QnA with DnU: Scott Harris

QnA with DnU: Scott Harris

Scott and Becky Harris

Scott and Becky Harris
Founders of Catoctin Creek
© Courtesy of Catoctin Creek

I happened upon Catoctin Creek Distilling Company (pronounced ka-TOCK-tin) by accident while doing some research on Virginia wine brands and wineries. The distillery was started by Becky and Scott Harris in 2009 as “the first legal distillery in Loudoun County (VA) since before Prohibition.” They focused on creating products that are organic, kosher, and using ingredients locally sourced, if possible. In just four years, they grew their business to several brands, including: Mosby’s Spirit; Roundstone Rye; Watershed Gin; Pearousia, a brandy made from pear wine; 1757 Virginia Brandy, Short Hill Mountain Peach Brandy and a “515” private label whiskey created specially for the J&G Steakhouse at the W Hotel in Washington DC.

I wrote to Catoctin and owner Scott Harris agreed to answer some questions.

  1. You are a young company so let’s start at the beginning. How did you get started? What was your motivation in creating your distillery?

    (Scott): Our distillery really started out of a mid-life crisis. I was turning forty, and had spent 20 years in government contracting as a software engineer. After spending countless years doing dreary work, like Powerpoint slides for customers who never cared to read my work, I felt that it was time to do something for myself. I asked myself what job it was that I really wanted, and I kept coming back to when I was 15 years old and working in a winery. That was a great job, and gave the satisfaction of working with my hands. Plus, being in government had taught me a great love of drinking, so I considered myself somewhat of an expert in spirits. My wife, Becky, was a chemical engineer, and together I figured we’d make a perfect team for starting a distillery.

  2. How have your winery neighbors reacted to you? Do you feel that you are not only promoting distilling in Virginia but the local wine/brewing industry as well?

    We have a very collaborative relationship with the wineries. We benefit from the many wine tours in the area, being a rather unusual stop on the normal rounds of wineries. Plus, they are customers of ours (we sell bulk brandy for sherries and ports), and they are vendors of ours (we buy grapes and wine for brandy). It’s a real great relationship and we share customers all the time.

  3. I know your creations are like your babies but do you have a favorite and why?

    Four bottles from Catoctin Creek Distillery

    © Courtesy of Catoctin Creek

    When asked this, I always laugh. Like my children, I have a favorite, but I will never tell! [Laughs] Actually, in the summer, I love the Watershed Gin with a simple tonic or in a Rickey. It is so refreshing and yet complex. And nine months of the year, I’m sipping Manhattans from the Roundstone Rye. Truly, my most go-to beverage at home.

  4. Any new releases that you can tell us about?

    We are very excited about the Short Hill Mountain Peach Brandy coming out in a few days.  Distilled from 100% peaches grown in Bluemont, VA, just 10 mins west of the distillery, this brandy is our finest fruit spirit yet. Soft, ripe, and full of peachy goodness, it has awesome vanilla notes, and goes down like peach cobbler in a glass. Honestly, I could just smell the nose on this one for an hour before taking my first sip. It’s heaven.

  5. Cocktail olive, maraschino cherry, fancy umbrella or lemon twist?

    Maraschino cherry (but it has to be home-made)

Thanks Scott! To see if Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. distributes in your state, or to learn more about their company, check out their website.

Update: October 8, 2016: Catoctin Creek is now available in New York!