Story by Liesel Schmidt Since the Prohibition era ended, distilling has become an art form for small batchers who pursue the perfect flavor like the holy grail. There’s something to be said for having heritage, be it in the story of the distillers themselves, in the company or even in the buildings. For owners Scott and Becky Harris of Catoctin Creek, the building where their distillery, shop and tasting room is located is filled with history.
Originally called the “Case Building” for the Case family who owned it for more than four generations, the historic century-old building was originally built as a car dealership in 1921, back in the days of the Ford Model A and Rolls-Royce. In fact, the J. Lodge Motor Company was housed there, becoming one of the earliest Buick dealerships in the region under the operation of Joseph Lodge and Raymond Case. Ownership later passed down through the Case family and the dealership was renamed Case Motor Company in 1957. In 1989, it became a furniture factory. Later incarnations included a furniture showroom, an archery range and Purcellville Pharmacy. It wasn’t until 2012 that the Harrises bought it. Catoctin Creek was already up and running by that point, but needed a bigger base of operations. “The building actually found us!” Scott jokes. “[It was] the mayor of Purcellville that introduced us to the building and let us know it was for sale.”
As a historic building, there were certain regulations they had to follow, but the Harrises appreciated its beauty and uniqueness and saw all the ways it could suit their needs. “The building is historic art moderne style with lots of exposed brick and huge glass storefront windows, allowing people on the sidewalk to watch distillery operations every single day,” Scott says. “We put quite a lot of money into the historic renovation including preserving old windows and doors, repairing brick and installing a solar array on the rooftop. Older parts of the building, like the basement, were filled in and are no longer used. Restoring the building was actually a daunting effort because the building has several uses. First, the tasting room is like having a restaurant or bar, so that had to be fit for the purpose of having customers come in and having a nice experience and to be a pleasant place to sit and enjoy your beverages,” he goes on. “The main part of the building is a factory, so we had to have upgraded concrete floors, fire suppression systems, industrial electrical power, upgraded plumbing, steam piping, coolant piping and much, much more. In addition, because it was a historic building, utmost care had to be paid to preserving the historic character of this now 100-year-old building.”
As a family-owned business, Catoctin Creek is continuing a tradition in this historic building. Started in 2009 when Scott and Becky decided to quit their engineering jobs and start a distillery, Catoctin Creek is nothing if not a true passion project—and a history maker in itself, being the first family-owned distillery in Loudoun County since Prohibition. Now, their claim to fame is a rye whisky that is true to the traditional rye whisky that would have been consumed in Virginia in the 1800s. “We source the finest local grain, mash and ferment that grain ourselves, and then distill it in our copper pot stills,” Scott explains. “After this, we age [it] in barrels and proof it with Virginia spring-water.” What results is the taste of Virginia, with their Roundstone Rye 92 Proof Distiller's Edition having received 94 points from Wine Enthusiast magazine and ranking as the number three rye whiskey in the nation in their 2020 year-end roundup issue.
You can visit Catoctin Creek at 120 W Main St, Purcellville, VA 20132 Plan your visit at: www.catoctincreekdistilling.com