Raising Boston’s Spirits

A new Dorchester distillery takes inspiration from the ghosts of Boston’s past to craft beverages for the modern age. —Steve Holt

boston harbor distillery

photograph by pj couture

From the outside, the long-vacant warehouse at 12R ­Ericsson Street, in Dorchester, looks like any other building along the Southeast ­Expressway. But if the bricks and beams ­inside could talk, they’d tell fascinating tales about its former occupants: Silas Putnam, who forged horseshoe nails there daily from 1859 to 1909; George Lawley, who built America’s Cup–winning yachts and Navy boats for four decades thereafter; and the Seymour Ice Cream Company, which produced Nutty Buddy ice cream cones in the building until the mid-1980s.

This summer, the warehouse will be ­reborn yet again as the Boston Harbor Distillery, the ambitious joint project of Boston Beer Co. cofounder Rhonda Kallman (pictured, above right) and decorated local barman and spirit consultant Corey Bunnewith (left).

boston harbor distillery

Top: The distillery’s mercantile sells bottles of spirits made on the premises. A selection of craft bitters, syrups, shrubs, herbs, and ­sodas from ­Charlestown-based Spindrift, meanwhile, lets drinkers craft ­sophisticated cocktails at home. | Bottom: Visitors enter through Boston Harbor Distillery’s grand hall, where natural light streams in through skylights built into the historical roof. (photographs by pj couture)

In keeping with their craft philosophy and the history of the space, Kallman and Bunnewith decided to name their spirits after the building’s former tenants: Putnam New England Whisky, Lawley’s New England Spirit (a riff on rum, but with Vermont maple syrup added to the still), and Seymour’s Coffee Liqueur, which uses beans from Great Barrington Roasters.

While the main goal of the project is, of course, to make booze, Kallman and Bunnewith have even bigger plans for the distillery: to turn it into a community hub, and open the space up for civic and nonprofit events. “We looked at this as the foundation for building something real and something important for Boston,” Kallman says. “It’s a community gathering place, and that’s really the vision that we have for this, and want that to happen here.”

boston harbor distillery

Left: The distillery’s 150-gallon copper still was made in Louisville, Kentucky, and will process 1,050 gallons—or roughly 10,000 ­bottles—of whiskey this year. | Right: The production area is the ­domain of head distiller John Couchot, who works exclusively with ­American-made stills and pots. Where most distillers test their spirits using taste, smell, and proof, Couchot examines his at each stage by touching them with his fingers. (photographs by pj couture)

Tastings, Monday–Friday, 4–8 p.m.; Saturday, noon–8 p.m.; Sunday, noon–5 p.m; 12R Ericsson St., Dorchester, 877-965-2200, bostonharbordistillery.com.