For the first time in nearly a century, Loudoun County residents won’t have to cross the county line for a one-of-a-kind, locally grown spirit.
In a partnership between local farmers, distillers and restaurateurs, Coton and Rye unveiled its Private Barrel Whiskey on March 24. The whiskey uses rye grown at Leesburg’s Morven Park and is produced by Purcellville’s Catoctin Creek Distillery.
This is the first legal batch of alcohol made from locally-grown rye grain since Prohibition. Rye for whiskey had been a key crop in Loudoun since the time of the American Revolution, but was outlawed in the 1920’s and fell out of favor for much of the ensuing century. The return of rye whiskey in Loudoun not only offers something new for the future, but takes the county back to its roots.
“This rye is a liquid sample of history,” Catoctin Creek co-founder Scott Harris said.
Local farmer Trent Tebbe saw an opportunity to grow rye at Morven Park and approached Catoctin Creek about crating something from the crop. Catoctin Creek, Loudoun’s oldest distillery and the first opened in the county since Prohibition ended, hadn’t used rye for its product before, but likewise saw a chance for something special, Harris said.
Around the same time, Coton and Rye approached Catoctin Creek about creating a special label. The restaurant in Lansdowne Resort and Spa has filled its menu with locally sourced food and drink, so partnering with Catoctin Creek was a natural fit.
“It was almost like fate,” Harris said. “They tasted the one they liked the best, which happened to be the one that was grown in Morvan Park, a mile down the (Potomac) river. It really was pretty cool. It just fit. When they found the story behind it, they were like ‘this is the one we have to have’.”
The new whiskey is also a testament to farming in Loudoun. With an influx of nearly 300,000 residents over the past thirty years, much of Loudoun’s traditional farmland has been replaced by suburban development. Creating the whiskey in land leased from Morven Park is indicative of farming success in modern-day Loudoun, Tebbe said.
“Sadly, what’s happened is a lot of those farms have turned into neighborhoods,” Harris said. “Here’s a farmer who wants to go the other way, leased land back and grew grain on it and farmed it. That’s what’s cool about all this. We’re using all of that from this county.”
Speaking at the unveiling, Coton and Rye executive chef Marcus Repp said the whiskey is just the beginning of locally sourced agricultural opportunities for his restaurant and the rest of Loudoun.
“This is really going to help us bring an incredible amount of wisdom that is in Loudoun County with all these farmers and bring it to Coton and Rye and bring it further into Lansdowne,” Repp said. “Realizing that our food actually comes from the soil that we stand on, that’s such an empowering and such an incredible feeling.”