Start in Red Hook. Then follow your nose as the sweet smells of cooking barley and grains waft through the summer air and lead you to a classic Brooklyn brick building (formerly an old paint factory). Little signage tells you the treasure you’ve just found, but inside this building are the copper stills and grains of a distillery, a beautiful craft tasting room of reclaimed wood and a small distilling lab fit for a mad scientist apothecary. It’s all part of the Van Brunt Stillhouse, a distillery founded by husband and wife team Daric and Sarah, who are bringing to life their passion for hand-crafting a quality experience through whiskey.
Formerly a video editor on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Daric was always busy making things in his spare time. “I got tired of television and being in a windowless room,” he said during our visit to the Stillhouse. “I was really enjoying the visceral things in my free time, things I could touch and feel.” His interest in whiskey pushed him to buy a small still and start to experiment with gin, brandy, rum, and eventually whiskey.
“The key for me was to do something with heart, soul, and history. I wanted to make something with substance and quality that was fun to create and fun to drink.”
With recipes, ingredients, and a name (“Van Brunt” pays homage to an illegal stillhouse closed by police in Brooklyn nearly 100 years ago.), he and Sarah opened Van Brunt Stillhouse to bring that passion to the next logical step: sharing it. Since opening in 2010, they’ve expanded rapidly and built a passionate following among bars, restaurants, and at-home fans of their bourbon, malt whiskey, and rye whiskey (a recent addition). Yet the success doesn’t seem to faze Daric. His commitment to quality continues to be unwavering as demand mounts. “We’re doing things this way because it is the best way to do it,” he said. “My heart and soul goes into the product. I know that if I love and appreciate it, other people will appreciate it like I do. A lot of my satisfaction comes from looking at the faces of the people when they try it for the first time.” For the Van Brunt Stillhouse family, the recipe to success was simple: passion + quality = a superior experience.
As we were preparing to leave, we asked Daric what was next now that he was fulfilling his lifelong dreams. What a foolish question to ask. As he rattled off a laundry list of experimentations for changing the mash, changing the barrels, new ingredients, and others, we understood that there was no “next step” or “new venture.” True to his craft, he will always work to improve what goes into the product and experience for all.