The Insider

Kings County Distillery: the oldest in New York, founded in 2010

Chilled out and with enough choice to keep whiskey lovers and haters happy, this place is ideal for a date or even just a drink with your mum, says Holly Baxter

Tuesday 11 January 2022 21:30
<p>Nicole Austin, head distiller and chemist of Kings County Distillery</p>

Nicole Austin, head distiller and chemist of Kings County Distillery

When Europeans move to America, their most common refrain is that the place has no history – and nowhere is this more apparent at somewhere like Kings County Distillery. Perched in the northernmost tip of Brooklyn at the Navy Yard, this olde-worlde style producer of bourbon, rye and other speciality whiskeys is the oldest distillery in New York City, founded in 2010.

Kings County is the official name for the county of Brooklyn (the official names of NYC’s five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx – when written as counties seem to only be there to trip up unknowing outsiders, especially considering Manhattan’s county name is New York. Technically, people living in the Lower East Side or Greenwich Village could therefore say their address, written inclusive of county, city and state, was New York, New York, New York.) To give it a proper sense of space and time, then, the distillery has chosen to use Brooklyn’s big-boy name. And this is a bar-cum-events space that takes itself seriously, with daily tours of the distillery machinery and minimalist bottles of whiskey sold in the gift shop that set out the alcoholic volume and tasting notes of each bottle in typewriter-style script.

Yet this isn’t just a bar for hardcore whiskey enthusiasts; far from it. Close to the hipster havens of Greenpoint and Williamsburg but separated from them by a dense thicket of intimidating roads, Kings County Distillery is inaccessible enough to have a dedicated crowd but accessible enough to be full at all times. And while dark peated whiskey is sipped by flat-capped men eager to impress each other with facts about the colonial era at the solid wood corner tables of the bar, there is also a lot to be said for the offerings made with the whiskey-curious – rather than the evangelicals – in mind.

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