Imbibe 75 People to Watch: Becky and Scott Harris - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Imbibe 75 People to Watch: Becky and Scott Harris

When bars and restaurants along the East Coast closed last spring as the coronavirus first took hold, Becky and Scott Harris—founders of Catoctin Creek Distilling in Purcellville, Virginia, an hour outside of Washington, D.C.—started getting phone calls. Customers who’d ordered and paid for select barrels of rye whiskey for custom bottlings no longer needed them. Three of these barrel releases—aged in a Chardonnay cask, a peach brandy cask, and an ale cask from Stable Craft Brewing—had already been bottled, custom labeled, and delivered to the distributor.

Although the distillery was facing its own pandemic challenges—pivoting into the hand sanitizer market was trickier than expected—they were sympathetic and agreed to take back the whiskey and refund the customers. “We had to unbottle and dump them back into stainless steel blending tanks,” says Scott. Then, they experimented. They blended these disparate ryes together, and much to their delight, they found the flavor was rich and harmonious. The grain from the beer casks balanced out the fruit notes from the peach and the Chardonnay casks. “We called it our #InThisTogether rye,” Scott says. And with this discovery, the Harrises opted to give back to the hospitality industry.

They sold the new blend through their website, offering pickup at the distillery. They had 100 cases and sold out in two hours. After recouping their expenses, Catoctin Creek paid out $12,000 to four groups supporting the hospitality industry, including the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation and the USBG’s Bartender Emergency Assistance Program. “This was supporting workers who were literally in food lines when this came out,” Scott says.

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