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Damnation Alley Distillery Opens in Belmont

StriperGuy Oct 25, 2013 09:19 AM

Okay so the formerly booze-free (blue law) town of Belmont, MA now has it's own micro-distillery.


I scored a bottle of their unaged barley whiskey made from MA grown barley.

Pretty amazing to be able to source MA grown grain at all (though I imagine it would be easier with corn) in sufficient quantities, though their stills are admittedly small.

They also make a vodka.

Tasting notes:
The whiskey has some of the usual nice vegetal, grassy, fruity notes that I like in an unaged whiskey. It is very smooth and fruitier than most of the others I've had. I drank it neat, and I think it is so delicate and smooth that neat really is the way to go. At $40 per 750ml it's less than say Tuthilltown unaged corn whiskey, but not an every day tipple.

They will face the usual challenge of starting a distillery which is the fact that the "good stuff" has to barrel age for 5-10 years. I would love to see some eau de vie, apple jack, etc which do not require aging. Problem is the market for those things is much smaller.

I think they are only selling at the distillery for now. Give it a whirl if you are in the neighborhood.

  1. yarm Oct 26, 2013 12:03 PM

    Also curious if they "make" or make their vodka. Many vodka and gin distilleries buy bulk grain neutral, clean it up, and attach a good story and name to it.

    The MA grown barley is less of a surprise since many Massachusetts breweries have been making beers out of Valley Malt's grain products based out of Hadley, MA. Notch is one that makes a good one with this MA-sourced grain.


    9 Replies
    1. re: yarm
      Dynamoo Oct 26, 2013 01:02 PM

      Hi! I'm one of the owners of Damnation Alley Distillery. In answer to your question, we do not, and will never use neutral grain spirits in any of our products. We also don't use any industrial enzymes in our mashing process. All of our spirits are brewed, fermented, distilled, and bottled in our Belmont distillery, from only Massachusetts grown ingredients.
      We're always happy to answer any other questions as well, contact info is on our website (www.damnationalleydistillery.com).
      Damnation Alley Distillery

      1. re: Dynamoo
        hyde Oct 26, 2013 04:52 PM

        @ Katzz, This is why i will pay 40usd for a bottle of booze from this joint.

        Its the same reason I buy meat at M.F. Dulock , or lamb from the guy at Coolidge (who gets it from western Mass.)

        I would rather spend a larger portion of my food dollar on a locally sourced product who is trying to grow a business than from a factory farm in China or a multi national conglomerate who could not care less about the impact their business has on us as consumers.

        Besides, when did cheap food become a good idea anyway?

        1. re: hyde
          katzzz Oct 27, 2013 06:22 AM

          I totally agree with you about local sourcing and supporting local businesses. But my question concerned quality of the product. I have no doubt that the locally sourced meat you buy for a premium price is both tastier and healthier than what you'd find in most supermarkets; you are getting a superior product for your money. Are any of the local spirits superior products? I have no idea, but I'd like to know. It would make me happy to spend extra to get a great bottle from a local maker, but I'm not interested in spending big bucks on something only because it's local. Can you recommend locally-made spirits that you love? How do they compare with the non-local brands?

          1. re: katzzz
            Infomaniac Oct 27, 2013 08:12 AM

            A few I have at home now:

            Bully Boy made in Boston has a white whiskey that most of my friends like. It's not my favorite but I'm drinking it.

            Berkshire Mountain Dist. makes an interesting corn whiskey and bourbon that I like, and keep around.

            Turkey Shore Dist out of Ipswich makes the Old Ipswich rums.

            Ryan & Wood out of Gloucester has some good product you can find around locally now.

            These local distilleries and the many other ones are sprouting up all over New England.

            For me it's not a question of buying it because it's local. I'm buying because it's only available local, and your not going to find it on any retail shelf, or at every bar/lounge.

            Problem is finding ones you like, and that you would want to serve guests in your home. They make great conversation topics when you are making drinks for guest, and gifts.

            Not all of these places are putting out great quality, or are satisfying my taste. With the micro-distillery products, you really have to try for yourself.

            1. re: Infomaniac
              MC Slim JB Oct 28, 2013 07:04 AM

              I'm a fan of a lot of these, but the Berkshire Mountain London dry style "Greylock Gin" is not one I would buy again: too rough.


              1. re: MC Slim JB
                CportJ Oct 28, 2013 07:28 AM

                I felt that way about one of their special batch Ethereal gins, as well as too floral for my taste. I also thought that was the case for one of the local rums that I tried at an event, but I can't recall which one. However, I really like Wire Works Gin from Grand Ten Distilling in Southie.

                Does Vermont count as local? I don't know Whistle Pig rye all that well, but it's reputation is strong.

                1. re: CportJ
                  MC Slim JB Oct 28, 2013 07:37 AM

                  Whistle Pig is a delicious and very smooth straight rye, but at $60-$70 for 750ml at retail, it had better be.

                  Purists have hooted at them disdainfully for not really making the product; it's bottled in Vermont, but made by Alberta Distillers in Calgary. Unlike some Canadian whiskies described as "rye", this one does have a 100% rye mash bill, thereby meeting the ATF's legal definition of straight rye (at least 51% rye grain).


                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    StriperGuy Oct 28, 2013 07:50 AM

                    Anyone with the proper federal licenses can buy pre-aged whiskey or commodity alcohol for that matter (vodka) from an enormous distiller and bottle it in your own folksy label with a nice (fake) sounding history on the back.

                    Plenty of folks do it. Plenty of the faux micro distilleries do it, particularly with vodka (what is the one with a guy's name?). That is just pure marketing.

                    Folks actually distilling their own from local materials, that is admirable.

                    I don't pay $14 a pound for Artisanally roasted coffee very often either, they are starting with beans that they pay maybe $5 a pound for tops...

                    For any small food business, getting the economy of scale to any reasonable place where you can compete with say The Canadian source of Whistle Pig (lord knows how many 10,000 liter fermentors and 2,000 liter stills they have) is very tough.

            2. re: katzzz
              StriperGuy Oct 28, 2013 06:40 AM

              My experience with most of the unaged whiskeys is that they are very nice and interesting neat, but really should be sipped, more like a grappa than a good bourbon. In cocktails I find they don't mix very well with most things, or in a strong drink the character is just blown away by the other ingredients and you might have well just used a more industrial (cheaper) product.

              I don't think I've ever had (and I make quite a few cocktails myself) a really successful cocktail made with an unaged whiskey that made me think "this is a great use of a $40 bottle." There are cheaper unaged whiskeys too, but to me they just don't play well in cocktails.

              For the newer micro-distillery rums, sorry the price value compared to say El Dorado, Barbancourt, or any of a dozen others is just not even close. Most of the micro rums don't really taste like much of anything and IMHO are totally not worth it.

              Some of the aged micro whiskey's are tasty (I like the Tuthilltown products) but if you are looking at price/value compared to say any decent aged whiskey made on an industrial scale, I feel it is pretty hard to justify their prices:

              $56.99 for a .375L bottle for example, just not worth it:


              They are nice, even very nice, but at that price point you are in some pretty rarefied air and there are LOTS of good booze fighting for that dollar.

      2. k
        katzzz Oct 25, 2013 04:20 PM

        I wish all the luck in the world to Damnation Alley and all the other emerging local distillers. But strictly from a consumer point of view, I don't know why I'd want to buy a $40 bottle of spirits made by a newcomer to the booze business (or so I assume) when I could get a decent bottle of, say, cognac from an experienced maker for the same money.
        But maybe I'm missing something. Are these local spirits that good? Or is the attraction simply the thrill of trying something new and different? I guess what I'm saying is that I don't understand why a local distiller's product deserves to be sold at a somewhat high price point, the equivalent of a premium liquor. Sure, they probably need to charge whatever they're charging to turn a profit, but on the other hand, maybe they should be charging less to attract customers and build a following. Or to put it yet another way, is the Damnation Alley hootch "not an everyday tipple" because it's so wonderful or because it's so expensive?

        4 Replies
        1. re: katzzz
          StriperGuy Oct 25, 2013 07:19 PM

          Short version, you're spot on. I support them cause they're local, and doing something cool, but most micro distilled whiskey isn't as good as say Jim Beam and costs 4x as much (I can get a handle of Jim Beam for $24 or so.)

          I have a soft spot for unaged whiskey, but it's really not rocket science.

          I do wish someone would make a local Apple Jack that would be unique.

          1. re: StriperGuy
            katzzz Oct 26, 2013 06:54 AM

            I too would love to see local applejack, a natural for New England. I suppose with Laird's being so inexpensive and the limited demand for applejack, it doesn't have great appeal for local distillers. Then again, offering a "craft" alternative to Laird's might be a shrewd move.

            1. re: katzzz
              yarm Oct 26, 2013 12:00 PM

              Laird's Applejack (not their Bonded or their 7.5 or 12 year versions which might qualify as the "craft" alternative to the applejack) is 35% apple distillate. Which is why it can be made so cheaply (as low as $9.99 in New Hampshire state liquor stores) since it's about 2 parts vodka-like to one part apple brandy. The bonded is really good but rather hard to source these days (at least here in Massachusetts).


              1. re: yarm
                MC Slim JB Oct 26, 2013 12:33 PM

                Okay, I'm going to be a bit more careful with my bottle of Laird's Bonded. Been drinking it with unpasteurized cider lately.


        2. Alcachofa Oct 25, 2013 01:53 PM

          Dag, I ride my bike by there all the time. Had no idea. I will give it a whirl soon, I hope.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Alcachofa
            StriperGuy Oct 25, 2013 01:56 PM

            That could make for an adventurous bike ride... hic.

            1. re: Alcachofa
              ColoradoXJ13 Oct 28, 2013 06:38 AM

              My bike commute home takes me right past there every day too...since they don't do tastings or sell drinks, I think it will just make for a ride home with a bottle in my bag in the near future.

            2. Infomaniac Oct 25, 2013 10:31 AM

              What color did the whiskey have to it?
              The few unaged whiskey's I've tried lately haven't been to smooth to the taste.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Infomaniac
                StriperGuy Oct 25, 2013 11:23 AM

                Totally clear as are most unaged whiskeys.

                1. re: StriperGuy
                  Infomaniac Oct 25, 2013 01:33 PM

                  That's what I thought. I anxious to stop by next time I'm visiting my sister.

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