As the Inaugural Pittsburgh Libations Week rapidly approaches with our Kickoff Bash scheduled for Friday, October 12th, Breaking Brews – The Official Blog of PLW – brings you up close and personal with the sponsors who have joined the cause and are making all this possible with a new feature: The PLW Sponsor Spotlight. Men and women operating businesses of all shapes, sizes, and missions have helped shape our culture and continue to push it forward as Pittsburgh strives to cement its legacy as a true adult beverage destination across the globe.
Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries – Makers of Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and BLY Silver Rum
To sit and speak with Barry Young is to sit and speak with a man of vision. After all, it takes great clarity to bring a distillery to Pennsylvania when the only way to get your product out to the masses was through wine and spirits stores and aggressive distribution to bars and restaurants. This is an endeavor Barry, a 3-time 5-star Master Distiller with a 20+ year background as a pharmacist and chemist, embarked upon over a decade ago.
Thankfully, Barry’s efforts have stood the test of time. Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries, whose distillery can be found on Route 8 in Glenshaw, is the second distillery in Pennsylvania since Prohibition. One could easily label him a trailblazer as hundreds of distilleries have followed in his footsteps after much-needed law changes that allow distilleries to operate their own tasting rooms took effect. This, combined with an increased demand for quality, handcrafted spirits throughout the country, has led to a craft spirits revolution that continues its rise today.
Barry’s vision and passion for distilling was never about garnering the spotlight. He and his team have hung their hats on creating innovative, original, and flavorful products made from the best ingredients and produced with the tender loving care you expect from a craft distillery. Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries are the makers of Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka, BLY Silver Rum, and Boyd & Blair Professional Proof 151 Vodka. These products have woven themselves into the fabric of the craft spirits landscape across America with availability spanning 40 states. Barry’s scientific nature, coupled with the detailed approach of a true craftsman, has led to the creation of some of the finest, most recognized handcrafted spirits on shelves today.
It’s hard to call yourself ‘innovative’ when you follow the same path your predecessors took verbatim. This was the advice Barry received before opening his distillery. He attended vodka school and was advised repeatedly to use grain and corn, keep things simple, and recreate established recipes packaged with original labeling that would give the illusion of a new product to consumers. Barry’s response? “I want to make a spirit that gets noticed.”
I think we can safely say Barry was ahead of his time.
That method of thinking led to a vodka made of the finest Pennsylvania-grown potatoes. This method is more expensive and requires way more craftsmanship than utilizing grain or corn, but who can argue with results? Potatoes deliver a natural sweetness, a creamier mouth feel, and all-around superior handcrafted spirit.
BLY Silver Rum was added to the portfolio with a similar mindset. Instead of using straight sugar, baking molasses (also sourced within state lines from a family-run operation in Honey Brook, PA that’s been making molasses for over 80 years) is utilized to add notes of vanilla and butterscotch to the finished product.
The distillation of vodka happens in three parts: the heads, the hearts, and the tails. Like whiskey, the heads get discarded (unless you want to go blind). The hearts are where the magic lays – this is the sweetest, purest, most delicious part of the vodka. The tails are where the batch starts to degrade. They won’t make you go blind, but they’ll make your taste buds cringe.
But what sets Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka apart from the end products of other vodka distillers is they never mix the tails back into the hearts for additional distillation. If you ever hear a company tell you a vodka has been distilled numerous times, it’s because the tails were mixed back in and distilled several more times to scrub impurities and bad taste. Only utilizing the hearts leads to smaller batches, but the final product will never be compromised.
Barry and his crew unload, prep, and mix every ingredient that goes into their product + taste and smell every batch of vodka or rum that leaves the still. It’s laborious, it’s hard work, but it’s a standard that leads to the highest quality product entering the bottle each and every time. In other words, from top to bottom, Pennsylvania Pure products are the true definition of ‘handcrafted.’
Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries has a tasting room adjacent to their distilling area in Glenshaw that is open to the public on Saturday afternoons from 12pm to 6pm. Here, you can enjoy a laid-back atmosphere, sip handcrafted cocktails, and take a bottle of vodka and/or rum with you for at-home enjoyment. Barry and his team have also taken steps to elevate your cocktail preparation skills by offering classes that educate you on how to prepare the proper cocktail. In addition, you can take a tour of their facilities and learn straight from the mouth of a Master Distiller how all the equipment that lays before you creates the spirits you know and love.
We are proud to have Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries and their popular brands of Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and BLY Silver Rum as sponsors of the inaugural 2018 Pittsburgh Libations Week. When Barry first set out to bring a distillery to Pittsburgh, he was navigating uncharted waters. To some degree, we are doing the same with PLW as we bring the first showcase of complete adult beverage culture to life in Western Pennsylvania. Barry’s vision led to great things. With partners like PA Pure and the many other great sponsors that have joined our cause + the thousands of libations enthusiasts in our region, I feel our vision will reap similar results.
Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries has two very cool, very unique events lined up for Libations Week. On Tuesday, October 16th at 7:00pm, they’ll be hosting a Craft Spirits Symposium that will feature a panel of six spirits professionals set to drop some great knowledge about the evolution of the industry, how they got their start, what they expect to see from the industry going forward, and much more.
Your ticket is only $10 and gets you a complimentary cocktail upon arrival + light snacks throughout the event.
On Wednesday, October 18th at 6:00pm, East End Brewing and PA Pure Distilleries join forces for an epic Beer Cocktail Night! East End Founder Scott Smith hooked up Barry with some Gratitude Barleywine, which he then distilled into a special clear whiskey to utilize in your cocktails. $25 gets you cocktails, a tour, light snacks, and great conversation with two of Pittsburgh’s craft beverage pioneers in Barry and Scott. Click here to reserve your seat!