It’s been a long time coming, but D.C. finally has its first bourbon.
Okay, that’s not exactly accurate – it’s the first bourbon made in the district since the repeal of Prohibition – but I did a double-take when Alex Laufer told me as much at the launch of One Eight Distilling‘s Rock Creek Bourbon. But I guess if anyone has it on good authority, it’s Laufer – Head Distiller and co-founder of One Eight Distilling, one of several craft distilleries that have popped up in the District over the last few years.
Laufer and his fellow co-founder (and CEO) Sandy Wood served as our hosts for a five-course drink and dinner pairing, alongside Chef Matt Baker of Gravitas, who whipped up together a gourmet meal despite not having the luxury of a real kitchen. The trio welcomed a group of approximately thirty to the One Eight Distillery’s tasting room and bar, and officially kicked off festivities by toasting to a dram of the Rock Crock Bourbon.
Wood and Laufer are former college roommates who crossed paths again in DC after several decades – and very different career paths – and came together to start One Eight Distilling in 2015. Wood spent over a dozen years working as an attorney, while Laufer made his career in biotech, splitting time between both coasts. Although the spirit maker has only been around for a couple of years, the idea for it was planted much earlier; both men share a passion for good food, good spirits, and ethical, responsible sourcing. To our benefit, they’ve brought that same appreciation for quality and detail to their line of spirits at One Eight.
Although the Rock Creek Bourbon was the principal honoree of the evening, the truth is that everything on offer was delicious, with great emphasis on the sourcing of both food and drink throughout the night. Every dish featured local, seasonal ingredients – a perfect blend of late summer and early fall flavors – and the team of bartenders, led by Tasting Room Manager Giancarlo Zerega, did a great job with the cocktail pairings. Highlights included a seared diver scallop, served with summer beans and sauce vert; it’s minerality was pleasantly balanced by Zerega’s twist on a La Louisiane made with Rock Creek Rye. The main dish – Roseda Farms beef prepared two ways, including one cheek cut that had been slow braised in a sous-vide – melted in your mouth, marbled and rich. On Friday’s showing, I’m looking forward to seeing what Chef Baker will do once Gravitas finally opens. The restaurant has suffered major delays due to construction challenges, but is expected to open sometime in late 2017.