GrandTen Distilling: Innovative Alcohol Made in Southie

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Recently I had the opportunity to check out a local distillery in South Boston called GrendTen Distilling. GrandTen was an idea conceived by Matthew Nuernberger in 2011. Matt and his cousin Spencer McMinn started the venture with the goal of creating local and well designed craft spirits. GrandTen offers a variety of spirits from vodka and gin to whiskey and liqueurs such as their Almandine, Angelica, and Craneberry. While offering a variety of spirits, GrandTen’s quality remains top notch.

“GrandTen is a name from a previous company I had called GrandTen Projects,” says Nuernberger. “The idea of GrandTen Distilling was a ‘placeholder’ while deciding what the name would be. My cousin said ‘I like the name GrandTen’ and so we kept it.” The distillery first started selling products in 2012, and Nuernberger has hired a few more staff in order to help around the distillery.

Tours are held every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and are open to the public. On my tour at 3 p.m., there were quite a few people present, and it seems that GrandTen’s tours are picking up in popularity with the local audience. In fact, there are around 50 – 80 people who visit the brewery on a weekly basis, according to Nuernberger. Matt explained to me that his spirits are available in the Greater Boston area and beyond thanks to a deal with a distributor.”Asking your local bartender is the best way to find our spirits in your local bars,” he says.

Nuernberger, who received his MBA from Babson College, says that the spirit which has performed the best has fluctuated over time. GrandTen’s South Boston Irish Whiskey was launched last November, and it’s expected to do particularly well in the upcoming holiday season.

I met Kacey Clark, a fellow distillery tourist, at the GrandTen Distillery and asked him a few questions about his experience there. “I first learned about GrandTen when a friend brought me a bottle of the South Boston Whiskey for my birthday,” says Clark. “I love their products. And the Fire Puncher Vodka is my favorite so far, but there are several products I haven’t tried yet.” After the tasting, there is an opportunity for visitors to pick up a few bottles from GrandTen. The bottles generally range from $25 – $40. The GrandTen spirit portfolio is as follows:

Wire Works American Gin – A blend of spruce, pine cone, kumquat, spice, juniper, and Angelica root. This gin has a spice to it, and is different than your traditional London Gin.
South Boston Irish Whiskey – This whiskey is made in Ireland but blended in South Boston for a unique character. It goes well on the rocks, or mixed in a variety of cocktails.
Fire Puncher Vodka – A unique spicy vodka. This vodka is distilled with chili peppers which gives it a bit of a bite on the tongue.
Wire Works American Gin Special Reserve – Though not entirely different than its brother, the Wire Works Special Reserve is aged in oak bourbon barrels to give it a distinct flavor.
Medford Rum – New England yeast mixed with molasses matured in American oak barrels. Medford Rum is new to the GrandTen lineup.
Fire Puncher Vodka Black – The original is spiced with chipotle peppers. Add to that the flavor of cacao and you have a chocolate chipotle vodka. This is one of the most unique flavored liquors I’ve ever tasted. This spirit makes great White or Black Russians.
Craneberry – A liqueur made with Cape Cod cranberries. Craneberry is the spelling of ‘cranberry’ from early settlers. In the upcoming holiday season, Craneberry would be a great addition to other seasonal liqueurs.
Almandine – An almond liqueur aged in American oak barrels. It truly tastes of almonds, with a hint of vanilla.
Angelica – Angelica root is not new to the world of spirits. According to GrandTen, it has been used for centuries as an ingredient in distilling. This spirit has a slight licorice flavor and is complemented with a variety of spice and citrus notes.

To get a better idea about craft distilling and how it compares to craft brewing, I spoke with Bill Owens, Founder of the American Distilling Institute in Hayward, California. Many people in the United States are familiar with craft beer, but my trip to GrandTen was my first time experiencing craft distilling. I hadn’t often heard of craft distilling, either. I wondered why the popularity may be different. “Craft breweries are 30 years into their business” says Bill “but we’re at just 10 years.” With these distilleries being at such a young age, the production amounts are nowhere near some of the larger playres.

What makes a distillery defined as ‘craft’ is defined by the amount of bottles produced and sold. “52,000 cases per year is the limit for craft distilling,” Bill told me “and if you’re selling 20,000, you’re a millionaire.” Smaller distilleries, like GrandTen, will produce anywhere from 2,000 – 3,000 cases per year, meaning there’s lots of room for growth. But according to Bill you shouldn’t expect to see your favorite GrandTen spirit to be sold in a liquor store in California. “There are 320 million people in this country. There’s no need for GrandTen to try to sell their products in other regions. They have so much room to grow in Boston” Bill says.

So what can you do to help grow the wonderful business of craft distilling? Bill’s answer is simple. “Buy local” he says. “There are plenty of great distilleries right in your region.” Based on Bill’s comments and my experiences, it would appear that craft spirits, not unlike craft beer, create a strong community. The customers are committed to the distillery and the distillery is committed to the local regions. GrandTen is no exception to this.

While Nuernberger has lived all over the country, he has spent the last 10 years in Boston and it seems that he has a passion for keeping his distillery right where it is. “I wanted to be accessible. I wanted it to be easy for people to get to the distillery whether they’re walking or driving. I wanted to be a part of Boston, and a part of the family that is Boston.”

Be sure to check out the GrandTen Distillery and American Distilling Institute websites if you’d like to learn more. GrandTen has tastings and tours every Saturday. On Fridays, you can enjoy another sampling-style event called Friday Night Flights. The distillery can accommodate up to 30 people on distillery tours throughout the week. If you’d like to plan a distillery tour with your group, contact GrandTen at info@grandten.com

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