Philadelphia Distilling Opens New State-of-the-Art Distillery

Feb. 24, 2017

Philadelphia Distilling — the first Pennsylvania-based craft distillery since Prohibition — celebrated the grand opening of its new state-of-the-art distillery this week. The new distillery, housed within a renovated manufacturing facility, features a tasting room, private event space, cocktail bar and lounge, plus an outdoor patio and a retail store.

Guests can enjoy a full menu of 16 cocktails made with Philadelphia Distilling spirits, all within view of the production floor.

Breakthru Pennsylvania recently spoke with Philadelphia Distilling President and Co-Founder Andrew Auwerda to discuss the new distillery, what’s next for the company—and why there’s a new generation of gin drinkers who will particularly love their award-winning lineup of spirits.


Breakthru: You’ve got some big news—a new distillery opening this week. Tell us about your new facility and what this means for Philadelphia Distilling.

Andrew Auwerda: After a decade of solitary work in our original warehouse turned lab, we decided to put our process and provenance on display—the reason our new distillery is structured like an open workshop. By letting our customers see the traceable evolution of our spirits, they appreciate that process is not merely about the finished product but rather the beauty hidden within the genuine workmanship of our distillers.

We set up shop in what was once the Ajax Metal Company, smelters and founders from the late 1800’s to the mid 1940’s. Abandoned decades ago, it took us a year to prepare the 15,000-square foot warehouse for its new creative life as home to Philadelphia Distilling production facilities as well as offices, tasting rooms, bar and retail store.

We chose Fishtown not only because of this great space, but because we are also invested in being part of the reinvigoration of street-level sociability and renewed energy in the city’s formerly great industrial corridors, creating a sense of place determined by activity and not just architecture.


Tell us about your unique lineup of spirits. 

I like to say we are traditional in a modern way because our distillers are inspired by the past and the future. We pay attention to everything from the local legacy of our Bluecoat Gin to the historical relevance of absinthe in New Orleans, as expressed by Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure—including spirits that reflect our distillers’ talents and the evolution of how we drink today. An example of that is our limited release single malt, Tough Broad, a collaboration with Yards Brewery that represents distillers and brewers working together to come up with something that is reflective of their respective talents and shared hometown.


How has Philadelphia Distilling evolved since you first opened your doors in 2005?

Certainly we’ve grown, as any healthy business does. But it is the industry around us that has evolved. Ten years ago, we made the only Pennsylvania gin. Now there are about 30.


Are you seeing more people trying gin? If so, why are people exploring the world of gin?

Absolutely. As the craft-cocktail scene grew, so did the interest in gin, primarily for its purity and herbaceous qualities. A finely made gin is the backbone of a cocktail, it can bring such clarity, and I think that fact alone is responsible for a generation of gin drinkers in the making.


Tell us about Bluecoat, your award-winning gin. It just turned 10 years old.

Our mission was always to create a premium signature spirit that relies on the agricultural integrity of authentically soured botanicals. We use a Mediterranean juniper berry because it has a softer flavor and makes a less pungent spirit, a better fit for the American gin palate. But what is most important to us is the botanicals we add be organic for reasons both environmental and flavor-related.  Because we use the peels of our citrus botanicals, it is imperative that no pesticides are used.  It is these very citrus botanicals that create the unique flavor profile of Bluecoat Gin. 


How has the ever-evolving tastes of consumers affected your strategy in recent years? How are you staying strong in an increasingly competitive marketplace?

We don’t really have a strategy other than doing what it takes to consistently deliver clarity and purity of flavor. One thing we did do recently is consider the interest in barrel-finished sprits, and so we rested our signature Bluecoat Gin in new white oak barrels, typically used for bourbon, which produced complex flavor, tawny color, and body enough to drink straight. It’s like “ginskey”—our same botanical gin with a lighter profile of the same flavors associated with bourbons – vanilla, caramel, nut, etc.


Has there been any industry trends in the last year that have caught your eye? Any industry trends for 2017 and beyond? 

The answer to both questions is the same: the renewed interest in liqueurs those incredibly nuanced spirits expressing the vast diversity of the plant world: fruits, flowers, barks, herbs, spices, seeds, roots, and nuts. You know, sommeliers like to say, “What grows together goes together,” a maxim that isn’t strictly about geography. It’s also true for the style and culture, including what and how people eat and drink. I think the rising popularity of liqueur in the world of craft spirits is rooted in our increasingly globalized cuisine. Liqueur provides pairings with a little more soul on these melting pot menus that combine the food of many cultures—everything from pho to curry to couscous—ramped up by the creative freedom of today’s chefs.


What’s next for Philadelphia Distilling and its brands?  

Our new distillery and tasting room is designed to feature our talented distillers and the blend of science and art that results in world-class spirits. Our plan going forward is entertain our friends and fans in this new space, educating them about the hand-crafted spirits created in full display behind the glass wall in the tasting room.


Click here for more photos of the grand opening of the new distillery. 

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

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