stores around the Washington–Baltimore market, she has greatly increased interest in their product. She says showing bartenders new recipes for moonshine cocktails has proved to be an effective sales strategy.
Black Draft Distillery: moonshine to bourbon
Not resting on his moonshine laurels, Glen has a bourbon and a rye whiskey in the works (or in the barrel, so to speak). He says making corn-based moonshine actually led him to making bourbon.
“We found it’s a natural progression,” said Glen. “The basic mash bill is the same between the bourbon and our moonshine. The rye whiskey is a little different though; its more spicy.”
But unlike making moonshine, making bourbon and rye take a lot longer long time.
Black Draft has a relatively small quantity of bourbon and rye whiskies laid down in new charred-oak barrels for aging. The first of those products will not be ready for bottling and sale until late-summer or fall of 2016. At that point their straight bourbon will be a little over two years old. The Prices expect to retain some of the whiskeys for further aging.
With his 30-gallon capacity, electric-fired pot still and a 50-gallon distillation column, Glen stays real busy these days.
“We’re pretty much selling everything we can make,” he says.
In fact, he can’t make enough to keep up with demand. That’s why he is adding 300-gallons of additional distillation capacity as part of the expansion project. With his new rick house (barrel-aging room) expected to be ready in the next few months, he will be focusing on filling a lot of barrels with fresh bourbon and rye.
Local grains, 8 miles down the road
Black Draft sources all its corn, rye and wheat from the Lyle C. Tabb & Sons Farm in Kearenysville, WV, which is about eight miles east of the distillery. The Tabbs have about 1,900 acres in production where they grow grains and hormone & antibiotic-free beef cattle. The Tabb Farm is a fifth-generation family-owned operation.
“We lease 35 acres from them where we grow our own non-GMO corn,” Glen said. “Using local grains is huge for us.
“The Tabb family and our Price family, we all come together, and you will literally see us in the middle of a corn field running a combine. Even my six-year-old daughter is a part of it because she wants to get out there too. It’s really a family event.”
Tours & tastings, a new part of the business
Hosting free tours and tastings at the distillery is a new part of Black Draft’s business plan.
“We’ve always had a lot of people want to visit, but we weren’t open to the public,” Glen said.
With Tara working up a fun program, Black Draft Distillery tours will include more than a simple look around and a quick sample of moonshine.
“They taste it and want to know what you can do with it,” Tara said, describing the question she most often hears from visitors.
As part of the tours, Tara has developed several tasty cocktail recipes, which she will demonstrate and her guests will be able to sample.
“Our First Harvest Moonshine is an excellent cocktail ingredient,” Tara said. “This fall we’ll be demonstrating and sampling seasonal cocktail and special drink recipes. We’ll be getting creative.”
Using the Black Draft website will be the easiest way to schedule a tour. Within the next few days, a scheduling tool will go live at BlackDraftDistillery.com. Tours may also be booked by telephone.
When their expanded facilities open next year, expect an even richer experience at Black Draft Distillery. The Prices say they are working on some enhancements that should be good.
Distribution and sales
Other than at the distillery store, Black Draft markets its whiskey in West Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC, which is all the territory they can handle at current production levels. In liquor stores, Black Draft products are typically available in 750 ml and 375 ml sizes.
At the distillery, First Harvest Moonshine retails for $29.99 in the 750 ml and $19.99 in the 375 ml size.
Black Draft Distillery
Martinsburg, West Virginia