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First ‘legal’ whiskey distillery since prohibition era opens in Manhattan

The Great Jones Distilling Co. has become the first above-board whiskey distillery to operate on Manhattan Island for 100 years.

The colossal four-story-high distillery opened its doors last week to become the first legal whiskey distillery in Manhattan for more than a century.

Spanning 28,000 feet and boasting a restaurant, four bars and a gift shop, Great Jones Distilling Co. is the result of a six-year project led by New Jersey-based Proximo Spirits.

The Jazz Age-inspired distillery, found in the NoHo neighbourhood, pays homage to the constitutional ban of alcohol, known as prohibition, which came into force in the United States from 1920 and forbade the production, importation or sale of alcoholic drinks.

And while the official era of prohibition is long over, complex local laws have not exactly made the launch easy. A law banning the distilling of alcohol above second-floor height meant the team had to lower one of the building’s floors by five feet. Furthermore, as Great Jones Street, on which the distillery sits, is closed off to delivery trucks, barrels of whisky must be transported by forklift several times a day to waiting vehicles on a separate road.

During renovations on the Great Jones building, which was originally constructed during the prohibition era, an underground tunnel was uncovered, believed to be the remnants of an old rum-running route from the 1920s. As a result of the find, a speakeasy style bar was added to the basement of the new distillery in a nod to its clandestine history.

The distillery will produce three spirits; a straight-up bourbon, a four-grain bourbon and a rye whiskey, all made from 100 per cent New York-sourced grain from the Black Dirt region in southern Orange County.

An explosion-proof glass chamber houses the distillery’s 500-gallon copper Vendome.

Juan Domingo Beckmann, one of the founders of Proximo Spirits, said that the opening “represents a landmark moment for spirits and for New York City history, bringing the craft of whiskey distillation back to Manhattan after 100 years.”


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