Durham Distillery's downtown location is open to the public, offering tours and tastings of its gin and liqueur products. The distillery is locally owned and operated by husband and wife team, Lee and Melissa Katrincic. Lee is a working chemist and Melissa is a former marketing professional, and they have spent the past two years developing their brand of craft spirits.
In 2013, the Katrincics decided they could use their science backgrounds in the production of craft spirits. Melissa manages the business and marketing side of the business while Lee manages the distillery lab and spirit production. "With our process and Lee's ability to really hone in on the measuring of everything as it happens, we will have [a] consistent product which should mimic the big guys," said Katrincic.
Durham Distillery's products are available in Durham, Orange, and Wake County ABC stores. The distillery joins Barrister & Brewer, The Brothers Vilgalys Spirits Company, and Pebble Brook Spirits in representing Durham on the North Carolina Craft Distillers Trail. This trail highlights the growing craft spirits scene in the state.
Take a look inside the distillery:
Durham Distillery currently produces two gins utilizing traditional and modern techniques. The line is called Conniption Gins and includes the Navy Strength (57% ABV) and American Dry (44% ABV) varieties. Melissa Katrincic explains, "We individually distilled about three dozen different botanicals and then hand blended to get to our two formulas."
The small-batch gins are created using a 230-liter custom German copper pot still, currently one of two of its kind in the world. Each batch run through the still takes about three hours and produces about 300 bottles worth of gin, which then goes into buckets to rest. The process from start to finish takes about a week.
Rather than using heat to distil the gin, Durham Distillery uses vacuum distilled botanicals such as cucumber, honeysuckle, citrus, and fig. This creates more distinguishable flavors in the final product. Katrincic says that the use of a rotary evaporator is a unique feature of Durham Distillery. The 20-liter capacity laboratory-grade machine allows them to do distillations at room temperature which more accurately preserves flavors.
In addition to the two gins, Durham Distillery is producing a line of liqueurs called Damn Fine Liqueur, in chocolate, mocha, and coffee flavors. The Katrincics wanted to highlight food artisans from the area in their products. The flavors are created using Triangle-based products from Videri Chocolate Factory and Slingshot Coffee Company.
In the batch kitchen, twenty-six pounds of 70% bittersweet chocolate goes into the chocolate liqueur, which takes about five hours to melt. Then it is combined with cream and low proof alcohol to make the final product.
Durham Distillery offers $10 tours and tastings most Thursdays and Fridays at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 4:30, 5:30, and 6:30 p.m. Check their website for details.
You can also get a taste of the Durham Distillery products at several Durham restaurants and bars, including: Alley 26, The Counting House at 21c Museum Hotel, The Durham Hotel, The Little Dipper, Mateo bar de Tapas, Motorco Music Hall, The Pit Authentic Barbecue, Vin Rouge, and many more.