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Kings County

Appalachian Brooklyn— Crazy-good American Whiskey From One of the Most Creative Distillers in the US

As a young tyro growing up in East Kentucky, Colin Spoelman would visit his local bootlegger on Pine Mountain (pretty much what you had to do if you wanted to have a good time in the dry county of Harlan). These clandestine, illegal, night-time bottle runs led Spoelman to a passion for Whiskey and distilling, and it wasn’t long before he was trying his hand at producing his own moonshine.

Spoelman’s obsession with moonshining continued through college, where he joined forces with his Yale roommate David Haskell, and the pair have been making Whiskey together ever since. In 2010 Spoelman and Haskell made it official by founding New York City’s first distillery since Prohibition, housed in the 117-year-old Paymaster Building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Now a decade in, Kings County has established itself as one of the most creative and uncompromising distilleries in the country; expanding the boundaries of what an American Whiskey distillery can aspire to be while scooping up a string of awards and critical successes along the way. 

Feeling that something vital had been lost from the post-prohibition conglomeration of the American Whiskey scene, Spoelman’s melting-pot approach draws from a wide range of old-school traditions—from the illicit bootleggers of Kentucky to the best Bourbon, Irish and Scotch Whisky distillers.

Like all stories that result in the highest quality, this one has many small steps that reflect both raw passion and deep knowledge of craft and history.

Generally eschewing flavour grains (such as wheat or rye) Kings County’s unusual mash bill comes from two single sources—New York State organic corn and UK malted barley. Kings County open-ferment and then use a pot still to take a cleaner, more textural and flavourful distillate; unlike most Bourbon new make, which is distilled in a column. In their quality-over-yield approach, the distillers take only very narrow cuts, whereby only a tiny proportion of spirit from the very heart of the distillation is selected. Another positive eccentricity here is a focus on small-format barrels. Kings County does work with Bourbon’s traditional 53-gallon barrel, but much of the inventory is matured in 10, 15 and 30-gallon barrels. This size not only allows for experimentation but also brings lovely Christmas spice, resin and chocolatey depth alongside the traditional fruity, caramel and vanilla notes. 

The Kings County process yields some of the purest, and most flavoursome Whiskey on the market. In the sometimes-opaque world of American Whiskey, where knowing who distilled it—or even where it was made—is considered a bonus, Kings County places transparency and the craft of distilling at the heart of its story. So, while these Whiskeys are not inexpensive, they are not made to be. Instead, these are reference-quality American Whiskeys where quality shines through in every sip.

Currently Available

Kings County Peated Bourbon (750ml)
Bibendum Bar

Kings County Peated Bourbon (750ml)

Legend has it that this unique Bourbon resulted from malt shortage at the distillery. Faced with a waning supply of malted barley, these talented distillers grabbed some peated malt to finish the batch. A year later, the spirit was sampled and the results were so delicious that KCD decided to make a thing of it. To be clear, this is not a classic Bourbon finished in a peated cask. It’s a Whiskey that conforms to the requirements for Bourbon, made with a percentage of peated malt. The malt Kings County use for this Whiskey was grown and kilned in Scotland, and now represents 25% of the mash bill, alongside 75% New York State organic corn. So, it’s a hybrid Whiskey of the two traditions, flavourful and robust from having aged at least two years in new barrels, with a lightly smoky finish reminiscent of a Scottish Single Malt. While it’s superb sipping on its own, it also makes a killer Old Fashioned or smoky Manhattan (with apologies to the Rye purists).

So, it’s a hybrid Whiskey of the two traditions, flavourful and robust from having aged at least two years in new barrels, with a lightly smoky finish reminiscent of a Scottish Single Malt. While it’s superb sipping on its own, it also makes a killer Old Fashioned or smoky Manhattan (with apologies to the Rye purists).

"Dark muscovado sugars mixed with orange peel, liquorice… and peat reek!!! Adorable delivery: thick corn oil is awash with molten muscovado. The smoke keeps a respectful distance, but is there with ever-thickening tannins; spices grow, the peat murmurs, the tannins throb quietly amid residual sugars… Quite stunningly lovely."
94 points, Jim Murray's Whisky Bible
Kings County Peated Bourbon (750ml)
Bibendum Bar
Kings County Straight Bourbon (750ml)
Bibendum Bar

Kings County Straight Bourbon (750ml)

ABV. Kings County's core Bourbon is frequently cited in lists of the best non-Kentucky Bourbons. The mash bill includes 80% New York organic corn (from the Finger Lakes) and English Golden Promise barley for a high-malt recipe that avoids the wheat or rye typically used in Kentucky Bourbon. This is a Bourbon made like a Scotch Whisky—Kings County double pot-distil for purer and more flavourful white spirit, which is then aged in a variety of new, charred oak barrels for between three and six years. The nose offers spicy, cedar, fresh oak and roasted malt notes. Very fine but also complex, there is also the suggestion of pecan, fresh corn and cherry. The palate is spicy and fine; there's real depth of malt and fruitcake flavours shot through with higher notes of citrus, vanilla bean, cinnamon and other autumnal spices. The texture is very smooth, a spirit of the quality we normally associate with top-notch Cognac. The finish is lingering and perfumed.

The nose offers spicy, cedar, fresh oak and roasted malt notes. Very fine but also complex, there is also the suggestion of pecan, fresh corn and cherry. The palate is spicy and fine; there's real depth of malt and fruitcake flavours shot through with higher notes of citrus, vanilla bean, cinnamon and other autumnal spices. The texture is very smooth, a spirit of the quality we normally associate with top-notch Cognac. The finish is lingering and perfumed.

Gold
San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2020
Gold
Ascot Awards 2021
Kings County Straight Bourbon (750ml)
Bibendum Bar
Kings County Blended Bourbon (750ml)

Kings County Blended Bourbon (750ml)

Batch #1. As this innovative distillery has done previously with Moonshine and Bottled in Bond, it now asks Whiskey drinkers to reconsider another overlooked category of spirit-blended Bourbon. In the US, blended Whiskey is most often associated with crowd-pleasing Scotch or Canadian spirits. Here—to delicious effect—Kings County utilises quality organic ingredients, careful distilling, and creative blending to create an analogy to these reliable, if unexciting, spirits.Composed entirely of in-house, pot-distilled straight Bourbon (two-thirds), with corn, rye and malt Whiskeys, and aged between two and four years, the blend makes for a bright, complex and approachable multi-occasion spirit for neat sipping or mixing. Founder Colin Spoleman describes this new label as a “superior, all-purpose spirit”, something a bit more versatile than the other Whiskeys in the line-up, specifically in that it can be used for mixing in cocktails. In the interest of providing the highest level of transparency, the distillery lists the contributing percentages of each spirit type, along with their respective age and barrel format on each bottle. While blended Bourbon is most often stretched with neutral spirit, Kings County’s riff is more of a reflection of the art of what the blenders can do with the distillery’s full breadth of mature inventory. “This isn’t the kind of Blended Bourbon our parents might have drunk,” smiles distiller Colin Spoelman. Smoothness is joined by flavours of honey and caramel, citrus-tinged vanilla and satisfying rye spiciness. Clad in a new blue label—which differentiates the spirit from Kings County’s established Bourbon, Rye, and Single Malt Whiskeys—it’s a delicious and versatile Whiskey, and one that is set to reinvigorate the US blended category.

While blended Bourbon is most often stretched with neutral spirit, Kings County’s riff is more of a reflection of the art of what the blenders can do with the distillery’s full breadth of mature inventory. “This isn’t the kind of Blended Bourbon our parents might have drunk,” smiles distiller Colin Spoelman. Smoothness is joined by flavours of honey and caramel, citrus-tinged vanilla and satisfying rye spiciness. Clad in a new blue label—which differentiates the spirit from Kings County’s established Bourbon, Rye, and Single Malt Whiskeys—it’s a delicious and versatile Whiskey, and one that is set to reinvigorate the US blended category.

Kings County Blended Bourbon (750ml)
Kings County Peated Bourbon (200ml)

Kings County Peated Bourbon (200ml)

45% ABV. Legend has it that this unique Bourbon resulted from malt shortage at the distillery. Faced with a waning supply of malted barley, these talented distillers grabbed some peated malt to finish the batch. A year later, the spirit was sampled and the results were so delicious that KCD decided to make a thing of it. To be clear, this is not a classic Bourbon finished in a peated cask. It’s a Whiskey that conforms to the requirements for Bourbon, made with a percentage of peated malt. The malt Kings County use for this Whiskey was grown and kilned in Scotland, and now represents 25% of the mash bill, alongside 75% New York State organic corn. So, it’s a hybrid Whiskey of the two traditions, flavourful and robust from having aged at least two years in new barrels, with a lightly smoky finish reminiscent of a Scottish Single Malt. While it’s superb sipping on its own, it also makes a killer Old Fashioned or smoky Manhattan (with apologies to the Rye purists).

So, it’s a hybrid Whiskey of the two traditions, flavourful and robust from having aged at least two years in new barrels, with a lightly smoky finish reminiscent of a Scottish Single Malt. While it’s superb sipping on its own, it also makes a killer Old Fashioned or smoky Manhattan (with apologies to the Rye purists).

"Dark muscovado sugars mixed with orange peel, liquorice… and peat reek!!! Adorable delivery: thick corn oil is awash with molten muscovado. The smoke keeps a respectful distance, but is there with ever-thickening tannins; spices grow, the peat murmurs, the tannins throb quietly amid residual sugars… Quite stunningly lovely."
94 points, Jim Murray's Whisky Bible
Kings County Peated Bourbon (200ml)
Kings County Empire Rye Whiskey (750ml)
Bibendum Bar

Kings County Empire Rye Whiskey (750ml)

Very Limited. Back in 2015, six New York State distilleries banded together to create an association dedicated to establishing a Whiskey style exclusively for the Empire State. Today, their number counts to nine and it is constantly growing. US industry estimates suggest that as much as 70% of the rye Whiskey sold in America comes from one distiller, MGP, a maker of generic and unbranded Whiskey in Indiana. Empire Rye then, is a “controlled category” that requires, among other things, that the Whiskey is made using a minimum of 75% New York State-grown rye, that it is distilled to no more than 160 proof and aged for a minimum of two years in new oak and that it is mashed, fermented, distilled, barrelled and aged at a single New York State distillery in a single distilling season. Kings County’s small batch Empire Rye Whiskey is made from 80% New York-grown Danko rye and 20% Golden Promise English malt that is then aged for at least two years in charred oak barrels. Pulled from a single distilling season, this is a complex rye, with glowing notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, maple, mint and cut grass with a finish of warm bread and holiday spice. Put simply, it’s a far more potent, pure and flavourful rye than the commercial norm.

Pulled from a single distilling season, this is a complex rye, with glowing notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, maple, mint and cut grass with a finish of warm bread and holiday spice. Put simply, it’s a far more potent, pure and flavourful rye than the commercial norm.

"An alluring and inviting nose promises sweet tea, mint, dill, and a full Thanksgiving dessert spread. The palate delivers, with flavors of blueberry crumble, cherry tart, and candied ginger….a warm, spicy, and rounded finish helps bring the whiskey home.”
Whisky Advocate
"On the nose, this rye is expressive and in your face, with big notes of green apple, mint, cinnamon, dusty rye grain and black pepper. On the palate, it follows up with intense baking spices, moderate sweetness, expressive “char” character and deeply caramelized notes of custard and caramel. Suffice to say, this one is very much in my personal rye whiskey wheelhouse, with moderate heat, balanced sweetness, a hint of smoky char and a big focus on toasted holiday spice notes.”
Paste
Kings County Empire Rye Whiskey (750ml)
Bibendum Bar
Kings County Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon (Batch #12 - 7Yr) (750ml)

Kings County Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon (Batch #12 - 7Yr) (750ml)

Kings County was among the first craft distillers to release a style of Bourbon that can be considered the highest class of American Whiskey. ‘Bottled in Bond’ is a designation that refers to American Whiskeys (and some Brandies) that are distilled, aged and bottled entirely at one distillery from a selection of barrels filled during a single season. Furthermore, the spirit must be at least four years old and bottled at precisely 100 proof. From an autumn 2015 distilling season that yielded 23 Bourbon barrels (each 53 gallons), only the six finest were selected for inclusion in this year’s Bottled in Bond release (batch #12), bottled in spring 2023. At over seven years old, this is King County’s oldest-ever blend of Bonded Whiskey and the first in the distillery’s history to use Whiskey aged in standard-format barrels exclusively.Featuring a richly layered nose of spiced apple, toffee brittle, dried apricot and lanolin alongside an integrated palate of salted caramel, pomegranate and sustained, balanced oak, Batch #12 continues to honour the original intention of the category by offering a transparent snapshot of Kings County’s artisanal Whiskey-making process as it was seven years ago (while at the same time pointing towards the future of the aged Whiskeys). In sum, pure class from one of the most awarded craft Bourbon distillers around.

Double Gold SFWSC 2023
Kings County Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon (Batch #12 - 7Yr) (750ml)
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Country

USA

Primary Region

Brooklyn, New York

Availability

National

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