Hometown Tourist, Ch 8: GreenHat Bottling Party

This past weekend i won the lottery. Well, a lottery.

Pure luck and honest living contributed to me being able to take Mr Os to bottle gin for New Columbia Distillers. These people are both famous, and (depending on your friends, infamous) makers of Green Hat Gin. Full disclosure: gin is par with tequila for me. But, Mr. Os swears it’s the *only real martini* and is always on the hunt for the perfect gin.

According to him, this gin actually makes the top 5. That’s saying something. As i write this i realize its quite possible for people to get the impression that a) i’m a total boozer and b) i have a drinking problem based on my most recent posts (wine, caverns, wine, whiskey and…now…gin). I don’t. Although, i suppose someone with a problem might say that too, but this is not me sitting on “de” river in Egypt. I drink only red wine these days, in large part because i’ve discovered 4HB works for me (aka “The Four-Hour Body” by Timothy Ferriss). But that’s a different post, and another blog.

But my love for Mr. Os inspired me to seize the moment. And then the moment? Well it presented itself.

(Back Story/Digression: months ago a friend mentioned a “gin bottling party.” He explained that a local, relatively new distillery uses volunteers to bottle gin. According to our friend, it was 2-3 hours, during which you were served gin and tonics, bottled 40-60 cases of gin, left with a thank you and bottle of gin. As i said, i can barely stand the smell of the stuff. BUT, something new to do in our hometown?

Always. Where do i sign up?? As it turns out, through their newsletter/a lottery (larger groups might get in sooner, contact them).

The gin bottling parties are quite popular and as mentioned, operates on a lottery system. You receive an email, respond per email directions and enter the lottery. Of course, I would be remiss not to offer a small comparison between my previous experiences with Copper Fox Distillery and New Columbia. Aside from the fact that one involved a bottling party and the other was a simple tour they were still, well, night and day.

Unlike burnished copper pots in a rustic old barn, Green Hat comes from a warehouse off of New York Avenue, filled with brand new polished stainless steel equipment. And apparently there’s a difference in time, too. For Gin, the entire process from grain to bottle is about a month.

What does a gin bottling party look like? Allow me:

First, the labels must go on the bottles like this:

Step One
Step One

After you have several cases labeled, they go to the filling station where the magic starts.

Bottles are filled on this machine.

Step Two.
Step Two

Caps are screwed (or gently hammered). Yes, this was an amazing workout.
Then the New Columbia Distillers label goes across the cap.

Step Three
Step Three and Four

Now it’s time to hand-write the volume of alcohol and proof and stamp the batch number. 

Step Five
Step Five and Six

Now onto the home stretch here…these cute little plastic items go on.

Step Seven
Step Seven

And then get gently melted with this handy tool. (I can only imagine how badly this would fry my hair.)

Step Eight

Bottles go in the box, get sealed and viola! You’ve bottled gin.

Although the other people in our group weren’t as chatty as i would have hoped, this was still loads of fun and a great way to spend a few hours on an afternoon. After we finished, one of the owners, John Uselton, gave us a tour of the distillery. As a thank you for our civic duty, bottlers were offered a discount rate on any products.

My only complaint for the bottling was the discount, which was disappointing. Since Green Hat costs $36 in a liquor store, i didn’t think $30 was much of a ‘thank you.’ i would think they could offer bottlers a $10-$11 off the purchase price. From a marketing perspective, it sounds better: ‘hey, thanks for helping us out. we would like to offer you a 30% discount.’ I mean, we are captive audience. And, unlike our group, I bet nobody would walk out empty handed. That said, the gin was good enough that Mr. Os got a bottle. But even though he got a bottle, if the discount was 30%, we would have purchased two bottles instead of one.

If you are local to DC, this is a must do. If nothing else, get out and support a local business. For tourists, this was fun but requires a little advanced planning to get on the list. Tours, however, are easy (and fast—maybe 10 minutes)

Be sure to read the Washington Post article at the tasting station. It’s a fantastic write-up that tells you how New Columbia got started. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it online…typical Washington Post.

Author: Judi Kennedy

Wanderlust. A professional aunt, fitness enthusiast, dog owner and avid reader the rest of the time.

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