Bully Boy Is the Latest to Plan a Huge Expansion (and Craft Cocktail Bar)

The addition will quintuple the distillery's production capacity.

Barrel storage and the copper still system at Bully Boy's current headquarters

Barrel storage and the copper still system at Bully Boy’s current headquarters. / Photos provided

To say Bully Boy Distillers’ 150-gallon still has been getting a lot of use lately is an understatement. The copper system produces all of Bully Boy’s products—its White and American whiskeys, Boston and White rums, its vodka, hub punch, and the new Estate gin.

“We’re running two shifts a lot of time,” says cofounder and distiller Dave Willis, who recalls a day last week when he manned the distillation process from 8 a.m. until that evening, when an assistant took over and worked through the night.

But as early as October, Boston’s first craft distillery plans to grow its production capacity fivefold—and next year, they plan to get in on the still-to-glass cocktail bar game, like Short Path in Everett and GrandTen in South Boston. It’s officially a great time to be a spirits drinker in New England.

Bully Boy is in the final stages of renovation on a new, 8,000-square foot facility, located across the street from their original home in the Newmarket area of Roxbury. The 150-gallon still will be joined by a brand-new, 750-gallon apparatus, a purchase the team made as soon as they signed the latest lease. Once production fully moves into their new headquarters, old reliable will transition to being a gin-only still, Willis says.

“We’ve really maxed out the size of the still,” he says.

He and his brother, Will, founded Bully Boy in 2010. About two years ago, they got serious about finding a larger home. It was a frustrating search—Boston doesn’t have a lot of industrial space to offer—when a former, commercial laundry facility opened up just across the street. It’s not quite as large as they envisioned, but the location makes it ideal, Willis says. Bully Boy will keep its current space as a full-time barrelhouse.

The new equipment and additional space will not only help Bully Boy produce more whiskey, rum, and gin more efficiently, it will also help the company grow its product line. Single-malts, bourbons, and other whiskeys are things Willis is excited to experiment with more, he says. He’s also developing a house-made sweet vermouth, a longtime goal of the self-proclaimed “fanatical Negroni drinker.”

“We’re starting to make the things you need to make cocktails,” he says, because once permitting is in place, the bar will be ready to serve you.

While the tasting room is still subject to zoning adjustments, occupancy permits, and pouring licenses, Bully Boy has been building it out in preparation. It’s just about 500 square feet, with space for about 29 guests, but it will be a huge upgrade from the current accommodations. Bully Boy doesn’t have a tasting room at all, but it offers samples to guests who tour the facility on weekends.

“We call them ‘experiential tours.’ It’s like walking into a raw production space, there’s no gloss to it. It’s fun, because it’s sort of a rustic tour experience, whereas the new facility will have a formalized, beautiful tasting room,” Willis says.

The new (to them) building’s 19th century aesthetics fit: Inside, they discovered what Willis describes as massive, brick frames, which the team outfitted with steel and glass and placed to overlook the barrel house on one side of the bar, and the production floor from another vantage point.

“We plan to develop a really robust, cutting-edge cocktail program. We have draft lines that are going in for draft cocktails,” he says. “There will be lots of products sold exclusively out of the tasting room. The whole point of having a tasting room as a distillery is you have this incredible asset, the ability to make anything you want.”

If all goes smoothly, the craft cocktail bar could debut in early 2017, Willis says. Bully Boy plans to begin moving equipment into the new space late in September, with production ramping up mid-October. Tours will continue without interruption, though for a couple weeks, they may involve crossing the street.

Bully Boy Distillers, 35 Cedric St., Boston, 617-442-6000, bullyboydistillers.com.