Distilling District in Northern VA

Move over beer—there’s a new craft beverage in town. 2016 has shaped up to be the year of spirits with both new and established craft distilleries in the spotlight. So whether you’re a longtime lover of libations, or looking to expand your expertise in elixirs, check out these four distilleries.




THE SCOOP. Mt. Defiance Cidery and Distillery opened in August of 2014 to offer their unpretentious take on cider in Middleburg, Va. They since have expanded to operate as a distillery, producing liquors and spirits that return to their simple and classic recipes. Their tasting room is styled as an 1890’s Victorian gentlemen’s club, complete with unique touches of steampunk whimsy.

SIGNATURE SPIRIT. Absinthe, the classic spirit of the 1890’s, is the featured drink at Mt. Defiance. Having been outlawed for most of the last century and only made legal in America in 2007, this drink has a tarnished reputation due to its hallucinogenic effects. However, current regulations require Absinthe to be tested at a federally approved lab to ensure that there are no hallucinogens.

OTHER BEVERAGES. Mt. Defiance also offers four styles of cider; dark, amber, and light rum; apple brandy; and a variety of liqueurs: Amaretto, Almond and Cassis.

COMING ATTRACTIONS. A Virginia whiskey, bourbon, and an artisanal vermouth are forthcoming on the menu.

FUN FACT. Mr. Defiance’s distiller, Peter Ahlf, is a rocket scientist and was formerly a senior executive at NASA.

TASTINGS. Paid tastings of cider and spirit are offered in their main tasting room and their distillery tasting room.


THE SCOOP. KO Distilling opened in 2015 near Old Town Manassas and is the first distillery in Manassas since Prohibition. Owners Bill Karlson & John O’Mara designed their distillery to be both a manufacturing plant and a destination for tours and tastings. Their location offers an event center for rent, giving a unique setting to corporate and private events.

SIGNATURE SPIRITS. KO Distilling’s Virginia Moon White Whiskey is their most decorated drink to date, having earned several bronze and silver medals from multiple competitions. Composed of wheat, rye and malted barley, it’s a surprisingly smooth spirit given its young age.

OTHER BEVERAGES. Battle Standard 142 Gin is available in Navy Strength and Standard Strength.

COMING ATTRACTIONS. Several products are currently aging in their barrel room, including two different bourbons, a rye whiskey, an aged version of their Virginia Moon White Whiskey and and a bourbon barrel finished gin.

FUN FACT. Karlson and O’Mara met at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and their distillery reflects a nautical theme, from the names of their spirits to the ability to join their loyalty program and become a “PlanKOwner.”

TASTINGS. Two types of tastings are offered—the classic tasting includes a half-ounce pour of their three spirits with classic mixers for $6. They also offer a cocktail flight, which includes signature drinks using KO’s spirits for $10.


THE SCOOP. Catoctin Creek opened in 2009, as the first legal distillery in Loudoun County. Purcellville natives Becky and Scott Harris bring Loudoun’s thriving agricultural economy and rich history into their spirits, and they host events that create a sense of community. Their spirits are certified organic, kosher, and vegan.

SIGNATURE SPIRIT. The award-winning Roundstone Rye, a classic Virginiastyle rye whiskey is the hallmark of Catoctin Creek. This smooth rye has peppery notes and rich caramel tones with a characteristically spicy end.

OTHER BEVERAGES. Watershed Gin, peach and pear brandy, and moonshine—which is a term that refers to any clear liquor that isn’t aged—are also popular beverages at Catoctin Creek.

COMING ATTRACTIONS. Patrons can look forward to a version of the Roundstone Rye finished in a hickory cask from a local syrup maker in Berryville.

FUN FACT. Catoctin Creek offers Bottling Workshops, where the community is welcome to come help bottle, cap, seal, and label the product. The workshops started out of necessity, due to a large order from the ABC stores and are now just a fun community event.

TASTINGS. Catch a free tour, though reservations are recommended. Standard tastings are $5 and include a trio tasting of their most popular spirits. A premium tasting of cocktails, brandy, or whiskey is $10, and a chocolate and spirits tasting is $15.


THE SCOOP. Belmont Farm started in 1836 and was purchased in 1970 by the current owner, Chuck Miller. After growing and selling corn and barley, Miller decided to follow in his grandfather’s shoes and begin making moonshine— only he did it legally, unlike his ancestor. Belmont Farm Distillery became the first craft distillery in the United States to make whiskey.

SIGNATURE SPIRIT. Their first spirit, Virginia Lightning, is a twice-distilled corn whiskey.

OTHER BEVERAGES. Their second line of products, Kopper Kettle, features a Virginia Whiskey and vodka. Also, Virginia Lighting comes in apple pie and cherry flavors.

COMING ATTRACTIONS. Belmont Farm will soon offer Bourbon and an aged wheat whiskey.

FUN FACT. Belmont Farm Distillery grows, harvests, stores, and grinds their own grain, which is used in their spirits, and their whiskey is still produced in a 1930’s copper pot.

TASTINGS. For $5 you can get a .5 oz sample of any three of their products.


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