September 2015

One Eight Is Bringing Distilling Back to the District

When One Eight Distilling set up camp in Ivy City, the neighborhood looked a lot different. It was pre-renaissance, when the 1.7 square mile neighborhood was not yet home to the distilleries, warehouses, and coffee roastery that have since established themselves in the area. Recognizing that DC was behind the trend when it came to housing small, craft distilleries, Sandy Wood and Alex Laufer, the co-founders of One Eight Distilling found their home in Ivy City two and a half years ago. Since then, the distillery has begun production, opened for tours and tastings on Saturday afternoons, become a community event space, and expanded their presence and role in the community.

One Eight Distilling came to be after Wood and Laufer educated themselves on the world of craft distilling. With backgrounds in law and biotechnology, the duo had a lot to learn; in addition to coursework, they obtained practical experience in distilleries from West Virginia to Scotland. After opening on January 8, 2015, the distillery began selling District Made Vodka, Rock Creek White Whiskey, Ivy City Gin, and has since released small batches of various other spirits, with plans for more products and new collaborations.

One Eight is only the second distillery to begin operations in DC since prohibition. New Columbia Distillers, creators of Green Hat Gin, has been in the area since 2012. Wood and Laufer selected Ivy City for practical reasons: its setting adjacent to the railroad affords it one of the few sections of industrial zoning in DC. The neighborhood began declining in the middle of the 20th century along with the railroad, and many of the area’s residents who remained lived in poverty.

Wood hopes One EIght’s presence in the neighborhood will contribute to its renaissance and has made efforts to develop a strong relationship with the community. In one instance, One Eight participated in community meetings regarding using the Alexander Crummel school, which closed in the 1970s, as a parking lot for overflow buses from Union Station. Ivy City residents, tired of being DC’s “dumping ground” staunchly opposed the move. In July, Mayor Bowser announced that buses would park elsewhere. One Eight has also partnered with several local nonprofits, including Habitat for Humanity, which currently receives $1 of each Ivy City Gin sale.

Since opening, Wood has been pleased with the response to the tasting room (open from 1-4 on Saturdays). Lots of people have turned out—many of whom would otherwise not venture to Ivy City. In May, the DC Council passed legislation permitting distilleries to serve cocktails. Wood helped draft the legislation and lobby councilmembers to enact the chance which he expects to increase revenue significantly. That revenue could help the team at One Eight achieve their goals of bringing on more staff, increasing their presence across the United States, and maybe even setting up some sidewalk seating next summer (as a result of new legislation permitting them to do so).

How can you get your hands on One Eight’s products? Wood encourages readers to ask for their spirits at local bars and estimates that ⅓-½ of their business comes from such requests. You can also check out this list of bars and retailers that carry their products. Finally, you can stop by the distillery between 1 and 4 every Saturday for a tour and tasting. With its proximity to Green Hat and Atlas Brew Works, Wood says many visitors to the tasting room plan to hit all three in a single afternoon. If that’s your goal, Wood has some advice: pace yourself.